25 November 2015

Quinoa and smoked salmon sushi


It’s been a little hectic of late, or perhaps feeling hectic is just the new norm (particularly in the lead up to Christmas)? One thing that remains constant, however, is our assurance of a home cooked meal most evenings.

In fact, after a busy day kid-wrangling, teleconferencing and document reviewing, I quite look forward to my little bit of time in the kitchen. Tinkering away at dinner after Little J has gone to bed and Miss C is reading stories with her dad. The whole process can be quite therapeutic, really.


On this occasion it was sushi, but with cooked quinoa in place of rice. The other usual suspects were there though – smoked salmon, avocado, carrot, capsicum and cucumber.


I made four large rolls – two for ‘now’ and two for ‘later’,  served with  a simple side salad. Sadly I’d forgotten the wasabi and pickled ginger, but they were tasty never-the-less. Not to mention colourful!


And my verdict on the quinoa substitute? Loved the crunch! Definitely a substitute to keep in mind for the future.


I do, however, have to work on my sushi rolling skills – they are pretty hopeless.

What about you? Are you a fan of sushi?

19 November 2015

Sunshine ‘pull-apart’ Pie

IMG_5229I am certainly someone that its attracted to cooking magazines, particularly when they have something scrumptious on the cover. And a recent edition of Taste magazine (which is one of my favourite ‘everyday meal’ recipe magazines at the moment) captured my attention in no time at all.

The ‘sunshine pie’ which featured on the cover – had everyone in our household intrigued. For the magazine had turned a humble spinach and ricotta pie into something rather spectacular!


Spinach, ricotta, goats cheese, cheddar, green onions and eggs, combined then sandwiched between two layers of puff pasty that had been cut into rounds. Then, with some creative knife and twist work – a lovely little ‘sun’ was ready for baking.


And after 35 minutes in the oven – what a pretty addition to the dinner table we had!


These photos were taken after 30 minutes or so, as I par-cooked the pie in advance of the dinner party we were having that evening. Needless to say that when it had an extra 10 minutes in the oven before serving, it puffed up even more and turned beautifully golden brown.


I loved loved LOVED the three-cheese combination – particularly the goats cheese that really gave the pie a flavour hit. And I can’t help but think that the ‘twist’ method would work with lots of other flavour combinations too. Time to get my thinking cap on!

12 November 2015

Blood orange and vanilla ice-cream


It goes without saying that as soon as the warmer weather arrives, even just a glimpse, my ice-cream maker is pulled out of storage. I tend to keep to tradition and make simple vanilla ice-creams, although hopefully this Summer I will get a little more adventurous.


The arrival of a beautiful  box of blood oranges from Red Belly Citrus a little while ago was just the motivation I needed to get creative. I made blood orange cordial, froze some juice into ice-cube trays for a zesty addition to mineral water (mocktail anyone?) and, my favourite, a refreshing blood orange and vanilla ice-cream.

While I’ve tried my hand at custard-base ice-creams, I always  return to an ol’ recipe favourite. No eggs, and no need to heat ingredients. Just milk + cream + sugar + whatever flavours you want. Then into the ice-cream maker to churn for 45 minutes or so.


Until you have yourself, a big bowl of homemade ice-cream!


I loved how refreshing this blood orange version was, perfect for a little treat after dinner. I think it would work beautifully spooned high on a warm chocolate brownie too, or blended into a tropical smoothie. Mmmmm…

Blood orange and vanilla icecream

  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 600ml cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • juice of 2 blood oranges (+ zest of one)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, sugar and salt until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add the cream, vanilla, juice and zest, and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight (if you have the time) or for a few hours.
  3. Pour into the ice-cream maker, and churn for 45 minutes. Place into the freezer overnight for a firmer consistency.

What about you? What is your favourite ice-cream flavour?

10 November 2015

Batemans Bay Half Marathon (and the rookie mistakes I made along the way)


A few weeks ago, I ran my sixth half-marathon. My finish time was rather disappointing, although I was grateful to be ‘racing’ again – not to mention in a new location too!

The race was in its first year at Batemans Bay – and offered a variety of distances – a full marathon, a 6km event, a 14km event and the distance I chose – the half marathon.


From the website -

“With sections of the course on firm sand and stunning flat bush tracks this half Marathon is a little different from most. Starting at Corrigans head into the Town of Batemans Bay, over the bridge, through Surfside and around the back of the local school. Then head down into gorges Cullendulla Creek Nature Reserve where the breath taking views await. Once out the reserve follow the course back through Surfside, over the bridge and along the cycle track back to Corrigans and across the finish line.” 


True to form, there were some brilliant sections  - particularly the short trail section through the bush and the run along the sand.


Being able to cross the finish line with Miss C, and dipping my feet in the ocean post-race, well that was pretty special too.


But it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the ‘not so great’ sections. Namely - the seemingly endless laps of the school oval in the sun (that we had to do twice), and the kicker of a hill in the middle.

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And while I finished the race with a smile on my face, it was clear that I had made some rookie mistakes along the way.  So rookie, in fact, that  you would have thought it was my first half marathon and not my sixth!

1. I did not train properly

In fact, I did not really train at all. Only a few runs here and there, and a long run the weekend before. I was pretty confident that my ‘mind’ could get me over the finish line, but the lack of training base meant that the run hurt. And I was slow.

2. I did not check my equipment

My new Garmin read splits in miles, not kilometres – which messed with any attempt at pacing. I had also downloaded some new music which didn’t work, so I had very limited music to keep me distracted for the few hours (not good when you are under-trained!)

3. I went out too fast

Perhaps it was being caught up in the moment, or perhaps the general confusion caused by my Garmin, but I went out waaaay too fast. Which only meant I felt like I was crawling by the end (probably because I pretty much was).

4. I did not fuel properly

I brought some new gel-lolly things with me, but on reflection, these weren’t great for my tummy at all.

5. I skipped water stations

Despite being a hot and sunny day, I skipped a few water stations early on. While I made sure to stop at most of them in the second half, I suspect I was already dehydrated.

6. I did not survey the course pre-race

I read that the course was flat, and took the description at its word. Had I done a little more checking I might have discovered that there were a couple of hills along the way (some on trails), and I could have prepared for them. Coming across them mid-race was a little frustrating – particularly when I realised that I would have to run them more than once!

7. My shoes were well past their use-by date

Ahhh my shoes. I knew they were on their last legs but I didn’t have enough time to get a new pair and break them in before the race. So I ran in my old battered up sneakers, and most certainly had the blisters to prove it!

Rookie mistakes aside, it was still a great day out, and I am sure I will be back to compete again!


Hopefully I’ll be a little more prepared next time, though….

02 November 2015

Halloween and Eyeball cupcakes


This past weekend was rather fun indeed. Well Little J’s sleep regression / teething / generally crankiness was not so fun, but the Halloween costume party we went to on Saturday certainly was!

We decided on a family ‘pirate’ theme for our costume, and had quite a few laughs along the way. Cranky parrot and all!


And well a party invitation was the perfect excuse to get creative in the kitchen. I’ve really missed baking lately, so wasted no time in heating up the oven and dragging out the mixer.

On the menu?

Eyeball cupcakes!!

Visually impressive - but actually quite easy  to prepare.


Simply – chocolate cupcakes, topped with cocoa buttercream and drizzled with (store-bought) salted caramel. Finished with some eye-ball chocolates that I found at the shops.


Pretty much a sugar-coma on a plate!


Chocolate ‘eyeball’ cupcakes

  • 1 cup plain flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 80 g butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs


  • 250g butter, softened
  • 3 cups icing sugar mixture (+ extra if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbs cocoa powder
  • salted caramel sauce to drizzle
  • chocolate eyeballs for decorating
    1. Preheat oven to 170°C . Line 12-hole cupcake tin with paper cases.
    2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Gradually add eggs and mix until just combined.
    3. Combine flour, cocoa and bicarbonate soda. Add to creamed mixture with milk. Beat until just combined.
    4. Spoon mixture into liners until each case is half full. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
    5. To make the chocolate butter cream: Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add icing sugar and cocoa and combine well. Beat in milk until mixture is fluffy (add extra icing sugar if needed, to get to a good piping consistency).
    6. Pipe into swirls onto cooled cupcakes, drizzle with caramel sauce and top with eyeball chocolates.

What about you? Did you ‘celebrate’ Halloween this year?

26 October 2015

A little farm break

I feel as if we are treading water right now. The in-tray is growing, and the number of posts I have in draft is rather embarrassing. I suspect it is partly the usual ‘end of year’ rush, but mostly just a case of not seemingly having enough hours in the day.


But there have been moments of fun. Of family.  And we cling on to these pockets of sanity when the crazier moments strike. This last weekend being one such example.

A whirlwind trip down the Coast – to the family farm (and for the Batemans Bay Half Marathon – race recap to follow).

.We piled into the car Saturday morning, and were home by Sunday afternoon. A short break – yes. But a rewarding one also.


The girls loved the change in scenery, as did we. For it is all too easy to stay in work mode when you are at home. But when you are away? Well the in-box doesn’t seem too pressing. At least for that moment.

We played, we patted horses, we went to the beach. We read stories, we camped out in front of the TV and watched cartoons.


Yes it was just the little break that we needed.


19 October 2015

A high tea baby shower


I think it was only a matter of minutes after my brother and his fiancĂ© shared their wonderful news that they were having a baby – before I asked whether I could throw them a baby shower. For welcoming my own two girls into the world has shown me just how magical babies are, and how much joy and happiness this newest addition will inevitably bring to the whole family.


After finding out they are having a little boy, and that K will soon be inundated with all things trucks, trains and football, I couldn’t resist making the baby shower as girly as possible. An afternoon tea with lots of dainty nibbles, lace and roses. Yes that was the theme of the day.


So a few weekends ago, it was go-time. We cleared out the lounge-room and created an impromptu cafe. Tables were set, food was prepared and the camera was at the ready.



The food

Being an afternoon tea, we didn’t go too overboard with food. We filled tiered stands with chocolates, macarons, lemon tarts, scones, sandwiches and quiches (not pictured).

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We made the scones and the tarts, but ‘cheated’ and purchased the other items.  To drink there was a selection of tea, mineral water and champagne.


The games

I wanted to steer clear of some of the regular baby shower games, so went with a few new ones instead. The first being a ‘pass the parcel’ game, which was a great ice-breaker.


We also ran a ‘what’s in your purse’ tally along with and old favourite - ‘guess the lollies in the jar’.


My favourite game of the day was ‘play-doh’ babies – when each guest was asked to model a baby out of play-doh and the mum-to-be chose a winner.


There were so many creative entries – although a certain 3.5 year old was less than impressed when she did not win….

The favours

My mum had the great idea to order cupcakes instead of a large cake, so that each guest could take one home. The wonderful Sarah at My Little Cake Dream created these beautiful white chocolate cupcakes, that we displayed with pride on the present table.



I also separately ordered white boxes, which proved to be the perfect carrier for guests to take a cupcake (or two) home when they left.


And as for the bub, well we had one final gift. Each guest completed a ‘wishes for baby card’ which will hopefully be something nice for him to look back on over the years.


Overall, the mum-to-be was absolutely radiant, and it was a delight to share the occasion with her and her  family and friends.


The details…