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A post about peanut butter

3 Dec

I’m sure I’ve told you about how much of a fussy eater I was growing up.  I lived on cheese pizza, turkey hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and every day at school, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (jam as I now have to say as an Aussie so they don’t think I’m a weirdo who puts jello on my sandwiches).  It was undoubtedly my biggest source of protein.

I am still a huge fan of peanut butter. Especially the stuff RedBalloon sent me.  So is Hannah.  She doesn’t like chicken apart from the occasional nugget (if you can even call that chicken), and only intermittently likes deli ham, and she doesn’t eat any other meat at all.  If I make her a sandwich at home, it always has peanut butter on it.  Two tablespoons (32 grams) of the stuff has 8 grams of protein.  For comparison’s sake, 32 grams of chicken breast has about 9.7 grams of protein.  Yes, chicken has far fewer calories than peanut butter, but if you have a kid who doesn’t like meat, does like peanut butter, doesn’t eat a large volume of any kind of food, and is underweight, daily doses of peanut butter is a great option.  Plus it’s delicious.  Also, don’t be scared of the fat in peanut butter (don’t eat the whole jar at once, obviously, I mean per 2 TBSP serve), since the majority of fat in peanut butter is monounsaturated fat, which lowers LDL cholesterol levels (the bad cholesterol) and polyunsaturated fat which raises HDL levels (the good cholesterol).  Humans also need good fats in their diet for good health.

Unfortunately though, peanuts are also an allergen to a lot of people.  So many that it is banned in most schools, churches, playgroups, and children’s venues.  In Australia, around 3% of kids have a peanut allergy, some so severe that it causes anaphylaxis.  And trust me, that is scary.  When I was young, my brother got stung by a bee and went into anaphylactic shock.  He went all blue and couldn’t breathe until he got a shot of epinephrine.  20% of kids with peanut allergies grow out of it at some point (although I wonder when they think “hey, maybe I’ll try this stuff that I’ve been allergic to my whole life and see what happens”).  Needless to say, I can see why schools, and other venues have such strict peanut rules.

Not that peanuts are even a nut.  They are a legume, like peas, and beans.  Real nuts such as almonds and macadamias grow on trees.

Luckily for my family, we have no such peanut allergies and go through a very large volume of peanut butter in any given week.  We happened to have just run out of our big tub of it when I was volunteered to review a Red Balloon subscription.  I browsed the list of subscriptions, saw the delicious looking peanut butter, and here we are.

Screen shot 2013-11-28 at 9.26.47 PM

I like the quirky labels, and the star on the lid. If you’ve never eaten peanut butter made with only peanuts (and maybe a little salt), you’d probably be a bit surprised after you twist the lid off.  Inside is gooey, slightly runny, lumpy, brown goodness, unlike most peanut butter that you get at the supermarket, that is a firm set mass and isn’t even remotely going to fall out if you turn the jar upside down with the lid on.  You’d think the regular stuff is made of just peanuts, but it’s not.  Most peanut butters are only 90-ish percent peanuts, and have all sorts of added extras like vegetable or palm oil, sugar, molasses, and some even have ingredients with crazy long names that no one even remotely knows what are without consulting google.

Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter, on the other hand, only contains peanuts and a little bit of salt.  And by a little, I mean a little; only 30mg per serve.  The recommended daily intake for most adults under 51 is 2,300mg per day or less, which means that one serving of Pic’s peanut butter is only 1.3% of your daily allowance of salt.

Being a little runny makes it far easier to spread (or eat straight from the jar…) than 90% peanut peanut butters.  It tastes way better too.  If you’ve never had 100% peanut peanut butter, I highly suggest you try it.  You don’t know what you’re missing out on.  Between uses, it does tend to separate into solids at the bottom, oil at the top, but a quick stir brings it back to it’s gooey deliciousness.  The jar recommends storing it upside down so that when it separates it’s easier to stir evenly.  Most 100% peanut butter needs to be stored in the fridge, but Pic’s Really Good Peanut butter is made from Hi Oleic peanuts.  Whilst that may sound like something out of a science lab, it’s not.  They are not genetically modified, but a naturally bred variety that yields peanuts with an even healthier fat profile.

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 11.02.15 AM

ref. SS-AGR-91, Agronomy Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service,
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Revised June 2003.

The different fat profile has the added benefit of a longer shelf life, meaning peanut butter made from Hi Oleic peanuts doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge, just in a dark coolish place.  Mine is in the cupboard.  Not that it lasts long around here with our high peanut butter consumption.

With our first jar of peanut butter, Hannah and I made muesli bars (recipe below), and then chickpea and peanut butter cookies (sounds horrid, but are really yummy).  Basically, we used a whole jar in under a week, but that’s normal for us.  Pic’s really Good Peanut Butter is just that though, it really is really good.  

If peanut butter is not your thing, you’re crazy Red Balloon has heaps of other options, from honey (we use a lot of that too) to coffee, to muesli, to pasta, to candles, and everything in between.  Below is a discount code for you:

Receive $20 off when you spend $79 or more on any RedBalloon experience!
Visit & enter the code REDBLOG14 at the checkout to receive your discount.
Code can only be used once per person. All purchases are subject to RedBalloon T&Cs –
Expiry: 31/12/2014

RedBalloon MarketPlace was created with the aim to bring surprise and delight into the homes of people across Australia.

Each month RedBalloon curates a premium selection of gourmet food, wine and lifestyle boxes, filled with products that the RedBalloon Team has discovered and loves.

Whether you’re looking for a gift that keeps on giving, or a treat for yourself, a subscription to RedBalloon MarketPlace is one way to ensure a box of happiness and lots of smiles every month.

This recipe (below) is for Hannah’s  favourite bars.  We make them often and she gobbles them up.  Don’t be scared of the honey.  Honey has countless health benefits (so many that I’m going to write a whole post about it.  I did a presentation on the health and medicinal benefits of honey for my food science class, so I’ve thoroughly researched the topic).  Make sure you check the label because the cheaper honeys often aren’t pure honey, but have glucose or high fructose corn syrup mixed in.  Certain types of honey, such as acacia are low GI and suitable for most diabetics.
(Sources for peanut butter info and facts are below the vote banner at the end of this post)
Hannah’s Bars:
-1 cup quick oats
-1/2 cup nuts of crunchy stuff of choice (sometimes we use crunchy cereal, sometimes peanuts, or macadamias, and/or seeds. One of our favourite things to use is fibre toppers, which are really crunchy little balls of bran. It just has to be crunchy, and obviously work well with the overall flavours of the recipe)
-1/2 cup raisins/sultanas, or any other dried fruit of choice.  We often use craisins.  Craisins and macadamias go very well together, if you used macadamias for the crunchy element.
-1/3 cup peanut butter
-1/2 cup honey
1. Mix oats, crunchy stuff, and raisins in a large bowl.
2. Put peanut butter, butter, and honey in a saucepan on med-low heat.
3. Stir continuously until mixture comes to a boil.
4. Pour melted mix onto dry mix and throughly stir.
5. Press entire mix into a loaf pan.  It’s much easier to get out once cooled if the pan is lined with baking paper, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
6. Refrigerate overnight.
7. Take entire batch out of the pan and cut into desired slice size.  I make some fairly small ones for the kids and then some regular muesli bar sized pieces for me.
8. Put in airtight container and store in the fridge. I have no idea how long they can be stored for since we have them eaten in less than a week.

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Chocolate carrot/pumpkin cake

3 Aug

I like chocolate.  And cake.  And cookies.  Pretty much all the things that are nutritionally void, and laden with excess sugar and empty calories.  So, i’ve been trying to find recipes for healthy versions of my favourite treats, but more often, just converting the regular ones.

Last night, Hannah and I made a chocolate pumpkin cake loosely based on this recipe that we modified a whole lot to be way healthier.  I also didn’t have quite enough pumpkin, so I used some carrot too.  The cake turned out to be very delicious, moist, and crowd pleasing at playgroup this morning.  At least people told me they liked it…..

Chocolate carrot/pumpkin cake

Chocolate carrot/pumpkin cake:

1 1/3 cup wholemeal self raising flour (1 cup of wholemeal flour has 15.8g of dietary fibre, 63% of your daily needs, compared to a measly 3% in white flour, 14.8g of protein, and also contains calcium and potassium

1/2 cup cocoa (100% cocoa powder) (promotes cardiovascular health, reduces LDL cholesterol whilst increasing HDL cholesterol (which is the good kind), and is also an anti-depressant)

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (regulates blood sugar, fights infection, combats menstrual pain, reduces chronic inflammation)

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (fights fatigue and stress, reduces inflammation, relieves indigestion)

1/3 cup milk (full of calcium and protein, reduces symptoms of PMS)

1 TBSP fresh lemon juice (contains antioxidants, vitamin C, aids digestion)

1/2 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin (cooled) (contains lots of beta-carotene, a cancer fighting antioxidant, high in dietary fibre, rich in vitamins A and B, also contains the minerals calcium, potassium, and phosphorus)

1/4 cup cooked, mashed carrot (cooled) (lots of vitamin A and beta-carotene, reduces risk of lung, colon, and breast cancer, reduces risk of stroke)

1 TBSP pure vanilla extract, preferably the real stuff, not imitation (reduces nausea, gives the illusion of sweetness)

3/4 cup organic butter, softened (Don’t let the butter scare you. We need fat in our diets, and butter is full of vitamin A, D, E and K, contains lecithin, which is essential for metabolising cholesterol, contains antioxidants, aids in mineral absorption, it’s fatty acids have antimicrobial, anti-tumour, and anti-cancer properties.  Yes, it’s high in cholesterol, but we also need cholesterol to “produce a variety of steroids that protect against cancer, heart disease, and mental illness.”  Did you know that human breast milk contains around 50% saturated fat, the highest proportion of cholesterol then almost any other food.  The french, who consume a diet very high in saturated fat from butter and cheese, have a very low rate of heart disease.  To read more about butter, click here. I wanted to give you a link to a journal article, but you wouldn’t be able to read it without paying, so I didn’t. I can read it through my university library website.  Student privileges you see….)

3/4 cup raw organic honey (honey should not be consumed by anyone under the age of 1.  That said, raw honey is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal, it contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulphur, and phosphate, strengthens the immune system.  Commercial honey has been pasteurised and had all or most of the pollen removed, and does not have all of the benefits listed above)

Stevia to taste (can be liquid, or puree the fresh leaves with your pumpkin and carrot) (Stevia is a natural sweetener that is about 300 times sweeter than sugar.  It does not elevate blood sugar levels, and hardly has any calories.  If you use too much, especially of the raw leaves, it does have a liquorice like after taste, but hey, if you like liquorice, that’s not really a bad thing.  I am growing a stevia plant in a pot outside.  You don’t need much of it, so use sparingly.

3 free range eggs (rich in vitamins, and full of easily digestible protein.  Eggs from free range chickens contain higher levels of vitamins and are more resistant to salmonella)


1. Combine dry ingredients in medium sized bowl

2. Whisk milk, lemon juice, vanilla, pumpkin, carrot, and stevia together in small bowl

3. Beat honey and softened butter together in large bowl on medium until well combined

4. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated after each addition

5. Pour flour mixture and milk mixture on top of butter mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon until well combined

6. Pour cake mix into baking paper lined 10 inch round baking pan and bake at 180C (350F) for 35 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.  You can use different sized pans, just keep an eye on the baking time (smaller pans will mean the cake is thicker and will need a longer time, bigger will yield a thinner cake and require less time).

7. If you’re really on top of things, cool the cake on a wire rack, but if not, that’s ok too.  I just let mine sit in it’s pan and it was fine.

After sufficiently cool, put cake in the the fridge.  This cake tastes best cold.  Not room temperature, from the fridge cold.  Once cool, it goes all fudgey and delicious.  Of course you shouldn’t consume a large amount of the cake because despite being nutritious, it still has calories.  You can rest assured knowing that your little “treat” wasn’t just empty calories, but is providing you with lots of good nourishment.

Cut into 12 slices and each slice has 166 calories.

Close up. See how fudgey it is?  Yummmmmmy....

Close up. See how fudgey it is? Yummmmmmy….

If you enjoyed reading this, please vote for my blog. All you have to do is click the link below. That’s it… Clicking the link brings you to the Top Mommy Blogs home page. You don’t have to do anything else. Any clicks from my site to theirs is a vote.  THANKS! Vote for me @ Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory Like my blog? ‘Like’ it on facebook: Pin It You officially have my permission to pin this (as long as it links back to my site).  Just don’t act like you wrote it. Because you didn’t…. Copyright 2013 Sheri Thomson
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Healthy chocolate muffins

3 Aug

Yes, you read that right, healthy chocolate muffins. Hannah is a snacker. Try as I might, it’s hard to get her to meal type stuff. She’s so darn fussy it drives me nuts. Not that I should be talking, I was far worse when I was a child. Sorry mom.

750 Best Muffin Recipes: Everything from breakfast classics to gluten-free, vegan and coffeehouse favorites

But Hannah and I like to bake, so we might as well be baking something that she thinks is a treat but is actually super healthy and full of nutrients. Plus I love chocolate. What woman doesn’t?

People think about chocolate being this deliciously unhealthy stuff that is ecstasy to eat, but then goes straight to your hips after making you hyper active for half an hour after consumption.

Cocoa is not bad for you. The sugar and other stuff they put into it to make it a chocolate bar, however, is. Plus cocoa powder does not have the fatty cocoa butter in it. Sigh. Cocoa or cocoa powder, or cacao, or whatever you wish to call it, contains several minerals, as well as flavonoids, which are quite beneficial to your health.

According to Wikipedia “Cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids, a type of phenolic. The amount of flavonoids depends on the amount of processing and manufacturing the cocoa powder undergoes, but cocoa powder can contain up to 10% its weight in flavonoids. Flavanols are one of six compounds further classified as flavonoids. Flavanols, which are also found in fruits and vegetables, are linked to certain health benefits linked to coronary heart disease and stroke.

The topic of how flavanols benefit cardiovascular health is still under debate. It has been suggested that the flavanols may take part in mechanisms such as nitric oxide and antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiplatelet effects. Benefiting these mechanisms may improve endothelial function, lipid levels, blood pressure and insulin resistance.

Hershey’s Cocoa – 23 oz. canister

See, not bad.

And I use Stevia in my baking. What is Stevia, you ask? Stevia is a naturally sweet plant. Yes, a plant. A plant that is up to 45 times sweeter than sugar. It also has very little calories, doesn’t affect your blood sugar levels, and has been used as a sweetener for centuries.  In Japan, they use stevia instead of sugar in their diet Coke. In Paraguay, they have been using the leaves in medicinal teas for centuries. Brain overload.

Pure Stevia Extract Powder by Kal – 3.5 oz

This recipe is adapted from a recipe by The Dashing Dish . But I didn’t have some of the stuff, and wanted to put in some other stuff, so it ended up being quite different.

Healthy Chocolate Muffins

-2 cups oats (high in protein and dietary fibre)
-2 eggs (high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. All of the egg’s A, D, and E, are in the yolk) Free range chickens produce eggs   with higher nutritional quality.
1 tsp chia seeds dissolved in 9 tsp water for 15 mins (it becomes gelatinous) (High in dietary fibre, and minerals)
1 ripe banana (source of vitamin b6, vitamin c, manganese, potassium, and soluble fibre. Also associated with reducing the risk of colorectal cancer, renal cell carcinoma, and breast cancer)
-1/4 cup pecans (Good source of protein and unsaturated fat, lowers risk of gallstones, reduces levels of bad cholesterols)
1/8 cup Superfoods for Kidz Vital Veggie Powder (optional, but I put it in there to give the muffins an extra nutritional boost. You can read my review of the powder here (full of vitamins and minerals as it’s freeze dried vegetable powder)
-3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (we already talked about cocoa powder…)
-1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup greek yogurt (High in calcium and live beneficial bacterial cultures)
-2 tsp vinegar (Vinegar can reduce the glycemic index when added to carbohydrate foods, anti-microbal)
-1  1/2 tsp baking powder
-1  1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 cup hot water
-1/2 cup nativa (We talked about Stevia earlier)

Makes 12 standard muffins AND 12 mini muffins (some for you and some for the kids)

Wilton Recipe Right Nonstick 12-Cup Regular Muffin Pan


1) Pre heat oven to 180 degrees (celsius)
2) Grease and flour a muffin tin (12 muffins), AND a mini muffin tin (12 min-muffins)
3) Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend/process until smooth.
4) Pour into muffin pans, filling to about 3/4 full (but if you have extra, you can fill them almost to the top)
5) Bake for 12-15 minutes until no longer gooey inside

These muffins are not very sweet, which is great for kids. If you want yours to be a bit sweeter, mix some chocolate chips into the batter before distributing in the muffin pans. Don’t blend/process the chocolate chips. Also, don’t use cupcake wrappers because the muffins will stick to them.

Hannah and Daniel both LOVE these muffins (so do I)! Hannah especially could eat them all day if I let her. Not that I would, but I do feel good knowing that they are good for her. She thinks she’s getting a treat, I know she’s getting lots of nutrients. It’s a win-win 🙂

If you enjoyed reading this, please vote for my blog. All you have to do is click the link below. That’s it… Clicking the link brings you to the Top Mommy Blogs home page. You don’t have to do anything else. Any clicks from my site to theirs is a vote.  THANKS!
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Copyright 2012 Sheri Thomson

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Roast Lamb and Sweet Potatoes – for Baby to adult

28 May

Never in my entire 29 years have I cooked lamb. Or adult sheep. Do people cook adult sheep? Anyway, I’ve never cooked anything remotely resembling sheep.

Until this week. I was road testing the Roast Lamb and Sweet Potato recipe for The Main Meal‘s How to Make Every Bite Count brochure/e-brochure. Ok, fine, it’s actually called Lamb and Veggy (did they spell that wrong? Pretty sure it’s veggie. My spell check thinks so too….) Roast with Potato Wedges, but I didn’t use potatoes, so I kinda had to change it. Since both Hannah and Daniel don’t tend to like potato unless it’s long, fried, and salted, I decided to use sweet potato instead. Besides, sweet potato is rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and it has a low GI. Plus, it tastes way better than normal potatoes. In my opinion….

I had to buy a mini lamb roast, which sent me around the supermarket like a chicken with my head cut off. What the heck does a mini lamb roast look like? I had to read every label on every meat until I found what I was looking for. But eventually I did. They are a bit expensive compared to the usual roast I make – chicken.

I browned the lamb in a pan, as required. If I wasn’t road testing the recipe, I would have been lazy and just shoved it in the oven. I don’t like to use more pans then needed. And why do I need to brown it before cooking it in the oven?  I looked it up on the Main Meal, and found a page called “how and why we brown meat.”  It certainly had the how, but I couldn’t find the why. Sigh. I tried googling it, checked a few other web pages that came up, and still couldn’t find out why you actually brown the lamb before roasting it. Anyone know? Now I’m curious….

After browning, I added the lamb to the already roasting sweet potatoes and carrots and set the timer for 25 minutes. Carrots? Yeah, I added some chunky carrot pieces too. Have you ever tried roasted carrot? DE-licious!!!!

When the buzzer rang, I took it out, rested it as required, made some gravy while it rested, then cut it up. Gravy? Yeah, remember the last recipe I tried?  It was a bit flavourless, so this time I sought advice from Aaron (as he was the one who was actually going to eat it).

“Should I make some gravy?” I asked him. “Does gravy go with roast lamb?”

He said yes, so I made some gravy.

I cut some pieces of lamb off the roast, put them on Aaron’s plate with the veggies, poured on the gravy and served it up. Next I started cutting some more bits off to adapt to toddler and finger food for the kids.

“Are you sure this is cooked enough?” Aaron called from the table.

“Um…I don’t know, I followed the recipe. I cooked it for the longest it said to cook it for.”

Further into the lamb, it was even less cooked. I don’t know if the recipe doesn’t have it cooking for long enough, or if it’s just that our oven is crap. Because it is crap. There is an element at the bottom of the oven, and that is it. No fan, no element on top. What kind of ridiculous oven is that? Everything burns on the bottom, and is raw on top. It’s all uneven too, one side will be burnt, the other half-cooked. Needless to say, I do a lot of turning, flipping, and rotating when I cook.

Regardless of the reason the lamb was undercooked, it was. Probably. I’m not sure. How do you know when lamb is done? I think it would have been great if the recipe included a little blurb about how to tell when the lamb is cooked. I always see chicken recipes saying something about the juices running clear and all that stuff. So what about lamb? What do I look for with lamb? I just googled it and another page from The Main Meal came up near the top of the google search. Hmm… I probably should have looked into that before cooking the lamb. But I didn’t think of it because the recipe had a time on it, and the thought just never crossed my mind.

There is apparently a “touch test,” or you can use a thermometer. The page also has a chart of cooking times. It states 20-25 minutes for a rare roast. Hmmmm… I’m not sure why the recipe would want rare meat when it is intended for babies and toddlers. Can babies and toddlers eat rare meat? (A bit of internet searching just now came back with no, they shouldn’t.)

We weren’t sure, so I put the lamb back in the oven and quickly threw together something else for them to eat, with the plan to give them the lamb the next night.

I gave them some of the sweet potatoes and carrots though, and Daniel loved them. And I mean loved. He gobbled up his serve in about a minute flat.

Meanwhile, the lamb was roasting in the oven. I didn’t leave it in that long, but I did forget to set the buzzer in my haste to find something else for the whingey, hungry kids to eat for dinner.

Crap. It pretty much looked like an old beaten shoe when I took it back out of the oven. Sigh. There would be no eating that. 

“Well, you got to try it Boo, how did it taste?” I asked Aaron. Yeah, I call him Boo. As if you don’t have a silly name you call your spouse.

“Yeah, it was pretty good. Definitely needed that gravy, or some sort of sauce of seasoning or something though. And I think you sliced it too thick.”

Whatever, I’ve never sliced lamb before.

The recipe is a good starting point, but it needs to state other cooking times for if you want it medium or well done. It would be awesome if the recipe including how to know if lamb was done. And it would be super awesome if it also included a seasoning or sauce option as well. Just because a recipe is meant for baby and toddler consumption, doesn’t mean it can’t have seasoning, and lots of flavour. After the initial first foods, that are really bland, store bought baby food tends to incorporate some sort of seasoning in it. Lots of them have basil, parsley, etc. I’m sure there are babies and toddlers out there who don’t like a lot of flavour to their food, but there are also lots that do like it. That’s why it would be great to add a little section for seasoning/sauces.

I might actually try cooking this again. Aaron likes lamb. Hannah has never tried it, and I’d really like to see if she’d eat it. Daniel likes it. At least from his baby food jars. I will, however, look up what seasoning works well with lamb, and whack some on before cooking it. And no, I won’t be trying it. I don’t like red meat, remember?

If you enjoyed reading this, please vote for my blog. All you have to do is click the link below. That’s it… And if you are an email subscriber, clicks from your email don’t count.  If you would like to vote, please go to my blog and vote from there. THANKS!
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Avocado, cranberry, and cashew salad with raspberry dressing

20 May

I decided to enter another recipe in the Gourmet Garden blog off/cook off. Couldn’t help myself… I didn’t have time to film me making this one. Well, I would have had time to film it, but not enough to edit it the way I would like.  Oh well, maybe my other video bored you anyway.

This sounds really weird, but it is super tasty. It looks pretty weird too because of the dressing, but that is what makes it super tasty! Seriously, give it a try.

I came up with the dressing because there is no raspberry vinaigrette here. I googled how to make some, but that required raspberry vinegar, and I didn’t have, nor know where to find that either. So I made up my own dressing. And I think it tastes better anyway. I have only ever tried the dressing on this particular salad, and it works quite well together.

Avocado, cranberry, and cashew salad with raspberry dressing

-1 cup shredded washed lettuce. Not iceberg, and nothing peppery, other than that, pretty much any will do. I use either cos (romaine) or hydroponic.

-1 large tomato, cut into 1-2cm peices

-1/4 cup shredded cheese (tasty, cheddar, or monterey jack)

-1 avocado, cut into 2 cm pieces

-1/4 cup craisins

-1/4 cup cashews

-1/4 – 1/2 cup garlic bagel chips (that’s what I use. I don’t make them, I buy them. The garlic ones are best for this dish!)

-1/8tsp dried dill

splash of olive oil


Put everything in a bowl and toss. Except for the bagel chips, put those on top at the very end.

Raspberry dressing

-1/4 cup frozen raspberries, thawed or defrosted in the microwave (but NOT hot or warm)

-1 TBSP dijon mustard

-1 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp Gourmet Garden basil

1/8+ tsp Gourmet Garden hot chilli (amount depends on how hot you like stuff)

Salt and pepper to taste

If dressing tastes like it needs a bit more acidity, add a bit of lemon juice. The need really depends on the sweetness of the raspberries and therefore varies.


Add all ingredients to a mug or cup and stir. Taste and add more salt/pepper/lemon juice/chilli as desired.  The raspberries will break up and become most of the dressing. This is quite a thick dressing.

Pour dressing on salad and toss/stir to coat and distribute evenly. Yeah, your salad will look reddish-pink and funky. Embrace it! Eat straight away so the avocado doesn’t go brown and the bagel chips soggy.

If you enjoyed reading this, please vote for my blog. All you have to do is click the link below. That’s it… And if you are an email subscriber, clicks from your email don’t count.  If you would like to vote, please go to my blog and vote from there. THANKS!
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Easy smoked salmon and feta quiche

18 May

I’ve decided to participate in the Gourmet Garden Blog off/cook off challenge. What’s that you say? Well, Gourmet Garden sent bloggers who signed up a kit full of different herbs and spices to use in an original recipe. And then of course there are finalists, a cook off, and eventually, a winner. Obviously, want to be the winner. But I’m sure everyone else who entered does too. Sigh.

Anyway, my recipe is smoked salmon and feta quiche. It has sun-dried tomatoes too, but I forgot to say that when I said the recipe name in the video, so I can’t really call it that in writing either. Yes, I’m awesome like that. Sigh. Even my sister in law who doesn’t like quiche likes this quiche. And she’s super picky. Don’t tell her I said that.

This is a good one for making ahead of time too as you can throw it in the oven to warm it up the next day and you’d never know it wasn’t freshly baked just then.

Ok, here is my very first cooking video. It’s a bit dark, but the lighting in our house (ahem, apartment) sucks, and the only time I can make a video without 2 rambunctious kids screaming for my attention is after they go to bed. At night. In the dark. And cold. Sigh.


-6 large eggs
-100ml milk (full cream or lite)
-1 cup grated cheese (tasty, cheddar, monterey jack or similar)
-200g feta cut in cubes (greek or danish, not the kind that smells like   sheep. Yes, some does smell like sheep. Smell some, you’ll know what I mean…)
-100-200g smoked salmon, cut up (amount depends on how salmon-ey you want it to taste. I used about 130 grams)
-8 sun-dried tomatoes, cut in quarters and drained on a paper towel (you can use semi-dried too as they are super delicious)
-Zest/rind of ½ a lemon
-Salt and pepper to taste
-1/2 to 1 tsp Gourmet Garden chunky garlic
-1 TBSP Gourmet Garden basil
-1 sheet puff pastry (if you are in the U.S. you can get puff pastry. It was hard to find when I was there, but I eventually found some at Walmart. Here is one you can get in the U.S.)


1. Take puff pastry sheet out of freezer and put it on a baking paper lined pan (quiche pan, deep dish pie pan, or similar, this recipe is very forgiving!) to defrost while you prepare the quiche. Do not take the dividing sheet off, leave it on top of the pastry so it doesn’t dry out while you prepare the quiche. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. That probably should have been it’s own step. Oh well.

2. Crack the 6 eggs into a large mixing bowl and stir with a fork until whites and yolks are incorporated together.

3. Add salt and pepper. Or not. Up to you. You know how you like stuff.

4. Add grated cheese and stir.

5. Add feta and stir. Cube size can vary, depending on how big you want it. I.E. if you really like feta, maybe you want big chunks. Maybe you prefer really small chunks, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s not one giant block.

6. Add salmon and stir.

7. Add garlic, basil, and lemon rind and stir.

8. Take dividing sheet off pastry. Press pastry sheet into dish. Fold corners towards the middle of the pie so they are not sticking up all weird. If you don’t they will burn. You’ve been warned.

9. Pour quiche mixture on top of pastry. If all the chunky bits are in the same area, distribute them as evenly as you can.

10. Put quiche pan on top of a cookie sheet (to make it easier to get in and out of the oven) and put into oven for 45 minutes to an hour until set. Cooking time depends on pan size and your particular oven. Check it after 45 minutes and if it’s still wobbly in the middle, put it back in for another 15.

That’s it! Enjoy! YYYYYYYYUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Beef Casserole and Dumplings: for baby to adult

16 May

This is the second instalment of  how to make every bite count , in which I review a few recipes for The Main Meal, and of course, attempt to get Hannah to eat meat, and teach Daniel to like, well, everything. As I said in the last post, Hannah pretty much eats like I ate when I was little, and that pretty much drives me nuts. Sigh. At least I eat better now. Apart from the red meat. I still don’t like that. Ick. Except kangaroo. Yeah, I don’t mind a bit of the Aussie icon. All of my fellow Americans are probably cringing at that about now.  All the Aussies are probably muttering something like “good on ya mate.”

This week, I cooked Beef casserole and Dumplings. And by cooked, I mean cut up some stuff and threw it in the slow cooker. How I love the slower cooker. Especially since I have kids. I like that I can throw some stuff in there in the morning when the kids are fresh and will entertain themselves, instead of trying to cook something at 6pm when they are tired and whingey and trying to hang off my legs and poke out each other’s eyes.

As you can see, I opted to go with the ‘to cook in a slow cooker’ method. I was going to use sweet potatoes instead of potatoes since neither of my kids like potatoes, but Coles was out of them.  At 2pm on a Sunday. Random. So I stuck with the recipe and got normal white potatoes.

I wouldn’t say that the prep time is actually 15 minutes. Maybe I’m just a slow chopper, but by the time you add up all the meat and veg chopping and peeling,  plus the zucchini grating and squeezing (which, mind you, is a very messy job) and dumpling making, it was more like 30 minutes of prep time. Luckily it was in the morning, and the kids were cooperative.

Last week, Daniel was in the lumpy/mushy category. Oh wait, I did the last recipe review the week before last. Then we were at Tresillian and I didn’t get one out that week. Sigh. Anyway, last time he was lumpy/mushy. Now, he’s all into the finger foods. I took him and Hannah to the shopping centre the other day at dinner time and bought Hannah a McNugget happy meal (yeah, she’ll sometimes eat chicken if it’s in the form of a nugget. Just like her mommy…). Daniel ate half of her nuggets! He loved them. Just FYI, I don’t always feed my children greasy food. For lunch that day, he had mild green chicken curry with a side of peas, corn and carrots. So there.

This recipe suggests putting the finger food portion into a nice little ramekin/bowl.

HA! Maybe all children aren’t as wild as mine, but if I did that, the ramekin would end up broken on the floor, and the food would be either a) all over me, b) all over Daniel, c) all over the floor with the dish, d) all over the walls, or e) all of the above. No dishes are ever used with my cheeky little monkey, so I just plopped it all on his high chair tray for him to finger.

This is how he eats his food….

He grabbed a carrot and clumsily put it in his mouth. And then spit it straight back out. Sigh. I put a little piece of beef on a spoon and gave that to him. And that went straight back out too. He started making annoyed noises and vigorously rubbing his hands back and forth on his tray, flinging food off it as he did. Daniel didn’t like it. At all. Sigh.

For toddlers, the recipe suggests the little bowl again.

Hannah is fine with little bowls, but prefers one of those melamine plates with the different sections. Since they had steamed vegetables at lunch, I gave them a side of kiwi instead. And cheese. I know Hannah likes cheese. At least there was something on her plate that I knew she would eat.

She took one look at that plate and declared she didn’t want it. She wouldn’t even sit down. She came over and stole the cheese but refused to try anything else for 10 minutes. I finally got her to try a tiny bit of carrot in exchange for giving her something else to eat if she didn’t like it. After all, I just wanted her to try it! She put it in her mouth. And then spit it out onto the floor. Sigh.

When Aaron got home from work, I dished him up a big bowl of the casserole. He likes beef. He was thrilled to be having beef again. I never make him beef. Except for the last time I reviewed one of these recipes. He took a bite.

“Um…I think I want something else for dinner.” he told me. Sigh.

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked.

“It has no flavour.”

This one was a complete miss. Sigh.

If you do want to make it (maybe add a bit of something for flavour…), here are the instructions to make it into smooth puree, and lumpy/mushy:

You can find all of the Make Every Bite Count baby to adult recipes in the e-brochure here.

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Beef and Vegetables: A recipe for babies to adults

29 Apr

I do not want my kids to adopt the same eating habits I had as a child.  I was pretty much the worlds fussiest eater. I survived on: milk, macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, turkey hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (on processed white bread), McNuggets, and of course, junk food (as if the other stuff wasn’t junk food…). Seriously, I’m not even joking. That is what I ate. All. The. Time.

Even when we went out for dinner, my parents would have to go through the drive through of McDonald’s to get my my nugget happy meal.  Then we’d take my bright red box with yellow arch handles into the restaurant with us. I’d eat that, they’d eat the restaurant food. How embarrassing. For them. I was little, I didn’t care.

Hannah is proving to be a lot like I was when I was little. Sigh. Not as bad, by any means, but still picky and it’s hard to get her to try anything. She doesn’t like meat, except hot dogs (hmmm….sound familiar?), and the occasional chicken nugget. But, she does like vegetables (especially from the garden), fruit, and nuts, so she’s not doing too bad.

Daniel, he’ll eat pretty much anything. I’ve been giving him Rafferty’s Garden flavours of the world so he gets used to all different tastes and hopefully won’t turn out to be a horrible eater like I was.

I don’t know how to cook meat. I don’t like red meat. I think it tastes disgusting. But I still want my kids to eat it because I know it’s full of protein, vitamins, and iron. Aaron loves meat. Occasionally I attempt to cook it for him, but it always ends badly. Think chewing on a bit of car tire. Yeah, pretty much like that.

But, I’ve been asked to test some meat recipes that can feed the whole family (except me of course, because I don’t like it!), so I gave it another go. You can easily adapt the finished dish into puree, lumpy, finger food, and/or toddler fare. Awesome. That is just the sort of thing I need since I don’t have a lot of time cook. Well, I would, except that when I am in the kitchen, Daniel is not impressed. He stands up holding onto the baby gate, shakes the daylights out of it, and screams bloody murder whilst yelling “MUM, MUM-MUM, MUM!” So yeah, quick, easy recipes to feed the whole family would be a welcome change.

This is the fist recipe I tried (more to follow in the weeks to come). You can find the entire eBrochure, which is full of information and recipes for the whole family at The Main Meal. Keep reading below to find out how I went with the recipe.

When I glanced at the recipe, I saw that it said “prep time 15 mins, cooking time 8 mins.” Awesome. Quick, easy meal. But then, as I got everything out to start cooking, I realised they did not include the pumpkin in those times. You need the pumpkin to add to the blender to make it baby food, but it’s not actually included in the recipe. Kind of annoying.

That made my whole schedule a bit off, as the pumpkin takes longer to cook then the other stuff, but I continued with it anyway. I decided to roast the pumpkin, and also added some carrot in there as well since roasted carrot is so darn delicious. You could also cut them into small pieces and boil them instead (that would be faster and more easily mushed).

I thought I had skewers, but I didn’t. Sigh. So, I decided to just stir fry everything instead. I used red capsicum because that’s what I had in the fridge, and cut up a regular tomato instead of the cherry ones. It’s all about using what you have!

If it weren’t for the pumpkin, the prep and cook time is accurate, and it’s  pretty darn easy to make too.

To make it Daniel (8 months old) friendly, I followed these instructions:

Daniel absolutely loved it. Scarfed it down like there was no tomorrow.

For Hannah, I followed these instructions. Minus the skewer, since I didn’t have any:

Much to my dismay, I have never gotten Hannah to try beef. Ever. Except for salami sticks. For some strange reason she loves those. Usually, she looks at it, turns her nose up, and declares she doesn’t like it. Yeah, before she even tries it (just like I did when I was little…Sorry Mom and Dad, now I know just how annoying that is!). So I didn’t really have high hopes.

But she did try it. She grabbed a piece of that meat and took a very decent sized bite, tearing the bit in her mouth from the bit in her hand with her teeth like a seasoned meat eater.  And then she chewed. And swallowed. She didn’t even spit it out! I was flabbergasted!

“Do you like it?” I asked her.

“Yeah, it’s good!” She told me.

She didn’t eat any more of the meat, but she tried it. And that’s major progress, so that’s good enough for me!

As for Aaron? He liked it too. I think that’s the first beef thing I’ve made that he’s actually liked. It wasn’t like chewing a tire, and he ate it all. “It’s actually good.” He told me. Um…thanks.

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Smoked Salmon and avocado rice paper rolls

8 Mar

Some days, it’s just too hot to put the oven on.  So for dinner, I made something that didn’t involve the oven, the stove top, or even the microwave.  And, they’re super delicious….

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Rice Paper Rolls


-100g rice Vermicelli noodles

Rice paper roll wrappers

-Rice paper wrappers. The large ones, not the small ones (number depends on how full you fill them. When I make this I make 7 rolls)

-Smoked salmon (again, amount depends on how much you want to put in each roll. Some like a lot, some like a little)

-1 Avocado

-Sweet chilli or Poonsin sauce (available from the asian section of the grocery store) if you don’t like chilli

Sweet chilli sauce and poonsin sauce


1. Make noodles according to packet instructions (mine said to put noodles in a bowl, pour boiling water on them and wait 2 minutes. Drain them and rinse with cold water)

2. Wet a paper towel and spread it out on the bench (counter)  

3. Put 1 rice paper wrapper in a bowl of warm water until pliable.  About 20-30 seconds.  If it starts folding and sinking to the bottom, it’s been in too long.  It may take a couple of goes to get the right timing (it took me a while anyway, but now I can do it right every time)

4. Spread soaked rice paper wrapper on wet paper towel.

5. Put desired amount of noodles on to rice wrapper as indicated on the packet (in a line in the left third of the wrapper). If you put

Wrapper, rice noodles, sauce, salmon, then avocado

a lot of noodles on, you will have a larger roll, less noodles for a smaller, more compact roll.

6. Drizzle with chosen sauce. You could put the sauce on the side and dip the rolls in the sauce, but I find that a bit difficult. All the innards fall out of the roll every time I try to do it that way….

7. Put smoked salmon on top of sauce and noodles. Amount of salmon is up to you. I like mine to be just one layer, covering the top of the noodles and sauce.

8. Add some avocado on top of salmon. Amount is up to you. I use 2 slices in a line.

9. Wrap as per packet instructions (there will be step by step instructions with illustrations on the packet).

Repeat steps 3-9 for each roll. If not eating straight away, store rolls on a moistened paper towel (on a plate), with another moistened paper towel on top, cling wrap on top of the paper towel, and put it in the fridge. Eat within 24 hours.

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Moist, delicious Banana Bread

25 Feb

Hannah wants to bake all the time.  She used to actually help me bake, stirring and putting things in the bowl.  But now she wants to have her own bowl, her own utensils, her own ingredients.  She has her own little play kitchen right next to our kitchen bench (counter).  I put an ingredient in my bowl, then put a little bit of the same ingredient in a measuring cup for Hannah.  Hannah tips it in her bowl on her play kitchen and stirs it around, eating it as she goes.  Her whole play kitchen gets covered in gooey half-mixed batter. Her hair gets clumps of food stuck in it. This continues the whole time I make something.

We made some delicious banana bread the other day (adapted from my mom’s recipe), so I thought I’d share the recipe with you.  I was thinking of making recipes a regular part of my blog.  Like once a week, or once every 2 weeks.  What do you guys think?

Moist, delicious banana bread:

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey (I used manuka honey)

3 mashed bananas

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup apple sauce

1/4 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups wholemeal (brown/whole wheat)  self-raising flour

pre-heat oven to 180c

1. Combine all ingredients except flour.

2. Stir for 1 minute with a wooden spoon.

3. Add flour.

4. Stir until moistened.

5. Pour into baking paper lined loaf tin

6. Place loaf tin into larger pan (I used a brownie pan)

7. Put water in larger pan, to about the half-full mark

8. Bake for 50-60 minutes

Putting the loaf pan in another pan filled with water ensures the bottom of the banana bread doesn’t burn and also keeps everything nice and moist whilst cooking.  Our oven is beyond ridiculous, with just one element at the bottom of the oven.  No, it’s not fan forced either, so if I don’t cook with the in-a-larger-pan-with-water method, the bottom burns and the top is raw.  Why would they make an oven like that???????????????

Baking paper lined loaf tin in a brownie pan filled with water

The finished product

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