Friday, December 28, 2012

COOKING: More Christmas Goodies!

I tried a new recipe for the Almond Crescents...... they were an absolute triumph and tasted very much like the ones "mum used to make". I am yet to go through my late mothers recipe books.... many of them are written in one of three languages!!

These are the Lemon Polenta cookies. I was a little dubious of the use of polenta in cookies..... they were OK but not great.... so I won't be making them again.

Nut Clusters. These are gluten free and really good. When cold they are brushed with dark chocolate on the underside. These are made on request of my friends.

Finally - Hedgehog slice and the same mix was tipped into small patty cases. These are also Gluten Free as I used gluten free shortbread in the ingredients list.

This platter came with us when we went to my sister-in-laws for Christmas Day Lunch. The numerous kids LOVED it (and big kids too).

This was nothing to do with me..... but it was one of the desserts on offer at that Christmas Day Lunch. It was so pretty I had to photograph it. It was an ice-cream cake with frozen chocolate sponge and two layers of creamy gelato. I was TOTALLY AWESTRUCK with the pink layer (it was Turkish Delight flavoured) and I could have eaten a litre just of it. This green layer was mint and it had chocolate frosting with fresh raspberries and flaked chocolate. The hands in the picture belong to my husband's (naughty) niece. She was busy trying to take all credit for making it - when her sister-in-law actually made it. 

This is my table setting for the final "Christmas" event on my calendar.... dinner on Boxing Day for four. My good friend Lynn has all family in the UK..... so I like to throw a formal dinner for her. I invite my brother over to make it a nice easy four. 

Another Christmas over...... and I can put my feet up a bit now. Whew!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

COOKING: Almond Bread

I love Christmas baking. It reminds me of my late mother and happy childhood memories of preparing the "Christmas Biscuits" prior to Santa coming. For my brother, sister and I - it was the beginning of the big school break (Yay!) and always a task we did together as a family. Well - except for my father - he didn't do "kitchen stuff".

As for me - my weakness is Almond Bread. I love how it is thin and crisp and just tastes so good. My first attempts at it were an absolute flop.... enough to scare me off for years before trying agin. Now I have found the PERFECT recipe - which is almost foolproof. I say almost - as I did make an error one year and it turned out much harder than it should be. I now know that when baking the loaves initially, it is better to over cook rather than undercook them.

For the recipe (it is on CLICK HERE TO THE LINK.

Grease and line two loaf tins. NB: I've doubled the recipe.

Separate the eggs and start your mixer.

Once the egg whites are thick, then rain in the sugar and make sure the sugar is all dissolved.

Have your flour and almonds ready.

Drop them in and fold to combine.

Make sure you have no flour pockets.

Place mixture into loaf tin/s. I added some dried cranberries to the second loaf for extra festive cheer.

Bake at 160C or 325F for 40 - 50 minutes. Mine took closer to 60. Make sure skewer comes out clean.

Wrap in foil and leave in fridge for 1-2 days. Find your sharpest (I like a serrated knife for this) knife.

Slice as thin as you can while still getting the "whole" slice.

Place onto lined trays and place in a slow oven 120C or 250F for about 45 minutes, until dried out.

Cool completely before storing in airtight containers. Will keep for 3-4 months. I package it into little cellophane bags and tie them with curling ribbon to give as gifts.

A sight for sore eyes!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CRAFTS: Antique Buffet Restoration

Those of you who follow this blog will know that I am fond of saving wooden furniture from ending up in landfill ...... Look what I found in the garage of my parents-in-law when we had the dubious task of clearing the house and garage prior to sale.

As usual... I forgot to take a complete "before photo" - this photo shows the top and sides beginning to be sanded.

I hate sanding - lucky for me my husband did the "lion share" this time.

Everyone looked at me as if I had bought the ticket to the "funny farm" when I put my hand up and said "I'll have it!!" Even my husband. He said that this cupboard was always in the back of the garage - holding tools, paints and poisons.... he cannot remember it even being in the house first!

To be honest - I noticed the beautiful drawer handles first..... and then I was in love. I am particularly fond of ornate handles and such.

You could tell it has been exposed to many years of cold winters and hot summers.... the wood had split in a number of areas and needed filling.

Sanded and cleaned ready for stain and varnish. We gave up on the split and wobbly top - and my husband replaced the top entirely.

I love the invention of a combined stain and varnish!!

We deliberately did not sand off everything - I like the look of some background left behind ....

YAY!! All finished and in situ in my office.

I gotta say - I am so in love with this piece.

And I love that I have somewhere to put my mosaic supplies and my sewing machine and toolbox!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

FREEDOM: (Eating Again) Lunch with Friends in the Country

Last Saturday, we got together with the group of friends which we went away with for the House-boating holiday back in May. They are three people my husband and I knew through our workplace (including two partners) - so we are a merry band of seven.... and very much enjoy catching up.

We booked a table in a historic hotel - a country pub in Willunga which started operations in 1840. I'm sorry I forgot to take a photo of the very beautiful street view of the hotel. We actually had the entire dining room to ourselves which was lovely - we said it was like eating around the table in houseboat!!

As soon as I read the board on the left - there was no further need to peruse the real menu! Duck (especially confit leg) is my FAVOURITE!!!! 

In this room is a secondary bar.... with an interesting addition above the bar!

This is real life size rubber version of a great white shark caught in a seaside town, Robe. I'm not sure what is has to do with Willunga.... but the new managers here are from Robe - so maybe there is a connection there??

Our friends all arrived and after much chatting the food started coming too - this is the beer battered fish and chips

This is the Salt and Pepper Squid that the husband ordered

Last but not least - two at the table ordered the Confit Duck Legs - smothered in Red Wine and Garlic  Jus...... I was a happy girl!

Can you believe we squeezed in dessert too!!

My husband has announced that he has already put on 2kg over the last couple of weeks - blaming the socialising and eating that happen prior to the Christmas Season. 

Tis the season to be Jiggly...........

Thursday, November 22, 2012

FREEDOM: Eggs Benny at the Beach

Today, my husband and I took a good friend to a Breakfast "celebration". My friend had a Birthday a little while ago while she was visiting family in the UK.... so we agreed to have a meal together when she got back. Breakfast was her idea, and I did not argue!

This is the Deep Blue Cafe on the esplanade at Moana Beach. My third time here.

The development of the esplanade is really lovely.

This beach holds many fond childhood memories for me..... it was our preferred "family" beach where get-togethers were held (it's a metropolitan beach where vehicles can drive onto the sand - and elaborate tents and shelters are built between vehicles - especially on weekends) ..... many of my aunts, uncles (and my mother) have now passed away... but the memories of our times here are cherished. 

Inside the cafe our coffees arrived.

My friend and I have been dreaming about eggs benedict for ages.... a rare treat which goes straight to the hips!

Husband just wanted an egg, cheese and bacon (with BBQ sauce) roll.... he doesn't get turned on by Hollandaise sauce like I do!

 And it all tasted even better with a view like this.

The other reasons for our celebration today....... my friend has gone on a spending spree and bought a brand new car (medium size SUV) and yesterday she confirmed her purchase of a caravan.

Guess who is coming camping and caravanning with us??

Thursday, September 27, 2012

COOKING, CRAFTS AND FREEDOM: A bit on all three!

It's amazing at how many photos we have loaded on our computers. It certainly takes up the most space on my mac! I found some pictures that I wanted to share with you.

This was my first (and only) Wedding Cake order. I was so pleased with it, as were the bride and groom. It was an old fashioned heavy fruit and nut cake..... iced with Almond Fondant and then Royal Icing.

I cheated and bought the edible frangipanis - flowers that were in the bridal bouquet. I did paint the inner section with powdered yellow colouring though. 

It was a huge responsibility...... it made me feel ill that something might go wrong! But lucky for me - it was perfect! Whew!!


Next - I wanted to show you some of my ceramic work:

One Christmas - I painted some "personalised dinner sets" for the younger members of my gift list.

I was very happy with the end results.

And the children LOVED them. It made them feel very special.

I couldn't resist doing a set for my good friend Lynn. She has three dogs and my ceramics friend and "teacher" helped with the caricatures of the three dogs. Turned out so cute!!


Lastly, my husband and I went away one summer and drove to Melbourne with four other friends in a hire 6 seater vehicle. The main purpose was to "hit the shops" as Melbourne has fabulous outlet shopping - and huge bargains in their "warehouse direct" stores. A crazy idea but we had heaps of fun - and our men folk are fairly OK with indulging we women!!  I took this photo of yet another "BIG" Australian thing....... a little known one which I think is so cute!

The Giant Koala - on the main highway between Adelaide and Melbourne.