Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas From the Beach House

Christmas Inspiration

Wishing you all a fabulous Christmas and a prosperous New Year from the Beach House.

I hope to be back in January with more food, coastal vintage style, travel stories and lots of great ideas, for living beautifully by the beaches.

Thanks for all your visits here.  Without you, there would be no Desire Empire and I am ever so grateful for your presence.

If you are in Sydney and want some ideas about what to do with the kids these school holidays, here are some tips on day trips to the Northern Beaches.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

How to Style a Coastal Christmas Mantel

How to Style a Coastal Christmas Mantel

Here's one for those of you who thought this was a coastal decor blog.  I know it's been all about the food this Christmas and a little light on home decor, but that is how I have felt this season.

Even though I like to do a Christmas Mantel every year, I was not too sure about how to proceed with it.  I did not want to spend another cent on Christmas decorations, so I was wondering how to use what I had, to make it pretty. 

 That frame had a chalk board in it, for last years Christmas Mantel . Later in the year, it was happily sitting on my front deck, with a new message on it, when a big gust of wind blew it off the wall, dislodging the blackboard from the frame, in the process.

This year, I dressed the frame with my shell wreath and strung it up with bakers twine. I tied my trusty old piece of red Christmas ribbon around the bottom and strung the IKEA snowflake lights around it.

 I placed the frame on a bed of Norfolk pine needles and finished the mantel with 2 glass votives, dressed with candles, shells and pine needles.  The glass votives,  I got from the discount store, years ago.  A few shells dotted around and some mercury votives to bring the silver frame and golden shell colours together.

And there you have it. I think it has come up rather coastal Nordic, if you will.

The night before, Mr Beach House and I had a lovely dinner for our wedding anniversary.  He grumbled about the cost and said "I was worth it."   I enjoyed every tiny bite.......I like to think of our anniversary dinner as a time to sit quietly together and reflect on another year and what we have created together.  It seems I am always pleasantly surprised and remember why I married him at these dinners. We get on pretty well most of the time and when you take away all the day to day drudge surrounding a marriage, it is basically a good one.

  When we walked into the restaurant, some clients were sitting at the next table.  One remarked how well he brushed up.  My mother bought him a shirt for his birthday (also last week) and I must say, how nice it is to see him in a shirt, rather than King Gees or sailing gear.  But as you can see, he does not iron.

Perhaps it was the dinner, which revitalised me into putting the Christmas Mantel together the next day.  I did enjoy the creative outlet and now feel my house is completely decorated for Christmas.

Go well Beach Dwellers and I have said it before.  More Christmas inspiration with respect to food and decor, can be had here.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Glazed Christmas Ham with Guinness, Pineapple Juice and Marmalade

Glazed Christmas Ham with Guinness, Pineapple Juice and Marmalade

If you thought this kind of Christmas fare was out of your culinary league, think again.  This is easy, would look fabulous on any Christmas buffet and is oh so scrumptious.

I got this recipe from one of the kindy mums.  Thanks Gub.  Although I declined the invitation to her 40th birthday, which apparently was fabulous, everyone is still raving about the ham, Gub served at the party.  That ham is now part of the folk law in our little corner of the planet, so I hit her up for the recipe and she most obligingly came through last week.

I don't usually buy a ham at Christmas time, let alone glaze it, but I do love a change.  So this year, I presided over the full catastrophe and do not regret it for a second.

To all those who come here, who are not the least bit interested in how to prepare food,  I do apologise for all the food posts.  That is just the way I felt like rolling this Christmas season.  I bought loads of craft supplies, but just never got the urge to put them together this year.

I do intend to put together a coastal Christmas mantel here, before I take a break, but don't hold me to it.

Kindy concert Christmas decorations
And although I am very very grateful for my lot in life, I just posted this on my Facebook. 
This may be part of the reason for my malaise this season.

"Bearing a child and getting married in the week before Christmas......obviously not in the same year, is a mistake I will not make in my next life.  My Christmas tip........NEVER make love in March, unless there is some serious contraception involved.  Oh and the marriage thing, well that's optional too."

Mr Beach House and I can be found tonight, in one of Sydney's most beautiful restaurants by the sea, celebrating our wedding anniversary.  Summer breeze at our shoulder, with the lapping of water to be heard, in the near distance.  Nights like we are in store for tonight, are to me, what life is all about and I certainly don't have any rules about December.

Glazed Christmas Ham with Guinness, Pineapple Juice and Marmalade
Ham on the bone 9-10kg.  I used a 5kg one.
1 can Guinness
2 cups pineapple juice
1 cup brown sugar
2  cups or 1 500g jar marmalade
Christmas ribbon for tying.

Carefully take the rind off, leaving the fat in situ. Reserve the rind, so you can wrap the ham in it, in the fridge to store.  Mine is also wrapped in a pillow case.
Score the fat into diamonds. Try not to cut into the meat, so as to retain its moisture.
Attach cloves in the centre of each diamond.  This will hold the fat in place
Heat marmalade to make runny and pour over the ham.
Sprinkle brown sugar over the ham and pat down.
Place the ham in a large baking dish.
Pour the Guinness, pineapple juice and 1 cup of water into the pan. 
Place in a pre heated oven at 140C or 285F.  After the first hour, baste the leg with pan juices.  Do this again at 2 hours.
Cook for 2.5 hours for a 10kg ham or about 2 hours if it's 5kg.

Use the longer cloves to hold the fat in place. Shorter ones will allow it to fall off

Oh and now I know why food stylists tie a ribbon around the leg in magazine shoots, because it splits and looks terrible.  Clean it up, as best you can and tie it with some Christmas ribbon.
Happy weekend Beach Dwellers.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fairy Bread Christmas Tree

This fairy bread Christmas tree was my contribution to the kindy concert after party yesterday.
It was a case of, blink and you'll miss it, as those babies sure know how to down the party food.

This would have to be about the easiest #BringAPlate ever.

In all seriousness, the littlest Beach House Brat asked me if she was starting school yesterday afternoon, after the concert, as now she had graduated from kindergarten.  She definitely is a constant source of humour here at the Beach House, this Christmas season.

Just a quick how to on the tree:

Fairy Bread Christmas Tree
Prepare the required amount of fairy bread. (use buttered white bread, as wholemeal would just be too mean, although I thought about it)
Cut bread slices into 4 triangles. I left most crusts on and they got eaten.
Use crusts to form the tree trunk.
To form the star for the top, cut the tips off two small triangles of fairy bread.  Place one on top of the other, Star of David style and adorn your tree.
A small star cookie cutter, would work just as well.
This plate of food genuinely lasted all of 5 minutes, once it hit the table.

Go well Beach Dwellers

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For more Christmas inspiration from Desire Empire, you'll find it here. 

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Meal Plan Ideas for Christmas

So it's about now, that I really start to think about the Christmas meal plan, although you would be forgiven for thinking from my posts, that food is all I have been thinking of.  I have put together some options for a Christmas meal plan.  Most recipes are easy, some I would describe as moderately easy.  Some only have 3 ingredients.  Often the simplest recipes, are the best.

 As for my Christmas luncheon duties, I am making a salad for 20 and the cheese platter, for our family get together.  I am enjoying scouring the www for inspiration.  Think nectarines, baby spinach, macadamia nuts, boconcini, sultanas, peaches, balsamic vinegar, rosemary and Camembert wheels.  Personally I can't wait.

The Appetiser
Only 3 ingredients

The Prawn Starter

Some non traditional ideas

Only 3 ingredients


The Vegetables

Petit Fours
For the Children

For the Adults

Mini Chocolate Crackle Christmas Puddings

I hope you can find some inspiration here and that you are going well this Christmas season.

With school breaking up today, I got the kids presents wrapped yesterday. Strangely, that fact has made everything feel so much better.
We have 2 birthdays at the Beach House and a wedding anniversary in the next few days.  So by and large I will be downing Christmas tools for about 36 hours. Phew!!!!!

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Easy Swiss Roll Chocolate Christmas Pudding

Easy Swiss Roll Chocolate Christmas Pudding

Hello Beach Dwellers
All good with you? Or are you feeling a little punch drunk with Christmas craziness, like me?
If you follow on Facebook, you will see that I had a flop with this Swiss Roll Chocolate Christmas Pudding last week.  I wasn't concentrating and did not take enough care to thoroughly soak the Swiss Rolls in chocolate sauce. So I made it again.  It is that quick and easy, that it was no trouble at all.  .

I have been making it for years and thought this might help you out, if you are not partial to the traditional Christmas Pudding.  The great thing is, when you cut into it, the pattern created by the chocolate soaking down into the layers, makes it very pretty inside.

We had a fabulous weekend .  Although I, like most other mums, am somewhat drowning from the endless food, wine and Christmas carolling spinning around my head.  My girth is expanding almost daily and I am looking forward to a week OF ABSOLUTELY NO ALCOHOL.  Hopefully nothing comes up socially, as I have the will power of a kid in a chocolate shop, when food and wine are at hand.

We visited the David Jones windows in Sydney city on Saturday.  The store is celebrating 175 years of retail in Sydney.  The theme this year is the store's history and I was fascinated by the story behind some of the departments and the store's institutions, such as the choir.  Businesses like this, who have supported and delighted children at Christmas, for more than a century, certainly get my support.
If you do nothing else in the Spirit of Christmas this season, go visit the DJs windows.  They were really interesting and satisfied me, that I had given my kids a taste of the real meaning of Christmas.
Santa's cave on the 6th floor is also worth a visit.

The DJs Food Hall began in 1936 and was based on Fortnum and Mason in London. And as it was the Depression, prided itself on selling ordinary food, as well as luxuries.

The QVB is also a must, if only for the Christmas tree, but there are also some great toy stores on the top floor.  We only window shop, but it delights the children in any case.

I have not eaten dinner at home in days and am looking forward to some Chinese Pepper Steak, a la Carolyn this evening and bed by 8.30pm.  Oh that sounds like heaven.

Swiss Roll Chocolate Christmas Pudding
Serves 6 - 8

1x 400g Swiss Roll ( I used Coles brand)
50g butter
2 heaped tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup castor sugar
1-2 tablespoons of rum (optional)
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
pinch of salt
Fruit to garnish
Cream to serve

Line a small pudding bowl with glad wrap.  I use a laksa takeaway container. (18cm or 7 inches in diameter)
Thinly slice the Swiss Roll, to form discs. ( 1cm  or just under 1/2 inch)
Line your bowl with the discs, to form the outer layer.  Reserve the remaining discs.

You may need to cut some in half lengthways, to fit your bowl.
Using a double boiler, melt butter, sugar and cocoa.
Add milk and salt.
Remove from heat.
Beat egg yolks lightly and stir into the sauce very slowly.
Return to the stove and stir lightly for 2 minutes until sauce thickens slightly.
Add rum if desired.
Pour chocolate sauce over the first layer and make sure you thoroughly soak the Swiss Roll discs.  You may find you need to lift and swizzle the bowl around a bit, so all the rolls get soaked with chocolate sauce.

Use the remaining Swiss Roll discs to form another layer and once in place soak with chocolate sauce.
Continue until all the Swiss Roll is used up. 

Cover and refrigerate over night, or for at least 6 hours.

My kids much preferred the second one I made, without rum.  I think this would be nice with Cointreau, mint liqueur, Baileys or whatever you fancy, substituted in for the rum.
Garnish with fruit and serve with cream.
This recipe can be made several days before decanting from the pudding bowl.

If you are doubtful about trying this, don't be, as it still turns out easily and tastes great.  I still served this one below, but I didn't think it was blog worthy.

The flop.......Here I used nectarines to garnish
More Christmas inspiration and easy recipes here.

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I haven't been doing alot of decorating this season, but hope to have a coastal Christmas mantel up soon.  There now I've said it, I have to do it.

If you would like Desire Empire posts to come straight to your inbox every ten days or so, you can sign up here for my Newsletter.

Today I am linked up here
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Thriving on Thursdays
No Minimalist Here
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Feathered Nest Friday
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Tatertots and Jello
Sunday Showcase
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