Saturday, March 27, 2010

A salad to make everyone sing

As winter approaches down under, it's almost time that the lunch menu changes from salads to soups, but there's always time to munch on a salad if you are so inclined. The addition of meat in a salad can add a hint of warmth and provide some extra sustenance, unless you are vegetarian of course. Never fear, there's a delicious salad to keep everyone happy - the grilled chicken and orange salad. With the addition of chickpeas and nuts, there's plently to keep everyone full even if you eliminate the meat. Try making the recipe as directed and at the final step only put meat onto the plates of those who want it.

Grilled chicken and orange salad

For the dressing
1/3 cup (80 ml) orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad
450 g boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
150 g mixed salad greens
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 can chickpeas (about 400 g), drained and rinsed
2 oranges, peeled and segmented
¼ cup (35 g) pistachios, or slivered almonds, toasted

1. Place the orange juice, lemon juice, oil, mustard, garlic and pepper in a small bowl or jar with a tight-fitting lid; whisk or shake to blend. Reserve 1/3 cup of this dressing for the salad and 2 tablespoons for basting.

2. Place the remaining dressing in a shallow glass dish or a resealable plastic bag. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover or seal and marinate for at least 20 minutes or up to 2 hours.

3. Preheat the chargrill to medium. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Grill the chicken, basting the cooked sides with dressing reserved for basting, until just cooked, about 4 to 5 minutes each side. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes, covered with foil.

4. Place the salad greens, onion and chickpeas in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing reserved for the salad. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Slice the chicken and distribute over the salads. Scatter orange slices over the top and sprinkle with pistachios (or almonds).

Source: Healthy GI Cookbook published by Health Smart magazine 2009.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sweet and sour

What do you think of mixing sweet and sour flavours? I'm a fan of consuming juxtaposing flavours, like this organic popcorn called 'Lightly salted, slightly sweet' by Cobs. Yummo. It's tantalizingly good on my taste buds.

Cobs products are sold at small supermarkets, particularly organic ones, Blockbuster Video stores and Boost Juice Bars. I happened upon a more widely available alternative by the Coles Organic brand called 'Sweet and Salty Popcorn'.

It's cheaper than the Cobs brand but it doesn't quite match the real deal. Good for a quick fix, especially if you're heading to the movies. 

For an indulgent treat combining sugar and salt, nothing compares to Salted Pretzel Toffee. I found the recipe on one of my favourite food blogs, Not Quite Nigella. A quick but delectable recipe consisting of mini pretzels, caramel toffee and dark chocolate, not many people have been able to resist this sweet and slightly salty combo. 

Speaking of Not Quite Nigella and popcorn, I made another delicious recipe from that website called Nutty Caramel Popcorn. Unfortunately, I didn't read the recipe properly first time round. I mixed up a delicious caramel and added cashews, almonds and popcorn kernels. Unpopped popcorn kernels! I was waiting for them to get hot and pop in the carmel. And waiting. And watching the carmel get darker and darker. It was verging on burnt when I finally admitted I had made a mistake in not popping the kernels first. In my defence, I don't think the recipe was abundently clear for readers needing a late-night fix! My second attempt went perfectly despite having run out of cashews and just using almonds. Divine :) This recipe's hardly sour, but it sure is sweet and the nuts provide a little balance.

My little brothers love all those sour lollies. What about you? Are you sweet or sour? Or do you want a taste of everything like I do?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ten things to make your heart sing

1. Fresh flowers.
No matter if they are bought for you or by you, fresh flowers are a delight. If they are picked from your garden or someone elses, all the better. If you send your mother and dear friend to pick them over the neighbours fence, shame on you (and enjoy them all the more!).

2. Driving into the setting sun.
There is something so relaxing in observing nature and the wonders of the everyday, like a sunset. Heading out of the city on a Friday night to a sight like this somehow brings so many possibilities... even if you are heading out to an outer suburb only to return to the city later!

3. "Winning" things on ebay. Even though you are actually paying for them, the knowledge of winning something is sweet. Picking them up can be a logistical challenge but you might be lucky to find yourself on an adventure to an outer suburb watching the sun set in the west! This week, I scored a hall table with a mirror to jazz up our entrance.

4. Discovering  new places to eat.  It makes you poorer and fatter but what's not to love in trying new places to eat? I've been trying to cut back but it's very difficult when exploring a new area. This week, I tried three decent places that I'd heard a lot about but I'm yet to decide just how much I love two of them. First there was Thai Angels (549 Barkly Street, West Footscray VIC 3012) where everything was good but not great. The critic in me wondered if the prawns were fresh and why there were sizable lumps in the satay sauce that came with the skewers. The company was top notch and they all said good things about Thai Angels. I admit to being a little disappointed with the service and food overall but as it is so close to home I will persevere and try it again. I am trying not to compare to two wonderful Thai places that have opened in my old stomping ground of Moonee Ponds in the last year, Samanee Thai and Khao San Road.
Thai Angels on Urbanspoon

Happy River Cafe: 45 Moreland Street, Footscray VIC 3011. Phone: 03 9689 3244

Next I tried the Happy River Cafe, which is perfectly convenient after a walk along the Maribyrnong River. We entered the cafe at the back of this gorgeous bluestone building so you don't get to appreciate it so much. Had a perfectly nice coffee and chat over the paper but I think I'll need to return to really determine if it's a winner. May also need a child too so I have an excuse to sprawl out on one of the blankets on the lawn!

Happy River Cafe (Footscray Community Arts Centre) on Urbanspoon'

Seddon Deadly Sins: 148 Victoria Street Seddon VIC 3011 - (03) 9689 3092

The real winner of the week though is Seddon Deadly Sins. It was positively humming on Sunday afternoon and the staff are to be commended for coming across as the consummate professionals while maintaining their wit and good humour. The menu is innovative and enticing, making it hard to choose, but the food is so tasty that you should be happy with your eventual choice.  There's a lot to love about this place and I will be back to soak up more of its quirky features. 

Seddon Deadly Sins on Urbanspoon

5. Re-igniting your creative juices. Last week, my writing group resumed and a few hours with my Penheads pals made me realise how important it is to carve off some time to escape into one's creative space of choice. Paint, draw, write, sing, play, sew, cook, build, the choice is yours. Go forth and create.

6. Public festivals. Installations like this Edible Eden Design Garden bring cities alive. Engaging the people and bringing creativity to the streets is genius and makes a walk through a city that much better. It's all been happening in Melbourne for the past week or so with the Fashion Festival and the Food and Wine Festival. Explore your own city and see what delights you uncover.

7. Seeing others succeed. I was so excited last Thursday morning when I opened The Age and saw that the Seymour family of the Mount Zero brand were inducted into Melbourne Food and Wine Festival's hall of fame. I've written about the delicious products they grow and make at their biodynamic farm in the Grampians previously so I guess it felt good to be backing a winner. It's just so nice to see local businesses recognised, and cheering on those on the rise is fun, as any sports fan will tell you. I guess you could now say that Mount Zero has risen!

8. Weekends. Enough said.

9. Getting something back that you thought was lost. One of my brothers once found the stone out of our mother's engagement ring months after she thought it was lost for good. My husband got a text last year from his mum to say that the management team at a big shopping centre had his mobile that he'd left on a bench on a Saturday night. A jogger called my mum to say he had found my mobile on the side of a road. My older brother is said to have spent his toddler years escaping on independent adventures to the town's main -albeit small- street. Locals would return him, much to my parents' delight and embarrassment.

It's heartwarming to know that there are so many people in the world doing nice things for strangers. This week my husband was contacted by the ifoundyourcamera blog site to say that the owner of a memory card he found two years ago had come forward. Her lost photos included snaps from the Movember ball and a holiday to Queensland with the man she is about to marry. The idea of this saintly website is to upload photos from a camera you have found so that the rightful owner can contact you and reclaim their camera and, most importantly, their treasured photos. Finding the owner of an item lost is a reward in itself. I'm busy scanning the website to see if my faith in human kind can be further cemented.

10. Remembering that some people will stay with you forever. The people that change you or guide you or love you (or all three) can never really be lost, even when they pass away. This weekend was two years since my father died. I watered his plant, I felt that old ache in my chest, I wished he was here. I carry him in my heart and know that he will always be my Papa. Some things are forever and that makes me happy.

Now tell me, what makes your heart sing?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jackets to sizzle in

As much as I lament the end of summer, I have to admit that winter fashions really do it for me. The sun may keep you warm in summer but jackets and scarves do the job in the winter and are cut from a far more stylish cloth than a tank top. Jackets, coats, scarves... love 'em. Want them in every colour and style. "Investment” jackets need not apply. Not only does my wallet whimper at whopping price tags but I hate the idea of wearing the same thing every day. I wouldn’t wear the same cardigan each day so why should I wear the same jacket or coat? Give me more.

In the space of a lunchtime today, I found two jackets that I would happily hang in my wardrobe and adore all winter if only they were FREE! Lucky I was saved by the fact that this one from Cue was too small for me and they didn’t have the next size in stock.
But how well does it suit my bag? It was almost rude not to hand over the $270 and make it mine. It has a fab ruffle waist (or peplum) detail, perhaps inspired by Victoria Beckham's Carmontelle dress. To prove the power of the Cue peplum, last year's Melbourne Cup Myer Fashions on the Field winner triumphed in a Cue version of the Posh dress.

The scarf in the photo is a recent purchase from Catalog ($29.95). I was on the hunt for a zebra stripe scarf to go with these old zebra print ballet flats from Witchery but, as is usually the case when you decide to buy something so specific, I couldn't seem to find one. So the snow leopard won me over and I'm told this is what you call "mashing it up". Don't ask me to explain - I'm not up with fashion speak these days.

The other jacket I found today was a navy double-breasted bomber jacket ($299) from Country Road. I'm yet to decide if it's the style I like or purely the fact that I've finally found a navy jacket. Truly, it's been a hunt of several months duration, maybe close to a year. A navy blazer was the first choice but has proved elusive. Oh, inky hues, why are you reserved for business suits, nurses pants and middle-aged yachting ladies?

I have a perfectly lovely velvet navy double-breasted jacket in my wardrobe in a size 8. Size 8? When did I ever fit even half an arm in that thing?

Nothing goes from weekday to weekend like navy, so tell me dear Followers, yes all ten of you, where does one find a navy jacket? And I'm not talking size 8 versions!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Meat Free Munchies

Preparing to take a boyfriend home to meet the family can be fraught with worry. When I took my now husband back to my family home for the first time, I'm sure I dished out a few instructions to my family to make sure the weekend didn't put him off for good. To my little brothers and sister it would have been "no yelling and fighting" and to my parents it may have been something like "can you please clear any clothes off the dining table?". One end of the 10-foot dining table had become the place to sort clean washing into piles for each family member to collect.

I never thought to discuss the menu until we'd emerged from our two-hour car ride and someone announced that mum was making her special spinach pie. Oh dear, perhaps it was important to have told someone that my beloved once announced as a child that he was so hungry, he could eat vegetables. Or that the freezer in his childhood home usually contained half a sheep and half a pig. Or that his dad is known to eat a slab of meat on toast for breakfast. Needless to say, my mother's filo, feta and spinach pie was eaten one small bite at a time that night followed by a swig of beer after each forced mouthful.   This story is now a family legend and my sibling's spinach pie jokes are still giving them a laugh at family dinners.

Eight years later, a number of vegetarian dishes have happily made their way onto our weekly menu-for-two. Most recently, I found a recipe for zucchini, carrot and corn pancakes. I am particularly partial to corn so I'm very fond of this flavoursome fritter. It's the parmesan that makes them though. A delicious cheesy bite. I'd recommend them for a weekend breakfast. Or jump on the Meat Free Monday bandwagon and mix them up for a light and tasty meal. You'll be joining a growing brigade of celebs, fashionistas and everyday folk who are following founders Sir Paul McCartney and his daughters Mary and Stella to raise awareness of the climate-changing impact of meat production and consumption. You might even like to try your hand at spinach pie. It hasn't been made for us for eight years now but I have fond memories of the crunchy, buttery filo pastry top. A safer bet would be to try these beauties:

Zucchini, carrot and corn pancakes
Serves 4 (makes 12 pancakes)

3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
90g butter, melted, cooled
3/4 cup plain flour
2 small zucchini, grated
2 small carrots, peeled, grated
125g can corn kernels, drained, rinsed
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3/4 cup grated parmasen
Alfa One rice bran oil cooking spray
3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
50 baby rocket
2 tablespoons Italian dressing

1. Whisk milk, eggs and butter together in a large jug. Place flour in a bowl. Make a well in centre. Using a metal spoom, stir in milk mixture until just combined. Squeeze excess liquid from zucchini. Add zucchini, carrot, corn, parsely and 2/3 cup parmesen to milk mixture. Stir until just combined. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Spray a large non-stick frying pan with oil. Heat over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup mixture into pan. Using a spatula, spread lightly. Cook for 3 minutes each side or until golden and cooked through. Repeat with remaining mixture to make 12 pancakes, spraying pan with oil when required.
3. Place tomato and rocket in a bowl. Drizzle with dressing. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Serve packcakes with tomato mixture.

Source: Super Food Ideas March 2010

Beware: Typo

Retailers are cottoning onto our love of stationery, making it a cinch for everyday items to inspire. Before Christmas I was excited to discover Typo within the Cotton On store in Melbourne's Bourke Street. When shopping for others, why do we always find so many things we want for ourselves? I had to tie my hands behind my back and remind myself about the spirit of giving.

I've since found a Typo concept store at DFO in Spencer Street and this time there was no holding me back. The flip clock has made a come back of late and as a lover of clocks, this clean and simple design quickly made it to my list of things to hunt for. Once I'm on the hunt, I either see the item I seek everywhere or nowhere. In the case of the flip clock, it's the former. It's in every home mag and you can even get one as an iPhone app (seen on design blog swissmiss). Here's my Typo version ($16.95) sitting on some Typo notebooks ($2 each).

Typo may not be as slick as star stationer kikki.K, but it sure rivals its competitors in attitude and price. Highly recommended, but beware of the Typo, there is no going back. It's a mistake I'm happy to make though. Much better than being Cotton On and writing about expanding into gifts and STATIONARY (yes, with an 'a') on their website. Could it be their way of promoting Typo by example?!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sunshine on a rainy day

With the long weekend in Melbourne behind us, I could easily call myself mellow yellow today but I'm starting the working week with these beautiful images to brighten our rainy days.
Stella McCartney Resort Collection 2010
Karen Walker at New York Fashion Week September 2009. J'adore le stripes!
Karen Walker at New York Fashion Week September 2009. Love military style. Love navy. Want it all.

Karen Walker at New York Fashion Week September 2009. Here comes the sun (and some red and a print), what more could you want, little darling?

Maybe a certain Sarah Jessica Parker wearing some mellow yellow would validate my obsession. And here she is on the red carpet at the Academy Awards yesterday. Wearing lemon Chanel, no less.

Yellow things, you make my heart sing. 

Photo credits: My iphone did not shoot Stella Mac's resort collection, nor did we get invited to Karen Walker's show at NYFW, nor did we make it to the Oscars this year. So, I cannot take the credit for any of these photos. Please follow the links I have provided to go direct to the source.

Apologies to Chip Taylor, Zoe and Donovan for messing with their lyrics. Thanks to Christine Anu and Jimi Hendrix for the covers that have no doubt inspired this post. Music is my springboard.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The beauty of birthdays and baked delights

How sweet it is to be surrounded by friends who can cook! There's nothing like biting into something baked for you to brighten your day, as I found out while celebrating my birthday last month. So here's my promised low-down on all the delicious offerings that were piled on my plate.

Above is a photo of the melt-in-your mouth white chocolate mud cupcakes from the kitchen of the talented Stacie who I reckon knew how to cook from the time she was in utero. She's a dab hand in the kitchen and often makes things without a recipe. She says it's because she is hopeless with recipes. I say it's because she doesn't need them, a sure sign of a culinery talent.

The white chocolate mud cake recipe can be found on The pink icing made from the recipe is to die for but the chocolate icing from a supermarket tube added the personal touch.

Stacie also made some roti rolls inspired by a ladies' night out at Jack's Satay Bar in Moonee Ponds (recommended for fresh, tasty Malaysian). We had all enjoyed the marinated chicken fillets, cucumber and tomatoes wrapped roti bread and served with spicy peanut dipping sauce so Stacie set about re-creating them. Here's how she did it.

To make the spicy peanut dipping sauce, blend the following ingredients until smooth:

1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon red curry paste
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped

For the chicken, marinate chicken strips overnight in:

1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger and chili

Bake in moderate oven until cooked through (20 to 30 minutes).

The roti wraps were purchased from the freezer section of Stacie's local grocer. To assemble, fry the wraps and then place thinly sliced cucumber, tomato and cooked chicken in the centre before rolling them up and cutting in half. Yum.

My darling work mates presented a smorgasboard of home-bakes delights to get me through a birthday at work. Unfortunately, I didn't take photos. Corky's spendid carrot, almond and orange cake based on a Stephanie Alexander recipe will be made again, all going well, and copious photos taken for your salivating pleasure. As seen above, I have re-created Rozzie's chocolate and roasted hazelnut slice because she let it out that it contains 'cheats caramel' from a tin and is quick and easy to make if you ignore the instruction to rub the skins off the roasted nuts. Our resident office cooking advisor tells us it's not necessary. Very good news but making a batch was bad news for me, or at least my hips. It seemed to call 'eat me' from the Tupperware container. Whoever thought of the hazelnut and chocolate combo should be knighted. So should people who bake things with hazelnuts even though they don't eat them! Again, the recipe can be found here on the trusty It's as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Step 1: Cook the base
Step 2: Spread with Top N Fill caramel

Step 3: Top with hazelnuts and chocolate

Step 4: Offer a slice to everyone you know to save yourself from eating every last crumb!

Finally, here is a photo of the Botanical hamper we ate at my surprise birthday outing to see a Midsummer Night's Dream plus a list of the contents.

Starlight hamper

French Baguette with French Butter
Confit Duck Terrine with Pear Chutney
Proscuitto San Danielle
Cured and Honey Poached Pork neck with Pickled White Cabbage
Marinated Olives and Pickles
Fresh raspberries and strawberries with Volhohna chocolate dipping sauce

The Botanical
169 Domain Road, South Yarra VIC 3141
03 9820 7888

Merci à mes amis magnifiques. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Piles of pillows and painting pleasure

The previously mentioned painting by my darling maman has now made it to the wall above our bed, making it even sweeter to snuggle in at night. As silly as it may sound, it seems to "make" the room and pulls everything else together. The only downside is that I realised I felt odd posting a picture of where I lay my head on the internet. You see, me and my bed have a special bond. I love my bed and I am known to say this aloud several times in a week. Some things you just have to keep for yourself. Above is the masterpiece waiting by the fireplace, I hope this will suffice for now. The cushions belong on the bed but the birdcage lives right where it is, as do all the other bits and pieces. 

 These pyjamas by Sussan (store of choice for lovely jim jams) were the starting point for the painting as I just loved them in every way. The repetitive print proved a problem in that there would be no central point for the painting. Enter Aesop, an Australian skincare company that delights with exquisitely scented plant-based products and an admirable ethos that shines through in all that they do. Even their sample sachets are printed with inspiring, thought-provoking quotes. Attention to design in their packaging, stores and advertising is obvious, yet somehow understated. 
This ad (above) tickled my fancy and provided some stronger design elements that were much-needed in shaping the eventual painting. Not being one for peachey tones, I stayed true to the aqua/blue and dusty rose colours from the pyjamas. Sadly, I wore and burst out of these babies in the two years it took for the painting to be completed. Maybe just as well. Wouldn't it be slighly odd for your nightwear to match your boudoir?

A penchant for Tiffany blue (PMS 1837) also cemented my colour choices. I'm sure you know the colour, but just in case you are blissfully unaware, pictured below is a Tiffany & Co box with a postcard photo picked up at a Manly (Sydney, NSW) market and inserted in an IKEA frame. The colours in both are quite different but I like that it's not all exactly matching in a cold, showroom way.

In saying that, I did carry this colour palette in my handbag for quite some time to help me find suitable cushions (perhaps too long if the wrinked cardboard is anything to go by).

At one point, I spotted what I thought were perfect cushions in a Fantastic Furniture catalogue only to find that the green florentine print on cream wasn't right when I saw them in the flesh. BUT THEN, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted some silky ones in the CLEARANCE bin! Maybe there is a God! As you can see in the first picture of this post, I chose one with a diamond print and two with a florentine print. From memory they were less than $15 each. The candlesticks on the mantle are another bargain purchase from an impromptu trip to Oz Design, Hoppers Crossing. I believe we were 2km into a 30km trip home when we stopped off. My head was pounding from too many cocktails the night before but I can spot a bargain anywhere, anytime. Paying full price makes my jaw clench in a convincing resistance that is hard to ignore. It is all too easy to hand over the plastic and settle on the first full-priced item you see that fits your project. Easier still for me to to say when I had oodles of time to pull this room together while waiting for inspiration to hit the painter. For now though, resist the urge I say and enjoy the hunt.



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