Christmas looms large. I am counting down the days til I have some holidays. Two weeks seems long but they will be behind me quickly. I have been cooking more but still finding it difficult to find time for blogging. I am loving stone fruit. Cherries! Nectarines! Peaches! Smoothies! Life is not back to pre-pandemic normal because it will always have its own odd moments. Covid numbers are surging but quite a few festive activities have returned this year. I am in the odd situation with work Christmas parties where I still haven't settled enough into my new job to know many people (thanks working from home) but will go to my former workplace's Christmas party to see lots of familiar faces. November brought disappointing news that all the plastic we had been dropping off at supermarkets for recycling is instead just mouldering in warehouses. And the weather continues to mess with our heads. Spring finished at the end of November with not one day reaching 30 C for the first time since 2001. Every now and again it gets warm and then the cold weather returns and mocks us for putting away our winter clothes. Today is 27 C and tomorrow will be 17 C. Honestly, I am not missing the heatwaves but am a bit sad at how freshly cut Christmas trees are so much smaller this year thanks to the weather.
Above is a selection of festive food we have been enjoying. Pfeffernusse are an old favourite. So is White Christmas though Sylvia does not think she has had it before. (Surely she has!) The raspberry and vanilla pudding was nice but I really should have served it with custard. The chocolate santa was rather nice. And the little gingerbread house ornament is pretty cute!
Shortbread is such a Christmas treat. This packet was chocolate covered and the quality we have come to expect from Walkers. Delish!
Sylvia decided to have a go at making these rice krispie treat Christmas trees. They were very nice but a bit soft to hold on the stick like an icy pole!
The sticks we used were these green pocky. The packet is adorable. The overly chemical apple flavour was not.
More pleasing was this Pavlova kombucha. It didn't really taste like pavlova. This is no surprise given that pavolva is toothachingly sweet and kombucha is rather tart flavoured. But I was amused that they even tried the flavour. Apologies for the odd photo with the lid blurred out. That was one camera experiment that did not work as expected! You might notice that every photo stars my wooden kitchen table, demonstrating how little time I have had for photography!
Sylvia was very happy to buy a grinch Christmas mug. She loves the 2018 animated Grinch move. We have watched a lot of Christmas tv and the Grinch has been on a lot. The hot chocolate with nozzle cream, marshmallows and sprinkles has not been such a common occurrence. Sylvia would love another gingerbread shaped kinder surprise but it seems the surprise was that it was a once only!
I made gingerbread pancakes with blackberry sauce recently for brunch. They were delicious even though we were having such as slow day that our brunch was at about 2pm. I was not happy with the photo and hope to make them again and blog them with my version but for now you can link to the New York Times version.
More festive purchases. Baby crackers! Sylvia has plans for these. Not sure if there are plans for the icing decorations. The white chocoolate flavoured chocolate is amazing. Actually White Christmas is so sweet and intense that a block or two of this chocolate is about the amount that it should always be served.
A sign that I am cooking more is that I have made a couple of batches of my favourite sourdough bread
. My sourdough starter got so neglected and grey and smelly that I threw it out recently and took on some of my mum's starter (which actually came from my starter so it is still in the family). It has been lovely to get back into a familiar routine and enjoy the sound of just baked sourdough bread crackling on the wire rack and eat a soft fresh slice of the bread.
I have made Celia's sourdough bread recipe so much that I had stopped needing to consult the recipe. After many months break from the recipe, I had to go back to my notes. Unfortunately they were written many years ago and I had to remember how I had developed my procedure. I made the bread twice with beeswax over the dough for the overnight rise. The one above was a warmer morning when it rose monstrously and had to be scrapped and washed off the beeswax. After that I saw my cat fabric bowl covers and remembered that this was what I had been using recently. A reminder I need to update those notes!
Longtime readers might remember I love trying new products with vegemite. I pounced on these Le Snak cheesy Vegemite snacks that reminded me of the days I would buy Le Snak for snacks for work and later for Sylvia when she was little. The cheesy dip is an odd beige colour, yet again showing how vegemite can result in odd colourings when you mix it into foods. But true to form it tastes lovely when dipping the biscuits into the cheey vegemite dip. A bit of a novelty but good fun.
Imagine dinner dreamed up by a 13 year old. Would it be spaghetti, tofu bacon, melted cheese and garlic stuffed potato balls. This is the sort of beige comfort food that is very welcome after arriving home from work on my bike feeling totally wrung out by a busy day. It might have had more colour if we had had more tomato sauce to stir through the pasta and over the potato balls.
Here is my attempt at making the carb on carb delight of spaghetti on toast a little healthier. The toast was spread with avocado, then topped with chopped cherry tomatoes, chopped olives, spaghetti and grated cheese. I also added some capsicum, cucumber, carrots to make myself feel healthy. But who was I kidding! For all the additional vegies, this was really about crispy cheesy spaghetti under the grill.
This was one of my fave meals recently. I made a cherry walnut lentil salad (sort of based on this salad) which was pretty good except it needed more balsamic vinegar but I ran out. I served it with corn chips, pickle and yoghurt dip, cherry tomatoes and microwaved asparagus. Really good!
Finally, one of the biggest political stories was the Victorian Labour party romping back into power, with Premier Dan Andrews in his historic 3rd term of government. Compare this with the LNP opposition whose newly elected leader had to confirm a very close victory before putting himself forward for the leadership. I voted on the day at our beautiful primary school art deco hall which comes with a long queue, a cake sale and a sausage sizzle. Luckily I put $20 in my pocket before forgetting my wallet. The above photo shows what $20 will buy: a gingerbread man, piece of rice krispie slice, some caramel slice a cactus cupcake, a chocolate crackle top biscuit and a slab of Smalt's amazing Caramel Fudge with smoked salt. If I had remembered my wallet I would have also bought a vegan sausage, even though at $6 they were twice the price of meat sausages. Another time!
And speaking of politics, a few stories to make your jaw drop to the floor: Violet Coco in prison for holding up the traffic on Sydney Harbour Bridge in a 25 minute demonstration, our former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison was shamed with a parliamentary censure for taking on 5 secret ministries, and most sadly, Britney Higgins who has bravely spoken out about her alleged rape has had her trial abandoned and her mental health is too poor for her to continue to a retrial. No wonder we need Christmas to cheer ourselves up!
I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event. If you would like to
join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the
month. Or just head over to her blog to visit more kitchens and her gorgeous festive hand drawn header.