Saturday, January 28, 2012

healthy banana, date + orange cookie recipe and kids lunch-box ideas

I'm still finding it hard to comprehend, but in a mere four days my big baby girl will be starting school *gulp*. For some reason when the kindy year finished last year, I thought that between then and now things would have changed, you know, she would seem older and I would seem well, ready. Cause lets face it fellow mums, they are ready, we are not. She's been ready for a long time now, and for the past week has been asking me daily "how many days to go 'till I start school Mum?". She's so ready. 

She's going to love school, I just know it. She's such a busy little bee and loves the constant stimulation school provides which mum doesn't. My only worry is how her little body will cope with five full days of it? The next few months are going to be pretty full I'm guessing, while her body adjusts and adapts. She did only just drop her day sleep late last year after all! 
The day after she starts school, my little man is going to be starting kindy *another gulp*. He loves the idea of it all, being able to do more craft projects than we do at home and finally being able to play in what was only ever "Ada's" playground has him super excited. But I fear what will happen when he realises mum's going. He knows it's going to happen in theory, we've talked about it a lot, but I still have my fingers crossed that when it comes time for me to leave, he's okay. There's nothing more heart breaking than your child screaming as you leave, the tears building up in your eyes as you walk out the door.

Friday, January 20, 2012

gluten-free banana cake w/ passionfruit icing

Bananas used to be one of those fruits we always seemed to have laying around, with at least one from every bunch ripening just a tad too much to make for pleasant eating, destined only for baking or freezing. But since moving to Perth where bananas were selling for $19kg last March they quickly became an absolute luxury. On the very few occasions I actually bought any, not one was ever wasted, meaning things like baking banana cakes, muffins and cookies became but a distant memory. It's taken Aussie banana growers this past year to recover from the devastating Brisbane floods and I'm now happy to say banana's are once again cheap as chips and happily rotting away in our fruit bowl...

Monday, January 16, 2012

roasted cherry tomato pasta salad with Kalamata olive dressing recipe

Since moving house, we've had two large boxes of picked tomatoes hanging around waiting for me to do something with them. See, when we left the old house we stripped our plants of all their tomatoes, even the green ones. Which have now been slowly ripening off the vine (and some, rotting sadly). What initially started out as a whole box of green, I've-still-got-time-up-my-sleeve-so-don't-need-to-panic-tomatoes, in this heat quickly turned into a boxful of I'm-ready-to-be-eaten/cooked-right-now-so-panic tomatoes!

So I got cooking. 

I made jars and jars of my Nana's famous tomato relish out of all the big tomatoes. I then thought briefly about making a wacky sweet tomato jam with the remaining cherry tomatoes, before realising that was a silly idea. Who would eat it after all? 
Finally, I decided that the best way to get through such a large amount of cherry tomatoes was to roast them, shrinking them down in size while intensifying their flavour and leaving them all ready to add a burst of rich tomato flavour and pop of bright summer colour to salads like this. 
Thursday, January 12, 2012

dairy-free strawberry, vanilla & coconut ice cream recipe

Back when I used to work in Sydney, one of my main jobs in the pastry section was making ice cream. I loved it. Playing with all that sugar, milk, cream and eggs was so much fun. We used two commercial ice cream machines to churn the custard bases, which were always whizzing away under my bench. The freezer was full to the brim with all sorts of flavours; cinnamon, creme fraiche, pistachio, brown sugar and one of my all time favourites... burn honey. 

Real, pure, home made ice cream cannot be beaten and for the last 10 years I've been dreaming of owning my very own commercial ice cream maker, but a few other priorities have stood in the way of me and my machine, it seems. Yes I know it's easy to make ice cream without a machine (instructions follow below), but to me the results are not quite as good as with one. And yes I know there are loads of really cheap machines out there, but see, I'm one of those people who would rather wait for years to be able to afford the real deal than to fold and buy a much cheaper and possibly sub-standard model. Yes, I'm a snob. Well that's one way to look at it, that or I'm actually really on-to-it and would rather buy quality that won't break in two seconds? Whatever way you want to look at it I've found a happy medium and am now the proud owner of a not-rubbish-cheap-but-not-break-the-bank ice cream machine! Thankfully for me, cuisinart now make a reasonably priced machine, and although it will never be as good as my dream model with the inbuilt freezer, it does the job okay, so I'll get over it. For now.
Monday, January 9, 2012

roast eggplant, tomato and feta salad with pomegranate molasses dressing

So it's been awhile since I've talked about our garden, or should I say pots? Moving house the week before Christmas means that we still haven't found the time to do anything about making those new garden beds, to house all the transferred plants. But not too worry, most of them are doing okay where they are and we aren't going to bother with the new garden beds until it's time to plant for next season now anyway. The beans are producing daily even though their leaves are yellowing and anaemic in the extreme Perth heat. My chillies are cranking, we're picking capsicums often, albeit small ones, the mint and basil are going nuts and the eggplant (aubergine) are coming along nicely. I picked this bowl of mini purple ones recently and for a few days tried hard to think of what to do with the measly 200g collected. There weren't really enough to make a decent meal out of, but I wasn't going to just waste them! I was initially thinking along the lines of a lovely Thai curry, topped with my little babies but decided in the end to go for a salad, after all it is summer and who feels like eating anything else? Not me.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

dairy-free chocolate sauce recipe

Strangely for Vegetarians, we don't consume a whole lot of soy. We eat tofu around once a week and have a carton of soy milk hanging around for cups of tea, but more often than not the last little bit goes off before being consumed. I prefer to use fermented soy products like tempeh and miso and use rice, almond and coconut milk more than anything else. However, when I saw soy ice cream at the supermarket recently, I thought one little tub might be a nice change from these, to help keep us cool in this crazy summer heat. Back home in NZ there was only one brand of commercially made ice cream available that was both dairy and gluten-free, but it seems Sanitarium must have been reading this post, because their ice cream is now not only dairy-free, but gluten-free too!
Monday, January 2, 2012

Bánh xèo, mango jelly and a thank you...

New Years eve itself was a non-event in our house. Si and I stayed up watching a great documentary, coincidentally about a dance school in India my dear friend is attending right now, before starting to watch this amazing film until our eyes grew too sleepy and we stumbled into bed at... 10.30pm. I know, what? Super Nanas. When you have little kids, especially ones that still wake all night long, the idea of staying up late, drinking and waking up all groggy and hungover just really doesn't appeal. It was a great choice as both kids blessed their very tired mum and dad with a full nights sleep! Hooray! Now just imagine how pissed off I would have been had I stayed up half the night, missing out on the best nights sleep I've had in ages. We awoke at the really reasonable hour of 7.30am, not the usual 4.30-5am of late, feeling refreshed and all ready to start our new year. See, being a Nana does have it's up-side :-)

Our new house seems to have become the designated Nguyen family gathering place, so in keeping with our Christmas celebrations we decided we'd all ring in the new year with a Bánh xèo feast at ours. Everyone started arriving soon after lunch on New Years day and within a few short minutes of their arrival tables were being moved, salad greens washed and cooking started on what are possibly one of my favourite foods in the world,  Bánh xèo.

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