Friday, April 24, 2015

ANZAC Cookie Sundae Sandwich

My son is a budding chef! He has really got into trying new and interesting foods and creating new ideas. Last night was dessert night and we have ANZAC cookies as its ANZAC Day tomorrow. These cookies are purchased from Woolworths, personally they are my favourites but I am not sure that the CWA (Country Women's Assoc) would approve of them. I have discovered the original ANZAC biscuits were not chewy but crisp and had to crumble in a particular way so that they would last in the battlefields. Americans had their Hershey Bars, but the Aussies won out with handmade biscuits! However, I still like the chewy versions!!  For my non-Aussie readers, these cookies are pretty much the same as oatmeal cookies.

All you need for this dessert is two ANZAC cookies that have been microwaved for 15 secs. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to one cookie and a swirl of chocolate topping then sandwich the other cookie on top and Bob's your sweet uncle!! Very simple and irresistibly delicious!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ultimate Moist Healthy Choc Chip Banana Cake

This is one of the best recipes I have come by for banana cake. I think what makes a great banana cake, bread, or slice is super ripe bananas. I hid some healthiness into this cake with chia seeds and linseed meal, but balanced it out with some semi-sweet choc chips.  Some of you might argue its not so healthy, but its better than packaged snacks from the supermarket and you can tweak it to suit your level of sweetness or what you consider to be healthy. Thanks must got to Balancing Beauty and Bedlam where I discovered her recipe and tweaked it to suit my tastes. Personally I don't think the cake needs frosting, but the link is provided if you wish to add it.  I hope you get the same amazing results as I did.

Banana Cake

125g butter
3 medium very ripe bananas mashed as smooth as its possible
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1tsp vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 cup coconut flour
1 1/4 cup plain flour
1 tsp bicarb (baking) soda
pinch of salt
1 cup semi sweet choc chips (optional)
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp linseed meal

 Turn on oven to 180C or 375F and line a lamington or jelly roll tin with baking paper.  I used a stand mixer on medium speed. When you add the flours start on low and increase to medium.

1. Cream butter and two sugars until creamy.
2. Add eggs one at a time - i.e. add an egg mix it through and repeat with each egg.
3. Add Vanilla and mashed bananas and  mix through until combined.
4. Add flours, bicarb soda, and salt and mix on low then increase speed gently until combined.
5. Add chia seeds, linseed meal, and choc chips and stir gently on low or even using a spoon until mixed through.

Pour out onto the tin and spread evenly across the tin until its even and smooth. Its good to use a spatula for this.

Bake in oven for 20 mins or until golden brown on top and cooked in the centre. Allow to cool on a wire tray.  ENJOY:)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ritz Carlton 5 star cookies, The Best Cookies!

These are by far the best cookies I have made. Once upon a time I would have argued until I fainted that the Neiman Marcus cookies I use to make all the time were THE best. These NEW best cookies are much easier and less fiddley to make and you can yield 50+ cookies (depending on your size) very easily. I made about 40 large cookies and the rest were smaller ones. Enjoy:)

Ritz Carlton Cookies

565g (5 sticks) butter softened to room temp
5 eggs (room temp)
2 cups brown sugar packed
2 cups caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
6 cups plain flour
1tsp salt
4 cups choc chips/bits

1. Cream butter and two sugars until smooth and creamy on medium speed

2. Add eggs one at a time

3. Add vanilla and beat in on high speed until all combined and smooth

4. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda, and salt.

5. Add flour mixture to wet mixture 2 cups at a time.

6. Fold choc chips through.

Place cookie dough in fridge for about an hour.

Pre heat oven to 180C. Place large dessert spoonfuls of mixture on cookie sheet / baking tray spaced evenly apart. Place in fridge or freezer for a further couple of minutes before baking. While one sheet is baking set up the next sheet and leave in fridge or freezer until ready to be baked. Bake 10-12mins or until browning on top.

Take out and allow to stand a minute or two then cool on a wire rack. Repeat until all cookies are deliciously baked and you feel like you want to camp out in your kitchen until the smell subsides!

NB. I didn't actually remember to count all the cookies but there were at least 50, very likely to be close to 60 or more cookies. At least a dozen of them were small sized about the size of your hand when you make a circle with the first finger and your thumb, but count from the edge of your finger and thumb, not the inside circle.  I do recommend you refrigerate your cookie dough, unless its a cold winters day and your heater isn't working.

** I also froze a portion of the cookies and hid them at the back of my freezer so my kids  wouldn't find them....they did though!! ***

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What you NEED to know about Planning a trip to DISNEYLAND

According to my kids and husband, they think I am weird because I have no desire to go to Disneyland. I am not a hater at all, I just think there are other awesome things to do with that kind of money. Anyway, 5 against 1, the odds were totally against me and now we are adding a trip to Disneyland for our family  USA trip in May, so they can tick it off their bucket lists. I have to say here, that my kids are super lucky. I didn't go on an aeroplane until I was 16 and I paid for my own ticket. The trip was interstate to see family, so while I loved it, it was nothing as amazing as the USA. The first time I actually went to America was with my sister and I was pregnant with baby number 3 and that was in fact the first time I had ever needed a passport. I think I was 26 or something like that. My kids have had their passports for almost 4 years and they have been to Bali, New Caledonia, and now America.

So once we decided we were going to America, I decided to research and by this I mean, Pinterest and Blogs. I find so much cool and useful information about other people's experiences on these sites before I venture to Google. There are heaps of blogs written by parents who frequent Disneyland or do a tonne of research and share their tips for free.  We are a family of 2 adults and 4 kids aged 14, 12, 9, and 6.   These are the things I have discovered and are paying them forward to you.

1. Disney Forecast Crowd Calendar - I totally wish I knew about this site before we booked our flights. Two days earlier would have meant that it was very likely Disneyland would be a ghost town and we had better chances of getting on heaps more rides. I am sure Disneyland is always busy to some extent, but how awesome would it be to go when there are heaps less people there and getting on rides is easier. I have heard horrible stories of people waiting in line for up to 3 hours just for one ride! Anyway, this link will come in super handy for many of you I am sure.

2. Cost for food inside the park  - This site is super helpful, as it gives you are run down on what food outlets and restaurants offer and where they are in the park. The reviews are a helpful guide and if you like to plan where you want to eat, so that it not an issue on the day, this is a good way of going about it. I think it's also good to plan how much you are willing to spend on food. We haven't decided exactly what we want to do yet, but I really want to try a Dole whip. I see these yummy pineapple whippies all over Pinterest and they look so good!  The other thing I want to mention about the food, is that its not that badly priced. Most American blogs will have you think it's super expensive, but coming from Australia, a kids meal priced at $6.50USD at a fun park is fairly reasonable.  I have also prepped my kids and will continue to do so, that we are going to be sharing a lot of food and treats, especially at Disneyland. This way we can try a number of things but not be purchasing 4 or 5 lots of one thing, only to find out that they don't like it and hubby and I are chowing down on 4  lots of donuts or something less desirable!!  I really don't like when that happens.  This blog has lots of other helpful tips and guides, so be sure to pin it on your Pinterest Board!

3. There are no discount tickets to Disneyland - well this isn't entirely true, you can get some sort of discount at this site, but I am not sure if its only for USA residents. Discounts are very minimal and it usually only counts on multi day passes with the park hopper included.  We have no interest in paying for the park hopper option. Park Hopper basically means that you can switch from Californian Adventure Park to Disneyland or vice versa, on the same day. However, if you get a 2 day pass or more, you can spend one day at one park then the next day at the other. You can also get a 'Magic Morning" with a 3 day or more pass. This allows you (once) to enter the park 1 hour before the rest of the public can enter. So if the park opens at 11am, the Magic Morning starts at 10am (this is an example only).

From what I understand, Disney has a very tight hold on the ticket prices. If you get a discount at all its by as little as $10USD or so, and I have discovered, if its from a legitimate site, you should purchase it. I suppose if you think about, $10USD per ticket is a savings you can spend inside the park on food.  If you come across people selling tickets on Ebay don't purchase them. Any tickets being sold at a huge discount must be questioned and never purchased.  From what I read, a little while ago, people were purchasing 5 day park tickets and were selling the remaining unused days online. To stop this from happening, its my understanding that Disneyland now takes photos of people with their multi-day passes as they
enter the park, and they also ask for photo identification to confirm the name matches on the ticket. It's also helpful to purchase your tickets on the Disney Website and not at the gates. Disney actually encourages people to do this. I think its similar to the Cinema lines. If you have online tickets, you have a admission line just for you and its suppose to be quicker than waiting to purchase the tickets at the gates.

4. Tips, Secrets and Helpful Apps -  I'm not sure about all the tips you will find on this link. Some are a bit lame, but the one about the Waiting time App, is worth me sharing it. How cool, is that?

5. Accommodation  - staying at any of the hotels on the Disney Resort premises, are always going to be crazy ridiculous.  The longer you stay, though the better value it is. Well, the longer you stay in any hotel near and around Disneyland is the same. Fourth, fifth and sixth nights generally speaking are free. However the cost for staying onsite with our family was going to be just under $5000USD with tickets included. Off site it ranges from $1800USD up to $3000USD including tickets for 3 nights. Those savings can be spend elsewhere. The main thing that affects the price, other than star rating, is the distance to Disneyland itself. The further away, the more affordable the accommodation becomes.  When we book accommodation where possible, we book a family suite. This is more affordable and heaps more conveniant as we are all together. We are planning to stay at the Hyatt Hotel Suites which is about 3km walk to Disneyland. That is doable with our kids at their age. Some hotels have free shuttle services and others charge a small fee, I have seen some hotels charge $5USD. We don't have breakfast included in our accommodation, but if you can score a deal including breakfast (usually American style continental buffet breakfast) then that is a bonus.  If you have a car and are considering parking, keep in mind that parking costs $17USD per day at Disneyland. There are some other slightly cheaper options, but you are again, outside of the park and keep in mind there will be walking involved.

I think I have covered the initial basic steps in planning a Disneyland trip. I will add more as I find them. Other than what I have shared, the best advise really comes from people who have been there, so Pinterest and Blogs I think are the best way to go. We have also been watching clips on YouTube of people sharing their experiences on rides. This was great, because I have a basic plan on what rides  get the busiest and which ones are fun, but less popular etc and which ones are really awesome.  I hope I have helped you some. If you have any tips to share, please do so in the comments or if you have written a blog post of your own, share it in the comments. I would love to read it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Planning for Christmas - Kid's Wish List

With Halloween over, I know have some time to plan for Christmas. Being a Christian, this a very important social holiday to enjoy and celebrate. I plan to decorate my house, particularly outside as big as I did for Halloween. But all the decorating aside, the other part that a lot of parents stress about is the presenting 'organising'. What should Santa be bringing this year? Here is a letter I found on Pinterest. This is a good way to start your planning and it also teaches a child there is a purpose behind the gift. Everyone does it differently, but the last 5 years or so, I have been trying to limit the amount of presents on Christmas morning. Both my husband and I are from large families, and we do draws and Grandparents also purchase for our kids. So they aren't short of receiving presents. I also like my kids to remember charity and service at Christmas time too, and not so much what they WANT.

So here is the letter, which I have borrowed from here and you should be able to get a better downloadable copy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Celebrating Halloween 2014 on a budget Part 1

Halloween this year was a lot of fun. Since we moved to a larger home and a home that faces out to a common road, I felt the need to decorate the outside of the house. My previous post was a taste of the the things I used as my inspiration this year. So here are the pictures of what I ended up making and displaying. The best fun I think was the packing tape ghosts. Lots of fun, and great effect, though in the end I didn't end up displaying them quite the way I had hope I would. I bring that down to my husband being absent on an overseas business trip for most of October!

The way it worked out for me this year, was a Halloween Party the week before Halloween for family and friends. Then we celebrate on the 31st and welcome trick or treaters. Then this year, we had a trunk o treat the day after halloween. So it was really stretched out for our family and we have more lollies than we know what to do with!!

For the family and friends party this is what I did.

This was my arty farty wall!! The Monster Melodies is a vinyl record cover I scored at a Vinnies for $1. The book pages come from Stephen King's Pet Cemetery and I stuck and painted them down with PVA glue onto canvases. Then the wicked picture is a free printable I printed up and put in a $2.50 frame from BigW.  All these items can be packed away for next year.
I already have the cake stand, which is always handy. I recommend if you don't have a cake stand but like to do parties or entertain, get one. They are invaluable. The styrofoam skulls were $4 each. They are great and the cheapest ones I could find. The table cloth was some black lace material I picked up a couple years back on the discount table from Spotlight. Can't remember how much but I am sure it was less than $10. We have an 8 seater table. All these items can be reused for next year.

This decoration is one of my favourites. A packet of black garbage bags from BigW cost me $1.90. I cut the sides apart, taped it to the window frame and cut vertical strips, the worse the better!! Has a great affect.

A friend of mine had a halloween party last year and had the syringes filled with Grenadine. I had a super hard time finding Grenadine this time, so settled with some sour cherry syrup (Italian) from my local fruit market. The colour matched the amazing taste! Kids squirted the syrup into their lemonade. I found syringes on Ebay and purchased 50 for around $30 including postage. I have washed them up and will reuse them next year or for other fun events! This idea went down really well, everyone loved the novelty and it was amazing to see them displayed on the table.

Finally, you maybe wondering what did I wear that day? Well, if you aren't on my personal FB page, here it is. I decided to invest in some body/face paint. Having 4 kids, it will come in handy no doubt!The only thing I purchased for the outfit was the hat and some stockings - which were not one size fits most for adults! I think the label got mixed up and should have been for kids, because they didn't get past my knees! I am 5ft 9, so I know I am a little but taller than the average, but still! Unfortunately i don't have a picture of the stockings, I should have for comedy purposes, but I didn't think of it at the time! I just cut the stockings off so they looks like individual socks! Waste not want not right!  I had my own black top and skirt for the outfit and now I have a hat to use again. What do you think?
Well, that is it for Part 1. Stay tuned for the outside decorations and what I decided to do for my Halloween night costume.

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