“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak – book review

I have just finished reading “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak.  Here is the TMH book review!

The Book Thief book review

“The Book Thief” is beautifully written.  I noticed this as I read the very first page. It is written from the perspective of “Death”, who comes and takes away the souls of people who die. I did not find this concept morbid or creepy, but quite fascinating actually. This book is set in the time of World War II, so from 1939 onwards, therefore Death is kept very busy!

The key character in “The Book Thief” is Liesel Meminger. Liesel is a very young girl who is fostered out to Rosa and Hans Hubermann after the tragic death of Liesel’s younger brother. The Hubermanns live in the poor part of town and Liesel soon discovers a way of coping with the cards her life has dealt her…..reading books.

Books, however, are not easy to come by in the small town of Molching, so Liesel did what she had to do – she stole them.  Each book thieving senario has it’s own special set of circumstances. The combination of humour and harsh reality really shines through in the way it is written.

When Liesel’s foster parents hide a young Jewish man, the family have to pull together to protect both Max and themselves. This adds an element of danger to their already fearful lives. Max becomes an important member of the Hubermann household and his love of reading and writing helps solidify a beautiful bond between him and Liesel.

I really loved this book.  It was a pleasure to read. “The Book Thief” is also a movie.  I have seen the movie and thoroughly enjoyed that too. If you like historical novels or books that are intriguing, this book is for you! (Who doesn’t like a book that is intriguing right?!) I predict that this book will become a classic.

Trina xx

Leek and Barley Risotto

This recipe for Leek and Barley Risotto is adapted from a recipe I have in a book called “500 Casseroles”.  The word “casserole” is often associated with meat or chicken recipes and are often quite liquidy. The consistency of this recipe is the same as a risotto, except it uses barley instead of rice.

We had this for our “Meatless Monday” dinner this week. It is very filling and tasty. You could use this risotto as a side dish to accompany roast meats or fish.

Leek and Barley Risotto

Leek and Barley Risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 leek, white and pale green parts
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into small dice
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups uncooked barley
  • 700ml vegetable stock
  • 100g cheddar cheese, cubed
  • 100g feta, crumbled
  • Parsley to garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C.
  2. Rinse leek well, then slice finely.
  3. Add leek and onion to an oven proof dish that will also go on the stove top. Heat leek and onion on stove with 1 Tbsp oil until soft.
  4. Add the carrots and tomatoes to dish.
  5. Rinse the barley and add to the dish with the vegetable stock.
  6. Stir so that the vegetables and barley are covered in stock.
  7. Cover dish with tight-fitting lid and bake for 50 min - 1 hour.
  8. Remove from oven and stir in cheeses. (Optional: Add broccoli florets now)
  9. Return to oven uncovered for 20-30 minutes or until almost all the stock has been absorbed.
  10. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
  11. Serve in bowls with fresh sourdough bread.
http://trinamichellehouse.com/leek-barley-risotto/

Of course this recipe is quick to prepare and super easy (that’s why it’s on this blog!). It does take a while in the oven though, so please factor that in when you are planning your day. Once it’s in the oven you are free to enjoy your glass of wine on the verandah or phone that friend you haven’t spoken to in ages….or both!

You could use different vegetables in this leek and barley risotto. You could add broccoli florets (add in when you add the cheeses). You could also add olives or capsicum to give it more of a Mediterranean feel. I’d love to hear your variations of this recipe.Leek and barley risotto 2

Hot Tip:

Make sure you leave the leek and barley risotto in the oven for long enough.  The barley needs to have absorbed all the liquid so that it is the consistency of a rice risotto. This ensures that the barley is nice and soft. This risotto is so good for your body!

I served this risotto in shallow bowls (because it’s so hot out of the oven) with buttered sourdough bread on the side. You really do need the bread on the side I think.

 

Anyway, give this one a go and share your thoughts in the comments.  I hope your family likes it.

Trina xx

“Quicksand” by Steve Toltz – book review

Our Book Club had this book, “Quicksand” by Steve Toltz, as next on the list.

I have just finished reading it and, quite frankly, will not be reading it again!

"Quicksand" by Steve Toltz

This book is about the disastrous life of a man called Aldo Benjamin and his best friend, Liam. Their friendship is very quirky and, in my opinion, is the best part about this book.

Liam is a struggling writer and decides to write a book about his friend Aldo.  He constantly writes down the weird things Aldo says for future use in his book. Aldo’s life is always providing good writing fodder for Liam as he moves from one disaster to the next.

Aldo wishes he could end his life, but even that doesn’t go well for him!

Personally, I found this book quite depressing to read. Going to bed at night and reading about a man’s constant misfortune hasn’t been the nicest way to end my days lately.  I was relieved when I had finished this book and was free to move on to reading something a little more cheery!

Another thing about this book that I struggled with was the over-use of words!!  I love books that are well-written and use words well but this book goes to the extreme. In it’s descriptions, usually voiced by Aldo, he goes on and on and on for over a page, talking rubbish! I found myself skim-reading these pages because it was just unnecessary that I waste by time reading all that. It didn’t add anything to the story.  I know the author was just showing Aldo’s personality, but I think that could have been achieved with just half a page of this nonsense talk. Does he seriously expect us to read every word?

I am not giving this book a rave review but this is just my personal opinion.  Maybe I’m too harsh.

You might like it!

If you have read this book and loved it, please tell me what you liked about this book.

Trina xx

“What’s for lunch?”

“What’s for lunch?”…….sound familiar?

Children start asking this question from a very young age. When my girls where pre-schoolers and toddlers, it was difficult coming up with new and interesting ways to present lunch both at home and as a packed lunch box for when we were out. Today I am going to reminisce and think back to what I used to dish up to my kids a few years ago.  Actually, now that I think about it, they still enjoy these things for lunch in their lunch boxes and at home even now, a good ten years down the track.

Of course you can make the obvious: sandwiches or bread rolls or wraps. Some kids love them and some hate them.  You can toast them to jazz them up (make jaffles). In the summer, salad sandwiches are also good.Toasted sandwiches

The Lunch List

Here is a list of other ideas you might want to keep on hand for when your mind goes blank at 11.55am:

  • Pizza muffins. Slice open English muffins and top with tomato paste and your favourite pizza toppings.  Grill until cheese is melted and golden.
  • Baked potatoes. If you have thought of this early enough you can cook your potatoes in the oven, but I often cheat and wrap each potato in cling wrap, then put them on a plate and microwave until soft.  Simply unwrap, cut open and top with sour cream and other things like grated carrot, chopped tomatoes, grated cheese, etc.
  • Meat pies or pasties. I keep a variety of these in the freezers for those cold days when that’s really gonna hit the spot. Either put in the oven or microwave first then crisp up in the oven if you are short on time.
  • Potato wedges. Either pre-packaged (frozen) or cut up your own potatoes into wedges, toss in oil and salt and bake in a hot oven.  You must have these with sour cream!
  • Soup. Some kids love soup, others hate it.  If yours love it, then I encourage you to boil up lots of veggies in chicken stock, then blitz until smooth. This is so healthy and very easy to make. Otherwise, there is always the cup-a-soups that you buy. Sometimes kids will try soup if it is served in a cup rather than a bowl – I know!
  • Alphaghetti or tinned spaghetti or baked beans. This is super quick and you can serve it warmed up on toast.  Lots of mess and lots of yum.
  • Sausage rolls. I have listed this one separately to the meat pies and pasties because you can’t compare home-made sausage rolls with anything store bought. I also sneak in some grated veggies and you can freeze them to be used whenever the hunger pangs strike.
  • Macaroni cheese. Usually I make a simple white sauce, add cheese and the cooked pasta and there you have it.  My recipe for it is over here.
  • Hot dogs. Frankfurts from the shops are full of preservatives, I realise this, but they still deserve a place on the lunch menu because they are so delicious! Hot dogs are a very rare feast in our house, usually reserved for parties (as cocktail frankfurts) but I still had to put them here.  Serve in bread or hot dog rolls.
  • 2-Min noodles. These have always been a favourite in our house. Either eat them plain, or grate cheese on them (I like to add a bit of tomato sauce too). However you like them, they are great because they only take 2 minutes to cook.2 min noodles
  • Salads. Be creative and make up a quick pasta or rice salad. Use up some salad veggies from the fridge and it can be different every single day. Hard boiled eggs are a great addition. With or without dressing.
  • Mini quiches. You can make quiches in muffin tins.  These freeze well and are great for Kinder/school lunches or to take to the park.Mini quiches
  • Eggs on Toast. Boil them, poach them, scramble them, fry them. Cut your toast into soldiers for dipping or serve the egg on the toast (can also top with cheese). Kids love this and it’s a good nutritious lunch. Add avocado or mushrooms or spinach if you can get away with it.Eggs on toast
  • Leftovers. Leftovers always look disgusting when you first take them out of the fridge, but once reheated, the smell of yumminess fills the air and they can taste so good. Especially something like last night’s lasagne. Don’t throw out the leftovers, enjoy them again for lunch.

Well, that’s my list of simple lunches I have had from when our kids were little, but we actually still eat these things for lunch now. Print out this blog post and stick it on the fridge or on the inside of your pantry door for quick reference. You might like to make up your own list of lunches your kids love or things you’d like to try. Vary the menu so they don’t get tired of vegemite on toast every day.

Enjoy your lunch!

Trina xx

Speedy Chocolate Cupcakes recipe

I have this recipe for Speedy Chocolate Cupcakes in my recipe collection and I have no idea where I got it from.  I have hand-written it on a piece of cardboard and I’ve used it many times.  It’s an excellent recipe for cupcakes that takes next to no time at all (we love that don’t we?). I’d really love to share this recipe with you.

Speedy chocolate cupcakes

These cupcakes are quite low in fat and I always cut back the sugar from the 3/4 cup in the recipe to only 1/2 cup. The icing is very sweet, so you can get away with a bit less sugar in the actual cupcakes.

When I made these cupcakes the other day, I used a muffin tin and the recipe made 12 very large, kind of overflowing cakes! Next time I would use a couple silicon molds to make a some extras or even use a smaller, patty cake tin and make more of them.  It would probably make around 25 patty cakes….maybe even 30 if you didn’t fill them up as much – they do rise well.

Have a go at this recipe.  It’s perfect to make with the kids because all you need is a couple bowls and a fork and spoon (and the ingredients…of course!).

Speedy Chocolate Cupcakes recipe

Speedy Chocolate Cupcakes recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups Self-raising Flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar (I only use 1/2 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp margarine, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Line patty pan or muffin pan with papers.
  3. Sift flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.
  4. Stir in sugar and make a well in the centre.
  5. In a smaller bowl, use fork to whisk together margarine, milk and egg. Then add to flour mixture (may need to add extra milk to achieve cake mix consistency).
  6. Stir gently with metal spoon.
  7. Spoon into patty cases.
  8. Bake 15 min or until cooked.
  9. Leave in pan for a few minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.
  10. Ice with chocolate icing: make an icing with melted butter (around 1 Tbsp), 1 cup of icing sugar (approx) and around 2 Tbsp boiling water (adjust amounts to achieve icing consistency)
http://trinamichellehouse.com/speedy-chocolate-cupcakes-recipe/

You could top these cupcakes with fresh raspberries after you ice them. They keep very well in an airtight container for up to 7 days….good luck with that.  Around here they are eaten within about two days.

These speedy chocolate cupcakes are great for school lunches and would also be good for feeding your child’s entire school class when it is their birthday.

Let me know how you go with this recipe.  I hope you give it a go and use it as your secret weapon – another super-fast delicious recipe. You can whip up yummy cupcakes within minutes!  Wow! They’ll all want to know how you do it. Hee hee hee!

Trina xx