Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Cookbook for Kids

I work as a music teacher, and from 3:30pm it is mayhem at my place. Well, perhaps not mayhem as my kids are generally in a routine, but I work all the way until 7pm so I really need to sort out dinner during the day.

I enlisted the help of my son. It takes a little bit of time and patience to teach kids to learn how to cook, and there's no way I feel we're even getting close here, but I have taught my son some kitchen skills, and wrote him out his own cook book. I try once a week to let him cook dinner (or finish it off, as is sometimes the case). The recipes are very simple, some adult preparation may be needed beforehand, and anytime something needs to be baked, it is put into a cold oven, then the oven is switched on once the door is closed.

Some of the dishes are not main meals in themselves (one is a cake!) and often require side dishes of vegetables or salad, but they are a confidence booster and a welcome relief when it comes to dinner time.
Unfortunately these blog sites don't allow for PDF documents, otherwise I would happily upload the entire book.

Friday, January 28, 2011

PETE Rice Storage

I bought a big 10kg bag of Calrose Rice cheaply, and thought I would break it down into a more usable storage size. I have decantered some into jars to keep in my pantry for shorter term storage, but for longer term (up to 5 years), I wanted to store some in PETE bottles.

I chose some former 2 litre juice bottles, bleach rinsed them, dried them and they were ready to fill.
I use a funnel to tip the rice into the PETE bottles. It means fewer grains of rice on the benchtop.

I put in two oxygen absorbers in the bottom of the bottle, as I'm not sure how old my oxygen absorbers actually are.

Fill all the way up to the top of the bottle.

I added a third oxygen absorber at the top. Put the lid on and seal it with some flexible duct tape. This will avoid the bottle being accidentally opened, or any unwanted oxygen seeping in.

Don't forget to label your bottle.

Oxygen absorbers supposedly have a shelf life of 1 year. Of course, once they have done their job there is no need to open your containers and add more. However, if you do need to re-seal your food for any reason, you will need to use new oxygen absorbers. Throw out the used ones.

You can tell the oxygen absorbers work if you are using e.g. 1.25 litre lemonade PETE bottles as the side pulls in. It won't pull in as much with the thicker plastic used for juice bottles.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Charcoal's History

I've had pet rabbits for a long time now, and none of them have been pet shop purchased. The first was a dwarf female named 'Barney'. She was given to my sister's friend by her boyfriend (without consulting her). The friend's parents didn't want a rabbit so my family was asked if we wanted it. She ended up becoming my pet. She was a grumpy thing - grunted, used to run at us, nip our fingers but lick us all over when she realised who we were. She was albino, and they don't see very well. My parents thought it was cruel for her to live in a cage, so they made a 'playpen' in the yard for her, with chicken wire everywhere so she couldn't escape. Sadly, a Tom Cat found his way in and attacked her. She bit his ear off, however received a nasty scratch on her eye and died the next day from shock. She was probably a year old.
The next furry friend was Charcoal. He somehow found his way into my parents back yard and refused to leave. He was so young he had one ear up and one ear down. Quite a comical look for a bunny! At that point he was completely white in colour except for a tiny splodge of grey right on the top of his head, so I named him 'Charcoal'. Not, as my husband thinks, so we could BBQ him!
He was such a beautiful natured bunny, my parents didn't want another cat to get to him, so they asked if I wanted him at my place. He was so adorable and Phil didn't mind so to my place it was!
It has been just over 11 years since then, and he is still a remarkable creature. He is so gentle with my kids, has a very sweet tooth (can smell chocolate a mile away), and somehow managed to get my husband wrapped around his...little front claw?

He has been through a lot through, poor old guy. He has had toddlers trying to sit on him, brushing his fur up the wrong way, endless wet sloppy kisses, being trodden on, people unintentionally poisoning him by feeding him toxic plants (oleander is just as poisonous to bunnies as it is to humans) and having to share his hutch with other bunnies we have rescued.

Despite being taken to the vet to be desexed at 6 months, he still managed to sire a litter with one of my rescued females (oops!).

He is very loved though, and I suspect he knows that :D

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Australia Day - Damper

How more Australian can you get than having Damper on Australia Day? (and a BBQ and swim in the pool in the sweltering sun).

I taught my son how to make damper, with a little help from my Thermomix.

The Australian Women's Weekly gives this history of Damper:-

In the early colonial days of Australia, there was no yeast, and the first
settlers lacked the knowledge to make a substitute, so they made damper; an
unleavened bread cooked in the ashes of a camp fire or open fireplace.
Traditionally, damper consists of flour an water and a good pinch of salt.

My recipe has been altered a little to make it a little more palatable and has butter and milk. You could add salt as well if you wish, but I use salted butter therefore don't see the need for extra salt.


3 cups self-raising flour
30 grams butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup water (approximately)

Rub butter into flour to resemble breadcrumbs.

Make well in centre of flour, add milk and enough water to make a soft, sticky dough. Use a butter knife to mix for best results.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Shape into a mound.

Place on greased (or baking paper-lined) oven tray. Cut a cross through the dough about 1 cm deep. Brush with a little extra milk or water, then dust with a little extra flour.

Bake in a moderately hot oven for 20-30 minutes or until damper sounds hollow when tapped.

Break open and serve with golden syrup, honey, butter or jam.

Five Little Ducks - hand puppet

I have had the lucky job this month of doing 10 minute singing time with kids from 18 months to 2 1/2 years old one day each week. The little ones are so cute, but need lots of visual stimulation as they have an attention span of about 30 seconds.

I decided to make some hand puppets to help sing along to. I am not a brilliant sewer but you can do amazing things with glue guns. Here's my Five Little Ducks hand puppet along with Mother Duck in the middle.

The kids absolutely loved it. They sang the "Quack quack quack quack" part and held up their own hands and fingers couting down with me.

This would make a great gift for a little person in your life. Include the words of the song done up nicely on cardboard and you're good to go.

Words are:-
Five little ducks went out one day,
Over the hills and far away.
Mother Duck said "Quack, quack quack quack",
but only four little ducks came back.

Four little ducks went out one day,
Over the hills and far away.
Mother Duck said "Quack, quack quack quack",
but only three little ducks came back.

(etc down to "but none of the five little ducks came back".)

Mother Duck went out one day,
Over the hills and far away.
Mother Duck said "Quack, quack, quack, quack",
And all of the five little ducks came back.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Penrith Valley Oranges - orange picking

In 2009 we went orange picking at the "pick your own" orchard at Penrith Valley Oranges. It was a fantastic experience for my children to see what is involved in growing and picking fruit. In the shed at Penrith Valley Oranges is a conveyor belt where the oranges are sorted and waxed. One of the owners, Lauren Hartog, showed us how the oranges are sorted into size, given a light coating of wax to make them look shiny but to keep them fresher for longer, and how they are boxed ready to be sold.
They were Naval oranges, and I have to say, I'm not a big orange fan usually but they were the sweetest tasting oranges I have ever had!
Someone looking pleased with the size and look of the fruit!
At Penrith Valley Oranges, you pay for what you pick. We picked a couple of bags of fruit and purchased a few boxes from the shed as well. My kids didn't always end up picking overly ripe fruit, but it was a great lesson for them, and we paid for absolutely everything we picked.
Unfortunately, due to bats and other costs, Penrith Valley Oranges were unable to open for picking to the public last year. I hope they have a better year this year because I'd really love to go with my family again. October is the best month for oranges where I am. we go again

Does it seem to you that as soon as you think you have gone through the entire house and outside, it is time to start all over again?

It doesn't seem very long ago that I de-cluttered my bar outside, but it is a magnet for all sorts of things. My husband sees a spare spot and dumps his computer paraphernalia there, my daughter's art and craft material always ends up there, as well as the odd gardening tools and supplies (oops, and a food storage tub). Personally, I think the bar is rather ugly, but I'm in no position to remove it so unfortunately we are stuck with it. Covered over with a very long Christmas table cloth, it comes in handy for large family gatherings.

I have people coming over for a BBQ on Australia Day, and it gave me the extra motivation I needed to clear the bar off (again!).

A mostly clean bar - 3 things left to put away but what an improvement.

What gets you motivated to de-clutter? It is a seasonal instinct? Does having people over motivate you? Does reading or watching other people trigger the de-cluttering bug?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two Minute Noodle Recipe Ideas

I have never been a huge fan of two minute noodles, but have been known to eat them on occasion.

We need to 'Store what we eat and eat what we store', so I needed to find a few recipe ideas so that the noodles don't sit in my storage until their use by date is up. My children like them, but prefer other things in them (well trained children!).

Here are a couple of ideas:-

Two-Minute Noodle Omelettes

2 packets of two minute noodles
200 grams sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon oil, to cook mushrooms (I use olive oil)
1/3 cup diced ham (you could use bacon if you prefer, just cook a little longer before adding other ingredients)
6 spring onions, chopped finely
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup finely shredded cabbage
6 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon oil to cook omelettes

  1. Cook two minute noodles without using the flavour sachets. Drain and cool slightly. Keep the sachets aside.
  2. Cook the mushrooms (and bacon if using that) in a small pan with the teaspoon of oil.
  3. In a large bowl, place cooked mushrooms, warm noodles, ham, spring onions, carrot, cabbage, eggs, 1 noodle sachet, salt and pepper. Mix well (I don't use salt - I think there's enough in the sachet already but that's just me).
  4. Gently place large spoonfuls of mixture in hot oil in your frying pan. Turn over when golden brown and set underneath. Before doing each batch, ensure that the mixture is well stirred as the egg will drain to the bottom of the bowl quickly.

Serves 4 as a light lunch with salad and fresh bread.

Two-Minute Noodles with Ham and Cheese


3 packets of two-minute noodles

4 large eggs

1/2 cup ham

1/4 cup cheese


  1. Hard boil eggs and let sit in cold water for 5 mins before peeling and cutting into 6-8 slices.
  2. Cook noodles for two minutes in boiling water then drain liquid. Add in flavour sachets from1 packet (add another if you like LOTS of flavour).
  3. Gently mix cheese, ham and sliced egg into the noodles and serve immediately.

Serves 2. Add salad on the side if preferred.

Week 4 of the 2011 Food Storage Challenge

Week 4 $10 challenge:

1 bag of 10 pack 2 min noodles

Week 4 $20 challenge:

2 bags of 10 pack 2 min noodles

Why are we storing 2 min noodles for this challenge? They're not overly nutritious usually however, in an emergency situation they don't take long to cook, they will fill you up fairly well and if you have stored some dried veggies, you can add those in along with the flavouring and you end up with a soup that will keep you going.

Add dried vegetables such as capsicum, mushroom, corn, peas, beans, carrot for a soup.

Drain some of the water (drink that in an emergency situation). Add some tinned veggies to it - corn, beans, lentils will all work well. You could even add some tomatoes or tinned/diced tomatoes to vary it.