This month I’ve decided to change things up, and instead of doing the usual Taking Stock questions, I’m participating in Tara’s (from Vegetaraian) link up and posting my favourite finds for the month.

First up are the Thankyou products. These have been on sale for a few years, but I had never actually bought them. They are slightly more expensive than similar products of their sort, but the benefit they provide to society makes them worth the extra cost. I got the hand wash and also the body wash (not pictured) both of which use part of the revenue to fund sanitary projects in third world countries. The bottles come with a label, with a tracking number which you can enter into the Thankyou website, to see exactly which project you helped contribute to. And whilst the toiletries don’t have the cruelty free symbol on them, this is only because they have not paid for the certification to officially deem themselves cruelty free.

I was also lucky enough to win tickets to the Peninsula Picnic held earlier in the month. As the name suggests, the event is held in the Mornington Peninsula, at the Mornington Racecourse. It endeavours to showcase all that the peninsula has to offer in terms of food and produce, in a relaxed atmosphere. Whilst the event was sold out, it wasn’t too crowded, and everybody had a spot to put their picnic rug down, enjoy some food and a glass of wine, with the music of the likes of Timberwolf or Missy Higgins in the background. As an annual event, it’s one to put in the calendar for next year.

It had been a while between Ottolenghi recipes for me. I dusted off my copy of Plenty More and found this gorgeous pumpkin dish to make. It was very simple, and as with all Ottolenghi creation, full of flavour. Spiced with nigella seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander and ginger, it was delicious when I paired it with lemon rice.

We closed off the month with a beautiful meal at Franco Choo’s. Franco Choo’s is one of our favourite restaurants, and I’ve blogged about it previously so it’s not a new find, but what I did find was a post-Easter 20% off special that they had advertised on their Facebook page! In a matter of minutes we had a dinner organised for the next day, with some great company! And as always, the food at Franco Choo’s didn’t disappoint. I’m so surprised that this restaurant hasn’t received as much attention as its Italian cousins like Tipo 00, or Rosa’s Canteen, but perhaps that’s a good thing because it means we can usually get a booking fairly easily!

Have you had any great finds this month? Let me know below, I'd love to hear about them!
Northern Soul is a little café on High St in Thornbury. It is slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of the Northcote end, but still close enough to be in walking distance. We had initially planned to have breakfast at Brother Alec, but as we walked past, we realised how busy it was and given that we weren’t prepared to wait for a table, we kept walking on to Northern Soul.

When we initially walked in, the café was completely empty, which made me a little apprehensive. An empty café is not usually a good sign. It’s a bit of a conundrum for me actually, I don’t like it busy because I don’t like to wait for a table, but I don’t like it quiet because it makes me question the food! I really can’t win!

Anyway, I had nothing to worry about really, because we didn’t even sit inside, instead we walked through the café, into a lovely garden area at the back. It was filled with lots of Buddhist symbols, greenery, and even a section at the back that had chalk and blackboard for children to occupy themselves, whilst their parents relaxed with a coffee. So thoughtful.

We quickly ordered some coffees, supplied by Toby’s Estate, and set about making our choices from the menu.

The menu has a mild Nepalese and Tibetan influence and in keeping with the theme, the other half decided to branch out from his usual breakfast choices and ordered the morning momos served with smoked salmon, poached eggs and dill yogurt. Momos are a Nepalese or Tibetan version of a dumpling, and these morning momos were filled with spinach and cheese. I’m not sure what makes spinach and cheese a morning food, but there is also a potato momo on the menu too. The verdict was that this meal was very… ‘different.’ Not necessarily a bad kind of different, but just not what one would expect for breakfast. I guess it depends on your taste though, one of my favourite breakfasts is eating leftover rice and curry from the night before!

I chose to order the zucchini hot cakes served with mixed greens, tomato relish and coconut yogurt. Unfortunately I was a little disappointed. The hotcakes were quite heavy and stodgy. I think I would have preferred them as fritters and deep fried. The mixed greens had an awful dressing on it, which made it inedible for me. The tomato relish, however, was quite nice, and the coconut yogurt was lovely. I had never tasted coconut yogurt before, but I am now a fan. It also provided a lovely creamy contrast to the dense hotcake which was much appreciated.

Whilst I really wanted to like Northern Soul, unfortunately the food just didn’t win me over. The ambience was lovely, the service was great, but both our meals were below par.

Northern Soul Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
This product talk is brought to you by Vinomofo and Nuffnang.

Vinomofo are one of Australia's leading online wine stores. They work directly with the best wine producers in the world to find the wines they love, and curate them to the customers' tastes. If the wine doesn't pass the rigorous testing of the tasting team, then Vinomofo doesn't sell the wine. Not a bad quality control strategy.

If the wine does pass, Vinomofo buy a designated amount of stock, making every wine a limited edition. Often the wines sell out, and if that happens, you can't get any more! Vinomofo also have some great secret deals. Because the wines are so awesome, and the prices so unbelievable, the only way they can get their hands on them is to keep the identity of the wine and the producer a secret. It makes the whole concept even more exciting!

I was lucky enough to receive a couple of bottles of Vinomofo wine to try. Vinomofo have some very creative and often cheeky labels, as you can see!

The Orgy, was a grenache blend from McLaren Vale, quite lightweight and short on the palate. I'm not a big GSM fan, so this wasn't my favourite, but don't let that put you off.

The Art of War (Sun Tzu would be impressed that his work was being credited to such a worthy venture!) was a Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. This was a lovely easy drinking red, very pleasant on the palate. It definitely worked well on a lazy Saturday afternoon!

Vinomofo know that often different people have different tastes when it comes to wine, and so they offer a 365 day return policy with a full refund, credit or replacement. Goes to show how confident they are in their wines!

To peruse the Vinomofo wine collection, and perhaps get some wine delivered to your doorstep, visit the Vinomofo website.

And incase you're wondering, yes, Vinomofo does mean Wine, Motherf*cker. Cheeky.

Disclaimer: I received these products courtesy of Nuffnang and Vinomofo , however I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own.

I'm a little late with In My Kitchen this month. March has become being rather hectic, with a lot going on at home and work, and two broken down cars. Don't ask.

Nevertheless, it did start off on a great note with an unexpected delivery, of a prize from an online competition that I had entered! I had entered the competition well before Christmas, so it was a vague memory, infact I had to google what competition it was (!), but it turns out that I had won myself two beautiful Maxwell and Williams serving platters from their Diamonds range. I love white servingware, and these two platters are gorgeous! I actually used the rectangular one as part of a cheese platter last weekend, but unfortunately I didn't get any photos. Shame really, because it looked so pretty!

Also, as part of the dinner, I cooked lots of new things including a butter chicken and a creamy eggplant curry. The eggplant curry was cooked in a yogurt and besan flour sauce and was a huge success. For those of you who haven't heard of besan, it is a chickpea flour, and often used as a gluten free option. It is also regularly used in Indian cooking to create batters. The yogurt made the gravy a lovely consistency, and the besan helped thicken it as well as add an almost nutty flavour.

The chilli plants have been growing very well and the first chilli has finally fruited! It still needs to grow a little bit more before I will pick it, but I'm very excited!

There is also another little chilli that has just started to grow, as well as lots more flowers, so hopefully there will be some more crop.

I had to clean out my parents fridge at the start of this month and as a result acquired way too many apples. I'm not a big apple eater, and so instead I used the apples to make some delicious apple muffins! These muffins are a little bit left of centre, containing no egg, and wholemeal flour, but they are delicious nonetheless. I took my first batch to work and they disappeared super fast, and I ended up making a second batch to have at home!

This post is part of the In My Kitchen series hosted my Maureen from the Orgasmic Chef. Head over to her blog to see what is going on in other people's kitchens!
I don’t usually go out for Italian food, opting for cuisines that I don’t prepare at home myself, but on my recent catch up with a friend, I gave her three options to choose from on the same Glenferrie Rd strip (Italian, Mexican and Japanese) and she chose Italian. And so off to Anoia for dinner it was.

Dinner was on a Wednesday night, so when I got there, it was completely empty. This was a little bit unnerving, had a picked a place that served average food? I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and put it down to the early time and that fact that it was mid week. I took the opportunity to peruse the menu, and it read like a standard Italian menu – some entrees, breads, salads, pastas and pizzas.

My dinner date arrived fairly soon, and slowly the restaurant started to fill up. There was a group of four people having dinner together, as well as a large family group with a young child. It was with them that I started to notice cracks in the service and the temperament of the staff. The restaurant is quite small, and the waiter had brought out a high chair for the child. The child however was quite restless, and his parents struggled to manage him whilst the waiter set the chair up. This definitely tested the waiter’s patience. I don’t think the family were too bothered, but I felt the waiter was definitely exhibiting some passive aggressive behaviour.

We placed our orders for dinner. I chose a pizza, and my friend a pasta, typical Italian meals!

My pizza was called zucca. It started with an olive oil base, was topped with roasted pumpkin and pine nuts and served with rocket and goats cheese. The base was thin and crispy, and the toppings worked well together. It wasn’t outstanding, but it was good.

The pasta chosen was actually not officially on the menu. My friend had chosen a napoli sauce but requested that some cherry tomatoes, olives and chilli be added to the sauce. The waiter had expressed some uncertainty as to whether this would be possible, but when the dish arrived, it was clear they had found a way to make it work. Why it wouldn’t be possible was beyond us. Surely the sauce base was made up, and you could easily add things to it? She too said her pasta was good but nothing spectacular.

Overall this was pretty much the running theme of our dinner at Anoia. It was nothing special and as a result I probably wouldn’t go back again. Melbourne has so many good restaurants, that it’s not worth the effort visiting average places.

ANOIA Artisan Pizza & Pasta Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
It’s time to take stock of February. Time is just flying by, and whilst it’s been a short month (although a day longer than February last year!), there’s been a fair bit going on…

Making:  A dinner party menu. There will be dinner guests this weekend, so I need to work out what to cook!

Cooking: Pasta sauce with mint. I made this really interesting tomato based sauce with olives and mint. I didn't think the mint would work, but it tasted really nice.

Drinking: Cranberry juice. I received a few bottles of Ocean Spray Cranberry juice to try and I’m a fan.

Reading:  Nothing. I’m so slack. I need to get back into a reading. There’s a few books on the bookshelf that I really should get into.

Wanting: A break. I feel like I have been flat out since the start of the year. I really want some time to do nothing.

Looking: At clothes. The month has ticked over, and I’m allowed to do another lot of online shopping.

Playing: Candy crush. Still

Deciding: On holiday plans. I have big dreams to go to Mongolia this year, so I really should start getting organised.

Wishing: I could permanently be on holidays. Mongolia, Egypt, Tanzania, Antarctica. So many places, so little time (and money).

Enjoying: Having fresh chillies from the garden. My parents’ chilli plants are going nuts, so I have a massive supply.

Waiting: Labour Day. Our next public holiday! I love the first half of the year!

Liking:  My colouring book that I got for Christmas. I haven’t done nearly enough colouring, but that’s mainly due to the fact that I just don’t have much spare time.

Wondering: If I will be able to run a marathon this year. I’ve started training, and given myself till November, so hopefully I can do it, assuming I don’t get injured along the way.

Loving: The fact that the Melbourne Food and Wine festival is about to start. There will be so many awesome events!

Pondering: Whether to go out for dinner tonight. I want to, but there is so much food at home that should be eaten first!

Considering: What to spray the mint bush with. Our mint bush was getting devoured and we ended up finding 13 fat, well fed caterpillars in it. We got rid of them all, but no doubt we would have missed a few. Apparently spraying a mixture of salt, detergent and chilli should help get rid of them.

Buying: A bike helmet! I’m totally going to start riding a bike! I don’t think I’ve ridden since I was about 8 years old, so hopefully I still know how to ride!

Watching: My Kitchen Rules. I love MKR and Masterchef, so I have been following the series closely. I think my favourite is the brother and sister from Mornington, VIC. Hopefully they go far.

Hoping: That I have time to make some apple muffins tonight. My parents gave me all their old apples to bake with, so I thought some apple and cinnamon muffins would be lovely!

Marvelling: Ah nature. I love looking at the herbs every morning and seeing how much they have grown.

Cringing: At George Pell. How pathetic was his hearing? My arse he doesn’t remember.

Needing: To find some cruelty free toothpaste that contains fluoride. For some reason, the people that advocate for cruelty free products, are also anti fluoride. I am pro cruelty free, but I am also pro fluoride. Our teeth need fluoride.

Questioning: The Americans. Trump. Really?

Smelling:  Tommy Girl. I found my bottle from ages ago, and I still love it!

Wearing: My size 4 dress! I can’t believe I fit into it!

Following: The Spice Adventuress. I have been following Dhanya’s blog for a while now, and she has some great recipes and restaurant reviews. It’s a great read.

Noticing: The fact that the daylight hours are slowly getting shorter. The now dark when I go for my run in the morning, and the daylight doesn’t last as long in the evening  Winter is coming.

Knowing: That the first quarter of the year is almost over. It’s a bit scary.

Thinking: About the fact that I have been a bit slack with the blog over the last couple of weeks. I started off the year so organised, and completely on schedule, but I think time (and a little bit of laziness) has got the better of me. I need to get back on track.

Admiring: Kerryn Phelps. After seeing her on Q&A last night, I was so impressed. She is intelligent, clear in thought, and makes her point so well.

Sorting:  Emails. I have 11, 728 emails in my inbox. It is a bit nuts.

Getting: A couple of Maxwell & Williams platters. These arrived in the mail yesterday, and I discovered I won a competition I had entered before Christmas! I love surprises!

Bookmarking: Recipes with apples. I have lots that I need to get rid of.

Coveting: A degustation meal. It’s been a long time since I’ve had one, and I’m not sure I can justify the price tag these days, but damn there are some good ones out there.

Disliking: The fact that I worked a day for free. Damn the 366th day this year, I only get paid for 365 days!

Opening: Bills. I HATE BILLS. This time of the year is the worst too, rego, car insurance, rates, it’s the worst.

Giggling: At Drumpf. #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain

Feeling: Sleepy. Late nights and early morning training are not a good combination.

Snacking: On fruit. My parents gave me a whole heap of peaches, so I’ve been eating them.

Helping: At Tamil Feasts. I have my first opportunity to volunteer at a dinner, and I cannot wait. I also can’t wait to partake in another feast. So delicious.

Hearing: The Sweet Teen Club podcast. This podcast takes me back to my high school days. I loved the Sweet Valley High books, and it’s so nice to reminisce.

What’s been going on in your life?