Tuesday, August 10, 2010

STOP. Hamper Time! (Almost.)

Once again the year is flying by and I cannot believe that I have to start thinking about Christmas hampers already.

For those of you who don't know, each year I spend most of my pre-Christmas December in A's kitchen making hampers for all my family and friends. It's painful and stressful - I actually cried one Christmas Eve two years ago purely because I hadn't finished and was up until all hours wrapping packets of biscuits and putting Nana hats* on jars of relish. But we have a love/hate relationship, me and my hampers. Stress and crying aside, I get the greatest satisfaction from giving presents that I have made myself. That's probably why I continue to do it.

Onion & Thyme Relish from last years hampers. Terrible photo, but its all I have!

Each year is a lesson, I learn something that works well, or something I will never repeat. Something I will NEVER EVER repeat is parmesan and rosemary grissini sticks. A and I made these the first year we decided to make hampers. The recipe seemed simple, "Just pop the dough through the fettuccine setting on your pasta machine" it said. "Just lay them on a baking tray and bake them" it said. Four days later we were still making these fiddly-pain-in-the-behind grissini sticks!

So now it's August and I need to start thinking about what I want to do this year. I did a clean out of my fridge on the weekend and managed to get a good little collection of jars just from throwing stuff out. So that's a start. This year I really want to blog the progress of my hampers, so there will be more to read on this come December! I might try and persuade A to guest blog too!

*Nana Hats - The name A and I gave to the little fabric "hats"  that we put on top of homemade jams and relishes (see photo for example).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Guilty Pleasures...

After reading Chris Plummer's "Is Ignorance Bliss?" it got me thinking about all the cheap, convenient (not so good for you) food that I love to indulge in, no matter how distinguished my palate may become.

So I thought, rather than writing about some fantastic sushi I had on the weekend (I really did) I thought I would mix things up a bit and write about my guilty pleasures... I'm sure there's a little story behind each one. So here we go, potentially ruining any credibility I may have had.

Easy Mac. Little packets of dried macaroni with powdered cheese sauce, add water, heat in the microwave for a few minutes and presto! Mac and Cheese. I have made Jamie Oliver's version which claims to be 'The Best Mac and Cheese' and don't get me wrong, it's really amazingly good, but for some reason Easy Mac just tastes even better. Reminds me of the days when A and I lived in a share house together. We would head home after a big night out and instead of getting a kebab or Macca's like everyone else, we would head home, make mac and cheese and eat it standing at the kitchen bench chatting about the nights events.

Following on from a big night out, there's always the bigger hangover the next day. What else is better to cure a mighty hangover than a Sausage McMuffin? "What about the egg?" you say? Egg in Sausage McMuffins is for schmucks (no offence to anyone who may enjoy egg in their muffin). My friend B introduced me to the good ol' Sausage McMuffin one hungover morning in Brisbane and I have never looked back. Although it's always total confusion when you order a Sausage McMuffin. You'll be sitting at the drive thru speaker and the server will say "so that's a Sausage and Egg McMuffin?" you then speak louder and more slowly emphasising on the "WITHOUT EGG", while your thinking it would have been easier to just go inside to order but then that would mean that you would have had to get dressed before leaving the house instead of driving down there in your pj pants.

Something else my fridge is never without... Processed cheese slices. Toasted sandwiches are one of my all time favourite breakfast or lunch meals. Simple and easy to make, and really great when it's cold outside. I love toasted cafe 'foccacias' with roast beef, tomatoes, tasty cheese and some swanky chutney or chilli jam, but give me a ham and cheese toastie with double processed cheese and I'm in heaven! It melts all through your sandwich and if you eat it too quickly you will burn your mouth on the hot melted cheese. Mmmm.

Now, throwback to my childhood, Vanilla Ice Cream with Milo. A nice rich vanilla ice cream sprinkled with some Milo is just yum! Although my ice cream to Milo ratio is about 1:3, the ice cream is more a garnish than the main event. I actually enjoy having Milo stuck in your teeth, and mixing the Milo into the ice cream and creating something that resembles a Choc Shake from McDonald's but tastes so much better!

Last but not least, a drink that is pure (sugar) indulgence... Dr Pepper. Not very easy to come by in Australia, but it seems to be popping up more frequently these days, much to my demise and my dentists delight. A trip to Disneyland with my parents at the age of 12 introduced me to this liquid gold. Definitely an acquired taste for most, I will always buy a can anywhere I see it.

So I have now aired my dirty laundry in hope that people will still continue to read my blog. But it makes me curious, because I'm sure I'm not the only one. I'm sure that even the most distinguished palate gets a hankering for something disgustingly indulgent once in awhile. So please feel free to comment and air your dirty laundry too, c'mon, you know you want to. It might make me feel better! :)