Friday, December 28

Free printable - my bathroom sign (with a bit of backwards humour!)

When you don't move into a new house there are relics from those who've been there before you.  In this house, it's picture hooks, we must have removed, plastered and painted over at least two dozen of them in our lounge and dining room, about 6 in our dining room and we still have a ways to go.

there are some picture hooks though which I've re-used, and this one is one of the very few.  Every time you wash your hands after using the family bathroom, there's a big hook looking at you in the reflection.. so I put a quick end to that on all days, Christmas Eve.  Couldn't look at it a second longer.

Something I'm always on to my frills about is washing their hands properly, with soap.  So I thought whilst they are in there washing their hands it couldn't hurt for a reminder.  But they'd be looking in the mirror so I reversed it... :)

I just printed it in A4 and put it in an Ikea frame.

Of course, when you look at it in the mirror it looks like this:

and up close:


Here's the reversed signs:
Blue (like in the first image)
Lifesaver (like the one I have framed)

Here's the non-reversed signs (in case your view of not of the mirror!)

Tuesday, December 18

2012 - Reflection on the year, this blog and my food highlights

At the end of each year I, like most people find myself reflecting on the year and think about what happened, great times, challenges and what I want 2013 to be.

This blog has been so much a documentation of my kids growing up, which is what I originally intended it to be - nearly four years ago in fact!  It started because I had a very scary brush with death and went through a bit of an existential crisis - how would I want to be remembered by my kids if I had passed away?  Would they know me?  

This grew from my thoughts to sharing our time together in photos, sharing my recipes.  Little did I know sharing the recipes I created and tried would help me form a community which has given me so much - when readers say 'thanks for sharing' I always am thinking 'thank YOU for sharing' because having an outlet, having Mums like me (and not just Mums - Dads, grandparents and just food lovers in general!) connect on some common ground has brought me so much happiness.

This blog is much, much more than a blog. Whilst I'm away it's a portable memory bank.  I can document some of my experiences.  When I'm homesick, I read through my old posts and get a big hug from the photos.   Conversely Hubby is able to re-create the kids' favourites through having Mummy's cookbook at his fingertips.   Although I can't be with the kids all the time I know they are still eating Mumma's food!  

Quick highlights of 2012:

We rang in the new year in Manila, Philippines.  It was the Frills' first trip overseas and mine and hubby's first overseas trip together ever.  We went to Tagaytay, the kids and hubby went to Intramurros and Ocean Park whilst I was at work and we did a whoooole lot of shopping.   

Food highlight:  Crispy Pata at Josephines, Tagaytay.

As a family we went to Hong Kong for a weekend, that was amazing.  It's a big deal taking your kids to Disneyland, especially if you've never been.  And even if it's only Hong Kong Disneyland it's still magical.  I know that's something that as a family we'll be talking about well into the future. (Especially about my Space Mountain 'episode' haa!)

Food highlight:  Mickey Waffles

In April, my Mum came and met me in Manila whilst I was on a business trip and I took her to Boracay for the weekend.  It was fabulous but the only downside was it wasn't long enough.   I would totally recommend trip to Boracay - but as a couple or a group - not a family. It's perfect for those who need a total chill-out,  a massage and some blue skies.

Food highlight:  Roasted Crab at Cyma Restaurant
Cyma Roasted Crabs

In June our beautiful Eloise turned eight  - there's something about your eldest's  birthday - it makes you realise life it too short and how quickly kids grow up.  She had a fabulous birthday and we took her and her friends bowling.

And as if life wasn't hectic or exciting enough, in July we moved house!  Just around the corner from our old house. I literally got off a plane, went to Ikea, painted the new house, moved in and went on another plane.  Crazy? Yes.

We are finally settled in and looking forward to our first Christmas here.

And in July I celebrated my birthday... on an airplane.  I'm not joking I was travelling between Manila and Kuala Lumpur - I spent a lot of my year in planes.  Believe it or not I still live in Australia most of the time - but I do travel every month internationally for around 2 weeks.  Sometimes longer, sometimes shorter.   In October I was away the entire month, but there have been a few (and I mean two) months this year I haven't travelled at all.

We did do some more travelling together as a family though, in September in Cairns my baby sister got married and my Frills with their cousins, were flowergirls.  A very special time for our family.

I have been to some cities for the first time this year - Shanghai and Dalian in China and Jakarta Indonesia.  Definite highlight was a jam-packed Saturday I spent in Shanghai.  

Food Highlight:  Soup Dumpling (Xiaolongbau) in Shanghai

Now we are upon my little twin's 7th birthday.  Time is flying!

So those of you who have followed since the beginning, the middle or more recently, thank you for continuing to visit, and sharing your thoughts, comments, recipes, experiences.  This blog is not shutting down or being deleted, abandoned, it's just changing like my life and my family.

In 2013 there's going to be a face-lift.. there will still be recipes, there will be more family travel and more of my girls growing up.. that bit is inevitable!

Wednesday, December 12

Buffalo wings, made at home!

I have an embarrassing confession to make.  I never understood why buffalo wings were called buffalo wings... I mean, they are made with chicken.. it wasn't until a few years ago I twigged they hail from the city of Buffalo NY in the US.  I know.  I feel pretty dumb!

I never really had them until I went to the Philippines either.  The Philippines I refer to as the 53rd state of the US.. It still has a very strong American influence - in it's restaurants, shops and the accent.  There's still a strong American Military presence there also.  

So anyway, back to the buffalo wings... I was surprised at how tasty they were, how moreish and most of all how they were spicy without being too much.  I knew I had to make them for my hubby, a must-make on my list for a while.

The difficult thing about making buffalo wings here in Australia is the sauce most Americans use for it is bought at the store, but not readily available.  So I made my own.  You'll need 1 batch of sauce for 2kg of chicken drummettes.  So clearly you can make a lot, or you can use some of the sauce and make smaller batches.

I used drummettes.  I asked for them at my butcher, sometimes you can get lucky and buy them, but if you don't, just buy chicken wings and cut them at the joint.  Or if you can't be bothered, just leave them whole.

Makes 2kg  - serves 10-15 people for nibbles
2 kg chicken drummettes or wings
1 batch chilli sauce
50 g butter
3 tb worchestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c

In a saucepan heat the sauce, butter and Worcestershire sauce until the butter is completely melted.  Set aside.

In a frypan, add about 3cm of canola oil and heat until it's ready for shallow fry (it's spits a little)
Add your chicken in batches, then transfer to a tray with kitchen paper to drain.

When all finished, pour the sauce over the wings, and heat in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.

Serve with blue cheese dip if you like!  

I made mine with 100g blue cheese crumbled into 2/3 cup mayonaise and 2/3 cup sour cream and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Just remember one thing.. don't double dip.. well...unless no-one is watching!

Tuesday, December 11

Quickie Candy Cane Fudge

I love fudge but what I don't like is how much attention you have to pay to it.  It's like a toddler, take your eyes off it for a second and disaster can strike.  Since discovering this microwave method a few years ago I've not looked back.  This is sooo great for Christmas gifts, especially if you want to do something with the wow factor that doesn't take a lot of time.

And Peppermint and dark chocolate, you cannot go wrong, my favourite combination with chocolate!
Please try this, I promise you and your recipients will love it!

100 grams candy canes
125gr butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tb liquid glucose
1 tin condensed milk
200gr dark chocolate
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

This is the time to crack out your Christmas frustrations, put your candy canes into plastic bag and whack it with a rolling pin.  Do it as chunky or as fine as you like.  I like a bit of both, I like to be able to tell you've used candy canes.  Some people like dust.

I've used the Woollies select ones this year because no artificial colours... they're kind of pink!
Grease and paper your tin, a quick tip from me, I freehand fit my tin (20x20cm) by placing it on top of the baking paper and cut a triangle/square at the corner.  When you lift it in it will slightly overlap but not bulk in the corners

I spray under and over the paper too.

Into a microwave-proof bowl, try to make it glass or ceramic, not plastic... add the condensed milk, butter and brown sugar together.

My tip for adding glucose syrup is lightly spray your spoon first.  It's such sticky stuff, that makes really easy to get into the jar, get it out and get it off the spoon.  Poor Laura went into a panic, 'Mum, DON'T PUT GLUE IN THE FUDGE!'  It does look like glue, but it's not, well not really - sugar glue I guess!

Stir it all together and put it in the microwave on 70% heat for 2 minutes, stir.  Back into the microwave for 2 minutes on 70% heat again for 2 minutes, stir again, lastly on 70% for 3 minutes, then take it out.

It's all lovely and caramelly.

Get your helpers to break up the dark chocolate.  This takes skill and concentration.

And some muscle sometimes.. but it keeps them quiet!

Drop the chocolate into the mixture half at a time and stir it in until it melts.  Doesn't take long.

Drop in the extract and you're almost done, give it a good stir.

Pour into your tin, it will be fudgy already... smooth down the top.

Crumble your candy cane on top.  Place a layer of baking paper on top and put in the fridge for about 40 minutes.

Cut up some baking paper in about 10cm squares.  You'll need about 30 of them.

Start slicing off your fudge with a large sharp knife, place each individual piece on a piece of baking paper and into an airtight container.

Store in the fridge for about a week - best if eaten within minutes.. ok, not really but you'll want to.. those crunchy bits of candy cane and the smooth smooooth fudge.  Try to stop at one piece.. go on...

Sunday, December 9

Hot chilli sauce - made in the thermomix (and not)

Now if you don't have a thermomix, don't worry.  It just makes this a lot easier.  I usually take something that's easy to keep warm to Carols by Candlelight - last couple of years by demand I've taken jazzed up snags but after we watched Ree on her show make buffalo wings I thought 'bingo'!.

Only problem is the recipe called for buffalo wing sauce/hot chilli sauce.  The type she refers too is not in the supermarkets here.   So I went hunting and found this recipe (non-thermomixers can use it easily) which is very similar to one I already had and use in this recipe.

This is so easy for the thermomix, it's crazy.

500ml white vinegar
12-15 chillies (the original recipe calls for cayenne, but I got a mix of those plus a few thai, I like it a bit hot ;) )
3-4 cloves garlic
2 tb tomato paste
lashings of black pepper
good pinch sea salt.

Cut the stems off your chillies, and chop them roughly.  Add those with the garlic, tomato paste, salt, pepper and 100ml of your vinegar into your thermomix.  Blitz for 1 minute, starting at speed one and gradually getting up to speed 7.

 Add the rest of the vinegar and set to 100 degrees,  8 minutes speed 4.

When it's done, strain it through a sieve - push any pulp through so you are left with mostly seeds.

Pour into sterilised jars or bottles and keep sealed for up to 2 years in a dark place or if opened to use, place in the fridge for up to 2 months.

Great gift for the chilli-lover in your life this Christmas perhaps?

Thursday, December 6

12 tips for Christmas: Organising your Christmas Feast without going crazy!

I'm a bit of a planner, and I don't like surprises much but can go with the flow when needed.. but at Christmas I do like things to be pretty organised for my Christmas breakfast and lunch so here's a quick check-list of what I do to keep myself organised.

4 weeks before (that's now! but you could stretch it to 2 weeks before)
Make your Christmas cake and Christmas Pudding
If you don't make one, you can buy them!  If you make them- they keep pretty well but I like to put mine in the freezer for a bit too.

It's a good time to do the Christmas baking
It all freezes well gingerbread, rocky road, shortbread, or some baileys fudge never went astray I say!

Buy your table dressing/decorations
If you like to theme your day, or that old tablecloth just won't cut the mustard this year - this is a good time to get them, whilst there's still some choices left.  You could also decide to make your own Christmas BonBons if you get really creative!

Plan your menu
That's pretty important, source your recipes, do a practice run if you like - time to check if your guests have any allergies too!  How many people are you having? Are you doing buffet or a la carte?  Which dishes can you or will you delegate to others?

Order a ham, turkey and/or seafood 
It gets pretty competitive out there and I think to get a lovely ham - it's sometimes best bought from your butcher, but you need to get in quick.

Week before Christmas
Do a clean up 
Where-ever you're going to relax, get it done now, give the house a good once-over, the garden, the BBQ might need a clean, as might your oven.  I always do a clean out of my refrigerator in the lead up to Christmas, I want to maximise as much space in there as possible, and lots of people are likely to be using it, they don't need to see mouldy-what-ever-that-used-to-be and either do you!

Write your shopping list
Like a good meal planner you need to meticulously write down every ingredient you're going to need to make your feast.  Don't worry if you 'think' you already have it in the pantry/fridge, cross it out when you've checked, better than rushing to the shops on Christmas Eve!

Sort out the ambience
Do you like Christmas Carols playing? Organise a download of carols, or don't.  Put up your tree or at least a few decorations to let people know if you're in the holiday spirit.   Playing those Christmas Carols whilst you do Christmassy things is good for the soul I assure you (although playing 'all I want for Christmas is you incessantly for 6 hours as I experienced in Shanghai airport last week is NOT recommended!)

Christmas Eve
Get prepared
Make as much as you can in advance so you can just cook the minimum on the day and assemble the rest - like pre-cooking and chilling pasta for a pasta salad, pre-making your custard if you're making it from scratch, making any chilled desserts etc.

Set your table
Yes, if you can set your table Christmas Eve, not always possible if you're eating outside but if you can I highly recommend it!

On the day
Enjoy, enlist your guests to help wash up as you go, it's your Christmas too!  No one likes a frazzled host!

So what are your tips for not just surviving, but thriving on the Christmas feast?  Go to someone else's house perhaps!?


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