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!
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!
Heat oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and stir until starting to soften.
Add the pumpkin, carrots and turmeric, stirring to coat in the spice mixture. Add the stock and 500ml water, and bring to the boil.
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.
I can be little predicable when it comes to soup. Pumpkin is a family favourite, as is chicken or vegetable soup when there are sniffles in the household. Potato and leek is a regular go-to, as is tomato (with fond memories of childhood family lunches where the soup was mopped up with slices of freshly baked bread).
But a soup in a recent Woolworths (?) magazine caught my attention. Not only did it have one of my favourite ingredients (quinoa) it also included a packet of crunchy sprouts. Something I had never thought of including in a soup before!
The soup was flavoured with fennel and mustard seeds, along with garlic, ginger, turmeric and curry powder. Aside from the sprouts and quinoa, I also added zucchini, celery, carrot, tomatoes and capsicum. Served with a dollop of natural yoghurt and a sprinkle of coriander.
What a truly tasty and hearty meal this turned out to be! I loved the spiciness and the crunch of the sprouts, and we readily went back for seconds when our first bowls disappeared. A perfect little addition to our regular soup regime indeed.
Miss J is proving to be quite the fussy eater at the moment. She loves banana smoothies, but wont go anywhere near an actual banana. Apples and pears are eaten by the bucket load, but grapes and watermelon are nothing short of offensive. Pasta is a firm favourite, as are prawn dumplings (!), but getting her to try new things is generally difficult.
So when she came home from day-care boasting a new love for celery (!) and hummus – well that was a combination I could embrace with gusto!
Since then, I’ve been making a batch of regular ol’ hummus most weeks. Although, recently I thought I would be a little clever and sneak some veg in by adding roasted pumpkin.
Did it work? Not even close. She turned her nose up at the combination, preferring her usual hummus instead.
On the plus side, though, we now had ourselves a lovely recipe for an appetiser to contribute at a recent lunch with friends.
We topped the hummus with parsley, sesame seeds, chilli flakes and olive oil, and served it alongside toasted pita chips, cucumber and olives. Unlike Miss J, we loved the roasted pumpkin addition – and the chilli added a little extra zing!
But I guess it will be back to regular ol’ hummus for Miss J next week…
This year, Miss C asked for a Harry Potter themed party to celebrate her 7th birthday. She also asked to hold the party at a local games Arcade.
The choice of venue meant that we had limited options when it came to decorating, but that didn’t stop us from embracing the theme where we could. For what a great theme it was!
We set up the tables with Harry Potter plates and cups, and filled the table with chocolate crackles, jelly, fruit, juice and other party goodies. A Ferrero rocher golden snitch adjourned each plate, as well as the all-important birthday cake.
And with the help of Pinterest, the local craft store and several fun ‘arts and crafts’ afternoons – we created party bags for the guests that were jammed packed with all things “Harry Potter”!
Let’s take a look inside, shall we?
I found some awesome Harry Potter cups on e-bay, along with heavily-discounted fidget spinners at the local cheapie-store (remember when fidget spinners were a thing?! I never understood the hype…)
We made our very own spell books using these printables, glued into little notebooks we picked up at Kmart.
And of course we couldn’t resist including a selection of Harry Potter sweet treats. A chocolate frog, a dementor-attack chocolate bar, jelly slugs, fizzing whizbees, dragon hearts and Bertie-Bott’s every flavour beans.
All together now!
And after we sent each little wizard home with their own Harry Potter party bag – I was told that many of them were casting spells late into the night.
When catching up with some friends the other day, the subject turned to food. More specifically, kids and food. And just how much the little ones can put away.
There were furious nods of agreement when we mentioned that a loaf of bread can disappear in a single afternoon. When only going through 8 litres of milk in a week is considered a ‘good’ week. And when the “I’m hungry” calls start from the moment they arrive home from school.
And while my three girls are no different, I feel as if I’ve gotten off a little more lightly (at least for now) than my friend who has the voracious appetites of three teenage boys to deal with.
We then reminisced about the great banana crisis of 2011, when Cyclone Yasi destroyed over 75% of Australia’s banana crops. Bananas were in such short supply that it was not unusual to see them selling for $3 each! The community was outraged and anyone that walked into work with a coveted banana had their salary questioned!
The irony being that we generally do not hesitate to fork over at least that amount for a single avocado.
$3 for a banana? Outrageous!! $3 for an avocado? Bargain – give me 2!
I had to laugh, for I am most certainly someone that loves avocadoes and they feature quite regularly on our weekly meal plan.
Take this BLAT salad, for instance. Which was thrown together for an easy, speedy weeknight dinner.
Bacon, crunchy lettuce, boiled egg, tomatoes, sauerkraut and cucumber. And, of course, avocado. Which in this case was sprinkled with black chia seeds.
From memory, the avocado was “on sale” for $2.50 and, thinking it was a bargain, I of course grabbed two! Questionable frugality aside, it was a lovely addition to this tasty little salad.
You can find the recipe I used for inspiration here.
I, for one, feel as if this week disappeared in the blink of an eye. I guess being well and truly back in the regular school / activities / sport routine had something to do with it. And the kids’ lack of willingness to get up this morning certainly signalled that we had arrived at the end of the school week.
But they are most excited about the weekend! We have gymnastics and school shoe shopping on the agenda tomorrow morning, and have friends coming for dinner tomorrow night. Hopefully we can fit in a family hike on Sunday, or at least something outdoors to make the most of the lingering warm weather.
But tonight – Friday night! We have an impromptu family catch-up to watch the Brumbies and enjoy a nice dinner together. And, well for no other reason than it is Friday, I suspect a cocktail might make an appearance.
Something like this perhaps?
A pomegranate margarita – that we served at a family dinner a little while ago when Mexican was on the menu and margaritas seemed to be a fitting accompaniment. Made simply with tequila, Cointreau, pomegranate juice, lime cordial and water – served over ice with fresh lime wedges.
And because I didn’t want to be stuck making individual drinks all evening, I made a big jug in advance and kept it in the fridge until it was time to serve.
Tequila is by no means my favourite (thanks, most likely, to overindulging when was 18) but combined with the pomegranate juice and water – the result was a very ‘easy’ cocktail to drink.
And just like that, our Summer of fun has come to an end. The school shirts are hanging front and centre in the cupboard, new shoes are being broken in, and the notes (oh the notes) are coming home each day.
Back to school also sees the never-ending question of what to pack for lunch. Most days the girls are happy with a sandwich or wrap, or perhaps some leftover pasta, padded out with a selection of fruit, vegetables (and J’s latest favourite – hummus). Actually not a lot has changed in terms of what I send since my last lunch box round-up when C was in kindy.
But I do like to do a little baking each week to add some variety to their afternoon tea, at least.
A favourite? These milo bliss balls – made simply with toasted coconut, brown rice puffs and sunflower seeds, blended together with dates, milo, chia seeds and a little water.
And then the fun started (well for J at least) as we rolled the mixture into balls and dipped them into a little more milo.
(I, on the other hand,*may* not have had as much fun when cleaning stray milo from various nooks and crannies for the next hour…)
But although they proved a little messy to make (when assisted by a certain 4 year old, that is) they were a huge hit in the lunchboxes last week. Not to mention being a rather tasty afternoon tea treat for the grown-ups too!
And just like that, our little Josephine is not so little. She turned 4 this week and, because I really can’t help myself when it comes to kids parties, we threw her a big birthday bash!
Her chosen theme was “Frozen” – for she is pretty much obsessed with the movie at the moment. I’m not sure whether it is the sister storyline, the silly Olaf antics or the fact that her favourite colour is blue (or perhaps that she shares Elsa’s hair colour) – but there was no doubt in her mind that Frozen would be the theme. No doubt. At all.
So her wish was my command! Blue, blue and more blue, with lots of snowflakes and sparkles – which was rather funny given that it was a hot and sunny 35C day outside.
I opted for food that I could largely make ahead. We had muffins, fruit, Sven’s snacks (hummus cups with vegetable dippers), rice bubble slice, snowflake cookies, sandwiches and floating Olaf jelly cups. Not to mention the usual array of chips and lollies, and some homemade sausage rolls.
To drink – we offered apple juice, lemonade (coloured with a little blue food colouring) and bottles of “melted snowman”. Josie was positively horrified when she saw the kids drinking the water bottles though, exclaiming on more than one occasion “noooooo! ewwwww you are drinking Olaf!!!!!”.
Another year on and J is still not a fan of eating cake – but she is certainly still a huge fan of the ritual that comes with a birthday cake. The colour, the candles, the song – she loves it!
I kept things pretty simple this year (aka I cheated) – covering some pre-made mudcakes with Nutella frosting, and using white chocolate wafers as a border. Topped with blue sprinkles and some fondant snowflakes, along with a custom topper, and you’d never know that it took no time at all to put together.
And yes, the birthday girl was suitably impressed!
As we had around 16 little ones to keep entertained, ranging in age from 7 months to 10 years, I left the entertainment to the professionals – and I am so glad that I did. Lucy Sparkles and Friends sent both Elsa AND Anna – who had the kids utterly captivated with their singing, dancing and games .
I can never resist sending our little guests home with a treat to thank them for coming. I found some great snowflake boxes online, which Charlotte and Josie had a great time helping me fill with an array of treats.
And before we knew it, it was time for our little “Elsa” to say goodbye to her friends (and start to recover from her sugar high). Safe to say she had a truly wonderful day!
And I’m left wondering – just how is it that she is FOUR already?!
I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I am not all that into new year resolutions. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the freshness that a new year brings. I love having the opportunity to sit back and reflect on the moments we treasured, and also the areas of our life that we could have invested more time in. But rather than set ourselves small tangible goals, I prefer to think about some words that we can focus on during the year ahead.
And this year is no different. Three words, three focuses for our little family.
Adventure. I think this one goes without saying. For when I look back at the year that was, it is the adventures that we took that make me really smile. Holidays, beach days, bike riding, hikes, museum visits…you name it. Getting out of the house and sharing the world with the kids is something that I find so fulfilling, and I just know that they love it too! So this year, our quest for adventure continues! I’ve got a few big plans in mind, and lots of other little things too…
Knowledge. When I was younger, I had voracious appetite for books, writing and learning. I don’t know what happened, perhaps it is the inevitable fatigue that comes with having 3 young kids (?), but I could count the books that I have read in the last 6 years on one hand. It’s sad really. So this year I want to find more time to read, to watch documentaries, and to learn.
Kindness. Over the last year or so, we have trialled various pocket money ideas – but none have really sat right with me. For it seemed as though I was forking out money for jobs the kids should really have been doing anyway – and the cash would just be spent on some trinket that would be lost or forgotten in a manner of days. Or hours. This year we are doing things a little differently. Inspired by the Barefoot Investor, the girls have kindness jars. When we observe them engaging in an act of kindness, they will get a coin to put in one of the jars – with a choice that it can be to spend, to save or to give. I think it will nice for them to see their efforts over the year, and to decide where their collections will ultimately be put towards.
So there you have it! Our family words for 2019! What are your words for the new year?