Thursday, April 30, 2009

Something For The Lunchbox

Posted by MANDI at 7:58 PM 2 comments
I have a stash of foodie mags hidden away in the bottom of the pantry. When I'm bored, looking for new ideas, or in a bit of a cooking rut I drag them out and drool over them. They're an eclectic bunch and, while I might not use them regularly, I just can't bear to get rid of them. I was flicking through them, searching for something I could use for the next Magazine Monday, when this easy little slice jumped out at me.

This recipe for Carrot Slice was in a section of creative lunch box ideas but it didn't quite go according to plan. It's a sweet slice, very much like carrot cake but without all the palaver. It's simple, tastes great and was a big hit... with the adults of the house. The kids weren't so keen - Little Miss spat hers out and refused to try anymore while Mr-Six flat out forbade me to put any in his lunch box. Oh well, at least Hubby and I liked it and we've very much enjoyed it in our lunchboxes this week!

The only thing I can put their dislike down to is the inclusion of nutmeg. I'll be making this again, it just depends how much the kids are annoying me as to whether I leave the nutmeg out and see if they like it a little better.

Carrot Slice
from delicious. magazine, February 2008

3/4 cup (165g) raw sugar
175ml sunflower oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 large carrot (about 140g), grated
100g raisins (as usual, I used sultanas)
grated zest of one orange (I really was going to try it, but didn't have an orange!)
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (used ground, from a jar, and obviously less)
1/3 cup icing sugar


Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line the base and sides of a 28cm x 18cm slice pan.

Use a wooden spoon to mix the sugar, oil and egg in a large bowl, then stir in the carrot, raisins and zest. Sift in flour, soda and spices. Store to just combine, then pour into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool slightly, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

If making icing, sift icing sugar into a bowl and stir with 1 - 2 teaspoons warm water to form a smooth, soft icing. Drizzle over slice with a teaspoon, then leave to set for 10 minutes. Alternatively, dust with 2 tbs sifted icing sugar. Cut into 12 bars. (I dusted with icing sugar and cut it into much smaller slices, ending up with about 20).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Good News

Posted by MANDI at 8:48 PM 3 comments
The Little Miss saw her specialist again today for a follow up visit. You might remember that she saw him back in March after we had struggled through more than 12 months of what had been diagnosed as asthma. He felt that the diagnosis wasn't quite correct and that we were dealing with recurrent croup and put her on some new meds to try.
She hasn't had an attack since being on the new meds. YAY YAY YAY!!!! We had dealt with illness after illness and long sleepless nights for over 12 excruciatingly long months. You truly have no idea how wonderful this is. No all night coughing. No vomit-through-the-night episodes brought on by all the coughing. No tiny little sniffle turning into yet another bout of sleepless nights and constantly checking her breathing when she finally crashes into a spent and totally exhausted sleep.
The best bit? A couple of days ago Little Miss started the sniffley throatiness that had Hubby and I raising our eyebrows and checking that all the prescriptions had been filled. And... nothing! No asthma (?) / croup attack. Just a sniffle, the odd sneeze and a slightly croaky voice when she first wakes up. Spectacular!
The doctor is really pleased with her. He checked that she's taking her puffer properly and praised her (and us!) and wants her to stay on the meds through winter. We'll see him again in August and, all being well, he'll start taking her off the meds. So... roll on winter.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hellllooooooo

Posted by MANDI at 9:28 PM 1 comments
Yes, I'm in here. Sorry, haven't posted for a few days.
We've had lots going on but nothing very interesting - took the kids to the movies as an end-of-holidays treat, went to a birthday party for a 3-year-old, lots of housework, about a million loads of washing, the nice weather is still holding, some yard work, some good cooking and baking - you know, the usual.
I'll be back with a great sweet slice for the lunch box soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Love This

Posted by MANDI at 11:04 AM 1 comments
My new favourite toy...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clearing Out More Magazines

Posted by MANDI at 8:58 PM 1 comments
In an effort to clear out more junk - why do I have ever-increasing piles of junk when all I seem to do is have big clean-ups? - I quite literally tore my way through a pile of magazines that had been gathering dust in the rack under the coffee table. Disturbingly, I discovered some mags that were nearly 12 months old. I turf out the tv guide-y type mags on a regular basis but the foodie ones sit there because I love them so much I'm unable to move them. However my latest big clean-up did give me some good fodder for Ivonne's Magazine Monday event.

This recipe does take awhile to put together but it is sooooo easy so don't let the time factor put you off. It also looks like it has a huge list of ingredients but most, if not all of them, are things you'll have in the fridge or pantry anyway. The one ingredient I needed to add to my shopping list was lamb mince. As well as being easy and economical it's also filling, delicious, makes heaps and tastes even better the second day. We've just about hit the end of our Indian summer here - I suppose it'd be too much to ask for summer to last a full six months so I guess December to the end of April isn't too bad - and this was a big hit with the cooler temps of the last few days. The kids loved it, Hubby was well impressed and I'll be making it again.

Lamb and Pasta Bake
from Good Taste magazine, July 2008


Serves: 8
Prep: 20 mins (+ cooling & 20 minutes standing time)
Cooking: 1 hour 10 minutes

2 tsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
500g lamb mince
1 x 700g bottle passata (tomato pasta sauce)
1 x 400g can diced Italian tomatoes
250g dried rigatoni pasta
1 egg, lightly whisked
35g (1/3 cup) coarsely grated cheddar
Mixed salad leaves, to serve
Cheese sauce
70g butter
2 tbsp plain flour
500ml (2 cups) milk, warmed
40g (1/2 cup) coarsely grated cheddar
20g (1/4 cup) shredded parmesan
ground white pepper
2 egg yolks, lightly whisked


1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes or until the onion is soft. Increase heat to high. Add the mixed herbs and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until aromatic.

2. Add the mince and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up any lumps for 7 minutes or until the mince changes colour. Add the passata and tomato. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water following packet direction or until al dente. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Set aside to cool slightly. Stir in the egg.

4. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Remove from heat. Stir in the flour. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until the mixture bubbles. Remove from heat. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk until smooth and combined.

5 Place the pan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes or until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in the cheddar and parmesan. Season with salt and white pepper. Set aside to cool slightly. Whisk in the egg yolk.

6. Preheat the oven to 190C. Add the mince mixture to the pasta mixture and stir until well combined. Spread over the base of a 3L (12 cup) capacity baking dish. Pour over the cheese sauce. Top with the cheddar. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Set aside for 20 minutes or until set.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Getting A Bit Of Culture

Posted by MANDI at 8:09 PM 1 comments
I had a fantastic day with the kids today. We took the now-regular school holiday train trip into the city to have lunch with Nanna. Lunch in itself was fabulous - a tasty focaccia for the grown-ups and and toasted sandwiches with hot chips for the wee ones - and I was so darn proud of their excellent behaviour. They ate beautifully, spoke in nice quiet voices, used their pleases and thank yous in all the right places and were a pleasure to be with. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

We jumped on the train and headed into the city. Much oohing and aahing over seeing cars on the road, people at the stations, water under the bridge and even more exclaiming over how many people were on the train. Finally in the city we headed to the Art Gallery. I figured I'd give them a whirlwind tour of the cultural centre of Perth and since that was closest to the train station it was as good a place as any to start. I have to say that there are some great school holiday activities happening in the city. The kids had fun making some 3D fruit (and Mummy scored some great ideas for rainy days later in the year!) and we checked out the Year 12 Perspectives 2008 exhibition. It showcases work from 2008's Year 12 (final year of high school) TEE (uni bound) Art and Art and Design students from across the state. There were 56 pieces in the exhibition and I was totally blown away by the talent. Some of the pieces were thought provoking, some were provocative, some were umm... interesting and some were simply stunning. My kids were interested in the exhibition and had a great time debating why they liked or didn't like particular pieces. If you're in the city this is running till July 19 and it is well worth checking out. Entry to the Art Gallery is free which is even better. If you're from elsewhere, click on the exhibition link and follow the links to the on-line gallery.

From there we wandered across to the State Library. Our library up here on the hill is tiny. Really really tiny. The library in Red Dirt Central was about ten times the size so I wanted to show Mr-Six what a big library looked like. Unfortunately most of the first floor is being renovated so the plan to let him see row upon row of books didn't go to plan but he did get to see the sheer size and the idea that the whole building was full of books (I didn't really go into all the other resources one might find in a library) was suitably overwhelming.

Then lunch. Yum.

We dropped Nanna back at the office and then headed to the WA Museum. Oh my gosh! Kids everywhere. Entry is free, though a donation of a couple of dollars is suggested and there were heaps of ridiculously inexpensive activities for the kids. My two chose to colour in dinosaur masks and then we had a look around before deciding to take part in the Discovery Trail that best suited their age group. Basically you pay a couple of dollars and get a booklet with clues to follow and questions to answer. You also get an all important pencil to write the answers! Both kids loved this and had a ball drawing in the pictures, finding the clues and, in Mr-Six's case writing in the answers.
The cutest, yet most ferocious, dinosaurs I've ever met.


So, a totally cultural day that we all enjoyed. If you're looking at heading to the city get hold of a free City Playground Pass. It lists all the activities happening in the city over the school holidays and also gets some great deals and discounts.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Weekend, In Bits and Pieces

Posted by MANDI at 8:55 PM 2 comments
* read The Kite Runner. Still undecided about it though. It was powerful but not sure it lived up to the hype. Maybe if I'd read it earlier I would have had lower/less expectations and liked it more?
* was invited to a Talent Show (yes, with capitals!) under the nectarine tree. The talents being showcased, and I'm using that term loosely, were singing, dancing and standing around waiting for inspiration to strike. The costumes were fabulous, the talents a little less so.
* helped the kids smash up some of their Easter eggs to make some seriously yummy cookies that have become an post-Easter tradition in their own right. The kids had a fantastic time bashing away at their eggs and then were very helpful in the cookie-making. They were also very helpful when it came time to taste the results.
* played Monopoly with the kids. There's a reason the box says 'Ages 8 and up". But it was fun and by the end (not the end of the game just the end of what I could cope with) Mr-Six was doing pretty well. Little Miss had already taken herself off to the couch to watch Bob The Builder. But, darn it if they didn't beat me. Next time I won't be helping them nearly as much!
* made porcupine meatballs for dinner tonight. Saw it over at The Cookbook Junkie and thought it sounded like a great addition to this week's menu. Easy and tasty, though not quite what I remember from my childhood. Mr-Six was most impressed and cleaned his plate in record time.
* had a quick drink with the neighbours tonight before dinner. Got to cuddle their new foster baby - two weeks old and gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I could cuddle this little boy for hours.
* watched Biggest Loser tonight and yelled at the television. SOOOOOO unfair that the evicted contestants get a second chance and will, more than likely, beat out those who have fought all the way. Especially unfair that Stewart gets to come back - I don't like him at all. But I still hate Cameron the most - stop bloody crying!
* heading into the second week of school holidays. We have plans for Monday and Tuesday, still working on Thursday and are going to see Monsters vs Aliens sometime over the weekend.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

An Old-Fashioned Dessert

Posted by MANDI at 8:52 PM 2 comments
I was flicking through the current issue of donna hay magazine and found a recipe for baked apples. To be fair it's not something I'd choose if I was out for dinner - I wasn't a big fan back in the day when dessert was something a rarity at the dinner table, and distinctly remember giving my share of the dish away when we made it during home ec. class in high school. However, after the ridiculous amounts of chocolate we've all eaten this week I thought this might meet the kids' request for 'a yummy dessert' as well as my requirement of something slightly healthy.


This was easy to put together and, although I did buy hazelnuts for it, you could use any nuts you have on hand. I exchanged the currants for sultanas (what the heck is the difference between currants, raisins and sultanas anyway?) as the small people in the house insist on a constant supply so they're always in the pantry.


The results of this effort weren't immediately impressive. Hubby and I both had a bite and exchanged "well, this is kinda boring" looks but then... another bite or so into it the flavours really came into their own and it got a little more interesting. I'd add a touch more cinnamon and Hubby suggests a hint of honey wouldn't go astray. If you're a baked apple fan you'll love this, if you're more like me I think it's fair to say you'll like it too. I can pretty much guarantee it'll make another appearance before spring arrives.



Currant and Hazelnut Baked Apples
from donna hay magazine, April/May 2009 issue


2 tablespoons currants (I used sultanas)
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 tablespoon brown sugar
25g butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 red apples, cored (mine were quite large, I'll use smaller ones next time)
1/3 cup brown sugar, extra
1/3 cup water
double (thick) cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C (355F). Place the currants, hazelnuts, sugar, butter and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well to combine. Score around the middle of the apple skins with a small sharp knife. Press the currant mixture into the apples and place in a small baking dish. Combine the extra sugar and water, pour into the base of the baking dish and cover with aluminium foil. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the foil and bake for a further 15 - 20 minutes or until the apples are soft. Serve with cream. Serves 4.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Cuteness

Posted by MANDI at 8:44 PM 3 comments
Here's a shot from yesterday's outing. It was my first attempt at doing this kind of shot and, if you factor in a nearly-seven-year-old who is physically unable to keep his hand in one spot and a three-year-old who would much prefer to dance, jump, hop, and bounce up and down rather than stand in one spot for four and a half seconds, I think it turned out pretty well. Not perfect but I've got something to use as a starting point.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Out And About

Posted by MANDI at 9:20 PM 4 comments
We had to take the car to have some work done today and under the terms of the warranty that meant we had to take it back to the dealer we bought it from. They're all the way down the bottom of the hill and nearly into the city. Most people would laugh at the drama this causes for our household - it is only a 30minute drive, 45minutes today in peak hour traffic - so instead of moaning about all the driving around we decided to head to the other side of the world and have a day out with the kids. Hubby has a couple of days off over the school holidays so we figured we'd make the most of them.
We decided to head down to Fremantle and check out the Maritime Museum. We last visited not long after it opened when Offspring #1 was a tiny baby so were keen to have another look. They have kids activities over the holidays and I thought the my kids would enjoy them. As luck had it Tuesday is free entry so we had a cheap outing - $3 per kid for the craft activity and Hubby decided to do the submarine tour which goes a little over and hour and is a real bargain at $8. He really enjoyed it and highly recommends it. The kids had fun at the touch table and then took part in some colouring and a craft project making their own sea creatures - a very yellow octopus and a particularly pink starfulsh. I think they were a little overwhelmed by it all but they both said they enjoyed it.






After that we headed back to the city and visited Kings Park. We looked at the river and saw the new Ferris Wheel on the foreshore. We did the Treetop Walk which is just gorgeous and then circled around through part of the park. The weather was absolutely gorgeous - sunny and 29C with just enough cloud to keep things pleasant, unheard of in April - and it was so nice to be out in it. We got some gorgeous photos, some are in this post and I'll share more in the next few days.


Here's the Ferris Wheel. It's not the greatest pic - I was zoomed right in and trying hard not to shake!



The kids, with South Perth and the river behind them.


Here we are 'resting' on the bench.




Daddy and the kids on the walkway

See where Hubby is standing. If you lean out just a little you can see where the walkway turns the corner and it looks like this...

See the people on the walkway? That's where I took the last pic of hubby and the kids - way up there...


We left to collect the car and then headed back up the hill and topped of a lovely day with a rather late lunch at the kids favourite fast food outlet. What a great day and, what a great way to start the school holidays.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I Killed The Caramel. Again.

Posted by MANDI at 8:13 PM 0 comments
Remember my caramel troubles just a few weeks ago? Well, it's now official. Any caramel making skills I once had are gone.


I found a recipe for a lovely new cheesecake and tried it out when we had friends call through a couple of weeks ago. I chose a caramel cheesecake, partly to see if I could get my caramel mojo back but mostly because I love caramel. Love it. LOVE. IT. Like I'd marry it if I could. Hubby isn't quite so keen on caramel so I figured he'd eat his serving of dessert on the night and then any leftovers would be mine. Boy did I figure wrong. First off I couldn't get my caramel to do that caramel-thing. It didn't completely die but it wasn't far off. Then I wasn't actually all that keen on the finished product. Everyone else liked it and Hubby lurrrrved it. So he got the leftovers and I missed out. Oh well, I guess there's a lesson in there somewhere!


Seriously, this is a nice cheesecake. It was very rich so a tiny bit is well and truly enough. It has a yummy chocolatey base, a terrific baked filling and a totally over-the-top rich dark chocolate topping. It would be perfect for a special occasion or if you were feeding a crowd. Just don't kill the caramel.


Caramel Crunch Cheesecake
from The Australian Women's Weekly Cheesecakes Pavlovas and Trifles


125g plain chocolate biscuits
60g butter, melted
2 x 250g packets cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
3 eggs
1/3 cup (80ml) cream
1 tablespoon plain flour
50g bar chocolate-coated honeycomb, chopped finely
caramel filling
30g butter
1/4 cup (50g) firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 tablespoons hot water
chocolate topping
150g dark eating chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (60ml) cream


Line base of 21cm springform tin with foil. Line side with baking paper.
Process biscuits until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add butter; process until just combined.
Using one hand, press crumb mixture evenly over base of prepared tin. Cover; refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to slow. Beat cheese, sugar and rind in medium bowl with electric mixture until smooth; beat in eggs, one at a time. Add cream and flour; beat until smooth. Stir honeycomb and the caramel filling into cheese mixture.
Place tin on oven tray, pour cheesecake mixture into tin, Bake in slow oven about 1 1/4 hours or until just firm. Cool in oven with door ajar.
Spread the chocolate topping over cheesecake. Cover cheesecake refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. Remove from tin just before serving.
Caramel Filling: combine ingredients in small saucepan; stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Boil, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes or until a deep caramel colour; cool.
Chocolate topping: combine chocolate and cream in small saucepan, stir over low heat until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth; cool.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Posted by MANDI at 8:44 PM 2 comments
We spent today down at my brother's place - he has a farm about two hours from here - and I'm worn out. Considering that I did absolutely nothing but eat and admire sheep I have no right at all to be worn out but that's how it is! I dragged my camera all the way down there and I didn't even take any photos.

We had a great time with his family and a lovely day catching up on all the news and watching the cousins size each other up. They don't all know each other well enough to just run off and play so by the time they've all warmed up it's usually just about time for us to be heading off. My brother cooked a yummy BBQ and sis-in-law had a salad and delicious potato bake for us too. Is there any such thing as a not-delicious potato bake? I have to say, I've never met a potato bake I didn't like!

I made a cheesecake to take down but... it was kind of a disaster. It didn't set properly so when I loosened it from its tin after lunch it kind of turned into The Blob and oozed over the base, off the plate and started making it's way up the bench. Needless to say, we ate it anyway.


And just to prove that I've further mellowed in the process of 'parenting', here's a pic of the kids at 7.03am today. Easter eggs before breakfast! I think they were a bit scared I was going to come to my senses and take their chocolate away.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tweet Tweet

Posted by MANDI at 12:56 PM 4 comments
I know Twitter has been around for a while but I'm just catching up with it now. It seems that it has been in the news everywhere I've looked for the past few weeks. I've notice more and more blogs adding their Twitter feed, it seems that everyone on Facebook is talking about it, it appears to have become the 'hot new thing' on the radio station I listen to in the morning and it was even on the evening news a couple of times this week.
To be honest, I'm not sure I quite get all the fuss. Then again, I said that about Facebook too and now I'm a firm fan so.... I decided to sign up and give it a go. I've added the button into my sidebar, click on it and it'll take you over to my updates. I'm sure they'll be thrilling and scintillating. Um, not!
So a couple of questions for the Twitt-a-holics amongst us. Do you tweet from the computer or your mobile phone or a combination of both? Call me paranoid and crazy but I haven't signed on for the phone part yet - it just kinda scares me - though I can see that it would make it much easier. How often do you tweet? Do you make a real effort to come up with interesting updates or do you just update with whatever is happening? To be honest, if I waited for interesting it might be weeks between tweets! Got any other tips or hints that might make the initial stages easier? Anyone you think is an absolute must to follow?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easter Baking

Posted by MANDI at 9:25 PM 2 comments

We had the Across-the-road's 10-year-old daughter here today. She's recovering from an operation and is healthy as a horse but restricted in terms of activity so suffering greatly from boredom. She loves to cook so I thought I'd do some Easter baking and both girls could help.We made some yummy vanilla cupcakes and topped them with a basic chocolate frosting and some pretty m&m speckled chocolate eggs. I gave the girls a few cakes each, a little bowl of frosting and some eggs and let them go crazy.

Miss 10 produced these delectable treats.



Here's Little Miss at work. I love how hard she's concentrating.

And here's her finished handiwork. After the taste-test she declared them to be 'fanTATic' (nope, not a typo) and her Daddy was heavily leaned upon until he tasted one when he came in from work and was lavish in his praise of both the cakes and her artistic flair.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

World Domination!

Posted by MANDI at 8:24 PM 4 comments
The path to world domination starts with one tiny step. My first step towards leading my sweet, innocent daughter to the dark side began today...



I was doing some scrapbooking last night and hadn't finished what I was working on so left everything where it was. I had some time today and sat down to work on the layout when Little Miss popped up and asked one of her favourite questions. "Whatcha doin' Mum?" She then answered it herself, "ahhhh, you're doing scrap-booken' " before moving onto her other favourite question, "Can I help?"



I decided that the time had come for begin her path to enlightenment and gave her a couple of spare photos, some paper, stickers and a glue stick and let her go to it. I think she did a darn fine job for a first-timer. Particularly being as she's 3 and all.


 

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