What’s floating your boat today?

Today I’m ridiculously excited – Mr B. arrived home yesterday, one week earlier than expected. BUT (there’s always a but!), he’s home early because of an unexpected roster change, which means he goes back to work next week for 3 WEEKS! Gah!

For today though, I’m like a kid in a candy store. Yes I’m excited to have another adult to talk to, to assist with cleaning and bathing and disciplining the maniacs, and to feel like a proper family again. More importantly though – I can cook! I can make real dinners, hooray!

When I’m on my own with three kids, 5pm is definitely the worst time of day. I so dearly want to disappear into my cave (the kitchen!), but instead I am refereeing arguments and detaching the whining toddler from my leg. Every day. For weeks on end.

I’ve always wondered why that time of day is called ‘the witching hour’. When they’re screaming blue murder at 3am as a baby, that’s the kind of witching hour you want the goblins to appear in and take little Toby away; to a place where David Bowie has awesome hair, funky tights and rockin’ friends. Little Toby will be safe there!

Dance, magic, dance!

When my kids carry on at the 5pm witching hour, I’m kinda wishing there were witches around to either scare them into submission, or turn them into mice like the wonderful Angelica Huston…

Oh wait a minute, that’s exactly what I look and sound like most evenings! Better keep practicing my spells (and watching less 80’s films) and get the cauldron bubbling.

Know what my kids get for dinner on those fun nights? Not slugs, snails and puppy dog tails, but exciting stuff like Fish Finger Rolls!

Yummy! Or maybe my five-minute friend – Nachos.

If I’m feeling particularly guilty about the lack of vegetables in their diet, I cut up some salad vegies and they can make their own dinner – taco’s. Aren’t I creative?

So I won’t be winning mother of the year award this year…but today I don’t give a hoot because I know I’ll be in the kitchen tonight cooking up some good grub…without a toddler attached to me, and without my witches hat on. That really floats my boat…what about you?

Happy Mother’s Day to frazzled mothers everywhere!

It’s come to my attention there is a parallel universe out there somewhere, populated by children who do nice things for their mother on Mother’s Day. They carry pancakes on a tray to their mother for breakfast, who waits perfectly coiffed in bed with a beaming smile. Afterwards they present her with a plethora of wrapped gifts (slippers and PJ’s seem to be popular), a bunch of flowers and sprinkle rose petals in her path as she walks around the house. They not only take her out for lunch, but are perfectly behaved…okay that’s enough. Did anyone outside of the Target catalogue have a day like this today? Because if you did, I’m really very happy for you. But please don’t tell me about it. Just pretend your day was as crappy as mine.

My kids didn’t remember to say Happy Mother’s Day to me until Mr B. called from work to remind them at 9am, at which point I was presented with lovely handmade cards, a few sweet gifts and lots of kisses and cuddles. The lovin’ lasted about 12 minutes. Then it was on to bickering, pushing, yelling, crying, attempted dog strangulation and general craziness. And only some of that was the kids!

Here’s an excerpt from the card Alex wrote for me…

You are as sweet as a freshly picked rose. You are as beautiful as a daisy swaying in the breeze. Your cooking is sooo good Nigella gapes in amazement.

So that was very sweet and quite funny, it made up for the fact he was too lazy to wrap my present, and I got on with making lunch. My mum and her partner (Poppy Dave) arrived and attempted to referee the maniacs whilst I got everything until control, and we finally sat down to a very nice lunch. With some very nice champagne. That kind of made everything better.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with grilled haloumi and vegetable salad.

  1. Google Portobello Mushroom recipes, find one you like then completely change half the ingredients because of what you have in the fridge. Ponder why they are sometimes called Portabello and sometimes Portabella. It’s just a big bloody mushroom with a fancy name.
  2. Stuff your mushroom with available ingredients – I used ricotta (mixed with egg), parmesan cheese, sauteed garlic & capsicum, spinach & some chopped cooked chicken breast. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and mozzarella. Decide never to buy that brand of mozzarella again because it is so ugly.
  3. Place mushrooms in baking dish & cook in oven. Try to grill capsicum, eggplant & zucchini without burning them whilst chatting nonchalantly with guests, trying to ignore screaming children and surreptitiously checking the balsamic vinegar to check it hasn’t gone rancid since last use several months ago.
  4. Mix spinach leaves & rocket with grilled vegetables and desired salad dressing, add some prosciutto if your newly-omnivorous stomach can handle it, then top with seared haloumi…because squeaky cheese makes everything AWESOME.
  5. Serve to hungry guests and crack open the champers.

After lunch mum & I were joking about me going away on a holiday – by myself. Mia, the little charmer, seemed quite excited by that idea because she decided she could then go and live with her friend Ella and life would be more fun. She insisted several times I should pack my bags tonight. I was feeling the love.

It was a lovely catch up with my mum, and the afternoon was a bit quieter thanks to some bribery on my part. I can unequivocally say I love my children to bits and wouldn’t trade them for anything – but that’s because they’re all asleep and I’m a little bit tanked.

Happy Mother’s Day to Mum’s everywhere – I hope your day was as memorable as mine!

What’s for dinner mum? Making food fun (so they’ll want to eat it!)

Years ago Jessica Seinfeld’s first cookbook Deceptively Delicious was released – I succumbed to the hysteria and bought a copy (and I’ve been trying to sell it on fishpond ever since!). Her recipes were touted as the answer to those meal-time nightmares where fussy children won’t touch their vegies so that frustrated mama’s give in and feed them rubbish. It involved lots of ‘normal’ things that kids love, with stealthily-hidden healthy stuff thrown in. Think Macaroni Cheese with added cauliflower puree, mini pizza’s with a layer of spinach under the toppings, and muffins with carrot puree.

Her recipes involved lots of pureeing bulk amounts of vegetables, and to be perfectly honest Jessica, your brownies did not fool me OR my kids…they were gross.

I can understand how cookbooks like these might be an absolute lifesaver for frazzled mothers everywhere, and if that’s what works for you, go for it. But really, as Mr B. likes to say “it’s not rocket science people”.

Firstly, mothers everywhere have been grating carrot & zucchini into their spag bol for decades…any dish involving any kind of mince can be bulked out with a combination of vegies and/or beans or pulses to not only make it healthier but make it go further.

Secondly, why do we have to always ‘hide’ the vegies?

Yes yes, I know what it’s like, I have a fussy child too…a non-vegie eater. Guess what? The vegies get served up to her every night – she is not forced to eat them, but if she doesn’t, there’s nothing else. We’ve tried every form of bribery encouragement under the sun, and nothing works. But we persist, and we model good eating in front of her. The boys are both great vegie eaters so we’ll let her develop a taste for vegetables in her own time. As an adult I certainly don’t like every vegetable out there so it would be slightly hypocritical for me to force those on my children.

I’d love to be able to dish up a stir fry or vegie stack every night and expect everyone to eat it without complaint, but it’s not going to happen yet. I try to keep dinner times interesting for everyone by making meal times fun – I don’t want my kids to be making waffle houses like Drew Barrymore (50 First Dates) every morning, but I’m quite okay with them enjoying the dinner experience by becoming involved in it.

Tonight I decided to make a trio of dips (I’ve heard these are terribly naff now, but my kids don’t know what that word means so it doesn’t matter!) with some vegetable crudités and mini chicken-ball dippers.

I was in the kitchen making a birthday cake most of the day so I made the dips whilst I was waiting for cake parts to set, and the chicken balls before the kids got home from school. Half an hour before dinner time I put the chilled chicken balls in the oven, sliced and toasted some Turkish bread, and cut up the vegetables.

I got terribly creative and called my dip trio Traffic Light dips, because they vaguely resembled a red/orange/green combination. Obviously my ‘red’ dip is more of a magenta but I knew the beetroot would be better received than a red capsicum or tomato-based dip. Dips are one of those fantastic things that are so easy to whip up and any leftovers are great for snacking on the next day, spreading on a sandwich or even as a pizza spread.

Traffic Light Dips

I made a beetroot & feta dip, carrot & chickpea dip, and an edamame dip, and served them with celery, capsicum and carrot sticks, toasted turkish bread and my mini chicken balls as dippers. I only used ingredients I already had in the pantry, fridge or freezer so I made some adaptations along the way…

Beetroot & Feta dip – I basically googled beetroot dips and came up with my own version, throwing things into the food processor willy nilly. Not really, but I probably couldn’t recreate the same dip again if I tried! I’d love to tell you I found some lovely fresh beetroot at the local farmers market this morning, roasted it, lovingly peeled it and then whizzed it up…the truth is I used my foraging skills to deftly prise a tin of baby beets from the pantry, put my technical skills to work on the can-opener, then used my magnificent fine motor skills to drain the liquid into the sink. Then I literally dumped the beets into the food processor…look, I was in the middle of making a cake and I didn’t want bits of fresh beetroot flung all over the kitchen, I’m a messy cook and the tinned version was really the best option for everyone, trust me! I added 200g of feta, some crushed garlic, thyme and coriander, and salt & pepper. This was the clear winner – very tasty.

Carrot & Chickpea dip – adapted from eat, taste, nourish. One tin of drained chickpeas in the food processor along with a grated carrot, drizzle of olive oil and seasoned with paprika, cumin, lemon juice and honey. We found this a little thick which made it hard for dipping, but was delicious.

Edamame dip – I shelled a bag of frozen edamame (very therapeutic, popping them all into the bowl!) and combined in the food processor with the juice of 1 lime and seasoned with salt, toasted sesame oil, canola oil and rice wine vinegar. This had a fantastic bright colour and a very distinct asian flavour, but I think I still prefer steamed edamame fresh out of the pods.

The Mini Chicken ball dippers are basically a variation on a standard recipe I also use to make chicken rissoles and wrap in puff pastry to make chicken rolls. This recipe made 45 golf-ball sized chicken balls which I cooked in the oven, but you could pan fry them if you prefer.

Mini Chicken balls

  • 500g chicken mince
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 Tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1 medium sweet potato, grated
  • coriander and soy sauce to season
  • plain flour, for coating
  1. Place all ingredients except flour in a food processor and mix until combined. Use desired amounts of coriander and soy sauce to taste.
  2. Roll into golf-ball sized balls with the palms of your hand, then roll gently in flour to coat.
  3. Spread on a baking tray, baste with a little olive oil, and bake at 180°C for 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve hot with little picks and dips or dipping sauce.

This was a really cute meal to serve, and the possibilities for variations are endless. The chicken balls are also a great party-food, and there’s enough left over to put in lunchboxes tomorrow. Alex has already requested his on a sandwich with some mayo! Personally I’m looking forward to more of that beetroot dip….mmmmmmm.

* Edited to add…seriously freaky coincidence occurred literally minutes after publishing this post. After saying no to waffle houses, guess what I just stumbled upon via pinterest?

Waffle furniture would sure make breakfast fun, but I’d never get my kids to leave the table and actually get ready for school!