Guest Blog Post: How to Make your Picnic Memorable with Easy Appetizers

This article was written and submitted by a TCFB reader, Katy Cavallero.

For a memorable picnic, prepare unique and mouthwatering appetizers that are also easy to make at home and will transport well.

Ideally, easy appetizers could be prepared the day or night before the picnic so they are ready to go the morning after.

Appetizers are commonly finger foods that need no utensils such as forks and spoons to eat.

Some can be skewered with toothpicks or picked with a napkin, pita bread, or chips. These can include dips, kebabs, skewers, dumplings, pizzas, pies, fries, vegetable sticks, cheese tarts, turnovers, stuffed vegetable, bruschetta, chicken wings, ceviche, cheese puffs, meatballs, pickles, deviled eggs, grilled oysters, clams, or mussels, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, caviar, nachos, onion rings, quesadilla, chicken nuggets, and tempura.

Cold vegetable soup recipe or hot chili can also make a satisfying appetizer served with bread.

For a fun and festive picnic, make different kinds of dips and spreads for crackers, chips and pita bread. Not only is this super flavourful, the presentation can also be quite colorful and exciting especially if guests are trying out the dips for the first time.

Some delicious dips you can make ahead at home are artichoke lemon dip, guacamole or avocado dip, hummus, baba ganoush or eggplant dip, cheesy beer dip, chili dip, tomato and black bean salsa, sour cream and crab dip, pesto cream cheese spread, caponata or eggplant relish, tepanade or olive paste, caramelized onion dip, chicken liver pate, curried egg salad, edamame dip, fava bean dip with garlic and goat cheese, mushroom caviar, oxtail pate, salmon spread, shrimp dip, and tzatziki or yogurt dip.

You can also make a seven layer bean dip of refried beans, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, chilies, sour cream.

For a very simple yet elegant picnic appetizer, prepare a cheese plate with different kinds of cheese and pair it with a selection of red and white wines.

You can also make a platter of cheese and cold cuts as well as slices of bread and fresh fruits. For a wonderful meze, you can include olives, roasted peppers dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sundried tomatoes.

DISCLAIMER:

This review is a guest review and reflects the reviewers’ own personal opinions on the product. The Casual Food Blogger accepts no responsibility for anything that is said in or caused by this review or anything contained in, caused by, or arising out of, the videos or photos contained in or referred to in this review.

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Taste of Sydney Festival (14-17 March 2013)

MC and I were pretty keen to check out the Taste of Sydney Festival, having really enjoyed it last year. So when I was offered the chance to attend as a guest of Rekorderlig Cider to taste the new passionfruit cider, I was really excited.

We got to Centennial Park around 12.05pm and found a huge queue of people waiting to get in. The gates for entry to the festival open at 12.00 midday for the first session and close at 4.00pm.

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Luckily our friends at Rekorderlig came to the rescue with some fast-entry passes that got us in in no time at all. We were led over to the very chilled out Rekorderlig tent by the lovely Chantelle who offered us some of the new passionfruit cider to try.

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MC was very excited, being a huge Rekorderlig fan and I (also a Rekorderlig lover), was pretty keen to try it out for myself! I had been expecting a slightly yellowish-coloured cider but we were surprised to find that the cider was clear and colourless. 

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When we tasted the cider I thought it tasted a little like lemonade but I think that was just because it looked like it. There was quite a strong after-taste of passionfruit and the product was very pleasant to drink. You definitely need to be careful with this one because you could easily drink half a dozen of these ciders without even realising that they have alcohol in them! They are very addictive and refreshing.

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After our ciders we decided to have a walk around and check out some of the stalls at the festival. It was a beautiful 30 degree Sydney day and we enjoyed getting some vitamin D whilst wining and dining over the four hours.

There were plenty of great stalls around. Some of the ones we purchased goods from/really liked included:

  • Fehlberg’s, which contained delish jars of pickled onions, preserved piquante peppers, honey and chilli garlic and spicy relishes;

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  • Morish Nuts where MC purchased some tasty cashews for his parents;
  • ChocoMe- stall showcasing delicious handmade chocolates from Adelaide; 

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  •  Jac Australian Wagyu beef; and

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  •  the Malaysia Kitchen marquee- where we got to see Malaysian Chef Jackie M making Char Kway Teow

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We also tried food from:

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Here we ordered the BBQ Petuna ocean trout and tangy Mexican street salad with citrus jalapeno dressing. The trout was delicious and soft with a slightly smoky flavour from being cooked on the BBQ. We loved the fresh salad which was perfect on this hot day, consisting of melon, pineapple, dragonfruit and tomato.

  • Four in Hand;

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At Four in Hand we tried the suckling roast pig with coleslaw and hot sauce. The pork was so soft and tender it almost melted in your mouth and the hot sauce was a bit like thousand island- slightly tangy and with a bit of a kick to it. the potatoes and coleslaw complemented this dish perfectly.

  • Longrain; and 

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At Longrain we enjoyed turmeric chicken with rice noodles, wild ginger and Thai basil. The dish was probably my least favourite as there were a lot of pieces of herbs and chilli in the dish (and some other things which I couldn’t identify!). Although the chicken was tasty and spicy, the noodles were a little bland and difficult to pick up with the small plastic forks.

  • Duccio Gelato.

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MC with the gelato

The gelato was refreshing and a great way to cool us down in between Rekorderlig stops. We chose forest fruits and passionfruit, two light and fruity flavours.

My favourite of all the dishes was Peter’s delicious trout with the delicious Mexican salad. It was an added bonus being able to meet him again (see also the Dilmah High Tea).

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While at the Festival we also saw a few other famous Chefs and cooks including:

Julia and Mindy (MasterChef)

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Aaron Harvie (MasterChef)

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Sammy & Bella (My Kitchen Rules)

To keep us entertained and relaxed there were a few demonstration kitchens and stalls including the Dilmah High Tea stall, the Bertoli kitchen, Tasmanian produce demonstrations and some fun activities at the Beer & Cider hall (where MC tried his hand at arm wrestling a monkey arm!).

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Overall, it was a great day out (followed by a night supporting Sydney FC against Melbourne Victory). We really enjoyed ourselves and will probably return again next year to see what new products Australia has to offer us!

GIVEAWAY: House of Organic – Nakula Coconut Water

House of Organic’s Marcus Sou answered a few questions for us and kindly sponsored our giveaway (see below).

1. What is the name of your product?

 House of Organic’s ACO certified organic coconut water by Nakula

 2. Tell us a bit about what it is?

 This product is 100% pure organic coconut water. Coconut water is the liquid naturally present in the centre of a young green coconut. It contains no fat and no cholesterol.

 3. What differentiates it from other coconut waters on the market?

 This coconut water is certified organic by Australian Certified Organic (ACO) – the gold standard in REAL high quality organic certification. There is no higher standard in Australia. ACO requires products to be at least 95% certified organic (the remaining 5% must also be naturally). Moreover ACO certification requires the product to be free of synthetics and toxins.

 4. How is coconut water produced/extracted?

 Aforementioned, coconut water is the liquid naturally present in the centre of a young green coconut. The organic coconut water simply gets drained out of the coconut and straight into a can to be pressurized and ready for customers to enjoy.

5. Where does your product, Nakula Coconut Water, come from?

 Thailand, because the climate there is optimum to grow tasty coconuts.

 6. Are there any health benefits or effects to drinking coconut water?

Coconut water (NOT coconut juice) contains no fat and no cholesterol. It is super rich in potassium -more than a banana- and contains 5 essential electrolytes: sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. It is nick-named “nature’s sports drink” as it is excellent to re-hydrate and re-energize the body after sport.

 7. How can The Casual Food Blogger Readers purchase Nakula Coconut Water?

This is only coconut water on the market that is certified organic by ACO and it can be purchased at www.houseoforganic.com.au. We ship within Australia for free! 

For your chance to win one of 6 twin packs of Nakula Coconut Water, leave a comment below. 

Terms and Conditions:

1. This competition is only open to New South Wales residents aged 18 years or over.

2. One entry per person allowed.

3. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post.

4. The competition opens on 01/11/12 at 19:00pm AEST and ends 30/11/12 at 12:00 (midday) AEST. 

5. The prize consists of 6 twin packs of Nakula Coconut Water cans.

6. The winner will be decided based on the most interesting comments as judged by The Casual Food Blogger.

7. Please include your name and email address so we can contact you if you win.

8. If you win you will be asked to provide a postal address to which the prize can be sent. Your name and postal address will be provided to House of Organic who will send the prize straight to you. Your name and address will only be used for the purposes of this competition. If you do not want your details to be sent to House of Organic, please do not enter.

9. Winners will be notified by email on 01/12/12. If we are unable to contact you or do not hear back from you within 5 days from the date of the email we will choose another winner.

10. This competition is hosted by The Casual Food Blogger at http://www.thecasualfoodblogger.wordpress.com.

Good luck!

MasterChef Live- 7 October 2012

When I found out that there was going to be a MasterChef Live event I just had to go! MasterChef has been one of my favourite TV shows and I have watched it from the very first series.

We bought tickets for Sunday and had pre-booked for the 11.45am ‘Sharp Celebrity How To’ show with the lovely Julia Taylor and the 1.30pm ‘Mystery Box Theatre’ with Adriano Zumbo, Darren Robertson and Kylie Millar.

When we got there we had a bit of extra time before Julia’s demonstration so we decided to have a walk around. The show was at the Hordern Pavilion and the Royal Hall of Industries in Sydney, and both were packed out with exhibitors, demonstration kitchens, and foodies!

There were some great shows and demonstrations around the room by many well-known and upcoming chefs!

 

 

 

 

Casa Barilla 

Kylie Kwong!!! Ahh one of my favourites!

 

Kikkoman Products

Andy Allen– Masterchef 2012 Winner!

Dani Venn, hosting at the Blanco Theatre

Amina Elshafei in the Blanco Contestants Theatre

Vincent Gadan of Patisse

Artisan Bakery Classes

Patak’s Barbecue Classes

Alvin Quah at the Ayam Demonstrations

Food Tasting

We tasted so many products:

Caesar salad with mayo

Sweet and salty popcorn

Defence Force chef’s creamy raspberry mousse (?). Not exactly sure what this was meant to be but it tasted AMAZING! It wasn’t as green as it looks in the photo though!

Delicious lemon and ricotta pastry

…and bought quite a few as well (review of Wild 1 Sparkling Drinks- Blood Orange, coming soon!).

Exhibitors

Some of my favourite stalls which we explored during the day included:

  • The Wild 1 drinks- a fantastic 100% Australian owned family company which produces some delicious drinks;
  • Patisse’s HUMONGOUS colourful meringues (I bought one in each colour!)

  • Sami’s Kitchen– Zaata pizzas are one of my favourite foods and I fell in love with their delicious zaata seasoning on a trip to the Taste of Sydney Festival earlier this year. I was very happy to replenish my supplies with some more great spice mixes!;
  • Moochi– delicious frozen yogurt with some cool toppings!;

  • Adriano Zumbo- ’nuff said;

  • High Tea in the bath– I never knew bath time could be so delicious, I wanted to eat some of their food-shaped soaps! Such a great idea for presents or high tea/wedding favours!;

  • MissChu– this little Asian pop-up restaurant provided us with some yummy treats at lunch time which were very much enjoyed!;

Pork Bun

Spring Rolls

Messy Prawn and Scallop Dumplings

  • Spanish Kitchen- we had an absolutely wonderful paella here, full of seafood and so bright and colourful! Great portion sizes as well- we struggled to finish this off; and

  • Rekorderlig Cider– always one of my favourites! We enjoyed the free samples and indulged in some refreshments of our own choosing as well. The BEST drink I can think of for a summery day. The only problem is that it tastes so good you’ll forget it’s alcoholic!

Sharp How To with Julia Taylor

Julia’s demonstration kitchen was a great way to learn some of her cooking tips. In this demo she gave us some advice on how to make her famous melting moments biscuits.

The lovely Mindy Woods was the host and she did so well that you would never know that it wasn’t her full-time job. Alice Zaslavsky was always there for some interesting food facts and a bit of a laugh!

We were able to try the melting moments, and they were goooood!

I’m hoping to try making them myself sometime soon using the tips Julia gave us, so please keep checking back for updates.

Mystery Box Theatre

We lined up (for about 10 minutes mind you), for the Mystery Box Theatre and were soon let into a dark enclosed room with a stage at the front of it.

The Mystery Box challenges were lots of fun and host Justine Schofield did a great job of talking us through the dishes with the chefs. Camera-man Ben also entertained the crowd with his cheeky food-stealing antics!

The challenges were great and it was good to see a lot of desserts being prepared right in front of us by some of the country’s most well-known chefs.

Kylie’s quick and easy wonton wrapper stack with marscapone cream and berries

 

Adriano’s Passion of Chocolate Goes Nuts dessert

Adriano and Darren face off in a cook-off

 

 

 

Meeting the Contestants!

One of the highlights of the day, other than the yummy food, was the opportunity to meet some of the lovely former Masterchef contestants.

Here are some photos of me with a few of them:

 

With the lovely Audra

Bumping into Alice!

 

 

With the gorgeous Mindy- cheeky Alice in the background!

 

With Sweet Treat Queen Julia!

With Friendly Ben– image courtesy of American Express Australia

I had a really good time at MasterChef Live and would definitely consider going again next year.

If any of my lovely readers went to MasterChef Live this year, or have been in previous years I would love to hear what you thought of it! Would you return? What was your favourite part of it?

Post your comments below!

More exciting desserts and restaurants to try!

Thanks to the SMH I have a few more desserts and restaurants to add to my To Do List

Quay’s ‘Eight textures of chocolate‘ is right up there on my list, along with their Snow Egg which I am also yet to try. I am waiting for a special occasion so that I don’t feel so guilty about forking out so much money for a dessert! 

Some of the other desserts featured include:

  • Japanese Stones- Sepia 
  • Tiramisu – The Sailor’s Club
  • Austrian Truffles- Rockpool on George
  • Rhubarb and pomegranate trifle -Orto Trading Co
  • Bourbon Baba with chestnut sorbet and poached pears – Jonah’s
  • Strawberry marshmallow meringue with raspberry ripple and strawberry paper -The Bridge Room
  • Lemon, milk ice, muscovado, averna jelly -Claude’s
  • Peanut butter and banana sundae – Hartsyard
  • Compost Cookie -Momofuku Milk Bar New York
  • Just Like Lego -Burch & Purchese Melbourne
  • Lemon Curd, citrus shortbread, candied endive, liquorice, pink grapefruit -BLACK 
  • Jordi Roca
  • Garden of Aphrodite -t Xanthi