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Turning $10 into $100

Comments (8) | Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ok, so you all saw that I recently became a Nuffie with Nuffnanger. The competition is either:

  • Be the Nuffie that spends $10 in the most creative, interesting or fun way. It is totally up to you what you choose to do with it, you just have to impress the Nuffnang team here with your shopping skills. OR....
  • Most frugal Nuffie award. How far can you stretch $10 and what can you make it do?
Now my entry into the competition to turn the $10 gift voucher into a $100 gift voucher! I'm not sure what category I am... maybe you can help me decide!

Let's start where the $10 was spent, Coles:

At first I wanted to SPAM you all with lots and lots of spam, but spam was rather expensive, when you have a $10 budget..

But then I noticed it was Daffodil Day, and every year since my grandpa passed away from cancer in 1997, I support the cause. So I got my daffodils, and my memories and decided to dedicate my $10 challenge to one of the most amazing people that has been part of my life, grandpa.

First of all, this dummy of Curtis Stone scared the bajebus outta me! I was like "... what? is it him? but why would he ... ohhh... it's just a dummy with his face on it".

Luckily, Coles had some good specials, including these 98c crackers!! Bargain:

So what did I get for $10?

A few canned vegetables, crackers and a bottle of Lambrusco. Not sure why I went for these, but thought I could make something pretty arty that you might find at a fancy restaurant. I remember eating all of these these with my grandpa, and well the non-alcoholic Lambrusco was always a treat when growing up because it makes you look like are drinking wine.

And the results:

Some werido beetroot stack thing that I'm not sure even I would eat. Well at least it photographed well, and looks arty.

In loving memory of iron chef grandpa. I miss you every day.

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More Lindt Macarons

Comments (7) | Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's totally a hard job, but someone has to do it. Luckily for you all, I took the liberty to try some more macaron flavours from Lindt, just so you know which ones are the best.
OooOoooooo.... look at the pretty colours...

Left to right: hazelnut, passionfruit, pistachio, vanilla & strawberry

I was in the city on Friday night with Rob, previewing the new James Cameron flick Avatar at IMAX, that will be released in December. And let me just tell you, so far it's looking super sexy and I can't wait to watch the whole thing. Check out the trailor. He came up with the idea 14 years ago, but the technology wasn't available then. It's insanely good when wearing the 3d glasses at the cinema.

Alas, back to the macarons! After the preview we walked around the city, and I convinced Rob to visit the Lindt Cafe (my current favorite place in case you hadn't noticed!). I picked up a nice variety, very colourful too.

I was a bit disappointed they didn't have the peach or black currant flavours I really wanted to try, but I figure they are more summer flavours, but I did see the black currant on my first trip. I'll just have to keep checking in!

Clockwise from top left: pistachio, vanilla, strawberry & hazelnut

Ok so you already know of my love for the passionfruit macaron, but what about the others?

Pistachio: very subtle pistachio flavour. I found I really had to concentrate to taste the pistachio.
Vanilla: a nice vanilla flavour. You can see fresh vanilla beans have been used, even throughout the cream filling.
Strawberry: tastes a bit like strawberry jam, and with the creamy centre, it's a bit like eating a scone with jam and cream.
Hazelnut: a definite hazelnut flavour, reminds me a bit of Nutella with the creamy hazelnut filling. Very smooth and full of flavour. My 2nd favorite to the passionfruit.

After plenty of "research", my conclusions are that passionfruit is still the best, hazelnut coming in a close 2nd, dark chocolate in 3rd place, then the rest.

Can't wait to try: peach, black currant, roselli & coconut.

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I'm an official Nuffnanger!

Comments (9) | Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm going to thank Chocolate Suze for getting me onto Nuffnang. After seeing her blog post on Nuffnang, I wanted a piece of the action too. And the best part is, Nuffnang sponsor all kinds of blogs, not just food blogs!

I received my welcome package on Monday containing a few delicious and non edible goodies:

Received 2 packs of Redkin hair products, John West tuna, Leggo's Italian beef casserole sauce, Spring Valley juicy tea, and a $10 gift card.

There is a competition with the $10 Coles Myer gift card. You can either be the Nuffie than spends the $10 in the most creative, interesting or fun way, OR you have to see how far you can make that $10 stretch.

Stay tuned later this week to see what I did with mine!

Nuffnang are also running an Asia Pacific blogger awards for the best bloggers. If you enjoy reading my blog, then please vote for me here, and I could be going to Singapore to attend the awards. If you nominate the most amount of blogs, you could also win a cash prize of SGD $1000 and a 3 day, 2 night trip to Singapore!

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BeaterBlade+ & Green Tea Cupcakes

Comments (10) | Monday, August 24, 2009

You've all heard of love at first sight haven't you? I was totally in love when I first saw this product:

The lovely Kim from Fully Baked contacted me to see if I was interested in giving the BeaterBlade+ a test run, as they were launching the product to the Australian and New Zealand market. Of course I was most excited because the standard KitchenAid attachment mixes well, but you have to stop the mixing quite often, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, resume mixing, stop, and repeat. This can get quite annoying, and can be very time consuming.

Left to Right: Standard KitchenAid attachment, BeaterBlade+

I will confess, I don't actually own a KitchenAid mixer, it is technically my mother's. However I still live at home, and I swear I've used the KitchenAid far more than her. I'm just glad she is happy to share it with me! So I attached the BeaterBlade+ and was anxious to see the results:

BeaterBlade+ attached and ready for combat

The attachment clicked in just as easy as the standard attachments. We have the sexy fire engine red KitchenAid. And you know what they say about red things, they go faster! So lets check out the difference between the standard attachment and the BeaterBlade+:

As you can see, with the standard attachment, the mixture sticks to the sides, and doesn't mix everything together consistently. The BeaterBlade+ scrapes and mixes at the same time, so I didn't have to stop, scrape then mix, then stop, scrape and mix. It even did a fine job when I added the eggs in. This product is just the thing I have been needing my whole baking life! It cuts beating time easily by half! I will be looking forward to easier baking from now on!
You can also check out youtube footage of the attachment in action here.
The attachment is also available for the tilt head models retailing for $55.95. The lift head attachment retails for $59.95. The Fully Baked website is currently under construction, but if you would like to contact Kim about buying one, please contact me and I will supply her contact details to you.

What did I bake though? I tried green tea cupcakes, they have to be healthy if they have green tea in them right? I can only wish!

I decided to not bake in cupcake cases for a change, but instead give my new baby bundt tin a try. The recipe states it makes 24 cupcakes, but I think they were a bit ambitious, and would probably make about 15. It also says to top with Japanese sweet red beans, but I'm afraid I don't normally stock these in my pantry, so cachous makes a reappearance.

To be honest, couldn't really taste any green tea in these babies. Mum suggested I should try a stronger green tea, but I'm not sure which ones would be stronger. If you have any idea, please let me know! If you didn't tell anyone they were green tea flavour they wouldn't know, they would just ask you why they have a green tinge to them. They were more vanilla-y then anything, but still a nice fluffy cake. I preferred mine without the cream, not sure if I will make these again, not unless I find a stronger green tea powder.

Green Tea Cupcakes

1/2 cup milk
3 teaspoons matcha (fine green tea powder)
185g unsalted butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup plain flour
45g Japanese sweet red beans, to decorate

1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan-forced. Line 24 standard muffin holes with paper cases.

2. Place the milk in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the matcha. Allow to cool.

3. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together with electric beaters until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flours together and fold in alternatively with the milk mixture. Divide the mixture evenly among the cases. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of a cake. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool.

4. Beat the cream and icing sugar until stiff peaks form. Decorate each cake with cream and sweet red beans.

Makes 24.

Voila! Bon App├ętit!

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Eating Out: Saray

Comments (7) | Sunday, August 23, 2009

Right. Where to start on this one? Allow me to consult my full page of notes. I don't normally make notes, but there is so much I need to say I don't want to leave anything out.

Have you ever been to a wedding where you felt like you really didn't belong? Like you were chucked on the table of rejects, singles or children and didn't really know quite how to react?

I'd like to say I went to a wedding, I really would. But I just went out for dinner, with 2 friends and Rob to celebrate my birthday about 4 months later than the day. My friends Adrian and Mette are down from Sweden for 6 months and wanted to take Rob and myself out for dinner to celebrate my day of birth. Of course I agreed and was rather excited by the possibility of great Turkish food since I'm really into Middle Eastern cuisine at the moment. Adrian had sent me the link to the website of Saray, and it looked really posh and amazing.

So lets start from the start. Adrian had called up to book. The restaurant had called Adrian the morning we were due to dine to confirm said booking. We arrived at the restaurant, and I thought "Oh look, there is a wedding going on!". And clearly there was some kind of function as there were balloons on some tables, but we were told to go upstairs to the dining area.
We got upstairs, and told the waitress about the booking expecting to be promptly seated and looked after. Instead, they couldn't find the booking. After a bit of fluffing around and assuring them they called Adrian to confirm, one waiter went downstairs to see if he could find the booking. Whilst this was going on, we were wondering if we would even get a seat because the place looked like it was set up for a wedding. Not soon after that, we realised, this was the normal decor. Including the over sized fish bowls with roses in them. The waiter couldn't find the booking either, but we were still seated to a table and we sat and talked for a while.

Then 2 jugs of warm soft drink arrived; Pub Squash and L.A. Ice cola. We went to pour the drinks into the wine glasses on the table; 2 out of the 4 wine glasses had prominent lipstick marks on them, and the other glasses was just filthy. We did a sneaky and swapped them with the table next to us.

So after we had been talking for quite some time, observing the staff, which appeared to be completely disorganised, we finally managed to catch the waitress' eye to ask for a menu. Instead she came to our table with pen and paper in hand expecting us to order. I had to kindly ask if we could perhaps see a menu. She brought over 1 menu for the 4 of us.

So after all of this, we decided to go with the $30 set menu. Adrian was optimistic and guessed the bread would take about 5 minutes to arrive after ordering. We then later took bets on when the mains, and desserts would arrive.

Breads, dips (6 varieties), tabbouleh, beans, roasted eggplant, vine leaves and some kind of hash brown things came out after about 20 minutes. The waiter just walked around the table placing the plates all around us, not explaining ANYTHING. So we had no idea what anything was, and proceeded to do the taste test. The best part was the bread was bottomless. Dips were alright, tabbouleh had no seasoning or flavour, it was rather disappointing. The bread was hot and fresh, it's no wonder it's bottomless, they hope you fill up on it, and it's probably a good thing you do, cos you'll be waiting a while for your mains to come.

We arrived fairly early to everyone else, yet our food came out the same time as everyone else's, so that's probably why we had to wait so long.

The restaurant was clearly in the middle of renovations. The stairs were freshly sanded, the air conditioning as you can see here demonstrated by Adrian was not fitted properly. It also went from hot to cold to hot to cold constantly which was annoying. The dirty dishes from the table next to us weren't cleared for at least 2 hours, we know we were there about 3-3.5 hours! Apparently the toilets were identified by pieces of masking tape.

The mains arrived in 2 separate batches. First the "doner kebab". The lashing of tomato paste and yoghurt was a little off putting at first, but the meat itself was delicious. A real kebab flavour. Unfortunately, when "kebab" is written on the menu, one would expect a little bit of pita bread to eat it with.

About 30 minutes later we got the chicken skewers, lamb skewers and lamb chops.

Adrian showed us his miniature lamb chop, and all I could hear was Gordon Ramsay going off in my head from Hell's Kitchen "What the F is this? This isn't an effing lamb chop!! Come on!!". Poor Adrian, he was really looking forward to it. Everyone enjoyed them, but mine tasted like it was off, so I pushed it to the side. The chicken skewers were delicious though, moist and succulent. We should have been offered more when the guy with the meat platter was walking around. Lots of tables got 2nds and 3rds offered, but not us.

Turkish music was played in the background. Not in a subtle background music kind of way, more in a "I'm going to make you deaf so you can't sustain a conversation with the members of your table" kind of way.
Then all of a sudden, the belly dancer appears.

I have nothing against belly dancers. I admire them for having the confidece to be able to get up and shake their booty and all that. This belly dancer had THE fakest set of breasts I'd ever seen. And you can only guess how she paid for them too with all the tips she was getting. She shaked her thing for what seemed an eternity. When she went away we resumed our waiting for dessert. Adrian and Mette went up and had a bit of a dance with the other customers then came back.

We had to flag down the waitress again to request dessert. Our table was cleared slowly then the dessert arrived:

Mette had the Turkish Delight and she said it was good. The rest of us had the baklava. I'd have to say it wasn't the best. There was far too much syrup, and just sickly sweet. I know baklava is sweet, and I do enjoy a good baklava, but this my friends, was not.

Then we requested the bill, and our teas arrived. The tea was so strong and bitter because they had left the tea bag in. We just left them and went home for a nice cup of tea.

Some things I have left out whilst typing away:
- there was a moth that flew around for the majority of the evening
- no napkins were supplied, we had to request them
- the meat was brought up from downstairs on a big platter and shared amongst tables. It was rather impersonal and I wasn't really impressed by this
- we asked the waiter to remove the fish bowl from our table so we could fit all the food, his solution was to put it on the floor next to our table.
- wait staff had no idea what they were doing. there seemed to be 2 waiters doing things together since neither had any idea what was going on or they would be fighting by the bar
- the cheesy photographer was an Indian man in a very 70's suit and greased us off when we said we didn't want our photo taken. All I can say is, "Mate, I have a far better camera than yours and I can take photos of me and my friends any day, and not pay you $20 for it."
- there were also two Asian girls coming around throughout the evening selling roses. Why on earth you would buy one when they were freely available on the table beats me

The good things were:
- we got heaps of food for $30 each
- most of the food was really quite nice

I'd say this restaurant is more of a Turkish social club, and not a restaurant you'd go to for a nice social dinner where you want to have lots of conversation. But in the end, it's the company that makes the meal, and I couldn't think of better people to have had this experience with. We all agreed, we won't be going back. I'd rather go back to Lezzet for my Turkish fix.

Thank you again, Adrian and Mette for this remarkable dinner!

Saray on Urbanspoon

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Super Fat Friday

Comments (7) | Friday, August 21, 2009

Well my 7 week contract job has come to an end. I adopted a tradition they liked to call "Fat Friday" where one person would do a lunch run of whatever takeaway was mutually agreed on. We have had Charcoal Chicken, sushi, rice paper rolls, Subway, just to name a few. This being my last Fat Friday, I was sent out with a bang.

First up was this AMAZING chocolate mousse cake from Michel's Patisserie. I'm normally not the biggest fan of their cakes, but all of us couldn't get enough of this. It was so amazingly chocolately, and moussey and just melted in your mouth. I'd recommend this cake to anyone it was that good!

Then when I thought it was all over...

Gorgeous Louise tried her hand at baking, and surprised me with these delicious vanilla and orange cupcakes! They were so moist and flavorsome, I felt very special!

To add to Super Fat Friday, Nando's was consumed, followed by a little bit of popcorn, then ANOTHER trip to Lindt, but I got take away macarons of the exotic flavours on offer, then polished it all off with some sushi.
I will tackle the maracons with my loved ones throughout the weekend, sharing, and "researching". Back on the healthy eating band wagon tomorrow... except for dinner ;) stay tunned for that review!

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Eating Out: Lindt Cafe Chadstone

Comments (7) | Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ok, so I'm going to blame it on being half Swiss for being totally obsessed with the opening of Melbourne's 2nd Lindt Cafe. I mean I only just went to check out the first one in Collins St a mere 3 days ago.... and I couldn't wait to finish work and get down to Chadstone to see what the newest cafe looked like.

Sorry, low quality iPhone photos

The Lindt Cafe is located in the new mall that just opened today at Chadstone. Housing 50 new stores, it's all so new and shiny. But I couldn't concentrate on anything else but LINDT!
It's probably the worst thing for my waist line at the moment, but well, it is Lindt after all. I could eat Lindt balls all day, and they have so many varieties I still need to try!
I would say the Chadstone cafe has more seats than the Collins St cafe, but the Collins St cafe feels far more sofisticated.

Until the 31st of August 09, you get a free "delice", or as they are commonly known; maracon with every hot chocolate. Not feeling like I needed the extra fat of a hot chocolate, I bought some maracons to take home for dessert at Rob's house. As some of you may know who follow me on twitter, I attempted to make iced vovo cupcakes, but they failed and ended up looking like yorkshire puddings. Not wanting to arrive empty handed, I picked up the 2 macaron flavours they had on offer: champagne and dark chocolate. I was rather disappointed they didn't have the passionfruit or black currant. Maybe next time...

They were packed so nicely in the box, almost like getting a present! There are 8 maracons in there, and I swear they are to be shared! I'm not going to eat them all myself. I had half of the champagne and half of the dark chocolate... all in the name of "research". Well that's what I'm going to call it!

I'd have to say I much prefer the dark chocolate to the champagne flavour. But Rob's sister really enjoyed the champagne. The dark chocolate is very rich and you can definitely taste the chocolate flavour in every way possible. But I still prefer the passionfruit one I had.

I can't wait to try all the flavours found in the collection pdf found here: http://www.lindt.com.au/1/6/34/56.asp I suggested to Rob that he can get that for me for Christmas!

And that folks, is visit number 2 to the wonderful world of Lindt.

Lindt Chocolat Cafe, Chadstone on Urbanspoon

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Jules Clancy Interview

Comments (4) | Monday, August 17, 2009

"After June Clancy died suddenly in August 2007, her eldest daughter and food blogger Jules decided to pull together a collection of her Mum's recipes. With the help of her sisters she tested and photographed all the classic family dishes that she had grown up with.

The results were just too good to keep to herself. So Jules decided to self publish the book and share this one stop collection of simple, delicious family meals. Seeing this as an opportunity to celebrate a beautiful life and pass on the family recipes of an inspirational mum and cook."

Photo of June Clancy from "And the Love is Free" by Jules Clancy. Text taken from the media release.

The lovely Jules from Stone Soup recently had a book signing for her first book in Melbourne. I was lucky enough to be contact by Jules herself to come down and help celebrate.

Photos taken from "And the Love is Free" by Jules Clancy.

We all meant at a quaint little bar in Melbourne, the kind you stumble across down an alley you wouldn't think there would be anything. Cabinet bar was the perfect setting for the book signing, with the sun bearing it's head for a few hours to bring Jules and some of her closest Melbourne friends together.

Not only does Jules take amazing photos, have delicious recipes and now, authors cookbooks. She also has degrees in both food science and winemaking, so she definitely knows what she is talking about. Currently she would probably have the dream job of any foodie; she is a chocolate biscuit designer for Arnotts.

I had a brief interview with Jules to find out what she was all about. Thanks again Jules for the invite and the interview. It was great to meet you, and get a signed copy for my collection!

Photo taken from "And the Love is Free" by Jules Clancy.

ICS: You've been blogging for nearly 4 years now, studied food science and wine making, and take amazing photographs. What made you so interested in food to begin with?
Jules: I grew up in a family where food was a really special part of our lives. My Mum was an amazing cook. It wasn't until I went to boarding school that I realised just how lucky I was and just how important good food is. Ever since then I've always had food as a driving force in my life.

ICS: You are one of the first bloggers I've known to put out a book, you must be pretty excited. What made you want to make the transformation from blogger to cookbook author?
Jules: I'm super excited about the book too. Along with food I've always loved books in general and cookbooks in particular. It's always been a dream of mine to write a cookbook. When I inherited my Mum's recipe book it just seemed natural to want to celebrate her life with her beautiful simple country cooking and share her story.

It's been great fun bringing the book to life. I highly recommend giving self publishing a go.

Self portrait by Jules Clancy.

ICS: What are your favorite ingredients to use in your cooking?
Jules: Great question Shellie. As long as ingredients are good quality and fresh I'm usually happy. Brussels sprouts, fennel and beetroot are a few of my favourite veg and I always feel that a meal isn't really a meal unless there's a salad involved. My latest fav is radicchio with a little fresh basil.

I always have lemons in the fridge - actually I feel a little unsettled if I run out of lemons. My boyfriend is Irish so I've been exploring potatoes more and more. I love good quality olive oil and have been experimenting with making my own chilli oil and have a bottle of 50year old balsamic vinegar that I treasure for very special occasions. I love most fish and seafood - even sardines out of a can. Having grown up on a sheep farm, I have a soft spot for lamb, especially lamb shanks.

Photo taken from "And the Love is Free" by Jules Clancy.

ICS: Are you a savoury or sweet person?
Jules: It's funny because I've always considered myself a savoury person. Definitely more cheese than dessert.
But over the last couple of years working for Arnotts I've been exposed to more and more sweet things. Now I have a bit of a chocolate addiction that seems to be growing at an alarming rate and I've been seriously getting into baking cookies at home. But overall I think I'm still on the savoury side.

ICS: What would your last meal be?
Jules: Good food and wine shared with my nearest and dearest. The older I get, the more I realise that special meals are more about the people you are sharing with than the food itself. Although I do hope there would be a plentiful supply of Champagne.

Jules & Me

To buy or see a sample of Jule's book and recipes, you can visit her website here.
And to check out what's been cooking in Jule's kitchen, be sure to check out her blog, Stone Soup.

Front cover of "And the Love is Free" by Jules Clancy.

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Eating Out: South Melbourne Markets

Comments (4) |

Yesterday I made my first trip down to the South Melbourne markets with Alana. She had been before and suggested we go potter around there and get the famous "South Melbourne Market Dim Sims" for lunch.

Theses guys have been making dim sims for 60 years, and I've heard LOADS of people rave on about them, so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Every time we walked past there seemed to be a line of people queuing. Every where we walked around, there was someone eating a dim sim. I got one fried, one steamed, Alana got 2 fried as you can see below:

As you can see by Alana's lovely hand modeling yet again, these babies are HUGE!! If you like your dim sims from the fish and chip shop, you will most definitely like these. They took me back to my high school days of buying dim sims from the canteen for lunch, except they were at least 3 times the size! I'd have to say I preferred the steamed version to the fried version. It's a little more healthier and makes me feel like I'm having yum cha on the go... well maybe just a little.

Opposite the dim sim stall is a man in a marque cooking paella! And my goodness it looked and smelt so good. Think I'll have to go back one day to try it. He saw me taking photos and sprinkled some parsley over to make it look even better. Thanks Mr. Paella Man!

You can get heaps of stuff at the market, and all cheaper than the supermarket. I managed to score 2 gourmet tomato sauces for $2! Mind you, they are a bit closer to expiry than the supermarket would sell them for, but that doesn't matter.

Giant strawberries (although they don't look that big in the photo), and lots of ingredients you usually have to go to speciality delis for, are freely available at the markets.

As well as these amazing looking cakes!
Walking around seeing all the fresh produce made me want to buy it all and make a delicious vegetable soup! Next time I will have to go with my little nanna trolley so I don't get sore arms from carrying everything.

It's worth a look around. I got half price Bonds undies, Alana got heavily discounted hair care products, and we both walked away with fresh fruit.
My only tip is bring lots of cash! There is an ATM on site, but most stalls only accept cash as payment. The markets are undercover, so you can go on a terrible winter day like we did.
I can't wait to visit the Prahran market and revist the Queen Victoria market!

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