Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Meal Planning Monday - the Tuesday edition

Life will be returning to it's regular schedule tomorrow, with the boys having been on holidays for the last two & a half weeks and heading back to school in the morning. 

With the turning of the season, and the addition of winter sport into the schedule, I made a resolution at the beginning of the holidays to hits the books and dig up some new dinner inspo.

I am pleased to report that in amongst movie dates, camping trips and my usual work schedule, I indeed managed to reconnect with some old fav go-to options, as well as finds some new directions to try out.

So, the meal plan this week looks a little like this:

Dinner: Mexi Bean wraps with Avo & salsa

Breakfast: Omlettes
Dinner: Chicken Escalopes with tomatoes and capers, and served with baby new potatoes 

Breakfast: Avo & Feta Toast
Dinner: Stuffed Pasta Shells

Breakfast: Tomatoe Egg Pots
Dinner: Family dinner out before Basketball

Wednesday nights dinner is one of the newbies, so I'll let you know how it goes! xE

Friday, April 22, 2016

Autumn is here and this is how we roll....

Goodbye Summer...hello Autumn.

I woke up last weekend and all of a sudden in was cold!! I am one of those types that feel the cold (and hubby is the opposite!). 

So...when he got home from work, this is how he found me:

Very comfortable. Soaking up the last rays of the day and enjoying a chilled glass of vino.

How do you wind down?


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

School Holidays # 2

Now that my boys are back after a week with their dad I wanted to spend another day just doing fun stuff. We wanted to have a "mummy day". I sent a last minute text to my boss asking for Monday off to hang with my peeps, and he said "YES". Thank goodness!

Son # 2 is right into his Lego and #1 was into Lego when he was younger and sometimes extends his expertise into telling his younger brother how to build certain things! Cue a Lego exhibit!

The Museum of Sydney currently has a Sydney Harbour Icons exhibit going on. Think Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House all made from Lego! The boys and I jumped on a train in the morning and headed into the city. I had pre-booked tickets so all we had to do was rock up!

It was amazing! Each model had a sign telling us the amount of hours and Lego pieces used! We tallied it up and it was a total of over 1600 hours and hundreds of thousands of pieces. One of the great things about this, being geared to kids, was that under each icon was a massive pool of Lego pieces and stools all around so the kids could then sit and build their own Lego creation. Both fellas build a kooky looking building then placed them with pride on one of the tables around the outside of the room. These tables were specifically for the kids works of art!

After our allocated time (one hour, which as just enough) was over we then wandered down to the Rocks for lunch at one of our fave restaurants, Nakashima. They have a beef sashimi to die for. It comes out displayed like carpaccio, and its just so delicate and beautifully flavoured. We haven't been there for lunch before, so quite a few of our favourite dishes weren't on the special lunch menu (a salmon dish, tempura, and an eggplant dish we love) however I did convince the waitress to let us have our beef. We just shared some gyoza, some agadashi tofu, the yummy beef sashimi and a teriyaki chicken box with salmon sashimi, rice and miso soup.

Our plan for after lunch had been to wander down to the Sydney Observatory, however Boy#1 had a better offer come in of movies with his mates that afternoon. The planets and space and the like are a big thing with the husband so we made an executive decision to leave that outing to a time when he could come with us. So...after eating our yummy lunch we headed off back to the train station, with an essential stop off at an ice cream shop along the way!

I just love these days when I have the boys to myself and we go out and explore the world. 

What are you doing in the holidays with your kids?


Monday, April 18, 2016

Holiday fun!

So we are smack bang in the middle of the school holidays at the moment. With one boy in high school and the other not  I dont have the option anymore of putting them both in vacation care for any time (seeing as there is none at high school!). This can sometimes cause a bit of a hassle with organising care and activities.

We are planning a big four week road trip in the middle of the year and will be using up all of my leave entitlements at work for that, so I need to be quite nifty in my arrangements. Thankfully last week the boys had the entire week with their dad so I didn't have to organise a thing. This week it's my turn, and I have a few things up my sleeve including a few days away on a friends farm.

On the weekend we took a day and headed out to Bilpin. The apple fruit bowl of NSW. It's not too long a drive so I thought it would be a lovely day trip for us all. It would have been too, if it weren't for the traffic that added an hour onto our trip!

Anyway, there are several orchards in Bilpin where you can swing by and pick your own apples. Some charge and entry fee and others don't. We happened across one that didn't and they had my favourite apple, the Pink Lady, just ripe and ready for picking. The cost per kilo is much better than you will find in any supermarket ($2.50 per kilo) and you know you are getting the freshest apples ever as you are the one picking them off the tree.

We had a ball choosing our apples. The Pink Lady's for general eating and some Granny Smith apples for eating and also for cooking. My darling husband wants to use his granny's recipe to make some apple jelly. Yum! We ended up with about 10kg of each type, not including the ones we ate while picking! It sounds like a crazy amount of apples but they will last for ages.

 We stopped at a local cafe called Bilpin Afire for the yummiest lunch before heading home. Hubby rated their hamburger as in his top 10!   We stopped at a friends on the way home for a cuppa, and it was a great day out all in all. Well worth the drive, Bilpin is such a lovely part of the world. Great to go in the beginning of autumn when there is a little chill in the air.   So that is one day down in a week, just a few more to fill up before they head off for a bit of country air at a friends.  

What do you do with the kids in the holidays?

 x S


Friday, April 15, 2016

Oh Burleigh, I'm in Love

I recently had a small "jet set" moment, and what it lacked in private jets, cashmere lounge pants and travel pods, it more than made up for in good friends, lovely locales and amazing meals. In finding myself landing into Sydney on a clear, sunny morning off the over night flight from Hong Kong, I gathered my wits and carry-on luggage, hopped on the train over to the domestic terminal, met up with my travelling companions and checked in for my flight to the Gold Coast.

My early morning return from a work trip to Hong Kong and China had coordinated with a planned girls-weekend away to Burleigh Heads - a trip that had been in the works for some time, for myself and two besties to visit another BFF, who in the previous year had relocated to Burleigh with her kids.

Off the plane at the Gold Coast, and following a quick shower & a fresh change of clothes, we headed to BSKT Cafe for a clean, crisp and oh-so-tasty lunch.

I had the Aburi Salmon, served on a base of brown rice, with crushed pepitas, sesame seeds and lemon - the perfect reset after a week of non stop travel.

My gorgeous girlfriend then booked us in for an early dinner seating at Rick Shores. Talk about a stunning setting! With an Asian inspired menu, perfectly suited to sharing and a fantastic cocktail list (not to mention the view!) it was a lovely spot to toast good friends and what the days sky slowly fade.

As all four girls on the weekend are Mums, we allowed ourselves a slow start to the morning, followed by a coffee and a walk along the Burleigh shore line. We then headed south to the beautiful Halcyon House, and a lunch booking at Paper Daisy Restaurant.

A long, leisurely lunch followed. The lunch menu is structured at a set price, with 2 course, or 3 course options. All very reasonably priced, with a good wine list, and fabulous Aperol Spritz', the drive was well worth it.

We allowed ourselves one more lazy start and around mid morning wandered near by for brunch at Paddock.

Established in an old, weather board cottage, with tables scattered around the surrounding gardens and beautifully shaded by mature trees, the coffee was good, the bacon and egg rolls excellent and the bombalonies a treat!

Sunday morning was obviously a popular time, with tables in high demand, but the vibe was very friendly and relaxed and the waitstaff easy going and efficant.

Having only stopped briefly previously in Burleigh, I was very pleasantly surprised by all the good little spots that we tried, and have the sense there are many more for us to discover next time. The area has a thriving whole-food scene, with regular organic farmers markets, yoga studios aplenty and plenty of "alternative" dining options.

I so enjoyed sharing the weekend with my gorgeous friend, and getting to know the place she now calls home - we will definately be back! xxE

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Muuuuuuum, I'm hungry!!

Oh hello familiar refrain of the school holidays grazing habits of the tween & teen crowd.

Snacking definitely steps up during school holiday down time and it pays to have some easy options to hand.

Asian Dumplings are one of our go-to-freezer-favourites. They are quick & filling, and they boys are all now confident cooking them up (Son#2 is a particular fan!)

A none stick pan works best. Pop of the stove top and turn to a medium heat. Once pan is hot, place upto 16 dumplings in the pan, flat side down. Add half a cup of water to pan and quickly place a well fitting lid over pan.

Let dumplings steam for aprox 5 mins, or until all water has evaporated.

Keeping an eye on them, allow dumplings to fry from another minute or so, or until the base is crunchy.

Eat & repeat!

Note: Dumpling are available at most Asian supermarkets and some larger main-stream supermarkets. We have found the veggie to be the best - but you can get pork, prawn, mushroom etc etc. prices range from $4 up to $12, and you typically get 30 to 40 a pack (sometimes more! See photo)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Hitting the books

With the turning of the season, the tilt of the menu turns away from fresh & crunchy, and more towards warm and comforting. And with school holidays upon us, meal planning, while still in swing, will relax a little over the next couple of weeks (read: easy options, pasta, slow cooker, soup).

Life is moving pretty fast around these parts, and I am trying hard not to buy into the cult of "busy". Life just "is" - we are a family of five, we work and the kids all have interests and activities. It's about keeping to negative self-talk at bay, grabbing the good bits where you can, as well as finding the small bubbles of quiet in your day. 

As part of managing the "is"  I am looking for options to better manage the weekly household needs (read: Internet grocery shopping). So these school holidays, I am hitting the books - cook books that is - to get some inspo in autumnal eating and get ahead of the curve when Term 2 kicks off.

In the mean time, this is what this weeks plan looks like: 

Honey Soy Chicken wings with sweet potato and salad

Home made sausage rolls with cherry toms/boccinci/avo salad

Leek & Potato soup with cheesey chrunchy rolls

Spaghetti Carbonara

Lamb "surprise" in the slow cooker

Juggling work and three kids in school holidays this week - wish me luck! xE

Friday, April 8, 2016

When its all too much

Life is crazy busy in this house, as it is with just about everyone that I know. Juggling work, kids, school lunches, activities, groceries, meals, homework, assignments (kids not mine), trying to catch up with friends, kids social activities, worrying about kids...you get the drift.

The other morning I just didn't want to get out of bed. I just lay there and looked out the window thinking of all things that I had to get done, but didn't want to do. I didn't want to go to work. Or the gym. Or the shops. I didn't want to make another school lunch or another family dinner. I didn't want to talk to anyone, see anyone, do anything. I just wanted to lie there and sleep. Maybe read a little.

Ever had that feeling? Yup, thought so...

I came so close to burying my head under my lovely new pillow, just ignoring it all, and sleeping. Until all those niggly things started going around in my head. The "self talk". The "go on, you'll be fine once you get up". The "just get it done".

So I did. I got up. I made lunches. I went to work. And I had a really great day. 

What do you struggle with sometimes?

Sometimes the "fake it until you make it" can not be truer! 
S x

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Make ahead breakfast? Why not!

Last week I was sitting in the car waiting for #2 to finish his drama class, when I came upon a list of some make ahead breakfast recipes. As it was a long weekend coming up with a stack of entertaining, I thought that some of them could be a winner in the kitchen.

Right again!

The first that I tried was a Ham & Cheese bake from here. Wowzers, it was yum. It came out of the oven so golden and bubbling. Melted cheese is one of the best things on earth.

The original recipe was to serve 8, and I didn't want that much left over, so I tweaked it a bit. Here is my version:

1 3/4 cups milk
6 eggs
1 tablespn Dijon mustard
1 teaspn chopped thyme
1 baguette
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
100g packet of ham (I used a double smoked and it was TOPS!)

Spray a medium sized casserole dish with oil. 

In bowl, whisk milk, eggs, mustard, thyme, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Arrange half of bread, overlapping, in baking dish. Pour half of milk mixture over bread; sprinkle with half of Cheddar. Top with ham, then repeat layering of bread, milk and Cheddar. 

Cover the dish; chill 1 hour or up to overnight (*I think overnight is a must to give the bread time to absorb all that eggy yumminess). 

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until golden and custard is set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with chives.

You are welcome!
S x

Monday, April 4, 2016

Luxe Love

At Christmas one of the gals at work gave me a little set of L'Occitane goodies. There was a bath gel, a mini soap, a hand cream plus few other bits and pieces. I tend to save these mini's for when we go away but I thought I'd live life on the edge and bust them out recently.

Oh WOW. Their Almond Shower Oil? AMAZEBALLS! It is a lovely oil that becomes all lathery when mixed with water on your skin. Its just delightful. The only shame is that my darling son thought it would be fun to play with in the shower...nooooo

I rarely buy lovely things like this for myself, but this time I thought "stuff it" and took myself off to the shops and bought a large one. Added bonus is that you can also buy refills...woot! AND, Im going to use it every day. Go me, right?

Do you treat yourself often? Go on, its worth it!


Friday, April 1, 2016

Hello Old Friend

Like many families, I am sure, we have a collection of tried and true favourite recipes. You know the ones. The recipes that become your touchstones that mark the changing of the seasons, comfy sunday nights or the never-fail-one-pot-wonders that please the whole family (which, if you ask me, is just about the holy grail of family meal options!)

Our meal plan this week featured one of our touch-stone favourites. A recipe that was originally found in Donna Hay Modern Classics Book 1 and over the years, has been served up with cous cous, rice or mash, has been used as a pie filling, a pasta topping and in a handy thermos for a sneaky school lunch, it is a firm favourite and a dead set winner.....every time!

(originally published as)
Chicken, Pancetta and Mushroom Stew

1.6kg chicken, cut into 8 portions
plain flour (for dusting chicken)
150g pancetta (or bacon) diced/sliced
2 leeks, sliced
2 cloves of garlic
200g button mushrooms, halved
2.5 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
0.5 cup cream
Flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon tarragon, chopped

Toss chicken in flour and shake of any excess
Fry chicken on olive oil, in batches, until golden. Remove and set aside
Add oil to pan (if needed) and cook pancetta/bacon, leek, garlic and mushrooms, until golden. Remove and set aside
Deglaze pan with wine and stock and bring to a simmer.
Return chicken to pan and cook, covered, on low to medium heat for 25 minutes
Add pancetta/bacon, leek and mushroom mix, cream and herbs to pan and simmer, uncovered, for a further 5 minutes, or until reduced and thickened.
Season with salt & pepper to taste and serve with rice, potatoes or cous cous.

Note: Over the years, we have tended to cook this recipe using chicken thigh, instead of a joined chook. The Thigh stays moist, and can be chopped up/shredded if need be.

Enjoy! xxE