Friday, 30 August 2013

Mrs D's yummy fish pie recipe!

One of my lovely readers has got herself a Thermomix this week and has asked me if I could please blog a fish pie recipe.  How exciting and of course I can blog a fish pie recipe.  There are so many different variations of fish pie but I've decided on this one as it obviously uses the Thermie and it's a popular one with my family. Anything the kids will eat has got to be a good right??

500g fish (It could be any combination but I used salmon and prawns)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
400g milk (I used skimmed)
200g water
60g butter
40g plain flour
2 tbs vegetable or fish stock
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 head of broccoli
salt and pepper to taste
2 sheets of puff pastry
1 egg


  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Put the water plus 300g of milk into the thermomix bowl and insert the basket on top.

  • Add all the fish into the basket and close the lid.  Squeeze the lemon over the thermomix lid letting the juice drip in over the fish but catching all the pips.

  • Cook the fish (in the milk) for 10 minutes at 100 degrees on speed 4.
  • While the fish is cooking steam the veggies for about the same time (or until slightly soft) and set aside once cooked.

  • Once the fish has cooked, tip out all the remaining milk into a separate jug and put aside for later.  
  • Tip the cooked fish and veggies into your serving dish.

  •  To make the sauce, weigh out 450g of the remaining milk (that you set aside).  Add a little of the extra milk if you need to make it up to 450g.
  • Add the butter, flour, stock and seasonings and cook for 4 minutes at 100 degrees on speed 4.

  • Pour the sauce over the fish and veggies, making sure everything is evenly mixed in.  
  • Top the pie with puff pastry.  This is the bit where you can get creative.  I have attempted to cut mine into strips and plait it, but I'm pretty sure you could do better than me!!!  

  • Brush your beautiful pastry design with the beaten egg and pop it into the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Cotton On Kids: New 2013 Spring/Summer Range and a $50 GIVEAWAY

Spring/Summer 2013
Having only lived in Australia for a couple of years it has taken me some time to get to know the local brands here, and shopping with three small kids in tow has not made it easy!!  I all too often revert to ordering the kids clothes online from the more familiar UK brands that I have grown up with.  However one local brand that has really jumped out at me is COTTON KIDS KIDS.

You just can't NOT notice them.  They are bright, vibrant, trendy, full of fun and SUPER cute and it's often not just me that is drawn into their store, but the kids too.  Miss H and Master J have both become very 'picky' when it comes to their clothes and they both now insisting on choosing their own fashion these days (which is a job I'm still having trouble letting go of!!).  I guess it's a sure sign that they are becoming their own little people.

As a brand Cotton On Kids has really grown over the last few years and their style of clothing is so easy to love.  Apart from always being totally on trend, one of the things I love about Cotton On Kids is that they are affordable.

Last week I was invited to a launch of the Cotton On Kids new 2013  Spring/Summer Range and of course there was no way I wasn't going!  I think I love shopping for my kids more than I love shopping for me!!

I had such a lovely morning at one of the 'new look' stores in Sydney (which looked FABULOUS by the way).  All the store will be getting the 'new look' over the next few months and I'm sure you'll notice when your local store becomes all hip and trendy.  We were also luckily enough to have one of Cotton On Kids awesome buyers to take us through the new range and it was really cool finding out how the designs are put together, where their inspiration and ideas come from and how they are sourced.  (It sounds like a pretty cool job actually).  This spring/Summer range is all about BRIGHT colours, BOLD patterns, Accessories, trendy boys shirts, jersey shorts and LOTS of super cute dress ups!!  There is just so much to choose from that you just have to take a look for yourself.  Whether you have a boy or a girl you won't be disappointed (and neither will they).
'New Look' store in Randwick, Sydney
I had to share this sneak peak of the Halloween dress ups!!  SUPER CUTE!  My Miss H is going to love the pink super cat outfit.
How cute is this little dress in the baby girl range??  I LOVE it
The whole range will be available to buy ONLINE and IN STORE from OCTOBER and it is soooo worth waiting for!!

If you'd like to shop the new range then I have just the thing for you!!  I have one $50 gift card for COTTON ON KIDS to giveaway to one lucky reader.  All you have to do to be 'in it to win it' is live in Australia and enter the giveaway below.  GOOD LUCK!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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*Disclosure:  I have not been paid to write this review, although I was gifted a couple of items of clothing for my kidlets and I was invited to attend the launch of the new Spring/Summer Range.  All opinions are my own and I genuinely LOVE this brand, so I really didn't need to be asked twice!! Professional photographs were supplied to me by Cotton On Kids.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Thermomix bacon, pumpkin and spinach quiche - My first Spring recipe this year

Since having my thermomix quiche has become one of my favourite things to bake.  I would never in a million years have tried to make one before - partly because anything more complicated than a sandwich ALWAYS flopped when I tried to make it and partly because I just thought it was one of those things that was just easier to buy!  This recipe is REALLY easy and makes two delicious quiches, so perfect for a big family or a great side for a BBQ lunch now that summer is on its way.

Spring in definitely in the air around my part of the world (just as long as that cold wind goes away), so it's almost time to be 'out with the soups and casseroles and in with the quiches and salads'.

I made this on yesterday and it was a big hit with everyone - even fussy Miss H.  We had it cold with some salad and I told her to hold it like pizza and take a big bit bite....... "Mmmm it's yummy mum, even thought it looks yuck!"  "Why thank you possum" - that's a compliment in my book!!

Pastry Ingredients
- 400g plain flour (you could use gluten free flour, which I have used when my mother in law was visiting and it worked perfectly)
- 200g cold butter, cubed
- 130g ice cold water

Pastry Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Put the flour and butter into the thermomix and chop it up for 5 seconds on speed 6 until it looks a bit like bread crumbs.
  3. Add the water a little at a time and mix on speed 5 for a second or two each time you do it. Once all the water is mixed in, set the dial to the closed lid position and knead into a dough for 30 seconds on interval speed.

It looks a bit like very large bread crumbs once it's finished kneading.  Tip it out of the thermomix and roll it up into two equal sized balls.  You can either press the pastry into two flan tins or just use one and wrap the second ball of pastry up in cling film plastic and pop into the freezer for another day (it will keep for up to three weeks).

Pop your pastry flan into the oven and bake for just 10 minutes.  (I do this to make sure the pastry isn't undercooked when you bake it with the filling).  Take it out and let it cool while you prepare your filling.

Filling Ingredients (This fills one quiche - you will need to double it for two)
4 rashes of bacon
1 sweet small sweet potato or 1/4 butternut squash peeled and cubed
1/2 onion
a handful of baby spinach leaves
1 tbs olive oil
4 eggs
70g cream
70g cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste
a handful of grated cheese to sprinkle on top

Filling Method
  1. Make sure the oven is still on - or turn it on to 180 degrees.
  2. Steam the sweet potato/pumpkin cubes until 3/4 cooked and set aside.
  3. Grill or fry the bacon and slice it up thinly.  Set aside.
  4. Put the onion into the TM bowl and chop for 5 seconds on speed 6.  Add the oil and saute for three minutes on 100 degrees, speed 1.
  5. Add the eggs, cream, cream cheese and salt and pepper to the bowl.  Mix for 6 seconds on speed 6.
  6. Sprinkle the bacon, spinach and sweet potato/pumpkin on the bottom of the pastry flan and then pour over the egg mix.  
  7. Sprinkle a some grated cheese on top and pop it into the oven to bake for approx. 25 minutes, or until golden brown and the egg has cooked through.

This quiche is yummy hot or cold and it freezes well too, so perfect for those moments when you have no time and just need to perform a magic trick to get food on the table!!

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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Blue Man Group Oz for (almost) Wordless Wednesday

It is the most SPECTACULAR day in Sydney today and I have just driven in, over the harbour bridge, to see the preview of the BRILLIANT Blue Man Group.  It is the first time they are touring Australia and I jumped at the chance to go and see them.  Mr D and I saw them in London about 5 years ago and I still remember it.  It is just one of those shows that just WOW's you!! 
This morning we only got to see little snippets of it and now I CAN'T WAIT to see it in full tonight.  Baby sitter is arranged and I will be taking Mr D out on a date.

The show has three men painted blue performing electrifying experimental music, comedy, tricks and sensational multimedia.
It is LOUD, BRIGHT, MESMERISING, FUNNY and totally interactive with the audience.  It is an experience that totally redefines the the term 'live entertainment'.    Producer Rodney Rigby (Jersey Boys and the Adams Family) is super excited to be bringing the show to Australia after years of planning and HUGE international success.  I won't tell you too much more until I've seen the full show tonight, but I will let you know tomorrow what Mr D thinks.  It is suitable for everyone over the age of 3.
I have some tickets available for the Sydney shows at an exclusive discount price of $75.  So if you would like to see the show just drop me a line.
The show will be held at the Sydney Lyric, The Star
The girls 'hanging out' outside the theatre
Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday morning

This is a little sneaky clip that I filmed while at the preview this morning!  Hopefully it will give you a taste of the awesomeness of the show!! 

*Disclaimer:  I was gifted two tickets to see this show.  ALL opinions, photos and videos are my own.

Monday, 12 August 2013

A house that found me

When we first moved to Sydney from the UK (in 2011), I imagined that we would find a nice rental house, make it into our home and live there happily ever after, or until the time came when we were ready to take the next step!!  IF ONLY someone had told me that my head was in fairyland and that finding a great rental and holding on to it is about as easy as running a marathon with no training!!!

We owned our house in the UK, so having never rented before, Mr D and I were both totally naive (and a bit clueless) about what to expect.  My first experience of the 'rental world' was a total eye opener and I am truly disappointed to report that the old cliche that Estate Agents working with rentals treat prospective tenants with very little respect is so true!  I don't mean to offend anyone but in my experience so far, this has been the case.  Perhaps I'll be proved wrong soon??  Just because we do not own the properly it does not make us any less respectable or responsible, especially we are paying a lot of month each month to look after a house as if it was our own!!  OK rant over and I'll jump down off my soap box now too and get back to the point!!

We did find a beautiful house to rent (you can find out how here) and I set about turning into our home.  We had just uprooted and moved half way around the world to be here so I really, really wanted to make the house feel as homely as possible to help us to settle in.  I did everything I could to turn it into a beautiful home and Mr D even did a lot of work in the garden.  So I'm sure you can imagine how devastated I was when six month later the house was put up for sale and we were literally kicked out!!  Just to make matter worse It was right over the Christmas school holidays, we had family staying with us and I was pregnant with Miss L!!  Yes, I did cry!!

Arrows shows roughly where we are currently and our new home is at the top of this hill from where this photo was taken (unfortunately not with the view).  Image credit
We learnt a big lesson about not getting too attached to a property that you don't own and we picked ourselves up and (quickly) found a new place to live.  It wasn't ideal but it was on the beach - so really, I couldn't complain too much!!

Although we have LOVED living on the beach, we have just out-grown the house and need some more space.  The kids would absolutely love a back garden too and I would love not to have to do the drive to and from school so many times a day let alone week!!  So the hunt for a new house began.

A few weeks ago I was viewing a house (in a speedy 15 minute time slot, along with all the other perspective rental hunters) when a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder, who I hadn't really noticed, but just assumed that he was viewing the properly too.  "Hi", he said, in a really friendly manner, "I couldn't help but overhear your conversation a minute ago with the estate agent.  I believe you're looking for a family home and I have one that's almost ready for renting.  Would you like to come with me and have a look?"  "Of Course!!" I said (I mean this was like waving lollies in front of a kid - I didn't need to be asked twice.  Good rentals in this area are very few and far between).  So off we went (Miss H and I).   The house was perfect for us!!  An easy walk from the school and nursery, across from a lovely park, lots of space and a big, kid friendly back garden!!!  The only problem is that he is mid way though a lot of renovations, so we will just have to patiently wait until it's ready.

I rushed home to tell Mr D and his first response was "WHAT?????  You meant just followed some random stranger into his home without even thinking???"  "Errmmmm, yeeeeeees" I answer - with the realisation that it probably wasn't my smartest move only just sinking in!!  The part of the world that we live in is just so safe that it's a little too easy to become complacent sometimes. Anyway, it all turned out perfectly fine, and that 'stranger' has become and very nice almost landlord!!

We are just patiently waiting to find out when it will be ready before we start to get our heads around move number three!!  But they say three is a lucky number don't they?????

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Friday, 9 August 2013

Balmoral Beach and Boat House: One of my most favourite kid friendly beaches and cafe's in Sydney

There are so many spectacular beaches in Sydney that it's quite hard to pick a favourite.  I change my mind every week and after nearly three years of living on the beaches I still keep discovering new places that I haven't seen before. Lucky?? ABSOLUTELY!!

On Wednesday I met a friend at Balmoral Beach, Mosman for a picnic with the kids and it was just so stunning that it is now my new top runner.

I have a tough life don't I??  I really shouldn't post these pictures of me chilling in the winter sunshine (on a school day) watching the girls play.  Mr D will stop believing me when I tell him I've had another crazy, hectic day!!  There are parts of it that are, I swear, but this particular morning was parental bliss!

Balmoral really is a great spot for kids.  There is hardly ever more than just a gentle lapping wave, which is not idea for surfers, but absolutely perfect for a bucket and spade, dipping your toes or even having a sneaky swim.  My girls love it because there are no big, scary waves to knock them down.  And of course the backdrop of gently bobbing boats and endless amounts of blue is enough to calm down even the most stressed out nerves!!
This photo was taken on the far south side of Balmoral, looking north.
There is ample parking available right on the beach so you don't you don't have too far to go with all that 'stuff' that you have to take to the beach when you have the kids in tow. (Gone are the days when all that was required was a sarong and a good book - although what a place to escape and read). There is also a fabulous kids playground right next to the beach, which is very well shaded from the sun.  I will just mention that it is not fenced in, so you do have to keep a close eye on the kids.
Pretty perfect shade for a hot, sunny day

One of my favourite things about Balmoral are the trees!!  You absolutely CANNOT miss them. They are the most enormous and almost magical looking trees I've ever seen.  There are just so many adventures waiting to happen in those branches and huge roots.  I bet Enid Blyton wrote the Magic Faraway Tree based on one just like this.  I had never seen these trees before coming to Sydney so I had to do a little bit of investigating to find out more about them. After having a chat with Mum Deep over on Instagram I learned that are called Morton Bay Fig trees which are Native to Australia.  They were originally brought to Sydney and NSW from Queensland during the great depression to improve the appearance of the coastline.  Well, they've certainly done that, that's for sure!
There are so many reasons why you could settle down at Balmoral Beach quite easily for the ENTIRE day.  One of them is the cafe's and restaurants, with my absolute FAVOURITE being the The Boat House.  I have to be totally honest and say that I would far rather enjoy a breakfast or lunch at the Boat House without the kids, just so that I could actually enjoy my meal and the stunning scenery without and inevitable drama, but saying that it is perfectly kid friendly if you did have them with you.

Right next door to the Boat House is a little Kiosk, selling fish and chips, basic sandwiches, ice-creams, cakes and GOOD coffee.  Over lunch time this doesn't get nearly as busy as the Boat House and is perfect for a takeaway on the beach.  Hot chips beautifully wrapped in brown paper will keep any half-naked beach babies happy!! (or maybe that's just my kids???).

I left feeling very relaxed with a pair of super happy but super exhausted girls and a big, beautiful bunch of lilies from the Boat House shop.

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Saturday, 3 August 2013

A gluten free, nut free muesli bar that's great for lunchboxes

I have been trying to find the 'perfect' muesli bar recipe for some time now.  They're so good for lunch boxes or just a quick healthy snack.  I've been really put off by all the hidden sugars and nasties in the ones that you buy in the shops, that I am determined to make my own.  I have tried so many recipes that I've see online and I can never seem to get it right!

It's too buttery and sticky - the kids won't eat it.
Too nutty - the kids won't eat it
Looks yucky (Miss H's words) - the kids won't eat it
Too many raisins - the kids won't eat it
Too coconutty (Mr D is not a fan of coconut oil) - no one will eat them!!
Too crumbly and it falls apart - the kids won't eat it (and mummy hates the mess)
'What are those?' says at least one of them when pointing to a green pumpkin seed or something similar - yep, you got it, the kids won't eat it!!

FINALLY after a lot of trial and error and adding in some essential chocolate chips I seem to have found a winner!!  The mere mention of chocolate chips and all of a sudden there seems to be a bit interest.  I'm sure they would have liked some of the other ones I've made previously but I just couldn't even get them to try them!! "Why have you never made these before?" Master J asks!!  "I have", I thought, rolling my eyes, "you just wouldn't try them!!"

SO obviously chocolate it the secret ingredient!!  I can't blame them really - it must be a genetic thing???

I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with these too.  They are lovely and moist, delicious, sweet but not too sweet and they don't crumble when you hold them!!  And they're ALMOST totally healthy!!

Lunchbox Muesli Bar - Gluten and Nut FREE


65g brown rice
35g buckwheat
1 tbs chia seeds
1 pink lady apply
200g dried fruit (I used dates, apricots and cranberries)
30g butter
90g oats
30g desiccated coconut
2 tbs sunflower seeds
2 tbs brown sugar
70g white chocolate chips (optional)
50g manuka honey
2 large eggs
A handful of dark chocolate chips for decorating (optional)

*You could easily make this recipe dairy free too by leaving out the chocolate and replacing the butter with coconut oil.

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  • Place the rice, buckwheat and chia seeds in the thermomix (or blender) and whizz on speed 9 for 30 seconds until it becomes a fine powder.  Set it aside in a separate bowl.
  • Place the apple in the thermomix (cored but not peeled) and whizz for 3 seconds on speed 6. Scrape down the sides and add all the dried fruit.
  • Set the thermomix to the closed lid position and hit the turbo button for 1 second.  Repeat three times until the fruit is all finely chopped.
  • Add the butter and chop for 3-5 seconds on speed 9 until it is well incorporated into the fruit.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients, including the rice/buckwheat powder and mix together on reverse speed 5 for 20-30 seconds.
  • Spread the mixture into a lined baking tray.  Decorate the top with chocolate chips and then put it into the oven for 15-20 minutes (or until golden brown on top).
  • Allow to cool and cut into squares or slices/bars and enjoy.

What's your favourite healthy lunchbox recipe??  I'm always after ideas.