Pizza Mate: Garlic Dipping Sauce

IMG_8411.JPGA concept that was introduced to me while dining at a Papa John’s restaurant in Beijing was a special dipping sauce that came with your pizza… it now made the previously unappealing crusts of the pizza (unappealing to most children anyway) now a necessary component of the meal. Every dip now turns your crust into instant garlic bread!

Tired of seeing leftover crusts on my son’s plate, I decided to whip together my own version of the dipping sauce… (note: there’s no Papa John’s in Perth)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Place the butter in a small bowl and pop it into the oven with the pizza. Once the butter has melted, pull it out of the oven and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Serve on the side of the pizza. Chances are you won’t get through the batch in one setting, but it can be covered and kept in the fridge for next time… just pop it back in the oven when the pizza is baking.

Beau’s Fried Rice

IMG_8391.JPGOne of my son’s most favourite dishes to chow down on and is relatively simple to whip together. This post will be less focused on the ingredients with more attention focused on the actual method… and the main reason for this is… this dish changes based on whatever is available in the refrigerator at the time of making it!

On this occasion, I heated up about 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok on medium-high heat. While this was warming up, I diced 1 small onion and crushed 3 garlic cloves… which were dropped into the wok once it was ready. Stir-fry until the garlic started browning and the onions began turning translucent. Then some bacon sliced into small bits were dropped in and once they’d browned slightly, I grabbed a bag of frozen veggies from the freezer and added that to the mix. A lot of ice had dropped out of the bag at this point, so I allowed the mix to reduce until most of the water had evaporated out of the wok.

Now the most important ingredient was added… the rice! When you’re making fried rice, the trick is to use OLD rice. Freshly steamed rice still has far too much water and will just make the fried rice a bit sticky. I had cooked rice a day earlier and popped it in the fridge in anticipation for this dish.

After the rice was added and stirred (in my case, I had to spend time manually crushing rice clumps) I then added about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and stirred that through. I cracked 2 eggs into a bowl, beat them, then poured the egg mix over the rice… then covered the wok and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Once the egg has cooked through, you can stir the rice again and it’s now ready to serve.

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Avocado Germination

About a year ago, I saw a post on Facebook describing a special device created to grow avocados from seeds. It was essentially a piece of plastic that floated on top of the water that also allowed the base of the seed to be submerged. In my opinion, it was another excuse to sell off a piece of plastic. I asked myself this question… isn’t it possible to just use what’s available to construct something similar? And a new project was set.

I found a plastic tray that once held cookies and cut off one of the segments. I then carefully cut a circular shape at the bottom to hold the avocado seed. This was then pressed into the opening of a glass jar and then filled with water. I was careful to notice the water levels to ensure that the bottom of the seed was constantly submerged in the water and would add water if too much had evaporated.a

After a couple of months, a root started to form until it reached the bottom of the glass jar. The original jar lacked depth and didn’t allow the root to grow further… which was also why a stem wasn’t forming as I was expecting. I then shifted the seed to another jar, and the root very quickly extended in length.

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The seed in the new jar

 

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Finally beginning to sprout after many, many weeks

 

It was also at this point that a stem has begun to sprout from the top of the seed. In another week or 2, this seed will be ready for some soil! Will post the progress in the future.

DIY Hummus

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Very easy dish to whip together… although it’s not one that I happen to make regularly since Owen is not a huge fan of it. In the past, I would use my “magic bullet” rip off and whiz it up in batches… but found that method to be quite tedious. This time around, I decided to simply use a potato masher!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbs tahini paste
  • 3-5 crushed garlic cloves
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup (~60ml) water
  • 100ml olive oil

Pop the chickpeas, cumin, tahini paste, garlic and lemon juice into a bowl and start mashing until combined. Add the water and mash again. Once that’s combined, drizzle in the olive oil and mix until smooth. Then you can serve it up with your dippers of choice… carrot or celery sticks, crackers, or Turkish bread.

The Simple Oil Change (that gets complicated)

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This was the first time I decided to try an oil change… it didn’t seem to be a difficult job to take care of. You jack the car up, place an oil pan under the sump plug, release the oil, change the oil filter, replace the sump plug, lower the car and then refill the engine with the appropriate oil. Easy.

After the car was raised, and the pan placed, I found that the sump plug was quite stiff and would require some more torque to release. A quick spray of WD40 helped, but it still wasn’t coming off. Eventually, I managed to attach a pipe to the end of the spanner and that extra force was enough to release the oil

 

 

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Let all that oil drip out

Once I allowed the oil to completely drain, I made an attempt to remove the used oil filter. It was then that I had a rather annoying problem. The oil filter remover that I had purchased a year previously was too large for this car. I tried in vain for a good amount of time, even shoving a rag in there to fill up the extra space in the gap to no avail… this filter wasn’t coming off.

 

 

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The useless oil filter remover

Not knowing what to do next, I cleaned myself off and headed to the internet for help. Being directed to a random forum, a logical solution appeared. I would need to hammer a screwdriver into the old oil filter… essentially creating a handle that would then give me the ability to unscrew the old filter.

(Due to the amount of mess that was created through this process… I thought it would be best to quit taking photos of the operation at this point)

Puncturing the old oil filter released a healthy amount of used oil onto my clothes and, after getting the screwdriver in up to it’s handle, I was able to slowly unscrew the oil filter. After dousing the new filter with oil, it was screwed in place while using the oversized remover (with a rag) to get it as tight as possible. Once this was done, the car was lowered… and new oil was poured into the engine. I ran the car engine for a few minutes allowing the new oil to make its way to the sump. After the car was off and settled for a few minutes, I had a final check of the oil with the dipstick… all good. Job done… I promptly headed to the bathroom for a much-needed shower!

 

 

DIY Sauerkraut

Another thing I had been procrastinating on for years but always wanting to try was making my own Sauerkraut. I have fond memories of a batch my mother made when I was young that went well with some sausages that my father had bought from the local German butcher. After finding a cabbage at the bottom of the fridge that had no use and was now sprouting, I decided that now was the time to try!

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The first thing you must do is… clean everything! Whatever containers that will touch the cabbage… and of course, your hands. The process of fermentation relies on good bacteria for the process, and this will get ruined by any other bacteria that may reside on your things.

I discarded the outer leaves, cut the cabbage into quarters and removed the core. Then I cut the quarters down again into eights and then gently broke the leaves apart before placing into 2 large mixing bowls. From there, I sprinkled a teaspoon of salt over the cabbage in each bowl (2 tsp total) and gently massaged and squeezed the salt into all the cabbage leaves. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes. Gradually, the salt makes the cabbage become watery and limp.

Once this is done, I started grabbing handfuls and placing them into my jar of choice. I had recently gone through a 2kg jar of pickled cucumbers and had saved the jar for such an occasion. Every so often, I tamped the cabbage down with the end of a (clean) rolling pin so that the cabbage was all nicely packed. Juices that were released in the bowls were also poured in.

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Everything now in the jar

Once all the cabbage was packed into the jar, I slipped a smaller jar into the mouth of the jar and weighed it down by filling it with water. This was to keep the cabbage weighed down and eventually submerged beneath its own liquid. I then covered the jar with a tea towel and secured it with a rubber band.

Over the next day, I would constantly check the cabbage and press it down with the smaller jar. As the cabbage continued to release its liquid, it becomes limper and compact and the liquid should rise over the top of the cabbage. If it doesn’t after 24 hours, you can dissolve 1 tsp salt into 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage. I, fortunately, didn’t have to on this occasion.

The photo on the left was the result of 1 day of fermenting, the right photo another 2 days later. I had it fermenting for about 10 days when I tasted it… and it tasted good! At that point, I removed the weight, screwed on a cap and moved the jar to the fridge.

Things I’ll do differently the next time: I should have sliced the cabbage down even further till they were strips. The larger pieces were a little more difficult to pack down. And next time, I’ll try adding some caraway seeds and black peppercorns.

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The Squeaky Engine Fix

About a month ago, we decided to go on the road and show our visiting Swiss cousin some of the nearby sites in Western Australia. On this one particular day, my “Little Red Engine That Could” was expected to travel 400km at speeds in excess of 100km/h. Usually, when travelling at similar speeds down the freeway, it’s not an issue. But once you get far enough north of the city, the roads become rough and cause some serious vibrations at said speeds.

After enjoying the scenery at our destination 200km away, we made our way back and that’s when Little Red started speaking to us. Squeaky, squeaky, squeaky as the motor turned. My passengers were a little concerned with the sound, but I knew exactly what the problem was… something I had known about for 2 years yet procrastinated on since I considered the job to be too fiddly. We managed to return to the city without a breakdown, but I knew the issue had to be taken care of immediately.

IMG_8333.JPGThat week, I pulled out my service manual and got to figuring out how to change the drive belt… the cause of the squeak. 2 years previous, the very last time I took my car to a qualified mechanic, replacing the drive belt was on a long list of items that needed attention. But not wanting to pay over $2000 in labour fees, I ordered many of the replacement parts online with the idea of doing it myself. Despite receiving the replacement drive belt, I never got around to changing it. The reason? Since everything in my car is quite compact, to access the engine I would need to remove the front bumper and one of the front headlights. It seemed all too hard at that moment, so I did nothing.

Now having to actually DO something, I got to it. After removing the front bumper, and the front headlight (which in the end wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as my brain had it out to be) I now had access to the drive belt. After loosening the tensioner, I was able to remove the drive belt.

 

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The worn drive belt

 

Despite reading in my manual to “Note how the drive belt is routed” and believing I knew it’s route, I ended up getting lost when attempting to attach the new belt. My lazy manual did not describe in any detail how this was to be done, so I was forced to find a solution on my iPad.

IMG_8334.JPGAfter a bit of fiddling, the new drive belt was now installed. I ran the engine to listen. The squeak was now gone. Now it’s time to take care of the other items I have procrastinated on! 😉

Chicken Adobo

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There are very few meals that I can remember so vividly from my childhood, but this is the most memorable…. it’s a delicate balance of salty, sour and sweet flavours. This dish is the pride of the Philippines and primarily uses soy sauce and vinegar as a marinade. It is one of the easier dishes to prepare and once you get the ratios right, it is very delicious. And don’t feel that you are limited to just chicken, you can safely use any meat with this recipe… I’ve tried an assortment of “red meats” at this point.

My first attempt at this turned out far more “tart” than expected, and it was due to my mother’s failing memory. The next attempt came from a random site on the internet and, since it was now close to that taste I was familiar with, it became my “set in stone” ratio… for 500g of meat – ½ cup soy sauce, ¾ cup vinegar, 2 cups water.

In recent times, I have played around with this dish and tried a few new things out. Since Adobo is known as a “marinade”, I’m now allowing the meat to sit in the sauce for a few hours before cooking (although I honestly haven’t noticed much difference as far as flavour goes”. Usually, I would just use white vinegar but on this occasion, I decided to give apple cider vinegar a try.

In the photo above, I placed 2kgs of mixed chicken pieces into the marinade and allowed that to sit in the fridge overnight.  The marinade used is as follows…

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed with the blade of a knife
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups water

When preparing to cook the next day, everything was transferred to a large heavy bottomed pot and was brought to the boil… then the heat was reduced to medium and allowed to simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. With chicken, you can tell it’s ready when you see the skin coming away from the meat. I like to have it sit on the stove top a little extra to allow the mix to reduce further and really thicken up the sauce. Serve with steamed white rice.

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DIY Compost Bin

If you haven’t seen War On Waste by ABC, I highly recommend you take the time to do so. It gives you a look at how wasteful we are as a society, but also an idea of what an individual can do to change that. In one particular episode, it was pointed out how much food waste ends up in a landfill, decomposing and producing methane. No longer wanting to be part of the problem, I decided to create my own compost bin out of an unused storage container.

 

 

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Using a drill, holes were created around the bin and in the lid to allow air in.

 

 

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The bottom of the lid was sawn off to create an access door at the bottom of the compost bin. I used duct tape and velcro to secure the “door” to the bin. I plastic tray is placed near the door to capture any loose “juices” that may run out of the compost (and would need to be thrown back in).

 

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The compost bin required access from the top to dump in materials, so using a hacksaw a makeshift “lid” was created. The original (grey) lid was then hot glued in place.

 

 

 

Chock-full of Choc Cookies

Recently, I went through my tried and tested cookie recipe and decided to mix it up a bit. I added some Cocoa powder to the dry mix to now make the cookies a dark brown colour and added white chocolate chips. I was already a little suspicious of this batch since I found it wasn’t as “wet” as past batches, and I was able to easily roll the cookie dough with my hands.

After this batch came out of the oven, I had a very delicious BUT very crunchy cookie… which was not expected since we’re usually going for softer cookies. It made the larger and thicker cookies a lot more difficult to get through… which had my son slightly concerned since his front teeth had finally come back and he wanted them to stay around.

When my friend and his wife came over for a visit, it wasn’t until I was explaining the recipe that it dawned on me what I had left out of this particular batch…. eggs!

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Crunchy Version

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter (225g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • one third cup cocoa powder
  • 1 pack of choc chips (about 200g)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Cream the sugars, butter and vanilla in one bowl and mix the other dry ingredients together in another bowl. Pour the sugar mix into the dry ingredients and mix together to form the cookie dough. Then add the choc chips and mix thoroughly. Spoon the mix onto a baking tray (that’s been lined with baking paper), and bake for about 15 minutes.

During this process, I went from cookies that were probably too soft to ones that were hard (but manageable if you create thinner cookies). Once I realised the eggs were missing, I had to run another batch… but just using a single egg.

New Favourite Version

Same as above… but add 1 egg to the wet ingredients.

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