Sunday, 12 February 2017

Chai Frappe Recipe


We are all melting with the heat here in Sydney.

I think everyone is wondering when summer will end - fiercely hot days are sapping the life out of everyone...

It makes it quite challenging to enjoy my tea in the usual way.

I thought a Chai Frappe might just do the trick.

But I was surprised that when I did a quick search, I couldn't find any recipes for what I wanted online.

There are plenty using Chai Syrups and Powders, but those generally have loads of sugar and other stuff in them.

I've become a bit of a purist with my Chai, and the typical Chai Latte mixes are all too sweet for me.

So here's a low sugar, refreshing Chai Frappe recipe for you.  It does require a little advance prep, but it's well worth it.

Brew up your favourite Chai - tea leaves, tea bags, or even the powders if that's what you love.
In this case, I used a lovely Rooibos Chai I was given at Christmas - so it has the added bonus of being caffeine free.


Freeze in an ice cube tray.


One generous cup of tea fills my ice cube tray nicely.


Once frozen, place in Thermomix, food processor or use a stick blender.



Add milk.

Add honey and / or Cinnamon syrup (if you have it) to sweeten.  The Thermomix Star Anise syrup (from the Basic Cook Book) would work quite well here.  Heilala even make a delicious Vanilla Syrup.


I used approximately 1 tablespoon - depending on your taste, you might like more, there is no sweetener in the tea.  I find this Frappe refreshing because it isn't too sweet, so taste test and adjust accordingly!



Add a dash of vanilla, and a shake of cinnamon.


Blitz for 20-30 seconds, on speed 9. until the ice cubes have magically turned into a lovely tea slushy.


Sprinkle with Cinnamon Sugar for a decorative touch.


Relax somewhere cool and enjoy!


What's your favourite cooling brew?


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Kindergarten: A New Journey

I found myself close to tears, over the ironing.

While ironing and household chores are wont to reduce us to tears, it wasn't really the ironing's fault in this case.

It was what I was ironing.

My precious baby's new school uniform, for him to wear the following day.

His first day of Kindergarten.

In that tiny pair of shorts, I could see the journey ahead.

The years of uniforms that he will wear (and I will iron) as he progresses through to Graduation.

I could see all of that in that one item, in that one task.
Shoes... He's never worn them for a whole day in his life!

There was joy and grieving.

Grieving...
for the end of his babyhood
for the end of my era as a mother-of-babies, a hen and her chicks
for the end of the exclusive universe I've built around my babies - now they explore a bigger world

Joy...
watching my baby become a boy
knowing he is ready for this next chapter
watching his excitement (and nerves)

It's not even only about him, my younger one, but also about my precious girl, who also seems to grow apace...  She starts Year 4.  Year 4.  So very grown up.  Taller than me soon (hooray!  and also... not difficult)
They'll never look this good again!
I began my teaching career with Year 4.  I had no idea that they were each someone's babies, still. They seemed so mature, so independent.

And the parents seemed to wear the mantle of parenthood easily, to come as a family package with their children, know what they were about...

I didn't realise they were still learning too, still figuring out this parenting gig.

And when I taught Kindergarten (who I loved, by the way, and they loved me), I really didn't grasp how each of those little people that walked through my door, were still just tiny babies.

I passed a mum sobbing yesterday, as I walked my baby boy to his classroom, and his beautiful teacher.
And I understood.
And, truth be told, I cried too.  For her, and for me.
Trains.  His very favourite thing in the whole world. 
Because I had to take my baby, deliver him to his (beautiful, gentle, wonderful) teacher.

And leave him there.

Walk away without him.

I was glad to have my girl with me for that day, but I think Monday when I must leave them both, I will shed more tears.

No longer are my precious kids orbiting in the universe I have created for them.

No longer are they relying just on me, Mama (and Papa too of course).

They are both now venturing out on their Grand Adventure, which is peopled and influenced by so many others.

Which means they will have an existence, an experience, which I will largely not know about.  I won't know the details of every conversation that they have, with their teachers, and their friends.  I won't hear all the things that make them giggle, cry, and be able to guide their interactions with others.  I can't cuddle them when they are hurt at school.

So I'm hoping that the foundations we have laid will endure and keep them safe, keep them knowing they are loved, whatever they encounter.

**********************

I collected him yesterday, all smiles as he walked out in lines, holding hands with his friend.
He still looked tiny.
They all did.
With their enormous backpacks, and hats, and uniforms 2 sizes too big.

He had a great day.  Thankful, so thankful.
And he wants to go back.  Doubly thankful.

But there's still a tear or two to shed.


Because I think he grew a year in that one day.

He needs me just a little less.

Grief and Joy.

Because that is what we long for them.

To raise them so they are healthy without us one day.

It's a funny gig, this parenting job.  To render yourself redundant.

Off on a Very Grand Adventure
And I will always be here waiting for them to come home

The joy in this? They will always need our love.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

I Heart Cinnamon: Cinnamon Syrup Recipe

If you know me at all, you know I love Cinnamon.

And all things Cinnamon inspired - Chai, Glühwein (similar to Mulled Wine), Teacakes, Pfeffernüsse, Gingerbread, and on it goes.


At the supermarket yesterday I saw bulk cinnamon.  I've never seen that before at our regular store.

Its siren song called so of course I bought it.

I've been making some home cooked goodies for Christmas Hampers for friends, and felt inspired to make up a Cinnamon Syrup.  I was sure I'd seen a recipe somewhere, although when I went to find it, it seemed I'd imagined it.  Not that surprising really.

Edit:  I found the recipe after all - Everyday Cooking for Thermomix Families - Star Anise & Cinnamon Syrup.  But it still didn't have enough cinnamon for what I was dreaming of...

So here is my attempt to create a Cinnamon Syrup.

I kept it simple so it's gluten free, and can be used in drinks or as a topping on food.  There were other recipes that incorporated flour to thicken it, perhaps I'll experiment with that next time.

I used the Simple Syrup recipe from ThermoFun - if you haven't heard of Simple Syrup before, it's the name for a syrup made of sugar and water.  It's often used as a base for flavoured syrups or for cocktails.  It's a handy recipe to know, and if you're into cocktails, to keep on hand in the fridge!

After perusing a few recipes, the one that took my fancy was the one here, that incorporated the most cinnamon - the more the better in my opinion!  By the way, that site had some inspiring recipes for a variety of cinnamon inspired cocktails.

This recipe also said to leave the cinnamon sticks in the syrup to steep overnight.  I was short on time, so added them in during the cooking phase, but left a couple of quills in each jar to enhance the flavour and make it look all pretty.
I also added a splash of (home made) vanilla essence, and used half and half coconut sugar (for some reason I had heaps in the cupboard), and brown sugar.

The coconut sugar has a roasted bitterness to it, reminiscent of coffee, that would take the edge off the sweetness, and I felt like the brown sugar enhances the cosy cinnamon goodness.

Initially while it was cooking I was worried because I could smell the roasted flavours more than any other, but at the end of the cooking time, sweet cinnamon fragrances had developed.

100g coconut sugar
100g Brown Sugar
5g Vanilla Essence
240g Water
6 Cinnamon Quills

Place all ingredients in the bowl
Dissolve 10 mins / 110 C / Speed 1

If you don't have a Thermomix, you can still make the syrup:  place all ingredients in a saucepan, and gently bring to the boil until the sugar is dissolved.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes until the flavours infuse.

We added some to a berry iced tea for a little sweetness.  And then of course we took turns licking the bowl to taste it.  The consensus was that it's delicious.

The verdict from a 12 year old we love who has a very discerning palate:

 "Tastes like a bakery!"  

I'll take that!

I'm sure you could embellish this by adding other flavours such as orange zest, or other spices like cloves, but I wanted to keep it simple this first time.

I can't wait to add it to other things to share the cinnamon love.  I'm thinking Yoghurt, ice cream, tea, coffee...  What would you add it to?




















Here it is all tucked into its hamper, nice and snug :)

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Pausing

So it's the most hectic time of the year for teachers....  (I am a teacher in case you didn't know that about me) - hence the quietness of the blog of late.

I haven't managed to work on much of anything, except deadlines, let alone rustle up a blog post!
I have to admit that after the year we've had, I'm utterly spent.

I'm making myself take an enforced break today (I even chose to mark student work because it means I had to sit down!  Things are getting desperate when I'm this tired!).

So I was pondering my knitting.  And why I haven't been knitting as much lately.

I have some lovely projects that I *want* to make.

Some projects I'm *preparing* to make, including this Gilmore Girls Mystery Knit-A-Long* that I'm seriously excited about.

I've got some things that I did finish recently - also the result of Knit-a-Longs*, but I haven't had a moment to share them with you (coming soon!)

So back to the pondering...

I realised I do have some projects underway, but they're just not calling my name at the moment... The reason why?

I have to rip** them

It's a sad day when a knitter comes to the realisation of the need to rip a project.

A lovely podcast I follow (the Yarniacs, I do recommend!) a while back mentioned that the 5 stages of grief apply quite aptly to the process of coming to terms with undoing all those hard-won stitches!

It's taken a couple of weeks to process whether I *need* to begin again, and then a little more time for the acceptance...  Now I have to come to terms with actually undoing my projects.

You may be wondering why I am going to undo some perfectly lovely knitting (because surprisingly in this case, it's not due to knitting mistakes - that kind of undoing does happen on a regular basis.  And yes, it makes me come a little undone as well as the knitting).

Princess asked for a shawl of her own.  I'm thrilled to oblige!  We decided to use the remnants of a ball of Star Finch by CircusTonicHandmade that I used to make my Sweet Pie Socks (more information will come some day!), which serendipitously matches perfectly with a ball of coral Luxury from Bendigo Woollen Mills.

I assiduously researched Ravelry to find a shawl that I could knit the body in the solid colour, and then gradually incorporate the variegated yarn at the edge, which ideally would be some kind of simple lace.  Something suitable for a girl.
I do love the snowflake detail emerging on the edge

I found a lovely pattern called Snowflake Party.  If you know me (and Princess), you know how much we love snow!  I got all excited.

Which made me forget that it needed to be knit horizontally so that the lace could be in the variegated yarn.  I remembered *after* I started knitting it!  The Snowflake Party shawl is knit diagonally.  It could still be lovely, as there will be more snowflakes towards the end, but it still wasnt quite what i envisaged.  The pattern is lovely, and I will return to it for a future shawl!

Instead I think I'll make the Blossomfield Shawl designed by one of my favourite designers, Meg Gadsbey.  It is knit horizontally, and designed so that the lace flowers are knit in a lighter shade.
Symmetrical Gradient :)
My other project waiting to be ripped is a pair of rainbow socks.  I was excited to buy some yarn that has a symmetrical colour gradient.  It's designed for knitting two socks at a time, using the outer end and inner end of the yarn at once.  I tried to cast on two at once, but got into a dreadful muddle.

Instead, I pulled out my teeny tiny little sock needles, to knit one at a time.  I'm getting used to the little needles, and quite liking the technique.  It's easier than using a magic loop or two circulars, as you just keep knitting around and around.

But as the socks have emerged, I think that the stripes are a little too wide.  So I'm going to knit a larger sock.  This will mean that the stripes will be a slightly narrower, and should create a fun sock!
Big Stripe!  I haven't even reached the end of the first colour yet!
Of course, I could continue with both of these projects as they are, and they would be perfectly lovely.

But I make things for the joy that it brings, and I think both of them would be better if I change them slightly.  I'd rather undo this relatively small amount of work now, than wonder if the alternative would have been lovelier once they are finished!

It may be crazy, but it makes me happy!

Now that I've come to terms with it all, I'm off to undo some knitting!

Do you ever undo projects?  Why?  Have you ever continued with a project and then regretted it?

* Knit-a-Long = knitting along with a group of other people working on the same project or theme, usually on Ravelry.  Bonus if prizes are part of the fun; Also: Lots of fun, learning, swapping tips!
** rip = undo knitting






Saturday, 8 October 2016

Let's talk about ...

Nope.  Not going to say it.  My aim is to avoid the S word right through this blog post.  In fact, I'm going to try to avoid all the embarrassing words in this blog post.  Just to make things extra funny...

When I was expecting Dude and Princess wanted to know about how the baby was going to get out, my wise obstetrician's advice was to use distraction effectively...

Something like:

"Well the baby's got a special way of getting out.  Hey! Would you like some chocolate?"

Which is kind of funny, seeing as she specialises in getting the babies out.

But I guess she doesn't specialise in telling small people all about it.

Although I dodged a bullet there (that answer worked by the way), I figured that wasn't a long term solution.

The questions started coming from the Dude too I guess, and it seemed like a good opportunity to satisfy their natural curiosity.

I am absolutely no kind of expert in this area*.  but I love picture books, and I've spent a fair bit of time teaching children*** so I figured I should find some resources.

I seemed to have imbibed a few approaches from the ether:

* using correct anatomical names for body parts in order to:

  • be matter-of-fact (no shame); 
  • educate; and 
  • empower (it's supposed to be a good protective strategy in potential abuse situations
* trying to give a good answer to any question while keeping it age appropriate - I don't want my kids to feel like there is any shame in their curiosity and questions; but I also didn't want to freak them out.

We have also been privileged to attend a seminar at my kids' school called "Amazing Me" - Princess is in Year 3, and to be honest, I wasn't quite ready for her to hear 'the talk' yet.

But I preferred that she hear it from someone good at delivering that information, and to hear it with me.  I definitely didn't want her to hear it in the playground with embellishments...

The educator was awesome.  She delivered her stuff informatively, with humour, and with sensitivity.  I learned a lot about how to talk to my kids from her approach.

My impression of the evening was that all us parents wanted to crawl under the seats with our awkwardness about the topic, I suspect most of us were a bit red in the face.  Luckily no-one was game to look around.

But the kids?  They just absorbed it all as fascinating information.  They were desperate to answer the questions they knew, no embarrassment there!  Which was great.

I've also noticed that when I talk to the Dude about his questions, he's just fascinated by it as interesting information.  There's no concept (yet) of just how *embarrassing* this could be...  So I'm glad he's asking the questions now, and we can talk about them, because I think he's at a great age just to take it all in as fascinating facts.  And that's got to be powerful - he'll know how things work, and take it all for granted, before he gets to an age where it is embarrassing or shocking to discover.

Anyway, back to the point.  I have absolutely no idea what I originally googled when I went searching for resources for kids on this topic.  I'm sure it was embarrassing.

I do recall checking out the A Mighty Girl website, which is a treasure trove of fabulous resources, particularly aimed at empowering girls.  One of my favourite parts of the site is the book list - there are awesome resources on all sorts of topics.  It's well worth checking out.  The topics range across all sorts of topics from  History to Social Issues to Fiction to Understanding Yourself (including understanding issues like Aspergers) to Nature.

I looked at several of the books they suggested, and then took some time to read through the reviews on Amazon.

(as an aside, I always use the Amazon.com site, not the Australian one, because it has more on it). 

People take the time to write such detailed and informative reviews, and I really appreciated it on this occasion, because it allowed me to eliminate some books that are probably great, but weren't what I wanted.

I chose a few books.  Some suited to younger children, or as a reference for either child, that I'm happy to leave on the bookshelf for them to look at whenever they want.

One of the books is definitely one that I have put aside, and will pull out at times to look at specific pages.  It's for older children, and is more detailed.  Some of the concepts in it are better for us to read and discuss together.  It's still an awesome book, but I do think it's important to decide for your own family what you are comfortable with and what feels appropriate.

All of the books communicate the value of our bodies, how amazing they are, and reinforce a value of our right to ownership of our bodies (even if it's not explicit).

I've really tried to capitalise on the opportunity with my kids to let this reflect on our amazing Creator!

Amazing You 
by Gail Saltz.
This is such a great book.  It is positive and simple, and suitable for young children - from around Preschool age, but could be used with slightly older children too.
The explanations of bodies and where babies come from is appropriate for younger children.  The way the illustrations work, also would allow you to expand upon caesarean and 'normal' deliveries if it's something you want to discuss with your kids.  This is one of the books that lives on our bookshelf, and which gets pulled out by the kids.  I did read this with the children a few times first before the book appeared on the bookshelf.

Who Has What?  All About Girls' Bodies and Boys' Bodies 
by Robie H. Harris
This is for slightly older children.  It's a little longer and more involved.  It relates differences between girls' and boys' bodies to familiar animals such as pets so children can draw a link between things they have seen in their environment.  I think younger kids might not understand the links quite so clearly, but it's a great approach.
It is less about how babies are made, and more about our bodies are awesome, and their similarities and differences.
It's another book I'm happy to have out for my kids (again after reading it with them), but I think younger children would benefit more from having an adult read it with them.


It's Not the Stork:  A book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends 
by Robie. H Harris.
Another book by the same author as "Who Has What".  This is definitely for older children (but still suitable for primary age).  It's got lots of fantastic information, and answers more specific and common questions about exactly what goes on, including questions kids ask, like where the baby is, and how it eats!

Great diagrams to answer kids' questions
Having said that, it is also a book that I keep away, and will bring out to respond to specific questions, or explain concepts.
It uses the construct of some extra characters:  a bee, and a bird (Yes! How appropriate!) to provide other voices which can be curious, or grossed out.  It's a clever construct and fills an important role. However, I think they make it more complex to follow the main ideas of the text. I've found this in experiences with other factual texts for children, It's another feature that makes me think this book is better for slightly older children.
Importantly, it also includes a section on child protection:  safe touch and unsafe touch, which is excellent.  This is a page, however, that contains some information that some families might be a little uncomfortable with.


Here's a photo of the contents so you can see the topics that are covered.

There are several other books written on these topics by Robie H. Harris - I think they were for older children.  If you are keen to keep researching, I recommend the Amazon reviews as a handy place to find reflections on great books on the topic.

I'm also intrigued by "My Underpants Rule" which I've noticed being advertised online.  I haven't done any research into it, but a quick look at the site makes me think it looks like an excellent approach for helping protect children, and helping them learn to protect themselves.  I'd love to hear if anyone else has looked into it, and what you think!

Please excuse me while I go purchase another book!

In fact, if you have any wisdom or advice on this area, we'd all love to hear it!  Please let us know in the comments or on facebook.

*I am absolutely no kind of expert in this area, and this is a very limited list of resources.  I wrote this blog post to save boring the pants**off a few friends while I rabbited on about some books I found on the topic.  This way if they are bored they can wander off and have a nice cup of tea.  And a lie down.  Or both.  And I'll never know ;) 

** yes, that is an unfortunate turn of phrase given the topic, but it made me laugh.  I hope it makes you laugh too

*** I'm not going to tell you how many years, because then you might figure out how old I am.  And we can't have that.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Pomegranate Fudge?

I have only ever once tried to make fudge.

It was a dismal failure.

So I gave up on that.

10 years later, now owning a Thermomix, and often being the recipient of someone else's yummy fudge, I decided it was time to conquer my fears and try again.

A box of fudge seemed the perfect accompaniment for a brief holiday with friends by the water.

So I tried again.  My only problem was finding a recipe that was constituted from ingredients that were in our house.  I did try to go shopping with an actual shopping list.  But I still managed to forget important fudgy components.

Finally I found this fantastic recipe from Tenina which, for some reason, doesn't contain glucose syrup.  I'm not sure why this is important to most people (gluten? intolerance?  feel free to enlighten me!) but it was important to me because we have no glucose syrup.

I followed the recipe carefully, even milling the sugar an extra 2 times to avoid any grittiness as mentioned in the reviews.  Everything was in:  the condensed milk, the vanilla, and the butter.  Oh, the butter!

But I forgot to check my golden syrup supplies.  Golden Syrup is just always there when you need it, surely?  Even my trusty neighbours had run out.

It was too late to back out, so I had to find Plan B

After watching the merest dribble of syrup fail to meet the requisite amount, I searched the pantry.  The best thing I could find was Pomegranate Molasses.  I bought this for something important I had planned and never gotten around to.  I too find it incredible that there was no golden syrup, but pomegranate molasses were in stock.

I hoped it would have a great flavour, and the same gooey consistency.  I thought I'd better taste test first - it's quite tangy, so I wasn't entirely confident.  But then I figured there was already enough sugar in the mixture to make this work.  It also isn't gooey like golden syrup.

I followed Tenina's instructions for the cooking process and time, and also her instructions for the fudge to cool for a long time, preferably overnight *not* in the fridge.  Husband had to be warned away so that he didn't burn himself with the mixture....

The recipe tastes AMAZING!!  But I wouldn't call it a fudge.  The texture is more like a caramel, perhaps because of the consistency of the molasses vs the golden syrup.  It is incredibly moreish.  It is sweet and yummy, and the pomegranate molasses give it a tangy juicy quality.

If you're up for some experimenting and have the patience to cut the caramel up (it does require  commitment - thank you Husband) I can recommend you try this.  It keeps best in the fridge, and is just divine with a cup of tea!

Isn't it wonderful when cooking experiments create new delights!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Roast Pumpkin & Chorizo Soup

Spring is most definitely on the way now, despite my being lucky enough to squeeze in a crazy ski trip last weekend.

It may have involved some shenanigans that resulted in injury.  I'm all better now and still maintain that I'm not too old for adventures!

The children and I have been enjoying spotting each new bud and blossom in our garden.  Even the weeds bring my dude great joy - they are sunshine yellow after all!

Still, we've had some unexpectedly chilly days lately, so I'm making the most of the opportunity for more soups.

I had pumpkin, and a surfeit of chorizos*.  I also wanted to use the Thermomix to cook this meal - feeling far to lazy to bother cooking my usual Pumpkin Soup recipe on the stove...

So, here's my experimental Roast Pumpkin & Chorizo soup.  It turned out surprisingly yummy, if I do say so myself!  It's a hearty, sweet, chunky soup.  I'll try to improve my recipe layout for you later, but for now, here it is to enjoy!

Ingredients:
1/2 Butternut Pumpkin - remove seeds
1 Sweet Potato
Olive oil
1 onion
2 chorizo**
knob of butter
500 ml Chicken Stock
Maple Syrup - splash

Method:
Preheat oven 220
Roughly chop pumpkin into quarters (you can leave it whole, but this quarters makes it quicker)
Cut sweet potato into large rough chunks
Drizzle with olive oil
Roast in oven approx 20 min until soft and starting to brown.
Place onion & chorizo in Thermomix:  Chop 5 sec, speed 5
Cook 2 Min / Varoma / reverse speed soft with butter
Repeat until you are happy it's cooked through / starting to caramelise - 1 repeated 3 times.
Scoop out the flesh of the roasted pumpkin & sweet potato.
Add to Thermomix
Add 500 ml chicken stock.
Add a splash of maple syrup.  Because Maple Syrup is always good right?
Blend for 30 seconds, starting at speed 1 progressing to speed 3 to blend carefully (due to the chunks of veg, and the amount of liquid)
Repeat until you are happy with the consistency, gradually increasing the speed.
Check your soup and see if you like the chunkiness of it - this is for a hearty, chunky recipe.
If you prefer a smoother soup, add a little more stock, milk or even cream!
Add it gradually so that you are blending safely and so that you can check as you go.

If you use boiling water to make your stock, you won't need to re-heat much, but you'll need to take even more care with blending.
If you used cold water (like me) you will want to bring your soup back up to the heat.
I cooked it for 10 min more at 95 degrees, reverse speed slow

Serve with a dash of yoghurt or sour cream.


**For a stove top recipe, dice the chorizo into neat little cubes, fry them, starting with a cold pan to allow them to render their tasty fat for the soup, then remove half.  Leave half of the chunks to cook and flavour the soup.  Add the remaining half after the blending process to add texture.

* I hate online shopping.  But occasionally I use it so that we can get food into the house without my having to go get it.  In an online shopping fail, I managed to order 2 kg of Chorizo.  I blame Woolworths.  That may or may not be fair.  Luckily we like it and it freezes well.  I have a couple of great recipes incorporating Chorizo, which I'll share soon.  2 kg is really quite a lot - I'd love any of your favourite chorizo recipes!