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So, my 10-year-old has started drinking coffee.

9 Apr

I can think of worse things to give him.

Philip drinking coffee

My children have always been curious about coffee. To them, it is a magical drink that makes me instantly happy. They’ve grown accustomed to me gasping, “I need coffee”, like a hung-over-twenty-something. Except I’m not hung over. I’m tired and overwhelmed. Coffee has always been about comfort and community to me.

They’ve all tried it and it was pretty funny watching them spit it out and dramatically gag, as though they’d just had a mouthful of vinegar. I’ve been the only regular coffee drinker in my home for as long as I can remember (my husband only drinks it occasionally) and I’ve been pretty happy with that state of affairs.

Philip is ten and he has been a tea drinker for years. After I put the little ones to bed each night, Philip and I have a cup of tea (a weak one for him) and chat or play Scrabble for half an hour before he too goes to bed. He took me by surprise this week when he asked for coffee instead of tea.

“It smells nice to me now. I think I’ll like it.”

So we had the ‘coffee chat’, about how it keeps you awake and a couple a day is enough, preferably before lunchtime.

“Can I have coffee tomorrow morning then?”

“Okay, but just a weak one,” I said. He is turning 11 in a week. #growing too fast.

Coffee fixes everything

The next morning we were running late for Tennis Camp so we didn’t get a chance to even have breakfast let alone make coffee but after Tennis Camp I suggested we go to a cafe for a snack.

“And can I have coffee,” he asked.

“Sure.” I mean, why not? To me, coffee for kids is much better than, say, Fanta or Coke In fact coffee has been proven to have health benefits – as long as it isn’t covered in whipped cream and caramel sauce – and I’ve been drinking it all my life. Coming from an Italian background I was always free to have a sip of wine or a bit of milky coffee.

I ordered him a weak cappuccino and a skim one for myself. He really really enjoyed it.

Now, my 10-almost-11-year-old is a coffee drinker and I’m okay with that. I never really had a problem with him having a bit of coffee here and there. I think my momentary struggle with it had more to do with how fast he is growing up, how mature he is and how I can now say to him, “Want to grab a coffee?” like I do with my grown up friends.

I’m preparing myself for some startled looks when I order him a coffee from our local cafe. They are used to kids requesting hot chocolates, which in my view are way more unhealthy than coffee.

Do your kids drink coffee? Would you let them if they asked?

5 things to do with leftover Easter egg chocolate.

6 Apr

Because there’s no such thing as too much chocolate.

Caterina banana chocolate muffin

We have a RIDICULOUS amount of Easter egg chocolate in our house and it is awesome. There is so much we can do with it, post-gorge. Yep, we are O-V-E-R actually eating it straight up. Now, the real fun begins.

I let my children eat as much chocolate as they like on Easter Day. The next day, I collect it all and sort it all out. The really fancy ones, like the Darrell Lea variety, gets cut up and bagged into little bags for my husband and I to enjoy for the next couple of weeks with our afternoon coffee. The rest go to good use.

Here’s  things you can do with leftover Easter egg chocolate. Enjoy.

1. Dip

Getting kids to eat fruit is a constant challenge in my house. Two out of three of my children have a handful of fruit they are happy to tuck into, and the third? Well, let’s just say, he sometimes eats bananas. Very reluctantly.

Leftover Easter egg chocolate is the perfect way to entice children to try new fruits. Let’s face it…when foods are dipped in chocolate they are suddenly more appealing to children, and their parents (hey, I’m human).

To melt chocolate, place in a microwave-proof bowl. Heat for 60 seconds, stir, and then heat for a further 30 seconds. Stir once again. If the chocolate isn’t yet melted, place in for a remaining 30 seconds. Then, get dipping.

You can dip strawberries, bananas, kiwi fruit that has been peeled and quartered, raspberries, apple slices, pineapple, and then serve it up.

2. Crack

Crack some of the good quality chocolate eggs and place them in a container in the fridge for snacking. Placing it in the fridge keeps it fresh and crunchy and by cracking it all up into pieces it prevents anyone trying to eat an entire giant egg themselves. Then crack a few more pieces up into smaller pieces and use them as ice cream and yoghurt toppings.

3. Gift

A family friend donates left over Easter eggs to a retirement home in her area. She visits the centre over the long weekend and spends some time with the residents, handing out Easter eggs to anyone who is still allowed to eat chocolate. She says the really enjoy the company and the chocolate. Ring ahead to make sure you are allowed to do this. You might even visit a local hospital children’s ward and do the same. It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

4. Store

Any Easter eggs that haven’t been removed from their original packaging can be stored for next year. Yes, they do last that long. All you need to do is keep them in a cool, dry place that is protected from children, animals, insects and the elements. I store mine in a high cupboard in my wardrobe. They keep really well. Trust me, supermarkets often do the exact same thing.

5. Bake

This is my favourite thing to do with left over Easter egg chocolate. All you do is melt down some chocolate and stir it into your favourite, healthy muffin recipe or even chocolate cake recipe. If you bake them into muffins or cupcakes you can eat some now and freeze the rest. Then, when you want to eat them, just put them on the bench to thaw in time for afternoon tea. Here is my favourite recipe.

BANANA CHOCOLATE MUFFINS

Chocolate banana muffins

Ingredients

4-6 ripe bananas

Approximately two cups of melted Easter egg chocolate

3 cups self-raising flour

1 cup oatmeal

2 tbsp baking powder

Pinch salt

1/4 cup olive oil (NOT EXTRA VIRGIN)

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp vanilla essence

3 cups milk

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.

2. Line muffin tin with muffin cases.

3. Mash bananas and place in a mixing bowl. Add all ingredients except for the melted chocolate and stir with a fork until combined.

4. Pour in the melted chocolate and stir briefly.

5. Separate into muffin cases and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until they spring back when lightly touched.

What do you do with your left over Easter egg chocolate?

Family celebrations are all about the food, right?

1 Sep

Yum

The plan was in place…

I set my alarm for 6am (a hideous time to wake up on a Sunday). It hurt, but I was a woman on a mission.

I got my work done, dressed for the day, woke my still sleeping kids up and we stumbled to the car. We drove forty minutes to get to our destination this Father’s Day morning. We were headed to Mezzapica in Sydney’s Leichhardt. I had placed order for my dad’s favourite Italian pastry. It’s hard to get. Not many people know how to make them properly and the ones you can buy frozen and imported form Italy just aren’t the same.

We used to have a local cafe supplied them but they’d closed.

It had been months since my dad had eaten a good one.

I picked up the order, ignoring the complaints of my children (where are we, why are we here, can we go home…). The box was filled with still-warm sfogliatelli.

SfogliatelleIt was important to me to deliver these to my dad today. You see, he’s 77 and each year he gets scrawnier and scrawnier. It really freaks me out.

My dad has always been really fit and healthy but he is getting so fussy with his food. He goes off particular foods for months at a time and eats the same things each week. He hardly ever snacks, but if there’s a sfogliatelle in front of him he can’t help himself.

Today he ate three.

Hooray!

In each family there is a food that is a tradition, that reminds them of their childhood and for which their family is famous. As you can see from the food pic at the top of this post, we have lots and lots of favourites. I made the cinnamon cheesecake with fresh ricotta, mum made the torte and the almond biscuits and I picked up the cannoli’s when I bought the sfogliatelle.

Today for Father’s Day we ate and we ate and we ate and it was so much fun. We all have leftovers for dinner tonight and desserts for breakfast the next day and we spend the whole day in one room eating, drinking, talking and playing with the kids.

Sadly my husband had to work today. I know lots of families who have dads who have worked on Father’s Day. We just do what we’ve gotta do.

My children didn’t get to wake their dad up and give him his gifts but we still had a fabulous day. Tonight we’ll do our own celebration.

Thankfully my husband loves several foods and his only tradition when it comes to food is eating as much of everything as he possibly can. Well honey, happy Father’s Day and here’s my mum’s pasta and several desserts for your enjoyment.

Food and family…they go hand-in-hand. And I love it. I love it all.

How did you celebrate Father’s Day today?

Come to our barbeque, bring your own meat…

13 Dec

Weber Family Q305 2

I am so embarrassed.

Some old friends invited me to a barbecue at their new place. I was so looking forward to seeing them. I packed the kids into the car and headed their way. We walked in and exchanged hugs and greetings. I sat down and watched as other guests arrived, proudly handing over parcels of meat to my friend’s husband who was firing up the barbecue. Crap. We were meant to bring our own meat (and drinks apparently) and I hadn’t brought a thing. I’d heard about such events but I had never been to one.

I hate being invited to barbecues these days. It’s just gotten worse.

Have you noticed how many barbecues require you to bring your own meat? And it’s not even that you have to bring your own meat that is the real issue – it’s that it’s hard to tell which barbeques you have to bring meat to and which you don’t.

Rarely does anyone bother to let you know if you are meant to supply your own meat…they just seem to think you’ll figure it out. So you either turn up to a barbecue expecting meat to be provided and it’s not (we had to go down the road to KFC for our lunch once) or you bring meat to a party that has it already (and you’re esky of sausages is left to rot in the car).

This is fair enough when it comes to drinks. If you want to get on the piss then bring your own alcohol. Alcohol is expensive and people like specific brands. But being invited to lunch and then having to provide your own lunch is filled with uncertainty and wrong assumptions.

Will sides be provided? What about plates and forks? Can I use one of your napkins? Is there any water?

And meat-envy is the WORST. I turned up once with cheap chicken sausages (because I knew my kids would eat them) and my friends were barbecuing chicken thighs marinated in lemon, olive oil, garlic and rosemary. I almost did a grab-and-run. They smelled AMAZING.

In my family we have never asked guests to bring their own meat. The thought is preposterous. We are Italian. We are happy to over-feed you at our expense. But pasta is cheap and meat is expensive. How do you socialize and keep it affordable?

This is why I think we need to adjust new-age-barbecues a little. If guests have to bring their own meat, TELL THEM. Or even better…if everyone brings a dish then we can all share. That way there is no food envy and you don’t have to fry your meat on your corner of the barbecue, trying to avoid your friend’s t-bone steak. We can slap it all on, put it all out and dig in.

Barbecues are Australian but if they are going to continue without incident we need to start communicating better or switch to picnics, although picnics seem to be increasingly BYO too.

I pulled my friend aside at my first BYO-barbecue and explained that I hadn’t brought anything. I apologized profusely and she said no worries, she had enough for us. I fed the kids but stuck to communal corn chips myself. It really was the worst day.

I have another barbecue tomorrow and we weren’t told if we had to bring meat so I texted and vaguely asked if I needed to bring anything. “Just meat if you are staying for the barbecue…and drinks”, she responded.

I mean really. She’d better have nibbles.

Chocolate makes you fat…and other stupid surveys…

7 Dec

Pepp Crisp

I laughed my wobbly arse off when I read research that revealed women eat more chocolate when reminded that it’s unhealthy. By warning women about the fattening nature of eating chocolate , we are actually driven to eat more of it. This, according to research from the University of Western Australia. Other studies they are involved in include “Cinnamon Donut Eaters Are More Sensible than Iced-Donut Eaters” and “Excessive Alcohol Leads to Increased Peanut Consumption”…

Chocolate is my ‘dark passenger’ and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love eating it and I hate it when I have to share.

I often buy chocolates for my family only to hide it in the cupboard under the cous cous and forget to share it with my loved ones. I justify it to myself…”They don’t love it as much as I do”, “It doesn’t mean as much to them”, “They’ll be just as happy with popcorn”, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”

If there is chocolate in the house it doesn’t last the day. I’ve never been a couple-of-squares-each-afternoon kinda gal. I’m more the eat-the-block-then-skip-dinner type.

According to researchers the fact it isn’t good for us increases the pleasure when we eat it and I TOTALLY get that. Just as we’ve all dated a ‘bad boy’ who we knew was trouble and delighted in secret trysts in cars in random parking lots, knowing chocolate is bad for us makes it taste all the more delicious.

I googled “Why women eat more chocolate than men” and it was blamed on hormones and blood sugar. Also research shows women are more likely to eat chocolate if the product is advertised by thin women. I remember this being discussed when a larger woman was cast in the Terry’s Chocolate Orange ad. I’m happy to say that happily consumed chocolate products featuring all sized women – because that’s just the kind of person I am.

When I run out of chocolate I usually get started on the choc bits or the cooking chocolate, both of which taste pretty good when cravings hit.

I don’t have any friends who don’t love chocolate and to be honest, if I found out a friend of mine didn’t like chocolate the friendship would be over. “What kind of person are you? Get away from me strange alien-like-creature and take your savoury snacks with you.”

To be honest, if someone tells me they don’t like chocolate I pretty much assume they are lying. They obviously have issues because everyone loves chocolate. I mean, it’s chocolate.

I find it comforting that money is being spent researching the reasoning behind excessive chocolate consumption (it’s sugary and delicious and tastes amazing – study complete). Because life is all about the little things…the big things can wait.

Now shut up and pass me the dairy milk…hey, your piece is bigger than mine!

‘Fat Talk Free Week’ (3-9 December 2012)

7 Dec

Butterfly-Foundation-logo

I can’t remember a single day in my adult life where I or someone I know hasn’t indulged in ‘fat talk’.

What is ‘fat talk’? The Butterfly Foundation explains…

 

Fat talk is language and dialogue that reinforces the “thin ideal” and increases body dissatisfaction.

“Do I look fat in this?”, “I’m so fat”, “She should not be wearing those pants”….this is Fat Talk.

 

It IS time to change the conversation, at least for a week, which is why the Butterfly Foundation for Eating Disorders has launched ‘Fat Talk Free Week’ from 3 – 9 December.

I really want to do this. I would love an entire week of no fat talk both internally and externally. Imagine how peaceful that week would be? Imagine how much more TIME you’d have to think about other, more important things or at least to talk about your weight in a different way.

Imagine changing the conversation to something positive. For example, I have a new mantra that I repeat to myself almost daily when I find myself sinking into the ‘my life would be so much better if I were thinner’ frame of mind. I tell myself…

‘I have my health, my arms, my legs, people who love me. What I weigh doesn’t matter. I’m fine just the way I am.’

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to last an entire week without any fat talk but I could definitely do a day. It will have to involve all of my loved ones so a group email or specifically-shared social media message should do the trick.

The Butterfly Foundation also suggests one of the following events:

 

  • Have a themed day ~ “Embrace YOU” or “Empowerment Day” or “Just as I am”;
  • Hold a cup cake or Butterfly cake stall;
  • Conduct a fun run or walkathon;
  • Collect money in a “swear jar” every time someone uses Fat Talk!

 

A themed day or swear jar would be the top picks for me or even a combination of the two. A cupcake or cake stall day will just make me think about calories and if I do a fun run or walkathon I will be hoping to burn calories. But imagine your friends and family having to actually embrace themselves for an entire day or to call each other to task each time they use fat talk. How uplifting. How empowering. And how well timed as the panic sets in over what we will and won’t eat over Christmas.

The Butterfly Foundation is a lovely soft place to land for those of us who continue our struggle against fat talk. You can read more about Fat Talk Free week at thebutterflyfoundation.org.au.

The foundation tells us to SHUT DOWN THE FAT TALK. Another ‘f’ word for us to put on the banned list.

This will certainly be a challenge but it’s definitely a better idea than a pre-Christmas detox or another diet. I have friends who don’t even order skim cappuccinos because of the chocolate powder on the top. I was with a close friend recently at Yum Cha and she spent the entire time eating from a plate of green vegetable. She wouldn’t even have one steamed dumpling. Another friend weighs herself every time she has stomach flu. A little boy in my life called himself fat recently and I almost started crying because while he isn’t skinny he certainly isn’t fat.

So, have a great week butterflies and remember, no fat talk. Put a poster up at work, set up the swear jar and for at least seven days cut yourself some slack. Because you rock. Fat talk be-gone!

My bumps, my bumps, my lovely lady lumps

20 Nov

I feel amazing. I woke up this morning feeling all sorts of fabulous which is very rare for a school day.

I’ve been on the full Lite n Easy program now for six days and I am waking up faster, I’m less hungry and I just feel great. I feel like I’m in control.

We underestimate the effect our health has on all parts of our lives. Everything from taking the kids to their activities, to grocery shopping, to cleaning the house, to working is easier because I feel like the responsibility for my health isn’t all down to me. I have some help and all I have to do is open up the packages and eat the food. And the food is so delicious that sometimes I wonder if it is a real diet. Then I weigh myself and it is confirmed. Lite n Easy works as well as it always has, even now that I am almost fifteen years older than when I first used the full program.

I was feeling so virtuous today that I decided to give up coffee too. I am so healthy, I am eating so well, I am lighter, my jeans are fitting better. I thought I’d tackle my only vice – coffee. I don’t drink or smoke so my life revolves around coffee and I structue my day around it. But I am in control of the rest of my diet. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like I could take or leave coffee and release the strangle-hold it has over me.

I lasted until 2pm. To my credit that’s two hours longer than I usually last when I try and give up coffee (I usually crack at noon but often give it up when I wake up, only to stop the attempt within thirty minutes). Coffee doesn’t have to be fattening (thank you Splenda) and it has been shown to prevent alzheimer’s. I don’t want alzheimer’s disease now do I. And coffee has also been shown to speed up your metabolism. Yay.

So bring on the coffee. A skim latte is DA BOMB! And I’d really be doing a dis-service to my favourite cafe if I stop going. I’m nothing if not loyal. I don’t want to offend them. Chai what?

My health is improving, I’ve accepted my coffee addiction and my excerise is progressing (most days I’m struggle to get out of bed with sore muscles but that’s the price we pay).

And pulling my once tight jeans on and being able to breathe is a luxury.

My weekly delivery arrives tomorrow and I’ve just been through the menu. THE DOUBLE CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE is on my menu for the week. I’m yet to sample this because it usually comes with a beef lunch and I don’t eat beef. I am dying already. A diet that involves cake is not a diet – it is a gift from the Lord above.

I would sing a hymn but I really can’t sing. I’ll just moan instead. Mmmm, mmmmm, chocolate cake.

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