Monday, January 31, 2011

Short break: The 7 romantic comedy movie poster clichés

I came across this (courtesy of Chas Licciardello's twitter) and it's hilarous.  Even Mr Curious was getting a laugh.

It starts with the "back-to-back", à la Pretty women and How to lose a guy in 10 days.



See the full list here

Is your favourite rom-com on the list? 

Mine is (While you were sleeping, to this day I don't know why I like it).  Actually my least favourite rom-com is on the list too (Nine months, what a horrible movie, I exercised utmost restraint to stay in the cinema).

P.S. The Australian Open has taken most of my free time (ironically the next post is about watching the tennis live).  I hope to return back to normal programming soon :-)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Melbourne diary 2011 - day 1

Mr Curious and I had our first TLG-free holiday!  With a roster of family members taking care of TLG in Sydney, we enjoyed a 3-day trip to Melbourne for the Australian Open and some much-needed R&R.

With an early flight to Melbourne, we were glad that the room was ready when we arrived at the hotel.  And what a charming room it was.

Hotel Lindrum is a boutique hotel a stone's throw away from the tennis.  The room we stayed in was elegant and well proportioned.


Sorry for the blurry photo, I only took one in this angle.



It was nice to stay in a small establishment once in a while - a perfect hotel for a short break IMO.

I was pretty hungry by then (I was asleep most of the flight and didn't have breakfast) and the hotel reception recommended Cumulus Inc for a bite to eat.

Photo: The Age

I like the causal-chic vibe of the place.  We sat at the bench.  I ordered the Turkish baked eggs, spiced tomatoes, dukkah and labna ($16).


The dish scored 100% on presentation, a bit less on taste.  I am not the biggest fan of dukkah and it was too overpowering in this dish.  The eggs were cooked perfectly though.

Mr Curious had a toasted sandwich with leg ham, cheddar and tomato relish ($14), it came with slices of avocado and he polished the whole thing off with glee.

The coffee had a slight saltiness to it, which was surprisingly enjoyable.

We spent most of the day walking around the CBD.  I tried on a few things at GPO until Mr C was sick of shopping (picked up a Veronika Maine top for 50% off).  We walked down to Lygon St and had lunch at one of the many Italian restaurants.

A friend of mine mentioned Koko Black when she knew I was going to Melbourne.  I wasn't planning to visit but when I saw it on Lygon street I went in to have a look.


There was a good variety of chocolate available and I bought a small bag of dark chocolate nut and fruit buttons (20g, $7.85).

Here are some close up photos.



The chocolate was smooth and rich but not bitter, and the fruit and nut added sweetness and crunchiness to the mix.  I'm having one as I type - yum :-)

Koko Black has a Valentine's Day competition at the moment - win 1 year of free chocolate (plus a romantic getaway).  I didn't enter but it looked promising.

We slowly strolled back to the hotel, and after a pleasant late-afternoon nap it was time for dinner.  We took Miss Kitty-Cat's advice and paid Red Spice Road a visit.


We sat around the big lantern at the back of the restaurant.  I liked it (and it wasn't as noisy at the long tables at the front) but Mr C thought it was a bit OTT.

We ordered the dinner tasting banquet, which was great value at $55 a head.  The highlight was definitely the pork belly with chilli caramel, black vinegar, cabbage and mint.


The photo was pretty poor, so you have to trust me that the pork belly was super tender and the chilli-sweet-sour flavours hit all the right notes.

The rest of the menu was good too (thumbs up to the lamb ribs), although the two "mains" were a bit disappointing after the pork belly - the green curry was tasty but the snapper was bland, and the slow-cooked beef cheek was a bit too similar to the pork belly and paled in comparison.  Also I think they can tone down the sugar content in a few of the dishes, and I have a sweet tooth!

Talking about sweet tooth, the dessert - passionfruit cream with peanut praline and coconut ice cream - was delicious.

Photo: Lost in Sydney - they have a full review of Red Spice Road

I avoid coconut ice cream usually but this was divine - it was like eating frozen coconut cream (let's not think about the fat content), add crunchy peanut praline and smooth and sweet-and-slightly-tart passionfruit cream and we have a winner!

With full tummies, it was time for us to return to the hotel and rest up for a full day of tennis tomorrow ...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pretty things from ... Madison February 2011

I have been taking advantage of TLG's day time naps to check out magazines at our local library.  I like taking photos of the pretty things I see and I thought "why don't I put them on the blog?".  So here they are.

First off the block is February 2011's Madison.


I didn't have time to read any articles, so it was purely a magazine-perv session.

The astrology pages were accompanied by some stunning jewellery (Valentine's Day is coming up, no?)


I adore Art Deco jewellery.  This one from Tiffany & Co will be divine with a low V-neck black evening gown.

 
And how exquisite are these earrings (also from Tiffany & Co)?

The jewellery matched with my zodiac (Pisces) is a bracelet from Kailis.


It's lovely too but it does not speak to me like the other two pieces.

Onto fashion.  The red Lanvin dress is drool-worthy.


Maxi dresses are so versatile nowadays.

I like the look of this blouse - pretty colour and very feminine, plus a great price tag!  Add a black or charcoal pencil skirt and it'll be perfect for a day in the office.  I wonder what the quality is like though.


This swimsuit is actually from the lifestyle section of the magazine.  I think it's gorgeous.


It's not something I will wear myself (not a fan of strapless tops, plus hello tummy!); I'm happy to admire from a distance.

Even though I don't have any, I am attracted to structured bags.


The Bally one even has a non-scary price tag ($1,250).


Last but not least, here's a fresh makeup look for summer.


I am very much a novice when it comes to makeup, so it's good to get some ideas. I'm not sure if I can carry the red eyeshadow, but I like the contrast of the red with the green.  Sorry I didn't note the makeup used, I will do so next time.

It is so much fun sharing these beautiful items with you!  I hope you find some inspirations too.

Madison
February 2011
$8.20

Would you like to see more "Pretty things from ..." posts?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy birthday TLG!

It was TLG's birthday party on Saturday.  We had to move the party from a park to our place because of rain, but everyone had a good time which was the most important thing.

Check out his birthday cake (TLG is hiding in his cubby house now):

My friend Mel baked the cake (read her post about it here).  It was beautiful AND yummy! Everyone loved it, especially TLG.  Thanks Mel!

I can't believe he is 2 now.  He was a little bub not so long ago, and now he's a little boy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My fail-safe recipe: Pork chops with baked apples

You know when you try a recipe and it turns out to be easy AND delicious?  You hang on to them with dear life (or in my case, record it in my kikki.K recipe book).

This pork chops with baked apples recipe from taste.com.au is one of my all-time favourites.  Zero cooking skills required and the result is oh-so-yummy.

I made a slight change to the recipe, instead of putting the apples and rosemary in the oven at the same time as the pork, I put them in before I cook the pork.  The apples need a bit more time to soften than the time suggested IMO.

The steps are straight forward - cut up the apples, mix with olive oil and rosemary, put the lot in a baking dish and into the oven it goes.


I use green apples this time but the result with red apples is a bit better.

Then oil and season and pork chops and panfry for 2 - 3 minutes each side.


When that's done, put them in the baking dish above the apples, cook for another 10 - 15 minutes and it's ready!


A tip on eating - eat the pork and the apple in the same mouthful. Even though either ingredient tastes good as a standalone, the combination is just magical. The sweetness of the apples perfectly complements the saltiness of the pork, it's like a party in your mouth!

It presents well enough to be served at dinner parties, and as long as you know the key to the dish*, you can't go wrong.

Give it a go! You can thank me later :-)

* The key is to get good quality pork cutlets from a butcher. I made the dish with supermarket pork chops one time and it wasn't the same. Thankfully my butcher's pork chops are awesome.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fat blaster workout anyone?


With our trip to Fiji last month and Christmas/New Year, I have been slack with exercising.  I needed something to get back into a routine.

I was checking out Women's Health US online and I found an exercise program that appeals to me.  The 4-week Fat Blaster is a 3-times-a-week workout which combines weights and cardio exercises.  The website gives detailed instructions on each of the exercises (with videos and printouts) so you're clear on how each of the excerises should be performed.

I started the program last Friday (with the Week 1 Monday program) and it took me about 30 minutes to complete.  The program does not prescribe weights or machine levels with the cardio exercises, so I took it easy (4kg hand weights and bike for cardio).  It was a good full body workout and I enjoyed it.

I'm going to tackle the Wednesday program tomorrow.  It's only a short one (warm up + 10 minute circuit) so I may increase the weights in some of the exercises.

If you're trying to get back to the swing of things in the new year, why don't you give it a try?  You can find the program here*.  I will report on my progress after I finish week 2.

I browsed the Women's Health website after finding the program and there are lots of useful information.  I'm adding it to my bookmarks.

* Note: you have to enter your e-mail address to print the workouts, and they send you promotional e-mails afterwards, but you can unsubscribe.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Party food 1 - mini quiches

TLG's birthday party is on Saturday and I'm doing most of the cooking (I outsourced the cake).  I want to try out all the new recipes before making them for the party.  The first cab off the rank is mini quiches.

I used a recipe from Exclusively Food, because it's simple, and because it offers a few variations.  I made the ham and cheese version.  I'll make the mushroom and feta cheese version as well for the party.

The cooking process was fairly straight forward.

All ingredients in the bowl


Whisking didn't take long


It was the first time I used puff pastry.  I used a cup to cut the circles.


Some of them were a bit sticky by the time I tried to tear out the circles.  Next time I'll cut and remove the circles one sheet at a time rather than cutting them all at the beginning.

Added the ham and cheese.

Poured in the egg mixture, and after 20 minutes in the oven, the quiches were ready.


For dinner tonight I served them with a mixed greens and grape tomatoes salad.


The quiches weren't as fluffy inside as the ones shown in the Exclusive Food website.  Maybe I need to whisk the mixture a bit more, I will do that next time.

Overall this is super easy to make and I'm happy with the result.  TLG certainly approved :-)

Tomorrow I'll make a pesto pasta salad.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Frozen dessert adventure 2 - green apple sorbet

After the "success" of the banana zabaglione semifreddo I was keen to make something else with the ice-cream maker.  I had a few ripe green apples and thought it'd be nice to make sorbet out of them.  This recipe looked simple enough so I gave it a go.

Cooking the apples in sugar and water was pretty straight forward.


The next part definitely wasn't.

The instruction was so innocent: "Over a bowl, strain mixture through a medium sieve, pressing to force apples through; discard skins".

I started of pressing the apples with a spoon but it barely pushed any of the apples through.  A lot of trial and error later, my method became:
  1. Put new batch of apples in sieve, and use a large plastic rice scoop to squash the apples.
  2. Use my fingers to grate the apples against the sieve piece by piece until only the skin was left, then discard the skin.
  3. Use a spatula to press the remaining pulp to extract more liquid.

The process took over an hour.  It was hard work for sure!  There must be an easier way to do this

Maybe I can peel the apples first next time and puree the apple?  But I still have to sieve it to extract the juice, right?  Any suggestions will be much appreciated.

This was the result of all that work.


Not much to show for don't you think?  It was definitely a labour of love.

Time for the ice-cream maker to do its thing.

Before:


After:


You can see that it was fairly sorbet-like at the end.

I didn't take a "serving suggestion" photo, sorry.

Mr Curious said that it tasted like apple pie and I agreed.

It was sweeter than I expected so if I make it again I will reduce the amount of sugar.  That's what I plan to do with all the recipes I try - make it in accordance to the ingredient list the first time, and reduce the sugar and fat content (if I can) when I make it again.

As far as I'm concern it's 2 out of 2.  I won't be using the ice-cream maker for a while because it's TLG's birthday next week and I'll be doing lots of cooking.  Rest assure there will be another instalment of Frozen Dessert Adventure soon.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Frozen dessert adventure 1 - banana zabaglione semifreddo

Thanks to my BIL, I am the proud owner of a Cuisinart ice-cream maker.

Yesterday was the day to try my hands on one of the recipes in January 2011's Marie Claire which sparked my ice-cream making desire.

Mr Curious vetoed most of the recipes because they have berries in them, so by process of elimination I chose banana zabaglione semifreddo.

The recipe is deceptively simple, with just 6 ingredients - egg yolks, caster sugar, Marsala (we used vanilla essence instead because of TLG), thick cream, bananas and lemon.

The first step was to whisk the eggs and caster sugar in a bowl over simmering water.  That was supposed to take around 8 minutes, and the end product was supposed to be thick, foamy and doubled in volume.


Despite me doubling the whisking time, my mixture was thick but not foamy, nor did it increase much in volume. My arm was too tired (and the Bamix was too hot) by then so I just moved to the next step.

The manual for the ice-cream maker mentioned that pre-cooked ingredients can be cooled in an ice-bath. The recipe I used didn't mention an ice-bath but it did ask for the mixture to be cooled. So I put two and two together and plonked the bowl in an ice bath, then left the kitchen for a while.

BIG MISTAKE.

When I checked the bowl a while later, the mixture has completely solidified, and had the consistency of peanut butter.


For a second I thought I must have ruined it completely, but my laziness prevented me from making another batch.  I thought "what the heck" and just went along with it.  At worst it would be a learning experience.

I had to scrape the mixture off the bowl to fold in the whipped cream.  It was not a pretty sight.


The pureed banana and lemon juice mixture went in next.


It was time to pour it into the ice-cream maker.  It took about 30 minutes to go from this


to this


The recipe required the semifreddo to be stored in the freezer overnight.  I was too impatient and tried it after a few hours.

And this was the finished product.


It was none too shabby, given the "comedy of errors" during the cooking process.  It had the right texture (the 300ml of thickened cream has to count for something), and the banana flavour was rich and fresh.  The only negative was that the bananas were not ripe enough and the semifreddo tasted a bit "green".  Overall it was a success.  Mr Curious gave his two thumbs up.

It was certainly an encouraging start.  In fact I have already made a second batch of frozen dessert, but that's the subject of the next post.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

First big purchase in 2011

We have been living in our apartment for almost 3 years now.  In the last few weeks Mr Curious and I have been thinking about furniture upgrades.  On top of the list is our sofa, which we purchased when we moved but is now sagging badly.

This is what the sofa looked like at the beginning.


Now, the two seats in the middle (where Sunny the polar bear was lying on) have sunk and are no longer offering any support.  It is so disappointing since we spent a decent amount of money on it and we were hoping it will last us many years.  Well, we learnt from our mistake and this time around, quality is our #1 concern.

Today is sofa shopping day.  We narrowed our choices down to two - King Furniture and Natuzzi.  We visited King Furniture first but nothing took our fancy.

I went to Natuzzi earlier this week to do some scouting, and I liked Fly.


I like the contemporary look, and the back of the sofa seats are adjustable, so if someone shorter is sitting on the sofa, he or she can move the back downward and make the seat shallower.

Mr Curious wasn't a fan though.  He said he wanted something with better neck support.

We spent a long time checking out all the sofas in the showroom, and finally Mr Curious found one he liked.  The Malcom has an adjustable headrest which suits Mr Curious to a T.


The configuration in the above photo is a bit too narrow for our lounge room, so we are going to get a 3-seater and a chaise.  Looking at it now, it is very similar to our current sofa!  I guess our taste hasn't change that much.

There were many colours to choose from, so the sales guy allowed us to take the leather samples home to match our decor.  He said he would pick the samples up from our place when he finishes work.  It makes a big difference to be able to see the leather samples at home because of the difference in lighting.  We ended up choosing a colour we dismissed at the shop.

The sales guy also bought us some good news.  The initial quote he gave us was incorrect and the sofa in the configuration we wanted costs $400 less.  That was a sweet surprise because we were happy with the original quote - it was almost like a discount!

It's going to take 4 months for the new sofa to arrive. I can hardly wait!

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