Spice It Up 2017 Advent Calendar

A very special Announcement.

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As promised, I have a BIG announcement for the end of the month & finally the day has arrived!!!!

You all know what an advent calendar is, right, for Christmas?!?!? Where you get to open a wee door every day for a special treat between December 1 to 24 ?!?!

Well, calling all food lovers!!!! This is the ultimate advent calendar for you!

24 Food Bloggers from all around the world have banded together to create a very special advent calendar indeed! From tomorrow, you will be able to use the link below to ‘open’ a new door to a brand new recipe featuring a classic Festive Spice each day! How cool is that?!?!?

2017 Spice It Up Advent Calendar

So, what can you expect from your exceptional culinary line-up this year? Check out each ‘door’ below –

December 1, Jenny, from Jenny is Baking  will feature tonka bean in a sweet bread
December 2, Rachel from   Dishing Up Dinner will feature nutmeg in a cookie
December 3, Jyoti from  The Hungry Belly will feature saffron in a dessert
December 4, Natalie from  Natalie Journeys will feature nutmeg in a drink
December 5, Renea from   Inspire a Creation will feature peppermint in a dessert
December 6, Samira from   Samira’s Recipe Diary will feature cardamom in a dessert
December 7, Markus from  Earth, Food & Fire will feature cloves in a side dish
December 8, Candi from  Make Ahead Meal Mom will feature nutmeg in a dessert
December 9, Rachael from  Coloured Plates will feature star anise in a condiment
December 10, Kori from Irok the Kitchen  will feature ginger in a cookie
December 11, Megan from Life on Paradise Drive will feature pumpkin pie spice in a dessert
December 12, Leslie from  Deliciously Plated will feature cardamom in a beverage
December 13, Tanya from  Food Forage will feature ginger in a dessert
December 14, Ali from  Fix Me a Little Lunch will feature bay leaves in a cocktail
December 15, Daniela from  Dani’s Cookings will feature cinnamon in a cake
December 16, Neha from  Witty Mushroom will feature cardamom in a dessert
December 17, Lizet from  Chipa by the Dozen will feature aniseed in a cookie
December 18, Jillian from  Simple Sassy Scrumptious will feature cinnamon and cloves in a cookie
December 19, Jennifer from  Jennifer Bakes will feature cayenne pepper in a snack
December 20, Angela from  Bake It With Love will feature nutmeg in a dessert
December 21, Kaveri from  Pretty Little Things will feature ginger in a dessert
December 22, Nataliya from  The Friendly Gourmand will feature clove in a side dish
December 23, Myriam from  Milly’s Melting Pot will feature vanilla in a cookie
December 24, Jenny, from Jenny Is Baking will make a roundup

Make sure you mark your favourites in your diaries & remember to check the advent calendar every day to see what incredibly amazing Yuletide Recipe awaits you!

I am so extremely excited to be apart of this GLOBAL project & can’t wait to check out all the fabuliciouz Christmas recipes from around the world!

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Miss Milly’s Niche

Determine who you are and what your brand is,

and what you’re not.

The rest of it is just a lot of noise.

– Geoffrey Zakarian

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Anyone who has the dream, combined with the determination to achieve it, about opening their own food venue will completely understand the eye glaze over that you receive whenever you dare mention your plans.

I’m sure people don’t mean to do it, yet you see the definite change from brightly lit full of interest sparkle as they enquire about what your business will be to dull, lifeless, please let it be over, sorry I asked, not another cafe blankness.

I have noticed a rather odd occurrence though, I see this first excited interest followed by the zone out at the mention of a Teahouse only to regain their curiosity as I say that I am a Chocolatier. Everybody loves Chocolate!

Rejoice Mountain Chocoholics!

Miss Milly shall be a dedicated temple to the luscious elixir of the Aztecs. Everything on offer will be made of Chocolate! From sweets to drinks to savoury, all will be a Chocolate lover’s fantasy.

Now, I will admit, I am just a tad rusty with my skills. My chocolate equipment has been in storage for the past two years as we travelled in Milly & then started the process of settling down & collecting our life from up north. I know it must be in one of these boxes somewhere! I am yearning to get back to my chocolate work, yet I am a wee bit anxious about such a long break too. Hopefully it’ll be like riding a bike but I am aware it is a skill that if you don’t use it, you lose it! Luckily, I have quite some time to practice & get back up to scratch whilst we convert Miss Milly to the gorgeous Bohemian Teahouse she is destined to become.

A balanced diet is a Chocolate in each hand.

Melbourne’s Country Playground

After so many years spent wandering the nation as somewhat reluctant nomads,

have we finally found our nook of Australia to settle down in?

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We have lived from top to bottom & side to side of this great southern land we call home. We have roamed & loved, tasted & explored every possible climate available in a bid to find where we belong. At every new location, one of the very first things we do is to visit the local information centre.

Although these centre’s are catering to the tourists who arrive, they should never be overlooked by new residents to a region. We have found they are the best place ever to resource everything you need to get started in your new environment. Grab all the flyers & tourist trail maps of everything you’re interested in & then make contact with one of the friendly staff. Tell them you’ve just moved to town & they will fill your head with all the local’s only hot spots! Plus you’ll get bonus information of where the locals meet up to connect & chat about what’s happening. This is absolutely vital when landing yourself into rural or remote Australia.

So, our brand spanking new home is on the absolutely stunning Dandenong Ranges. Quite often overlooked for our iconic Yarra Valley neighbour, we’ve noticed a very clever marketing tactic by the local tourism bureau here, a blending of the names to produce the Yarra Ranges!

The trail map, pictured above, is first on our hit list to explore (we’ve already done some places) so, naturally, will be sharing our family outings with you.

We’re about an hour away from the Melbourne CBD and there are loads of day trips you can take up this way from the tour people, but personally, I would hire a car & really get out to explore all the little farm gate stalls to gather together a fabuliciouz hamper of fresh goodies!

However, let’s get back to the question at hand………..Can we finally settle down to grow some roots of our own?

We are adoring the novelty of 4 defined seasons in the south & the mountain feels like a world away from the city. There is ample work within a reasonable commute whilst we are able to maintain our country lifestyle. We have one of the world’s premier wine regions on our doorstep to compliment the outstanding food bowl produce from the rich soil. The spoils of one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities are within easy reach for our picking. We are surrounded by an eclectic mix of people who reflect every region we’ve passed through to get here.

Our journey is no longer a destination. 

Living the Dream

So very many people dream about an Escape to the Country,

yet only a very lucky few of us get to actually do it.

A few days ago, we joined the Back to Land crowd!

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We are so ecstatically thrilled to have rented ourselves a wee patch of paradise in the closest rural country escape to Melbourne for a do-able work commute. I just want to put it out there, How’s the Serenity?!

At the back of our 3/4 acre home, we discovered this once loved area in the photograph above. We will definitely be sharing our experiences with you as we attempt to breathe life back into this former home farm.

The ideal of living a sustainable lifestyle, or as close to it as possible these days, is one that captures the imagination of such a diverse range of people. There is a definite & deliberate movement of people quitting the cities to instead, opt for a simpler life on the land. Now simple should never be confused with easy. Nobody promised us a rose garden on this adventure!

We anticipate that our blundering antics will provide you with much comic relief in the months to come as we settle into our new home farm lifestyle. In all honesty, we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing! But isn’t that all part of the journey?!

Our web-show will (hopefully) start filming shortly to capture all the action for you to enjoy. It will include cooking, home farming & seeing us transform our vintage caravan into a commercial kitchen. Maybe, we might even show you around this gorgeous region of the Dandenong Ranges too……maybe.

It’s all about to kick off for us, we are overwhelmed with excitement & trepidation of What on Earth have we done?!?!?!?!

Friends on the Hill, Monbulk

Once in a while, you’ll stumble across a little gem that surprises you so much you just know you’re gonna become a regular!

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We’re currently scouring the Dandenong Ranges, a much overlooked foodie region, in search of our next home. I mean, just take a look at this photo to see our attraction to the region! Yes, those are big kangaroos next to the vineyard!

So, anyhow, we’re driving around in absolutely atrocious weather so we can see what it’s like on the mountain in the abysmal conditions as well as the perfect tourist sunshine. This kind of opportunity is rare for us ahead of a move as we’ve traditionally criss crossed the nation so rely on the internet for information. I must admit, I was becoming a wee bit cranky. I was tired & irritable because I was just simply hungry. We’d tried to have take out dinner the night before, only to get home to discover they’d given us the wrong order! There was nothing I could eat in there. Normally, we’d just brush it off as one of those things I simply have to put up with now as a Celiac, but we were miffed because we’d actually nagged the staff numerous times checking they were getting our order right & I even saw my Gluten Free option sitting on the bench as the girl was packing ours up & asked her isn’t that mine to which she said no! I had then made the mistake of leaving the house the next morning without breakfast! Oops, my bad! So it was little wonder then that by lunch time I was flailing, after all, it had been 24 hours since I’d really had anything to eat.

We found a park in the village of Monbulk, a gorgeous local’s village that is obviously the hub of the region. As we stalked the street in the rain, I made the somewhat ignorant statement that I surely wouldn’t find anything to eat here either. It’s just so difficult to eat out when you have a dietary issue. It has made me change from being such a big part of the vibrant food scene to becoming a virtual recluse eating at home.

The most inviting of cafe’s had a lovely fire going in the corner & I said to hubby, if nothing else I could at least have a cup of tea to warm up while he & Mini Me had some lunch.

Imagine my surprise when the waitress brought over the menu which was absolutely littered with fabuliciouz Gluten Free options!

Normally, if we manage to find anything at all for me to eat on a menu, it’s only 1 or possibly 2 choices, if I’m lucky, & it’s usually not what I want to eat as it’s always the same option everywhere. I can happily report that at Friends on the Hill, every single Gluten Free item was a total breath of fresh air! I want to munch my way through that entire menu! Everything, just bring me everything, was what I fought back saying when placing my order but I tempered my gluttony & chose the Tomato & Basil Soup. Oh good lord, I was not disappointed!

Upon chatting with the chef to express my extreme gratitude for the variety on the menu (I could even have a burger if I want!) I discovered that the Head Chef’s mother is Celiac so that is why he is so sympathetic to the cause!

Friends on the Hill at Monbulk truly are now my mates! I can’t wait to find a home up there & become a regular.

Tortilla Cannelloni

This Tortilla Cannelloni is a quick, super easy, fabuliciouz go-to meal for those busy days!

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Pre-heat the oven to 190c.

Heat up a good glug of oil in a frypan & saute off a dozen sliced mushrooms before adding in 500g of chicken mince. Season well with salt & pepper. When they’re cooked through nicely, stir in a 2 cup carton of chicken stock & simmer for 10 minutes.

Pop some mixture on a Tortilla & roll up before bunging in a casserole dish. Keep going until you fill the dish all up in a neat line.

Next, you could simply pour over a 600ml jar of store bought cheese sauce, but I prefer to make my own. Just melt 2 tablespoons of butter over the lowest heat before removing & stirring in 2 tablespoons of flour. Pop back on the lowest heat & stir for a wee bit to cook off the flour taste then simply add 2 & 1/2 cups of milk slowly while stirring constantly. Next, dump in an epic amount of cheddar cheese (I use about half of a 500g bag, but you just make it as cheesy as you like) & turn up the heat to melt the cheese & thicken the sauce.

Pour the cheese sauce over the filled Tortillas, crown it with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese & whack in the oven for 15 minutes.

It’s Chompin Time!

Food Festival Fever!

From ponce to party, Melbourne certainly didn’t disappoint this Labour Day long weekend with Australia’s food capital hosting a Fabuliciouz feast of events!

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 Oh my goodness! What a weekend we’ve just been spoilt with! What an incredible time to be in Melbourne! In case you didn’t know, the annual Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is in full swing & they have an event to suit every taste & every budget. Naturally, we went along to a couple of the family friendly events over the long weekend.

Saturday kicked off our fabuliciouz foodie adventure at the 10th anniversary of Ventana Fiesta in the beachside suburb of Frankston. It’s a full on South American street party & in this, the Brazilian Olympic year, it was just perfect to get our groovy out!

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We were treated to Mexican wrestling along the main street as the crowd cheered & a true carnival atmosphere of music, singing, dancing & an explosion of colour!

But, of course, we were there for the food! What an incredible array of stalls filling the air with such sumptuous aromas our mouths were left salivating as we were totally confused by which of these amazing cuisines to try first!

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We eventually settled upon a selection of Patagonian BBQ (pictured), Argentinian Chicken & Colombian Arepa’s. What a feast we had as the parade sauntered past us, truly an experience to satisfy both cultural & tummy cravings.

On the Sunday we were at it again! You know, another day, another food festival……it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it, right?!

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The Dandenong World Fare was in one word – EPIC! This is the cultural melting pot suburb of Melbourne. Any kind of cuisine you want to try from anywhere on the planet, I reckon can be found in Dandenong!

The crowd was immense, the food trucks numerous, the entertainment unforgettable & the atmosphere electric!

This is what a festival should be! Free entry for all so the community can come together to celebrate & bond over a fantastically good time. Free entertainment of the highest quality to ensure harmony & understanding between the various cultures. Cheap rides for the kids to be thrilled on balanced out by Free faceprinting, balloons & crafts. I know I’ve said a lot of Free there, but I’m seriously impressed by what the organisers of this festival were able to pull together for everyone to come out & enjoy. In this greedy world, it is a very rare jewel of community happiness gaining the upper hand.

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There was an incredible array of diversity on offer in the culinary department, as you’d expect of such a culturally rich area. But when I saw that big black & beautiful food truck with a roaring fire inside which boasted boldly on it’s menu board “GLUTEN FREE WOOD FIRED PIZZA” I knew I could walk no further. Despite the many fabuliciouz offerings of cuisines from around the globe, it is quite often, the simple foods we grew up on ourselves which we can no longer indulge in that we fantasise over. After a lifetime of pasta & pizza, to go ‘cold turkey’ has been really hard, but what do you do when gluten makes you really sick?! So to be able to gorge myself on pizza was an opportunity too good to refuse!

And that is why it’s called Comfort Food.

Cuckoo Restaurant

Nestled amoung lush forest perched upon Mt Dandenong,

you will find Australia’s very first smorgasbord restaurant.

Let the lederhosen loose & the good times soar!

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I always like to look for the quirky, slightly off the beaten path, kinda places for my Foodie Adventures. When I heard about an ‘absolute madhouse’ up in the hills of Melbourne, I knew I just had to check it out!

Now I know, a lot of people out there find theme restaurants a wee bit tacky, however, I am not one of those people! I think they’re brilliant for a rip roaring good time that you can completely & utterly forget about your own pretentiousness for a while.

As soon as we arrived at The Cuckoo Restaurant, it was apparent that our informants had been correct in their labelling of the joint. A man in full Bavarian traditional dress was enthusiastically directing traffic to park in a hilarious slap stick comedy. Right away, we liked the place.

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Naturally, one simply must stick one’s head through the stereotyped timber cutout for a picture as a buxom wench or drunken yodeller before entering the very pretty building to be transported to the other side of the world!

The decor of this place is so uber spot on! It isn’t very difficult at all to fully embrace your imagination & get carried away with the ambience of Bavarian Germany. The timber carvings are exquisite & they even boast the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock! Oh, and the walls are adorned with every imaginable kind of smaller Cuckoo Clocks, all for sale, which I believe add an enormous amount of feel good factor with the wee birdies distinctive calling.

But, what we really came for was the promise of authentic European food! The instant you are seated, steaming hot pumpkin soup is plopped down on the table as the waitress awaits your drink orders. Let me just say they have a fabuliciouz mocktail menu! After greedily devouring the soup, our eyes were drawn by the rich array of dishes on offer & we discreetly slunk our way over so as not to draw too much attention that we were the first to attack the smorgasbord!

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With most diners now happily chomping through a gastronomic delight of culinary offerings, The Cuckoo ramped it up a notch in the party department by striking up the live band & entertaining with interactive audience comedy & some beautiful singing from The Sound of Music movie score. Throw in a few good PROST toasts into the mix & you have the makings of a seriously jovial experience!

I must admit to a guilty little secret here though, I did sneak back for seconds on the dessert! That Chocolate Mousse was just too irresistible not too!