Poached chicken and coleslaw salad

I’ve been back at work for around 6 weeks now, working 3 days per week in the office. Slowly but surely we are working out what is to be the new ‘normal’ – with the 3 days I’m in the office being referred to by the little members in our house as the “rush days”.

For these particular days, bags are packed and clothes are set out the night before, and I spend time preparing as much as I can for lunches over the weekend. I’m generally up at 4.30am to fit in a walk before the household wakes, then it is home to shower, make breakfast, feed the baby, throw smoothies at the biggest kids,   wrangle everyone into clothes and into the car – so that we can leave the house by 7.30am to get to the various daycare / school drop offs and (finally) head into work.

Yes “rush” would be an understatement.

So I’m sure that you can understand that by the third rush day everyone’s energy levels are starting to wane and tempers are running a little high. The kids (and I!) start to get a bit more cranky, and getting out of the house takes a little more gentle persuasion than on the first rush day.

Constant throughout this new ‘normal’, however, is our preference for easy and speedy midweek meals. Actually, not just a preference – a must. Something healthy and that is full of flavour, to keep our batteries recharged.

Take this poached chicken and coleslaw salad for instance. Pulled together with relative ease in no time at all.

I poached chicken breasts in chicken stock, with some peppercorns, ginger and garlic. Shredded then added to a coleslaw salad, made with mesculin, shredded purple cabbage, carrots, spring onions and a little corn I had leftover in the fridge. Dressed simply with sesame oil, soy and lemon juice, and finished with sliced red chilli and a good amount of coriander.

Easy, fuss-free and healthy. Not to mention SPEEDY – giving us more time to prepare for the rush day ahead.

Lime and coriander coleslaw

For our recent Mexican lunch, we served mango margaritas and pulled pork that had cooked in the slow cooker for over 8 hours. These were dished up with a variety of sides – corn tortillas, guacamole, chorizo rice, grated cheese, tomatoes, sour cream and, for a little crunch, coleslaw.

But not just any coleslaw, a lime and coriander coleslaw. Where there was no cheap mayonnaise in sight – rather the salad was packed with fresh coriander and dressed with a combination of lime juice, olive oil, garlic and honey.  Resulting a coleslaw that was much lighter than its mayonnaise-laden counterpart, and with lovely fresh flavours that worked beautifully with the spicy pulled pork tortillas.

Definitely a ‘make again’ dish for our next Mexican feast!

Print Recipe
Lime and Coriander Coleslaw
Course Salad, Side dish
Cuisine Salad
Servings
people as a side dish
Ingredients
Course Salad, Side dish
Cuisine Salad
Servings
people as a side dish
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place all the salad ingredients in a bowl, and toss to combine.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the olive oil, lime zest and juice, honey and garlic. Season.
  3. Pour over the salad and toss until well combined.
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Cocktail Hour: Mango Margarita

We are really fortunate to have made some great friends in our street. Two couples who have kids of a similar age – living only a few houses away.  Despite all being rather busy with work, and life, we’ve been making a point of catching up when we can. For playdates here and there, or for family-friendly lunches on the weekend when the kids can run amok while the adults catch up on the happenings of late.

This last weekend, we did just that. It was our turn to host, and while I initially thought of putting on a BBQ lunch, I ended up going with a Mexican theme instead. Specifically – pulled pork made in the slow cooker – with tortillas, coleslaw, rice and other trimmings on the side. In fact, it ended up being a rather perfect cosy lunch as temperatures had dropped and the rain fell heavily outside.

And what better way to accompany a Mexican lunch, than with some mango margaritas!

Made with tequila, Cointreau, frozen mango, orange and lime juices – blended to icy perfection.

Served in a lime and salt rimmed glass, and well they were a great start to a wonderful afternoon with friends.

The added bonus being that it was only a short walk home for our guests!

 

Print Recipe
Mango Margarita
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.
  2. Serve in glasses rimmed with lime and salt.
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A Fairy Garden 3rd Birthday Party

This year it was Josie’s turn to have a ‘big’ birthday party. And, it must be something about turning 3, because just like her big sister had done when she turned 3, J requested a fairy party.

But we went a little differently with our theming. More garden-like, and perhaps a little simpler, although a lot of fun was still had by all!

We collected lots of greenery and wooden platters, and got to work creating a dessert table laden will all sort of treats. Gorgeous fresh flowers completed the garden feel, and added some beautiful pops of colour.

The food

I was struck down with some sort of flu bug the days before the party, so I’m glad that most of the preparations had been done in advance. I didn’t take a huge number of photos of the food on the day – which is proof in itself that I must have been feeling a little off.

We had chocolate mousse (with the cutest little meringue mushrooms), jelly, donuts, meringues, biscuits, fairy dust popcorn, butterfly sandwiches, lemon slice, raspberry biscuits and ‘enchanted’ beans. Along with sandwiches for the adults, and a few batches of homemade sausage rolls. And, as is generally the case, although I thought I was over-catering – we didn’t have much left at the end!

The cake

Little J is not a fan of cake, but she is a fan of the ritual that comes with a birthday cake! In fact, whenever we would mention her upcoming party she would excitedly exclaim “I get to blow out some candles!”.

The cake itself was rather simple. A chocolate cake covered in vanilla buttercream and adorned with fresh pink roses. Finished with a cake topper that I ordered from Etsy – and voila!

And yes, Little J loved having everyone sing to her and blowing out her candles!

Party favours

In keeping with the fairy garden theme, we created little fairy garden kit favours so the guests could perhaps create their own garden at home. We filled terracotta pots with flower seeds, decorative pebbles, pixie dust, bubbles and a little fairy or mushroom figurine – along with some lollies for a sugar hit.

The entertainment

We had around 20 kids at the party, ranging from 7 months to 9 years, so entertainment was always going to be a bit tricky. But I booked a fairy entertainer from here – and was blown away with just how wonderful she was! From the moment she walked in, she had all the kids captivated with songs, games and dancing. Add some face painting into the mix,  and the kids all seemed to have a ball!

The girls were a great help in setting up for the party – with Miss C, in particular, relishing in her big sister role and being my helper for the day. She set out the fairy wings and elf hats, and arranged and re-arranged the party tables until they were just how she wanted them.  Yes it seems we have another little party planner in the house!

Then before too long, it was time to say goodbye to our nearest and dearest – and settle in with our sugar highs.  The birthday girl didn’t stop all day – and loved being the centre of attention!

While I’m left wondering just how it is that she is THREE already!

A big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our ever-cheeky, lovable goofball.  You never fail to make us smile – every single day x

Easy savoury scolls

And just like that, the Summer holidays have come to a close. School uniforms have been ironed, school and day-care bags have been cleaned, and school lunches are again, inevitably, on my mind.

I returned to work part-time last week too, which means that organising lunches and meals in advance is even more of a necessity. I’ve decided to make Sundays my  preparation day – with the hope that an hour or so of food preparation on Sunday will make things a lot easier during the rushed weekday mornings.

Sandwiches are made and frozen, fruit and vegetables are sliced, eggs are boiled and, on this particular occasion, a big batch of savoury scrolls was baked.

These were made even easier by using ready-made puff pastry. For all I had to do was top the sheets of pastry (I went with cheesy vegemite and “‘pizza”), roll them, slice and bake.

And while the kids demolished quite a few scrolls straight from the oven, the others were packaged up and placed in the freezer for a quick ‘grab and go’ addition to the lunchbox. My kids don’t mind eating the scrolls cold once thawed, however you can easily re-heat them for 10 minutes or so in the oven if you are wanting a nice after-school treat. 

And they made a pretty moreish afternoon snack for the grownups too!

 

Print Recipe
Easy savoury scrolls
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
scrolls
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
scrolls
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 175C (fan forced) and line 2 trays with baking paper.
  2. Place two pastry sheets on a clean work surface. Spread with vegemite and top with half of the cheese. Roll up to enclose filling - brushing the edge with a little of the beaten egg to seal.
  3. Place the other two pasty sheets on a clean work surface. Spread with the tomato paste, and top with ham and the remaining cheese. Roll up to enclose filling - brushing the edge with a little of the beaten egg to seal.
  4. Slice each roll into 8 pieces. Place the pieces, cut side up, on the lined baking trays. Brush the tops with a little beaten egg at this stage if you'd like the scrolls to be even more golden brown).
  5. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown. Allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack.
  6. Serve warm or cool.
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Radish, Feta and Grain Salad

You might think that all we have eaten lately is treats. Sure we have had our fair share of slices, sweet treats and cocktails, but I can assure you that we have been balancing out the indulgence with lots of tasty summer salads too. Or attempting to, at least.

This pretty little salad was inspired by one I came across in a recent Taste magazine edition – you can find the recipe online here.  Immediately I was drawn to its vibrant colours, and the fact it included a current love of mine (radishes) was also a big draw card.

I slow cooked the lentils and pearl barley as directed, with the bonus of lots of leftovers to use in lunches and dinners the following days. I swapped rocket for baby spinach, for that was what I had on hand, and used feta in place of goats cheese. The result being a tasty salad, that was packed with flavour and crunch.

On this particular occasion we served the salad as a side dish. Although I think it would have made a tasty meat-free meal on its own too – with the grains offering lots of substance.

And did I mention how pretty it was??

Tim Tam Slice

I wanted to try a new slice creation when asked to ‘bring a plate’ to a friend’s BBQ the other week. Normally I take my rocky road, or lemon slice, but with a packet of Tim Tams sitting in the cupboard – well I had my inspiration to try something new.

On the subject of Tim Tams – they really are quite iconically Australian, aren’t they. So much so that when we had Japanese exchange students stay with us when I was younger, they took back packets of Tim Tams by the suitcase-load.  They weren’t all that fussed about Vegemite, but they couldn’t get enough when it came to Tim Tams!

But I digress.

This ‘no bake’ Tim Tam slice was made simply with biscuits, Tim Tams (of course), condensed milk, butter, coconut and cocoa powder.

Combined, pressed into a pan, then topped with white chocolate and more biscuit pieces. Then it was into the fridge to set – no baking required.

Then, after a few hours, the slice was ready to slice and serve.

I’m pleased to report that the slice had all the hallmarks of their biscuit inspiration. Full of chocolate and crunch.

A word of warning though….you may find it difficult to stop at just once piece…

Print Recipe
Tim Tam Slice
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 20 minutes + cooling time
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 20 minutes + cooling time
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Line a slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the sweetened condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder in a small saucepan, and heat over a low heat - stirring until the butter has melted and the mixture is combined. Remove from the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the Marie biscuits, half of the chopped Tim Tams and coconut in a large bowl. Add the butter mixture and stir until well combined. Press into the prepared slice tin.
  4. Melt the white chocolate, and pour over the slice. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped Tim Tams and place into the fridge for a few hours to set. Slice and serve.
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Cocktail Hour: Iced Tea G & T

If I was to pick a summer alcoholic drink, besides Pimms or champagne, it would almost certainly be a Gin & Tonic. For it partners beautifully with the warmer weather, offering a refreshing addition to a  summer afternoon BBQ or evening catch up with friends.

I’ve noticed that gin itself seems to be making a bit of a comeback too, with lots of smaller local distilleries entering the market and offering unique blends. Take  Four Pillars, for instance, who easily tempted me to order an early Christmas present when I came across their Australian Christmas Gin. I think it was their claim that it “smells like gin, tastes like Christmas” that had me intrigued.

So with a beautiful bottle in hand, the next question was what to make? Christmas Eve seemed to be the perfect time to create a cocktail – something refreshing yet flavoursome.

And so this Iced Tea G & T came to be!

 Brewed iced tea and lime cordial were infused with the gin overnight. Then finished with ice, lime wedges and tonic water when it was time to serve.

Oh my.  I love a regular G & T but this was taken to the next level! Full of flavour – rich and spicy – and definitely a cocktail I will be adding to my regular list.

Print Recipe
Iced Tea G & T
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine the chilled iced tea, lime cordial and gin in a bottle, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Place ice in 6 tumblers. Squeeze a couple lime wedges into each.
  3. Divide the chilled tea / gin mixture among the glasses., and top with tonic water.
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Christmas 2017

And just like that, another festive season has come and gone. But what a festive season it was!

We headed to Melbourne to spend Christmas with my family this year, but our celebrations started well before then. For knowing we would be away for Christmas Day, and having my niece back from Vietnam for a short while, we held a Canberra Christmas celebration with my in-laws in early December too.

The girls loved the festivity of the day, redecorating the tree (for the hundredth time) and ripping open presents. While we sat back having cuddles with the littlest member of the family, sipping cocktails, before tucking into a simple brunch of fruit and croissants.

A few weeks later, it was time to head down the Hume. Given it was likely to be a little cramped if we all stayed at my Mum’s two-bedroom unit, we decided to rent a holiday house nearby (= best decision ever!) . We made ourselves at home in our ‘home away from home’  almost immediately – with the big backyard, in particular, being a huge hit with the kids.

We hosted Christmas Eve at the holiday house, watching three rounds of Carols by Candlelight on the TV. The cousins were super excited to be reunited,  and didn’t stop playing and singing along to the carols the whole time. Meanwhile, we sipped on (more) cocktails, caught up on ‘life’ and snacked on a mezze platter. There were, of course, goodies left out for Santa and his reindeer too.

Up next…Christmas Day, which proved to be one of the most relaxing days I’ve had in a long time. Casual, fuss-free, and just perfect really.

Maggie and I headed out for an early walk before the household stirred, and returned home just as two excited girls emerged from their bedroom to discover the presents that Santa had left overnight – along with the mess the reindeers had made of their carrots. We then lazed around in our (matching haha) Christmas pyjamas for most of the morning while the girls tested out their new toys, before heading to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for the rest of the day.

This year we decided to do ‘Kris Kringle’ among the adults again – which took a lot of stress (and cost!) out of buying pressies. The kids, on the other hand, we well and truly spoiled by their extended family – and loved every second of it.

The afternoon was then spent feasting with the family in the sunshine. All the Christmas trimmings were had – turkey, pork, ham, roasted vegetables and salad. Followed by a tropical pavlova, and washed down with champagne. We were so pleased to see that Melbourne had put on a beautiful day – sunny but not too hot – making it perfect weather for indulging in a hot lunch outside on the deck. Post-lunch naps were had by some (both young and not so young), after which the kids splashed under the sprinkler while the adults laughed their way through a few rounds of charades.  Then, as the sun started to set, we made our way back ‘home’, crashing into (sugar-induced) comas not long after.  And thus a truly wonderful festive season was had by all. Not only because we had the chance to spend time with our extended families, but also because we had a whole week away with just the five of us! The kids LOVED every second of having their Dad off work – and barely left his side the whole time. Needless to say we returned back to Canberra with lots of happy memories (oh and a few extra kilograms too).

Bring on 2018!