Zoo Party

We finally celebrated Pickle’s second birthday, just a few weeks late, with some of his little friends (and their families) joining us for afternoon tea and general hilarity. Given his love of animals, a zoo party was a logical – and incredibly simple – choice.

I made invitations featuring Pickle’s favourite noisy lion, RaaRaa, and used pictures of the same (free colouring pages from the internet) to make a simple bunting. Cups and serviettes featuring a menagerie of animals were on the table (paired with plain green plates), with a little zoo animal for each guest to take home. Add a few orange balloons and a zoo made from Duplo and our animal collection – done.

RaaRaa Invitation Zoo Party Zoo Party Zoo Party Party Balloon Zoo Party RaaRaa The Noisy Lion The food was simple too (a change for me, as I tend to go overboard and then get flustered because I have so many things to make), and chosen with toddlers and preschoolers in mind. Sweets, crisps and fruit, cocktail sausages (of course), popcorn and homemade gingerbread panda bears and tigers.

Panda and Tiger BiscuitsI had an absolute cake disaster to begin with (trying a new recipe combined with a failure to measure my cake tin was the issue – lesson learned!), but my go-to chocolate mud cake recipe saved the day, and I’m quite happy with my decorating attempt. Again, simple but recognisable, and the birthday boy loved it.

Zoo cakeZoo PartyHe had a great afternoon, and was exhausted by the end of the day – at one point I’m sure he was close to falling asleep in his cot while his friends, and Tiny’s, leaped about in his room!

Pickle and ShortPickle is two!


Cheap-As Tuesdays

Now that I have spare time again, and I’m used to my braces, I’m enjoying getting back into my kitchen. For the past few weeks, I’ve been cooking fairly simple, similar dishes, meals that I know won’t take long to prepare, and that I hope will be eaten with little or no protests from my boys. While Tall was away, I made three meals, and we ate leftovers or variations for the eight days. While we were on holiday, we ate a lot of salad-based meals, with fish or meat on the side, but it’s a bit cold for salads in Dunedin right now.

I took great delight in sitting down with recipes on Sunday, planning our week’s meals before doing the groceries. It felt so nice to spend time doing one of my favourite things – thinking about food – and it felt great to plan meals that were different, healthy and hopefully delicious. An added bonus was that Tiny was watching me flick through Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals, and chose two of this week’s meals based on the pictures he liked.

PizzaInspired by Elizabeth’s post about meal planning and food budgeting over at To Find a Silver Lining, and by SAHM I am‘s current What’s Cooking Wednesday series, and the distant memory of posts I used to do long ago, here is this week in meals in the Tall, Short, Tiny & a Pickle household:

Sunday: malai kofta with rice – a recipe given by a friend, which takes a while to prepare, but is definitely worth the effort! Everyone ate and enjoyed this curry, which was very mild but so flavoursome.

Monday: Thai red prawn curry – one of Tiny’s choices, a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals. It was spicy, and de-heading the whole prawns saw me retching into the kitchen sink, but the flavours were delicious and the near-voms were an acceptable trade-off. The fish lady at our local supermarket wanted to get rid of her last few prawns, so discounted the lot by $10/kg for me, making this dish much cheaper than it might otherwise have been!

Tuesday: sweet and sour pork – a recipe from Tana Ramsay’s Real Family Food that I’ve made before and we’ve all enjoyed.

Wednesday: Thai-style chicken soup – another Tana Ramsay recipe, but one I’ve not tried before. The spices will be much more muted than the prawn curry above, as this book is aimed at families with children who may not have tried spices before.

Thursday: Pregnant Jools’ Pasta – another Jamie O. recipe, and another of Tiny’s choices. Pasta and sausage-meatballs, essentially – but very tasty and appealing to my pasta-loving boys *this week’s Cheap-As Tuesday meal*

Friday: pizza (pear and blue cheese; salmon and cream cheese) – our classic favourite variations.

Saturday: orange chicken bake – a Tana Ramsay recipe that I’ve made before and we’ve all enjoyed. Leeks, potatoes, oranges and chicken pieces, baked and served with crusty bread to mop up the juices. Yum.

All of these meals will be completely home-made, and I was quite proud of myself for managing to buy everything we needed for these dinners, plus kindy lunches, breakfast staples, fruit etc, for about $40 less than I had been spending. Winter (and June, particularly) is an expensive time of year for us, so keeping the weekly shop cost down is something that’s on my mind at the moment.

A Lego Party

4 Balloons on the trampoline Lego Cake 4th birthday Lego cake Lego biscuitsM&MsStep 1: collect balloons, crepe paper and treats in the main Lego colours.

Step 2: bake your go-to chocolate mud cake. Press the bottom of a (brand-new) Lego board onto fondant icing to create those iconic “bumps” and decorate using Lego brick sweets and (clean) tool-wielding Lego people from the birthday boy’s collection.

Step 3: roll refrigerator cookies into rectangles and set overnight; cut into blocks for baking. Ice with coloured royal icing and corresponding candies to make Lego cookie.

Step 4: employ your other half and your mother to blow up 40+ balloons. Argue with OH about the quantity of balloons needed. As he walks out the door at 8pm to buy more, remind him that you want blue, red, green and yellow balloons only. Yelp in horror when he returns 20 minutes later with bags of mixed colours and attempts to add orange to the mix.

Step 5: Go to bed and dream about Lego cakes and balloons.

Step 6: make pizzas, decorated to look like cheesy Lego bricks with little slices of pepperoni arranged demonically perfectly atop the cheese.

Step 7: sit down and relax while your birthday boy has a blast with his little mostly-kindy friends.

The Perfect Steak Sarnie

There are two things I can never go past on a café menu.

The first is paté, especially if served with some sort of sweet relish or onion jam. When I was pregnant, this was one of the main things I missed eating; now, if I see paté on an entree menu…consider all other items ignored.

The second is a steak sandwich. Open or shut, sirloin or minute, ciabatta or sourdough…I love them all. However, my love for a good steak sarnie isn’t limited to ordering one at a cafe. Oh-ho-ho-no. I have been experimenting at home and this is my perfect steak sandwich.

Steak SandwichCiabatta – blue cheese – sliced steak – homemade caramelised onion – homemade coleslaw – avocado. What a combination. Of course, you can change the blue cheese to brie or a nutty emmental if you like, and switch the caramelised onion for a spicy tomato relish…but this is my perfect mix of flavours and textures.

Just make sure that when you eat it, you let the juices dribble down your hand. No knives and forks here, thanks very much!

Salmon and Avocado Salad with Dill Dressing

I’m married to a man who grew up on a cattle farm; his mum has a freezer full of beef and lamb. He rather reluctantly eats the vegetarian meals I prepare, always asking (with a cheeky grin), “Where’s the meat?”

Luckily, he would choose seafood over meat 95% of the time. Tall loves fish, especially salmon, snapper and blue cod. We try to eat fish once a week (even though I am mildly allergic, bleurgh), and during the warmer months, we eat a lot of fresh fish and salads.

This is such a simple, quick dish to prepare; serve with fresh bread (I like the texture of a ciabatta or Turkish pide with this) and a chilled glass of pinot gris or beer.

Salmon and Avocado SaladSalmon and Avocado Salad with Dill Dressing – serves 2-4

mesclun salad leaves
2 avocados, diced chunkily
1 bunch fresh asparagus, steamed until tender
1/2 telegraph cucumber, halved lengthways and sliced
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1 wood roasted/hot-smoked salmon fillet
200g baked ricotta (method below; omit completely for dairy-free)
3T olive oil
approx. 1T lemon juice
1T fresh dill tips*
1t brown sugar*
salt and pepper

Combine mesclun, avocado, asparagus, cucumber and tomatoes in a large serving bowl.

In a small jug, whisk together the remaining ingredients; taste and adjust seasonings to your own taste. *You might want to reduce or increase the amounts of sugar and lemon juice depending on whether you like a sweeter or tarter dressing.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine.

Break the salmon into bite-size chunks and add to the salad along with chunks of baked ricotta.

Serve with lots of bread to soak up the dressing, and a glass of something cold and delicious.

Salmon and Avocado SaladBaked ricotta:
Line a baking tray with a small square of baking paper. Plop the ricotta on top, in an evenly-spread disc. Drizzle with olive oil and season; add fresh thyme leaves or dill tips. Bake at 200degC for 10-15 minutes until the top is golden brown and slightly crusty. Remove from the oven and cool. This can be made using firm-from-the-deli ricotta or fresh-from-a-pottle ricotta; I’ve tried it with both, and they are different in texture but equally delicious.

Fun with Food

Please copy and paste the button below and include it in your foodie post!
By clicking on the link below, you’ll be taken to an external page, where you can enter your link and see who else is linking up. Please take the time to visit them, too!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Nuts for Nuts: National Nut Day 2013

Pistachios. If someone told me I had to choose one nut to eat for the rest of my life, I would choose pistachios.

However, if someone else came along and said, “Actually…we’re all out of pistachios…you’ll have to choose something else”, I’d have absolutely no qualms about choosing cashews instead.

Mother Earth NutsRaw, straight from the shell, roasted, dry roasted, salted, honey-roasted…I’ll eat ’em any way you offer ’em. So when Mother Earth sent me some of their Barbecue Cashews to try, I couldn’t wait to try them…and five minutes later, the bag was empty. I did have some help, in the form of a three-and-half-year-old grub, which was a huge surprise as he has never been a fan of nuts before. The flavour was smoky and tangy, but not overpowering or sickly (obviously, as I inhaled  three-quarters of the bag) and I liked that they still tasted like cashews.

Mother Earth Barbecue CashewsI was also sent the Heart Vitality mix. Um – nuts and dark chocolate? Yes please! These were a delicious combination of nibbly bits, and were very moreish. And the best thing is – they are good for you. We all know that dark chocolate is good for our hearts, but nuts have had a bit of a bad reputation until recently.

Today, National Nut Day, is about celebrating the humble nut. About recognising its place in a healthy, balanced diet, and appreciating it in all its tasty goodness.

A number of years ago, I took part in a University of Otago study looking into the effects of nut consumption (30g daily) on an individual’s weight, and the results were surprising. This same study also found that lightly roasted and lightly salted nuts were as beneficial, nutritionally, as raw nuts – a big plus for those people who prefer their nuts a little seasoned! One of the long-lasting things I learned from this study is that eating 30g of ground almonds is not a pleasant experience: dry, they try and choke you; sprinkled on cereal, they become soggy sawdust (nutdust?). Ugh.

For further information regarding the health benefits of eating nuts, visit Alison’s Pantry or Mother Earth.

These nuts were provided to me for the purpose of this review (and to promote National Nut Day), but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Fun with Food

Please copy and paste the button below and include it in your foodie post!
By clicking on the link below, you’ll be taken to an external page, where you can enter your link and see who else is linking up. Please take the time to visit them, too!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Meal Planning

I’m quite proud of my meal plan for this week. Instead of trolling through my recipe books, picking whatever I felt like for the week’s meals, I planned our meals based around the half jars of this and half packets of that which were lurking in our fridge.

Meal PlanThe 200ml of coconut milk, and handful of limp-looking mushrooms? Pan-fried monkfish with a curried coconut sauce, served on rice with stir-fried vegetables.

The two little cabbages from my dad’s garden? They were destined to be made into coleslaw for hamburgers, but unfortunately they’d gone to seed and weren’t able to be used. Not to worry – we had a bag of metro lettuce and some blue cheese, so our burgers went a little “gourmet”.

The few strips of streaky bacon, leftover from the Otago Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago? They’ll be going in to our perennial favourite, macaroni cheese.

The spring onion, three-quarters of a chilli, half pottle of sour cream and half tub of greek yoghurt will be toppings for mince-and-beans nachoes, while the eggplant I bought on special last week will become my favourite vegetarian dish: Melanzane alla Parmigiana. Ahem. I am horrified that I misspelled melanzane on my whiteboard…but not enough to want to change it.

All the vegetables not stir-fried for the monkfish meal will be added to a Thai chicken curry…green, red or Massuman, I haven’t decided yet.

I did forget about half a pottle of ricotta cheese, but fear not! It won’t be wasted! My husband is off to the Bledisloe Cup rugby game on Saturday night, so I might make myself a little salad with some baked ricotta served alongside. Yum.

What’s on the menu in your house this week?

**If you want to vote for Tall, Short, Tiny & a Pickle for the 2013 Munch “Best Kids Food Blog” award, voting is open until 29 October.**

Munch Award~~~~~~~~~
Fun with Food

Please copy and paste the button below and include it in your foodie post!
By clicking on the link below, you’ll be taken to an external page, where you can enter your link and see who else is linking up. Please take the time to visit them, too!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…