Bring a plate #1

IMG_5285 Parties with friends, more than often, leads to that age-old request to “bring a plate”. Something to nibble on – perhaps a starter or even a sweet treat to end the evening. IMG_5282 This last weekend, was no different. A cocktail party for some recent birthdays, where good food and good company is never in short supply.  And my “bring a plate” was pretty straight forward, but possibly one of my favourites. IMG_5286 A lovely little antipasto platter – using the best ingredients I could find at the markets. Savoury, no need to heat, and can be prepared in advance = winner! From left to right…. IMG_5279 garlic and herb cheese log, sourdough breadsticks, pastrami, truffle salami (!!), smoked prosciutto, gherkins, marinated feta and some kalamata olives. The ‘hit’ at the party was definitely the truffle salami, which is no surprise because its pretty damn good Smile  IMG_5281 As for me, I will always be a cheese girl, so tucked into the garlic and herb cheese log without hesitation. IMG_5283 Definitely a winner when it comes to bringing a plate – all thanks to our local market! What about you? Any savoury ‘bring a plate’ ideas?

Yum Cha Brunch – the details

If there is one meal that I love to share with friends and family, it would have to be yum cha. A meal of “entrees”, served en-masse and served communally.

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So this year for Father’s Day, I wanted to create a Yum Cha brunch of our very own at home. Partly because Charlotte’s lunch time nap can make it difficult to eat out, and partly because I had some tasty recipes that I wanted to try.

The food

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For the meal itself, we went with a collection of dishes. Some, like the pork and chicken that I could marinate in advance and then bake just before serving…

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(Recipes here and here).

And others like pork buns, dumplings, spring rolls (purchased frozen) and greens, that required a bit of time-management to get them all heated and on the table at once.

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But somehow it all came together, and we managed to get everything on the table at once. Then the feast began!

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The drink

What Yum Cha meal would be complete without tea? And copious amounts of it.

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I found some Green tea with jasmine that tasted just delightful – and we were sure to re-fill this little teapot on many occasions throughout the brunch. Oh but let’s not forget the other ‘adult’. beverages Chinese beer – in the cutest beer bottles I ever did see!

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The added bonus being that they tasted pretty good too.

The dessert

Not being the biggest fan of Asian desserts, I went with a more European end to our brunch. Profiteroles!

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Filled with crème patisserie, and dipped in dark chocolate…

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A delicious, albeit a not-so-traditional, end to our yum cha brunch.

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(Recipe to come)

The scene

Perhaps not quite the same as our local yum cha haunt, where the food is fast paced, the tablecloths are plastic and the waitresses are more on the ‘pushy’ side than pleasant, I went with a simpler theme. Chopsticks (of course!) and lovely little bowls and plates that I picked up at the local Asian grocer.

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Not strictly necessary…no. But I am always on the lookout for new pretty bowls Winking smile

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Finished with a freak out for my employer if this fortune cookie insight comes true…

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Or perhaps it was just a hint that I should open a yum cha restaurant lol.

What about you? Are you a fan of yum cha?

Crunch plate

IMG_3245 We have been lucky enough to have done a lot of entertaining lately. For with rugby season in full swing (and us having the only Fox Sports subscription), there have been many an evening where our house was bustling with friends and family. And no little get together would be complete without food. Something to nibble on before dinner, while the game is playing and the enthusiasm grows. One of my all time favourite “plates” to serve on such occasions, is this crunch plate. IMG_3244 So very simple, but so very colourful and tasty – not to mention rather healthy! IMG_3246 A selection of crunchy vegetables (I used celery, carrot and capsicum), served with a creamy lemony hummus for dipping. A little break from the usual ‘footy food’ – that’s for sure! What about you? What is your favourite ‘nibble’ plate to serve when entertaining?

Easy sweet tartlets

IMG_2111_thumb “Bring a plate to share”. I am sure you know the brief. I am sure that you also know that it can lead to days / weeks of deliberation as to what you should bring. On this particular occasion, we were invited to an afternoon cocktail party. I knew there would be lots of good food to share, so I didn’t want to go overboard. But I also wanted to try something new. I was limited on time, but not on inclination, and so these easy sweet tartlets came to be. IMG_2126_thumb But I have to confess, I opted for store bought pastry tartlets to cut down the preparation time (and, let’s be honest, my pastry making skills are still in their novice phase). I found these ones at The Essential Ingredient, and although they were a tad on the expensive side ($29.95 for 60 or so), the lady at the shop assured me they freeze well. IMG_2107_thumb All I had to do was think of the fillings. The first one was rather simple. Chocolate orange mousse with candied orange peel. Sounds fancy yes – but it really was rather easy. IMG_2103_thumb2 I made some candied orange zest – by poaching finely sliced orange peel in boiling water for 5 minutes twice, then simmered it in a mixture of sugar and water for another five. Then it was into the fridge overnight to allow the flavours to develop and the orange to lose any residual bitterness. IMG_2104_thumb1IMG_2105_thumb1 As for the mousse, I cheated (again!) and made up a packet chocolate mousse with the addition of orange essence. IMG_2108_thumb1IMG_2116_thumb The second variety, again, was really simple. Just lemon curd topped with a blueberry. On reflection, if I had had more time I would have topped the curd with some meringue, but time was short so the lemon / blueberry combination was a tasty alternative nonetheless. IMG_2109_thumb1IMG_2117_thumb The third and final variety was a bit of a flop. I had intended to make caramel tarts with a chocolate garnish, but my store-bought caramel was too runny. Instead, I combined it with some whipped cream, topped with a sliced strawberry and a sprinkle of grated chocolate. IMG_2118_thumb And I think the finished result, when the three varieties were put together,  was rather cute… IMG_2110_thumb1 From the right – chocolate orange, lemon curd and caramel. IMG_2114_thumb1 Tasty little morsels that I was pleased to see disappeared rather quickly at the party! IMG_2115_thumb1 A fancy little plate – with fairly minimal fuss… IMG_2121_thumb1 That’s my kinda ‘bring a plate’! What about you? What are your favourites when asked to ‘bring a plate’?

Our cheeky monkey first birthday party

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Last weekend, we were lucky enough to have all our closest family and friends in town to celebrate Miss C turning 1. We were also blessed with a warm Canberra day, perfect for an indoor / outdoor celebration, followed by a casual BBQ dinner.

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And while I am sure there will be lots of pink and princesses in future parties, we decided on a slightly different theme and colour scheme for C’s first birthday – a cheeky monkey party!

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I had a lot of fun putting together the dessert table for the party – using yellow and aqua as the main colours. Featuring – rocky road, lemon meringue pies, bananas, blue jelly beans, lolly pops and Miss C’s favourite – banana milkshakes!

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As for the cake – I was inspired by the Martha Stewart monkey cake (link here), and the idea grew from there. This ended up being a HUGE cake, but was a lot of fun to put together.

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I also made a smaller monkey to use as a “smash cake”, although he ended up being a little haphazard….

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When decorating the rest of the house, we kept things relatively simple. Some bunches of yellow and aqua balloons scattered around the house, along with fresh yellow lilies and colourful lanterns lining our deck.

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So how did the party go??? Food was eaten, the bubbly was flowing, songs were sung, cake was smashed, presents were opened and many cuddles were had.

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And we were again reminded how very blessed we are to have such a close and loving family Smile

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For those of you that have been reading my blog for a while, I think you would know that I love to throw parties. And I tend to go a little overboard with the details. But I really do enjoy the planning and decorating side of things, and we all need to go a little overboard every now and then right?! So I guess it will come as no surprise that I’ve decided to go all out for Charlotte’s first birthday party this weekend. From the cake, to the decorations, to the food….yep it’s all planned. IMG_8276 And Mr BBB has certainly been rolling his eyes quite a bit lately as the piles of party goodies begin to appear! IMG_8275 But balloons, cakes and candles aside, with C’s first birthday fast approaching, I can’t help but feel nostalgic and reflective. And grateful. And blessed. Blessed to be able to celebrate this wonderful occasion with our nearest and dearest. For two years ago I was going through what I can only describe as chaos – with 2 pregnancy losses and a barrage of fertility tests. Yet here we are, now, blessed with a beautiful almost-1-year old baby girl that lights up my life every single day. IMG_1153 And that, my friends, is most certainly cause for a wonderful celebration indeed! So let’s get this party started!! (well, on Saturday, at least….) All to be revealed next week Smile

Purple Dessert Buffet

So I am aware I went a little MIA these past few days, but I assure you has been for good reason.  Let’s not focus on the little Miss’ nap strikes and night time wakefulness (I think she is adjusting to this HOT weather the poor thing). No – let’s focus on the fun project I put together for my niece’s birthday party over the weekend. IMG_4764 A dessert buffet! IMG_4731 A little while ago, my sister in law asked if I would make the cake for my niece’s birthday party. I accepted with gusto (for I rarely need an excuse to get baking!?), and suggested that why don’t we perhaps go one better and put together a whole buffet of sugary delights. Well things sort of grew from there. With purple as the theme, I started collecting a few decorations. A couple glass jars (to hold the lollies and melting moments), some purple candles…. IMG_4778 A string of purple bunting and a few homemade prints to put in frames…. IMG_4714 I also grabbed a few packets of tissue paper, and with the help of YouTube, created these pom poms to hang above the table. IMG_4723 Simple – yet effective! IMG_4754 And slowly but surely we had ourselves the base for a fun party buffet! IMG_4769 But decorations aside – let’s talk about the FOOD! For, let’s be honest, even the best decorated dessert buffet will only work if it is laden with sugary treats. In our case, it was a combination of homemade and store bought. Starting with macarons… IMG_4705 Which I must confess I purchased instead of making. Next up – my homemade rocky roadIMG_4710 And crème de menthe brownies, made by my sister in law… IMG_4749 And finally – melting moments and a jar of lollies (store bought)… IMG_4748IMG_4751 But no party would be a party without cake.  And this party was no different! IMG_4712 The centrepiece of the buffet was a homemade layered vanilla cake, that I iced with chocolate buttercream and topped with chocolate dipped strawberries. IMG_4743IMG_4746 Finished with a wafer edge – and held together with purple paper and ribbon. IMG_4742 Perhaps not the easiest cake to slice (on reflection), but seeing as we had none left by the end of the party I’m calling it a win! IMG_4752 So there you have it – my sugary weekend adventures! IMG_4764 Great weather, great company, great food! What more could a gal want?! What about you? What is your favourite dessert?

Party details

Since Father’s Day, life seems to have hit me at full speed – with work, a presentation to give (work), 3 challenges completed in TOH 20 day challenge (details later this week), a baby not sleeping very well at night, a new business ‘idea’ that is probably crazy but I am thinking about it anyway and, you know, just life in general. But thankyou for all your sweet comments about our Father’s Day lunch. I thought I would share some of the details with you. IMG_0728 Decorations Starting with my favourite decorations – fresh blooms. A bunch of yellow lilies and some other yellow flowers -  that I placed in some recycled jars I had on hand. IMG_0670IMG_0676 I found this print online (somewhere?) and popped it in a frame for the dessert table. IMG_0625 Finished with the addition of some homemade bunting – and of course – the cake. IMG_0662 The bunting was rather easy – created simply with some leftover scrapbooking paper,  ribbon and double sided tape. The menus and cake label were created with the help of picmonkey.com – printed onto paper then glued to some cardboard. IMG_0628IMG_0669 Simple, cheap, yet effective. Food As for the food – the markets were my saviour. Between the deli, the butcher and the greengrocer – the produce spoke for itself. Starting with the antipasto platter – which came together in 5 minutes (or less!) IMG_0701 Prosciutto, truffle salami, stuffed olives, marinated bocconcini and some crackers. While the side dishes were made in advance inspired by these recipes – Carrot and chickpea pilaf – brown rice used in place of white. IMG_0664 Eggplant, walnut and feta salad – the key being good quality feta! IMG_0682 And of course, the main meal, cooked by my two trusty BBQ chefs… IMG_0712 Butterflied leg of lamb – that I had marinated in olive oil, garlic and cumin overnight. IMG_0727 And finally – the star of the show – that ever impressive kit kat cake! IMG_0628 Two GF vanilla cakes, layered between chocolate butter icing. Finished with the kit kat edging and a ribbon, and topped with M & Ms. IMG_0644 Again – an easy yet impressive addition to our lunch! But I don’t think you can go too wrong when it comes to that much chocolate. Between my trip to the markets, and the assistance of some items I had at home (glass jars, ribbon, paper etc) – this party really came together with not a lot of fuss. And I certainly had a lot of fun planning and preparing it (although I am a little strange like that!) What about you? Do you like planning parties?

Father’s Day 2012

We had a truly wonderful day yesterday in celebration of Father’s Day – and in particular – Mr BBB’s first Father’s Day. IMG_0622 The sun was shining, Spring was in the air, food was abundant, the company was grand and baby cuddles were had by all. IMG_0676 A perfect day really. But I’ll let the photos do the talking… IMG_0625  IMG_0662 IMG_0728IMG_0668IMG_0695IMG_0700IMG_0701IMG_0711IMG_0663IMG_0665IMG_0684IMG_0690IMG_0720IMG_0735IMG_0740IMG_0628IMG_0636  IMG_0638IMG_0730IMG_0745IMG_0744 A happy Father’s Day indeed Smile

A Magical Moroccan Dinner Party

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Thankyou all for your sweet comments, tweets and general warm wishes for my 30th birthday. I must say, I have had the most wonderful couple of days – and was fortunate enough to have birthday celebrations that were beyond even my wildest expectations. Friends and family – coming together for great food and lots of laughs. Could a birthday celebration be anymore perfect?! And, to say that I was spoilt, would be an understatement. I was truly blown away by the generosity of my nearest and dearest, and I really am so very blessed (but more on that to come tomorrow). Ok enough mushy sentiment, let me share with you the highlight of my weekend. My Magical Moroccan Dinner Party.

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Taking advantage of the large living area in our new house, I decided to hold a dinner party for 40 people. We hired chairs, tables and cutlery, and with the help of cheap fabrics, candles and vases, we transformed our living room from this….

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To this!

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I am not really sure how I came up with the Moroccan theme for the party. All I know is that I wanted something elegant, yet festive and filled with flavour.

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I am pretty certain we delivered – thanks to the wonderful efforts of my family and best friend who worked with me all of Saturday morning and afternoon to decorate the house and prepare the food! I chose orange, red and purple as the main colours for the party, using orange hessian as the table cloths…

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with strips of patterned material for the table runners.

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In the centre of each table we placed a large vase filled with these gorgeous red flowers and some greenery.

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At each place setting was a little trivia card about Morocco – which I am told were quite the conversation starters amongst our guests.

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We placed our couches outside (under a large heater that we had hired), providing a little ‘break out’ space.

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And lined the entry hallway with luminaries.

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But it wasn’t just about the decorations……for what dinner party is complete without food. Glorious food. Our wonderful local Turkish restaurant provided the entrees:

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A selection of dips / Turkish bread, and stuffed vine leaves (and some warm zucchini balls that went un-pictured as they were gobbled up so quickly!) Served communally on large platters.

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While the main menu was made up of a variety of slow cooked Moroccan tagines and meatballs…

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Some of which I have shared on the blog before (here and here) during our trial runs. There was plenty of food at the start, and not too much at the end, so they can’t have been too bad lol. We served the dishes buffet style, and our guests were able to come and help themselves.

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And the feedback was all positive, with the lamb and date tagine emerging as the clear winner! But now….onto dessert 🙂

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Or a dessert buffet if you will! I used my DIY art technique to make the colourful ‘back boards’ for the buffet, and we were loaned some red lamps that gave the table a real Moroccan feel. But the star of the evening was a glorious macaron tower…

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filled with a variety of macarons supplied by our local French Patisserie.

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As well as freshly made baklava from the local Turkish restaurant.

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ok ok –  not so Moroccan but tasty nonetheless! It really was one of those nights that disappeared in the blink of an eye.

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It felt like I had only just said ‘hello’ to my friends and family, when midnight rolled around and the crowd began to dissipate.  The night turned out even better than I had hoped, and created so many wonderful “new” memories…

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While also having the chance to reminisce about some “old” memories 🙂  A wonderful night indeed!