Archive for Sweets & treats

Turning pantry slops into lunchbox gold (and a giveaway)…

Exciting times at VSHQ with a complete kitchen renovation just days away. For the past month we’ve eaten our way through the pantry and now I’m down to the SLOPS. All those supermarket impulse buys and double ups that have me now scratching my head as to just how I’m going to combine water chestnuts, lychees, olives and four jars of seeded mustard into one delicious meal.

Tinned fruit seems to be the single thing I buy, but never use. Here’s what I was left with….

I know, it's a massive shame that the leopard print contact that lines all my cupboard is about to go...

I know, it’s a massive shame that the leopard print contact that lines all my cupboards is about to go…

Yesterday I managed to rid myself of the cherries and pineapple (too easy). The cherries were combined with frozen blackberries and apple in a traditional crumble (use this recipe here) and the pineapple worked perfectly with desiccated coconut (another ingredient I always have too much of) in a lunchbox treat that has the kids singing my praises.

You can win a set of 4myearth snack wraps!

See those alphabet wrappers? You could win some! Read on!

Pineapple & coconut muffins

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup raw sugar
440g crushed pineapple in juice. Drain the fruit over a bowl – keep the juice.
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup grapeseed oil or melted butter

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease a 12-hole muffin tray or line with paper cases.

In a large bowl combine the flour, coconut & sugar. Mix together.

In a separate jug, combine 1/4 cup of the pineapple juice with the egg, milk and oil. Whisk this together thoroughly.

Tip the wet ingredients into the dry. Combine roughly then add in the crushed pineapple. Stir to mix through then divide evenly between your muffins holes.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and springy to touch.

Makes 12
____________________

****WIN!****

The lovely 4myearth food wrap & snack pocket (see the pic above) can be yours! They’re a fab alternative to plastic wrap and the lovely Rebecca, who runs this local Aussie small business has four sets to give away (each worth $21.95). (read all the info on the wrap/snack pocket sets here) To win, simply comment below, with a suggestion on how I’m going to use up my passionfruit, mango, peaches or lychees…. Entries close Wednesday night, 8pm, AEST). COMPETITION NOW OVER – CONGRATULATIONS TO BELINDA, SAM, CARLY & LISA WHO WILL ALL BE RECEIVING THE FANTASTIC PRIZES.

Yes! A new e-book has just arrived in store!

Yes! A new e-book has just arrived in store!

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The starsign most likely to be a fussy eater is…

starsign-graph

Combining two of the internet’s favourite topics – food and astrology (sadly I couldn’t find a way to also include conspiracy theories) – I recently conducted entirely credible research (on Facebook of course) that drew staggering results as to the connection between sun signs and whether or not your child is likely to be a fussy eater.

Got a child born between August 23 and Sept 22? You have a VIRGO and according to me, they are statistically OFF THE CHART and by far the most picky eater in the zodiac. Of course, you could call my research entirely flawed since the question I asked was, “What sun sign is your fussiest little eater? Mine – VIRGO.” With the benefit of hindsight I realise that this was biased qualitative questioning. But hey, I went to art school and spent three years painting, not actually learning anything useful like how to prepare a credible survey.

But if you removed Virgo, there were still some pretty interesting results. Next fussiest was Leo (Jul 23 – Aug 22) which is a ‘fixed’ sign – known for a certain level of stubborness. Another fixed sign, Taurus, came in next. As you’d expect there was a mid-result clump that was separated by ‘statistically insignificant’ amounts, but the two easiest signs to feed were Capricorns and Librans.

Moving on to another internet darling – cacao nibs – and I’ve been doing a bit of experimenting. The first is a healthy-as-you-like option, a dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, processed-sugar-free, is-there-anything-left cookie that I enjoyed but only got 50/50 approval my my sample study of 6 children.

The second is a pretty regular cookie, with choc chips swapped out with cacao nibs. Between the two options there should be something for everyone.

Free from everything except flavour.

Free from everything except flavour.

The healthy cacao nib biscuits

This is based on a recipe from Joyous Health.

1/4 cup maple syrup 3 tbsp tahini
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup combined currants & cacao nibs

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Line a tray with baking paper.

Mix everything together and dollop the mixture on the tray. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool on the tray.

Makes 10.

Free from nothing.

Free from nothing.

Classic cookies (with cacao nibs)

125g butter, softened
1 cup raw sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup cacao nibs
1 cup sultanas

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line two trays with baking paper.

Use hand held beaters or an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar together. Cream them well for several minutes until light and flufffy. Add the egg and beat in well. Also tip in the vanilla and salt.

Sift over the flour and fold it in (slow setting on the beaters will be fine). Then stir in the oats, nibs and sultanas. Dollop amounts onto your trays and bake for 15-18 minutes.

Makes 36ish.

FREE-SHIPPING2

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My fruit-bowl runneth over with sloppy bananas

Usually when my fruit bowl is all a-quiver with a mass of mushy bananas, I cook this banana bread, which uses up a few in one go. HOWEVER it’s full of nuts, so not lunchbox-friendly, which is why this NEW banana-hoovering recipe has been making a few appearances at VSHQ.

Let’s not kid anyone – this is no bread, this is CAKE. And a yummy one too, complete with passionfruit icing. Mmmmm. Freeze a few pieces and you’ll be ahead for lunchboxes when school goes back for term 2. Sweet.

Did you see that I’ve got an additional 10% off all my gloriously practical and family-friendly cookbooks? I do. Until midnight, Thursday April 9, 2015. Just enter code ‘holiday’ at the checkout. Visit my shop to see the full range.

Nut-free, a litle piece of this in the lunchbox will be pretty popular.

Nut-free, a litle piece of this in the lunchbox will be pretty popular.

Lunchbox banana cake

50g butter, softened
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup oats
1 cup spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup icing sugar
Pulp 1 passionfruit

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a 14x28cm loaf tin with baking paper.

Add the butter and sugar to a mixing bowl. Use hand held beaters to cream them together until well combined. Tip in the egg and beat until well combined.

On a slow speed, mix through the combined flour/baking powder. Use a spoon to add in the oats and banana.

Scoop into your prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden and the top springs back with touched.

Leave to cool completely, then sift the icing sugar (to remove lumps) and add just a little passionfruit at a time until you have a good icing consistency. Ice and leave to set.

Cut into 8-10 pieces.

Freezes well. Also makes great cupcakes.

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Forgive me, for I have sinned…

Easy & delish. A treat that was instant happiness.

Easy & delish. A treat that was instant happiness.

Sunday morning and I have to confess that I’ve been a bit naughty, cooking again with flour and sugar. I popped the pic on Instagram last night and had several requests for the recipe, so here it is….

Irish Apple (& raspberry) Cake

(this is from “The Country Women’s Association Classics” cookbook, page 458, by Noela Macleod, from Essendon, VIC). It’s a super easy cobbler-type cake – one of those recipes that makes you look like a better cook than you are!

250g self raising flour
125g sugar (I used raw)
125g butter
3 cooking apples, cored, chopped (I didn’t bother peeling them)
1 egg, beaten,
1/3 cup milk (I found I needed to add a few extra splashes to get the mix to hold together)

I also added in about 2/3 punnet of fresh raspberries.

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm round tin (I have a springform one which is great).

Combine the flour & sugar. Cut in the butter roughly (no need to rub or cream). Add apples. Stir in egg & milk to form a stiff, lumpy mixture. Mix in half the raspberries.

Tip the mix into the tin, press it in evenly and push the rest of the berries into the top. Bake for 1 hour (I covered with foil at the 45 minutes mark).

Serve hot with icecream/cream/custard.

Serves 8.

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The piece of paper that stops my head falling off

Such is the reputation of my memory that my kids treat me as though I am a little bit SIMPLE. “Poor mama”, they say, as they pat me on my shoulder, “her brain is like Swiss cheese, all full of holes.”

Before you get outraged at my mild acceptance of such rudeness from the little rascals, I need to explain that I would love to tell them off, but the impact is lost when I have to screech, “Oi! Thingybob! Enough cheek! Get yourself over to the out time on the steppy stone timber things. And number two, you go do that homework before you fail year 2!” In the heat of the mid-week tempo, I’m generally unable to put a sentence together, let alone a nice pithy one that successfully puts everyone in their place.

“Year 2!” my trouble maker would screech indignantly. “But I’m in year 3, cheese lady!” And his point would be proven. Because the truth IS that my memory is horrible.

During a lucid moment I have actually explained to them that it’s not that mummy is stupid, it’s just that mummy’s brain is very FULL. And not really with anything fun. Just fadmin stuff, like permission notes, planning when to do the dark load of washing so that everyone’s sports clothes are clean for Friday and what on earth is going to be popped into the lunchboxes each morning.

Possibly it’s the quantity of thoughts or perhaps it’s just the mundane nature of them that renders it essential that I WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN at the start of the week. It only takes a jiffy and then my brain can rest, ready to take on the next thrilling parenting challenge.

Once I've written it down, I just don't have to think about it anymore.

Once I’ve written it down, I just don’t have to think about it anymore.

Perhaps you find your brain is a little leaky too, in which case you might like to download and print out this simple planning sheet. Stick it to the fridge to help you unclog your brain (I’ve filled out a demo on page one, showing you what my week looks like).

As you can see, it’s a quick weekly planner for lunch boxes and dinners. Also, I’ve allowed a side bar for a mid-week shopping list. Even doing one massive shop a week doesn’t get me right through, generally I have to duck into a store on Wednesday afternoons.

And while we’re talking lunchboxes, here’s a nice little high-fibre muffin that uses up soggy bananas and gives the kids a chocolate treat.

And they freeze too, for those days when you've forgotten to make something.

And they freeze too, for those days when you’ve forgotten to make something.

Chocolate & banana muffins

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup bran bits (I use original All bran cereal)
1/2 cup brown or coconut sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter or grapeseed oil
2 overripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 12-hole standard muffin tin or line with paper cases.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour (no need to sift), bran, sugar, cocoa and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl or jug, mix together the egg, milk and oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix gently. Add the banana and stir until just combined.

Divide the mixture evenly among your muffin holes and bake for 25 minutes or until they spring back when touched and a skewer comes out clean.

Makes 12.

For more lunchbox help, don’t miss my Complete Lunchbox Planner e-book, which just happens to be on sale at the moment! Visit the shop to check it out.

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Bugger it, they can eat biscuits all year

My back-to-school stress dreams started about a week ago. After one particularly gruelling night time panic, involving lists, school bells and missing leopard-print vests, I wrote a quite funny blog post which was subsequently lost when my laptop carked it.

So I’ll have to leave the humour to your imagination and rather than try to rewrite it, I’m giving you a DIY blog post. Just fill in the blanks based on your own family’s back-to-school situation…..

On the first day of school, I have to go _____________________ to get __________________ for _______. Then I’m off to _________________ because _________________ needs _______________ and I’ve only got until _________________ to fetch them. After that we’re off to __________________ for ______________. I’ve got _______________________ planned, but we’ll see how we go. I might have to resort to plan B, where ______________________________________ and ____________________________________________. Then I’ll nip into work for a bit because I’ve got _____________________ at _______________ which really needs some ____________________ before _______________. We should be home by _______ when I’ll get _____________ to __________________ and practice _______________________ before ________________________. I think that’ll work nicely with just enough time to eat ______________________________________ and do a bit of _________________ before bed.

And so we’re back into the school year. Good luck!

Nut-free, lunchbox perfect.

Nut-free, lunchbox perfect.

Gingerbread (good luck) biscuits

Perfect for the summer lunchbox, these sturdy biscuits are packed with seeds, making them nutritious, nut-free AND delicious.

1 cup seeds (I use a combination of flax, pumpkin, sunflower & chia – skip sesame seeds which are becoming more of an allergen problem)
30g butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp treacle
1 cup self-raising flour (wholemeal flour works well, too)
1 tsp each of ginger, mixed spice & cinnamon (or cassia is great)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two oven trays with baking paper.

Add the seeds to a blender, mini food processor or thermomix and blitz them, to break them up a little (this helps hide them a little AND better helps your body absorb the nutrients). Set aside.

Use hand held beaters (or a mixmaster if you have one) to cream the butter and sugar for a minute or two, until it resembles the texture of soggy sand. (NOTE: traditional ‘creaming’ is to help dissolve the sugar, however these quantities don’t allow that to happen, we’re just giving the mix a good start).

Add the egg and use the beaters to combine it in well. Also beat in the treacle. Tip over the flour & spices (I don’t bother sifting) and use the beaters on a low setting to mix it through (a deep bowl stops flour going everywhere).

Remove the beaters, tip in the seed mixture and use a spoon to mix it through evenly. Roll the mix into 26ish even-sized balls (wear kitchen gloves if you hate getting your hands dirty). Place on the trays (allow some room for spreading) and bake for 10-12 minutes until just firm and springy. They harden up more as they cool and you don’t want them rock hard the whole way through.

Makes 26ish.

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Chocolate balls (both naughty & nice) plus Santa’s consignment notes…

These are the NICE balls... you should see the NAUGHTY ones!

These are the NICE balls… you should see the NAUGHTY ones!

Christmas is THIS WEEK! Yep, I know, crazy – we’re just moments away from the joyous frenzy of gifts and turkey and fun (and plastic things from China).

Possibly you’re still needing a little something to take to a BBQ on boxing day, or maybe a food gift would be the perfect thing to give to your Auntie, so I’ve got easy recipes for both traditional rumballs and booze-free, healthy, chocolate bliss balls. Both are simple and quick to make. If nothing else, they’re great recipes to keep the kids busy (I find their little hands perfect for the rolling, which is sticky & fun). To see the recipes, click over to the Mother & Baby blog, where I’m guest posting today.

Since I’ve been on a bit of a blogging break, my annual unforgettable-Christmas-craft printable never quite made it to fruition this year (of course click here, if you’re desperate to make a nativity scene out of loo rolls). Knowing that you’ll all be massively disappointed(!), I’ve pulled my finger out overnight and popped this little treat together for you.

Fear not loo rolls, you are safe this year, instead, I’ve opted for a bit of parent-craft, designed to give the kids a thrill. It’s a genuine consignment note from the North Pole. Just download the PDF, print it onto card or sticker sheets and affix to Santa’s stash (remember to tick your location on the map). Guaranteed to bring an extra smile on Christmas morning.

I've hacked into Elf-central to grab this for you!

I’ve hacked into Elf-central to grab this for you!

Finally, have a fantastic Christmas and new year! I’ll be back in January. If you want to see which drink I’m sipping over the break, you can always catch me on instagram, which I’ve become quite fond of.

xxxxxx

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