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?

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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!

A week of Juggling

This week there’s a familiar feeling creeping in with the cold air. It’s that feeling of spending every waking minute trying to keep all the balls in the air. That juggling act whereby all the balls hold equal importance, and even though you know you can’t drop any, you hope that the few that slip out of your fingers will bounce back.

The children form the most important ball for me to look after – this week I’ve been wiping away the sniffles (green, snotty noses really, but who needs o hear that?!), trying to ease coughs at all hours and yesterday I was the rock and Oliver the limpet. He was attached to me all. day. long.

Housework is the ball I care least about, and resent the fact I have to keep it up. Unfortunately, clothes don’t wash & iron themselves, and I’m yet to have that magic fairy appear to vacuum, mop, make beds and slip daiquiri’s into my hand.

My studies are getting very little attention…that ball is only just staying up there.

School and the outside world is the ball I must be seen to keep up, to keep it polished and shiny, and free from any blemishes. Yes I’ve forgotten the excursion note, the mother’s day raffle and my kids have had vegemite sandwiches every day this week, but I’ve helped with readers twice and not worn my tracky pants once to do pick-up!

Family & friends, I’m sorry to see your ball dropped too many times. It always bounces back, but it shouldn’t have to.

There’s too much juggling for much else, which is a shame because I know having the oven on would make a real temperature difference in my house…I’m fuh-reeeeezzing!

This week I’ve been:

  • drooling over these coconut lime cookies. I still have a bowl of limes to use, and I’m imagining some big white choc chunks in those babies…yum.
  • waiting patiently for strawberry season to start again, thinking of all the goodies I can make. We’re lucky enough to live within 30 minutes of at least 4 PYO strawberry farms (that I know of anyway!), and going to pick our own bucketful has become a lovely winter tradition for us. Here’s Oliver last August.

  • making this super easy Chicken Florentine Pasta for dinner last night. Predictably, the fussy one only ate the chicken, but otherwise it was a winner. I’m fast becoming a Pioneer Woman fan, can you tell?
  • reading this book which has been a revelation to me…review to come once I’ve made one of her recipes (it will not be the bear’s paw – that’s a promise).
  • Wishing I was going to the Noosa Food & Wine Festival which starts in a week just up the road from me – oh the food! the wine! the people! Far too expensive for me & with Mr. B. away, not going to happen with 3 little people.
  • Thinking that as a consolation, I can manage Paniyiri with 3 little people. Oh the haloumi! the baklava! the plate-smashing!
  • Watching a bit of the new Masterchef. I watched the first two seasons but pretty much ignored it last year – I’m very much over reality tv, and once I’d seen Junior Masterchef I was quite saddened to see the pressure those kids were under. None of it seemed very real to me. And the reality for me is that when it screens at 7pm, I’m trying to get kids to brush their teeth and skidaddle off to bed! I’ve caught a few snippets so far, and loved seeing all that fresh produce they picked up on the Mornington Penisula (oh those Mussels!), but I’m unsure if it will suck me in this year or not. I will admit to loving some of the cookbooks put out by former contestants (Kate Bracks’ The Sweet Life and Adam Liaw’s TwoAsian Kitchens are high on my cookbook wishlist – reviews to come!), and think it’s a great opportunity for those talented cooks out there, but I have to agree with whichever judge said the other night “Why not do an apprenticeship?”. I guess any chance at television fame is too appealing to pass up for some!
  • Planning Mother’s Day for this Sunday – do I do afternoon tea or lunch? Savoury or sweet? With Mr B. away and my kids still too young to organise much for me, I’m hoping to spoil my mum a little this Mother’s Day. She’ll just be returning from a SE Asian holiday and may still be jetlagged, so I want to take it easy on her…what to do, what to do? Going out is out, so we’ll do something nice here…hopefully!

Cake in bed…without the calories!

I just sat down to read the mail with a cuppa and opened up the new Peter Alexander PJ catalogue – their Mother’s Day collection has gorgeous new prints that feature cakes, biscuits, macarons and teacups for some guilt-free bedtime sweets!

The pj’s are packaged in super-cute cake boxes. I love the retro styling in these shots!

These would make a fantastic Mother’s day pressie for the mum who loves to bake or who appreciates a good cuppa…hint hint!

You can check out the collection at Peter Alexander…I have no affiliation but I do own some Peter Alexander PJ’s and I love them, so comfy and did I say gorgeous already?

 

Mocha Brownies..not to be neglected!

Those who know me well know that I’m a serial coffee neglecter.

It’s nothing against coffee – I neglect my tea too. I take care to store coffee the ‘correct’ way, and I have a lovely segregated tea box complete with labels for all the different varieties. I can even make tea relatively well – as much as dunking the tea bag and adding a splash of milk is considered praisable. Coffee is Mr B’s forte though – coffee is his thing.

The problems arise for me once the hot drink is made and placed on the bench/coffee table/desk. I start off with good intentions, sipping my way through the first few hot mouthfuls, and then without fail, I’m distracted…

The washing machine beeps, the phone rings, the children start bickering, the dishwasher beeps, the doorbell rings…or I just get up to do something I’ve suddenly remembered, and completely forget to get back to my tea or coffee in a timely fashion.

I’m constantly being reminded by someone ‘Your coffee is getting cold”. “Yes, I know, I’ll get back to it” I reply. And when I do, it’s always cold, or lukewarm at the very least.

It’s ironic because I’ve only been a coffee drinker for the past 5 years or so, and before that I despised iced coffee. I can’t tell if I’ve become accustomed to it cold now, or I’m just so addicted to caffeine that my taste buds don’t care what the temperature is!

Last night I made mocha brownies – partly because I was looking for a caffeine hit that didn’t mind sitting on the bench waiting for me to remember it (hardly a problem in this case!), but also because I wanted to try a ‘Pioneer Woman’ recipe.

Being Australian, I grew up with Margaret Fulton and Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks. As the years went on I discovered Stephanie Alexander, Donna Hay and now a whole host of ‘home cook tried their hand on tv and produces cookbook’ cooks, but there are still so many cookbooks out there whose authors are completely unknown to me.

One name I see popping up all over the place is The Pioneer Woman. Everyone seems to be raving about PW recipes, so I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. I have to admit, I was expecting a demure Little House on the Prairie bonnet-wearing type, so after I borrowed one cookbook from the library and had a little squiz at her website, I’d changed my tune.

Ree Drummond is not only hilarious, but leads a pretty full-on ranching life in Oklahoma, home-schooling her four kids and being a pretty impressive baker/photographer/blogger.

Her recipes feature step-by-step instructions with plenty of photographs along the way, and her cookbooks show a glossy ranching life, her family, dogs, horses, and the cattle, of course.

Obviously many of her recipes are heavy on the meat…no problem, I’ll make something sweet. What’s that I see, mocha brownies? Sweet and caffeine in one go? I’m onto it.

The brownies were quick to whip up, but need time to chill completely before topping with the mocha icing. If you’ve got a morning tea deadline, make them the night before. I’d also recommend inviting around your neighbours, postman and long-lost cousins to help you eat them, or take a very large plateful to your workplace, otherwise you’ll be buying bigger sized jeans next week – they are sinfully delicious and contain a truckload of sugar and butter!

I also halved the icing recipe because I literally felt ill looking at the quantities of icing sugar & butter in that alone – it still provided a very thick layer of icing so I’ll stick to my quantities in future too.

Mocha Brownies

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Ingredients

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 115g unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 ¼ cups plain flour

Mocha Icing

  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups icing sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 to ½ cup coffee, cooled to room temp
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. In a medium bowl/stand mixer, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, then drop mixer to low speed and add melted chocolate. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Add the flour and mix until just combined.
  4. Pour brownie batter into a greased or lined baking pan* , even out the surface with a spatula, and bake in oven for 40-45 minutes. The centre should be just firm.
  5. Set aside to cool – at least an hour.
  6. Icing – Combine butter, icing sugar, cocoa, salt and vanilla, and mix until just combined. Add 1/3 cup cooled coffee and whip until it reaches a light, fluffy consistency. If it’s too thick, add more coffee.
  7. Spread icing over brownies – it should result in a very thick layer! Refrigerate until firm, then cut into slices.

Notes

* Original recipe uses an 8-inch square baking pan…I used my 32 x 22.5cm deep pan lined with baking paper and it was the perfect size.

* PW recommends a slice of this with ice-cream and hot fudge sauce for dessert – agahhhh I’m drooling already….

Any other notable caffeine recipes I should know about?

Only at Easter…

...does chocolate at breakfast seem perfectly normal. Of course one can’t scoff a few handfuls of Easter Eggs before 7am and then sit down to a bowl of cornflakes…all that chocolate needs to be balanced out with a much bigger load of empty carbs to get the day started. And let’s be honest, if you’re already stuffing yourself silly with chocolate you may as well go the whole hog.

Hot Cross Buns are pretty popular ’round these parts, and our standard Sunday brekkie is pancakes, but this year I thought I’d try something different. Of course I’ve been pinning away a gazillion tasty recipes lately so there were plenty of options for me to ‘chocolatise’ – my sights lay on the Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast, found via Pinterest on the gorgeous Spoon Fork Bacon.
The website has a funky animation of the dish being assembled – it was really quite simple to prepare, but if you’re making this for breakfast, I’d suggest allowing yourselves plenty of time to get it on the table. Lets just say my kids were not happy abut the hour it needed to sit in the fridge, then the 45 minutes it needed to cook…they got over it pretty quick though once they saw breakfast had chocolate all over it.

And while you’re at it kids, have some more sugar for breakfast – pour some custard all over it!

Luckily my kids eat healthy breakfasts the rest of the year (except for Christmas, and birthdays and Mother’s Day and…most of the time, really!) – it was a really tasty breakfast though, totally worth the wait. Leftovers made a scrummy dessert too. I’m sure glad Easter only happens once a year though…