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.
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
As you know we have brought our first family home. We tackled the big jobs on moving in like eradicating the purple people eater of a fireplace, the deck which we built from the ground up … literally and we turned a stripey blue kitchen into a beautiful space which has allowed me to create wonderful food.
We had Pintrest boards for days. These were vital to planning what we wanted because even though they were all very different it highlighted the aspects and looks we did like.
Unfortunately the Lotto gods haven’t been in our favour so we are working with the old budget nightmare.
Both Luke and I sat down and worked out what we wanted out of the space, what were the non negotiable and what were the nice to haves (basically the things that I really really wanted but I needed to work on him to get them!).
What we wanted out of the space.
As a family of 5 we wanted and needed functionality. We were lucky that the original lay out had TONNES of bench space. One thing ticked off the list. There was also the perfect kitchen triangle. Sink, fridge and stove all connect for an easy flow kitchen.
Our non negotiable/this must go or stay.
TO GET RID OF THE STRIPES!!!
While I loved the fact that the previous owner was mad about colour and patterns that is just not us. We got to work stripping the wood back and the original plan was to stain it all for a rustic/industrial feel. Half way through the paint stripping it dawned on us there was ALOT of wood and by alot I mean ALOT!
Plan overhaul number one. After much negotiation (a polite way of saying that I was not loving what the husband was thinking) we settled on white subway tiles halfway up the wood paneling, adding a scotia rail and painting the rest in Resene Quarter Black White water based enamel.
We (my step-dad and I) tiled the whole kitchen and I got in there an grouted. It was a pretty epic job but I am so happy with how it turned out. With stained hand and cracked nails I wasn’t going to win any hand modeling contests but the charcoal grout and white subway tiles are clean and simple. But also easy to clean and easy to add colour when moods and trends change.
On to the beautiful cabinetry. Apart from the deep blue/purple hue it’s bloody well made and solid wood. Very solid Luke informed me when he was cutting it out to fit the new dishwasher in because I measured it wrong – whoopsie on my part! Back to the cabinetry. New handles and a coat on Resene Nero we will be away laughing (again I have done one door and am yet to find handles I like – can you tell I don’t have enough hours in the day?)
New appliances were our other non-negotiable. I love cooking on gas and our previous rental had it (please note at the time of writing this we still have not had our beautiful gas stove fitted – we are useless!!).
On settlement of this place we had a little money to spare so splashed out on a new stainless steel fridge and gas hob and oven but my life was not complete until the holy trinity was completed and the new dishwasher arrived just before Christmas. Best Christmas present ever!!
My wants – Luke’s nice to haves.
I would love new work benches. Now I don’t need hand milled marble from Italy I am a pretty simple gal. We have been looking and playing but nothing is locked in yet all I know is that I am thinking a white/pale bench would look amazing with the tiles and cabinetry. Do we go laminate? Do we go vinyl (DIYers dream)? Do we save and get engineered stone? Goodness there are so many options both with their own pros and cons. Hence this one is on the nice to have list!!
Another want is a new sink and taps. While the one we currently have is fine and functional I secretly have my heart set on a deep butlers sink. One big enough to bath a baby in it (not that I have one of those anymore!) because our current sink would just about wash the hind legs of Lloyd the Pug if we were lucky. The idea of a sink that can fit baking dishes and mixing bowls (and a potential baby) is my idea of dish-washing heaven.
The other thing that would take me kitchen to the next level would be probably the most fantastic tap I have ever seen. InSinkErator have made a MultiTap. This genius bit of kitchen wizardry gives you near boiling and filtered water from the same tap! Save time boiling that kettle just turn on the tap!! When making pasta I always add boiled kettle water to my pasta pot to speed up the process. But I probably don’t save any time because I have to boil the kettle twice. If I get this bad boy all I will have to do is turn on the tap!!
Couscous, noodles, tea, coffee, vegetables and washing those hideous roasting pans the list endless of the things it can be used for.
I will also be decluttering the bench because who needs a kettle when your tap is like something from Harry Potter, because it lives under the bench it’s almost invisible!! Also being a MasterChef Australia fan I have seen these at work in their kitchen and cripes. I must have it in my kitchen!!
Here is a link to where you can see them in store for yourself. It’s a kitchen game changer.
So this is our kitchen progress. It’s 75% of the way there. It has been a challenge but it has also made us realise that we are very capable of the ol’ DIY gig. We just need to find the time to finish those last bits to make it perfect. Maybe that is how I can sell the InSinkErator MultiTap to Luke. The time I save boiling the kettle I can have those cabinet doors painted!! Worth a try if you ask me!
I’ve been tutu-ing with my cinnamon rolls AGAIN.
Who doesn’t like Ferrero Rocher?
Well actually my mum doesn’t. She digs chocolate and she loves nuts but it is a cardinal sin to combine the two.
If your like me and love them take the original brioche dough and change up the the filling.
Gooey and rich but not too sweet you will be in heaven.
Ferrero Rocher Filling
150gm Whittakers 65% cocoa chocolate (chopped)
3/4 cup hazelnut spread (any kind) – I’ve used Nutino. Made in Italy and nowhere near as sweet as Nutella.
In a dry pan toast your hazelnuts until brown and toasty smelling. Eyeball them the entire time they burn QUICKLY! Take the hot nuts and place in a tea towel. Rub to remove the bitter skins and roughly chop the nuts.
Roll out the brioche dough and spread out the hazelnut spread. Sprinkle over the nuts and chocolate.
Roll and follow the original recipe.
There is nothing better that hot, sweet and cinnamonny (that’s a word right!?!) buns.
I have been experimenting with a traditional cinnamon roll recipe and this is my version of Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Glaze.
The great thing with the second prove overnight, you look like a baking legend when you rock up at the kindy shared lunch or work morning tea with warm buns!!
1 1/4 teaspoon dried yeast
160ml luke warm milk
3 cups plain flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 free-range eggs
125g butter (melted)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste OR 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100gm butter (softened)
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 cup of dried fruit or chocolate (optional)
1 1/3 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste OR 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
In a bowl mix together the warm milk and yeast. Leave for five minutes. Make sure your milk is not too hot otherwise you will kill the yeast and your dough will be a dud.
In a large mixing bowl add the flour, sugar and salt. Melt butter and add to the flour mixture. Lightly whisk the eggs and add the vanilla paste/essence then add to mixing bowl. Lastly add the milk yeast mixture. Place a dough hook on your stand mixer and knead until a thick combined dough is made (roughly 8 minutes). Place in a lightly greased bowl and stand covered in a warm place for 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
After it has risen roll out the dough on a lightly floured bench so it’s roughly rectangle shaped and 1cm thick.
For the filling switch from your dough hook to the whisk on your mixer. Add the softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and beat until light and fluffy. Spread over the rolled out dough leaving a 0.5cm edge. Here is where you add any fruit or chocolate. Sprinkle evenly over the filling.
Starting from the longest edge roll into a large sausage. Cut the roll in half then half again. You should then cut those halves into 3. Making 12 rolls.
So there are 2 ways you can go from here. If baking immediately you can grease a baking dish and place the rolls in all comfy and let them proof again for 45 minutes OR you can place the rolls into a greased dish and place in the fridge covered overnight. Don’t put the refrigerated rolls straight in the oven. Pull them out of the fridge 15 mins before hand to warm up a bit!
From here both of these need to be cooked in a preheated oven at 180 degrees (160 degrees if your using fan forced) for 20 minutes. Then loosely cover with foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes until cooked. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
In a bowl mix all the glaze ingredients. Spoon the glaze over the warm cinnamon rolls.
This recipe has evolved from a stand at the stove gig to a throw it all in a pan gig.
I am all for making good food as easy as possible. I know the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is spend hours at the stove. Bonus ….. even a husband could make this one!!
TRAY BAKE PASTA
4-6 good quality sausages of your choice (head to your butcher for the best ones!)
1.5kg tomatoes OR 1 jar of pasata sauce if you need to sell a kidney for said tomatoes
1 onion (sliced)
2 springs rosemary
1 handful of thyme
1 pinch of dried chilli flakes (omit or pump it up depending on taste)
salt & pepper
2-3 glugs of good olive oil (I use garlic infused for extra flavour)
Pasta any shape/type but remember shapes are a great carrier for sauces (depending on how many you are feeding. I used 1x 500gm packet to feed my family of 5 with left overs).
Fresh basil leaves
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
Add tomatoes, onions, herbs, chilli, salt & pepper to a large baking dish.
Take each sausage and pull the insides into small meatballs. Each sausage makes 5-6 meatballs.
Give it a big glug of olive oil cover with foil and bake for 20-25 mins.
Uncover and smoosh the tomatoes with a fork (if you have used pasata sauce skip this step).
Bake for another 10-15 until brown.
While this is happening cook your pasta in boiling salted water until done. Drain and keep 1/4 cup of the cooking water.
Add the pasta to the baking tray, add the cooking water and with a wooden spoon chuff up the baked on goodness to make the sauce.
Serve with fresh basil and grated parmesan.