Baking oven-tures

I’ve had a lot of crappy ovens in my life.

In our first rental, the oven looked straight out of the 50s. And probably hadn’t been cleaned since then. It cooked a main meal ok, but baking was a challenge. Gas, but no fan.

Our first apartment in Beijing had no oven. But we had 5 kuai noodles at the doorstep… who needs to cook? Plus, in a department store, we learnt how to make a cake in a wok. Sorted.

Our second apartment also had no oven, but I was beginning to itch. We bought a little convection oven, which we kept on the indoor balcony as I was a bit alarmed at how hot the outer surface got, and thought it might melt bits of our rental kitchen. Supposedly you can roast a whole chook in these. Supposedly.

Surprisingly, our third apartment came with an oven! Again, possibly from the 50s, so maybe 80s China? Gas, no fan, also no temperature gauge. Basically, the longer you left it on, the hotter it got. This was probably the biggest baking challenge by far. It was also imperative that you decided which cutlery you needed before the meal because once you got that baby going, there was no chance in hell you could open the quickly expanding drawers up against the oven. It also had a non-functioning side-warming compartment. Useful for storing objects that didn’t melt.

I wish I had a photo… will keep looking…

Back to Australia, and I was a bit disappointed to find that our kitchen was electric, rather than gas. It took me a long time to get used to it, yet still I burnt things on the outside, and had to be so careful and attentive.

And then it died.

And got replaced.

And I realised that baking is a million times easier with an oven that works. My first meal of ‘The Petite Kitchen’s’ lavender chook was the most delicious ever… and I’ve been cooking it for ages. My eyes widened as I realised the baking opportunities, and threw myself into a baking frenzy. Especially after finishing uni and not having an oven for 10 days or so!

So, I wish to share two exciting recipes with you.

The first is a Chocolate Caramel Poke Cake from the Coles magazine. Woah. Hold onto your pants with this one. I’m looking forward to playing with this recipe and trying out some different flavour combos.

The second is a low-FODMAP, vegan-friendly banana pudding. The original recipe has been tweaked from Donna Hay Issue 81, p132.

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  • 250g coconut oil, melted 
  • 2-3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp chia, 6 tbsp water, briefly mixed and soaked (as an egg replacement)
  • 1.5 cups of GF SR flour (I used the Aldi one)
  • Dark chocolate pieces, to taste

Mix the first 5 ingredients, stir through the chocolate, and bake in individual ramekins at 180 for about 15-20 mins.

Note: These are quite oily, but they don’t feel heavy, as it is coconut oil, rather than butter. But you may wish to put less oil.

Whilst the puddings are baking, make the caramel. This isn’t a true caramel, because of being vegan, but it is still delicious! I found that it was actually quite hard to dissolve the sugar in the coconut oil. I’m not entirely sure why… I’m sure science would tell me. Also, the sauce separates quickly quickly as there is less fat, so give it a good whisk before serving.

  • 150g coconut oil
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup of coconut milk

Melt the oil in a saucepan, add the sugar and dissolve as much as possible. Add the coconut milk carefully and continue to cook until it thickens slightly.

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Mmm.

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Peppa Pig Party

Was there ever going to be any other theme?

I decided that a Peppa Pig-shaped cake was going to be too much effort, and after being sent this buzzfeed (thanks Nic!), I decided it wasnt’ worth the risk! But, on pinterest, I saw a Women’s Weekly cake that had been adjusted, so I thought I’d do my own version of that. A purple jelly muddle puddle, green coconut grass, a little Peppa and some Happy Birthday bunting. I did my usual sugar-free banana cake, since the icing had so much in it!

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We had chocolate crackle muddy puddles with wriggly worms, fairy bread, spring rolls, lots of fruit, cheese, crackers and a stellar bbq. Plus warming mulled wine for the mummas and daddas to try and counteract the chilly weather.

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I made a (somewhat operatic) Peppa Pig ball throw.
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With, of course, some bubbles for blowing.IMG_4732

And a big muddy puddle for jumping!

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Joy!!

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A lovely local lady has made a fabulous facebook group for the selling and recycling of party products. Such a fab idea! My ball throw has already moved on to delight another three-year-old!

Last year we did a Transportation Birthday Party.

A dinosaur birthday party

A brainstorming session with my toddler meant that my bubba got a dinosaur party. Not because he loves dinosaurs, but because Peppa Pig’s little brother had a dinosaur party. That pig has a lot to answer for.

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I made a dinosaur-spiked tee from here. It was SO easy and SO quick. Such a great tutorial.

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I watched this video and used this template for the cake. I used my ol’ sugar-free banana cake recipe (see below) with buttercream icing.

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I found a dinosaur sandwich-cutter at Officeworks.

IMG_4267And something little for the adults! (Half white, half bubbles and fruit).

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And, finally, some “lolly bags”.

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(I was quite proud of my dino pasta thankyou cards).

We had some craft activities to do to, but we just didn’t need them! Cubby houses, scooters, bikes and food are all too exciting.

*****

Sugar-free Banana Cake Recipe

  • 125g butter
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups SR flour (I used part white, part wholemeal)
  • 1/2 cup milk (any milk works fine if you need to go dairy-free)

Cream butter and bananas together. Add eggs and beat well. Gently add flour and milk. Bake for about 25 mins at 180 until a cake tester comes out clean.

Recipe Organisation

I’ve gone a bit OCD on my recipe collection. I say ‘a bit’. Some may say ‘a lot’. I’ll let you decide.

I shop once a week. It’s so much better. If it’s all planned out I save money because I only buy what I need. Plus, I can go on the weekend without the kiddies. And shopping without children is like a holiday in itself. So amazing. 😉 So, once a week, I plan. I look through my big cookbook collection and choose 6 recipes and make my shopping list. I have a tick-what-I-need shopping list (inspired by my parents-in-law) that is organised aisle-by-aisle for my local supermarket so that I don’t have to back-track and can be super-dooper efficient.

A while back I found these awesome free printables and I started a post it note system. Basically, I planned out 6 meals for each week (1 night of leftovers) and wrote the name of the dish and where I could find the recipe. This was working great – until I ran out of wall space!!

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I wanted to keep this reference system of recipes I wanted to repeat, so, I needed to go one step further. I watched this video about recipe planning and organisation. And I was blown away by this woman’s system. Wow. But, I decided I just couldn’t keep this one up… I figured I’d slack off and it would fall by the wayside. So, I compromised. I got myself a ring binder and laminated blank sheets of paper. Then hole-punched. And bought an AWESOME binder divider that sticks out past the pages (why are they not ALL like that????). So, all my pretty little post-its had a home.

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Hint: Buy the “super-sticky” post-its. It’s totally worth it.

So, my kitchen corner looks like this. The orange and green binders have my post-its (one for parents, one for kids). The blue folder is my savoury recipe collection and the red is dessert. The cookbooks on the bench are the ones I need for the week. And loose recipes (from the blue and red binders) that I need for the week go in there. It’s also a good place for loose ones to wait until I get around to filing them.

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And I printed one more planner for the kids since the little munchkin is just starting on baby-led weaning, and the big munchkin is needed more interesting food!

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Recently, I also managed to buy a second-hand chest freezer online, so I’m trying to keep track of what is inside (this is just another white laminated page that I can draw on with whiteboard markers) so nothing gets forgotten.

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And finally I have created an excel file for recipes I want to try based on this website’s ideas. As I read through a cookbook or magazine, I can file away the ideas, rather than having notes and scribbles floating around the kitchen.

And it’s all working well! But there’s always room for improvement – hit me up with any other cool ideas!!

Transportation birthday party!

For Adella’s second birthday we thought we’d aim for her lastest obsession… transport! Her favourite place to sit is at the cafe next to the train station and give us a running commentary of the trains going past. “Blue train! Purple train! Blue train! Blue train!”.

Despite her being older, I still didn’t see any reason to go nuts on sugar and things that she doesn’t usually eat. So we made banana pikelets, vegemite and cheese scrolls, sausage rolls and fruit platters. And we just drank water. Nobody complained!

She’d pointed out the train cake in THE Women’s Weekly children’s cake book. So I based it around this one, but I improvised a bit. First, I made a sugarless banana cake. I figured if we were going to have insanely sweet icing, the kiddies weren’t going to need any extra buzz! I made the cake the night before and got up stupidly early to put it together… I figured toddlers wouldn’t be so much help in the construction! I also filled the carriages with much healthier options, such as puffed corn and sultanas. The wheels were baby corn snacks and the train track was made from cut up fruit-rollup-tape-stuff. I originally did want to use licorice, but I just couldn’t find the string one anywhere!

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(See all those cake offcuts in the background – they made fantastic banana bread icecream and bread & butter pudding!)

At Kmart, I found little plaster cars and trucks, and we painted these after lunch. This was a GREAT activity to get them all to focus and calm down for a while. It was just like being at the Plaster Fun House again. I made sure I had a ziplock bag with the kid’s (and adult’s!) name on them, so when they’d dried off enough, we could just slip them inside.

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I planned an activity using the big long roll of IKEA paper. I drew a big road and some trees and buildings. We were going to make toilet roll cars with split pin wheels to drive along the road. But, guess what? The kids just went nuts and ran around the yard and in and out of the cubby house.

Our “lolly bags” were brown paper bags with car and truck stickers and stamps, and some sultanas and more of the fruit tape.

I was so happy to receive so many nice comments from parents later on, who said how nice is was to have a home birthday, and a lack of crazy party foods!!

Last year, we did A Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party!

Cheesy Vegemite Scrolls

Mmmm…. who needs to spend a fortune at the bakery when you can make these at home??? Super easy to make from this recipe here.

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I used a mix of plain and wholemeal flour. I think I’ll also cut them smaller next time – they rose a lot in the oven! I think you could also do some great other combinations, like tomato and cheese and spinach and ricotta. Please add a comment below if you have any other flavour inspiration.

They went down a treat with the little one!

 

Big decisions

I decided to have a change of heart today. I’m sick of waiting. I’m tired of spending my days thinking about my contracting uterus (yes, it’s been working away for two weeks now). I’m frustrated with my body’s desire to sleep all the time. And all these false labour alarms are just emotionally draining.

A friend posted this on my facebook wall, and it keeps making me giggle… and I think it has helped switch my mindset.

New tack today. No nap and do things for me!

Thanks to some fabulous ladies in my life, the dishes and shopping have been done, so there are no chores waiting.

I baked scones and I shared them…. then ate the rest. Go carbo-loading!

I made a “mug rug” (does that sound dodgy to you?? It kinda does to me…) from this fabulous pattern that I’ve been putting off for weeks. Pretty, huh?

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I’m drinking the tea that I want to drink.

I put on some loud music and danced around a bit.

I’m going to post this and watch a girly movie.

And I’m going to paint my toenails… with one last big decision… which colour?