Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas lunch and 2015 starts to wind down

Christmas has come and gone. To be honest, our house didn't feel very festive this year as we didn't have a tree set up. With Jimmy being a mobile destructor, it was much safer and less frustrating for me to avoid having to redecorate the tree every time he'd walk past and pull it down/everything off it. So we just didn't. It was bad enough having to do that at every low hanging tree we walked past while shopping! However, Christmas with children is always a joy, especially now Ellie is really starting to understand it. Both of the kids were utterly spoilt with gifts, and Mr Fork and I also had a few small packages to open - as it should be really.

For me, Christmas is all about the food anyway. I've eaten my body weight in stone fruit and I intend to continue while I can get them! Christmas lunch (which morphed into dinner too) was spent with family. Despite the heat there was a proper feast - plenty of turkey, chicken, ham and roast veggies. I brought along a vegan mushroom and lentil loaf, and my own jug of mushroom gravy, so I was well fed as by now everyone is kind enough to cook the vegetable separately. Here's my plate, with a felafel on the side in case I felt the need of it too. Surrounded by family, food and presents, it was a great day.
I thought with the holidays, I'd be able to write a bit more frequently but, life is busy! I find lately that I have been blogging much less than I would like... not through lack of content, but more through lack of time. I have decided that this is not necessarily a bad thing, as when I write now, it's because I want to, it's something I wanted to share so badly that I consciously made the time to sit down and publish it. I'm still out there blog stalking and reading but my own content may be a bit sporadic!

2015 has really been a great year. Sure, a year of sleep deprivation, but a year of watching my children grow and really start developing their own individuality. Jimmy has learned to walk and discovered solid food with a vengeance. Ellie is learning logic, and having conversations with her is a real delight as I'm never really sure just how she is going to respond.

I'm on holidays from work and it's been great to have uninterrupted time at home. We haven't done anything all that strenuous, but just being able to have a quick middle of the day nap while Mr Fork watches the children, or catch up on the pile of books and magazines I've been setting aside for later all through the year is a good thing.

With that in mind, I hope your 2015 ends with a bang (hopefully a lovely firework-y one for those who can stay up that late!!) and 2016 brings lots of good things. If I don't post again before year end, I'll see you all in the new year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mornings

Mornings are like...

Sweet milky breaths

Small arms with hidden strength

Homemade sourdough, slathered with nuttelex and vegemite

Coffee, brewed fresh and hot, steaming nicely

Triumphant hens clucking to herald fresh eggs

Early morning light

All before 6:30am!

****

What do your mornings look like?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Santa sack

Nearly two years ago, I posted about how I'd made Ellie's Santa sack.

I know that it's Jimmy's second Christmas this year, but I was in newborn sleep deprivation hell last year and didn't even think about his. In fact to be honest, I'm not sure I got him a present anyway, although quite frankly, sustaining him with milk two hourly round the clock was a pretty great gift I think!!!

Anyway, I finally got inspired and finished of Jimmy's sack last week. I bought the fabric from Spotlight (a pre printed Santa sack and 75cm of some contrasting Christmas fabric) and followed the instructions from here. It's about the size of a pillowcase, plenty of room for whatever Santa might deliver (which in Jimmy's case this year, I strongly suspect will be daycare necessities and maybe a new toothbrush)...
I think it turned out pretty well. Sure, I got distracted talking to the kids and had to unpick a few seams, and while I was re-sewing I wondered (as I always do when my sewing projects go awry) why I didn't just buy the silly thing. In the end though, I'm glad I persevered. 

How's your Christmas preparations going?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

In My Kitchen, December 2015

Cue shocked exclamations about how it's December already. But seriously, how is it December already? Summer has just started and if it continues on the way it's begun, it's going to be a long, hot season. Probably an expensive one too as we will be getting heavy use out of the air conditioning and blow up pool. I suppose that seems odd for my Northern hemisphere friends to think of a festive season with scorching heat. One of these days, I will experience a white Christmas. It's definitely on my bucket list! Perhaps when the kids are older and can appreciate it more...

In my kitchen is...

A selection of Nestar and Miss Sweetie vegan chocolates I won from a competition on veganopolous. I'm super pleased to discover an Australian based (in Melbourne) chocolatier that likes to source locally where possible. They make a mix of fruity and nutty chocolates (not pictured here is the ginger version, which was in no fit state to be photographed as it was ripped open for consumption immediately!). Everything I've tried so far has been delicious - the perfect blend of filling and chocolate. Thanks for introducing me to this fabulous brand Faye! I think a few packets will be finding their way into Christmas stockings in a few weeks... both other people's, and my own...

In my kitchen is...

Minimal ingredient vegan gravy, mainly to make a dinner of potato gems seem less 'thrown together' and more 'I put some actual effort in'. I love gravy. I'll be taking a modified mushroom version of this to Christmas lunch with the family, along with some kind of loaf as usual, to cater for the vegans and "picky eaters" as my family calls them (aka gluten free).

In my kitchen is...

Cuttings! In the small bottle there are some mushroom plants that I've been carefully nurturing. They started as just bare sticks and have now grown leaves and small roots. These are a fabulous plant - growing low to the ground and clumping to make a nice ground cover, the leaves smell and taste faintly of mushrooms. You can eat the leaves and stems as is in salad, or cooked in a stir fry.  This is my sole stock of the plant at the moment as my naughty chickens breached the protective fence around a garden bed and demolished an entire crop of corn, tomato, pumpkin and other edibles.

I also have a small sweet potato that those same naughty chickens unearthed from the sweet potato patch, but I managed to save it before it was consumed. It seemed silly to eat such a small specimen especially as it was a bit pecked, so I thought it would be a nice science experiment for Ellie to see it grow. We impaled it on some toothpicks and left it to sit in an ex-candle jar with water. It's now got some tiny little roots and some healthy looking leaves. She was quite impressed but now seems to have lost interest as it isn't really a speedy grower. The impatience of toddlers!

When I chicken proof my garden bed again, these will all be off into the outside again but for now they decorate my window sill.

In my kitchen is...

Treats for those undeserving chickens. With the weather so hot lately, I've taken up my old tradition of making icy treats for the animals which I distribute for them before I leave for work in the mornings. For the chickens, I put small pieces of vegetable scraps in an old container, top up with water and leave in the freezer overnight. They get all the fun of pecking frozen treats out of the ice cube the next morning. Yay for them! This ice block (seen from the side, below) has canned corn in it as I'd opened it to use half but forgot about the rest of it until making chicken treats.
The puppies get a similar block, sometimes I just use plain water and add a huge ice block to their water bowl, other times I'll freeze some of their dog biscuits into the middle (although where vegetables sink, the dog biscuits float so the sneaky puppies just wait for the cube to melt enough and then snaffle their treats from the top).

In my kitchen is...

Dried sourdough starter from Lorenzo, son of Priscilla. I have been making extra starter every time I make bread, drying and bagging it all up ready for this December post. Mr Fork is just about over the little plates of starter I have been spreading all around the kitchen. I'm going to restrict postage to within Australia only (sorry!), but I have a few packets to give away so if you'd like one, please let me know. 

I am linking this post in with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial's monthly In My Kitchen event. As an aside, this is the last month that Celia will be hosting the event before it moves over to Maureen, the orgasmic chef, and I'd like to give her my sincere thanks for creating such a marvellous online kitchen tribe!

What's in your kitchen this month?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Recipe: Simple vegan gravy

Some times, all I want is a quick and easy dinner. From a nutritional standpoint, this meal probably won't win any awards, but from a taste and satisfaction perspective, it's a winner.

After a long hot day spent with visitors, then dragging two tired children around grocery shopping and heading to a work Christmas party that was outside in the heat, no one was in much of a mood to cook anything complicated.

Enter, the oven bake. Turn on the oven, load up with lots of goodies then load the kids into the bath while dinner cooks itself. All I wanted was potato gems, but the husband also baked up some chicken kiev for him (and a few bites for the kids).

For me though, it was all about those potato gems (all about the gems, 'bout the gems, no chicken...). Ahem... smothered with a quick and tasty homemade vegan gravy and other assorted toppings, it was a quick and easy dinner that was delicious. Be still my beating heart.

Anyway, here's the gravy recipe. It's hardly worth posting as it's just so simple, but a good home made gravy makes all the difference, and might just come in handy coming up to Christmas meal time!

Made with simple ingredients, you can make this as easy or complex as you want.

Tasty Vegan Gravy
Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable stock 
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • seasoning of your choice (1 teaspoon or so)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Add all ingredients to a saucepan on medium heat, and stir until the mixture boils and starts to thicken. 
  2. Check seasoning then lower heat and cook on a simmer, stirring constantly, until the gravy is at your desired consistency.
Notes
  • The gravy in these pictures is made using a Massel vegetable stock cube instead of anything homemade. It worked out fine
  • The 2 1/4 cups of stock can be made up of a mixture of stock and milk to make it creamier
  • I like adding nutritional yeast or some mixed herbs as my seasoning to make the gravy richer and more complex
  • You can add a bit of pizazz by adding onions or mushrooms to the gravy, sautéing them before adding the rest of the mixture

Monday, November 30, 2015

This and that

Trying to encourage Ellie to stop sucking her thumbs by making them pretty...
Thought I'd test out making my own thumbs pretty too...
I bought a pair of sparkly purple sneakers. They were half price, I'm guessing because not too many other adults want sparkly purple shoes. Or they don't have kid sized feet. My benefit!
Ellie and I got our hair cut, and she insisted on having a picture taken and sent to daddy from the salon (by the by, thank goodness my hairdresser is understanding about my two children causing havoc while she does my hair!)
We had my work Christmas party. There was a face painter there. Serious debate was had about whether a dragon or a butterfly would do. My suggestion to have both was poo-poohed, and the rainbow butterfly option proved a winner. Another selfie, this one she insisted be sent to Grandma...
Jimmy is really enjoying his new found ability to walk. This stage, where they are still learning to balance so stumble around like little monkeys? I love it so much.
I took myself on a date to see Les Miserable. It was a last minute ticket purchase and this is where I got to sit. Third row back. I was so close I could see the orchestra pit and the spit whenever the actors were especially passionate or enthusiastic. A really great production and one of my favourite musicals.
Happy Monday to you all x

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Banana bread

Seems odd to post a recipe that I've not actually eaten, but I promise that it gets positive reviews and I was asked to put it up so who am I to deny a personal request? I personally loathe bananas and if it were up to me, they wouldn't be allowed in the house as I can't even stand the smell of them. Unfortunately, I have two children who just love them, and I shouldn't say no when they ask for fruit right? There always seems to be one or two bananas out of every batch that just don't get eaten though, so I relegate these to the freezer (skin and all) until I'm ready and willing to do something with them. Since our hens have started laying so prolifically, and since there is no way that I'd consume banana bread myself, I don't mind adding eggs to this recipe.
(as a bonus, while the oven is on, I bake up the empty egg shells and then crush them up for the hens to eat and increase their calcium too)

It's a simple recipe that makes a moist loaf and both of my children love it. As it's dairy and nut free, it's also my go-to dish to bring to children's parties too so most people can eat it. I can tell from the texture and look of it that it's a nice moist loaf and I rarely have leftovers. Mr Fork assures me it tastes the way that banana bread should... although he did make the comment that it would be better slathered with Nutella. Hmmm. The receipe freezes well so you can always save time by baking two loaves and putting one away for later.... and who doesn't love to have food on hand coming into the Christmas season, right!

Banana Bread
printable link
Ingredients:
  • 1 2/3 cup flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil 
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 160C, and line/grease your loaf tin.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients, then, into a well in the middle, add the eggs, oil, bananas and vanilla extract. Mix until everything is combined. 
  3. Pour into your loaf pan and smooth the top. 
  4. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean (my oven is fan forced and unpredictable so I like to check it at 50 minutes). 
  5. Leave in the pan for five minutes and then cool on a rack.

Notes:

  • This recipe freezes well, so you can make a double batch and freeze the other (I slice it first so I can pull it out for children's snacks easily)
  • Before baking, I like to sprinkle the top of the loaf with sugar and extra cinnamon, but I bet chopped walnuts would be yummy too.
  • This recipe is dairy and nut free (if you don't sprinkle any on) so it's a good thing to take to bring a plate events where you have special diets there.
  • You can serve as is, or for extra decadence, try some yoghurt, extra banana slices, butter or honey. Or try Mr Fork's suggestion of Nutella if you have a real sweet tooth...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mushroom stroganoff

Sometimes, you just need a dinner that is delicious and hearty and warms you from the inside out. Comfort food to me has always been something creamy and rich, and mushroom stroganoff fits that description quite nicely.

Instead of using a soy milk or cream to make the sauce, the creaminess in this version is achieved with raw cashews, blended until smooth and silky. Any types of mushrooms will do, in the pictured version, I used a mix of white and brown button mushroom, but a good meaty portobello is always a winner as well.

Served with lots of fresh rosemary from the garden, over brown rice, this meal is like a great big hug in a bowl. Yum.
Mushroom Stroganoff
printable link

Ingredients:
  • 800g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, brown, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • knob of margarine (I used Nuttelex)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup water
  • fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste
Method:

1. Combine the cashews and water and set aside to soak while you get everything else started.
2. In a pot, saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms in the margarine until the onions are clear and everything is smelling amazing
3. Add the stock and reduce the heat. Simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

4. Blend the cashew and water mixture until it's smooth, then add to the mushroom mix, along with the rosemary.
5. Simmer another 20 minutes, then check consistency and seasoning. If the mixture is too thick, add some water.
6. Serve over the top of a textured pasta or with rice. I like the added chewiness of brown rice.

Notes:
  • You can add more or less mushrooms. Any type, they're all yummy. Its the star of the dish so I'd say you can't really have too many, although for a bit more texture, some seitan is also a nice addition.
  • You could mix up the herbs as well. Oregano, thyme, maybe a little sage would be nice.
What's your go-to comfort type meal?

Monday, November 9, 2015

How to spend 50k in a day

Recently, I was posed the question about how I would spend $50000 in a day. I thought, I could be all serious and put it into the mortgage, but then I thought, no, that's not very fun. It's $50000 I didn't have before and I'm playing 'let's pretend' so I'll spend it in a spectacular (imaginary) fashion. 

Then I thought, oh, I could fly everyone to Disneyland and we could go on rides and eat junk food until we're sick with happiness. But that seemed like it would be pretty stressful, hopping on a long haul flight with two kids and then dragging them all around a park that they'd honestly probably be too young to appreciate. So then I sat down and thought about the things I love best. Easy! I love my family, I love to be social, I love to eat, and I love to feel pampered and have fun. It was a bit easier after that. Words started to flow better. I had a great image of this fabulous reading nook that I would build in my house, and then stock with a comfy mattress and pillows and reading material galore!
With the funds that I didn't manage to allocate to books, I thought I'd develop a bit of a sharable area on my front footpath. I already have a passionfruit vine accessible to the street, but I thought it would be fun and social to make a sort of community garden and add in some herbs and things and get to know my neighbours better… and I like the idea of being a little bit of a rebel and doing some urban footpath gardening.
Source
Then I thought, no, what if after all that hard work, something like this happens and I'm made to remove it because someone complains?

And then… I just thought, much as I love the idea of that comfy reading nook (oh how I love it!), there are people out there who need more than I. There are people out there who also love their family, but can't be with them. There are people who love to be social but the world won't socialise with them. There are people who love to eat but have no food. There are people who don't even know the meaning of pampering and fun.

So instead of feathering my nest with a reading nook and adding to my edible garden, I would give that $50k to places where it would make a difference.

People who could help those children in detention centres and refuge camps. Who could make them smile and give them back a little bit of hope and dignity and show them compassion and help them be well. Those places would appreciate having a library and the books I would have bought, I'm sure.

People who need to eat. I'd get them staples and a couple of special things too, because everyone loves a treat, especially coming into the season of festivities.

I've been with both my children when they needed operations or stays in hospital. And I know that it's a pretty grim place for parents and children. My edible garden would be much better placed on a hospital roof somewhere to provide a little area for those who need it.

I could go on and on. But I'd run out of money. It's not 'fun'. It's not 'creative'. But I think I'd feel a lot better spending such a sum these ways than any other.

Friday, November 6, 2015

What's in my kitchen, November 2015

Wow, it's November. The year is just that much closer to being over soon. Christmas is coming, the weather is heating up and it's starting to feel very much like Summer! If things continue the way they are, it's going to be a very hot, stormy season I think. Which will probably do fabulous things for the garden, but probably won't be as appealing for human (and animal) comfort levels. Already it's getting to be difficult to sleep - although possibly I could write this off to the fact that Jimmy likes to sleep curled up close to my head, with one of his fat little hands touching my face. If I dare to move away, he wakes, so I've had to get used to sleeping next to a warm babe for now.

October was a busy month, with my mother's group in full on baby birthday season, so weekends were busy attending parties (and throwing our own). This is the part of the year where we get busy with celebrations and parties as the lead up to Christmas gets earlier and earlier... in fact, my work Christmas party falls in the middle of November this year! Crazy, but at least it's a great season for fresh foods, gorgeous stone fruits and lots of festivities and catching up with people.

In my kitchen is...

Nuttelex made with coconut oil. I saw this while grocery shopping and had to get it. I'm a sucker for trying things that are a little bit different from the items I usually have at home. I was impressed with the absence of palm oil and the fact that a donation would be made to the Orangutan Foundation. It is smaller than my regular spread, and not really much of a change in flavour. Further research also suggests that it is just rebranded Sunburst spread (no advertising that fact anywhere on the package though!), so I probably won't purchase it again unless it was on sale.
 
In my kitchen is...
 
Another birthday cake. This time, it was for Jimmy, who turned one. I have a one year old! Gosh, it doesn't feel like a whole year, but to be fair, I have been in a bit of a sleep deprived fog. I kept it very simple for his cake. A plain chocolate cake (not vegan as it had our eggs and some milk in) and a chocolate 'butter'cream icing made with nuttelex (I forgot to buy proper butter but it still worked out). As the party was on Halloween weekend, I kept decorations simple with some coloured fondant cutouts on top and around the sides.
Easy to make, and I'm told, delicious. It certainly looked lovely, moist and cake-y inside.
In my kitchen is...
 
Ninja Vegan jelly from Aldi. Ninja Vegan is the term I use when something is sneakily vegan. I'm always super chuffed when that something is a food I would usually expect to contain animal bits.
I haven't had jelly in years due to gelatine, but when I was looking for something for Jimmy to snack on that I could easily pack into a bag for his carers when I don't have time to make my own jelly. I found these. They come in three flavours (there is also a strawberry version) and they are all thoughtfully labelled suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Yay!

In my kitchen is...
Fairy bread! I haven't had fairy bread in so long, but with it being Jimmy's first birthday party and our guests ranging from the not-even-at-solids stage through to the young at heart, I figured you couldn't go wrong with sprinkles on bread. It was store bought white bread at Mr Fork's insistence, as he said my sourdough was too gourmet for fairy bread. I was happy to indulge him, but I did use nuttelex instead so that the dairy allergy attendees could also indulge. It was a party hit, although I was criticised for being too stingy with the sprinkles.
 
In my kitchen is...
 
Halloween cupcakes. Well, if I'm going to be honest, there isn't anything really specifically Halloween-ish about these, except for the fact that they're in pumpkin cases with a little pumpkin toothpick in them. In fact, they're the recipe for my coconut bread baked in cupcake form. Quite a few of my friends have food intolerances, so these cater for the soy, dairy and egg free people.
 
In my kitchen is...
 
Lollypop spiders. A quirky little addition to the goodie bags at Jimmy's party. So easy and fun to make with Ellie as well. Take a lollypop, bend pipecleaners around to look like spider legs and then hot glue on some googly eyes. They turned out really well and were a bit of a hit. Also included in the bags was a box of Peppa Pig sultanas (I'd hoped the merchandise would encourage them to eat it!), a bottle of bubble mix, a chocolate pumpkin and a Halloween themed chocolate coin.
In my kitchen is...
 
Tomatoes from a friend's garden. Her plants got a pest infestation and had to go, but she harvested what she could first, and was kind enough to share some with me. Let me tell you, there is nothing like home grown tomatoes. Just look at the gorgeous colours on them (my favourite is that little one at the front that is almost a bit pink). Yes, they taste as good as they look too!
I am linking this post in with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial's monthly In My Kitchen event. Go have a peek through other kitchens around the globe!

What's in your kitchen this month?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Today, you turn one

Jimmy, today you are one. Well, technically, tonight you will be one, but we can celebrate now.
38+3 pregnant
It's been a crazy year.

I can count on one hand the number of times you have slept through the night. And I mean that in the traditional "a sleep through for a baby is anything longer than 5 hours" logic. Since I also had chronic insomnia at the end of my pregnancy, do you know what that means little man? It means that I haven't had a decent night sleep in over a year. That's a long time sweetheart. Any time you want to sleep a little longer, I'm all for it. I'm sure your daddy can attest that I'm not my best (nor is he) without good sleep!
You still aren't walking, but you're really close. You will take the occasional independent step, but you don't trust your legs to fight against gravity yet. That's ok. There will be plenty of time to run later.

You love food. As in, you get a serious case of "hangry" if I don't get something edible in front of you pronto. And forget feeding you, you are all about doing it yourself. You have nearly brained the ever hopeful hounds multiple times throwing your bowl/spoon/fork/cup as they mill hopefully under your chair for the inevitable scraps. Your favourite foods at the moment are blueberries, edamame, watermelon, fruity sourdough, pasta, and stolen licks of frozen iceblocks. It's amazing really considering you still only have two teeth (and about 8 more all reallllly close to cutting through, Mr Grumpy!). Oh, and you love your milk. Lots of milk!
Your favourite place to be is with mama. As soon as I walk into a room, your eyes fix on me. If I'm not speedy coming to greet you, you wail and crawl on over to throw yourself at me. As though I had forgotten you or something (like I could!). You need to be constantly touched; you're a real limpet baby. It's ok, you're only this little for such a short while, I love the snuggles. Mostly. I'm a little over the fact that no matter how many soft silky things I offer, your favourite comfort item is my hair. No style is Jimmy-proof and my ends suffer for it. Lucky for baby wearing, otherwise your poor sister would never get any attention.

Speaking of hair, yours is so fine and light that there isn't enough volume or weight to hold it down so it just grows vertically. I love it, even if your one majestically long hair has now been absorbed into all the others. Your grandparents want to shave your head (as they wanted to do at your red egg celebration) to encourage it to grow back thicker and darker. We aren't talking a buzz cut here but really shave, down to the skull with a razor. I don't know how that would happen as you're so wriggly, but I have said we can have that discussion after your birthday, however, (not so secretly) I hope the idea falls by the wayside.

You aren't speaking much yet, but you understand a lot, I can tell. In fact, you respond to both Cantonese and English, and you're already more fluent than your mama you clever boy!

I had real problems thinking of what to get your for your first birthday. You don't want for things, and your sister is so good at sharing her toys with you. Your favourite thing to play with at the moment is an old birthday card of mine. It's one that plays sounds when opened (sheep noises) and you spend ages opening and shutting it and baaaa-ing right back at those sheep.

You're growing up to be such a lovely little human full of personality and fierce determination to get what you want. It's been a lovely (sleep deprived) year.

Love, mama 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Loving right now...

Netflix
I don't know why it took me so long to get on board with this, but I wish I'd done it sooner (especially in those early days when Jimmy was feeding 2-hourly-around-the-clock and wasn't so mobile!)

Orange Is the New Black
Related to my first item; I decided to pop my Netflix cherry with OITNB, and it's pretty good. I probably should have paid attention when everyone was recommending it to me when it came out years ago, but on the plus side, I now have three seasons to binge my way through. Yay.

Almonds
Odd inclusion I know. However, they're my snack of choice at the moment and I've always got a little container of them hidden away in my bag for when I get peckish. I go through food phases and I'm definitely loving almonds right now.

Fresh eggs
I don't eat them mind you, but there is something marvellous about collecting an egg that is still warm from being laid. I had thought the chickens had gone off the lay recently, but I was mistaken... when I was cleaning up the side garden, I found a secret nest and a hidden stash of eggs. Those hens had been holding out on us!!
Free things
I love it when something is unexpectedly free or cheaper than expected. This week I got a free bus ride because the machines weren't working, and yesterday at my local coffee shop I chose the correct colour playing card during happy hour and scored myself a free soy hot chocolate, which was exactly what I needed to get me through the afternoon. Winning!!

And just as a bonus... I'm totally not loving Apple iPhone earbuds. Despite having had my current iPhone for ages, I recently unpacked the earphones that came with it so that I could take advantage of the included microphone and volume control. The iPhone is so stylish and well designed, would it really have killed them to put a bit more effort into the earbuds? They are too big for my small person ears, and after a short phone conversation or a few songs, my ears are sore. Poor form Apple, poor form.

What are you loving on right now? Any recommendations for shows I should add to my Netflix queue?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finish dishwashing tablets

When I first moved out of home, I took great pride in keeping my house clean. Vacuuming was done regularly, bathrooms were wiped down after every use, spills were cleaned immediately, and dishes were never left to sit around in the kitchen.

Fast forward a few years, add a husband, two hounds, two small children and some very messy chickens, and my standards have relaxed. Some might even say deflated. I do stand firm that I like to wake up to a clean kitchen however. I just can't cope waking up to dirt and clutter first thing in the morning.

Thank goodness for my dishwasher. It certainly gets a bit of a workout these days. Also, it takes FOREVER to empty it as Ellie likes to help (and I'm certainly not going to stop that!) but she can really only cope with one item at a time. Maybe two. Heaven help you if you try to assist though - often I get told to "stop mama, I will do it myself".

Those of you with dishwashers of the machine variety, I'm sure we can agree that not all tablets are created equal. While I used to be a fan of buying whatever was on sale, these days I'm a bit of a fan of Finish Quantum Max tablets. They seem to cope well with whatever I've thrown at them - dried on cereal clumps, leftover coffee dregs, remains of Mr Fork's bacon and egg fry up breakfasts, and, my personal gauntlet, baked on cheese after making a lasagne or a macaroni cheese bake. It's handled all of those with gusto and given me sparkling results.
Wins all around, especially for this time poor mama who loves to cook but hates waking up to a feral kitchen!

Do you have any tips for keeping your kitchen clean?

**Disclaimer: I was given a pack of dishwasher tablets to use, but no compensation was received for this post.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Acknowledging good customer service

If I receive shabby service by a business, I'm not backward about coming forward. I will often, if I have time, raise it at the time, and failing that, will write directly to the business management to let them know what happened. If there is no way to contact them privately, I'm also ok posting about my experience on social media and tagging them appropriately.

Having said that, I find that lots of people don't feel the same about acknowledging when a business does something good for them in a customer service capacity. Which is a shame, as if someone does a good job, I think they need to know about it. I'm certainly praising my children every time they do something remotely wonderful.

With that in mind, I wanted to share my recent experience with FitBit.

Back in 2013, I talked about getting my FitBit Flex. I've pretty much worn it fairly regularly ever since, although I have stopped tracking my sleep as it's just depressing with Jimmy.

I had a bit of trouble finding a picture of myself wearing it actually, but here is a sad example focussing on a large bunch of parsley harvested from the garden...
Last weekend I noticed that it wasn't on my wrist. I could pretty much narrow down when I lost it, as I remember trying on a bracelet at a shopping centre, and it was definitely on then. We then went back to the car, I unwrapped Jimmy and put him in the car seat and then we drove home. It wasn't anywhere in the car or at home, and I couldn't find it using my phone to try and sync, which meant I never got into BlueTooth range of it. As a last resort, I emailed FitBit, knowing the device was low on charge, to ask if there was any way to locate it while there was a tiny bit of juice left.

They responded a few hours later saying, well no, not really. But could I please upload a copy of my receipt and a few other details, and they'd see what they could do about "getting me back on track".
Lo and behold, despite my receipt showing that I purchased the device in July 2013, as a gesture of goodwill the company is going to send me a gratis replacement. In fact, it's already been processed and is on it's way to me.

Completely over and above anything I expected for something well over two years old. Well done FitBit - that's outstanding customer service right there and I'm a very happy stepper!
Have you had a great customer service experience lately?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dining at 5 Boroughs Stones Corner

Stones Corner is going through a bit of a revamp at the moment. Previously full of brand outlets, it had a period of being quiet and a bit rundown and now it's starting to become a delicious foodie hangout. Which makes 5 Boroughs (9/401-405 Logan Road, Stones Corner) a perfect fit - casual, friendly, good value American street style food.
Double beef burger
Dining with the family for Saturday lunch, the fitout won us over with the mix of large and small tables, all undercover and just perfect for sitting and watching the street view.

Diners place their orderat the counter for a selection of burgers, hotdogs, sides and drinks. There are also vegan options. Say what? There is a vegan burger and a vegan hotdog, so this little eatery is perfect for catering to all tastes. Our order included a double beef burger (the meat patties are preservative free and served medium so slightly red in the middle) ($15), a 5B vegan burger ($12.50)  with a housemade quinoa and black bean patty and a childrens beef slider ($10) with a serve of chips and a juice included (not shown).
5B vegan burger with cute quinoa tails
The buns were fresh and soft, the filling tasty and very moreish. We also indulged in a side of ale battered onion rings ($8) and at Mr Fork's insistence, a plate of ginger pepper caramel chicken wings ($15).
The standout for the table was definitely the onion rings, which were crunchy, golden and one vegetable that Mr Fork was certainly happy to eat more of!

5 Buroughs is unpretentious and a hit with diners, so I'm glad we got there early. I'll be back to try the vegan hotdog because I have a thing about supporting restaurants that offer vegan options.

5 Boroughs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What's in my kitchen, October 2015

October sort of snuck up on me this year. I was happily plodding through September, and before I knew it, it was a whole new month! Early September was my birthday, so there were celebrations for that, and then late September was Ellie's birthday, and that turned into a bit of a birthday extravaganza. We had a weekend away to go to see LahLah in concert (my favourite of all the children's performers!), lots of cake, and extended celebrations what with immediate family, extended family, friends and daycare. Then I blinked, and it was a whole new month!

October has brought an obvious change in weather, with lovely hot sunny days. Of course, it means early sunrises which means the children wake earlier, but it's easier to leave the bed when it's light and warm. It's also school holidays and while that doesn't affect me yet as my children are too young for school, it means parks are more crowded, parking is harder to find at shopping centres, and the sounds of children playing are everywhere through the neighbourhood. It's a lovely time of year.

In my kitchen is...

Fresh eggs! Yes, two of our four chickens have finally become productive members of the household. On Ellie's birthday, we got our second ever egg (the first was a few days prior) and since then we have regularly gotten one egg a day, recently increasing to two. They are averaging about 53g, so slightly smaller than regular eggs, but they certainly (I am informed) make up for it in flavour.
In my kitchen is...

Fresh made, rustic looking banana bread. Made with the first egg our chickens laid (a double yolker no less) and the black bananas I rescued from the fruit bowl at work. I loathe bananas and I don't eat egg, but Jimmy and Ellie loved this loaf. Half of it is still in the freezer, sliced up and ready for when I don't have any fresh baked goods to give them.
In my kitchen is...

Moon cakes! Not the traditional type though, instead these ones are handmade for me by my mother-in-law. They are vegan friendly, made on a seaweed (agar) jelly and filled with bean paste. No egg yolks in sight. When I regularly travelled for work there was a lady in Sydney who would make me the most delicious vegan moon cakes, with layers of flaky pastry surrounding a bean or taro paste. I can't find any commercial ones like that locally, so I've missed out for a few years. Not this year though!
In my kitchen is...

Birthday cakes! Ellie had two this year... one was a puppy cake that she'd insisted on ever since she saw them at Bread Top. I'm all for it if I don't have to make it for her! This was the cake we shared with family and friends.
She also insisted on taking a chocolate cake to daycare to share with her class (I think she just wanted to extend the birthday celebrations). A simple mud cake decorated with smarties. It was a bit of a hit with the other 2 and 3 year olds in her class I'm told. A friend of mine told me afterward her son asked her if he could bring a cake "with buttons" for his birthday. Ellie overheard him and apparently corrected him, with much attitude that, "those are not buttons, they are decorations". My three year old with attitude.
In my kitchen is...

Vegan meringues. Finally I jumped on the aquafaba bandwagon and tried some meringues. While they were a success, I'm not sure I'll make them often as I found them super sweet.
In my kitchen is...

Coconut yoghurt, by Nudie. I'm super chuffed with this find. It's quite new and only available in Woolworths at the moment, but it's very affordable (6.99 for 500g) compared to other brands. It's also not too sweet, so I can make savoury and sweet dishes with it. There are currently 3 flavours available (natural, vanilla and blueberry) but hidden in the vanilla and blueberry "natural flavourings" is honey, so only the natural flavour is vegan friendly. Nudie have said they will look into making the others vegan friendly, perhaps switching to rice malt syrup instead. Yay for companies that listen to their consumers!

I am linking this post in with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial's monthly In My Kitchen event. Go have a peek through other kitchens around the globe!

What's in your kitchen this month?

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