Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

carrot-soup
Carrot & orange soup using ingredients from my home-delivered veggie box

I’ve written about our meal planning before but it is definitely a system that continues to evolve over time.

While I had been consistently been able to come up with plans that were within our grocery budget and were quick to make on weeknights, I’d actually gone too far towards quick’n'cheap at the expense of varied meals with plenty of fresh veggies like we used to have.

To kick myself out of my food rut, I was planning on creating a set of meal plans, ultimately building up to having several weekly plans for each season, plus a few special plans for weeks where the priorities might be super healthy or super easy or super cheap.

I was going to do my research to make sure the plans were centred around seasonal produce – something which I’m quite hopeless at – to keep things as nutritious, cheap and local as possible.

The only problem with my plan was that I was already too slack to go to the greengrocer to get the fresh produce (I’d been buying it at the supermarket), let alone schlepping to a farmer’s market on my already hectic weekends.

I then discovered that a grocery delivery service that I’d been interested in for ages (Aussie Farmers Direct) had finally added a round in our neighbourhood. You can select your own fruit and veg, but I thought I’d give the seasonal box a go.

It’s delivered on a Thursday which means I can still plan our meals around the ingredients in the box in time to do a quick supermarket run on Saturday for the pantry and household items. (They do offer meat and fish as well but unfortunately it’s 2-3 times more expensive than our local butcher so we can’t really justify that at this stage and will still make a trip to the butcher once every week or two.)

It didn’t take any longer than usual to plan the meals, but I’ve ended up with a much more interesting and healthy plan than my recent attempts. And I love that I can set up recurring favourites, such as bread, milk and the fruit & veg box every week which will save a ton of time.

We’re only a week in so it’s too early to tell how it will go long-term. But so far we’ve spent less than normal on our weekly groceries and we’ve been eating so much more fresh, quality food. All because we’re buying seasonally.

What are your tips for keeping your grocery budget in check while still eating well?

P.S. I haven’t been paid to write a review, I’m simply sharing my experience.

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Pie buffet

With the public holiday on Monday this week has simply flown by, which means it’s time for another Polka Dot Bride project.

I’ve already shared the cherry pie and pumpkin pie recipes, so here’s how to pull the whole look together.

Click to read the full post.

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Pumpkin pie

American readers, don’t laugh but I had never even eaten pumpkin pie before (it’s not a ‘thing’ here) but nevertheless I wanted to try my hand at making it.

I had to adapt a recipe a fair bit (for example, using fresh pumpkin because you can’t buy pumpkin puree here) but it worked out well. It looks a little too browned on top but it was the perfect consistency.

It got the thumbs up from the family, especially from those who don’t have a big sweet tooth.

Find the recipe over on Polka Dot Bride today!

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This post is sponsored by Crust Gourmet Pizzas.

Crust Pizza

The Man and I love entertaining (as you may have figured out by now). Sometimes though, during busy times it’s easy to be put off by the time and effort required.

I admit I also have a tendency to get caught up in the menu planning, cooking and cleaning instead of simply focusing on what’s truly important: sharing a meal in our home with friends.

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

So when Crust invited me to host a pizza night I jumped at the chance to try out a new style (for me) of entertaining.

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

In the spirit of the no-fuss entertaining, instead of setting the table I simply placed all of the servingware and drinks on the table for guests to help themselves. It creates a much more relaxed atmosphere, don’t you think?

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

I did pick up a cheap bunch of dried flowers at the supermarket (couldn’t resist) but apart from that I relied on the tried-and-true effect of tealight candles to set the mood.

Crust Pizza

It was kind of strange actually being able to relax and have a drink with our guests instead of fussing around in the kitchen!

Crust Pizza

The food arrived and it looked just as appetising as the pictures – how often can you say that about takeaway food?

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

The salad dressing and pasta garnish were in separate little containers so everything looked fresh (and a bit fancy).

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

Our friends (who are quite the foodies I might add) agreed the pizzas were really tasty. The favourites were the pesto chicken and white prosciutto pizzas.

The blackforest crumble dessert pizza with salted caramel ice cream (phwoar!) was the perfect way to end the meal.

Crust Pizza

Thanks to the team at Crust Norwood for our awesome instant dinner party!

I can definitely see takeaway gourmet pizza being an excellent option for simple (yet impressive) weeknight entertaining.

What’s your entertaining style? Does all the cooking and work put you off entertaining?

Disclosure: I was compensated by Crust for writing this review. Opinions are my own.

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Cherry lattice pie

We had both of our families over on the weekend for Mother’s Day. Champagne, pie and good conversation – if only every Sunday afternoon could be so divine!

I’ve shared my recipe today over on Polka Dot Bride.

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Irish cream fudge

Looking for a St Patrick’s Day treat without the scary green food colouring? I’ve got you covered.

Mosey over to Polka Dot Bride for the recipe (you won’t regret it).

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Homemade lemon curd favours

So here’s the reason why I had a batch of homemade lemon curd sitting in my fridge last week! It’s a lovely hostess gift or wedding favour, especially if you have your own lemon tree (or know someone who does).

If you want to keep it all to yourself, you can pop it into readymade meringue or tart cases for an easy dessert or even just slather it onto a thick slice of fresh bread and top with quark cheese, cream cheese or cream.

Head over to Polka Dot Bride for the recipe plus the cute tag for you to print.

Photography Mel Boulden Photography

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Easy lemon curd meringues

The Man and I don’t do Valentine’s Day, but it is a good excuse to have a nicer than usual dinner at home and even indulge in dessert.

Being mid-week though, it needs to be simple, plus it’s really hot this week here so a no-cook dessert is definitely the way to go.

I bought these pre-made mini pavlova nests and filled with lemon curd (I had a homemade batch in the fridge – what, don’t you? – but you can buy it from gourmet supermarkets) then topped with blueberries.

Ready in two minutes flat, it’s the perfect dessert for V-Day tonight or for any summer dinner party where you’re short on time.

Whatever your plans, I hope you have a lovely night!

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Valentines strawberry sauce title

This strawberry sauce recipe is really easy, I challenge you to screw it up. It’s super tasty on pancakes or ice-cream. Perfect for Valentine’s Day, no?

Find my recipe and the free printable labels over on Polka Dot Bride today.

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tapas banquet

Last Sunday was Father’s Day here in Australia.

The Man and I reckon our dads are pretty tops. They are always so generous with their time and hospitality, so it was definitely time to do something for them.

tapas banquet

My dad, in particular, loves Spain and its food (in fact he even RSVPd to our invitation in Spanish!) so a tapas banquet seemed appropiate. With both sets of parents, The Man’s brother and his partner joining us, there were eight of us all up (my brother and sister-in-law live overseas).

Apart from my killer paella (if I do say so myself) I haven’t really cooked any Spanish food before. But I’m always up for a good challenge in the kitchen.

tapas banquet

Quite a spread, you say? Well that’s not even including the hot food and dessert! There may or may not have also been copious amounts of wine.

Here’s the full menu:

Cold tapas

Marinated olives

Pickled calamari

Tapenades (eggplant and capsicum)

Anchovies

Tuna-stuffed peppers*

Manchego cheese

Herbed goat’s milk cheese

Jamon

Vienna loaf

Olive sourdough loaf

Hot tapas

Potato and chorizo tortilla*

Lamb meatballs with romesco sauce*

Croquettes with bechamel sauce*

Chorizo and mushrooms*

Dessert

Crema Catalana

Drinks

Sangria*

Tempranillo

Sauvignon Blanc

The dishes that I made are the ones marked with an asterisk. My brother-in-law and his partner made the delish crema catalana – with a blowtorch no less! The croquettes and meatballs seemed to be crowd favourites.

tapas banquet

This type of menu is a lot of work because instead of having one dish for each of three courses, you have to prepare a dozen smaller dishes. You also have to keep jumping up and into the kitchen to cook and serve the hot food.

I don’t want to put you off, though, it’s definitely do-able. You can keep it manageable by buying items that don’t need any preparation (like the cheese, jamon, bread, olives etc), starting with all the cold food laid out and limiting the amount of hot food. I also prepared as much as possible ahead of time, going so far as cooking the meatballs and sauces so I just had to heat them up.

tapas banquet

I don’t normally buy new servingware for a particular occasion but it was time to freshen up my collection with a few new versatile pieces that were not more white platters. I picked up the stoneware for as little as $1 each from Ikea after realising it perfectly matched another you-wouldn’t-guess-how-cheap-it-was recent purchase: the itty bitty black bottle you can see also on the table. The rustic timber chopping boards (a set of 3 from Target) were another steal – $14 down from $35 thank-you-very-much.

Oh, and the branches with the berry-looking things? Totally picked them up off the side of the road the day before.

tapas banquet

Because I’ve been so busy with the business, we haven’t entertained much this year. Actually, I haven’t even cooked much decent food at all this year! I’ve really missed cooking, especially for family and friends, so I enjoyed this a lot. Most importantly, the Dads and everyone seemed to have a great day.

Local readers, how did you spoil your dad? And US friends, tell us how did you celebrate your Labor Day?

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