Archive for Sweets & treats

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). Both recipes can be found in my Kitchen Collection e-book, which you can download instantly (for 40% off) from my newly revamped shopify shop! Code ‘xmas2017’ will get 40% off everything until Dec 31!

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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Halloween pumpkin…. in a cake

It is the week where orange food rules. I don’t know about your place, but Halloween has seeped into our household over the last few years and I’m happy this year that it falls on a Friday night. It means that we can all potter off to a dress up party together for a bit of fun rather than trawling the streets looking for the rare orange balloon that signifies that the occupants won’t freak out if we knock.

In previous years my kids have been super keen for a bit of trick or treating… until we get to the strange driveway… then all gumption leaves them and they start crying, too afraid to approach the door. Of course then they pester and want me to do it for them, but being a mean mum, I merely point out that following this imported tradition is THEIR idea, and if they can’t knock on the door, they don’t deserve any treat.

Tough love, and delivered whilst wearing a witches hat. Cackle.

Inevitably our lolly haul is small and we end up home earlier than anticipated with the night being more fraught than fright.

So a batch of these waiting in the kitchen might come in handy…

The ghosts look desirous, don't you think?

The ghosts look desirous, don’t you think?

Halloween pumpkin cakes

Most kids I’ve tried these on have liked them – although a few were vehemently anti-sultana, which is why I’m suggesting a choc chip substitution. I’ve not tried it, but I reckon it would get them over the line with most junior food critics.

2 eggs
1/4 cup oil of your choice (I use grapeseed, but coconut, olive oil etc are all fine)
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (be generous)
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
2 cups grated pumpkin (if you hate grating, just blitz small pumpkin chunks in a mini-food processor)
1/2 cup sultanas (or choc chips)

Heat the oven to 180C. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases.

Whisk the eggs well in a large bowl. Tip in the oil and yoghurt and whisk to combine before doing the same with the brown sugar.

Remove the whisk and sift over the flour and mixed spice. Use a metal spoon to fold through, then also combine in the pumpkin and sultanas.

Divide the mixture between the 12 muffin holes and bake for 22-25 minutes until golden and springy.

Makes 12.

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Egg-free chocolate bran bars

This week we dive into the final term of school and I do like to make something a bit special for the kid’s lunchboxes. I guess my motivation level to bake is higher at this end of the term. It’s almost the last chance to just focus on simple living – at this stage I’m trying hard to not consider what the other end of this term looks like and the looming THING that is Christmas. Too much thinking about it sees me cowering in the corner in a fetal position, overwhelmed by thoughts of lists and presents and family and tired kids and fancy cooking.

On a brighter note, the Spring term sees a new flush of fresh produce that is perfectly suited to lunchboxes. Oranges and tangelos are still good, but pineapple improves. Berries should stay cheap for a while and you can also add in sugar snap peas and green beans (which are great with homous).

Happy learning!

A little bit of lunchbox fun.

A little bit of lunchbox fun.

Egg-free chocolate bran slice

2 tbsp black chia seeds (black blend in better)
1 1/2 cups All bran cereal
1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup brown sugar (coconut sugar is ok here)
3 tbsp cocoa or cacao powder
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup frozen berries, thawed
1 overripe banana, mashed
100g butter, melted

Dark chocolate melts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line an 18x28cm baking tray with baking paper.

Soak your chia seeds in 2 tbsp warm water for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the bran, coconut, flour, sugar, cocoa and sultanas.

Combine the berries, banana and chia seed mix in another bowl. Tip this into the dry mix. Also add in the butter and use a metal spoon to combine everything well.

Press the mixture in your prepared pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes until firm and starting to brown on top.

Set aside to cool. Slice into 16 bars. If you like, melt the dark chocolate and drizzle over the top.

Makes 16 pieces.

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Do I love my thermomix now? An update 15 months later….

Someone just posted on my old post – Do I love my thermomix (you might be surprised), asking for an update on how I’ve settled in with my machine. I was fairly strident in my skepticism back then, so it seems only fair to fill you in on how I’ve gone, long term. It’s been 15 months now, so the novelty has worn off and I can assess its usefulness without my mind being swayed by the TM hype.

So here’s the truth…. I don’t use my thermomix very often. But when I DO use it, it’s fantastic. But I can get by without it for days on end.

My husband calls it the $2000 egg poacher, since I’ll go for a couple of weeks doing nought with it but bunging on a bit of breakfast. ‘But what a breakfast!’, I say. Perfectly soft-boiled eggs. Almost. Every. Time (colder water temps in winter meant I had to up the cooking time – learned that the hard way one morning, cracking open an almost raw egg).

Needless to say, husband raises an eyebrow and checks out the space on the wall where his $2000 television could have been proudly mounted. He’d probably have watched that for more than 5 minutes every week or so.

BUT. (And there’s always a but, isn’t there.) I LOVE TO COOK. So pots and pans are a bit joyful for me. Stirring sooths my soul. Chopping calms me down. Cooking is some strange therapy. I totally understand, though, that many people hate cooking and feel the nightly need for food production as a weight of concrete pulling them into the depths of mediocrity. And for those people, then the thermomix is a brilliant device. You need no kitchen flare to produce a good meal. Apparently the new model even tells you what to do next, so you need not even worry yourself with the tedium of recipe reading. GOLD.

And I’ll confess that mid-week, when all the shite is flying everywhere, the TM has saved my skin on many occasions. For me, this is where the machine shines and this is the theory behind the recipes that I chose to convert for my Thermomix ebook (check it out here). It’s perfect for those mid-week food production nights when you just want everyone to just shut up, eat and go to bed.

AND WHAT ABOUT ALL THAT OTHER WHIZZERY-BANGERY THAT IT DOES?
Yes, it does do it, and it does do it well. If you are dealing with food allergies and creating everything from scratch then I can see how much you would love your thermie. I have used it to mill sugar and I use it to mill brown rice into flour. And it’s absolutely-freaking-fantastic at all that. Yesterday, I used it to easily make a fantastic strawberry jam out of some soggy old cheap berries that were definitely no good for eating. GOLD.

But if you’re thinking about buying a thermie, I would keep in mind that rarely does a contraption truly change our behaviour. If you think that a TM will help you eat more vegies, you’re wrong. If you think a TM will allow you enough time to bake bread from scratch, you’re wrong. If you think a TM will save you money, you’re wrong.

If you’re making broader lifestyle changes, then a TM might assist you with those. Going gluten-free is a little easier. Cooking every night from scratch is a little easier. But a thermomix is a lot like a gym membership – forking out the money is NOT ENOUGH to motivate you to truly change your lifestyle if you’re only half-hearted.

If you want to make bread, a breadmaker is a wonderful thing. A $40 rice cooker is essential and does a wonderful job, as does a $40 mini-food processor. For less than $200 I can have all the kitchen help I need to make lasting changes in my lifestyle.

I’d recommend giving some of those gadgets a go before making the big thermomix commitment.

Oats, but not wheat. And quite yummy, too.

Oats, but not wheat. And quite yummy, too.



Wheat-free blueberry muffins

1 cup brown rice flour (brown rice, milled in the TM on 9 for 30 seconds)
1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
2 tsp chia seeds
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup fat (either oil of your choice or melted butter, cooled)
1 punnet blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180C – line 12 muffin holes with paper cases.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl or jug, whisk the egg, milk & fat together. Pour into the dry ingredients. Combine well then mix in the blueberries.

Use spoons to divide the mixture evenly between the muffin holes. Bake for 30-35 minutes until firm and golden.

Makes 12.

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Coconut, coconut, coconut, coconut & banana cake

Vegie Smugglers banana and coconut cake

And sprinkle a bit of coconut on top, too.

Ain’t life grand when you discover that all of life’s woes can be solved by one little ingredient. No more will I battle with dementia, mouth sores, irregular periods, bloating, stubbed toes or mismatched socks, because I have discovered COCONUT.

Only a blind sheep could have possible missed the whole coconut-thing. Actually, not even a blind sheep, since every sheeple I know (including me) is well and truly caught up in the craze and is trading all their coin for a trolley full of 44-gallon drums of the stuff. But is it worth it? And is it actually healthy? Rather than paraphrasing the entire internet, if you’re interested to know more, then go and read this, or this, or this, or this. They are all good articles that seem pretty balanced.

If you can’t be bothered clicking around then here’s my summary…. coconut oil should be bought ‘virgin’. It’s expensive and full of saturated fat. But it’s thought some of this fat is beneficial. But the science isn’t conclusive and keep in mind that nutrition information is currently changing more often than Kimye’s outfits.

Seems like it’s a great ingredient to have in your cupboard, but one to use in moderation (I know, back to that ol’ boring mantra). For lactose-intolerant me, it makes a great butter substitute in baking and treats, when I’m after a coconut flavour. It works well with some Asian stir-fry dishes, but generally I’m happier with olive oil.

This recipe though, is a complete homage to coconut. It uses coconut oil in just the way I like it – dairy-free cake that last well for several days and can also be sliced and frozen, ready for lunchboxes. Even better, the evocative coconut taste is so divine that it inspires me to don my grass skirt and coconut-bra, and hula the day-away.

Coconut & banana cake

So there’s not much that’s healthful in this cake (it IS cake), but it is a fantastic way to use coconut and all of your overripe bananas (and it’s dairy-free)

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup dessicated coconut
3/4 cup sugar (I’ll leave it up to you – raw sugar will give you an amazingly white cake, coconut sugar gives is a more molassas-y flavour)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
165ml can coconut milk
1 egg, lightly whisked
3 overripe bananas, peeled, mashed
Sprinkle of shredded coconut.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a 14x20cm loaf tin with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, coconut and sugar.

Combine the melted oil and vanilla extract. Stir in the coconut milk and also your egg (add the egg last so that the warm oil doesn’t start to cook it). Pour this wet mix into the dry one. Combine well then also mix through the banana (this mix is more a dough than a batter).

Plop the dough into your tin. Push it out to fill the corners and even the surface. Sprinkle over the shredded coconut.

Bake for a total of 55-60 minutes. Cover with foil around the 40 minutes mark to avoid burning.

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‘Yes!’ excited children, ‘you CAN have ice-cream for breakfast!’

My kids love that Optus ad on the TV – the one where Josh Thomas is saying ‘yes’ all the time. I’ve got to assume it’s because it’s so lovely to consider a land where you get a ‘yes’ answer to everything you want.

A few years ago in parenting land, it was emphasised often how important is was to always say ‘yes’ to your children. It was NEVER ok to say ‘no’. I can’t even remember why it is now, I think something to do with exploration and self-esteem and creative play. When they said, “I want lollies.” I’d say, “yes, great idea, but right now we’re going to have some fruit.” And in the shop they’d say, “give me the toy,” and I’d say, “yes, I agree that this toy is lovely, what a great choice you’ve made, but right now we’re going to pop it back on the shelf so that it’s ready for some other child.”

I’m exhausted just remembering it.

Fair to say that my kids are pretty familiar with the word ‘no’ these days and I genuinely can’t remember at what stage that shift occurred. Now they only ask if they think there’s a reasonable chance that I’d say yes, which is what makes this breakfast dish so fab. They’d never ever ask for ice-cream at breakfast time (they only really eat it at Nanna’s house), so imagine their excitement when I offer them a bowl of it.

This breakfast has been a bit of a lifesaver over winter as it’s a power punch of vitamins first thing in the day. It’s kept the sniffles at bay and lifted their spirit and energy levels on quite a few mornings. And eating ice-cream on a cold winter’s morning? Well, they’re so damn excited by this recipe that it’s never been an issue. Although I have been waiting for almost-Spring to share it, figuring that other children might be more sensible than mine.

vegie smugglers breakfast ice cream

‘Yes!’ to a breakfast treat that also packs in nutrition.

Breakfast Ice-cream

To get an ‘ice-cream’ consistency, either the berries or banana (or both) need to be frozen – this winter I’ve just been using regular bananas and frozen berries – play around and see what consistency your kids prefer.

1 banana
1 cup frozen berries
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup spinach leaves (I grow silverbeet and English spinach in my Vegepod and use whichever is available)
1/4 cup milk (soy or rice also both work)
1 tbsp C Berry Blast powder – This is an organic vitamin C powder by NutraOrganics. I love their products and am happy to support my friend Vanessa’s small family business.

Pop everything into a blender or mini-food processor and blitz until it’s a consistency to suit your family.

Serves 2-3 kids.

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From no-cake, to cake, in 5 minutes.

There are times when my tea looks at me, sitting on the bench and I can’t help but think that it seems very lonely. On Gourmet Farmer I heard the lovely quote, “A cup of tea without a biscuit is a wasted opportunity” and I can’t help but agree. But the problem is that I keep my cupboard lean and free from too many sweet temptations. To avoid additives and mucky weird processed food, I also have a general rule that I only eat baked goods that I’ve made myself.

Thankfully then, I’ve discovered this lifesaver of a recipe. It’s a cake that is prepared with a tablespoon measure and one jug then cooked in a large mug in the microwave. All in under 5 minutes.

So if you don’t use gluten, sugar or the microwave, please don’t email me or comment with a tonne of nasty abuse, just look away and come back next week – I promise you a healthier recipe then (or click here for my cocoa bliss balls). The rest of you, keep this on file for the next time your cup of tea needs a friend.

A few berries on top will make you feel more virtuous.

A few berries on top will make you feel more virtuous.

2-minute chocolate & coconut cake

1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk (or soy milk also works)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (melted butter would also work, but cool it a little)
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp raw sugar (or golden caster sugar or coconut sugar both also work)
3 tbsp self-raising flour

(I mix this together in a 2-cup glass jug, which makes it super easy to pour into the cup and then goes straight into the dishwasher).

Use a fork to whisk your egg in a jug or bowl. You don’t need the entire egg; especially if it’s a large one, so tip out about a quarter of it (don’t worry about being too precise!).

Whisk in the vanilla, milk and oil. Once combined, continue to whisk in the coconut, cocoa, sugar and lastly the flour.

Pour into a large mug and microwave on high for 2- 2 1/2 minutes (you might have to try a couple of times to find the timing that is perfect in your microwave).

Serves 2 kids, or 1 greedy adult.

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A little piece of lunchbox happy

Don’t know about you, but I’ve got the serious BLAHS.

Winter is blah. Northern hemisphere friends taunt me on Facebook with glorious shots of their fun summer holidays.

Finances are blah. I’ve just been revisiting our seriously large mortgage, which never leaves anyone in a cheery state.

The kids are blah. Although really they’re a joy, they’re also surrounded by school projects, permission notes and birthday parties that require a level of involvement for me, without any particular satisfaction.

And to top it all off, it’s education week. And while I love visiting the classrooms and seeing every page of every book that the kids have touched this year, and I love to see them excited about me being there, and I love to see their achievements, I can SO DO WITHOUT sitting through any more school performances. Lordy lord how I wish I were home with a cup of tea rather than in a draughty school hall working my way through the various bands, choirs, ensembles and dance troupes. And there’s some parenting murphy’s law that states that your child will always be in the last group, forcing your participation in the full morning.

Still, eventually you do make it home, and hopefully you’ve got the jug ready to boil and a nice little piece of a slice like this one, that’s perfect for a kid’s lunchbox treat, but yum enough for the parents to find satisfaction, too.

Get them excited about their lunchbox!

Get them excited about their lunchbox!

Coconut, sultana & lemon slice

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup raw sugar
3/4 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup sultanas
Zest 1 lemon
125g butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarb soda, mixed into 1 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line an 18x28cm slice tin with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, coconut, sultanas & lemon zest.

Place a small saucepan over low/medium heat. Melt the butter and golden syrup. Once melted, scrape in the bicarb/water mix and stir well.

Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir to combine well. Tip into your baking tray and press down evenly. Use the heel of your hand to press it in really well.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden. Leave to cool in the tin before slicing.

Cut into 20 squares.

____________________________

If you’re after a healthier addition to their lunchbox, check out these Oat, sultana & sesame seed biscuits or these home-made muesli bars.

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