Posts Tagged ‘food’

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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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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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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I’m off galivanting around the world for a few weeks so I have lined up some some talented ladies to hold the fort while I’m gone. Hope you enjoy!

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Over my way, kids are more likely to be having a game of backyard cricket after Christmas lunch than building a snowman. So while I can’t speak from experience, I can say that this budget-friendly gift idea by Grace at Sense and Simplicity looks like a whole lot of fun. In fact, it’s rather getting me excited about seeing snow in Europe next week!

Anyone else struggle with thinking of what to give preteens and teenagers for Christmas? I have a slew of nieces and nephews ranging in age from 9 to 15 years and I wanted to give them each a Christmas gift. I needed to think of something that would interest a variety of ages, was gender neutral… and didn’t cost a fortune.

I decided to make them each a snowman lab in a box. I thought it might appeal to their sweet tooth/teeth and their funny bones.

Let’s see all the snowman parts:

I boxed all the snowman parts up, tied the box with some wool (my favourite thing to tie around packages), and added a tag.

Doesn’t that seem like something teens and pre-teens would like? What are you giving to children that age on your Christmas list?

- Grace

P.S. Thanks Alicia for posting my snowman parts on your very stylish and creative blog (and allowing me to say ‘poop’).  It was a complete honour to be included in your guest post line-up.

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About the guest poster:

Grace lives near Toronto and is a speech-language pathologist by day and a design-loving Mom of three by night. In her blog, Sense and Simplicity, she shares her love of decorating, family, photography, food, and travel.

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Vintage garden baby shower

What better way to kick off spring than a gorgeous baby shower high tea?

My good friend Mary is about to welcome her first baby and, with help from Gabrielle and Sally, pulled off the prettiest party I have ever been to. Yes, I have a seriously talented bunch of friends.

Now, brew yourself a cup of rose and lavender tea in your best china and join me looking at the photos.

Vintage garden baby shower

Vintage garden baby shower

Vintage garden baby shower

Vintage garden baby shower

Vintage garden baby shower

Vintage garden baby shower

Vintage garden baby shower

Have I put you in a sugar coma with these photos yet? Mary and her family spoilt us with quite the spread of yummy morsels.

It was such a fun day. I can’t wait to meet bub who is due to make her entrance any day now!

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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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I think you’ll all agree when I say that paperwork is one of the biggest clutter culprits in most homes. ‘Going paperless’ is a semi-regular series on eliminating paper from your home in order to save time, reduce clutter and benefit the environment.

Step 2: Digitising

recipe folder 1

Going paperless with my recipe collection was actually not something I was ever planning to do. My chunky lever-arch file with the dog-eared category ‘tabs’ (aka Post-Its) had seen better days and was very full, but I was planning to do up really cute laminated cards and use my old card catalogue drawers to organise them.

The nostalgic in me feels that when I’m old my kids aren’t going to wistfully flip through a digital folder of recipes in the way that you might with mum’s tattered, splattered and scribbled family favourites.

recipe folder 2

In the end, though, practicality won (sorry, grandkids). As you can see from the photo above, even when I’ve gone to the trouble of formatting recipes in a nice template and printing them out, I continue to scribble notes and tweaks I’ve made.

Much like my shoe collection, I also don’t want my recipes to be limited by space. I have a number of stiletto-equivalent recipes – sure, I’m not going to make that fancy cake very often, but I still want to keep it for future special occasions. I don’t want to have to go through my collection and cull just because my folder or drawer is full.

So, digital it is!

recipe organisation app

I did a bit of research on all the free apps for iPad and there was always a feature or two missing, for example, you couldn’t add your own recipes (what?!), or you couldn’t add recipes straight from the internet (or only from selected sites), or it didn’t have photos, or it was all in imperial measurements… or it had a completely heinous design that would make me want to poke my eyes out every time I started cooking.

So I bit the bullet and bought my first paid app (why is it that we don’t hesitate to drop five bucks on a grande latte but balk at the idea of paying the same for a valuable tool that will help us every day?).

recipe organisation app 2

It’s called Paprika. The best feature is the ability to download recipes from ANY site. The majority of my recipes come from Taste.com.au so I could kick-start my collection in a cinch. The rest (from cookbooks and my own creations) I’m slowly copying over. It will take some time to transfer everything but it’s an easy job sitting in front of the telly.

It does have a shopping list and feature but I find it a little pointless (I mean, I don’t need to buy oil, salt, pepper, spices, rice etc for every meal I cook). I also can’t work out how to view by multiple categories, for example, if I’m looking for a vegetarian main course I have to view either everything under ‘Vegetarian’ or everything under ‘Mains’.

Apart from that, it’s working great!

Tell me, how do you organise your recipes?

Oh, and I haven’t been paid to write this – or any other – post. I just really like the product!

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