Cocktail Hour: Easter Bunny Shake

I mentioned earlier in the week that we served a couple cocktails at our recent Easter lunch. My favourite was definitely the Espresso Martini – although that’s not all that unusual as I am not a big milk drinker.

There were, however, a few guests that I knew would not like a coffee-laden martini. They were fans of both milk and baileys though – and so our other cocktail – an Easter Bunny Shake – came to be.

Rather akin to an alcoholic milkshake, it was laced with Baileys, butterscotch schnapps and chocolate – a perfect combination for Easter, really.

And given there were multiple requests for extra glasses throughout the day – I think we hit a winner with this cocktail too!


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Easter Bunny Shake
Servings
drink
Ingredients
Servings
drink
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pour the Baileys, Schnapps and milk into a blender with a few ice cubes and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Blend to combine.
  2. Drizzle some extra sauce down the side of the cocktail glass, pour in the cocktail and enjoy!
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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!

 

A Fairy Garden 3rd Birthday Party

This year it was Josie’s turn to have a ‘big’ birthday party. And, it must be something about turning 3, because just like her big sister had done when she turned 3, J requested a fairy party.

But we went a little differently with our theming. More garden-like, and perhaps a little simpler, although a lot of fun was still had by all!

We collected lots of greenery and wooden platters, and got to work creating a dessert table laden will all sort of treats. Gorgeous fresh flowers completed the garden feel, and added some beautiful pops of colour.

The food

I was struck down with some sort of flu bug the days before the party, so I’m glad that most of the preparations had been done in advance. I didn’t take a huge number of photos of the food on the day – which is proof in itself that I must have been feeling a little off.

We had chocolate mousse (with the cutest little meringue mushrooms), jelly, donuts, meringues, biscuits, fairy dust popcorn, butterfly sandwiches, lemon slice, raspberry biscuits and ‘enchanted’ beans. Along with sandwiches for the adults, and a few batches of homemade sausage rolls. And, as is generally the case, although I thought I was over-catering – we didn’t have much left at the end!

The cake

Little J is not a fan of cake, but she is a fan of the ritual that comes with a birthday cake! In fact, whenever we would mention her upcoming party she would excitedly exclaim “I get to blow out some candles!”.

The cake itself was rather simple. A chocolate cake covered in vanilla buttercream and adorned with fresh pink roses. Finished with a cake topper that I ordered from Etsy – and voila!

And yes, Little J loved having everyone sing to her and blowing out her candles!

Party favours

In keeping with the fairy garden theme, we created little fairy garden kit favours so the guests could perhaps create their own garden at home. We filled terracotta pots with flower seeds, decorative pebbles, pixie dust, bubbles and a little fairy or mushroom figurine – along with some lollies for a sugar hit.

The entertainment

We had around 20 kids at the party, ranging from 7 months to 9 years, so entertainment was always going to be a bit tricky. But I booked a fairy entertainer from here – and was blown away with just how wonderful she was! From the moment she walked in, she had all the kids captivated with songs, games and dancing. Add some face painting into the mix,  and the kids all seemed to have a ball!

The girls were a great help in setting up for the party – with Miss C, in particular, relishing in her big sister role and being my helper for the day. She set out the fairy wings and elf hats, and arranged and re-arranged the party tables until they were just how she wanted them.  Yes it seems we have another little party planner in the house!

Then before too long, it was time to say goodbye to our nearest and dearest – and settle in with our sugar highs.  The birthday girl didn’t stop all day – and loved being the centre of attention!

While I’m left wondering just how it is that she is THREE already!

A big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our ever-cheeky, lovable goofball.  You never fail to make us smile – every single day x

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!

Cocktail Hour: Pimm’s Jug

In what I suspect will be a regular feature this Summer, I couldn’t help but put a cocktail on the menu when we had friends around for a BBQ recently. And while I was tempted to serve another Santorini Sunrise, the warmer temperatures had me craving Pimm’s.  The bonus being that I could make a jug before our guests arrived, ready to be poured with little delay once they had settled in. I can’t remember when I first tried Pimm’s, although I have a feeling it was when we travelled to London. Given that Pimm’s is a rather iconic English drink, well it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

On this occasion I went with a mixture of both lemonade and dry ginger ale, making sure to also fill the jug with oranges, strawberries, limes, mint and, of course, cucumber.

And, as one jug soon turned into two, well it proved to be the perfect cocktail for a summery afternoon with friends.


Print Recipe
Pimm's Jug
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Grab a large jug and half fill it with ice. Add half of the fruit and mint to the jug (and divide the remaining fruit and mint between 4 serving glasses).
  2. Add the Pimm's, lemonade and dry ginger ale to the jug, and stir gently to combine.
  3. When ready to serve, add ice to the glasses, and pour over the Pimm's mixture.
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Cocktail Hour: Santorini Sunrise

 In a previous life, many moons ago now, I worked almost every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night as a bartender. This basically meant that I operated on little weekend sleep for the 4 years I was at university, pulled my fair share of beers and made countless bourbon and cokes (which seemed to be the popular drink of choice amongst the younger clientele at the time).

A highlight of these years was being rostered on in the cocktail bar from time to time, as opposed to the nightclub, where I could have  fun creating cocktails.

And while these days my weekends are far more laid back (with sleep deprivation coming in the form of a newborn rather than an 8-hour bartending shift), I still do love creating cocktails when the opportunity arises.

Take this Santorini Sunrise, for instance – which we served at our recent Father’s Day lunch. It was a simple cocktail, and far from the ‘unique’ cocktails popping up on drink menus today, but it was fresh and fruity – and just the sort of cocktail I was wanting to serve.

A tasty little addition to the MCP cocktail list come Summer time!

What about you? What is you favourite cocktail?

Print Recipe
Cocktail Hour: Santorini Sunrise
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
cocktail
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
cocktail
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine vodka, peach schnapps and juices in a shaker, and shake with ice. Pour into a glass (also with ice).
  2. Drizzle grenadine down the side of the glass to create a sunrise effect. Garnish with pineapple slices.
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A Very Peppa 2nd Birthday Party

And just like that our snuggly little Jo-Jo went from this…

Then to this…

And now to this!

Yes Little J turned TWO on the weekend and we are left wondering just where the time went (a sentiment that we find ourselves repeating over and over again these days…)

While last year we had a big backyard party to celebrate J’s first birthday, this year was, intentionally, a lot more low key. We are going to alternate ‘big’ parties each year for the girls, and this year it was J’s turn to have a modest party with family only.

But that didn’t mean we couldn’t make it a special day. No sir. It was still filled with pressies, balloons, family, food and all things Peppa Pig.  Not to mention morning games, a scooter race and, of course, lots of birthday cuddles!

And come dinner time, there was no shortage of food. We laid out lots of party favourites – including homemade sausage rolls, homemade chicken nuggets and mini pizzas – plus a spinach & ricotta fritatta and grilled eggplant salad for the grown-ups.

As for the birthday cake – well that was an easy decision. For my Peppa-pig-obsessed girl would want nothing else.

(Vanilla cake, decorated with chocolate biscuits and green icing piped to look like grass. Not forgetting the chocolate ganache ‘muddy puddle’ and a few figurines and flowers to top it all off!!)

The party girl seemed to be a big fan – even if she wasn’t quite sure how to blow out her candles. She did, however, love being sung to – and has requested we sing “Happy Birthday” to her on a daily basis since!

“Two” really has proven, again, to be such a fun age.  Little J is full of personality, and more words are coming every day. She is beyond independent, which both endears me and drives me wild (usually depending on how much of a rush we are in). And even when her tantrums are loud and insistent, it is generally not too long  before she breaks out in a big dimply smile that is simply contagious.

Current loves: yoghurt, milk, her evening routine, Peppa Pig, dogs, gymnastics, bananas and her big sister (and / or anything her big sister is doing, eating, playing with…)

Current dislikes: being told no, veggies as a general rule (!!!), not being able to do things herself.

A very happy birthday to our beautiful, bright, bubbly Little J indeed.

Christmas 2016

I’ve always loved Christmas, but it feels even more special now that we have children in the house. For they bring a whole new level of excitement to the season – from school concerts and daycare parties, to tree redecorating and endless requests for carols when we are in the car.

While this year was to be a “Canberra” Christmas with my in-laws,  it ended up being a combined Christmas when my (Melbourne) family made the trip up the Hume to celebrate with us also.  This meant we had 5 extra people under our roof, including my gorgeous 1 year old nephew who the girls just adore, and needless to say a lot of fun was had by all!

Christmas Eve

Blessed with warm weather and sunny skies, Christmas Eve ‘day’ was all about fun. We put the finishing touches on the tree, decorated biscuits, played in the paddle pool and visited the local playground.

Our evening was spent watching the carols, feasting on homemade nibbles (think cheeses, antipasto, homemade sausage rolls, wonton cups…) and sipping on baileys eggnog made by our resident bartender for the evening – my little brother!  Oh and the kids made sure to leave out some treats for Santa and his Reindeers too – before finally falling into bed for the evening.

Christmas Day 

As is usually the case with young children, the whole house was up bright and early on Christmas morning. The girls were delighted to find their requested presents under the tree – namely a bike for C and a scooter for J. So much so that they wasted no time in racing to find their shoes and head outside for a spin.

With the kids well and truly occupied with their Santa presents, we got to work on brunch.  Croissants, french toast casserole,  eggs benedict, ham and a fruit platter – washed down with peach sangria. Perfect fuel for the upcoming adventures of the day (or perhaps it was more of a ‘head start’ as much of the day’s adventures involved more eating!!).

That’s right, after the littlest members of the family had taken their lunchtime naps, we put on our party dresses and headed over to my sister in-law’s house for part 2 of the day – namely a late lunch (or perhaps better described as an ‘early dinner’) – which included all the Christmas trimmings. Prawns, turkey, pork, ham, vegetables, salads….yes my plate (and belly) was full to the brim. Although I did find some space for dessert – particularly when not one, but four were on offer. My favourite being the locally made plum pudding!

And just like that, the sun began to set and another Christmas Day came to pass. I returned home with my belt buckle loosened, and feeling very grateful for the day’s wonderful food, great company and lots of laughs (not to mention being able to spend the day with all of my nearest and dearest!).

And I can only imagine how much mischief the little cousins are going to get up to together in the years to come….

Caramel chocolate celebration cake

img_1354It’s been a while since I put my ‘cake creation cap’ on. But when I was tasked with supplying dessert at a recent family dinner, well I figured it was well and truly time to dust off the ol’ cap and get to work.  Particularly when it was to be a birthday and “bon voyage” cake all in one.

img_1351I’ve seen lots of layer “drip” cakes doing the rounds, and decided to give one a try. I think my ganache was a little runny (resulting in rather drippy drips that were far from their picturesque pinterest cousins), but the flavour was still there. And I even went so far as to try my hand at Italian meringue buttercream in place of the usually sickly sweet American buttercream – and boy I’m glad that I did. For it worked just beautifully at mellowing out the otherwise rich caramel mudcake hidden inside – and meant that we reserved our sugar overload for the other goodies piled high on the cake – twix bars, jersey caramels, chocolate stars, malteasers and butterscotch popcorn.

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Yes, I think this was very appropriately dubbed a celebration cake – for it had a little of everything!        img_1358Caramel chocolate celebration cake

For the caramel mud cakes:

  • 400g butter, cubed
  • 400g white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups hot water
  • 2 tbs golden syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups plain flour, sifted
  • 2 cups self raising flour, sifted
  1. Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and line 2 x 22cm cake tins.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, water, golden syrup and vanilla in a saucepan. Stir over low heat, stirring, until the butter and chocolate melt and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Place the cooled chocolate mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add the sifted flours and stir until combined.
  5. Divide the mixture between the two prepared pans, and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the caramel Italian meringue buttercream:

  • 1 sugar + 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 egg whites
  • 500g butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce (or more to taste)
  1. Place the water and 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan, and stir to combine. Heat over a low to medium heat. Clip on a candy thermometer.
  2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add a pinch of cream of tartar if you like. Start the mixer on medium-low to begin frothing the whites
  3. When the sugar begins to boil, increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high. When the whites are at soft peaks, gradually add the 1/4 cup of reserved sugar. Continue beating until they become stiff peaks, then change to the beater attachment.
  4. When the sugar reaches 120C, turn off the heat. With the mixer running on a low speed, slowly pour the hot sugar in a fine stream down the side of the bowl with the egg whites
  5. When all the sugar is added, increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture has almost cooled (this takes a good 5–10 mins).
  6. When the meringue has cooled, start adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, while the mixer is running on medium.
  7. When all the butter has been added, increase the mixer to high to beat until the buttercream forms and is smooth. Change to the whisk attachment, add the caramel sauce, and whisk for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
For the chocolate ganache:
  • 200ml double cream
  • 200g good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
  1. Heat the double cream in a saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it begins to bubble, remove it from the heat and stir in the dark chocolate. Continue to stir until the mixture is thick and smooth, without any remaining lumps of chocolate. Place in the fridge until the desired “drip” consistency is reached.

To decorate

  • Prepared buttercream icing and ganache
  • Leftover caramel sauce
  • malteasers
  • butterscotch or caramel popcorn
  • chocolate stars
  • jersey caramels, halved
  • twix bars, halved

To assemble:

  1. Trim the tops off the cakes, so that they are even.
  2. Put a small dot of the buttercream on your serving plate, then place one of the cakes on top. Spread with a good amount of the buttercream, a little caramel sauce, then place the other cake on top.
  3. Using a palette knife, cover the cakes completely in the buttercream, starting with a crumb layer then a smooth outer layer. Place in the fridge for one hour to chill.
  4. Remove the cake from the fridge and pour the ganache over. You can do this using a disposable piping bag , or by gently spooning the ganache onto the centre of the cake and encouraging drips to fall down the sides.
  5. Top the cake with the various edible decorations, and place back in the fridge.
  6. Remove the cake from the fridge about half an hour before serving.

Father’s Day 2016

As has become tradition, we celebrated Father’s Day this year with an internationally themed lunch with Mr BBB’s family. You might recall that we’ve previously done Turkish, Mexican and Chinese themes, but this year it was all about…

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Italy!

A great excuse to fill the table with copious amounts of food. Not that I generally need an excuse though….

Again, like other years, it was more of a late lunch (or linner?), which soon turned into dinner as we ate, drank and chatted our way into the evening.

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The Food
IMG_9625 We started with a big antipasto platter, with lots of favourite items picked up from the markets. Truffle salami, goats cheese, prosciutto, artichokes and chilli olives, just to name a few.

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For main – we also had quite a few dishes on offer.  Veal involtini and baked gnocchi with pancetta and sage were the main stars, with a leafy salad, eggplant caponata, caprese salad and a garlic sourdough served alongside.

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All together now!

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And for dessert – well I couldn’t pick just one. So a selection of Italian desserts it was!

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Cranberry and pistachio nougat, almond biscotti, cannoli (I bought the shells but made two fillings – a vanilla ricotta and a lemon ricotta).

IMG_9661And finally – mini tiramisu cups – for what Italian-themed meal would  be complete without the iconic tiramisu!

To drink

We started with an Italian-inspired cocktail, made with Campari, Cointreau, orange juice and lemonade. Slightly bitter, but very refreshing. IMG_9695

While during the meal, we had Italian beer and this lovely Chianti on offer.
IMG_9637 Before too long, the sun started to set, and it was time to bid farewell to the family.  I don’t know about them, but I’m pretty sure I had to let out my belt buckle a notch or two, which is always a sign of a good family gathering right? Not to mention the smiles all round from these two cheeky monkeys (or is that four!?)
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A very Happy Father’s Day indeed!