everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

A snack food revelation

So, last week when I was at the airport in Melbourne, I accidentally wandered into a little shop called The Chocolate Box. And, while I bought some chocolates for a friend, I saw a lady clear out a large number of bags (the entire range) of something at the counter. It caused a bit of a kerfuffle amongst the staff, I tell you.

When I asked the ladies behind the counter what the lady had bought in such dramatic fashion, they whispered, “have you heard of chocolate chips?” Errr derrr, ladies. I like to bake and I have a massive sweet tooth, there’s nothing I don’t know about chocolate chips. “We mean salt and vinegar crisps covered in chocolate.” Really? Yes. Apparently they are one of their best sellers.

Here they are. [image from chocolatebox.com.au]

Here they are.
[image from chocolatebox.com.au]

So, today I bought a bag (ok, maybe two) to bring in to the office so we could experience this phenomenon. The verdict was mixed – but I vote YES for this snack food. A bit too much chocolate masking the flavour, but every now and again there was an unmistakable salty/vinegary kick. Like chocolate covered pretzels, only better, I reckon.

If you’re in Australia, you can stock up at The Chocolate Box. Or I guess you could make your own, if you’re so inclined. Chocolate Chicken Crisps, anyone? Anyone?

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Bringing nonsense back

Hello, how are you? I hope you are well. It’s been a while since I’ve been here, but I thought I’d try to get back into sharing more nonsense. That was always the intention of this blog, really: noticing and passing on everyday sorts of sparks that I saw and liked. Because sometimes it’s nice to have a light diversion from normal everyday life, right?

So, here’s some nonsense that I found last week – an excerpt from the menu at the not-so-great Melbourne hotel I stayed in whilst in town for work. The other dishes sound normal enough, but WHY HAVE THE APRICOTS INTERCEPTED THE LAMB CUBS? And what actually are lamb cubs? Offspring of bears and sheep? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?

The other dishes sound normal enough, but WHY HAVE THE APRICOTS INTERCEPTED THE LAMB CUBS? WHY?

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Hello, Chocolate Mug Cake

I had read about these magical sounding chocolate puddings in a few different places on the internets recently. Put a few simple ingredients in a mug, pop it in the microwave for a minute or so and – hey, presto – out comes a delicious cake. Can’t argue with that for a quick and easy dessert. Or morning tea treat. Or midnight snack. Or, you know, breakfast. No judgement.

A little smaller than a normal mixing bowl...

A little smaller than a normal mixing bowl…

As always, Google generously provides about a bzillion recipes for cakes and puddings in mugs. I tried a chocolate peanut butter version last night, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

And then there was cake.

And then there was cake.

The verdict? For a basic muggy dessert that microwaved in 1 minute 10 seconds, it was actually quite good. Definitely much better than I had expected. I have included the recipe that I used (from The Novice Chef blog) below – it’s well worth a try. Especially if you’re in rainy Sydney at the moment and need a bit of extra warmth!

When a cup of tea isn’t quite comforting enough, try a mug of cake, I say.

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[recipe from The Novice Chef blog]

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The Camino Diet

As I’ve mentioned, it’s only around a month til my friend Steph and I leave for the Camino. A lot of well-meaning peeps have been giving us tips and hints, as well as remarking on how they can’t wait to see how fit and thin we are on our return. (Not that we are super unfit and ginormous now, I might add.) I remind those people that one of my favourite lunches on my last trip to Spain was a potato omelette on a giant bread roll – now that’s carb loading. And then there’s the wine – I am sure that it’s culturally insensitive to refuse.

So, we really don’t know what impact the 800km will have on us. Sure, it’s a lot more walking than we’d normally do each day in our office jobs, but then there are the delicious (and not always healthy) foods along the way, undoubtedly an important part of the journey. So maybe it’ll just even out and we’ll come back looking EXACTLY THE SAME. Just warning you now – it’s definitely a possibility.

One of the many books that I’m reading is ‘Guide to the Camino’ by an Australian lady, Trish Clark. Trish includes local delicacies in her book – food and drink that walkers should try in each town. As I read the list for one town, I felt the weight stacking on:

Fried bread with garlic and ham? Yes please!

Fried bread with garlic and ham? Caramelised custard & sponge cake? Yes please!

And then I read about another town and realised that – at least for me on my bull-free diet – this stop might be a lean one:

Cinnamon pancakes it is.

Cinnamon pancakes it is.

So, looks like there will be lots of exercise and lots of fried bread and pancakes (and bull hoof stew) – life is all about balance, right?!

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Blog Crush: Sally’s Baking Addiction

I have a blog crush. The blog is Sally’s Baking Addiction. I want to make and eat pretty much everything on Sally’s blog – especially the things with brightly coloured sprinkles. Which is A LOT of the things, thankfully. According to her brief bio, Sally is a ‘food writer, recipe developer, picture-taker, lover of peanut butter, and obsessed with sprinkles’. Sounds pretty great to me!

Even if you’re not into baking, you can surely appreciate the food porn value of Sally’s blog – and it’s calorie-free if you just look at the pictures. But don’t just take my word for it – check out these photos of some of my favourites…

This tie-dye cake makes me wish we celebrated 4th of July in Australia...

This tie-dye cake makes me wish we celebrated 4th of July in Australia…

 

'Easy homemade Funfetti cake'? Yes please!

‘Easy homemade Funfetti cake’? Yes please!

Salted Caramel Choc Chip Cookies. Uh huh.

Salted Caramel Choc Chip Cookies. Uh huh.

S'mores Brownie Pie. Yes, that is a toasted marshmallow topping.

S’mores Brownie Pie. Yes, my friends, that is a toasted marshmallow topping.

Ok, I have to stop now or I will go into a virtual sugar coma. But if you’re looking for some sweet inspiration, including healthy(ish) options, gluten-free options, no-bake options and lots of sprinkles, then Sally’s Baking Addiction is the place to visit. The recipes are detailed and easy to follow, supported by amazing photos. As with any temptation, EverydaySparks of course urges moderation in your consumption of Sally’s treats. But there’s no harm in looking…

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The best chocolate product in the whole wide world

According to the good people at Haigh’s Chocolates here in Australia, it’s ‘Marshmallow & Coconut Season‘ from April to October. And that is indeed great news. I know they’re telling the truth about the limited season as I once went into their shop in Sydney looking for their rocky road (the subject of this blog & my vote for the best chocolate product in the whole wide world) and the young lady behind the counter looked at me as if I was a poor simple visiting from another planet. Very slowly, she explained: “Ummm…we don’t actually sell rocky road now, it’s just too hot for marshmallow’.

Compliments of the season. [image from haighschocolates.com.au]

Compliments of the season.
[image from haighschocolates.com.au]

I can’t believe I had lived ’til that point without knowing about marshmallow season. But now I do and, from April to October, I do like to celebrate the season from time to time with Haigh’s milk chocolate rocky road (they also have dark chocolate, if you’re so inclined). I bought some yesterday – my first for the season, I swear – and was reminded again of just how awesome it is.

Haigh’s is a bit of an Australian institution for chocolate. According to their website, they are ‘the oldest family-owned chocolate manufacturing retailer in Australia’. Sure, that’s a pretty narrow niche, but I love that there are still Haighs running the show and churning out their amazing chocolate. They only came to Sydney relatively recently – when I was a wee graduate working at a major bank, it was a treat when one of the big wigs in our area went to Adelaide or Melbourne as he’d bring back Haigh’s chocolate frogs. Good times.

'Tis the REAL season to be jolly, I tell you. [image from haighschocolates.com.au]

‘Tis the REAL season to be jolly, I tell you.
[image from haighschocolates.com.au]

Anyways, if you are in Australia during Coconut & Marshmallow Season and you haven’t tried Haigh’s rocky road, I reckon you definitely should. You have until the end of October, peeps. Enjoy! (You can also have a calorie-free look at their website here if you’re from another land…or if you’re in Australia, but you don’t like delicious chocolate.)

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A gummi lunch

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Sydney Royal Easter Show with some of my peeps. I love the Show, but hadn’t been for many years. It was a very fun day – adults have full permission to act like kids, everyone consumes waaaay too much junk food and suddenly us city folk become instant experts in everything from dairy cattle to alpacas to bull riding and cake decorating. And then there are the infamous show bags.

Showtime

Showtime

With security guys outside each entry and exit point of the giant Showbag Pavillion and a maze of fences and railings to herd people through the entrance (just like the cattle in the pavillion down the street), the kids are always a-buzz and the adults are all exchanging looks of dread. Inside, it was crazy. A mass of humanity, hundreds and hundreds of people of all shapes & sizes crammed in together trying to get a showbag and get out. Except for those people who stopped in the middle of the traffic, just gazing from one display to another, philosophising over the relative merits of the My Little Pony showbag over the Moshi Monsters showbag. No one likes those amateurs – they generally get a sharp elbow in the ribs to jolt them out of their reverie and encourage a quick decision. (I didn’t do any elbow-ing, I promise.)

Anyways, I did join in and get a Trolli show bag full of gummi treats – it was the only lolly show bag that included items that were so obscure that I couldn’t work out if the showbag price was a rip off. (My familiarity with chocolate prices had me scanning those Cadbury bags and saying wise old-lady things like, “$10? We could buy all that at the supermarket for $7.50. Outrageous!”)

So, I had a look inside the showbag this morning and discovered that lunch today was sorted – every detail taken care of by the good people at Trolli with my gummi lunch. As healthy and natural in gummi form as the real thing. Amazing. Bon appetit!

 

My gummi lunch bag, packed full of treats.

My gummi lunch bag, packed full of treats.

GummiPizza

There’s Gummi Pizza, seemingly prepared by a chef from Super Mario Bros…

And a gummi hot dog, bursting with colour.

And a gummi hot dog, bursting with colour.

And a mini gummi burger, looking eerily like the real thing.

And a mini gummi burger, looking eerily like the real thing.

And of course, sour gummi fries.

And of course, sour gummi fries.

And to wash it all down, a gummi cola. They've thought of everything!

And to wash it all down, a gummi cola. They’ve thought of everything!

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Edible Art

I’m not an artist, so I’m frequently left in awe of people with artistic talent. And when an artist uses some wacky materials in their work, so much the better, I say. Which is why I was so excited to discover the work of Malaysian artist-architect Hong Yi (nickname Red) via one of my favourite sites: designboom. One of Red’s latest projects is ’31 Days Of Creativity With Food’. Sounds good. Looks AMAHZING! Here are some of my favourites…

Hong Yi's foodie version of 'The Scream', via designboom.com

Hong Yi’s foodie version of ‘The Scream’, via designboom.com

Hong Yi's chickens, via designboom.com

Hong Yi’s chickens, via designboom.com

Now these are the kind of balloons that I like, along with Hong Yi's soy sauce people, via designboom.com

Now these are the kind of balloons that I like, along with Hong Yi’s soy sauce people, via designboom.com

Grrrr - eat your radish, carrots and prunes, says Hong Yi's tiger, via designboom.com

Grrrr – eat your radish, carrots and prunes, says Hong Yi’s tiger, via designboom.com

Incredible Oreo art by Hong Yi, via designboom.com

Incredible Oreo art by Hong Yi, via designboom.com

You can check out more great pics on the designboom site here and there are more amazing projects on Red’s official website here. Such incredible talent and imagination, I’m truly in awe.

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Pictures of the week

A lazy post on a sunny Friday – here are three pics of things that made me confused / creeped out / happy this week…

Firstly, the promo posters for the musical Legally Blonde at The Star casino here in Sydney. (For the record, I visited the casino with my friend B, not to gamble but to eat macarons and gelato.) I am really not sure of the tag line: Makes you feel how you want to feel! Huh? I’m not sure if that’s a line that I’ve forgotten from the movie, or if it’s being issued like an order from the kinda cranky looking, arms-folded Cameron Daddo. How does he know how I want to feel, anyway? And who is Erika Heynatz’ underdressed character? So many questions left unanswered, but not enough to entice me to buy a ticket.

Say what?

Say what?

Then to the kinda creepy swing set that appears to be watching me from its monkey bar glasses. They look to belong to some disapproving lady (or an owl) and they make me sit up straighter, speak more politely and watch my Ps and Qs, that’s for sure.

Here's looking at you...

Here’s looking at you…

And on to one of my favourite desserts. It’s a Jell-O product from the USA – the pale green powder magically produces bright green pistachio pudding, complete with pieces of pistachio nuts that I swear weren’t there in the packet of powder. It’s like a miracle. Oh, and the protein in the nuts automatically makes it a healthy dessert option. And there’s calcium in the cream that goes on top. So, it’s basically as good as fruit salad, I think.

Fruit salad. Ish.

Fruit salad. Ish.

Have a great weekend!

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New year’s resolution #12 – the food expansion program

A couple of years ago, I realised that it was time to expand my food horizons. That’s not to say that I don’t like a wide range of foods, but I had fallen into a bit of a rut and wasn’t trying many new things. So I set a goal that I would try a number of new foods/drinks every month – most of them were things that people laughed at because they were so mainstream and not remotely adventurous, but had somehow never been part of my adult diet: lamb, a Slurpee, sushi, a protein bar, Vegemite, ham, calamari. Stuff like that. Family and friends were very supportive (although they did laugh A LOT at my expense) and made suggestions about what I might like to try next, which helped to keep me honest.

Thanksgiving 2012, I tried yams covered in marshmallows. Verdict: not for everyday, but sweetly delicious.

Thanksgiving 2012, I tried yams covered in marshmallows. Verdict: not for everyday, but sweetly delicious.

I do remember shocking some of my work mates when, on the last day of a month, I was in a panic to fill the final spot on my new food list and my friend Ams rushed me to a city food court to buy Bubble Tea. Have you ever tried that stuff? Yikes. Make that yikes with giant gelatinous balls of tapioca in it. Their packaging system was very cool though and I was enthralled by their production line, but when it came to actually drinking the beverage, it was a struggle. I could only get about halfway through, which was enough to put it on the list.

Bubble Tea image from Wikipedia. Ah, brings back memories.

Bubble Tea image from Wikipedia. Ah, brings back memories. Just look at that tapioca, pretending to be a cute design on the container. Don’t be fooled!

Anyways, I have decided that I’m going to try another food expansion program this year, so I can make sure that I’m trying new things and not going for the same old food and drink options. I’m telling you now so that it’s out there and I feel obliged to follow through. I expect some hits and misses as I aim for five new foods/drinks per month. As an aside, if I am dining or drinking with you in the real world, please remind me to look beyond what I would normally choose from the menu…who knows, but I might find my as-yet-undiscovered new favourite thing. Of course, there’s always a chance that I’ll find another bubble tea, but that’s all part of the fun of broadening horizons and finding everyday sparks (and keeping work-mates entertained). Bon appetit!

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