Thursday, October 23, 2014

Delicious Sugar-Free Favourites *recipes*

It's been roughly six weeks since we took the plunge and went (mostly) sugar-free.
Can I just say two things about that:
1. I have NEVER EVER successfully followed through on changing my diet before I did this
2. It has been easier - and more enjoyable - than I ever imagined

In case you're new round here, you should know that I am the self-confessed Lazy Mother who always looks for the shortcuts, and despite all appearances (i.e. my party posts) I have never thought of myself as a baker. Or a cook. Or anything else which required too much time in the kitchen on a regular basis.
True story.

But all that is changing. And I have never baked so much.
Never have my kids had such interesting, healthy lunchboxes on a consistent basis (which, might I add, they are still making themselves.) They are short on processed crap and filled with stuff like unflavoured milk, strawberries, pistachios, lemon-dipped carrot sticks, chicken salad sandwiches on grainy bread, and plain yoghurt flavoured with (homemade) berry coulis.

John Campbell's lunchbox nazi would find little to complain about here.

But best of all are the cakes. The Cakes. The CAKES.
Mostly from Petite Kitchen, my new favourite cooking-gal. I even bought the recipe book.

I have made these recipes more than once, sending multiple guests reeling in astonishment when I revealed that these drool-worthy delights are not only gluten-free but sugar-free too.

They are SIMPLE to make, and delicious to eat, as well as being so good for you.

First up, my version of Petite Kitchen's Simple Almond Cake.

Orange Almond Cake With Berries Gluten free and Sugar free

  • 2 cups of ground almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup of runny honey
  • 60g butter (melted)*
  • the zest of one large orange
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
Preheat the oven to 160oC (not fan bake). Beat all ingredients together until smooth then pour batter into a round cake tin lined with baking paper. Sprinkle over the top:
  • half a cup of frozen blueberries (or mixed berries)
Bake for 25 minutes or until the top of the cake feels firm when lightly pressed.

Serve with homemade berry coulis and plain yoghurt (with just a dash of added honey)
Soooo good.

This next recipe would have been tricky to execute if I hadn't recieved, that very day, a special delivery from one of the companies my hubby does business for. See, I haven't had a food processor since I melted our old one in the dodgey dishwasher. I've been making do with a hand-held electric beater and a bit of elbow grease. But since hubby's points earned me this new kitchen Whizz, I now have a MACHINE to do all the heavy lifting. (for meeeeee, for freeeeeee).

This cake is to die for, and with my new magical Whizzer, so simple too. Truly.

So without further ado, here's my version of Petite Kitchen's Decadent Raspberry Torte.

Decadent Raspberry Chocolate Torte Gluten free and Sugar free

  • 1 cup of frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup of runny honey
  • 60g butter*
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda
Preheat the oven to 150oC (not fan bake). In your (shiny new) food processor, whizz the frozen raspberries until they are as smooth as you can get them.
Melt the honey and butter together in the microwave and once melted, whisk together lightly before adding to the raspberries; add the rest of the ingredients and whizz together in the magical whizzer. Wahoo!

Pour batter into a lined cake tin and bake for 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed.
Then enjoy with a friend, with a little coulis on the side and some honey-tinted yoghurt. 
Don't even bother to feel guilty, because it's ALL GOOD FOR YOU.

*To make dairy free substitute butter with 1/4 cup of coconut oil.

Easy Berry Coulis

2 cups of frozen berries
1/8 cup of water
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice (about half a lemon's worth)
2 Tablespoons of honey

Put all the ingredients in a pot, simmer on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is soft and squishy. Now you can either serve as is, with berry bits (a simple berry sauce) or you can turn it into a "coulis" by mashing it through a sieve and discarding all the seeds and pulp.

Add it to plain yoghurt in place of those awful sugar-loaded pottles your kids have been guzzling that you used to think were healthy til you knew better. They will love it, trust me.

Monday, October 20, 2014

He Rode all the Way

Riding 180km on a bike, to raise money for an orphanage in Manila was the goal.
Saturday just gone was the appointed day.
My husband Rory was the man.

At 5am on Saturday morning, after two hours sleep, laying awake tossing and turning and worrying about Jim's weather predictions (rain... wind...) my poor hubby dragged his weary bones out of bed and and set off in the dark with a wonderful bunch of cycle nuts who were along for some moral support...

I can't tell you how relieved I was that he didn't have to bike all that way on his own. Especially after bugger-all sleep.

We'd made a plan that I was to meet him at just past the half way point, carrying supplies of food and water to the weary cyclists. (When the kids grumbled about spending most of their Saturday in the car, I said, "Think of the orphans and quit your whining!" and "Think of poor daddy riding all this way ON A BIKE! be glad you're in the car!")

The blokes on their bikes turned up about ten minutes after we made it to the meeting point, and I have to say I was a bit worried. Poor Rory looked like he was on his last gasp. I didn't know how he'd manage to make it the rest of the way.

A five minute sit-doon and some kai made all the difference. He looked a little perkier by the time I snapped the team's "half way" photo... (did I mention how grateful I was that Rory wasn't doing this on his own?)

Then it was back on their bikes and I drove ahead to Thames, snapping a few action shots while I was at it...

The rain was starting - just a light spit, but nothing to worry about. There was no sign of the downpour and gales that Jim had predicted. After ten minutes the drizzle let up... and that was it. No more rain fell while the guys were rising. Amazing. (meanwhile the rain never STOPPED in Auckland).

One more meetup in Thames, where a local Pastor met the lads with coffee and muffins and they topped up their water bottles. I was reassured to see Rory looking so much better, with only 55km to go (or so we thought).

Goodbye! we waved. Good luck! Ride carefully! Next time we saw them it would be all over. They were biking to Coromandel township, then catching the ferry back to Auckland. 180km up-hill-and-down-dale on a bike.

Only it wasn't 180km. It was 193km as you can see...

But in spite of no sleep, bad weather predictions and a massive puncture at the bottom of the final hill, my legendary hubby limped over the finish line, with that awesome bunch of mad cyclists out for a fun day's ride, all in a very worthy cause.

[They did it! At the other end waiting for the ferry home]
So far we have raised nearly $4000! I've been really humbled by the number of blog readers who have sponsored my hubby - THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH.

[Rory txting me to tell me he'd done it; photo snapped by our neighbour Andy, a total cycle nut]
In Rory's words, when he'd completed the ride: "Feeling pretty emotional after my biggest cycle ever, just under 200km - but hugely rewarding - touched by everyone's 'buy in'/generosity - pretty much $4k donated - awesome."

If you still want to donate, it's not too late - we've still got $1000 to go to reach our target before Rory leaves with the team to build the orphanage on November 3rd.

Donate to Rory's Orphanage Cycle Fundraiser

(Plus Rory is matching all donations dollar-for-dollar - so at the moment with $4000 raised, the orphanage will be getting $8000; if we reach our goal, the orphanage will get $10,000)
Thursday, October 16, 2014

Star Wars Party *just because*

I must be mad, I know, let's just admit it right now. These "parties for no reason" are getting out of hand, with TWO these last school holidays.

I was kind of hoping Scrag would forget my mumbled agreement to have a Star Wars "party" for him and a few Jedi pals, but on the last Wednesday of the hols, he came up to me as I sat at the computer pinning things and asked so sweetly: "Mum, shouldn't we be getting ready for the Star Wars party already? Shall I get my notebook so we can start making plans?"

In my defence, I am rather powerless against the heartfelt pleas of my young Jedi when he asks so nicely (and hugs me so much). The Force is strong with this one. What could I do but start searching for Star Wars ideas?

The first thing I found were these cool Styrofoam R2D2 cups. So I pinned them. Downloaded the free printable and printed off two sheets. Scrag and I made the cups together, improvising the lids (since we couldn't find any cups with lids in the shops)...

  1. Trim and stick the R2D2 body onto the styrofoam cup using a glue stick. Trace circles on the back of silver card to form a lid. Carefully cut out the circles.
  2. Cut a small cross with a craft knife in the middle of the circle to poke the straw through. Cut out the round lid printable. 
  3. Use a hole punch to punch a hole in the centre circle of the lid printable (or carefully cut a small circle). Staple the lid printable to the silver circle, letting the staples line up with the edges of the blue printed shapes.
  4. Poke a straw through and Voila! An R2D2 cup perfect for your impromptu Star Wars Party!

 I've made these Light Saber Napkin Holders before (and had been collecting toilet rolls for weeks). They are easy to make, by covering cardboard toilet rolls with silver duct tape and adding black electrical tape details. (Or you can paint the toilet rolls black and add the duct tape as detail).

We have been mad keen Star Wars enthusiasts since forever. We've had a Star Wars Birthday Party (for Dash), a Star Wars Theme dinner and a May The Fourth (be with you) Star Wars night for a bunch of eight and nine year olds.
In our dressup box lurks a Darth Vader talking helmet and a Princess Leia wig, so pulling off a Star Wars party with two days notice was really a doddle, especially with the most enthusiastic six-year old Jedi helper EVER.

We made enough light saber handles from toilet rolls to make balloon light sabers as well. Such a pity that the $2 shop balloon pump broke after we just blew up these two balloons. I guess you get what you pay for aye? (You can bet we protected these two beauties from all comers until it was time to do battle).

I was a bit bummed but my young padawan told me, "Mum don't be worried because look at all the OTHER amazing things you've made! Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate is the path to the dark side..." Someone's been listening to Yoda.

I found a roll of leftover black building paper in the garage, which I stapled to the back wall under the carport, and Scrag and I drew a chalk galaxy...

This is such a simple idea, cost NOTHING and was so effective. Building paper, staples, chalk. Easy!

Of course our trusty lemonade stand was put to use again, and this time our drink dispenser was filled with delicious sugar-free Yoda Soda...

Sugar Free Yoda Soda Recipe (Apple & Green Tea punch)

1 litre of boiling water
4 green tea bags
2-3 tablespoons of liquid honey
Juice and zest of one lemon
One green apple, grated

Leave to steep and chill overnight. In the morning, strain the liquid into your drink dispenser or punch bowl and add:
  • one litre of clear apple juice
  • two litres of sparkling soda water
  • 2-3 drops of green food colouring
Our young Jedi trainees guzzled this down like they didn't know it was good for them. Yummy!

Last week of the school holidays, not many of his buddies were in town, so just three young Jedi were due to turn up to play. Really, this was a themed afternoon tea, with light saber battles thrown in. But Scrag loved it and appreciated all the little touches (he kept hugging me and saying, "Thankyou mummy, I love you" "Mummy you're the best mum ever!" It made it all worth it).

I set up a beam for them to have light saber battled on, a plank of wood supported by two sawhorses. Underneath was a homemade fall-mat. A tarp, spread with flat cushions/squabs, with our large woven mat spread on top. Nobody seemed to mind falling.

Of course if this were a "real party" I would have planned all kinds of fun star wars games and activities. But this was a glorified group playdate on a theme with a special afternoon tea, so I left them to come up with their own fun.

The Darth Vader helmet was a hit. Darth even came for afternoon tea...

For a bit of easy (healthy) food theming, I put cheese, salami, celery and carrot sticks on toothpicks and wrapped their bottoms with a strip of tin foil. I labelled the tomato sauce "lava", put popcorn in silver boxes and called it "asteroids" and for the piece de resistance, Scrag and I made some Star Wars cookies. I found some cookie cutters online and used our favourite basic cookie recipe...

The cookie cutters come in a pack of four, C3PO, Yoda, Chewbacca and Darth Vader. I found mine on TradeMe, but you can find them all over the internet and they are cheap as chips ($6.95 for the set).
We divided the dough into quarters and added colour for each shape.

  1. C3PO: Just cut out the dough, as is. No colouring required.
  2. Yoda: Add a splash of green food colouring to Yoda's quarter of the dough.
  3. Chewbacca: Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to Chewie's dough to make him nice and brown.
  4. Darth Vader: Add cocoa powder PLUS black food colouring to make Darth dark, as he should be.

While not as much fun FOR ME as the fairy party (cos all the mums dropped their boys and fled the scene) Scrag loved it and I was super-glad I pulled it off for him. Plus it means that now he's not asking for a Star Wars Party for his next birthday any more (we've already DONE that one), now he wants a couple of friends to go to Rainbows End....

Oh dear. Are we coming to the end of our birthday party years? NOOOooooo!!! See why I have to squeeze in these parties for no reason while I can?

Other Star Wars Fun...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Bit of *Taking Stock*

With the return to school of the masses, normal blog-transmission can now resume. You were probably all far too busy with your own hordes of younglings to notice that it's been "Blog-LITE" round here. Just two posts in two weeks (and even those two required a superhuman effort while the natives cried "I'm bored! get off the computer!")

So now it's the downhill run to the end of the year, the slide into summer, with a sprint to the finish. Part of me loves this time of the year, part of me dreads it. Anyone else with me on that?
I love the longer days, lighter nights, the smell of cut grass, the blossoms on the trees, the warmth in the sunshine. I love that we here in the Southern Hemisphere get to finish the year in Summer, with holidays, camping and beaches. But boy oh boy does it get busy.

Meanwhile in other news, I'm....

[My new lounge suite - I love it. The colour is grey BTW. The photo looks a little purplish]

Enjoying: The feeling of accomplishment after saving up my pay for a new lounge suite.
Looking: At my new couches every time I pass the lounge door and getting a little thrill.
Loving: The clean square retro style, and the way it makes our living room look so awesome.
Giggling: At the way Dash chases everyone off the new couches with their food or drinks (he's relieved to finally have "modern" couches" and wants to keep them looking fab, bless him.)

Feeling: Happy with this pretty little corner of my bedroom, after I swapped some rugs between rooms.
Playing: Way too much PacChomp on my Phone
Wasting: Way too much time playing when I could be... sewing?
Sewing: Nah, who am I kidding. I don't sew.
Wishing: I could sew quilts like Deb, but since I can't I'm glad I have this one she made me, on my chair.

Liking: Watching this kid get "a massage" with the electric sports massager. His facials crack me.
Wondering: When is it my turn?
Wishing: It was still school holidays. I'm ready for summer now.
Hoping: I can juggle all the things, make all the parties, do all the stuff before I run out of days in the year.
Marvelling: At how time races by faster and faster. I'm ALWAYS marvelling at that.
Needing: More energy and a burst of creativity for the big list of things I need to pull off before year's end.

Smelling: The divine scent of my new Needle and Nail bread board. Ahhhhhh, Nature.
Wearing: Swimming togs on Saturday to the hot pools without a qualm. Losing over 12kg will do that.
Noticing: That once you feel lighter, everything is easier and you never want to go back.
Knowing: That if I stick to the (mostly) sugar-free plan, I WON'T go back.

[My take on Petite Kitchen's simple almond cake; recipe coming soon]
Cooking: Lots of sugar free recipes. Who knew healthy could be so delicious?
Drinking: Lots of green tea fruit punch with soda water. 
Inventing: Recipes for green tea fruit punch. Fairy Berry Fizz. Yoda Soda. Sugar free fizzy yumminess.

[Sugar-free "Yoda Soda" at another party "just because"; Star Wars party post coming soon]

Reading: YA dystopian fiction on my Kindle app. Some books are definitely better than others.
Thinking: Some authors need a good slap, when they start off series' so well and end them so poorly.
Feeling: Ripped off by the Maze Runner Trilogy. I feel a Mrs Readalot rant coming on...
Bookmarking: "The Giver" - and hoping it ends better than the Maze Runner series did (and Divergent, for that matter, which had me till right at the end).

Wanting: To finish this post so I can go and get some lunch and read my (hopefully well-concluded) book!

Thanking: Everyone who has sponsored that crazy hubby of mine. He is wearing out his bike tyres training for his 180km ride on Saturday to raise money to build an orphanage in the Philippines. We've raised $2,260 so far - which means that since he is pledging to match donations dollar-for-dollar, the amount which will be going to the orphanage build so far is $4,520. Amazing. You can donate here

That'll do it for me today; I've done a bit of a catchup, shared a few photos, and made a promise of things to come. Just nobody say *Christmas*. It's way too soon. Eek.

Anyone else thinking the year has gone way too fast?

[Taking Stock List found on Meet me at Mikes blog]