Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In My Kitchen - December 2013

Just as I sit down to write this post, which I have been trying to get to all week, Blossom wakes up early from her nap....
....and now I have her on my lap as I type. While Chicky and Poppet giggle hysterically, telling "poo jokes" and chasing each other around the kitchen, Blossom watches longingly. If only the chubby 10 month old was mobile, she'd be able to join in. One day soon, before I have toddler-proofed my house no doubt, she'll be on the move.

But I digress. My kitchen this month hosts several new additions. Some edible, some not, and some in preparation for the holiday festivities.

The girls and I had fun making a gingerbread house last year, and while I made a paper template for the walls, the template didn't move house when we did. I saw this cookie cutter set in Kmart for around $5 (the exact figure escapes me) and couldn't resist. This way the girls can get involved in cutting the walls as well as mixing and decorating. 


I don't really like shop-bought fruit mince pies, but have made my own for the last couple of years and really enjoyed them. In preparation, I have a jar of Robertson's Fruit Mince. This is the only fruit mince that was in my mum's pantry when I was a kid, and it has never even crossed my mind to purchase a different brand.


I am yet to pluck up the courage (or find the time) to attempt chocolate tempering, but I figure if I own a digital thermometer, I may be more likely to give it a go. Celia makes it look so easy, maybe this holiday season is the time to try. I picked up this nifty little thermometer from JayCar for less than $25. It is accurate to 1 degree Celsius and can tolerate up to 300C. Unless something goes terribly wrong, my tempering attempts won't reach such extreme temperatures!


I have my eye on a raw carrot cake recipe that I'd like to try. The recipe I saw on a Facebook page, but can't find a direct link to the recipe. When I make it, I'll be sure to blog. The recipe uses raw agave nectar, which I've had my eye on at our local grocer, Malibu Fresh Essentials, for a few months. This was the perfect excuse to pick some up.


Something else I've been keen to pick up, and another ingredient in the carrot cake, is extra virgin coconut oil. I hear this stuff makes a great moisturiser too!


Yet another Malibu Fresh Essentials purchase which makes it into my kitchen regularly is pre-packed dried fruit and nuts in various shapes and sizes, these are Nature's Delights brand. Hubby loves cashews, and will often use my measuring cups to hold his post dinner/pre-bed snack of cashews.The "Delicious Mix" of almonds, pistachios, cranberries and white chocolate buttons isn't a regular in our house because it's a bit too naughty, especially at the rate I go through the bag. I prefer a similar mix with raw macadamia nuts and pepitas.


Coffee pods to suit my Map coffee machine are ALWAYS in my kitchen. I normally buy the Gloria Jean's Smooth Classic Blend (pictured right), but Woolworths have started stocking a variety by Macro. Macro make some pretty tasty stuff, so I thought I'd give them a go. I still prefer the Gloria Jean's variety. 


This one was in my kitchen on Monday, then I cooked it, then we ate it. While I often make Teresa Cutter's "healthy schnitzel", I've never made a generic chicken schnitzel before. True story. I saw this simple recipe on Better Homes and Gardens a few weeks ago and gave it a go. The (not-so)shallow frying part made me a little uncomfortable, but damn it was tasty. Served with some oven baked chips and salad, it made a hearty dinner for a balmy summer evening.


Finally, in my kitchen is an assortment of things that really don't belong in the kitchen. For some reason my Garmin has taken up residence on the kitchen bench. This is usually where I dump it after coming in from a run and immediately taking up parenting duties, often before a shower. The teddy has a hole, but I can't for the life of me find it. Until I can remedy the leaking beads, he is off limits for little fingers. Having a house full of girls, there is always nail polish around, and toy jewellery, and hair accessories, and glitter (the remains of a Christmas ball decorating session are in the little container). The white-board marker is to write on the lists I have stuck to the pantry door; one for hubby, one for myself. These lists consist of non-urgent jobs that need doing, that we know in the back of our minds are there but keep putting off. So far the list technique is working wonders. We only put a few things on at a time so it's not too daunting, but wiping things off is very satisfying, as is seeing the work get done.


That's what's going on in my kitchen this month. To see what's happening in some other kitchens around the world, head over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. I may not be back before the fat man comes, so Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Egg and Dairy Free Birthday Cake

A friend of mine has a little girl the same age as Poppet with an egg allergy. We see them a couple of times a month, and I often like to bake a treat for the kids and the grown ups, so I kind of made it a challenge to come up with a variety of egg-free treats that the littlies like. Since the egg allergy diagnosis, my friend has observed some other food intolerances including dairy. While there are plenty of egg-free recipes out there, omitting dairy from the equation makes things a little more difficult. I'm always up for a bit of a challenge in the kitchen, so when my friend asked me if I would make her daughter's third birthday cake, I replied "Challenge accepted!"

I really didn't want to go down the "pretend egg" route so looked for some tried and tested recipes out there. Needless to day there was a lot of sampling going on in my house in the month leading up to the birthday. I tried a chocolate cupcake recipe which stuck to the roof of your mouth, then kind of dissolved into a sticky mess in your throat. I tried a vanilla cake recipe that looked and tasted like a pancake. It was an improvement on the chocolate attempt but was hardly birthday-cake worthy. I was beginning to think I might have bitten off more than I could chew (pun completely intended) when I googled "egg substitutes" and found this page. I pulled out my beloved Golden Circle copy of Cooking: a common sense guide, and picked out a simple butter cake recipe and egg- and dairy-free'd it. My plan was to start at the top of the egg-substitute list and work down until something resembled a cake in taste and texture. Fortunately for me, the first on the list worked a treat (I crack myself up). The resulting recipe looked like this:

  • 125g Nuttelex (sunflower based butter/margarine substitute)
  • 3/4 cup raw caster sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder + 3 tbsp water + 3 tbsp sunflower oil (to replace 2 eggs)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
Buttercream icing
  • 60g Nuttelex
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line 20cm round cake tin.
  2. Cream Nuttelex and sugar using an electric mixer until light. Mix baking powder, water & oil in a bowl then add to butter mixture gradually, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla essence and beat to combine.
  3. Transfer mixture into a large bowl. Fold in the sifted flour alternately with the milk. Stir until just combined. Spoon into the tin and bake for 45 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave in the tin to cool a little then turn onto a wire rack.
  4. To make the buttercream, beat Nuttelex and sifted icing sugar with an electric mixer until light & creamy. Add the almond essence and beat until smooth and fluffy. Spread over the cold cake and decorate as desired.
I doubled the recipe as I was making a number 3 and needed two round cakes to do this. The cake itself turned out really well. Moist yet fluffy, and held its form well enough to cut and shape. Getting the buttercream right was a bit more tricky. Nuttelex has quite a distinct flavour and this wasn't masked by vanilla extract, which is why I used almond essence. That stuff is strong! Definitely strong enough to hide the fact that there's no butter in that icing. You could probably get away with 1/4 tsp. A three year old birthday also called for something more exciting than plain white icing, so I used pink and blue food colourings to make pink and purple. The oil in the Nuttelex can cause the buttercream to separate a little, and this was more obvious when using food colouring, leaving the icing a little streaky and clotted-looking. I tried to minimise this by keeping the colours fairly light. You can see the streaking slightly in the pic of the cupcake below. The resulting cake (and cupcakes) was impressive, even if I do say so myself. Those who didn't know it was egg- and dairy-free didn't pick it, and those who did commented on how "normal" it tasted. I actually preferred the taste over a normal butter cake which I usually steer away from.


The cut parts of the cake (the inside edges of the number 3) were difficult to ice, and I used a flat tip on my piping bag and piped in strips so as not to agitate the cake crumb. This looked a little bit dodgy but less dodgy than having cake crumb strewn through the icing.

 
 
Even the little coloured balls on top were egg-, dairy-, soy- and everything else-free.
 
My friend's little girl enjoyed her cake, but has since removed gluten from her diet in an attempt to get a handle on food intolerances. This is a challenge I am yet to have much success with! If anyone has any egg-, dairy- and gluten-free recipes that are tasty and don't dry out within hours of baking, I'm all ears. 
 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Perth City to Surf Half Marathon

With about 8 weeks to go before the Perth City to Surf, I decided to commit to the half marathon (21.1km or 13.1 miles) and up the training. My running buddy was training for the full marathon (42.2km or 26.2 miles) so slotting into her long runs was easy. I had worked up to about 30km a week since Blossom was born but had to up the ante a bit to make this a race rather than a run. I included a couple of speed sessions to the week and increased my long runs to bring the weekly total to around 45-50km.

Non-runners don't always understand that "racing" very rarely means "trying to win". It always means trying to achieve a goal, whatever that may be. I had run up until 38 weeks into my pregnancy and started again 3 weeks after Blossom's fairly straight-forward birth so my fitness wasn't that hard to pick back up. I knew I'd worked hard in the lead up to the race and I was in good enough form to break my PB of 1:45:48 from Darlington last year. I had hopes of going sub 1:40. I'd run a 1:43 in training and felt good. The only foreseeable hiccup was the terrain (and maybe the devil that invariably parks on my shoulder screaming doubtful messages during a big event). The Half Marathon of the Perth City to Surf begins uphill, then heads into the beautiful but elevated Kings Park. I hadn't trained on hills at all and didn't really know how to pace up or down the hills.

The race started a little late as we waited for road clearance from the marathon runners. It was drizzling but there was little wind and the temperature was cool. Perfect racing conditions. I was in the first start wave and as a group, we jogged from our marshaling area and surprisingly straight through the start line. That was it, it was on, straight up the first hill, then the next. I found myself becoming disillusioned with my pace uphill so flew down the downhills and was hurting early as a result. Seeing the pain in the faces of some of the marathon runners as we crossed paths (they had started 3 hours prior and some were still only half way through their journey) filled me with empathy. That was pain I would partly understand later in the race.

I'd foolishly written the 5km splits needed for a very ambitious goal time on my hand. When I was out by over a minute for the first, that devil spoke up. The rest of the race would be undulating. Both in terrain and in my mental state. I found another runner whose pace suited me and we stayed pretty close together for the entirety of the course. The hills hurt, my quads were killing me and I was having trouble maintaining the 4:40min/km pace I really wanted to be sitting on. I had a baby who would be ready for a feed waiting for me at the finish line, and I just wanted it to be over.

Somehow I made it to the 20km mark and managed to pick up the pace for the last km. As I headed towards the finish line, my running buddy (who had been waiting for an hour and a half because she finished the marathon in a phenomenal 3:11, and placed 6th female) was yelling "Go Pam!" I was glad someone was there to see me cross the line. Hubby had been busy negotiating public transport with Blossom and amongst the spectators for the 48,000+ competitors, had missed me finish. I stopped my watch at 1:40:55. My official time was 1:41:00. Most people didn't, and won't understand, but I was devastated beyond belief. I had just run a PB by 4 minutes, on a brutal course, 7 months after having a baby and in between breastfeeds, yet I was disappointed I hadn't run my goal time.

Upon reflection, I am proud of my result. I tried my hardest and ran a good time. The act of planning and training for a major event helped pull me out of a low patch, and mental health is the main reason I run, so for that I am grateful. I'm going to lay off racing for a while and enjoy just running for the rest of the year. I've got my sights set on a marathon in 2014, and I'm determined to get that sub 1:40 half that I so desperately wanted from the City to Surf some time soon. I accept that some weeks I won't be able to run as much as I like, and maybe I won't experience my running potential until the kids are a little older and I can put more hours in (but hopefully before my body decides it's a little older though!) but if I can run a marathon and have 3 proud little faces waiting at the finish line, then I'll be a winner.

Friday, October 4, 2013

In My Kitchen - October 2013

I type this one handed with Blossom on my lap, but I'm determined to get this post out before too much of October gets away from me. I have a few fun things kicking around in my kitchen this month that I'm keen to show off.

Firstly, and arguably the most exciting thing in my kitchen (however the second thing is pretty damn exciting too) is a Baumatic ice cream machine. It was my birthday in June. The day before, I went out and bought myself a pair of boots and sent Hubby a text saying he was off the hook, I'd sorted out my birthday present. I was a little skeptical when he replied "I've already got you two presents", especially as I didn't even know what I wanted. I was VERY surprised when I opened up this puppy! The second present was a gift voucher to our local cake shop which sells everything imaginable when it comes to baking and decorating cakes. He did well! I think the ice cream machine deserves a post all of its own at a later date, but I will say that I am having fun experimenting.


When the handles of my old, cheapy, 10 year old saucepans started letting off a particularly unhealthy aroma as they perished under heat, I decided it was time for some new cookware. I wanted a good quality, completely stainless steel set that included at least one big stock pot as I almost always make pastas in bulk. I settled on the Scanpan Impact 10 Piece Set (SCP-71170000 for those interested). My local Matchbox had them for a particularly good price so I spoiled myself. I thought it might be overkill getting such a big set, but I think I have used all but one piece in the few weeks I've had them and it's meant I could throw all the old ones out (well, palmed them off to Hubby for various shed-related ventures).


You might remember some chocolate I had in a previous IMK post from the Western Australian chocolate company Bahen & Co. This month I have some of their cacao nibs. Other than grazing on them, I haven't yet discovered how they are best utilised. I'd appreciate any suggestions.


A dessert backup that often makes it into my pantry is a can of Pie Fruit Apples. These are great to throw in a crumble with some frozen berries or combine with puff pastry and sultanas to make a strudel if I'm feeling lazy or short on time and in need of a sweet treat. I think a strudel may be in order this weekend.


 
Hubby's mum and sister recently returned from a holiday in China. The little girls were very spoiled, being showered in clothes, hair ties and trinkety presents. Among them were these cute Angry Birds chopsticks. My very Australian children had never used chopsticks before and are very taken by them. The Angry Bird holds the ends together to make using them easier for children. Chicky quickly got the idea and ate all her peas, one by one with her chopsticks and Poppet insisted on having Cheerios for breakfast because they were easier to pick up with chopsticks than Weetbix. Needless to say they are now both better at using chopsticks than I am.


The last thing of note that is in my kitchen at the moment is this grubby tape measure. We own countless tape measures and while the girls often claim one each (the prettiest colours), Hubby can never seem to find one in the shed. That's probably because they always end up in my kitchen!


What's in your kitchen this month? Head over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial to see what fun things other people have in their kitchens this October.
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Saturday, August 31, 2013

In My Kitchen - September 2013

That's right folks, it's September, and my first "In My Kitchen" post since January. Actually only the second post since Blossom was born. I've been busy, very busy. In the few weeks after Blossom's birth we bought one and sold two houses, Chicky started school and I started running again. We moved into the "new" house (which is actually about 50 years old) in March and while I have been mostly working on rearing three little and very individual princesses, Hubby has been working on making the house our home. There is plenty of time to talk about that, as the renovations will likely go on for the next 25 years. Needless to say something had to give, and that was the blog. I'll ease myself back into things by telling you about what is in my new (read: old and manky) kitchen in September.

This is the oven that was in the house when we bought it. 


The only thing it's got going for it is the lid. It has a hinged lid that closes over the 5 (who needs 5??) burners. The kitchen is short on usable cupboards and bench space so I often use the top of the stove as my main prep area. Both stove and oven are gas, which is fine. I'd never used a gas oven before and had no idea what "gas marks" meant. Where I was looking for a temperature gauge I found the numbers 1 through 8 plus a star. The element is at the bottom of the enormous oven, and while it is fan-forced, heat circulation isn't even. I burned the bottom of everything for the first few weeks. Long and low seems to be required for even cooking. I much prefer quick so I'll be opting for a smaller electric oven when we do eventually re-do the kitchen. And while I do like a gas stove, the burners seem to have way too much gas coming through. There is no such thing as low, and simmering looks more like boiling. While I seem to be doing a lot of complaining, I am making do and it has helped me to figure out what I want out of a stove/oven.

In June a friend of mine asked me to make her 3 year old's birthday cake. This was an egg-free, dairy free cake for a child with allergies (recipe to come). I thought it was about time I bought a cake board as I have been wrapping my chopping board in birthday wrapping paper if ever I wanted to display a cake in the past. This pretty thing was only a few dollars at my local supermarket.


It had been a long time since I had done a chocolate order, and while I was making do with buying odd bits of decent quality chocolate at the supermarket when needed, I was running out of cocoa so it was time to replenish stocks. In my kitchen is a dangerous amount of Callebaut and Sicao chocolate.Well actually there is a little less than what is pictured as I got stuck into making some banana choc chip muffins, chocolate ice cream and choc chip cookies as soon as it arrived.


The online store I buy my chocolate from also had these cute chocolate transfer sheets on sale. I've never used a transfer sheet before but look forward to prettying up some chocolate soon.


My birthday was in June and instead of buying me a token gift, my mum asked me to buy something I wanted and she'd reimburse me. It took me a couple of months to decide what I really wanted but settled on a 30cm Cuisinart Saute Pan. I didn't actually know such a thing existed until I went shopping for a "deep frypan with a lid", only to be told I meant a saute pan. Sure, call it what you like, this puppy is awesome. I use it for pasta sauce, curry, stir-fry, anything really. I always make enough dinner for the 5 of us plus leftovers so this pan gets a workout most days. And it's so shiny! Thanks Mum!



The final part of my kitchen I will showcase this month is a gift from my local Maternal and Child Health Nurse. At Blossom's 3 month check-up she asked how we were doing and how everyone was adjusting to the new addition. I explained what a whirlwind the last few months had been and maybe she saw something I was trying to suppress, as she reached into her filing cabinet and handed me "Top Tips to Help You Reduce Stress". It lives on my pantry door and I consult it daily. I think we're doing ok.


There are a few more exciting things in my kitchen, but I'll save them for next time. Head over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial to see what's going on in some other kitchens.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Belated Update

Apologies all for being missing in action for a while now. As you probably guessed, I had a baby. Blossom was born on 27th January after a long but not entirely terrible labour, weighing in at 3.64kgs (or 8lb 0.5oz for those who still like to weigh babies in pounds and ounces). She was the lightest of the three girls at birth, but has chubbed up nicely since and is now bigger than either of them at the same age. Some say she's on a good paddock, I say "moooooo".


Chicky took getting a new family member all in her stride, after all she's been a big sister before. She also started school on 4th February so had other exciting things to think about. Poppet had her nose out of joint for a couple of weeks but has since discovered that being a big sister is pretty special, and wants to give Blossom cuddles all the time.

Just in case having a newborn and coming to terms with school runs wasn't enough excitement, we bought a house when Blossom was a week old. That's great, yay! But hold on, that meant we have to sell our house. Six days of mad renovation took place before we put ours on the market, followed by constant tidying for viewings, but luckily for me (and for the girls!) we had an offer last week so I'm back to sticky floors and happy kids. In 2 weeks I'll have a clean slate to start with on the garden front, a tired and old kitchen to work in (and on) and my running path at my front door. 2013 is proving to be more exciting than I first thought!



Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rats

Note: this post is not for those squeamish about, or advocates for the survival of rodents.

We have chickens and we have vegetables, so inevitably it would seem, we have rats. We've always had a few hanging around the yard, and occasionally in the roof space but have managed them with a combination of baits and traps. To be honest, if they're not in the house I'm not overly bothered. When we came back from our Big Gypsy Getaway however, the problem seemed to be on a much larger scale. Our absence had seen them move in, in plague proportions. Apparently it's not just our house though, and our area has seen a rise in numbers.

Recently, probably as a result of summer heating up, our rat colony sought refuge in the roof space. I was frequently being woken up to scurrying (which sounded like a heard of buffalos) above my bedroom, and although they didn't seem to be getting into the house, their presence in the roof was unnerving so it was time to take further action. It didn't take long to discover they had set up their main nest in a small semi-open shed next to the chicken coop. The chicken feeder plus the veges were supplying constant food, so baiting was pointless while they had food and shelter readily available. Hubby and a friend went out with a torch one night to discover a hive of "rativity", so they set up "rat-cam" in the shed to get a better idea of their numbers and movements. After a night of filming, the shed (and their nest) had to go.

After complete destruction of their (disgusting) quarters, which discovered some ruined/chewed windsurfing equipment and resulted in a man-on-rat duel between Hubby and the king rat locked in our outside bathroom (the details of which I will spare you all), we began to gain a little control. Hubby covered all the gutters with fine mesh to eliminate gaps between the gutters and our corrugated tin roof. I no longer feed the chickens via a feeder, rather they get a finite amount of pellets plus scraps daily thrown onto the ground, normally in the morning when rats are the least active. We are also continually baiting in known areas of high "rativity", and Perth's heat wave over Christmas and New Year seemed to work in our favour. A LOT of rats died over that period, and I can only think it was a combination of lack of food and heat.

The rat population clearly hasn't moved out of our neighbourhood, and neighbours have said they have seen them. My tomatoes and capsicums keep going missing off the vines, I still hear occasional scurrying in the roof and we still find the odd baited beast "sleeping" on the back lawn (or in the dog's mouth), but all in all the numbers have been significantly reduced.

If you have chickens and/or veges which seem to attract rodents, I hope some of our techniques are helpful to you. I'd also love to hear any coping strategies you have found useful. With small children and animals, mass baiting isn't ideal, and while we seem to be gaining control, I'm definitely interested in other ideas (which don't involve getting rid of either the chickens or the vegetables).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rhubarb Crumble

With the rhubarb plants going crazy at the moment, I thought it was time to find some motivation and make a crumble. I've loved crumble since I was a little girl, and was often in charge of rubbing butter into flour with my fingertips. As an adult I've played around with the recipe to make it just how I like it.

This afternoon I picked three massive rhubarb stalks. We have two plants that only produce green stalks and one that produces smaller, red ones. They all taste like rhubarb. Here is the crumble that we had for dessert tonight.

3 large stalks rhubarb
approx. 1 cup frozen raspberries
1 tbsp raw sugar
45g chopped butter
1/3 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup almonds
1/3 cup rolled oats

  1. Chop rhubarb into 1-2cm chunks and place in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle with raw sugar and stir over medium heat until sugar starts to dissolve. Reduce heat, cover, and stew until rhubarb is soft.
  2. Add raspberries and keep over heat until heated through. Remove from heat but keep covered.
  3. In the meantime combine butter, brown sugar, flour, coconut, cinnamon and almonds in a food processor. Whiz until combined and almonds are chopped. Stir through rolled oats. (You can rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips, chop the almonds with a knife and stir through the other ingredients if you don't have a food processor.)
  4. Preheat oven to 180C. Place rhubarb mixture into an ovenproof bowl and sprinkle crumble over the top. Bake for 30 mins or until lightly browned and crunchy.
 
 
 
Any combination of rhubarb, apple and berries work well. Sometimes if I'm feeling particularly lazy I use a large tin of pie apples, but when you have rhubarb in abundance, rhubarb it is. I served the crumble with custard tonight, but it's really good piping hot with a good quality vanilla ice-cream.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

In My Kitchen - January 2013

Happy New Year! The first In My Kitchen post for 2013 is a little bit exciting. My family and friends were incredibly kind this festive season and I am proud to showcase a few new trinkets, as well as a few indulgent summer treats.

In my kitchen is a Map Bella pod coffee machine and an accompanying milk frother. This was courtesy of my mum for Christmas. We debated earlier in the year whether easily accessible, good tasting coffee in my kitchen was a good idea and remained largely undecided. When my mum generously offered to buy us (and my brother and sister) one of these babies for Christmas, my sleep deprivation answered for me. So far I have maintained self control and limit myself to one coffee per day. This morning I even gave an iced coffee a go, and think I have found my new best friend. The unit itself is small and quiet and has nestled into my kitchen quite comfortably. You can see by the lack of sheen on the milk frother that it is getting used, or maybe that's just a reflection of my cleanliness.

The girls saw the coffee machine and immediately thought of babycinos, so in my kitchen is a packet of marshmallows ready to go. Pascall is the only brand of marshmallow that I allow through the door.

 
In my kitchen is a copy of Superfoods, courtesy of a Secret Santa that we did with Hubby's family. This book provides all the justification I need that consumption of 70%+ cocoa chocolate will improve my life. It's ideals of acceptable quantities differ a little to my own, but let's not focus on the fine print. The book also provides some lovely recipe suggestions for each of the Superfoods. Thanks Secret Santa!
 
 
A not so secret Christmas hamper from my sister-in-law included some cool kitchen trinkets. She is a shameless Ikea junkie, so most of them were courtesy of the Scandinavian mega-store. The most interesting was this cheese grater, complete with "catch bowl".
 
 
 
Another favourite from the hamper was this silicone ice-cube tray, which will inevitably get used for making chocolates in my kitchen.
 
 
In my kitchen is a copy of Vegetables: grow them, cook them, eat them, which I bought from the Book Depository a few months ago when getting some Christmas presents for the kids, and completely forgot about. It was a kind of Christmas present to myself when I found it. The book provides useful information about how and when to grow different vegetables as well as what to do with them.
 
 
In my kitchen (well not anymore as I polished off the packet yesterday) is this shameless indulgence. I used to be a massive fan of licorice bullets. Home brand was fine, wrap some dodgy chocolate around a piece of hard/chewy licorice and I was happy. That was before I discovered Macro Organic Milk Chocolate Coated Licorice. This is the stuff dreams are made of. The chocolate is divine, the licorice is soft, and the pieces are large balls, not dissimilar in shape to a chocolate-coated almonds. I vow never to buy the cheaper counterpart again, but I must also promise myself I will only rarely purchase the Macro variety as I will eat all 180g in one sitting, stopping only to vomit.
 

 
In my kitchen is a jar of Beerenberg Tomato Chutney. Hubby has had time off work over Christmas and New Year, and so we have had lots of sandwiches/wraps as easy lunches and dinners that don't require leftovers to take to work. What they do require though, is a good chutney. Beerenberg (apart from being awesome because is has the word "beer" in the title) make some pretty tasty chutneys. Our favourite is probably the Taka Tala, but our supermarket was out and this is a good substitute.

 
In my kitchen is a new lunch box and drink bottle. This is bitter sweet for me, as they are Chicky's. At 4.5, she will start WA kindergarten in a few weeks. While she is more than ready, and super excited about starting school (she picked the lunchbox and drink bottle when we went shopping this week), there will be two and a half days a week that my baby won't be with me. For a full time mum, that's hard to take. If I'm not in labour on her first day of school (which is entirely possible), there will be tears, and they won't be Chicky's.
 


 
Finally in my kitchen this month, is light! We have 4 down lights in our kitchen, but we haven't had all 4 working at the same time for as long as I can remember. For the longest time I got by with just one above the main kitchen bench, but then the week before Christmas that one gave up too. Last week hubby replaced all 4. I'm finding all that light a little overwhelming, and it makes my often filthy kitchen floor so much more obvious. It does make food preparation safer though!

 

That's what's happening in my kitchen as we begin 2013, and in the month that our 3rd child will be born (unless she decides to be fashionably late). To see how some other people are beginning 2013, visit Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.