The Banana Bread of Destiny

The only good thing about banana bread is that is uses up bananas.*

Ingredients

1 and a half c buckwheat flour

1 c coconut sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 c mashed banana

1 egg

1/2 c yogurt

1/4 c grapeseed oil

1/3 c maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Method

1. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.

2. Add banana, egg, yogurt, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Mix.

3. Pour into a lightly greased 21cm x 10cm loaf tin lined with baking paper.

4. Bake for 1 hour at 160 degrees or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

IMG_5292

Obviously, the kids loved this. Even Louisette.

 

Yum Factor: 0

Health: 2

Easy: 4

Will make again? Nope. Bananas are evil.

*Apologies to the 6 year-old child who lovingly contributed this recipe to her Year 1 class.

Aaaand we’re done!

While in the waiting room today I looked over my last three months of blood sugar readings. It turns out I spoke too soon when I blamed that delicious baklava for my record-breaking blood sugar reading the following morning.

As is utterly obvious to anyone who glances at me in passing, I eat a lot of chocolate. Like, every day. (I’m gonna go analyse that habit sometime soon.)

Despite this, my blood sugar has been remarkably good ever since my stomach operation  last year. (Pause for cheering!)

Except these school holidays.

Was it all these not-usually-healthy recipes?

Actually, nope.

I looked back over the past three months of daily blood sugar readings, and guess what?

There were a total of 10 high blood sugar readings.

1 was due to getting up at stupid o’clock to drive to Sydney.

1 was just random.

2 were due to medical appointments. (Often deeply stressful.)

The other 6—that is, 60%—were ALL on the one day a week that I look after the kids for the full day (that is, from 8am until 6pm, while Chris is at work and there’s no day care or grandparents).

So that’s informative. Unfortunately for everyone, I associate the kids with an increase in physical pain and panic, which of course is a self-fulfilling thing.

So school’s about to start again, which is going to help with my sanity a bunch, but I clearly need to think about this some more. For one thing, I’ll make sure Chris takes more time off work next holidays.

Sushi Bowl Recipe

Okay, this one made me nervous. It was invented by one of the kids “inspired by the giant packet of seaweed paper he asked his mum to buy at Costco”.

What could possibly go wrong?

Ingredients

Rice

Smoked salmon

Avocado

Seaweed paper

Soy sauce

Method

1. Cook rice.

2. Put rice in a bowl.

3. Scrunch up the seaweed.

4. Put salmon, avocado, and seaweed in the bowl.

5. Drizzle on soy sauce.

6. Soy sauce.

IMG_5271.JPG

Obviously, after taking the picture, I shovelled on a whole lot more salmon and avocado and tucked in. It was delicious.

I let the children choose their own toppings, encouraging them to make beautiful designs. Louisette’s is on the left, and TJ’s is on the right.

*long sigh*

Great job kids.

Yum Factor: 4

Health: 4

Easy: 4

Will make again? Maybe. It was pretty great—except for the seaweed 😛

 

I had my diabetes checkup today. It’s over now, which is good. There was a lot of crying (just from me, but with several different medical professionals because why stop at just one?), and then I went and bought a fast food lunch and $20 worth of lollies.

So, today went pretty much as expected.

Now there’s just one more job to do: wait for the vet to call and tell me my cat has cancer.

What a fabulous day.

It is pretty nice, actually. I’m watching “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (terrible title, brilliant show) and stuffing my face. My major decision of the day is whether to lie down while watching TV, stay sitting while watching TV, lie down and read a book, or take a nap.

Who am I kidding? The only decision is which order to do all of the above.

More More Pancakes

Ingredients

2 eggs

1 and 3/4c milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 c self-raising flour

1/3 c caster sugar

 

Method

  1. In a bowl, sift self raising flour and mix in the caster sugar.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk, and vanilla essence.
  3. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix until there are no lumps (a blender, hand mixer, or shaking bottle is helpful).
  4. Heat and grease frypan.
  5. Spoon mixture into frypan and cook until bubbles form and pop.
  6. Flip and cook other side.
  7. Enjoy with your favourite toppings.

 

The kids were thrilled, naturally.

IMG_5268

 

Surprisingly, this recipe had a lot of similar elements to the other one (I guess not that surprisingly, since they’re both pancake recipes).

Tomorrow is technically the last day of school holidays, and the kids will both be at the grandparents all day. So we made it? I guess? We HAVE done all the recipes, and I’ll blog about the last two shortly.

Today I spent two hours with an endometriosis nurse. This is one of the steps along the road towards likely surgery (given how much the last surgery helped, and how much hormone treatments have destroyed my brain, this is good news—and since it’s through the public system, I won’t need to run another GoFundMe campaign).

As I drove to the appointment at the Canberra Hospital, I listened to the radio.

So it turns out that, last night, a man under police guard wrestled a GUN off a POLICE OFFICER and fired at least two shots. In Canberra Hospital. (He’s now being charged with two counts of attempted murder, so. . . yay?)

Well, I didn’t get shot and I didn’t quite start full-on bawling while discussing my mental and physical health, or being earnestly told that diet and exercise is strongly recommended (WHAT!?!?! I’m an enormously fat female with depression so that idea has never once occurred to me or any of the dozens of medical professionals I meet every week or so).

So. . . yay.

Tomorrow I have a “diabetes checkup” which is medical speak for having another, unrelated nurse tell me to diet and exercise. She’ll continue suggesting exercises I can’t do and foods I can’t eat until I start sobbing, then she’ll tell me off for giving her attitude, and then I’ll say, “Thank you very much. I’m going now” and walk out while she’s still talking.

Or at least, that’s what the last one was like.

Oops cookies

I forgot this one: Choc Chip Cookies

Ingredients

125g butter, cubed

3/4c brown sugar

1/4c caster sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 c self raising flour

1 c plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 c choc chips

IMG_5218

Method

1. Melt butter.

2. Add the sugars to the butter and mix well.

3. In a separate bowl whisk an egg, then whisk in the butter and sugar mixture. Add vanilla essence and mix well, until it looks like caramel.

4. Add flour and baking powder. Stir to combine and fold in chocolate chips.

5. Roll into balls and place on a lined tray.

6. Bake at 180 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Okay, so confession time: It was ever so slightly difficult to stir, so I added more melted butter. Don’t blame the recipe. (Also, I was two lazy to use two types of sugar, so I only used brown. So the biscuits are brown.)

 

In the world’s least startling news, the kids loved every crumb, and so did I.

 

Yum Factor: 5

Health: lol

Easy: 5

Will make again? Yup. I might even follow the recipe next time.

Three recipes to go people!

Also, Ana (aka the cat aka Fuzzybutt aka SHADDUP) just had a checkup and she now needs Rather Ominous follow-up tests. We’ll most likely find out on Friday if she’s okay or not. (Although usually when medical types say that, it ends up taking much longer.)

Here she is, looking (as usual) annoyed that I’m taking a picture.

IMG_5186.JPG

Sushi

I went through a sushi phase long ago so I was pretty confident going into this. I was also pretty confident the kids would be determined not to give this beautiful-looking food a chance. So… how did it go?

Ingredients

Rice

Seaweed sheet

Cucumber

Japanese mayonnaise

Soy sauce

[I added a small tin of tuna & sun-dried tomato, which was delicious.]

Method

1. Wash and cook rice.

2. Cut cucumber into matchsticks.

3. Put the seaweed sheet on a large chopping board and spread rice on the seaweed sheet.

4. Put the cucumber over the rice.

5. Squeeze the mayonnaise on the cucumber.

6. Roll it up and cut into pieces.

7. Dip into soy sauce and enjoy!

TJ liked it, but even Louisette’s enthusiastic friend wasn’t enough to win her over.

So much for peer pressure.

IMG_5250

You can clearly tell that some slices worked better than others (always!) but I was pretty happy with how most of them looked. (I should admit, you need a good sharp knife for slicing so it’s not generally a good task for kids—but they both loved the rest of the process.)

Yum Factor: 4 (I actually REALLY liked these!)

Health: 5 (low fat, and has 2.5 vegies if you count the words “sun-dried tomato” from the tuna tin. I’m assuming anything as aggressively green as the seaweed must be good for me.)

Easy: 3 (easier than it looks, but also easy to screw up)

Will make again? I think it might be time for another sushi phase! Especially since we have the rest of the pack of seaweed sheets.

I know these are really California rolls, but you get the idea.

I like using almost any small flavoured meat tins for this.

Chicken 65

I’d never heard of Chicken 65 (a popular South Indian dish) but a quick google shows I’ve been missing out.

Ingredients

500 gm chicken

1 tsp lemon juice/plain yogurt

1 tsp corn flour

1 tsp chickpea flour/plain flour

1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste

1 egg

1 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp mixed spice powder

Pinch tumeric

Pinch pepper

Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

Method

1. Clean and cut chicken into bite size pieces.

2. Add lemon juice/yogurt to chicken and set aside.

3. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except the oil) into a smooth paste.

4. Add the chicken to the paste, mix well until combined, and allow it to rest for half-1 hour.

5. Deep fry in medium flame until golden.

IMG_5213Due to my usual habit of altering various ingredients, the ‘paste’ wasn’t very paste-y in consistency. Chris and I heartily enjoyed our fried chicken all the same.

You can see above that there are two distinct colours of fried chicken, varying due to the heat of the oil. The lighter-coloured chicken was cooked at medium (instead of high) heat, and tasted nicer.

Louisette. . . well. .

IMG_5225

Yum Factor: 4

Health: 3 (points for protein; points off for deep frying!)

Easy: 3 (I’ve deep fried a few times in my life, and only set the kitchen on fire once… but this is certainly not something the kids will be cooking solo anytime soon)

Will make again? Probably not. I may not be the poster child for low-fat eating, but I usually steer clear of actually deep frying my food.

Going Bananas

Louisette was deliriously excited about these. I’m mildly intolerant of bananas, especially the smell of bananas.

When I gathered the courage to breach the banana, I realised that the recipe didn’t include proportions. I googled, and adjusted this recipe.

Ingredients

130g butter (melted)

70g caster sugar

1 egg

1 banana, mashed

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla essence

250g self raising flour

160g milk

Another 50g melted butter

60g cinnamon sugar

Method

1. Beat butter and sugar until smooth.

2. Add egg and mix.

IMG_5192

3. Mix in baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla, and banana.

4. Sift flour and add flour and milk a little at a time until it’s all combined.

5. Spoon out onto baking tray in round shapes. (I put the mixture into a clear vegie bag, cut off the corner, and used it like a piping bag—it was very easy to use and would have been tidy if I’d used two trays instead of squeezing it all out here.)

IMG_5194

6. Bake for 6-8 minutes at 200 degrees. Flip with a fork after 5-6 minutes. Also, lick the bowl.

IMG_5196

 

7. Cool on tray for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack.

8. Drizzle melted butter over the top and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

 

Okay, so…. remember I had a huge pile of syrup leftover from the baklava? I used that instead of milk. So this is what happened:

IMG_5198

The back row is flipped and the front row isn’t (yet). I didn’t help my case by being too lazy to use two trays (and therefore making six monster donuts instead of 12 small, neat donuts).

They tasted amazing, though!

I used an apple corer to make the holes in the middle.

IMG_5200

Yum Factor: 4.5 (actually, these were REALLY nice. And even crispy on the edges, which I really liked)

Health: 1 (contains a single hard-working banana)

Easy: 4

Will make again? Actually… Yes, I think I will. Strange but true.

Chicken Curry

This was never going to go well. . .

Ingredients

1 kg skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I used half a kilo chopped chicken thigh and adapted from there)

2 tsp salt (I left it out)

1/2 c cooking oil

1 and a half c chopped onion (I used half a fennel bulb)

1 T minced garlic (I used a jar)

1 and a half tsp minced fresh ginger root (I used a jar)

1 T  curry powder (I used chilli powder)

1 tsp ground cumin (I left it out)

1 tsp ground tumeric (I left it out)

1 tsp cayenne pepper (I left it out)

1 T water

470g crushed tomatoes

1 c plain yogurt

1 T chopped fresh coriander (I used dried and powdered)

1 tsp salt (I left it out)

1/2 c water

1 tsp garam masala (I used my own mixture)

1 T fresh lemon juice

 

Should I even bother typing the method? Looking at the ingredients above, I can see why this didn’t… resemble… the original recipe.

IMG_5162

It was edible, but nothing special.

TJ liked it, presumably because his aim in life is simply to keep us guessing. (Oh, and because I once again set aside some plain butter-fried chicken for him.)

 

Louisette… well…

IMG_5165

Next stop: Banana and cinnamon donuts

Carrot Halwa

I thought this was a dip until I googled it, at which point I went, “Ah, a dessert! That explains all that sugar.”

Ingredients

2c grated carrots

1c milk

3/4c palm sugar/brown sugar

3 T ghee (clarified butter)

Pinch of cardamon powder

10 cashews (optional; I used much more than 10)

1 T raisins (I left them out since Louisette and I are intolerant of dried fruit)

 

Method

1. Heat a pan with one tablespoon of ghee. Fry cashews and raisins until golden brown and then set aside. (I realised I was frying cashews in butter, and added sugar to see if I could create a ‘sugared/toffee cashew’ effect. It worked pretty well!)

2. Put grated carrots in the pan and sauté them until they no longer smell of raw carrots.

3. Add milk and cook on low/medium heat 10-12 minutes.

IMG_5155

 

4. Stir sometimes. Milk will boil and bubble up nicely. Cook it until the carrots are completely cooked and the milk is absorbed.

5. Once the milk is almost absorbed, add brown sugar and cardamon. Mix well. The mixture will liquefy and then thicken up. Continue cooking until all the milk is absorbed. Keep stirring, and add the remaining ghee little by little.

6. When the halwa forms a whole mass and doesn’t stick to the pan, add fried cashews and raisins and switch off the flame.

IMG_5160

I didn’t use nearly enough carrots, so the result was rather like eating wet brown sugar. Naturally the kids approved of this result.

Yum Factor: 2 (it’s unusual for a dish to have too much sugar for me, but this managed it)

Health: 1 (contains carrot)

Easy: 1 (since I fatally screwed it up)

Will make again? Nah. . . but I might make sugared cashews again one day.

Hey, want a cat picture? Sure you do!

IMG_5184

Baklava

Sugar, pastry, butter, and nuts?

What could possibly go wrong?

IMG_5147.JPG

Ingredients

1/2 kilo Antonnious Filo Pastry (we used some other brand)

2 c crushed almonds (we used a combination of cashews and walnuts)

1 and a half c butter

1 T cinnamon

Syrup

3 c sugar

1 c hone*

2 c water

Cinnamon stick

1 tsp cloves sticks

Method

  1. Mix nuts, sugar, and cinnamon.
  2. Butter a slice tray and lay a few sheets of filo pastry onto it (I used one sheet; the one we bought had a smaller number of thick slices which worked fine).
  3. Brush each sheet with butter (sooo much butter).
  4. Spread a small amount of nut mixture over filo layer.
  5. Continue making successive layers of filo and almond that are roughly the same thickness.
  6. Finish with a thicker layer of filo sheets (6-8 sheets), brushing each sheet with butter (I used one thick sheet, as before, and didn’t put butter on top).
  7. With a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamond shaped pieces (I did squares).
  8. Sprinkle with water and bake in a medium oven for about an hour.
  9. When it is finished cooking, prepare syrup: Place water, honey, and spice in a saucepan and boil for 15 minutes.
  10. Pour boiling syrup over baklava, and let it cool again before serving.

The above pics are the baklava before and after the syrup. I ended up with 150g of syrup left over, presumably because I didn’t use honey. It still tasted fantastic, and I set aside the syrup with a plan to add it to another dish (which I did, with. . . results).

It’s amazing how some recipes take butter and sugar and suchlike and actually make them less healthy. It doesn’t seem possible, yet it happens. I’m no poster child for healthy eating, but the day after making baklava my blood sugar level was insane.

The kids loved it, but even they struggled to finish a single piece in a sitting.

Yum Factor: 4.5 (all this sugar and butter but no chocolate? Pfft.)

Health: -5000

Easy: 4

Will make again? Only if I’m trying to be the first person on Earth to be diagnosed with double diabetes. It was delicious though.

 

I’ve actually made it almost all the way through the recipe book (with blog entries lagging behind). This recipe is #9, which marks the halfway point.

*I pondered the meaning of hone, and googled this exotic ingredient with no success. Then I realised it was HONEY. I used a mix of maple syrup and golden syrup instead.

Utter Butter Chicken

Butter chicken is the biz. Everyone knows that.

Making it without using a packet was a strange and wondrous experience.

IMG_5111

 

Ingredients

2 T peanut oil

3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped (I used a fennel bulb instead)

1/2 white onion, peeled and chopped (I used a fennel bulb instead)

40g butter

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 clove of garlic, crushed or chopped

2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 tsp garam masala (I mixed my own approximation based on a quick google search)

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 bay leaf (I used lots, because they were fairly old, then removed them because they’re gross to actually eat)

 

3 T natural yogurt

1 c cream

1 c tomato puree

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

1 T cornflour

3 T water

[Serve with rice. Naan bread and natural yogurt are really nice with it too.]

Method

  1. Sauce: Heat half the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Fry the shallots and onion (or fennel) until soft.
  2. Stir in butter, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, half the garam masala, chilli, cumin, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

3. Add tomato puree and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Stir in cream and yogurt. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Heat the rest of the oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Cook chicken until lightly browned, about ten minutes. Reduce heat and season with the rest of the garam masala and cayenne. Stir in a few spoonfuls of sauce, and simmer until liquid has reduced and chicken is no longer pink. Spoon the cooked chicken into the sauce.

6. Mix together cornflour and water, then stir into the sauce. Adjust seasonings and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

7. Beg children to eat it.

8. Decide to stick to packet mixes in future.

 

Louisette was SO SO excited about making butter chicken, and assured me she loved it. As you can see, she gave it “side thumb”. This pattern of wanting food and then refusing to eat it is very familiar to us by now.

Tim is giving a thumbs up… to the plain chicken that I set aside partway through the recipe, knowing he’d most likely turn up his nose at the delicious sauce. Which he did.

Yum Factor: 4.5 (for anyone with good taste)

Health: 4 (I added carrot and water chestnuts to the mix, so it even had vegies)

Easy: 3 (gathering that many ingredients takes time)

Will make again? I know it’s heresy, but the packet mixtures are pretty good. I’ll stick to them in future. (Of course, the kids don’t eat them either, so we don’t have them often.)

 

Pancakes #1

You may know me as a novelist, but for most of my life my true claim to fame was as the maker of pancakes. Technically, I actually make crepes (with lemon and sugar*), usually so thin that they’re slightly see-through.

My recipe is:

1 egg + 500ML milk (I use lactose free) + anywhere between 1/2 and 1 cup of flour.

1. Mix. (Can be left overnight.)

2. Fry with plenty of butter (tipping the pan around as you pour it in, to make it even thinner).

Other people think their way is best. They are wrong. But I’m gonna make pancakes differently this time, because that is part of this whole recipe journey thing. Two of the Year 1 kids came up with pancake recipes, so I’ll be making both.

Here’s the first.

Ingredients

1 c milk

1/2 c sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 c self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 T butter

Extra butter

Maple syrup

Method

  1. Beat milk, sugar, egg and vanilla.
  2. Add sifted flour and baking soda, and fold in.
  3. Then add melted butter. Mixture should be fairy liquid.
  4. Heat pan, grease with a spoonful of butter. Spoon mixture into pan and brown on each side.
  5. Serve with maple syrup.

 

IMG_5097

 

Yum Factor: 4 (mine are better)

Health: 0

Easy: 3 (frying anything is relatively high-maintenance)

Will make again? Nah. But I’ll make my version.

Louisette declared them the best pancakes of all time. Grr!

Perhaps it’s for the best, since the boy who submitted this recipe was one of the most eligible bachelors in Year 1.

Just look at that focus!

IMG_5098

 

*A classic Aussie combination, and my personal favourite. Other recommended combinations include:

Butter and maple syrup

Butter and cinnamon sugar, rolled up (a South African specialty)

Vegemite (strange but true!)

Ham and cheese (cooked into the pancake, and served either as is or with vegemite)

Muesli Bars

If it wasn’t for procrastination, I’d never get anything done.

Today the kids are both with grandparents, so it’s definitely time to focus on my Top-Secret Well-Paid Writing Thingy. (I’m not allowed to tell people what it is, but it’s super awesome). I prepared by getting all the current “Murder in the Mail” stuff sorted: I stamped and addressed ALL of the “7b” postcards, and have already packaged and addressed all the “8” parcels, which is the Very Last Parcel For This Mail-Out (it’s been a huge thing!), and I washed and put away a whole lot of clothes.

IMG_5212

So today I’ve done two more loads of washing (mostly linen), cleaned the bathrooms, applied for a writing thing, invited two more people into the “Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae” story (and sent them contracts, and chose two possible art options), arranged delivery of two paintings for the “Murder in the Mail” Exhibition (24 August until 7 September here in Canberra), rearranged my twitter profile, ordered contact lenses, arranged a dentist visit for Louisette and a checkup for the cat, and fed all the pets.

IMG_5186

And I’m writing my second blog entry of the day.

In unrelated news, it’s 11am and I haven’t scraped up the courage to open the aforementioned Top-Secret Well-Paid Writing Thingy. Today is my last chance to truly focus for at least ten days (there’s another grandparents’ day approaching, but I have much doctor-y stuff to do that day).

So… let’s talk about muesli bars!

IMG_5056

1/2 c honey (I used maple syrup, which definitely did NOT work as well)

1/4 c brown sugar

125 g butter

3 c rolled oats

1 c rice bubbles

1 c choc chips (the original recipe said 1/2 c but that’s clearly an error)

1/2 c desiccated coconut

1/4 c pepitas

1/4 c sunflowers

(with ANOTHER thank you to the grandparents for supplying the last two ingredients because I did not want a whole pack of either)

IMG_5066.jpg

  1. Grease a slice tray.
  2. Add honey, butter, and sugar to a saucepan and stir for two minutes or until the sauce is nice and thick.
  3. Mix everything else in a big bowl (except choc chips).
  4. Add syrup and stir.
  5. Put in tray, sprinkle with choc chips, and press down firmly with the back of a spoon.
  6. 15-20 min at 160 degrees (or until golden).
  7. Cool on tray before cutting into pieces.

Like I said, maple syrup didn’t work as well as honey. . . but I ended up with a kind of granola which was actually delicious (I ate it dry, with a spoon).

It was impossible to get the kids to stop eating long enough for a smiley-style picture. I am okay with that!

Yum Factor: 5

Health: 4 (a pretty good snack)

Easy: 4

Will make again? I don’t know. It doesn’t have as much protein as peanut butter balls… but then again, I’m not as intolerant of these either. And healthier than Anzac Biscuits, I reckon—but somewhat less portable. I might do some syrup experiments, because these could potentially be a school snack that Louisette actually eats. (No peanuts at school.)

Are ya chicken?

And so we come to the “actual meals” part of my daughter’s class recipe book.

First, we have Sweet Chilli Chicken Skewers.

IMG_5039

 

6 chicken tenderloins, sliced in half lengthwise

12 bamboo skewers, soaked

2 T sweet chilli sauce

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 T grated ginger (I got mine from a jar)

2 tsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed (jar)

1/2 tsp ground coriander

IMG_5049.JPG

  1. Thread chicken strips onto bamboo skewers.
  2. Mix everything else and marinade the chicken in it.
  3. Bake in moderate oven for half an hour, keeping it covered with aluminium foil for the first twenty minutes, and turning once. (The original recipe said to char-grill or BBQ for 3-4 minutes each side.)

(I cooked some frozen chips to go with them.)

 

IMG_5050.JPG

I wasn’t super enthusiastic about this—I’m against anything with chilli, as a rule—but the sauce was simply exquisite.

The kids enjoyed squeezing and sucking on the lemon:

TJ also enjoyed the sauce—as did I!

It was  a rather nice dinner. TJ was enthusiastic (he likes novelty, and is going through a pro-unusual food phase, although he still likes being able to clearly see exactly what each item is—the sauce was thin enough that it fundamentally didn’t register as “other”). Louisette. . . not so much. We made a rule at the beginning of this adventure that she had to have at least one bite of everything we made.

 

Yum Factor: 4 (an excellent meal)

Health: 4 (loses points for only being a meat recipe, rather than a balanced meal)

Easy: 4 (no real skill required, but slicing the chicken and putting it on skewers is more work than I usually do for a meal)

Will make again? Probably not as skewers (unless I’m bein’ fancy-like), but that sauce was great and I expect I’ll make it again at some point.

Excuse my French

Regular readers will know I’m a sucker for punishment.

Allow me to rephrase.

It really helps my depression to have a win in life, and taking on something a little bit special/difficult/unusual really works for me (while also making all my near relatives—except my Mum, who also loves a good project, and my Dad, who is used to her—try to talk me out of it*).

In unrelated news, Chris and I watch the Tour de France each year.

One of the sexiest things about Chris is that his reaction to virtually any sport is to immediately and pointedly fall asleep (he’ll literally change the channel/mute if sports news comes on). The Tour is the one exception; something he inherited from his father.

For about three weeks each Winter, our household grinds to a halt as the Tour is on from 8:30pm until 2:00am most nights.

It has a bewildering, hypnotic beauty (once one becomes desensitised to all the lycra). There are castles, and coastlines, weirdo spectators, epic art, plenty of heroes and villains, complicated and ever-changing team strategies, sprinklings of French, and amazing feats of endurance.

Aaaand then there’s Gabriel Gaté. He’s one of those chefs that just adores his job. Each night he films a short segment meeting local restauranteurs* and/or farmers, and cooks a dish (the recipe is written out in full online) inspired by the region.

The first night was last Saturday, so he cooked a “perfect coastal dish”: Prawn, Potato, and Hazelnut Salad. You can see what he actually did here.

This is what *I* did:

Ingredients:

Boiled cubed baby potatoes

Boiled cubed sweet potato

Chopped hard-boiled eggs

Diced cucumber

Finely chopped cashews

15ish cooked and ready-to-eat prawns, defrosted overnight (did you think I’d cook them myself??) and chopped (except for several saved for garnishing)

Some walnut halves, for garnish

Sprinkling of chopped chives, for garnish

 

50mL olive oil

1/2 tsp lemon myrtle/salt mixture

1/2 tsp mustard

1/2 tsp sweet chilli sauce

 

I mixed everything from the first section of the above list (except the garnishes), put it into fancy glasses, drizzled the dressing (ie the last four ingredients, mixed) over the top, then garnished it, then served it.

IMG_5128

This is what the dressing looks like. We actually didn’t need that much.

IMG_5129

The great thing about salads is that it’s easy to adjust them for different people. TJ’s salad contains carrots and cheese instead of prawns (I also chucked in some water chestnuts, because why not?)

Louisette had… sausages.

IMG_5135

Now let’s analyse the work of an international French chef using the same system I designed for 6 year-old home cooks:

Yum Factor: 4 (an excellent meal. Loses point for having no chocolate, and both kids refusing to eat prawns)

Health: 5 (vegetables and everything!)

Easy: 3 (no real skill required, but it took me a while to coordinate all the moving parts; 3 garnishes is just silly so next time I’ll probably just whack a prawn on top, sprinkle chives, and call it a 4. 4.5 because it can be prepped in advance).

Will make again? I was thinking ‘no’ during dinner (although it WAS nice to eat—and good to be able to do a  bit and then sit down, and then do the next bit, then rest again, etc) but I think that’s mostly because of the process of adjusting the recipe as I went along. So, in conclusion, yes I do think I’ll make it again (with the changes to make it a 4.5 on the easy scale). I reckon I’ll save it until we have (adult) guests coming over, so I can be all fancy-like.

*Chris evaluates each project on its own merits, and on how exhausted I’m likely to be afterwards. That determines his emotional reaction along a sliding scale from “enthusiastic” to “terrified”.

*Is there any word that’s more FRENCH than that? HOW MANY VOWELS DO YOU PEOPLE NEED?

Isaac Biscuits

TJ insists that I’m wrong to call these “Anzac Biscuits”. Well, what would I know?

IMG_5027

 

Ingredients:

 

1 c rolled oats

1 c plain flour

2/3 c brown sugar

2/3 c desiccated coconut

130g butter

2 T golden syrup

1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

Method:

  1. Mix oats, flour, sugar, and coconut in a bowl.
  2. Combine butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir for 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir in bicarb soda (fun).
  3. Mix butter mixture with dry ingredients.
  4. Line a tray with baking paper.
  5. Roll mixture into balls and flatten slightly.
  6. 10-12 minutes at 140 degrees.

Having only eaten store bought Anzac biscuits (as far as she remembers), these were a revelation for Louisette. They were gone in 24 hours (mostly because of me rather than Lizzie).

Yum Factor: 4 (they’d be a 5 if I was a biscuit type of person, or if they contained chocolate)

Health: 3 (relatively healthy by snack standards, but definitely a treat)

Easy: 4 (hard to screw up. . . although I technically did screw them up by just mixing everything instead of doing the syrup properly)

Will make again? I reckon so. They’re quite similar to peanut butter balls (in terms of being oat-based and a relatively healthy treat that’s simple to make and has some nicely basic pantry ingredients), but with less protein and chocolate (sad but useful because I can’t eat too much peanut butter; I’m intolerant of nuts).

Plus I’m pretty sure that adding the bicarb to the syrup makes it fizz up in a fun way (and presumably makes the final biscuits even nicer too), and I’m annoyed to have missed that.

I reckon we’ll make these next time we run out of choc chips.

Bicarb is cool.

 

Today is Saturday. The kids woke up at 6am as usual and instead of turning the TV on (the usual morning routine, while Chris and I sleep) they decided to do our world puzzle together. Wearing beanies.

(For the sake of honestly I should mention that there were intervals of screaming rage before they settled down into this charming scene. Then there was some more screaming, which is why I was awake to take these pics.)

So, how’s the cooking project going? This is only the fourth official blog entry, but we’re actually up to Number 8 (of 18). The next FIVE are rather tricky for various reasons, so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes (I’ve deliberately delayed the actual blog entries so they’re spaced out nicely).

One week of school holidays is DONE and OVER and no one has been hospitalised. So that’s good. The grandparents are visiting us today, which of course is fantastic. Nana is entertaining both kids, and Poppy and Chris are fixing various things around the house. They just walked through carrying the innards of our sofa bed.

Grandma’s Spaghetti

The Year 1 teacher who organised Louisette’s new recipe book wanted FAMILY recipes (with a strong hint of ‘multicultural, please’) and this one is a ripper.

My children are dead-set against anything to do with tomatoes (except of course, for tomato sauce, which bears little resemblance to the fruit*) so I knew that this was unlikely to be accepted with grace. However, any recipe that contains only three ingredients is a winner in my book.

  1. 500g spaghetti
  2. Tin condensed tomato soup
  3. Grated cheese

Cook the spaghetti, drain it, mix it with soup and sprinkle it with cheese.

Aaaand. . . you’re done!

 

TJ liked it (although I know from experience he’d probably refuse it next time.)

Yum Factor: 3 (I like grated cheese)

Health: 3 (passable as a meal, but is mostly made of starch and salt)

Easy: 5

Will make again? Probably not, because Louisette won’t eat it; I require more meat in my meals; and putting any red liquid near my 4 year-old is asking for trouble (especially when there’s also long, whippy, drippy noodles involved).

*     *     *

In other news, today I filled in my annual stall holder form for the Goulburn Waterworks Steampunk & Victoriana Fair. (Here‘s the facebook page for last year, and I blogged about it here, with pics.)

The fair (now called the Steampunk Victoriana Fair) has been getting much bigger every year, and this year they’ve gotten big enough to have “Stall Holder APPLICATION” forms rather than just forms.

What I mean to say is, they’re bringing in STANDARDS.

They now request details about the stall, and a picture or photo of what the stall will look like. If you’re connected to me on facebook (especially on either my ‘general‘ page or my ‘Antipodean Queen‘ page), you probably see such things about once a month, for example:

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 1.08.12 PM

 

But since I’ve been stallholding at the Steampunk & Victoriana Fair for the last three years (before I had any books out, in fact!), and have enjoyed all my interactions with the divine (and divinely well-organised) Julianne, I decided to do a drawing instead. This drawing:

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 12.51.47 PM

I feel there’s a raw honesty to my work that goes beyond the merely picturesque. I also feel that I probably won’t be a contributing visual artist to the “Murder in the Mail” and “Magic in the Mail” stories anytime soon.

 

*Or is it a vegetable? Argue away in the comments.

Moose?

My daughter had heard of moose, but not mousse. . . so when her dad and I discussed making chocolate mousse she asked, “Will it come alive when it’s finished?”

(Being scientifically-minded, she knows perfectly well that mammals have live young. . . but she also knows there are a lot of weird and wonderful ways to make life happen.)

Speaking of Louisette, she and I were talking today about what she wants to be when she grows up.

She told me that she wants to be a scientist, spy (a new kind who doesn’t spy on people), vet, doctor, nurse, police officer, firefighter, artist, writer and mum. “I have decided that I WILL be a Mum and I WILL marry a man.”

[I have told her that she can’t marry a family member, and if she marries a girl it’s slightly trickier to have kids.]

I said, “The most important thing about marriage is picking the right person. If you pick, for example, a bully—that would be terrible every day.”

She said, “I already have some ideas.”

Of course I wanted details, so she told me (names redacted, obviously):

Kid1, “because he likes science just like me.”

Kid2, “because his name starts with ‘L’ just like me.”

Kid3, “because he is kind.”

Kid4, “because he is funny and has all the best stories.”

Kid5, “because he is very very very very kind.”

I was very impressed with her logic, and with her choices (I know all of these boys; some quite well). I was especially happy that none of her choices have ever been mean to her (I do encourage her to be friends with those that tease her, within reason), and that only one is Caucasian.

We talked about how far away marriage is, and how marrying a good friend is definitely the way to go.

So that was fun.

Chocolate Mousse was always going to be a winner. (You can google your own recipe; I’ve typed enough today.) Vast amounts of chocolate and cream, with sugar added?

 

Yum Factor: 5 (so rich it’s deadly)

Health: -1000 stars

Easy: 4 (gotta use a dry bowl to whip egg white. . . which I didn’t, and it was still fabulous)… but it’s not easy to tell the kids they can’t eat it until the next day.

Will make again? Probably not, but maybe at Christmas (probably with Bailey’s added). It’s WAY too much cream for my system to handle, so I’d attempt it with lactose free cream (after consulting my also-low-lactose Mum about whether lactose free cream can whip). It’s gluten free (like my mum), so actually that’s helpful. A LOT easier than cake, and yummier too. So… probably yes, now I think of it.

Holiday Recipes

My daughter is getting three weeks of holidays between Terms 2 and 3. She’s a pretty great kid, but that still fills me with blinding terror.

A few weeks ago, her Year 1 teacher asked the kids for family recipes. Those recipes were typed, bound, and printed (with illustrations by the kids). There are about 15 recipes altogether, and I decided that Louisette and I would cook them ALL these holidays.

Yes, THAT will make everything less stressful! Come along and watch as I inevitably regret all the life choices I ever made to end up on this path to horror and pain!

We started with. . . us. Louisette’s recipe was originally from a low-FODMAP recipe book, and it’s a fantastic snack—high in protein, easy to transport (after it’s been cooled, it stays non-sticky even when left out), and still yummy!

I love the magic of SCIENCE inherent in this recipe; taking a gooey mess and adding elements that dry it out to a perfect texture.

IMG_5009.jpg

Peanut Butter Balls

3/4 c peanut butter (cashew butter is good but stickier, so you gotta add more cinnamon and/or coconut if you cashew it up)

2 T maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 c oats

1/4 c coconut

2 T dark choc chips

Method:

  1. Mix everything in a bowl.
  2. Using your hands, roll into balls (this gets very messy and sticky).
  3. Place in the fridge until set.

IMG_5011.JPG

We make this recipe all the time (and of course we always eat one before they set anyways). It’s great for diabetics and low-FODMAP people (low salicylates, not so much). The above pic is the result of a double portion.

Yum Factor: 5 (aka “yes, it contains chocolate”)

Health: 4 (not exactly a salad, but a million times better than just chocolate)

Easy: 3 (heavy to stir but mixes easily; annoying to put into balls)

Will make again? Uh. . . yes. About three times a week until the kids move out. This is one of the five foods they eat willingly AND it counts as a treat (useful, since our household is a treat-based economy).

How to Make an Epic Dino Cake

My son turned four this week, and asked for a dinosaur cake. Once I had the revelation that (a) I don’t like cake, so (b) Why bother making it? but (c) I do like creating peculiar things, and (d) The only thing they’ll eat is a horrifying amount of icing anyway… It all fell into place.

Or at least, it fell.

TJ is a winter baby (which means parties must be inside), and his father, grandfather, uncle, and oldest cousin all have birthdays within about a week. So I arranged to have two parties today: one for TJ’s friends (at an inside playground with a dino room), and one for his numerous relations (at my house).

That meant I could make a single giant cake and use leftovers for party #2.

There are two basic schools of thought for dinosaur cakes: One big dinosaur, or a scene with several dinosaurs. In my opinion, the one big dino cake takes more skill. Sure, there are dino-shaped cake tins out there, but you still need to be able to have smooth icing. Not gonna happen.

I was clever enough to assemble the cake at the location of the party, rather than attempting to carry it safely in a vehicle (and to take my own knives and large containers in which to bring home the leftovers). I was also clever enough to order the base from Woolworths. I ordered a basic slab cake, two layers, no icing. It was $20. I took three layers off part of it, and moved them to the top at the back. Voila! A cliff face ready for a waterfall.

IMG_0622

At Woolies I’d previously bought various items: edible glue (which I couldn’t figure out how to open, so I hacked it open with a knife; used it to stick cupcake topper sheets around the sides), writing icing (used for the blue lines in the water), Natural Confectionary dinosaurs, and a full roll of “ready rolled icing” suitable for a 22cm round cake, which I sliced into shapes with a butter knife for the water.

IMG_0623

I’d made a double portion of chocolate buttercream icing at home (it needs to either be made or re-mixed on the day or the butter hardens and it’s useless), which had a pleasantly different texture to my “water”. I spread it in a hurry, and quite thick, so it just covered the top. I was using my hands and laughing maniacally at this stage, rather aware of my deadline as one of the kids had to leave early and there was another party using the room at 12, etc etc. The buttercream icing had enough stickiness to draw up some of the cake, and it also struggled a bit to hold onto the “cliff”. But it worked well enough. As you can see, smooth flat icing is not my forte (not that I was particularly trying this time).

This icing was easy to shove about, and it was great for standing up little dinosaurs later.

 

IMG_0624

I had prepared some desiccated coconut ages earlier with food dye, intending it to be green grass but it was too blue so I chucked it in the water.

The trees didn’t really work (but who cares? They’re made of Tim Tams, mint leaves, and lolly bananas), although leaning them against the cliff helped (the edible glue didn’t—using icing might have worked a little).

The mountains and volcanoes are “chocolate” waffle cones. I’ll go into more detail about the volcanoes in a bit…

The flowers were a pack of edible flowers I impulse bought at Woolies when I was examining sundry icing/sprinkle products for inspiration.

IMG_0625

 

I also used:

-Green and yellow sprinkles for grass/sand. (If your child is very scientific, this is not the cake for them… grass is a relatively recent plant.)

-Edible white balls from the same pack to be dino eggs (quite a stretch).

-Dino candles (they are parading across the water at the top of the waterfall. I presume this is how they became extinct. That, and being on fire). Ebay.

-Lots of fondant dinosaurs from ebay (actually, I was pretty happy with them despite how fragile they are. They mostly survived the post and last a long while (weeks), and taste better than anything rice paper-ish).

-Dino sprinkles around the edge of the water (SO not necessary… AND mixed with other sprinkles… but TJ was rather taken with the idea of dino sprinkles).

-Strawberry topping carefully applied around the edges of the volcanoes for lava (it was important that none of the topping got inside the volcanoes).

-Mini plastic dinos (tube of 20 or so for $4 from Kmart and I dropped some in each party bag afterwards), and two wind-up dinos ($3 each at Kmart).

-Dino cupcake toppers for the sides of the cake (stuck on with “edible glue” from Woolies), and Tim Tams.

As you can see, the aesthetic I was going for was: I bought a whole lotta vaguely cake-related stuff and I aim to use it ALL.

IMG_0628

 

So there it is in all its glory.

Now let’s talk volcanoes.

I dug two holes in the cake, and inserted small empty (clean) coke bottles (I experimented with other shapes and the mini soft drink bottle worked best). Then I broke a hole in the pointy end of two waffle cones and placed them over the top.

I was careful to make the bottle hole and cone hole match up as well as possible. You can see one of the bottles in the top of this pic:

IMG_0627

The cones did shatter a fair bit, but they fundamentally worked.

Bring a SEALED bottle of DIET red (the colour doesn’t matter; a lot of people use Coke because the dark colour is more dramatic but obviously red was better here).

At the last moment, fill both bottles. Then drop two MINT MENTOS into each one.

NB: The red diet drink I used uses stevia (considered a more ‘natural’ sweetener than the old chemical ones that have a number and/or a multisyllabic name). A LESS natural drink is likely to cause a greater explosion.

 

My daughter and her friend held the wind-up dinosaurs and let them go when I said, “Now!” and dropped the mentos into the volcanoes.

I lit the candles before pouring the diet soft drink into the bottles.