Sunday, 9 November 2014

Last minute Pasta Carbonara with cauliflower puree

I've had one of those weeks where I just couldn't get my rear into gear. It was bound to happen I've been pushing myself the last few weeks to keep on top of everything and I knew it was either going to end in me getting sick or a week of dragging my feet. It was the latter. I begrudgingly forced myself to clean the floors yesterday breaking one of my rules not to do floors or bathrooms on the weekend. By the time the floors were clean it was only half an hour before dinner time. I nearly relented and ordered fish and chips but I pushed on and managed to create a last minute Pasta Carbonara using pureed cauliflower and it was a winner!

 
 
Pureed cauliflower is my go to veggie when trying to sneak vegetables into my kids' dinners. Like most toddlers my kids love anything that is 'white' in colour so I always like to have some pureed cauliflower in the freezer. I cut up a whole head of cauliflower and steam it, puree it and then put 1/2-1 cup serves into clipseal bags. Easy to defrost and add to anything that requires some kind of 'white' sauce. (e.g.Tuna mornay, pasta bake, lasagna).

 
I love Pasta Carbornara and since my husband's family is Italian you would think we would have it all the time but since husband prefers tomato based pasta this was actually the first time I have cooked it since we have been together! Weird! Definitely won't the be the last though, the kids ate it up and I thought it tasted great and required no effort at all.
 
Here it is, this assumes you already have some cauliflower puree on hand, if not you can make some at the same time but will just take a little longer.

Pasta Carbonara with cauliflower puree


Ingredients

Serves 4

400g pasta (I used penne because it's easier for toddlers to eat)
1/2 cup cauliflower puree
50ml thickened cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 x short cut bacon rashes
2 tbsp parsley

Method

1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente
2. If using cauliflower puree from the freezer, defrost in microwave and drain off excess water
3. In a bowl whisk together eggs, puree, cream and cheese, add salt and pepper
4. Dice bacon and fry in a little olive oil until nearly crispy, add the crushed garlic and fry for 30 seconds, set aside
5. Once pasta is cooked drain and return to pot, on a very low heat quickly stir through the egg/puree etc mixture and the bacon mixture
6. Serve with extra grated parmesan and parsley (if your kids will eat it!).

Easy done!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

My best Chocolate Zucchini recipe yet! Thermomix/Bellini Chocolate Zucchini spelt cupcakes

One of the things that has fallen victim of my new status as part time 'worker'/full time mum is baking. It's been months since I have baked anything. Since I've returned to work I'm lucky to have enough time/energy/motivation to cook dinner let alone the nice extras that I would usually have around.

For the first few weeks of adjusting to the new routine I let things slide, surviving the week was really my only goal, so what if the kids had pasta and sausages every second meal? Or that the floors were as sticky as my toddlers hands? It was survival mode people but now nearly two months in I can see if I don't push myself a little bit more this 'survival' mode could become our normal routine.

So in between cooking sausages last night (well I'm not a miracle worker!) I whizzed up some Chocolate Zucchini Coconut Spelt Cupcakes (phew that was a mouthful!). Was so proud of myself that they actually turned out tasty and light (which can be hard with spelt) I whipped up some milk powder sugar free icing and served them with as much pomp and ceremony as the arrival of a wedding cake... Only to have the kids eat all the icing and leave the sneaky veggie cupcakes!! ARRGHH!! Seriously, I shouldn't be surprised and luckily I hadn't iced them all so next time they will be served unfrosted!
 
 

I do find that zucchini cakes are best eaten in the first day or two, if you know you won't get through them freeze them after they have cooled down as after a day or so the moisture from the zucchini makes them quite sticky.

I made this recipe in the Bellini but you could easily make it in a stand mixer. I think this is probably my third or fourth Chocolate Zucchini recipe(!) but I think when attempting to sneak in some veggies you can't beat the chocolate/zucchini combination. I have to say I think this is one of my best ones yet!
 

 

Here is the recipe for the Bellini/Thermomix:

Chocolate Zucchini Coconut Spelt Cupcakes

(Yields approx. 15 cupcakes)

Ingredients

250g zucchini
80g butter
150g white spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bi-carb soda
30g cocoa
20g dessicated coconut
2 tbsp. milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp. Natvia stevia
1/4 cup rice malt syrup

Method


1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (or 160 degrees fan-forced)
2. Prepare cupcake moulds with cupcake cases (or use silicon moulds as I do)
3.Place quartered zucchini into Bellini and chop on speed 6 for 6 seconds, scrape down sides and chop again on speed 5 for 5 seconds
4. Add cubed butter and melt for 2-3 minutes at 50degrees, speed 1 or until melted
5. Add all remaining ingredients and combine on speed 5 for 8 seconds, scrape down sides and repeat until all is combined.
(The batter supposed to be quite runny, if you think it is too thick add more milk)
6. Pour batter into cupcake moulds until 2/3 full and bake in oven for approx. 15 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
7. Stand in tray for 3 minutes before turning out onto cooling rack.
8. Top with your favourite icing (I used my milk powder icing* as its dead easy) or just eat them as is!

(* The icing recipe uses soy milk powder however milk powder works just the same)


Do you have a great sweet hidden veggie recipe? Do share!





Monday, 27 October 2014

Master Q turned 2: The Gruffalo Cake

Master Q turned two nearly a month ago but am only now just getting around to posting the pics! Wow time flies, it feels like I was wrestling with his first birthday cake Rusty the Robot  just a week ago! We are only newcomers to The Gruffalo/The Gruffalo's Child stories by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler but to say both kids have become obsessed is an understatement! So there wasn't much discussion when it came to picking Master Q's cake this year, Gruffalo it was! It's such a wonderful story and Miss M can now recite it word for word, I have to say it helps that husband and I like it too and think we are both grateful for a break from Peppa Pig!!

 
When looking for some inspiration for the Gruffalo cake I was bombarded with lots of wonderful looking cakes on Pinterest but I could not find one that was simple and not made out of fondant icing. So I winged it and was pretty pleased with the result, Master Q insisted it turned out more like Gruffalo's Child than the Gruffalo and he was probably right but still it looked good.

 
I decided after a 'friendly' suggestion from husband that from now on I will make the kids birthday cakes WITH sugar. Not for the taste but sugar-free baking can be very temperamental and as most Mums know there is enough stress getting kids parties organized let alone worrying if the cake will even turn out! So I took his advice and stuck to a normal chocolate and buttercake. I also made chocolate buttercream icing and I do have to admit it did take a lot of stress out of the equation!

 
I baked two 22cm round cakes and fashioned the ears and legs from cut outs of the face. I covered the cake and legs and ears with the chocolate icing and used a fork to 'rough' up the fur. I hand coloured white fondant icing for all the body parts and used long licorice for the eyebrows, mouth, hair and end of the tail. The details were a little time consuming but it wasn't difficult. I made it the night before so didn't have to worry on the day.

 

I also added a few other little 'themed' items to the party table and made "Gruffalo Crumble" which was sugar-free chocolate crackles, some "Scrambled Snake" which was popcorn with lolly snakes, Maltessers as "Mouse droppings" and Twisties as "Roasted Fox". I normally try to keep the party food as nutritious as possible but this year I let go a little and funnily enough the kids hardly touched the Twisties or snakes, they were only interested in Fairy bread!



 
 
That's the kids party cakes over for another year, phew! Don't know how Mums with more than two kids do it?!

What birthday cakes did your kids ask for this year?

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have

I have been known at times to be a bit of a pessimist...ok a lot of the time,  I mean husband doesn't call me Captain Complaino for nothing. I do tend to dwell on the negative and focus on the things I don't have- a lot. And although I am fully aware that I really do have so much to be grateful for; a husband, two 'apple of my eye' kids and family and friends that I adore I tend to spend a lot of time looking outward. Especially when it comes to jobs/careers/life ambitions and houses.
 
I have an obsession with looking at real estate (which I have written about before). I am sure constantly moving house contributed to my inability to be happy with where I am but I admit I do spend too much time lusting after kitchens, gardens and libraries I will most likely never own. Recently husband and I had a 'disagreement' that spawned from a statement I made that went something like this... "Isn't it depressing to think this is it?".

Now there is certainly no blaming husband for being offended and angry at me for making such a statement as his interpretation of this comment was "Your husband, your kids, your life makes you depressed? Thanks very much". (You can see why words were then 'had') But that is not what I meant. 


I am sure everyone at some point has been guilty of obsessing over something they won't ever attain, or daydreaming of a job/house they won't ever have. Being surrounded by inspirational quotes like "Reach for the stars" and "Live the life you've imagined" can sometimes serve to be more of slap in the face rather than a fist pumping motivator. There comes a point in most adults' lives when you realise that rather than reaching for the stars, reaching for the remote is probably as far as you will go. When you realise that you, like most people, won't make it to the Forbes Top 100 list or the pages of InsideOut magazine a little bit of that starry eyed kid dies. I know I am digging myself a bigger hole, but bare with me. (I have also been accused of being a bit dramatic).

When you have a job such as mine where you have a pre-determined salary and that pre-determined salary determines you are a well established part of the middle-class there is not much point dreaming of having the aforementioned house with a library, expansive marble kitchen , extensive landscaped gardens and a winding tree-lined driveway. This is just not going to happen. There is a point where it is better to accept and appreciate the things you have rather than always hoping for something you most probably won't get but for me letting go of this daydream is a little, well depressing. (Ok so maybe I should have used 'disheartening' in my declaration to husband but you know what I mean).

 
After attempting (badly) to explain what exactly I meant by this statement husband suggested that these things are still attainable if that's what you want- the question is how hard you are willing to work to achieve these 'goals'. If I was willing to sacrifice time with my family to work full time or was willing to give up the little sleep I have to work longer hours then we might be able to afford the ladder for that imaginary library bookcase. But these aren't things I am willing to sacrifice, no matter how much I drool over the pages of Home Beautiful magazine.

I know that I am not alone in wanting more in life but when is it best to stop aspiring for the unattainable?

I suppose the answer to that is simple:

 

I have over the last few months toyed with closing down my blog. I originally created this space as a way to workshop ideas for a career change, to find my "Plan B" and as some of you might know I recently returned to my "Plan A" job (which you can read about here). It was disheartening to say the least but for the first time in a long time I decided that I would do my best to remain positive about it.

This would be my usual go-to mantra
The person who was going to suffer the most from my bitching and moaning was me. So I did, I reminded myself that this didn't mean my "Plan B" was dead, just in hibernation mode and that contributing to the household budget is something I should be proud of. Being an example to my kids, showing them that you have to make sacrifices in life for the ones you love, these were good things. It's good for them to see me set off for work just as much as its good for them to see husband cooking dinner. 
 
Whilst googling "how to be more positive" last night (yes I was desperate enough to ask Dr Google) I read an article which stated being negative was a 'choice'. I don't know why but this sentence struck me right between the eyes. I had always willingly and proudly declared that I was a pessimist not really ever thinking I could change my perception of the world, but when I read this simple sentence I realised I could, being negative was a choice I was making and so conversely I could make a choice to be positive.

Obviously this won't happen overnight, changing what has become my natural instinct will take practice but I do have a life to be grateful for, laminate kitchen and all. By spending so much time and energy focusing on what I don't have I am ignoring all the wonderful things I do have. 

So from now on my Plan B project will focus more on being positive, being grateful and being content with what I have. Sound good?  

Sunday, 21 September 2014

So my Plan B is....return to Plan A

As a Stay At Home Mum for the last three years my days have pretty much looked like this: get up upon hearing screaming children, shuffle down to the kids’ rooms and begin the morning routine. Breakfast, nappies, toilets, change clothes, play Lego, do dishes, do washing, make beds, put away washing and whatever other chore is on the list for the day.
Get around to getting dressed about 9am (yes we are only at 9am) and if the stars align (i.e. the kids aren’t killing each other) have a shower, don my Mum “uniform” (jeans, long sleeve t-shirt and Skechers) and pull my hair back in a ponytail. If I am feeling particularly adventurous a little tinted moisturiser and lip gloss may be applied before leaving the house for our daily activity. Our trips beyond the cocoon of our four walls, whether it be shopping, the park, the library, playgroup or swimming lessons would be the focus of the day and I would announce to Miss M upon waking, “It’s swimming day!”, or “It’s day care day!”, the whole day was built around that day’s corresponding ‘event’. The days could still be long but the weeks and months flew by and although there were days where you just didn’t think you would make it through there was rarely a sense of dread in carrying out my job as a SAHM. Of course you don’t realise how good you’ve got it…
This is my usual morning view
Yes, after over a year of deliberating and debating (you can read about that here and here) I conceded defeat and have returned to work (albeit part time). It has nearly been three years since I set foot in my office and to say the weeks leading up to it were torture is an understatement.
 
The day reared its ugly head all too soon and last Monday our morning routine looked more like this: wake up to an alarm at 5.50am (after a very sleepless night worrying about the kids going to day care, missing the train, not getting into my building and not knowing anyone),  had a shower in peace (yes that was a novelty), re-straightened my hair (having spent half an hour on Sunday night straightening it for the first time in 6 months), applied makeup, put on my new suit, jewellery and shoes with heels, packed my new handbag (without a nappy, drink bottle or wipe in sight) and snuck out the front door hoping not to wake the rest of the house.
I made it to the train on time and sat amongst other business/work/student types pretending that I was not actually an imposter, wanting to announce to everyone that I had once been one of them too. I like to look around at fellow passengers whilst on the train and guess their ‘story’. I wondered whether anyone was doing the same for me: Freshly straightened hair, new handbag, nice coat but not expensive, heeled boots that were in fashion about 3 years ago, looks tired and a little nervous, too old to be a starting out = A Mum returning to work’. 
This was my view last week
Meanwhile back at home Husband has woken up the kids (which never happens in our house) dressed them in the clothes I had laid out the night before, wrestled them into shoes and jackets, collected their pre-packed day care bags and set off for the dreaded day care drop off. Both kids as predicted cried and refused to let go of husband, he pried the kids off his legs and set off for work.
Half an hour later we met up for a coffee, which we both drank in one sitting, without interruption and without any stains on us at its conclusion. It seemed weird that we were in the adult world, together, at the beginning of a work day and neither of us were looking after the kids. It felt wrong but I will admit, delightfully so!
I successfully made it into the office and made the most of being able to go to the toilet without a little one at my legs (and with my nervous stomach that was quite often!) I caught up with a friend for lunch and even managed to fake some adult conversations with my colleagues without mentioning my toddlers’ current obsession with The Gruffalo or their refusal to eat vegetables. So this is what it’s like to be out in the real world? It seemed so civilised!

People asked the obligatory questions, “How old are your kids?”, “Are you glad to be back?”, “You must have noticed a lot of changes around here”, to which I answered, “3 and nearly 2…ha ha yes they keep me busy”, “No, not really”, and “No, not really”. Things had changed I suppose but not so dramatically that I thought I couldn’t cope, (I suppose ‘coping skills’ is a muscle that gets a good workout as a Mum). Yes I did have some awkward conversations with colleagues where my adult brain refused to work and I could hear my ‘little man’ telling me to just “Stop talking and walk away!”, but all in all I survived. I can't say I'm happy to be back, but it wasn't as bad as I had imagined. And I do have to say I was just a little proud of myself for sucking it up and getting it done.
 
Have you recently returned to work? How did you find the transition? Were you dreading it, or secretly looking forward to it? I’d love to hear about it!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Sugar-Free Mini Chocolate Cupcakes (Bellini/Thermomix)

This week has been really crappy, all four of us have been sick and have been going stir crazy as we quarantine ourselves in the house. Adding to that the very bad weather here in Melbourne and we are all OVER IT! Attempting to console poorly toddlers who are constantly attached to your leg whilst you are coughing up a lung is not pleasant. Of course during this time I have not felt like cooking and the bubbas have also been very difficult to feed, so what is a good Mum to do? Let them eat cupcakes for breakfast of course!
 
Yep you heard right, I did manage to get them to eat toast (another nutritious start!) but once they spotted the cupcakes that was all I heard about. Although I did actually get some sleep last night I didn't bother fighting, "Yes, you can have a cupcake for breakfast" was my response and a peaceful start to the day was had by all.
This was the aftermath!
Do I feel guilty? No, not at all! They have both hardly eaten in the last week and its not something I do regularly but sometimes instead of just saying "No", to everything they ask for, sometimes, you have to say "Yes!". A little win for them, and a little peace for me!
 
I threw these ingredients together in the Bellini and hoped for the best. I did actually forget eggs but they turned out pretty well I think! I added icing to a few of them but left the rest uniced as they are pretty fudgy on their own.
 
They made 24 mini cupcakes and 6 regular sized cupcakes. You could freeze some if you like, but they didn't really last that long at our house!
 
The remaining few cupcakes

Sugar-Free Mini Chocolate Cupcakes (Bellini/Thermomix/Thermocooker)

Ingredients
120g butter
115g rice malt syrup (or 1/3 cup)
2 tbsp. stevia granules
50g cocoa
185g plain flour (1 1/2 cups)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
pinch salt
250g buttermilk (1 cup) Note: You can make buttermilk by adding 2 tbsp. lemon juice to normal milk and letting it stand for 5 mins)
 
Method
 
Pre-heat oven 170 degrees fan-forced
 
1. Add butter, rice malt syrup and stevia to bowl, mix 4 mins, 70 degrees, speed 1 (ensure melted)
2. Add cocoa, flour, baking powder, bi-carb soda and salt to bowl, mix 7 sec, speed 5 (scrape down sides and repeat if necessary)
3. Add buttermilk, mix 10 seconds, speed 6
4. Pour into mini or regular size silicone cupcake moulds (line with cupcake papers if using standard tray)
5. Bake mini cupcakes for 8 minutes and regular size 15 minutes (or until skewer comes out clean)
6. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before turning them onto cooling rack
 
 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Sparking creativity: How I got my blog groove back

As I have mentioned here recently, I have really been struggling to get my blog groove on lately. It started as a blip whilst I was busy with everyday life and then turned into a real blog coma. I felt caught up, overthinking everything, creatively constipated (nice image isn't it?!). I began to consider whether I should continue blogging at all.

Then this happened.

 
I got myself a study nook.

We had been planning one for what seems like an eternity as our study is at the opposite end of the house to our living area and it's logistically impossible to do any work down there with two toddlers at your feet. So the dining table became my office which meant that we were forever moving my laptop, my camera, my notebooks and my cookbooks back and forward around the table. It was driving us bonkers and aggravated the neat freak in me to no end.

We work shopped numerous versions of my study nook in a space at the end of our kitchen bench and originally I wanted a desk that was the same height as our bench top, but finding table legs that I liked proved to be virtually impossible. So after getting to the point where I thought we were just going to give the idea away, I decided just to go with some normal desk height legs. And after another trip to Ikea my new study nook was born!
 
To add some colour I made myself some little circle cork board spots (another idea from Ikea, oh those Swedes!!) and it was whilst I had paint roller in one hand that my groove came back. It was such a simple project, completely kids craft corner but it just took that one little foray to awaken my creative juices and I was off.

Sitting down at MY cute little space ideas began to flow and I was excited again. It is a little part of the house that is mine, decorated how I want it, with MY colours and MY stuff and I love it!! (Credit and thanks does have to go to husband for putting the desk and shelf together and for putting up with my complaints in the months preceding the final product!).

It's hard to find anything that is yours once you become a Mum, the other day Miss M was demanding I show her my veins on my legs to entertain her whilst she was on the toilet! Sheesh!! But this little corner of the house smack bang in the middle of the chaos is my little oasis. Space set aside for me.

 
In discussions with fellow bloggers (especially the lovely ladies from the Blog with Pip Group) there isn't a day that goes by where someone  isn't questioning whether they should continue with their blog, how they are worried that they will never find their mojo again and I have been one of them lately. Of course ebbs and flows are a natural part of life but if there are two tips I can give if you are struggling with getting your groove back it would be just DO SOMETHING, anything! Decorate one of your children's rooms, make a nice card, do some painting, it doesn't have to be huge and it certainly doesn't have to be great but it just has to be SOMETHING. It will reignite your spark, and lead you back to where you are supposed to be.
Isn't this clock just gorgeous? It's from online store Society 6, I recommend it!
 
The second would be find somewhere that is just yours, somewhere in your house where you can be creative. I noticed that Pip herself has tasked some of her students from her latest Inspiration Information course to decorate a tiny part of their house for themselves. Which inadvertently was exactly what I did with my study nook! It's nice to have somewhere that is just yours when you are used to giving all of yourself to others. It's a reminder that you are still 'you' and that finding space to be that person again will work wonders in getting your groove back.

What are you sure fire ways to get re-inspired?

(Apologies for the bad lighting in the photos but if I waited for sunlight in Melbourne I could be here forever!!)

Monday, 23 June 2014

My love affair with Bellini (the thermal cooker that is)

Oh I really ummed and arrhed for months about buying a thermal cooker. I have a KitchenAid mixer, a large food processor, a stab blender with whisk and chopper, not to mention my slow cooker and rice cooker!! Seriously do I need yet another appliance? What could I possibly do in the thermal cooker that couldn't be done in one of these other appliances?
Ok, so it can't compare in the looks department!
 
I originally came across this beauty at my Mother-in-Law's house, the Thermomix or Bimby as they are affectionately called in Italy have been around in Europe for decades, who knows why it took so long to get to Australia! On a trip to Australia my Mother in Law's sister bought over her old Bimby as she had upgraded hers. It really is a monstrosity of a thing, but we were all intrigued how this machine let you weigh ingredients and even boil water (um, hello people have you ever seen scales and a kettle?!). Anyway whilst living at my Mother-in-law's for a while I did use it to make Pesto once but since the instruction book and cook book was in Italian I didn't manage to use it for anything else. At the time the Thermomix hadn't made big in Australia yet so it sat in the corner of my MIL's kitchen, taking up half of the bench where until this day she still only uses it to make breadcrumbs!

Fast forward to today and the Thermomix is the most lusted after kitchen appliance of all home cooks (I think even a KitchenAid has taken a back seat to it!) but since the exorbitant price tag is out of reach of a lot of people, including me, the Bellini has done a pretty good job at filling a corner of the market who would otherwise have not had a chance to experience the wonders of a thermal cooker!

So after yet another discussion with my friends as to whether it is worth buying I caved, went straight to Target (where it was on special) and bought it! 4pm on a Sunday I bought it home wiped out the parts and immediately started an All-in-One meal in it! Oh geez what was I thinking?!
 
The recipe was a super popular one from Quirky Cooking- Creamy Paprika Chicken. It used nearly every attachment belonging to the Bellini! I can say it was a little bit ambitious of me to pull it straight from the box and attempt this recipe as it does take you a while to get your head around how to use it but I did manage to pull it off and it tasted great! (As a side note both the kids had a mild reaction to the cashews in it- who knew? But apart from that it was a winner!).
 
Since then I have used it every day! One machine that has the ability to do so many things really opens up a whole new world of cooking, I am hooked!
 
So far I have made quite a few different recipes (all sugar-free of course) some needed a little finessing but all ended up tasting great. (Note: From my own limited experience and from Bellini owners you do have to adjust cooking times some what when using Thermomix recipes but all of mine so far have turned out great!).

Here are some of the ones I have tried so far, why don't you give them a go!:
 
Quirky Cooking- Coconut Caramel custard (I have made this 3 times, substituting rapadura sugar for some stevia granules)
Bellini cookbook- Cottage Pie (needed extra time to thicken)
A Little Bit of Homemade Heaven- Cacao Coconut Brownie Slice (again I used stevia instead of rapadura sugar)
Quirky Cooking - Creamy Chicken brown rice soup (this is awesome! Highly recommended)
Wholefood Simply- Bounty Bars (I used macadamias instead of cashews)
 
I also used it to make macadamia butter, which it managed to do so much quicker than my high powered food processor and also a crumble topping for an apple crumble.
 
I also managed to make one of my own recipes as well! A Banana Cake with Cream Cheese icing. It worked out great and although I did use a tin that was too small, it was so super easy and tasted delicious! Here is the recipe:
 
My first Bellini cake!
 
 

Bellini (Thermomix) Sugar-free Banana Cake

Ingredients

3 tbsp Stevia (or 150g caster sugar)
125g butter, room temperature
2 x medium ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
110g plain flour
110g wholemeal plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bi carb soda
150g milk
 

Method

(Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees celcius. Line a 22cm round cake tin)
 
1. Place stevia, butter, bananas, vanilla and eggs in bowl on Speed 6 for 1 minute
2. Add milk and mix on Speed 6 for 10 seconds
3. Add flours, baking powder, bi-carb soda and mix on Speed 4 for 4 seconds (or until combined)
4. Pour into lined tin and bake in oven for approx. 35 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
5. Remove cake from tin and leave to cool on wire rack.
6. Once cool spread with cream cheese icing
 
(I made a combo of cream cheese, butter, milk powder and lemon juice for the icing, I didn't use any specific amounts but if you start with 90g cream cheese and 45 grams of butter, you can adjust other quantities until desired consistency is reached)
 
 
*CONFESSION- The first time I made this cake I threw everything in at the same time and whizzed it up on Speed 6 for just over a minute, Bellini did seem a bit perturbed at first but it still came out great!

So stay tuned, I look forward to sharing some of my favourite Bellini recipes here soon!

Are you a Thermomix/Bellini addict?
 
 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Yep, being an adult is overrated

For someone who likes to agonise over the minutiae going through my head at any given moment, and who is also known to ramble on to any friend or family member who will listen to these said thoughts I have been bewildered as to why I have been avoiding my pseudo-therapist’s couch; aka my blog. My blog is a way for me to attempt to make more sense of the craziness and to clear my mind, hoping at the same time, in some small way it may have you ‘nodding’ in acknowledgment that you too have had these same thoughts.  But lately I haven’t been able to face my blog at all. I am literally so deep in what seems to be too many ‘big life decisions’ at the moment that I can’t see the forest for the trees. I have started about four or five blog posts over the last month or so and just can’t seem to work up the interest to finish them and at the same time although annoyed at myself for not following through with them I have also given myself a bit of a leave pass. Acknowledging that sometimes it’s all just too much, and sometimes, something’s got to give.
 
(Quote source: Jimmy Buffet)
As I have written about before one of the reasons I starting this blog was to attempt to workshop a ‘Plan B’ for my future career direction. And the deadline for making a decision as to whether I return to my job is looming, and the more I think about it, the quicker it seems to be approaching.

After putting making an actual decision on the backburner for a while, recently I quietly sat down, thought about the issues involved and realised that although not something I was really thrilled to do, the adult, parent and responsible person in me decided that I should return to work. I wouldn’t be returning full time and to many I am sure the time and energy I have expended to make this decision might seem silly and frivolous. But for me it is bigger than this. It’s an acceptance of things which to be honest I am not sure I want to face. Returning to the job that I have had for my whole adult life, one that has turned from a dream job to a ‘suck the life out of you’ kind of job feels, well…unfair. It’s had me kicking the dirt toddler-style, my arms crossed in front of me yelling, “But I don’t want to!” Right now I can hear my husband saying, “Geez, talk about being over dramatic”. And yes I am being dramatic but after nearly 3 years of maternity leave with only a very brief stint at work in between kids, the willingness I had to accept that although no longer my dream career but a job I should be happy to have has diminished significantly.
 
Saying having kids changes you, is a phrase banded about all over the place and for good reason, it’s true. They make you see life and yourself in a new way; sometimes bringing out the worst in you and other times shining a light on a part of your personality that you never knew existed. Whichever it is, at the end of the day whether your report card for your efforts was a ‘D’ or an ‘A’ you vow that tomorrow you will do it better, that you really want to put all you can into being the best parent you can for these little people because they are worth every little bit of your effort and energy.  Therefore I am finding it hard to take these lofty ideals that I attempt to uphold as a Mum and transfer them to my ‘paid’ job, because the reasons for returning there don’t come close, not even in the slightest. Returning to a job just for the ‘pay check’ seems just so soul destroying.

My little man
Of course I know that providing for your family is an admirable reason to return to work but when you are not the main bread winner, your part, although a contribution, seems to lose any bigger meaning.  
Husband, likes to ‘tell me how it is’, no sugar coating it, when talking through this decision and most of the time although what he is saying is true, I just don’t want to hear it. I literally just want to put my hands over my ears and start yelling “LA, LA, LA, LA” at the top of my lungs. (See I told you very todder-like of me). Although supportive of whatever decision I make his main concern has been my lack of direction in finding another career I may want to pursue.
Then few weeks ago following a discussion with my wonderful mother’s group friends we started discussing a particular field of interest we were all keen on. It had been a career I had considered for a while but had put it in the ‘too hard’ basket. I went home and immediately researched what uni courses I would have to do and I started to get excited. It was the first time, (well probably apart from dreaming about being a paid blogger!), that I started to get excited at the prospect of starting a new career and all at once I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The next few weeks I poured over course outlines, emailed unis and attempted to calculate just how many years it would take me to finish another degree. Normally I would have just dismissed it, but I really felt like it was something I could actually put my heart into and that although it would take a lot of work and some sacrifices I could make it work.
Working next to mummy
The high I felt for the next few days was wonderful, I timidly told friends of my possible plans and everyone was super encouraging. Then one night a few weeks later I googled some employment opportunities in that particular field. The pay was average to say the least. I did not think they were highly paid, and to be honest pay has never been a driving force for me but when I started thinking about the fact that I could earn the same amount at my current job working just two days a week the reality rollercoaster took another steep downward run. I started thinking about the actuality of embarking upon a whole new career with two toddlers. How was I going to attend uni classes when I don’t have babysitters on hand? How was I going to study for the next five years and raise the kids which is already a full time job? And to top it off not only would I not be getting paid while I studied, we would have to fork out a ridiculous amount of money for a new degree. I would be starting at the bottom once I graduated, would have to do shift work and get paid a mediocre wage. It all started to look just too hard.
I know what some of you might say, “If you really want it, you will find a way”, and look I am not dismissing it entirely but as much as I don’t want to accept it I may have to put forging a new career on hold for a while. Maybe I will return to my old job and it won’t be as bad as I had imagined?(one can only hope!). At the moment, I still feel like I am on a bit of a downer about the whole situation. Although our family can survive on one income for now, expenses with kids just increases, ours aren’t even at school yet and I would have to get a job eventually. I know that some Mums don’t have the luxury of having a choice whether they return to work or not, and I feel for them. I also know some Mums love their job and feel it makes them a better parent, and to them I say “More power to you!”, but for this Mum having to make a decision on this subject is just too hard. Being an adult is tough, no strike that, being an adult sometimes just sucks big time.



 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

5 ways to sneak veggies into your toddler's diet

I feel like a week doesn't go by where I am not agonising over the lack of vegetables in my children's diets. If you could live on carbs, meat and dairy alone then Miss M and Master Q would be set. How to get your kids to eat vegetables is a regular topic of discussion amongst Mums and although it's hit and miss I have actually come up with some winners, maybe there a some on my list that might work for your kids!
 
1. Pesto- God knows why but for some reason the green of pesto does not equate to veggies with kids. We call our pesto pasta nights, "Froggy Pasta night" and the kids will eat bowls of it. My favourite is Kale and walnut pesto (you can find the recipe here). I've also managed to get them to eat it spread on some flatbreads topped with cheese and grilled.
 
Kale Pesto Pasta
 
2. Cauliflower puree- This beauty has been a recent addition to our meals and has become a favourite of mine as it is just so versatile. I use it in most recipes that call for a white sauce, works great with lasagna, tuna bake or my old faithful pasta bake.
 
My favourite pasta bake
3. Smoothies- Every day I start off with a smoothie. My usual includes frozen strawberries, milk, flaxseed and berry powder, a big handful of baby spinach leaves and some chocolate protein powder. Miss M loves it, Master Q is a strange one and doesn't like 'cold' food (??) but I hope I can wean him onto it. You can't taste the spinach and at least I know I have gotten one serve of greens into Miss M's day!
 
4. Frittata- I've mentioned this before but if you cut up some greens (spinach or par-cooked kale) and put it into a frittata my kids will eat it, I do make sure that when I serve it you can only see cheese and egg on the top and I have managed to slip this past them a few times, definitely worth a try!
 
5. Cake- Yep of course the easiest and most sure fire way to get kids to eat some veggies, put it in something sweet! My favourite and the one I use in baking the most is zucchini. Zucchini in chocolate cake or brownies is great. I have also used sweet potato in biscuits and a few other gems which have momentarily slipped my mind. There are some great cake or muffin recipes out there that you can use veggies in, here is my Zucchini Chocolate Cake and Zucchini Chocolate Cupcakes to get you started!
 
Zucchini Chocolate Cake (sugar free)
Zucchini Chocolate Cupcake (sugar free)

 

 Have you got some tricks to get your kids to eat veggies? Feel free to share!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

My favourite things...

Oh yes! Another chance to link up with the lovely Pip Lincolne, from Meet me at Mikes. Who could resist? My Favourite things, why do I find these simple questions the hardest to answer? I feel like a deer in headlights, suddenly my mind goes blank and the pressure to come up with a good list sends me into a spin. What if I forget one of my bestest, most favourite things? What if all the things on the list are boring? Ok so you can see my neurosis shining through, so instead of overthinking it (which is my M.O. for everything) I am just going to go with the flow and see what ends up on the list below! Cross your fingers...

1. TV- Oh, my oldest love. Where would I be without you? Remember when there was a time when to see good acting and good stories you had to go to the movies? (Well maybe you don't!) But when I was growing up there was mainly game shows and bad English soap operas with the occasional decent show thrown in. Now there is just so much good TV I don't know where to turn next. But on days where the box presents nothing tantalising, I return to my favourite TV writer, Aaron Sorkin. The West Wing is my all-time-favourite show. EVER. The fast walk and talk, the witty one liners and dialogue that often goes over my head (got to love a show that doesn't aim its writing at the lowest common denominator), it is just the most delicious combination. So at the moment I have been revisiting, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It was a very short lived series that didn't make it onto our screens here but since was written by Aaron Sorkin and it stars Bradley Whitford it's a winner in my book!
Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman- What a sight for sore eyes!

2. Green tea- Green tea had sort of taken a backseat to peppermint tea for me but after a horrible cup of peppermint tea (you have to pick up your game there Aldi!) I switched back to a cup of green and OOH was it so lovely! I had forgotten how wonderful that lovely earthy cup of warmth could be!
My favourite mug at the moment!

3. That minute where you actually feel on top of things-  When I say 'things' I mean housework and since kids this rarely happens to me, but this week after having a few days at home and really getting my 'housework game face' on I actually got majority of the washing done, the floors cleaned and the bathrooms looking presentable. Ok so this only lasted a minute, but for that minute I had such a sense of achievement and contentment, I was thinking of moving the kids out to a hotel just so it would last longer!!

4. Catching up with my oldest and dearest friends- I am counting down at the moment to a girls only weekend with my oldest and closest friends, we have actually managed to organise the lives of 5 people who live in 3 different states, have 6 children between us and jobs and husbands to find a couple of days to live it up like it was 1999!! I can't wait!

5. My Home Beautiful subscription- This was my xmas present to myself and I am loving myself for it! I usually have one or two magazine subscriptions on the go. My parents owned Newsagencies for most of my life and so I blame them for my addiction. I have tried to really narrow it down to only one or two a month, but there is nothing more exciting than getting your favourite magazine hot off the press, stealing a quiet moment with a cup of tea and firmly pressing open that front cover. Oh the promise of inspiration and dreaming of houses I will probably never own but can fantasize about from cover to cover!



6. Watching Master Q and Miss M talking to each other- this is only a recent event and since Master Q is only 20 months and has limited vocabulary the conversations are limited but when I do catch them facing one another and engaging in some kind of toddler communication it just warms the cockles of my heart! Such a thrill to watch them growing before your eyes.
My beauties
Since I can't top that last one my list is short and sweet. No overthinking or panicked feelings so I think I can put the therapy on hold for another week!

What are your favourite things? Do you have a magazine obsession too?


Friday, 23 May 2014

Quitting sugar: The warts and all truth about quitting, 12 months on

I really struggled to write this post, so much so that it actually started as "I Quit Sugar- 9 months on", so basically for three months I have been going back and forth adding a few sentences and then deleting them. I just couldn't figure out why I was having such a hard time writing it. This is a topic I am really passionate about, you know what reformed addicts are like, will bore anyone who will listen with their quitting story. So why was I so reluctant to put down in words my experience of being off the white stuff for a whole year?


Then one night as I was sitting on the couch eating some sugar-free chocolate cake it came to me. The reason I was having a hard time writing this is that I felt like a bit of a fraud. Hand on heart, I can honestly say I am still 'sugar-free' but 12 months on things are not all green smoothies and quinoa salads.
 
The truth is this, I still do not eat sugar. 90% of the food our family eats is home made, from scratch, from unprocessed, sugar and seed oil free foods.  BUT I still don't eat enough vegetables, especially greens, I still eat way too many carbs and we still have fish and chips on a regular basis. I bake sugar-free recipes weekly and will usually have some sort of  home-made sugar-free treats such as biscuits, muffins or cake in the house.  Whilst on the confession couch I also ate some Cadbury mini Crème eggs at Easter (pre-quitting I would have eaten a dozen full size ones!), I have had the occasional Magnum ice cream (for some reason ice cream is one of the only things I have craved- I think maybe because its hard to replicate sugar-free) and I often eat sea salt chips after dinner.
I have also put on about 3 kilos in the last four months and can't remember the last time I exercised. (Yep, I'm putting it all out there!). Honestly it is possible to be sugar-free and put weight on.  If you aren't feeding your body enough nourishing and nurturing clean foods then you are still going to be hungry and you are going to crave more carbs. Although you do not have to cut out carbs to be sugar-free, I really do believe that limiting carbs and eating the right ones does help to keep your sugar-levels in check and stop you from craving the sweet stuff.
 
What I can say though is in a year I have not bought one thing from the chocolate aisle at the supermarket (the eggs were a nasty gift from my evil sugar-addict parents ;) and technically the Magnum ice cream is from the freezer section!). I read every label on the food I buy and avoid sugar and seed oils as much as possible. I mostly bake with healthier alternatives to processed white flour and attempt to sneak in vegetables or superfoods in most things I bake. I have not baked anything with sugar in over 12 months, including all our extended family's celebration cakes.
Confessions and 'lapses' aside I would NEVER, EVER go back to eating sugar. The initial benefits I gained from quitting sugar are still with me (you can read about that here and here). I really was addicted and it impacted not just my health and my emotions but also my relationships. It's funny sometimes to tell stories of satisfying cravings by going to the shops in your pajamas to buy some peanut M&Ms or eating a whole packet of chocolate freckles in one sitting. But the self-loathing you feel afterwards and the disappointed looks I would get from my non-addict husband were not so funny.

Looking back at my year without sugar I still feel so unbelievably proud of myself for quitting something that really has devastating effects on your health and well being. The lapses and ups and downs is what life is all about. If I thought I had to do it 'perfectly' I would have given up months ago. There is certainly room for improvement, that's for sure, but it can be done and I would still talk the ear off anyone who asks me about it. Actually I don't even get asked if I will do it forever anymore, its just part of who I am now. I don't feel deprived, I feel released from a vice that really did have control over me. I really am sugar-FREE!*
 
(*Apologies for this cheesy line- I couldn't help it!)