Pork Rice Rolls

Getting ready to make summer pork rice rolls

I haven’t made rice rolls in ages and had forgotten how easy they are (if a little time consuming wetting each rice paper wrap). I was excited recently to find a peanut satay sauce that was dairy, soy, and gluten free. It’s concentrated and just needs coconut milk mixed in (a very distinct shrimp & anchovy taste but the coconut milk makes it milder). I decided to use leftover roast pork, summer salad greens from the garden, celery, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and the rice wraps with the satay dipping sauce.

Pork rice wrap

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, gluten free, egg free, tree nut free.

I loved it. Miss 2 decided that it looked new and chewy and wouldn’t try it. In her world acceptable textures are generally crunchy or soft & fluffy. She decided she’d rather eat all the peas, lots of fresh sorrel, a tomato, and a large puffed rice cake with Marmite (her current gluten free favourite alternative to toast). Ah well!

In Splendid Isolation

Autumn wonderland

Autumn wonderland

“He who is certain he knows the ending of things when he is only beginning them is either extremely wise or extremely foolish; no matter which is true, he is certainly an unhappy man, for he has put a knife in the heart of wonder.” Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

I drafted this a week ago…little did I know that life would throw up complications and we’d be looking at a minimum of fours weeks in isolation.

Today marks the end of two weeks of isolation leading up to Miss 2’s surgery. She spends the night in my bed (she’s refused to sleep in hers since we were rushed to hospital by ambulance for Mother’s Day) and is awake all day with it just the two of us. There is a distinct lack of personal space and it’s challenging for both of us. The only time that I have to myself is an hour or so in the evening, after finishing up cleaning the house, before collapsing into bed beside her.

Week 1 was a particularly vicious head cold with rivers of snot that covered her face no matter how often I wiped it away. Her facial dermatitis was miserable, her already swollen airways blocked up, and she’d give up on sleep entirely somewhere between 2am and 4am when the fluid build-up got too much (and she needed to be upright to have it drain away). Being awake around the clock was beyond exhausting, I got sick too, I dragged myself through each day, I was grateful whenever she was willing to listen to audio stories that might give me a break for twenty minutes.

She hit rock bottom after about 7 days and then slowly started to improve. Her doctor advised that with her surgery so close we were best to spend another week away from playgroups, Sunday School, gatherings of kids, and, well, anywhere germy, to try and prevent her from catching a secondary infection. Historically. her compromised immune system has meant a rolling series of viral infections for weeks at a time.

She missed her friends. She missed her rountines. She stomped around the house (literally) telling me, “I’m a grumpy old troll! I’m ANGRY! I want (insert names of friends)”. I’m proud of her emotional recognition and expression; I’m glad that teaching her to stomp (as opposed to kick, hit, bite, or throw) as a healthy way of venting her feelings seems to be helping. It’s exhausting and it sucks for both of us.

It’s been a mental challenge each day trying to work out where we can for the morning that ideally doesn’t cost money, will interest her, doesn’t involve kids, and can’t be an indoor playground / attraction (because let’s face it those things hardly ever get disinfected!). Oh, and it’s winter, cold, and rain keeps threatening on the weather forecast.

Each day I have to try and be cheerful, positive, and zen. Some days I do better than others. Some days I’ve burst into tears in public toilets while she just keeps tantruming and I can’t even have 30 seconds to pee in quiet (not alone, just peacefully). Some days it feels overwhelming that not only do we have to get to the surgery but then we’re still going to need to be careful about post-op infection. Some days the logistics of our upcoming hospital stay, needing to take all our food with us, needing to look after her alone (and just physically carrying everything!) seems overwhelming.

So I’ve tried to find the beauty in each day for us. She delights in the small details – the differing colours and shapes of leaves, throwing seed cones into the ocean and watching them bob like boats, stopping to listen to birds sing.

Autumn dreaming

Autumn dreaming

Autumn explorer

Autumn explorer

We’ve walked through parks of imported oak trees with their beautiful autumn leaves still covering the ground like snow.

We’ve spent hours exploring Botanic Gardens admiring the hidden mazes and the surprise of colourful roses even though it’s winter.

New Zealand beaches in winter

New Zealand beaches in winter

What is New Zealand like in winter?

What is New Zealand like in winter?

We had one morning that saw me teaching her chess in the library while the wind and rain swirled outside, only for it to suddenly be replaced by a little beachside microcosm of warm blue skies and sunshine. We walked on the sand, splashed in the waves, and drew pictures in the sand creating beach art.

Being isolated was anything but splendid (although it makes for a catchier title) but looking for the beauty in each day and seeking a positive focus made it more bearable. We can’t always change our circumstances, we can only change how we choose to view our circumstances and how we react within them.

How to give your toddler a spa bath in winter!

Spa bath in a flexi bucket

I love flexi buckets! I have two: one big pink one and a small yellow one. They can be used for so many things from hanging out laundry, to clothes hampers, packing stuff to visit relatives, toy storage, and winter spa baths!

Miss 2 loves asking for a bucket bath when the temperatures start dropping. Just sit the bucket in your bath, fill it to a nice warm temperature from the taps, add a gentle-on-the-skin bubble bath, and pop in your toddler.

The Goldilocks principle applies when choosing your flexi bucket: not too big, not too small, but just right. You want your toddler to be able to sit upright comfortably and have water up to their armpits (parental supervision is recommended as per any bath). You’ll find that you use much less water than a normal bath and they’re warmer because more of their body is consistently covered.

The great thing is that this also works in a shower! I’ve also seen friends put multiple buckets in one bath (of assorted sizes) so that siblings can spa together (and without fighting).

You can even do this during summer! Put the empty bucket outside on the lawn (water is heavy) and ferry warm water to it. Presto! An outdoor bath in the sun and a happy excited child!

Tip: These are also great to take to a beach so that you can create a mini pool for younger siblings or wash off sandy feet.

Spa bath fun!

How to display your child’s artwork without damaging the walls!

How to display kids art work

How to display kids art work

There are lots of great ideas on how to display your child’s art work. There’s only so many pieces that you can attach to the fridge with magnets, so why not hang some in their rooms where they can admire what they’ve made!

How to display children's art work

How to display children’s art work

Some ideas include using curtain rails but those (although sturdy) require drilling holes into the wall which isn’t a great idea if you’re renting.

How to display kids art without damaging the walls

How to display kids art without damaging the walls

The solution is to use hooks with a removable, damage free, adhesive backing. Tie some pretty coloured wool between the hooks and peg up your child’s beautiful creations!

Decorative clips for hanging art work

Decorative clips for hanging art work

Also check out these totally adorable decorative clips on AliExpress for US$3 and free international shipping!

What are the benefits of chemical free soaps?

It’s funny how invisible ingredient labels have become in our modern lifestyle. We take for granted that there are lots of words, chemicals, compounds, and numbers that we don’t recognize. The dynamic journey that I’m on with my daughter means delving into those labels to find out more.

I posted recently about glycerin and how it’s found in many body and beauty products. The difficulty for me is that it’s often soy derived (and Miss 2 is allergic to soy). My options are to either exhaustively ring manufacturers every time I buy a product (to check if they know their source / that their source hasn’t changed) or aim to eliminate glycerin from our home so that the risk simply doesn’t exist.

Looking into bathroom & beauty products also found me reading articles about other commonly used additives. Wider scientific debates aside, some people are sensitive to parabens and/or sulfates (SLS = Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate). If you have a child with sensitive skin or eczema then it’s worth considering a natural soap.

So I set off on a search to see if I could find a soap that was free of glycerin, parabens, and sulfates. This pretty much excludes anything made on a large commercial scale, it means that you’re looking for small batch soaps (although that doesn’t preclude them being sold in stores).

This turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought it would be!

The two companies that I narrowed my search down to were Blue Earth (based in Ashburton, NZ) and Natural Us (based in Christchurch, NZ).  Both have a great range of products! My decision to go with Blue Earth is that they are available in over 65 stores throughout New Zealand so I was able to avoid paying for shipping. I still have products that I’d like to order from Natural Us – like their Goats Milk soap and their natural tooth powder! For international readers,  both companies ship internationally!

The first soap we’re trying is Blue Earth’s Carrot and Orange Cake.

Ingredients: Olive, coconut and rice bran oils, cocoa butter, rain water, soda lye, and carrot, sweet almond, hempseed and wheat germ oils, benzoin tree resin and essential oils of orange and cinnamon leaf.

It smells delicious and Miss 2 thinks it’s so awesome that she now actively asks to wash her hands!

What is glycerin and is it good for me?

Glyercin in bathroom products

Glyercin in bathroom products

It’s funny how invisible ingredient labels have become in our modern lifestyle. We take for granted that there are lots of words, chemicals, compounds, and numbers that we don’t recognize. The dynamic journey that I’m on with my daughter means delving into those labels to find out more.

What is glycerin?

Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is an organic compound that is commonly made of animal fat or vegetable oil. It’s clear, odourless, and has a sweet taste.

If you’re interested in it’s molecular formula, check out this post by Allan Robinson.

What is glycerin used for?

We can safely ignore some of its more explosive uses, like being used to make nitroglycerin (an active part of dynamite); we’re most likely to encounter it in food products or beauty products. It’s widely used because products often dissolve more easily into it (than water or alcohol) and because it’s believed to help moisturise skin.

Go have a look in your bathroom and you will find glycerin in many of your products including:

  • Toothpaste
  • Soap
  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Skincare products.

In the kitchen, you can find it in foods but not as frequently. It’s often used in diet / low sugar products or as a base for things like ‘Peppermint Essence’.

Should I be concerned?

For most people, the answer is no. Glycerin is widely considered to have all kinds of benefits for skincare.

For some people, like those with eczema, glycerin is often an important component in moisturising treatments.

For some, for instance vegans, the source of glycerin may conflict with personal beliefs.

What is vegetable glycerin made from?

The main cause for concern about vegetable glycerin is if you have a soy allergy.

Vegetable glycerin is commonly made from soybean oil, palm oil, or coconut oil. If you’ve read my post about soybean oil then you’ll know it’s cheap, readily available, and widely used internationally in a variety of commercial products – which is a problem if you’re allergic.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find out if sufficient soy protein can transmit through the manufacturing process to remain present in the end product (glycerin). The reality is that I don’t know – I’m also not certain if it’s been particularly well studied. Soy lecithin and soybean oil are not FDA regulated because they are considered to be ‘generally safe’ – unless you’re allergic to them (like my daughter).

It’s certainly something to be aware of if you (or a family member) is allergic to soy and has symptoms that don’t seem to be going away. If you’ve eliminated all other sources of soy then try reconsidering your bathroom. It’s also possible that exposure through other means may be cumulative over time or result in a low grade reaction; you know your allergy symptoms best. It’s certainly food for thought!

Gluten Free Berry Muffins

Gluten Free Berry Muffins

Gluten Free Berry Muffins

I love experimenting with gluten free flours. This is a different recipe again from the gluten free Vanilla Cupcakes and moist Chocolate Cupcakes. I was really stoked as Miss 2 kept asking for more of the mini ones and her playdate didn’t notice they were gluten free!

Like most gluten free baking, these are best served same (or next day); I free flow the rest in the freezer and pull them out as needed.

Ingredients

Group 1

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil (like Rice Bran oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Generous pinch ground cinnamon

Group 2

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup superfine white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup garbanzo flour (also called chickpea flour)
  • 1/4 cup oat flour
  • 1T sweet (glutinous) rice flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch (cornflour)
  • 1/2 tsp guar gum
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2T Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Other ingredients

  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup frozen berries
    • I recommend raspberries and blueberries.
  • Raw unrefined coconut sugar

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

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C.
  2. Whisk together the ingredients in Group 1. This helps to aerate the mix. You can use a stick blender or I used the food processor (with a plastic mixing attachment, not a metal cutting blade!).
  3. Sift together the ingredients in Group 2.
  4. Mix the combined dry ingredients into the whisked liquid.
  5. Prepare the frozen berries and mix in gently.
    • Raspberries crush really easily into tiny teardrops (which provide a pretty pink speckled effect when baked); blueberries are already a good size; boysenberries are large enough to need cutting in half.
  6. Pour into cupcake / muffin trays.
    • I made 6 large and 12 mini cupcakes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180’C. The mixture will thicken slightly while the oven heats.
    • The mix will appear very runny compared to a gluten mix – the rice flour and cornstarch will cause it to thicken as it cooks.
  8. Bake at 180’c for approx. 25-35 mins or until cooked.
    • I found the mini muffins took 25 mins and the normal ones took 35 mins.

 

Icing 

I liked these with dusted with coconut sugar. I pulled them out of the oven after approx. 15 minutes (once they had risen), dusted with coconut sugar, and then placed back in the oven to finish baking.

I also have recipes for other icings that don’t use any artificial colours, glycerin, additives etc.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing (allergy friendly)

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

This is a great frosting to use with Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes, the Crazy One Dish Chocolate Cake, or the Chocolate Irish Potato Cake (vegan).

Ingredients

  • 115g softened butter, or allergy friendly spread like Nuttelex
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup Dutch Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 – 3 Tbsp milk (dairy, rice, or coconut)
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp espresso powder

Allergies: gluten free, dairy free*, soy free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Whip the butter.
  2. Sift in 1 cup icing sugar, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Add the vanilla and milk.
  3. Beat until smooth.
  4. Slowly beat in the rest of the icing sugar to give a good consistency for frosting.

How to make allergy free Peppermint icing

After Dinner Mint Chocolate Cupcakes (Gluten Free!)

After Dinner Mint Chocolate Cupcakes (Gluten Free!)

It continually amazes me how many products contain hidden sources of soy. I wanted to make a peppermint icing but Natural Peppermint Essence at the supermarket contains: Glycerine, Alcohol, Water, Peppermint Oil. That might not sound so bad but our lengthy food allergy journey had me wondering what Glycerine actually is.  Research shows it’s sometimes made from animal fat but mostly it’s made from vegetable oil..with soybean oil being extremely likely.

I liked this on the Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes 🙂

Ingredients

  • 100% Peppermint herbal tea bag
  • Boiling water
  • Icing sugar

Directions

  1. Steep the tea bag in 1/4 cup boiling water.
  2. Make your cupcakes. (This gives the peppermint time to steep and the water time to cool.)
  3. Slowly mix the peppermint water into icing sugar.
  4. Ice your cooled cupcakes. We like them on gluten free Chocolate Cupcakes.

Note: Herbal / fruit teas work to create other flavour icings as well. Check out this naturally pink icing on vanilla Gluten Free cupcakes.

Moist & delicious Chocolate Cupcakes (gluten free!)

I love chocolate. I’ve posted a few chocolate recipes like the Crazy One Dish Chocolate Cake and the Chocolate Irish Potato Cake, and I’ve posted some make-from-scratch gluten free recipes like the Vanilla Cupcakes and the all natural pink berry flavoured icing. I wanted to play around in the kitchen with some different gluten free ingredients and make a wonderfully chocolatey and moist cupcake that also wouldn’t be packed with sugar – I prefer to balance my cakes so there’s more chocolate flavour in the cake and then extra sweetness in the (optional) icing. Miss 2 loved these with all natural peppermint icing or the Chocolate Buttercream icing (dairy free).

Ingredients

Group 1

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil (like Rice Bran oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Generous pinch ground cinnamon

Group 2

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

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C.
  2. Whisk together the ingredients in Group 1. This helps to aerate the mix. You can use a stick blender or I used the food processor (with a plastic mixing attachment, not a metal cutting blade!).
  3. Sift together the ingredients in Group 2.
  4. Mix the combined dry ingredients into the whisked liquid.
  5. Pour into cupcake cases (makes about a dozen). Bake at 180’c for approx. 25-30 mins or until cooked.
  6. Allow to cool before icing. (We liked combining these with an all natural peppermint icing!).

 

Icing 

The icings that I use don’t have any artificial colours, glycerin, additives etc.