Monday, May 4, 2015

Pina Colada Moist Vegan Cake Dairy Free and Egg Free

Ok, let's get one thing straight. I am not a Vegan, though I do embrace certain aspects of veganism. My body no longer deals well with Dairy. It has taken me a while to come to this conclusion, but I have finally accepted that Dairy is now my frenemy. I say frenemy, because I really wish it could be my bestie. I love ice cream, cheese, chocolate, and all that dairy goodness. I wish I could enjoy it without the consequences! So I have decided to lower my dairy intake. I suppose I should cut it out altogether, but realistically, I can't. I drink almond or coconut milk and only drink dairy if its unavoidable. I cut out cheese whenever possible. I don't consume camembert or brie or any other specialty lovely or artisan cheese that I once enjoyed. I limit my chocolate intake and I am proud to say I am good at this. I avoid butter where ever possible. I am not allergic thank goodness, though I haven't had this tested by a medical professional. I just know from my own experience and experiments that dairy no longer has a good influence on me and I have to limit my contact to benefit both of us. It was a hard break up, but I am surviving!

There are some great benefits to the Vegan diet, but I still enjoy my eggs, and I can't exist without meat, though I do limit my intake, much more than I used to. I also try to include more fish into my diet, which again is a no no for Vegans.  So while I can't be a fully fledged Vegan, I still enjoy the vegan recipes I come across. This cake I made the other night came about because a Vegan friend of mine, shared her discovery of whipping chickpea brine, with some sugar to replace eggs. The guy behind this all is Goose Wohlt, who now has a blog. This was insane! How could chickpea brine with sugar be whipped to look just like whipped egg white? But I do not lie. Check the links for yourself and see the Facebook group for more experiences. This concept is so revolutionary because cans of chickpeas or any beans apparently, replacing eggs or egg whites for baking is simply genius! Its so easy to store cans of beans in your cupboard and have them on hand. There are countless ways to use chickpeas and beans for your cooking and now, you can reserve your brine for cooking too! I know some of you are saying, "Grosse me out" and my kids would too, had I told them I used cannellini (white beans) brine to make the cake, but I didn't, and they liked it!!! I found the cake had good texture and was pleasantly moist. While I used pineapple, I think canned apricots, pears, peaches, mangoes etc could be used. Just as long as the syrup/juice is pleasant.  This is a great food storage recipe to keep on hand.

PiƱa Colada Cake 
 2 cups SRF 
1/4 cup caster sugar 
1 1/4 cup full fat coconut cream (no need to refrigerate)
1 can canallenni bean brine (or chickpea)
 1 Tbsp icing mixture 
400g pineapple pieces or crushed with juice
 2 Tsp vanilla extract 

1.Oven to 180C, line cake tin with baking paper. 
2. Whip brine and icing mixture and 1 tsp of vanilla until soft peaks form 
3. Mix SRF into whipped brine. Stir in coconut cream, caster sugar, tin of pineapple pieces and juice, and 1tsp vanilla until smooth.  
4. Pour into tin and place in oven for 30-35mins. Test with skewer if centre is cooked through. Allow to cool a little before serving. 

50 Shades of Bravery? #BeMyBrave

I am confident while there is a dictionary definition of what brave is, everyone has their own understanding of what brave means to them. To me brave means going out of your comfort zone, pushing yourself, and reaping the rewards of doing that and should anything bad or negative come from being brave you deal with it and conquering those things.
Deciphering the written word is a complexity that some may not completely understand. Have you ever read an e-mail or a text message and completely misinterpreted it? Have you read a book in year 12 English and interpreted it a completely different way to your classmates? Do you read the Bible or Book of Mormon (I am LDS) and get something different from it one day and something completely different the next time you read it? The written word may not always have the tone, the expression, or the intensity we intended it to have and that can go for both a positive and negative message. Our interpretation of what we read, even if it's a simple text message from a friend is dependant on our mood as well.  I think the same can be said of our understanding of what brave means to each of us. Our life experiences, our age, sex, self-worth, race, moods, religious and political beliefs all affect what we consider brave to be. 
As a child, being brave seems rather simplistic. We want to save the day, and be the hero. However as we grow up and insecurities creep into our conscious minds, brave reforms and reshapes. Brave then becomes complex and to some, harder to achieve. 
I really want to explore this whole concept of what brave is. As a mother, I want it to mean that my kids see me as a strong person who they can trust and depend upon. I want them to see me as the example of being an independent achiever. That I if I want something I don't always have to rely on someone else to help me get it. I hope that they see me as someone who doesn't get crippled by fear or the unknown. Unfortunately, I don't think I am all those things but fortunately, I am a work in progress. I do feel though that I am brave enough to admit that I am not all those things. That there are things that I can work on and be better at. 

There is a water park in Kiama NSW,called Jamberoo, some of you may know what I am talking about. There is a manmade cliff, called The Rock at this waterpark where you can jump off or step off a 5m high ledge into a very deep pool. This particular experience (I keep wanting to right ride, but its not a ride) cripples me. I have been to Jamberoo twice . The first time I went, back in 2012, I stood at the top of the 5m high ledge and almost jumped, but just could not bring myself to do it. I down graded to the shorter ledge  which is about 2.5m. Still, I was crippled with fear. The fear was not necessarily the height, though I do have a fear of heights, but it was the fact that I could not step off the platform and fall. I was falling into a reliable, purpose built, man made pool of water and there is no way I would hurt myself or even reach the bottom, but I was fearful "something" was not going to go right. It was a fear of the unknown. I left the park thinking how have I allowed myself to get to this point? I committed to myself that should I ever return to the park, I would at least jump off the smaller, 2.5m ledge. I happened to returned last year only to be crippled yet again with fear. The main thing driving myself was conquering a slide I went on in 2013 at WaterBom in Kuta, Bali called Climax (Take a look at it ). It took me 45 mins to muster the courage to let go of my fear and just get on with it. I did, and I actually enjoyed myself. For me however, it took a lot of self-convincing to be brave, a lot more than it would take others I am sure. So going back to Jamberoo in 2014, I was sure I could conquer, "The Rock. Sadly, I allowed fear to get the better of me yet again. I did actually jump, well, it was more like a push from my husband (I asked him to, not expecting him to!). I survived though. I didn't sink to the bottom and I didn't die or hyperventilate or anything. However, when I was given the opportunity to jump on my own, I still could not do it! Why could I not be brave? 

There is a side of me that will put myself out in public and be brave to stand in front of people and talk. I put silly DubSmash videos of myself on my Facebook page and don't think twice or hesitate at all about it. I don't care if people think I am crazy, I think I am funny and that is enough. It's baffling sometimes how all this works. 

Like I said, being brave means different things to each of us. I do believe there are much more than 50 shades to being brave. Writing that book in fact is a form of bravery. I wouldn't agree that it was a positive form of bravery, but none the less brave. Another aspect of my life which I would like to work on and pursue in a brave manner is driving. As a mother, you drive all over the place, you kinda have to. But if the destination is in the inner city, or the city, I grab that passenger seat faster than you can say, "Where's the GPS?" I loathe driving to unfamiliar territory. What if I make the wrong turn and can't get back? What if there is no right turn and I can't get back? What If I get lost and don't get back in time for school pick up? And the most dreadful of all questions, "What kind of parking is there? Will I have to parallel park?" Over the years I have got better, but there are still places that are a no-go zone if my husband is not driving. The city, the airport, inner western and Eastern Sydney are just a few examples of  places that make me breath funny just thinking about it. Too much traffic, narrow lanes, cranky drivers who don't like to let you in, crappy parking options. Its terrible, but pretty sad at the same time that such a simple thing requires planning and bravery, and prayer for me to achieve!! Though I should tell you in the last Summer school holidays I managed to drive to Bondi on my own, well the kids were in tow. It stressed me out and I took all the tolls because I was worried if I didn't I would get lost. I made it there and back again without any dents on the car and feeling rather pleased with myself. Though, if you ask me when am I going back? I will probably say, only if I have to!! This is all quite sad in a slightly pathetic way in all honesty. I really need to get over this. I am 36 years old and I have birthed 4 kids. What is wrong with me?  I have decided that I want to be braver with this. There only way I am going to conquer it, its to hit it straight on. I have to drive to these places. Anyone have any suggestions of where I should go? I might even be totally out there brave and Vlog these journeys of bravery. But really, I have to take this seriously, because I want my kids to see that overcoming even their weirdest fears is possible. 

  I wish to explore bravery further, it is an amazing part of the human psyche. It's not simple, its not cut and dry, and I do believe there are more than 50 shades of  Bravery.  I want to see what brave means to you. Please share your thoughts in the comments, your definitions, a quote you live by, a scripture, or a relevant blog post. You will find me on Instagram and Pinterest. Use the hashtag #bemybrave to share your thoughts on social media.

 What do you want to work on that is currently crippling you? This 50 Shades of Bravery is what I think will shape my 2015. I have a lot to face, and a lot to own up to and conquer. Are you with me?

Friday, April 24, 2015

ANZAC Cookie Sundae Sandwich

My son is a budding chef! He has really got into trying new and interesting foods and creating new ideas. Last night was dessert night and we have ANZAC cookies as its ANZAC Day tomorrow. These cookies are purchased from Woolworths, personally they are my favourites but I am not sure that the CWA (Country Women's Assoc) would approve of them. I have discovered the original ANZAC biscuits were not chewy but crisp and had to crumble in a particular way so that they would last in the battlefields. Americans had their Hershey Bars, but the Aussies won out with handmade biscuits! However, I still like the chewy versions!!  For my non-Aussie readers, these cookies are pretty much the same as oatmeal cookies.

All you need for this dessert is two ANZAC cookies that have been microwaved for 15 secs. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to one cookie and a swirl of chocolate topping then sandwich the other cookie on top and Bob's your sweet uncle!! Very simple and irresistibly delicious!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ultimate Moist Healthy Choc Chip Banana Cake

This is one of the best recipes I have come by for banana cake. I think what makes a great banana cake, bread, or slice is super ripe bananas. I hid some healthiness into this cake with chia seeds and linseed meal, but balanced it out with some semi-sweet choc chips.  Some of you might argue its not so healthy, but its better than packaged snacks from the supermarket and you can tweak it to suit your level of sweetness or what you consider to be healthy. Thanks must got to Balancing Beauty and Bedlam where I discovered her recipe and tweaked it to suit my tastes. Personally I don't think the cake needs frosting, but the link is provided if you wish to add it.  I hope you get the same amazing results as I did.

Banana Cake

125g butter
3 medium very ripe bananas mashed as smooth as its possible
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1tsp vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 cup coconut flour
1 1/4 cup plain flour
1 tsp bicarb (baking) soda
pinch of salt
1 cup semi sweet choc chips (optional)
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp linseed meal

 Turn on oven to 180C or 375F and line a lamington or jelly roll tin with baking paper.  I used a stand mixer on medium speed. When you add the flours start on low and increase to medium.

1. Cream butter and two sugars until creamy.
2. Add eggs one at a time - i.e. add an egg mix it through and repeat with each egg.
3. Add Vanilla and mashed bananas and  mix through until combined.
4. Add flours, bicarb soda, and salt and mix on low then increase speed gently until combined.
5. Add chia seeds, linseed meal, and choc chips and stir gently on low or even using a spoon until mixed through.

Pour out onto the tin and spread evenly across the tin until its even and smooth. Its good to use a spatula for this.

Bake in oven for 20 mins or until golden brown on top and cooked in the centre. Allow to cool on a wire tray.  ENJOY:)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ritz Carlton 5 star cookies, The Best Cookies!

These are by far the best cookies I have made. Once upon a time I would have argued until I fainted that the Neiman Marcus cookies I use to make all the time were THE best. These NEW best cookies are much easier and less fiddley to make and you can yield 50+ cookies (depending on your size) very easily. I made about 40 large cookies and the rest were smaller ones. Enjoy:)

Ritz Carlton Cookies

565g (5 sticks) butter softened to room temp
5 eggs (room temp)
2 cups brown sugar packed
2 cups caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
6 cups plain flour
1tsp salt
4 cups choc chips/bits

1. Cream butter and two sugars until smooth and creamy on medium speed

2. Add eggs one at a time

3. Add vanilla and beat in on high speed until all combined and smooth

4. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda, and salt.

5. Add flour mixture to wet mixture 2 cups at a time.

6. Fold choc chips through.

Place cookie dough in fridge for about an hour.

Pre heat oven to 180C. Place large dessert spoonfuls of mixture on cookie sheet / baking tray spaced evenly apart. Place in fridge or freezer for a further couple of minutes before baking. While one sheet is baking set up the next sheet and leave in fridge or freezer until ready to be baked. Bake 10-12mins or until browning on top.

Take out and allow to stand a minute or two then cool on a wire rack. Repeat until all cookies are deliciously baked and you feel like you want to camp out in your kitchen until the smell subsides!

NB. I didn't actually remember to count all the cookies but there were at least 50, very likely to be close to 60 or more cookies. At least a dozen of them were small sized about the size of your hand when you make a circle with the first finger and your thumb, but count from the edge of your finger and thumb, not the inside circle.  I do recommend you refrigerate your cookie dough, unless its a cold winters day and your heater isn't working.

** I also froze a portion of the cookies and hid them at the back of my freezer so my kids  wouldn't find them....they did though!! ***

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What you NEED to know about Planning a trip to DISNEYLAND

According to my kids and husband, they think I am weird because I have no desire to go to Disneyland. I am not a hater at all, I just think there are other awesome things to do with that kind of money. Anyway, 5 against 1, the odds were totally against me and now we are adding a trip to Disneyland for our family  USA trip in May, so they can tick it off their bucket lists. I have to say here, that my kids are super lucky. I didn't go on an aeroplane until I was 16 and I paid for my own ticket. The trip was interstate to see family, so while I loved it, it was nothing as amazing as the USA. The first time I actually went to America was with my sister and I was pregnant with baby number 3 and that was in fact the first time I had ever needed a passport. I think I was 26 or something like that. My kids have had their passports for almost 4 years and they have been to Bali, New Caledonia, and now America.

So once we decided we were going to America, I decided to research and by this I mean, Pinterest and Blogs. I find so much cool and useful information about other people's experiences on these sites before I venture to Google. There are heaps of blogs written by parents who frequent Disneyland or do a tonne of research and share their tips for free.  We are a family of 2 adults and 4 kids aged 14, 12, 9, and 6.   These are the things I have discovered and are paying them forward to you.

1. Disney Forecast Crowd Calendar - I totally wish I knew about this site before we booked our flights. Two days earlier would have meant that it was very likely Disneyland would be a ghost town and we had better chances of getting on heaps more rides. I am sure Disneyland is always busy to some extent, but how awesome would it be to go when there are heaps less people there and getting on rides is easier. I have heard horrible stories of people waiting in line for up to 3 hours just for one ride! Anyway, this link will come in super handy for many of you I am sure.

2. Cost for food inside the park  - This site is super helpful, as it gives you are run down on what food outlets and restaurants offer and where they are in the park. The reviews are a helpful guide and if you like to plan where you want to eat, so that it not an issue on the day, this is a good way of going about it. I think it's also good to plan how much you are willing to spend on food. We haven't decided exactly what we want to do yet, but I really want to try a Dole whip. I see these yummy pineapple whippies all over Pinterest and they look so good!  The other thing I want to mention about the food, is that its not that badly priced. Most American blogs will have you think it's super expensive, but coming from Australia, a kids meal priced at $6.50USD at a fun park is fairly reasonable.  I have also prepped my kids and will continue to do so, that we are going to be sharing a lot of food and treats, especially at Disneyland. This way we can try a number of things but not be purchasing 4 or 5 lots of one thing, only to find out that they don't like it and hubby and I are chowing down on 4  lots of donuts or something less desirable!!  I really don't like when that happens.  This blog has lots of other helpful tips and guides, so be sure to pin it on your Pinterest Board!

3. There are no discount tickets to Disneyland - well this isn't entirely true, you can get some sort of discount at this site, but I am not sure if its only for USA residents. Discounts are very minimal and it usually only counts on multi day passes with the park hopper included.  We have no interest in paying for the park hopper option. Park Hopper basically means that you can switch from Californian Adventure Park to Disneyland or vice versa, on the same day. However, if you get a 2 day pass or more, you can spend one day at one park then the next day at the other. You can also get a 'Magic Morning" with a 3 day or more pass. This allows you (once) to enter the park 1 hour before the rest of the public can enter. So if the park opens at 11am, the Magic Morning starts at 10am (this is an example only).

From what I understand, Disney has a very tight hold on the ticket prices. If you get a discount at all its by as little as $10USD or so, and I have discovered, if its from a legitimate site, you should purchase it. I suppose if you think about, $10USD per ticket is a savings you can spend inside the park on food.  If you come across people selling tickets on Ebay don't purchase them. Any tickets being sold at a huge discount must be questioned and never purchased.  From what I read, a little while ago, people were purchasing 5 day park tickets and were selling the remaining unused days online. To stop this from happening, its my understanding that Disneyland now takes photos of people with their multi-day passes as they
enter the park, and they also ask for photo identification to confirm the name matches on the ticket. It's also helpful to purchase your tickets on the Disney Website and not at the gates. Disney actually encourages people to do this. I think its similar to the Cinema lines. If you have online tickets, you have a admission line just for you and its suppose to be quicker than waiting to purchase the tickets at the gates.

4. Tips, Secrets and Helpful Apps -  I'm not sure about all the tips you will find on this link. Some are a bit lame, but the one about the Waiting time App, is worth me sharing it. How cool, is that?

5. Accommodation  - staying at any of the hotels on the Disney Resort premises, are always going to be crazy ridiculous.  The longer you stay, though the better value it is. Well, the longer you stay in any hotel near and around Disneyland is the same. Fourth, fifth and sixth nights generally speaking are free. However the cost for staying onsite with our family was going to be just under $5000USD with tickets included. Off site it ranges from $1800USD up to $3000USD including tickets for 3 nights. Those savings can be spend elsewhere. The main thing that affects the price, other than star rating, is the distance to Disneyland itself. The further away, the more affordable the accommodation becomes.  When we book accommodation where possible, we book a family suite. This is more affordable and heaps more conveniant as we are all together. We are planning to stay at the Hyatt Hotel Suites which is about 3km walk to Disneyland. That is doable with our kids at their age. Some hotels have free shuttle services and others charge a small fee, I have seen some hotels charge $5USD. We don't have breakfast included in our accommodation, but if you can score a deal including breakfast (usually American style continental buffet breakfast) then that is a bonus.  If you have a car and are considering parking, keep in mind that parking costs $17USD per day at Disneyland. There are some other slightly cheaper options, but you are again, outside of the park and keep in mind there will be walking involved.

I think I have covered the initial basic steps in planning a Disneyland trip. I will add more as I find them. Other than what I have shared, the best advise really comes from people who have been there, so Pinterest and Blogs I think are the best way to go. We have also been watching clips on YouTube of people sharing their experiences on rides. This was great, because I have a basic plan on what rides  get the busiest and which ones are fun, but less popular etc and which ones are really awesome.  I hope I have helped you some. If you have any tips to share, please do so in the comments or if you have written a blog post of your own, share it in the comments. I would love to read it.
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