Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jamie Oliver's Tuscan Bread Salad

I like the look of Jamie Oliver's salads featured in his new 15 Minute Meals cook book, but I'm a really slow cook, and the recipes will definitely take me longer than 15 minutes! Mum and I made this for Christmas dinner with a few shortcuts so I can make the 15 minute deadline.

1/2 ciabatta loaf
1 clove of garlic
4 anchovy fillets
extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
800g mixed colour tomatoes
1/2 bunch of spring onions
1/2 bunch of fresh basil
1 tablespoon of capers
200g jarred roasted red peppers
30g feta cheese

1. Jamie said to toast the bread in a griddle pan but since we don't have one, we just popped the bread in the toaster! Tear into bite size pieces and resist eating them while you are tearing.

2. I used red baby tomatoes which I halved and placed in a salad bowl. Add chopped red peppers, capers and crumbled feta cheese. Not to waste food, I bought exactly 30g of feta cheese from the deli (rather than a pre-packaged tub which are all over 200g) which cost me 25 cents, definitely the cheapest thing I've ever bought!

3. To make the dressing, Jamie said to put the ingredients in a food processor but we couldn't be bothered washing up so we put the ingredients in a bowl and used a hand mixer which worked just as well. Blend until smooth, the garlic, anchovies, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, the balsamic vinegar and half the tomatoes (we only used a handful because I wanted to eat the tomatoes rather than having a watery dressing), spring onions and basil.

4. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss and enjoy!

It was a filling salad albeit a little too salty for my liking. I'm not sure why Mum picked this recipe since she doesn't like basil ~ so I would recommend using the herb sparingly if you don't like the pungency.

Mum is delighted with her succulent with gorgeous orange and yellow flowers so it definitely deserves a distinguished mention on blog!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Myer Melbourne Christmas Windows 2012

In its 57th year, department store Myer's Christmas Windows depicts Rob Scotton's "Russell's Christmas Magic". There is always a huge crowd who visits the Windows each year, but we were in the city early in the morning after Christmas so I was able to take the following photos unhindered.

I especially liked the sheep covered in patchwork quilts, and the details of the family of frogs! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Donna Hay's Ham, Pea and Basil Fritters

I haven't had time to try new recipes for ages, so on Christmas day, Mum and I made Donna Hay's Ham, Pea and Basil fritters. It is a great recipe to use up your Christmas ham (or left over turkey as suggested by Ms Hay), and the aroma of basil while the fritters are cooking is mouth watering! We added 1/2 cup of corn kernels for an extra crunch. Ours is not as pretty as the picture above (we're not food stylists), but it was nevertheless very tasty! 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Moroccan Vegetarian Filo Wrap

Inspired by Women's Weekly Spiced Green Pea and Potato pasties, this is a variation of the recipe I made for lunch on Christmas day.
  • 5 medium sized potatoes, cubed
  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 cup of peas
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • Half a bunch of parsley
  • 1 brown onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Moroccan seasoning
  • Filo pastry
  • Melted butter/spread 

1. To make the filling, cube the potatoes and sweet potato and microwave for around 5 minutes until soften. Add the peas, corn and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a pan (or in my case, a wok) with some olive oil, and add crushed garlic and onions. I was rather heavy handed with the Moroccan seasoning (the original recipe called for 1 tablespoon) but I must have used double the amount. Add onion mixture to the filling.

3. Lightly brush 3 sheets of filo pastry with melted spread (I melted 2 tablespoons of cholesterol lowering, i.e. really tasteless spread). Place about 4 tablespoons of filling, and fold and wrap the pastry. See my curry vegetable filo roll recipe.

4. Using scissors, snip some slits on top of the pastry, brush with more melted spread and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Makes 8.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wool Embroidery

My interest in sewing and all things hand crafty started around my mid teens when Mum bought me a counted cross stitch kit. I was hooked and finished the project within weeks because I was so enthusiastic about it. Mum can’t sew and has no interest in handcrafts except to admire them, and my aunts from my Dad’s side of the family sew out of necessity, hence I feel privilege to do it for pure enjoyment.

Mum has been spring cleaning and found a whole heap of cushions in the linen cupboard which is now my craft cupboard. These cushions which I made for Mum around 1995 were one of my first projects, inspired by Kaye Pyke’s Classic Cushions and Elegant Embroidery. I poured over these treasured books for hours, and loved the floral wool embroidery on calico the best. I used DMC embroidery wool which was more economical and readily available than the Paternayan Paterna Persian virgin wool that was recommended. The calico is now looking worse for wear, so we’ve decided to unpick the cushion, and frame the embroidery instead. 

I look at the cushions now and wonder how I managed to create such even satin stitches (for the ribbon). I should revisit embroidery, as it's not as constrained as cross stitch, and I'm free to use the colours I love.

The embroidery stitches used are simple ~ french knots, bullion, lazy daisy, back stitch and straight stitch.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Bird Ornament

For the first time in many years, I’m not taking a break over the Christmas/New Year period and will be in Melbourne. I am looking forward to the Boxing Day sales and will be in the city bright and early to snatch up the bargains. As a crafter, I tend to stock up on fabric during this time…and during the Quilt and Craft Fair…mid year sales…online sales… ok, I buy fabric all the time. Christmas fabric is usually half price, and I bought about 1.5 metres of this red fabric a few years ago for around A$5. Inspired by a pattern in Joelle Hoverson’s Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts, I made fabric birds for my tree.  

Bird templates are easy to find on the web, hence for one bird (it's always nice to make a pair), cut out 2 pieces of fabric. If you are like me and forget that there is a right and wrong side of fabric, remember to flip the pattern to trace the second piece of the bird. With wrong sides together, sew around the bird leaving an opening of at least 2cm so you can turn the fabric inside out. Fill the bird with polyester fill, and hand sew to close the opening. Hand sew a tiny bell under the bird’s chin, glued gems for eyes, and finished off with a ribbon loop to hang the bird. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Sequin Baubles

Not that we celebrate Christmas, but I like all things Christmas – traditional carols, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, shortbread, colourful decorations and candy canes. I made these baubles a few years ago and it is an inexpensive and therapeutic craft – well, I’m not sure about you, but stabbing pins into Styrofoam balls is therapeutic for me!

Insert a bead into a pin before slipping on a sequin. I like to dip the pin into some PVA glue for extra hold before I pin the bead/sequin into the Styrofoam. I’ve followed a striped and random placement of colourful sequins, ensuring the sequins overlap a little to cover the Styrofoam. Finish off with a bow and ribbon loop to hang the bauble (or other Styrofoam shapes like the bell below).

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Cross Stitch Motifs

Christmas is the time of the year that we spend with family and friends, reflect on the year that has passed, and anticipate what the new year will bring. Regardless of one's religious beliefs, we all wish for peace, joy and love.

I cross stitched these Christmas motifs on red aida cloth a few years ago from Better Homes & Garden magazine. Instead of making individual ornaments, I stitched them together for an extra long ornament. I used red and white gingham for the backing (I love gingham!) and finished off with my signature bow using red double sided satin ribbon. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Timber Babushka Cross Stitch

Jodi Maloni of The Haby Goddess was very kind to post a link to my blog on her Facebook page in August which I was very excited about. I asked whether she would be selling the frames (rather than the kit), and I received an email from her in October, as promised, when they were available at her online store. I bought 7 frames (I’m now on a self-imposed online shopping ban… yeah right, who am I kidding?!) to make for some friends and family – and one for myself because I think the Babushka would look fabulous pinned to my red moss stitch scarf.

I managed to complete four frames on Melbourne Cup Day!

I loved the owls, aren't they cute together?

Since the babushka frames do not come with patterns (patterns come with the full kit), I followed a floral pattern from Jan Eaton's Cross Stitch Motif Bible which fitted perfectly. Thank goodness for my extensive craft book collection!

I don't know the name of these flowers but they grow outside my room so I look up now and then from my sewing to admire them. I love the vibrant colours, but they are rather smelly!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sambal Prawns with Okra

It's been ages since I've updated my blog, but I've been busy at work and on the weekends, and have had the sniffles these past couple of weeks. Mum made sambal prawns and okra to give my tastebuds a bit of a kick as eveything I've tasted recently has been bland.

This ready made paste is from eCosway (Malaysian retail outlet which is scattered around Melbourne - you don't need to be member to purchase their products even though they try to give you the hard sell), and note the whole packet is for 1 kilogram of prawns so if you are just making a serving for three, you only need a tablespoon or so (depends how spicy you like it).  The paste is made using onions, garlic, tumeric, lemon grass, galangal and tamarind so it tastes and smells delicious. Cook the paste for a couple of minutes before adding shelled and deveined prawns (we had around 200 grams).

To save cooking time, microwave around 12 medium sized okra for 2 minutes, and add to the prawns. Add a dash of lemon (or lime) juice to give it a zing!

All done!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dog Silhouette Cross Stitch

Even though I love working with lots of colours, I really enjoy cross stitching using just one colour so silhouettes are awesome. I cross stitched this dog for our family friend Charles’ birthday card, and embellished with a red ribbon bow around the dog’s neck. Charles has a dog named Tilly and I think she is a DMC 435. Happy birthday Charles!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Felt Moon Cake

We often shake our heads in disbelief when we see shops selling Christmas decorations in September, and Easter eggs and hot cross buns in December. It’s the same with Chinese festivals because moon cakes were available at the end of July (which was celebrated on 30 September). We’re devoured two boxes of moon cakes this year  ~ pandan and black sesame seed/lotus seed flavour which was very tasty!

When I was three years old, I stayed with my maternal grandmother while my parents holidayed in Europe. I remember crying every morning because I missed my parents and I think my grandmother was at a loss at finding ways to entertain me. I remember her taking me to a movie about a Tarzan like man who could shape shift into a crocodile (probably not the most age appropriate film) and buying boiled chickpeas from street vendors (I still like eating plain boiled chickpeas). The memory that stands out is a blue horse lantern my grandmother bought me for the Moon Festival. It was made from wire that was shaped into a horse, with blue cellophane stretched onto the frame. I was really excited about the lantern and looked forward to taking it outside in the evening so I could light the candle inside the lantern. Because of the breeze, the lantern caught on fire and half of it was burnt! I remember being really upset that the blue horse was burnt, and I only played with it for a few hours.

To celebrate the Moon Festival, I hand stitched this moon cake from felt from Joie Staff's My Favorite Sweets book. I think I over stuffed it as I get a bit zealous with polyester fibre! Now I can think about eating moon cakes all year round (and lament the loss of the blue horse lantern)!