Monday, October 31, 2011

J. Friend and Co. Christmas Pohutukawa Honey Giveaway

Today, and for the next two weeks, I have a very sweet giveaway for you, kindly offered 
by J. Friend and Co. So if you like to win some honey read on!

 J. Friend and Co have just released their latest festive offering:

Known as the iconic Kiwi Christmas tree, the Pohutukawa has
become an established part of the New Zealand Christmas tradition, and Pohutukawa honey is one of my favourite Native New Zealand honeys.

 If you like to win two jars of J. Friend and Co Christmas Pohutukawa Honey (you could keep one and gift the other jar to a honey loving friend... or just keep both for your Festive Season), just:

1) Leave a comment to this post saying that you would like to win! 

That's all!

The winner will be picked with the generator on November 15th 2011. Please remember that this giveaway is open to New Zealand residents only, and good luck!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Broken silverbeet bruschetta, a demo in Italian and what about advertising???

My silverbeet is not big enough to be picked, but I was working in the veggie garden and I broke one entire little plant by mistake. Well, I cut it right back, and maybe it will grow again. I sauté the leaves with olive oil, some onion weed (again) and a few black olives. A pinch of salt and pepper and some grilled bread for bruschetta, and lunch for two was ready, maybe unplanned, but ready!

On Saturday Arantxa and I had our first book presentation in Italian, at the Dante Alighieri Society of Auckland. It was enjoyable to do the workshop in my language, and Arantxa did very well too. Once again I took out my iPhone quite late (there were lots of people and all the cupcakes were gone), and I really missed Bron taking photos for me :-)!

Lastly, I received an email from a company who asked to buy a space on this blog for advertising. I didn't respond and after a few days I got a second email. I wasn't interested, but I though of asking more details and I found out that they would pay me US$100 per year ($120 for online gaming), but no mention on what they would put on their "window" in my blog. I immediately thought of a Vegan blog that I often visit, and it has an ad for McDonald in Auckland! Well, I did see the same ad in other blogs too (possibly just because I live in Auckland), but seeing it on a Vegan blog was quite something... I don't know what you think, but it seems very little money for a year of advertising something you may not even like! Or worse, something that really cheapens your blog! I love to hear your opinions about this, and if you had similar experiences.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Max likes...

... eggs and soldiers on Saturday morning, but even better if instead of 'soldiers' made with toast strips, we have thick grissini :-). Actually, I have to agree with him, I like them with grissini too.

And he likes boats and sailing, so two weeks ago he started a sailing course at the local sailing club, and it was so sweet to see all the little boys and girls going into the water with their little boats, they looked like little nut shells from afar! New Zealand is a great place for kids to try different sports and have outdoors experiences, where I come from is not so easy (or affordable) to get into a sailing club, and I am sure that this is true for many other countries, so today I feel particularly happy about living here. And I just felt like sharing this with you, especially with those of you who asked me about life in New Zealand :-).

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spring Asparagus Salad, and yes you can eat the flowers too!

Lots of people know by now that I eat flowers, but still, some think of it as a bit of a freak thing to do. But if you have a few edible flowers in your garden (absolutely organic, no sprays allowed) they just make your dishes look so pretty, and they are not merely a decoration, they can have flavour and fragrance too! I used onion weed flowers, which have a mild garlic/oniony taste, and nasturtiums, which are probably the only flowers that the general public in New Zealand seem to consder edible (some claim to use them in salads, but in all these years here I have seen more trendy talk than action, and still far too much coleslaw). My first borage flowers and a few little violets added perhaps little taste, but they are eye catching with their blue hues, and welcome on my plate anytime.

On a large plate I prepared a bed of baby spinach leaves and then I steamed some asparagus. To save time and gas I steamed the asparagus over the vegetable soup that I was cooking for dinner (so that I could make lunch and dinner at the same time). I meant to photograph the finished soup too, since all the veggies come from my garden, but I forgot. Anyway, it had my last cabbage, carrots, celery (mostly leaves), cavolo nero, broad beans (they are here, finally!) and onion weed (of course). It was a lovely soup, and I just had to add pasta and seasoning, all the rest was from my garden. Anyway, back to the asparagus salad: after steaming the asparagus I rinsed them under cold water and placed them over the spinach leaves. And then I added the flowers. I am not a fan of vinagrette and complex dressings, so I just added salt, extra virgin olive oil and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. I also think that a simple Japanese miso and sesame seed dressing like this one could go well. This was a light but satisfying lunch for two.

Another bit of news, this month Arantxa is in Girlfriend Magazine (by herself, no Mum :-), the editor of the magazine came over to interviewed her, and she was really really nice, so I would like to thank her, also for quickly sending the magazine to Arantxa as soon as it was out.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

PS: yesterday I had 995 page views, the closest I ever got to 1000. The top visitors were (as always) from NZ, 249, followed by US with 205, and Italy with 154. Sometimes it seems that it is not what you post on that day that matters, but some sort of random mystery....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Potatoes for Black and White Wednesday

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Welcome back to Black and White Wednesday, organized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. Today photo is: new potatoes at the bottom of the bucket.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Party Food for Girls at the Oxford Farmers Market (with photos by Bron Marshall)

Photos  by Bron Marshall ©

Another wonderful Canterbury Farmers Market, and another busy morning. Once again we got up early to go to the Oxford Farmers Market, where we met bookseller Emma from Emma's at Oxford  to set up the Party Food for Girls' stall. In no time I was busy showing little ones how to make sugar roses, and signing books, and, if you remember this post, I said that I really needed a photographer because it is so hard to take photos myself, plus this time I was alone: Arantxa was at What Now with the brother!
And guess what? Food stylist and photographer Bron Marshall came over, and these are her photos, 1000 times better that I could ever have done!! Thank you Bron, you are a star!  I also would like to thank Emma's at Oxford  for hosting the presentation, and The Press Section Editor Kate Fraser for her article about Party Food for Girls in the paper, and for visiting my stall on Sunday.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Flowers from my garden: colour and inspiration

Just a little break from sugar flowers to show you the real flowers that are blooming in my garden right now, and my font of inspiration for many more sugar flowers to come.

Photos  by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ohoka Farmers Market and the Children Bookshop in Christchurch


Yesterday morning we got up veeeeery early to go to the Ohoka Farmers Market, which is a beautiful market full of wonderful products and friendly people. We set up a stall and for most of the morning we were very busy teaching children (girls and boys too) how to make sugar roses. We also had a few adults trying, in this part of the country people really bake a lot of cakes, and to learn to make your own decorations is quite useful! I saw them taking good notice of the fondant we were using, quickly calculating that from a block of ready made rolling icing they could make hundreds of roses, and keep the kids occupied!!! Sold quite a few books there :-)!

I managed to take a few photos with my iPhone, but I really need to be better organized: when there is a real crowd Arantxa and I are too busy showing how to make the flowers to stop and take photos... I think that we need a photographer!! But a part from that we seem to have the demos down to a fine art now, as long as we have plenty of pink fondant ready to go for the girls, and yellow/cream for the boys! Yes, boys will join in happily as long as the flowers are not pink!

Ohoka Farmers Market

Back to Christchurch for a quick lunch, and then on to the beautiful Children Bookshop for another demo with some very enthusiastic girls, mothers and grandmothers! The kids made so many roses and rose buds and leaves, and they were trilled by the results (and so were the adults!). Many said that they were going home to make cupcakes so that they could use their roses, and once again nobody tried to eat the icing: they were all too busy being creative, treated their work and the ingredients with the upmost respect, and were truly enchanted with the whole process. Thank you to all the staff at the Children Bookshop for having us!

The Children Bookshop in Christchurch

Tomorrow morning I will be at the Oxford Farmers Market, while Arantxa and Max will be on What Now, and then we will fly back to Auckland in time to see the Rugby World Cup Finals! We will be wearing black :-).

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Party Food for Girls in Christchurch and the Sonny Bill Williams'cup

Party Food for Girls at Mercato, Christchurch Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Yesterday we arrived in Christchurch and on the same afternoon we presented the book in a lovely shop called Mercato. The wonderful staff at Mercato had prepared some tasting from the book: Petit fours, grissini, vanilla sugar balls, choux pastries and puff pastry pizzette, and the children discovered the joys of chocolate bombs (blocks of chocolate to dissolve in your hot milk for a lovely hot chocolate). I was also lovely to meet Christchurch food blogger Zo of Two Spoons (in the bottom right pic, on the left).

Today we went to Plain FM for a couple of radio interviews, and tomorrow we will be at the Farmers Market in Ohoka in the morning, and then at the Children Bookshop in Chch in the afternoon (see details below).

My readers overseas may or may not know that there is the Rugby World Cup here in NZ at present, with the finals on this Sunday. I haven't talked about it on the blog, since I am far from being a rugby expert, but I went to see two live games (the firsts ever!) and I am learning the basic rules of the game. Yet, after all these weeks, I am still not able to recognize most of the All Blacks, and I get confused with their names and faces. In the plane to Christchurch my children tried to give me a 'crash course', and I asked my daughter which one is the one that all the girls like. Ah yes, Sonny Bill Williams

Air NZ served us coffee in All Black paper cups and I am not sure who was the player on my cup, but I thought that it would be a good memento to get my hands on Sonny, so I asked the stewardess if she had him. She told me that probably his cup was there at the back and that she would get me one.

After a while I saw her walking up and down, and then finally she came up to me and said, quite loudly:
"Ah, you are the one who wanted Sonny Bill Williams, sorry I didn't remember where you were sitting, I'll bring him to you right away!"

Of course everybody turned to look at me. I guess they were a bit deluded when all I got was a cup with his photo, but it is going to be a while before I'll ask for a rugby player again! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Party Food for Girls at Frankfurt, and Sweet as... also!

 My husband was in Frankfurt at the book fair presenting his books, and I asked him to go to the New Holland Publishers stand to take a few pics of Party Food For Girls

Here it is, on the NZ stand, first on the left,

And in the International New Holland Publishers' stand, Food & Drink section, top shelf, second from the right.

And a little surprise too: another of my books, Sweet As... is also at Frankfurt, in the inspirational gift's section, top shelf, first on the left.

We are packing today to go to our South Island's tour :-). First book launch tomorrow at Mercato in Christchurch (see invite below, if you live in Chch do come and see us)

Follows a demo at the Farmers Market in Ohoka on Friday morning, then back to Christchurch for another demo at the Children Bookshop (I will post another invite tomorrow), and then Oxford on Sunday morning for another Farmers Market. In between we will squeeze in interviews, but mostly try to spend time with the kids' grandparents. I may not have time to blog much, and no much internet, so I apologize in advance. Please keep your finger crossed for me, for sun at the Farmers Markets, and for fun in Christchurch!

Finally I would like to thank Emily from KL in Malaysia for buying the book and showing it off in her blog :-), and Artu' for doing the same in Italy :-).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cake and Make Workshop at the Lopdell House

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini and Arantxa Zecchini Dowling ©
Here are some pics of today Cake & Make workshop at the Lopdell House Art Gallery in Titirangi. Parents, grandparents and children made a variety of sugar flowers from Party Food for Girls, and decorated lots of cupcakes. Arantxa tutored the kids, and we all had a great and creative afternoon. Thank you Lisa and Lopdell House for organizing the workshop :-).

I have registered for Blog Action Day 2011. Join me in the global discussion about Food. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Recipes, unusual pairings and blogging with Dynamic Views

I had the students from my Italian class for dinner last night, everybody brought food and drinks and we ate a lot!!! I made a salad, a pizza and a dessert, and I experimented with some "alternative pairing".

The salad was a Caprese" tomato, mozzarella and basil (all dressed with extra virgin olive oil and salt), but I added something extra: Florence fennel. I was curious to see how it would go, usually I don't pair fennel with tomatoes, or with mozzarella, and especially not with basil! But it was truly a success, the flavours, the textures... the colours! A lovely salad or starter.

Caprese with Florence Fennel

Since the salad was a Caprese I opted for a different kind of pizza: instead of tomato and mozzarella I went for spinach and feta. I used 600 g of frozen chopped spinach, defrosted at room temperature, to which a added salt and olive oil to taste. I used a block of basil pesto flavoured feta, cut into cubes, it worked quite well. A vegan version with marinated tofu would also work well.

Pizza with Spinach and Feta

For this pizza slab I used the canned cherry tomatoes. I made the base (recipe here) but also added a tbsp of wheat gluten (these days I find that High grade flour is not 'strong' enough for making pizza). After 2-3 hours I rolled the dough on a large baking tray (90 cm), then I put spinach and feta on top. 
I drizzled on top a little more olive oil and then I baked the pizza in the oven at 240°C for about 25 minutes. 

Lastly the dessert was my special Tiramsù (everybody has one!!), and here too I added something different. I couldn't resist the punnet of fresh raspberry I saw in the shop, they looked really perfect, and I even if I don't pair raspberries with coffee, here as a topping/decoration they worked ever so well!

Tiramsù Topped with Raspberries

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Blogging with Dynamic Views

And now something that may interest bloggers who blog with Blogger. I changed the look of Only Recipe, my recipe collection online, I guess that now it is easier to see all the recipes (and photos), and it is definitely more 'visual'. For the default setting I have chosen Magazine, but it is quite fun to look at the recipes on Flipcards or on Snapshot, or Mosaic (there are other views too, just click magazine on the tab and select from the menu how you would like to see the posts). 

Blogger hase been promoting his new Dynamic Views and so far I am sure that many people tried it, but I am the first among my blogger friends, so I have just thought that I could share with you my first impressions. 

I applied the same view to Vegan Recipes too, I am still getting used to it (especially because now is not so easy to access and edit or post in blogs with Dynamic Views), and I think that readers need to get used to it as well. In fact I have noticed that the comments have dropped. But the statistics? Golly!!! For both blogs page views doubled overnight, in fact some days they tripled! I am not sure if this is Blogger automatically checking out all my posts or what, maybe to encourage Dynimic Viewers to stick to the new app., and I guess that I just have to see if the trend continues over the next few weeks. 

But I miss the gadgets, sidebar, blogroll (especially the blogroll, essential for keeping up with other bloggers), and the followers' avatars looking at me when I open the blog... Blogger says that they are working on adding those back too, and I am curious to see how they would look. And finally the pages: I had two extra pages on one of the blog, but they don't scroll down like they used to, so that too will be something that Blogger will probably have to think about. 

Well, I will probably keep this blog as it is for now, and keep Dynamic Views for the other two, I hope that my feedback was useful to you, and do let me know what you think of the other blogs (and if you can post comments easily on them!!)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pacific Harvest Furikake and the next cupcake making demo

When times are busy it is good to take out same ready make furikake. Furikake is a Japanese style seasoning, usually used to top rice, but useful for other dishes as well. I found one that I really like: Citrus Furikake from Pacific Harvest, (FYI, I have not been endorsed, payed or given free products by the company, but hey, if you have any free samples - vegetarian of course, do send them this way! :-). I love seaweed and this furikake is a mixture of 5 seaweeds: naturally flavoured kelp, karengo, sea lettuce, ao-nori, wakame, plus sesame seeds and a nice citrus touch. At home usually we sprinkle it directly on rice, or make onigiri (rice balls), or use it on noodles, vegetables, and a variety of dishes. Here are two examples.

Onigiri with furikake

To make the onigiri cook some Japanese (or sushi) rice (rinse it first until the water runs clear). When the rice is still warm wet your hands with water, rub them with just a little salt, and shape the rice balls with your palms. Sprinkle some furikake on top of each onigiri, or roll part of the onigiri onto the furikake for an even covering (but do not cover the whole rice ball with it, furikake is salty, and you just need a little bit).

Soba with Furikake

Super quick lunch: I cooked some bok choy like in here, and some soba like in here, but I didn't rinse the soba under cold water at the end: as soon as I drained the soba I mixed it with the hot bok choy, and then each diner sprinkled a bit of furikake on top. Simple, fast and the kids loved it!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

More Cupcake workshops!

This Sunday Arantxa and I will be at the Lopdell House in Titirangi for the event Cake & Make.
For more info please click here.

photo by Shaun Cato-Symonds, from the book Party Food for Girls ©

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Black and White Wednesday: sepia pizza dough

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Welcome back to Black and White Wednesday, organized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. Today I tried to experiment with sepia, the title of the photo is pizza dough.


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