Kitchen Therapy


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Dieter’s Tartine

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Lunch for one? What?!?
I realised that my attention is always on family meals.
Feeding our family of 5 takes a bit of planning.
Activities determine how quick and easy meals need to be some nights.
Likes and dislikes narrow down choices on other nights.
And then there’s the nights when I give up and order thai for everyone!
So on the days I’m not at work, lunch for me is quick and dodgy.
But not today!
Today I feast ūüôā
Today was all about me!
I was making this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe for one!
It was quick and easy… and yet… it felt leisurely and indulgent.
(I am pretty sure I even clapped my hands in delight and anticipation at one point!)

I grilled some crusty bread (I love the stripes grilling leaves!)
Spread some cottage cheese on top.
Spooned some diced tomatoes and cucumbers over the cheese.
Scattered some green onions.
Ground some salt and pepper over it all.
And finally,
I drizzled (drowned) the entire thing with the most delicious Balsamic Vinegar I have ever tasted!
(I bought it on my last visit to the new Williams-Sonoma store that opened in Sydney).
OMG it was amazing!!!

I am looking forward to reading what the rest of the French Fridays with Dorie group thought.


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Beef Cheek Daube with Carrots and Elbow Macaroni

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Herbed Olives.
Ummm…
I didn’t make herbed olives.
I didn’t even register herbed olives on the November recipe schedule!
I just went to the FFWD site to get ready to link to it and there they were.
November 23rd – Herbed Olives.

 

I’m genuinely baffled and a little amused!
(Amused because I think my little obsession with beef cheeks has rendered me blind!)

 

 

It all started with an episode of MasterChef.
One of the contestants was cooking against a chef from Melbourne called Frank Camorra.
There was such a humbleness and graciousness in the chef’s demeanor, years later, I can still recall how uplifted and inspired I felt after that episode.
On our next trip to Melbourne,  I googled his restaurant on a whim and before I knew it, we were having lunch at his Spanish restaurant, Movida.
I was so excited, I wanted to try everything on his Tapas style menu.
Dish after dish arrived, my husband and I were having so much fun.
The flavours were exciting and new.
And then… right at the end… it came out.
Braised Beef Cheeks in Pedro Ximenez on Cauliflower Puree.
I didn’t think food could make you feel giddy with pleasure.
But that’s what this dish did to me.
The beef cheeks melted in my mouth.
The sweetness of the dark, thick, sherry sauce was perfectly balanced and complimented by the smooth cauliflower puree.
Seriously, my words just don’t do this dish justice.
Every 2-3 months we fly to Melbourne and 2 years later, our first stop is still Movida.

So with all this flooding my mind, it’s no wonder I jumped the gun on this recipe!

Dorie’s recipe for beef cheeks was good.
Comforting.
Satisfying.

After all the jumping around it was a good meal to sit on the back deck and fill up on…

 

Once I realised this was not going to be anything like Movida’s beef cheeks, I let go of my expectations and enjoyed the dish. It was a good, solid, meal.

If you’d like to see what French Fridays with Dorie is all about, click here.

 

 

 

 


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Gingerbread Christmas Cookie Tree

I remember someone telling me that the purpose of meditation was to give us a break from our daily lives. While meditating we are focused on other things, our breath, our body, the present moment. Anything but what has been consuming us and occupying our thoughts. At the end of our meditation time we step back into our lives. But we do so refreshed. We’ve had a break from all our worries, duties and roles. And now we return recharged and the time away has, hopefully, given us a new perspective. A more detached and objective way to see our lives, and with fresh eyes, we can tackle our concerns with new ideas that were hidden from us while we were caught up in the story that was our life! I honestly cannot remember where I picked up this broad definition of meditation, but it’s stuck with me.

That’s what I love about cooking and in particular, baking. My way of being in the world can be very much in my mind and not much happening in the body! My mind can be a hive of activity, sometimes it feels like it’s home to a loud, chaotic, formula 1 race track. You’d never know what’s going in there by watching me, my body goes through the day doing it’s thing and not getting in the mind’s way. Actually it’s learnt to stay out of the mind’s way! And that’s where baking and cooking come into play.

Doing something that is physical and new¬†requires me to focus fully on the activity at hand. My mind tries to gloss over instructions so it can get back to solving the latest drama, but I’ve learnt the more active my mind, the more complex the recipe I need to pick needs to be. I have to concentrate on what I am doing and force myself to take a break from the tapes playing in my head. And when the business and dramas are big, like at Christmas time, doing anything complex is the last thing I want to do! That’s how I new it was time to undertake a challenge. I have been wanting to make a Gingerbread House, but I have been sick with the latest bug the boys brought home and when I saw Gingerbread Christmas Trees I was sold! They looked amazing and somehow not as daunting as the houses, to me.

I made the dough using the recipe below from Gourmet Traveller. I also had five 11-year old boys in the house having a sleepover, friends dropping in and still feeling weak from the bug. The combination wasn’t great. After many hiccups, I took my first batch out of the oven and then dropped them!
At this point my 14-year old decided to step in. My goal was to spend some mother daughter time while the boys were destroying the house. She was reluctant to begin with, but I stepped back fully and other than making the dough and destroying the first batch of stars, she did everything. 

She is also an “in her head” sort of person.¬†
So it was great to sit back and watch the meditative process of baking in action.
She was in “flow”.
She had purpose and an incredible sense of achievement at the end of it all.
And while she took pics of her creation to post on facebook and tumblr, I took pics of her to post here.

Remember to take a break from the busy-ness of the season, whatever form your ‘meditation’ takes, take time to do it and you will be rewarded with a renewed sense of perspective, love and joy!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Gingerbread Recipe (as it appears in Gourmet Traveller for their gingerbread house recipe)

700g plain flour
190g each light brown sugar and dark muscovado sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
220g cold butter, cubed
180g golden syrup
2 eggs

1. Process half of each of the flour, sugars, baking powder and spices in a food processor to combine well. Add half the butter, process to combine, then add half the golden syrup and 1 egg and process until mixture comes together (3-4 minutes). Turn onto a work surface, knead until mixture comes together, wrap in plastic wrap and repeat with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate to rest for at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Roll our each piece of gingerbread on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick. Cut decorative shapes out and place on trays lined with baking paper and bake in batches until darkened around the edges. About 10 minutes. Cool on trays for 5 minutes then cool on wire racks.

Royal Icing Recipe (as it appears in Gourmet Traveller for their gingerbread house recipe)

2 egg whites
450g pure icing sugar

Whisk egg-whites in a bowl, gradually adding icing sugar to the mixture until it is smooth holds a stiff peak. Leave white or colour what ever shade your desire the spoon into piping bags fitted with desired piping tubes.

To assemble:
Pipe icing onto each star in whatever pattern you fancy and we dabbed icing in the middle of each star to stick the tree together.


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Fig & Goat’s Cheese Fritters Salad with Balsamic Syrup

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

I love this quote.
It reminds that motivation doesn’t just happen, it’s something we have to work at.
Along with my Short Ribs in Red Wine and Port recipe post, I discussed being forced to challenge my rather limited beliefs I held about creativity.
I honestly thought creativity was about the ability to paint and¬†decorate, and therefore confidently declared myself ‘creatively challenged’!
On my journey to redifine my thoughts on creativity, I stumbled across another deeply held yet totally ignorant assumption I had.

I thought if you were creative, your creative ability oozed out of you.

Seriously, I pictured creative people standing in front of an empty canvas and their art just flowing out of them.

Then I read this quote by Michaelangelo:

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

It started to dawn on me that I had made many half-assed assumptions about what creativity meant!
(Yes, I am hanging my head in shame as I admit this!)
But I am sharing this because this relevation was a huge turning point for me.
I not only realised that creativity took many shapes and forms, I finally understood that creative people worked hard at their art!
I kinda figured, ¬†“If I was meant to be a fitness and figure competitor, I would live and breathe the gym!”
“If I was meant to be a writer, words would just pour out of me.”
You get the gist…

Now I realise that these people are good at what they do because they make themselves do it.
They don’t live in a constant state of motivation,¬†they’re just persistent and consistent at their art.
Whatever it may be.
That’s why I like¬†Zig Ziglar’s quote. It sums up perfectly what I’m trying to say, creativity requires motivation to produce art! Whatever your art may be!

I saw this recipe for Fig & Fried Goat’s Cheese Salad with Balsamic Syrup and honestly, while I wanted to eat it, after another hectic weekend, it was the last thing I wanted to make!
But these days I’ve learnt to focus on how I’m going to feel after the work is done!
So in no time I was cutting, whisking, dipping and frying!

And boy was it worth it!


Fig & Fried Goat’s Cheese Salad with Balsamic Syrup

(More or less as it appears in MasterChef Magazine)

2 x 150g logs soft goat’s cheese
1 cup plain flour
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 lemon zested
150g baby rocket
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
6 purple figs, stems trimmed, torn into quarters
vegetable oil to deep fry

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbs sugar


Method

1. Wrap logs of cheese in plastic wrap roll into even log shapes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Place flour in  one bowl, the beaten eggs in another and the breadcrumbs with lemon zest and 1 tsp salt in a third bowl.

3. Unwrap cheese and cut each log into 12 slices. The recipe recommends greasing your knife (and so do I!).

4. Dip each slice into the flour, eggs and finally the breadcrumbs.

5. Place on a tray and refrigerate for 20 mins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. In the meantime put balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and cool over low heat for about 3 mins or until sugar dissolves.
Then leave to cool.

7. Toss rocket with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and top with the figs.

8. Fill a saucepan or deep fryer about 1/3 full with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat until a cube of bread turns golden in 10 seconds.

9. Lower crumbed cheese into oil and fry until golden. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

10. Top salad with fried cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

 

I really loved this salad!
I meant what I said about being totally exhausted!
My husband took our 13 year-old with a bunch of friends to watch Rhianna on Friday night.|
Saturday she went camping with her friends (and some of the parents) while we went to a 40th.
The 10 year-old had a sleep over at a friend’s and our 3 year-old spent the night with grandparents!
By Sunday night we were all exhausted so we ordered some woodfired pizza for dinner and I made this as the side salad.

When my husband arrived with our pizza, I took one look at the garlic pizza crust and loaded it with the salad.

I didn’t even taste the other pizzas!
It really was amazing!

 

 

 


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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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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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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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How Can I Be Happier?

 

We have studied depression in depth for the last century and we know a lot about what makes us miserable! 

Most of have felt depressed at some point in life. We feel down, we don’t really care about much, we have no energy and for a while, life feels unpleasant. But we know we will get through it.

Some people however have more frequent episodes of feeling down and the duration and intensity of these episodes can be used as guides to unresolved psychological problems. Depression is way for the body to communicae to us that there is something wrong. When I talk to my clients about depression I get them to think of it as a continuum rather than a question of “Am I depressed or not?” On one end of the continuum is the mild to moderate range where the experience is painful and uncomfortable. While on the other end we have Bipolar or Manic Depression which is more biological in nature.

Our goal is to treat the problems that the clients present with, to get the levels of depression and anxiety to nil, zero. But people want more than just feeling not depressed, they want to have meaning and happiness in their lives.

This recognition led to¬†a new branch of psychology called Positive Psychology. It is¬†interested in the “scientific study of optimal human functioning.” So the goals is no longer to just¬†identify and treat mental health problems, but also to¬†teach people how to enhance the quality of their lives using¬†substantiated research and findings that have been proven to deliver results.

I like to think of happiness also having a continuum where the more frequency, intensity and duration of symptoms is symbolic of being further along the continuum and feeling happier!

Martin Seligman, on of the founders of Positive Psychology defines happiness as “both positive feelings (such as ecstasy and comfort) and positive activities that have no feeling component at all (such as absorption and engagement)”.

Mihaly Csiskzentmihalyi claims the way to happiness is through “flow”, a state where we are so engrossed in “some activity that time either lengthens or disappears, we no longer notice our surroundings except as related to the activity and any problem or discomfort drops entirely out of mind”.

I used to think “I’ll be happy when…”
I struggled (for a long time!) with the idea that happiness was a choice avalaible to me at any¬† point. I believed that happiness was the end goal, the reward for¬†hard work and suffering!. I remember thinking “if I just went around all day feeling happy I’d never do anything again!” I¬†got really stuck here. I felt accessing happiness just for the sake of it was cheating and fake.

Then one day it dawned on me. When you are happy you are more likely to achieve your goals and succeed! When I feel happy I am excited and energised. I feel at peace and I find it easier to get absorbed in whatever I am doing. I can appreciate my self and my surroundings more. I have increased clarity in thought and inspiration. Feeling happy actually helps me to produce a higher quality of work.

So rather than asking “Am I happy or not?” ask yourself “How can I be happier?” This changes the nature of happiness from something that is the end result to happiness being¬† an ongoing process. Something that is infinite in nature and within your control.

Can you think of something you really want?
Imagine you have it.
A new house, a new car, a new body? Whatever you think will make you feel happy. Now imagine yourself going through the day having this something you treasure. How will you feel about yourself, how will this effect the interactions you have with the world. Will you feel more confident, assured? 
When you have really stepped into the role and can feel this I want you to consider that you just had acces to all those feelings all on your own. They are there, available to you at any moment!  

When you’re happy, nothing has actually changed yet everything suddenly seems different.