Shapes are ninja…

Being able to cook is not everyones forte. Some people know they can’t cook and resort to take-out or pre-packaged food. Some people are great chefs who cook in their own home restaurant every night. And then there are people like me, who think they cook well until they watch Junior Master Chef on tv and it becomes apparent that they are no more than a big novice in the kitchen.

When I was minature, my priorities in life were walking, talking and collecting caterpillars and I thought myself very ambitious for the time. However these little super power people at the same age were caramalising nuts, whipping up a souffle and preparing a beef wellington for dinner. It’s discouraging for my cooking skills and technique but encouraging to see the bright people who will soon be running our world.

Being a rookie chef, I have found a little secret to making food more appealing. The shapes have it! The solution to average cooking is shapes. If the food resembles an identified familiar object, you get instant smiles and the food is likely to be well received.

Food imitating life, a philosophy for amateur chefs to come.

Perception is king. If the food looks inviting then you already start feeling good about it. So for the not so good cooks, I’ve got an easy fix 3-step solution to cooking.

1. Make a basic food
2. Utilise your range of cookie cutter shapes
3. Think of a fun name.

Voila! People love that its fun and forget about the quality of food.                                        These work a charm.

Pancake Farm – Pancake mix in the shape of barnyard animals.
Starry Night Tatas – Potatoes carved in the shape of stars.
Chicken Love – Crumbed chicken cut out like little hearts. Awwww shux.
Pizzagon – Easy! Cut the base of the pizza into a hexagon and carry on as usual.
Alphabet Fruit – Melons work well with cut-out shapes.
Fairy bread – In the shape of…wait for it…fairies.
Ninja Cookies – Biscuits in the shape of ninjas. Loser gets eaten.
The all famous Smiley Breakfast – Fried egg eyes, buttered mushroom nose, bacon smiley mouth and rosy tomato cheeks. yummo!

If you are the grand chef at home but you cook the same meal every, say Tuesday, you can make it fun by adding shapes to the meal. For example in minestrone soup, you could use alphabet pasta. Just a little change for a lot of fun.

Although shaped food may encourage people to play with their food, it also makes it enjoyable, sparks a smile, initiates laughter and can create a big mess. But then what is life if you don’t get a little bit messy.

Olives x

Made with love…

Every year my friends and I go on a weekend getaway to Rye. This wonderful event includes the spectacular Cups Estate winery, the ever relaxing Peninsula hot springs day spa and the Sunnyridge (best scones in the world) strawberry farm. It is hard to get everyone together all at once, so aside all the practical stuff, it was lovely just to spend some real quality time with each other.

The sun started to descend so it was time for the big dinner question. To cook or not to cook? Dining out meant a sure fast solution to a quick and easy dinner. It’s convenient, everyone can choose what they want, no preparation is necessary and no one has to clean up. The downfall of that option is that the restaurant doesn’t know how to make the most scrumptious vegetarian lasagne in the world. Luckily my friend Rachel does. She makes a kick-ass vegetable lasagne that everyone absolutely adores. So it seemed only natural to cook that for the main…..yummmmm!

First stop, the shops! As a kid, I remember playing shopping with a plastic cash register. The more make-believe friends the merrier. As an adult, shopping is not actually fun with too many friends. Real friends have differing wants, needs, budgets, opinions and tolerance levels. Worked out just fine though.

Let the preparation begin! Rachel was directing the troops, people were cutting, chopping, mixing and scratching, nah we’re no DJ’s the truth is we were washing, peeling, dicing and boiling.

This was definitely a team building exercise in disguise, we gained useful tools like Concept collaboration (Sharing ideas and recipes), Project management (Working together to rollout the lasagne), Visual Merchandising (Preparing the table) and Quality Control (Tasting the foods). Very productive!

The dinner was marvellous! It was a traditional  home-style meal cooked by my very own friends. Sharing love through the medium of food. What a magnificent art piece to capture in the memory of my stomach.

So the recipe for happiness? Here it is…a dash of love, a sprinkle of friendship, a cup of laughter and a spoonful of sugar make the perfect medicine for a busy lifestyle. Convenience usually overrides effort these days but don’t over-estimate the power of convenience because it’s the smallest effort that usually creates the biggest smiles.

Olives x

In search for the perfect pizza…

Searching for the finest pizza joint is a difficult mission. There are soo many pizza places around these days, it’s quite the challenge to find an unrivaled favourite.

When trying a new pizza place I usually test the waters first and opt for a margarita. This will give you a general idea of what standard of pizza you’re dealing with.

I listed the characteristics a pizza needs to possess in order to leave a lasting impression. For quality assurance I put together a systematic checklist on how to evaluate which pizza is right for me.

Pizza Checklist
1. Dough – melt in your mouth?
2. Tomato paste – flavoursome and evenly spread?
3. Cheese – stretchy and not too oily?
4. Crust – barely visible due to generous topping?
5. Toppings – only the freshest of the fresh utilised?

If the answers to these questions are yes yesitty yes yes yes then bingo! Pizza suitability is high.

The margarita pizza I ate from New York Pizza Deli on Fitzroy st was smashed in seconds. It fulfilled all of my pizza needs. Granted it was fresh out of the oven so it already had a major advantage. But it was everything I dreamed a pizza would be and more. The dough was light and fluffy like a cloud sitting in my stomach cuddling me from the inside out. The tomato paste was tasty and evenly spread as not to bar the surrounding flavours. The cheese stretched from my bite to a full arms length. The crust is usually not my favourite part of the pizza but when it’s covered in crispy cheese my opinions veer to the contrary.

Pizza must be fresh. Beware…Some restaraunts that don’t specialise in pizza actually have frozen pizzas that they just heat up and serve. That is not on, you hear me! You know who you are. Anyhow in these circumstances to ensure you’re getting a freshy, you may have to go out on a limb and throw them a curve ball to check their pizza sincerity. To check if they make it fresh you need to be a little bit sneaky. Here’s what you do…Ask for a random topping combo for example ‘can i have a pizza with just olives and pineapple?’ If they say no, respond with “ah ha! your pizza’s are frozen, shame on you!’ If they look at you weird and politely say ‘sure we can make that happen’ you know they make it fresh then you can quaintly change your order and let them know what pizza toppings you really want.

Sometimes on the hunt it’s a hit and miss situation. You find a fave local pizza place and it’s ace every time. You feel so strongly about the pizza you want to share it with others. You invite a friend over, hype up the pizza’s greatness and introduce them to the pizza (assuming your local pizza will be awesome, which in turn makes you awesome). Then of course, on this one-off occasion the pizza isn’t up to its optimum standards. Sigh. You should not have to bear the brunt of embarrassment for choosing an unreliable pizza place, you should reign in the glory of chosing a location close by an amazing pizza place.

Mapping out your pizza goal is a lengthy process, but once you understand what you’re searching for, it becomes much easier to find.

Olives x

Bagels on board…

When confronted by the assortment of bread options at the bakery, the bagel serves no purpose in my breakfast choice.  In amongst the pastries I barely acknowledge its existence and commonly mistake it for an odd-looking donut.

I’ve had many a bagel in my lifetime and they have been hard, overly dense and yeasty. I gave them multiple chances and they offered nothing but a frown every time. I wore the scar of disappointment from ex bagels so when my friend offered to take me to breakfast at a bagelry, I had my doubts. Did she say bakery? Nope she definitely said bagelry. Is that even a word? anyway…

My friend introduced me to a bagelry that would then change the way I see bagels forever. Huff Bagelry! You can find it down Koornang road in Carnegie. It was like a wonderland of bagels. Never had I seen so many bagels in one place. Is this where the bagels sleep at night? it was like a bakery exclusive to bagels, a bagelry it seemed.

There was an arrangement of bagels waiting to be chosen, “pick me, pick me” they yelped from behind the counter. To be honest, I brought my bagel baggage and wasn’t interested in recruiting any of them for my team. But in the name of second chances, I pushed my agony from the past aside and ordered a wholemeal bagel with fluffy scrambled eggs, thinly sliced salmon and a piece of avocado with cream cheese… oh yum!

We took a seat and impatiently anticipated the results. I envisioned taking one bite, throwing it on the floor, then swearing never to eat another bagel for as long as I live, cursing, ‘Damn you bagel! Damn you!’. I was gladly mistaken.
The food arrived and it looked promising. This bagel was absolutely exquisite!! It was firm, fresh and fantastic.

Who would have thought that in a land of indifference I would find a bagel to uproot my disdain. Admittedly, my generalised presumption on bagels was inaccurate and judgemental and I was wrong to write them off so quickly.

The spell of bad bagels is broken and my opinions on bagels have changed. I want to scream ‘Bagels are delicious!’ from the roof tops and get a bumper sticker that reads ‘i heart Bagels!’ for my car.

It’s difficult not to be hesitant when you’ve made a similar mistake in the past, but if you don’t eat with a clear heart each time, you may walk past the fun adventure that could open your mind to another perspective.

p.s  they also make a mean chai latte and buttercream cupcake Mmm.

Olives x

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