It has been a long time between drinks and I’ve had quite a few emails from kind souls asking if I’m still here and I am indeed. We have had every weekend booked up over the last few months with only good things like house guests, BBQ’s, parties and dinners and so in an effort to avoid getting run down I have slowed down on computer usage. Not just for me but for the kids as well and it has been so positive but it does mean I’ve been slack with emails and quiet on the blog front.
I feel very challenged this year, by books I’ve read and conversations I’ve had, to have a hospitable home and family. We have always enjoyed having friends and family over for a meal but I feel the stretching this year as we have met so many new people which is different. But if you want to get to know people then there is nothing quite like inviting them into your home and sharing a meal. Even if it is just for a cup of tea and a chat there is something to be said about opening up your home that means more than going out to a restaurant or cafe as you are giving something of yourself.
My struggle is, and has always been, relaxing about everyone else seeing the mess and chaos that sometimes comes with a family of six. I have a four year old boy who is always having too much fun to bother with things like going to the bathroom. He only goes when absolutely necessary and then he bolts to the bathroom, whips his pants down and seems to spray everywhere but into the toilet bowl. This alone keeps me so frustrated as I seem to spend so many hours scrubbing bathrooms with bicarb and vinegar and I can’t be confident that our guests will have a clean bathroom to use. I’m sure any parent of boys will understand.
I also am working on the balance between opening up our home and ensuring that we have plenty of time as a family just by ourselves. So I have been making an effort of late to slow down unnecessary busyness and it has been very positive. The kids have all grown up so much lately and we have all been really enjoying family time. This weekend we had absolutely no plans, well besides going along to the Los Altos Pet Parade with Elliott’s preschool class yesterday. It has been a wonderfully lazy weekend of swimming, fish tacos, monopoly and ice-cream cones filled with scrumptious Queensland mango sorbet (AKA Weis) via Trader Joes.
My little sister from Melbourne, Trina, came to visit the week of my birthday which was a treat. Trina loves to cook and she got busy in the kitchen for our usual Friday pizza night and whipped up some very tasty combinations. This one with mushrooms and herb oil was scrumptious and it has got me being more creative with our pizzas. My favourite combination of late has been a tomato base, parmesan cheese then loads of caramelised onions and amazing smoked mozzarella torn into chunks. So smokey and sweet and hard to resist.
I have been cooking so many new recipes lately and have just really enjoyed experimenting a lot. Every time I try something new and wonderful I want to share it but I’m never going to get around to sharing every single favourite recipe but I will do what I can. One of my favourite things to make at the moment is this incredibly simple recipe from Karen Martini for BBQ Eggplant. If you are like my husband and don’t like eggplant then I urge you to make it and give it a go. Joel has been converted and absolutely loves this dish. I serve it as part of a spread for lunch but I also love it just on top of bread or on top of a pizza. It is full of flavour and moreishly good.
Another recipe I have churned out many times now is for this one below for a Chocolate Spelt Cake. It is one of those super easy one pot cakes which I can never have enough of and as it is so moist it needs no icing and is therefore perfect for school lunch boxes. I have done less baking for the kids lunch boxes lately as we have had a fair share of weekend desserts. My usual approach of late is to heat up a pan first thing in the morning, drizzle in some olive oil and pour in about 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels. I give it all a good shake, pop the lid on and wait until every kernel has popped. Then I give it a good sprinkle of salt and leave it to cool before dividing up into bags. The kids have so much fruit to choose from now with the warmer weather so I load up their fruit containers with apples, strawberries, melon and the occasional piece of pomegranate. And lunch has mostly been turkey and salad wraps which is a big hit with the older kids. But once a fortnight I have been baking something sweet as a treat and this chocolate cake has proved a hit and I think the use of spelt flour will give them a little more lasting energy for their day. A good cake to slice and freeze ready to go into lunch boxes.
chocolate spelt cake
(adapted from ‘Avalon Food: Recipes For Friends And Family)
1 cup water
125g unsalted butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 cups wholemeal spelt flour
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 1/2 cups raw sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (320 degrees F). Grease and line a round 21cm cake tin.
In a small saucepan mix together the water, butter and cocoa over a medium heat until the butter has melted.
In a large bowl mix together the flour, bicarb and sugar. Pour over the melted butter mixture and stir until everything is mixed well then add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix together then pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until cooked. Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. This simple cake can be made with just regular plain flour too.