Friday, April 18

The Frills do Disney California Adventure!

You've asked for it, and finally here it is!  Our day at Disney California Adventure.  I can say without a doubt, completely worth the plane ride from Australia.  My only regret really is that we only spent one day there and spent too long at Disneyland.  Don't get me wrong, Disneyland would have been great had we not had such bad luck with the rides and if your kids are six and under it's totally your park.. but for us, with eight and nine year olds - California Adventure all the way!

As we were staying onsite at Disney Grand Californian Hotel, we just popped downstairs for breakfast at the StoryTellers Cafe.  Everyone told me I had to book that way in advance and I booked the night before - thinking I might not get us in - but I did and when we arrived at 7am there was next to no-one there.  We were having a lucky day it seems!  Reason we started so early is because if you stay at the hotel you get an extra hour in the park - 8am - 9am - depending on the day it could be to Disneyland or California Adventure - this day it was California Adventure and the entrance was less than 100 metres from the restaurant too.

So we fuelled ourselves up - characters come and sit with you at breakfast - it's a big hit with the kids!
We're a bit blurry before our morning tea and coffee...

Great start to the day!

And you can get up and do the hokey-pokey too!

The kids had a kids breakfast set which was pancakes with syrup, juice, and fruit.. We had maple bacon and eggs - all hearty and the bill for five of us was about $85 USD with a tip.  

Then we set off for our day - one hour in the park almost to yourself is a god-send and we headed straight to Soaring over California.  It's a ride that you sit (strapped in) on a structure that lifts you up to a large 3D screen, it moves, blows wind in your face, you get the smell and feel of flying, I lost my stomach a few times I'll admit, but it was AWESOME.


Next it was off to a 'A Bugs Land'. I thought this was more for smaller kids - ideally 4-8 year olds - but my kids still liked it - the scene is very well done - everything is scaled up to make you feel as small as an ant - these are 'recycled juice box and leaves' ride called 'Flik's flyers'.

Next we headed to Cars Land and whether you're a girl or a boy you're going to love these - these are vacuum powered tyre ride called 'Luigi's Flying Tires'.  We had great fun bumping each other!  

We then went on the cars ride 'Radiator Springs', and it was great until the race at the end - the kids and hubby loved it - I just accepted I'm not thrillseeker.  No I am not!

As you may remember from when we went to Hong Kong Disneyland I'm not fond of rollercoasters.  Even though we hadn't quite seen it in the flesh at this point I started to get very anxious about Laura and Olivia's desire to go on California Screamin' I just think I knew it would be too much for them and I was almost beside myself in tears and I begged my hubby to side with me and not let them go on it.  For some unknown reason I didn't have the same concerns about Eloise - perhaps because she's older..   I thought honestly as we neared the entry to Paradise Pier that I was going to throw up!

Anyways, we turned the corner and everyone got sight of the massive structure and Laura and Olivia declared 'No, I'm not going on it now!'.  I had a little tear of relief.  As it turned out, they were too short anyways.. PHEW.

So hubby took Eloise - and apparently she didn't even scream.  Thank goodness my hubby loves these kind of things because I can't do it!
She looks a bit non-plussed right?

We did this instead...

Paradise pier is a brilliant place to have lunch I think, it's very picturesque and we were there in December the weather was beautiful, much like Sydney spring weather - in the early to mid twenties each day.  At night there is a light show 'World of Color'.  We didn't go to this but wish we had now - we were just too tired.

Then it was time for 'Mickey's fun wheel' you can choose whether you want a sliding carriage or a stationary carriage,

I honestly wish we'd spent two days at California Adventure, I want to go back!

 Later in the afternoon after going on a few other rides hubby took the kids to 'Grizzly River Run'.  I as usual was the photographer and will recommend you take a poncho...

As they got a bit wet... hubby had to go change his jeans  - luckily it was right by the hotel so no biggie.  This was an enormous hit with our family.

Then we went to Hollywood land - some highlights:
Muppets 3D - this is like going and being a real part of Muppet Theatre, I think hubby and I enjoyed it a little bit more than the kids!

Animation Academy - where you get taught to draw popular Disney characters - we did Donald.

And sometimes the scenery is better than the rides.. this couple we saw in Disneyland the day before in the same outfit, here they are at the Monsters Inc ride.

When we were in Hong Kong a month later we spotted these, but we didn't buy them.. kind of regretting that now.. (for the fun factor)

Then day turned to night, and we hung out at the 'southern' end of California Adventure - like a mini dixie-land called Carthay Circle - we caught the red car trolley up and down and took in the sights, we were exhausted by this stage!

This wasn't ALL our day of course, but a good chunk of it!

If you're looking to go some tips I will leave with you:
1. Get in early - and do Soaring over California and Radiator Springs first before the queues get too long.
2. Take as little as possible.  1 backpack between a family is plenty really just for water and your camera. 
3.  Take sunglasses and hats and sunscreen - regardless of the season.
4. If going to grizzly peak, buy a poncho, worth the money.
5.  For character photos - take your own, mine turned out better than Disneyland ones you can use on the photopass.
6.  Talking of photopass - this is great though - the first photo you get taken you get a card, then every time you get your photo taken after that - whether it's on a ride or whatever get it added to the same pass... register your pass and  generally after a few days after your visit - Disney will send you an email discounting the digital download of your pics.
7.  Souvenirs I think are quite reasonable.  Set your kids a limit of $30 that should get them one good thing or a few small good value trinkets.

Letting your kids be independent cooks and fluffy blueberry pancakes!

All my girls love cooking, but my Eloise is really blossoming into a good little cook.  She's almost 10 now and can carry out most basic cooking techniques.  The helicopter parent in me has to restrain myself especially when it comes to the stove and knives but these are skills for life and it's better that she do it under supervision and my hands are behind my back... :)

Pancakes are a great first type of recipe that a child of 10 or so can execute from beginning to end on their own (with supervision of course!) - and there's hardly any kids I know (let alone parents) who don't like pancakes for breakfast.  We'll say that we had some grateful sisters, Mum, Dad and Gran who all loved their pancakes - thanks Eloise!

2 2/3 cups plain flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
2 eggs
600ml (1 pint) buttermilk (if you don't have any, put a drop of vinegar or lemon juice in 600ml of milk and leave to sit for 5 minutes before using)
2 tsp vanilla extract
75g butter, melted
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

In a large bowl sift flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarb soda.. Eloise loves to sift!

In a separate bowl add your buttermilk, eggs (if it's their first time with breaking eggs, have them break it into a mug first in case you get eggshells!) vanilla extract and melted butter

Give each bowl a good stir, then pour your wet ingredients into your dry...

You can use a whisk for 1 minute or stir for about 2-3 minutes to remove any lumps and make it smooth.

Add your blueberries and fold in gently so you keep the blueberries as whole as possible..

heat a small frypan and add some butter, I always set it up for Eloise at this stage, but I think she's probably ready to do it herself - put it at a tad under medium .  When the butter is sizzling, add a ladle full of mixture and spread it out a bit with the back of the ladle.

The tip with when to turn it over..?  One.. make sure the sides are a bit crisped up. .. Two, make sure those little 'air holes' on top are popped, expecially in the middle.  Push your egg-flip underneath and flick it over.

Serve up to your ravenous family with maple syrup (no need for extra butter) or honey.

Doesn't that look delicious!?  Maybe this is something you want to try for Easter breakfast?

Wednesday, April 16

Lunch, dinner, take a meal solution - my kids' favourite quiche!

Quiches are so versatile.  They are great hot or cold.  For lunch or dinner, can freeze easily and be re-heated from frozen and they are a superb gift for a friend who needs a break from cooking or a new Mum.

School holidays is a great time to make quiche because they are quick dinner and lunch solution you can have on hand when you either want to chill out or you're busy.  I make my quiche pastry in the food processor or thermomix, and I make them two at a time generally - so if you only have 1 quiche or pie tin, I suggest you get another because it's very little extra effort to make two and you can freeze the second one.  You can thank me later for that one!

Ingredients: PER quiche
125g cold butter, cubed
1 2/3 cups plain flour
1 egg
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tb cold water

handful baby spinach leaves
100g pancetta, sliced
5 cherry tomatoes, sliced
100g smoked cheddar, crumbled
6 eggs
1/4 cup cream

Make your pastry first by adding butter, flour egg, mustard into your processor.  pulse until it is well combined and add water until it comes together.  Put into a ziplock bag and into the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c
Roll out your dough between two pieces (or one long piece) of baking paper.  This way you don't need flour your surfaces or anything.. much less mess!

Rub your tins with some canola spray and then lay your pastry into your tin ensuring you fold into the edges.

Now sometimes I leave the trim on, but I had a helper who wanted to take them off - just fold it over the edges and take off the excess.

Dock your dough or prick it with a fork evenly over the base - this allows it to have air circulate through it when it cooks and makes sure you get a crispy base.

Line with baking paper and fill with pastry weights - or rice or dry beans.. I really need to buy some more of these they have 'disappeared'...

Pop them into the oven for 15 minutes, remove the weights and put them back in for 5 minutes..

Then get cracking on your fillings!  Crack your eggs into a bowl (look at the focus!)

 ....add your cream and pepper and give it a whisk..

Cut up all your ingredients and get ready to assemble on your quiche bases!

 And that's the fun big, just arrange them evenly...

Add pour the egg mixture over the top, voila!  Put in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

And you're ready to eat, cool, freeze, warm, eat or give!  Enjoy!

Monday, April 14

Sweet pumpkin loaf (in the thermomix, and not)

Hello!  For those of you who don't have a thermomix - don't worry - you can use a food processor too!  If you don't have a thermomix, use a grater and a large bowl.  Many people ask me : 'Is the Thermomix worth the money?' and I can't really answer that because $1,900 is a lot to some and not much to others.  To me it's a lot of money, and I don't use it all the time but it is a quality appliance that I do use and it's great as my 'supporting act' rather than the 'star' of my kitchen.   

This is one recipe which it's a great supporting act, because it can chop up pumpkin within an inch of it's life in seconds... the grating would take me five minutes, but here it takes 10 seconds in the thermomix.

Now onto the recipe!

700g pumpkin, skin off
200g wholemeal flour (1 cup)
200g plain flour (1 cup)
100g caster sugar (1/2 cup)
170g canola oil (3/4 cup)
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp cinnamon powder
15g vanilla extract (1 tsp)
50g maple syrup (2 tb)
25g Pepitas (2 tb)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees
Scrape off your pumpkin seeds and pop them on to baking paper, and pop in the oven.

Chop your pumpkin up and put into the thermomix, chop by rising the speed gradually up to 8 over 10 seconds, and your pumpkin should look like this:
If you don't have a thermomix, but have a food processor, suggest you use a grate function and grate the pumpkin and put into a bowl.  If you don't have a food processor hand grate into a bowl.

Next, to the thermomix add all the rest of the ingredients besides the pepitas.

Mix for 30 seconds speed 4 reverse.  It should look like this! Smells good too!  Otherwise - add dry ingredients to the pumpkin and stir, crack your eggs into a separate boil and quickly whip the oil in and then mix that into the dry ingredients.

By now your pumpkin seeds should be lovely-toasty.. so remove those and turn down the oven to 160 degrees.

Add those pumpkin seed and any more pepitas you like and stir it through the mixture.

Line and grease a loaf pan and add your mixture

Sprinkle some pepitas on top

Bake for 1 hour, check it's ready by using a skewer or knife in the middle of the cake.  If it comes out clean, it's ready, if not, put it back for 10 minutes and try again.  When it is ready, leave to cool on your bench for about 30 minutes before lifting out.

You'll want to eat it right now because that mix of cinnamon, pumpkin and sweetness of maple will be calling you 'eat me, eat me!'

Slice up and eat on it's own or with a bit of butter, nice and melty..


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