Month: December 2012

About Beer – Spiced Ales for Christmas drinking!

My husband is really into craft beers, and loves to share the delights of handcrafted brews with anyone who will listen.  I, on the other hand, don’t really have a large vocabulary of adjectives for beer. So here is a combined review/commentary style thing about my favourite style. Spiced beers. What better time of year than christmas to explore the deliciousness of these. A very good place to do that in Brisbane is The Scratch. You can pretty well find all of these there.

My original experience with spiced beer started many years ago with the first release of NZ brewery’s Monteiths Summer Ale. A delicious and refreshing slightly gingery beer, great for a drinking session on a hot day. With an obvious limited  one, these beers have expanded my understanding of how spices can be used and applied in different ways.   I’m just sharing what I’ve discovered, and I encourage you to get behind smaller breweries like all these ones to try and support their artisan craftiness.

Lobethal Bierhaus – 7.5% Christmas Ale from South Australia.  Apart from the label being awesome, it‘s like drinking a delicious christmas pudding. It is rich and sweet, with more chocolatey style to it. It is less spicy than the Taieri George, but well balanced. The heavier alcohol definitely warms your heart, and would be so perfect sitting by the fire on a snowy December night in the Northern hemisphere.

Nogne O God Jul –  American Strong Ale from Norway, 8.5%. OK, so I’m not really one for dark beers, but this made me say WOW. In fact, this very beer played a part in turning my tastes to the darker variety. It’s sweet, caramel, cakey, delicious, and hints of spice flavours, although I don’t think there is any actual spice used in the brewing.

Emersons Taieri George – 6.8% Spiced Ale from NZ. This is like a big fat mouthful of gingerbread. It’s delicious. Darker and thicker in body, sweet like a biscuit and spicy like ginger, nutmeg and cloves. You can’t help but feel all cool and christmassy drinking this. Its a shame we’re in 30 degree heat here in Brisbane!

Norrebros Julebryg – 7% Danish Spiced Ale. This one is light in body, and not too sweet. You could taste more yeasty characteristics, but after the first couple of mouthfuls that mellows out. The spice flavour was very subtle.

Red Hill Brewery – Christmas Ale 8.3% Victoria, Australia. This one wasn’t so much traditionally spiced, but the hops they used were more the driver for spiciness. As a hoppy ale, it was great. But for me, the traditional spicy flavours of ginger, cinnamon etc are the drawcard for a ‘christmas ale’. If you don’t like those flavours, but want to get into the christmas spirit, then this is for you!

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Healthy Christmas Rum Balls – a dairy free, gluten free Christmas treat!

This is a quick, healthy and super easy recipe for an alternative to regular rum balls. If you don’t eat dairy or gluten it can be hard to find a yummy treat on the Christmas table. Its also good if you don’t want the kids eating loads of sugar.

You need a food processor for this one.

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(as always, these amounts should be played around with to suit your tastes 🙂

If you shop at Aldi, the quantities are easy… It’s just

500 g dates
200 g pecans or any nuts you like
3 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil (melted)
Splashes of vanilla
Splashes of rum (you could always use rum essence if you’re straight edge 😉
1/2 cup cocoa

The process really depends on your food processor, in mine, I chop dates and take them out to chop nuts, then mix them together with other ingredients.
Roll them into balls and cover with desiccated coconut, and they are best served cold. Yum!

Christmas Present Ideas – anti landfill and pro awesome.

My mission this christmas has been to remain stress free, reduce landfill, stay a bit healthy, not spend too much money, and try to buy ethical type presents, locally made, or not from the big stores. I’ve got a few ideas if you need some last minute ones! Some of this has been inspired by things that I have got, would love to get, some ideas from awesome friends, and other inspiration I’ve found around the place.

FOR KIDS
– A theme park fun pass
– Swimming lessons
– Music or dance classes
– Sports stuff – equipment or memberships
– A set of things to make a little garden
– Handmade/locally made games or toys
– Books – you can get loads of second hand books at op shops for not much money!
– Crafty type things – a set of paints and canvas, or a craft pack made up with papers, pencils, glue, bits and pieces.
– A (real) musical instrument
– A camera
– A home made voucher for a day out or sleepover with 2 friends (good school holiday entertainment)
– Work out with other parents a night where you could get a bunch of kids together for a party, and give them homemade tickets to it! (might be a bit daggy for teenagers, but I’m sure 7,8,9 year olds would love it)
– Movie vouchers
– Outdoor activities like a mini pool, play table, swing set etc

FOR GROWN UPS
– A restaurant voucher for a local restaurant
– A night in a hotel
– Art lessons
– Movie tickets
– A set of things to make a garden
– A 10 coffee voucher for someone’s favourite cafe
– The BEST present I have seen lately was a secret santa gift given to some friends. It was a gorgeous drawing of the two of them done on an old music sheet. OMG so thoughtful and lovely!
– Cooking lessons
– An array of homemade treats. There are so many possibilities here, just spend an evening. Making jam doesn’t actually take as long as you think, here’s recipes for Blueberry Jam, and Almond Butter.
– A beauty therapy voucher
– A massage voucher
– A painting you’ve done yourself
– A drawing you’ve done yourself, put it in a frame from the op shop
– Tickets to a concert, footy, or other event
– A family photo shoot from a budding photographer, or local business
– Music. Always a good gift, but maybe safest to get an iTunes voucher, or be sure of their tastes. A home made mixed tape is a great idea!
– A magazine subscription
– Locally made jewellery or homewares

Here are some great places in Brisbane that I’ve found inexpensive and lovely gifts:

The Trading Circle is a lovely shop in Paddington with handmade toys, jewellery etc all for the cause of helping women get out of poverty and build their entrepreneurial skills. http://www.thetradingcircle.com.au/

Biome is one of my favourite shops! Eco friendly homewares, makeup, books, toys, kitchen items and more. I love it.
http://www.biome.com.au/

www.madeit.com.au is a great place to find gifts, but you’d probably need to do that TODAY to make sure it gets to you in time.

There are so many restaurants around that you could get a voucher from. We chose Reserve Restaurant in Milton.

Beauty therapy for the girls! Everyone loves a facial, or a manicure. A voucher is such a practical present, and supports your local businesses too! Flourish Beauty in Bulimba is a gorgeous exclusive salon where the lady in your life will be pampered. 🙂

There are loads of people in the world who need our money and support more than Uncle Fred’s need for a metre of chocolate. Try these places for poverty fighting and original gift ideas.
http://www.oxfamunwrapped.com.au/

http://www.usefulgifts.org/

I hope this can provide inspiration to someone. Feel free to post your other ideas for a better christmas!

Vegan Chocolate Ice cream

This delicious and healthy delight is my favourite thing at the moment. Its sooo delicious and makes very good bribery material. My girl loves “Chocolate Ice Cream”, and she will become very compliant at the mention of it.

You can use this recipe as a guideline, and create your own flavour combos. I originally used this recipe from thekitchn.com, and made my own variation.

 

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

1 x bunch of bananas – chopped into bits (raaar!) and frozen overnight

about 1/3 cup cocoa

about 1/3 cup melted coconut oil

about 1/3 cup brown sugar (for an even healthier version use rapadura sugar)

splashes of vanilla

ingredients             bananablender 2

Put all of these things into a food processor and blend! As always, my wish is that you will experiment and test out different amounts of the flavourings to your own taste. I personally like lots of cocoa and vanilla. It comes out so creamy and delicious, I put it in a container and keep it in the freezer. Its the best thing for a healthy summer night treat.

choc icecream in blender         choc icecream2

 

 

Easy Christmas Decorations – Homemade Salt Dough Decorations

OK, this is REALLY fun. You can make anything you want to hang on your Christmas Tree! I found a recipe which I can’t find again. But there is one here which I think is pretty much the same.

I used a pack of cookie cutters I got from Aldi, and my super special Ninja Bread Men cutters
Acrylic paints
Christmas ornament hangers

It’s pretty straight forward really, make the dough, roll it out and cut out your shapes. Make a little hole with a skewer so you can tie ribbon or use hangers to hang the little guys.

The recipe I used said I only needed to cook them for 10 minutes, so when we were painting them they were still a bit squishy! I put them back in the oven for about 1.5hrs on 100degrees. That really dried them out properly, and it didn’t ruin the paint either. Have a look at the cool shapes we made, and my little girl loved doing this. (For about 5 minutes anyway)