Monday, 30 July 2012

Entertaining at home: Decadent Chicken & Mushroom Filos

One of the few vivid memories I recall from my early childhood is the extravagent dinner parties my parents would throw.

I remember being bustled reluctantly off to bed on those nights, drifting off to sleep with the smell of a delicious dinner in the air before waking in the night to the cheery sounds of muffled laughter and clinking glasses.

Dad would always leave a small platter of party food for my sister and me to enjoy with the Sunday morning cartoons. It was always such a treat to have carrot sticks, dip and apple strudel for breakfast! I realise now that my father’s generosity was more likely a cunning ploy to buy a sleep-in... it worked.

In my life B.C., I enjoyed hosting dinner parties. I guess there’s something about the soft lighting, background music, fancy bubbly, hors d'Ĺ“uvres and domestic-goddess satisfaction that still evokes those happy childhood memories. Best of all, it was only a flight of stairs separating me from bed once the wine was polished off!

Friday night's feast

These days, dinner parties are as fun as ever and an extremely practical way for us to catch up with friends without having to worry about finding a babysitter. Having people over for dinner needn’t be stressful – you can do anything from takeaways to a 10-course banquet – it’s totally up to you!

Are there any dinner party recipes that have served you well over the years? I'm always up for trying something new!

We had friends over on Friday, and I decided to cook something special. Special, but quick and easy so I could also relax and enjoy their company. This dish has been a favourite for many years; I hope you enjoy it too.
RECIPE: Decadent Chicken & Mushroom Filos

Preparation time: 20 mins of chopping and cooking to do in advance (such as the night before or on the day when your little one is having a nap), then 10 mins to wrap the filos before they go in the oven (perfect to do with a glass of wine in hand)
Cooking time: 20 mins in the oven

500g chicken breast, sliced into 2cm thick strips
150g frozen spinach
1 onion, chopped
8 med mushrooms, chopped
1 tbs plain flour
1 tsp butter
1 tsp chicken stock powder
200ml cream
1 cup grated cheese
Sesame seeds
Cooking oil spray
Filo pastry (you can find this in the dairy aisle of most supermarkets)

1. Melt butter in a frypan on med-high heat, add chicken, onion and mushrooms and saute lightly for approximately 5 mins
2. Add the flour and mix well
3. Add the spinach, cream and chicken stock and mix well
4. Heat until sauce thickens, then remove from heat and mix in grated cheese and cracked pepper
** Do steps 1-4 in advance so the mixture is allowed to cool completely, then when you're almost ready for dinner:
5. Preheat fan-forced oven to 180C
6. Layer 3 pieces of filo pastry on a cutting board (spray each layer lightly with cooking oil), and use a sharp kitchen knife to cut the filo layers in half (length ways)
7. Spoon 2 tbs of the mixture onto the end of each filo strip, and wrap into a triangular parcel
8. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used
9. Place the filo parcels onto a greased oven tray, spray them lightly with cooking oil and sprinkle sesame seeds on top
10. Bake in oven for 15-20 mins (until golden)

This recipe makes about 12 parcels, ideal for 4 people. I like to serve them with a crisp glass of chardonnay and salad on the side - a green garden salad and a beetroot salad (whole baby beetroot, goats cheese, baby spinach leaf and walnuts) are ideal and very easy to prepare.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Mummy love

For me, one of the unexpected highlights of becoming a mummy has been getting to know other mummies. 
Photo by scribbletaylor:
Like most women, I was gossiping with friends over a latte before I could walk. I haven't looked back since.

After cutting down on caffeine while I was pregnant, I am definitely making up for lost time now. Thank goodness for my mummies in crime who are always up for an afternoon coffee, caramel slice and chat about the baby problem du jour!

Whatever stage of motherhood you’re in, I think it’s important to have supportive people around you who can relate. I’ve found there are plenty of places to meet other likeminded parents, such as: antenatal class, the day care centre your kiddies go to, fitness groups, organised Mothers' Group or community support groups. You’d be surprised how parents with prams at local parks or out pounding the pavement will gravitate to each other – so next time, just say hi!

It can be daunting putting yourself out there to meet new people, but I've found it’s always worth it. I remember walking into my local community centre for the first Mothers' Group session with first-day-at-school nerves, but soon realised we all shared the same anxieties and everyone was looking for friendship and support just like me. Seven months on, our Mothers' Group catch ups are still one of the highlights of my week and I’m sure we’ll remain friends for many years to come.

As well as being amazing coffee companions, this week I discovered my mummy friends have other talents. After accidentally slicing off the top of my finger (ouch!), I was able to call on a fellow mum in the same street to help me with the baby and provide moral support while I was at the doctor. Bless her!

No need to feel sorry for me – this little bandage means I can’t do the dishes or any other household chore that involves water. Lucky hubby.

I’m looking forward to lots of entertaining and socialising this weekend, what are you up to? Hope you have a good one!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Meeting of the Dads

How was your weekend? While the sunshine I was hoping for didn't eventuate, we wrapped up in our hats and gloves and still enjoyed getting out and about.

The highlight of my Saturday was the Mothers Group family get together at the local pub. I feel very lucky to have met such a wonderful group of women who live nearby and love to chat about life over a latte or two, and we decided it was time for all the Dads to meet as well. Too often Dads miss out on the social aspects of parenthood, and what better way to bond than over a couple of beers! It was lovely seeing all the Dads engaging with the babies and each other, and getting to meet the men behind all the ladies I've grown to love over the past couple of months.

While our Mothers Group still catches up weekly, we've scheduled the next family get together for September - which I've put up my hand up to organise. I'm thinking that a game of barefoot bowls might be in order to celebrate the start of Spring?

Would love to hear about any good family catch ups you've had lately!

~Mel x

Friday, 20 July 2012

It's Friday - time to dance!

In my life BC (before children), I would spend most of Friday counting down the clock and listening to upbeat tracks in anticipation for the weekend. Today is no different. After having one of those weeks, I am definitely looking forward to the weekend - hubby will be at home, I get to sleep in a little bit while dad & son play, and we've got plenty of fun socialising to do together in the sunshine.

So, what song should I listen to today? I decide to sing 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' later and opt instead for Chris Brown's 'Beautiful People' (Prodijig on Got to Dance UK reintroduced me to the song - love that show). Baby son is in the Jolly Jumper with a big beaming smile and I'm dancing in my very chic tracksuit pants, but it puts a smile on my face too. It feels just like old times! As I sing the lyrics I realise it's surprisingly inspirational, in a life lesson sort of way:

Live your life, live your life... the beauty's deep inside, inside you... don't let 'em bring you down... you're beautiful, don't you know....

Suddenly it turns into one of those days, where he eats all of his lunch without complaint, has a good afternoon sleep and then grows his first tooth!

What's your favourite Friday afternoon song? Hope you have a great weekend!

~Mel x