April Fool’s

So, the Easter madness is over. But tomorrow is April Fool’s Day. Are you going to prank anyone?
I will prank my kids. Not a cruel prank of course. I’m not that evil. This one is so simple, I just couldn’t resist. And they get a little treat at the end.

Simply make a jelly out of their favourite juice, pour it into a glass, stick a straw in it and let it set in the fridge. Serve them this undrinkable drink without a word and watch their puzzled faces. You could pour it into a sippy cup, too!

Juice JellyMaking jelly from juice is easy:

100ml boiling water
1 Tablespoon powdered gelatine
400ml juice

mix boiling water (I used the kettle) with the powdered gelatine and stir until it’s all disolved. Add your kid’s favourite juice (I used V8), stir and pour into jelly moulds. Let it set in the fridge for 4 hours or longer.
Enjoy!

Flaky Pizza Snails

These are so yummy and if you use store bought puff pastry, they are a snap to prepare and you can probably whip them up with things you have in the pantry. They’re also a great way to use up any leftover deli meats and cheese.

This is more of a guide than a recipe as you can easily personalise them to your preferences.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Take a sheet of puff pastry (I used Borg’s Butter Puff)
Spread it with tomato paste or my favourite: Ajvar, which is a spread made from capsicums and eggplants
Scatter over some ripped up ham, pineapple and cheese. Sprinkle over some of your favourite herbs. I use Basil and Thyme.
Leave a 2 inch strip of pastry bare at the top.
Roll up starting at the bottom and carefully cut into 8 sections. Place on their sides on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Eat warm or cold.

You could also use salami and capsicum instead. Or Vegemite and cheese.

Or you could make them sweet. Skip the tomato paste and cheese and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the pastry and then scatter chopped apples, sultanas and walnuts over it. Yum!

This is the apple and walnut version

Front: apple, cinnamon and walnut
Middle: salami and capsicum
Far back: ham and pineapple
All ready for the oven

 

Frozen Fruit Ice Blocks

Hot Hot Hot! I love summer but the heat can get a bit much sometimes. Especially when you can’t spend the whole day lazing about on the beach.

Pictures of these ice blocks with frozen fruit in them have been making the rounds on Facebook and Pinterest and I just had to try them. They look amazing and they can be made quite healthy. They are just the right thing for this heat and they are really easy to make.

Approved by my very own independent testers :)

Place a few slices of your favourite fruit in your icy pole moulds. I used kiwi fruits, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. But anything goes. Try to place the colourful ones along the side walls so they will be visible. Fill the moulds with your favourite juice. Clearer juices work best because you can see the fruit better. I used Nudie Juice’s “Nothing but 20 apples” which is a cloudy apple juice. Or you could use cordial.
Freeze for a few hours or until set. Enjoy

My kids loved these.

Blood Orange Jelly

There’s an old lady who helps out at the tuckshop at my daughter’s school on the day when I have tuckshop duty. She’s so sweet and we are very lucky to have her. It’s not like the tuckshop is overrun by volunteers.
She’s also a wealth of knowledge. Amongst other things she told me about this blood orange jelly she makes and was nice enough to share the recipe. It’s delicious – but a bit sweet for my taste. Feel free to reduce or replace the sugar to a level that you are comfortable with. I’m gonna try it with half next time.
You could make this with regular oranges but the colour will obviously be a bit different. I also find the flavour of blood oranges more complex than regular navel oranges.

A bit blurry but you get the idea. The colour is gorgeous.

Do you know how hard it is to take a decent photo? The shiny surface seemed to confuse my camera. So until I can take a better photo in better lighting, we need to make do with this one.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon gelatine
3/4 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cups* blood orange juice – strained

Place the sugar, gelatine and boiling water into a saucepan and stir over low heat until it’s all dissolved. Take off the heat and whisk in strained juice. Pour into bowl or moulds and refrigerate for several hours or until set.

*It took me about 7 large oranges to get that amount.

Sweet Potato and Cinnamon Muffins

Sweet Potato MuffinsI didn’t grow up with sweet potatoes so I never really knew what to do with them. So I ended up just boiling them and I can’t quite blame my kids for not liking them that way. I have found some better ways to cook them now and I actually really like them. But the soggy boiled sweet potatoes of the past must still be haunting my kids because they don’t even want to try them most of the time.
When I came across this recipe for sweet potato and cinnamon muffins, I just had to try them. Cinnamon is my children’s favourite spice, so these muffins couldn’t be a total fail. However, as usual I couldn’t leave the recipe alone and had to create a healthier version. First I halved the sugar but I still found it quite sweet. So I tried it with only 1/4 of the sugar and they are fantastic. I also used wholemeal flour instead of white and coconut oil or butter instead of canola oil.

When my daughter saw them she excitedly grabbed one and her reaction was: “Mummy!!! These are delicous!!!” She ate for that day and would have had more if I had let her. What a great way to give them a treat and sneak in some vegies, too.

As she was eating her 4th muffin she asked me whether the orange bits were carrot (I had only mashed very roughly) and I told her what it was. I was half expecting her to say “ewwww”. But instead she said: “The sweet potato makes them so yummy and sweet”. It makes them moist and really really soft, too! And they’re really quick and easy to make. If you are making anything with Sweet Potatoes for dinner, just cook a few extras for this recipe.

Ingredients:
2 cups wholemeal flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon (or more if you prefer a stronger taste)
1/2 cup raw sugar or Rapadura
2 cups mashedsweet potatoes
1 egg
3/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil or butter – melted
1/4 cup milk (or water or non-dairy milk to make it dairy free)

Method:
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit)
If using a silicone muffin tin, you don’t need to do anything. If you’re using a traditional tin, either grease it or line it with muffin liners.
Mix up the dry ingredients in one bowl.
In a seperate bowl, whisk the egg, milk and oil with the mashed sweet potatoes.
Stir into the dry ingredients until just combined and all the flour has been moistened.
Fill your muffin cups to about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. You can serve these with a glaze (recipe below) but I don’t as I try to cut down on the sugar and they are delicious without it, too.
Makes about 18 muffins for me.
Once cooled these can be frozen – if they even last that long.

Glaze:
1 cup powdered (icing) sugar
2 Tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons butter – melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle over warm muffins.

How to make sandwich pockets

Sandwich pocket owl

Decorate your finished sandwich pocket anyway you like

Sandwich pockets are great for messy fillings like egg salad or tuna and mayo. They make sure the filling doesn’t spill out everywhere. Much easier to eat – especially for a clutz like me.

They’re also awesome for kids. They’re easy to eat and look a bit different.

You can buy special sandwich pocket makers which are great if you make them a lot. But this method requires no special tools and gives a basic circle shape that lends itself to so many easy decorations. Faces spring to mind.
I have seen this explained on various blogs. The idea is not mine.

First you need 2 slices of bread. White works best, but wholemeal works, too. I haven’t tried it with multigrain but I’d imagine it would be a little difficult.
Then try and find a cup, glass or bowl with a diametre that fits inside the crusts of your bread slices. My coffe mugs work perfectly. Don’t choose something like a cookie cutter* that has a sharp edge.

I like to place the cup onto the bottom slice of bread to leave a very slight impression so that I can see the area I have to play with. Don’t butter your bread near the circular impression.

Place your filling onto the bread taking care not to get too close to the outline. Don’t overfill. Place the other slice of bread over the top and position the cup over the filling.

Push down slowly but firmly. You need to get a good seal but don’t cut through.
With a sharp knife, cut around the cup. Remove the cup and you should have a perfect sandwich pocket.

Use as is or decorate to your heart’s content.

*some cookie cutters have a folded edge on top. You can use them upside down

Mother’s Day Give-away

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and I want to make one mum happy 🙂
Well, actually, I’d love to make all mums happy, but I’m just going to have to start somewhere…

I’m giving away a stainless steel lunch set:

1 800ml Sports Tanka stainless steel bottle
1 Kooler Cover (red or camouflage)
1 EcoLunchbox 3-in-1 2 tier lunch box
1 dressing bottle (plastic)
Combined value: $69.40

 

To enter, please head to our facebook page and share the competition with other mums you have on your friends list. Then come back here and comment on this post. Tell us a nice story about you and your mum. I will draw the winner with random.org on Mother’s day (May 13) at 9pm. The winner will have to be a current liker of our facebook page. Items will be shipped free of charge within Australia only. If you wish to enter the competition but reside outside of Australia, we ask you to cover shipping costs.

If you’re still stuck for a mother’s day present, you can purchase the set here for an incredible saving of over 25%

To start with, I will share an incredible experience I had with my mother.

I have always loved my mum and idolised her. But just like many teenagers, my mum and I had our issues when I was in my late teens. At 20 I moved all the way to the other side of the world (from Germany to Australia). But we always talked a lot and visited each other at least once a year. Despite the distance, we grew closer, mainly due to me growing out of my teenager silliness. So much so that I wanted her present at the births of my children.
The birth of my daughter was amazing. But nothing could have prepared us for what happened when my son was born. My labour was so mild that I didn’t realise how fast it was advancing and by the time we were getting ready to go to the birth centre, it was too late. My son was born on our loungeroom floor, into his grandmothers loving hands with his big sister looking on.
Later that day as we were processing what had just happened, my mum said: “Who would have thought 10 years ago that we would become such a great team, that I would act as your midwife”
Mum, I love you more than words can say. And THANK YOU for all you have done and continue to do for me and our whole family.

Oma dozing in the winter sun with the grandson she helped deliver - 11 days after the "crazy" event

Healthy-er Chocolate Crackles

Use a variation of this recipe (below) to make these cute Easter Nests

I grew up without chocolate crackles. I know, unimaginable, right? Well, we had lots of yummy treats in Germany, but chocolate crackles were not one of them. I’ve seen them at a few kids’ birtdays lately and my daughter really loves them, so I thought I’d make some. But, as per usual, I couldn’t help tinkering with them to make them a bit healthier. So, my best friend Google and I started looking around for alternatives.

Oh, did you know that my husband lovingly refers to me as Gigi – Google Geek

I stumbled across this recipe from “Just this side of chaos”
I will have to check out her other posts.

Anyway, back to the chocolate – yummmm
Her recipe uses coconut oil instead of Copha. Copha is hydrogenated coconut oil. And hydrogenated oil is something I avoid. So, she uses regular coconut oil instead. Coconut Oil is sooo good for you. Google it (I would, but then again, I google everything ;-). People use it for all kinds of things aside from it being a very healthy fat and one that doesn’t go rancid as quickly as many other oils.

I also added some toasted almonds cause i just love them and thought the texture would be nice – and it is. They also add some goodness to them. You can use toasted seeds like sunflower instead if you want to do it nut free.
Finally, for the birds nest version, I also used some Chang’s crispy fried noodles so it would look like sticks.

This makes about 24 crackles

Ingredients:
3 cups of wholegrain puffed rice (or rice bubbles, but  they’re not as wholesome)
1 cup of roughly chopped toasted almonds or any other nut or seed or even dried fruit you like
1 cup of dessicated coconut
3/4 cup of icing sugar (I didn’t have icing sugar so I used caster sugar instead)
5 Tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder (I accidentally used too much)
250 grams melted coconut oil (coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature. Although in Queensland summer, it’s liquid)

Mix the dry ingredients together. Drizzle the coconut oil over the top and mix well. Spoon the mixture into paper or silicon cupcake liners and refrigerate until set.
Store in fridge or freezer.

Variation: Easter Nests:
2 cups of wholegrain puffed rice (or rice bubbles, but  they’re not as wholesome)
1 cup of roughly chopped toasted almonds or any other nut or seed or even dried fruit you like
1 cup of Chang’s crispy fried noodles
1 cup of dessicated coconut
3/4 cup of icing sugar
5 Tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder
250 grams melted coconut oil
mini speckled eggs or any other type of small egg-shaped candy (like jelly beans) to decorate.

Note: These really have to be kept in the fridge, especially in summer as the coconut oil is not firm enough otherwise to hold them together. If you want firm chocolate crackles that don’t need refridgeration, try the following recipe which is based on this

Makes 24 mini crackles
200g milk chocolate
100g butter or coconut oil
2 1/2 cups rice bubbles or puffed rice
1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts or seeds

Line a mini-muffin pan with paper or silicon cases. Melt the chocolate and fat together over a double boiler or in a heavy based saucepan over low to medium heat., gently stiring. Be careful not to burn your chocolate. Cool slightly and add your rice and nuts or seeds. Spoon into lined muffin pan and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.

500 liker give-away

To thank you for spreading the word about Bento Bits for me, I’m giving away a $10 store credit. To enter, simply leave a comment under this post. What theme would you like me to tackle in an upcoming Bento?
Of course I’d love if you wanted to share my page with all your friends, but that is not a requirement for entry. However, you have to be a current liker of my Facebook page to enter. And sharing might just give you some brownie points 😉

I will pick the winner on Tuesday, 11th of April 2012 at 10pm with the help of random.org. So any entry after that time will be void. Good luck!

PS: the voucher is not redeemable for cash and it will need to be filled within 12 months or it will be void.

Fish Fingers

We all know that fish is good for us. And most kids love fish fingers, right? For a home-made version that also sneaks some vegies, give this recipe a try. My kids just inhaled them for dinner (with a little tomato sauce, cause in their mind tomato sauce goes with anything).
It’s based on this recipe.
These turn out nice and crunchy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside.
My little secret is panko crumbs. They are Japanese bread crumbs and they are just da bomb 😉 But if you don’t have those on hand, you can use cornflake crumbs or even normal bread crumbs.

Panko Crumbs make these healthy-er fish fingers soooo crunchy

Serves 3

Ingredients:
1 (450g) of canned salmon – I mixed red and pink salmon
1 small onion, grated
1 celery stick, chopped very finely
1 small carrot, grated
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (or you could pulse all the vegies in a food processor)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
juice and zest of half a lime (or lemon)
1/2-1 cup of fine dry breadcrumbs (I didn’t have any so used a combination of panko crumbs and flour)
1/2 cup or more of panko crumbs for coating (you can use normal breadcrumbs or cornflake crumbs)
oil or butter for frying

Drain salmon and place into a mixing bowl. Flake roughly and mash the bones between your fingers. The bones are a great source of calcium, so don’t remove them. Add the onion, celery, carrot, parsley, eggs, lime juice and breadcrumbs and mix. Add more breadcrumbs if needed. You are aiming for a mixture that is dry enough to hold its shape when you form a patty but not crumbly and firm.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Place remaining breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl.
Form sausage shapes with the mixtures. Roll the sausages in the breadcrumbs and flatten lightly between your palms. Place into the pan and fry on both sides until golden brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
Serve with tartare sauce for the adults or tomato sauce for the kids.

Tip: to cut down on the fat content, you could bake these in the oven on an oiled tray for about 20 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit) or until golden brown. Turn after 10 minutes.

Bunny Bento with Fish Fingers

These are also great cold the next day. Here's an example on how to use them in a Bento style lunch that is sure to please most children. Just include some tomato suace in a little condiment cup or bottle. The bunny face has been drawn with FooDoodler food colouring markers.