About Me

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I am the 45 year old mother of Josie (17), Jacob (14) and Fergus (11) and the wife of Mark. We live in Newhaven on beautiful Phillip Island with various animals including our dog Charlie. I am a recently trained teacher (third year in the classroom) who is busy juggling family, career and my journey to lose weight and be healthy. I have so many balls in the air . . . hopefully, one day I might catch one . . .

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Menu Plan for the next week

Well here goes for next week--pretty easy as we will only be home for 3 meals

Monday*--Pasta with cream cheese chicken
Tuesday--Dinner at Mum's--usually fairly point friendly
Wednesday*--Tomato Beef Curry
Thursday: Cheesy eggplant canneloni--omnivores can have leftovers from either Monday or Wednesday
Friday: school disco--weight watchers dinner in school microwave for me--fish and chips for family at home

Monday and Wednesday are judo nights, so crockpot meals are essential. I drive back from Wonthaggi to the Island, then back to Wonthaggi where Jacob goes to Judo and I go to Curves, then back to Phillip Island again at about 7.45.

Menu planning is a bit more complicated with Jacob having recently turned vegetarian. He has been so interested in learning to cook vetetarian meals and sits up at the kitchen bench helping me cook and taking notes, so I feel I have to accommodate him. I have been alternating cooking vego and then cooking meat based meals, so Jacob can have leftovers the other nights. We have also bought a few chickpea/vegie burgers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pasta with simmered veal shanks (or beef shin!)

I love the rich taste of osso bucco, but I don't love the fact that this is often quite a fatty, gristly cut of meat. Part of the problem is that ideally osso bucco should be cut from the shanks of the forelegs of the animal, rather than the back. Also, veal is preferable to fully grown cows. Here on Phillip Island it seems that all the osso bucco that is on offer is cut from the backlegs of very old cows, as it is often very gristly indeed. Part of the problem is that with working full time I haven't been able to develop a good relationship with my butcher to coerce him into saving the best parts for me, and I'm not great at pre-ordering, but that's another story. I have found that this pasta sauce satisfies my urge for rich tasting tender ossobucco, but means I can remove the fat and gristle before I eat it.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe by Donna Hay, but I have adapted it, particularly by adding another step--chilling the sauce so that I can remove the fat before I serve it. I usually cook this in the slow cooker, which takes a 8 or 9 hours, so I either cook the dish the day before I want to serve it or even over night, to allow it to cool in the fridge--an easy way to remove the fat. Therefore this dish takes a lot of TIME, but it is so dead easy and there is no chopping (other than shredding up the cooked meat) unlike in spaghetti bolognaise, etc. And my family likes it better than spag bol!!

For double quantity (to feed 8 hungry people--probably more weight watchers!) to cook in slow cooker. 3 points for an 8th of recipe.

  • 4 sliced cloves of garlic
  • handful of fresh thyme sprigs (use 1 tbs dried, or to taste)
  • 2 x 700ml bottle of tomato passata (could use tinned tomato puree or diced tomatoes instead)
  • 500 ml of red wine
  • 4 stock cubes dissolved in 2 cups of warm water
  • 8 large thick slices of osso bucco or beef shin (If you are lucky enough to find small thick slices of veal shank from the foreleg of the animal, use a couple more)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Rigatoni (or large penne or pappedelle--you need a robust type of pasta for this chunky sauce)
Place osso bucco in slow cooker. Toss in other ingredients. Cook on low for approximately 8 or9 hours.

Turn off slow cooker and remove meat. Allow to cool slightly and shred meat (you should be easily able to do this with your fingers or you can chop it a little with a knife if you prefer. I like getting my hands into food when I'm cooking, myself!) Usually the "marrow" will cook away, but if it is still in the bones, remove it and chop it too. It adds to the richness of the sauce. Return meat to the sauce allow to cool a little more and refrigerate.

Before heating, remove fat from the surface of the sauce. Now you have a beautiful rich sauce for your pasta. When you are ready to serve just gently reheat your sauce in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave while you cook your pasta. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.

If it is a little too watery still, you can simmer it a little when you reheat it to serve.

NOTES: You can make a half quantity of this dish on the stove top or in the oven (160c for 2 1/2 hours). I cook a large amount because it will do us for two meals and I have a massive slow cooker, so if I want to use this, a double quantity works better (slow cookers work best if they are at least 1/2 full). If cooking on the stove top or in the oven, use 4 cups of water (instead of the two) with the stock cubes, or use 4 cups of stock, as there is more evaporation with these methods.

This is a very forgiving recipe!! One time, I made a big pot thinking I was feeding 8 and then 8 became 11. I just grabbed another bottle of passata and simmered it together with the sauce for 45 minutes and no one was any the wiser.

A more "watery" version of this sauce (add more stock/water & stock cubes) makes a nice sauce for lasagne.

I prefer Provisto Sugo or Aldi brand passata (puree tomato sauce) as they contain just tomatoes basically! Many other brands have heaps of salt and sugar or added herbs which affect the flavour.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

One of my new friends from the Weight Watcher's Forum, Jo, has inspired me to plan my menu for the week. I'm trying to get into the habit of "Menu Planning Monday".
Monday: We had Mediterranean Chicken with polenta. Kids hated it. Husband and I loved it.

Tuesday: Chow Mein, a recipe posted by a fellow WW board member, Angyl

Wednesday: Lesley--out for dinner with girlfriend, Mark & Josie--in Melbourne, Boys will have pasta with simmered veal shanks

Thursday: Friend Ann Marie will be visiting with two of her children and my parents will come to dinner also. I am planning a bit of an Italian Feast with Chicken Lasagne (mainly for the kids), Spaghetti Marinara (Mainly for the Grown Ups) and Potato Pizza (My signature dish--everyone loves). May get totally carried away and make dessert too. Maybe chocolate pudding as I recently bought a new dish I would like to use!

Friday: Maybe mussels for grown ups and any seafood eating kids. Barbecue chicken sticks for non seafood eaters.

Jo has a fantastic food blog with many recipes Weight Watcher friendly. If you haven't been by there I suggest you have a look. A Dash of Flavour


Serendipity. It's my favourite word. Not only does it has a mellifluous (my 2nd favourite word) sound about it, the meaning of the word is so delightful too. The act of finding something without looking for it. What a delightful thing to happen.

Well I had a serendipitous event occur to me today. My youngest son, Fergus, and I decided to walk our dog Charlie over the bridge into San Remo and have a milkshake and coffee respectively. (Charlie always refrains from partaking of the Doggyccino at the cafe, so he had a drink from a puddle on the way). This is about an hour of walking altogether and I thought it would be good for us all to get out of the house.

It was quite a squally day, so I started out with a beanie on but soon got too hot from the brisk pace Fergus and Charlie were keeping. To my dismay, I realised I had lost the beanie somewhere en route, and nearly accosted a child at the playground who was wearing a similar hat to enquire if he had recently found it. Fergus was really insistent that I didn't make this accusation, so I had my coffee and simmered over the lost beanie to myself!

On the way back, at the foot of the bridge, I noticed some white things blown up against the chain fence near the road. One was an old yogurt pot that had been bleached by the sea and sun. One was a paper nautilus shell.

I should point out at this moment that I am an avid rockpool rambler and beachcomber and that it has been my life's ambition to find a paper nautilus shell!! One of my friends, who is Phillip Island born and bred, has only ever found two in her whole life. Both my daughter and mother have found one and I have spent ten times more time walking on the beach than either of them--a fact that has always seemed totally unjust to me. To find one at the foot of the bridge 20 or 30 metres from the beach was bizarre, but it was really windy and the shell is really light so I guess it just blew up from the sand and got stuck in the fence. Like the yogurt pot.

Here it is,

Paper nautilus shells come from a really amazing octopus-like creature called the Argonaut. They are not really a shell, but in fact the egg case of these creatures.

If you would like to learn more about the argonaut, try here http://museumvictoria.com.au/caughtandcoloured/nautilusvoice.aspx

I was also chuffed to see how my family members were so delighted when I returned triumphant with my shell. Everyone was completely aware of how much this meant to me and think it's perfectly fine that I was so excited. They are all cool with the fact that I have a favourite word. In fact, Josie has one too. It's sesquipedalian. So once again, in a family, eccentricities are as normal as the smell of bread.

At my fortieth birthday my friend Ann Marie even immortalised my quest to find a paper nautilus shell in her song "The Girl from Phillip Island" (to the tune of "The Girl from Ipanema)
In rockpool rambles, she answers to Ranger Lel
Lives to find that Paper Nautilus Shell . . .

Ah well. Looks like I need to find another life's ambition! What a great day.

PS. I found the beanie on the way back too.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My First Recipe . . . Risotto with Spicy Sausage

Well, I have been combing the web looking for yummy, healthy meal options and I am amazed with the generosity of so many home cooks who readily share their recipes and expertise, not to mention invest their time to help out others by posting on their recipe blogs. I don't think I will be a daily recipe poster, but every now and then, I think an outstanding recipe deserves to be shared, and this is one of them! I got this recipe from a dear friend, Ann-Marie, who gave it to me while she was on a Weight Watcher journey of her own. I did have to play around with the recipe a little, as the points must have changed since her day, but one sixth still makes a decent sized serve and is only 6.5 point, which is quite respectable, I think! If, like me, you are greedy and eat 1 quarter, then allow 9.5 points. It's totally worth it, trust me!

  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 2 tsps of olive oil
  • 1 red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 green capsicum, chopped
  • 2-3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 100g chorizo, sliced
  • 450 g arborio rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (optional, but nice)
  • 250 ml of white wine
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup of chopped Italian parsley
Preheat oven to 160.

Place wine, stock and saffron into a saucepan and gently bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, spray an oven proof/flame proof casserole dish with oil (I used a cast iron one) and saute onion and garlic until soft. Add chopped capsicum and continue to cook for a minute or two then add tomato and chorizo and cook for another minute. Add rice and oil and toss to make sure the rice is coated.

Add stock mixture and place in oven, uncovered for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and stir through the parmesan and chopped parsley. Return to oven for a further 15 minutes or until stock is absorbed and rice is cooked. Serve with more parmesan, if desired (count the extra points!)

Friday, July 3, 2009

My entry into the blogosphere

Okay . . . I admit it . . . I am addicted to reading other people's blogs!!

A few years ago, when I first heard the term "blogging", I remember thinking who would want to read the day to day ramblings of Mr and Mrs average??? Now I understand what many a novelist already knew all along, that sometimes the day to day stuff is the most interesting of all.

One of my favourite writers when I was a teenager was John Irving of "The World According to Garp" fame. While friends of mine had rockstars and actors plastered on their bedroom walls, I had a picture of John Irving. Pretentious, I know! Anyway, I think it was in his book "The Hotel New Hampshire" when one of his characters said "In a family, eccentricities are as normal as the smell of bread." How true that is! Sometimes we are oblivious to our own eccentricities because we are so used to them. So what I am trying to say I guess is that everyday people are interesting and I've been really enjoying getting to know some folk over the internet, although as I only just today figured out how to make a Google Account (it's sad, I know) I have been lurking rather than making my presence felt to others, which sounds a wee bit creepy.

Anyway, I have really enjoyed reading about "the lives of others'" and have been amazed at the millions of people who are out there blogging about the dinners they've cooked and the recipes they have created or sourced and I thought to myself "I like to cook" . . . maybe I should try that too!

Also, I have now lost nearly 27 kg since September. I have found that I am really motivated by the many generous bloggers who share their ups and downs of their weight loss journeys, and of course those all important "before and after" shots. Again, I feel a bit like a stalker as I frequent these blogs desperate to hear if people have lost or gained and to pick up any little tips here and there. Weightloss blogs have really helped me with my journey, so who knows, maybe I can help someone else. That is another reason for my decision to try blogging myself.

Finally, it is clear to me that a number of people get clarification and catharsis from self-reflecting in their blogs and I really enjoy writing--I am a terror with an email (I'm told by work colleagues that they save my emails to have with a cup of tea, or maybe that's a nice way of saying they don't read them!) and frequently have to edit my posts on the Weight Watcher boards because they are too long--so I'm thinking I would benefit from that self-reflection too. Which may be just as well, as I dont' know if I'll ever attract any readers!!

What kind of blog will this be, I wonder?? I need to do a whole lot of reflecting about my new career as a teacher as I'm finding that pretty challenging . . . also I do LOVE to eat and cook . . . and I am serious about my plight to get to a normal healthy weight . . . and then I need to vent about the demands of being a wife and mother of three . . . so we'll see what direction this blog will take in time I guess. Probably all of the above. I'm not real crash hot on organisation however, so I don't know how I'll go with folders and labels and everything like that. I have about 3000 unfiled documents on my hard drive so I'm thinking the end result will be a little chaotic, but I'm keen to get started and see what happens!!

A Word About the "Before Pictures"

I avoid the camera like most fatties, however, Easter 2008 while on holidays with family and friends I couldn't avoid it constantly that's why all my current "before" pics are taken in Bali! I don't know why all my photos are coming out so small . . . I still have a lot to learn about this blogging thing.