Monday, December 17, 2012

"Emergency" chocolates

Each Christmas, I make a batch of "emergency" gifts. You know, the sort that you have on standby when unexpected, but generous visitors pop in. They're also useful in a non-emergency capacity - a little festive treat certainly seems to go down well with work colleagues. Most years I have stuck to biscuits - gingerbread in 2010 and lemon myrtle shortbread in 2011. In 2012, I decided to try my hand at chocolate. Proper fancy, filled, tempered chocolate. Eeeek!

Let me rewind a little. Last month, my beloved and I attended a fantastic chocolate workshop. For those living in Melbourne, I can't recommend Sissy's Gourmet Delights more highly. The class was great fun, very interactive and just a tad messy! We learnt all about the importance of tempering  chocolate (it's all about the shine, baby!), decorating and making delicious ganache fillings. I walked away with a bag of chocolate making loot - Belgian chocolate moulds, a digital thermometer, a scraper, piping bags and a few bits and pieces for decorating.
Fast forward to the week before Christmas and my emergency gifts have been created. 
Behold: orange ganache-filled "blushing" chocolates and dark choc, hazelnut roses (accented by little white choc smears). Not too shabby for an amateur, in my humble opinion! 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stuffed pasta shell bake

If you haven't already noticed, pasta/noodles are my all time favourite food. I could happily subsist solely on these carbohydrates, if it wasn't for the fact that I would turn into an anaemic wreck (not to mention the host of other awful health issues that such a diet would bring!).

It is probably not surprising then that different pasta shapes and sizes make me giddy with excitement. Every time my local supermarket has a sale on their artisan pasta, I go carb-crazy and stock up for the end of time...or something like that. My most recent purchase was a packet of conchiglioni (better known as giant pasta shells). With some beef mince in the freezer, a sole zucchini in the fridge and a few pantry staples, the Fabfood'n'frolicking stuffed pasta shell bake was born.

Stuffed pasta shell bake
Serves 4
1 x 500g packet conchiglioni (giant pasta shells) 
1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
500g beef mince
1 zucchini (coarsely chopped)
400ml pasata
2 tsp hot paprika
1 bunch basil (coarsely chopped)
a handful of mozzarella 
a handful of parmesan
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 150ºC.
2. Cook pasta until very al dente (i.e. you wouldn't hesitate to send it back if it was served at a restaurant). Drain and set aside. 
3. In the meantime, heat oil in a saucepan and fry onion and garlic for a couple of minutes.
4. Add beef and cook for another few minutes, followed by the zucchini. 
5. Stir through the pasata and paprika and season to taste. Allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes. 
6. When you're happy with the level of spice and flavour, throw in the basil and remove from heat. 
7. Allow meat mixture to cool down a wee bit (a few minutes should suffice) unless you have "asbestos fingers" (that's a "mum-ism").
8. Lay pasta out in the sort of oven dish you'd use for lasagne and spoon the meat mixture into each so:

9.  Top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

10. Bake for around 40 minutes. Finish under the grill for lots of nice crispy bits on top.

As always, enjoy!

How to "make" a Christmas tree

Friday, November 30, 2012

Let them eat curry: Pappa Rich, Chadstone

Where: Pappa Rich, Chadstone
What: Weekday lunch
Rating: 13/20

What should a person do when the mercury in Melbourne hits 38 degrees (that's over 100 degrees Farenheit for my international readers)? Eat curry, of course! 

As a farewell celebration for a colleague, a group of work buddies descended upon Pappa Rich, Chadstone. 

The Malaysian chain seems to be multiplying (at least in Melbourne) at a rapid rate. Restaurants are popping up here, there and everywhere, and, at peak times, hungry diners queue for tables. In fact, I have been deterred from trying the establishment on a number of occasions thanks to my disdain for waiting in line.   

Well aware of the need to queue during busy times, my colleagues and I beat the lunch rush, arriving at around 12pm. The restaurant was perhaps a third full when we arrived. It was full to bursting point by the time we left at roughly 1pm. 

The restaurant requires patrons to jot down their orders on pads provided at each table. A quick press of a button signifies to staff that the order should be taken. Not a particularly cordial arrangement, but certainly an efficient one. 

The menu boasts a decent range of beverages, including a number of my favourite Malaysian treats. I opted for the fresh watermelon juice. The drink arrived in a sizeable stein and I was anticipating enjoying a refreshing juice (excuse the dodgy shot!).

Unfortunately, the juice did not meet expectations. I don't know about you, but when a menu refers to an item as "fresh watermelon juice", I assume that the content of said beverage will comprise solely of juiced watermelon. This drink was so insipidly sweet that I'm sure some sort of sugar syrup was added to the glass. Not good. 

Mains arrived 5 minutes after our order was placed (did I mention they're efficient?). Predictably, I ordered nasi lemak. I can't really fault the dish - the curry was tasty and well seasoned, the rice was fluffy and the usual condiments all complemented the meal well. Was it the best nasi lemak I've ever eaten? No. (For the record, that honour goes to the Westin, Kuala Lumpur - room service at 2am - uh-maz-ing!). But it most definitely was not bad either. 

So, would I eat at Pappa Rich again? If there was no waiting time and I happened to be shopping at Chadstone, I wouldn't hesitate to try the eatery again. It was a cheap, cheerful and relatively enjoyable meal, although I'd probably opt for a more traditionally Malaysian drink on my next visit. 

PappaRich Chadstone on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fresh fillers

Slowly and surely, I'm getting back into the intuitive eating groove. One of my self-imposed "rules" requires that I eat foods that appeal to me - i.e. those things that I'm craving. When I slow down, listen to my body and really think about what it is that I want to eat, more often than not I'm actually drawn to fresh produce. Now, we all know that I'm not going to go to the fridge and munch on a capsicum for dinner, but I have managed to throw together some pretty delicious meals of late, so I thought I'd share. 

Let's start with breakfast, because, well, it comes first. I'm a massive breakfast eater and find it hard to understand how people are able to exercise before eating in the morning. Heck, I even find it hard to understand how people get themselves to work sans breakfast. Truly remarkable! I wake up ravenous and instinctively gravitate towards a combination of carbs, protein and fibre. I don't seem to be able to stomach processed foods in the mornings (pity about the rest of my day...). I digress.

My penchant for certain breakfasts seems to run in 6-10 month cycles - i.e. I eat a relatively similar breakfast for around 6 months, until I move into my next "phase". Apparently, I'm not good with least not at in the morning! For the first 8 months of year, it was all about porridge with nut butter and fruit. However, since September I've amped up the dairy and have created what I think is my best breakfast to date: toast topped with honey, ricotta and fresh fruit. 

I don't think I need to explain how to "make" this (okay, okay, here you go: toast bread; spread honey; heap on some fresh ricotta; top with berries, banana or whatever takes your fancy). Quick, easy, filling and quite frankly, delicious. For those of you who find pairing ricotta with honey strange, just trust me. It. Is. Amazing.

Moving onto my staple once-a-week post-work dinner - stir fry. I love how colourful and fresh my wok looks straight after cooking. In the mix last night? Minced chicken, onion, broccoli, bok choy, button mushrooms, wombok and some leftover carrot, broccoli and beetroot slaw (Beetroot in a stir fry? Why not!).

To keep things exciting, I tend to throw whatever veggies I have on hand into my stir fries; however, I must confess that I'm not all that creative in the stir fry sauce department. My staple sauce involves some sort of combination of soy sauce, oyster sauce and sweet chilli sauce. As a food blogger, I should probably be ashamed that I have not been sufficiently motivated to mix things up in the last decade or so.... but on the other hand, why mess with a good thing? 

So there you have it - some healthy meal ideas that you can whip up in a jiffy. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nutters unite: Harvest Box snackfest

A few months back while I was still deep in my too-busy-to-blog-head-in-the-books stage, the good people at Harvest Box contacted me, offering a sample of their finest nutty and fruity snacks. Because studying and snacking go hand-in-hand, I was quick to jump at the opportunity to trial the product. An adorable flat box of goodness arrived in the mail a few days later.

Harvest Box essentially provides a way to "outsource" your snacks. They deliver straight to work or home (you pick the day), providing four delicious and nutritious snacks for $7.95 per week. I don't know about you, but I easily spend $10+ on other...*ahem*...less healthy choices throughout the working week, so I felt that the value for money was quite reasonable.

So what's in the box? Harvest Box has over 50 different mixes of nuts, dried fruit, seeds etc. - that's nearly one for every week of the year! I was lucky enough to score:

  • By the Beach (mango, macadamias, coconut and brazil nuts);
  • Latin Swing (brazil nuts, roast almonds and roast macadamias);
  • Great Wall (almonds, goji berries, milk chocolate and sunflower seeds); and
  • Mexicana (toasted barbecue corn, spicy peas, roasted broad beans and roast almonds).

All four of the snack packs were delicious. The contents were fresh and flavoursome and the mixes were definitely complementary (chocolate, goji berries, almonds - always a winning combo!). My personal favourites were the Mexicana (pictured below) and Great Wall snack packs.

Harvest Box offers a nifty little survey tool, which allows "nutters" to rate their experience with each snack pack. This means you're more likely to get stuff you like...and yet still enjoy an element of surprise (what's in the box, what's in the box?).    

Overall, I was impressed by the quality of the Harvest Box produce. I'm also impressed by the fact that, where possible, ingredients are sourced locally and packaging is 100% recyclable - yay for reducing carbon footprints! The $7.95 weekly subscription cost can be cancelled or suspended at any time, so there's no need to fret when you head to the French Riviera for your annual holiday (that's where we all go, right?!). It's great to see an innovative, small Aussie company doing things a wee bit differently and making our snack time a little more interesting and a lot healthier!

Want to try some for yourself? 
Harvest Box have kindly offered readers 50% off their first box. That's four snack packs for less than the price of my favourite coffee - pretty sweet!
Simply head to: ...and follow the prompts.

Full disclosure: Harvest Box provided their product to me free of charge. However, all opinions are entirely mine - pinky swear!

Monday, November 26, 2012

A relatively healthy start

And so the intuitive eating began on the weekend. Overall, I was not altogether displeased. While I over-indulged a wee bit at a friend's 30th barbecue celebrations, the weekend was generally packed with fruit, veggies and a reasonable amount of movement.

"What were the highlights?", I hear you ask. Behold! A collage of my weekend:

  1. Quick frozen veg and ham omelette with a sprinkling of hot paprika.
  2. Breakfast at Bear Brass - perfectly poached eggs around the table. Mine were enjoyed with a side of bacon and a skinny flat white. 
  3. Sampling of a new yoghurt - Roaming Cow. With a name like that, how could I possibly resist?! The verdict? Pretty tasty, but not overly sweet (two big ticks); however, I prefer my yoghurt a little less runny. 
  4. Mum's famous bruschetta (recipe here) hastily eaten on a Salada (hey, the price of tomatoes practically requires taking out a second mortgage right now - you've gotta be quick!).
  5. Breakfast smoothie: frozen banana, frozen blueberries, milk and a hefty dose of cinnamon. What does it spell? Delicious.
  6. A 4-and-a-bit kilometre run with my beloved - a PB for us too (that's personal best in sporty parlance) - we're now reaching such supersonic speeds as 6-7 minutes per kilometre. I know, I know, Usain, Yohan Blake you guys better watch it - I'm hot on your tail!
Bear Brass on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Time to lose it

For the last ten years my waist line has oscillated between healthy and a wee bit overweight. I have, at no point, been super skinny, nor have I been grossly overweight or obese. As a connoisseur of food, I found that the best way to manage my weight has been not to restrict. To eat what my body is craving, enjoy every mouthful and simply stop when I'm full. Intuitive eating, if you will. This eminently sensible approach fell by the wayside in late 2011 and 2012, as I focused on my rehabilitation and completing my studies, while juggling work commitments. I gave myself permission to indulge and medicate, to an extent, with comfort food....And you know what? I'm okay with that.


Having said that, it's now time to get back to being more aware of what I eat - cognisant of what my body's telling me about my state of hunger/fullness. It's time to start eating what I'm craving - not what I think I should eat. Basically, it's time to get my BMI down from 27 to 25 or less.

"What's driving this desire to change?", you may ask. Well, apart from the obvious (I'd prefer not to have to purchase a brand new wardrobe!), I'm slowly (slowly being the key word here!) getting into some longer distance running. I feel that carrying the extra kilos while pounding the pavement is not only bad for my knee, which is still slowly heeling, but also inhibits my strength and speed.

Accordingly, for the next few weeks (maybe months), I'll be sharing with you my progress, some of my eats and, of course, my fitness achievements, as I attempt to reduce that BMI by 2.

Many would question the timing of this decision - what, with all the Christmas goodies on offer right now. However, as I noted, this is not at all about restricting. If I'm craving a mince tart, then I'm going to have one. I'm going to enjoy every mouthful and stop eating it when I'm satisfied.


So, here we go guys - time to get back into shape and reconnect with my food and hunger at a deeper  level. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Three month recap

In early August (my last blog post), I marvelled at the fact that it had been 6 weeks since I had last blogged. I hate to say it - it's now been 15 weeks since my last post - over 3 months. Wow. I could pull out all the excuses at this point and claim I have been too busy...and, well, the truth is I have. But that's no fun. Instead, I'll share with you some of the fun bits of "busy" and assure you that normal blogging will resume as of right now. Here goes:


In August, we started to get our garden ready for Spring. Basically, for complete amateurs like us, this meant planting fruit and veggies and throwing down some mulch. We're currently growing strawberries, tomatoes, lemons, oranges, zucchini, chilli, garlic, avocado, passionfruit and a whole host of herbs. Having moved into a house with a beautiful established garden, we just couldn't bring ourselves to rip out a garden bed to make room for a veggie patch. Instead we've dotted our edibles around the garden in various pots and baskets. I'm pretty happy with the results.


I'm proud to announce that I have finally finished my MBA after 5 long years. Gone are the days where I whine about the pressures of study. Welcome back life!


The twelve months or so to mid-year were very much filled with jet-setting adventures. Since then, I've kept things pretty small scale and enjoyed some time with friends in beautiful Paynesville.


After completing a chocolate-making class, I'm honing my chocolatier skills - oh yes, everyone is getting choccies this Christmas!

I've also been increasingly dabbling (with the help of my beloved) in the art of barbecue and general carnivorous behaviour (look away now vegetarians!). Our most recent exploit: slow-cooked, sticky pork ribs.

Fun stuff


My beautiful best friend was married in early November. She opted for the most amazing wedding cake - not only a delight to look at, but a delight to eat! Check out the Three Sweet Treats webpage if you're interested in celebrating an occasion with a delicious work of art.

Girly stuff

Did you know that there's such a thing as magnetic nail polish? Well, there is. (The things you learn when you no longer have to study!) By holding a magnet to your fingernail as the polish is drying, one can create some pretty funky nail art...well, pretty funky for a first time user, at least!

Chilling out

At the end of the day, there's nothing better than coming home, putting up your feet and getting some kitty love!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Time flies...

Has it really been 6 weeks since I last blogged? How does time pass so quickly?

I thought I'd give everyone a quick run down of what's been happening in the ever busy, often crazy life of Georgia.

Since I last posted, we've settled on our new house and have started making some cosmetic changes to the place. Specifically, we're painting all rooms (white, white and more white, thank you!) and changing a few fixtures to modernise the place (photos forthcoming).

At the same time, I've started my last (I can't believe I can now say last!) semester of my MBA. Now that the light is well and truly at the end of the proverbial tunnel, I'm getting very excited about the prospect of reclaiming my evenings and weekends. At the time of my graduation, it will have been 5 years since I commenced post graduate study. Moreover, I have been working full time for the entire duration of the course. I must not get ahead of myself though, I still have two subjects to pass!

Now that we're "mortgaged" (it's kinda like married, but not as fun!) again, we've been trying to eat at home more regularly and bring our lunches to work to save money. This hasn't been as hard as we had initially anticipated. I'm particularly loving my Sunday afternoon cook-ups - huge quantities of casseroles, curries and fried rice have been especially popular for winter lunches.

We're not perfect savers, though - we've found more than a couple of excuses to eat out. Most notably, we spent a lovely, carnivorous evening at San Telmo. The chorizo and Estrelle Inedit (a wheat beer handcrafted by El Bulli) were particular highlights for me.
San Telmo on Urbanspoon

I'm super excited to announce boast about my completion of a 10km fun run in July. Prior to my knee reconstruction, I had great intentions of running a 5km event (see here and here), but my grand plans were twice foiled. The first event coincided with a Summer unit in which I was enrolled and the second was only days after I busted my knee.

I was convinced to sign up for the 10km distance in July, because my mate and running buddy claimed it would be "better value for money" (yes, I'm also not quite sure about that logic!). With virtually no training (the furthest I had run prior to the race was 2km!), I set myself a goal of getting through the first 5km without walking. At the 5km mark, my slow jog felt good. I reevaluated my objective and set myself a new target - 10km without walking. The pace was extremely slow (70-something minutes) and the blisters became excruciating, but I DID IT! Less than a year after my full knee reconstruction, I achieved a huge fitness milestone. I am so proud!

In the weeks since the fun run, I've started to really enjoy my jogging. I am, however, still struggling with blisters in the arches of my feet and would really appreciate any advice from readers on how to manage this.
So there you have it - the last six weeks of fabulous food and a little frolicking in a nutshell. Stay tuned for more running adventures, a tour of our new house and a restaurant/product review or two.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Gold Coast minimoon: Day 3

The third and final day of our minimoon started with a long sleep in, followed by a simple breakfast with a view. Knowing that a big lunch was on the cards, we picked up some quick and simple breakfast provisions that we could "cook" in our hotel room and enjoy on the balcony.

Fresh juice, cereal, porridge and yoghurt were too much for the two of us. Thankfully a local lorikeet came to our rescue.

After an espresso or two to kickstart the day and another stroll along the sand, it was time for the main event - lunch at RockSalt Modern Dining. The restaurant came highly recommended by a couple of friends and Gold Coast experts. Their raving, coupled with very positive online reviews led to high expectations from yours truly. I'm pleased to report that these were not only met, but exceeded.

RockSalt chef and co-owner, Matt Jefferson, has been consistently awarded for his Broadbeach eatery and it's little wonder why. The restaurant is sophisticated, yet casual. Waiters are simultaneously attentive and friendly. And the food? Well, it's quite simply outstanding!

Let's start from the start though, shall we? My beloved and I opted to take advantage of the $40 lunch special, including two entrées each (or in our case, four to share) and a glass of wine. Our waiter convinced us that the restaurant's freshly baked bread with goat's curd and confit garlic was worth a try.  An excellent decision. To be perfectly honest, I could have eaten loaf after loaf of the stuff.

Our next two dishes of the day were lighter seafood options. They may well have been light, but both were packed with flavour. In the past, I have tended to find squid ink pasta to be little more than a novelty (hey, look everyone, black pasta!); however, this dish was a triumph. The pasta had excellent bite and the accompanying crab and broth were fortified by a healthy dose of chilli and garlic. The fish, with its citrusy ponzu tang and spicy ginger, was likewise excellent.

Squid ink linguini w. spanner crab | Tataki fish, ponzu dressing, horseradish cloud

Our meat dishes were next. The minute steak dish was homely and warming (yes, even in sunny Queensland a little comfort food is nice in Winter). The carpaccio was the standout for me, though. The beef was silky and contrasted beautifully with the crunchy rosti and strong parmesan, red wine and horseradish flavours. I may well fly back up from Melbourne just to eat this dish again. AMAZING!

Minute steak, creamed potato mash, tempura onion rings | Rare peppered beef carpaccio, potato rosti, truffled horseradish

Delighted by the quality of our lunch, there was no choice - we had to try dessert. I don't think this photo even requires an explanation, but I do think you need to see this baby from every possible angle.

Dark chocolate and peanut butter marquise, exploding rock candy, salted caramel, hazelnut ice-cream

And what, I hear you ask, was the price of these gastronomic delights? Scarcely over $100 - an absolute bargain for the quality of this very special meal for two.  
What a great way to end our minimoon! Thank you RockSalt, you rock(salt?)!

RockSalt Modern Dining on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Gold Coast minimoon: Day 2

Our second day on Queensland's southern coast started with a buffet breakfast and a quick walk over to Pacific Fair. The brief shopping trip was required as each of us had forgotten to pack a certain critical item - for my beloved, his sunglasses; for me, a second t-shirt (for some reason 20 degree temperatures translated to long-sleeved t-shirts in my metereologically-challenged mind...oops!). The trusty Red Circle Boutique (AKA Target) quickly satisfied our shopping needs and we made our way straight to the beach. For the most part, our morning was spent meandering at a snail pace towards Surfers Paradise.

After arriving at our destination, we were stoked to find that the Surfers Paradise festival organisers had erected a stage and marquee on the beach. We kicked back and listened to a couple of bands rehearsing for a gig later in the day and, believe it or not, made sandcastles.

Apparently sandcastle construction requires much energy, because we were utterly famished upon completion (I know what you're thinking: these two should give up their day jobs and opt for a career in design...!). We made our way up Cavill Avenue in search of some lunch, craving real comfort food. Cheesy nachos with pulled pork and beer fit the bill. Despite having pretty low expectations of Hard Rock Cafe fare generally, the food here was surprisingly fresh, tasty and reasonably priced. We split a starter and couldn't even finish the dish. 

Hard Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

Bellies full, we set off to do something tacky and childish (when in Surfers, right?!). Our choice of activity was a hotly contested topic. I wanted to check out Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, which we had visited many years prior and thoroughly enjoyed. My beloved, on the other hand, felt like some game play at Timezone. He was victorious. As much as I protested, I have to say that we had a brilliant time mucking around on the air hockey tables and whacking alligators.

The afternoon was sweetened further by a visit to Royal Copenhagen Ice Cream. The waffle cones were being made before our eyes and were the perfect crunchy complement to the silky and intense ice cream flavours.

After a wander through the Surfers Paradise market (part of the Surfers Paradise Festival, I believe), we set off for our hotel. Our evening was busy, but unremarkable: a quick dip in the hotel jacuzzi to start, followed by a very disappointing dinner at Bistro On3 (so disappointing that no photos were even taken... *gasp*), and a very small flutter at Jupiters Casino.  Overall, a wonderful second day of our honeyminimoon.

On3 on Urbanspoon