30 March 2015

Finding one’s rhythm (and a pistachio and raspberry cake)

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There’s a lot to be said about going from a family of three – to a family of four.  Particularly when the littlest member is only a few months old (and the general lack of routine and sleep that comes with such an age). Making sure everyone is fed and dressed are at the top of the daily list, along with all the other things required to keep a household happy. And healthy.

Draft blog posts pile up, as does laundry and other such things. The days have a sense of monotony, and while they are not perhaps ‘action packed’ in the traditional sense, they are by no means quiet. And certainly not boring.

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I may not yet have found my rhythm, as such, but I can feel that things are starting to slowly move in the right direction. And when I find myself with a moment, time spent baking in the kitchen is a lovely reward. Especially when a new recipe is being trialled – and we have guests to bake for!

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While this raspberry and pistachio cake was being made, Miss C up-ended her toy basket left a trail of destruction throughout the house. She stubbed her toe shortly after, and could only be consoled with a Dora band aid (a regular band aid not being sufficient). Little J slept, mostly, although with her energetic 3 year sister running amok,  her sleep was far from unbroken.

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Yet despite the chaos, the cake turned out beautifully – albeit a little rustic in parts. And we could only laugh at the new ‘normal’ we find ourselves in.

And besides, cake makes everything better….right?

(Recipe for the cake here)

24 March 2015

Chicken and seafood paella (and remembering our trip to Spain)

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Growing up, I did not have an adventurous food family. While there were always home cooked meals on the table, my parents leaned towards ‘meat and three veg’ and other such Aussie staples, rather than venturing further afield when preparing meals. In their defence, neither of my parents have travelled overseas, and cooking shows and magazines were pretty non-existent back then (or at least not in the abundance they are today – “Huey” excepted).

I was, however, gifted with a sense of curiosity – that saw me try many cuisines as soon as I left home. At 17 I had my first taste of Thai food, and travelled to Thailand as soon as the budget allowed.

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A few years later, Mr BBB and I travelled around Europe for 6 weeks in a trusty little campervan we affectionately called “Freddy”. We spent our days eating much of the local cuisine as we could, and walking it off sightseeing and taking runs through the countryside.

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Hands down, however, my favourite Country we visited during that trip was Spain. Sure France was gorgeous (and I ate my weight in cheese and pastries) and Italy invigorated my deep seeded love for all things Pizza, but Spain was where I felt most at home. The climate, the people, the siestas….a week in this beautiful country was not nearly enough.

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And then there was the paella….

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Eaten alfresco, washed down with a glass of vino, and leaving us with saffron-coloured fingers as we dived into the unshelled prawns.

And while it will be a few years until we can get back to Spain (yes we WILL be back!) I tried to recreate the paella memory at home over the weekend.

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And while my paella was probably far from authentic,  it was still packed with chicken, prawns, calamari and saffron – plus all the other goodies that you would normally find inside. It was also cooked on a Sunday – which I am told is the day for paella – when the men cook the dish and give their wives a day off.

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We served the paella communally – and let everyone dig in at the dining table. There was some nice bread on the side – and lemon for squeezing.

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I didn’t follow a recipe, as such, but there are plenty out there if you are looking for one. For this paella experience was more about re-living our holidays of old, and recreating a little “Spain” in our home.

Oh and there was dessert….

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But more on that another day!

18 March 2015

Celebrating the return of my cooking mojo

I think I mentioned it once or twice before, but pregnancy wreaked havoc on my appetite. Gone was the desire to eat anything but carbs, vegetables had zero appeal, and the thought of cooking when the evening nausea hit made my stomach churn even more.

But then 6 weeks ago our gorgeous little girl entered our lives – and immediately my appetite returned to something akin to ‘normal’. I have been craving salads and protein, and the kitchen is again becoming a favourite place to be.

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Last weekend provided the perfect opportunity to indulge in my new found cooking mojo. I looked up recipes, shopped and put together a meal for 6.

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On the menu? Pork with marsala sauce, porcini rice / chia, and a bacon, hazelnut and kale salad.

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All inspired by recipes in this book, with a couple of tweaks along the way.

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The marsala sauce was ‘plate-lick’ worthy – while the kale salad was positively moreish. And the whole process of putting the meal together, from start to finish, was so very enjoyable.

Here’s to many more home cooked meals and getting creative in the kitchen!

16 March 2015

Kitchen sink salad

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Happy Monday lovely people!

Let me start this week off by sharing with you a favourite meal from the weekend. Not a meal that was *planned* – rather it was a chance to use up some leftover ingredients we had in the fridge.

A ‘kitchen sink’ salad, if you will.

For protein – we baked a chicken breast,  grilled a few rashers of bacon, then decided to also boil some eggs at the last minute.

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For salad – it was whatever I could find – lettuce, tomato, cucumber and snowpeas.

To finish – we threw on some roasted cashews and coriander – and drizzled the lot with a ‘dressing’ I made using ketjap manis, sweet chilli sauce and sesame oil.

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Did I mention it was random?

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Proof again – that sometimes the tastiest meals can be those that are not planned at all!

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What about you? Have you come up with any ‘random’ dinner combinations lately?

12 March 2015

An ‘enchanted forest’ 3rd Birthday Party

Somehow, just somehow, our little girl turns 3 today.

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Clich├ęd as it may sound, it seems like it was only yesterday that we welcomed her into the world. Yet here we now are – 3 years later – with a spirited and adventurous daughter who make us laugh every single day.

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For months now, Charlotte has been telling me that she wants a ‘Ben and Holly’ party. So I ran with the fairy and elf theme, and before long we had ourselves quite the ‘enchanted forest’ soiree.

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Despite all appearances, we kept the food relatively simple (and appropriately sugar-laden!).

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The gorgeous toadstool cupcakes were courtesy of Little Miss Cupcake (my fondant skills still being in their ‘developmental phase’) while most of the other goodies (jelly, fairy bread etc) could be made in advance…

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As for the cake – well I must admit that I cheated a little. While I made the green ‘grassy’ base using chocolate cake and fondant – the castle itself was actually a cardboard cutout!

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The little Miss was still super excited when she saw the finished product – so I’m calling it a mama win – cheats and all!

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Fortunately we were also blessed with a beautiful sunny day – meaning we could set up the backyard for the kids to run amok.

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The little toadstool set was hired from a local party company – while Mr BBB got creative and adapted a regular trestle table into “kids” size (we figured we’ve got plenty more kids parties ahead of us!!).

As for entertainment, we had a lovely fairy entertainer drop by and read stories,  play games and ‘glitter-fy’ the kids.  The trampoline was also a hit, as always, and there was no shortage of snacks and dressups.

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Overall – it was so very wonderful to celebrate this milestone with our nearest and dearest. For decorations and cakes aside, it was having all her family together that really brought a smile to the birthday girl’s face!

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Wishing you a very happy 3rd Birthday my beautiful girl. May the year ahead be filled with wonder and adventure!

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Oh – and just because I can’t help but take a trip down memory lane…

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Where did our baby girl go???

10 March 2015

Weekend

As I sit here, Josie is asleep on my chest and the house is eerily quiet. For I just farewelled the last of our houseguests after 4 days filled with family, friends and fun.

My family arrived in town for C’s 3rd (!!!) birthday celebration, and we wasted no time in introducing them to the newest member of our family. And, after that, well there was barely a dull moment as we ate, chatted, walked and partied our way through the long weekend. Oh and don’t forget viewings of the original Snow White – on VHS!

But I’ll let some of the photos do the talking…

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Full recap of C’s ‘grand’ birthday party to follow…

What about you? What did you get up to this weekend?