Happy Ultimate π Day!

As you know, today is Ultimate Pi Day because, according to the American system of writing dates, it is 3.14.15 and ultimate π was technically achieved at 9:26:35. For all of us that follow the “normal” (lol) system, I think we don’t really get to celebrate it until the 3rd of January 4159 but like that’s ever gonna happen so I’ll take this one for now. Owl and I always try to celebrate pi day with some pie but Dinky Di’s was on the wrong corner from Antidote coffee so we just had pizza (also called pie in America … Yes to them everything is pie) and watched a movie. π We like to use Lebanese bread as the pizza base because it gets crunchy on the rim yet stays moist where the toppings reside. It is also not so thick as to fill you up (= >π) but strong enough not to fall apart when you pick up a slice. I ran out of Sriracha so Kewpie had to do.

Hope you all had a mathematical π day, as we did (or will have for all our American and Pacific Islander readers), and Happy Ultimate Pi Day!

p.s anyone notice they were showing the Life of Pi on TV tonight? The geeks live amongst us yet!

p.p.s missed the midnight deadline by 4 min. Darn!

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A solution to try for Spider Mites on your plants!

For the last four or so years we’ve maintained two greenhouses on our balcony – growing chilli, oregano, mint and parsley. We also used to have basil (which Spider Mites destroyed), a single coriander shoot called “Dolly Parton” – because it was heavy and flopped over and Rosemary, which never took off. Most of the plants did reasonably well until they were hit with a double whammy infestation (against the odds of being elevated on a balcony and inside a greenhouse)!

IMG_3143

The first infestation was a moth, which led to caterpillars – those fat green juicy ones like in A Bug’s Life. The caterpillars required patience and picking them off one by one to remove the infestation. Needless to say, these came back a few times as you always miss one. Once those bite mark like holes start showing, you know it’s too late and you’ve already got a family chowing down on your plants.

The second infestation, which was much harder to get rid of and literally sucked the life out of all my beloved basil plants (three separate bushes) – was due to the difficult and dreaded Spider Mite! The first Basil plant was the weakest and succumbed to the fact the Mites drained the nutrients out of its stalks. The other two were better established and lasted a little longer, but since I didn’t want to use chemicals as I wanted to eat from the plants, I resorted to meekly trimming the plants – which only delayed the inevitable. In hindsight, I should have tried the method below earlier!

My Parsley was the only plant left after the initial Spider Mite infestation so they naturally migrated onto it and started to kill it too. A few weeks back, I trimmed off all the leaves and left pretty much just the stalks – but I knew this likely wouldn’t work. So I decided with nothing to lose, I would try the combination of Garlic and Chili sprayed over the plant and surrounding greenhouse. Boy am I glad I at least tried, it worked a treat! I sprayed the area only twice in a period of a week and the Parsley seems to be Spider Mite free. I was able to pick and eat the Parsley for the first time last night since this all started a couple of months ago. It no longer has the off colour of looming death, and the leaves look nice and healthy as you can see in the pictures of the leaves below. I unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for you) did not take any pictures of the infestation/Spider Mites – but if they come back I will update this post with pictures.

parsley2 parsley3parsley4

So if you have Spider Mites – you’ll be able to see by the reddish/orange leaves and the webbing they weave on the leaves.

Try this very natural and chemical free solution!

  • 1 Chilli (preferable a hot one)
  • 1 clove of Garlic
  • Boiling Water
  • A jar
  • A spray bottle

bottle Home grown chilli - helping out fellow plants

Method:

Chop and crush the Garlic, you want the garlic juice to infuse the water and likewise do the same with the Chilli – just don’t touch your face after handling it. Put them into a small Jar and pour hot water from a kettle into the jar – so you get about a cup of hot water. Leave this to sit and cool down. Once this is cool pour the water into a spray bottle that you don’t mind smelling of Garlic from now on and add water if it’s not enough to get a good spray – just don’t dilute it too much. If you don’t have enough you can just re-boil what is in the jar. Try to strain out any chunks of Garlic or Chilli when transferring to the bottle so it doesn’t clog the spray nozzle.

Use:

Spray all over the plant so it’s saturated – under the leaves and stalk and into the soil too as the Spider Mites can sometimes hide there. Spray the surrounding area if it’s enclosed or the nearby vicinity just to make sure the mites go away completely (read that as die).

Repeat this a couple of times and check your plant in a week or so.

Note: don’t keep the solution too long in the spray bottle as it’ll start to smell/rot.

Leave a comment if it ends up helping your plants at all! We’d love to hear of more victories against these little buggers.

owl

Night Owls Kids Film Fest

The newly opened Darling Quarter at Darling Harbour is hosting two weeks of free outdoor cinema from 10 – 23 January screening 14 classic and contemporary family favourites. The fun starts at 6pm with films commencing at 6:45pm nightly.

Owl and I watched Tangled (2010) tonight after having $12 steak at Stacks (Mon-Wed). It comes with either salad or chips and is about 300g.

Steak & Salad

The steaks were a little chewy (akin to most cheap steaks) but had a nice smoky flavour to it. I recommend ordering the steaks one level below what you like e.g. medium-rare for a medium steak. Dinner only starts at 6pm but they do offer a tapas menu beforehand. Since we only had about 15 mins to go we just ordered some beautifully crisp Pumpkin Arancini, which came with a tomato salsa and fronds of baby basil. I swooped in before we took pictures. Sorry, my bad  :p

 The showground isn’t a large space but sufficient for the number of people that show up (since kids usually take only half the space one needs hehe). There are also benches and random ledges to sit on near the restaurants if grass isn’t your thing. Sound quality was very good and managed to rise above some of the rowdier bar patrons behind. Picture quality was also good. I would recommend bringing a jumper and a rug. It got pretty cold towards the evening despite the 27°C day!

Park Bench

I had been looking forward to trying the Lemon Meringue gelato and the Salted Caramel Popcorn gelato from Meno Diciotto ever since they opened so this was the perfect opportunity. The Lemon was a beautiful blend of creamy tartness; not quite sorbet but more like chilled lemon curd. Soft and slightly chewy bits of candied lemon surfaced every so often to add a nice texture to the gelato, as did the more rarely found meringue. The Popcorn tasted like Macadamia but left kernelly bits in your mouth after the gelato dissolved which I very much disliked. They also sell little bags of popcorn if you want some for the movies! Service was efficient and genuine. Again, scarfed the gelato before any pictures were taken. Oops  ><

Stacks Tavern More Seating

Steak & Chips

Here is the rest of the schedule from the Precinct website:

Wednesday 18 | Ratatouille (2007)
Thursday 19 | Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Friday 20 | Wizard of Oz (1939)
Saturday 21 | Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Sunday 22 | Happy Feet (2006)
Monday 23 | Doctor Do Little (1965)

Oat Pancakes

The fruits make it healthy.. ahem.

The fruits make it healthy.. ahem.

Besides instilling in me a love for bacon, teaching me about poutine and other such useful things as how to pronounce ‘couch’ authentically, Caleb-the-Canadian taught me a simple pancake recipe which I have since not found cause to find another. It goes as such:

1 cup of flour
1 cup of milk
1 egg
1 pinch of salt

I forget which flour to use so I always use self-raising (it’s my just-in-case flour).

One beautiful morning, I decided that we needed some pancakes for breakfast. And not just any pancakes but oatmeal pancakes! I whipped up Caleb’s foolproof recipe, replacing half a cup of flour with half a cup of quick oats.

Make a well in the middle of the sifted flour, pour in the wet ingredients and mix in the flour a little bit at a time from the crumbling flour walls. This is to ensure you get a smooth batter. A few quick mixes after full incorporation and you’re ready to pour it in lots onto the buttered pan. I always re-butter the pan between each pancake otherwise the subsequent pancakes don’t get a crisp golden-brown exterior. Keep the heat on medium and flip the pancake when bubbles start to pop on the surface.

Voila! Stacks of comfort dripping with liquid love.  Happy New Year, guys!  🙂

NB. I actually find the original recipe 1 pancake too much for 2 people so I tend to reduce the flour and milk a bit with no negative effects.

Shepherd’s Meat Pie

I love the slow cooker Owl’s mum gave us last Christmas. With such horrible weather this week, I decided to make some pie. We don’t have a lot of time to cook so we tend to do a big cook once a week and eat it for about 5 days or so. Since puff pastry does not keep well, I used mash for the topping instead. Think of this as a hybrid meat and Shepherd’s pie.

Cheesy crust

Mmm cheesy crust take me home!

I tend to eye my measurements as supposed to actually measuring them so take the following metrics with a grain of salt  😛

Pie Innards
1 kg chuck steak
1 Tbs Soya Sauce (Kikkoman ftw. If using a chinese brand, add a bit more)
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs chinese rice wine
1.5 Tbs tomato paste
4-5 carrots
6 cloves garlic
1 cup frozen peas
2 ‘petals’ of star anise
2 dried sage leaves
1 beef stock cube
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
Half cup of water

I had about a Tbs of dried porcini mushroom lying around so I snipped it up and threw it in. Then I found some unfinished coke which also went in (~ quarter cup).

Chuck everything into the slow cooker, set it on low and then go to bed (or work).After about 8 hours, set to high and thicken with cornstarch (2-3 Tbs, mix with cold water until dissolved, pour into innards and mix thoroughly. Sauce will thicken gradually as the cornstarch cooks).

Innards

Pie Innards

Pie Hat
800g potatoes (I used washed. Don’t use waxy potatoes like Desiree or Kipfler)

 Start with room temperature water. Boil until soft then mash with milk to a smooth consistency (practise your eyeing method, lol). Place mash on Pie Innards, make pretty patterns with your fork, sprinkle on some cheese and bake it at 200°C until golden brown (~20min).

Pie is for the week

A week's worth of pie!

The innards will taste saltish until you add the mash then its just right. Makes about 8 serves.

Isle of Ramen

Today I was reading up on Vietnamese cuisine having made bun (pronounced like a short “boon”) last night, and for some reason stumbled across a blog called Isle of Ramen which is the documentary of a person eating a different ramen everyday for lunch, and then rating them. The blog hasn’t been updated since April 2010 but I found the writing style humourous as well as descriptive enough for me to decide whether the noodle was worth trying.

Like this person, I have a vast collection of ramen noodles stashed in my work locker; all picked at random because there really is so much variety and most of the time the packet is no indication of the enjoyment factor. Once, I found an unusual instant noodle that was made of mung bean (the see-through glass noodles) seated in a Szechuan pepper soup base. I would endeavour to never buy it again if I could only remember what the packet looked like behind my steady stream of tears and numbed face.And this coming from a die-hard chilli lover! Ah, such adventures to be had with instant noodles 🙂

If Forrest Gump was asian, he would have replaced the’ box of chocolates’ with a ‘selection of instant noodles’. You just never know what you’re going to get.

Sushi Choo Buffet

Sushi Choo Ad

Sushi Choo’s famous $20 All-You-Can-Eat sushi train buffet has once again graced our city to my excitement as I have been having a sushi craving and was really quite sad when I found out about last year’s event much too late.

Owl and I were determined to reach our goal of 15 plates each, effectively reducing the cost to only $1.50 a plate. What a bargain! We met up with another friend after work and relaxed in the comfortable lounge area just outside of Sushi Choo. We were there half an hour before opening time due to our excitement which allowed us to observe the setting up of the restaurant as it is a very open plan area.

The decor was very aesthetic, lighting at a comfortable level of brightness and the jazz music soft. Owl was unimpressed by one of the chefs coughing into his hand and then handling the raw tuna so she stayed away from it.

We were rather impressed by the selection provided as past reviews indicated a much lesser variety – I think they have changed the menu slightly this year. There was the usual gyoza, raw salmon/tuna nigiri, ebi nigiri, seaweed salad, edamame, pickles and a bunch of rice rolls. The rice roll selection was vast including crumbed chicken, cooked tuna, spicy and non-spicy raw salmon/avocado, sweet potato, teriyaki chicken and even soft shelled crab with lettuce! I’m sure there were many others but my eyes were fixated on the nigiri and seaweed salad. They also had a tangy cold noodle dish and have replaced the potato croquettes with a beautifully deep fried panko crumbed prawn dish. They were so crispy that you could even crunch through the tail. This is quite possibly the most impressive dish I had during the course of the dinner and polished through 2 of them.

As usual the service was impeccable and made for a very good night out indeed. We were fully satiated by the hour and happily stumbled off whilst fighting off severe food coma. Its too bad there weren’t any dessert dishes because i might possible have afforded a mango pudding  😉

I have read a lot of reviews about this $20 deal with many a divided party but personally, I have to firmly say that it is worth your $20 even if most of what you consume is rice and the fish is somewhat sinewy. The ability to eat as many varieties of dishes as you like and no time limit with impeccable service makes it worth the $20 and I would say definitely try it at least once.

Oh, and our tally? Friend walked away with 12 plates, Owl with 15.5 and me with 16.5 (4 plates of seaweed so its cheating a little teehee!). Money well spent!

Sushi Choo

320 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9240 3000