07 April 2014

Another moving experience

Apologies for disappearing for quite some time ... we decided to start looking for a new place to rent in late February, and things moved unexpectedly quickly!

So — after several horrendous weeks of which we shall not speak — we are back in Weston Creek.  Very happy to be back in the area, and on a quiet suburban street. Ten years of living on main roads has been wearing. We're much closer to Mt Stromlo, and our other main destinations (largely doctors and the hospital).

Our new place has a downstairs area for the kids (one of our main reasons for moving, to find a place with a more separate living space for them, seeing as they're not able to afford to live independently yet). It comes complete with a full bar (including — bizarrely — cash drawer, sink, and three drinks fridges), wood-burning stove, small bathroom, and several rooms, and internal access to a big garage (glass workshop). 

Upstairs is for Hubby and me — four bedrooms (Hubby has his own study for the first time), kitchen with a gas stove and saucepan drawers (where have you been all my life?!), good sunny living areas, and two porchy / balcony thingies. With views!

The garden is leafy and lovely to be in (unlike our last place), and there is a paved area under cover for entertaining, too. The pups are adapting to the new surroundings, and we're all gradually settling in. The question of 'Where is ...' is less frequently answered with 'In a box somewhere!' so I guess that's progress!

We've not unpacked at least half of our boxes, and are loving the simpler minimalist feel of the upstairs section (kids' area is another matter!). So I still want to sort and declutter the rest of our stuff, and only store a bare minimum.

I calculated that this is the 27th home I've lived in. And the house in Gordon was the longest, at just over 6 years! No moss on this stone! But I am rather over the whole 'moving house' thing ... don't want to do this too many more times.

12 February 2014

Puppeh Casserole

A few months ago, the bods who make MyDog clearly changed their recipes, and both my pups suddenly decided to stop eating it. Unless they had a doggy conspiracy going. Yeah, it could have been that too ...

Anyway, we tried them on other tinned food, to no avail. They have Royal Canin dry food, so they weren't starving, but they weren't getting a good dinner.

So I started to cook Puppeh Casserole. (FOR puppehs, for them, goodness, what do you take me for?!)

And they love it! In fact, Petal loves it SO much that she's put on a bit too much weight. Chunky puppeh. Ooops. So we're giving her smaller meals now.

It's cheaper, and it's better for them. Even their vet was impressed — home-cooked food + the good quality dry food (for special nutrients that dogs need) is an excellent diet regime for pups. Having chihuahuas makes this very economical, too, as they only eat ¼ to ½ a cup each a day. One batch makes enough for roughly two weeks of meals for two chihuahuas.

(It also makes a rather good sandwich filling, especially the chicken one, once puréed!)

Puppeh Casserole

Two variations: Beef + Liver, and Chicken


This is a 'hand wavy' recipe:

Some meat:

~1–2 kg of meat  (a whole chook, chicken thighs, casserole beef, cheap mince, whatever — avoid meat with lots of tiny bones in it, though, like chicken necks)

Some diced liver, if you want to make beef + liver (but don't add too much, as heaps of liver is not good for dogs — 1 med small liver, chopped up, is plenty). I love my dogs so much that I will actually cook liver for them. This is saying a lot.

Some veggies:

Choose several / more than several of the following dog-safe veggies. You want roughly a third to half of your casserole to be veg.
  • Peeled potatoes (the skins contain chemicals harmful to dogs)
  • Peeled pumpkin
  • Sweet potato
  • Peas
  • Green Beans
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Small quantities of broccoli / cauliflower, if they don't cause digestive upsets for your dog

Some other stuff:

A handful or two of brown rice or barley
A bit of water, around 1 cup
A few herbs (oregano, thyme etc) if you're feeling creative
Some ground pepper (my dogs like spicy food!)
A little garlic is okay

Please avoid : onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, nutmeg. (I use the cute app Om nom? to check for food safety for dogs.)

You may like to cook this on the stove top in a very large saucepan (which I usually do for the beef + liver one), or a slow cooker (which I usually use for the chicken one).


Veggies ready to go
1. Roughly chop your veggies. I didn't peel the potatoes here, oops, but I usually do.

2. You may like to brown the meat slightly in the pan first, but it's not vital. Add the veggies, and other ingredients. When using a slow cooker, I put the veggies in first, and just sit the meat on top of them. If you're using liver, you might want to add it to the saucepan later on in the cooking process, as it goes a bit hard and rubbery if you overcook it.

Beef + Liver ready to go on the stove

3. Set it to cook for several hours, with a lid on. On the stove, you'll want to cook it on the lowest heat. I usually cook the chicken casserole for about 4 hours in the slow cooker, and the beef + liver one for about 2–3 hours on the stove.
Chicken Casserole in the slow cooker

4. Allow the casserole to cool a bit, so it's warm but not hot. Don't let it sit overnight in the fridge before deboning, everything solidifies and it makes bone removal very difficult. Ask me how I know  :p

5. If you've got bones in there, remove them. It works quite well doing this by hand, wearing rubber gloves (which protect you from the heat as well as the eeeeeeew liver). plus it makes you look like a surgeon. A very sick and amateur surgeon.

6. Use a stick blender or food processor to 'lightly' purée the casserole to the desired amount. I have to make sure the veggies are fairly well mashed otherwise one of my dogs (Petal), not naming any names (Petal) will flick every single one out with her delicate little tongue. But your dog may like it chunky. A potato masher works well for a 'rougher' texture.

Beef + Liver Casserole after cooking
Beef + Liver Casserole after puréeing
7. Now for portions. I use a silicone muffin tray to freeze the portions — it is brilliant, because I can just pop them out once they're frozen. It's that easy. I do half as smaller portions for little Miss Chunky, and larger portions for Griff (who is twice her size). I store them in ziplock bags and boxes in the freezer.

8. Each meal time, you just defrost a portion (1 or 2 minutes in the microwave, or you could defrost in the fridge overnight, or in a tiny saucepan), make sure it's warm for them (not too hot to burn their tongues), and then let the nomming begin!

Puppeh Casserole gets the lick of approval
Griff approves!

31 January 2014

Soboro Don

Last week I had the great pleasure of discovering the Just One Cookbook Japanese cooking blog. My goodness. I also bought Nami's ebook. If you're interested in trying Japanese cooking, head on over to her blog. Seriously. I'll still be here when you pull yourself out of Japanese Cooking World ... "Was I gone long? Where am I? Who are you? ... "

So on the weekend I made Tori Soboro Don. The online recipe has extensive step-by-step photos, and is very clear. It's a chicken donburi recipe — donburi means 'rice bowl dish', and refers to any Japanese meat /veg sort of stew, served over rice. Donburi is often shortened to 'don'.

This recipe is basically fried chicken mince, and scrambled eggs, with peas, over rice.

I couldn't get a hold of chicken mince, so used chicken breasts and diced them finely. Worked quite well, actually! The chicken is cooked with ginger, sake, sugar, mirin, and soy sauce. I actually cut back on the sugar a bit, and the result was still quite sweet. The whole mixture gets cooked down slowly until it's all gooey and delicious.

Then you beat together eggs with more sugar, and fry it, breaking it up with (ideally) a bunch of chopsticks. Having a severe chopstick shortage in the house at the time (now remedied, you'll be relieved to hear!), I used a mini whisk instead.

Wooo, action shot!

Yummo, who knew that sweet scrambled eggs could be so delicious! 

Lastly you defrost some frozen peas, and get creative in the bowl ... rice first, then the chicken and egg, and a sweet line of peas. I wasn't as tidy with my line of peas as Nami, but it still looks appealing. Top with pickled ginger.

Goddammit Blogger, why you no align things properly! Excuse the derpy layout ... what Blogger says is 'centered' clearly isn't what a human would think is centred.

Verdict? Huge hit with the whole family. The meat is sweet, caramelised, and salty, and the ginger gives the perfect contrast. The egg and peas are tasty too, with the chicken and rice. Very very nommy! And so pretty too! Despite the aforementioned lack of chopsticks. Now remedied.