Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hoping and Dreaming

blueberry muffins

I had the most wonderful thought the other day. It made me smile and dream and hope as only ambition can. I love simplicity and most of all, genuine thoughtfulness, and often find more happiness in the little things in life than the so-called milestones. Plus who wants to wait until society obligates you to let people know you care about them. This is why I have mixed feelings toward Christmas and the holiday season. I enjoy the gift giving but not the gift buying.

A sneak peek into the more corporate world of graphic design showed me that it isn’t where I want to be – deadlines for clients you’ve never even met in person! But in this business, it’s all about learning and experience. I may very well end up there for a few years before I can go out on my own and start my own design studio (in a little terrace house with gorgeous wooden floorboards and a fireplace). That’s my dream, and I’ll tell you now, things will be done differently.

In this daydream I was about to start a presentation to a client. It was a project I was excited about, to be working on packaging with an artisan chocolate maker. It was a casual meeting, explaining initial ideas and really getting to know them and their product. In the middle of the table was a plate of freshly baked muffins that I’d made that morning.

It might never happen – who knows what the future will bring – but it got me thinking, it got me hoping and dreaming. And to complete the reverie, I baked some gorgeous blueberry muffins. It was kind of nice to get back to one-bowl basics, since muffins were one of the first recipes I ever cooked. I used Donna Hay’s recipe, but next time I’ll tweak it slightly to be a little more moist, perhaps with some applesauce or yoghurt.

Also, if you haven’t already, go and check out the prizes available for this year’s Menu For Hope. This year I’m offering a fully personalised logo design and development package that I am very excited about! There are only a few days left, so please help us beat last year's amazing total.

Blueberry Muffins
Recipe adapted from Donna Hay
Makes 12

• 2 cups plain flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• ¾ cups caster sugar
• 1 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
• 2 eggs
• 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil
• 1 punnet fresh blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the sugar.
3. Place the crème fraiche or sour cream, eggs, lemon zest and oil in a bowl and whisk well until smooth. Stir this mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Be careful not to overwork the mixture or it will not rise as successfully.
4. Add the blueberries and stir gently.
5. Spoon the mixture into a greased muffin tin. Bake for 12-20 minutes depending on the size of muffins.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Menu For Hope 4

How great is Menu for Hope! I am so happy to be involved, after watching from afar last year before I had actually started my own blog. It is so great to see so many people hop on board with fantastic prizes to raise money and awareness for such a fantastic cause, the UN World Food Program to end the fight against hunger.

The prize that I am offering is a completely personalised logo development package for your blog or business.

A logo says so much about you. It embodies your attitudes, values and style, and helps you stand out from the crowd. It should be recognisable, creative and unique. But a logo is just the beginning of a whole cohesive identity that can extend into business cards, websites, packaging, signage – whatever you need!

self promotion

So what does this mean? I will work closely with the winner to develop the logo that is right for you. I’ll ask you questions to get to know you better, and from there hit my trusty Powerbook Alice to design your logo.

For first time visitors to my blog, here’s a little bit about my design background. I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer when I was in Year 9 at high school. I got into my first choice of colleges, a place that solely teaches graphic design, but I was also accepted into three others. The last two years have been a wonderful rollercoaster of creativity. I have worked on book covers, magazines, packaging, CD design, posters, illustrations, identities and countless logos. You can check out some of my work on Flickr.

I’ll tell you a little secret. My rate for logo development is up to $500, and many professional designers would charge much more. This is your chance to grow your blog or business and support a great cause.

If you want to check out the prizes on offer throughout the Asia/Pacific region, visit Helen at Grab Your Fork

If you want to check out all of the prizes, visit Chez Pim

If you are interested in this prize, the code is AP19

Here’s what you should do:

1. Go to the donation page at http://www.firstgiving.com/menuforhope4
2. Make a donation: each US$10 will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. In the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form, please specify which prize or prizes you'd like, using the prize-code and detailing the number of tickets per prize you'd like to purchase. For example, a donation of US$50 can be 2 tickets for AP01 and 3 for AP02
3. For US donors, if your company has agreed to match your charity donation, please remember to tick the box and fill in the information so we may claim the corporate match.
4. Please make sure you tick the box to allow us to see your email address so we may contact you if you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
5. Winners will be announced on Chez Pim in mid-January 2008.

Good luck, and please give generously!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Other Hemisphere

chunky chicken soup

Let me say one thing of November, now that it’s over… Phew! In the temporary insanity of deadlines week at college and the twilight zone of freelance design work there wasn’t a lot of time for cooking. Even when I did manage to cook (tried and tested recipes mostly, and usually late at night), there was not a lot of time for photos, much less to sit down and write about the chocolate orange clafoutis, the rhubarb jalousie or the fifteen litres of pasta sauce that we made. Wouldn’t it be nice to pick up some extra time along with your groceries? I think it would live near the energy-saving light bulbs or more appropriately, in the aisle with the coffee.

I must say, it is odd sometimes to live in the other hemisphere. I’ve never seen snow and I’ve never tried eggnog, but you guys are making me crave cinnamon buns and warm scarves, and I don’t even like winter! It is summer here in Australia, there are cherries and blueberries in my fridge just waiting to be turned into something delicious, if they are not all gobbled up in the meantime.

The days are longer, but the weather has a surprising unpredictable-ness. Yesterday morning I was walking in North Sydney, finding myself smiling when a fellow pedestrian talked to me at the traffic lights about the trees we had found shade under. Just hours later I sat at the window watching the rain and hearing the thunder, but what I noticed most was the smell – absolute purity. I took great pleasure looking outside while chopping up vegetables, knowing that the soup I was making was the absolute perfect match to the weather we were having.

This is the chunkiest soup I’ve ever seen. It is more like a slightly ‘juicy’ risotto with pasta than an actual soup, which is great because each spoonful (I ate it with a fork actually) gives you different colours and textures. The slightly crunch of the celery is nicely offset against the perfectly cooked pasta. The hearty chunks of chicken team well with the slinky spinach. You know how I love versatility, so all of you Northern Hemispherers can throw in some butternut squash or potatoes for a comforting winter meal.

Chunky Chicken and Vegetable Soup
Adapted from October Australian Gourmet Traveller
Serves 6

• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 5 slices shortcut bacon, diced
• 1 onion, diced
• 2 carrots, diced
• 2 celery stalks, diced
• 3 chicken breasts, diced
• 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
• ½ cup white wine
• 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
• 3 cups chicken stock
• 1 – 1 ¼ cup small pasta such as risoni
• 1 large zucchini, diced
• 1 x 400g can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
• 50g baby spinach leaves (optional)
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsely
• Finely grated parmesan and fresh crusty bread, to serve

1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat, add bacon and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally
2. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook until slightly softened.
3. Add chicken and garlic and continue to stir until chicken becomes opaque.
4. Add wine, tomato and stock, and season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the pasta, zucchini and beans, stir to combine. Increase the heat again to medium high and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until pasta is al dente.
6. Remove from the heat and stir in parsley and spinach, if using.
7. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately with parmesan cheese, more cracked black pepper and bread.


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