Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Red and Green Bento 23 Feb, 2012

Not planned this way - I rarely plan out bento lunches. It's turned out a red and green bento today. We have strawberries, green grapes, baby Roma tomatoes, red pepper slices and cucumber with a ham and salad sandwich.

Red and Green Bento for 23 Feb, 2012

Later today I go and collect the dozen quail's eggs I ordered from the poulterer. I think I saw they had rabbit as well and may try some rabbit stew if it's a good price.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bento for 22 Feb, 2012

Youngest daughter said she doesn't want shrimp again. "I thought you liked prawns?" "I like tempura prawns." Well that's not going to happen.

Today we have a small bag with dried dates, plum, Romatherapy baby tomato, sweet baby grapes, sliced cucumber, snow peas, ham and cheese salad wrap with BBQ sauce (Shorty prefers mustard and gherkin relish with no cheese so it's very important not to get the lunches mixed up or mayhem, disappointment and rage will ensue) and a portion of corn on the cob.

The only grocery top ups I'll need are fruit and a couple veggies this week. On Sunday I grilled two batches of chicken thighs; one with BBQ sauce and curry powder, a second with smoky BBQ sauce and Nandos hot sauce. The spicy one is for me and Husband. Again, I'm careful to put them in different containers to avoid aforementioned reactions ending in rage. Currently, I can get a kilo of deboned skinless chicken thighs for $7.99 a kilo and skinless chicken breast is $8.99p/k, where cheap sliced ham is $15p/k and who wants cheap ham but nicer ham is more like $24p/k. This grilled chicken portion remedy is much more economical. I love putting them on the grill pan, covering them in a different sauce (Teriyaki, curry, Thai, basil and lemon, plain chicken salt) and it yields a uniquer option. I also like it's a sulphite/nitrate free option. There was a point where it was ham everyday because it's all they wanted.

Bento for 22 Feb, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bento for 21 Feb, 2012

 Gently coaxed by a friend to start putting these back up. I had worried they were all starting to look samey-same. They do change with what's available in the grocery store; what's fresh for the season. I'm kind of looking forward to pumpkins coming back. I've been missing pumpkin! Summer is winding down, signs of Autumn are just showing if you look closely enough. The mornings are certainly darker as it's barely dawn when the alarm goes off in the morning.

February is supposed to be our hottest month, but we've had a wet, sticky and humid one thus far. Great for produce. Prices are awesome on fresh food just now. Then again the big name grocery stores are currently having a freshest produce ad campaign/fight. I wish I had a chest freezer to stockpile for Winter. Especially blueberries. They've been so awesome.

Half a grilled BBQ chicken and spinach sandwich with ketchup, three pan fried shrimp, sweet baby grapes, carrot sticks, cucumber slices. The snack bag has sliced orange, sliced white nectarine and blueberries. The biggest blueberries I've seen since Xmas! Bigger than those grapes!

 Lunches for 21 Feb, 2012

Friday, November 11, 2011

Breakfast Banana Muffins

Woke up to no milk for cereal. Not a nice way to start a Saturday, with kids grumbling they can't eat anything. Woe is them, woe I say! Fine, I'll make muffins. Yes, I have no milk, but who needs milk to make muffins??

I do have a bunch of perfectly spotted bananas and quickly whipped together a muffin batter. I made enough to also get a banana bread so the poor dears can have that later for lunch treats or snacks. This recipe has no milk in it, only water. It's surprising how a recipe can still work even when you remove most of the elements you think must be in the recipe.

Breakfast Banana Muffins

I like the bananas kind of chunky
Breakfast Banana MuffinsBreakfast Banana MuffinsBreakfast Banana MuffinsBreakfast Banana Muffins
See how the oil in the flour looks like Australia? That was a happy accident.

Breakfast Banana Muffins

3 cups of self rising flour
1 cup of sugar (add more if you want sweeter but the bananas are really ripe and sweet already)
3/4 cup of extra light olive oil (or other light veggie oil or extra virgin olive oil if you only have it)
1.5 cups of water and extra added to get right batter thickness. I don't know exactly how much as it was only 7am and no coffee yet.)
2 large bananas mashed a little with a fork (I like chunky bits of nana here and there)
TBSP of mixed spice
TSP of salt
2 medium eggs (Added for protein but not exactly needed so omit if you're vegan)

Bake in a preheated 170C oven for 20-25 minutes. These took 25. When mixing the batter, I left it quite thick so it needed spoon-pushed into the muffin tin.

I suppose the best thing about this kind of recipe is you can throw just about anything into the bowl and it'll probably turn out all right. You could substitute one or two cups of flour for whole wheat, or add some oat bran. Add some nuts or dried cranberry. Whatever makes you happy! Muffins should always make you happy.

Breakfast Banana Muffins

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vegan Lemon Extreme Cupcakes Recipe!

**Just an update to say these cupcakes won 1st place for flavour and 2nd place for presentation at the school's country fair. Shorty is very pleased and we're all proud of her.

Now really you have to say extreme like it's a monster truck rally, because these are EXTREME! Ka-POW! Punch in the salivary glands and make your neck ache tangy lemon cupcakes. No prissy pretty cupcakes; these babies bite back!

This is the same old vegan cupcake recipe I've used for years, ever since we found out Shorty was allergic to eggs and milk. Don't worry I'll include it again at the end. I made a first batch to let Shorty decide how she wanted her cupcakes to taste and she exclaimed "Not enough lemon! Needs more lemon! Double the lemon!" while Husband said "These are nice, a subtle lemon flavour. Pleasant. except for this bit of rind I'm left chewing on."

From that I took this: Double the lemon and get a proper lemon zester because shaving it with the veggie peeler and chopping with my curved knife isn't good enough.

I bought a big bag of lemons and found a fine cheese grater in the drawer of kitchen stuff I never use that worked perfectly as a zester. I did a couple things differently than I normally would:

Vegan Extremely Lemony Cupcakes

That's the zest and juice of two small lemons. I did this bit first before anything else. I find it easier to squeeze over a small plate and then I can pick out all the seeds without fumbling up the sides of a bowl or squeezing over my other hand and trying not to let the seeds slip between my fingers. I then put the juice on the zest and let it soften up the zest and set aside until later.

Vegan Extremely Lemony Cupcakes

When the batter is ready, I spooned it into paper cake things that I pre-sprayed with non stick. Why? Because how many times have you been ready to enjoy a lovely cupcakes and then had to eat it off the paper because the paper stuck to the cake? I hate when that happens!  Also, see the one in the bottom left? That's how high you should fill the paper. The others are too full. Why? Because don't you hate it when you peel back the paper and it gets covered in sticky icing and it runs or gobs down the side? No? Well you're a finger licking icing freak. I like to have a bit of paper free of frosting to pull back and then I can grab the cake and not get all sticky from the icing. It's a dainty, delicate thing this cupcake eating! Al;so - look at all that zest in the batter - isn't it teasing you with its lemony promise of deliciousness?

Vegan Extremely Lemony Cupcakes

See them baked and how the one with the paper at the top is nicer than the one on the right that's overfull and guaranteeing the icing runs down the side of paper?

Vegan Extremely Lemony Cupcakes

This was them finished, the next morning. Now, I admit this was the batch I'd made and it has a flaw. The ones my daughter made were perfect and much, much prettier than these. The mistake was, I'd read other cupcake recipes (No, no not that reading recipes of others is a mistake, it's not, it's bloody essential!) and a few of them included a quarter of a cup of corn flour. I didn't understand this use of corn flour. Cornflour? I use that to thicken sauces. Does it thicken cupcakes? What was it going to do? Is it better than my usual corn flour free ones? So I had to try it out. I found it does in fact make the cakes a tad denser and flatter. Dense in a super moist sense not a hockey puck way. See how the cakes are slightly hockey puck shaped? That's the corn flour. I think it helps keep them from rising too high and dome-like and then they won't crack as badly making icing much easier. I'm guessing! It makes sense. Second batch, Shorty made without corn flour with her child's handful of lemon zest. This batch she proclaimed perfection while my husband grasped his neck hissing "My glands! Ack! Lemon! Tart!" and then grabbed another cupcake and left the room.

Sadly I have no pictures of the perfect ones Shorty made because they were scarfed up first. I'm not jealous! She did an awesome job, she was a kitchen Goddess! She'll have this recipe down pat by next week for the contest and she knows exactly how she wants her cupcakes to taste. She's 7 by the way, did you know that? She's a Junior Masterchef in the making. My cupcakes were only ok next to her ones. No one liked the mixed peel on top, they preferred Shorty's lemon zest only simplicity and the dome top on her no corn flour recipe was irrelevant in the end. I'll get you some more pictures of hers when she does her official entry for the 19th. If you cannot wait, then you'll have to try and make them yourself:

Vegan Super Lemon Cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1½ cups of self rising flour
  • ¾ cup of caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1/3 cup of extra light olive oil
  • Zest and juice of two small or one large lemon (around 1/3 of a cup of juice)
  • 1 cup of soy milk and another ½ a cup to be added if needed for a thick but pourable batter.
  • 1 teaspoon of white vinegar

Icing Ingredients

  • ¾ cup of icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • Some lemon zest


  • Zest the lemons and squeeze all the juice. Remove seeds but leave pulpy bits. Let the zest soak in the juice and set aside.
  • Place cupcake papers into a muffin tin and give a light coating with non stick spray.
  • Preheat oven to 170C.


In a large bowl sift all the dry ingredients together. Make a well in the flour, keeping the vinegar aside, add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix until no large lumps appear – be careful not to over mix or the batter will become too heavy. Add the vinegar and give a few good stirs then spoon the batter into the cupcake papers leaving a few millimetres of paper showing at the top. Get quickly into the oven and bake for around 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean but the cakes aren't browned on top. Allow cakes to cool completely.

Once cakes are cooled make the icing by sifting the icing sugar to be sure it's free of hard lumps. Add the lemon juice a teaspoon a time and stir until a thick, spreadable icing is achieved. Add to the top of the cupcakes, top with the zest for decoration and allow to set

Storm clouds 09/11/11

That was coming towards us as we were happily baking. 

Ah - in the ingredients there's white vinegar. That's a great trick and saved us yesterday. It was a muggy, humid warm afternoon with storms brewing on the horizon but as we were baking it was the worst weather for baking. Humid kitchens make sticky, overly moist cakes that sometimes don't rise well. Add a vegan recipe and it's a wonder they work at all. A little chemistry to the rescue. The vinegar added at the end reacts with the baking powder and makes bubbles in the batter - it creates crumb. A nice crumb is necessary to a great cake. The vinegar flavour bakes off and you never know it's even in there, unless you lick the bowl. Then you know. That's a great thing about vegan recipes - no salmonella worry! Lick that bowl clean! Otherwise, you don't actually need the vinegar so don't sweat it if you don't have any.

Storm clouds 09/11/11

I hope you give these a try. They really are the answer if you've ever had a lemon cake and thought to yourself "I suppose it could be lemon?" and like Shorty screamed "More Lemon!!" then this will tickle your tang buds.
If anyone can tell me how to get the 1/3 to shrink down like the other fractions in Open Office, I'd appreciate that too. Damned annoying that.

Last trick - I didn't let the kids lick the bowl because there was about a 1/4 cup of batter left. After two bowls of leftover batter, I spooned it into the mini-muffin pan and baked them up too. Those were lovely lunchbox sized treats.  Why waste it when it can be cooked and used up. Even cupcakes can be frozen and used later!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Birthday Bento

Sassy is 11 today!

11th Birthday Bento

I didn't plan out a fancy birthday bento, because, well she doesn't eat them and it wouldn't have been all that big a deal. But she did ask for avocado maki roll and I arranged the avocado so it made an 11. No really, it's not a pig snout, it's an 11.

Also included are carrot sticks, Granny Smith apple, small mandarin orange, roll egg and a wiener fish.

Bento for 17.06.10

Shorty gets carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, Granny Smith apple, rolled egg slices and a wiener fish. there's slice of bread under the mini onigiri to lift them up and they just have a bit of carrot in them, with bread as a divider.

They both got a slice of Lamington as a dessert but it's not photographed. Here's a recipe though. We bought a giant one for Sassy's birthday cake and she's already dug into it. It's her birthday, so why not.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Israeli Cous-cous Onigiri

Israeli cous-cous onigiri

My kids haven't been inspired to eat lunch lately as recess time is far more fun. I've not been putting much effort into bento since it all came back and they'd just eat the scraps and shooggled about bits as an after school snack. Why should I put in all that effort if they aren't bothered to eat or appreciate it?

I bought a bag of "Israeli cous-cous" at the grocery because they looked like cous-cous pearls. turns out they are more like wee pasta pearls but are cooked similar to cous-cous. I boiled them for 8 minutes in chicken stock and then left them to steam and plump up. I noticed once they cooled that they stick and clump together - like Beados!. Turns out, they make great onigiri too. Secret is put them in the mould while warm and leave them until almost cooled and then tip them out to finish cooling. Once cooled they hold together brilliantly. This one has ham inside.

The other treat is the mini jam tart which is simply cut squares of ready-made shortcrust pastry filled with chunky plum jam and baked in a mini-muffin pan until the crust is browned and the jam has melted.

The rest is carrot, corn, red pepper and cherry tomatoes.

(Oh no! there's a hair on it...don't view in large size!)