Saturday, June 30, 2007

Eating Out: Hogs Breath Cafe

My brother and I had already decided, BEFORE the China T event, that we'd get together at some point and pig out (hahahaha) at Hogs Breath Cafe. Well, finally, we did it.

We checked out the menu online and had some idea of what we would order. One thing we definitely wanted to share was the $19.95 "Finger Food Combo"...

It was mammoth. Grilled beef skewers, vegie spring rolls, chicken tenders, salt-and-pepper calmari, and a choice of lime sweet chilli or honey mustard dipping sauces. Frankly, we decided we'd both be happy to just have one of those each as our entire meal, but nooooo, we had to go and order a main...

This monster was the New York Grill with calamari and I think mushroom sauce. Served up with vegies and cheese sauce. Seriously, what are those New-Yorkers thinking - the thing must have been at least two inches thick!!!!! Marty took it on gamely, but wasn't able to finish the plate. He was very happy with it, though.

I ordered the rump with curly-fries (GOTTA have the curly-fries!) I ordered the diane sauce, but it sat almost completely untouched -- the steak was THAT good. The vegies were awesome too - not over-cooked or soggy, just nice. And ooohhhh, the curly-fries... so good, but so bad...

Total bill was about $90 for the two of us, including a soft drink each. Steep, yes, but you get some damn fine food, and if you're still hungry after what we had, you have some kind of mutant stomach. Even dessert stomachs didn't want any more!

I tried to find the location we went to on their website, but couldn't really be sure. We went east-side, but it was only a short trip towards the city from Berwick... so I don't know! But there are a few locations here in Melbourne, so give it a go.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Eating In: 2-Minute Noodles

So, what does a gal living on her own have for dinner when she's tired, CBF, and not particularly hungry? Hardly a lick of food in the house, even though pantry and freezer are chockers.
Wow, a pack of 2-minute noodles. Hmm... some frozen vegies. Hm, I'm having an idea... it ain't pretty, but it's quick, and I'm guessing somewhat nutritious (or at least not UNhealthy).

Cook the noodles (without the packet flavouring) and let them drain thoroughly. Meanwhile heat oil in a wok, then add some crushed garlic, broccoli and cauliflower florets. Stir it all round for a few minutes (remember, frozen stuff has to thaw then heat... fresh would be SO much quicker but I never get through fresh stuff before it goes bad unless I buy tiny amounts and shop every couple of days and... well, yeah, anyway, I digress). Add the peas, corn and beans. Splash around some soy sauce, some honey, and a dash of sweet chilli. Keep it all moving until the vegies are heated through. Throw in the noodles and keep everything moving around until it's all hot. Then dish it up.

See, 2-minute noodles. But different.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Eating Out: BB's Coffee & Bake

Shop T132, Werribee Plaza
Cnr Heaths & Derrimut Road, Hoppers Crossing
Ph: 03 9749 3900

The humble Devonshire Tea has a very warm and fuzzy place in my memories. I can still remember the first time mum bought one for me... I felt so grown up! When we went into town to get our groceries for the month there was a little cafe, which is still there as far as I know, in Lismore Shopping Square where she'd have a devonshire tea and I'd have pikelets with jam and cream and a milkshake. I remember seeing mum spread the jam on those huge soft scones and sipping her coffee and thinking "wow, that's the ultimate afternoon tea for grown-ups". Then the day finally came when I was allowed to have those scones. The memories of those times when I was younger still make me smile.

Anyway, we were sitting around at the gym talking about our favourite places to grab a snack and someone mentioned BB's at Werribee Plaza (Big W end, at the Safeway entrance). I saw a devonshire tea on offer for $6.40 and thought "yeah, I'll have that".

Unfortunately I'd taken a swipe at the chocolate-powder-frothy-milk before I took this picture. The scones were lovely - soft and fluffy with a sprinkling of icing sugar. Enough jam for my tastes. The cream was from a can... but was nice nonetheless. The hot chocolate I ordered was up there in the top 5 for taste. It was a pleasant interlude in an otherwise busy day. I had a look at other foods on offer: muffins, cakes, the usual cafe snacks -- I might make this place a regular spot for a cuppa when I'm out and about.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Eating In: Oh So Simple.. Chicken and Veg

Note to self: buy smaller dinner plates

Now, it's nothing flash, nothing fancy... but WOW I enjoyed my dinner tonight. I said when I started this blog (or I think I said) that I'm not a great cook. And anyone who's ever eaten anything I've made will know that I'm certainly not a confident cook. But I said (I think) that I wanted to show people that anyone can cook a meal, or bake a cake, or anything they want.

But, back to tonight.

I decided to do a full-on workout: my cardio and weights program together. Originally I'd planned to treat myself to KFC for dinner tonight, after the topic came up at lunch. But after it all, I really just wasn't in the mood. So I ducked into the local fresh chook shop to pick myself up a chicken breast. Then I grabbed some dessert (more about that later).

I cut the breast in half (cos damn, it was huge). Threw some frozen vegies into a saucepan of water. Heated a frypan and added a spray of canola oil. When the pan was hot I threw in the chicken. Then I sprinkled some Vegeta on the top side of it. When the bottom was ever so-lightly coloured I turned it over and sprinkled a little more Vegeta on the side that was now top. Switched the gas on under the vegies. Put a lid on the frypan and turned the heat right down to low. Went and watched a round or two on Temptation. When the vegies boiled I turned the heat down to a simmer. Turned the chicken over one last time. After the vegies had boiled a few minutes (maybe 5) switch everything off. Drain the vegies. Serve it all up. So easy, and so yum. And the chicken... soooo yum, so tender.

Now, how many of you have heard of Aunt Betty's steamed puddings? If you haven't given them a try, go get some. They come in single serves, which is perfect for me. Rip the foil off the top of one, whack it in the microwave and heat it on high for about 30 seconds, then tip it into a bowl. Dish up some ice cream and there you go - (almost) instant dessert!

What you see above is the de-lites sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. All low-fat :-( but still so yummy. And a lovely way to cap off a Friday.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Eating In: Beef and Vege Casserole

As a treat for myself today I decided to make something that I normally wouldn't - purely because of the time involved. But I've had a hankering for weeks that has gone un-indulged: a good, old-fashioned casserole. So, with a lot of time on my hands today I figured I'd go and make it.

This is a pretty simple version, but absolutely packed choc-a-block full of rich flavour. What you can't see in the pic above is that underneath the casserole I've thrown some frozen vege and a little mashed potato. And I tell you, I'm REALLY looking forward to having some of this as leftovers for breakfast on top of freshly toasted multigrain bread. It was so good, I ended up burning my mouth as I was too eager to eat!

Rich Beef and Vege Casserole with Red Wine - takes over 2 hours from beginning to end, so don't attempt this beast if you don't have the time!

2 tbl olive oil
1 onion, thickly sliced (I substituted a leek for a slightly different flavour)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
750g good quality chuck or blade steak, cubed (see a butcher, not a supermarket)
30g butter
1/2 cup plain flour
2 cups good quality red wine (if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it)
1 cup beef stock (don't use stock cubes, buy or make actual stock)
1 cup water
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 potatoes, approx 2cm x 2cm cubed
2 carrots, cubed
2 sticks celery, chopped (I HATE celery, so omitted this)
1 tbl chopped rosemary
150g button mushrooms, halved (again, I HATE fungus, so left these out)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 160C.
Heat half the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan on medium. Saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until golden and tender, then transfer to a large casserole dish (and I do mean LARGE).
Heat the remaining oil in the same saucepan. Cook the beef in batches, a few minutes, until well browned. Add to the onions in the dish.
Melt the butter in the same saucepan. Add the flour. Cook, stirring, for a minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Gradually stir in the combined wine, stock, water and paste, then return the pan to the heat. Cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens, then simmer for a few minutes.
Add potatoes, carrots, celery and rosemary to the casserole dish. Pour the hot sauce over top. Bake, covered, for an hour.
Mix through the mushrooms, then bake, uncovered, for another 45-60 minutes until the beef is tender. Stir through the parsley.

I tell you, the meat is melt-in-the-mouth tender. It's just fabulous. And only requires two pans to prepare! As I mentioned, in the bottom of my bowl I put some (cooked) frozen peas, corn, cauliflower and broccoli, and a little creamy mashed potato, then stirred it through the casserole after taking the picture. Mmm, bliss.

Of course, if you'd like this on a workday there's nothing to stop you throwing all the ingredients in a slow cooker in the morning, setting it to "Auto", and coming home to a beautiful meal in the evening. Coming into winter I'm sure I'll be doing this on occasion.

So it was definitely a very happy birthday for me!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Eating Out: China T

Shop 32/300 Point Cook Road, Point Cook
Ph: 03 9395 4888

It seems to be the beginnings of a tradition - to celebrate the birthdays of three family members all close together we meet for one dinner, and the place we go is China T.

My dad has been going there for about as long as his lady friend has lived in the area, which is a couple of years now. So we've been a few times, and always enjoyed it - not especially flash, but atmosphere, food and service all worthy of top marks.

This time was different. It was most disappointing.

We arrived earlier than we had planned - 6.30pm instead of 7, but with no booking to structure the evening it was no problem. When we arrived there were a few other people in the restaurant, but it was not busy.

The evening started well with the friendly service we remembered. We were shown our table, a bowl of prawn crackers was deposited, and we were left to decide on our drinks order. So far so good!

Drinks were delivered, entrees and mains ordered. No problem.

Entrees arrived more or less together about half an hour later: skewers of satay beef, skewers of satay chicken, home-made dim sim, curry puff, prawn bread, and wonton soup. Nice.

A good half hour after this the mains started to arrive. Yes - STARTED. The combination plate with noodles arrived first for dad's lady friend. 5-10 minutes later the beef rendang for dad and my brother arrived. Another 5-10 minutes and we got our rice. Maybe 5-10 minutes later my boyrfiend's deep-fried pork with sweet and sour sauce made it to the table. I stopped keeping track of time after this, but it was as dad, bro and dad's girlfriend were finishing their meals that my szechuan beef was delivered - with many apologies, but no explanation for the delay. It was especially annoying when people who had arrived well after us were already tucking into their meals. I mean, it's thin slices of beef with some onion, zucchini and sauce - not a long time to prepare. Perhaps a chef had called in sick. Perhaps management has changed since the last time I dined there (admittedly, it was 12 months ago, although dad and his lady have eaten there several times since, and report that the service was not great then either).

The food, when it arrived, was as good as I remembered it. However the incredibly long wait soured the experience somewhat.

If you're in the neighbourhood I'd recommend this place for the food, but can't recommend the service, based on what I got. Sure, it's friendly, the atmosphere is still good, and it can get busy later in the evening, but the wait was simply too much to bear, as was the drawn-out serving of our mains.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Socialite Saga

Now, far be it for me to perpetuate the publicity of Paris Hilton's arrest and jail sentence, but I just have to get this off my chest.

She broke the law. The punishment for this was deemed to be a maximum of 45 days jail - a fraction less than 8 weeks, not even 2 months. Instead of sucking it up and doing the time for the crime, what does the poor little skank do? Whinges and moans and says she has to go home for "medical reasons", which some reports say is no more than a skin rash. Aaaawww, diddums. Thankfully I hear on a news update that she has been sent back to jail, crying for her mummy the whole time. In those famous words - "have yourself a nice big cup of harden the f--- up".

The only thing more annoying about this story is the fact that it is simply impossible to avoid hearing about it, seeing it on the news, or generally trying to forget this person even exists.

Is it just me, or is anyone else absolutely sick to death of hearing about her ALL THE FRIKKIN TIME?!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The First Workout

Well, it wasn't exactly what you'd call a "workout": it was going through my weights program, making sure weights etc. were suitable. Together with the cardio it's a challenging program, but within my capabilities. And after that I thought "ah, screw it, I'm here, I'll jump on the treadmill for 15 minutes". Very glad to see "How I Met Your Mother" on the TV while I slogged it out!

I always loved the rowing machine, so I'm very happy they made it a feature of the cardio workout. And I even kept up with my trainer!!! OK, so it was only for 5 minutes, and I was on level 4 while she was on 10, and she's 45 and I'm... younger. But it felt good to keep up the same rate as her! Anyway, just chatting to The Boy (Nathan) and I mentioned something that I'd forgotten -- a workout really helps me sort out my head. I don't know why. And the rowing machine lets me get into an almost zen-like state: something about the rhythm, the smooth motion... I don't know.

Forgive me, I seem to be in a very philosophical mood... all those lovely exercise-chemicals surging around my body, no doubt. Sweat is yucky, but feeling quite good after a little light movement.

So folks, it's started. Hopefully it will continue before work tomorrow morning (ie. 5.30am at the gym... *groan*) with a full weights session. Finishing up with a little cardio.

I've also rediscovered all my "skinny" cookbooks, so will have to start trying dishes more from these.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A New Start

Tests were performed. Measurements were taken. And the news was just as bad as I thought it was going to be -- which didn't make it any easier to hear.

This evening I had my first consultation at AeroMax Fitness Club. It was a "fitness assessment". I really should have saved them the trouble and just ticked "crapulent" against every measure. Flexibility? Crapulent. Core Body Strength? Crapulent. Confidence? Crapulent. You get the idea.

Why did I do it? Why did I decide to pay a large chunk of money each fortnight to these people when I KNOW what I'm meant to be eating, that I'm meant to be exercising?
I'm about to bare my all (well, not literally) to you now: because, I'm tired. I'm tired of making excuses to myself. I'm tired of dragging this body around with me. And avoiding mirrors. And all the general sh*t that goes with NOT being happy with yourself. The club I've joined, and the program I'm on, is heavy on the motivation and support in the first few months, until you've (hopefully) established a habit of healthy eating and exercising, with regular follow-ups after that. They open early and close late. They're right down the road. All good reasons for me to start this, and keep going with it. Which is why I'm nattering on about it here - I want your help.

This blog is all about sharing my interests. A big one is changing my life for the better. So each month I plan to post my achievements. I'm not going to put up starting weight or measurements (that would be far, far to painful), but any changes in these will be duly reported. I'm hoping that by making my achievements (or failures) public it will help me stay focussed on what I want: to be fit and healthy. With fitness and health will come muscle tone and weight loss. I'm realistic - I know it won't happen in a day, or a week. It'll take a while.

But at the end of it I'm hoping that I'll make peace with the person I see in the mirror. Might even end up almost liking the bitch. But let's not get too carried away.