Monthly Archives: January 2013

Feeding the Funky Bunch: Madras Curry

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By now you know I have a love for good curry recipes. This Madras Curry is another family favourite. The original recipe is an ‘Indian Inspired’ one Curtis Stone wrote for Coles during the Commonwealth Games. I have tried cooking this in the thermomix but I just can’t get the same flavour as I get cooking it in the frypan. I usually cook my rice and steam veggies over the top in the thermomix and varoma while I cook the curry on the stove. This recipe is done with chicken, however it can easily make a delicious vegetarian meal either by adding chopped vegetables to the pan instead of the chicken (eg. pumpkin and cauliflower) or simply cook the sauce in the pan and pour over steamed veggies and rice.

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Ingredients

  • 2-3tbs rice bran oil
  • 1 large brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2tbs fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 8 fresh curry leaves*
  • 400-500g chicken thigh fillets, each cut into approx 4 pieces
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped or 200g tinned tomatoes (it is nicer with fresh)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbs thermomix vegetable stock concentrate
  • Steamed vegetables and basmati or brown rice to serve

I have a curry leaf tree in my garden which my father-in-law gave me. If you don’t have a tree, try and get frozen leaves from an asian grocery store. If you know someone with a curry leaf tree, pick the leaves and store them in a zip lock bag in the freezer then just throw them straight into your curry from the freezer. They add an amazing flavour.

Method

  1. Get your rice and veggies sorted in the TMX & Varoma or Rice Cooker & Steamer. If your ingredients are prepped the curry needs approx 30 min cooking time, so you can time your rice and veggies accordingly.
  2. Heat 2 tbs rice bran oil in the pan over medium high heat.
  3. Add onion and cinnamon stick, and cook stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes until golden brown.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for another minute.
  5. Turn the heat down to medium low. Add all the spices and curry leaves with an extra 1 tbs rice bran oil if necessary. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently so the spices don’t burn.
  6. Add the chicken to the pan and cook a further 3 minutes, stirring so that the chicken is coated in the spice mix.
  7. Add the tomatoes and stock. Stir through then cover pan with lid and simmer on low for 15 minutes until chicken is tender and tomatoes have broken down to form the sauce.
  8. Add the coconut milk and stir to combine. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until warmed through and sauce thickens.
  9. Serve with rice and veg, and enjoy.
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Feeding the Funky Bunch: Lemon Curd Cupcakes

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Today is my Mum’s birthday, and the perfect opportunity to whip up these delicious lemon curd cupcakes as a treat for her (and us!). Inspired by the most divine lemon curd cupcake that I had at Mrs S Cafe. You need to make the lemon curd well ahead of time leaving at least 6 hours for it to cool and thicken. Additionally the lemon cupcakes need a few hours to cool before adding the curd.

Lemon Curd Cupcakes

Lemon Diva Cupcakes (Recipe by Julie Goodwin)

Ingredients

  • 100g butter
  • 165g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Lemon peel from 3 lemons
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 125ml (110g) milk

Thermomix Method

  1. Pre heat oven to 180C (160C fan-forced)
  2. Place peel of 3 lemons in TMX
  3. Blitz 20 sec, Sp 10
  4. Add raw sugar and blitz 3 sec, Sp 9
  5. Add butter and vanilla, and mix 20 sec, Sp 4
  6. Add 2 eggs and mix 10 sec, Sp 4
  7. Alternately add flour and milk in 2 batches (add 100g flour, mix 6 sec, Sp 3 then add 55g milk, mix 6 sec, Sp 3, then 100g flour, mix 6 sec, Sp 3 then add 55g milk, mix 6 sec, Sp 3)
  8. Scrape down TMX bowl and give one more mix 6 sec, Sp 3
  9. Spoon into cupcake size (2tbls/40ml) patty pans (makes 12)
  10. Bake 20min or until golden and springy when touched

I know the alternate mixing method is a bit of effort, but it does give a much lighter cupcake in the end.

Non-Thermomix Method

  1. Pre heat oven to 180C (160C fan-forced)
  2. Zest 3 lemons
  3. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in electric mixer until light and creamy
  4. Add lemon zest and mix through
  5. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg
  6. Fold through flour and milk by hand in two alternate batches
  7. Spoon into cupcake size (2tbls/40ml) patty pans (makes 12)
  8. Bake 20min or until golden and springy when touched

Lemon Curd

This recipe is from the Thermomix App. I’ve had this app for quite a while now and regularly use recipes from it. Everything I’ve tried so far has worked really well.  It is $8.49 and currently has 145 recipes including starters, mains, deserts, baking, drinks and basics. Every few months a free upgrade is released with more recipes (usually 6-10).

Makes enough to fill two large 500g jam jars

Ingredients

  • 240g raw sugar
  • Lemon peel from 2 lemons
  • 120g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g freshly squeezed lemon juice (3-6 lemons worth)

Method

  1. Place sugar in TMX and blitz 15 sec, Sp 10
  2. Add lemon peel and blitz 20 sec, Sp 10
  3. Add butter, eggs and lemon juice. Cook 20 min, 90C, Sp 2 without MC
  4. Insert MC and mix 25 sec, Sp 6
  5. Poor into sterilised jars and seal immediately
  6. Cool completely before storing in the fridge. Will keep for up to a month.

Putting it all together

Once your cupcakes and lemon curd have cooled, simply use a sharp knife to cut out a small circle of cake from the top of the cupcake, dollop in a generous teaspoon of curd, gently push the circle of cake back in to squeeze a little curd out the top and dust with icing sugar. Voila!

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Sterilising Jars

Recycle used jars or buy new glass jars for your preserve. Wash the jars and lids thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinse well and air dry. Alternately wash them in the dishwasher. Then place clean jars on a clean tray in the oven at 100C and allow to dry out for 15 min. Pour hot preserve into hot, sterilised jars and seal with lids immediately. As the preserve and jar cools the lid will be pulled in to form a seal. The lid of the jar will ‘pop’ when opened. You can also purchase plastic film seals for your jars that go over the jar before the lid is put on. I’m sure you can buy them elsewhere but I get these ones from Coles ($1.83 for a 24 pack). They are handy if your jars have been reused numerous times and the lids are getting worn.

Little People: Playdough!

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There are always stacks of great  things to do and places to go during the school holidays, but sometimes the simple activities you can do at home are just as exciting and a lot less effort than piling everyone into the car and packing up for the whole day. I also find that my kids really enjoy a few quiet days at home during the holidays, especially if I spend some time doing fun activities with them. Playdough is right at the top of the list. This recipe is adapted from a Playgroup WA info sheet.

This recipe makes enough for one child. I usually make a separate portion for each of my kids then they can choose their own colour.

The playdough will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge or pantry for at least a month. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tbs oil
  • A few drops of food colouring

Method

  1. Give your child a large plastic bowl and spatula
  2. Help your child to measure and add the dry ingredients to their bowl
  3. Allow your child plenty of time to mix their dry ingredients while you boil the kettle
  4. Let your child choose their own colour
  5. Measure 1 cup of boiling water then add oil and food colouring to the water
  6. At a safe distance from your child pour the water/oil/colouring mix into the bowl of dry ingredients
  7. Mix with a spatuala until fairly well combined
  8. Turn out onto a floured counter and knead for minute or so
  9. The dough starts out a little sticky and grainy but quickly becomes smooth with the kneading

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My kids currently love taking their play dough outside and setting up a ‘bakery’. They have cookie cutters, cutlery, some recycled muffin and baking trays, shells, gum nuts, leaves, chopsticks, little bowls, dry pasta and rolling pins to create their masterpieces. What could be more fun 🙂

Little People: Birthday Parties

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Rainbow Rabbit Birthday CakeDInosaur cakeEchidna Ice Cream CakeBigger DIgger CakeBall CakeTurtle Cake

I love having birthday parties for my kids. We are blessed with lots of great family and close friends and undoubtably end up holding big parties when birthdays roll around. I think it is fantastic to celebrate and have some treats at a party, but I definitely think it is good to steer away from too much ‘party’ food. You cannot fill children (and adults) with ridiculous amounts of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, huge amounts of sugary food and drink, and fatty, processed snacks and expect them all to feel good and have a great time. The kids are going to go crazy, the adults are going to get grumpy and later in the day they’ll all be feeling pretty average.

With regards to birthday cakes, I am a huge fan of homemade birthday cakes ala Women’s Weekly birthday cake cookbooks, but I especially try to avoid using artificial food colouring, packet cake mixes and processed foods. I’ve had great success with Natural Food Colouring and it is easier than you’d think. Click on the link to read more. All of the cakes pictured above were homemade – yes, those are M&M’s on the ball and yes, those are store bought chocolate finger biscuits, but other than that it’s all good stuff. The echidna was made of homemade strawberry ice cream (divine!) and the colourings on the rabbit are all natural. The turtle shell was white chocolate mixed with raspberries and the dinosaur was piped white chocolate mixed with spirulina powder.

As a general rule at parties, my kids have to ask before they eat things and listen if I tell them they are only allowed a certain amount of particular foods. Also when they get party bags they have to show me the contents first and I tell them what or how much they are allowed to have. We have always done this with our kids so they are used to it and don’t think twice about it. Certainly it is hard to change habits but it’s worth persevering with this one. It will save you a lot of hyperactivity, tummy cramps, diahorrhea or constipation, and general poor behaviour from the kids later. I know some people will argue that it’s just a party so why worry, but at the end of the day kids go to a fair number of parties, especially once they start school and enlarge their circle of friends.

Here are some ideas for how to cater a healthier (but still very fun!) party:

  • Try to make as much of the food from scratch as you can – do this yourself or ask friends and family to help out
  • Write a list of all the food you’ll be providing and try to get a balance between savoury and sweet foods
  • Remember that you will have birthday cake too so don’t go overboard with other treats
  • Try to keep artificial colours, flavourings and preservatives to a minimum
  • Make party bags with only a few lollies or treats in them and add some healthy treats or fun stuff like party blowers, bubbles, stickers, notepads, coloured pens or pencils etc

At one of my daughters birthday parties last year we served homemade chicken nuggets and chips to the kids. I totally underestimated how many chips we could cook in the oven at once and only had about 6 chips per child! My mum quickly began buttering slices of bread and I cut cheese sticks from a block of cheddar. 15 minutes later the food was eaten and the kids were asking for more cheese sticks! Sometimes we forget that the simplest things are fun just because it’s a party.

Drinks at parties don’t need to be a big deal either. You can certainly make your own drinks if you have time. Something like homemade lemonade (the EDC recipe is great if you have a TMX) is fabulous and always goes down well, but often kids (especially young kids) are just as happy with water. If that is all you provide then they usually won’t question it. Water from some type of dispenser or cask that they can operate themselves and cups with a permanent marker for them to write their name on offer more entertainment than you might think.

Savoury suggestions for your party menu:

Sweet suggestions for your party menu:

  • Magic bean chocolate cake (this makes a great birthday cake)
  • Choc coconut fudge
  • Homemade icy poles using fruit juice (mix equal parts 100% apple and orange juice to make a ‘frosty fruit’)
  • Chocolate crackles (I make mine with just melted chocolate mixed with Rice Bubbles)
  • I haven’t tried these yet but will report back when I do – Really Healthy Chocolate Crackles
  • Honey Joys – TMX recipe & stovetop recipe
  • The Natural Confectionary Company Lollies are a good, easily accesible alternative to other brands which contain a lot of artificial colours and flavours
  • Fairy Bread – choose a healthier white bread option like Baker’s Delight Hi-Fibre Lo-GI bread and sprinkles with natural colours (these are available at the big supermarkets)

This information is by no means comprehensive, in fact I plan to continue to add to my list of food suggestions for kid’s parties on the Little People page of this blog over time. And my suggestions are designed to make party food healthier while still being fun, tasty and relatively easily accessible. Of course you could be a lot stricter if you wanted to.

A couple of good resources which I haven’t tried yet but which look good are:

  • Hopper Foods: this Victorian business sells a great range of natural food colourings and naturally coloured sprinkles
  • Arch & Jax: this Perth-based business sells organic and additive free children’s party food and eco friendly party supplies