Father’s Day 2019

Sleep-ins, smiles, sunshine and food – yes those seem to be the recurrent themes of Father’s Day these past few years. For Canberra again gave us an almost Spring-like weather to celebrate the main Man in our lives – and the girls ensured that he was well and truly spoilt throughout the day!

There was breakfast in bed, lots of homemade cards and gifts, followed by a ‘leave pass’ to go and get a massage!

 Not to mention our usual Father’s Day Linner which was, of course, given an international theme. This year – it was all things German!

Nibbles to start, served with a rather refreshing “Hugo” cocktail – made with gin, elderflower cordial and prosecco.

Followed by the main event – featuring homemade soft pretzels with garlic butter, mushroom tartlets, schnitzel and a variety of sides – potato salad, kale salad, marinated red cabbage and a cucumber / dill salad.

All together now!

And for dessert? Well why have one dessert when you can have two!

Warm apple strudel straight from the oven(not pictured), along with a chocolate fix in the form of a black forest inspired chocolate ripple cake.

And before we knew it, the afternoon had turned into evening, as we shared a wonderful day with family celebrating the fathers in our lives. Not to mention adding another food “destination” to our annual Father’s Day celebration.

And just because I can’t resist a trip down memory lane…

2012

2013 – Chinese themed

2014 – Turkish themed

2015 – Mexican themed

2016 – Italian themed

2017 – Greek themed

2018 – Island themed

And finishing with 2019… German themed!

Choc Mint Layer Cake

I do find it interesting to watch the girls’ palettes evolve as the years pass by.

Miss J used to love bananas and blueberries – but now finds both quite offensive. Her current food preference includes savoury crunchy foods, such as celery, carrots and cucumber, and although she loves chocolate (only plain chocolate)  she wouldn’t dream of trying lollies or sweets or juice.

Miss M, on the other hand, has a clear predilection to sweet foods. So much so that I have no doubt she would eat sugary foods all day long if I’d let her. Thankfully she also loves vegetables and yoghurt. Lots of yoghurt.

Then there is Miss C –  who is far more adventurous than her little sisters when it comes to food. She enjoys a variety of both savoury and sweet foods, with prawn dumplings, avocado, mango and pineapple pizza featuring at the top of her favourite foods list at the moment.

And, as I found out during a recent trip to the cinema, chocolate mint is her first pick when it comes to ice-cream flavours.

So when I asked her what sort of cake we should make for her Aunty’s birthday a little while ago,  I was in no way surprised when “choc mint” was her resounding response.

Being a little short on time, we decided to do a cake hack – thanks to some store-bought mudcakes from Woolies. We did, however, make our own mint-laced buttercream along with a dark chocolate “drip”.

True to form, Miss J and Miss M kept sneaking pieces of the chocolate I had set aside to create the drip, while Miss C was only too happy to lick the bowl after we whipped up the batch of vibrant minty buttercream.

When it was time to decorate – it was all hands on deck – with various mint treats being pushed and placed into position atop the cake. We used aero bars, mint choc balls, malteasers and mint slice, with extra buttercream piped on top and a sprinkle of peppermint crisp.

And while the finished product was not entirely “perfect”, we soon had before us an impressive birthday cake in all its minty glory!  A little over the top in appearance – but relatively simple from a flavour perspective.

Not to mention being actually quite easy to pull together. Assuming that the kids don’t steal all the chocolate decorations during the construction process, that is!

Farmyard Cupcake Toppers

Working with fondant is far from my strong point when it comes to baking. But I have, over the years, being trying to improve my skills, which admittedly remain very basic.

When we settled on a Farmyard theme for Miss M’s recent birthday party, I decided to carry over the theme for a batch of cupcakes she would be taking to daycare. And while I was initially tempted to purchase the toppers (there are so many great cake decorators out there!) I figured that perhaps it was a good opportunity to work on my fondant skills.

Armed with fondant of various colours, – along with edible glue, eyes  and 3 little helpers who were more than eager to assist – we got to work.

First – the pigs!

I rolled out some pink fondant, then cut four large circles for the faces, four smaller circles for the nose, and four more circles that I cut in half and shaped into ears. Glued together with the edible glue, and finished with the pre-made edible eyes…

Next up – the chickens!

I rolled out yellow fondant, and cut four large circles for the bodies, and four small circles that were then cut in half to make the wings. I used red fondant cut into small triangles for the beaks, and again, edible eyes.

And finally, the cows!

These were probably the most fiddly. I used four circles of white fondant for the faces, four smaller pink circles for the noses, then shaped smaller black circles (again, cut in half) for the ears and the “spots”.

After a few hours of construction, we had ourselves some farmyard cupcake toppers! I let them sit out (uncovered) overnight, so that they could firm up a little, then attached them to cupcakes with a swirl of buttercream. And thanks to a cardboard cupcake box (purchased from Latorta), we were able to easily transfer them to daycare for the kids to enjoy!

I was so happy with how they turned out – and can’t wait to try my hand at another theme sometime soon! Using pre-coloured fondant (as opposed to colouring my own) was probably not the cheapest option, but it definitely saved me a bit of time – not to mention avoiding the inevitable staining of hands…

A Barnyard 2nd Birthday Party

Long time readers of this blog will realise that this is not the first time we  transformed our backyard into a farmyard, of sorts. Miss M seemingly loves animals just as much as her biggest sister did at the same age (and truthfully, still does) so an animal themed party for her recent birthday seemed like the perfect theme!

We again invited a local petting zoo to set up outside, and before long – our backyard was transformed into a mini farm – complete with chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits and ducks.

I must admit I was a tad nervous about holding an outdoor party in July – knowing the Canberra Winter can be brutal. But we must have pleased the weather gods because the sun came out and the afternoon ended up being relatively mild (for Canberra, at least).

In advance of the party, Miss C declared herself no.1 party helper – so we spent the morning setting up the food table and an activity table for the kids topped with textas and bubbles. She even ran a scavenger hunt for the kiddies during the party, and helped them find plastic eggs that the “chickens” had hidden around the garden.

As for the food, well we had a lot of fun creating ‘barnyard’ themed party food – including mousse (topped with homemade fondant pigs), jelly, vegetables / hummus, savoury scrolls, wagon wheels and a bunch of other goodies.

In anticipation of a chilly afternoon, we also set up a hot chocolate bar – with hot chocolate made in the slow cooker – along with marshmallows and whipped cream.

As for the cake, I topped some store-made mud cakes with fondant – the bottom layer resembling cow print and the top being a little farmyard. Finished with some purchased cardboard barn and farm animal toppers.

Before we knew it, the sun began to set and it was time to say goodbye to our guests – both furry and human. I have no doubt that Miss Maggie loved being the centre of attention – although she was a little confused when she went outside the following day to find it devoid of animals.

How is it that she is TWO already though?!

Thai green pea soup

With soup featuring on our weekly meal plan with regularity (thanks Canberra Winter!) I am always on the look out for soup recipes that are a little different. Something a bit more adventurous than our usual go toes (pumpkin, vegetable….actually I think I mentioned that a little while ago.)

So when I came across a vibrant green soup in a recent edition of the Healthy Food Guide – and saw that it was packed with spice, peas and spinach – well I was immediately sold.

The fact I had all the necessary ingredients on hand (save for the spring onions) was a big plus too. Frozen peas, spring onions, coconut milk, spinach, mint, stock and green curry paste – blended in the food processor, then simmered until warmed through.

I loved the suggested toppings too – which took what might be considered a plain looking soup to one that was full of interest! Mint, chilli, fried onions and sesame seeds.

And although I have said this more than once recently – this soup is definitely a keeper! I particularly loved the spice hit from the curry paste, and the creaminess from the coconut milk.

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Thai green pea soup
Course Soup
Servings
people
Course Soup
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Place peas in a food processor with the spring onions and coconut milk. Process until well combined. Add the baby spinach, mint and half the stock, and continue to process until smooth.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the pea mixture and the remaining stock, and simmer for 10 minutes or until heated through.
  3. Divide the soup among serving bowls, and top with chopped mint leaves, chilli, fried onions and sesame seeds.
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Chocolate Banana Muffins

And so we have ourselves another long weekend! It really does feel as though we’ve had quite the run of them lately.

Unfortunately the weather has been a little drab, meaning outdoor adventures are not all that appealing. Instead, we’ve been making the most of having quiet time at home. Movies have been watched, artwork has been created, and games have been played. I even managed to finish another book (!) and gratefully ticked off some little admin tasks I’ve had on my ‘to do’ list for a while.

There has also been time spent in the kitchen. I cooked up a chicken tikka masala last night, and I’ve got some homemade vegetable stock currently bubbling away on the stove. And this morning, when I realised a couple of bananas had seemingly turned brown overnight, a batch of banana muffins was the solution!

I decided to add a chocolate spin to my regular recipe – for with the fog lingering outside – chocolate would surely add some cheer. Some were topped with walnuts, some without (school friendly). We enjoyed some of the muffins warm straight out of the oven for morning tea, with the rest being packaged away to be added to the lunchboxes during the week.

Not a bad way to spend a long weekend indeed!

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Chocolate Banana Muffins
Course Baking
Keyword muffin
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Course Baking
Keyword muffin
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 160C (fan forced). Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin cases.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in a mixer until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Add the banana and vanilla, and beat until combined.
  4. Sift in cocoa powder and flour, and add milk. Stir until just combined.
  5. Spoon into prepared cases, and top with walnuts (optional). Bake for 30 minutes (or until cooked through).
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Miso chicken salad

Do you ever get stuck in a cooking rut? Using the same recipes, same cooking methods?

For a long time, grilling was my cooking method of choice when it came to chicken. Or possibly even oven baking. But then I discovered poaching, and boy has it been a game changer. The meat is tender, there are no messy grills to clean, and there is usually enough leftover for sandwiches through the week.

It is also a great option to add to salads.

Sometimes I poach the chicken in stock, other times water – with a bunch of herbs, ginger and garlic.

On this occasion, I poached the chicken in stock with a little miso paste. I then shredded the chicken and used it to create a Japanese-inspired miso chicken salad. With wombok, cucumber and radish for crunch, drizzled with a miso / mirin / soy dressing, and finished with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

We served this for dinner a little while back, and I’ve also had it for lunch on multiple occasions since then. I love that it can be thrown together easily, with minimal fuss, and that it is a little different than my regular salad styles.

Definitely a winner in my book…and a great reminder to get out of my comfort zone in the kitchen!

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Miso Chicken Salad
Course Salad
Keyword salad
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Dressing
Course Salad
Keyword salad
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Dressing
Instructions
  1. Place stock and miso paste in a small saucepan. Add the chicken (adding some additional water if necessary to cover). Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, then cover and set aside in the poaching liquid. Allow to cool a little, then shred.
  2. Meanwhile, divide the salad ingredients amont two serving bowls. Top with shredded chicken.
  3. To make the dressing, whisk together the miso, mirin, soy and sesame in a small bowl. Drizzle over salad, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
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Spicy lentil stew

It is rather appropriate that I am posting about a slow-cooked stew on a day where the temperature has not exceeded 8 degrees outside (although, if I’m completely honest, it feels more like 2 degrees).

I know this because I took my regular morning walk this morning, and despite wearing thermals, gloves and a beanie, I still returned home with chilled toes and a yearning for a warm bowl of something for lunch. Luckily, I had made a batch of this stew a few weeks back, with extra portions frozen for a later date. So today was definitely that ‘later date’!

Created on a Monday – which is now known as ‘slow cooker Monday’ in our house, this stew was so very easy to prepare. With one pot, lots of vegetables and the benefit of time – a delicious meal was brought to life with minimal effort on our part.

Today I kept it super simple, and served the stew with a side of greens and a sprinkle of parsley. But if you were wanting to make the meal even more substantial, I think a spoonful of yoghurt or sourcream, and a side of toasted flatbread or sourdough, would work just beautifully.


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Spicy lentil stew
Course Main Dish
Servings
people
Course Main Dish
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Put the vegetables and lentils in a slow cooker, along with the garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper and stock. Stir to combine.
  2. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Just before serving, stir through the lemon juice and season to taste.
  3. Divide into bowls and top with parsley and sour cream / yoghurt to serve.
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Strawberry Cheesecake

I don’t tend to bake sweet treats much these days. Not because I don’t enjoy it (I really do!) – its just that I generally crave savoury snacks over sweet – particularly when the weather is warmer. But now that the days are getting shorter, and t-shirts are being replaced with snuggly knits and scarves – there is something quite comforting about indulging in something sweet.

This strawberry cheesecake made an appearance at our Easter lunch. Actually it was one of two cakes we made for the occasion (the other being a tim tam cheesecake). I loved its simplicity – and the fact that the beautiful strawberries were the star of the show. It was also a non-baked version – so we could pull it together the day before.

I used shortbread for the base – flavoured with a little coconut. The creamy filling was made with cream cheese, cream, sweetened condensed milk and, of course, fresh strawberries. Jazzed up with a little fresh lime juice and zest.

The overall result was a cheesecake that was effortlessly delicious. Packed with flavour (and had me going back for seconds in the days that followed). A nice break from the chocolate overload over Easter too!

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Strawberry Cheesecake
Course Baking
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Baking
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Grease and line a springform baking tin.
  2. Process biscuits and coconut until they are a fine crumb. Add the melted butter, and process until combined. Press into the prepared tin, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the cream cheese and condensed milk to a clean food processor, and process until smooth. Add 400g of the strawberries and cream, and continue to process until smooth.
  4. Heat the lime juice in a small saucepan until simmering. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, and add to the heated juice. Stir until dissolved, then allow to cool slightly.
  5. Add the gelatine mix to the processor, along with the lime zest, and process until combined. Carefully pour the mixture on top of the base, and refrigerate until set.
  6. Remove the cake from the tin, and top with extra strawberries to serve.
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Pumpkin and carrot soup

As I sit here typing, the rain is falling steadily outside. It was, of course, raining most heavily right at the school drop off – where I am sure my attempts to wrangle 3 kids, 3 bags and 3 umbrellas was met with more than a few laughs.

But I have well and truly warmed up after tucking into a big bowl of soup that I had stashed away in the freezer. A perfect go-to lunch on days such as this, when the day is dreary and the temperatures have lowered.

I actually made this pumpkin and carrot soup a while back, but realised I never shared it on the blog. And what a shame that would be – for what a soup it is!

Simply – onion, garlic, carrots and pumpkin, simmered with stock and given a golden hue by the addition of turmeric. Finished with a dollop of natural yoghurt, and a sprinkle of pepitas and parsley.

And, as is always a plus with dishes such as these, the recipe yields enough to store some away in the freezer for easy re-heatable lunches on days such as this!

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Pumpkin and carrot soup
Course Soup
Keyword soup
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Soup
Keyword soup
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and stir until starting to soften.
  2. Add the pumpkin, carrots and turmeric, stirring to coat in the spice mixture. Add the stock and 500ml water, and bring to the boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Puree the soup using a stick blender until smooth. Divide among bowls, and top with a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkle of pepitas and parsley.
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