15 December 2015

Christmas Day canapés - DIY-buttermilk blinis

I made a batch of pikelets on the weekend, for Harry to take to school as part of a shared lunch.  It had been a while since I'd bothered making these delicious little morsels, and I'd forgotten how quick they are to make, and how many you get in a batch (I make small, bite-sized pikelets).  Anyhoo, it got me thinking that these would be a good base for some Christmas Day canapés.  

However, I want these to be less sweet than your typical pikelets, otherwise known in their smaller-size as blinis, so I reduced the amount of sugar used, added some lemon zest to the mix, and used buttermilk in place of milk (actually, I used milk with lemon juice, canny eh?).  The result?  Light little blinis which are going to be perfect with a little cream cheese and salmon.  This batch will be long gone before Christmas, but I'll make another next week (though you can make these now, and freeze them until you need them).  

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
up to 1/4 cup sugar 
1 egg 
3/4 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 cup milk with juice of half lemon squeezed in)
zest of one lemon
  1. Squeeze lemon juice into milk, if making your own buttermilk.  Set aside for a few minutes.  
  2. Put everything into a bowl and stir to combine, until free of lumps.  
  3. Melt butter in pan, fry in batches.  Remove to cooling rack, or eat straight away.  

09 December 2015

Frankincense to offer have I

I like Christmas carols.  I know they can be annoying, especially in shopping malls, but there's just something a little bit magical about some of them.  We Three Kings is one I've always liked, so when I saw some lotion bars on Wellness Mama using gold, frankincense and myrrh, I knew they were something I needed to try.  And they smell and look so beautiful, I can't wait to give them to people for Christmas!  I made two batches, one as Katie did on her blog, and one which used different oils, as an adjustment for skin sensitive to fragrances.  

Gold, frankincense and myrrh bars

1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup shea butter
1/3 cup beeswax
2 tsp gold mica powder (I reduced this from the original 'cause I was using a very very fine satin mica - if you use a more coarse mica, like a sparkly mica, you may like to up this to 1 tbsp)
15 drops each frankincense and myrrh essential oils
5-10 drops peppermint essential oil

Sensitive skin bars 

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup shea butter
1/3 cup beeswax
1 tsp gold mica powder
calendula petals 
5-10 drops lavender essential oil (optional, I left this out this time) 

  1. Melt shea butter, beeswax and coconut/olive oil in a double boiler (I put them in a large glass jar, which I then put into a pot with some boiling water in it).  
  2. When all melted, remove from heat and add other ingredients (I left the sensitive skin batch on for a while, to allow the calendula to release its goodness into the oil). 
  3. Carefully pour into silicon muffin tins, or into deodorant containers, like the white ones I used - I bought those from Go Native NZ.  
  4. Once hardened, rub onto skin for a nourishing natural shimmer.  

04 December 2015

Havana Christmas - aka vanilla latte sugar scrub

Coffee, sugar, vanilla, coconut...sounds like a festive hot drink.  And you could totally make an amazing drink from this, I'm sure.  I love the smell of coffee and I love drinking coffee, so I'm pretty excited to be adding it into my skincare routine.  This simple scrub smells like a vanilla latte, hence its name, and leaves the skin really silky.  It smells and looks sophisticated, but is incredibly simple and inexpensive to make, so makes a perfect gift for friends and family for Christmas!  I'm going to make a second batch, so I can keep some too!

Here's a run-down of the benefits of these tasty ingredients...
  • Coconut Oil – naturally nourishes skin (I used an organic virgin oil which is also super cheap, from Go Native NZ - $21/kg!!)
  • Olive Oil – contains antioxidants 
  • Coffee - caffeine has a tightening and stimulating affect on skin 
  • Sugar - naturally exfoliates
  • Vanilla – smells good :) 
1/4 cup finely ground dry coffee (I used my favourite, Havana)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil 
2 tbsp olive oil (it was supposed to be made with castor oil, but I didn't have any)
1 tsp vanilla essence 
  1. Place coffee and sugar in medium-sized bowl. 
  2. Add vanilla, mix well. 
  3. Add oils and stir with a fork until well mixed and moistened.  
  4. Stir in an air-tight container.  
Keep in the shower, so you always have it handy to keep your skin feeling great!  

24 November 2015

Toast pies

Toast pies.  In the culinary world they're called croustades, but to our 2.5-yr old, he has 'toast pie' on his plate.  Bread cases, filled with any manner of things, are a popular canapé the world over - creamy fish or mini quiches anyone?  Well, we had leftover shepherds' pie in the fridge and a hungry young boy who, like most of his peers, loves toast, loves mince and loves cheese.  So, alright then, toast pies for tea!  

12 slices bread 
Leftover bowl of bolognese mince/shepherds pie
Grated cheese

  1. Turn oven on to 180 degrees celcius (160 fanbake).  
  2. Trim crusts off your bread.  Flatten completely with a rolling pin - real elbow grease here, 'cause the flatter your bread, the crunchier your edges will be.  And the base will be soft, but not soggy.  
  3. Butter bread and place butter-side down in muffin tray.  
  4. Fill with mince (you want this to be cold, or at least cool, if possible).  
  5. Place grated cheese on top (I like quite a lot).  
  6. Bake until cheese is browning.  
  7. Leave out of the oven for a few minutes before attempting to eat them.  They are crazy hot when first pulled out!  

18 November 2015

Muffnuts - sounds wrong, tastes great!

KB passed this recipe onto me the other day.  It's been floating around Facebook for a while, so was about time I gave it a try.  I love a cinnamon donut.  But I wouldn't have a clue how to make them.  And, frankly, I'm not overly inclined to learn.  But muffins that taste like a jam donut, yes, that I can try!  

You can use whichever jam you like, I went with raspberry.  That was partly preference, and partly what we had in the fridge.  I also did a few with maple syrup in the centre.  Yum.  I am sure other jams would be equally good.  The recipe I used recommended a fairly small amount of jam in the centre, but I reckon you need a little more.  If it comes out the side a bit, who cares eh?  

So, without further ado - duffins, muffnuts, uh jammy donut-muffins... 

Makes about 18 standard-size muffins 

4 cups SR flour
1 + 1/3 castor sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
2/3 cup oil (I used Lupi Organic Olive and it wasn't too strong in flavour)
2 large eggs 
350 ml buttermilk (or normal milk with 2 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar added) 
2 tsp vanilla essence
50 g butter 
1/2 cup castor sugar 
1 tsp cinnamon 

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Spray muffin tins, or line with cupcake cases. 
  2. If making your own buttermilk, add the lemon to the milk and set aside for 5 minutes.  
  3. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl combine wet ingredients (except jam).  
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine gently - only until the mixture just comes together and no flour is showing.  You don't want to overmix muffins.  
  5. Place some into each muffin tray (about 1/3 of the way up).  Place a dollop of jam in the centre.  Cover with more muffin mix.  You want them to fill about 3/4 of the way up the tin.  
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes (I used fan-bake and 15 minutes was enough).  
  7. Remove from oven and set aside for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. 
  8. Once the muffins are cool enough to handle, melt butter and put sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl.  
  9. Brush tops of muffins with butter and roll around in the sugar, coating the tops with tastiness.  
  10. Enjoy warm, or keep in an airtight container for another day.  Buon appetit! 

16 November 2015

Tortilla sabroso

Leftover roast chicken.  Not a bad thing now, is it?  There are a million and one things you can do with leftover roast meat, especially chook.  We typically have a day or two of roast chicken sandwiches for lunch, a curry and perhaps a stir-fry or fettucine too (depending on the quantity left over).  I also love to use shredded roast chicken for lasagne, instead of mince.  The other day though, none of our usual go-to meals got me amped up for gastronomic greatness.  So I called on Dr Google.  

Google search - leftover roast chicken recipes.  A myriad of responses.  One page with 21 ideas.  And one of those ideas was for tortilla stack.  Yum.  And we had everything needed.  

1 cups roast chicken
1/2 tin red kidney beans (black-eyed peas would also be amazing!)
1 tin diced tomatoes
fresh herbs (I used basil and marjoram)
a few teaspoons sour cream, to dollop between layers
4 tortillas 
handful chopped capsicum and mushrooms
6 bok choi or pak choi leaves, sliced into strips 
packet of taco/burrito seasoning (or fresh garlic, onion and cumin powder with a little chili)
1/2 cup grated cheese
1 cup grated cheese
2 eggs
50 ml milk
salt and pepper
guacamole, to serve 
  1. Grease casserole dish (one that will fit the tortillas laid flat) with butter or oil.    
  2. Place chicken in frypan with a little butter.  Stir in seasoning.  Add beans, tomatoes, herbs and vegetables and heat through.  Stir through the bok choi.    
  3. Place a tortilla in casserole dish.  Spoon chicken onto it and spread evenly to edge of tortilla.  Place a few dollops of sour cream and sprinkle with some of the cup of cheese.  Place another tortilla on top.  Continue this until chicken/tortillas finished.  
  4. Beat eggs, salt and pepper, and milk together.  Pour over tortilla layers.  Cover with foil and refrigerate for 2 hours, to let the egg mix soak in.  
  5. Preheat over to 180 degrees celcius.  Remove foil, sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over tortillas.  Replace foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for further 5-10 minutes, until egg is set and cheese is melted and browned.  
  6. Serve with guacamole and a salad.  Sabroso!

30 October 2015

Got milk?

It's about time I got a new post out.  Have been a bit slack lately, though in my defence I had my wisdom teeth out last month, so wasn't eating for a while, therefore not really much fodder (ha ha, pun) for bloggery.  This one's not a recipe, but a discovery of a fantastic local product which I think is worth sharing.

Anyhoo...  Last weekend we went and stayed with brother- and sister-in-law.  They buy raw milk from a guy just out of town.  Organic, raw milk.  That will either sound heavenly or horrible, but OMG if it's the latter, give it a try.  Amazing!  I would have expected it to taste great, but also to come with a great price tag.  Nope, same price as the supermarket for a 2L ($3.50).  So, I went online and found a place near to us which sells the same.  There's a list on Cottage Crafts of numerous places around NZ who sell raw milk.  Our guy, just out of Pirongia, is certified organic and the litre I bought this morning was milked this morning.  Can't beat that, really.  And it's soooo yum.  Up here it cost me $4 for two litres, so a fraction more costly (plus the cost of the drive to get it, I suppose), but totally worth it.  

So, if you're keen to find some kick ass milk in your area, check out the website.  You may be surprised how many places there are.  Good, local tastiness.  

09 September 2015

chia oat pudding brekkie

Chia seeds are great.  I've waxed lyrical about their awesomeness before (Chia bro, too much), and love finding different ways to use them.  I can't remember whether I got this idea from Katie, aka Wellness Mama, or from my sister-in-law, Tessa, but it is soooooo good!  Good tasty and bonus, good for you.  I made some up for me and baby Frankie to try for breakfast, and it got the thumbs up from both of us.  It would be nice warmed up, but I enjoyed it cold.  Easy as too, which is essential in the mornings.  

2 tbsp chia seeds
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup almond milk (normal milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk...)
drizzle of syrup (optional - I used agave nectar 'cause was for Frankie too, but maple would've been really yum!)

  1. Mix together in bowl. 
  2. Place in fridge overnight. 
  3. Serve in the morning with fruit and/or yoghurt, or simply as is.  

26 August 2015

Limey-coconut madness - aka You put da Lime in da Coconut 2

I saw a thing on Facebook yesterday about palusami and ota ika, using coconut cream.  I didn't have any taro leaves, nor any fresh fish with which to make ota ika, but it got me thinking.  Coconut cream eh?  Yep, we can do something with that.  Now, what would really make that coconut pop?  Peanut satay, I though.  But then I remembered that we've had satay quite a lot lately.  Suddenly it hit me - you put da lime in da coconut and drink 'em bode up...  Limes.  Poptastic.  

So, into our ninja (a food processor would have worked fine too, or just some good ol' fine chopping) went the ingredients for a kick ass marinade.  I used chicken drumsticks, but thighs would've been great too.  This marinade, which then got cooked with the chicken, made the most amazing sauce.  We had kumara mash and it tasted awesome - the limes were strong enough to come through the coconut's flavour, but didn't take over.  

While we're talking about limes - they're in season now, so can be found on backyard trees the country-wide, and in supermarkets relatively cheap.  Come summer, which is when we desperately NEED lime juice - think mojitos, soda and lime, gin and tonic (I know it's usually lemon, but I like lime), salads, fresh fish, fish tacos, salsa... - they go for about $35/kg.  Which is CRIMINAL.  So, please please please - go out into your backyard, or your neighbour's, or down to your local fruiterer, and stock up.  Bring them home, juice the suckers and freeze in ice cube trays.  Bam, you have a supply for later.  It freezes brilliantly, and once frozen, you can transfer into a zip-lock bag.  Easy peasy, lime squeezey.  

Ok, now on with the show...  

6 chicken drumsticks
1/2 cup coconut cream (I used half a tin)
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tbsp honey
pinch or two cayenne pepper (omit, or use paprika, if cayenne is too hot)
2 cloves garlic 
2 tbsp finely chopped/grated ginger
1/2 onion, or 1/2 cup spring onion
as much coriander as you can rustle up - I only had a tsp, but a half cup would've been good!
  1. Blitz everything (except chicken) to make marinade.  
  2. Pour marinade over chicken and place in the fridge for at least an hour.  Several hours would be great.  Turn drums every now and again.  
  3. Bake for 20-30 minutes.  We threw in some whole mushrooms here too - they really soaked up the flavours. 
  4. Serve with mash and steamed vege (or maybe rice and a salad in summer?), with sauce drizzled over.  

NB: Hold onto any leftover sauce, 'cause it'll make a brilliant curry - add in the rest of the tin of coconut cream, a dollop or two of green curry paste and you're away.  A stalk of lemongrass too, if you have any.  

01 August 2015

Pad Thai, part deux

Last year I came across a fantastic recipe for pad thai. We rocked it out again last night and it was AMAZING! The only difference between the original and last night's creation was that I used a little sweet chilli and harissa in place of fresh chilli. And fresh squeezed lime was a real winner, much more flavoursome than lemon, if you can get it. Enjoy!!

27 July 2015

Save a little bit o' summer

We love our summer vege garden.  We love our winter one too, but there's just something extra-special about the fresh produce in summer - masses of tomatoes, fragrant herbs of all types and stripes, and random rogue potatoes cropping up here and there.  We've always frozen bags of excess tomatoes, for use throughout the winter months, but have been left with a surfeit of other veges (there's only so much we can palm off to others!).  

So, this year we froze even more - some bags had just tomatoes, but others had a combo of pre-cut veges, ready for a winter stirfry, casserole, mac cheese, whatever.  For example, we cut up all our excess capsicums, zucchini, spring onions and stacks of herbs, added them into the freezer bags with smooshed up tomatoes, and lay flat in the freezer.  When we want some we either defrost and use the whole bag, or snap off how much we need.  

KB used some on the weekend, to make a hot salsa to go with our salmon.  So it was the tomato-capsicum-spring onion-herb mix, to which he added a little soy sauce, some crushed garlic and a few capers.  This was all left simmering on low while the rest of our meal came together.  

So yeah, I love our vege garden.  I love being able to share the produce with friends and family too.  But I also really love knowing that some of the excess can be saved, for us to use when the weather has turned down the fresh vege machine for a bit.  'Cause there's nothing like sitting down to a meal and going, yum - this all came from just out the back door :) 

15 July 2015

Just call 'em tasty

 Empanadas.  Cornish pasties.  Half moon pies.  Call them what you will, they're tasty.  As Shakespeare's Juliet famously said, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  

I first came across empanadas a few years ago from my friend Kush's Mum, Clara (thanks Clara!!).  I've brought them out a few times since, sampling different fillings and sizes (chicken and blue cheese is a tasty inner, and mini bite size ones with bolognese filling are a winner for picnics, or birthday parties).  But it's been a while.  So, when I saw Rachel Khoo's posting yesterday, I thought YEAH, let's get amongst it.  I had some sheets of pre-rolled flaky puff pastry in the freezer (which, frankly, was getting freezer burnt and desperately needed a reason to be moved on!), so here we go... 

Makes 8 

8 sheets pastry (feel free to make your own if you wish, good on you - Rachel Khoo has a recipe for that if you click on the link above)
350 g potato - I used agria, nice and firm when cooked
1 chorizo, cubed
2-3 pieces of middle bacon, cut into cm pieces
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
200 g cheese, cut into cm chunks (I used edam) 
1 egg
dash milk
oil/butter for frying
  1. Par-boil your potato and saute the meats with the onion and garlic.  
  2. Mix potato, meats etc and cheese with plenty of black pepper in a large bowl and sit aside, to allow it to cool.  
  3. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees (fan-bake, probably 200 degrees if not).  Prepare baking sheet by either spraying with oil, using baking paper, or both.  
  4. Beat egg and milk together in small bowl. 
  5. Cut out 21 cm circles from your pastry sheets (quite a lot gets wasted, you can roll these pieces back out if you want).  I used a cereal bowl, which was roughly the size circle I wanted).  
  6. Place as much of the filling onto the circles as you can - this won't be as much as you think - making sure you can fold them in half and press closed.  Brush half the circle's edge with egg wash, fold over and press closed around that edge.  
  7. Pierce some holes in the tops, brush tops with egg and sprinkle with some dried herbs or salt/pepper.  
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.  
NB: Next time I make them I'll also add a dollop or two of relish inside them.  

25 June 2015

Java jive - DIY bronzing bars

It's a friend's birthday coming up, so decided to try something new to give as a gift - lotion bars, a solid moisturising treat.  I used the 'recipe' from Wellness Mama which also had a bronzing effect - using coffee!!  I love that coffee has yet another use - good for daily java fix, the garden and now, in my moisturiser!  

I've made two lots - one with coffee infused oil, the other with regular coconut oil and some essential oils (carrot seed, for the colour, lavender for the lovely smell).  

To infuse the coconut oil you just put the oil you will need into a small saucepan along with about half that amount of coffee grinds.  I used a cup of oil and a half cup of coffee and fresh grinds, but I don't see why you couldn't use used coffee grounds, saved from the morning's plunger.  It's just for the pigment, after all.  Simmer together on a low heat for a long time (I left it on the stove for a good couple of hours).  Once finished, remove from heat and strain through some cheesecloth, or an old tee shirt or something.  

For the bars themselves... 

1/2 cup coconut oil 
1/3 cup beeswax
1/4 cup shea butter
15 drops essential oil (if using) 
  1. Combine all ingredients (except the essential oil) in a large jar and place in saucepan with water on stovetop (DIY double boiler).  
  2. Stir ingredients until they are melted together.  
  3. Remove from heat and add essential oil.  
  4. Pour into molds - I used silicon muffin cups.  Silicon is key, 'cause it means you can easily turn them out once completely cooled.  Once I had taken them out of the molds I put them in the fridge for a few hours, then kept them in a dark, cool cupboard until it was time to give them away/use them.    

17 June 2015

Teriyaki tastiness + miso mash

I follow a couple of food blogs myself, 'cause you never know where inspiration will come from, or when it'll strike.  Jane Rangiwahia, a family connection, writes 'Reka Food' and has some amazing meals on there.  Usually very straight forward ones too, which is key on a weeknight.  Yesterday morning I saw her idea for a teriyaki chicken with miso mash and thought, yep, that's us sorted for tonight.  

The teriyaki chicken was excellent, I really enjoyed it and will be making it again.  And again, and again.  The miso mash was nice, but to be honest I think next time I'll just have kumara, or potato/pumpkin mash unadulterated by the miso.  I added some miso into the teriyaki marinade too, so perhaps it was just a bit of overkill?  

Follow the link to Jane's Reka Food for the teriyaki marinade - I added a couple of teaspoons of miso paste, and a chopped spring onion from our garden.  Also, I swapped chia seeds for the cornstarch, and it worked well.  Didn't really get thick, but coated the chicken well and got nicely sticky in the oven.  Also, I added the sesame seeds about ten minutes before I removed the chicken from the oven, so they were lightly toasted.  Enjoy!!  

23 April 2015

Chia bro, too much

I came across this recipe for chia jam whilst perusing the latest edition of Nourish magazine at Red Kitchen.  There was an article about chia seeds and what makes them the superhero of the super foods.  I mean, if the 'superfoods' (blueberries, flaxseeds, kale, goji berries, seaweed etc) were The Avengers, chia seeds would be General Nick Fury.  

I have chia seeds in a smoothie most days (alongside berries and whatever other fruits we have in the house), but was interested to see how it would go in a jam - a jam that had no sugar as such in it, sweetened only by the berries themselves and either honey, maple syrup, yacon syrup or agave nectar.  Sweet!  

So what's gotten me going on about chia seeds?  They're 6 x higher in calcium than milk, have 3 x more antioxidants than blueberries, 3 x more iron than spinach and contain more omega 3 than salmon.  Plus good fatty acids, magnesium, potassium and a bunch of other vitamins and minerals that I can't remember.  

Ok, here you go - a (more or less) sugar-free jam, and it is tasty!  Not very very sweet, but you could easily add more honey (or whichever sweetener you choose).  

250 g frozen berries (I went with blackberries) 
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 tbsp honey (I used blue agave nectar) 
  1. Place berries and juice in a small pot, heat through, then simmer on low for 10 minutes.  
  2. Stir in seeds and sweetener.  
  3. Pour into jar and refrigerate.  Yum!!

01 April 2015

You've been hit by a smoothie criminal...

Everybody loves a fruit smoothie.  It's one of those healthy things that kids and adults actually agree on.  (I say healthy - obviously sometimes smoothies are made with ice cream, cream, syrups etc, but let's for the sake of this post just assume we're all talking about smoothies made with fruit and either milk or juice of some sort.  Ice cream is the bomb, but sort of detracts from goodness of a kickass fruit smoothie.)

In our house Harry starts every day with a smoothie before school.  His Granny makes it for him and it's more like a fruit sorbet, made with frozen berries and a tiny tiny tiny bit of milk.  Brilliant way to get the body pumping for school.  If I make a blenderful then Finn will also kick start his day with a glass of berry and banana smoothie (my preference).  And KB happily downs a glass before work.  I usually make them with banana, berries (in summer we buy/grow lots of strawberries and freeze them for use throughout the winter), milk and a little cinnamon.  

A friend recently suggested I add in some seeds and try using coconut water and almond milk in my smoothies - this combined with the fruit makes for one heck of an energy kick and by using chia seeds I'm getting an awesome amount of calcium and omega-3.  As I'm currently breastfeeding, this is very good news.  I'd recommend adding these ingredients in for anyone who could use (a) more energy, (b) a bit of immune support or (c) a full stomach for longer - less desire to snack on muck.  Have a read of Katie's post regarding chia seeds, they're little power pockets!  I like her idea of a homemade energy gel, for kids doing sport, or adults working out etc (2 tbsp chia seeds to 1 cup coconut water).    

So, at the moment I'm using (to make about a half litre of smoothie): a banana, 1 cup berries (or thereabouts), half cup each almond milk and coconut water (add more if too thick when blended), 1 tbsp each chia seeds and linseeds.  

You could use anything really - stone fruit, pineapple, orange.  

31 March 2015

"There was never a genius without a tincture of madness" - Aristotle

A tincture is a concentrated herbal extract using alcohol as the solvent.  It is also a common, and reliable, way to preserve herbs and their medicinal properties.  They can be taken straight (using a sprayer, a teaspoonful, or a dropper), or diluted into a tea.  They can be made from fresh or dried herbs, though drying the herbs first concentrates the oils, as I understand it.  

I've recently made up a couple of tinctures for use through the winter - one chamomile (using german chamomile, not roman, as apparently it's the german with the medicinal goodness) and one mixed herbs.  I used vodka as my alcohol, though you can also use rum, or even ethanol, though that seemed a little hardcore for me.  It's mixed equally with boiling water, so by the time it reaches your, or your child's, mouth it's pretty diluted and you really needn't worry about the alcohol level of what you're giving them.  Numerous cough mixtures we buy at the chemist are alcohol-based anyway, as are a lot of commercially-produced (and hideously expensive) elixirs and tinctures.  

The chamomile is for soothing and relaxing throat muscles, to stymie persistent coughs (you know when you start coughing and then it becomes almost impossible to stop?!).  According to Katie, from the Wellness Mama blog, it's also great for babies with sore teeth and/or tummies (rub some onto their gums, or onto their stomachs), children and adults with sore ears or trouble sleeping, and even a spoonful to bring a hyped toddler out of the rafters and back to earth - useful when it's getting close to bedtime!  

The mixed herb tincture (I harvested and dried mint, sage and thyme from our vege garden) is to make a throat spray.  Basically i'll mix in some honey (raw honey, if you can get it) once I've strained the herbs out, and pour it into a bottle with a spray top.  Sore throat?  Spritz!  I hate having a sore throat, so am looking forward to seeing how effective it will be.  My stepson tends to get a few sore throats through winter too, which makes it harder to get to sleep, so will be good to have on hand.  

  1. So, get your dried herbs (I dried mine outside for about a week, hanging upside-down, then put them in our hot-water cupboard for a couple of days, so they were really dry and brittle) and crumble them into a large jar (mason jar, preserving jar, I used an empty gherkin jar...).  
  2. Pour boiling water over to cover, then a fraction more.  Pour in same amount of alcohol.  Make sure the alcohol is full-strength, so it preserves the herbs.  
  3. Store in cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks (you can use earlier, but it won't be as potent).  
  4. Strain through muslin/cheesecloth and decant into bottles for use.  
NB: I bought my chamomile from Go Native NZ.  

when I wake up in the morning at a quarter to 6, I brush my teeth, ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch

Our 2-yr old isn't overly keen on our toothpaste.  Understandable, 'cause it's pretty strong and minty.  So we decided to give making our own toothpaste a go.  KB's brother and partner make their own and have been very happy with it.  All we needed was coconut oil and baking soda, with a couple of other optional ingredients, if we so chose.  KB and I tested it last night and, while the tea-tree taste was a trifle strong, it was palatable and seemed to do a good job.  Even more to the point - Finn used it this morning and quite happily brushed his teeth.  So, it's not in a convenient tube and the consistency will alter with the temperature (the oil will liquify if too hot and conversely harden when cold), but it's cheap, chemical-free and can be made easily in small batches (important given it's kept in wee pots, so to avoid potential for bacteria growth, especially if multiple family members are using the same pot - we've got bits of popsicle sticks to get out a bit each time, then throw those away.  

2 tbsp coconut oil (softened, but not liquid)
2 tbsp baking soda 
2 tbsp bentonite clay, powdered (to remineralise teeth, but also made paste a bit thicker)
2-3 drops essential oil - tea tree for anti-bacterial properties, peppermint or rosemary for freshness 
  1. Mix together and scrape into pottles.  Ba-bam, you're done.  

04 February 2015

Mojitos? Simple sugar syrup, please!!

Simple sugar syrup really is that, ridiculously simple.  And it's a staple for quite a number of cocktails, including my fav, the mojito (also to be found in the daquiri, caiparena and various others).  

I like to make mine with raw sugar, as it gives it a richer flavour, but it will also colour your drink slightly.  So, if clear, or clean-coloured, is what you're after, use white sugar.  This time, I've added a few mint leaves into the mix while heating, to give the syrup a slight hint of mint...

So, you need: 

2 parts sugar (I use 3 cups) 
1 part water (I use 1.5 cups)

  1. Put ingredients in saucepan and bring to boil.  Turn down and stir until sugar is dissolved.  
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken slightly.  
  3. Decant into storage bottle and keep in the fridge - it'll keep for about 6 months.  
You can also make a syrup which doesn't require heating, but it is thinner and requires some arm muscle - put 1 part each of sugar and water into bottle and shake until sugar is dissolved.  

30 January 2015

sticky garlic chicky (+ zucc balls)

This was a really tasty meal I threw together yesterday afternoon, so there was something ready for my Mum, who was babysitting for us while we went for an evening wakeboarding session at Lake Arapuni (not a bad exchange, eh?).  It was quick and, best of all, can be prepared in advance as is good hot or cold.  Eat with a salad and some new potatoes, or steamed vege and chips.  Or as part of a tasty picnic lunch.  Versatile, me likey.   

Sticky garlic chicken: 

6 chicken drumsticks (or 2 breasts, or equivalent wings)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp brown sugar (less if you prefer)
dash sesame oil
salt and pepper
  1. Sauté garlic in a little butter.  Stir in brown sugar, oil and salt/pepper.
  2. Place chicken in dish for baking and top with garlic mixture.  
  3. Bake for about 20 minutes in 200 degree celcius oven.  
Zucchini balls: 

2 zucchini, grated 
1 egg
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp grated parmesan 
handful chopped fresh herbs
salt and pepper
bread crumbs (optional)
  1. Mix everything together, except bread crumbs.  
  2. Place golfball-sized balls on baking tray (lined with baking paper)
  3. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, if using.  
  4. Bake at 200 degrees celcius for 20 minutes.  
  5. Serve with sweet chili, or aioli.  

28 January 2015

Come fly with me, let's fly, let's keep the flies away...

Chem-free bug spray.  Me likey.  So did KB when I said I was going to give it a try.  We both hate the smell of the insect repellents you can buy at the supermarket, and the fact that they're full of things that frankly we'd rather not have on ourselves, let alone on the kids.  There are some fantastic natural bug sprays available out there - Goodbye Sandfly is a great product and found in most supermarkets and even superettes in insecty, holidayey areas.  It is, however, fairly pricey, especially if you go through a fair amount of the stuff.  The price difference between Goodbye Sandfly (and I mean this as no disrespect to the product, and kudos to the folk in Kerikeri who make it) and the product we made at home was $25.98/100ml and $1.52/100ml.  

Needless to say, we're stoked that this natural homemade bug spray has been effective.  I mean, there's no guarantee that they will be.  But we've gotten onto something good here, so time to share it and hopefully you'll be able to keep yourself and the fam bite-free without having to worry about nasty DEET etc, or about how much the kids are wasting, spraying up and down their legs a million times.  

Incidentally, this is also an effective fly-deterrent - we spray it around the area (ie, the table) of where we're sitting.  Doesn't last forever, but at the price of making this we just keep on spraying/reappying as required.  We're going to make up a separate spray of vinegar and pyrethrum (the daisies are planted, so hopefully will have flowers next summer), but for the moment, this spray works double duty.  

Anyhoo, here we go...

1 litre apple cider vinegar (this is more effective against biting insects than white or malt vinegars, due to the fermentation process, so I have discovered in my researches)
60 drops each of tea tree oil and citronella oil 
packet of cloves (the more the merrier)
spray bottle (150-250 ml is ideal) 
slightly bigger than 1L bottle (washed-out 1.5L water bottle or something)     
  1. Pour vinegar into your 1.5L bottle.  Add all other ingredients.  
  2. Leave for 2+ weeks (the longer the better), if possible, but you can start using straight away.  Once all mixed together, I'd decant as much as will fit into your spray bottle, start using that, and keep the rest in the pantry to do its thing, until you're ready to refill the sprayer.  
NB: This is a strong smelling spray - the oils, let alone the vinegar.  But the smell dissipates fairly quickly, and to be fair, it's no smellier than its chemical counterparts.  Enjoy guys!!  

05 January 2015

Lip balm, with a hint of mint and shimmer

A friend, Erin, and I made these little pots of lip balm just before Christmas, and they've been a hit in my handbag AND as little gifts for friends over the summer season.  Some had peppermint, some didn't, but they were all very very very moisturising.  Which was good, 'cause we spend a lot of time out in the sun, and on the water. 

I love the minty taste/smell of peppermint oil, but if you were making this for someone who didn't, it's an easy thing to leave it out.  The same goes with the mica - it doesn't actually colour your lips, just gives it a bit of a shimmer, but if I were making lip balm for my partner, or another male, I'd probably flag the shimmer and go for an au naturel pot.  

Makes about 8 little pots (10g)

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp shea butter
1 tbsp beeswax
15 drops peppermint oil
1/2 tsp mica powder (I used a bronze)

  1. Melt coconut, shea and beeswax together in a glass jar sitting in a pot of water (or in a double boiler if you have one).  
  2. Stir well, remove from the heat, stir in the peppermint and mica.  
  3. Carefully transfer into containers (use a dropper if you have one, or just pour slowly). 
  4. Once cool and hard, they're ready to go!   

Before the cream sets out too long, You must whip it!

Shea body butter.  Smooth, feels great on summer-dried skin, and smells great.  I decided to make some whipped body butters for my Mum and mother-in-law for Christmas, and was really pleased with the results.  They were inexpensive to make, yet used kick-ass natural ingredients.  So nothing in there that's not good for your skin, can be tailor-made to suit people's scent preferences (or left fragrance-free), and work out to be about the same price as a cheap and nasty tub of moisturiser you'd find at a $2 shop.  Can't argue with that!  

It took a little longer to make than the sunblock etc, but that was only because it needed to sit in the fridge until semi-firm, then be whipped for a good few minutes.  The actual time I had to spend doing anything with it was probably only about an extra 5 minutes.  By whipping it, it stays nice and 'soft' even when kept in the fridge.  Best applied to dry skin, as the oil will sit on top of damp skin, rather than easily soaking in.  

1 cup shea butter (or 1/2 cup shea and 1/2 cup cocoa or mango butter, if you want the scent)

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup olive oil (or almond, jojoba, apricot) 
15 - 30 drops essential oil, if you like it scented (I like lavender) 

  1. Melt all ingredients together, except essential oils, in a double boiler (or in a glass jar sitting in a pot with some water).  
  2. Allow to cool slightly, scrape into a bowl and remove to the fridge.  
  3. Leave in the fridge for an hour or so (I left it in there for almost three hours) until starting to harden, but still soft enough to whip.  
  4. Whip with hand mixer until fluffy (electric takes about 3 minutes or so, non-electric about 10 minutes).  
  5. Put back in the fridge for another quarter hour to set.  
  6. Scrape into jars for keeping butter and start to enjoy!  I keep it in the fridge, especially in the warmer weather.