If you are anything like me, you may have indulged a little too much over the Christmas period. Actually, it was more than just the Christmas period in my case, with celebrations and other festivities kicking off in November and running all the way through to the New Year. The food was abundant, the drinks were flowing and my morning walks, whilst regular, were probably not enough to balance out the indulgence.
So I guess it ought to have been no surprise when my clothes felt a little tighter than usual when I returned to work last week. Slouchy summer shorts and dresses can be far more forgiving than a tailored suit, it seems.
With a view to getting things ‘back into balance’ we tend to keep carbs at dinner time light. We don’t cut them out altogether (I could not think of anything worse!) but we’ll make substitutions where we can. Cauliflower rice instead of regular rice, zucchini noodles instead of pasta…you get the idea.
When I had a craving for potato salad recently (but not wanting to get the ‘carb load’ that comes with my usual version) I decided to try a cauliflower version instead. Still laden with all things that make a potato salad yummy, of course.
I started by steaming some cauliflower florets until they were just tender. While warm, I added them to a mixture of mayonnaise, sour cream, celery, pickles, Dijon mustard and my favourited ingredient, dill. I then covered the salad and placed it in the fridge, allowing the flavours to develop overnight.
And, I must say, I’m rather taken with this lovely little salad. So much so that I’ve made it a few time since. Sometimes omitting the sour cream and replacing it with natural yoghurt, other times adding spring onions, celery salt or a few chopped boiled eggs. It may be low in carbs but its definitely packed with flavour!
In some ways, Christmas feels like it was months ago – a sentiment that is likely shared by many. Not to mention that for some, Christmas was not celebrated all, as people fought for their homes amidst the bushfires raging across the country.
We were one of the lucky ones – who were fortunate to have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas not once, but twice – first with my in-laws in Canberra, and then with my family in Melbourne. And as the events unfolded on New Years Eve, we were very grateful that we decided to stay in Canberra after we returned from Melbourne, and not head to the coast for our camping trip as planned. Sadly my father in-law’s farm house was lost in the fire at Mogo (he was home in Canberra at the time, thank goodness), as was our camper trailer that was set up alongside. But we are all safe, and insured, and I’m feeling so relieved that our kids didn’t witness the events first hand (as many had to). The whole situation is heartbreaking – I’ve no other words to describe it.
Whilst now somewhat of a distant memory, December was, by all accounts, rather the opposite to our January thus far. For we are currently cooped up inside to avoid, as best we can, the thick smoke that has rolled in outside. A far cry from December, when we were barely home due to a calendar laden with social events – everything from school concerts and daycare parties to work dinners and general catch ups with friends. Work was rather hectic too, so there were not too many moments of downtime. But overall, it was a fun month, and the girls were particularly taken with a surprise guest who arrived just after we put up the Christmas tree!
As I mentioned earlier, we celebrated Christmas not once, but twice. Prompted by my niece’s return from Vietnam, we hosted an early Christmas lunch with my in-laws at our house in mid December. Presents were opened, cocktails were sipped and thanks to everyone “bringing a plate”, a rather indulgent lunch was enjoyed by all – with the effort shared. There was a glazed ham, turkey with homemade stuffing and roast pork with delicious crispy crackling. We contributed duck fat roast potatoes and a few varieties of salad, along with a pavlova wreath for dessert.
On the 20th of December, we headed down the Hume to spend Christmas with my family. The cousins had an absolute blast playing together – loving the fact that they were all staying under one roof. Carols were sung, impromptu kitchen dance parties were held, Christmas cookies were made, cocktails were drunk and a great time was generally had by all. And that was all before the big day!
Waking up together on Christmas Day was extra special, and I loved seeing the kids’ little eyes light up with delight when they came across their presents (and discovered what the reindeer had done to their carrots!). Alll while rocking our matching PJs, of course.
After getting everyone showered and into their finest, we headed to my sister-in-law’s parents for lunch. More presents were opened, champagne was popped, and we indulged in the most delicious Christmas lunch. Prawns, pork, ham, turkey and lots of salad – they had it all! And as an added bonus, we spent the afternoon swimming in their pool, which turns out was the perfect way to work up an appetite for pavlova and trifle for a late dessert.
We headed back to Canberra the day after boxing day, our hearts (and bellies) full and our car jam packed. The weather was hot, and the air a tad smoky, but we certainly had no idea of what was to come a few days later. But beautiful Christmas memories were made nonetheless.
I wish you all a wonderful 2020, from my little family to yours. May it bring peace, happiness and RAIN!!
If you have been following this blog for a while now, it would be quite obvious that I lean towards dishes that are easy and quick to prepare. It wasn’t always that way, however, particularly in the now quite distant “BK (Before Kids) Era” when I most certainly had more time on my hands.
Not that I realised it at the time.
But every now and then I get an itch to try something new in the kitchen. Be it a dish I haven’t made before, or to use an ingredient that I haven’t yet tried. When we decided on a German theme for our (not so) recent Fathers Day Linner, memories of walking the streets of Munich with a soft pretzel in hand came flooding back. Another BK Era experience, but one I knew I had to re-create (the pretzel part, at least ) even knowing that it would require a good amount of time.
I found this recipe – which was perfect inspiration and just what I was hoping to create. I started by making a dough, and after leaving it to prove for an hour, divided the dough into 8 portions. Each portion was then rolled into a log, and twisted into the all too familiar pretzel shape.
After resting for another 30 minutes, I simmered the pretzels in water / brown sugar / bicarb soda, until they had started to puff.
After a quick drain, it was time to bake! Before popping the pretzels into the oven, I brushed the tops with a little egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. After 12 minutes in a hot oven, they had turned a gorgeous golden brown.
As for the roasted garlic and mustard butter, well this was definitely the simplest part. I roasted the unpeeled garlic cloves (drizzled with a little oil and enclosed in foil for 20 minutes. Then, when cool enough to handle, I squeezed the garlic from the skin, and added it to softened butter with a good amount of seeded mustard.
When it was time to serve, it was just a matter of plating the pretzels with a bowl of the butter alongside for our family to help themselves. I was thrilled with the finished product – the pretzels were light and fluffy, and worked beautifully with the garlic mustard butter. They were a nice alternative to the usual bread or bread roll side (and not to mention a fantastic trip down memory lane!)
It’s been a while since I’ve featured a ‘Cocktail Hour’ on My Capital Plate, but that’s not to say we haven’t been enjoying the occasional cocktail when the mood strikes. And, with (hopefully) the warmer weather arriving soon, I can see many occasions on which we get a little creative with our weekend tipple.
We served this cocktail a while back at our Father’s Day Linner. Easy to prepare, and even easier to drink, it was made with a lovely blend of gin, elderflower cordial, lime and prosecco.
Elderflower cordial is one of those ingredients I’ve heard of but never actually used. I was delighted to find out that it added the most beautiful aroma to the cocktail – which in itself was very refreshing – and I’ve now used it on many occasions since mixed simply with soda water.
It’s been quiet in this little blog space of mine lately – but that is a clear indication that it has been anything but quiet in “real life”. The kids have their ever-growing array of school and after school / weekend activities and the hubs and my work schedules have been pretty jam-packed. So it’s probably no surprise that we feel as though we are always running from one thing to another.
Oh yeah, and then there was the big family trip we took to Japan! But more on that in another post…
Needless to say, I have quite the growing backlog of recipes that I want to share (if not, at the very least, to remind me of some of the delicious eats we’ve had recently).
Take this Red Lentil Dahl (or is it Dal or Dhal?)for instance, that made its way to our dinner table a few months ago.
Back when the morning frosts were still going strong, and the daylight hours were short. I popped the ingredients in my slow cooker before I went to work, and was rewarded with not only a glorious aroma when I returned home later that day, but also the ability to get dinner on the table in a flash. From memory – C & J had swimming after school on this particular day, so the hearty and belly-warming dahl was a welcomed hit when they walked in the door.
I served the dahl with rice and coriander, and although not pictured, I’m pretty confident I also added a dollop of natural yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon juice.
A perfect meal to warm us from the inside out (with leftovers for lunch the next day too!)
Sleep-ins, smiles, sunshine and food – yes those seem to be the recurrent themes of Father’s Day these past few years. For Canberra again gave us an almost Spring-like weather to celebrate the main Man in our lives – and the girls ensured that he was well and truly spoilt throughout the day!
There was breakfast in bed, lots of homemade cards and gifts, followed by a ‘leave pass’ to go and get a massage!
Not to mention our usual Father’s Day Linner which was, of course, given an international theme. This year – it was all things German!
Nibbles to start, served with a rather refreshing “Hugo” cocktail – made with gin, elderflower cordial and prosecco.
Followed by the main event – featuring homemade soft pretzels with garlic butter, mushroom tartlets, schnitzel and a variety of sides – potato salad, kale salad, marinated red cabbage and a cucumber / dill salad.
All together now!
And for dessert? Well why have one dessert when you can have two!
Warm apple strudel straight from the oven(not pictured), along with a chocolate fix in the form of a black forest inspired chocolate ripple cake.
And before we knew it, the afternoon had turned into evening, as we shared a wonderful day with family celebrating the fathers in our lives. Not to mention adding another food “destination” to our annual Father’s Day celebration.
And just because I can’t resist a trip down memory lane…
I do find it interesting to watch the girls’ palettes evolve as the years pass by.
Miss J used to love bananas and blueberries – but now finds both quite offensive. Her current food preference includes savoury crunchy foods, such as celery, carrots and cucumber, and although she loves chocolate (only plain chocolate) she wouldn’t dream of trying lollies or sweets or juice.
Miss M, on the other hand, has a clear predilection to sweet foods. So much so that I have no doubt she would eat sugary foods all day long if I’d let her. Thankfully she also loves vegetables and yoghurt. Lots of yoghurt.
Then there is Miss C – who is far more adventurous than her little sisters when it comes to food. She enjoys a variety of both savoury and sweet foods, with prawn dumplings, avocado, mango and pineapple pizza featuring at the top of her favourite foods list at the moment.
And, as I found out during a recent trip to the cinema, chocolate mint is her first pick when it comes to ice-cream flavours.
So when I asked her what sort of cake we should make for her Aunty’s birthday a little while ago, I was in no way surprised when “choc mint” was her resounding response.
Being a little short on time, we decided to do a cake hack – thanks to some store-bought mudcakes from Woolies. We did, however, make our own mint-laced buttercream along with a dark chocolate “drip”.
True to form, Miss J and Miss M kept sneaking pieces of the chocolate I had set aside to create the drip, while Miss C was only too happy to lick the bowl after we whipped up the batch of vibrant minty buttercream.
When it was time to decorate – it was all hands on deck – with various mint treats being pushed and placed into position atop the cake. We used aero bars, mint choc balls, malteasers and mint slice, with extra buttercream piped on top and a sprinkle of peppermint crisp.
And while the finished product was not entirely “perfect”, we soon had before us an impressive birthday cake in all its minty glory! A little over the top in appearance – but relatively simple from a flavour perspective.
Not to mention being actually quite easy to pull together. Assuming that the kids don’t steal all the chocolate decorations during the construction process, that is!
Working with fondant is far from my strong point when it comes to baking. But I have, over the years, being trying to improve my skills, which admittedly remain very basic.
When we settled on a Farmyard theme for Miss M’s recent birthday party, I decided to carry over the theme for a batch of cupcakes she would be taking to daycare. And while I was initially tempted to purchase the toppers (there are so many great cake decorators out there!) I figured that perhaps it was a good opportunity to work on my fondant skills.
Armed with fondant of various colours, – along with edible glue, eyes and 3 little helpers who were more than eager to assist – we got to work.
First – the pigs!
I rolled out some pink fondant, then cut four large circles for the faces, four smaller circles for the nose, and four more circles that I cut in half and shaped into ears. Glued together with the edible glue, and finished with the pre-made edible eyes…
Next up – the chickens!
I rolled out yellow fondant, and cut four large circles for the bodies, and four small circles that were then cut in half to make the wings. I used red fondant cut into small triangles for the beaks, and again, edible eyes.
And finally, the cows!
These were probably the most fiddly. I used four circles of white fondant for the faces, four smaller pink circles for the noses, then shaped smaller black circles (again, cut in half) for the ears and the “spots”.
After a few hours of construction, we had ourselves some farmyard cupcake toppers! I let them sit out (uncovered) overnight, so that they could firm up a little, then attached them to cupcakes with a swirl of buttercream. And thanks to a cardboard cupcake box (purchased from Latorta), we were able to easily transfer them to daycare for the kids to enjoy!
I was so happy with how they turned out – and can’t wait to try my hand at another theme sometime soon! Using pre-coloured fondant (as opposed to colouring my own) was probably not the cheapest option, but it definitely saved me a bit of time – not to mention avoiding the inevitable staining of hands…
Long time readers of this blog will realise that this is not the first time we transformed our backyard into a farmyard, of sorts. Miss M seemingly loves animals just as much as her biggest sister did at the same age (and truthfully, still does) so an animal themed party for her recent birthday seemed like the perfect theme!
We again invited a local petting zoo to set up outside, and before long – our backyard was transformed into a mini farm – complete with chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits and ducks.
I must admit I was a tad nervous about holding an outdoor party in July – knowing the Canberra Winter can be brutal. But we must have pleased the weather gods because the sun came out and the afternoon ended up being relatively mild (for Canberra, at least).
In advance of the party, Miss C declared herself no.1 party helper – so we spent the morning setting up the food table and an activity table for the kids topped with textas and bubbles. She even ran a scavenger hunt for the kiddies during the party, and helped them find plastic eggs that the “chickens” had hidden around the garden.
As for the food, well we had a lot of fun creating ‘barnyard’ themed party food – including mousse (topped with homemade fondant pigs), jelly, vegetables / hummus, savoury scrolls, wagon wheels and a bunch of other goodies.
In anticipation of a chilly afternoon, we also set up a hot chocolate bar – with hot chocolate made in the slow cooker – along with marshmallows and whipped cream.
As for the cake, I topped some store-made mud cakes with fondant – the bottom layer resembling cow print and the top being a little farmyard. Finished with some purchased cardboard barn and farm animal toppers.
Before we knew it, the sun began to set and it was time to say goodbye to our guests – both furry and human. I have no doubt that Miss Maggie loved being the centre of attention – although she was a little confused when she went outside the following day to find it devoid of animals.
With soup featuring on our weekly meal plan with regularity (thanks Canberra Winter!) I am always on the look out for soup recipes that are a little different. Something a bit more adventurous than our usual go toes (pumpkin, vegetable….actually I think I mentioned that a little while ago.)
So when I came across a vibrant green soup in a recent edition of the Healthy Food Guide – and saw that it was packed with spice, peas and spinach – well I was immediately sold.
The fact I had all the necessary ingredients on hand (save for the spring onions) was a big plus too. Frozen peas, spring onions, coconut milk, spinach, mint, stock and green curry paste – blended in the food processor, then simmered until warmed through.
I loved the suggested toppings too – which took what might be considered a plain looking soup to one that was full of interest! Mint, chilli, fried onions and sesame seeds.
And although I have said this more than once recently – this soup is definitely a keeper! I particularly loved the spice hit from the curry paste, and the creaminess from the coconut milk.
Place peas in a food processor with the spring onions and coconut milk. Process until well combined. Add the baby spinach, mint and half the stock, and continue to process until smooth.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the pea mixture and the remaining stock, and simmer for 10 minutes or until heated through.
Divide the soup among serving bowls, and top with chopped mint leaves, chilli, fried onions and sesame seeds.