Thursday, April 23

LUNCHBOX LEGEND: No-bake chewy blueberry coconut muesli bars

It's been a crazy week, we are in Sydney and if you've not seen in the news, this superstorm has certainly been disruptive.  We're on our third day with limited power - no washing machine, dishwasher and no oven.  We have enough power to run our fridge the past two days and some TVs as well so it could be worse.  Luckily we also have gas - so hot showers and gas cooktops are a blessing.

I  have been left with a limited lunchbox stash though so had to get creative.  No-bake-type creative.  I could have made LCMs but because it's so wet and damp thought that might not be a good idea.

So I went looking for a chewy muesli bar and I tweaked a recipe and got these and I have to say, they are the best muesli bars I've ever made.  Not only are they delicious but the recipe is super easy and it makes 18 bars.  I kinda want to make more today, and I might if I have time.

Now the recipe calls for light corn syrup.  If you can't access this - just use 1/3 cup glucose syrup and make up the rest of what would have been 1/2 cup with water, no drama.  You can get glucose syrup readily from the supermarket if they don't have light corn syrup.

You don't need to use blueberries either -  use choc-chips, sultanas, dried apricots, currants or goji berries or even funfetti/sprinkles if you're feeling a little crazy.

All up they take about an hour but  half of that you're waiting for them to set, so very quick!  Give them a go - you won't regret it!

125 gr butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 3/4 cups rice bubbles
1/4 cup dried blueberries

Line a baking tray (mine here is 43cm x 28cm (or 17 x 11 inches)) with aluminium foil.

Place butter, corn syrup, sugars and vanilla extract in a saucepan and place on stove over medium-high heat.

While your wet mixture is heating up - prepare your dry ingredients by combining them in a bowl.  These are the blueberries I used.

Give your wet ingredients a stir, and when it starts to bubble up like this, it's ready to pour into your dry ingredients.

Get ready with a spoon.

Pour in your wet ingredients gradually and stir as you go.

It should be moist all over.  Quickly move this into your prepared tray.

Spread out evenly with a piece of baking paper as the mixture will be hot and sticky.

Compact the mixture buy rolling a small rolling pin or glass over the top to ensure it meshes together well and the surface is even.

Leave it to set for about 30 minutes then turn upside down onto a chopping board. Peel off the foil and then cut into bars or squares, depending what you prefer.  This made 18 bars for me.

They have a lovely texture and are sweet without being sickly.

Cut up baking paper and roll into individualwrapped pieces.  They fit perfectly into a tupperware mini-rectangle size 2 if you have one.

Sunday, April 12

Mega-lunch-box-bake off, how we made 500 school snacks in three hours!

At the beginning of the school year I hosted a baking afternoon with the Mums of our church and some friends.   In the spirit of MamaBake we met in our large church kitchen and had time to chat and bake, and I passed on some of my recipes which I'd adapted to be big batches.

All in all it cost about $20 a family, there were nine of us, which I think is as big as it should be to be honest, mainly because of oven space and time.

I purchased the ingredients, but if you were doing this with friends, you could allocate a shopping list or a recipe to each person.  For the recipes we used, I also pre-made the scroll dough and short-crust for the mini-quiches.

I laid out each recipe in stations with ingredients, utensils and of course the recipe.   This is the station for banana passionfruit muffins

 And mini quiches using my quiche pastry dough

Savoury scrolls using Pioneer Woman's scroll dough

Everyone stuck to their recipe - and it was very social and it was clear that everyone loved baking but didn't have either the patience or the confidence to make it all.  Everyone left feeling they would re-make at least one of the recipes.

It was really fun, I would recommend it with friends or people in your community!

Slabs of LCMs!

The 'business'!  Cookies, muffins, scrolls, quiches!
 The assembly line of packaging!

Click here to download the bulk recipes to use yourself or with friends!

Saturday, April 4

Kick-ass smokey sausage and egg bake

This is a recipe that has many, many uses.  It's a brilliant hangover cure for breakfast, lunch or whenever.. it's a fabulous lunch on a cold day and it's a brilliant 'whoops I forgot to take something out of the freezer' or 'I don't have a lot of time' dinner.

It's warming, filling and delicious, and if you're lucky enough to have leftovers, brilliant just served on toast later.

If you have a cast iron frypan or skillet this is ideal - but if you don't, you can use a regular frypan and transfer to an oven proof dish.

(serves 5)
5 chorizo sausages
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 brown onion, peeled and diced
3 large potatoes, diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 400g tin unsalted baked beans
1 400g tin diced tomatores
1 tsp paprika
chili, as desired
1 stalk fresh or 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 stalk fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated cheese
5 eggs

In your frypan or skillet, add 1 tb oil and fry onion, garlic and potato until the potato starts to gain crispy skin, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop up your chorizo and sweet potato, and ready the rest of your ingredients.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees c.

Then add the sweet potato and chorizo.  Add a swig of oil and some salt and pepper. Toss whilst it's cooking occasionally for about 5 minutes.

Add baked beans, tomatoes, oregano and chili if desired.  Leave to simmer for about 15 minutes on a medium heat.

It should become thick and saucy - stir regularly to avoid anything sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Once your sweet potato has softened, take off the stove and transfer to baking dish if your frypan or skillet is not oven safe.

Crack eggs over the top of skillet/baking dish and scatter parsley and cheese over the top.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve.

Absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

Friday, April 3

Our emotional visit to Australian War Memorial - Canberra

My girls are obsessed with knowing more about World War 1 at the moment.  This is not a bad thing, and really extends from the focus on the centenary of Gallipoli landing this month.  Part of this learning was an assignment on a person who fought in World War 1 - which Laura with the help of my Mum did on her great-great grandfather.   As a family we were fascinated by our own personal link to the first world war.   

My great-grandfather John (Jack) McCarthy 56th Batallion
So we decided quite on the supur of the moment, given we had a break in netball commitments to go down to the War Memorial.  Hubby and I met in Canberra, so there is a certain sense of nostalgia when we visit.

As soon as we popped onto the M5 motorway, the excitement was building.  The frills have been learning about recipients of the Victoria Cross and all along centennary drive (the M5 through to Canberra) all the rest stops are named after Victoria Cross recipients... so everyone with their iPads and me with my camera were capturing them to reference later at the memorial.

VC photo-capturing

and we were even lucky enough to stop at one!  
What has changed is all the coffee stops along the way, coffee vans at most rest areas these days.. a very welcomed sight by hubby!

When we arrived, it was just at the end of the Op Slipper parade, which was a parade to commemorate the end of our defence involvement in Afghanistan and Middle East.  This memorial is to the west of the war memorial main building.

My smallest frills were so excited when they saw the statue of Simpson and his Donkey (Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick), as they had just learned about him the week before at school.

At this point I asked them to pose in front of Australia's Parliament House and hubby explained to them why there is a direct view from parliament house (old and new) 'so politicians making decisions about war would be constantly reminded of the sacrifices of war'.

Inside the Australia War Memorial, it's a very emotional place.   I would suggest heading up to the Roll of honor and hook up with a guide.  They have fascinating stories about the names on the wall.  Where they came from, where they joined, a bit about their family and loved ones and what they did in the war.. it really helps humanise those people.

We laid poppies in the wall next to my great-grandfathers' batallion and also at Jack Simpson Kirkpatricks (in the First Aid section).

The Hall of Memory is quite a solemn experience.  You can't be there and not contemplate the person this could have been, the family they left behind, their experience of war.  The stained glass windows, ceiling and murals are just magnificent. 

Then we headed into the new World War 1 section.  Quite frankly it's amazing.

My girls loved seeing the uniforms (and later they tried some on - more on that soon).  

It looks so heavy!

Laura and I were mesmerised by the Gallipoli landing boat, bullet holes and all.  Well worth a look and you can even touch it.  Having exhibits like this makes it so real and instantly relateable.  Laura was working out how many men could fit in there and then I reminded her they would have equipment as well...

There were diaries and films and interactive displays - I loved the artefacts most of all.  This is a recruitment poster from World War 1.

Remember our stop off? We went and found the Victoria Cross Medal recipients in the Hall of Valour, which is shaped in the shape of the Victoria Cross.

It's hard to tell what the kids' favourite part of the War Memorial was, and I'm only showing you a small sample of what we saw and experienced, but a must-must-must-do for the kids is the Discovery Zone.  The kids can get hands on experience of many war experiences.  There's uniforms for them to try on and try all kinds of things.

This is the dug-out.. where the kids can put their foot into an open space and...

See what trench foot looks like! (Yuck!)

Fly in a helicopter from the Vietnam War...

Hang out in a submarine (and a have a kip)

And try out some morse code...

For us of course the World War 1 section was the focus, I guess because the girls understood more about the war.  As my grandfather served in World War two and my own father in the Gulf and Afghanistan, I think we have a lot more family history to go through and then go back.  I honestly think you need a few days.. and it doesn't matter if you went last decade, last year or last month (or even yesterday) you can always see new things at the War Memorial.

Key info tips:

  • War Memorial is free to all members of the public
  • It's a long day, if your kids are younger than teens, split it into two days.
  • Food and drink is not permitted, but there is a cafe on site, it's a tad on the expensive side, but less than the movies
  • Tours are free you can pick these up at the front entrance or join one that might be in an area you're in.
  • If you want to find records of those in your family - their research centre is open every day except Sundays
  • The giftshop is where you can pick up poppies for $1 each.  The giftshop has a fabulous range of books, videos, posters and memoriabilia.  If you can't get to the memorial, you can order from their shop here
  • The last post, bring tissues if you are there for it.  A tear springs to my eye if I hear it anyways, but there, it's profound.  Every day at 4.55pm.  You can watch a live stream of it here each day.


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