SPRING PICNIC TIPS

I’m really excited to have partnered with Woolworths this week to bring you some spring time inspiration. It’s the perfect season to try something new and take your entertaining up a notch!

One of my all time fave things to do when the sun returns after winter is to rally the troops together for a picnic in the sun. Beers, snacks, good company and sunshine – does it get any better?

An awesome picnic doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money (or time) though, I’ve got a few nifty ideas up my sleeve which will help to make your next picnic even better.

Spring picnic tips and hacksSpring picnic tips - DIY drink bottle tags

MY TIPS:

  • Picnic rugs are often way too small, so instead try using a table cloth. They’re usually at least 2m long and often waterproof so will keep you up off the damp ground. If you’re using a fabric table cloth, just place a basic plastic one underneath.

  • Use a tray to keep your drinks sturdy. Now you’ll have 2 hands to get stuck into the food!

  • Preparing all the food from scratch can be a boil, so mix it up with some pre-made fresh food. Woolworths actually have an awesome range of things ready to go like rice paper rolls, baguettes and sushi (who knew?!) Your friends wont be the wiser.

Spring picnic tips - premade food from woolworths

  • For a pretty touch, wrap your sandwiches and drink bottles in matching gift wrap and add little name tags. (ohh the instagram opportunities!)

Spring picnic tips - DIY sandwich wrap and tag

  • Bring a couple of cushions and a throw blanket, it makes all the difference when you’re spending hours on the ground.

  • Bringing your fury friends? Be sure to pack a fold away table to keep the food up off the ground.

Spring picnic tips - DIY drink bottle tags

Some of my fave snacks to bring along which are crowd-pleasers (and also happen to look rather pretty) are things like donuts, cookies, easy-to-eat fruit like berries, grapes and cherries, cheese platters, filled baguettes and also soft drinks in individual sized glass bottles always make an impact.

Hope I’ve inspired you to amp up your picnic festivities this spring!

Do you have some tips and tricks that make your picnics awesome? Comment below I want to hear!

Fiona x

Spring picnic tips - jam donuts!

Photos and video by Esperanza Creative

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Woolworths. I only promote brands and products that I truly think are awesome. Thank you for supporting the brands who make this Craft Hunter journey possible!

HOW TO MAKE THE ULTIMATE CHEESE PLATTER

Can you believe spring has sprung here in Aus? Bring on the gorgeous weather!

To get you inspired to try something new this spring, I’m really excited to have partnered with the guys at Woolworths to bring you a week of fun entertaining tips and ideas! I’ve also tried my hand at video content for the first time on Craft Hunter and I hope you’ll love it.

First up, I am sharing my pointers for the ultimate cheese platter.  A topic close to my heart!

how to make the ultimate cheese platterCheese platter tips from Fiona Michelon

Cheese platters are absolutely the best go-to when you have guests to entertain. They’re easy to pull together, look impressive and, I mean, who doesn’t love cheese?!

The perfect cheese platter is all about a good mix of cheese, fresh fruit and savoury nibbles.  If you’re not on the fruit and cheese bandwagon yet – you need to give it a go and I think you’ll find your life will be forever changed! Try a bit of sliced pear, fig, grapes, and add some tasty fruit paste or quince – they work really well with strong cheeses and create a magical balance of flavours.

Nibbles like pretzels, nuts, olives and dips are always a great idea too. The perfect cheese platter needs to stay moreish and the best way to do that is with a mix of delicious options.

These fruits and nibbles will make the platter extra special, but we all know that the heart of a good cheese plater is the cheeeese! My biggest tip – go for a variety. I always include at least:

  • 1 blue cheese (I recommend the Stilton Blue from the Woolies Gold range which is the one in these pics)
  • 1 hard cheese like a cheddar (try the Oak Smoked Cheddar from the Woolies Gold range too – so good)
  • 1 soft cheese like camembert or brie

HOW TO MAKE THE ULTIMATE CHEESE PLATTER! YUMM

 

Don’t keep your guests guessing what they’re about to eat. Adding little name flags to your cheeses is a fun touch and will take you less than 5 minutes. Print out the cheese names on some plain paper, cut into mini banner shapes and just sticky tape to some toothpicks. Instantly takes your cheese platter to pro status!

 

DIY name flags for your cheese platterDIY name flags for your cheese platterdiy cheese platter flags

 

If your friends love cheese as much as mine, more is more, so don’t take up precious platter room with your crackers. Instead serve them on the side so your guests have plenty of room to get stuck into the goodness. I love slicing up a fresh baguette on the side too – nothing beats a big piece of cheese on fresh bread – yum!

 

HOW TO MAKE THE ULTIMATE CHEESE PLATTER! YUMM

 

Hope these tips have left your mouth watering and you’re keen to experiment a little with your next platter.

What do you love to put on your cheese platters?

Fiona x

Images and video by Esperanza Creative
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Woolworths. I only work with brands and products that I personally think are truly awesome, so thanks for supporting the companies who make my Craft Hunter journey possible!

MEET COOKIE GENIUS, VICKIE LIU

You make me melt  by Vickie LiuTeabag cookies by Vickie Liu

I’m pretty much obsessed with surfing Instagram and discovering inspiring new creative people I hadn’t yet heard of. It consumes me for hours per day sometimes. Especially anything baking and party related – they’re always the most incredible, delicious photos! I’m so glad we have platforms like the wondrous Instagram to bring these clever creatives to our attention, like the amazing “amateur” baker that I recently came across – Vickie Liu. You’ve most likely seen her work in your insta feed shared by someone at some point. It’s a jaw dropping mix of perfectly crafted cookies, quirky cakes and hilarious puns. A match made in heaven really! Check her out here – @vickiee_yo

I got in touch with this lovely treat-making genius to ask her a few questions about how she grew her Instagram following to over 21k and to find out the secrets to her perfectly piped icing.

 by Vickie Liu

1. Tell us a bit about you and what you do. How did you get into baking?
I am an Architecture/Interior design graduate. I’m currently working at a part time job unrelated to my field of study, and work on freelance projects in relation to baking on the side. This includes guest blogging, recipe development, styling and selling my baked goods.

I’ve had an interest in baking since high school, but amongst work and full time classes throughout uni, I rarely had the time or motivation to bake. After graduating from a course I didn’t particular enjoy, I had an abundance of free time to experiment in the kitchen, and that’s when I became addicted!

2. All of your cakes and cookies are kind of life changing. Which ones have been your personal faves?
Haha thank you! The Totoro cookies hold a special place in my heart, as they were one of the first batches of sugar cookies that I was happy with! Other than that, probably my matchstick cookies, typography pies and more recently – my series of pun cookies.

One in a melon cookies by Vickie Liu

3. You’ve created quite the instagram following! Any tips for the rest of us?
Always take photos with natural lighting, and stick to some type of theme! I also try to interact with my followers as much as possible too, and I’m not ashamed to use hashtags! Haha.

4. Are there some bakers/designers/creative folk who really inspire you?
There are honestly too many! Some of my current favourites who are on Instagram are:
Linda Lomelino (@linda_lomelino)
Dominique Ansel (@dominiqueansel)
Sam Ushiro (@aww.sam)
Kelly Mindell (@studiodiy)
Molly Yeh (@mollyyeh)
Zainab (@lagallette)
Nikki Lee (@unbirthdaybakery)
Gerogia McDermott (@georgeats)
Phil Ferguson (@chiliphilly)
Andrea Tamburrini (@anddicted)
… I think you get my point! Haha..

5. Can you share some tips for pulling off really gorgeous icing? 
At the beginning, it was a lot of trial and error, and reading/watching tutorials online! I learnt a large portion of royal icing techniques from cookie queen SweetAmbs! Here is one link

6. Fave stores for buying baking accessories or decorations?
I buy a lot online from a variety of different stores to be honest, haha, but when I need something the current or next day, I go to ‘Cake Deco’ in the Melbourne CBD

Pineapple donuts by Vickie Liu
7. What’s next for you? Anything exciting in the pipeline?
A blog!  I have been putting it off for way too long, but I have finally started working towards it. Rather than just focusing on food and baking, I also want to incorporate elements of design, travel and lifestyle. I will eventually like to run a home bakery full time, but I think I still have so much more to learn to be doing that 24/7!

Additionally, I’m planning to go to Europe for a month or two later this year, which will hopefully inspire and motivate me to creative more exciting projects when I get back!

 

SO excited to hear a blog is on the horizon for this star. Definitely one to watch.

Fiona x

 

EASTER EGG SHOTS

Easter Egg ShotsEaster Egg Shots

What’s better than eating Easter eggs? Taking a shot out of one and THEN eating it! Oh yuss. That’s my kind of Easter party.

This year when you’re about to tuck into your choccies with family or friends, try this super quick idea for something different.

Use a sharp knife to chop the top off an egg and place it into an egg cup. Fill with your favourite liqueurs (I went for 2 parts Baileys 1 part Kahlua – yum) and you’re ready to get the party started. The egg will hold for hours, probably days, just don’t fill it with hot liquids!

To cut the top off, keep turning your egg and use a very light back and forth sawing motion with your knife, only using the weight of the knife so as not to crush your chocolatey delight or you might be forced to eat all the failures until you get it right (disaster).

  • Update – a clever idea from the comments below – heat your knife in a pot of boiling water to slice through the egg easily!

 

Easter Egg Shots

Liqueurs like Patron would be perfect too if you’re wanting something with more kick. I’ve also heard that a bit of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky with Baileys and Kahlua is amazing but I didn’t have any on hand. If you haven’t tried Fireball Whisky it’s kind of life changing and I recommend you try some stat. It’s packed with tasty cinnamon spices and is a drink in its own league, not like regular whisky at all. You can comfortably sip it from a glass with ice and totally look just like Harvey Spector.

Do you have a fave shot recipe that would work a treat with chocolate? Drop me a note below, I want to hear!

Fiona x

 

Easter Egg Shots

 

STRAWBERRY COOKIE GIFT FOR VALENTINE’S DAY – LOVE YOU BERRY MUCH!

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines DayLove You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

What better time is there to start baking than for pun-filled opportunities like Valentine’s Day?

I baked these little cuties over the weekend and if I can do it, you can definitely do it. I’m not a bad baker per se, I just haven’t really gotten into the baking thang. Now that I’ve tried playing with fondant for the first time though, I think this will be the start of something regular. The possibilities of fun shaped edible treats… can’t even handle it!

One tip I can give you after this cooking session, is to pick up cookie cutter in a strawberry shape first. Lot’s of online shops sell them, I found quite a few on Etsy here.  I was short on time so decided to sketch a strawberry design on paper and cut around it with a knife. It worked fine, but will just take you quite a bit longer and the finished result won’t be as perfect. Either way, I still think these babies turned out fine so if you’re short on time too, just trace around a paper template!

I went with a super simple cookie recipe:

  • 230g butter, softened
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 275g plain flour

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees

Mix up the butter in a large bowl until it’s creamed and soft. Add the sugar and beat it up until it’s light and fluffy.

Sift in your flour + add any extra flavours if you want.

Mix it all together to form a dough, then use your hands to bring it all together properly.

Lay it out on a floured bench and roll to about a 5-8mm thick with a rolling pin.

Cut out your shapes with your cookie cutter (or cut around your paper template with a sharp knife)

Transfer to a greased oven tray, bake for around 10-13 mins or until nice and light golden brown, then cool them on a baking tray.

Betty Crocker eat your heart out yo.

 

For the fondant, I just picked up a pack of ready-made white fondant from the supermarket. So so easy! Knead it out, place on a sheet of baking paper, place another piece on top and roll it out with your rolling pin to be around 5mm thick.

Cut out the same strawberry shapes and place on top of your cookies if they’ve cooled. You can fasten them in place with some glucose syrup but mine stuck down quite well on their own.

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

Now to get your paint on!

Mix up some food coloring and water in a small bowl and paint on some layers with a clean paintbrush. I tested my colour on a scrap piece of fondant first.

At first it’ll look all spotty and random, but keep applying and it will soon smooth out nicely.

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

Use the end of your paintbrush to add some little dimples for the strawberry seeds

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

Then paint on your green layer and leave to harden.

Cookies done!

For the happy little gift tag, I used my new ScanNCut machine which Brother kindly gave me to play with.  This thing is a frickin life changer! If you’ve seen other posts on Craft Hunter, you’ll know I am partial to a bit of paper craft, but painstakingly cutting out intricate details is never fun for anyone so I’m SO excited for the possibilities now!  Definitely one of the best toys ever. I can’t wait to start cutting my own designs into fabric too.

For this design I just used their in built letter shapes. On the little monitor screen, go “Pattern” then click the alphabet icon that you prefer.

Type out your words, re-size them and arrange them to be in the correct position for your paper on the cutting mat.

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

Pop your paper on the mat, press it down well, and press start on the cut and watch this bad boy work it’s magic.

As you can see below I like to fasten the edges with some extra tape but it’s mostly just because I’m anal, it should stay in place fine 99% of the time.

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

Then I just cut out the gift tag shape by hand around the letters.

For the little fabric basket, I just used a tea towel I had in my craft box. Chop it to be similar to the below size, doubled over. It really depends how big you want your basket, if you want it bigger than mine, leave the teatowel as is and just double it over.

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

You could use your sewing machine here but because it was only for quick use as a gift I just went with double sided tape. Stick the two long edges together to create a tube.

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

Fold the bottom up by around 7cm (or more if you’re doing a bigger basket)

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

Then fold in each corner like the below. Don’t worry it doesn’t need to meet perfectly in the middle.

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

Then fold down each point to meet in the centre. Fasten with more double sided tape (or sew with a few stitches by hand if you want it long lasting)

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

Then just start folding it down from the top. Hold the point where your two edges meet while folding down to help it all stay together.

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

Cute huh?

Stuff your basket with some tissue paper and pop in your strawberries.

Add your gift tag with a bit of twine and you’re ready to give the cutest Valentine’s Day gift ever!

Fiona x

Love You Berry Much - Strawberry Cookie Gift for Valentines Day

MEET THE DESSERT QUEEN, NECTAR & STONE

Nectar and Stone
Nectar and Stone

 

Is your mouth watering yet? These beauties are created by the very talented Caroline Khoo of Nectar & Stone – a Melbourne-based dessert designer with a flair for creating utterly gorgeous treats which are usually too pretty to eat. With a whopping 130k+ following on Instagram you might say she’s a bit of a star. She’s on a mission to open the most beautiful cakery in Melbourne and I can only imagine how breathtaking it will be. Really hoping she’ll bring these creations to Sydney next!

I spent a couple of minutes with this clever lady to hear about her journey so far, her plans for the future plus what some of her fave party styling items are of the moment. Thanks for your time, Caroline! What an inspiration.

Fiona x

Tell us a bit about you and your business – how did Nectar and Stone get started and where did you learn to make such beautiful desserts?!

n & s started with a vision of creating edible pieces of art. Its an amalgamation of fashion meets sweets. It started as something small, not intentionally meaning to become a business as such, more a means for me to have some time out and creativity after having two kids. It soon became evident to family and friends that what I was making and in many ways designing should be made for others to enjoy as well. There is no training as such, everything I make is self taught. I have a real passion for food in general. 

Nectar and StoneNectar and Stone

 

What are your plans for Nectar & Stone in 2015?

2015 will see a cakery for n & s – based in Richmond / Melbourne

Which dessert designers and bakers do you admire?

I love Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander, both these ladies demonstrate a love for food and the land. I have learnt so much about growing and planting fruits and vegetables from these two ladies. 

Nectar and Stone
 

Any advice for budding creatives wanting to start their own business adventure?

My best advice for anyone interested in starting their own business, is first being true to who you are / in your style and in your passion. You also need to be willing to work hard and spend time being a master in your trade. 

What are your fave 5 party items at the moment?

1. Cake Toppers from Glistening Occasions – They are custom made and you can design what you like.

2. Straws from Lark –  I love the colours and designs. They are great to add colour to the table.

3. Party bags and balloons from Poppies for Grace – The balloons are perfect for adding to mini cakes and then large ones to feature on tables. The party bags are colourful and pretty as well.

4. Phantom Chairs from Little Big Company –  I’ve used these a few times before for my tables and also for fashion VIP nights where my chocolates and macarons were featured.

5. Invitations from Wedding Paper Chic – Beautiful custom work designed and perfect for table setups.

 

 

RAW VEGAN CHEESECAKE YUMMINESS

vegan cheesecake vegan cheesecake

I got my bake on this weekend for the first time in forever! I don’t do it very often, mainly because if it sits at my house Alan (the bf) and I tend to eat the entire thing within a day or two. (whoops) I recently stumbled across this raw cheesecake recipe via Minimalist Baker though while having serious cake cravings and decided to give them a go. They’re full of yummy healthy ingredients,  NO butter, flour or refined sugar etc, actually completely vegan and super simple to make – no baking required. The ‘cheesecake’ mix is basically made up of soaked raw cashews, honey and coconut milk, which you wouldn’t think to be cheesecake-y at all, but it really is!

I need to be straight up and say they do not taste exactly like regular cheesecake, you can’t beat the creamy fatty goodness of a proper cheesecake so don’t be expecting an exact replica, but I can vouch for them being damn delicious and are satisfyingly healthy so you can go back for 2nds and 3rds guilt free. Win win!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Base:

  • 1 cup pitted dates (soak them in warm water for 10 min then drain)
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • Pinch of salt

Cake mix:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews. Soak them in water for 4-6 hours then drain
  • About 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar, maple syrup or honey – I used agave
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

Get baking:

  1. Add dates to a blender and blend until broken up into small pieces – should form a sticky ball. Remove and pop to the side.
  2. Add the nuts to the blender next and blend into a meal. Pop the dates back in plus a pinch of salt and blend.
  3. Lightly grease a 12 part muffin tin
  4. Heap 1 tablespoon amounts of the base and press down to the bottom of the tin with your fingers. You want to push it down rather firmly and evenly.
  5. For the cake mix – add all the filling ingredients to the blender except for the blueberries. Mix for a minute or so until nice and smooth. If it’s not coming together nicely, add a touch more coconut milk or lemon juice which should help.
  6. Taste and adjust the flavours to your preference. You could potentially add any flavour you like at this step – add some fruit pulp, dark choc chips, caramel, chopped nuts – I kept mine simple simon though.
  7. Pour the mix evenly among the muffin tins. Sprinkle on your blueberries and give them a light swirl with a butter knife to ‘sink’ them in and leave a nice bit of  swished colour on top.
  8. Tap the tin on the bench a few times to release air bubbles
  9. Cover with cling wrap and stick in the freezer until hard – around 4 hours.
  10. Once they’re ready to go, remove each piece by stabbing a butter knife around the edge and they’ll just pop out.
  11. Keep them in the freezer and they should last at least 1-2 weeks

YUM.

I like to leave them out for at least 15 mins before eating so they go all squishy and creamy. Mmmmm.

Check out Minimalist Baker here for lots of other healthy, yummo recipes too.

Enjoy

Fiona x