Father’s Day 2017

Father’s Day is becoming quite the event as our girls grow. Homemade presents are in abundance (thanks to School and Daycare), and the girls seem to be at that perfect age and have a wonderful time spoiling their Dad on his special day.

After a relaxing morning filled with presents and cuddles, our annual Father’s Day tradition continued with a family lunch. And, as is the case each year, we selected an international theme for the meal.

This year – it was all things Greek! Starring freshly picked lemons and rosemary from our garden to give the table a Mediterranean feel.

We actually opted for a late lunch (linner), as it works well with the girls’ nap times and means that they can join us for the meal. Although as is the case each year, linner soon turns into dinner, as we chat and eat our way through the afternoon and into the evening.

On the menu this year?

Spinach and feta pinwheels to start – that I made the day before and reheated just before serving. Washed down with a pre-lunch cocktail – of course – a Santorini Sunrise.

Made with vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine.

For the main course – we served chicken souvlaki skewers, keftedes, roasted lemon potatoes, a burghul salad and a green salad. With homemade tzatziki and a fig and olive relish on the side, along with some flatbread.

And for dessert? This rather impressive-looking baklava cheesecake (recipe here).

A lovely baked vanilla cheesecake, with a honey / nut crumble and enclosed in filo pastry. Served with a honey cinnamon syrup. YUM!

And so another Father’s Day celebration came to an end, with full bellies and lots of laughs.

Adding another country to our list of Father’s Day lunch destinations too!

2013 – China

2014 – Turkey

2015 – Mexico

2016 – Italy

 

School Lunchbox Ideas – The Kindergarten Version

When Miss C started school this year, so did the school lunch box requirements.  Her previous day-care supplied meals, and pre-school only required limited packed food, but starting kindergarten meant that she had to take a full packed lunch everyday. Actually –  it is more like morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea – with pretty strict school requirements on what can and cannot be sent. Anything with nuts is banned, (although I think that is pretty usual these days), pre-packaged food should be avoided and there must be a piece of fresh fruit for the appropriately named ‘fruit break’ in the morning.*

Needless to say I am slowly but surely figuring our what works, and what doesn’t, and am always on the lookout for ideas to keep her lunchbox selections varied. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of days when a vegemite sandwich and whatever fruit I can find lurking in the bottom of the fridge make an appearance, but for the most part I’m lucky that Miss C will generally eat most of what I pack – whatever that might be.

For example, here are Miss C’s lunches from last week:

Day 1: Apple for morning tea, ham and cheese sandwich, cucumber, carrots and sultanas for lunch, and some homemade muesli bars for afternoon tea.

Day 2: Grapes for morning tea, rice crackers with jam, berries and lamington balls for lunch, banana for afternoon tea.

Day 3:  Sliced oranges for morning tea, pasta (leftover from dinner the night before), grapes, dried apricots and a few pretzels for lunch, popcorn for afternoon tea.

Day 4: Banana for morning tea, ham, cheese and lettuce roll ups, cucumber, homemade muesli bar and blueberries for lunch, cheese and crackers for afternoon tea.

Day 5:  Sliced apple for morning tea, a “monster” cheese sandwich, carrots, cucumber and lamington balls for lunch, and popcorn for afternoon tea.

So there you have it – a week of school lunches!

So what generally works for us?

  • Fresh fruit – generally apples, grapes, pears, bananas, oranges, mandarins, berries, watermelon and stone fruit (when in season).
  • Vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers (cherry tomatoes will be sent home uneaten)
  • Plain popcorn, dried fruit, pretzels, muesli bars, home-baked goods for snacks
  • Leftover pasta
  • Cheese and crackers and homemade biscuits

What I try to send but comes back uneaten (accompanied with a look of disgust from Miss C)?

  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Snowpeas
  • Dips

(ps. While I’m all for healthy foods for all, I must say, the ‘rules’ and ‘restrictions’ were quite confronting when we first started packing lunches**, particularly as we are a household that tries to practice the ‘everything in moderation’ mantra. I can only imagine what would be said if I sent Miss C with the sort of lunch that I took to school as a kid. For I suspect that a squashed vegemite sandwich (flattened by the apple that was put in the same brown paper bag), an OJ prima and a mini bag of crisps would probably not cut it.  And let’s not even mention the sneaky Big M and chocolate jam donut from the canteen….)

* I had the ‘audacity’ to send tinned fruit for morning tea a while back – and received a ‘friendly reminder’ of this fact. Yes the school lunch mafia is reaI, people!

** ie. the tinned fruit school lunch mafia….

What about you? Got any lunchbox tips?

Father’s Day 2016

As has become tradition, we celebrated Father’s Day this year with an internationally themed lunch with Mr BBB’s family. You might recall that we’ve previously done Turkish, Mexican and Chinese themes, but this year it was all about…

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Italy!

A great excuse to fill the table with copious amounts of food. Not that I generally need an excuse though….

Again, like other years, it was more of a late lunch (or linner?), which soon turned into dinner as we ate, drank and chatted our way into the evening.

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The Food
IMG_9625 We started with a big antipasto platter, with lots of favourite items picked up from the markets. Truffle salami, goats cheese, prosciutto, artichokes and chilli olives, just to name a few.

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For main – we also had quite a few dishes on offer.  Veal involtini and baked gnocchi with pancetta and sage were the main stars, with a leafy salad, eggplant caponata, caprese salad and a garlic sourdough served alongside.

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All together now!

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And for dessert – well I couldn’t pick just one. So a selection of Italian desserts it was!

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Cranberry and pistachio nougat, almond biscotti, cannoli (I bought the shells but made two fillings – a vanilla ricotta and a lemon ricotta).

IMG_9661And finally – mini tiramisu cups – for what Italian-themed meal would  be complete without the iconic tiramisu!

To drink

We started with an Italian-inspired cocktail, made with Campari, Cointreau, orange juice and lemonade. Slightly bitter, but very refreshing. IMG_9695

While during the meal, we had Italian beer and this lovely Chianti on offer.
IMG_9637 Before too long, the sun started to set, and it was time to bid farewell to the family.  I don’t know about them, but I’m pretty sure I had to let out my belt buckle a notch or two, which is always a sign of a good family gathering right? Not to mention the smiles all round from these two cheeky monkeys (or is that four!?)
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A very Happy Father’s Day indeed!

Spicy salmon salad

I’m working my way through the backlog of meals we have indulged in lately, but it would be remiss of me to overlook this little star – no matter how simple it was. IMG_5388 Literally taking only moments to throw together, this spicy salmon salad turned out to be quite a divine lunch indeed. IMG_5384 In the mix, hot smoked salmon, crunchy cos, sliced carrots and radishes. IMG_5385 Drizzled with Vietnamese dipping sauce, and an extra sprinkle of chilli seeds for an extra spice kick. A lovely little meal indeed. What about you? Are you a fan of salmon?

Wrap it – bean and salad style

Tonight Mr BBB and I are heading out with some friends for dinner. Actually, when I look at our calendar for February, I can’t help but notice that we seem to be filling it with quite a few dinners and catch-ups with various friends. Making the most of “couple time” before baby BBB arrives perhaps? So let me share with you what one of my favourite lunches has been recently (aka. my attempt to stop buying lunch at work so often). IMG_4481 Bean and salad GF wraps. Made all the more tasty by homemade bean spread. IMG_4470 Cannellini beans, parsley, tahini, lemon juice, almonds and salt. IMG_4471 Processed until smooth and voila. IMG_4472 A tasty healthy bean spread (or dip….) I have been using this spread as a base for my lunch wraps. IMG_4473 Coupled with avocado… IMG_4475 Salad… IMG_4476 More salad and cheese… IMG_4479 Wrapped and rolled… and ready to pack to take to work! IMG_4484 The bean spread – with the creamy tahini, fresh herbs and hint of citrus, adds quite a bit of flavour to these wraps. IMG_4480 Not to mention packing lunch itself helped out my wallet …. IMG_4482 Gotta love a colourful pretty lunch! What about you? Do you take your lunch to work? I find myself buying lunch most work days recently, although I always enjoy a homemade lunch when I remember to bring it.

Caprese salad and chocolate spelt brownies

IMG_2625 Oh god today was a crazy one. One of those work days where I was watching the clock – not bemoaning how slow it was ticking over, but stressing at how fast it was ticking over. Needless to say, I made it out the other side relatively unscathed. I think. So after a long day in the office, and then a meeting with a landscaper (if you saw our current ‘garden’, or lack thereof, you would know this is a very good thing),  I am pretty confident I have set myself up for a good nights sleep. But now, where did I leave off??? Ahh that’s right…. a recap of our long Italian lunch extravaganza! While the homemade spinach and ricotta cannelloni were certainly a star feature of our recent long lunch, the salads we served alongside also contributed to the Italian feel. IMG_2652 I chose two salads, a caprese salad as well as a mixed greens salad – jazzed up a little with mushrooms, pine  nuts and some roasted capsicum/sundried tomatoes (extras I had leftover after making the homemade tomato sauce) IMG_2646 My personal favourite, however,  was definitely the caprese salad, which is oh so simple but oh so delicious. IMG_2651 And is certainly a salad that doesn’t need to be complicated when its ingredients are so fresh and flavoursome. Just petite tomatoes, mozzarella and basil…. IMG_2654 Drizzled with balsamic vinegar. IMG_2659 And we had ourselves a salad that represented the colours of the Italian Flag! But no long lunch would be complete without a little sweet treat to finish. Chocolate brownies to be precise. Chocolate spelt brownies to be very precise. While not Italian in any sense of the imagination, I must have had a lingering craving for chocolate brownies (leftover from here perhaps?), for when I came across a recipe for brownies in my new favourite baking book…. IMG_2108 Well I was sold. I adapted the recipe, to use ingredients I had on hand. I also opted to bake the brownies in a slice pan (rather than in mini muffin tins as suggested by the book). IMG_2591 And the result? IMG_2625 A rich brownie, that that had a slightly crunchy exterior, and a decadent fudge centre. IMG_2629 Just how any good brownie should be really. IMG_2632 I was really pleased with how these brownies turned out, and I think I have now found my ‘go to’ recipe for future brownie baking occasions!  IMG_2636 My only sadness is that we are all out, as after the day I have had today, a brownie or three would have been a nice end lol. Chocolate spelt brownies (adapted from Babycakes recipe – published here)

  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup amaranth flour
  • 2 tbs arrowroot/tapioca
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 180C /160C fan forced. Grease and line a slice pan with baking paper.
  2. Combine dry ingredients. Add the oil, applesauce, vanilla extract and hot water, and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  3. Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for 40-45  minutes, rotating the pan half way through. When done, the brownies will spring back when lightly touched in the centre.
  4. Remove from oven, and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack. Slice and serve.

What about you? Are you a fan of brownies? Or blondies?

Long Italian lunch – Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

Remember when I mentioned that we indulged in a long Italian lunch last Saturday while watching Australia take on Italy in the Rugby World Cup? IMG_2656    Oh and remember when I promised you some recipes??? I sure do! And I haven’t forgotten. So let me begin shall I? Being a lunch ‘party’, I wanted to keep the dishes fairly light, something that Italian food is often not renowned for. So, I decided to steer clear of the usual lasagne or pasta route, and try something new. Cannelloni to be exact. And seeing as I really love ricotta, but ‘the books’ say that I should avoid it during pregnancy unless it is cooked / heated…. IMG_2601 I decided that spinach and ricotta cannelloni would be a fun lunch option. Coming together in 4 fairly straightforward parts. Part 1 – the noodles I am in no way qualified/inclined/talented enough to make my own pasta sheets, so I picked up this box of gluten free cannelloni tubes last week. IMG_2618IMG_2619 I have, however, had mixed success when it comes to dried GF pasta (particular when baking it – ugh crunchy lasagne anyone?!), so I decided to also have a safe option for my non-allergy family members and purchased some fresh lasagne sheets from the markets also… IMG_2612 (ps. I thought that purchasing the fresh sheets at the market would be cheaper than at the supermarket. They weren’t. Woolworths stock something similar for almost half the price. Food budget fail?! Although small business win perhaps?) Part 2 – the filling IMG_2600 With the noodles sorted, it was time to think about the filling. I found 3 big bunches of spinach on sale at the market, and after removing the leaves, washing them, blanching them in boiling water and then squeezing out as much water as I could, the spinach was ready to go! IMG_2606 Combined with ricotta, parmesan, pan fried mushrooms, basil and oregano, seasoned to taste… IMG_2609 And our cannelloni filling was complete! Part 3 – the sauce IMG_2582        I had originally planned to use jarred passata, but decided to jazz up some peeled tinned tomatoes instead. IMG_2585 So into a pot went the tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, roasted capsicum and sundried tomatoes, IMG_2587 Simmered for half an hour, then pureed until smooth. IMG_2593 The result? IMG_2595 A rich, vibrant and flavoursome tomato sauce, which makes me wonder why I have never done this before! IMG_2594 Sauce complete! Stage 4 – the construction With the noodles, filling and sauce all ready to go, it was time to put this lunch together. Starting with a layer of the tomato sauce in the bottom of two baking dishes (one for the GF pasta, and one for the ‘regular’ pasta). IMG_2611 I  stuffed the gluten free shells with the ricotta mixture first, to avoid any chances of contamination by their wheat-filled counterparts. This was rather messy work, but after a little effort, I had myself a baking dish filled with the GF cannelloni. IMG_2620 Laid side by side, and finished with another layer of the tomato sauce, and a sprinkle of grated mozzarella. IMG_2624 Covered with foil and into the oven for 45 minutes, with an extra 5 minutes uncovered to allow the top to brown slightly. Then,  it was on to the ‘regular’ cannelloni. As I was using fresh lasagne sheets, and not dried sheets or tubes, I spooned about 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture along one of the short edges of the sheet, IMG_2614 Then rolled the sheet up around the filling to form a tube. IMG_2615 Placed seam side down in the other baking dish… IMG_2617 and repeated until we were out of both the lasagne sheets and the ricotta mixture. IMG_2616 Again, finished with the remainder of the tomato sauce, IMG_2622 And a sprinkle of mozzarella. IMG_2623 As this version used fresh lasagne sheets, and not dried pasta, I baked the dish for 30 minutes only, removing the foil for the last 5 minutes of cooking also. And the result? One big baking dish of ooozey cannelloni, that would keep even the biggest cheese lover happy! IMG_2660 And, while I can’t personally attest for the taste of the wheat version, I am calling it a success given that everyone went back for seconds 😉 IMG_2661 And, as for the gluten free version, I was pleasantly surprised that the noodles had softened, yet retained their shape, making them a decent GF pasta substitute. IMG_2662 So what are my post cannelloni thoughts?? While there was certainly a bit of effort involved in making the dish, it could put together in advance, making it a perfect ‘heat and eat’ option once my guests had arrived. And, when combined with a couple salads or side dishes, we had ourselves a relatively simple yet tasty meal for all appetites. Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni (makes 14+)

  • 14 fresh rectangle lasagne sheets (or equivalent GF cannelloni tubes)
  • 2 cups homemade tomato sauce (*see recipe below)
  • 800g ricotta
  • 2-3 bunches spinach, leaves removed, blanched and shredded
  • 6 button mushrooms, diced and sautéed for a couple minutes
  • 60g grated parmesan
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbs fresh basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup grated mozzarella (or more / less depending on what you prefer)
  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Pour 1 cup of the tomato sauce into a large baking dish and spread to cover.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, mushrooms, parmesan, oregano and basil until well combined. Season to taste.
  4. Working with one lasagne sheet at a time, spoon approximately 1/3 of the ricotta mixture along the short edge of the sheet, and roll to enclose. Place the roll, seam side down in the prepared baking dish. If you are using GF cannelloni shells, as best you can, spoon or pipe the ricotta mixture into the tubes.
  5. Repeat with the remaining lasagne sheets, until you have a full tray of cannelloni.
  6. Spread the remaining tomato sauce over the top of the cannelloni, and sprinkle with grated mozzarella.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes if using fresh lasagne sheets, or 45-50 minutes if using dried shells.
  8. Remove foil for the last 5 minutes of cooking, to allow the cheese to become golden brown and bubbly.

Homemade tomato sauce (makes 3 cups)

  • 800g peeled tomatoes (tinned is ok)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 5 sundried tomatoes, sliced
  • 1small roasted capsicum, sliced
  1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes or until soft.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, and use a stick blender to puree until smooth.

But cannelloni aside, stay tuned for part 2 of our long Italian lunch……there are salads and brownies involved!! What about you? Ever made your own cannelloni? What is your favourite cannelloni filling?

A long Italian lunch…

IMG_2656 I can’t believe that it is Sunday night already. It feels like this weekend disappeared in the blink of an eye, and I would certainly enjoy having another day off before I head back to work. But sadly, no such luck. We had taken a trip to the markets yesterday, in order to stock up on ingredients such as lasagne sheets, ricotta, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. For with Australia playing Italy in the Rugby World Cup today, and hosting our family for lunch and rugby watching, a long Italian-inspired lunch seemed to be a rather appropriate lunch idea. IMG_2585 So, on the menu…. IMG_2658 Gluten-free spinach and ricotta cannelloni… IMG_2650       Regular spinach and ricotta cannelloni… IMG_2660 Caprese salad… IMG_2652 IMG_2653 Mixed greens, with mushrooms, roasted capsicum and pine nuts. IMG_2647 All together now… IMG_2661 And for dessert…. IMG_2634 Rich chocolate wheat-free brownies! Recipes for all the above to follow in the coming days 🙂 _____ Our bellies full after a long Italian lunch (where the only thing missing (for me) was a nice glass of red wine lol) we sat down to watch the Australia v Italy World Cup game. And, happily for us, we cheered the Wallabies on to victory! First game for Australia…. won! And impressively 🙂 Feeling inspired after the convincing win, I managed to overcome my IT issues and finish my remaining ‘hidden’ baby diary entries. So I am now up to date – well aside from this week’s entry lol! You can find links to Weeks 8 to 14 below, or a complete list under the “Baby” tab.

But now, its time for me to hit publish and reheat some GF cannelloni for dinner!!