Monday, April 21, 2008

Going Italian with this Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

About a week ago, I purchased the latest issue of Super Food Ideas (Australia's No.1 food magazine). The magazine costs a mere $2 and it is loaded with 98 pages of recipes and cooking tips. The moment I laid eyes on this photo (on the left), I instantly thought I just had to try this out. The dish is called 'Creamy Pesto Gnocchi'.

In case you didn't know, gnocchi is Italian in origin and is a dish of little dumplings made from potatoes. The dumplings are shaped like little footballs and have a texture similar to pasta.

And so last night was THE night I prepared this. My family absolutely loved it! One of my sons loved it so much he even suggested that next
time I cook this, I should double the recipe.

This is my version....

And here is the recipe (courtesy of Super Food Ideas magazine)! Enjoy!

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

Serves 4
500g fresh potato gnocchi
1 cup light thickened cream
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato pesto
150g chargrilled capsicum, finely chopped
150g baby spinach
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Cook gnocchi in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, following packet directions, until tender. Drain. Preheat grill to medium-high.
2. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add cream and pesto. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add capsicum and spinach. Cook for 1 minute or until spinach has just wilted.
3. Add gnocchi to cream mixture. Toss to combine. Transfer to a greased 6cm-deep, 8 cup-capacity baking dish. Top with cheese. Cook under grill for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

7 Books and Mum's Beef Pot Roast

Haven't been blogging for a while now...I couldn't really think of anything nice to write. I have been restraining myself from doing any sewing for the past week as I am sort of preparing myself for some new, bigger projects. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of some bag patterns and materials I recently bought.

So for the past few days, I have been preoccup
ied with some reading.

I managed to finish all 5 Spiderwick Chronicles books. Before the movie came out, I had never heard of this series. My 6-year old son has been talking about the movie endlessly ever since he first saw the trailer. He goes on the movie website nearly everyday and knows about the plot and the characters in detail, you would actually think he has read the books. All that talk made me curious.

I have also been seriously studying 2 bag making books I've borrowed from the library. Lots of great new techniques to learn.

So...what else can I share today? Yes, perhaps some recipe worth trying...

Beef pot roast is sort of my mum's specialty. Growing up, she prepared this only for special family gatherings because beef was way more expensive than chicken or pork. Nowadays, however, this dish quite frequently finds its way into our dinner table (beef being so abundant here in Australia!).

My Mum's Beef Pot Roast


1/4 cup cooking oil
I kilo roasting beef, whole or sliced into two pieces
1 large onion, sliced
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 bay leaf
1-2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 large can whole button mushrooms, drained


**If beef slab is too big , I would recommend cutting it into two smaller pieces.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Brown beef on all sides. Remove beef and drain oil. Put beef back in pan and add onion, vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaf and peppercorns. Add just enough water to cover. Bring to a full boil. Cover and simmer for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until beef is cooked through. Strain sauce. Set beef aside to cool then slice into 1/4 inch thick pieces.

Melt butter in a separate pan. Put mushrooms and toss in butter for about a minute. Pour in strained sauce and let boil. Thicken with cornstarch (dissolved in a little water). Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Pour sauce over sliced beef. Serve while hot, with steamed veggies of your choice.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spaghetti on Toast Anyone?

My daughter left for camp yesterday. It's her first time to be away from home (with the exception of a few sleepovers at her cousin's house). Last night, my little son and I were wondering what could she be doing, what could she be having for dinner...that sort of stuff. Just then, I thought, she must have had spaghetti on toast for breakfast. Until recently, I did not know Australians ate that. I only found out when my two older sons asked me one day if we could have that for brekky. They said they were served that before at camp. It was just noodles with tomato sauce, they described. I suppose it's the canned ones. Not very yummy, is it?

In the Philippines, it is not surprising to see people eat spaghetti any time of the day. It can be a meal or a snack and it is a staple at every children's party (along with fried chicken). I don't know if there is a McDonald's store anywhere else in the world with McSpaghetti in the menu other than in the Philippines. Orange-coloured spaghetti is very common. Why orange? Most people use banana ketchup, instead of tomato sauce. And the sauce is sweet, a far cry from how Italians make them.

I don't have a specific recipe for my own sp
aghetti. It usually depends on what ingredient I have on hand at the time of cooking. The one I am sharing here today has Kabana sausages. Never heard of this before I came to OZ. The kabana, I believe, gives the sauce its distinct flavour.

Simple but a sure hit, especially with the kids.

Spaghetti with Kabana

750 gram pack of spaghetti noodles
1/4 cup canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 kilo lean beef mince
2 Kabana sausages (about 200g), sliced diagonally
3 cups tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
grated parmesan cheese

Cook spaghetti noodles according to packet instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a saucepan, saute garlic and onion in hot oil. Add beef mince. Cook, mixing constantly, until meat turns brown. Add kabana sausages and cook for about 1 minute. Add salt, pepper, sugar and tomato sauce and stir until well combined. Let boil. Add oregano and basil leaves. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until meat is cooked.

Serve spaghetti with parmesan cheese topping and garlic bread.

Lo and Behold...My Best Work (So Far)

I know. This blog is slowly turning into a sewing/food kinda blog. I didn't mean to but I just can't help it. These are the two things I am passionate about at the moment, especially the bag-making.

I finished this bag two nights ago and yesterday, I proudly took it out with me (trying to fish for compliments). I also made a post about it (again) in Craftster. I am happy to say it's getting rave reviews from the bag fanatics...

Front view

Straps fully extended

Back and side view

Yoyo button close-up

The inside with my stuff

Bought the eBook for this from Sweet Pea Totes ( It's worth the expense as I can see countless possibilities with this bag. Next time I sew one, I can put a flap or use a button/loop closure or do patchwork, etc, etc.

And to think, just a few months ago, my sewing machine was gathering dust in our garage. And now, it's my most prized possession. I have to thank my mum in-law for this.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Totally Addicted to Bag Making

This is my latest creation. I posted the above photo over at Craftster a few days ago and got a fairly good response. I got a number of members interested in obtaining instructions on how to make this lovely bag. I found the pattern and instructions on the site You Can Make They give it for free once you sign up for their newsletter. Really great stuff.

My fabric stash is growing (mostly fat quarters) and truly, my mind is going into overdrive. I can't stop thinking about what kind of bag I'm going to sew next. I borrow bag-making books from the local library almost weekly. Yesterday, I had reserved three books that were still onloan. I had just bought a downloadable pattern from the internet and am currently bidding on an Amy Butler frenchy bag pattern on eBay.

It's funny 'cause I'm not even a bag person. I basically use just one shoulder bag, a leather messenger type one. I'm totally hooked on bag making and not on the bags themselves! I like admiring each finished project. Maybe I am just trying to have some form of affirmation here...that I am capable of creating something beautiful.

Well, I'm addicted...someone please help me.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Yesterday was my niece's 12th birthday party. It was a super late celebration, considering her birthday was really on March 19! As I had already given her present weeks ago, I thought of baking something for the party. I haven't baked for a while now...I used to bake nearly everyday. I would surf the net endlessly to search for something new to try...until I noticed I was slowly gaining weight. I had to stop.

That looks mouth-watering, doesn't it? It's one of those recipes I discovered over the internet. The original recipe was for big cupcakes, the ones you bake on 2 1/2" muffin cups. I like it better small. These little cuties are always a hit.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes

For cream cheese filling:
250g package of Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg

For the chocolate cake:
3 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups water

Topping: Chocolate bits/chips

1. Beat cream cheese, sugar and egg in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

2. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Line muffin pans (1 3/4" diameter) with small paper cups.

3. Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Spoon about 1 teaspoon (or less if it seems too much for you) into the center of each cupcake. Top with 1 Chocolate piece.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and move to wire wrack. Cool completely.

This recipe makes dozens of small cupcakes (Sorry, I don't know exactly how many). Indulge!!!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sauteed Rice Noodles and Spring Rolls - Yummmm!!

I should have posted this on the day I cooked these dishes (two days ago) but with four children on school holidays at home, my computer time is so limited.

These are my absolute favourites! I so encourage you try them....

Sauteed Rice Sticks/Noodles


1/4 cup canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 pieces Chinese style sausages **, sliced diagonally
10o grams fried fish meat**, sliced
1 large carrot, julliened
150 grams sugar snap peas
1/4 cup Kikkoman soy sauce
1 1/2 cups water
250 grams pack thin Rice Sticks/Noodles


Soak rice noodles in water for about 10 minutes to soften. Drain and set aside. Saute garlic and onion in hot oil. Add Chinese sausages and fried fish slices and stir fry for about 1 minute. Add carrots and sugar snap peas and stir fry for an additional minute. Mix in soy sauce and water and let boil. Lower heat to medium. Put in rice noodles and combine well with the other ingredients. Stir constantly until all the liquid is absorbed by the noodles. Take care not to overcook. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.

** These are readily available in Oriental/Asian stores. Fried fish slices can be replaced with chicken or pork meat and/or shrimps.

* Add 1 cup of shredded cabbage if desired.

Spring Rolls with Meat Filling


500 grams pork mince**
1 medium carrot, grated
2-3 tablespoons of spring onions, chopped finely
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
50-60 4x4" spring roll wrappers
cooking oil for deep frying


In a bowl, combine first seven ingredients very well. Take a spring roll wrapper and place about 3 teaspoons to a tablespoon of meat filling on one end. Fold in sides and roll tightly. Wet ends of wrapper with a little water to seal. Deep fry.
Serve hot with sweet and sour sauce or soy sauce/lemon dipping sauce.

** For an even tastier spring roll, use 250 grams pork mince and 250 grams chopped raw shrimps.