Saturday, January 25, 2014

Letting Go

It's been quiet in this corner of the cyber world lately. That's because I've been dedicating more and more of my time to writing, and now I actually have the results to show.

Evernight Teen have published my New Adult contemporary novella, Letting Go.

Isabelle is left stranded at the airport, and her only chance of getting home is with her boyfriend’s older brother, Harper. When this good girl and bad boy set off towards home, it turns out that maybe she’s not such a good girl after all. And even bad boys have reasons for their bad behavior.  

The road trip is full of shocking revelations and unexpected emotions, bringing the two of them closer than Isabelle ever thought possible. Maybe too close.

I'm really proud of it. It was released yesterday and I'm still a little hangover from all the excitement.

Despite being busy with my writing, I'll try to keep this blog alive, but the posts may be less frequent for the time being. I'd be very happy if you visited my other cyber home, my author page (I am currently hosting a giveaway there). There I'll post about my new projects and other things happening in my life. So, keep in touch.

Also, Letting Go is available on Amazon and on the publisher's website. If you decide to read it, I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Plastic bag dispenser

I don't use plastic shopping bags because I made a large canvas tote specifically for that purpose years ago (although it'll soon be time for a new one, the old is beginning to show its wear and tear).

But the small bags from recyclable materials are useful for storing things in them, from knick-knacks to food in the fridge. Instead of buying new ones, I keep all the bags that are still in good shape and use the same ones several times before throwing them away. Unfortunately, this means my drawer where I keep them is a mess!

So here's a simple DIY that helped me keep my drawer in order.

You'll need a used tissuebox and the plastic bags:

 Step 1: Put the first bag half-way into the box through the top opening, then hook the handles of the second bag around it.

 Step 2: Fold the first bag in half and push it all the way into the box, pulling half of the second bag with it. Repeat the procedure with teh rest of the bags.

Step 3: You'll get a nicely ordered box of plastic bags. It's simple and very helpful.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Roasted Hokkaido squash

We've had rain for weeks now, and sad weather calls for comfort food. One of the best ones taht I discovered just recently, is roasted hokkaido squash. It's simple, it's quick, it's delicious.

Roasted Hokkaido squash

Wash the squash and cut it in half to remove the seeds. Then cut each half into half an inch wide crescents.

In a large bowl mix two tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of coarse salt, some freshly ground black pepper. Add chopped sage, rosemary and thyme (about a tablespoon of each). Stir well.

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Add the squash pieces into the bowl and toss until all pieces are coated with the mix evenly.

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Spread them out on a baking tray lined with baking sheet. Place in the oven pre-heated at 200°C. Roast for ten  minutes, turn the pieces over and then roast for another ten or fifteen minutes.

014 (18)Put them into a bowl and serve with pieces of blue cheese. Divine!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Getting rid of the fear of Coq au vin

I saw the Julie & Julia movie on the plane to Sydney in 2009. It was December, summer was in full swing Down Under, I was getting married in a few days on a Sydney beach ... ah, good times. But let's get back to Julia.

I loved the movie. Loved Adams and Streep. (By the way, do you ever wonder about Meryl Streep? Does she even have a character of her own, seeing how uncannily realistic her portrayals of just about any character that ever existed, in life or fiction, are?) Honestly, Streep's Julia is scarily spot on. Her slightly irritating loud voice, her strong, wild gestures ... just wow, Meryl!

Of course, the third main character in the movie is the food. And it's about time I reveal why I started this post with the Julie & Julia movie. You see, I always thought coq au vin must be a complicated dish, simply for the fact that it is French. Besides, chicken cooked in wine? Wouldn't the two work much better when ingested separately?

I was curious. I wanted to try it, but I was so daunted by its name that I didn't even check an actual recipe. Then I came across this interview with Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini (btw, she's having a month of amazing giveaways to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her blog) where she shares the recipe for coq au vin. I was surprised by the smallish number of ingredients and the easy instructions. I thought I might as well try it. Here's my adaptation of Clotilde's adaptation of Julia Child's recipe.

Coq au vin
(serves 4)

approximately 1 kg of chicken (I used two chicken legs and breast fillet cut into pieces)
6 slices of pancetta cut into 1" pieces
4 tbsp of butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cups of Pinot noir
2 cups of water (you can use chicken stock but I didn't find taht necessary since, you know, you're cooking chicken)
1 tbsp tomato sauce
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp thyme
3 bay leaves
1 large onion
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium carrots
choped fresh parsley

Saute bacon in 2 tablespoons of melted butter in a large casserole dish. Once the bacon is slightly browned, remove to a side dish.

Add the chicken pieces to the casserole dish and brown in the bacon fat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Once the chicken is browned, add the bacon back to the dish with the chicken. Cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once.

Add the wine and the 2 cups of water so that the chicken is covered. Cut the carrots into larger pieces and add them into the pot. Stir in the tomato sauce, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer slowly for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

While chicken is cooking, dice the onions. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon of oil to a sauté pan. Once the butter is melted, add a teaspoon of sugar and caramelize it. Then add the onions and brown. Add the caramelized onions into the coq au vin. Sprinkled the dish with fresh parsley. Serve it warm with mashed potatoes or bread.

I chose the second option and offered homemade buckwheat baguette with it.

Not only was coq au vin a delicious dinner, but I turned the left over sauce into a fantastic pasta sauce the next day. I made a bit of roux (1 tsp of butter, 1 tsp of flour) and whisked it into the wine sauce. I poured the sauce over pasta and sprinkled it with freshly grated parmesan. I got two dinners out of one recipe. And I got rid of the ridiculous fear of coq au vin. That's a win-win, if you ask me. ;-)

(I'll post the roasted squash recipe next time. I was just so thrilled with my coq au vin experiment that I couldn't wait to tell you all about it.)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hokkaido (red kuri) squash soup

Autumn is the time of squashes, there is no doubt about that. The only question is which ones you like best - butternut, hokkaido, autumn cup or something else entirely. My idea of autumn deliciousness is hokkaido. In every possible form.

My son adores soups (strange, I know. Husband claims those are definitely not his genes.), I adore hokkaido squashes, ergo there's plenty of hokkaido soup being consumed in our house these days. ;-)

So first up is a recipe for a soup. Next time I'll share how I roast the squash.

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(Serves 3)

1/2 of a large hokkaido (red kuri) squash
2 medium potatoes
freshly ground pepper
ground nutmeg
3 spoons of creme fraiche
a few drops of olive oil
sunflower seeds
croutons or rusk

Wash the squash, halve it and remove the seeds. Dice the squash and peeled potatoes and add just enough water to cover them. Boil for about fifteen minutes or until fork tender.

At this point, I remove some of the water and store it in another container because I want to make sure the soup won't be too watery. I puree the squash and potatoes and then add the left-over water as necessary.

Season the soup with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Before serving add the creme fraiche, a few drops of olive oil, sunflower seeds, and croutons. Serve warm, with a slice of toasted bread. Perfect comfort food.

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