Affordable Wooden Doll Family


I love AliExpress.  If you have the time to go searching for what you’re looking for then you can get some wonderful things for kids at bargain prices (even more so during their sales). One such bargain, now utterly beloved by my toddler, is a family of wooden dolls for USD$3.50-$5.00 (and that’s with free international shipping!)

Admittedly, it’s luck of the draw exactly which dolls you get (though you can try messaging the seller to see if they’ll take requests). We got, so my daughter informs me: Mummy Doll, Daddy Doll, Big Sister, Baby. It worked out much cheaper (and more convenient) than going to the shops. I was thrilled that this particular purchase arrived within two weeks; realistically, you need to act on the assumption that anything ordered from AliExpress will take four weeks.

If you want to pick up something more quickly, I hear that Kmart now sell a family of five wooden dolls for NZ$10 (sadly they still don’t have a website showing their products online). There are also options such as Hape which sell a family of six (you can choose Caucasian, African American, or Asian) but they do cost rather more.

The Good Vitamin Co


I was really excited to have an opportunity to test The Good Vitamin Co‘s Kids Good Omega 3; Omega 3 (commonly found in fish oil) is great for brain development and has a number of other health benefits too.

We got a big bottle of the Omega 3 and samples of the others (which is appreciated!). Miss 2 asked for some as soon as she saw the bottle and after trying them said “please more!” (lol, kiddo, tomorrow!) They’re really cute to look at; I thought they were tiny penguins but I’m guessing they’re actually the standing King Salmon character. They looked tempting enough that I had some too. Really nice flavour and much preferable to the big adult fish oil capsules I’ve taken in the past! Awesome that they’re allergy-friendly and New Zealand formulated  🙂

 

Egg Fried Rice without Soy Sauce


Ingredients

  • 2c cooked rice (refrigerated from previous day)
  • 1c frozen peas & corn (refrigerated from previous day)
  • 2 eggs
  • Sliced green onion
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Chicken stock powder
  • Oil (I like rice bran oil)
  • optional: fish sauce, chilli, lime slices.

Note: Instead of sugar and salt, you can use 1/2 – 1T of coconut amino acids to achieve a similar umami flavour to soy sauce.

You can play with ingredients, i.e. consider chopped ham or bacon, bbq pork, char siu pork, shrimps etc. You want everything to be cut small and to be pre-cooked; you are essentially heating everything through. It’s important that the rice needs to have been cooked earlier, cooled and been fluffed, and then completely chilled in the fridge (cooling for 12 hours changes the type of starches the rice contains).

This is the kind of recipe that you may want to make on the spur of the moment because you have leftover rice, or it may be something that you prep the night before so that you can whip up lunch or dinner the next day quickly.

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, gluten free, peanut free.

Directions

  1. Cook your rice the day before. Personally, I like to use basmati rice in the rice cooker with water, salt, and rice bran oil. Today I used 80% basmati and 20% black rice; this has the fun visual side-effect of dying the basmati a dark purple colour! As your rice cools give it a bit of a fluff (easier if you’ve used some oil in the cooking) and put it in the fridge to cool overnight.
  2. Prepare your vegetables. If you’re using frozen veggies (I used a mix of peas, corn, cubed carrots, and small cut beans) then it’s a good idea to put them in the fridge at the same time as the rice so that it can defrost overnight. Alternatively, you might want to use something like grated carrot.
  3. When you’re ready to cook, heat your wok nice and hot with some oil.
  4. Crack two eggs and scramble them. You can choose either to: (A) cook them as an omelette, take it out and cut into strips, and re-add once the rice is in, or (B) add the rice when the eggs are almost cooked and break the eggs into small pieces while moving the rice grains around.
  5. Add the rice. Keep moving it around to separate the grains and break the egg up.
  6. Add stock powder, sugar, and salt to taste. (You may also want to add a dash of fish sauce).
  7. Add your vegetables (and any pre-cooked meat).
  8. Keep moving everything around so that it doesn’t stick; add more oil if needed.  Serve when hot through.
  9. Serve with condiments if desired (like dried shallots, dried or fresh chillies, lime slices etc.)

 

Why not use soy?

You may not like the taste of soy, or may dislike the sodium content; for us, it’s because of a soy allergy. Salt and sugar (I prefer brown) can be found in a variety of soy free fried recipes as way of substituting for the salty flavour of the soy sauce and also providing a dash of sweetness.

 

Easy Corn Fritters


Ingredients

  • 1 can creamed corn (approx 400g)
  • 1c flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Soda.
  • Seasonings (i.e. salt, pepper, parsley, chives, cumin, chilli, curry powder).
  • 3 eggs (separated)
  • 1/4c water

Note: You can either separate out the 3 eggs and mix in first the egg yolks and then beaten fluffy egg whites, or you can just crack two eggs straight into the mix. The first option makes the mix slightly more fluffy but the second option works just as well if you want to save on time and dishes.

You can also experiment with adding other ingredients to these corn fritters as per your preference, i.e. you can add finely chopped tomatoes and cheese, or cheese and ham, etc.

Directions

  1. Lightly combine the creamed corn, flour, baking powder, baking soda, seasonings, and egg yolks.
  2. Fold in the egg whites.
  3. Stir in the water.
  4. Fry in hot buttered frying pan for a few minutes on each side until cooked through.

 

Allergens: Soy free, dairy free, peanut free.

 

Mediterranean Lamb for the slow cooker


Ingredients

  • 400g lamb (small cubes)
  • Marinade:
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 2 tsp ground ginger
    • 1 tsp tumeric
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1 tsp coriander
    • 1 tsp garlic flakes
    • 1 tsp honey
    • 1-2 T oil
  • 2T plain flour (or superfine white rice flour)
  • 1-2 T tomato paste
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 large carrot (grated)
  • 1-2 T tomato paste
  • Dried dates, dried sultanas, dried apricots (or use 1/2 – 1 tin apricot halves).
  • Flaked almonds
  • 1/2c chicken stock

Directions

  1. Marinade the lamb overnight in the fridge (I marinade mine in the ceramic slow-cooker pot).
  2. In the morning you can brown the meat if you want but I always skip that step for sake of convenience and dishes!
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients in order and mix as you go. The exception is the apricots, I used tinned apricots (because they’re cheaper) and they can get added 30-60 mins before you finish cooking.
  4. Turn the slow cooker on. I put mine on around 8am on Low and then checked it periodically to add a little more water (I wanted to keep the consistency to thick gravy but you can add more liquid as per preference).
  5. Serve with your choice of carbs and veggies. If you’re in a rush then couscous is very quick, or you could choose rice or noodles; personally, I love the opportunity to make fluffy dumplings in the slow cooker so I made a double batch of cheese-garlic-mixed herb dumplings 🙂

 

As always, adjust the recipe to your personal taste. You can easily add more meat or a legume of your choice (i.e. chickpeas); don’t be put off by the long spice list if you don’t have all those in the pantry, there are lots of spice blends available at the supermarket if you prefer.

Allergens: Soy free (do check the chicken stock carefully though or use home made), dairy free, egg free, gluten free, nut free.

 

How to make your own Christmas Crackers 

Making your own Christmas Crackers (or Bonbons) can be a lot of fun, cost effective,  and a nice way to really personalise them. It can also be a relief as a parent with a young toddler because you can tailor them to be age appropriate (i.e. avoiding choking hazards).

Ingredients 

  • Cracker snaps
  • Cardboard tubes (inner tubes from paper towels are perfect,  just cut in half).
  • Your choice of cracker filling.
  • Wrapping paper
  • Ribbon
  • Sellotape
  • Scissors

Note: Davids Emporium  sells cracker snaps for 30 cents each just ask at the sales counter.

You can have a lot of fun choosing what you want to put inside your crackers depending on your budget, ages, and family interests. You might love silly kids jokes (like: What does a duck eat at Christmas? Quackers!), or love Minties, or want to do a toy car each. Party / variety shops can be useful, so can buying stuff from the supermarket when it’s on sale.

I decided to include in each cracker a little note, balloon, a wooden animal (from the button section of the craft store) and a chocolate. My toddler loves balloons and the chocolates are my mum’s favourite flavour. I also decided to add little wooden beads as decorations that I knew my toddler would enjoy playing with afterwards.

Directions

  1. Take a cracker snap and place it inside in your tube (it should stick out each end with a comfortable amount to pull on). Lightly sellotape it at each end to hold in place.
  2. Assemble your cracker filling and slide it into the tube. I wrapped mine in the note & then used an elastic band to hold it together.
  3. Roll the tube in paper and tie at each end;  make sure that you have enough paper at each end to cover the cracker snap that is sticking out & to comfortably pull it.  I found Christmas paper & ribbon to be ideal. You could also try something like crepe paper, twine, and hot glue on sea shells. You can be as creative as you like!

 

 

Chocolate Bliss Balls

Ingredients

  • 1/2c dates
  • 1/2c sultanas
  • 1T peanut butter
  • 1/2c desiccated coconut
  • 1/2c rolled oats
  • 1/2c finely chopped nuts
  • 2T oil*

Allergens: Soy free; dairy free; egg free, can be made peanut free (i.e. using almond butter instead), gluten free (make sure oats are certified).

Directions

  1. Place dried fruit in a bowl and soak in boiling water.
  2. Place everything in food processor (apart from oil) and blend to a smooth paste. Add oil if needed.
  3. Roll a tablespoon of mixture into into a ball. Roll in extra coconut or nuts if desired.
  4. Store in fridge.

 

Bliss balls seems to have become popular this year and suddenly there are heaps of brands available in the supermarket. Store bought ones have the advantage that they will last for ages in their little sealed packets but it can be fun to make your own and they’re an easy recipe for toddlers to help with – it’s also easy to adjust ingredients or cater for allergies when making your own.  I also rather liked that these are softer and easier to eat than the store ones.

 

 

Salmon Fishcakes

Ingredients

  • Potatoes
  • Peas & Corn
  • Butter
  • Spices
  • Tinned salmon
  • Spring Onion
  • Creamy roasted garlic dressing
  • Egg
  • Flour
  • Panko Crumbs
  • Oil for cooking

Note: I don’t think I’ve made fishcakes before this, I’m not sure why. I think had vague concerns about needing fresh fish, or the salmon tasting too strong, or the  fact that I seem to be useless at cooking potatoes. Today’s very successful experiment was prompted by the fact that I had most of a tin of salmon leftover in the fridge and some new potatoes that I’d recently pulled from the ground. I was fairly certain that I could combine the two and googling ensued.  I looked at a number of recipes, ignored them apart from the basic precepts, and wandered off to see what I had in the kitchen.

The main thing in terms of ratios seems to be that there should be 30-50% more potato than salmon, apart from that it’s pretty flexible.

Directions

  1. Cook the potatoes. I used around 300g of new yellow potatoes (washed but skin on) that I cut up and boiled lightly in the microwave.
  2. Cook/defrost the peas & corn. I used up what was left in the freeer which was probably about 1/2 cup.
  3. In a mixing bowl combine the cooked potatoes, peas & corn, butter, salt/spices (I used a Thai mix & garlic granules) and mash vigorously.
  4. Add tinned salmon (I used around 200g), chopped spring onion, and any dressing. Mix to combine. (I used a creamy roasted garlic dressing but you could try mayo, or red curry paste etc.)
  5. Mix in an egg to bind it. Mix in flour 1-2 Tablespoons at a time so that it’s moist but not horribly sticky.
  6. You can then choose to either (a) roll it into balls, squish into patties, coat in panko breadcumbs and then refridgerate, or, (b) refridgerate, then make into patties and go the full route of dipping them in flour > scrambled egg > breadcrumbs. Personally I went for (a) as a quicker option and it worked out fine. The main thing is that you want them cold when you fry them so that they hold together better.
  7. You can experiment a bit with cooking options. I fried them in batches in rice bran oil with the wok up high (basically to seal them and brown them) and then let them rest in the oven on a low heat.

They turned out really nicely, were tasty, and my toddler liked them too.

 

Allergens: Soy free; gluten free; peanut free; can be made dairy free (i.e. swap the butter for oil and replace/remove the dressing).

Crazy One-Dish Chocolate Cake!

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I love this chocolate cake recipe (you can also use it to make cupcakes) because it’s allergy friendly, vegan friendly, and toddler friendly (everything gets mixed and cooked in one dish!). There’s no eggs, dairy, soy, or nuts, and it can be made using gluten-free flour.

I found the recipe thanks to Happy Mum Happy Child and apparently it’s based on a Depression-era recipe when dairy was hard to get hold of.

INGREDIENTS :

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or gluten free plain flour)
  • 3 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons oil (I use rice-bran oil)
  • 1 cup cold coffee (or use water)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Combine all dry ingredients in a greased 20 x 20cm baking pan (that’s right, in the dish you’re baking it in).
Make 3 depressions (holes) in the dry ingredients. You want there to be two small ones, and one large one.
Pour the vinegar into one of the small holes, and the vanilla into the other small hole.
Add the vegetable oil to the large one.
Pour the cold coffee (or water) over the entire thing and mix until smooth and combined (I used a wooden spoon).
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Once cooled, ice or lather in caramel syrup and enjoy with whipped cream.

 

Allergens: soy free, dairy free, nut free, egg free, can be made gluten free (replace the flour with gf flour).

Beautiful fluffy dumplings

Accredit to: French Tart.

I stumbled upon this recipe one day when looking for something to add to a slow-cooker stew and they were beautiful! The secret is using really cold butter (chilled or frozen) and grating it into the flour.

Ingredients

  • 120g self-raising flour
  • 60g chilled/frozen grated butter (or suet)
  • Cold water to mix
  • Salt & pepper to season
  • Optional: parsley, dried herbs, grated cheese, garlic granules, onion powder, chilli powder etc.
  1. Put the flour, seasonings, & suet in a large mixing bowl, mix thoroughly.
  2. (If you are adding herbs or extra seasonings, add them now & mix well.).
  3. Add sufficient cold water – bit by bit – to make a pliable dough; it should not be too sticky, but just bound together.
  4. Divide the dumpling mixture into 8 portions, and roll into small balls with floured hands.
  5. Drop them into your soup, casserole or stew 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time, making sure that the soup, stew or casserole is very hot.
  6. Put the lid on IMMEDIATELY and do NOT take the lid off until just before the end of the cooking time, about 15-18 minutes to check that they are nearly ready.
  7. They should have doubled in size at least, and be very light & fluffy looking!
  8. Ladle the soup, stew or casserole into warmed soup bowls & serve 2 dumplings per person.
  9. Oven baked: place the dumplings on top of your stew or casserole and cook for about 30 minutes at 200’C or 400’F, or until well risen, golden brown & crusty.

 

Allergens: soy free, egg free, peanut free.