Monday, March 2, 2015

Egg Free Banana Cake

You might have noticed me talk about my middle child having an egg allergy. Luckily he isn't anaphalctic, but eating eggs gives him an unpleasantly itchy mouth and if he's eaten enough, it will come back up again. Gross! This situation is a bit sad for The Gentleman, especially when it is someone's birthday at school, and he has to go without cake. I played around with this recipe over the weekend, and it's a winner! The Gentleman loves it, and polished off 4 slices in no time. 





Egg Free Banana Cake 

Ingredients
  • 2 and a half cups of plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarb
  • 300g of chopped pecans
  • half a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 400g tin of sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 bananas, ripe (2 of mine came from the freezer, which made them easy to mash)
  • 250g melted butter
  • NO Sugar! That's not a typo, there is enough sugar in the condensed milk.


Method

  • In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, bicarb, pecans and cinnamon.
  • Melt the butter in the microwave, then combine with the sweetened condensed milk and 2 of the bananas (mash them first).
  • Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stir well. Pour into a lined baking dish or tin (I used a 20cm x 30cm Pyrex dish, but it doesn't matter)
  • Slice the remaining 2 bananas length ways and lay across the top. If you like, sprinkle the top with a bit of raw sugar, this is entirely optional but it does give a nice crunch.
  • Bake in a medium oven for about 45 minutes. 





I like that this recipe can be versatile. Take out the bananas and nuts and replace with grated lemon rind and poppy seeds, or a cup of desiccated coconut and a cup of raspberries or blueberries, or half a cup of cocoa powder. Very handy to know if you are cooking for someone allergic to eggs! Also delicious if you don't have an egg allergy.





Do you cook for someone with an allergy? What sort of foods do you cook? Any hot tips for a mum with an allergy kid?

xx




Tuesday, February 24, 2015

5 great tips for managing your time.

Like lots of people, I have a lot of things to do and not a lot of time to do them in. I find it easy to be swept up in enormous plans to take over the world, but then don't have the actual time to do that. Bummer! Reminding myself of these tips alleviates a bit of the crushing dissapointment of realising I'm not superwoman, and gives me some direction on moving forward, so I thought I'd share them with you. Hope you like them! First lets take a few cleansing breathes and look at the nice blue ocean. Better? OK then! Lets go.




Be realistic with my to-do list(s)

Good God I love a list! Sometimes it's tempting to put everything - every little thing - on my to do list. But is this productive? NO. I find it really disheartening to look at a list knowing I'm never going to tick everything off. There is no need to set yourself up for feeling like a failure, so take another look at that list and be realistic. Things that are major projects deserve their own list, with time-lined action plans, so scoot them off to a different list. Some things might need to be crossed completely off - if that goal is no longer valid and there is no point in doing it, why give it space on a list? Put a line through that baby and cross it off! How good does it feel to get rid of it completely?! I have a few lists going at any one time, and although that sounds confusing, (and suspiciously like someone who needs to be in List Makers Anonymous) it's actually simplified things a lot. I have a daily list that goes in my diary, for things that must be done today. I have a monthly list in a separate notepad of things that I'd like to do this month, but it's not necessarily life threatening if I don't. Then I have separate lists with headings like Blog, Business, House, Garden, that hold the things that I absolutely plan on doing at some stage, but they haven't quite made it to the level of monthly or daily urgency. Is this too many lists? NO! I like it a lot, it works for me, and it's fantastic to clarify your thoughts and off load niggly things out of your head. Of course, the danger is that you spend so much time on your list making that there is no time to do anything, but in reality, investing a bit of time into getting organised is worth it in the long run. Think of it as a nod to mental clarity.



Be realistic with my time.

Everyone is only given 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week. Everyone! Sometimes I hear someone say that they will 'make time' to do something, and you know what? They can't! They DO NOT have a magical time machine that creates hours for them! NO ONE can make time. The only thing you can do is manage it the best you can. I look at my diary (I like an old school paper one I carry around, you might like a digital version. It doesn't matter, as long as you use something) and block out the time that is not negotiable. Exercise, study, work, volunteering, childrens sport, any other commitments should go in. I probably won't forget them, but putting them in black and white makes me accountable for the time that I have, and then I'm much less likely to waste time disappearing down rabbit holes like facebook . It should be really apparent that the time I do have left over needs to be managed well to fit in all the things I want to achieve. There isn't likely to be much time, so whatever you have is precious. It's OK to be selective about what you do with it, and it's OK to say no to other people trying to take it. Guard your time.



Cut myself some slack.

All this talk about making every minute count tends to make me feel guilty for time spent lolly gagging around, but that time is actually really important for my soul, and needs to be scheduled in so that nothing takes it's place. If it feeds your spirit to grab a paintbrush or a box of crayons with no planned outcome, or walk on the beach at whatever pace the ocean allows, or wander through some shops with no agenda, then you must do it. This time is an investment in you, your inner calm and your core of strength. If I think back to the times I didn't allow myself to do this stuff, I remember that those where the times I depleted my inner stores and ran on empty so long I could hardly get out of bed in the morning. Setting objectives and achieving goals is important, but remember to fill your own tank. No one can run on empty, and it's false economy to think you can. Be kind to yourself.


Set goals

A goal is a specific thing you want to achieve, and you need to make a plan for how you are going to achieve it. This is where most new years resolutions come unstuck, there is no plan for how to get it done, just a wish thrown drunkenly to the moon at midnight. (I love the woo, but this approach doesn't even work for me!) I can visualize all I want, but a wish is not the same as doing the work. Break the goal down into actionable steps that you can do every day or week to achieve your outcome. A generic 'get fitter' goal is unlikely to be successful, but a 'Walk every day for 30 minutes' goal is great. Allocate that time in your diary so it gets done. Are there any resources that you need to gather? (walking shoes, exercise clothes) Is there any information you need to achieve your goal? (local walking tracks?) Are there people you need to give you a helping hand? (a local walking group, a personal trainer?) Great, add all of those things to your diary, and set aside time to get them organised. Remember to be realistic about how much time you can devote to your goal - 30 minutes walking a day is great, but 2 hours is probably not great - for your time management or your legs.



Multitasking, is it for you? 

I would say no, it is not. It's certainly not for me. Sure, there are some things you can do successfully at the same time; folding laundry, drinking wine and watching TV seem to go really well together, but then none of those things take a lot of brain power by themselves, so it's easy to combine them. It's up to you to choose what you multitask, my experience is that if I set aside a specific time to do something and devote all of my attention to it, then I have a better chance of completing it and being happy with the outcome. Cooking the dinner and helping the children with the homework? OK, most of the time. Cruising through facebook while working on a deadline? Nope, that is a complete waste of time - I'm better off scheduling time for the work, then scheduling time for social media shenanigans.



What do you think of these 5 tips? Do you think they will be useful to you? What is your best tip for managing time? Do you have a plan to take over the world and do you wish you where superwoman?

xx

Monday, February 23, 2015

5 tips for getting the best out of your slow cooker (and a recipe!)

I cooked this beef with Asian flavours in the slow cooker the other day, and it turned out so beautifully - full of flavour and really tender. Someone mentioned on Instagram that they couldn't crack the perfect slow cooker recipe, and although I don't claim perfection, I thought I'd put together some tips in case they where helpful. The recipe for this Asian inspired beef is at the end.



Reduce the liquid
When you cook something on the stove-top or in the oven, liquid condenses in your finished dish, meaning the sauce that you are left with is thick and flavourful. In the slow cooker this evaporation doesn't happen, so the liquid is thinner, and the taste will be diluted. The way to overcome this is to not add much liquid into your dish in the first place - so if your regular chicken casserole calls for 1 cup of stock, just use the powder and not the water.


Amp up the flavour
When I first started using the slow cooker I hated it, because it was so watery and diluted tasting. There was no flavour! This is partly caused by the lack of evaporation mentioned above, and also by not adding enough flavour in the first place. You can't rely on the oven to intensify the flavours for you, so it has to be done before hand. Don't be afraid to use lots of herbs and spices.


Brown the meat and onions first
There is a lot of flavour to be had by browning the meat before it goes in the slow cooker, possibly even coating it in seasoned flour before that happens. It's not so much sealing the meat to avoid 'stewing', it's more about the richness of the caramelized brown bark the meat takes on in the frypan, which doesn't happen by simmering alone. Cheaper cuts of meat, that traditionally have more connective tissue will dissolve into mouthwatering tenderness. Chicken thighs with the bone will be more tender and less likely to dry out than chicken breast. Onions will not caramelize unless they are cooked in a touch of oil first, so don't just chop them up and throw them in - allow them to brown slightly and collapse first.


Cook at the right temperature, for the right amount of time.
Cook on low. Maybe start it off on high for a while to heat it up and get it going, but then turn it down to low for the remainder of the time. Leaving the temperature on low is likely to give much more tender results. It's tempting to turn the dial to high and get results faster, but this is a slow cooker, not a microwave!


Go your own way
Experiment! We've all read those spooky slow cooker recipes that contain 2 tins of soup and a kilo of cheese, but there is no need to actually cook them. You can choose your own ingredients and devise your own recipe without relying on sachets or jars. Have fun!



Asian Inspired Slow Cooker Beef



Ingredients

  • 2 kilos of chick steak, cubed, no bones (ask your butcher to do this for you)
  • a tin of bamboo shoots, drained
  • a big glug of soy sauce
  • a big glug of fish sauce
  • a few teaspoons of ground turmeric
  • a whole lime, cut into quarters
  • fresh grated ginger and garlic, a few tablespoons of each
  • a few tablespoons of brown sugar
  • a heaped teaspoon of cumin
  • a small handful of dried curry leaves, if you have them.
  • chopped fresh chilli, to taste, unless you have a fussy eater.

Method
  • Chuck everything in the slow cooker, give it a good stir, turn on low, and leave for 6 hours. 
  • Serve with rice, and maybe some salted cucumber or chopped tomato.

Keen eyed people will have noticed that I did not brown the meat first! It's true, I was in a rush and couldn't be bothered. It still turned out really well, probably because there was a whole lot of flavour in there already. Rules are meant to be broken!


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