Tuesday, January 31

18 Lunchbox legends - boredom busters!

If your kids are anything like mine they get pretty bored with the 'usual suspects' in the lunchbox so I need to mix it up a bit.  At the beginning of this school year whether you have kids in high school or beyond or a little one starting I hope you find some inspiration to make some scrumptious 'stash' lunchbox legends for the freezer.

I generally will make 1 week's worth each week - but I start by making 2 or 3 weeks worth - so I can mix them up.  I generally will stash them in portioned sizes in large ziplock bags, so I just grab them out frozen either the night before of the morning of... keeps the lunchbox cool too!

Share them with your friends, family and anyone you think may need some lunchbox inspiration!

Sunday, January 22

Sunday baking project - Choc banana brownies!


So good! After what seems like an eternity I have finally be reunited with my holy trinity: My KitchenAid, my oven and baking!!! Last week in anticipation for the frills' arrival from Manila (I came home a week ahead of them for work) I bought bananas. I couldn't help myself given then are so affordable here now! But alas, I think they overdosed on bananas in Manila and weren't much into eating them... so what to do with bananas that are on the turn?

I love banana bread, and banana cake and even the odd bit of banana tapioca pudding and the kids' favourite lunchbox legends banana date slice and banana bran muffins but hubby loves his brownies so I thought I'd make some moist brownies with bananas. A bit reminiscent of Ben and Jerry's chunky monkey icecream really.

Simple to put together, they smell absolutely divine baking and so yummy to eat! These are my new favourite brownies!

185gr butter, soft or partially melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup caster sugar
3 large ripe bananas, peeled and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups worth)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 160 degrees c

Combine butter and sugars together until smooth and cream-like

Add banana and vanilla and mix until smooth

Add cocoa, flour, bicarb soda, walnuts (optional) and choc chips, mix well.

Couldn't you just eat a spoonful of this??

Spread into a tin lined with baking paper and sprayed with canola oil.

Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, then leave to cool for a further hour before cutting into squares.

Look at the ooozy chocolate, I've got to tell you it smells SO good!

Try not to eat it all .. at once.

My hubby got this as his birthday cake.. he loves his chocolate!

Do you find yourself with bananas to use? Give this a try!

Friday, January 20

The answer to lots of tomatoes - DIY quickie sundried tomatoes!

Tomatoes are my favourite fruit - I can say that hand on heart.  If anyone told me I had to cut out tomatoes from my diet permanently I think I would probably die of a broken heart.    As a child I used to take whole tomatoes to school instead of apples, yes, my love affair with tomatoes started early.

And anyone who has a vege garden this time of year usually has a glut of tomatoes.  Or those of you who go to farmers markets or just love a bargain at the supermarket may find themselves buying some extra ones.    I have lots of recipes for tomatoes if you have an oversupply - my vege garden is going to be getting a lot of attention this weekend, a wee bit overgrown since we've been away..!!

If you have this problem or just love tomatoes, you can also try these recipes:

Sweet green tomato chutney (seriously amazing, my favourite on cold meats)

Melissa's Passata (Italian base sauce)

Now this one is EASY PEASY.  If you have tomatoes, and you have an oven you can make this in a day or two..  I just fitted this in around my other cooking/baking and did it in two but you could perceivably do this over a day and night.

What you need is:
A baking tray
Baking paper
Light Olive oil
Any herbs or garlic you like..

Layout your tomatoes on baking tray on baking paper.  If you've got larger tomatoes slice them into 1 inch thickness, no need to cut cherry tomatoes.

Place in the oven at 75 degrees c.  Check on them every 3-4 hours.  After about 12 hours you will need to turn them over and if you have cherry tomatoes squash them down a bit or 'pop' them to assist in them drying out.

Once they are crispy-ish - put into a sterilised jar (I just boil mine in water for 5 minutes with the lid) and then place your tomatoes, peeled garlic, peppercorns (I put in about 15 or so) and fresh stalks of herbs if you like (rosemary and oregano are nice ones to add)..

Fill with oil so everything is moist (about 2/3 full)

Store in the fridge, give it a shake every couple of days.  Good to eat after a week or so.. if you can wait that long!

Are you a tomato lover too?  What's your favourite way with tomatoes!!

Thursday, January 12

The Frills Family do Hong Kong Disneyland!

I remember Sunday nights, 5:30.  Wonderful World of Disney was my favourite.   I dreamed about going to DisneyLand.  Going on those rides, Meeting Mickey and Minnie.

That dream came true last weekend when Hubby and I decided quite last minute to take the kids to Hong Kong for the weekend.   That sounds really extravagant doesn't it?  But truth be told we were only two hours away anyways in Manila and I had to travel back to Sydney for work ahead of time via Hong Kong as there were no direct flights available from Manila to Sydney.

Unfortunately I didn't really think of some important things - namely:

  • Before you get the travel agent to book your business flights, make sure your family can get on the same flight.
  • Remember more than 12 hours ahead you're travelling into winter, especially if you've only got summer clothes and shoes with you.
So, after not being able to get hubby and the kids on my flight (I had to be flown business class) I put them on a discounted airline.  The plus to that was they were leaving an hour ahead of me so they could get sorted into the hotel ahead of me.  Wrong.  Their flight was delayed 1.5 hours and in fact I arrived ahead of them.   Hubby's first words to me after getting off his flight was - 'soooo.  How was business class?'.  I thought it best not to tell him that the Cathay Skybeds are brilliant and the fabulous service I had.  

The morning of the flight I had to do the mercy dash to the department store across the road from my office and find some jeans and long sleeve shirts for the frills - luckily I had bought some winter party shoes on sale - and jeans I was able to find but long sleeve shirts were non-existent.  Hubby picked some up at another store - and apologised in advance by text before I saw them 'beggars can not be choosers'.  ahem.

So we arrived late into Hong Kong and made our way to our apartment.  We didn't know they would be one to a floor and although superb, Hubby and I had to separate to spread ourselves between the rooms.  Super romantic!

So after the debacle of actually getting there, the dream began... off in the taxi from Hong Kong Island to Disneyland - about a 30 minute drive... very exciting seeing these signs!

And even more exciting getting to the entrance!  I think at this point Hubby was more excited than the kids!

And when this greets you as are walking in.. you know you're at the right place!

Yay, we have tickets!  They worked out about $40 each which I think is an absolute bargain right? Buy them online here

As you get into the park you can take a tour on the train that circumnavigates the park, you get a good idea of what you're in for!

But we headed straight up Main Street USA, we needed jumpers - as it was 12 degrees!  Very fabulously greeted by a marching band!

There are many shops, they mostly sell the same thing...  it's fun trying on all the bits and pieces..

 Hubby as Lotsa:
Perfect for cold ears right?

So after we were all warm we decided morning tea was in order - cue Mickey waffles:
Delicious and about $5 with cream, maple syrup and strawberries!

Then we headed off to tomorrowland - all things fantasy and space..  note, ensure people taking pics of you and your family realise you have three kids, not just one.. lol

The flying saucer ride, good for kids 4 and up..

Then we headed to space mountain, which I thought was maybe a 3d movie thing about being in space.. it wasn't until we'd lined up for five minutes, I spotted this screen and realise that's not what we were lining up for at all...
and I don't do rollercoasters.  But the kids were excited and I couldn't leave them.. I was a wreck before I got on..  It was terrifying,  I had my eyes closed for most of it, hubby was loving it.

When it stopped all three girls were crying and saying how scared they were.  Clearly they are their mother's daughters.  I felt dreadful to put my babies through that.  Then we went and saw the pic... we laughed through the tears and put it behind us.  I think I'll have company whenever hubby decides to go on another rollercoaser (he loves them)

We made our way to Fantasyland - the land where dreams come true!

We arrived to see Mickey helping Minnie into the Dumbo ride - sweet!

My frills went bananas!!

Daddy braved it on the merry-go-round - lines on the rides were mostly great, a few had long lines, we just gave them a miss!

Then on to the banquet hall...

For Mickey Jelly (as you do!)  $2.50 each

Meatballs with Mickey watermelon! With a drink $9

Three little pigs pork buns!  ($6)

After lunch we got to meet the idols!  My girl Eloise is so happy!

I bet Hubby didn't think he'd ever meet Mickey Mouse when he was a kid - let along high-five him!

Clearly they connected...

Family pic!

This is just a fraction of our time here, but you might overdose on the photos!!

 In summary
  • I would totally recommend a visit - I think it's reasonable in cost - and it's good for kids between 3 and 10 - I think if you wanted to take older kids I would go to Ocean Park in Hong Kong instead.
  • It only takes a day to see everything - no need for a two day pass
  • Stay at the resort if you can - we didn't but it would have been better - you get discounts on merchandise and can have anything you buy delivered to your hotel free of charge if you do.
  • Merchandise is pretty reasonably priced - sweatshirts were $35 each and most souvenirs are under $15 each.
  • Get it a good spot to see the street parade - 3pm daily - it's a must see.
  • In hindsight we should have started at lunchtime, and stayed for the fireworks at 8pm - but we were buggered after starting at 9am, left at 5pm instead.
  • Winter-time is apparently great time to visit (Nov-Feb) as the lines are shorter.. good to know!

Wednesday, January 11

Simplest choc caramel and pecan slice in the world - done in less than an hour!

Those Filipinos love their chocolate.  They love anything sweet and the more sugar and syrup, the better.    I made this quickie slice one day to take into my team because a) they deserve it!  b) I knew they'd love it and c) I saw graham crackers and I couldn't resist (We don't get those in Australia easily!).

Of course if you can't get graham crackers, use whatever biscuit you like - if you there's never enough chocolate you could use choc ripple cookies or try some good ol' milk arrowroot biscuits with a teaspoon of allspice and a tablespoon of honey mixed in with the melted butter.

You literally chuck this together, it does not take more than 10 minutes to get it in the oven!!   They are rich, you don't need much and they are perfect to share!  This slice makes at least 24 squares or rectangles, depending how big you like to cut eat them.

250g biscuits of choice 
100g butter, melted
1.5 cups pecans
1.5 cups chocolate chips/buttons
1 tin condensed milk

Preheat oven to 190 degrees c
Line a tin with baking paper or foil, grease well.
 Process your biscuts in a food processor or place in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin until like breadcrumbs.

Mix through butter until moist like sand.  Depending on your biscuits you may need more/less butter.

Press into the bottom of your tin.

Sprinkle over pecans evenly, then choc chips.  Lastly pour over condensed milk, ensure it's as even as possible.

Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the condensed milk becomes caramel-like

 Leave to cool for about 20 minutes, then turn out, and slice.

Store in airtight container for up to a week in refrigerator.  You, your family and friends won't believe how something so delicious is so simple!


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