Kitchen Therapy


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Quiches and Tarts – and everything in between!

It has been another busy week.
At home there’s school, soccer, band, karate, dancing, netball, get togethers, parties, homework, assignments, fights, tears… mostly mine!

Netball Gala Day to raise money for Cancer Research

Band Workshop

Helping out at school

At work there’s more tears, lots of them, but at least there the tears are from clients trying to cope with their own lives.

In all the madness I tried to foster a sense of control so I went on a cleaning and purging binge!
I cleaned everything! Including my iphone… and all the photos… including the one’s of this week’s recipe.

Probably how I looked when I realised I wiped the photos!
(Don’t you love the pics the kids think are hilarious to take!)

Anyway…

I can tell you Dorie’s Spinach and Bacon Quiche was amazing.
Everyone loved it, from the 3 year old to my 70 year old dad.
Absolutely amazing!
To see actual photos of Dorie’s Spinach and Bacon Quiche from the talented French Fridays with Dorie cooks, click here. 

I made this quiche on the weekend, so I was going to be really good (after missing last week’s recipe) and get my post ready nice and early.
When I discovered I’d wiped my photos I was bummed but ready to make another quiche.
Everyone loved it after all…
But then, as I was flicking through my copy of Around My French Table, I noticed the recipe for Gerard’s Mustard Tart.
I joined after the group made this and I happen to love mustard so I thought I’d make this instead.

Dorie uses the same tart dough recipe for both recipes and I had my trusty sidekick helping…

The dough is so easy to make…

The filling for both quiches was even easier to prepare…

As I said I love mustard.
I also love leeks and pasty.
The taste was unusual and unfamiliar, but in a good way.
It left us with a quizzical but appreciative look on our faces.
I definitely recommend stepping out of the familiar and giving this tart a go.
And the spinach and bacon quiche will definitely be made again and again!

A very comprehensive and detailed recipe of Dorie Greenspan’s mustard tart can be found here. 


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School Holidays and Vanilla Eclairs!

It’s school holidays in Australia! Yay!
I missed the last two challenges of French Fridays with Dorie. The first week I was sick with the flu and the next we were in Melbourne.
I was determined I was not going to miss another week!
So I decided, despite having 6 of my 10-year-old son’s friends over for the day, I would make this week’s recipe!

The Vanilla Pastry Cream came together perfectly over arguments discussions about why they can’t watch Sucker Punch or Red Riding Hood at the cinemas.
It chilled in the fridge as I stood out in the middle of the street directing traffic so the boys could scooter and skateboard out of our steep driveway at full speed.
It was all good! I was in control and feeling pretty chilled!

Next, the Cream Puff Dough!
I went through a phase some years back when I made profiteroles on a regular basis so I was feeling pretty confident.
Now somewhere between chasing running after the angels as they moved like lightning between our house and the oval at the end of our street
and more ummm… ‘debates’ as to why they can’t play knock and run or go into the National Park surrounding the oval by themselves,
my Cream Puff Dough didn’t… puff!

Hard as I tried, there was no way these babies were going to be filled. They tasted pretty good, but were flat as pancakes!
I learnt something from my house full of tenacious and relentless boys, don’t give up, cos you’ll eventually get what you want if you keep pestering trying!
The second time around I cut a hole at the end of a sandwich bag, filled it with the dough and squeezed out the eclairs!
Yes! This time it worked!

I was pumped! I managed to complete the recipe!
I piled the boys in the car and met a friend who had the rest of their friends waiting for us at the cinemas.
We settled on ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2’.
We sat them all into their seats and just as we started to think okay! They are in a contained space and we can relax for the next 90 minutes or so, we realised we had taken boys, that already had the resources and stealth of seasoned ninjas, to watch a movie that turned out to be an instruction manual on how to get away with absolutely anything!
We sat and watched in helpless terror!

To see more versions of this week’s recipe and read more stories visit French Fridays with Dorie!


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Short Ribs In Red Wine and Port

I admit it! I have (until recently) been one of those people who thought creativity meant being able to paint or decorate!
It was something that involved a lot of drawing and knowing which colours went together.
So, given this definition, I routinely described myself as “the least creative person you were to ever meet!”
Then, my 10 year forced me to re-evaluate my beliefs.
I had his future clearly planned for him in my mind. Studying economics at university and then working for one of the major banks! Done!
Then something weird happened. He started to develop a real creative streak!
I started to get nervous.
He enjoyed it and others noticed he had a knack for it.
My banking dreams were being threatened and replaced with visions of him painting portraits at Circular Quay!
How could he do this to me!!!
Just as I was beginning to think I had to do something drastic to save my child from a life of artistic poverty, he said to me “Jack (his friend) and I have been talking and we decided we are going to work for Disney making graphics for their movies!” I wanted to cry! Working for Disney! That was a real job? Right? And he would be making money!

He forced me to re-think my ideas on creativity! It was the best gift he could have ever given me!

Today I see creativity everywhere I go.
Take this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe. It took creative genius to pull this baby off!

Juggling work, three kids at three different schools doing three different after school activities, a father coming out of rehab after a massive heart attack and stroke and me deciding to go back to uni, I was sure these ribs were going to fall by the wayside!

But the sadist in me wouldn’t let go of the satisfaction I knew would be waiting for me at the completion of this week’s recipe! So after buying a wheelchair and mobility scooter for my dad, I ducked into the fabric shop nearby and bought the cheesecloth for the bouquet garni.

After driving to uni to pick up my time-table with my 3 year old I realised it was ‘O’ week (orientation week) so I put off my grilling plans and we joined the celebrations!

A few lollipops and some one on one time with my baby was worth the delay!
Back home and the grilling…

…chopping and cooking were finally under way!

Before long the ribs, vegetables and a tonne of booze were all tightly snuggled into the oven for a few hours and we were on our way to pick up the others from school and meet friends for a catch up.
While the kids ran around and the grown ups chatted, the ribs bubbled away at home. We came home to the most amazing smell! Everyone was so excited about dinner till I told them it was for tomorrow night! Ha!
The next day the fat was scooped off and the ribs were ready for the final grilling!

They were pretty amazing!
If I didn’t join French Fridays with Dorie I would never have cooked these!
I would have flicked through the book and came back to it on the odd occasion and maybe even made a handful of recipes I felt comfortable with.
How much I would have missed out on!

The creativity of the other members inspires me, check out their takes on this recipe here.

 

 


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Good Stuff and Gratitude

Wineglass Bay – Tasmania

The 4 hour drive from Launceston to Wineglass Bay on the east coast of Tasmania was long, slow and uneventful (except for the wars being waged in the back seat over, well… everything).
It was during this leg of our Tasmanian Christmas vacation that I had a moment of perfect clarity. An Oprah “aha” moment. It was perfect and fleeting. And I knew I had to grab it and flesh it out before it was drowned and lost forever in the singing and wailing coming from behind me.

Life was short and I was spending too much time on things and people that were not serving me. In fact, they were sucking the life right out of me!

This moment lasted seconds but it felt like existential enlightment flooding every inch of my being! It was a very physical experience, I didn’t just think it, I felt it! And for a few fleeting moments, everything made perfect sense!

I decided right there and then to be picky, really picky, with what I allowed to fill my mind!

I resolved to set my standards high and to do everything in my power to fill my mind with good stuff! Exciting, inspirational, “feel good” stuff!

I made an active choice to fill my mind with beauty and creativity.

I identified what dragged me down (and who) and was clear on what fueled me and always set me back on course.

So these days I spend a lot more time here…

And it never fails to shock that pants off me how clear I am when I leave this place! I walk away feeling strong, focused and clear on what and who is  important.

The other thing that has kept me on track is this blog!
If I’m not immersed in putting together the latest post or cooking the latest Dorie recipe, I lose myself in the amazing blogs you guys have. Blogs that feel like a home. Blogs that are lovingly maintained and radiate warmth and personality. Blogs that I look forward to reading simply because they make me feel good.

And then something amazing happened!

These amazing people, whose blogs I admire, actually throw encouragement and acknowledgement my way and make me feel 10-feet tall!

Allison from French Whisk and Yummy Chunklet dished out a Sisterhood of World Bloggers Award!

This award simply asks that you pass it on. I’m kind of new to this blogging thing, but two blogs that have recently struck a chord with me are:

Jane at 7 Sutras

Gina at Gina Marie’s Kitchen

At the same time, Betsy from A Plate Full of Happiness and Katie from Prof Who Cooks awarded me with the Stylish Blogger Award!

Talk about feeling great! I am conscious of sounding like a gushing Gwyneth at the Oscar’s so I’ll just say thank you for the awards!
(And I am pasting the badges on my sidebar with pride!)

This Award has a few more requirements:

1. Thank the Person – thanks again guys!

2. Share 7 things about yourself – I think I’ve shared enough above and don’t want to risk boring anyone anymore!

3. Share 15 blogs you enjoy – again, being kinda new to this I don’t know that many blogs to nominate! But here’s a few that I’ve come across that stood out to me:

Effie at Effie’s Food Corner

Brian at Ottertude

4. Let the Bloggers Know! As it’s after midnight in Sydney, Australia I will do this first thing tomorrow!!!

Good Night!


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Chicken B’stilla

I love cookbooks! I love to read them, take in the photos and then stack them lovingly on the bookshelf, full of good intentions to return soon and often!

But if I’m to be honest, I don’t return soon enough or often enough. And if I’m to be really honest, when I decide to make something from one of my beloved books, it’s usually something I am comfortable with. You know… we all have our comfort zones. Our grooves… Okay! Our ruts! I admit it! As much as I like to think I’m open minded and expose myself to new experiences, my initial reaction is “play it safe!”

Now that’s no way to live life!

And that’s why I joined French Fridays With Dorie. I knew myself enough to know that I would follow through on a commitment and I would cook recipes that I would normally dismiss.
Recipes like this one!

A “sweetly spiced” chicken pie which has “as it does in Morocco, a dusting of cinnamon sugar over the crust.” Ummm… no thank you!

But I made a commitment…

So I found myself marinating the chicken in onions and spices.

 

Boiling and simmering ’till “falling-off-the-bone tender.” Then whisking, reducing and thickening some more.

 

Spooning into stacked and buttered filo sheets.

 

Then topping with some more stacked and buttered filo sheets before tucking the edges in “as though you were making a bed.”

 

Baking ’till golden brown and serving warm.

 

Yes, I skipped the dusting of cinnamon sugar on the top (what can I say?! I really wanted the kids and husband to eat it!).
I also skipped the almonds (my daughter is allergic).

The final result… everyone loved it! Even my 3 year old!

The only issue we had was that it was so rich and flavourful we couldn’t eat too much of it so I had to make sure we had other bits and pieces to fill up on.

Best of all… feeling amazingly good about myself for stepping out of my comfort zone!

Thanks French Fridays With Dorie!


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Australia Day 2011: Dee Why Beach

We get up early and head down to Dee Why beach along with thousands of others.

It’s tradition.

Bacon and egg rolls, sausage sandwiches, swimming, cricket on the beach, BBQ’s and beer!

January 26, 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip, commandeered 11 convict ships from Great Britain into Sydney Cove.

Today, we celebrate everything Australia stands for.

The outdoors, our beaches, our families, friends and community.

So, with the local band belting out AC/DC.

BBQ sauce dripping down our wrists.

And a killer rip dragging us like rag dolls into the surf so huge waves can spit us back out into the sand, we celebrate another Australia Day!




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Tasmania Day 1 (Part 1): Launceston and the Tamar Valley Resort

As the plane descended into Launceston my husband, Emily (13 and jumping above) and

Todd (10) strained their necks to look out of the tiny plane window. They took in the the endless, rolling, green hills with a random farm house scattered here and there. They all turned to me and said in awed wonder “Where the hell did you take us?!’

“We flew over a town back there! Seriously!” I defended my choice of holiday destination.

They weren’t really complaining I realised, just slightly concerned and bewildered about about finding food and lodgings amongst so much emptiness!

After a short wait, we were told our rental car was going to be upgraded from a full size sedan to a full size sports model. And in no time at all my husband was loving the empty freeways that he could “play” on with his new toy!

Launceston was a short 15 minute drive from the airport and our accommodation, the Tamar Valley Resort, was another 10 or so minutes after that.


Seriously, this place is real!
I was half expecting to see the Griswold’s kitted out in their Bavarian slap-dancing polka outfits strolling through the putt putt golf course!

Our two room lake-view cottage was picture perfect and newly refurbished (so we were happy to overlook the fact we weren’t on the lake along with the paper thin construction of dwelling until we froze our arses off the first night there).

However all was forgotten when the kids discovered the jumping pillow.

And putt putt golf, kayaks, paddle boats and trikes.

The Tamar Valley Resort was a bit out of the way however I think it’s part of being in Tasmania. There is a lot of empty space, as long as you have access to a car though, it’s really no issue as the roads are pretty good and empty!

Overall, a pretty good choice of accommodation for a family staying a few days in Launceston and a great start to our Tassie vacation!


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Golden Cheesy Bread Rolls (Kiflice)

“Until you know that life is interesting – and find it so – you haven’t found your soul.” – Geoffrey Fisher

Why does baking feel so incredibly satisfying and nourishing to the mind and the soul?

Or is that just me?

I get excited finding and planning my next cooking project, buying the ingredients and then carving out the time to play!

I wrote about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his studies about being in what he calls “flow”. Being engrossed in an activity that causes time to disappear, our problems and worries to melt away and we are no longer aware of our surrounding other than as they related to what we are doing. Being engaged in an activity that both challenges us and rewards us, an activity that gives us a sense of accomplishment and improvement, this is his definition of happiness.

Given this definition, then baking, cooking, creating something from scratch, is so wonderfully important to me because it makes me happy!

It’s as simple as that!

Could there be any better reason?!

Making these kiflice, which are Serbian bread rolls, brought back so many childhood memories, they made me feel closer to my Serbian dad who is in rehabilitation after suffering a heart attack and a stroke and they helped me feel closer to my heritage and my family!

Amazing that these little golden bread rolls could do so much!

I saw them when they were featured on FoodPress by Things We Make and followed their link to Maja from Cooks and Bakes who posted her recipe in Serbian and English!
They wouldn’t leave my thoughts and I knew I had my next baking project!

I made them with feta and they turned out magnificent! These little cheese rolls brought happiness not just to me but also my dad!
I’m already planning my next batch with fried leeks and goat’s cheese feta!

As the quote from Geoffrey Rush says, I hope you find that special something which makes your life interesting and in turn find your soul!




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Counselling 101 – Skills we should be taught at school!

 Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Rudyard Kipling

As a psychologist I get to witness  the power of words first hand. I see the effects of words that evoke fear, powerlessness and helplessness. I also see the flip side to this, words that empower, motivate and create joy, love and happiness.

Understanding and fully appreciating the power of words has been one of the most amazing things about my line of work. People are able to shift from depression, anxiety and fear to a state of peace and happiness through words.

The words we use to describe what we experience will in turn become our experience.

If one of my children is feeling sad, angry, happy, or playing victim I ask them what they are thinking. I can guarantee you the response is usually “I don’t know” followed by a scowl!
And it’s true, they have no idea what thoughts lead them to this emotion. They just know they feel good or bad!
And same goes for any of us, we don’t really pay attention to the constant chatter in our minds. But it’s there and it’s creating our reality!

As a psychologist, I have come to the conclusion that this is one of the most important lessons I need to teach my children.
To build in them the awareness and understanding that they are not victims to random emotions that take over their bodies.

(I know I am referring to children here however this is something most of us as adults have never really been taught. I passionately believe that this is crucial information about living that all kids need to be taught in school so they have the resources to become functional and contributing adults. Unfortunately it isn’t taught in school and it is what I teach my adult clients. Imagine how far we would all be if we were given this information at a young age?)

Most of us don’t really pay attention to what we are thinking, but we are pretty aware of how we are feeling at any given moment. So start with your emotions. Ask yourself  how you feel which also helps to build emotional awareness and identify and verbalise feelings better. 
Once you establish how you feel, take a step back and try to identify what you were thinking and as I said, people find it very difficult to pin down their thoughts. So take it slowly. How you feel and how you behave is determined by what thoughts are going around in your head. So if you’re feeling sad, you’ve been thinking sad thoughts and you may be crying or isolating yourself. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, you’ve probably been telling yourself that something is not fair and you may be sulking or stomping around! If you’re feeling happy, you’ve been having happy thoughts and your behaviour may be to whistle, play or be easy-going.

Your thoughts will determine how you feel and act. 
You cannot have happy thoughts and feel angry.
You cannot have angry thoughts and feel happy.
If you are thinking happy thoughts, you will be feeling happy and acting happy.
If you are thinking angry thoughts you will feel angry and act angry.
And so on…

 It sounds incredibly simple and yet it is one of the hardest things to master!
Choosing your thoughts and ultimately choosing the life you have.

Please feel free to leave me any questions or comments you have!


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“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The last few weeks have been emotionally and physically draining. My father had a heart attack that he was not expected to recover from. Luckily he has recovered and even though he has lost the use of his right leg, we are overjoyed with the progress he has made.

As we have progressed through the wards of the hospital, I have cut down my daily visits from 12 hour bedside vigils to a two to three hour visit. My days are very full and very tiring and as I drive to and from the hospital I find my mind drifting, questioning theories about grief. Running through exercises and passages I have read, asking myself what is useful and even possible when clients come in during times of stress. I have never wanted to be one of those psychologists that just talks at you, telling clients what they should be doing without making the effort to understand or respect what they are telling me. I have also never had the patience to be one of those therapists that sees clients endlessly, listening to them carry on about the same issue and not challenging them (may sound cold but there are clients who do just want to come in and have a bitch or a whinge without any interest or intention to change their lives!)

My dad’s heart attack meant I was now facing one of my biggest keeps you up at night fears.
Most of the time I felt I couldn’t breathe from the pain that seemed to crush my ribs and block my airways!
And then out of nowhere there were moments of perfect clarity that allowed me to step back and observe the process I was going through with objective interest.
Moments where I felt complete acceptance with the cycle of life and I knew that we would all be okay.

So here’s what I learnt from my dad’s heart attack…

1. All the stuff that books tell you doesn’t matter, really doesn’t!
Who cares about the gossip and who said what about who! You have no time or energy or interest in such rubbish! It was like a breath of fresh air. I had perspective and I wanted to make sure that I rememebered what really mattered and more importantly what didn’t matter for the rest of my life. I knew that at some point things would have to return to normal and I didn’t want to waste this experience.

2. You can choose how to respond.
I always felt that I would be one of those women you see on television, you know the one’s that wail, scream and try to throw themselves at the coffin. The thought of losing a family member has always filled me with such anxiety and despair that I never doubted that would be me! Recently I went to a friend’s father’s funeral and this friend of mine conducted herself with so much dignity that I took strength from her. Another friend’s 5 year old has been battling a brain tumor and again I witnessed a woman handle a terrible situation with incredible strength and grace.
I started to build other ways of being in my mind. Seeing these women helped me realise that you can choose how you conduct yourself no matter what is happening. I taught it, but I must confess I had my doubts, the pain with some clients at the loss of a loved one or the loss of a marriage is so intense and debilitating that you can easily be dragged into their worlds and feel as incapacitatingly helpless and hopeless as they feel. If you meet them all the way you will find it hard to see a way out yourself, if you don’t meet them at all, you will never really have an empathic understanding of what they are going through and will not be able to establish that necessary relationship and connection you need to be of use to them. So just like in counselling, in real life it’s finding that balance for yourself where you can grieve but you have the door open to the rest of your life and you can come and go freely.

3.You can only play victim for so long.
I find this hard to say without sounding insulting. I have clients who come in and spend so much time and energy waiting for the world to acknowledge the unfairness of their situation and then fix it. The world does acknowledge it, but then it expects you to move on. I felt surely everyone could see how much I was going through and I felt justified in my grief, until I returned to work and there was a stack of forms and files that needed addressing immediately. I had to work hard at not feeling resentful and sorry for myself! I have seen clients waste so much time and energy refusing the move on. Losing their jobs, their relationships as they cling desperately to the perceived unfairness and injustice of a situation. I’ve seen enough to know there comes a time when you need to accept and move on with your life. The alternative is truly terrifiying! Losing everything and everyone and then realising that it was all for nothing, carrying on will not take away the pain, it just creates more. Nothing will take away the pain, it’s about building a life around it.