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.

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

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.

St Patrick’s Day Colouring Page

Happy St Patrick’s Day to all of you!!!

It’s raining here on the Gold Coast, so I quickly whipped up a colouring page for my kids and thought I’d share it with you. There’s also a printable Snakes and Ladders that I put together a couple of weeks ago that you might want to use for rainy day kids entertainment. Great way to learn the numbers! You could use different shaped beads or even rolled up pieces of different coloured paper as your play figurines. You obviously need a dice. But if you don’t have one handy, in a snap you could write the numbers 1-6 on pieces of paper and pull them out of a hat…


Download St Patricks Day Colouring Page

Download Sankes and Ladders

St Patrick’s Day Shamrock Buns

These cute little Shamrock buns were a breeze to make and are very healthy. Not only do they have quite a high proportion of wholemeal flour, they also hide broccoli in them. And they’re delicious, especially with cream cheese (lots of cream cheese)…
I adapted this recipe from the “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” site. For those unfamiliar with this revolutionary method that involves neither kneading nor multiple rises, check out this post.

Bright green Shamrock buns for St Patrick's Day

Yield: 8 buns
Ingredients:
1 2/3 cup of raw broccoli florets
1/2 cup of water for cooking
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 1/3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 Tablespoon Vital Wheat Gluten*
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon of warm water
Optional: 1/3 cup of grated cheese for sprinkling – I left this out
I also added a few drops of green food colouring

*(I have this as I use it a lot. You could skip it, but your buns might not rise as much. To add some more gluten to your dough, you could use bread flour in place of the plain flour. If you are planning to bake with wholemeal flour again, you should be able to buy vital wheat gluten from a health food shop)

Method:
Bring the water to a boil in a small pot. Add the broccoli and cook covered for about 4-5 minutes. Pour water and broccoli into a blender and blend until fairly smooth. I added a few drops of green food colouring here to make the colour pop.
Mix the flours, gluten, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and broccoli puree and mix with a spoon (or in a food processor). You might need to use wet hands to make sure there are no pockets of dry flour.

This is the dough after it is mixed but before resting

Set aside in a warm spot, covered (I use a plate to cover my bowl) for 2 hours.
Now you can refrigerate the dough for later use (up to 7 days). The original recipe calls for 3 times the amount, so you could bake 3 batches at 3 different times.
I chose to bake it straight away. I floured my bench, plopped the dough onto it and shaped it into a ball. I cut that dough in half, and cut each half in quarters so I had 8 roughly equal portions of dough. I divided each of those portions into thirds and formed them into balls which I placed onto a baking tray that I covered with baking paper. I arranged the little balls in groups of 3.

The original recipe calls for 4 balls per group, to make a 4-leaf clover. But shamrocks actually have only 4 leaves. I also omitted the muffin tin because I was aiming for a more defined leaf shape.

Now is the time to pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
After a 20 minute rest (40 if you’re using refrigerated dough), I baked the buns for about 20-25 minutes.

They're ready - aaand... kinda.... green...

Of course you could experiment with other ingredients. Maybe try beetroot instead for pink bread and make flowers out of 6 little balls of dough (one in the centre and 4 petals).
Happy St Patrick’s Day!!!!

Bread making for the lazy (or busy, that sounds better) mum

I love baking bread. I don’t do it all the time, but I really enjoy going back to basics and doing something old-fashioned like baking bread. I love knowing exactly what’s in this staple, from choosing the right flour to adding other ingredients – and even hiding fruit and veg in it.

However, I don’t have the time or energy for traditional bread making which involves strenuous kneading and multiple rises. I also don’t have the kitchen space for a breadmaker, nor do I like the constraints on loaf shape these machines have.

I grew up in Germany with an incredible variety of crusty, rustic looking loaves, beautiful, slightly chewy pretzels, delicious buns, made from all kinds of different grains, some made with sourdough, others with baker’s yeast. Unfortunately I didn’t really appreciate it while I lived there. These days I crave it.

Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

The first 2 books in the 5 Minutes a Day series.

A few years back I stumbled across a post on a novel way of making bread that did not involve kneading and multiple rises. I HAD to get that book. It’s called “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” and is simply brilliant. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois have adapted a no-knead method of bread making and added the concept of dough storage. To put it simply, they have you mixing up a large batch of a fairly moist yeast dough without kneading it, let it rest for a couple of hours and then refrigerate it. Over the next 2 weeks you can take portions from that cold dough, let it rest for half an hour or so and bake it. Their recipes make 4 loaves but can easily be doubled or halved.
The bread comes out with a thin crisp crust and delicious moist interior.
Better yet, their basic dough can be used as a delicious crispy pizza dough which requires no second rise at all. Just think of always having home made pizza dough in the fridge! All you need to do is take some out, roll it out and top it with your favourite toppings, bake it and ENJOY!
There are many different savoury and sweet recipes in that book. Rye breads, soft sandwich breads, pastries and more.

My kids never ate bread. But when I make it fresh, they devour it!

They have since published 2 more books: “Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” and “Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in 5 Minutes a Day”. I don’t have that last one yet, but I love the healthy one. It includes lots of wholegrain, alternative grains and gluten-free recipes.

They are also extremely helpful and answer questions on their website all the time. Can you tell, I just love them 😉

Seriously, check out their website and try out their master recipe.