We’re preparing for the silly season by making some homemade gifts for loved ones this Christmas.
I have teamed up with Countdown to use their own-brand products to make share my legendary walnut tarts. We crack these out every year, and they go down a treat!
They are so easy to make, I’ve used walnuts but you can use any nuts you like walnuts, pecans, cashews oh the options are endless.
The best thing about these is they aren’t just a crowd favourite, they make a perfect gift. Get creative with cellophane, pop them in a fancy festive dish and if you’re running short of time (which let’s face it who’s not?) you can make ‘em ahead of time and freeze them #xmashack
This recipe make roughly 24 mini tarts.
I always double the recipe and make them till I’m out of filling 60+ tarts. A big ol’ bag of walnuts also means you won’t run out!!
60 gm butter
1 free range egg
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups of walnuts (or nuts of choice)
2 packets of sweet shortcrust pastry (you can also use the sheets – I find rolling them out makes them go further!)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Melt butter in a saucepan.
Cool slightly and add egg, sugar and vanilla.
Roll out pastry and cut to the size of your tart pan.
Lightly grease pan.
Fill pan with pastry and add a walnut.
Add filling until ¾ full – don’t overfill.
Bake for 10-12 mins or until golden.
Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar.
Countdown are rolling out the carpet so to speak. You will be pleased to know that Countdown are making the switch so their Pork is 100% free farmed.
What exactly does this mean to us as consumers?
Patoa farms have been independently assessed by the SPCA to certify them to be free farmed.
It means no crates, no stalls and the piggies are bred outdoors in the North Canterbury air. Local farms and NZ pigs. Countdown is committed to supporting and sustaining local produce here in Aotearoa.
100% free farmed pork is now available to all kiwis at no extra cost.
Higher welfare is ALWAYS the best option and Countdown is the only supermarket retailer in NZ that is 100% free farmed pork.
Now pork for me has always been one of those meats that gives me the heebee jeebees. Not because I don’t like it it’s because I am always terrified I am going to undercook or overcook it.
Countdown has given me the challenge to create a delicious and easy family friendly meal cooking with their 100% free farmed pork loin.
Moroccan pork loin with spring vegetable couscous salad.
600 gm Pork loin
2 tbsp Moroccan paste ( I used me ol’ fav Pepper & Me )
Salt and Pepper
Coat pork loin in moroccan paste.
Leave to marinate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 220 degrees.
Score the pork fat.
Massage in a little oil and salt and pepper.
Reduce oven temp to 180 degrees or 160 degrees if using fan bake.
Cook for 50-60 mins.
Pork should be tender and slightly pink in the middle.
At 60 minutes remove the fat and crank the over up to max.
Cover the pork loin with tinfoil and rest for 15 mins.
On the tray lay out the cracking and cook for 10 mins or until it’s crispy and golden.
Slice the pork and the crackling.
Reserve the pork juices.
1 x Bunch of asparagus
1 x Eggplant
2 x Courgettes
1 cup Couscous
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and Pepper
Slice and grill the courgette and eggplant.
Half and grill the asparagus.
Roast the tomatoes in a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper for 10-15 mins.
“Cook” couscous as per packet instructions.
Combine the veges and couscous.
In a separate bowl add pork juices, vinegar, mustard and sugar.
Season with salt and pepper if required.
Dress salad with the dressing.
Serve the pork loin slices with the salad.
A wise person once said “humanity runs on coffee”.
They were not wrong.
Sunbeam sent our family the new Sunbeam Barista Max Espresso Machine with Integrated Grinder to try.
Oh and did we try!!
This bad boy is the newest kid on the coffee block for Sunbeam.
This coffee machine retails for $699.00.
This machine is really a one stop coffee shop. It’s got a built in grinder which can be tailored to your very own grinding needs. Pop the cafe head into the tap and go cradle, push down and your grinds fall directly into the head. Tamp down and select from single or double shot. It really doesn’t much easier than that. Head to the right and get your foam on. The powerful steam wand heats milk in a jiffy.
Now all this is easy once you get the hang of it.
Luke took it upon himself to watch a few YouTube videos on the techniques of the barista. So we all know now that he is an expert!!
I will put it out there …… he makes coffee 100% better than me now!!
We had a few teething problems – but only because we were too scared we would burn the milk. So after a few lukewarm lattes we nailed the milk shenanigans and now we have a perfect cuppa joe.
This is a good looking machine that deserves a place on the kitchen counter. It’s not big and bulky so it doesn’t dominate the bench. Easy to wipe down and clean.
This really is a great machine. Easy to use and easy to clean. Oh and most importantly is makes a bloody good coffee.
Because we don’t get enough of a coffee hit with a morning mocha I tried to make a delicious breakfast alternative to boring ol’ french toast.
I give you my friends …….
Tiramisu French Toast
½ cup milk
1/3 cup espresso
1.5 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Large sourdough loaf – cut into thick slices
1 tsp Pepper & Me Baker’s Grind
Add milk, eggs, espresso, vanilla, cocoa powder, Baker’s Grind and half the mascarpone in a food processor until well combined.
Add the sliced bread in a large dish. Pour over milk mixture. Set aside, turning halfway, for 20 minutes to soak.
In a fry pan add a knob of butter and a dash of oil melt over medium heat. Cook bread, in 3 batches, turning, for 2-3 minutes each side or until golden. Repeat with the remaining butter and bread, wiping the pan clean with paper towel between batches.
Serve layered bread on a plate with the leftover mascarpone between the slices. Drizzle with maple syrup and top with berries if wanted.
If your looking for a coffee machine that is easy to use, easy to clean and looks great in your kitchen checkout the Sunbeam Barista Max Espresso Machine with Integrated Grinder.
You shan’t be disappointed.
Now team you all know we have been making small changes as a family in our plastic bag use.
It’s not been hard but it definitely makes you reassess your plastic.
For us by getting our online groceries packed in boxes our plastic bag use has decreased to almost zero!
BUT we were still getting some of our fruit and veges packed in plastic fruit and vege bags.
So it got me thinking …. What can we do to stop this?
Here is where Munch Reusable Produce Bags come in.
Munch have packs of produce bags which firstly are very deceptive. These stretchy, colourful and New Zealand made bags can hold up to 2kg of produce (perfect for the potatoes). The airflow can circulate around your fruit and veges because of the perforated fabric. Perfect for stopping the potatoes and onions sweating and getting stinky!!
Each bag comes with a bungee like drawstring which once pulled keeps your bits in and not rolling around the bottom of your trolley or fridge.
In the Munch pack you get a set of 3 bags (2 small and 1 large).
The large is perfect for the large veges like potatoes, kumara or onions.
The smaller bags were perfect for literally EVERYTHING else!!
This set retails for $19.99.
They are easy to use at the self service checkouts too and don’t cause the virtual shop assistant to have a moment with your oranges!!
Munch Reusable Produce Bags will be well used in this whare and I am so happy that I can keep reducing our plastic use as a whanau.
By having 2 sets of these we can drop our produce bags and shopping bags off at our local supermarket and when the online shopping is done we can have our shopping packed almost plastic free!!
Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi Cooker
Let’s face it we are all time poor.
If we want to maximise our time away from the kitchen I am all for that. We just need to think smart. But let’s not be martyrs we need a little help.
We are all about maximum family time.
A time for being together.
For our whanau sitting down at the end of each day and having dinner is probably the only time during our hectic schedule where we all stop and see how everyone is doing.
By having less time in the kitchen and more time together as a family we are winning right?
Here is where Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi Cooker comes to the party.
The new Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi Cooker is a one stop shop.
Don’t have 8 hours to cook that stew?
Use the pressure cooker function.
Done in 1 hour.
At work for the day but need dinner done when you get home?
Use the slow cooker function.
Need to brown off your meat before slow cooking?
Use the brown/saute function.
What’s even better is you do it all in the one pan.
We all hate extra pots and pans to wash.
There is literally nothing this bad boy can’t do.
We… I say we it’s actually Miss Teddie who is into naming all household equipment and furniture has christened our Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi Cooker ….. Carl.
Carl can do many things other standard crock pots can’t do.
He can steam (perfect for steamed puds), he can keep things warm (for when kids are home at different times), he is a rice cooker AND he is a yoghurt maker!!
Crockpot gave me the challenge to come up with a great winter warmer recipe using their new Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi Cooker or as we call him Carl.
Mexican Beef with Creamy Polenta.
Serves 4 (or 3 adults and 2 small people)
1kg beef (chuck or stewing steak)
4 tablespoons Pepper & Me Mexellent paste (or any other mexican recipe base paste)
2 tsp crushed garlic
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can water
Salt and Pepper to taste.
1 cup of polenta (quick cook)
3 cups cold water
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup parmesan grated.
Cut beef into 2 cm cubes and season with salt and pepper. Using the BROWN/SAUTE feature brown the meat in batches. Once all the meat is browned add onion and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the Mexellent (or what you are using) paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes and water.
If you are wanting to add other vegetables you can add them here.
Switch to the SLOW COOK function and slow cook for 6-8 hours OR
Switch to the PRESSURE COOK function and cook for 1.5 hours.
Bring the water to the boil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Use a wire balloon whisk to stir the water. Gradually add the polenta in a thin steady stream, whisking constantly until all the polenta is incorporated into the water (whisking ensures the polenta is dispersed through the liquid as quickly as possible). Don’t add the polenta too quickly or it will turn lumpy.
Reduce heat to low. BE CAREFUL IT CAN SPIT AT YOU AND BURN!! Simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture thickens and the polenta is soft.
Add cream, butter and parmesan mix with a wooden spoon until melted and season to taste.
Chinese style Glazed Pork Belly with Fry Bread BaoThis is a fun kiwi twist on the traditional Chinese dish.Prep Time 20 minutesCook Time 1 hour 30 minutesTotal Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Chinese Glazed Pork Belly
- 1kg pork belly chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves whole
- 2 spring onions chopped in half
- 1 chilli whole
- 1 litre water
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- 6 tbsp light soy sauce
- 6 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 6 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
- 1 star annise
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 500 ml water
Fry Bread Bao
- 1 tbsp yeast I use the granules
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 cups warm water
- 4 cups plain flour you will need extra for dusting bench
- 2 tbsp oil
- oil for frying
Chinese glazed Pork Belly
Chop your pork belly into 1 inch pieces.
Bring the 1 litre of water to the boil with garlic, chilli and spring onion.
Add pork and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Remove and drain on a paper towel lined bowl.
In another pan (or use the same one - without the water!) add oil and brown pork on high until golden brown. Be warned it will spit and splatter. Be careful.
Once the pork is brown add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar is melted and coating the pork - reduce to low.
Add the soy sauces, rice wine and spices cook until the sauce is reduced by about half.
Add the 250ml water cover with a lid and cook for at least 45mins. Check every 10 minutes if it's looking dry add a little more water.
When the 45 mins is up check the sauce. If it is still runny (you want a thick glossy sauce) remove the lid and cook further until sauce is where you want it.
Fry Bread Bao
Add sugar, yeast and warm water together stir and set aside for 5-10 mins to bubble.
In a bowl add flour, oil and yeast mixture.
Set aside for 30-40 mins to rise.
Once risen the texture should be too wet to handle.
Dust bench with flour and flatten out.
Cut into squares or circles (however big you want them and whatever shape floats your boat)
In a shallow pan or electric fry pan add 4-5 inches of canola or rice bran oil.
You don't want the oil too hot or your fry bread will burn on the outside and still be raw in the middle. Test a piece.
Dust off flour and fry on each side until golden.
Drain on a paper towel.
Serve with mung bean sprouts and kewpie mayonaise.
If you don't have star annise or cinnamon just leave it out.
It's REALLY important to use both the dark and light soy for flavour and colour of the dish.
Can also be served with steamed rice and green onions.
Over the past few years, it has definitely become more apparent that the amount of sugar we consume is greater than what we put into our teas and coffees. Sauces, bread, baking and many other things have secret sugar hidden within the ingredients.
Being aware and reducing the amount of sugar in our diets can keep us and our whanau healthy.
WHOLE EARTH Sweetener Co. uses stevia a natural leaf found in South America used for hundreds of years to sweeten herbal tea.
Their Baking Blend uses a mix of stevia and raw cane sugar to allow the look and baking ability of sugar but with 50% fewer calories than regular sugar.
WHOLE EARTH Sweetener Co. gave me the challenge of finding a recipe and using their products.
These Apple Crumble Cookies are easy to make and perfect lunchbox additions for little people and in our case, not so little people.
I double the recipe for our baking loving family of 5, otherwise they would last 2 days if I’m lucky!
You could also substitute the dried apple with any dried fruit e.g. apricot, figs or dates.
Apple Crumble Cookies
100g dried apple
200g plain flour
1.5tsp baking powder
100g butter (cold)
100g WHOLE EARTH Sweetener Co. Baking Blend
1 large free-range egg
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius
Line 2 trays with baking paper.
In a food processor put apple and blitz until finely chopped.
Add flour, butter, Whole Earth Baking Blend and a pinch of salt.
Blitz till fine breadcrumbs.
Remove 3-4 tbsp of mix and set aside.
Add egg and combine.
Divide into large teaspoon sized balls, roll and flatten lightly.
Sprinkle over reserved mix.
Bake for 8-10 mins until lightly golden.
Cool on tray for 10 mins then transfer to a wire rack.
I’ve got a few more of my Lady Lifesavers for May.
The may not specifically be for the ladies but they may make your life 100% better!
Wicked Sensation Children’s Magnesium Cream
This little pot of magic soothes muscles, frightens monsters away and makes children SLEEP! I have been using this on the kids feet to protect them against “monsters” BUT really I have been helping them sleep! Granted I have pretty great sleepers but it takes them along time to get to sleep. The lavender and magnesium helps to soothe them into a blissful sleep. For us it’s been that winding down post dinner ritual. Bath, teeth and a foot massage for the small ones. They love it! I have also been using it on tight shoulders and for my tension headaches. MAGIC!! Made in NZ and full of natural goodies.
So Simple Retinol + Lycopene Face Serum
So Simple Skincare work on the waterless skincare approach. Basically this means by no water in the product there is more active product. Also by having more active ingredients you need less product!!
By using this under my night cream EVERY night I have seen a reduction in the large pores around my nose which in turn means less blockage and congestion e.g. blackheads.
This serum is quickly absorbed and the active ingredients of the retinol and lycopene help kick the butts of fine lines (very important in your 30s) and evens out skin tone.
Frankie Apothecary Breathe Roll On + Kawakawa Body Oil
I cannot rave enough about Michelle and Frankie Apothecary. We only used the Frankie Sunscreen SPF50 this summer and the whole family loved it. Frankie Apothecary have launched two new products this winter. Breathe Roll On takes Kanuka for decongestion, Kawakawa and Eucalyptus oils as well as Marjoram and Lemon oil for headache relief. This has been a godsend with winter approaching and the snots and sniffles that have been bouncing around. With the snozzles snot free we can focus on keeping the moisture in our skin this winter. I don’t know about you but I get such dry skin during the winter. Cue the Kawakawa Body oil. Soaks in quickly so it’s not an oil slick in your pj’s, I love the fact it’s fragrance free as I get a bit funny with overly botanical fragrance in products. It can also been used as a massage oil for mum and baby or as a bath oil.
This year is flying by. Before we know it will be dare I say it Christmas!
This little gem of a condiment is probably one of the easiest things to come from my kitchen.
It’s so easy even Archie helps to make it – also it’s his favourite thing at the moment so he’s keen to have a stash in the fridge.
This pickle can be teamed with anything. Perfect for adding to burgers, pimping up a curry or stir-fry by adding a freshness. Basically it can make friends with any kind of dish and it will make it taste good.
QUICK CUCUMBER PICKLE
1 cup of white vinegar
1 cup of water
3/4 cup of white sugar
1 pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
1 telegraph cucumber (sliced)
Add vinegar, water, sugar and chilli (if using) to a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Slice your cucumber – not too thin and not too thick.
Once the pickle liquid has boiled take off the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Add the cucumber.
Cover with a lid and leave to cool.
It’s ready to eat.
You can keep it stored in the fridge for 1 week. Just put the cucumber and liquid into a sterilised* jar.
*To sterlise a jar – Make sure it is clean and fill it with boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Empty and add your contents. Don’t forget the lid. Place the lid in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove and place on the jar. Remember once you have sterlised the jar don’t touch the inside of the jar or lid.
Life as a lady can be a little bit shit.
From monthlies to mood swings to hormonal breakouts the list can go on for the gems that women get thrown in life.
I have found 3 life savers of late and here they are.
Supabee for Women
Abeeco have made a little capsule of lady gold in the form of Supabee for Women. From the bee pollen for overall health and energy to the hormone balancing qualities of the Wild Yam and the natural libido enhancing properties of the Horny Goat Weed (I have not told my husband of these magical effects!) There are two other essential components Vitamin B6 for a balanced metabolism and Ginseng for a way to increase stamina and endurance (something we ALL need right?)
Basically this is a must have supplement for all woman at any age. Chinese medicine has been using Horny Goat Weed, Wild Yam and Ginseng for thousands of years to support hormone balance and over all wellness.
Now to the Horny Goat Weed which I hear you all say holy crapola Jess am I going to become a horn-bag after taking it? The answer is maybe but that’s up to you! haha basically a tonic-type supplement not a stimulant so you will see it’s effects over time. So start taking it now and book that romantic getaway in a month or two that doesn’t coincide with the visit of Aunt Flo.
I have been taking it now for 6-8ish weeks and so far so good. No PMS, a HUGE drop in hormonal breakout (1 -2 pimples rather than my normal cystic acne breakout) and I generally feel better!!
The Hello Cup
Speaking of Aunt Flo my next lady must have is the Hello Cup, an NZ made menstrual cup that is a game changer.
This little cup of genius is not only good for the environment because of no waste, it actually SAVES YOU MONEY – Because you are not buying tampons or pads every month. I was spending $20+ per month on all the essential equipment needed for her visits. Now I am on month 3 of using my Hello Cup and it’s paid for itself.
Various sizes available for all the different fannies out there. Pre-kids, post-kids, big ones and little ones, what ever kind of vagina you have Hello Cup has got your back …… or your fanny so to speak. The combo packs are a great way to test the boat and see which will work best for you. My only tip to dipping your toe into the world on menstrual cup is when you use it for the first time (first period) do it in the shower. Its a great way of getting all familiar with it and you without doing vaginal yoga on the bathroom floor!!
I am a complete cup convert. I never thought I would be either. I also get that some people just can’t get their heads around the idea but that is why we are all different and it would be boring as all f**k if we were all the same.
Oasis Drink Bottles
OK I would be talking smack if I said “oh yes I drink 8 glasses of water everyday to maintain my flawless complexion”. I am not the biggest fan of drinking water. If I drink water it has to be cold. There is nothing worse than warm water. These Oasis drink bottles are frigging genius. Keeping cold liquids cold for 24 hours (I tried it and it works!) and hot liquids hot for 12 hours. It’s perfect for work because I TRY (try being the word here!) to stay away from coffee and having the cold water is a great distraction. The only downside to drinking more water is the fact I have to pee all the time. I have had 3 vaginal births – the wee holding muscles are not what they used to be!
For winter I’m going to hunt out some herbal teas to grace the drink bottle with. I can not for the life of me drink cold water in the winter. Again it makes me need to pee a whole lot more and I can’t spend my whole time at work in the loo!!
Here are 3 of my Lady Lifesavers. I am going to make this a regular feature so keep tuned for more Lady Lifesavers.
If you have a Lady Lifesaver you swear-by tell me about it by flicking me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org