Category Archives: food

Pinspired: mini pretzel bites

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I thought I would start a Friday series based around things I find on Pinterest. Hardly a unique idea I know but I know I have lots of things languishing on the many boards I have happening that I’ve been meaning to try but haven’t got around to!

So this morning Mr 2, who loves nothing more than making a floury mess and using the electric mixer, and I made these mini pretzel bites via the awesomely named, I heart naptime.

The verdict: they’re a bit of a fuss to make with the boiling and rolling etc but the recipe is perfect in terms of quantities. Also, for us who bake in Celsius the oven needs to be set to around 220 degrees.

We all love pretzels at our house and I am going to package them up for after school and 3pm work day snacks. They would totally rock with a cheesey sauce but I’m not going that far!

I would love to know what you’ve found and tried on Pinterest lately. Please do share!!!

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Loverly Food: Ricotta, spinach and tomato pie – aka KINDNESS pie

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I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I really only found a joy for cooking when Mr and I first moved in together more years ago than I can remember now.

When Bebito was born I began to focus more on making things from scratch. As much as I knew breast feeding would give him the best start I wanted his belly to be full of nutritious, tasty food. And he has rewarded me ten fold with his appreciation of what I set in front of him, his willingness to try new things. I never cook anything I don’t think he will enjoy eating. Little Lion can be hit and miss but I hope one day he too laps up all manner of different flavours. Mr too has an appreciation of good food. In giving my family good food I feel like I am giving them my love and care.

But there’s more to why I spend so much time in the kitchen. I find it meditative. Especially so when I am able to potter on my own. It is a time to think too. To process my feelings, thoughts, dreams and hopes and after an afternoon of cooking I often find myself revived or more at peace. I often think how I am connected to the generations of women before me in my kitchen labours.

Today I’ve baked a bunch of lunchbox items, dinner and some muesli. At the same time I’ve reflected on the news I heard earlier today of Charlotte Dawson. I know little of her, only that she was a woman who struggled with depression and she vigourously defended herself against online bullies. I also thought of the people in Kiev who are fighting – and dying – for what they believe in. For the asylum seekers on Manus Island who are trapped there, fleeing from horror only to be greeted with a different sort of horror – the horror of detention in limbo. And as I think of these people in their struggles I cannot help but wish that people could act with more kindness.

Kindness. It’s such an easy place to start. And yet so many are not kind.

Perhaps if everyone spent some time cooking for the people they care about, an act of service in which they put the needs of others before there own there could be more kindness?

What say you?

Here’s my recipe…

You could buy some pastry – shortcrust or puff, your call entirely but I made my own using Maggie Beer’s rough puff recipe here

I actually used half of the pastry and froze the other half. Our local supermarkets don’t stock decent premade pastry and I make mine in batches, then freeze for another day.

400 grams ricotta
Half cup Parmesan cheese, grated
A cup of baby spinach leaves
A small handful basil leaves, chopped
1 cup cream
3 eggs
Pinch grated nutmeg
4 tomatoes, sliced

Grease a 30cm x 20cm pie or flan dish. Actually, any will do but just make sure you have enough pastry to cover your tin.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Blind bake the pastry first – I did mine 10 minutes lined with baking paper and pastry weights then 10 minutes without. Make sure it’s quite golden as the top won’t get much cooking when you put the filling in … But not too golden. If you’re using puff pastry let it settle a bit and not be so puffed before you put the filling in.
At the same time as your baking the pastry, place your sliced tomatoes on an oven tray and bake with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. Remove from oven and set aside.
Combine all the filling ingredients and mix well.
Pour filling ingredients over your pastry and top with the sliced tomatoes.
Bake about 25 minutes, or until golden.

We will be enjoying it with a rocket, nashi pear, walnut and balsamic vinegar salad tonight.

Share with your loved ones for most enjoyment.

Loverly food: Chocolate zucchini, apple and yoghurt cake

croppedLittle Lion is going through a few weeks of super dooper fussy pants eating.  Things he usually eats happily have been declared, “sgusting” (disgusting) and my patience for it is wearing very thin indeed. As I’m not sure how long he can live on home-made muesli and puffed corn I am veggie smuggling.

Most Sunday mornings after breakfast, I do some baking and this morning I thought I’d try my hand a refined sugar free cake using some of the large number of zucchinis we have (pity I can’t make a tomato “cake” cos we have a heck of a lot of those from the garden too!).

It’s a very moist cake indeed and the boys have devoured a row for morning tea.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large apple
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated
  • 2 cups flour – I used a combination of rye, wholemeal and plain
  • 1/2 cup cacao – sieve if necessary
  • 1/2 cup plain yoghurt

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius, lightly grease a cake tin of your choice. I used a 22cm square dish.

2. Dice apple and cook until soft – I did mine in the microwave with a dash of water – and squish with the back of a fork or food processor type gadget to make a “sauce”. Frankly, I didn’t want to make too many dishes so I just roughly did it with a fork.

3. Add butter, honey, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla to a large bowl (or in your stand mixer if you like) mixing until a lovely cream has been formed.

4. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.

5. Gently fold in flour, zucchini, apple, cacao and yoghurt to the butter mixture. If it isn’t looking quite cake-y enough do feel free to add a little more yoghurt.

6. Pour in to cake tin and bake for around 25 minutes, depending on the size of the tin you use.  When tested, a cake skewer should come out pretty clean.

7. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, then invert to cool on a cake rack.

These are going to be lunchbox fare for Bebito too and despite his initial hesitation – he spied the zucchini straight away – he loved it.

Salted Caramel Popcorn with Peanuts and Pretzels

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I am obsessed with anything salted caramel – salty and sweet is just the best combination.

In my search for great gifts for Christmas I wanted to try a simple, cost effective recipe we could give to extended family and work colleagues.  I have “heard” that flavoured popcorn is the new macaron and I LOVE popcorn so my mind set to thinking!

After some experimenting, I present to you my salted caramel popcorn with peanuts and pretzels….I apologise but it’s incredibly more-ish and if you try to just sneak a little taste the little taste will turn in to a big taste and you may end up skipping a proper meal in favour of this amazingly awesome sweet treat.

Recipe:

1/4 cup popcorn kernels – or if you prefer to buy already popped around 2 cups of popped corn

1 cup salted pretzels – I reckon the ones you buy at the Continental delis in big bags are better than the supermarket style ones but hey, I’m not that fussy!

1/2 cup peanuts (if you’re allergic or worried about gifting to someone with an allergy then you could use dark chocolate chips!)

Pop corn in your preferred way and place on a lined baking tray so it’s all nice and flat – use two baking trays if you need. Sprinkle over your pretzels and peanuts.

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups brown sugar (you could use caster sugar but I like the brown sugar taste personally)

1 tablespoon salt (use less if your peanuts are salted)

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon baking soda

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, adding sugar, water and salt and leaving to bubble away for around 10 – 12 minutes until you think it’s looking a lovely deep caramel colour.  Don’t stir it but you can swish the pan around a little if you like. Stirring disrupts the awesome caramelisation of the mix and we don’t want to mess with that!

Remove from the heat and whisk in the baking soda.  Watch magic happen as it transforms in to a bubbling, golden lava. YUM! Be careful though cos it’ll burn you big time.

Carefully pour it all over the popcorn mix and if you can, use a lightly oiled knife or spatula to give it all an even coverage.

Let it set!

It’ll keep in an airtight container for at least a week, maybe more depending on how often you go in to sneak a piece!

I also turned this into a DIY gift…packaging up the corn kernels, sugar, salt, bicarb soda (in a little pouch), pretzels and peanuts in a jar and topping it with a little paper bag so that the recipient could use the bag to eat the popcorn out of.  I also used a paint swatch card to write up some instructions on what they should do to make up their popcorn.ImageAre you mad about salty and sweet too?  I’m going to experiment with some chilli and chocolate flavour next for the grown boys in my life who are partial to that kind of caper.  What flavours would you like to try?

Handmade Christmas Gift Guide 2013: Gifts for Teen Boys

Christmas Gifts for Teen Boys
Today’s gift guide is all about teenage boys, a category notoriously difficult to buy for …. because there are only so many video games (do they still call them video games?) a young man needs surely!!
Our ideas embrace the quirky, geeky and we have two awesome DIY options too.
1. Hangry cushion – from My Bearded Pigeon $48.10 US – etsy store here
2. Black leather handmade notebook – via Buntmal $30 US – etsy store here
3. Dalek cross-stitch (this is super dooper cute for the Dr Who fan!) – $27 AUD made by This Grand Life – madeit store here
4. Wallet designed and made by the awesome folk at Kitty Came Home $ – etsy store here
5. DIY Option – an Ice Cream Care package + online movie voucher of your choice.  This idea is from The Misadventurous Maker (see her original post here) and also appeared on Fat Mum Slim here – cost is up to you as to how fancy you make it.
6. A DIY gadget cover tutorial via Curlypops here – I would be very surprised if a teenage boy didn’t have a gadget of some type!
Have you got a teen boy to buy for? What are they in to?

Loverly Parties….Things that ROAR!

My boys birthdays are three weeks apart and this year, after his brother’s large 1st Birthday Party, Bebito was very keen to have a party.  I think he imagined another huge gathering but instead I wanted to focus it around him and his friends.  Five seems like a milestone year to me and I’ve certainly seen him grow up in the last little while.

It’s the first time I really saw Bebito as my “Client” when it came to planning.  I’ve talked about his in my previous party planning post. Essentially, my party philosophy is home made, hand made, thoughtful and organised and don’t spend a fortune so I was guided by this. It was the first time he got involved in the planning and worked out who to invite and I wanted it to be first and foremost, a kids birthday party.  As Little Lion was 2 several weeks later I just combined their party together.

My boys are loud. Yep, I know all kids are loud but my two are particularly loud when they play together and one thing they like to do is out roar each other and pretend they’re dinosaurs.  So months ago I decided on a, “Things that ROAR!” theme.  This encompassed dinosaurs and other animals, rockets, planes, trains and pretty much anything.  As I like to reuse decorations I stick to safe colour palettes that I know we can incorporate into our house…blue, red and green essentially.

I wanted to get Bebito involved in making things so bought some cheap white fabric and some fabric paint and had him potato paint to make a tablecloth. He also helped me glue some dinosaurs on some jars and spray paint them for party favours.

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The jars had some jelly play dough in them, which again, he helped me make – see the recipe here for this play dough which is the most awesome play dough ever.

I did invest in some cookie cutters which I used in various projects for the party – biscuits topped with natural food colouring sprinkles….

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and to trace some figures on card (which my bigger niece and nephew helped us do as a school holiday activity) and we then strung them together as garlands.   This was a great activity to do with both the boys as we talked about colours and patters and it cost less than $5 to make a whole lot of garlands.  We strung these up around the yard and they’re still hanging up under our verandah. The kids love them!

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I found some blank bunting on special for $3 so had my niece, nephew and Bebito decorate two flags each with fabric crayons.  SUPER cute yes?

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Activity wise, the party was a smash hit.  Given the age of the children attending was so varied I wanted to make sure there was a lot of different stuff to do. I took the train set outside, had a table set up with play dough and the cookie cutters, left our swing set very accessible, had a face painter (our largest expense), had a table set up with fabric crayons and blank aprons that the children got to decorate and take home as gifts also.  The feedback from Mama’s who came along was that their smalls loved the aprons most of all.

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We had a few party games too – including pin-the-tail on the dinosaur drawn by me and looking a whole lot like George’s Din-e-saw  – I think I’ve watched too much Peppa Pig!

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Food wise I did a light lunch and had a table set up outside with menu cards written by me on card and using various stickers around the theme – Bebito helped with this too.  We served up home made mini pizzas and garlic bread, home made sausage rolls, healthy chocolate crackles using this recipe, mini frittatas, pinwheel fairy bread using the natural sprinkles again, fruit skewers, spinach and ricotta puff pastry rolls and some puffed corn in a mini cup. The only things I made on the day were the fruit skewers and frittatas as they don’t freeze well.  The rest I cooked up in a huge batch the weekend before and froze, reheating the morning of the party. By far the most popular food was the fruit skewers. I decorated the table with some of the boys toys that met the, “roar” theme.

We also made some strawberry milk using smashed up real strawberries and chocolate milk with cacao and honey, as well as some iced coffee for the grown ups.  Mr also spent a fair chunk of the party ensuring everyone who wanted to had a chance to sample his barista skills.

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The cake was one Bebito chose from a Donna Hay kids magazine and in spite of the sponge having completely split and falling apart when we baked it and inverted it, turned out really well I think!

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Overall, the party was really good fun and very relaxed.  The 15 or so children who attended all had a great time and there was no fighting, screaming or ickiness at all which I think marvellous!

Most of all though, my client gave me the following feedback, “Mama, today was the best day of my whole life! I think we should call the news people to tell them what a wonderful party it was.” High praise indeed!

Tuna, quinoa, mint and tahini bites

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I’ve found that making lunchbox items for us all and freezing them one of the most time saving things for the days I’m working. It means a little bit of organising on weekends but it’s worth the effort.

Today I made up these tuna, quinoa & tahini “bites” and they’re really delicious.

Ingredients:
1 x 425gram tin of tuna, drained
1 cup uncooked quinoa, cooked as per packet directions and drained really well
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated
4 mushrooms, grated
1 egg
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons of chopped mint or other fresh herb of your preference
Semolina to coat (or breadcrumbs) – I used this to ensure they were really crispy which is often what sells something to my Mr 4

Method:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Mix all the ingredients except semolina together. Form into small, tightly packed balls and roll to coat in the semolina.
Place on a lined oven tray and slightly flatten to form patties.
Bake for about 10 minutes until brown. Turn and bake them for another 10 minutes or until brown.

Serve with some salad and some natural yoghurt to dip.

Yum! I promise!