Happy New Year!

I hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas and New Year celebrating with those nearest and dearest. I will over the coming days post some pictures and recipes from our Christmas Lunch. For now though, I wanted to share a quicker than quick, tasty and warming snack, lunch or dinner.

Wonderful if you’re feeling slightly seedy from a larger than life New Years celebration. Particularly wonderful if you’ve had a lazy day and really can’t be bothered cooking much. I fall into the latter category. We had a wonderful evening celebrating New Years with very dear family who I consider friends as well. The kids adore each other, there isn’t a moment of fighting which is so rare for young children, conversation flowed as did laughter, joy and happiness!

Quick and easy

Quick and easy

So Cheese on toast anyone?

You will need:

Some yummy bread – I used Taylors Grainy bread which is wholemeal with bits, but you can use what ever you like.

Tasty Cheese, a good quality vintage cheddar or Mersey valley if you want to go up market.

Leftovers, Ham, chicken, capsicums, spring onions aka scallions or a Spanish (Red) onion, olives finely chopped, normal or cherry tomatoes.

You can really use anything you like. For the kids I just toasted the bread first and then placed the cheese on the toast in slices and put it under the grill until it was melted and golden.

For us I used up the wilting spring onions, some black olives and yellow cherry tomatoes, all sliced. I put a bit of everything on the toast topped with cheese and then under the grill for about 5 mins or so.

Delicious!

Dinosaur Salad

We were watching Peppa Pig the other day, Sophia loves her and every time she says Peppa Pig she snorts like a pig which is hilarious – to me anyway 🙂 – So Peppa’s brother George wouldn’t eat his salad which Grandpa Pig had grown in his own garden, so Grandpa Pig tore up the pieces of lettuce and made a dinosaur with it and cucumber & tomatoes.

Soph & Zachie thought it was great and tonight we had a go at it as well. I have found that a sure fire way to get the kids to eat is to get them involved in making the food. Tonight was no different. Zachie had grazed all day so wolfed down this salad followed by a bowl of weetbix, another great alternative to dinner when you know if they don’t eat something they’ll be up through the night!

Now I do have to confess that I have no issue at all with getting either of our kids to eat salad, they love it and would quite possibly eat only salad, some nights it’s a fight for who gets the most.

My dear friend gave me her wonderful garden salad recipe and it’s a staple in our house even through winter, I love salad in preference to vegies any day as does Hubby, which is probably where the kids get it from as well.

If you struggle to get your kids to eat salads or vegetables or just want to make it a bit more fun, this could be the way… stay tuned for a Semi Trailer styled salad soon.

Dee’s delicious Salad

You will need for 2 adults & 2 kids

1 tomato diced

1 decent sized Lebanese cucumber peeled, forked & quartered

4-6 coz lettuce leaves, rinsed and chopped

100gms of danish fetta, crumbled

dash of balsamic vinegar

Combine the ingredients in a salad bowl, mix well and serve. We do also add avocado &/or olives on occasion too.

Toasted Sandwiches

Winter is definitely coming our way here in Melbourne and hubby brought home enough bread to feed an army the other day from his friend who runs a bread shop. In an effort to use some of it up I figured it was cold enough to bring out the Sandwich Press, vintage I know, all I would need is a tin of Braised Steak and we’d be living in the 70’s!

Instead the kids had an old favourite – cheese & tomato – we added some of these to some Mersey Valley tasty with some olives and voila pizza in a sandwich! Delicious if I say so myself!!

Obviously there are all sorts of things you can put into a toasted sandwich, salami, straz, bacon, chicken, all the different cheeses, tomatoes, capsicums, olives, eggplant, onions to name a few. Foccacia, tortillas, ciabatta, any bread & muffins could be toasted, you could even make pancakes on your sandwich press as well, maybe even pizza?

I did a bit of a google search and there are a number of suppliers of these wonderful pickles in Australia & I would think that they’d be available around the world – I highly recommend them, you know how sometimes when you buy chargrilled eggplant it’s not actually cooked enough and is really chewy – well these are wonderful, gorgeous & silky the way eggplant (aubergines) should be.

Cheesymite buns, pizza buns, savory buns

So these are the variations on the Chelsea Bun mix, it definitely works equally as well & they taste delicious cold. I’d love to hear if anyone has a go at making these and how they go down with the kids/family. Obviously most of the things we’re recommending for kids would work for lunches to take to work as well.

Savory Buns:

You will need:

2 tsp dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

2 ½ cups plain flour, sifted

½ cup warm milk

185g softened butter

1 egg

2 cups grated cheese – tasty & parmesan depending on the flavours you like

½ a Spanish onion, finely diced

20 green olives, diced

4 Tbsp Tomato paste or Chunky Sweet chili dip

What to do:

Combine the yeast, sugar & a couple of tablespoons of the flour in a large bowl, add the milk and mix well. Set aside in a warm place until it’s frothy and thick. This should take about 10 minutes.  While you’re waiting for the yeast to activate sift the remaining flour into another bowl and rub in 125gms of the softened butter with your fingertips until it resembles coarse sand or breadcrumbs. Stir in the extra sugar, mixed peel & ½ the mixed spice. Add this to the yeast mixture with the egg and mix well using the dough hook on your mix master. Work the dough until it comes together to form a smooth ball.

Lightly oil your mixing bowl put the dough in and cover with cling film and place in a warm place to allow to prove for an hour or until it’s at least doubled in size.

Pre heat your oven to 210°C 415°F or gas 6-7.  When your dough is ready, knock it back and roll out to approx 40 x 25cm (16 x 10 inches) rectangle, mix the remaining butter with either the tomato paste or dip and spread  all over the dough to within 2cm of the edge of one of the longer sides, Scatter the cheese, onions & olives over the dough.

Roll the dough from the long side, firmly and evenly to enclose the toppings. Using a sharp knife cut the roll into evenly sized pieces about 2 ½ cm thick. Arrange the slices onto a well greased oven tray with the seams facing inwards. Flatten slightly, cover with cling film and set aside to rise for 30 mins or until they’re well risen again. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown & cooked. You should get about 12 – 15 smallish buns.

Variations:

I did half & half with cheese & vegemite and the above recipe.

You could also substitute the tomato paste for pesto and the onions & olives for semi sun dried tomatoes.

Black Olive tapenade, crumbled feta & diced pumpkin which have been pan fried until golden. Reduce the grated cheese to 1 cup.

Tomato paste, salami sliced into strips, diced kalamata olives.

Freshly chopped herbs like oregano, parsley, sage & thyme. Even cheese & garlic.

After school or anytime snacks for kids

A very dear friend of mine has two boys with somewhat hectic after school activities and asked for some more ideas as to what to feed them for afternoon tea. As anyone with children will know that idea of 6 small meals is not such a bad idea, particularly come mid afternoon. It’s a sure-fire way to keep little minds focused & happy and little tummies full as googs. I’m thinking that some of these ideas are suited to older children who have sporting activities after school and really need some sustained energy.

This project has reminded me of when I was looking after my grown up cherubs (as a nanny) in New Zealand & I’d pick up Mackie & Erin after school & we’d wait about 20 – 30 mins for Jay to finish so I would take afternoon tea and everyone would eat in the car, I used to check their lunch boxes and if they (Erin) hadn’t eaten her piece of fruit, she had to eat that one & then another one & then she could have a choc chip cookie or muffin, generally I’d take them fruit, cucumber, capsicum or carrots & something sweet. It was enough to keep them going until dinner time. Anyway I put my thinking cap on, tested a few recipes and consulted friends with kids as to what they serve their little ones come afternoon tea time. I also thought a little outside the square.

We’ve, because I haven’t done this alone come up with some mostly healthy, fun and hopefully yummy ideas.

Hot weather snacks:

Obviously fresh fruit is a given and coming into summer there are so many options, mango, watermelon, grapes (fresh or frozen) peaches, apricots, nectarines, blue berries, strawberries, kiwi fruit (although not too many as it can cause rotten nappies in little ones & yes I am speaking from experience)

Muffins are a great option as you can add grated apple, sultanas, seeds etc and have a bit of a play around. Banana muffins are a definite winner with the kids & adults I know. (But maybe wait until the prices go down a bit more)

Fruit smoothies in insulated cups can be made from pretty much anything, best way to save money is to use whatever fruit is in season, add milk & some yoghurt and Vvvvvvvvvvvdddddddd blend away. I remember when we were in Marrakech we used to freeze little containers of yoghurt, normally I wouldn’t advocate buying the little containers of yogurt as they are more expensive, but for the convenience I figure it’s worth it, you could always transfer the yoghurt into smaller containers.

Cooler weather snacks:

I made some mini pizza’s today which all the kids in mother’s group seemed to enjoy and the best thing was that they tasted good warm or lukewarm to room temp which means they may even work for lunches too.

Sausage rolls, party pies, soup in thermal mugs and I was even thinking porridge with sultanas, dried or grated apples & cinnamon would work, particularly in winter & for those kids who are playing sport and need something to keep them going. You’d need to put it in a thermos or thermal cup to keep it hot.

I thought about meatballs, but really I do think they need to be warmer to hot to still taste good.

Other snack type things could be olives (yes kids love them or the ones I know do) Hummus, tzatziki, Mashed Avocado with some lemon juice to stop it from going brown. Little bread sticks, Pita breads with falafel, cucumber, carrot, capsicum sticks. Banana & Peanut butter on raisin bread. Cheese & vegemite on saladas or any dried biscuit, cherry tomatoes, kabana, hard boiled eggs. Little tins of tuna (or buy a big tin and break it up into smaller containers.

I think this is definitely an area where any other suggestions are welcome and much sort after as we all want to try to ensure our kids are eating healthily and give them variety, nothing worse than the same thing every day. If we can get them involved in the cooking & preparing of the food then they’re more inclined to eat it.

There is a great magnet we got from the maternal health nurse which reads, we decide what they (the children) eat and when they eat, they decide whether to eat and how much. It’s a rocky road at the best of times and everyone has an opinion about  this subject. There will be days when all they eat is pasta or only green things or perhaps nothing at all. However I do think as long as for the most part your children are eating relatively healthily then the occasional packet of chips or icypole isn’t really going to hurt. Everything in moderation as they say.