Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Why it's good for my kids to go to school.


Part of me is always sad when holidays end. My crew are such good company. And today my crew headed back to school for another term.
But another part of me is very happy knowing that what we choose works well for us.

It's a gorgeous rainy day in Melbourne.
It makes me so happy to know that our rain tanks are filling up - we use a lot of water in our house and I like to know that it is being collected by us to use by us.

Every time school goes back I lament the end of holidays.  The walls echo with emptiness. And it takes a couple of days to get back into the changed rhythm.
I love the sounds of a busy holiday house.  Lots of extra adults and children around.  It is heart filling for me.  The stuff of life.

Yet as much as I LOVE to have them near, I know that for me (and for them) it is better for all of us if they learn to develop a life aside from me at school.

It is important to me that my role is as mother not as teacher- and although teaching is very much what I do every single day with my kids, the formal teaching role would not fit well.  I truly admire those that can delineate this and make it work for them and their children.

I think it is important for my kids to navigate the social arena of a diverse array of people their age.  I think it is important for them to navigate the trickier sides of people.
I think that learning how to get along in a community involves being alongside people you wouldn't normally choose to.

In our adult life our work places will see us needing to negotiate and work with people that are not like us, that have differing ideas, that work differently, that behave differently, that have different values.
It is SUCH an important skill to learn how to do this in a respectful way. As is learning how to deal with conflict.

I think it is super important for my kids to have role models that are not me or their dad & to be exposed to them every day. While I like to think that my kids can learn a lot from us,  it is unrealistic and unhealthy to not expose them to other ways of thinking and to other levels of expertise.  I am all for teaching my kids to tap into people's expertise.  Just as I hope one day they will share their own unique expertise with others.  This is how we learn  & progress and keep our minds open.

I also love that my kids get to have a bit of life that is secret from me.  I don't need to know every little thing in their life.  My role is to let the line go out a bit further until eventually I let it go all together.  They need to take responsibility for parts of their life without me by their side.  It is good for them to practise this a little in the safe confines of a school community. I want them to feel confident to let me go- as hard as that is for me.

My kids need to be away not just from me but also their brothers too.  Learning how to be a good sibling is a very different prospect to learning how to be a good friend.

And then there is this- I need a break from my children to be the best mother.  You all know how much joy I get from my children but parenting five is relentless.  I need to invest in me a little too.  And when I do it is no surprise that I am better at investing that energy back into my family.  I think it is super important that my children SEE me investing in me too.

So while I love the lazy slow starts of holidays, there are enormous benefits for all of our family for my kids to go to school.
As hard as it is for me to have an empty house at the end of school holidays I know very well that the emptiness is a good thing for all of us.

Today I think I will breathe in the smell of long awaited rain & bake a cake.

What are you up to today?
I hope it is a good one whatever you are up to.
xx
GG

(NB. I have edited the title of this post as it became clear I had upset people who home school their children. It was never my intention to suggest that my way was any better than people who home school and I never meant to make it seem as if it was a competition about which was better or that their children miss our on any of the things I feel my children have. I say in my post that I admire people that do make home schooling work for them, I really do!  - it was merely meant to be a post about why I choose what I do.
I am sorry that it may have come across like this and can see how it may have, hence why I have changed the title to avoid any further confusion.)


YOGHURT & SPEKUULAAS Raspberry cheesecake.
Speekuulaas are a biscuit I have known since my childhood. 
Cinnamony and heavy with fragrance. Crunchy and delicious.
Mr Girlfriend is a big fan of cheesecake & so I thought i would make a cheesecake base using the crumbled up Almond speekulaas I had in the pantry.
I wanted to try and substitute what would normally be sour cream for yoghurt to reduce the heaviness.
Gee whiz it was DELICIOUS!
The yoghurt & raspberries lightens it and adds a lovely sourness which matches the richness of the rich biscuit base.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

12 almond spekuulaas (normal ones will be fine!)
60g butter
600g light cream cheese
120g greek yoghurt
175g caster sugar
1tsp pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 tblsp plain flour

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 180C

In a food processor grind the spekuulaas until it turns to crumbs
Mix together melted butter & ground spekuulaas.

Line & grease a 22cm springform tin.

Place the butter & ground spekuulaas onto the base, patting down so it is evenly spread across base.
Bake for 8 mins. Remove and let cool.

Mix all other ingredients & pour into tin.

Bake for 40mins. Centre will be slightly wobbly.

Let cool in tin.

Top with Raspberries & dust with icing sugar.



Enjoy this new to me toon from this great band from Brooklyn (SO much great music comes out of Brooklyn doesn't it!)

Friday, 18 April 2014

Introducing Henry

Mr Girlfriend and I met in 1987.

The following year we bought our first car.

A series 3 LWB Land Rover.

Here I am camping with it approximately eleventy billion years ago.


And so began a long love affair.

Between Mr Girlfriend & I and with these unreliable but loveable beasts that are Land Rovers.

We owned that car for a long time before we felt we needed to be sensible and buy something more reliable.

The nostalgia of owning one has never left us though.

We look longingly at them and can't help but admire them wherever we roam.

Then last year I had the opportunity to purchase one from a friend.

The story of this particular car is a special one.

We felt lucky to be able to give it a new life & for our lads to experience the romance and nostalgia of Land Rovers.

And so I bought it for Mr Girlfriend as a birthday gift late last year.

It has been at the mechanic since being brought back to life- he was in no hurry.

Yesterday, five months later I took hold of it and drove it away.

This particular one was built just a couple of years before we met.

A 9 seat troop carrier.

Meet Henry.........

We are planning on meeting up with his comrade  Percy very soon for a camping trip on Bruny Island.




PEAR, RHUBARB & GINGER upside-down cake:
It is a lazy Friday today, rain falling outside.
A perfect day to be baking.
I had seen this recipe and thought it sounded delicious. 
This is my own version. 
The original recipe asks for fresh rhubarb but I had some Rhubarb compote in my fridge that I make to add to muesli, so I used that instead ( I boil a bunch of chopped rhubarb with some sugar and 2 star anise with a little water until syrupy- i have this in my fridge to have on top of muesli)- I also had some pears I needed to use.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 200ml rhubarb & star anise compote (see notes above)
  • 1 pear, cored and sliced
  • 80g soft butter cut into chunks
  • 140g soft brown sugar
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 175g Plain flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tspn ground ginger
  • 150ml extra light olive oil
METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Line a 20cm springform tin with baking paper.

In a large bowl combine flour, caster sugar, eggs, baking powder, ginger and olive oil.  Mix well.

Pop the cubes of butter evenly around the bottom of the baking tin and sprinkle the soft brown sugar all around.

Place into oven for 5 mins.

Remove from oven.


Place pear slices around the base and smear the rhubarb compote over the pears.

Now pour cake batter over the top and place in oven for 55 mins or until skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool in tin before upturning onto a plate.  (be sure to run a knife around the edge so as to separate the caramel from the tin.)



One of my fave tracks from 1985- the year our Landy was made.

Monday, 14 April 2014

On Blogging, Being Real & Rad Communities


On the weekend I flew up to Sydney to be a part of the Kidspot Voices of 2014 Masterclass.

Gourmet Girlfriend has been listed in the TOP 30 Australian Blogs in the Food & Wellbeing category, alongside a whole lot of of incredible Australian talent-
A M A Z I N G. I am super excited & honoured to be alongside the other people in that list!
There is no doubt that these kinds of accolades are incredibly lovely.  To be noticed for all the hard work that goes in to publishing a blog regularly is really lovely. And conversely for the people who have missed out on the Top 100 after the excitement of nominations it is a really hard & sad time to miss out.

Many of my favourite Australian blogs have been recognised- either in the initial nominations, the Top 100, or the Hall of Fame.
It is  great way for people navigating the blog landscape in Australia to have a look around at the incredible talent out there.

You can head here for the Top 100.

And here for the Hall of Fame.

The Australian Blog landscape is filled with incredible talent and each year I am amazed at how much it is growing.  I really encourage you to take a look around at the blogs listed here.

On the weekend at the Masterclass there were 3 different panels talking about topics such as using Facebook, Sharing on Social Media & Creativity and Inspiration by panellists with great experience in the business.

Every time I attend one of these classes I am thankful I do. Without a doubt it reaffirms why  I do what I do.  I LOVE my little space here and feel ever so thankful to have built this community of rad peeps that I get to chat to on a regular basis.

I LOVE to meet with other bloggers at these events- old mates from years of being in blog world and all the fab new people involved. It really is ace to connect in real life.

Every time I attend one of these events I am also left feeling as if there is SOOOO much stuff I do not understand and a wave of overwhelming "Oh my gosh I have no idea what I am doing" floods over me & a sense of panic that my blog is just not good enough & schmick or professional enough.  I  look around at all the other amazing people and feel as if I could never be like them.

Then I sit back and remember that my blog is about me, about being real. I'm not really schmick or professional.  I'm wonky and not perfect.  I don't get the HTML stuff, I've tried but my eyes glaze over and my brain goes to mush.  But really it shouldn't and doesn't matter. Being true to me is what matters. Doing it my way is what matters.  Showing you guys a bit of me is what it is about. That is what makes all blogs so wonderful. So much difference, so much choice- all unique!

But what I hope I do get right is interacting with you guys- my readers.  My gorgeous and treasured GG community! I know this is what a lot of other bloggers value the most too. That is where my investment is. YOU.

So every time I start to worry about the super schmicky ways and how I am not doing very well at that, I try to remember that the community part of what is going in here at GG is alive and kicking & that is what is dearest to me.

That is and always has been what drives me.  It is about sharing my world with like minded people and creating a space where we can all hang out together learning ace stuff & being inspired by each other- just like I was on the weekend by others.

Thanks so much for your treasured involvement in the GG space. It means the world to me.

I hope your week is a wonderful one with love, laughter and lots of your fave peeps at your kitchen table.

What's for dinner at your place?

xx
GG

BEEF & GUINNESS PIE:
I think I might make this....I feel a bit whacked out today and in need of some super comfort style food. This fits the bill perfectly!
We went away recently and spent some time as a family in one of most favourite places on earth- South Gippsland.
We always go to the local Accredited Farmers market  to get some local goodness when we are there.

This time my eldest boy chose some local Venison to make a pie.
This is based on his recipe. GOSH it was so so good! And really easy- it just requires a long slow cook.
It can easily be changed to Beef (use Chuck or Gravy beef) which is what I am doing today along with some Guinness to add depth of flavour.
You could use a large Muffin tray and make individual ones if you like.


WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 1kg Gravy Beef, cut into large chunks and dredged in flour (this aids in thickening the sauce)
  • 4 carrots, chopped into cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can of Guinness beer
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped finely
  • S & P
  • puff pastry
  • egg wash
METHOD:
In a heavy based pan gently fry the onion, carrot, bay leaves and garlic until translucent and fragrant.

Add the beef and allow to brown. Now add the can of guinness and the chopped parsley.

Season well and bring to the boil.

Reduce heat and simmer at the lowest temp possible for 3-4 hours (popping it into your slow cooker would be handy!).

Preheat oven to 180C.

Place the beef mix into a large ovenproof dish and cover with puff pastry.
Make a hole in the pastry to allow the steam to escape- (i find it is necessary for this to always be heart shaped-it's a kind of 'Made with love' stamp you know! ).


Brush with egg wash and place in oven for 30 minutes or until nicely brown.

Serve with mash & greens.
DEEEEELISH!!





"In love we find out who we are,
in sorrow we abide.
Our strength's revealed by what we build
from the broken things inside.
But a day will come when you will know
which way you must choose to go...
to travel on and live alone
or turn yourself around
and try to get back home."





Wednesday, 2 April 2014

How can I make your childhood amazing?

This morning I read this article in the Huffington Post. I really encourage you to do the same.
I often find treasure in the Huff. It is a good place to go to when the bad news gets a bit too much to bear.

It is one of the places I like to have a look through regularly to find intelligent editorial.
Well heck I certainly can't find it in any of Australia's print newspapers anymore (although I am LOVING this very new paper - I do hope it lasts......)

Anyway.....as I read through this article I found myself nodding and maybe even doing a bit of a fist-pump here and there (I was hiding at home in my office so I was only embarrassing myself).

It came after a night where I marvelled as I watched my kids playing the simple card game of SNAP at the dinner table together & the joy that playing that simple game brang to my crew.

But do you know what it was that I loved so very much?

It was this one sentence......

"Childhood is inherently magical, even when it is not perfect."

Yup.  Nail hit on head.

I love it because it takes away this recurring theme that we seem to surround ourselves with as parents,  that the more we provide in terms of stuff and things and big celebrations and better this and that, the better and richer childhood we are giving to our children.

It takes away the notion that the way we 'deliver' childhood to our children is somehow better or richer or more magical than someone else's way.

And maybe most importantly of all it takes away the need for parenting to be a competition and leaves the child to take charge in forging their own path a bit more.

I think people are starting to swing back around to paring things back a bit, taking things back to the simple.  Have you noticed this turn too?
I think it is a healthy thing.  For us parents and most beneficially of all for our children.

We need to give our children time and space and they will create the magic.

CHILDREN are what make childhood magical.

They inherently wonder, they inherently invent, they inherently question, they inherently imagine.

It is not the 'stuff' we buy them that makes this happen.

It is the way children make what they already have into something magical.

It is the rug over a chair that turns it into a castle, it is Mummas shoe that turns them into a Queen, it is the dirt that turns into magic soup, it is the tree that turns into a precariously high fort, it is the bedsheet that turns them into a ghost.

THEY are what create childhood.  It's not by buying the latest and greatest toy or by giving a super dooper fancy schmancy birthday party.

It is created by the singular and most wondrous thing of all- the creative genius that is the mind of a child.

As parents maybe we need to step right on back and let our kids do more of the creating & give ourselves more time to watch them enjoying their childhood instead of spending all our time worrying we are doing it wrong.

I think we need to stop trying to make it all sparkly and perfect and let it be wonky and wobbly. Where is the magic in perfect?

We can make our children's childhood amazing by giving up trying to create it for them and give them the time and space to create it themselves.

Because childhood in itself is amazing.

SPINACH and CHEESE rolls:
I made these last night for dinner. Served with a delicious green salad for a super filling and hearty vegetarian meal.
Really is anything wrapped in Puff pastry NOT delicious?

One of my lot has taken them to school to eat cold for lunch today too.
EASY & delicious and can be frozen to pull out on those "OMG I haven't made dinner yet' moments.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED (makes 4 large rolls) :

  • 1 x 250g packet frozen spinach
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 150g grated cheese
  • 150g crumbled fetta cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs (reserve a little bit for basting the pastry)
  • S& P
METHOD:
Preheat oven to 200C
Mix all ingredients (not the puff pastry!) in a large bowl.

Cut the puff pastry sheets in half.

Spoon mixture into the centre of each pastry sheet, roll over and tuck in so all of the stuffing is tucked in nicely.

Place baking paper onto an oven tray.

Turn over so the joint seam is on the bottom & lay the rolls onto the baking paper.
Brush with egg wash & sprinkle with sesame seeds if you are feeling fancy!

Bake for 25-30 mins or until nicely browned.

Remove and eat or cool and freeze ready to pop out for emergency meals!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

What we teach children when we teach them how to cook


This week I have been super busy getting the wheels moving on something that has been spinning in my head for a long time.

For years I have watched little Veggie patches at our kids school that are currently the domain of the 5yo Prep students.

Every time I pass them a little cog in my brain spins.

What if we expanded these patches and began using the produce to cook with? What if........

You see for me this little spot in our school is the basis for something that, to me, is key to a much larger thing.

For children to see where food comes from and the importance of it in our day to day life is an understated yet necessary skill in life.
It helps piece together so many things.

Food is what sustains us all - on a very basic level it is the fundamental key to life.

Yet involved in that are so many other things.

The understanding of how food comes to be on our plates is an understanding of much broader and bigger themes. Ones that I believe give children a better understanding & appreciation of what is important in our greater world.

Themes that naturally occur when we discuss food and growing produce with children are: the environment and it's health, a basic understanding of where food comes from, Maths via measurement & quantity, English via reading and writing, Science via the actual cooking processes, the economy and how this affects food production, the different flavours of different cultures, how food choices are different via differing beliefs, they will learn about the many different factors that affect whether something is available or not, the arguments for ethical choices in our food consumption, we teach them about our greater responsibility to our world and the people in it, we teach about community, we teach about nurturing & love.

I for one feel strongly about the health of our planet.  I also feel very strongly about the health of our children via the foods they eat.

Starting a Kitchen Garden programme at my children's Primary school is my way of gifting these kids the knowledge to make sound choices when they eat and will hopefully encourage them to try foods they may not otherwise.

If just one of these kids goes home with a new skill - either in the garden, or in the kitchen, or in the choices they make about food I will feel happy.

Today I am off to meet with the Student Representative Council to talk about our first food event to be held on World Food Revolution day.
On this day the kids will be cooking soup to be sold to the school community to fundraise to get this programme up and running.

Once we get our patches going I will be cooking with groups and they will sell the food they cook at the canteen.  All funds made will roll back into the scheme.

The motto for the programme:

BY the kids... FOR the kids.


Ham, Cheese and Basil Quiches.
Today I baked these super easy quiches to take along with me to the meeting to use as an example of the kind of foods we will be cooking.
Simple, quick, nutritious food using ingredients that we can grow in the school Veggie patch.

Basil is coming to an end as we hit Autumn and so I am using it as much as I can while it is still in the garden.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED (makes about 20 mini quiches or 6 large muffin size ones)

  • 4 eggs
  • 100ml cream
  • 10 leaves basil, chopped
  • 3 slices ham, chopped into small squares
  • 100g grated cheese
  • 1-2 sheets puff pastry.
  • aleppo pepper for sprinkling on top (a mild chilli that gives a lovely sweet bite- not necessary but YUM!) 
Preheat oven to 200C.

In a large bowl mix eggs with all other ingredients (except the Aleppo pepper) and whisk till combined.

Cut the puff pastry into 4 large squares and then cute each square again into four.

Spray a mini muffin tin with oil and place the puff squares into them.

Spoon carefully about a tablespoon of mix into each one.

Sprinkle with aleppo pepper and pop into oven for about 25 mins or until brown.

Preferably get your kids to cook these!  They really really CAN if you let them.
xx

GG








Monday, 24 March 2014

Why I don't do Make-up free selfies


There is a bit of a trend at the moment for women to take a 'Make-Up free selfie' (self portrait photograph for those not up with current lingo) as a way of raising awareness of Cancer.

While I am an advocate of raising awareness of health, I have a problem with this trend & I won't be posting a make-up free selfie for any other reason than just because it is me- just me, real me, not being brave or courageous but just everyday 43 year old me.

To me seeing women make-up free should not be seen to be being brave or courageous or anything out of the ordinary. Women should be proud every day of their natural beauty.
Why have we gotten to this  place when it is a strange thing to see a woman in all her natural flawed beauty?

Aren't the lines in our face the tales of our lives?  The remains of many years of laughter, of sadness, of joy? A sign of our souls visible from the outside.

Isn't the wilted skin a sign that we have lived a life filled with learning and wonky pathways and stories that fill our soul and sometimes make our heart ache?

Is this nakedness of self not a beauteous thing in which to rejoice in everyday and not be seen as something that only brave women do every once in a while?

Why do we feel the need to look young?  We compliment with words of "Wow you look so young!'  What is shameful about ageing? Why is it not something to celebrate in and rejoice?

Imagine all of us embracing the faces of the aged.  To accept and love the lines, the gnarled hands, the grey hairs, the shape of wisdom. To look beyond these things. What a joyous thing this would be.

The billion dollar beauty industry tells us lies about what we should expect about shapes of women & about how our skin should look. Limbs are elongated, cheeks plumped, lips pouted, nails plasticised.

No wonder we think it is 'brave' to be ourselves when the ideal is not actually achievable in reality.

Don't get me wrong, I wear make-up most days and I really enjoy getting a bit dolled up sometimes. But it is never because I feel embarrassed or uneasy about what is underneath but is all about me feeling like being a bit snazzy- for me and only for me.
It is not wearing make-up I have a problem with but the idea of NOT wearing it being something almost shameful.

Let it be clear that my intention here is NOT to denigrate what I believe are the good intentions of those involved, I really do believe people are acting in good faith.  My motive is to highlight what I see as a flawed campaign.

Don't forget that I am raising five boys to be able to see beyond the current objectification of women & and see what truly makes them beautiful.

Cancer is a horrid disease. One that is indiscriminate and often silent.  It has affected many of my very dear friends & family.
I don't want to diminish in any way the seriousness of this as a health issue- conversely I think we need to do all we can in order to raise awareness and educate.
Just not via encouraging the notion that women should feel uncomfortable in just being their true beautiful bare selves every single day.

Let's just love each other. Bare, beautiful and brave. Every single day. Just for being real.



Saturday, 22 March 2014

An ode to Maggie & Figs.

This week has been a bit rubbish in the health stakes.

I got sick with a bad head cold that left me feeling really flat. Bleurgh.

Still can't seem to shake it.
I am blessed with really good health and it is a rarity for me to get sick. I'm not very good at going slow so me & sick don't work very well together.
Inevitably my littlest got sick too.  A high fever and so a day of rest with me at home.
Then back to school as he seemed really fine.
Then late at night last night came the familiar seal-like bark of croup. He had it bad.
And so ensued a night of not much sleep and the need for a lazy day to follow.

We planted out our veg in our veggie patch which has lain fallow since our big house build. The early sun was lovely.
Gosh it's great to get our hands in the dirt again.  We have planted out some more fruit trees, a couple more gum trees and lots and lots of veggie & herb goodness for winter.

I bought some more seeds from this supplier. I love them as they have some of the little known Italian greens that I love.  I can't wait to harvest the Cima di Rapa (sometimes known as Rapini).

For now we wait......and tend.....and love.

In a few months we will once again be harvesting the goodness.

FIG & SALTED CARAMEL ICECREAM:
My love for Maggie Beer is well known.
I wrote an article about it here.

I LOVE figs but the season is very short. I always make batches of my Fig & Star Anise Jam to see my need for figs last through till the following season.
So today on our mooching around the house day I wanted to try and make my very own version of Maggie's incredible Burnt Fig and Caramel icecream which seems to have caught the nations tastebuds.

Mr Girlfriend gifted me an Icecream maker (I have wanted one for a very long time- so LUCKY!)and it has been all flavours go since! 
Yesterday I made Emma Dean's Licorice Icecream from her book 'A Homegrown Table'.
Emma is rad and so is her Licorice icecream and you should totally go and by her book! You really should! SO much great stuff in there! 

Anyway todays icecream was an experiment and I am pleased to announce it was a SUCCESS!
You have to love it when that happens in the kitchen!
So here is how to make your very own version of this Maggie Classic.
NB: this recipe requires the use of an ice cream maker & the use of full fat products to achieve the creaminess we all love in a good ice cream.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
For the ice cream:

  • 4 tablespoons Fig Jam (i used my own but any good fig jam will do)
  • 2 1/2 cups thickened cream
  • 1 1/2 cups full cream milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • the scrapings of half a vanilla bean 
For the Salted Caramel:

  • 1 teaspoon salt flakes
  • 90g butter cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup thickened cream
  • 1 cup brown sugar
To make the caramel, add sugar and butter in a pan over medium heat until sugar is melted and mixture is frothy and bubbling.

Add cream and salt flakes and stir till the mix is quite foamy and syrupy.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

In a food processor mix together sugar, milk, vanilla and fig jam until well combined.
Now add the cream and mix well.
Refrigerate this for 2 hours so it is nice and cold before adding to your icecream machine.
This helps the fat solids bind and gives the icecream better texture.
I couldn't wait that long so popped it into the freezer for 15 minutes!

Now add to your icecream machine and mix until frozen.

Remove into a vessel for freezing and swirl through a generous amount of the cooled salted caramel.

Pop into freezer to harden nicely...if you can wait!