My Choc Chip Cookies

This is a recipe I’ve been tinkering with for the last few years. The original contained way more sugar than I felt was necessary, but removing ingredients required replacing with others… and a lot of failed batches. This is the current recipe…

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter (or 200 g)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pack of choc chips (about 200g)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Cream the sugars, butter and eggs 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, and bake for about 15 minutes.

DIY Fish Batter

IMG_8070.JPGAt the end of my street lies what seems to be a very popular restaurant that serves up traditional Fish and Chips. If we ever go past on any given evening, you can expect to find a decent sized queue of people patiently waiting for their order. We have never eaten at this establishment and most likely never will… I can’t justify spending approximately $30AU for two meals when I can just do it myself for a hell of a lot cheaper.

It’s taken a bit of trial and error, but this recipe and method are now working for me.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup water

Mix the dry ingredients together. Then add the milk and water slowly while beating until the batter is smooth. Dip your fish into the batter and then allow the excess to drip off. I have a deep fryer in my kitchen, but if you don’t, a pot of oil on the stovetop will suffice… you’ll just be guestimating the actual temperature of the oil. Set the temp to 170°C-190°C. Using a pair of tongs, gently lower the fish into the oil until the batter forms a proper casing around the fish. Once that happens, you can drop the fish in. If you’re using a deep fryer, doing this will stop the fish from melding to the deep fry basket. Allow it to cook for a good 4 minutes, remove from the heat and soak as much of the oil off the fish as you can with paper towels. Season and serve… we’re ok with just a squeeze of lemon juice on the fish. Give it a go!

the original fish batter recipe

Masterpiece Pizza Vol. V

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This photo was taken on 21st June… so it took a little while to remember exactly what the toppings were for this particular ‘za. Tomato paste base, onions, cheese, chicken, bacon, tomato slices and celery leaves topped with the usual BBQ sauce and mayonnaise. A couple of friends have gotten me into celery leaves lately… and it worked a treat on this!

Fix it! Blender Repair

Thanks to a poor quality and my own stupidity… I had worn out the plastic gear on my blender. The gear had worn away to the point of where it could no longer spin the blender blades. My fault because since I got the blender, I would simply tilt the pressure to the side with the job switch instead of applying force directly downwards. The tilting would have made the contact between the gear and blades uneven, causing the rubber and plastic to wear away.

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Grinding by hand with a mortar and pestle took far too long

 

The replacement gear was going to cost less than $3AU on eBay, but as per usual, it would take about a month to arrive…. and I had coffee to grind!

 

 

I needed a temporary fix until the replacement part arrived. I’ve been collecting plastic bread clips for another project and thought I could use the plastic to repair the gear. I carefully cut 4 tabs that were to be glued onto the gear. These tabs will then catch the blade and get it spinning again. Using my trusty glue gun, the tabs were glued into place.

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After allowing the glue to dry (about 10 minutes), I popped the gear back into the blender and gave it a test blend. It worked! 1 tab did look a little weak before blending and subsequently came off, but was reattached soon after. And the coffee was now nicely ground. This fix came just in time as well… I had mayonnaise to make.

Lego Fidget Spinner

Since my son has been going to school, I’ve had a different way of handling each coming “fad”. When he wanted to buy Pokemon cards because all the other kids were trading, I took him away from the collection aspect of the cards and introduced him to the actual card game. Now that fidget spinners are the latest craze, I refused to give into the hype…. the last thing the world needs is another poor excuse to sell bits of plastic.

So an idea was seeded into Owen’s young imagination… why don’t you make your own “fidget spinner” with what you have available? I let him know that I had seen people making their own spinners using Lego. I then dived into his collection of Lego and created my first version of the “spinner”… something that worked (badly) but gave him enough fuel for his creative juices to come up with something better. After playing around with a few different versions he managed to come up with something that spins quite well (but not as good as ball bearings).

 

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Owen spinning and posing

 

 

Today’s School Lunch: Sushi Rolls

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When it comes to school lunch, I now leave it in the hands of my son… usually. But even he gets tired of his own sandwiches at some point (which is going to happen when “peanut butter” is the only sandwich you’re willing to make). To give him a break, I helped make sushi for him. And to reduce the amount of mess that’s bound to happen in his lunchbox, I opted to just halve the roll and wrap it in sandwich paper… and a soy sauce fish thrown in.

The sushi rice was actually prepared a week ago and has been sitting in the fridge awaiting its next use. I spoon out the amount needed into a bowl and reheat the rice in the microwave… and it’s just as good as having prepped it the day of.

Owen’s sushi of choice is the California roll, but he’s not fond of avocados. So in this version, cheese replaces the avocado and is joined with the usual suspects… cucumber, “seafood stick” and mayonnaise. Hopefully, we’ll have an empty lunchbox this afternoon!

 

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Exactly the same sushi, but cut into pieces.

 

Burnt ANZAC biscuits

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I’ve been having some difficulties with the temperature settings on my oven when baking, which lead to the bottoms of my cookies getting a slight singe… don’t do the same thing!

This recipe came in the post just before ANZAC day this year…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup each of flour, sugar, rolled oats and coconut (as usual, I used wholemeal)
  • 115g butter
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup/treacle
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

Grease your tray and preheat oven to 180°C. Mix the dry ingredients. Melt the butter with the golden syrup. Combine the water and bicarb, and then add to the butter mix. Mix the dry and butter mixtures together. Once that’s done, you can drop teaspoons of the mixture onto the tray. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden. Then allow it to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring them to cooling racks.

I think the idea of “golden” was where i went wrong… and in the process of waiting for the gold, the bottoms overcooked. But they didn’t go to waste. I recently saw a kitchen hack on Facebook which said to use a cheese grater to grate off the burnt bits, saving the rest of the biscuit.. and it worked well enough (as you can see in the pictures below)

This is a more authentic ANZAC recipe in that the biscuits come out very hard and crisp… which my mother is not a fan of. I had previously baked a batch that were a lot softer. I’ll be sure to post that recipe the next time I get to baking… Ciao for now!

Suspension Saga continued (finally)

After patiently waiting for my brother’s arrival with the much-needed Torx bits… I continued where I left off. With the Torx bits, I managed to get the bottom of the hub carrier off… and it was at that point I hit another wall. I was supposed to remove the top mount but needed an angled spanner to get in and loosen the nut… something which I didn’t have at hand. I hit up another friend who I recently learned was also working on a car at home and needed to wait another day for the tool. My patience has become well practised at this point… another day was considered a cake walk.

Something that I hadn’t considered was the age of the parts in question and how difficult they would be to remove…. and I’m almost positive that in the 16 years of this car’s existence, it had never had the suspension struts changed. The metal connections were now like a happily married couple… it was going to take unmerciful and relentless force to separate them. And that force was to come from a rubber mallet with assistance from some WD40 to help loosen it. I made countless hits in an effort to remove the strut… it seemed to take hours! And right when I was about to submit, the first strut finally came loose. Angels were singing in a delightful harmony (in my mind) as I held the assembly high over my head like the trophy it now was. By the time this happened, the sun was going down and I would need to continue on the next day. At least I was able to rest with a minor victory in mind.

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The Trophy Strut

Once the day started up, I got back into preparing the strut. The first thing that needed to get done was transferring the support bracket from the old strut to the new. The support bracket is a piece of plastic that’s task is to hold the brake line in place… kind of important. I found a Torx bit that had a hollowed out centre to place over the pin holding the bracket in place, and with a couple of hits with a hammer it popped out and was then placed onto the new strut.

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In preparation for changing the struts, I ordered a spring compression tool off eBay well in advance. The tool is necessary to relieve the tension of the springs so you are able to remove the strut. Once that was done, the old strut was swapped with the new one and then I worked in reverse to put it all back together.

 

 

If I thought it was rough getting the strut out in the first place, getting it back into the hub carrier was just as harrowing of an experience…. requiring countless mallet hits and curse words.

 

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The strut finally as it should be

With the strut now in place…. I realised I was only halfway done. Being able to learn from the difficulties of the first strut, the second strut was replaced with a little more ease… but not much more. The service manual advised having an axle stand holding the driveshaft so it wouldn’t accidentally get overextended causing more damage… and this is something that I was sure to have in place. But while working on strut number 2, something I didn’t expect happened. The driveshaft came right off exposing what looked like the transmission.

 

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My immediate reaction

 

In a quick response to this, I managed to pop the driveshaft back into place and everything seems to be fine. The main problem with this was that the CV boot was now loose and would need to be retightened…. with a tool I don’t have in my possession. It’s something that I will have to deal with down the track, but it is fine for now since it’s not leaking any grease.

 

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Loose CV Boot

The whole process of DIY for me can be frustrating, but always enlightening as I’m not only learning how to get these things done, but also the processes that will help me improve in the future. And I definitely need to get a Torque wrench if I’m to do any future work on the car… it’s already been ordered.

 

 

Don’t Throw it, Fix it! School Pants

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Even though winter has just started, it has felt like we were already a good month into it here in Australia. During this transition, my son made the switch from shorts to pants. Then I began to notice that on the daily, he was going to school with holes in the knees. Once I gathered his pants to investigate, I found that all 6 of his pairs of pants had holes. Owen has a habit of rubbing his knees on the ground when he’s got a little bit of residual energy to release.

I never had much luck with the iron on patches (although looking back, I was probably using them incorrectly).. and was looking for another solution. Since Google is my friend, I went surfing on the web for a solution and came across something I’d never known existed…. fusible webbing! This allows you to fuse 2 bits of material to each other. Since I’m not a fan of throwing things out unnecessarily. I have been holding onto a pair of school pants that Owen had outgrown with the intention of creating patches for his other pants.

 

After making a trip for the fusible webbing (spent ~$14AUD for 100cm x 50cm), I grabbed the pants with the largest hole. Since the hole was far too large, and not wanting the materials to fuse at the knee (and not allowing a leg to get in) a small patch was cut for the inside and a large diamond for the outside. A portion of the webbing was cut to match the large patch then placed over the hole. Using a steam iron for about 10 seconds to melt the webbing, the hole was now sealed and Owen took this prototype to wear to school the next day.

When I went to pick him up from school, my first task was to inspect the patch. One of the corners of the patch was coming loose… probably why most iron on patches are rounded (D’oh!). And since the material is a little thick and will fray, the patch will still need to be stitched. My second attempt is below… and hoping to work on my stitching skills very soon.

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拍黄瓜 – Smashed Cucumbers

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This is one of my favourite veggie side-dishes, and it was one I would consistently order when dining at most restaurants in China. Pai Huang Gua literally translates to Smashed Cucumbers… but as I learned while trying to prepare this dish, if there’s too much smashing involved you will end up with most of the cucumber going everywhere.

Ready 1 cucumber (I’m using a continental cucumber for this) and a utensil that will be appropriate for smashing. I usually use the end of my knife as pictured, but you could we a rolling pin or meat tenderiser. Anything with a bit of weight will do. With your tool, you carefully bang on one end of the cucumber until you see it crack open slightly. Once that happens, you continue to smash with the same amount of force along the rest of the cucumber… spreading the cracks down to the end. It should look similar to the picture below once it’s done. Then I cut it in half lengthwise and chop into small pieces. Then throw it all into a bowl. Mince 2-3 garlic cloves and throw that into the bowl… I just use a garlic crusher. Add 1 tablespoon of brown vinegar (malt vinegar or Chinese dumpling vinegar) and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, followed by a generous drizzle of sesame oil. Since my son usually eats this with me, I don’t add any chilli oil to it… but I find this is a nice touch. I really enjoy the garlic/vinegar/soy/sesame oil combination and will generally use this as a salad dressing. Feel free to add onions, tomatoes or lettuce to it.