Friday, November 30, 2012

$5 and under Christmas gifts from the supermarket

You've done all your Christmas shopping, you're feeling pretty smug with yourself, you've stupidly ducked into the supermarket to get a few things with the kids in tow after school pick up and they tell you they need a gift for Tom, Dick or Harry. You know that feeling? Or Mrs Smith from up the road has so thoughtfully given you a gift and you just feel obliged to give her something in return? Or the Mum's group decide on a Secret Santa (Kris Kringle) the day before you're meeting for lunch? Happens to me all the time. I tend to just bake a batch of biscuits or sweets but sometimes you just can't be bothered or have absolutely no time on your hands. Look no further than the supermarket for a cheap gift.

And at this crazy time of the year, there's always online supermarket shopping and you can throw these extra few things in your order should you need them.

  • block of chocolate (sometimes they're on special 2 for $6 or less)
  • small box of chocolates/lollies/candy bars/biscuits
  • box of cereal
  • book or cheap toy
  • crazy drinking straws
  • popcorn
  • can of soda or 4 pack of soda/juice
  • box of breakfast bars/roll ups/jellies etc that you don't normally buy
  • stationery
  • kid's magazine
  • licensed character toothbrush and/or toothpaste or shampoo/bubble bath/body wash
  • licensed pocket tissue packets
  • chocolate/candy bars/biscuits/nuts
  • toiletries
  • magazine
  • batteries
  • scented candles
  • gardening products
  • Christmas decorations or packet of greeting cards
  • car care products
  • fruit or vegie basket or 2 for $5 mangoes for example
  • gourmet food products like jars of olives, salad dressings, roasted vegetables, curry pastes etc
  • fruit cake or other Christmas baked product
  • Non perishable cheese and crackers
  • Jam/honey/relish/pickles
  • Packet baking mix
  • Cupcake papers/decorating sprinkles etc
  • Kitchen utensil or tea towel/linen
  • Coffee cup filled with candy
  • Fancy cordials or soft drinks
  • dog treats
  • bird seed treats
  • whatever cats might be interested (I'm not a cat person, sorry)
  • bird cage toy
  • grooming products
Just look at basic supermarket items in a different light. Everybody uses them. Buy them something that they wouldn't normally buy for themselves. My Nanna used to give us a cake of soap when we were in our mid to late teens. I used to screw my nose up at it and just laugh at her silly ways but now I'd be more than happy with a cake of soap. It's definitely the thought that counts.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thriving on Thursdays - Linky Party # 44

Welcome to another week my lovely Thrivers. A place to link up your recipes, craft and sewing projects, hints, tips or advice on how to live a thrifty life. As an added bonus, starting this Sunday evening, I will be featuring all Christmas posts so get busy with all your Christmas craft and recipes and link up. I need all the inspiration I can get this year! Now, onto last week's party. Here are the top three food related and non food related posts from last week. (And tell me to stop looking at that Christmas countdown widget in my sidebar!)
Smoky Oven-Baked Chicken - Turtles and Tails Blog
Thank you to everyone who linked up last week. So many lovely recipes. Now, don't forget to hit me with all your Christmas craftiness and goodness. Can't wait to see what you've all been working on.




Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Do you have trouble deciding What2Cook?

 Do you have trouble deciding what to cook for dinner, day in, day out? Do you lack inspiration? Do you look in a fridge full of food and get overwhelmed deciding what to cook? Gourmet Garden, in conjunction with partners John West seafood and Steggles poultry have taken all the guess work out of dinner with a handy 5 day menu plan including recipes and shopping list.
Open the What2Cook website, sign up to the 5 day day meal plan newsletter and every Monday, 5 new recipes, complete with shopping list, will be sent to your Inbox. The best thing about it, besides the recipes being super tasty, simple to cook and family friendly, they are easy to adapt to what you already have on hand.

Tuesday's recipe was Chicken Rice Salad with Creamy Basil Dressing. I had a busy day and not much energy. I had a quick look in the fridge. Had chicken, lettuce, cooked rice in the freezer, a few vegetables which could be grated into the salad and a bit of ricotta and cream cheese that needed using up. Besides that, I had Gourmet Garden Garlic and Basil in the fridge. Perfect. I could've already planned what I was having for dinner for the week if I'd chosen to follow the menu plan this week but at least the email was there for inspiration.
Giving the chicken breast a quick fry in the pan, defrosting the rice, mixing the dressing and grating the vegetables, dinner was done in under 15 minutes. I love the fact that all the recipes are adaptable for what you have on hand. If I didn't want to bother with chicken, I could've added fresh or tinned salmon or tuna or even omitted the meat in the salad and served it as a side to a barbecued steak or sausages.
I've written my views on menu planning before saying how I've used it in the past and it worked well but, up until recently, I have managed thinking about What2Cook the night before and it has worked for me. Gourmet Garden has put the guess work out of it now. I can decide to use the menu plan, to a tee, going out to source all of the ingredients or I can use the recipes for inspiration, using what I have on hand.  They have heaps of recipes already stored on their website with a handy search feature so you can look back at previous weeks if you missed an email.
The recipes have been created by Brisbane based celebrity chef, Dominique Rizzo, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the recent Brisbane Good Food & Wine Show, and Kim McCosker of "4 Ingredient" fame.

Lemon grass and coriander salmon
John West and Steggles have also made things easy with a large range of protein options available in the meat section of the supermarket. Things like salmon portions, prawns, calamari, chicken and turkey in measured portions, ready to just serve up in one of the beautiful recipes on offer.  I've been fortunate enough to have been selected by The Soup to trial some of these products so stay tuned for some fantastic Christmas entertaining recipes over the next couple of weeks.
As an added bonus, What2Cook are giving away a gourmet food holiday to Tasmania. To enter, click here.

Disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post. I have received goods and a gift card. All thoughts are my own.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thai basil & macadamia pesto

I reckon you can make just about anything into pesto. Pesto comes from the Italian word pestâ which means 'to pound'. I've made pesto from sun dried tomatoes, spinach, silver beet, traditional basil and any mixture of nuts. At a recent trip to my local farmer's market, I couldn't pass up a beautiful bunch of Thai basil.

Thai basil leaves are a little smaller and there is an edible purple flower. The flavour is a little different to regular basil which lends itself well to Italian tomato based dishes but the Thai basil is better suited to Asian style dishes. I knew I could pick a few leaves to add to a Thai curry or stir fry but I had better things in store. I also had macadamia nuts in the cupboard so I ground some and made it up into a pesto with olive oil, garlic cloves and parmesan cheese, just whizzing it up in the food processor.

I had a nice piece of snapper in the freezer and that's what I was topping with my pesto. I just spread the pesto on top of the fish and wrapped in baking paper, baking for about 15 mins in a 170 deg C oven.

I served the fish with roasted and Thai caramelised truss cherry tomatoes (based on a Karen Martini recipe I saw on BH&G Australia). It was delicious. I'll be keeping my eye out for more fresh herbs at the markets from now on. Making it in a pesto is a great idea to prolong the life of the herb and capture it at its freshest best.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Baking & Gifts by Jean Paré

I don't have many Christmas cookbooks but there's one I just picked up that I believe no home should be without. My next door neighbour told me about it. It was on sale for $16 from one of our large department store chains (the one with the 'W') so I grabbed it.

I know I google a lot, pin a lot of ideas on Pinterest and see other fantastic ideas on other people's blogs but this book by acclaimed Canadian cookbook writer Jean Paré combines "Christmas Gift Ideas" and "Classic Recipes".

There are heaps of examples on wrapping gifts, what to put in the gift packs, ideas for presents for just about everyone from your children, to your neighbours, foodie friends and teacher's gifts.

And then there's the recipes. Easy entertaining ideas, heaps of delightful baking recipes and a quite a few cookie recipes I've got my eye on for teacher's gifts. If you're looking for a nice Christmas cookbook with more than a few recipes and ideas, look out for books by Jean Paré. It might be the only one you need.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

The birthday boy turns 6

Today my little baby boy, B, turned 6. It was around 4:30am, 6 years ago that he was born, three weeks earlier than he should have. Some might say I have my work cut out for me with both of my children born in November and yes, it does get a bit hectic but I've found its best to get both parties out of the way. As they get older, the birthday parties seem easier to organise and the kids make their own fun.

We've had dinosaurs, Lightning McQueen (about 3 times) and this year all he wanted was Hot Wheels Battle Force 5. A bit hard when the show isn't even on TV here in Australia nor are the toys available in the shops, that is until I was googling the image to do crazy things like cut out the logo in fondant icing and all sorts of craziness when I saw that a chain of toy stores here in Australia had one of the toy sets for Battle Force 5 in their store! I tried purchasing them from the US on ebay but no ebay sellers would ship to Australia.

And as far as the cake goes, I was hoping to get a Battle Force 5 image printed by my local cake decorating store but he no longer prints licensed images so I printed it on my printer, laminated and just stuck it on. My little boy loved it and I got off 'scott free' from crazy fondant cake decorating.

It was a lovely warm day. All of the kids had great fun after a game of 'pass the parcel' and 'musical statues'. Food was simple with lollies, sandwiches, sausage rolls and mini hot dogs, juice and water. After a play with his toys, we got an ice cream and had a play on the swings down by the bay and returned home for toasted sandwiches, a bath and bed.

And after everyone was tucked in, swimming items were labelled for school swimming this week, dinner dishes cleared, there was the job of icing 30 cupcakes for school. In honour of them swimming this week, I piped a small ring of blue icing on the cupcake, topped with a fruit jelly ring and inserted a "Koala & Friends" cookie. I may not have gone all out with themes and big birthday parties this year but I think the same memories were created.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christmas at the Oxfam Shop

I just happened to be at one of my favourite shopping malls when I had my routine cup of coffee at my favourite cafe right across from one of my favourite stores, the Oxfam Shop. I was drawn in by the beautiful supply of Christmas stock and just had to share some of my favourites. The goods are available online all for reasonable prices in my opinion. They're original in design, most items are made from recycled or natural materials and profits are being returned to communities all over the world. In certain parts of Victoria in Australia you can also buy a real Christmas Tree for $69. Here's some of the cute things that caught my eye.
Polished aluminium reindeer candle holder @ $14.95
Owl terracotta planter @ $16.95
6 worry dolls in a box @ $4.95
Set of 2 wooden painted bird decorations @ $9.95
Recycled candy wrap angel decoration @ $4.95
3 wise owl felt/cotton decorations @ $14.95
JOY votive candle holders @ $14.95
Coconut fibre sitting reindeer @ $19.95
Hand embroidered cotton advent calendar @ $39.95
Notebook with buttons cover @ $12.95
They have a great range of gift cards, wraps, a Christmas Card Creator and many other decorations, toys, homewares and chocolate. They have chocolate! Check out for online shopping or find a store near you.
This is not a sponsored post. I just really love the products and the store.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thriving on Thursdays - Linky Party # 43

Welcome to another Thursday and as my American friends welcome Thanksgiving 2012 this Thursday, I'd like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for following my journey and listening to my babble on this blog. What started out as an online journal to keep track of my recipes and family events, has become a great place for me to catch up with friends from far and wide. Thank you! I trust you all have a lovely, safe and fun filled Thanksgiving. From last week's party, here are the top 3 food and non food related posts linked up.
Thank you to all my lovely contributors each week for linking up. I'm loving all the Christmas ones coming through. Keep it up. After the boy's birthday this week, I'll be getting into Christmas mode and will need all the inspiration I can get. Feel free to grab a 'featured' button from above. And now on to this week's party.



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My top 5 driving songs (at the moment)

I got thinking the other day when I read a comment on Facebook by the lovely Jacqui from CRAP Mamma (that's Creative Relaxed Approach Parenting) who said she felt automatically uplifted when she was belting out a song she heard on the car radio.

I'm not in the car for very long periods but whenever I'm alone, that is no children with me, I find no greater joy then to turn the music up. I love all sorts of music but am going through a bit of a dance craze, modern music resurgence. I'll still rock it out to my old favourites but the music for today's younger generation keeps me motivated and uplifted. Here's my current top 5 of what I like to turn up REAL loud and thump the steering wheel REAL hard.

1. "Underworld" - Born Slippy

2. "I Love It" - Icona Pop

3. "Bangarang" - Skrillex

4. "Run Alone" - 360

5. "Rock'n'Roll" - Led Zepplin (for old time's sake)

What do you listen to in the car when you're on your own? What makes you feel uplifted when you're without the kiddos, turned up REAL loud?


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Four ingredient Apricot Chicken (from scratch)

I love it when people clean out their pantries and give me the things they don't want. It's not like I walk up the street with a shopping trolley yelling "throw out your unused pantry items". Mum (who used to) and my sister (who does now) has a clean out every now and again and I'll happily take what she doesn't want. One of those items was apricot jam. We're not big jam eaters opting to have it occasionally on pancakes and that's about it. I find it a challenge coming up with ways to use these unusual ingredients that I don't normally buy.

I'm also not a "fruit used in savoury cooking" kind of girl either. When I see pork stuffed with prunes or pineapple on a pizza, I cringe. I'm not the biggest fan of the packet mix "Apricot Chicken" that was so popular in the 1970's (mix the packet with apricot nectar) but using a couple of tablespoons of the apricot jam in this quick stir fry worked quite well. (I added a couple tablespoons of chilli sauce once I'd served the kid's meals just to spice things up.) This was easy peasy and a different way to serve up chicken and onions.

Four Ingredient Apricot Chicken
  1. Chicken - I used 1 breast. You could use pieces, legs, wings
  2. 1/2 cup apricot jam
  3. 1/2 cup chicken stock
  4. 1 onion, sliced

  • Brown onions in a non stick pan (or you could use a spray of oil).
  • Add chicken and cook until brown.
  • Add apricot jam and stir through until melted.
  • Pour over stock and simmer for approx 10 mins until liquid has slightly reduced.
Serve with rice and stir fried vegetables. (I stir fried a couple red and green capsicum strips to serve and add 2 tablespoons of Gourmet Garden mild chilli after serving the dish to the kids.)


Monday, November 19, 2012

One salmon portion, four ways

I love salmon. I love the flavour, the colour, the smell. Unfortunately, it can be quite expensive and out of reach for most people's weekly shopping lists. At nearly $30 per kilo, that's very expensvie, but you can stretch one portion out which will cost you about $10. Spread out over a couple meals, that works out to be quite reasonable.

These are all individual meals but one portion could quite easily feed 2 adults in one meal. According to the Better Health Channel, the average female needs about .75g/kg of protein per day and the average male about .84g/kg per day. For example, a 75kg adult male would need about 63g of protein per day. On average those large pieces of salmon fillet are about 200-300g so would contain approximately 30gm of protein, quite easily enough protein allowance in one sitting for two adults and 2 children. It might not seem like much meat in the dish but it actually is.

I cut the fillet down the centre giving four portions. The two larger portions I kept aside for other meals. The two smaller 'end' pieces were used for my lunch. One of the halves of the large pieces I cut I used for the children's dinner that night just pan frying small pieces and serving with vegies.

For my first meal, I diced the salmon and quickly fried in a little butter, lemon juice, seasoned with salt and pepper and made a Salmon and Cucumber salad (lettuce leaves and sliced cucumber) with Yoghurt Dill dresssing (Greek yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic, dill).

Warm Salmon Salad with Cucumber and a Yoghurt Dill dressing

One of the fillets I set aside earlier, I cut in half horizontally and made a Honey Chilli glazed Salmon Fillet served on a bed of Asian noodle salad. This was just a teaspoon of honey and chilli mixed together and spread on the salmon once cooked. The noodles were just the 2 minute noodles mixed through some grated carrot, shredded red cabbage and green onions with soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce poured over.

The last piece of salmon I had for dinner the next night and I served that up with pasta, fresh asparagus and a yoghurt cream sauce. I didn't get a picture of it but this was an asparagus pasta dish I cooked some time ago but just never got around to blogging about it. It was basically steamed asparagus mixed with the lightly pan fried chopped salmon, crushed garlic, salt and pepper and stir through cooked pasta. Add a good dollop of Greek yoghurt which acts as the sauce to bind it all together.

Just imagine pieces of salmon poking out through the pasta
You don't need to eat salmon for the next 2 days but you could cut the salmon up and freeze individually.

So, out of one $11 piece of salmon, I got four dishes.

1.  Salmon & Cucumber Salad with Yoghurt Dill Dressing
2.  Honey & Chilli glazed Salmon served on a bed of stir fried vegies and noodles
3.  Cubed Salmon and vegies for the kids
4.  Salmon and Fresh Asparagus Pasta in creamy yoghurt sauce

For 2 adults you could get either 2 serves of the honey & chilli glazed salmon and one serve of the cubed salmon and vegies for the kids or a large serve of the Salmon and Asparagus Pasta for a family of four. Whichever way, fresh salmon fillets might be an affordable luxury for everyone.

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