Friday, 15 November 2013

The 'Town Bike' Slice

Let's be honest here, with a name like the town bike slice, how could I not want to make this as soon as I saw it pop up on a newsletter from Stay at Home Mum? I was especially tickled with the explanation for the name of the slice: "Because it’s cheap, easy and everyone can enjoy it!"

It really was easy too. This was whipped up while small miss was busy playing with her balloon balls. No need to mix or stir this recipe, it's as easy as measuring out a cup of each of the ingredients, layering then baking. My kind of recipe! It's not really very infant/toddler friendly, but mums need a few mum-friendly indulgences every now and then right?

Chocolate chips (I used a mix of dark and milk). Coconut. Nuts (I used peanuts and almonds). Rice bubbles. All topped with a can of condensed milk then baked until golden brown and gooey (about 20 minutes at 180 degrees).

Here's a tip: allow it to cool completely before slicing, otherwise it will be a terrible mess!


I'll be honest. Upon first taste, I wasn't sure this slice was for me. It was too gooey to take anywhere so my plans of taking it to work to share were shelved as it really needs to be stored in the fridge and eaten straight away while cold. I also thought it was too sweet. BUT! It grew on me. I froze a few pieces and they were delicious, perfect for an after dinner snack or when I wanted something sweet to chew on. I think the sweetness mellowed a bit too.

So, I might give it another go. Maybe play with the ingredients a little, try corn flakes instead of rice bubbles, add some fruit it to give the illusion of a healthy treat.  Might also be a bit of a winner to take to some of the upcoming Christmas parties....

Do you have a recipe that hits the sweet spot?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Broccoli and cheese soup (with hidden vegetables)

Inspired by the1337mum's easy recipes, I decided to take a leaf out of her (recipe) book when I needed to create dinner last night for the small miss from a few wilted vegetables and pantry staples. I came up with a healthier version of a broccoli and cheese soup.
 
Broccoli and cheese soup with extra hidden vegetables
 
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 heads broccoli, chopped (don’t waste it, I also chopped up the peeled stems)
2 tablespoons vegetable stock powder
3 cups water (more or less depending on how thick you like your soup)
handful tasty cheese
  • Add the onion and garlic to a saucepan with a little olive oil. Fry until fragrant.
  • Add the chopped carrot and broccoli, stock powder and water. Let it boil, and then cook until vegetables are soft (about 10 minutes).
  • Take off the heat and blend. I used a stick blender until I was happy with the texture. I then added a handful of tasty cheese and stirred it in. No need to have it on the stove, the residual heat will melt the cheese. Season to taste.
I served the small miss’s with some rice I had already cooked in the fridge. It must have been a hit… she grabbed the spoon from my hand (evidently I wasn’t shovelling food fast enough for her taste) and proceeded to feed herself. She’s never done that before, so I was most impressed. The ever hopeful hounds circled below her feet in anticipation of the inevitable fallout.
 
 
I was quite impressed: I used up some vegetables that needed using, and created a tasty and fairly healthy meal with not much at all. Win!
 
When your cupboard takes inspiration from old Mother Hubbard, what are your go to recipes?

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Quick and easy lunches. Cauliflower soup and Chinese Chicken Porridge

I've gotten pretty good at planning dinners thanks to an idea I've stole from Ms Fork when saw it on her fridge. But somehow lunches still sometimes get away from me. I mean they show up all unexpectedly in the middle of the day when people are busy doing stuff. Also we had a massive weekend last week and didn't get a chance to do a proper grocery shop so or fridge and pantry is not nearly as conducive to options as I'd like.

As a result I've had to develop a repertoire of easy meals that don't require that I have much in the fridge to prepare. 

Here are 2 I've whipped up over the last couple of days.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Going Live and Dreamer Blanket Giveaway

And we're LIVE. And to kick things off we're giving away a lovely Dreamer Precious 100% cotton cot blanket.

About

This cute little blanket is designed for a cot and measures in at 100 x 150cm. It's an ivory base with a mixture of blue, orange and brown dots. The material is a really fluffy knitted cotton velour and claims to be anti-pilling, anti-allergic, light weight and very breathable.

My experience

When Alexandra asked if I'd like to try on of these blankets, I jumped at the opportunity. Ellie is at a stage now where she is very textural, and one of her favourite things is minky softness. We have them all over the place - in the car, as a blanket, as a pillow pet in the lounge and even a few cold weather minky sleep suits. The Dreamer blanket is no exception. It was a hit as soon as I removed it from the packaging, with Ellie grabbing it and lying down on top of it immediately!




The size is great too, as I can use it as a cot blanket, but its not so large that we can't put it in the lounge or use it in the car as well. The minky has stayed nice and soft after washing so I know that this is a blanket we'll use over and over until it is loved to pieces.

The good news

We love this blanket so much we wanted to share the love! All you have to do is to be a fan of our facebook page and share the giveaway for your chance to win.

We've got more stuff waiting to be given away so besides this giveaway we'll be giving away another great prize when we hit 50 and 100 facebook fans so the more shares we get the more prizes we get to give away!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Upcycling Projects: Home Made Sleeping Bags

This blog has been neglected for a couple of weeks. The cause of this absence is that the 1337 Grandma came all the way from Singapore to stay for a month to spend time with her grandson (and as a side note bonus... with hubby and myself).

I'm very grateful for the times when mum comes to stay. She's obviously got her own stuff going on as well as another grandson who she's the weekday carer of but her coming over means that hubby and I have another pair of hands around the house to help catch the things that slip through the cracks (like making dinner, and finding time to have a shower and making sure that the sink doesn't get full before doing the dishes.. etc)

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Meatloaf Cupcakes

Food should be fun. Both to look at and to eat. Most days I don't have a lot of time to make fun foods but I managed to get half a day to myself recently and decided to try an idea that I've been toying with for a while.

Meatloaf cupcakes!!!


I've now made these twice and they seem to be a big hit with Hubby and The Little Man (who loves traditional cupcakes more than any kid should). Also note I never use the same recipe for anything twice in a row. I'm more a "use what I can find in the fridge" cook. So consider this recipe more as a guide and feel free to modify as necessary. Recipe makes 12 cupcakes in a regular sized muffin tray.

Ingredients for the Cupcakes:

  • 1kg of Mince Meat (I used 500g Pork and 500g beef)
  • Worchestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce
  • 1 Red Capsicum
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Handful of chopped mushrooms
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1.5 cups of Rolled Oats (Or breadcrumbs but I found oats give a better texture. The home brand cheap stuff works well in this recipe)
  • Handful of Parsley
  • Generous pinch of rosemary
  • Salt and Pepper


Ingredients for the Frosting:

  • 1kg of Potatoes (the kinds that are good for creamy mash)
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese
  • 25-100g of butter (Ok the more the better but I feel guilty so I usually just use 25-50g but always wish I added more.
  • 1/2 cup of cream or milk
  • 1 Teaspoon of minced garlic
  • Pinch of salt
  • Generous sprinkling of  chopped dill and paprika (I add this at the end so it look like sprinkles on the cupcake frosting)

Method:

Potatoes first because you want to give them time to cool before piping onto the cupcakes.

Steam or boil peeled potatoes. I prefer to steam because it takes less water and therefore comes to a boil faster and I'm quite impatient to wait for water to boil. Also you don't risk scalding yourself when you try and tip out a pot of boiling water to get at the potatoes. 


Mash and whisk potatoes with all the other frosting ingredients except the dill and paprika (while warm) to make cheesy creamy mash potatoes. Put aside to cool.

Mix all the cupcake ingredients in a large bowl. You can use a spoon but it would take forever. It is much faster (and way more fun) to use your hands and get into it. Make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed up.
Grab a good handful and roll into a ball. Remember unlike normal cupcakes these don't rise in the baking so make the top nice and round to get a muffin top and press it into the muffin tray to get the base shape. 
Bake in the oven for 20 mins at about 120-150 degrees until top browns. Stick a skewer into it to make sure it's cooked through. Remove from muffin tray and 



Spoon frosting into a piping bag (I don't own one so I used a Ziploc sandwich bag and snipped the end off).   Pipe frosting on top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle dill and paprika over the top of the frosting to look like sprinkles and then top with a cherry tomato. Other modifications can be to swirl barbecue sauce or caramel balsamic over the top like chocolate sauce or tomato sauce tastes pretty good too.


This isn't the first time I have ventured into the whimsical world of meaty desserts. Whilst at university I was tasked with bringing a dessert to a meatlovers fiesta where the one rule is that every dish had to have meat as the major ingredient. I found a recipe for  Chocolate beef brownies for people with nut allergies to simulate a walnut brownie. It was a big hit. 





Anyway I hope some of you get a chance to try this recipe. I'm trying to plan a upside down meal where the Entree looks like the main and the Main looks like a dessert and the Dessert looks like an Entree, but I'm still stuck for an idea of what Entree looks like a Main. I've got an idea for a Dessert that looks like Sausages (Baked fruit pudding) and Mash (Apple puree) but I haven't had the chance to try it yet.

Anyone have ideas for crazy reversed meals? I'd love to hear your ideas. 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Leftover Quiche

When cooking for a toddler it is very hard to figure out how much he or she is going to consume for that meal. Some days the little man picks at his food for a few mins before seeing how many times he can hit the dog with carefully aimed spoonfuls of whatever I've slaved in the kitchen to make for him.

For the last few days, The Little Man has been going through, what we think (hope), is a growth spurt. He's eating everything and anything you put in front of him. And when he's done he looks up with those big brown serious eyes and says "More, more, more, more?" (currently his favorite and most reliable word-meaning association).

So this weekend I've made some little snack sized quiches to tide him over between meals so he's not filling up on baby crackers and bananas.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Travelling with Baby Tip 3: The Flight

The helplessness, the anxiety, the no-where-to-go. I've never been claustrophobic but I think I can respect people who feel that way when I'm praying that everything goes alright.

It's OK when the the baby acts up

Babies are going to cry. I've found that if you look suitably concerned with trying to settle the kid than people around are generally sympathetic and understanding. It's when parents ignore a screaming child that annoys fellow passengers, other mums included. A plane flight is not a place to reinforce controlled crying, Feber or anti tantrum parenting techniques. The kid will deal with this one exception... they are resilient that way.

Dealing with changes in Air Pressure

This really isn't so much of a problem anymore as the newer planes are pretty good at maintaining the in cabin pressure well enough so that you don't get the problem of needing to pop your ears when the plane climbs or descends. But if you're travelling on an older looking plane or just want to make sure your little one doesn't get distressed, a good idea is to nurse or feed the baby during takeoff and landing. The sucking motion clears their ears and the comfort from the feeding or nursing calms the baby down during all the noise and g forces.

When to put the baby to sleep

I really should have known better but this actually took a fair bit of trial and error. First of all I try to do night flights which is usually easier to get the baby to sleep. Our first flight we noticed the baby was tired and therefore I started patting him to sleep just as we were settled down only to have him awoken by the announcements by the captain and cabin crew followed by the safety announcement. The next time we waited till after the announcements and he was fast asleep only to be awoken by the crew coming by with dinner. Since the Little Man is interested in all things food related there was no way we were getting him down whilst he was surrounded by food.

These days we get him to sleep after the food has come and gone. Depending on your airline, baby food may be available. On a recent Emirates flight the steward came by with a silver try with 12 different kinds of organic baby food (savory and sweet) and asked us which one The Little Man would like to eat today. Otherwise this is a good time to give them a little bit of brought baby food followed by a bottle or a nurse to encourage a good long sleep. Excepting urgent announcements due to turbulence, there should be no announcements till you're about to land.

The Bassinet Seat

Sought after by people with children and childless travelers alike for their extra legroom. These seats are not the easiest to come by. Budget airlines shamelessly sell these seats to the highest bidder (I'm looking at you Jetstar!)

So lesson here you're paying between 10-50% in far (depending on the airline) for having a 5-15kg weight sitting on your lap for a whole flight. Don't be afraid of trying to pull a little bit of weight. But always remember politeness and niceness always wins over yelling and complaining. At the end of the day you're not going to see the service people again but who knows how much your own Little Man or Lady remembers ;-)

Just one more thing to add about the Bassinet. Those things are only about 60-70cm long. Little Man was already squished in it at 8 months. These days we use it for extra storage space (place to put the food trays and blankets) so the main reason for getting the seat is the standing up room.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Travelling with Baby Tip 2: Packing

Having traveled so often I've gotten pretty good at avoiding underpacking/overpacking problems for myself. When I first moved over to Australia 10 years ago the contents of my suitcase included my hangers, a printer and an iron. I felt pretty silly when I arrived here and realized that these items could be purchased from K-mart for less money than I would have paid to not have to lug all that stuff to and from the airport. So if I'm travelling alone I only really stress about Passport, Tickets and Money. Anything else I forgot can be purchased if necessary.


Enter the Little Man. Who's "Stuff" takes up more of our house than his size would indicate. This also applies to packing space. Here are my lessons learnt:


Anything forgotten at the destination can STILL be purchased if necessary

This was a helpful reminder from a good friend when I was packing for our first trip to the US when Little Man was 7 weeks. Most developed countries have supermarkets and nappies and baby food can be purchased with relative ease. In fact I would recommend bringing enough spares to take you to when you expect to be able to get yourself to a supermarket because I have yet to arrive in a country* where nappies are more expensive than they are in Australia. Even the premium brands like Huggies and Pampers are way cheaper than they are sold here. I generally end up bringing back more nappies than I left with because they are so much cheaper.

*Sampled countries include: USA, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.


The most important thing to pack carefully is the carry on bag

The only area where the above lesson doesn't apply. The helpless hours when you're trapped in a metal tube with no room to move and surrounded by people you'd rather not annoy. Here's my packing list for on board:
  • Nappies (disposable because no one wants to carry used cloth nappies on a plane) 1 per every 2 hours flight time.
  • 2 changes of clothes for Baby
  • Light Blanket
  • 1 change of clothes for Mum *
  • If Dad is going to travel too then 1 change of shirt for Dad **
  • Baby's favorite snacks and rusks. Pack more than what you think he'll need. Little man is only allowed  2 or 3 baby bikkies a day but on a plane he gets as much as will keep him quiet.
  • Couple of small toys. Though I've found that my Little man gets more fun exploring the remote control than his own toys on board a flight.

* Lesson learnt when Little Man got a bit of a tummy upset and decided to throw up all over me. He had a change of clothes but I had to finish the flight in slightly damp baby puke washed-off-as-much-as-I-could, T-shirt and jeans.
**Lesson learnt when on a different flight, the Little Man decided to knock a drink all over Daddy during the meal time. This time Mum and Baby had changes of clothes packed but Dad didn't.

When travelling for business I've got a rolling hard case cabin bag but that is a serious pain to get stuff out of when you have to carry a baby in one arm. Also when travelling alone with baby, the rolling bag takes up one hand which I tend to need when dealing with the Little Man. For this reason, I find a shoulder strap cabin bag or duffle bag with lots of zip up side pockets very useful. Why zip up? Because you can't control how other people are going to shift your bag in the overhead compartment when they are trying to stuff their own bags in.

Additional tip: Don't overstuff your carry on. It makes things difficult to find without unpacking everything. Also extra space is useful because some airlines will give you little pressie for the Baby (Activity kits, Comfort packs, Baby Blankets) and it's useful to have some room to squish these goodies into the bag when you disembark.




Some goodies from a recent 8 hour flight on Emirates

Travelling with Baby Tip 1: The passport photo

I have had the fortune (or misfortune in some respects) to do a lot of travelling in the last 2 years. Weekly business trips interstate for work all through my pregnancy ending in my 35th week with my blood pressure sky high and bedrest for 4 days (not recommended).

Our first international trip was in November 2011 with a 7-week-old Little Man flying from Melbourne-Sydney-Dallas (yep that's Dallas USA). We didn't exactly plan to travel with a newborn the whole thing happened because earlier in the year, Qantas launched their direct flights to Dallas. And since the In-Laws live in Dallas, we thought we'd take the opportunity to fly there for Thanksgiving. This was about 3 weeks before we found out that we'd be expecting the Little Man to be born in October. This necessitated a bit of a nervous wait for his birth certificate to arrive so we could apply for his passport. Which leads me to my first tip.

How to take a newborn's passport photo

Australia has some of the strictest regulations for passport photographs that I have ever seen. These rules include:
  • show head and top of shoulders close up, so that the face measures between 32mm and 36mm from the bottom of the chin to the crown (ie top of head without hair)
  • show your shoulders square on (not looking over shoulder)
  • show your face square on (edges of face visible)
  • show you looking straight at the camera (not tilted head)
  • be taken with a neutral expression and your mouth closed (not laughing or frowning
  • show your eyes open and clearly visible, (no hair in eyes).
Additional Requirements for Children and Babies
  • show the baby or child awake, looking straight at the camera with mouth closed and no pacifier.
  • show both edges of the face clearly (no toys, blankets, chair backs or other people visible) and no hair across the eyes

First off getting a newborn to sit at a photobooth or a postshop where they take passport photos is impossible. They are just too wriggly and temperamental. 

My best tip is to lay a whiteboard or white piece of cardboard down on a bed. Lay the baby on the bed and get your digital camera ready. Take A LOT of photos. If the baby gets restless... do something else for a bit then try again. 

What Not to do

On the left one of the better ones from our early attempts. We used a sheet on the bed as suggested by many websites. The problem is that the sheet always creases and is really really annoying to have to remove on photoshop. This was about 20-30 shots in and we finally get one of him. On the right, an attempt to swaddle him so he wouldn't move and I could take the photo without having to hold him at the same time, except he wriggled out of the swaddle and had his mouth open...Mummy Fail!

After a nap, a nurse and a bath we try again with not much better results.

Finally after another 30 shots, much coaxing and some photo shopping we end up with:


Not quite the best shot but it was the best we could do on short notice which satisfied the Australian Passport requirements. We took this and several other shots which we thought might get a pass to the photo processing shop and they told us which would work the best and sized it to the requirements and printed 4 copies for about $15.


What we SHOULD have done.

When Little Man was 4 months old we took a trip to Singapore for my brother's wedding. When there we had to get passport sized photos for some official documents. Since the Little Man looks so different from his 3 week old photos. We had to take more pictures and I wasn't anywhere near my copy of photoshop. This is when my mother had a brainwave. To avoid the creasing of sheets She laid a white piece of cardboard board down on the bed and put the Little man down on it. And we ended up with a much better photo in fewer shots.