Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bring back the Dinner Party! But first, a giveaway.

This post is bought to you in collaboration with Corelle.

I might be showing my age here, but back in the early '90s Mr BC (then fiance C) and I would host many dinner parties. We would crank up the Sade, and treat our guests to a pre-dinner cocktail followed by several courses of rich, overly prepared, adventurous courses all matched carefully with wines because we were utter wine snobs. To finish, there would always be chocolates and port, accompanied by an argumentative game of Pictionary into the wee hours of the morning. Ahhhh, good times!

I tell you this because Corelle have released a YouTube series called 'The Tipsy Hostess' and I thought it was an absolute crack up!  Tiffany is the hostess with the mostess. It reminded me of several episodes of bad behaviour, (probably from me) but also from one notoriously childish grown up. He complained loudly that his spoon was Not A Proper Soup Spoon, and flounced off to the kitchen to throw the offending spoon into the sink before selecting a new spoon and returning to the table to slurp his soup in huffy indignation. He had selected the spoon we used to feed the cat, a fact neither the fiance or myself offered as we sat there in smug silence and let him enjoy his soup.

Here is episode 1, but make sure you also catch episodes 2 and 3. Hilarious!

Corelle is the original break and chip resistant dinnerware, known for it's legendary toughness. I can see it has a lot in common with Tiffany! You can follow Tiffany's exploits here, she has plenty of tips for hosting the perfect evening! Corelle dinnerware is perfect for flighty dinner guests, fractious children, camping disasters, and maybe even tantrum throwing hosts. It's also very reasonably priced if you are just starting out on your dinner party journey.

Corelle would like to give away a dining set to the person with the best tip for hosting a dinner party, entry is via Rafflecopter below. If you can't think of any tips, just tell me something you would cook for your ideal dinner party, or a story about a dinner party you've hosted, or attended. The winner can choose from either South Beach or Ruby Red, and Corelle will ship it to you directly; hopefully in time for your next dinner party! The winner will be drawn on Monday 22nd December. 

South Beach or Ruby Red? 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is not sponsored, but Corelle did send me the South Beach dinner set to try, and I absolutely love it. It is fresh and summery, and I don't have to worry about the monkeys breaking it or teenage daughter chipping it as she angrily unloads the dishwasher. Thanks Corelle!

Monday, December 8, 2014

In the Sack: 15 Ideas for stunning Christmas Canapes

Today I am blogging for Agent Mystery Case's In The Sack series, which is all about making Christmas easier and surviving the silly season, hopefully with your sanity (and dignity!) intact. Pop over to Agent Mystery Case for some great giveaways! 

Do you like a fancy hors d'oeuvre? Me too. I know Christmas is all about the feast, and you certainly won't need anything extra to nosh on prior to lunch; it's just that an impressive little mouthful goes a long way to set the scene for civilized frivolity; I kind of think it encourages people to be on their best behaviour. Besides, it soaks up the pre-lunch cocktail like no one's business. Here are 15 ideas to add some pizzazz to your Christmas day, and keep the rellos out of the kitchen while you slice the turkey. All can be prepped the day before, with just a few moments needed to serve - even the ones that require hubs to man the BBQ.

Sweet potato with spinach salad
Cut small rounds of sweet potato, roast until crispy in a hot oven. Chop fresh spinach or silverbeet with some feta, shallots and salt and pepper, set aside until ready to serve. When ready to serve, quickly pop the sweet potato in the oven to heat up without going crispy, remove from the oven and arrange on a serving tray, top each sweet potato disc with a spoon of salad. Prep the day before, assemble just before serving.

Spoons with an oyster, seaweed salad and flying fish roe.
I first had this in a fancy restaurant and it was amazing, considering it is basically just assembly. Place Chinese spoons on a serving tray. In each spoon place an oyster (use freshly shucked oysters that you get in a jar for this, don't bother with the half shell.), a small amount of (bought) seaweed salad, and top with a small amount of red flying fish roe, you know the stuff used in sushi. Delicious! Assemble on the day, a few hours before serving.

Marinated prawns on skewers
Peel and remove poop chute from raw prawns, leave the end of the tail on. Place length ways on a skewer so they look like long fingers with tails on the end, and place in a shallow dish. Mix up some lemon juice, turmeric, crushed ginger and fish sauce, pour over the prawns and leave to marinate overnight. When you are ready to serve, send your husband out to BBQ them for a few minutes, turning frequently. Do NOT overcook, they are already cooked a little bit by the lemon juice.

Scallops wrapped in bacon
Wrap a Tasmanian sea scallop in a small piece of bacon, secure with a toothpick or skewer. Continue until all the scallops are wrapped. If you want, marinate in some olive oil, finely chopped fresh rosemary and garlic. Leave overnight, then send Hubs off to BBQ them when you are ready to serve. They won't take long at all.

Honey lime chicken skewers
Use chicken thigh fillets to make some skewers, marinate overnight in a mixture of lime juice, lime zest, honey and crushed ginger, do this the day before. BBQ when ready to serve. The honey will make them burn quite easily, so warn hubs to set the BBQ to medium.

Rudolph pies (made with venison)
Excellent for shock value! You can make the filling a few days or even weeks earlier, it freezes really well. Saute some chopped carrot, garlic and onion in olive oil until soft. Toss diced venison in seasoned flour, add to the pan and cook quickly to ensure the outside is seared. Stir in half a cup of stock, and half a cup of wine, simmer over very low heat until thickened. This is your filling! Use a well greased mini muffin pan to make the pies, I used shortcrust pastry for the bottom and puff pastry for the lids. Cook about 30 minutes in a medium oven until pastry is cooked, serve with a wicked grin. Make the pies the day before and cook on the day.

Lettuce rolls with spicy noodle salad
Mix cooked udon noodles, thinly sliced red capsicum and bean shoots with some bought satay sauce. Clean and dry iceberg lettuce leaves. Put a large spoon of noodle salad into each lettuce leaf, roll up like a spring roll and refrigerate until ready to serve. Feel free to add chicken, tofu, or whatever you like to the noodles. Make the salad the day before, wrap in lettuce leaves about an hour before serving.Serve chilled!

Pico de Gallo with tortilla chips
Mix together chopped ripe tomatoes, spring onions, red onion, a big handful of parsley and coriander, the juice of 1 large lemon and 1 lime, a drizzle of olive oil, 3 big pinches of salt and one of sugar. Add fresh or jarred chili to suit your taste and let sit for at least 15 minutes for the flavours to develop, sits well in the fridge overnight as well. Serve with good quality tortilla chips, also tastes great on the Christmas ham.

Sesame duck salad tartlets
Use bought tartlet cases, and fill with a mixture of bought shredded BBQ duck, chopped coriander, parsley, shallots, red capsicum, and some tiny shavings of wombok cabbage. Dress the salad with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and sesame seeds before assembling the tartlets. Drizzle with a little extra sesame oil just before serving, and if you like, a drop of chili jam. Make the salad the day before and assemble just before serving.

Chicken meatballs
In the food processor, mix 500g of chicken mince, 1 chopped spring onion and a teaspoon of crushed ginger. Using wet hands, form into smallish meatball. Place in a frypan, cover with glad wrap and put the frypan in the fridge overnight. On the day, remove the glad wrap and whack the fry pan on the stove over medium heat for 15 -20 mins until cooked. Serve on a fancy toothpick, with some chili jam for dipping.

Corn pancakes with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and chives
Use your favourite pikelet recipe, add a tin of drained corn kernels, dollop a tablespoon at a time into your frypan to make smallish pancakes. You can do this the day before but make sure they are packed in between paper towels in a tightly lidded Tupperware container. On the day, arrange on a platter and when reasonably cool, top with some smoked salmon, a dollop of creme fraiche, and dust everything liberally with finely chopped chives for an impressive presentation.

Mini beetroot rostis topped with smoked salmon and sour cream
In a food processor, grate 1 large fresh peeled beetroot and about 4 large potatoes. Place in a colander and stir through a large pinch of salt. Let sit for 15 minutes then use your hands (wear gloves) or a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Mix through 3 tablespoons of melted butter, form into small patties and place on a lined baking dish, bake approximately 1 hour. Do this the day before and pop them into a hot oven for 10 minutes to crisp up on the day. Cool slightly and arrange on a serving platter, then top with smoked salmon and sour cream, mix some horse radish in the sour cream if you like! sprinkle with shopped parsley or chives.

Bloody Mary gazpacho served in a shot glass
This refreshing soup is much better served cold from the fridge, in individual glasses and is much better made on the day, but it is super easy and won't take long. Break some sourdough into smaller pieces and sprinkle with a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Puree with some chopped ripe tomatoes, a clove of garlic, chopped and seeded red capsicum, a chopped cucumber, chopped spring onions, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper, and finally a few tablespoons of olive oil in a thin stream. Add chili if you  like! Pour into shot glasses with a small drizzle of vodka, and top with a cooked prawn for extra points.

Individual prawn and avocado cocktail
This is a great way to include prawns in the Christmas feast when your budget needs to stretch. Arrange crisp lettuce, a few peeled prawns, and thick slices of avocado into shot glasses, drizzle liberally with seafood sauce. Serve with cocktail forks if you have them.

Chicken liver pate on Melba toasts
I love pate, and chances are your older relatives will too. You can buy it but it's super easy and impressive to make your own. Clean, (trim any yucky looking bits) wash and dry the freshest chicken livers you can find. Gently fry the livers in  1 tablespoon of butter until cooked on the outside but pink in the middle. Remove to a plate, then without cleaning the pan saute half a finely chopped white onion until soft, and add to the livers. Deglaze the pan with a quarter of a cup of brandy, then throw the whole lot in a blender with some salt and white pepper. Blend until very, very smooth, pour into a Tupperware container (or something fancier) with a lid and refrigerate overnight. Serve with Melba toasts. SO. YUM.

If your guests arrive super early, a small glass of chopped fruit, Greek yogurt and home made muesli might be appropriate! All of these can be at least partially prepared in advance, leaving you plenty of time to get on with the day; or save them for the afternoon, when your second wave of guests arrive!

Please pop over to the other In The Sack Bloggers, and see what wisdom they have for you when it comes to surviving the Christmas season. We are a varied bunch, and there is sure to be something there to suit everyone!

Merry Christmas to you xx

Kylie Purtell – A Study In Contradictions
Shannon – How Can I Wear That
Driumme – Snippets and Spirits
Sarah – Style Unearthed
Kristie – Elements at Home

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Crazy neighbours, a trip down memory lane.

I've lived in a lot of different places, and had a lot of crazy neighbours, and today I want to share some of those memories with you. I'm not saying that I've never been that crazy neighbour because let's face it, we all have those moments. I've tried to only include neighbours whose craziness impacted on me; what happens in your own backyard is really none of my business. Also, to save myself getting sued there will be no photos!

Lets take a walk down memory lane, shall we?

Res'n was a taxi driver, actually he was a lawyer before he moved to Australia with his wife, but worked as a taxi driver when he got here. He worked the night shift, and apparently his wife spent the day pretending to be married to someone else. Poor Res'n, he was heartbroken when he arrived home early one day to discover this. His wife moved out, and Res'n spent the next six months sitting in a tree in his back yard, crying, smoking bongs, and playing his trumpet. I shit you not. This wasn't that bad for us because we worked all day, but weekends were a bit much.

We once lived in a very fancy, historic apartment building right in the middle of Kings Cross. The place was being freshly painted before we moved in, and the paint was still wet when we got the keys; so we lit some incense and left it for a day to get rid of the fumes. When we moved in we where surprised to see the locks drilled out; the elderly lady next door had apparently seen smoke coming from under the door and had called the fire department. One time she told me off loudly as I took some friends in the old timey cage elevator to the roof to see the city view. One time she opened her door and actually hissed at me.

We rented a house once who's neighbour was very serious in his pursuit of martial arts. He took himself very seriously, anyway. We would see him at the beach at sunrise, in his karate outfit, performing hakas to the sun. Or on the headland, looking like a 40 year old karate kid, having a grasshopper moment with the horizon. His family did not share his love for self discipline, and his dog was an absolute nut job. His wife once asked me to not go into my backyard at night because it made her dog bark.

We lived in a house with a steep backyard that was full of bamboo, and the schoolteacher next door was very unhappy about it. 'You have to get rid of the bamboo, it breeds ticks, the doctor said I may have Limes Disease from your bamboo!' It was impossible for us to remove the bamboo, and it would have cost thousands to get rid of it (seriously, the quote was something like $4000, ridiculous) We explained endlessly that we were only renting, it wasn't in our budget or our responsibility to remove the bamboo. Still she complained. We gave her the number of the real estate, who I think had heard from her before; in any case they were not helpful. She was not happy. She started feeding our dog questionable things over the fence.We moved.

When The Gentleman was born, we lived next door to a very attractive couple of beachy hipsters who fought tooth and nail every day. They had a beautiful small child, and sometimes on the weekend there was a lot of banging and shouting going on. Occasionally I called the police reporting a domestic disturbance, once the wife had a black eye, and often the husband would walk around the street drunk. Their response to us calling the police was to call the police on us; which was bizarrely unwarranted. The Gentleman was asleep in his cot, I was asleep in our bed, and hubs was whispering in my ear. 'Wake up! You've got to come to the door and say hello to the policemen, they think you are hiding'

Me: What? 
Hubs, half laughing but a bit worried: Someone reported a domestic disturbance, they won't leave until they physically sight you.
Me: What?
Hubs: Just get up and come to the door!
Me, at the door: Hello? 
Policemen: Good morning ma'am. Are you OK? We had a report of shouting and came to investigate.
Me: What?
Policemen: Have you been physically injured or assaulted in any way? Would you like to talk to us away from your husband? 
Hubs: .........
Me: Of for gods sake, I've just had a baby 2 days ago! I am too tired for any domestic disturbance! I've been asleep for a few hours now and so has the baby! There has been no shouting! Oh great, you have WOKEN THE BABY!! Would you like to come in and see him?
Policemen, rapidly retreating: Sorry to disturb you ma'am.
Me: For fucks sake! They called me 'MA'AM'!!

The worst neighbour's though, are the ones we have right now. Yes, I've saved the best for last! I've written about them before and frankly I have been too scared to write about them since, although I've come to believe they cannot read so feel safe in telling you about them now. Our house over looks their house, and we can't go out our backdoor without seeing into their yard, and I wish to Goddess it didn't.

There is an elderly mum, with 3 adult children. She has a daughter who lived in a caravan down the side of the house for a while with her husband and a few children, she bred bull dogs in the back yard. The eldest son was at times extremely volatile, and for years would storm around the house and yard, yelling, swearing, and being unpleasant. Once I threatened to call the police because he was going to hit his mother with a metal pole, although his mum called Mr BC and asked us not to because her son had so many warrants out for him, he would surely go to jail. Sadly, this son died earlier this year; he was found by his mum in the garage one morning, which is something no mum on earth should have to go through. The youngest son though....he is a very nasty piece of work. He is loud, aggressive, foul mouthed, and scary. My aunt came to visit last year, and we sat in the vegetable garden having a cup of coffee, when the neighbour started telling his mum off. I think he was actually doing it because he had an audience in us, but he talks like this to everyone, all the time, perhaps he had no idea we were there. Brace yourselves.

'You fuckin whorebag cunt, >Mums name<. You don't even know who your mother is, ya fuckhead, probably the guy that fucked your mother in the back seat of the car! ya fuckin mongrel cunt, you are fucked in the head. Deadset, I oughta take a piece of wood and slap you up side the head, do everyone a fuckin favour, not have to listen to your whinging shit anymore, ya fuckin mongrel cunt.'

He only ever stays a few days now before his mother kicks him out, with a drama like this happening in the driveway. One time, I stood at my backdoor looking at the moon, while he was in his driveway, next door, at the front of the house. He screamed at me 'Why are you lookin at the moon for, ya fuckin weird cunt? You are one weird operator, lady!' One time, I couldn't control my laughter listening to him lose it while try and activate a SIM card over the phone, and he told me he was going to break my fuckin face.

Seriously, the worst neighbours we have ever had. Whenever he starts we shut the windows, bring the boys inside and put a loud video on. I've never actually been scared, although there have been a few freaky moments like when I accidentally made eye contact with him as the police bent him over the car bonnet and put handcuffs on him. Anyway, they have a police scanner on their phone and take off before the police get there, so please don't be alarmed on my behalf.

Don't you wish there was a Neighbor Report option before your bought a house, like a Building Inspection? Tell me about your weirdest neighbour, do you have any stories that could top these? Surely I am not the magnet for weirdos in Australia!

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