Lemon honey in the city

Living in a big city naturally means you do not have an acre of land. We are lucky in that we have a courtyard, and it gets sun in the summer. You have heard me wax lyrical about basil pesto before. Well now it is the turn of some humble lemons. One of our first purchases was a lemon and lime tree – a graft obviously, though we only seem to get lemons. I had visions of limes for gin and tonic in the summer when we bought the tree! The last batch of lemons ended up as frozen lemon juice thanks to the mother-out-of-law. For some unknown reason I have always wanted to have a go at making Lemon Honey (which is known as lemon butter in the Australian vernacular as I found out) and for some random reason this late batch of lemons (code for I thought I had better take them off the tree as spring was here!) inspired me. While I was tempted to give them the same fate as their predecessors I went to every kiwi’s cooking bible (the Edmonds Cook Book) and the making of lemon honey appeared reasonably straightforward. What was quirky was a couple of day’s later I picked up the October Child magazine (a great freebie) and in there was an article on their tried and true cookbooks and there first was the good old Edmonds cook book. I could not have agreed more that day, fresh from my successful foray. And it made me smile, especially when we think of modern cook books full of fabulous colour photos – this cook book is the original real deal, the entire recipe for the the lemon honey stretches to about two centimetres, and there are four other recipes sharing the page. You know what though – the lemon honey turned out just so. I am even giving the small jar to a friend, not that she knows it yet, but she thought my first jam attempt was more than ok, so I am willing to risk her opinion again! If you have some lemons going spare, can I suggest a batch of lemon honey…

Modern art or…

…did you know that cupcake/muffin trays are essential when baking?!

My daughter and I decided to have a go at baking and decorating some fancy cupcakes. There was a lot of mixture so I put a set of cupcake cases on a baking tray to bake along with those in the cupcake/muffin tray. Let us just say the outcome was not what I was expecting. Who knew I had a talent for cupcake art! As you can see those that were cooked in the cupcake/muffin tray came out as expected. The sprawling mess was demolished while still warm I might add. You cannot believe how utterly delighted I was with the finished product. How often do you make something that looks like the photo in the cook book and they were delicious. These will not be a one time bake methinks. Especially seeing that my daughter does not like marshmallows, so Mum & Dad get to eat the flower ones, not just the bases where my darling girl has only eaten the icing!

Of course without downplaying my incredible culinary skills (tee hee!) these are much easier to make than the final product looks. If you want to given them a go, they are courtesy of the Australian Women’s Weekly Fresh Food for Babies & Toddlers cookbook. I highly recommend this cookbook for new parents by the way. We still make meals from this that the whole family really enjoys.

So what does freedom taste like?

Sweet! And pun intended I am afraid!  I have indulged in culinary pleasures with my new found taste of freedom. Perhaps like many of you, I have a list of things I would like to try but have either not had or made the time. Well that has changed, and I have knocked two things of my list – jam and ice cream – and I have even managed to combine the two.

I remember my Mum making jam, there was always loads of plum jam which was never my favourite, clearly we had plum trees. When we lived in the UK Dad and I would go blackberry picking – I have fond memories of Dad and I scrambling in and around bushes. More importantly blackberry jam was my absolute favourite.

When I was at the Queen Victoria Markets I noticed that I could buy three punnets of strawberries for just $4.50, and that triggered my thoughts and started me looking at recipes. I am now very proud to say that I have made strawberry jam; and it was not as complicated nor as time consuming as I imagined it might be, and it set (with some help from Jamsetta).

I have now also made ice cream for the first time in my life, and even the “hard to get a compliment out of other half” thinks it tastes like the real deal. I made strawberry ripple ice cream by hand, using my jam. Again not that complicated, I would make both jam and ice cream again. Making them myself has also reminded me that jam and ice cream are not health foods! I also made a strawberry cloud cake, definitely not a dieter’s special! My thanks to Annabel Langbein, it was her ice cream base recipe and strawberry cloud cake recipe that I used.

I also wanted to give a shout out to Bee Sustainable on Lygon St, I went there to purchase some Kleerview covers before making my jam, and at the time they did not have any in stock, but very kindly directed me to Fowlers Vacola– back in North Melbourne (asking if I was familiar with North Melbourne – just a little!) and in doing so giving up a sale. And thanks to Fowlers for suggesting the Jamsetta when I said I was making jam for the first time.

So what does freedom taste like? For me rather a sweet start! When you made a change, how was it for you?

Cafe Melbourne in Thames

I consider myself a small town girl in origin. Devonport was my first home, after the age of five I lived in a village in the UK, returning to NZ from the age of ten where Thames was home until I headed off to University.

I was recently back in my old home town of Thames, not having been there for three and a half years. In that time a new cafe has opened, Cafe Melbourne, supposedly bringing some Melbourne to Thames. Given I reside in Melbourne, and have done for 12 years, and have one of the best cafes in Melbourne on our proverbial doorstep (Auction Rooms), feel qualified to pass comment on whether Cafe Melbourne is bringing some Melbourne to Thames… And it does!

We were only in town for for 3 days, and went twice.  The coffee is GREAT, and the food DIVINE.  I laughingly joked (semi-seriously) this is good enough that can we come back on the weekend? (knowing we would be back in the real Melbourne). My other half said the food was of Auction Rooms quality – for those of you who have ever ventured to the Auction Rooms in North Melbourne, this is high praise indeed, even more so if you knew my other half!

And as an aside – the owner’s back story is on the back of the menu, worth the read so won’t spoil that surprise. And as it is with small towns, my Dad was a frequent purchaser from the owner’s father’s shop many years ago, so that random thread of connection.

Did not even think to take photos (or is that, was too lazy to take photos of my own…), here are some of theirs instead. If you ever pass through Thames visit – you will not be disappointed. Imagine any choice from the menu will delight, I highly recommend the chicken salad – it was to die for!

Cafe Melbourne Thames

Cafe Melbourne Thames

Photos courtesy of CafeMelbourne.co.nz

Pineapple Icy Poles

If you are busy, or even if you are not busy I have a great and affordable idea to get you through the ensuing summer days. My daughter is a fan of ice blocks and ice creams. Particularly on the walk back from the park to our place, where we pass a place of potential purchase. Though she is getting familiar with the reply, “don’t have my wallet on me“, which is generally actually the truth. We of course indulge from time to time.

Not long after she was born I bought a little pack of ice block moulds from Ikea. Her father obviously thought I was completely mad as she was literally a baby on milk, but I clearly had a thought for the future, which I have finally put into action.

I literally bought a can of pineapple in juice, whizzed it up with the hand blender that has been largely collecting dust since the pureed food extravaganzas disappeared off the menu. Mixed in some water to dilute it down. Chucked it into the afore mentioned moulds with the help of the small kitchen hand. Left in the freezer over night – and they are good to go. The small kitchen hand has eaten them all, much to the delight and annoyance of her parents. They were seriously yum and we could easily have eaten them.

Think I may branch out and have a go with some fresh pineapple, not to mention there are loads more exotic options out there to try, like layers of strawberries and yogurt. But as a time poor working mum even I can manage these.

Healthy takeaway never tasted better

I don’t know about you, on one hand the end of the year cannot come soon enough – it has been a long year at work, and on the other the thought of getting organised for Christmas is something I cannot bear to contemplate – toast is acceptable for dinner every night until Christmas isn’t it?!  This in a household where both Mum and Dad are adept in the kitchen and share the cooking, but we are struggling beyond measure at the moment – I haven’t even graced my blog almost all of this month :o(  However I think I may have found a proverbial knight in shining armour to make the journey to the end of the year manageable, maybe even somewhat enjoyable.

Delicious, nutritionally balanced take-home meals lovingly prepared by a personal chef? Sounds too good to be true, or at least out of our price range.  However Carlton’s Kitchen & Pantry, the brainchild of trained chef, nutritionist and dietitian Charlotte Miller, with real food and good nutrition at the heart of all it does, looks like it can come to the rescue with a tasty range of high quality take-home meals based on the kind of healthy, gourmet fare we like to cook for ourselves.  The good news is just around the corner, literally and figuratively.

With years of experience working as a personal chef for clients all around the world, Charlotte knows better than most how to cater to individual tastes and keep things interesting and she is passionate about creating good quality meals that take the time and stress out of looking after yourself.  So I am about to check this out – and will let you know how we go.

Cakes 2 the Rescue saved me!

As all parents know, time does not stand still.  In fact I think children mark time like nothing else on earth.  Before, you could pretend that something was only six or 18 months ago. But with a child the barometer that they were two when that event occurred and they are now five – means that three years must have gone by!

And so I have just witnessed three years of my life go by.  My dear sweetheart has recently celebrated her birthday, and I can honestly say that the last year has raced by – too fast in my opinion!  So I, as was her Dad, were pretty keen to make a fuss over her.

Now as a working mum the thought of trying to make some spectacular cake was lending myself to thinking I would leave this task to her dear father (he is actually a pretty dab hand with this sort of stuff).  However one of the Mum’s at my daughter’s daycare mentioned a online business called Cakes 2 the Rescue.  Suddenly the way forward was a no brainer, and an order was placed.  I was blown away just by the package when it arrived. Everything, and I mean everything, had been thought of – including a box to cook the cake in – how cool is that?!  If I had tried to figure out how to make this cake, and then run around to get hold of all the ingredients:

  1. I probably would have had to have planned this before she was even born! and
  2. It would have looked sh*t!

I have to say that the cake was really good value.  And I also have to mention that there may have been a good natured tussle over who would make this, but I am pleased to say I won this one!  And while you cannot see her face – the smile was broad.  Clearly a clever Mum has developed a great business.  I loved all the little touches and could not recommend highly enough for every Mum and Dad.  I already know I will be an annual visitor!

This is NOT a sponsored post – I am just so grateful that this business exists!