Friday, 31 December 2010

Roast Duck, Peach and Orange Salad

I first tried this delicious salad at a friend's wedding reception at Quat Quatta about six years ago and was entranced by the mix of flavours involved.  My husband and I discussed what the possible ingredients were, in the hopes of replicating the salad at home, but we were sure we didn't have everything worked out.  Remembering that Australian Gourmet Traveller had an "ask the chef" section named "Fare Exchange", I wrote to the magazine asking if they could ask the reception centre's chefs to share the recipe.  The reception centre and magazine staff gladly obliged, and I have enjoyed this summery salad a few times since my friend's wedding!  So are you intrigued yet?  Well, here is the recipe for your enjoyment, with a few adjustments of my own, he he.

(Serves 6)
3 yellow peaches, halved and de-stoned
1 1/2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
1 barbequed duck, meat removed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup loosely packed Vietnamese mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed Vietnamese/Thai basil leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed coriander leaves
100g bean sprouts
50g Asian cress or baby salad mix
3 oranges, peeled, pith removed and thickly sliced

Mint and orange dressing
1/4 cup whole egg mayonaise
1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce
 2 Tb fresh orange juice
1 1/2 Tb finely grated ginger
1 Tb finely chopped coriander
1 Tb finely chopped Vietnamese mint
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tsp finely grated lime rind

1. Brush peaches with the olive oil and cook, cut side down, on a char grill over high heat for 3-5 minutes until charred.  Cool and cut into thick wedges.
2. For dressing, whisk together ingredients and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
3. Combine peaches, duck, mint, basil, coriander, bean sprouts and cress in a bowl.  Divide orange slices between plates.  Top with salad and spoon over dressing.

1. I honestly thought that the salad had regular mint in it as well when I first ate it, so I usually add a handful of regular mint leaves as well as the Vietnamese mint (also called laksa leaf).
2. If you want to make this salad when peaches aren't in season, just use canned peaches instead.  It won't taste quite the same, but it's still all right.  After all, I first ate this salad in the winter time when peaches most definitely are not in season!
3. I am not a big fan of raw bean sprouts, so I like to lightly steam the bean sprouts in the microwave before adding them to the salad.
4. I had to leave the ginger out of the dressing because my kids don't really like strong ginger flavours.  It was a bit sad, but I got over it and it didn't ruin the salad.
5. If you don't like your food "charred", you can simply grill your peach halves until lightly browned.  It does change the taste of the salad a little, but it really is not a big deal.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Felt Play Food - The End of My Sewing Saga

You may recall my post last month about the felt food I had been sewing as a Christmas present for my nieces.  Finding the time to sew a pile of play food was pretty hard as things got busy in my online stores, so I didn't end up making as many pieces as I had originally intended.  But, teamed with a cute apron from Crafty Crackpot, my nieces were pretty pleased with their new play food, as was their mum.  I think I might try and make some additions to this collection during the new year and add them as present toppers at birthday time.

A "supreme" pizza with ham, capsicum (bell pepper), olives, pineapple and cheese

Lettuce, strawberries and carrots

 Ravioli and fried eggs

 Jam and iced biscuits (cookies)

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Etsy finds - Inspiring art for your craft room

I have been dreaming about setting up a craft room at home for about six months now and am gradually getting closer to achieving this dream.  Of course, it wouldn't be a complete craft room without some artwork on the walls to inspire creativity!  So here are some pretty pieces I found on Etsy...if only I had enough wall space for them.

The Simple Things Print by Lola's Room

Bowl of Colour Print by 74LimeLane

Aqua and Tangerine Love by Freckles & Fairytales

Lovely Day Original Photograph by alice b. gardens

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Can you believe it?  It's Christmas Eve!  I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you, my readers, supporters, family and friends, a very merry and blessed Christmas and a joyful and peace-filled 2011.  Thank you all for your comments, words of encouragement, emails and, of course, your support in making Two Cheeky Monkeys purchases!  In supporting my stores, you have also helped to support the work of Lydia's List, an organisation which works to better the lives of underprivileged women.  I have really appreciated and been thankful for the support I receive, often from people I have never met in person.

...the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:10-11

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas Wrapping and Surprises in the Mail

Although I haven't had much chance to go all out with my Christmas preparations this year, I did manage to try two new wrapping techniques I love.  The first is a very simple way of wrapping Christmas goodies which leaves the recipient something to keep after the treats have been eaten.  I used this wrapping technique to wrap home made Christmas sweets.
I like to make a little something sweet for our neighbours each year at Christmas time and this year I decided to try making chocolate cake pops from a recipe I saw in the Coles supermarket Christmas magazine.  Rather than fiddling with coating cake balls in chocolate, sprinkles and then poking them with a lollipop stick, I left my "cake pops" as "cake balls".  These were then sealed into a ziplock plastic bag before the entire bag was neatly piled onto a little dish I found at my local op shop (thrift store).

present cake pop vintage dish upcycling

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the cute little dish (I almost forgot to take off the price tag!) - it was a little leaf-shaped porcelain dish with a floral design on it.  I guess in a past life it may have been used to hold used tea bags or perhaps even have acted as a spoon or ladle rest.  Once the treats were on the little dish, all that was left to do was to wrap the lot in cellophane and ribbon and add a gift tag.

wrapping doily upcycled book tag vintage

My next new favourite wrapping technique is to team sweet doilies with plain wrapping paper and a rustic-looking gift tag upcycled from a vintage book.  I think this method of wrapping gifts is great for jazzing up plain paper (I used tissue paper and brown kraft paper) or adding a vintage feel to your gifts.  It is also very versatile since the doily placement is up to you, they don't have to sit in the corners of your gift.  The only thing I would recommend is to first fold your wrapping paper around the gift to give you an idea of where to attach the doily (or doilies) you wish to use.  The doilies can then be glued or taped (using double-sided tape) in place.  You can use raffia or twine to tie up your gift, if you wish, or simply leave the present as is, as I have done in the next photo.

wrapping doily upcycled book tag vintage

The two gifts you see pictured were put together for two special online friends as part of a Christmas gift swap for my Christian Artists Street Team and a kris kringle for my Melbourne Etsy Street Team.  Both of these parcels have been mailed off to their recipients, but if you want to know what was in them, you'll have to wait until after Christmas as I don't want to spoil the surprise!  And speaking of surprises in the mail, I received the sweetest goodies from my CAST Christmas swap partner, Jocelyn of NewCreatioNZ.

lavender flower photo card gift card newcreationz
The first item was this gorgeous lavender card, which can also be purchased from NewCreatioNZ.

christmas card embossed secret newcreationz
The second item was this cute Christmas card - love the embossing!

And the third item was a stunning photo print, which I didn't have time to photograph.  But trust me, it is GORGEOUS, just my kind of art and I can't wait to frame it and put it on one of the bare walls in my home.  If you are ever in need of beautiful photo cards, photo prints, bookmarks, gift tags or artwork, pop on over to Jocelyn's store - her creations are magnificent!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Cabochon Sneak Peeks

I recently received a gorgeous shipment of vintage and vintage style cabs from one of my favourite vintage suppliers (a BIG thank you to them too, they know who they are) and couldn't stop myself from creating a few new designs immediately!  The designs below are mostly earring stud sets, which come packaged in a Two Cheeky Monkeys gift tin, but I will also be working on some new hair accessories and jewellery pieces after Christmas.  None of these items will be added to my stores until after Christmas, so if you are desperate to purchase any of these creations for yourself or a loved one, please email me using the details on my contact page.

The Daisy, Cornflower and Carnation brooches

Peacock ear stud set

Monochrome ear stud set

Scarlet Pimpernel ear stud set

Mediterrannean ear stud set

Sunshine ear stud set

Friday, 10 December 2010

A Deliciously Simple Warm Salad

Something that you may not know about me is that I am a bit of a snob about my food.  Not to say that I won't happily eat macaroni and cheese or other more "simple" foods, it's just that I like to have variety in my diet.  And I am also not the kind of person who serves up "kids' food" to my children while cooking Malcolm and myself something more "adult".  I mean, first of all, who has the time?  Secondly, I love exposing my girls to new things, so much so that Malcolm nicknamed them the "gourmet babies" because I have been feeding them things like sushi, stir fries and curries since they were 12 months old or thereabouts.
I love to flick through magazines such as Delicious, Donna Hay and Australian Gourmet Traveller for meal inspirations when I am planning my menu for the week.  (Yes, I plan my meals a week in advance and then do one massive grocery shopping trip).  With the weather becoming much warmer in Melbourne these last few weeks, I have started looking for some interesting salad recipes I could cook either as meals on their own or as an accompaniment to simple steaks, chops or cutlets.

When I saw this recipe, by Robert Marchetti of North Bondi Italian Food, in the November 2008 issue of the Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine, I just had to try it out!  It has some of my favourite spring/summer vegetables (asparagus, peas and green beans), looked simple to cook and I was fairly sure the kids would happily eat it too.  Served with some lamb cutlets (beautifully cooked by Malcolm), this salad was a hit with everyone in the family!  So, after that long preamble, here is the recipe, if you would like to try it out.

Zucchini, asparagus, peas and ricotta salata salad
Serves 4 as an entree

1 kipfler potato, cut into 1 cm dice
75g baby green beans, trimmed and cut into 1cm lengths
6 spears of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1cm lengths
1 small zucchini, cut into 1 cm dice
75g podded peas
1 Tb extra virgin olive oil
1 golden shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup lossely packed mint leaves
1 Tb lemon juice
50g ricotta salata, coarsely grated (I opted to use regular ricotta, crumbled up, since this is easier to source)

1. Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil, cook potato for 2 minutes, then add the remaining vegetables (not the shallot or garlic) and cook until the vegetables are just tender.  Drain the vegetables and transfer to a bowl of iced water to refresh, then drain them again and place in a bowl.  Reserve 1 Tb of the blanching liquid.  (I actually steamed my vegetables rather than blanching them because I felt this was a healthier option).
2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add shallot and garlic and saute until softened.  Add the vegetables and cook until heated through.  Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper and add the reserved blanching liquid.  Stir to combine.  Add mint and lemon juice and stir again.  Spoon into a bowl and scatter with the ricotta salata.

Let me just say that my attempt at this recipe does not do the actual recipe any justice.  The photo of the original dish looked amazing, and I was too lazy to chop everything into 1cm pieces, ha ha.  Also, I forgot to add the peas to my dish, only remembering them after I had cooked and served up the entire meal...oops!  I hope this recipe has inspired you in the kitchen, it is certainly one I will cook again.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Coming Soon to a Two Cheeky Monkeys Store Near You!

Okay, so maybe I am exaggerating a little since you will only have a Two Cheeky Monkeys store near you if you live near to me, LOL.  Although Christmas is almost upon us and many of us are busily in the midst of Christmas preparations, I have managed to find a little time to work on some new creations.   Digging through my boxes of supplies has produced some forgotten treasures with which I have been having fun playing.  Since I probably will not be listing any new items in my store until after Christmas, I thought I would tease you all with a sneak peek of just some of my new creations!

I revisited my love of lockets by creating these dainty earrings which are yet to be named.

My store is sadly bereft of snap clip sets at the moment, which I am working hard to rectify.  The Pastel Posy set includes two of my regular snap clips as well as a new addition of a vintage-style cabochon and vintage button combination.

Like the previous snap clip set, the Summer Garden set includes two of my regular snap clips and a third clip with my new cabochon and vintage button combination.

If anyone desperately wants to purchase any of these items now, please contact me (you will find my contact details on the "contact" page of this blog) and I will sort something out with you!  And on that note, let me remind you that my shipping cutoff dates for Christmas purchases are today, the 8th of December for international (non-Australian) customers and 15th December for Australian customers.  Purchases made after these dates may still arrive in time for Christmas, but I can't make any promises, especially as Australia Post has not been providing a particularly efficient delivery service in recent months.

Friday, 3 December 2010

A Handmade Christmas

Yes, it is up!  I got my man to retrieve the Christmas tree from storage (aka "under the house", he he) and the kids and I spent the morning setting up and decorating the tree.  That is to say, I set up the tree amidst repeated queries of "When will you be done?" and then the kids decorated the tree while I tried to rearrange ornaments they had hung up too close together.  And yes, my poor Christmas tree is sadly lacking a star at the top this year.  We seem to have misplaced our Christmas star, so I guess I'll be spending the weekend either hunting for it or buying a new one.

It probably won't surprise you to discover that, being a fan of the handmade Christmas movement, quite a few of our ornaments are handmade.  Some of them were made by the kids and me (the simplest being a cut out Christmas tree shape, coloured in and hung with a little ribbon) while others were kind gifts from various creative individuals.  My favourite ones to make have been the quilted ornament balls, although the kids have been asking me to "help them" make some stuffed felt ornaments like the stylised Christmas tree in the bottom corner of the above picture.
Under the Christmas tree are a handful of presents (yes, I am one of those people madly trying to finish off their Christmas shopping), some of which are handmade.  So, will you be having a handmade Christmas this year?  Feel free to share your handmade Christmas ideas and links to any great Christmas craft tutorials!

Julie's Jewels Winner!

Thank you to everyone who commented on my post about Julie's Jewels and looked through Julie-Ann's beautiful stores.  We do have a winner, picked by - and the winner is:

Congratulations comment #15 which is Jenny of Growing up Jenny.  I will be passing your email address to Julie-Ann and she will be contacting you very soon.
For everyone else, don't fret, Julie-Ann is still offering 10% OFF until Christmas for everyone who mentions the code "Deb’s Review 10% off" at checkout!
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