They made it! “I Made It! Monday” Round-Up

Each Monday I invite fellow bloggers to share their proudest (or favourite) accomplishment from the previous week via the “I Made It! Monday” event, and the following Sunday I round them all up so we can all give ourselves a collective round of applause or pat on the back.

Please join me in congratulating the following bloggers who shared their remarkable achievements:

Week one – A-Z, brownies, chicks and DIY floors:

The inaugural week of this challenge did technically stretch over two due to the Easter long weekend; nevertheless I am as proud as punch to present the first participants and their terrific triumphs:

What did you make last week? Find out more about “I Made It! Monday” on the main event page.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Taste of Venice

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Afloat,” as well as Writing101’s Day 2 Challenge: “A Room with a View.”

You close your eyes to appreciate this perfect moment. You are comfortably seated next to your special someone on a luxuriously upholstered seat; a warm, gentle breeze is blowing, and it enhances this feeling you have of gliding on air.

The only discernible sound is the gentle lapping of water, until the dulcet tones of a piano accordion permeate the silence with a romantic Italian melody. Suddenly a rich baritone breaks into an operatic classic by Puccini (or perhaps it’s Rossini, you can never tell the difference) and your beloved leans in for a soft kiss.

You open your eyes and the sight of your singing guide in his striped shirt and straw hat makes you smile, and you look around, expecting to be surrounded by the fading pastel hues of historic grand palazzos and gently arched stone bridges…

But – hang on a minute…this can’t be right. Trees? Parkland? Che cosa?

COAFT Afloat

No, you aren’t among the heave of tourists travelling along the Grand Canal in Venice, nor are you even in Italy.  You are, in fact, enjoying a glorious late spring afternoon gondola ride on the Charles River in Boston, USA!

Who’d have thought?

PS while we’re on the subject of ‘Afloat’ (and still in Boston)…is this not the most adorable houseboat you have ever seen?!

COAFT Afloat 2

“I Made It! Monday” Easter Extension

I hope you’ll forgive me, but I have decided to extend the first week of my new event, mainly because it has only just “made it” to The Daily Post’s Events listing (see what I did there?) Don’t worry, though – I will still share the details of something else I made in the last seven days…

Taking advantage of the extra time off from work many of us are fortunate to get over the Easter long weekend, I decided to do some baking. While I was waiting for the Other Half to come home with some extra supplies I needed to give KitchenSpells’ Chocolate and Marshmallow Cupcakes a go (more about that in a future post), I was flicking through some of my many recipe books to see if there was something relatively quick I could whip up in the meantime.

It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon a deliciously indulgent recipe for which I miraculously had all the ingredients on hand…

Triple Chocolate Mocha Brownies

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 125g unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbs instant espresso powder
  • 2 cups golden brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup macadamia nuts, chopped (or other nut of choice, if you wish)
  • 90g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 90g white chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Line a 20cm x 20cm x 5cm baking pan with aluminium foil, allowing the foil to overhang the sides. Grease the foil. (In hindsight, I would also add a layer of baking paper on top of the foil at the base of the pan to prevent sticking.)

Mmm…chocolate and coffee – another match made in heaven!

What did you make last week? Find out more about “I Made It! Monday” on the main event page.

I Made It! Monday (Weekly Event)

Look out world – here comes yet another blogging event..!

In this fast-paced world it can be very difficult to find the time or energy to tick off all those items on your ‘to-do’ list, or let your creative juices flow and make something…let alone give yourself a pat on the back if you manage to do so!

The I Made It! Monday” weekly blog event gives you the chance to take stock of the week that was and share your greatest (or favourite) achievement of the previous seven days with your some of your biggest supporters – the blogging community!

To make it super simple, there are no set themes each week; it’s just a case of searching your memory banks until you find that “Aha!” moment and then blogging about it. No matter how seemingly trivial or monumental your achievement may seem (a small win is a win, am I right?) – if you finished/did/made/achieved/got through it, we want to hear about it!

Refer to the I Made It! Monday” event page to find out more…I look forward to sharing our accomplishments 🙂

Mango-licious (Flavour of the Month)

If you couldn’t tell, I can’t resist a foodie blog event, so I was very excited to discover that Glai from Oh, My Glai! (another one of my fellow Blogging101 graduates) recently created a monthly challenge called Flavour of the Month. Consider me on board!

I’ll admit that I was a bit hesitant when I saw that this month’s flavour was mango, as it really isn’t one of my favourite foods at all (although I can’t put my finger exactly what it is about mangoes I don’t like…go figure!) However, there was one occasion in particular where my opinion of the humble mango was completely swayed in the opposite direction.

I was on holiday with my Other Half in Koh Samui, Thailand a few years back and we were scouring the menu for something sweet to finish off the delicious Tapas lunch we had just enjoyed (more about that in a future post). Immediately, my coconut icecream-seeking radar hit the jackpot – I was so excited that I didn’t notice that it was served with mango, and therefore missed the opportunity to politely request the dessert be served without it.

When it arrived, I couldn’t wait to sink my spoon into the cool, delicious icecream, but because I was on holiday and feeling rather generous, I decided to give the mango one last chance to prove itself.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Never in my life had I tasted something so sweet, juicy and delicious! The mango was so fresh, it was still warm from the sun that it had been basking in before it was gently plucked from the tree only several minutes beforehand.

Unfortunately the photo below doesn’t do a great job of representing the mango itself (as previously mentioned, it was the coconut icecream I was particularly enthused with, and once I’d started on my dessert, there was no stopping me until my plate was clear), but I’m sure you get the idea:

COAFT Mangolicious 1

I couldn’t possibly omit mention of another magical mango moment in my life…

Although it was several months ago, I still dream about my very good friend’s delicious summer pavlova we enjoyed at a pre-Christmas picnic. She had pre-prepared the perfectly light-and-crisp-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside meringue, and decorated it before our very (tempted) eyes under the trees. Instead of the traditional kiwi fruit or strawberries, she chose to give the topping a tropical twist with freshly-sliced banana and mango. It was (to say the least) absolutely di-vine!

Needless to say there was nary a crumb left! Mango-licious indeed…


My Favourite Recipe: Stand-by CHOCOLATE Brownies

Donna Hay makes a comeback in my response to this week’s ‘My Favourite Recipe’ challenge which is (ladies and gentlemen)…the one and only, no-introductions-necessary, gloriously decadent…chocolate.

Funnily enough, though, there is no actual chocolate in this recipe – well, not of the dreamily-sweet-glossy-dark-chunks-of-heaven variety, that is. However, it does fulfill the difficult task of satisfying even the strongest chocolate craving with the help of just a few pantry staples…and this is why I love (and rely on) it so much.

Stand-by Brownies

(from fast, fresh, simple by Donna Hay)

  • 150g butter
  • 1¼ C caster sugar
  • ¾ C cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ C plain (all purpose) flour

You can even watch Donna prepare the brownies herself!

Thanks to my fellow Blogging101 graduate B.TX for setting up this challenge! I implore all my fellow foodies to support this wonderful weekly event!

My Favourite Recipe: Tomato

My Favourite Recipe Challenge: Each week we post a new ingredient, and you will write about it in a new post. Tell us why it is so special.

My contribution is a little late this time, but I couldn’t resist this week’s ingredient, which is tomato. Pomello. Tomate. Tomaat. To-may-to, to-mah-to.

Is there anything a tomato can’t do or add to a dish? In most cases fresh is best, but even when using the canned variety, you can always guarantee tomatoes will added freshness to any cuisine; from the richness of a tomato-infused pasta sauce, to a refreshing burst of soaked-up flavour in a spicy Mee Goreng or Tom Yum soup.

It’s so, so hard to pick just one favourite dish for such a versatile ingredient, but for me, the simplest meals are often the best. And if there are special travel-related memories attached, the votes increase tenfold!

Insalata Caprese (Caprese Salad)

A taste of summer in the glorious colours of the Italian flag. I’ve enjoyed this recipe many a time – prepared in slightly different ways, but always with the same fresh ingredients. Of course, the most amazing ones I’ve eaten were in Italy (nothing beats a fresh, juicy Italian tomato), but I still very distinctly remember my first proper Caprese, which my travelling companion and I enjoyed with a delicious Garlic Prawn and Basil pizza and crisp Sem Sav Blanc on the banks of Circular Quay with the Sydney Harbour Bridge directly in front of us. It was pure bliss.

  • Fresh, ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh mozzarella, torn or sliced*
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Sea salt

* If you can find/afford it, buffalo mozzarella is the most authentic; if not, a cow’s milk variety is perfectly reasonable. In my example below, I’ve used bocconcini (baby mozzarella), and it is perfectly lovely in my non-expert, non-Italian opinion…


Arrange tomatoes, basil leaves and mozzarella on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.

Note: some eagle-eyes may spot a speck of balsamic vinegar on my home-made version. This is based purely on personal taste and in no way an authentic addition to the recipe, which is why I’ve left it off of the ingredient list.

Simple. Beautiful. Delicious. How do you like your Insalata Caprese?

Thanks to my fellow Blogging101 graduate B.TX for setting up this challenge! I look forward to seeing all the different mouth-watering ways everyone interprets the ingredients each week.

Baking 1, 2, 3

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Rule of Thirds.”

As it’s been way too long between blogs (due to an unexpected hiatus on account of being unwell recently), I also decided to stay on topic and combine my Weekly Photo Challenge response with another (admittedly pitiful) Poetic Hat Trick attempt for Writing201‘s third challenge.

This time the theme was Trust, the form was Acrostic, and the device Internal Rhyme:

Beaters, to mix things quick (and later lick),
Apron, to catch the spills or whatever doesn’t stick;
Knife, to help take the cake (or muffins) out,
Ingredients, which a recipe can’t do without;
Nervous, you don’t have to be, a recipe is all you need,
Go for it – you’ll be so proud of what you achieve!

Enjoy (or jest) at will 🙂

My Favourite Recipe: MEATballs

My Favourite Recipe Challenge: Each week we post a new ingredient, and you will write about it in a new post. Tell us why it is so special.

This week’s ingredient is meat. Challenge. Accepted.

It was never my intention to post three times in two days, but as soon as I came across this new event, my impulsive streak kicked in and here we are…

On a side note, I can see my contributions to this event quickly turning into a showcase of my favourite Donna Hay recipes – not that that’s a bad thing! Frankly, she is my (kitchen) hero and a lot of my all-time favourite meals to prepare (and eat) generally have their origins in one of the many DH recipe books and and magazines I own.

The following recipe is probably the one red meat dish I cook the most (I usually leave the task of cooking steaks and roasts to the Other Half because I am simply rubbish at it). As well as being super easy to prepare, the combination of flavours is just incredible – using lamb mince instead of beef adds a tasty new dimension to the traditional meatball! Also, you can pre-prepare the meat mixture and freeze or refrigerate for later. If you don’t want ‘fiddly’ meatballs, you can make them into patties for burgers or larger rissoles.

Mint and Rosemary Lamb Meatballs

(from No Time to Cook by Donna Hay)

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1kg lamb mince
  • 2 Tbs finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1 Tbs finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 2 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 200g feta, crumbled
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 C (250ml) beef stock
  • 3 C (750ml) tomato passata
  • 1/4 C finely chopped oregano leaves (I use parsley instead if oregano isn’t available)

Note: Feel free to adjust quantities as required (the intention of the original recipe is to have enough for a meal, and save some for later). Fresh is best, but if you must, you can substitute the fresh herbs for the dried variety – just halve the amount required.


Thanks to my fellow Blogging101 graduate B.TX for setting up this challenge! I look forward to seeing all the different mouth-watering ways everyone interprets the ingredients each week.

“This (giant) pretzel is making me thirsty!”

I made a promise to myself that I would begin to take part in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge as soon as I could immediately make a mental connection between the theme and one of my photos. When I saw that this week’s theme was ‘Scale’, I knew there was only one possibility.

Flashback to October 2008:

As part of our Top Deck European Odyssey tour, we had made a very quick morning stop in Salzburg’s beautiful Old Town soon after departing the quaint storybook-town of St. Johann in Austria’s Tyrol region.

We were dropped off near the Kapitelplatz and given a little over an hour to explore the area before we began the long drive to Prague. Given that it was barely 9am in the morning, not a lot was open apart from a little kiosk and a couple of food and market stalls that were slowly setting up in the main square.

While I made a beeline for the kiosk to get a Viennese hot chocolate (it was a tad chilly), my hungry Other-Half quickly caught a whiff of fresh bread and followed his nose directly to the source: a food stall selling pretzels in a wide range of delicious flavours. Not only were they freshly baked, but they were also bigger than a human head!

I couldn’t resist the urge to capture him in his element devouring the giant pretzel in front of the random ‘man on a giant golden sphere’ sculpture.*

COAFT Salzburg 01

Spot the tourist: giant pretzel in one hand, Red Bull in the other…

To this day he still salivates when reminiscing about that giant pretzel…

COAFT Salzburg 02* later identified as Stephan Balkenhol′s “Sphaera”, part of a Salzburg Foundation Art Project.