The other day I went for a wander to the shops to find the perfect birthday dress. I wanted something 50s styled, preferably in mint green. Then I passed a cat dress and any sensible dress ideas went out the window. Isn’t it wonderful?! However I do draw the line at a cat wearing a bow tie, fortunately this part is detachable.
A pair of Charlotte Olympia cat shoes has been on my wish-list for a very long time but at over AU$700 a pair I think I need to be content with just admiring.
This is ridiculous. I kind of think I need a cat-ular. Yes, that’s a cat spatular. The fact that it guarantees you a purr-fect breakfast just tops it off.
If you want to embrace the cat look on a more low-key level, then perhaps some cat eye sunglasses are more appropriate.
More cat stuff here!
Here is Part 2 of my eating in Vietnam photo-log. This covers from Hoi An up to Hanoi, via Halong Bay.
I was awoken at 4am in Hoi An to go on a sunrise bike ride. I was initially a bit shakey and nearly rode a woman off a bridge into the river. Oops! I managed to make it to the fish market in one piece, and there is nothing better than starting your day off with the stench of fish :)
My bike riding skillz were rewarded with a delicious Vietnamese coffee – hot and strong espresso with a generous layer of sweetened condensed milk at the bottom. Heaven!
A home cooked breakfast by a local consisting of a spring roll, spicy noodles, sliced pork, peanuts, coriander and a wee quail’s egg.
More bike riding in the heat had me running for cover mid-morning and in need of a refreshing and caffeinated drink. This is iced Vietnamese coffee and I drank it at least once every day in Vietnam. It’s delicious and refreshing and my go-to drink this summer (although I fear having a tube of condensed milk in the fridge will be very dangerous).
This coconut tart from The Cargo Club was so delicious I actually ate it for morning tea everyday I was in Hoi An. Oops!
Bánh xèo, a crispy pancake which is a speciality of Hoi An.
Bánh mì!! I swear I could live on these. This one consisted of crunchy pork, pickled veges, coriander and lots of chili!
A visit to the Central Market in Hoi An was a whirlwind of colour and smell.
Ummm “green things”. Any ideas??
Fish fish everywhere!
On our overnight junk boat trip on Halong Bay we had the most beautifully presented dishes – I almost felt bad eating each work of art!
Freshly caught crabs
Look at the beautiful border of vegetables on this calamari dish! Gorgeous.
The prawns came out adorning the most beautifully hand carved vegetable centrepiece. We were given a demonstration the next morning and I took step-by-step photos – will post them soon.
The bird was carved from a radish, and the flowers from a chili and cucumber.
This beautiful flower was carved from a carrot.
This fishnet was also carved from a carrot!
A lady selling fruit in Hanoi
Fried dough! This is served everywhere on the streets of Hanoi in a variety of flavours and textures.
And a final meal in Vietnam of caramelised pork and veges – delicious!
I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of what I ate on my Vietnam trip, I’m hungry!
I have slowly started trawling through the 1000+ photos I took in Vietnam and will be sharing more with you soon. Turns out I took so many photos of food in Vietnam I will have to do this post in 2 parts – Vietnam is a foodie paradise after all!
Fresh tropical fruit is in abundance and regularly served after meals. Here is a plate of rambutans I snacked on.
Little bananas being sold from a street cart in Ho Chi Minh
Dragon fruit at a local market in Ho Chi Minh
Meals were simple and small in rural areas. This was my lunch enroute to the Mekong Delta and I was starving within an hour!
I sampled some snake wine in the Mekong. It is produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine and tastes, um, snakey.
Delicious homemade springrolls from my homestay host.
I came across these ladies sorting fruit in a village in the Mekong Delta. They kept giggling and staring at me and my translator informed me they thought I looked like a doll and they liked my nose. Also, would I like to spend my life working with them, sorting fruit? I politely declined.
On a side note, everyone squats here. They must have thighs on steal! I only had to use a squat toilet once and 30 seconds in the position had me whimpering.
I visited a candy factory in the Mekong where they produced all sorts of Vietnamese treats. First they demonstrated splitting the coconut and extracting it’s milk. This would then be used in a coconut caramel.
Rice was cooked over a high heat in what looked like a giant wok until puffed.
The puffed rice was then mixed with a flavouring (coconut caramel or savoury) and pressed out flat onto a board to cut up.
The ladies then wrapped up the puffed rice squares for sale.
Finished treats ready to be sampled. Delicious!
I also watched a lady making rice paper wraps, a fiddly process that she made look effortless.
I ate stir fried Morning Glory with nearly every meal – so fresh and delicious!
You can’t visit Vietnam without many bowls of delicious Pho.
Wandering through local markets in any Vietnamese city is always fascinating. Here we have all the garlic and onions you could ever want.
Dried starfish. I am not sure if they eat these, but can’t help but think they would make a pretty (albeit stinky) Christmas tree ornament.
The markets are often an assault on the senses, particularly when you hate the smell of fish. Let alone dried prawns that have been sitting in the sun all day.
Pufferfish! Another addition to my fishy Christmas tree?
I stumbled upon a delicious looking feast at a temple, perhaps this is laid out for the monks?
At a fishing village near Nha Trang I saw a darling little girl frying quail eggs in a mini pan. Heart melted.
And as we took the boat back to Nha Trang we were presented with a great spread to feast on full of spring rolls, freshly caught seafood and veges.
I hope you enjoyed some of these Vietnamese foodie highlights, stay tuned for part 2 !
I woke up early on Saturday morning with a mixture of excitement and stress. It was the day of the Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas Picnic – hooray for catching up with friends, meeting new people and eating delicious food. But I hadn’t baked anything! After the success of my ginger cupcakes at the last Food Bloggers Picnic I knew I had to create something equally delicious. I settled on my spiced cookies with salted caramel buttercream.
The cookies came out of the oven fragrant and crunchy from their raw sugar coating. It took all my willpower not to devour several whilst I waited for them to cool down!
I sandwiched them together with salted caramel buttercream and they looked delish! But alas as the salted caramel took forever to cool down I was running late…
I must admit I spent far too much time socialising and eating instead of taking photos of all the delicious food, but here is a sample of some of the delicious creations!
First up we have a gorgeous Strawberry Fresh Cream Cake (shaped like a Pig) by Jen Is Hungry
Delicious krokets by Irenes Getting Fat
Cookie Dough Dip with Apple and Biscuits by Cooking Crusade
Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies by Spoonfuls of Goodness
Rhubarb Meringue Tarts by Muppy (these were heavenly!)
Homemade Cheese Plate (!!) by Nic Cooks - I didn’t get to try any of Nic’s delicious looking homemade cheeses nooo!! Feel free to make some more?? :)
Thai Chicken Wonton Cups by The Sticky and Sweet. These were absolutely delicious, I must get the recipe!
Vegan Pumpkin Pie with a Quinoa Crust by 84th & 3rd. I am often sceptical of vegan desserts as I feel the more butter and eggs the better, but JJ’s pie was delicious! And she ensured it had no nuts so I could safely devour it hooray!
Donuts! I have no idea who bought these but thankyou. I love donuts :)
Thanksgiving Turkeys by Gucci & Gyoza. So adorable!
A quick glance of my container and half the cookies had promptly disappeared. They were shortly polished off as sun + buttercream are not friends and things got really messy really quickly!!
And of course the obligatory group shot!
♥ Collecting pastel nail polishes (addicted)
♥ Matching my nail colour to my fruit
♥ Matching my nail colour to my new blog design
♥ Especially when the cat likes to sit on your toilet
♥ Doing a chocolate making class! (read more about the day here)
♥ Learning how to temper chocolate
♥ Eating naughty food. Hot dogs and chili cheese fries from The Snag Stand
♥ More naughty lunches! Pork belly from Slip Inn. Working in the city is dangerous
♥ Eating healthy homemade food to offset the naughtiness. Lean lamb meatballs with quinoa salad.
♥ DRY ICE! Especially when it’s applied to gelato. Finally made it to N2 Extreme Gelato :D
♥ Going for a run and seeing this beautiful sunset over the park. Makes exercise that bit more bearable.
What is making you happy right now?
This month’s theme on SABH is Cake & Three Veg. I toyed with the idea of a chocolate-beetroot cake or a chocolate and avocado mousse but after eying off the lonely carrots rattling around the bottom of my fridge I decided to perfect my carrot cake recipe.
The initial plan – a two layered dense and moist carrot cake sandwiched together and covered in coconut cream cheese icing. If you are making a cake, then why is there a photograph of cupcakes Swah? I am sure you are wondering. Well, there was a little disaster.
I find a lot of dessert blogs consistently produce profesional looking, beautifully shot and styled desserts without ever touching on the inevitable situation of a dessert-related-complete-freaking-disaster. I must admit I rarely encounter anything too disastrous in my kitchen. I am organised and meticulous when baking and generally escape unscathed. Not this time.
I followed my tweaked recipe to a T, baked the 2 cakes in the oven and let them cool down over night. I whipped up a batch of my cream cheese icing with coconut essence, it tasted delicious. I put my first layer down onto my pretty cake stand, then spooned over 1/3 of the icing. Wonderful. I then placed my second layer on top. The perfectionist in me noticed it was slightly off-centre and I stupidly trying to gently lift it up and readjust. One of the great things about this carrot cake is how moist it is, however this worked against me when trying to shift things.
“Icing will fix everything!” I thought as worrying cracks started forming in the top layer. I had iced the top of the cake and was working my way around the sides as carefully as possible when slowly but surely, my beautiful cake started collapsing in slow motion. Sob!
But don’t worry this delicious cake didn’t go to waste! The remnants were piled into a tupperware container and promptly devoured.
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- ½ tsp bicarb soda
- 2 cups self raising flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 cups finely grated Carrot (about 4 large carrots)
- ½ cup pecans, finely chopped
- 600g sifted icing sugar (4-5 cups)
- 100g butter at room temperature
- 250g cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 tsps coconut essence
- Shredded coconut to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line the bases of 2 x 20 cm cake tins with bake paper and grease the sides with butter.
- Beat the brown sugar and oil together until combined. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Sift in flour, spices and bicarb, and add grated carrot and pecans. Stir to combine.
- Divide the batter evenly amongst the 2 cake tins.
- Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Allow the cakes to cool slightly in their tins before turning out onto a tray to cool completely.
- Cream the butter and icing sugar together until well mixed.
- Add the cream cheese in cubes slowly until incorporated.
- Add in the coconut essence and continue mixing for 5 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy.
- Using an offset spatula, spread ⅓ of the icing on top of the first cake layer.
- Place the second cake on top (upside down) and dollop the remaining ⅔ of the icing on top of the cake. Using the offset spatula, begin to smooth the icing out across the top and over the sides of the cake.
- Decorate with shredded coconut.
Have you had any complete disasters in the kitchen recently? How did you manage to salvage it?
I often get asked by friends and family for my tips on nabbing a cheap fare. Sometimes you get rewarded for planning ahead and careful organisation, other times you just get lucky and manage to grab an awesome fare! Regardless, these ideas will help make securing a cheap deal much easier.
♥ Book early
Take advantage of earlybird sale fares by booking your flights as far out as possible. By planning ahead and booking early you can make some serious savings, particularly if you are travelling close to Christmas or during school holidays.
♥ Be flexible with your flight dates
Flexibility with your dates of travel is the key to finding cheap flights. The more flexible you are with your travel dates, the more you can take advantage of cheap flights when they go on sale. But don’t worry, you can still get a great deal if your dates are more restrictive – it just takes a little more work!
♥ Fly with lesser known airlines
Consider flying lesser known or emerging airlines such as Etihad, Vietnam Airlines or China Southern. This also gives you a good opportunity to enjoy a stopover in another country along the way.
♥ Sign up to airline newsletters
Airline newsletters are a great way to find out about early-bird specials and the latest sale fares to the most popular international and domestic destinations.
♥ Follow airlines on social media
Like airlines on Facebook and follow them on Twitter – they sometimes offer exclusive sales to fans and followers.
♥ Fly outside of peak travel periods
Research your chosen destinations’ peak and off-peak times and try and plan around major holidays. Ticket prices are set according to demand, so the cheapest tickets can be found on the days with the least demand. Consider flying mid-week to get a cheaper fare.
♥ Consider alternate airports
Expand your search to include secondary airports. Small budget airlines often don’t fly to major airports, but to nearby secondary ones. Those budget airlines are often much cheaper than the bigger ones. Also consider avoiding large international airports such as London and start your Europe trip in Frankfurt or Amsterdam to avoid the high airport taxes.
Several food bloggers and I (Tara, Sophie, Mel, Christine and Megan) were in Adelaide prior to the start of EDB and decided we needed to trial one of Adelaide’s many dessert bars. After a quick scour through Urbanspoon a few days prior, we settled on the newly opened Astonish Patisserie.
We were warmly welcomed and led to a table where we promptly buried our noses into the delicious sounding menu. We finally decided on the Chocolate Magma Cake, Pavlova, Panna Fire, Half-Cooked Cheese Cake and macarons (all for research purposes of course!)
Half Cooked Cheesecake $15.00
This was a delicious combination of biscuit crumbs, fruit and “half cooked cheesecake” which was almost like a creme brulee. I probably stole more than my fair share of this!
A deconstructed pavlova consisting of meringue, cream, strawberries and mint. Light and heavenly! I think I will be making a similar dessert to this a lot over summer.
Chocolate Magma Cake $14.00
This cake featured Belgium chocolate soft cake with a side vanilla chantilly and blue berries. It oozed oh so sexily when cut into but I felt it was a little dry on the inside. Needs more ooze!
Macarons, assorted flavours
Well they looked pretty but I can’t eat them. Hmf.
Pana Fire – $18.00
There was a lot of drama surrounding this dessert with the bombe alaska lit at the table. This dessert featured vanilla pana cotta, rhubarb jelly, pistachio bombe alaska and brandy snap. There were a lot of contrasting flavours going on here which I found a little overwhelming, however I loved the pana cotta and the brandy snap!
We had a wonderful afternoon with great company and delicious treats. I really hope this dessert bar trend spreads to Sydney soon.
I am back now from an amazing and exhausting long weekend in Adelaide for the Eat Drink Blog Conference. I am yet to go through my photos on my DSLR yet (I still haven’t even gone through my Vietnam ones… *cough*) but for now you can check out some highlights courtesy of Instagram.
I stayed with my friend Alex for the first night and I was provided with a hooded English flag onesie to sleep in – the height of fashion!
Knowing I had a weekend chock full of eating ahead I went for a healthy lunch on Friday at Galaxy which featured a delicious eggplant and potato filo and generous helpings of salad.
I then met up with a group of bloggers at Astonish Patisserie and we feasted on a variety of amazing desserts including a half-baked cheesecake, chocolate fondant, macarons and pavlova. It was all delicious!
I waddled to meet a friend at Botanic Bar for a cocktail (loved it) before meeting my other friends at Est Pizzeria - the pizza was delicious but the star of the meal was the wood fired gnocci. Oh my goodness.
I was so full I could barely breathe but that didn’t stop us from going to Chocolate Bean for dessert! Look at the array of gorgeous treats! And they also had an amazing gingerbread hot chocolate but I could only manage a sip, I was on struggle street.
We first had a tour of the Adelaide Central Market. I was dying of jealousy, why don’t we have something like this in central Sydney? Come on guys!
We hopped on buses, some off to the Barossa and my group was off to McLaren Vale! It was a gorgeous day.
We visited the D’Arenberg winery and did a wine blending class! I don’t usually drink red so I fear my “special blend” may be hideous. Regardless, I have lugged it home and am forcing my Dad to drink it.
My favourite part of blending was that we got to play with dry ice!!
And then we got to drink bubbles! My favourite.
Then it was back to the hotel for a quick outfit change and off to the Hilton for an amazing dinner. The menu was insane! I loved pretty much everything except the ginger snow cones, which confused me.
We were up early again for Day 2 and were greeted with a delicious array of pastries from Red Door Bakery
We did a food styling class with Fiona Roberts which was fun. I need more props!
Then we went downstairs to the markets again, where they had opened for us on a Sunday to serve us a VERY special lunch. I ate so much amazing bread, butter, cheese and cured meats.
There was a delicious chocolate fountain by Providore and MORE dry ice! Yes!
After a few more talks it was suddenly afternoon tea time and despite being completely stuffed I managed to sneak in a few cupcakes and cake pops from The Cupcake Table!
What an amazing and filling weekend. I had so much fun, learned a lot, met loads of new people and I cannot wait to return to Adelaide again soon. Thank you Tourism South Australia!
Hope everyone is having a Happy Halloween and eating lots of treats. I didn’t have time to bake for Halloween this year (sad face) but fortunately my awesome and talented friend Alison created some spectacular cupcakes using my recipes that she has allowed me to share with you!
She used my Devilishly Decadent Devil’s Food Cupcake recipe for the chocolate cupcake base with my Vanilla Buttercream tinted orange and black fondant for the decorations. Another tasty option is to use my Lemon Buttercream recipe and substitute the lemons for oranges. Chocolate and orange is always a winning combination!
And Henri, the cat filled with ennui… and Party Mix, is now back with another video in time for Halloween! He is not a fan of Halloween, “No one ever dresses as crippling self-doubt” hehe.
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