Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Re-visiting Wholesale-dress.net Haul and Review

A while ago I wrote about my first shopping experience with wholesale-dress.net. I know these types of asian wholesale sites are becoming more popular but many people seem to be displeased with the level of service and  the quality of the products, so they are still controversial.

The issues that shoppers are concerned with are:

1. They don't update their "Out of Stock" message for products on the website quickly or accurately enough. So you can order things and then get an email saying that they are out of stock, then you have to choose a replacement or get store credit. Some shoppers find this concerning. I just make sure only to order items that are relatively new arrivals and still say that there are at "100" in stock. Whenever I break this self-imposed rule I run into trouble.

2. It takes a long time for them to prepare your order. My stuff took just under a month to arrive. The shipping was quick, through Fedex, but the company took ages to fill and pack my order. So, not for those after something for an occasion next week. This doesn't bother me as I wouldn't use these sites for any special occasion clothing.

3. The quality of the items is extremely hit and miss. Some of the items I have received are top level high street quality. Beautiful fabrics, well made. Other items have been really bizarrely bad. I am getting to know how to tell if something will be good or bad through my experiences, so I don't think this is so much of a problem for me.

4. Trouble with the fit of the clothing. The sizes are vague and small. The free size clothing is a small or extra-small. In jeans I have to go up 4 waist sizes to get the correct size. But in general, I don't have too much trouble with the sizing, I know what to expect from asian fits and they seem to suit me pretty well. Plus most of the stuff is stretch or full cut.


The clothes are extremely inexpensive. Jeans are $10 - $20, shoes are bags are in the same range. And there is still the chance that the stuff you order is of a pretty good quality.

So, having a small amount of credit on my account from my last order I was tempted to make another order.

For this order I was able to choose items a little more wisely and I think I ended up with some of their higher quality items.

A couple of pairs of jeans that originally ordered were out of stock, but this time instead of getting store credit I arranged to have some replacement garments sent.

The customer service was perfectly fine, emails went back and forth and were answered promptly, considering the time difference.

Onto the items

For each item I have included the picture from the site and a description of what I actually received.

These jeans are probably my favourite thing that I have ever brought from the site. They fit amazingly and look really fantastic. The denim is stretch but quite thick and the zippers and buttons are great quality.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ain't Nuttin'

Tonight I just had a huge craving for cookies. So as I was waiting for dinner to finish cooking I whipped up these cookies from what I had in the pantry. I was a bit worried that they wouldn't have a nice texture as I didn't use butter and the PB2 can be quite heavy, but they are great! They have a nice crunchy outer layer and a soft centre.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie and a cup of tea

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bejewelled Ballerina Birthday Cake

Blue Velvet Cake with Double Chocolate Cake Pop Trufflesa

At my work we have a birthday cake buying schedule, and this week I was on task to bake for my beautiful dancing colleague. I decided to make a sparkly white and turquoise cake to represent a jewel and Tiffany blue colour theme.

The cake batter was dyed using Wilton gel colours, in a combination of blue and green colours. I didn't get the Tiffany colour perfect, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

It was a really fun cake and I'm really happy that it brightened everyones day. Well, those that were lucky enough to get a slice!

Blue Velvet Cake with Double Chocolate Cake Pop Truffles

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Zucchini Fritters with Yoghurt Dressing

Zucchini Fritters with Yoghurt Dressing

One of my favourite ways to spend a few lazy hours on the weekend is browsing the fresh food markets. One of my favourite stores is the Asian grocer at our local market. They carry all types of Asian foods as well as some great US and Tex-Mex foods.

Zucchini Fritters with Yoghurt Dressing

This week while browsing the shelves I saw Chickpea Flour and grabbed it, thinking instantly of making zucchini fritters. A few years ago one of my students made zucchini fritters using chickpea flour for an assessment item. I loved the recipe and have always wanted to recreate it. Unfortunately, I didn't keep a copy of the original recipe so I've just had to stubble forward and work it out myself. This is the first incarnation, but I'm sure that I will be experimenting with them some more in the future.

Zucchini Fritters with Yoghurt Dressing

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Chilli Con Carne with Broccoli and Kale

Chilli Con Carne with Broccoli and Kale

I've been on a new endeavour to prepare budget conscious, healthy meals ahead of time on Sundays to have lunches and weeknight dinners ready to go in the fridge and freezer. There are two types of meals that I make - vegetarian stews based on lentils or other pulses and slow cooked meat dishes with either cheap large cuts of meat or mince.

Chilli Con Carne is not really the sort of dish that you need a recipe for, but this is the way that I make it. Very simple, not very "gourmet" but a great way to prepare a few nights worth of meals ahead of time, ready to be pulled out of the freezer on a cold and tired night.

Chilli Con Carne

I decided to serve it with brown rice, broccoli and kale to make a wholesome and filling dish. I hadn't cooked or eaten kale before as it has not been readily available in Australia until recently. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the mild flavour and firm texture of the kale once it had been cooked. I'm looking forward to serving it as a salad with avocado and a sesame dressing.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Banana Oat PB Cookies

Banana Oat PB Cookies

So the 2 or 3 ingredients super healthy banana cookie recipe is getting heavy circulation around the interwebs at the moment. This is my version.

I have added PB2 and dates to make the cookies more flavourful. I think they are great additions. These cookies are still super easy to make and are still very healthy and nutritious.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Osso Bucco with Creamy Mash

Osso Bucco with Creamy Mash

All of sudden it has gotten really cold and wintry here. The sharpness in the wind and the cool mist in the air in the mornings tells me that the summer days are gone for this year.

It the spirit of embracing the change of seasons and all the beauty that the changes bring, I decided to cook a lovely warming and rich dish. It's great to have the time to slowly cook a meal on the weekends, especially when you are trying to be budget conscious and buy cheaper cuts of meat which are much better suited to lower, slower cooking.

This recipe is inspired by the search for the ultimate mashed potato, which, as is so often the case when searching for ultimates, has involved many incarnations of Heston Blumental recipes. This is the way we did it this time. You can check the link I've provided to see the extra steps involved in the original recipe, or just go with this simplified version. Thank God for Heston and his thorough curiosity and experimentation!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Be My Valentine

Valentine's Cupcakes

Twas the night before Valentine's and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring...

Except that crazy baker.

Tonight Mr Canbella was away for business so I thought I would do some experimental love themed baking in honour of Valentine's Day tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pancake Tuesday!

Vanilla and Cinnamon Pancakes with Maple Syrup, Burnt Butter and Vanilla Icecream

In Australia, it is traditional for some Christian groups to eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.  This tradition is said to be based in the Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras custom of using up all of your fats and indulgent foods before the beginning of Lent.

Although strict adherence to religious practices might be  becoming less popular, many people still hold onto cultural practices of religions, especially those surrounding special days in the calendar.

Regardless of your religious convictions or opinions, doesn't everyone love a holiday or seasonal food?

Tonight, to mark Shrove Tuesday in our household we enjoyed some delicious homemade pancakes. It was nice to think of these as an indulgent special treat, as we sometimes forget how lucky we are in our wonderful abundant life here in Australia. Only two generations ago ice cream itself was a rare and expensive treat, not something just kept in the household freezer (what freezer?) to grab a scoop any old time. And of course, many people around the world could never dream of eating such a beautiful and superfluous meal. But I think that is a discussion for another time.

Onto the recipe.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hazzzaaaa! Baked Doughnuts!

Spiced Vanilla Baked Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze

So, you might have read my last adventure in experimental baking: The Baked Doughnut.

Since I made that first batch I have been super busy with work, most nights I have been working til very late at night. So no baking. :(

Tonight I was finally able to have  night off and I decided to make a new and improved batch, with the aim of making them lighter and fluffier. I didn't use any fancy equipment, just mixing bowls, whisks, the doughnut pan and the oven.

They are beautiful, light and fluffy with a nice crisp shell and a lovely caramel colour. I'm super-duper pleased with them!!!

Spiced Vanilla Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze

Makes 12 small doughnuts

Spiced Vanilla Baked Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze, Ingredients

1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

2 Tbs Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
3 Tbs Nuttelex Olive Oil Spread
1/4 cup Natvia for Baking
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbs vanilla bean extract
1/2 tsp Wilton butter essence

1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
2 Tbs water

1 cup icing sugar mixture
3 Tbs milk
1 1/2 Tbs Nuttelex Olive Oill Spread
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp rose water essence

1. Preheat oven to 180 C.
2. Place flour, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl and mix well.
3. In a large mixing bowl combine coconut oil, Nuttelex, Natvia, brown sugar, slat, cinnamon, butter essence and vanilla bean extract and beat with a balloon whisk until smooth.
4. In a measuring jug, measure your milk and then add your egg and water and beat lightly to break up the egg.
5. Place 1/3 of the flour mixture into the main mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Place 1/2 of the milk mixture in the large bowl and whisk. Add another 1/3 of the flour and combine. Add the remaining milk, combine and then add the last of the flour. Mix with the whisk until just smooth.

Spiced Vanilla Baked Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze, Batter

6. Transfer the mixture into a zip lock bag. Snip off one corner of the bag and pipe into your doughnut tin, filling each hole 1/2 to 2/3 full.
7. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.
8. Meanwhile place the icing sugar mixture and milk in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add Nuttelex, rose water and vanilla and whisk until smooth.

Spiced Vanilla Baked Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze, Glaze

9. Remove doughnuts from oven. Cool in tin for 3 minutes and then turn out.

Spiced Vanilla Baked Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze
10. You can dip them in the glaze when warm for a thin coating or wait until they are cool and add a thicker layer. It's up to you!!!

Spiced Vanilla Baked Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze

Spiced Vanilla Baked Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze

Note: I may or may not have completely submerged a hot doughnut in the glaze and then plonked it on a plate to eat with a cup of tea in celebration. ;)

Spiced Vanilla Baked Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze


Ella xx

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Last weekend Mr Canbella and I headed to our home town to visit his parents and also to receive my birthday gift from them (which was a surprise to me). When we arrived on the Friday night I received my amazing present and jumped up and down squealing. Yeah, I'm just cool like that.

Paris Opera Ballet Giselle Ticket

But, in all seriousness, what ballet loving lady would hold back upon receiving tickets to the Paris Opera Ballet performing Giselle? I mean, really. Insane.

The next night we headed in on the train to the city. I was really happy on the train. Which, being a public transport veteran, I realise is completely inappropriate on any non-national-holiday day. My happy vibe was incongruous with the general grumpy, gritty and gruff vibe. ;)

Outfit for Paris Opera Ballet

We had dinner at our favourite little restaurant Vini. (I mean teeny tinycheck this out!)The food and service there is amazing. We enjoyed some fresh house made ricotta with grilled broccoli, carpaccio kingfish, a duck pasta and a squid pasta. We couldn't help but squeeze in dessert and went for the chocolate tart with fried rosemary topping. Yum!

Vini Restaurant, Sydney

The best part of our dining experience was our gracious and cheerful French waiter who enthused about the Paris Opera Ballet and was just generally fantastic. Loyalty rewarded!

Vini Restaurant, Sydney

We then walked down to the theatre and enjoyed a champagne before the show. Heading into the theatre I felt super excited and reminded myself to stay present and not get too carried away with the emotion of the story throughout the performance because I wanted to remember every moment. But, hey, it was Giselle, who was I kidding!

Paris Opera Ballet Giselle
All I say about the performance was that it was transcendent. Technically, artistically it was perfect; and just so beautiful.

Paris Opera Ballet Giselle
The drama of the second act was amazing. The Wilis were terrifying in their unified determination. The grouped choreography and staging was very effective. Above all, it made me cry, touched me and took me outside of myself, so really how much more can you ask for from art?
Paris Opera Ballet Giselle

The hilarious conclusion to the night was the huge contrast from the ballet patrons to the passengers on our late night train home. We looked so fancy and sober that even the train guard complimented us and said goodbye as we alighted. Haha!

It was a beautiful night that I'll always treasure and such a thoughtful gift. Mr Canbella's parents are the best!!!

Happy on the train

Looking forward to many dance adventures in 2013,
Ella xx

Monday, January 21, 2013

On the Road

On the Road, Tips for Road Trips

Living a relatively short drive away from our home town means that we often drive back to stay for the weekend and visit friends and family.

Car trips can be boring, but we always try to make the most of it. Our trip takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, usually on a friday afternoon and then returning on the following sunday afternoon.

Tips for Road Trips

Home Made Muffins

1. Pack Snacks

It doesn't matter if we leave straight after lunch, if I am driving I always need some food to keep my energy and concentration up. It is important to make sure that your blood sugar is not dipping too low when you are driving 110kms/hr on a busy highway. My favourite snacks include: almonds, cut up apples, flavoured milk, rice crackers, ham and salad sandwiches, homemade muffins and, of course, chocolate!
Your travelling buddy is obliged to take charge of obtaining, opening packets and providing your mouth with snacks.

*Please take care when eating and driving. You should never prioritise your attention on anything but the road. For more substantial meals you should always stop, stretch your legs and give your brain a rest.
7/11 Zilched Mango Slurpee

2. Keep Hydrated

Dehydration make me cranky and it's also dangerous and bad for your concentration. I prefer to have drinks that are in cups with a straw when driving as it is safer than drinking from cans or bottles (no sharps edges, no cas to remove) although this means that I'm usually drinking soft drink or a delicious Slurpee. My latest craze is 7/11's Zilched Mango Slurpees. They are seriously yummy and not full of sugar (although they are full of controversial artificial sweeteners, but don't worry I'm not living off them or anything).
For a healthier choice you can purchase a drink cup with built in straw and fill it with water or your beverage of choice.

On the Road, Tips for Car Trips

3. Listen and Learn

Ok, so you might think differently of me after reading this point... I enjoying listening to ABC Radio National. It is my radio station of choice. No FM "cool" rock'n'roll for me. I won't even pretend that I listen to TripleJ. Mr Canbella turned me on to RN years ago and I've never looked back. (Except when they have those weird spoken word with trippy music segments. What is that all about???) They have great stories that draw you in and teach you something about the world. I love being taken in by a topic that I never would have ever cared to research.
Another option is downloading podcasts from interesting places and listening to them. I also download podcasts from RN, they have great stories. Another great place to learn about people and the world is "This American Life".

On the Road, Tips for Car Trips

4. Rock Out

Upbeat, happy, pop or rock'n'roll is the order of the day to keep things rolling on car trips. We keep a collection of our favourite turns in the car (no iPod connector in our old ride) and love putting them on and singing (with the volume turned up so we don't hear our own voices.) It's also a great way to learn about each others musical tastes. For group road trips it would be great to have each person make a CD or playlist of songs they love.
Another way to enjoy music is The Radio Game. In this game the passenger must operate the stereo. They will scan through the stations. At each station (that is playing a song) they will stop. The first person to correctly state the Artist wins a point. (You could also do Artist/Song or Song.) If you jump in with the wrong answer you lose a point. If no-one guesses within about 20 secs, you move on. Unless it's a really good song, in which case, rock out! That's it!

On the Road, Tips for Car Trips

5. Conversely

Take the time to just talk. Really talk. Decompress from the work work, talk about your dreams, plan imaginary holidays. Anything you like really. I think the car trip really gives you space to get in to long, deep conversations that might otherwise get interrupted by life or a waitress.

On the Road, Tips for Car Trips

And most importantly, drive safely and take breaks when needed!

Ella xx

Saturday, January 19, 2013

OMG! Totallly Adorbs!

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

So, this week Mr Canbella requested that I bake something different and amusing for him to take into work for a morning tea. I immediately headed to Pinterest and trawled for something that caught my eye.

Normally when baking I prefer to think of my own ideas and then use research to work out my recipes, but this time I just wanted to try something trendy and wacky. I found the perfect idea at Bakerella's blog, a Mini-Burger Cupcake!

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

Due to the complicated decorative elements of these cupcakes, I used some shortcuts via cake mixes and pre-made frosting.

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

1 box Green's buttercake, made into 16 cupcakes (only fill tins halfway) (use milk and 10 grams extra butter)
1 box Coles brownie mix, made into a shallow brownie (use a bigger tin)
1 tub Better Crocker Vanilla frosting, divided into 3 bowls

1 Tbs maple Syrup
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs water
2 Tbs sesame seeds

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

1. Colour each bowl of icing: yellow (for mustard), red (for ketchup), and green (for lettuce). If the frosting becomes to runny (it needs to be quite stiff to maintain the shape when piping) add icing sugar as required and beat to combine.
2. Use a round cookie cutter to cut circular pieces of brownie, make sure your cutter is the same size as your cupcakes (a little bit smaller or larger is still ok I think).
3. Slice each cupcake into two halves to form the bun.
4. Place a brownie "meat patty" in between each cupcake bun, use a small dollop of frosting inbetween the bottom "bun" and the brownie to help them stick.
5. For the frosting on top of the "meat" patty: pipe the mustard and ketchup using a small round tip, do two overlapping squares with the corners going out over the edge of the patty. Then use a flat corrugated tip for the lettuce, and pipe in a squiggly pattern around the edge. Don't worry about piping icing in the middle of the cake, it doesn't need it.
6. Place top "bun" gently on top of frosting.
7. Mix maple syrup, honey, and water together and gently heat in microwave. Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the bun with glaze and then sprinkle a small amount of sesame seeds on top.
8. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered for at least 30 minutes to set the frosting.

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

It was a nervous car trip taking these to Mr Canbella's work, but we made it. He reported back that they were a great success, very amusing and delicious!

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

Ella xx

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fresh and Light in the New Year

Maple and Grapefruit Chicken Skewers
This year at my work we did a "Bad Santa" Kris Kringle. Which basically involves gift stealing. I was the last to choose/receive my gift, meaning that I could choose any gift that had already been opened or open the last unwrapped gift. Loving a surprise, I chose to open the last gift.

And I was rewarded with a gift that seemed perfectly chosen for me! Donna Hay's new Fresh and Light book. It is a beautifully designed book that gives lots of ideas for healthy and satisfying meals, snacks and sweets. I vowed that I would work my through the book in the new year.

In my first adventure into Fresh and Light I couldn't help myself and I changed one of the recipes. But it wasn't really my fault. See, the original recipe called for an orange; Coles only had oranges from the USA and I hate to buy something that has been imported all that way when we have perfectly good oranges here. (Nothing against the USA, just the fossil fuels it takes to get them here is ridiculous!) So in my search for Australian oranges, I noticed Australian Ruby Red Grapefruit. Hmmmm. And so it began.
Maple and Grapefruit Chicken Skewers

Maple and Grapefruit Chicken Skewers
Adapted from Donna Hay's Fennel and Orange Chicken Skewers

1/2 Ruby Red Grapefruit, juice of
1 Tbs pure maple syrup
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp sesame oil
5 free range chicken thighs

1. Soak skewers in some cold water.
2. Combine juice, maple syrup, garlic and sesame oil in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Trim large sections of fat off chicken thighs, then slice each thigh into about 6 - 8 squarish pieces.
4. Thread chicken pieces onto skewers and place into a large glass or ceramic dish.
5. Pour marinade over the skewers, ensuring they are evenly coated.
6. Cover and place into the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes to 2 hours (longer is better).
7. Remove from refrigerator. Place on a lined baking tray and cook under a medium grill, turning every couple of minutes until cooked through. Mine took about 8 minutes.
8. Serve!

I served the skewers with the Miso and Sesame Broccoli from the same Donna Hay book and some SmartRice Brown Rice (which is AMAZING!) for a light but wholesome midweek dinner.

Maple and Grapefruit Chicken Skewers

Ella xx

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A new experimental baking challenge!

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

You say donuts, I say doughnuts... Whatever you call them, they're delicious. That being said, I never deep fry anything at home, due to health concerns and my clumsiness making it a little dangerous on two fronts. I've been noticing a lot of baked doughnut recipes on pinterest lately, and so today while out shopping for totally unrelated boring household items I bought a 6-hole doughnut pan.

Mr Canbella says it is destined for black hole back of the baking cupboard due to it's limited fad-ish use but I think it could become a new classic, if only I can gett the recipe right. And so begins the recipe experimentation and testing!!!!

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

My first foray into baked doughnuts is inspired by a recipe that I found via pinterest, it attracted me because it uses Chobani yoghurt which I am a big fan of. I have changed some ingredients, you can find the original here.

Baked vanilla doughnuts with vanilla bean glaze

For doughnuts

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • 3 Tbs Natvia
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 Tbsp Chobani 0% Vanilla Greek Yogurt (or plain or strawberry)
  • 4 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Nuttelex, melted
  • 1/4 tsp butter essence
For Glaze
1 Tbs Plain Non-Fat Chobani yoghurt
1 tsp pure vanilla bean extract
1/2 cup sifted pure icing sugar

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 (fan-forced)
2. Mix flour, sugar, Natvia and baking powder in a bowl
3. In a small jug, combine all liquid ingredients (make sure melted Nuttelex is not too hot), and whisk to get a smooth consistency.
4. Add liquid to dry ingredients and mix to a just smooth consistency. Don't mix beyond this point as it will make the batter tough.
5. Transfer the batter to a zip lock bag. Chop off one corner of the zip lock bag and pipe the batter into your doughnut pan.
Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze
6. Bake until lightly browned and springs back to the touch, about 8-12 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together glaze ingredients. At first it will seem like there is not enough liquid, but just keep whisking and the yoghurt will absorb all the icing sugar and turn into a perfect glaze consistency.
Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze
 8. Remove from oven and cool in tray for 5 minutes.
8. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool.
Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze
9. Dip each doughnut into the glaze mixture and allow to set on wire rack. You could glaze and serve them straight away while they are still warm, I think this would be ideal if they were a special breakfast treat!!
10. Serve! 
Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

Note: Keep in an airtight container, unglazed they should last for 2-3 days. Glazed they would probably only last for 1 day, the yoghurt glaze tends to go a bit gunky. 

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

These were delicious and satisfying but I think I can still make some improvements. Next week I am going to make some tweaks to the recipe to attempt to achieve a lighter, fluffier dough. Wish me luck!!

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

Ella xx

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze