Salads. That’s what is on our menus in January. Because summer weather calls for lighter eating, the fridge is full with leftovers begging to be accommodated or if we’re lucky enough to be away, there’s a bounty of fresh produce to play with.

Mr T and I took an impromptu road trip to the mid-north coast earlier this month. It was a last minute decision, with not much time to check what provisions were in the truck. I grabbed a few fresh items from the house, knowing that I’d find them out of date on my return otherwise, and crossed my fingers that there was enough in the truck pantry to whip up easy meals along the road. Well, there was enough of everything except for olive oil to make salad dressing. Not wanting to make a special provisioning stop, I decided to go without and improvise. So here are 3 salads we enjoyed, using favourite pantry items for flavour packed dressings.

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Gallivanting 3 ways in 2021

Like 2020, 2021 has been a confusing and challenging year for sure! One with so many ups and down, filled with moments of worry and relief, sadness and joy, I am glad to see the end of it. Let’s say that this is a year when I have felt on a constant state of “dodging a bullet”. But unlike last year, we’ve managed to keep the anxiety at bay ( somewhat ) by staying positive and make the most of the “situation”.

While I know many people have been affected by COVID-19, financially thru loss of jobs, mentally due to lack of social interaction, I am glad no one in our circle of family and friends has actually been infected. We’ve all stayed healthy, which is probably what matters the most. 

Social distancing has been a blessing for our resident introvert, Mr T, who’s never been a fan of crowded spaces anyway. I can’t say the same about our grown up kids, who unfortunately are missing out on milestones like high school graduation, formals, schoolies, uni interaction and other festive activities young ones do, but I am impressed how they seem to navigate these troubled waters with aplomb and grace.

To the risk of stating the obvious, this blog has been the object of neglect this year. Not for lack of content, but rather absence of motivation ( commitment, some would say ).  Procrastination has been my nemesis, often replaced by laziness, when short on time, I have resorted to the easier and faster weekly Instagram and Facebook post. To those of you who follow me on these social media  platforms, I express my thanks for your interest in my food world.  To these readers of the blog, I am grateful for your perseverance which prompts me to write this one last post for the year.  No, it’s not about our 2021 Christmas ( the usual food marathon with the full Steen contingent ).

Instead, I’d like to talk about how 2021 has seen me cooking out of 3 different kitchens, mostly for our family of four, but also just for 2.

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When I sent the invite for this year’s Halloween party in mid-september, it felt like I was jumping the gun. I am by nature a pretty optimistic person, and when the powers-to-be predicted the easing of lockdown restrictions in Sydney  for October 23, I swung into planning mode for our annual Halloween dinner. All my guests must have been living on the same hope as I did, because everyone accepted the invite pretty much immediately.  Since the party was to be at our house, it led to an anxious wait as to how many people could actually visit. For a while, I stressed about having to tell half my guests they could not come anymore ( how do you pick? ) until thankfully, numbers were increased days before the party and we were allowed to have 20 visitors in our home! 

Not wanting to deal with extra stress, I picked the Mexican Day of the Dead theme, purely because it was easy, everyone loves the food and I figured that I could recycle the decorations and costume from last year.

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Toasties for Dinner

We’re in our 83rd day of lockdown in Sydney. And still going with the promise of an end in sight, though no one is game to set a date yet. 

For our household of 5, it’s been a matter of bunkering down and weathering the storm, as we used to during our cruising days. Back to homeschooling and studies for the kids, house projects for Mr T and I, thankful for the ability to connect online. Just like on long passages, everyone goes about their day at their own pace with the highlight of the day being pre-dinner drinks (otherwise known as aperitif, sundowner or cocktail hour) followed by dinner itself. Dinner is invariably home cooked, served at the dinner table, where everyone is expected to sit ( a family tradition the kids were taught since birth ).   

Unless, life happens and it is much easier to go with the flow than try to stick to dining rules.

Take last Friday Night. 

The family was all over the place. One was out working, one had an assignment to complete, and the football was on TV. A sit-down dinner wasn’t going to work, and take-away pizza was strongly suggested. This prompted me to canvas the contents of the fridge and pantry where a whole shelf of opened items stared at me. Think stinky washed rind cheese, various spreads and sauces, vegetables, cold meat, and more… Add sliced bread and dinner idea was a no brainer: make your own toastie!

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Lobster rolls

Once upon a time, we used to live on a sailing boat and travel around the world. It seems like a lifetime ago that we were exploring far away lands and living in our own floating bubble. One of the things I miss the most is catching our own dinner and enjoying the freshest seafood. We used to trawl a line everyday during ocean passages, hoping to catch a fish large enough to last a few meals ( mahi-mahi, yellowfin and tuna were always on the most desired list ). When at anchor, some of the locals would come and trade their catch, sometimes for money, other times for essential items or just out of kindness. I have fond memories of buying whole octopus or live lobsters from the bottom of a dugout canoe in the middle of nowhere!

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