Monthly Archives: January 2014

Bliss Balls

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These little treats are perfect for snacking, lunch boxes, trips to the park and beach. Icklegen and I first sampled bliss balls a while back. If I remember rightly, that particular variety was made with Cherry Ripe bars (a classic Aussie chocolate bar, with, erm, a cherry and coconut filling). They were delicious but probably best not eaten on a regular basis.

I was pretty sure I could find a healthier alternative and it didn’t take long. There are hundreds of recipes out there, made with a range of dried fruits, seeds, nuts and grains. We started with this one, which I have refined to suit our tastes. It’s super-easy, especially if you have a food processor. And Icklegen loves to help out by rolling the balls in desiccated coconut and then eating them all, if I don’t get there on time…

Prepare for a blizzard to hit your kitchen – aprons are definitely advisable.

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Ingredients

150g organic dried apricots*
150 g pitted dates
150 g almond meal
1 tbsp tahini
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp honey
+ desiccated coconut for rolling the balls in

 

 

1. Soak the dried apricots in warm water for around 30 minutes, then drain them well in a sieve reserving the water (you can probably skip this step if you’re using the non-organic variety).
2. Throw all the ingredients in a blender and process until the mixture starts to clump together.
3. Add some of the reserved ‘apricot water’ if the mixture is too dry.
4. Take small amounts of the mixture and roll into balls.
5. Pour some desiccated coconut onto a plate and roll the balls around in it until they are coated.
6. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Makes around 20-24 bliss balls, depending on size.P1010611

We’re still experimenting with different ingredients and flavours for this recipe. Daddy Ickle reckons the result is a bit ‘soft’ and has suggested we bump up the nut content. So we’re going to look into using more coarsely ground almonds, or walnuts, in our next batch. We’ll report back in due course!

* Organic apricots are not the most attractive looking food – all brown and leathery – but I prefer to buy them as they are free from sulphur dioxide. They plump up well after soaking and are yummy by themselves and in cooking.

Norah Head

Norah Head – what a beautiful, beachy place at our end of the Central Coast. An historic lighthouse, tidal rockpool, nature trail, great café, playground in the shade of the trees, and heaps of golden sand…why haven’t we been for so long? I’ve no idea, but we certainly made up for it with our most recent visit.P1010591P1010579

Daddy Ickle was in sporty mode and set off from home on his bike, while Icklegen and I opted for the more leisurely car journey. The route includes some of my favourite stretches of road up here. Elizabeth Bay Drive cuts through some fabulous bushland on the way to Budgewoi, after the Lake Munmorah residential zone. Then, come the rugged sand dunes on Budgewoi Road, as you skirt parallel to the seashore, the ocean itself tantalisingly out of sight. The dedicated cycle track from Budgewoi to Toukley gets the thumbs-up from Daddy Ickle, too.P1010539

First stop on arrival at Norah Head: the rockpool. The trick here is timing, as the water level and ‘bumpiness’ varies with the tides. We didn’t get it quite right on this occasion. The tide was still in, waves were breaking over the surrounding rocks and sweeping through the pool. Hit the right moment, however, and your toddler can happily frolic around in beautifully still water up to her waist.

It’s a popular spot and there were people camped out like sardines along the narrow strip of sand, so we headed around the corner where the beach was virtually deserted. Loads of space all to ourselves, and just a quick clamber over the rocks from the pool. Don’t tell anyone we told you! We made sandcastles, buried ourselves in the sand, dipped our toes in the many little pools hidden in the rocks, and relished being outdoors on such a beautiful day.P1010572

We then had an obligatory stop at the Rockpool Retreat one of those places we’ve been to before (several times) and know we’ll go back to again and again. Great menu, good coffee and cakes, kiddies’ corner, arty feel and décor, relaxing atmosphere…need I say more? It was busy, so we went for a takeaway, which was a little on the disappointing side (chips were undercooked, plus you don’t get the benefit of their presentation when you eat out of a box). But it hit the spot all the same.P1010531

Bursting with renewed energy after his lunch, Daddy Ickle hopped back on his bike and headed for home; Icklegen and I chose to stay a little longer. We looked at the start of the wonderful little nature trail that links Bush Street Reserve with the lighthouse. At around 1 km one-way, it’s a tad far for a young toddler, but easily manageable with her in a baby-carrier, or backpack. Being short on time (i.e. it was almost nap o’clock for Ickle), we got in the car for a quick look at the lighthouse – a stunning landmark dating to the early-1900s, and a great way to end our fun-packed morning.P1010587P1010595P1010593

 

Homemade Thank-You Cards

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Icklegen and I decided to make our own thank-you cards for the wonderful gifts she received at Christmas. Given my lack of inspiration on where to start with this, I turned to my trusty Google search engine (how did we cope before the Internet?) and found this page full of original ideas for children.

A lot of the suggestions are a bit beyond a young toddler, such as “let her make up a story about the gift,” and will have to be saved for future years. We opted instead to create a set of unique art cards – basically cutting rectangles out of one of Icklegen’s paintings and then glueing them to folded blank card.

Firstly, and most importantly, Icklegen had to create her one-off masterpiece. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun with this. Painting is always a very messy business in our household, and nearly always followed by a bath or shower. This time though, Icklegen was kitted out in her super-trendy Da Vinci art smock (courtesy of one of her lovely aunties). We still managed to create a fair amount of mess, but it was more *contained*.P1010482P1010484

Once the painting was complete, I pegged it out to dry and scampered around tidying up.P1010503

While my mini Da Vinci was comfortably tucked up in bed, I did some valuable behind-the-scenes work on her chef d’œuvre: cutting, glueing, and writing…And voilà: a rainbow of homemade cards, ready to mail out. P1010521

Tropical Lollies

Ice lollies, or ice blocks as they are typically known as round here, are the ultimate summer treat, but the shop-bought variety are often full of added sugar and nasties. So we are experimenting with making our own, and it couldn’t be easier.1-P1010449

Our current favourite is a tropical mix of banana, mango and coconut milk with a spoonful of honey to sweeten. I found the original recipe here when I desperately needed to use up some over-ripe fruit on a day when it was way too hot for baking (muffins are my usual handy standby). You simply peel and prepare the fruit, throw it in a blender with the coconut milk and honey to taste, pour into lolly moulds and pop in the freezer.

The mix easily fills our four moulds, and there is generally a little to spare – yummy as a mid-morning smoothie snack! Icklegen loves them; despite being ickle she has proved herself more than capable of eating a whole ice lolly in the afternoon, and then gone on to have a decent tea later. And, because they are dairy-free, Daddy Ickle can indulge on occasion as well.1-P1010446

For our latest batch, Ickle and I popped in a handful of fresh blueberries – it’s the season for these ‘wonder’ fruit over here, so make the most of them while they last. Yum. Don’t those lollies look good? And they taste even better, I can assure you! So, don’t delay any further and whip out that blender right now, people.

What is your favourite fruity mix for homemade ice lollies/blocks?

A Trip to the Nursery

A nursery is both “a room in a house for the special use of young children” and “a place where young plants and trees are grown for sale or for planting elsewhere.” Combining the two can make for a very successful trip out with a toddler, as we found out earlier this week.13-P1010368

Little Iz and her mummy had invited us to Wyee Nursery for a coffee. And a very nice flat white it was too; Icklegen’s milkshake was also pretty good, although the kid’s size is definitely aimed at an older child. It was GIANT! The nursery café is just a few paces from the gift shop in a small patio area screened with shrubs and flowers. The meals seem a bit pricey (e.g. $22 for a big brekkie), but maybe they are worth the money, I don’t know. Anyway, we stuck with drinks this time.

But Icklegen did not stick with hers for very long. She started wriggling on my lap, desperate to escape (no highchairs are available and she quickly gave up on the garden chair option where her chin barely reached the table). Besides, there were far more exciting things to be discovered in the nursery. Like the koi pond.01-P1010326

And water running down a beautiful glazed terracotta pot, or shimmering in brightly-coloured bird baths.02-P101033109-P1010345

Not to mention the vast menagerie of china animals and gnomes (the ultimate addition to anyone’s garden).04-P1010337 03-P101033612-P1010362

And then, there were the “young plants and trees”, everywhere you looked. Alleys lined with greenery and bursts of beautiful colour. Natives, fruit trees, row upon row of garden herbs, succulents…you name it and they’ve probably got it. Wyee Nursery is a paradise for those with green fingers, and an inspiration for this budding gardener. We have an unused patio space in our front garden and I have a vision of it in a few months’ time – actually, make that a year’s time – transformed into a small veggie patch. Nothing grandiose, mind, just a few tomato plants, some green beans, carrots and herbs, to start.08-P1010344 07-P1010343

Maybe I’m being a tad ambitious…but I think it could be a fun project where Icklegen can muck in with the planting and watering (and boy, does she like to get mucky). And she’ll also see that real veggies do not grow on supermarket shelves, but in the earth, over time. A post on our attempts to follow in due course!

What veggies do you grow in your patch?