Cocktail Hour: Espresso Martini

I couldn’t resist adding a few cocktails to our recent Easter menu. For what better way to kick of a day of Easter frivolity than with some fun drinks. My little brother was more than happy to play bartender on the day – and wasted no time in shaking up cocktails to hand around.  

And after being up since the crack of dawn (or before the crack of dawn) the addition of an Espresso Martini to the menu was a welcome one.

Simply – 30ml kahlua, 40ml vodka and 40ml freshly brewed espresso. Shaken over lots of ice, and poured into a martini glass.

And after my first sip – well I was hooked! This is now one of my favourite cocktails – and one that I will be sure to make again.

Delish! And I’ll be back to share our other Easter cocktail later in the week.

Print Recipe
Cocktail Hour: Espresso Martini
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
drink
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
drink
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place Kahlua, Vodka and Espresso into a cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill with ice and shake. Pour into a martini glass to serve.
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Easter Weekend 2018

Our Easter, this year, was filled with family, food and fun. A perfect combination of time spent with our nearest and dearest, long lazy food-filled days and games for young and old. Yes it ended up being quite celebratory weekend indeed.

 My family arrived from Melbourne the day before good Friday, and our house was immediately transformed into the wonderful chaos that having 6 adults, 3 kids and 2 babies under one roof would inevitably bring. The kids, in particular, wasted no time in re-acquainting themselves, spending hours on end jumping on the trampoline and playing ‘cooks’ with our toy kitchen. Our real kitchen, too, got a decent workout – catering for no less than 11 people over the weekend.

Celebrations ‘officially’ began on Good Friday, with our annual seafood lunch at my in-laws. All the usual suspects were on offer – prawns, oysters, calamari and the like. Served alongside a roasted sweet potato salad, and finished with a platter of sweet treats. Canberra turned on beautiful weather for the day (actually for the whole weekend), so we lazed outside in between courses, watching the kids make Easter bonnets and play on the tennis court.

Easter Saturday was spent at Questacon with most of the Canberra population who had not fled to the coast for the weekend, it seems. Then it was back home for the afternoon to enjoy the sunshine outside.  More trampolining, water-play, a picnic dinner for the kids, with a little quiet time thrown in too (to recharge the batteries).

Easter Sunday turned out to be quite a day! The kids were up early (like “it’s still well and truly dark outside early”) and patiently waited for the sun to rise before heading outside and exploring the garden to discover what the Easter Bunny had (generously) left.  A breakfast comprising  mainly chocolate for the kids ensued, along with hot cross buns and several coffees for the adults.

Then it was on to the main celebration of the day. We held an inaugural “Easter Olympics” at our place – consisting of two teams (the chicks and the rabbits – lead  by the team captains – C & J ) and 6 games. Everyone got into the spirit of the games, and a lot of laughs were had. The rabbits came out victorious in the end – and enjoyed receiving their medals and the hamper prize.

After the games, we sat down to a late lunch (linner) – feasting on slow-cooked balsamic beef, roasted carrots, maple sweet potato, roasted potatoes and a broccoli and chickpea salad. Served with cocktails and a local Pankhurst Pinot Noir.  Dessert was a selection of chocolate mousse, lemon meringue tarts and, of course, Easter chocolates!

As the day turned into evening, we made our way to bed with full bellies and fond memories of the day. By Tuesday all our house guests had made their way home, and I must say the house felt eerily quiet (or as quiet as it can feel with 3 kids at home).

And so another wonderful Easter weekend came to pass. Just like in previous years, a lot of fun and frivolity was had!

 

Poached chicken and coleslaw salad

I’ve been back at work for around 6 weeks now, working 3 days per week in the office. Slowly but surely we are working out what is to be the new ‘normal’ – with the 3 days I’m in the office being referred to by the little members in our house as the “rush days”.

For these particular days, bags are packed and clothes are set out the night before, and I spend time preparing as much as I can for lunches over the weekend. I’m generally up at 4.30am to fit in a walk before the household wakes, then it is home to shower, make breakfast, feed the baby, throw smoothies at the biggest kids,   wrangle everyone into clothes and into the car – so that we can leave the house by 7.30am to get to the various daycare / school drop offs and (finally) head into work.

Yes “rush” would be an understatement.

So I’m sure that you can understand that by the third rush day everyone’s energy levels are starting to wane and tempers are running a little high. The kids (and I!) start to get a bit more cranky, and getting out of the house takes a little more gentle persuasion than on the first rush day.

Constant throughout this new ‘normal’, however, is our preference for easy and speedy midweek meals. Actually, not just a preference – a must. Something healthy and that is full of flavour, to keep our batteries recharged.

Take this poached chicken and coleslaw salad for instance. Pulled together with relative ease in no time at all.

I poached chicken breasts in chicken stock, with some peppercorns, ginger and garlic. Shredded then added to a coleslaw salad, made with mesculin, shredded purple cabbage, carrots, spring onions and a little corn I had leftover in the fridge. Dressed simply with sesame oil, soy and lemon juice, and finished with sliced red chilli and a good amount of coriander.

Easy, fuss-free and healthy. Not to mention SPEEDY – giving us more time to prepare for the rush day ahead.

Christmas 2017

And just like that, another festive season has come and gone. But what a festive season it was!

We headed to Melbourne to spend Christmas with my family this year, but our celebrations started well before then. For knowing we would be away for Christmas Day, and having my niece back from Vietnam for a short while, we held a Canberra Christmas celebration with my in-laws in early December too.

The girls loved the festivity of the day, redecorating the tree (for the hundredth time) and ripping open presents. While we sat back having cuddles with the littlest member of the family, sipping cocktails, before tucking into a simple brunch of fruit and croissants.

A few weeks later, it was time to head down the Hume. Given it was likely to be a little cramped if we all stayed at my Mum’s two-bedroom unit, we decided to rent a holiday house nearby (= best decision ever!) . We made ourselves at home in our ‘home away from home’  almost immediately – with the big backyard, in particular, being a huge hit with the kids.

We hosted Christmas Eve at the holiday house, watching three rounds of Carols by Candlelight on the TV. The cousins were super excited to be reunited,  and didn’t stop playing and singing along to the carols the whole time. Meanwhile, we sipped on (more) cocktails, caught up on ‘life’ and snacked on a mezze platter. There were, of course, goodies left out for Santa and his reindeer too.

Up next…Christmas Day, which proved to be one of the most relaxing days I’ve had in a long time. Casual, fuss-free, and just perfect really.

Maggie and I headed out for an early walk before the household stirred, and returned home just as two excited girls emerged from their bedroom to discover the presents that Santa had left overnight – along with the mess the reindeers had made of their carrots. We then lazed around in our (matching haha) Christmas pyjamas for most of the morning while the girls tested out their new toys, before heading to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for the rest of the day.

This year we decided to do ‘Kris Kringle’ among the adults again – which took a lot of stress (and cost!) out of buying pressies. The kids, on the other hand, we well and truly spoiled by their extended family – and loved every second of it.

The afternoon was then spent feasting with the family in the sunshine. All the Christmas trimmings were had – turkey, pork, ham, roasted vegetables and salad. Followed by a tropical pavlova, and washed down with champagne. We were so pleased to see that Melbourne had put on a beautiful day – sunny but not too hot – making it perfect weather for indulging in a hot lunch outside on the deck. Post-lunch naps were had by some (both young and not so young), after which the kids splashed under the sprinkler while the adults laughed their way through a few rounds of charades.  Then, as the sun started to set, we made our way back ‘home’, crashing into (sugar-induced) comas not long after.  And thus a truly wonderful festive season was had by all. Not only because we had the chance to spend time with our extended families, but also because we had a whole week away with just the five of us! The kids LOVED every second of having their Dad off work – and barely left his side the whole time. Needless to say we returned back to Canberra with lots of happy memories (oh and a few extra kilograms too).

Bring on 2018!

Life, lately. October 2017.

Enjoying – Netflix. Yes our household has finally come of technological age and we have jumped on the Netflix bandwagon. We don’t watch a lot of TV – generally an episode of something after the kids have gone to bed – so Netflix is proving perfect for this purpose. So far we’ve made our way through 3 seasons of Fargo and our ‘must watch’ list is growing by the day.

Planning – A renovation of our backyard, and an overhaul of the bathroom at our unit in Melbourne. Yes life lately has involved  meeting with lots of contractors – and I’m feeling excited (and perhaps a little nervous too) about our upcoming projects. I’m particularly excited for the work we are having done in our backyard given Summer will soon be upon us!

Deciding – On lots of things related to the renovations. Style, structures, fixtures and fittings – and if I’m honest, I’m getting a tad overwhelmed by the process.

Cooking – Lots of power bowls and salads.  Generally filled to the brim with a variety of vegetables, some sort of protein and rice or quinoa.

Drinking – Mineral Water – by the bucket load. I’m currently obsessed, provided that it is the glass bottle version. Thank goodness for Costco and their bulk buy option!

Eating – Not cheese. Little Maggie appears to have developed eczema, so I’ve been told to stay away from dairy for the moment. Sounds easy right? However, given that I used to have a cheese  sandwich for lunch every other day – this has pretty much been torture. Sidenote: I tried dairy free cheese, but won’t be doing that again in a hurry…

Thinking – About where we might like to travel as a family next year. The whole family loved our trip to Fiji last year, so I’m thinking of heading to that region again when Maggie turns 1 (which conveniently is when Canberra is in the midst of Winter).  Samoa perhaps?

Loving – Watching the friendship between my two oldest girls grow and grow. Sure, they have their moments, but for the most part they seem to be great mates and will happily play for hours together. We evened moved them into a shared room last week, and so far its working quite well.

Feeling – Grateful that Maggie is a good sleeper. Neither of her sisters were all that great at sleeping in the first year, but so far Maggie is proving to be quite the superstar (hopefully I haven’t just jinxed myself though…) She generally wakes once or twice a night to feed but will resettle well, meaning that I am not feeling too sleep-deprived when the morning rolls around.

Making – our annual family photo journal and, for once, I am actually up to date. I love the whole process of reminiscing over our family adventures, and getting incredibly nostalgic while doing so.

Wishing – I could find the time to run. I’m sure the ‘time’ is there, somewhere, I just need to fit running time more firmly in my schedule. My daily walks are great, don’t get me wrong, I just really miss running too. Time to get my running mojo back!

 

Father’s Day 2017

Father’s Day is becoming quite the event as our girls grow. Homemade presents are in abundance (thanks to School and Daycare), and the girls seem to be at that perfect age and have a wonderful time spoiling their Dad on his special day.

After a relaxing morning filled with presents and cuddles, our annual Father’s Day tradition continued with a family lunch. And, as is the case each year, we selected an international theme for the meal.

This year – it was all things Greek! Starring freshly picked lemons and rosemary from our garden to give the table a Mediterranean feel.

We actually opted for a late lunch (linner), as it works well with the girls’ nap times and means that they can join us for the meal. Although as is the case each year, linner soon turns into dinner, as we chat and eat our way through the afternoon and into the evening.

On the menu this year?

Spinach and feta pinwheels to start – that I made the day before and reheated just before serving. Washed down with a pre-lunch cocktail – of course – a Santorini Sunrise.

Made with vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine.

For the main course – we served chicken souvlaki skewers, keftedes, roasted lemon potatoes, a burghul salad and a green salad. With homemade tzatziki and a fig and olive relish on the side, along with some flatbread.

And for dessert? This rather impressive-looking baklava cheesecake (recipe here).

A lovely baked vanilla cheesecake, with a honey / nut crumble and enclosed in filo pastry. Served with a honey cinnamon syrup. YUM!

And so another Father’s Day celebration came to an end, with full bellies and lots of laughs.

Adding another country to our list of Father’s Day lunch destinations too!

2013 – China

2014 – Turkey

2015 – Mexico

2016 – Italy

 

Indian Style Salad

My parents-in-law are now home from their grand overseas adventure – so we wasted no time in scheduling a family dinner over the weekend. For there were lots of baby cuddles to catch up on (and two bigger sisters who had missed their grandparents dearly!)

And, as is proving to be the norm for our family dinners, there was no shortage of food.  We decided to pull together an Indian-style dinner – with spicy lamb shoulder (slow coked for 6 hours) and a tomato / potato curry being the stars. The usual sides – raita, kachumber, rice, naan and pappadums also made an appearance – but I couldn’t resist trying a new dish to throw some green into the mix.

Enter: an Indian-style salad. Inspired by this Jamie Oliver recipe.

Crunchy lettuce, radishes, carrots, spring onions and tomatoes, mixed with a good amount of fresh herbs (coriander and mint). Dressed with toasted spices (fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and mustard seeds), mango chutney and lemon juice.

The salad was finished with crumbled pappadums – adding some extra crunch and a little saltiness.

A lovely little addition to our Indian dinner indeed.  Oh and it made for a pretty good lunch the next day too!

Spicy Chicken Tacos with Avocado Dressing

I’m sure it will come as no surprise when I tell you that our evening routine is a little “unpredictable” at the moment. Nothing too dramatic, just a bit more on the relaxed side as we settle into life as a family of 5. Miss Maggie tends to want to nurse, pretty much non-stop, from around 5pm – which coincides with the other girls’ dinner and bath time, and the time I’d usually be spending working on dinner for the ‘grownups’ too.

But we all need to eat, and I am trying to avoid takeout where I can, so I’m pleased to report meal planning is still in full force. Actually, if anything, meal planning is probably a tad stricter than ever at the moment as ducking to the supermarket with three kids in tow is not all that appealing. I’m doing the bulk of our grocery shopping online, and loving being able to sit down and order groceries from the comfort of the couch after the bigger kids have gone to bed. Not to mention having a weeks worth of fresh ingredients literally delivered to my kitchen at a time that suits us!

The meals themselves, however, have generally been quick and easy to prepare. Leftovers are then tucked away for a quick lunch the following day, or frozen for future dinners when cooking one-handed is inevitable.

One of our favourite meals, lately, has been tacos. The kids prefer the crunchy shelled tacos, generally filled with some sort of savoury mince and vegetables. While I tend to go with soft tortillas, filled with whatever we have on hand.

On this occasion, I found inspiration in a Healthy Food Guide magazine – in the form of spicy chicken tacos. The added bonus being that they came together in no time at all.

Chicken – spiced and grilled in the sandwich press – piled high onto wholemeal tortillas and topped with pre-cut coleslaw. Actually the only real effort, if you could even call it ‘effort’, was blending up the avocado/ yoghurt dressing to serve alongside.

Definitely a winner all round!

Spicy chicken tacos with avocado dressing (serves 4)

  • 500g chicken tenderloins
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3 tbs lime juice
  • Bag of pre-cut coleslaw
  • 1 avocado, mashed
  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
  • Warmed wholemeal tortillas, to serve
  1. Combine the spices, oil and 2 tbs of the lime juice. Add the chicken and toss to coat well.
  2. Pre-heat chargrill pan or frypan over a medium heat. Grill chicken until cooked through. Place on a plate, cover with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes or so.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the avocado, yoghurt and remaining lime juice in a small bowl, and stir until smooth. Season.
  4. Fill the warmed tortillas with the chicken, coleslaw and avocado dressing.

 

And then there were 5….

It is with great pleasure, that I introduce you to our newest family member – little Margaret Edith. Maggie, for short.

Born by elective C-section mid last week, weighing  a respectable 3.59kg, and completing our family just perfectly.

Maggie and I were fortunate enough to spend some time in hospital after her birth, living in a rather wonderful ‘newborn’ bubble. We were cared for very well by the doctors and midwives at John James Hospital, and were sure to make the most of our one-on-one time before we headed home.

And as I’m not all that great at sitting still, I must say that the enforced ‘downtime’ was good, and most likely just what I needed. Good for succumbing to naps (when I’d normally be looking around for a household chore to complete instead), good for saying yes to cups of tea and freshly made muffins when they were offered by the morning tea lady, and good for taking long, hot showers when Maggie was in a slumber of her own. And newborns sure do love to sleep….well during the day, at least.

So, although I was desperate to get home after Maggie was born, the time in hospital was undoubtedly perfect for the healing process. Both physically,  and also emotionally, as various pregnancy hormones began to leave my body and new ones took their place.

The hospital time was also wonderful for the bonding process. Maggie and I  spent many moments just snuggling and talking (well I talked, she ‘responded’ with those adorable little newborn gurgles and squeaks). Not to mention soaking up that heavenly newborn smell.

And, once again, I am in awe at just how amazing the human body is.  I can’t quite believe that we made this perfect little human, and that she was inside me only a week ago. Now here she is, earthside – with a whole wonderful world of opportunity and adventure laid in front of her.

Yes, I did say those pregnancy hormones were in full swing…

I recently mentioned that my pregnancy felt like it went for a long time. And while I still stand by that, having Maggie here with us makes it feel as though the pregnancy also went by in no time at all. It’s that age old adage of ‘we feel like you have always been here’ – which I know sounds rather corny, but looking down at her peaceful sleeping face, feels really true.

This being my 3rd C-section, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from a recovery perspective. Not unlike my earlier procedures, getting up and moving as soon as I could (which on this occasion was the morning after the afternoon procedure) worked wonders in helping with my pain levels. In fact, by the time I left hospital I was not taking any pain medication at all.

This time had a few differences, however, that I had not anticipated. I reacted to the anaesthetic during the procedure, and spent most of the first half trying not to vomit or faint (or both) when the nausea kicked in and my heart rate dropped making me dizzy and wanting to go to sleep. The anaesthetist managed to stabilise things just as Maggie was delivered, though, so I was able to get a cuddle not long after.

The other difference was that I opted for a spinal morphine (instead of a PCA drip) to control post-operative pain. And while it did the job from a pain management perspective beautifully, my body was itchy for almost 24 hours.  And I don’t mean  itchy, but unbearably ‘oh my god I am going to go insane and scratch my entire body off’ itchy for the better part of a day. IV ‘anti-itch’ medication barely took the edge off, and it was only the passage of time that eventually saw this annoying symptom subside. Me + spinal morphine = never, ever again.

But on the plus side, a change in hospital policy meant that unlike after my earlier C-sections, both my husband and Maggie could come to recovery with me. I could also have skin on skin contact with her, and give her her first feed, before we headed back to the ward. THIS was the best change in hospital policy that one could ask for! I also got to see my placenta this time around (I’m sure that is not for everyone…) and talk about fascinating!

And as for her bigger sisters?? Well they have been wonderful!

I thought it might take some time for Josie, in particular,  to get used to having another little person in the house, but she seems to have adapted in no time at all. She asks to see Maggie as soon as she wakes up in the morning, and has been full of cuddles and heat strokes for her little sister.

Charlotte has also taken everything in her stride – and loves to cuddle Maggie whenever she gets the chance. She is definitely my little helper at the moment!

And just like that – so begins our new life as a family of FIVE. Feeling ever so blessed as we do!