Sunday, 29 December 2013

And so this is Christmas!

What a joy Christmas has been this year!  So much fun with little ones in the house.  As per usual, I was awake with the Rosebud quite early, and it felt like a lifetime before Bubby Boy finally woke up.  I really had to stop myself from wiggling his fat little toes, or tickling his fat little thighs to try and rouse him from his slumber.  Why is it when you want to get up early, they sleep in??  But awake he finally did and we were able to start our day.

We began a couple of new traditions this year.  The first one on Christmas Eve - after we put the kids to bed the husband and I sat down to a slice of Christmas pudding with custard.  It's from the last, and extremely boozy, tier of our four and a half year old wedding cake, and it's absolutely delicious.  There's still some left, even after all the guests we've had through the house, and I think I'll be quite sad when the last piece is gone.

The second tradition we started on Christmas morning.  We all sat together on the lounge and read the Christmas story, and then prayed together as a family.  A really lovely way to start the day, not to mention the hectic five days that followed with guests coming and going.  There has been much eating, drinking and general merry-making and I have thoroughly enjoyed (exhausted) myself.

In the lead up to Christmas I had so many plans of all the wonderful gifts I was going to make everyone - dinosaur tails for all the kids, a dress for myself, preserves for my lovely girlfriends to name a few.  Needless to say, I only ticked two items off my handmade list.  Both for the Rosebud, but at least I got them done.  I think, as I usually do, I may have set my expectations a little too high…

But I'm very glad I got this little luggage tag finished, to go on her own little travel bag.  We're going on a holiday soon, and the Rosebud is extremely excited.

"We go on big pwane, Mummy?"
"We go holiday, Mummy?"
"We go zoo-eum?" (We've told her we're going to the zoo and the museum, so not sure which this is!)

Again, another present that I know she doesn't fully appreciate now, but I think when we're walking through the airport and she's able to put her own specially-named luggage along, she'll appreciate it then.

Monday, 23 December 2013

{Colouring in wallet} Christmas is almost here!

The older my kids get, the more I look forward to Christmas.  And it's so nice to have that feeling of expectant excitement back, because for a while there, Christmas kind of lost it's sparkle.

Working in retail made Christmas a drag.  For a number of years, Christmas meant not being able to be at home with my family (a thousand kilometres from where I studied) because I had to work on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.  To my ears, the tinny sound of Christmas carols was the equivalent of a funeral dirge, and the sight of Christmas decorations being displayed was final proof that THAT time of year was once again, inescapably, upon me.  The only good thing about Christmas was that I got stuff.  Yep, I was the Grinch personified.

Thankfully though, I'm starting to shake off that heavy, old coat, and Christmas is starting to get it's sparkle back.  Having children helps.  The excitement that the Rosebud is starting to show towards Christmas and holidays warms my heart.  And it's reminded me of the excitement I used to feel as a child.

I'm sure you know what I'm talking about...  It's the excitement that came when the calendar flicked over from November to December, and knowing that THIS IS THE MONTH!!  Or the feeling on the last day of school, when all the work was done and we didn't have to wear our uniform.  It was the feeling of seeing the desks and chairs all piled on top of one another at the back of the class and celebrating with a class party, with crispy mini pies and sausage rolls, cheerios and tomato sauce and snake lollies that were unmercifully stretched to skipping rope length and feverishly devoured.  And then, of course, the feeling as you got into bed on Christmas Eve, knowing that TOMORROW, fiiiiiiiinally, you would wake up to a Christmas tree overflowing with beautifully wrapped treasures, eat delicious food, food and more food (once again experiencing that feeling of extreme discomfort from having that third helping of trifle that you really didn't need, even though you promised yourself you wouldn't do it again this year) and, of course, the time spent with family and friends around the Christmas dinner table, breaking open bonbons and laughing over the corny jokes and paper crowns they held.

But there's also a new excitement that I'm really appreciating.  It's the excitement of choosing gifts for family and friends, but particularly my children, that I know they'll love.  And spending hours and hours putting the finishing touches on the handmade colouring in wallet that will just add that 'something special' to the $2 colouring pencils the Rosebud is getting, even though that part of it probably won't be appreciated by a two-year-old.  It's the excitement of starting our own family traditions, like spending Christmas night and Boxing Day with dear friends, and watching over my children as they make memories I know they'll look back on with fondness in years to come.

Yep, the sparkle is slowly, but surely, returning.  And I'm grateful.  Sometimes though, when I let my mind wander, and I start to get overwhelmed with the enormity of entertaining guests in our home non-stop for a week, or when I get anxious about the cost of everything and think about the bills that always turn up in your mailbox with only a mention of indulging yourself, or when I wonder how on earth I'm going to fit all that food into my fridge… well... sometimes I consider rekindling my romance with Grinch-i-ness.  But then, Rosie will say "Mummy, we go holiday?", and I'm not only reminded of the simple excitement she has about this season, but also how much influence I have over the enjoyment she will feel during this season.  So, Grinch be gone, I say.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

{Recipe} Sugar-free Pancakes

I try to eat sugar-free as much as possible.  I know there's a lot of speculation about whether sugar is really as bad as some make out, and I've read a lot of books about the possible effect of high sugar consumption on the body (if you're interested, you could start with Sweet Poison and I Quit Sugar).

My unqualified opinion, based solely on personal experience and health, is that I need to limit my sugar intake.  When I don't... well, just trust me, it's bad.  It effects my stomach in ways that I'd prefer not to describe.  When I do, I feel so much better, and my tummy thanks me for it (as does my husband).

So if you're experiencing health problems (and it doesn't just have to be stomach issues), you too might benefit from eating less sugar.  And as a bonus, you'll probably lose weight.  Not that I'm saying you need to.  You look great to me ;)

I've tried lots of sugar-free recipes in my own journey.  Lots bad, some good, and the odd fantastic one. I've done plenty of experimenting and have made lots of duds, which is in the nature of experimenting.  But this is a recipe I've gone back to over and over.  Who doesn't like pancakes after all?  And when they don't contain any sugar, but taste just as good as the sugar-laden ones, that's a real winner.  The recipe does contain fructose, which I am happy to eat in moderation.

Sugar-free Pancakes

1 1/2 cups self-raising wholemeal flour
1/2 cup almond meal
3 tbspns Natvia
1 apple, grated
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup milk, plus extra to loosen pancakes to desired consistency
1 egg
2 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks
Fresh fruit to top before flipping - fresh blueberries, slices of banana

Other optional, yummy variations:
1 tsp cinnamon - add to dry ingredients
1 banana, mashed - add to wet ingredients
Swap the flour for gluten-free or spelt flour

Place flour, almond meal, Natvia, lemon zest and grated apple in a bowl and mix.  Mix milk and egg in a separate bowl, then using a whisk, gradually incorporate the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Make sure you don't have any lumps.

In a separate bowl, beat your egg whites to stiff peaks then gently fold in half of the whites into the batter until well incorporated.  Gently fold in the remaining whites and set aside while you heat a frypan over medium heat.

When ready, grease the frypan with oil or butter, and spoon the batter into the frypan until you get the size you prefer.  You can leave the pancakes plain, or add slices of banana or whole blueberries to the top of the pancake.  Flip your pancake when you start to see bubbles popping on the surface.  Cook on the opposite side for a minute or so, then remove to a warmed plate.  Continue with the remaining batter, greasing the frypan as necessary.

Serve immediately, with fresh fruit, butter, coconut butter, honey, or my personal favourite, a sprinkle of Natvia and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Yummo!

Even these little monkeys like them - and that's saying something!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

{Food for a Fortnight} Meal planner and shopping list

Considering my post about getting myself more organised and doing a fortnightly meal plan was longer than a fortnight ago, you could be forgiven for thinking that I had already fallen off the meal planner 'wagon', so to speak.  But, no I haven't.

It's just that I've been really busy, and haven't had a moment to sit down and put another one on paper, AND I've been trying to use up all the extra bits and pieces I have in my pantry.  But, I finally found (made) the time, and it's only taken me aaaaaallllllll daaaaaaay!  

And another reason for its lateness… I was talking to a friend about the meal plan and she remarked that she joked about getting my shopping list for my last planner.  Which got me thinking that it would be pretty cool to make up a meal plan and downloadable shopping list for anyone who doesn't mind someone else deciding what they're having for dinner :) And, since I'm certainly not a whiz on iDraw (who can afford Illustrator after all?!?!) making a 'pretty' shopping list has taken me quite. a. while.  

Nevertheless, here it is!  This instalment covers the Christmas period, during which we will have a full house with family and friends visiting at various times, and I thought it would be wise of me to be properly organised for all meals to ensure I can feed the masses.  Obviously it's going to be an expensive shop - but that's Christmas I s'pose!  I realise it's last minute and you've probably already got your food sorted, but I figured I'd still share what we'll be eating (and you never know, maybe you haven't got your menu planned yet…).

I'd classify this as state library level of organisation - I don't expect to swap meals around (I don't think… but as always, I reserve the right to change my mind :)  The shopping list contains everything you need to follow this meal plan (some things you'll probably already have in your pantry), although I haven't included ingredients for the Christmas pud as people often buy them - so that one's up to you.  We're having the last tier from our 4 and a half year old wedding cake - it's still good!  

I hope you feel inspired!  So without further ado… and starting from Sunday, the 22nd of December…

Week One
Sunday - One tray baked chicken with steamed broccoli
Monday - Ricotta fritters with tomato sauce and courgette salad
Tuesday - Beef kofta curry with fluffy, beans and peas

Christmas baking
Spiced brown sugar cookies
Lemony peach cake

Christmas lunch
Fresh prawns served with mango and avocado
Whisky, marmalade and mustard glazed ham
Peach and prosciutto salad with Persian feta (not mozzarella)
Blanched green beans with salsa verde and toasted almonds
Christmas pudding and custard
Summer berry trifle

Gin & tonic
Apple & elderflower fizz
Cucumber, gin & pineapple crush
Campari & soda

Christmas dinner
Lamb cutlets with fennel and pear salad and hot mustard dressing
Christmas pudding and custard (because you just can't have enough of this at Christmastime!!)

French toast with bacon and maple syrup, and blueberries on the side

BBQ pork sausage hot dogs with caraway and dill coleslaw

A rare night off!  The boys are cooking!

Vanilla roasted strawberries with yoghurt and bircher muesli
Apple pancakes (my own recipe which I will post soon!)

Fried ham with homemade tomato sauce on grilled bread

Steaks & chips with garlicky green beans

Green herby, cheesy scrambled eggs and ham (my own recipe - simply lots of herbs and a handful of cheese!)

Week Two
Bircher muesli with tropical fruit and vanilla yoghurt

{Back to normal meals, and probably a diet!)

Lunch & dinner

Monday - Leftovers, or whatever's in the freezer.
Tuesday - Quick crispy chicken with tomatoes and asparagus
Wednesday - Fish baps with mushy peas and tartare sauce
Thursday - Pan-fried lamb chops with cauliflower & broccoli cheese
Friday - Squash and spinach pasta rotola
Saturday - Spaghetti bolognese

And here is the shopping list… two very long pages!  If you want to download, they have been uploaded to my Flickr account.


Thursday, 5 December 2013

{Bonbonierre} Chocolate Macarons with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Need I say more?

I mean, the name tells you everything you need to know, right?  Chocolate needs no explanation.  And salted caramel?  Surely not…?  Ok, well, if you haven't, you must.  Really.  Right now.  Go.  

Although, I must admit to feeling slightly queasy from a little too much taste-testing.  (What?! I had to make sure they were ok, didn't I?  I can't take them to a wedding if they haven't been vetted first.)

**That pic above really needs a spoon full of caramel oozing off it, but the caramel was rock hard from being in the fridge and I really didn't have the time (kids in the bath etc etc).

Perhaps a little too much vetting occurred….

The things we do for friends *sigh*.