Thursday, September 30

Sydney Children's Festival Part 1 - Grug, Liss dresses up and Wishing on a wall!

Still days after our first visit we're reeling over our visit to Sydney Children's Festival!  I am not joking, this is the best.thing.ever. for kids during the school holidays!

In its fourth year, Sydney Children's Festival is set at Carriageworks - and as you walk in you may feel like it's strangely familiar.... it's where they filmed 'So You Think You Can Dance Australia' and 'My Kitchen Rules' (which incidentally its second series is filming there again shortly).   The best thing is it is indoors and runs rain, hail or shine - but has enormous windows so you can soak up the glorious weather we're having.

I would be here all day telling you about the fabulous stuff, so I'll just summarise here what we did on some of our first visit (we're SO going back before it ends!!) in photos over a few posts today - and  over this week you'll see more detailed reports over at the Carriageworks blog!

OK, so here goes!

The only difficulty you may find with the festival is deciding what to do first!  So when you walk in and get your stickers, do look at the daily planner (you can download them from here too) and work out what you're going to do - because the kids will be so excited they'll want to do everything at once!

Based on the books about the little haystack who turned into an endearing little creature.  The production is mesmerising.  I swear I could have flung stuff at the frills and they wouldn't have flinched.  It's very interactive and I think well worth a visit - it's only playing until Saturday - so get your groove on, there should be tickets left at the box office or buy them from here.

Costume corner - FREE activity - 10-2pm track 12

Wishing Wall - FREE ACTIVITY - Just outside Track 12

I'll be back later with some more!  Have you been this year or any other year?

Fresh and healthy cous cous salad

I'm a bit in love with mint at the moment, and lucky it's so easy to grow as I've been going through a lot of it lately!  Again I've used it in this salad, and whilst it tastes fresh and light it's really filling with the addition of grilled zucchini and eggplant.  The tomatoes add the right amount of sweetness.

We had this for lunch yesterday but would also be great as a Salad to take or serve at a BBQ or a summer night's dinner.  Easy peasy too, only takes about 15 minutes to throw together.

2 tb olive oil
1 small eggplant, sliced
1 small zucchini sliced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup vegetable stock
150g cous cous
10 or so cherry tomatoes halved
10-15 large mint leaves, roughly torn or chopped
1/4 lemon or 1/2 tsp lemon juice to serve

Place sliced eggplant with zucchini, 1 tb of olive oil and the salt, massage well with hands.

Heat your frypan or grill to a high heat and grill/fry your eggplant and zucchini - remember you will not need to oil the grill, the oil is on the food!  Only a few minutes each side, as you still want it to be a little bit crunchy..

Set aside to cool (or use warm if you're in a hurry)

Heat your stock in the microwave for about 1 min 20 seconds until it boils or almost boils.  Add your cous cous and stir well - set aside for about 5 minutes.

Whilst that happens, chop up your eggplant/zucchini into slices/cubes and cut your cherry tomatoes in half.  Place into your salad bowl with your mint, add cous cous when fluffy and stir through well.

Serve with a wedge of lemon or sprinkle over lemon juice over to serve.  Yum!  I added a bit of goat's cheese too, but that's totally optional - because I know not everyone loves it like me!

What's your favourite salad?

Wednesday, September 29

Around my house - Ikea style

I'm loving seeing Ikea around your house - I find myself refreshing that post every couple of hours and feeling a mixture of excitement and envy!!  I'm really wanting to complete my ikea loungeroom with two Expedit bookcases - and seeing so many of these in your loungerooms has me wanting them - pronto!

So here's a quick whip-around my home and only a fraction of the Ikea!  Do you have any other the same pieces?

You can win one of five Ikea Swedish Cookbooks!

A few more tid-bits about Ikea that I found out on my tour:
  • None of the Ikea family products selected have increased in price the year prior to being placed on the Ikea family discount list
  • Ikea family shoppers love a bargain!  The most popular item so far has been the Detolf which used to sell 25 units a week and now since being on the Ikea family shopping list, sells an average of 275 units a week in the Ikea Rhodes store!  At 33% off, I'm sure it's very attractive to collectors?
  • The most popular item that is purchased from Ikea is the blue bag you walk out with (hands up who DOESN'T have a few of those?? They make great beach bags!)
  • There's a guy who has worked out every possible combination of the Lillabo train set (9 of them apparently) - at only $14.95 a set - it's a bargain (and my girls love ours!  I'd like  few more sets so we can all play!)

  • The most popular food item at Ikea Australia is the $1 hotdogs.   I was surprised to hear this - not Daim?  Not the meatballs?  The meatballs are made with Aussie beef though!  Good to know right?  Or you could just make my version... 

Winky wonky plinky plonky honky tonky donkey winners!

What a great giveaway this was right?

I actually caught up with Craig again yesterday quite by co-incidence whilst at the Sydney Children's festival. Craig was performing again and we looked quite the groupies!  Eloise was chuffed to finally see him and even got to be his official 'page turner' whilst he sang Wonky Donkey.  I think I'm forgiven now for going to see him last time whilst she was at school....

Craig also let me know that his CD's have SOLD OUT.  Whoah.  Lucky I got one when I did huh?  But the good news is that he's on i-Tunes  so not only can you hear a little preview there, you can buy the album or each song as you wish.  Great news!

OK, onto the winners!
If the winners could email me their postal address ASAP Scholastic can get these away to you quickly too!


Didn't win?  You can always buy one here or from your local bookstore..!

Easy peasy no fail custard sponge cake

On my last birthday my hubby made me the most beautiful sponge cake I'd ever eaten.  I was truly impressed.  It would have me stumped for days.  It would have rivaled any CWA bake-off entrant easily.

Where DID he gets this recipe from?  He got it from the internet of course! Best recipes in fact!

So some two months later I decided to give it a go myself - it's fool proof !  What a fabulous recipe!  Give it a go - you'll love it!   I iced mine with coloured whipped cream as I took it to a baby shower (can you guess the gender? Hmmmm) but you could fill it with cream and leave it at that!

4 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla essence
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup cornflour
1 tb custard powder
2 tb hot water
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c
Grease 2 x round or ring cake tins, dust them with  a mixture of 1 tb icing sugar and 1 tb cornflour, set aside.

Whip egg whites until they form stiff peaks, add caster sugar.  Set aside.
In a jug, mix egg yolks with vanilla - fold through the egg whites.

Sift cornflour, custard powder, cream of tartar, bicarb soda and salt into another bowl.

Sift a second time directly into the wet ingredients, stir well.

Add warm water and stir again - it will froth up a bit.

Pour into your tins, place in the oven on a middle shelf for about 20 minutes or until the sides of the cake separate from the tin.  Try not to open the oven whilst it cooks  - it can make the cake deflate....

When done, remove and allow to cool for a few minutes then turn out onto a cake rack to cool completely.

Decorate your lower half by spreading with jam and/or fresh fruit, top with cream and place your top layer on.

Ice with cream or leave to eat!  I covered mine in strawberries and dusted with icing sugar, but be creative or go traditional, make it yours!

Tuesday, September 28

Vege patch update as promised!

You must all be in shock at the moment yes?   I've been so remiss in the gardening posts of late and now it seems I'm bombarding you!

As I was saying the other day, we planned on spending at least some of Sunday in the garden, and it was half true, meaning hubby did and I didn't.  I cooked and baked.  I did do a small harvest though and take some pictures.

This is the view walking into the opera house (our vege garden structure) you can see the cabbage front right, brussel sprouts on the right.  Next to the brussel sprouts we've planted some tomatoes (truss, beefsteak and roma) and next to those is our massive lot of celery!

Up the back on the left is the leeks growing very well, the the very left are the chilli plants and beyond that is the parsley and the bay tree.

Look at our garlic and onions!  These are up the back right hand side.  They are happy as clams there - and the nasturtiums are bright and yellow!  We have nasturtiums bordering the garden, not only are they pretty, and edible but they repel the slugs and snails.I'm training them along the chicken wire which borders the garden.

Our continental parsley had to be cut right back, but still it's huge!  Tabbouleh anyone? 

I had to harvest a whole lot of celery, there's A LOT.  

I made pretty bouquets for my friend whose baby shower on the weekend - and one for the hostess of the shower too - some celery with nasturtiums (you can eat them in salad you know) and some continental parsley..

Road test SFI October 2010: Spinach and cheese muffins

Every month I'm going to road test a recipe from the latest issue of Super Food Ideas (don't forget you can win a subscription every month!) and this month was a pretty tough choice.   I have earmarked several recipes but this one was a great one I think for either lunchorders or even a snack in the school holidays.

The reason I've chosen this one is because I think this is really a recipe a 8+ year old might be able to make on their own... or maybe you could help the little ones.  It takes nearly no time and no fancy equipment is required.

They are lovely and moist, a little sweet and altogether pretty tasty!

1 cup self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tb caster sugar
1/2 cup (packed) baby spinach
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup extra-light olive oil

Preheat oven to 200 degrees c

Sift flour, baking powder and sugar into a mixing bowl.  Cut up with a pair of scissors or with a knife the spinach and basil into thin strips, place into mixing bowl with flour, and add finely grated Parmesan cheese.  Mix together with a spoon and make a well in the centre.

In a jug or bowl mix well together buttermilk, egg and oil.

Pour a little of the mixture into the flour and mix together, gradually adding the rest of the liquid mixture until all mixed together.

When mixed together (should only take a minute or so) spoon into greased mini muffin tray (of 24)

Or, I poured them into large cupcake/muffin cases (made 6)

Bake for 12 minutes (15-17 if baking in larger cases like I did) until cooked through (use the skewer method to test).  Leave to cool in tray for 5 minutes before turning out and cooling completely.

These can be frozen in cling-wrap, then foil for up to 1 month. Best eaten on day defrosted.

Some other recipes I have earmarked from this issue are:

  • Pink flower cookies (page 14)
  • Lamb, parsley and chickpea salad (page 32)
  • Vanilla macarons (page 55)
  • Low fat banana and raspberry bread (page 77)

Monday, September 27

Click, covet and cook! Ikea giveaway...

Hello!  Me.... again!

I thought we'd get caught up in all the Ikea Family fun, apart from watching my family run from one end of Ikea Homebush and back, and laugh at my ridiculously bad allen-key skills.... (oh yeah, they are bad!)

Here's some quick clues and reminders of our Ikea family challenge will mean more when you see it tonight! Can you guess?

Who's up for a quick giveaway - starting today and ending Friday...?

5 Ikea cookbooks are going to go to randomly to five people who link up a photo of something Ikea at their house!

  • Take a quick photo and link it up below!
  • You need to tell me in the link your name of course!
  • Only one item at a time....Only one photo a day, but you can enter every day until Friday midnight!
  • Those with Australian postal addresses only - sorry!
  • If you don't have an Ikea near you (and I will check!!) you can instead post a pic of something from the first Ikea item that you'd buy if you did!
NOTE:  You don't have to link to a blog - if you load up your pic to something like imageshack or photobucket, use the link to that photo as the website!

Ikea day at Frills in the Hills....

You may know well if you've read this blog for a little while I am a dedicated disciple of the Ikea movement.  There is a standard almost lecture on the way to Ikea - my hubby says:  'If it's flat-packed, you put it together'.  Said with the greatest of affection of course....   But what actually happens is -  I agree, and then we buy something flat-packed, I attempt to put it together myself and hubby gets exasperated and takes over.  Works like a charm...

A few weeks ago I was contacted to see if my family would like to take part in a Today Tonight segment 'The Ikea Family Challenge'.  This really was a no-brainer.   Hubby asked 'will I have to put together any flat pack furniture?'.

I winced and shrugged my shoulders.

So we rose nice and early and headed to Homebush - we had an AMAZING time.  Please watch Today tonight tonight to see how we went!  Here's a preview of tonight's episode - click on 'Next on Today Tonight'

The whole challenge was built around getting the word out about Ikea Family, and although I had already joined prior to the show, as I follow Ikea on Facebook and Twitter, I didn't know much about it.... so late last week I returned to Ikea, and had a chat to and was given a personal tour by Mark Channing, Manager for Ikea Family:

So what is Ikea Family?
Well it's a new loyalty program specifically aimed at families.  Families are the main consumer at Ikea and Ikea family has been around for decades in Europe, we're almost the last to catch on, and I'm so glad that we have because it's a great little program!

What are the perks?
At least 50 products at any one time are reduced for Ikea Family members.  These change a few at a time on a regular basis and are an average of 25% off.  The products are always items that are popular sellers in the first place, so you don't have to worry about it being 'end of line stock' or the like.

How do I know what's an Ikea family discounted item?
They are labeled at the item see below:

You can find them on the Ikea family website (you need to register and log in to see them ;) )
Or, you can log into the Ikea family hubs around the store!  You can also join from these hubs, and print out a temporary card - so you don't need to miss out on the other discounts and freebies in store..!

Freebies?  Did someone say freebies?
Yes, there are freebies.  As parents I know you'll appreciate free coffee instore!  How good is that? Also as an Ikea family you will get an automatic subscription to the International magazine Ikea family live.  The first magazine will be sent out in November and will feature two Australian families (A big coup as it is a world-wide magazine!)
Also with every swipe at an Ikea family store*, you'll be in the draw to win a $250 voucher - every week - at every store!
* NSW, Qld and Vic at this stage

Other perks
  • Discounts in the cafe! Woot! (we never miss out on the cafe do you?)
  • Store to home insurance and a 12 months return policy on all purchases
Plus, you're doing something nice for someone else:
Every swipe of your Ikea family card will also mean 10c will also be donated to charity!  Each store has a nominated co-beneficiary to Unicef.  So you can choose to have either half or all the money going to one of both of the charities.   The Sydney Homebush store is Bear Cottage for example!  And by every swipe that also means when you are collecting your free coffee or even returning something!

Join here

So, do you think you'd join? Are you Ikea disciples? 

NOW, it doesn't end there - this afternoon I'm having an Ikea themed giveaway - see you after lunch OK?

PS:  Thanks to Green Tomato Cars for taking us!

Sunday, September 26

Sunday baking project - Fruit flan

I'm off to a baby shower today - and thought I'd take something along.  I debated whether a cake or something savoury would be the ticket but I just couldn't decide.  Yesterday when we did a quick farmgate run I saw how beautiful the strawberries were and couldn't resist on picking up six punnets (yes, I know, a bit excessive!) and then all the way home I dreamed about what I could make with them.    

So I've been a busy baker the past 24 hours, but decided that I really wanted to take a flan.  Last time I made one of these I was single, so it was a good 10+ years ago.   I didn't have the distraction of kids, husband - only my dog and I certainly don't remember it taking this long.    That said, it's only elapsed time, because actually the bits and pieces didn't take long at all, and I was baking other things in between, it just came together.

It looks lovely and summery and smells divine, can't wait to sample a piece this afternoon!

100g butter, cold
1/3 cup almond meal
3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg yolk
milk to bind

1 egg
2 egg yolks, extra
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tb plain flour
1 tsp cornflour

1/3 cup peach nectar
1 tsp gelatine

Place butter, sugar, almond meal, flours, egg yolk in a food processor, blitz and add milk until the dough becomes sand like and sticks together (took me about 1/3 cup).  If you don't have a food processor, cream the butter and sugar then mix in the rest...

Chill the dough for about 30 minutes in the fridge.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees c

Place the dough between 2 sheets of greasepoof/baking paper and roll out to fit your greased tin.

Fit the dough around the end, trim and poke some holes in the bottom with a fork.
Fill with baking paper and pie weights (or rice, dried beans) and bake for about 20 minutes until the edges slightly brown.

Leave to cool.

To make the custard mix the egg, egg yolks, sugar, flours, and 1/4 cup of the milk together in a bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 cup of milk a saucepan over low heat and add the egg mixture, stir continuously over the heat until thickens into a custard.  Set aside until it cools.

Fill pastry case

Arrange fruit as desired (I have used fresh strawberries, kiwifruit and tinned peaches) then make your glaze by placing the peach nectar and gelatine in a saucepan until the gelatine has dissolved.   Brush over your flan and allow to set!

Voila!  Ready to serve!

You could a big shortcut by buying the pastry case, but I wouldn't buy commercial custard as a shortcut.



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