Savoury cheese and ham muffins

Why is it always the case that during the school week I have to (sometimes literally) drag the kids out of bed, yet on Sunday – when we can all sleep in – they are up at 5.30am and ready to start the day!?

Yes, as I lay in bed this morning, enjoying what I thought was going to be a little extra snooze time, the all-to-familiar call came through the monitor. Followed by a  little patter of feet down the hall. No amount of coaxing could get the girls back to bed, so that was it – our day officially started.

We played games, we ate breakfast (and second breakfast), we read stories, we more than likely annoyed the neighbours when we took the fun outside (sorry), and we even did a little baking.  And all before 9.00am.

On the menu? Savoury muffins – made with only 6 ingredients.

Flour, grated cheese, ham, milk, egg and olive oil. Kept very simple on this occasion as I plan to use them in the kids’ lunch boxes this week (and anything ‘green’ or ‘unusual’ is likely to be met with disdain at the moment).

While I measured the ingredients, the girls had fun stirring them and dividing them amongst the cases. Into the oven for 20 minutes, and we soon had ourselves a tasty morning tea.

I love the simplicity of this recipe – but it could easily be jazzed up for more adventurous palates. Some fresh herbs, sundried tomatoes or zucchini would be lovely, or even some olives if you had some on hand.

Oh and the littlest one, in particular,  wasted no time in sampling our efforts!

Print Recipe
Savoury cheese and ham muffins
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Keyword muffin
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Keyword muffin
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200C and line a muffin tray with paper cases.
  2. Place the sifted flour, 3/4 of the cheese and the ham in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and olive oil.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined. Spoon into the prepared cases and top with the remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
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ANZAC mango cheesecake

In what can only be described as a momentary lapse in judgment, I decided to do our weekly grocery shop with three kids in tow today. You see, I normally do my weekly shop online. Items are ordered from the comfort of home, they arrive the following day and are delivered literally to my kitchen bench. How easy it that!?

I’m not really sure why I decided to ignore my weekly ritual today.  I did tell myself that it might be nice to do a little aisle wander, see what was on special and what new items had arrived on the shelves. How naïve was I!

For what actually ensued was 3 bored kids who argued and moaned the moment we selected a trolley,  and were well and truly over the whole experience before we even got through aisle 1. It also meant that way too many treats snuck their way into the trolley – and the bill at the end was much more than I would ordinarily spend.

One saving grace was the lovely mangoes we picked up – at a price indicative that the warmer months are coming. And they quickly reminded me of this lovely little cheesecake we made a while back for our Father’s Day linner.

With ANZAC biscuits as the base, this no-bake cheesecake was jazzed up with a jelly layer and topped with fresh mango and passionfruit. I followed this recipe , substituting the lime jelly for mango jelly, and foregoing the mint leaves (only because I didn’t have any on hand).

The result was a beautifully tropical dessert that was pretty easy to pull together – and that could be made a day in advance.

But yes, in case there is any doubt, I will be going back to my regular online grocery order from next week…

Easy Pineapple and Ginger Salsa

So now that Spring has, at least officially, “sprung” – I am already dreaming of all the gatherings that will soon appear on our calendar. Morning lake walks and bike rides, followed by milkshakes and ice-cream treats. Lunches with friends, while the kids play on the trampoline and splash around the wading pool. Afternoon teas, that more often than not turn into impromptu dinners, as we chat and laugh our way into the evening.

Our BBQ is inevitably a star of the warmer months – allowing for dinners to be thrown together easily and with minimal fuss (not to mention avoiding a hot kitchen with the oven turned on).  But what BBQ dinner would be complete without a few tasty side dishes to serve alongside.  These too ought to be fuss-free and quick to prepare – for who wants to be trapped in the kitchen when all the fun is happening outside.

One of my favourite side dishes would have to be this easy pineapple and ginger salsa. I often serve it alongside grilled pork, but it would easily work with chicken or fish too.

Packed with fresh pineapple and herbs, balanced with lime juice and given a hit of heat with some red chilli – it really is a  versatile addition to the dinner table.  The added bonus being that you can make it in advance before guests arrive – leaving more time for fun!

 


Print Recipe
Easy Pineapple and Ginger Salsa
Course Side dish
Servings
people as a side dish
Ingredients
Course Side dish
Servings
people as a side dish
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste.
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Tropical Rice Salad

As luck would have it, we have been blessed with some gorgeous Spring weather this week. I’m ignoring the fact that the forecast suggests the temperature is set to dip again this weekend though, instead focusing on the hope that the warmer weather will arrive for good soon.

And in celebration of Spring, let me share with you a tasty salad that featured at our recent Father’s Day linner. On that occasion we served the salad as a side dish, but I think it would easily make for a yummy lunch on its own too.

Packed with wombok, brown rice, tomatoes, pineapple and fresh herbs, and jazzed up with toasted coconut and sweet chilli cashews, this salad sure packed a punch.

I used this recipe as a base – swapping in brown rice instead of basmati – and it was super easy to throw together. I loved the crunch of the wombok and cashews, and the sweetness of the pineapple definitely gave the salad a tropical feel. Definitely a salad that will be making further appearances as we head into the warmer months!

Father’s Day 2018

I don’t know what it is about Father’s Day – but we always seem to be blessed with sunny skies and (almost) Spring-like weather. And, true to form, yesterday was filled with sunshine and a hint of warmth in the air. Which was definitely a welcomed change  from the rainy and cold days we have had of late.

Perfect for breakfast in bed, a lazy morning, and homemade gifts – as we celebrated all things “Dad”.

Followed by a themed linner with all the family – and including a very special guest – our gorgeous new grand niece!  Inspired by the placemats we picked up when we were in Fiji, we went with a “tropical Island” theme this year. The seemingly never-ending Winter may have also had something to do with the choice of theme.

We started the afternoon with cocktails and a cheese platter. Followed by spicy shredded chicken (thankyou slow cooker!), brioche buns, a pineapple salsa, rice salad and rainbow slaw.

And what celebration would be complete without dessert? On this occasion it was a mango cheesecake with ANZAC biscuit crust, topped with sliced mango and passionfruit.

Another wonderful day of the “Dads” (with the bonus of spending time with the newest addition to the extended family!).

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

2012

20132015
2016
2017
2018

Growing up way too fast, that’s for sure!

Slow Cooker Pea and Ham Soup

There are some dishes that, despite their humble appearance and ease to make, are really something special.

The ones that make your belly full, and heart warm, and undoubtedly earn a star place on the regular meal plan.

Well, friends, I think I’ve found another of these dishes – as this Pea and Ham soup was rather delicious indeed. It is one of those dishes that I’ve always enjoyed eating, but never actually made, and I had to laugh at my ignorance when I realised that it contains split peas, not green peas!

With simple ingredients, and created easily in the slow cooker, the result was a hearty dinner soup (with lots of leftovers for lunch and for the freezer too). We served ours topped with natural yoghurt, shredded ham from the hock and a sprinkle of parsley. Even the kids loved it – particularly Miss Maggie – who ate bowl after bowl with gusto!

Inspired by this recipe.

Print Recipe
Slow Cooker Pea and Ham Soup
Course Soup
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Soup
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a small frypan over a medium heat. Add the onions, spices and garlic and cook for a few minutes - until the onion softens.
  2. Transfer the onion mixture to a slow cooker. Add the ham hock, parsnips, apples, split peas and 8 cups of water. Stir well, cover, and cook on medium for 8 hours.
  3. Remove the ham hock and shred the meat (discard the bone and fat). Blend the soup using a stick blende until smooth. Stir through the lemon zest and juice, and season to taste.
  4. Divide the soup among serving bowls, and top with some of the shredded meat, natural yoghurt and parsley.
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Fiji Holiday 2018

When we travelled to Fiji two years ago, I knew in my heart that we would be back.  The climate, the people – it really did feel like a home away from home.  And we’ve returned from our latest trip to Fiji feeling exactly the same. We again fled the Canberra chill and headed to the warmth for a family holiday and are still on a post-holiday high.

We did things a little differently this time – having learned a few lessons from our last trip. And if I’m honest, we will probably do a few things differently next time too. Yes – I am 100% sure that we will return to Fiji again maybe the year after next.

This time we stayed at the Hilton Beach Resort – chosen because (1) it was closer to Nadi than the Coral Coast and (2) because we could book a 2-bedroom villa to fit our (now) larger family. Located on Denarau  – a man-made island filled with resorts and fancy houses – it had everything we needed close by (although it did lack a little of the authenticity and charm of the Coral Coast).

Highlights

Our week was filled with fun and adventure, but also a lot of downtime too. I’d generally take an early walk along the beach and down the tree-lined streets. We’d then enjoy a buffet breakfast, before heading to the pools where the girls had a great time splashing around. Soon it would be lunch time (and nap time for some), then the older girls wold inevitably ask to spend some time at Kids Club – which had a variety of activities on offer each day.


We also booked a Nanny for Maggie for a couple hours each day, and we’d have some time to go for a walk, grab a cocktail, head to the driving range or a combination of all three. Oh and the beachside massage was rather delightful!

I catered most dinners, having found a supermarket nearby. This worked wonderfully for the kids, and saved us a fair bit of money given the restaurant was quite pricey. We did, however, head to a Fijian themed dinner set up on the beach one night that was really special, and we also went out to dinner at Port Denarau (sans kids!) for a seafood feast another night.

A big highlight for us all was a village tour we booked. We travelled down to the Coral Coast, then took a jet boat (!) to a local village for the morning. We were welcomed warmly by the villagers, and after participating in a kava ceremony, were entertained with music and dancing. A scrumptious lunch was provided, and we felt so very lucky to share such a special day while learning about the history of the area and various local traditions. The ladies of the village loved having lots of Maggie cuddles (and she loved the attention!). I had to laugh though, as I had thought I’d booked a river cruise – not a jet boat adventure. The girls took it all in their stride – and Maggie even slept the entire speedy ride home – 360 degree turns and all!

Accommodation

The Hilton was a lovely resort – with a great kids program. As I mentioned, we booked a 2 bedroom villa which had plenty of room. The kids all bunked in together, and slept wonderfully. Our room was spacious, as was the bathroom, and the villa had a deck overlooking the beach.

Although it was described as having a full kitchen, our villa only really had a kitchenette. There was one saucepan, one hot plate, no frypan, a microwave and a fridge. This meant that my plans to self cater were somewhat limited – but with a little creativity we managed to keep everyone’s tummies full. We picked up groceries from a local supermarket and freshly baked bread from a nearby bakery, which meant that lunches and snacks, in particular, were easily catered for. It also meant we saved a lot of money (a litre of milk was FJ$9 at the resort – or FJ$2 at the supermarket!!). The market in Nadi was also great for picking up seasonal produce.

The Resort itself was quite different to the Warrick – where we  stayed previously. It had great pools – of varying depths which was perfect for the kids. It didn’t offer the nightly entertainment that the Warrick did though (unless you booked into the theme dinner) so the girls definitely missed the evening ritual of lighting the torches and watching the dancing.




But, at the end of the day, it was a gorgeous resort – that was nice and accessible to the airport and a range of other amenities. Location wise – it was fantastic.

Before we knew it, it was time to repack our bags and make our way back to Australia. Feeling more relaxed, a little sun-kissed, and with a lot of new memories and friends having been made along the way.

Yes, Fiji, we will definitely be back.

Things we picked up along the way…

  • We bought gifts to take for the kids at the village (pencils, paper etc) when we went into Nadi one morning. Next time I will definitely bring these over from Australia along with some kids clothes. I think it would have also been nice to give something to the ladies of the village.
  • There is not a lot of baby food available – so if travelling with little ones still eating purees, I’d suggest bringing packets from home.
  • Our villa was on the second floor. Next time I’d ask for a ground floor villa as the girls loved playing on the grass outside and this would have made for easier access.
  • Definitely think about self-catering if you can (but check  what amenities are actually offered so you can plan accordingly!) It was great to have lots of snacks, fruit, yoghurt etc on hand – for a fraction of the cost in the resort.
  • We took a travel pram for Maggie, along with the Ergo, both of which came in really handy.

A teddy bear picnic 1st birthday party

And just like that, our littlest one is not so little. For a few weeks ago she turned ONE!

I am seriously shocked at just how quickly the first year went. It feels like only yesterday we were on our way to the hospital to meet Miss Maggie, and introduce her to her sisters. Yet here we are, one year later, and Maggie is simply thriving.

To celebrate, we decided on a Teddy Bear picnic themed party. Something that could be hosted indoors if need be (thanks to the ever-reliable Canberra winter weather), although we were pretty lucky that the sun was shining all day and it ended up being not too bad outside at all.

Family came from near and far to join in the celebrations, as did some of our friends. And the birthday girl loved the attention (and the cake!).

The theme

We brought the outdoors ‘indoors’ with the help of an awesome printed backdrop and some fake grass. Red gingham featured heavily, as did an abundance of teddy bears of course!

The food

I always worry that I am planning too much food – but there is rarely much leftover! On this occasion we served afternoon tea – homemade sausage rolls, teddy bear paw cookies, chocolate mousse, fruit cups, honey joys, gummi bears, `teddy bear trail mix` and teddy bear biscuits – of course.

The entertainment

Well no party would be complete without a little entertainment, and Maggie is fortunate enough to have an Uncle that is more than happy to help out! Yes our little picnic had its very own special guest – in the form of a big cuddly teddy bear! Followed by dancing and story-time with Dad (“We’re going on a Bear Hunt…” of course).

The cake

I ended up making two cakes for the occasion. The birthday cake was chocolate mud, covered with peanut butter icing. Topped with the most gorgeous topper created by the very talented Janelle!

And well being a first birthday, I couldn’t resist having a cake smash session too! Maggie wasted no time in demolishing (and eating) this little teddy bear cake.

And so another first birthday came to a close, and I am filled with nostalgia thinking on just how quickly time passes us all by.

Happy first birthday – beautiful Margaret.  The joy you bring our family is truly endless. Here’s hoping your second year is filled with lots of love, laughter and adventures!

xx

Lemon Meringue Pavlova Celebration Cake

I was walking through the shops with the family the other day, pacing ahead as I normally do. The kids were dawdling behind, as was my husband, all of whom are quite happy just meandering along.

But this is not all that unusual, for I do tend to operate at ‘hyper’ speed these days. My morning is spent running from one end of the house to the other, picking up clothes and toys, moving washing into the drier (then inevitably putting another load into the washer). Dishes are put away, lunch boxes are packed and school bags (often literally) thrown into the boot of the car. And that’s all before we leave at 7.30am.

And while this approach is mostly productive, it is tiring. It also means that I often start one task only to be distracted by another, as the seemingly never-ending ‘to do’ list swirls around my head.

So I am trying to find time to slow things down, when I can. My morning walk helps, even if it means rugging up and bracing the frigid temperatures outside in the dark.

Baking also helps. For it is pretty impossible to speed up – unless you want to end up with a bit of a kitchen disaster on your hands!

And this pretty little cake that I made a while ago certainly could not be rushed. It was my husband’s birthday – and knowing he loves both lemon cheesecake and pavlova – it felt like the perfect opportunity to create something new to mark the occasion.

I started by making a pavlova base – baked in a round cake tin until firm (but still a little marshmalloey) on the inside. Once cooled, this was topped with a layer of lemon cheesecake, through which I swirled lemon curd. Baked again – until set – then allowed to cool.

Then it was time to decorate. Fresh raspberries, blueberries and cream, finished with a white chocolate decoration and a couple macarons I came across at the local bakery.

Yes, this was certainly not a cake that could be rushed – and the various elements meant that it took the better part of an entire afternoon to create. But it was fun to design, and to create, and I must say slowing down for a few hours was rather lovely too.

Quinoa and Vegetable Soup

  Ok, Ok. I know this is my second soup post in a row.

But as Winter has well and truly arrived, we are all craving meals that will warm us from the inside out. So much so, that I find myself making a batch of homemade soup most weeks.  Perfect for lunch, and dinner – and generally with enough yield for us to tuck some away in the freezer for an easy meal at a later date too.

This particular soup turned out to be rather lovely indeed. Packed with vegetables, beans and quinoa, and flavoured with tomatoes and lots of fresh parsley – well it was full of nutrition and, most importantly, flavour!

Actually, I think I might make another batch today!

Print Recipe
Quinoa and Vegetable Soup
Course Soup
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Soup
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large pot, and sautee the onion, carrot, celery and garlic for 5 minutes - or until starting to soften.
  2. Add the vegetable stock and tomatoes, and stir to combine.
  3. Add the quinoa, and simmer gently for 15 minutes - stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the beans, and more water (if the soup is too thick). Season to taste.
  5. Divide among serving bowls and top with fresh parsley.
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