Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas House Tour 2013

Merry Christmas!

For the majority of Jen's readers, Christmas is synonymous with winter, snow, cold and things like hot chocolate, sledding and snowmen. For those of us in the southern hemisphere, it's all about sun, sand, surf... and well, summer.

Until I was 20, I'd had as many white Christmases, as I had had summer ones. Neither was strange to me, but I always felt a little bit more Christmas spirit when it snowed.
Unfortunately, that's not an option in New Zealand, so I guess I'll just have to put up with the sunshine, and 84F weather... (I'll take or leave the 90% humidity that's hitting us at the moment!!)
(Anyone jealous yet?)

In NZ, Christmas means BBQ's at the beach, seafood dinners and a day of family time out in the sun - maybe a game of cricket, or rugby....
In my family, we do things a little differently - a but more traditional - but then I'm a first generation Kiwi - both my parents were born in England, and one of them was brought up there too.

So we do our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve - usually a roast Chicken with all the trimmings, and a more Kiwi spin on dessert - Pavolva. Then on Christmas Day we cook the ham, and lounge around.

Christmas started early for me this year, way back in late October when we started preparing for the local Santa Parade. The school I work at took part, as we do every year, and we worked hard this year to complete a float made out of recycled materials.

This glorious tree was the centre piece:

A week or so before school ended for the year (remember, our summer vacation happens now, over Christmas!)I started baking....

Reindeer for the children I teach

Trees and stars for some of the teachers at work...

And little goody bags of cookies for the teachers in the same team as me at work.

I love Christmas time in NZ - and as a teacher, I'm especially spoiled. Fancy morning teas (you know summer in approaching when someone brings out the chocolate covered strawberries!!), gorgeous gifts from children...

I received these lovely cupcakes from a child in my class - her mum owns a fantastic cupcake shop!
Clockwise from top left: Turkish Delight (it was gorgeous - I think there was rose water in the icing!), Lemon and Passionfruit (my favourite); Chocolate; Vanilla.
Aren't they stunning?

I'll finish off with a selection of photos of the Christmas decorations at my house - kind of what this whole tour is about! However, I hope in the first part, I've given you all a taste of what Christmas is like for me in New Zealand!

 (Please ignore the state of my garden!! It's in the process of being re-done.. and during the almost tropical downpours we've been having lately, the weeds have gone into overtime growing!!)

 A gingerbread house that I helped a friend make - certainly not beautiful, but a LOT of fun!!)

And we'll finish up with the tree at my parents house - a lovely real one too!!

I wish you all a joyful and safe Christmas season, with love, laughter, friends and family.

- C

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nigella's Turkey Meatballs with Tomato Sauce - my version

Nigella's Turkey Meatball recipe is all over the internet, so if you want the original recipe - just google it - or buy her books - can't remember which book this recipe is in.. but all her recipes are worth checking out anyway.


For the sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 carrot, finely grated (put aside half for the meatballs)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 x 400g/14oz cans chopped plum tomatoes, plus approximately 2 full cans of water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes + black pepper to taste
  • chicken stock - I use 1 of those little jellied pot things of chicken stock that you can get now
For the meatballs
  • 250g turkey mince
  • 250g chicken mince
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp dried thyme

Preparation method

  1. For the sauce, finely grate 1 whole carrot. Reserve half of the mixture for the meatballs.
    Finely slice 1 clove of garlic
  2. Warm the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or casserole, add the garlic and carrot, along with the thyme, and cook at a moderate to low heat, stirring every now and again, for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cans of plum tomatoes, filling up each empty can with water to add to the pan. In one of the cans of water, stir in the chicken stock jelly. Season with the sugar, salt and pepper, stir well and let the mixture come to a bubble, then turn the heat down and simmer the sauce gently.
  4. For the meatballs, put all the ingredients for the meatballs, including the reserved carrot and salt according to preference, into a large bowl and gently mix together with your hands.
  5. When all the meatball ingredients are mixed, start rolling them into balls.
  6. Drop the meatballs gently into the simmering sauce; Like Nigella suggests, I put them in in circles around the outside of the pan.
  7. Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for 30 minutes, or until cooked through. Serve with spaghetti.

Top with parmesan and finely sliced basil.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cooking Catch-up

Obviously I've been ignoring this blog for a little while.... oops!
And it's not that I haven't been cooking - I have! Heaps! I've even been taking photos - except all I do is instagram them, or post them on facebook.
But a friend recently suggested to me, that since I post so many food photos, I should start a food blog... yeah, already have one of those... just don't post on it!!

So, here's what I've been up to the last few months:

I made upside down gingerbread men Reindeer cookies for the kids I teach, just before Christmas.

I made a cake for a friends impromptu engagement party/picnic.
It was three layers of ombre'd pink, with vanilla buttercream between, and covered in fondant.

 Two cakes to order for staff birthdays - both neopolitan - chocolate, vanilla and strawberry layers, with vanilla buttercream, and fondant.
Another cake to order - Chocolate Guinness cake, with chocolate ganache between 4 layers, and covered in chocolate ganache buttercream, with chocolate shavings. 
I can't remember what sort of cupcakes these were - chocolate of some kind, with what I'll assume is a vanilla buttercream. Ah! And chocolate ganache piped into the centres. Now I remember... they were yum!

Roast pumpkin, kumara and carrot with rocket, feta and bacon. So good! (With a mustardy dressing.)

Pumpkin, Spinach, Feta and oven roasted Tomato Quiche, with Guacamole and Tomato chutney.

Caramelised lime Prawn soft shell tacos, with tomato chutney, guacamole, rocket and lime sourcream.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Homes Tour 2011

Once again, thatnks to Jen for organising this 'event' - I love having a peak into everyone elses Christmas world..... it's my favourite time of year afterall!!!
So Jen, thank you. I know it's more work than you probably intended for it to me, but we all do really appreciate it! It certainly spreads around a little bit of Christmas cheer.

So, on with the show.
Christmas 2011 - not that different from Christmas 2010.
(Warning: VERY picture heavy - I had a hard time deciding on pictures!!)

The pictures aren't... brilliant quality. Due to using my phone camera, to the lighting, to rushing around trying to get pictures.....

 My advent wreath - it's missing the greenery that is kind of required for the symbolism of new life... but it has the right candles, in the right colours, and I've been lighting it... so I think that that is what is important. I love having this lit at night. I love the ceremony of lighting a new candle every Sunday of advent... I'm looking forward to lighting the Christ Candle on Christmas Day.

These are the same candles as last year, but the Robin in the middle was a gift from one of my students. He's adorable!!
 Up close, and very dark photo of the Robin.

I'm from the family of 'put lights on everything that stands still'.... I love stringing lights around indoor trees at Christmas. It doesn't matter if they're not the Christmas tree - but wouldn't this make a delightful one!!!! (If only those leaves would hold decorations.)

The tree - it's a bit... skinny this year, but unfortunatly, there wasn't an awful lot to choose from!!! I do like it's height though.

 Bad Santa - also a gift, not from a student though!!!! When you squeeze his hand he makes rude comments. I jsut hung him on a picture hook that was there - I took a picture off the wall as I didn't want the tree to ruin it!

Again... light up every tree you can. Luckily, there was a lights sale on at a local budget store!

Please ignore the masses of cabling in the background!

 The tree from a different angle, and my sister, comfy on the couch and over for a movie night.

 Nativity 1: I love this one. The candle is in place of Jesus, who will be put out on Christmas Eve.

 Nativity 2

 My vase of ornaments.

  Nativity 3

 The cards. It's a trerrible photo. But what you can't see is that the strings go all the way around the glass railing, so there's cards on both sides. I've also added strings down the stairs again this year, so there's now cards hanging down there too.

 My only kitchen Christmas decorations this year - the oven mit, and a red teatowel.

 The old door wreath, around a potted plant, and next to it, a star candle.

 Front door

 The outdoor lights this year. The colourful ones took some getting up... and are plugged in upstairs, and then hung out through a window. The ones wrapped around the post are solar lights - so much easier!!!
One last look at the tree. The gifts are starting to pile up under there!

One last bit of Christmas cheer - you can tell it's summer - look at those summery clothes! (though, not as hot as it has been in the past.. it's been a slow lead up to summer this year.)
We were having a bit of fun in the shops the other day. I promise they were having fun... even if they look utterly miserable in this pic!