Tag Archives: food

The Day the Aunts Disappeared by Russell Hughes and KayeC Jones

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gregs-thumbnail-2The Day the Aunts Disappeared by Russell Hughes and KayeC Jones, picture e-book, published in 2016.

Greg the Anteater doesn’t like being bitten by the ants he wants to eat, but he is so very hungry. He decides to find some food in town, but gets a bit muddled between ants and aunts.

So this story had me giggling from the start. Poor Greg, covered in bug bites! The whole premise of the story is pretty silly, but it’s funny. Though ‘ant’ and ‘aunt’ sound similar, they have very different meanings; using the wrong word for the context really can have some unexpected consequences.

The illustrations are bright and simple alongside clear, bold type. This is good for early independent readers. I really like the pictures. My favourite page is when Greg slurps his first aunt up!

I would have preferred if Greg had been introduced to some foods that weren’t “fast food” or “junk” when he was giving up eating aunts. He gets very fat from his new diet!

The Day the Aunts Disappeared is suitable for pre-schoolers and lower primary school children.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Digger Cake

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IMG_5941Digger! Digger! Digger! is all I hear as we drive past a building site in town. Both boys are completely obsessed with diggers at the moment, with trucks running a close second. T2 is having trouble with the ‘d’ sound, so he actually says Gigger! Gigger! which is super cute.

To make our toddler boys extra happy on the weekend, we made an excavation cake with little plastic digger toys on it. When I brought it to the table after dinner, they both started yelling excitedly and bouncing in their chairs!

Cake cut and ready for decorating.

Cake cut and ready for decorating.

This is a super easy cake to make, and really doesn’t take very long to decorate at all. Cooking the cake is the most time consuming part of this cake. I used two Betty Crocker Devil’s Food cake mixes because this is the boys’ favourite type of cake. We cooked the two mixes together in one rectangular baking pan. Once it was cool, I cut part of the cake out to form the space for the excavation. I re-used some of the spare cake to create a ramp and road along one side of the cake.

Frosting the cake.

Frosting the cake.

The cake mixes came with ready to spread chocolate frosting, which made icing the cake even quicker. I covered the whole cake with the frosting. L helped me to crush up several bars of Flake chocolate to create the dust and rocks at the excavation. We mixed this with some Coco Pops and spread it around the hole in the cake. We also used some finely crushed Flake chocolate along the path and ramp under the vehicles.

Cake from above.

Cake from above.

Then it was time to place the vehicles on top of the cake. The excavation toys I bought as a pack from Toys’R’Us. There were five CAT vehicles, including some diggers, dump truck and bulldozer. We put the diggers into the hole, added the bulldozer to the path, and had the excavator dumping its load into the dump truck. We placed some of the Flake and Coco Pops into the scoops and the back of the truck as if they were actually moving the dirt around.

Excavator dumping 'rocks' and 'dirt' into the dump truck.

Excavator dumping ‘rocks’ and ‘dirt’ into the dump truck.

Diggers digging out the ground.

Diggers digging out the ground.

 

Island Cupcake Tower

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IMG_5701Recently we held a birthday party with a beach theme. As the centrepiece of the food table, I made cupcakes to place on my cupcake stand. My stand has three levels for holding cupcakes, plus a place for one right at the top. I used this design to make the cupcake stand into an island cupcake tower.

Freshly baked cupcakes.

Freshly baked cupcakes.

First, we baked the cupcakes using a basic butter cake mix. A helped me set out the paper cases (she chose ones with Disney Fairies on them!), and spoon the mixture into the cases. We only filled each one about half way so that they didn’t rise too much.

Once the cupcakes were completely cool, A and I divided the cupcakes into piles for each level on the stand. The lowest level held the most cupcakes, and was to represent the water of our island. A helped me mix up the butter (vienna) cream to ice them. I like to use a simple recipe for butter cream that I found on Taste.com. We added some blue food colouring to the butter cream until it was the blue we wanted, and then we generously covered the cupcakes with it. We used the flat edge of a knife to create the “waves” by tapping the top of each iced cupcake, pulling some of the butter cream up in peaks.

A sea cupcake.

A sea cupcake.

Adding coconut to the top of the cupcake.

Adding coconut to the top of the cupcake.

We made a second batch of butter cream, this time colouring it yellow for our layer of sand cupcakes. We had previously coloured coconut to use as the sand on these cupcakes. We covered each cupcake with butter cream, and then dipped them into the yellow coconut until the tops were completely covered. I made the butter cream thick on these cupcakes to help hold the plastic toy palm trees we then placed on each one.

Beach cupcake.

Beach cupcake.

Grassy cupcake.

Grassy cupcake.

The final layer of cupcakes was to be the heart of the island, with green butter cream and green coconut for the grass. Again, we applied the butter cream generously to help secure the plastic ferns we added for foliage. These cupcakes were the pinnacle of the cupcake stand. The cupcake on the very top was the centre of the island, which sloped down to the sea at the bottom. I think it looked quite effective on the table!

Island cupcakes.

Island cupcakes.

Eggs and Soldiers

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Eggs and soldiers made by L.

Eggs and soldiers made by L.

It’s been a busy year for us with a lot going on, including moving to a bigger house! When we purchased our new house, we inherited five lovely chickens who do a very good job of keeping us in an abundance of eggs. The kids love collecting the eggs, playing with the chooks, and feeding them, they are a wonderful addition to our family. The only problem is that my kids claim that they don’t like eggs (unless they are cooked in a cake, of course!). So I’ve been trying different methods of cooking with eggs in the hope of winning them over to the “eggs are yumtastic” camp. I have so far won over the younger three with scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs and quiche, but my eldest is still reluctant to even try eating eggs. In an attempt to remedy this, I got her involved in cooking eggs and soldiers this morning.

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Placing the eggs into the water.

I helped her get out a saucepan and start heating the water on the stove-top. Our eggs had been sitting on the bench and were at room temperature, so we brought the water up to boiling before adding the eggs to it. L used a dessert spoon to carefully place each egg into the saucepan without cracking them or burning herself.

Since these eggs were homegrown, they varied in size (one of our chooks is smaller than the others and lays smaller eggs), so even though we only boiled the eggs for around five minutes, the smallest of the eggs had already hard-boiled. The larger eggs were nicely soft-boiled.

Making buttered soldiers to dip in the eggs.

Making buttered soldiers to dip in the eggs.

L had a go at cracking the tops off the eggs using a spoon. As the eggs were very hot, she held the egg gently using a tea-towel to prevent burning her fingers while she removed the top. She also cooked the toast and cut it up into soldiers.

A took one look at the runny egg and refused to try it, while the toddlers hooked right in. L sort of gave the eggs a sniff then told me she didn’t want to try it after all. Oh well…. I had a lovely meal of eggs and soldiers prepared mostly by L, and now I’m back on my quest to convince her to eat eggs soon!

Chocolate Shop Cake

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We wanted to make Big L a special cake for his birthday this year, but none of us had any good ideas. I remembered seeing a cake with lots of different chocolates on it ages back on Facebook, so I went looking for it online. I’m not sure that I found the exact one, as there were quite a number, but the one on BakingMad.com was pretty close. It said to use chocolate cake, but I thought that would be a bit over-the-top chocolate, so we used butter cake instead.

Cakes with the tops cut off.

Cakes with the tops cut off.

The stacked cake ready for icing.

The stacked cake ready for icing.

I baked two round butter cakes and let them cool. Then I cut the tops off each cake to make them flat. I spread some plain frosting over the top of the first cake, and then up-ended the second cake onto the first. This provided a flat top to work with, without the crumbiness of the cut surface. I covered the whole cake in plain frosting, and then it was time to decorate!

Placing the chocolate finger biscuits around the edge.

Placing the chocolate finger biscuits around the edge.

The divided top.

The divided top.

Adding Maltesers to the top of the cake.

Adding Maltesers to the top of the cake.

I started by pressing the chocolate finger biscuits carefully around the edge of the cake, as if I was making a fence. On the top, we divided the space into sixths using the chocolate finger biscuits as dividers. The biscuits didn’t meet at the centre, so we placed a single Ferrero Rocher chocolate in the middle of the biscuit spokes. Then the kids filled each section with a different type of chocolate. We used Mini M&Ms, mini caramel milkshake eggs, Freddo faces, M&Ms, Cadbury Flake pieces, and Maltesers. Any kind of little chocolates or lollies could have worked for this part.

We added a special birthday candle and it was ready!

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When the cake fails…

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I don’t normally wait until the day of the party to make a birthday cake, but due to a number of circumstances, both in and out of my control, that is what happened. Big L helped out by making up the cake mix ready to cook. Usually this works well, in that he cooks the cake(s) and leaves it to me to decorate, which, depending on what the kids have asked for, can sometimes take hours.

The crumbled mess of chocolate cake.

The crumbled mess of chocolate cake.

Except this time, the cooking of the cakes didn’t exactly go to plan. When I went to tip them onto the cooling racks, the cakes didn’t come out easily. With a bit of a shake, I got the square cake out, except that the base and the middle of the cake were still stuck in the bottom of the tin! Big L had a go at removing the second cake, which was in a loaf pan. After a bit of effort, this cake  slid out of the tin, also leaving behind its bottom half, and broke in two. I sat at the table and stared at the crumbled pieces of rich chocolate cake. With only hours until our guests arrived, I had to think of a solution fast!

Big L told me to go out and buy a cake from somewhere, anywhere! But I couldn’t just waste all this chocolate cake. Luckily inspiration struck and I rushed to the store to obtain some extra ingredients, to create a dessert which I was thinking of as a chocolate trifle, but I think really deserves the name ‘chocolate heaven’! I might even make this again on purpose next time 🙂

'Chocolate Heaven' - a bowl of chocolatey, creamy yumminess.

‘Chocolate Heaven’ – a bowl of chocolatey, creamy yumminess.

Hastily gathered ingredients.

Hastily gathered ingredients.

First I placed further crumbled pieces of the cake into the bottom of a clear bowl. Then I layered thick chocolate custard over the cake. This was followed by another layer of crumbled cake, and a second layer of chocolate custard. This filled the bowl I was using about three quarters of the way up. If I’d been using a deeper bowl, I would have made more layers. Over the last layer of custard I spread a thick layer of freshly whipped cream, smoothing it out with a spoon. To finish, I carefully grated some Toblerone chocolate (which I happened to have in the fridge) over the top of the cream. I refrigerated the dessert until we were ready to serve it.

Crumbled cake in the bottom of the bowl.

Crumbled cake in the bottom of the bowl.

Covered in chocolate custard.

Covered in chocolate custard.

As to the birthday cake, while I was out collecting the chocolate custard and thickened cream, I also grabbed some slabs of plain sponge cake. We placed these side by side and iced them in green butter cream, with silver cachous sprinkled all over the top. It was a very simple, practical and plain cake, but it held the candles for L to blow out, and the kids didn’t mind.

However, the real taste sensation was the ‘chocolate heaven’ dessert! It was soooo good!

So, if you’re like me and have the occasional cake disaster, don’t dismay, throw some custard, cream and chocolate at it and all will be fixed! Please share some of your cake or food disasters and fixes. It always makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one that sometimes has less than stellar moments in the kitchen 😉

(PS. Never, ever, lean over the open grill with a tea-towel slung over your shoulder, it just might catch alight!)

Ice-cream Cone Christmas Trees

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Waffle cones pre-cutting.

Waffle cones pre-cutting.

I saw this recipe on The Organised Housewife last week, and thought it looked like a quick and easy Christmas food idea. I went to gather our ingredients, but our local grocery store didn’t have any normal pointy ice-cream cones! They had plenty of flat bottomed cones, and waffle cones. I’d already told the kids I had a Christmas activity in mind for after dinner, and I didn’t have time (or the desire) to drive elsewhere to find the cones, so we went with waffle cones.

After cutting.

After cutting.

These could have made some very wonky Christmas trees, so I carefully cut off excess cone using a knife, so that when the cones were turned upside down they sat on a plate without falling over. The bits of cone that I cut off, Big L ate with ice-cream, buttercream, Nutella and sprinkles later.

Icing the cone.

Icing the cone.

Adding sprinkles.

Adding sprinkles.

L helped me to make up a portion of light green buttercream, which we used to cover the cones with. Then we added red and green m&ms, pastel coloured sprinkles and mini m&ms. The kids added jelly babies to the top point of their trees at the star/angel.

Carefully placing m&ms.

Carefully placing m&ms.

This was fun, messy and very sweet, but a great activity around Christmas time.

 

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Cat and Mouse Cake

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I have made this cat and mouse cake a few times for the kids’ birthdays. It is quite easy and has been a big hit at birthday parties. I normally make butter or vanilla cakes, but A begged for chocolate cake, so I used some White Wings mixes to make the cakes.

Prior to icing.

Prior to icing.

The cat’s head is make with a round cake base, with another cake cut up to make the nose and ears. The mice are decorated cupcakes. I just cut a rough circle section for the nose, and then I sliced the piece of cake so that it was about half the depth. I attached it to the round cake using some white buttercream (vienna cream or frosting). I also used some buttercream to attach the triangular ears to the top of the round cake. I don’t worry too much about how the cake looks at this point because I know I will make it look nice with the frosting!

There are lots of recipes around for buttercream, but I used one I found on taste.com.au, it was light and fluffy and very tasty.

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After applying white buttercream.

After applying grey buttercream.

After applying grey buttercream.

A asked for her cat to be grey and white, which is pretty easy. A little bit of black liquid food colouring added to the plain frosting gives a nice grey. As I was also icing the cupcakes in white and grey, I made up a triple batch of buttercream, and divided into two bowls, keeping one white and making the other grey. A double batch probably would have done it, but I’d rather have extra ready to go if needed, especially if I am using coloured buttercream, it’s so hard to get the colour to match if I have to make more.

I roughly added the white buttercream over the nose and to make the inside of the ears. Then I did the rest of the head in grey neatly, butting it up to where the white should end, and covering any excess white frosting along the way. To give the buttercream a bit more texture, I used the flat side of a butter knife’s blade to slap against the buttercream, causing little peaks to form. I did this all over the grey areas, while keeping the white fairly smooth. The kids thought it looked more like fur that way.

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IMG_2377In the end, I decided that I wanted the white to extend a bit further down to encompass the mouth more, so I added some more white buttercream from the nose down. This gave me more room to apply the mouth and nose. The nose and tongue are half a pink marshmallow each, while the eyes are smarties. A chose the pink ones, though I suggested blue or green! The rest of the facial features are drawn on with writing icing. These little tubes are very handy and easy to use.

IMG_2411IMG_2421To make the cute little mice cupcakes, I iced half the batch with grey buttercream and half with white buttercream. The ears are made from pink or white marshmallows cut in half. Each half is placed on top of the cupcake so that the sticky cut edge is facing forwards. The eyes are shiny cachous and the whiskers, nose and tails are added using the writing icing. I had thought about using liquorice strips for the tails, but I am the only one in my family that likes liquorice, so it seemed like a bit of a waste.

Shiny cachou lollies.

Shiny cachou lollies.

The cat’s head was placed in the centre of the pre-prepared board (a piece of plywood covered in foil), and the mice cupcakes were arranged on either side. I only used eight of the mice on the board. The extras did not go to waste though, the kids finished them off quite quickly.

Unfortunately, before the cake could be unveiled at the party, Baby T leant across it and smooshed a couple of the mice and the cat’s nose. The kids didn’t care, they still gobbled it up!

 

Ice-cream Cone Cupcakes

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IMG_2351We had a birthday on a school day for the first time recently, and A asked me to make cupcakes to take along for her class to share. She had seen cupcakes made in mini ice-cream cones somewhere before, and suggested we could make some. I did do a trial run before the big day to make sure I had it right. It turned out to be a rather easy undertaking, and I have made several batches now with great success.

I have used a few different brands of mini ice-cream cones, and have found that the square based cones seem to be a bit more stable than the round based ones when the cake mix is in them, but both work quite well.

Ready for baking.

Ready for baking.

A drippy cone.

A drippy cone.

I lined the cones up on a baking tray, in this instance I used pizza trays, and then fill the cones to about two-thirds full with cake mix. I have only used butter cake mix for these cupcakes, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the kids ask for them made with chocolate cake! I have been baking these cupcakes at a slightly lower temperature than normal, and I check them regularly to prevent overcooking. Sometimes a bit of the cake mix will overflow the cone and drip down the side, but if too much overflows, the cone goes soggy and collapses! So it’s important not to overfill the cones.

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Cooling.

Once the cupcakes have cooled down, I used a basic butter cream frosting to ice the top of the cupcakes. I placed the sprinkles in a bowl, and then dipped the frosted cones into the sprinkles, making sure the tops were completely covered in sprinkles.

The kids in A’s class were delighted with the ice-cream cone cupcakes, and were amazed to find the cones filled with cake and not ice-cream! They were a big hit, and made A very happy.

A frosted cupcake.

A frosted cupcake.

Dipping the cupcakes in sprinkles.

Dipping the cupcakes in sprinkles.

Quick Baby Brekky

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IMG_0570IMG_0563A while back, I had bought some re-usable baby food pouches so we could put our own baby food into them for use when we’re out and about. They are really handy, and we can use them for yoghurt, custard and pureed fruit for the older kids too. The ones we have are called Squeeze ’ems, but there are a number of other brands available now, and they come in a range of sizes. I bought ours at Baby Mumma, but they can often be found at modern cloth nappy and eco-ware web stores.

When we’re in a hurry to get out the door in the morning, sometimes Baby T doesn’t have a chance to have a good breakfast at home. He loves Weet-bix, so I tried making a quick breakfast in one of the re-usable pouches to take along with us.

I placed some canned peaches in first (well, these were actually in a plastic tub, but I still think of them as canned or tinned). I gave the peaches a bit of a squish through the pouch to break them up, before adding a Weet-bix biscuit, and some full cream milk. I sealed the top of the pouch and let it sit for a few minutes. This let the Weet-bix soak up the milk and become soft. Once it was all soft I shook it and squeezed it to mix the peaches with the weet-bix, and make sure there weren’t too many big lumps that wouldn’t fit out the nozzle.

Mixed up and ready to eat.

Mixed up and ready to eat.

Baby T loves this breakfast on the go. We use other soft fruit in it too, such as canned pears or apricots or fresh banana for variety. It is easy and quick, and I can give him a solid breakfast even on days when we are dashing out to school in a bit of a rush.