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.

Picture book activities

There are some amazing picture books out there and we have recently done some great craft activities based on our favourite books. Both the kiddies really love making the connection between what we read and what we make.

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We made the MASSIVE COOKIE from ‘Wild Boars Cook’ (Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall). The recipe is on the last page of the book.

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I remember ‘Corduroy’ (Don Freeman) from when I was little, and this is a follow-up. When I was at primary school, we made knitted bears and Mum helped me sew overalls for my bear to look like Corduroy.

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Both my little ones love ‘A river’ (Marc Martin). They trace the river on every page of the book and also make sure they find the boat every time. For this activity, we drew patterns with crayon like the patchwork in the book, then painted over it with watercolours.

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‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ (Eric Carle)

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And perhaps a lesser known Eric Carle book, ‘The Bad-tempered Ladybird’. The best bit of this activity was discussing which way we were going to put the mouths to make both a happy and a grumpy ladybird.

 

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‘The Rainbow Fish’ (Marcus Pfister)

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We actually made this entire book again redrawing the illustrations because she loved it so much. It’s a great story – very cute! ‘Crayon’ (Simon Rickerty)

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This one looks a little crude, but it was a LOT of entertainment. Especially when we went hunting around the house for all the elephants we could find! We also kept this box for a long time as a play thing. ‘Too many Elephants in this House’ (Ursula Dubosarsky).

What’s your favourite picture book activity? Please comment below.

I try to keep my pinterest files up-to-date with our latest fave reads if you need some library-inspiration:

Ages 0-2
Ages 2-3
Ages 3-4

Low FODMAP salted dark chocolate delicious tart (egg-free)

My favourite tart recipe in the world is Donna Hay’s Dark Chocolate Pretzel Tart. Dark chocolate and salt? The best combination ever. Ever.

(Her recipe is in Issue 64 2012)

And here is my egg-free, FODMAP-friendly version:

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  • 120g gluten-free digestive biscuits
  • 120g gluten-free pretzels
  • 180g butter, melted
  • 375g dairy-free dark chocolate
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp of your fave liqueur (I used drambuie)

Process the biscuits and pretzels to crumbs and add the butter until combined. Press into a tart tin and throw in the fridge for about an hour.

Place dark choc, coconut milk and liqueur in a saucepan and stir over low heat until melted. Pour into biscuit base and refrigerate until set.

***

The above pic is decorated with coconut chips – they are delish and have no preservatives added.

If you have extra pretzels and chocolate leftover, dip the pretzels in melted chocolate and use them to decorate the top.

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!

 

Baby-led Weaning – meatballs, fritters and apples

Life is busy. Super busy. Moving countries is a challenge. There’s so much to think about and time just flies by so fast!!

But, I have a few recipes to throw at you today.

These meatballs are delish. Don’t just feed them to baby, cook them for yourselves! The apple keeps them yummy and moist and adds a nice bit of texture. Plus, they’re a great size for little hands.

Beef, Rice and Apple Meatballs (Original recipe here: Beef, quinoa and apple meatballs):

  • 400g beef mince
  • 400g cooked brown rice (too hard to get Quinoa in Beijing)
  • 1 grated apple
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • pepper
  • 1 egg

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and then roll into small balls. Place on baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes until brown all over.

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I also started looking for a replacement for potato fritters to liven things up. I’m trying to get more variation in her diet. It’s so easy to cook the same things. These babies were a little wet and it was difficult for them to stay together. I think either drain the carrots for a while to reduce moisture, or chill them in the fridge for a while before frying. But, either way, yum!Carrot Fritters (Inspiration recipe here)

  • 4 large carrots, grated/food processed
  • 5 spring onions chopped
  • 2 tsp. cumin, pounded

  • 1 tsp. fennel, pounded
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 2 eggs

Roll into balls and flatten in the frypan.


IMG_2963Adella has never really like fresh apple. I think she finds it a little too hard to bite into with her little teeth. So, we’ve been making stewed apples – which she loves! Then, I was thinking back to Girl Guides, and I remembered makin
g baked apples on the campfire. Mmmm….

Baked Apples (Inspiration recipe here)

  • Apples
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (or equivalent)
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg

Core the apples. Place them in a baking dish and pour over the oth

er ingredients. Bake until soft and cooked through.

No surprises that the family all had these for dessert with a big dollop of yoghurt!

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