How to make Fresh Coconut Milk at Home

Coconuts are abundant in my hometown , so it is widely used in our cuisine. Making coconut milk at home for using in Stew and some of the traditional dessert is very common, instead of using tinned coconut milk or powder.

Coconut milk is made in three stages. This first one being the thickest, the second one a little thinner and the third one is very light. The third milk  is usually used for cooking the vegetables or meat for the gravy . Personally I prefer to cook them in the third milk as it enhances the taste of the gravy.

(This is a recipe that can be tailored as per need)
Method:
To make one cup of thick coconut milk.
Ingredients:
2 cups of grated fresh coconut
3/4 th + 1 tbsp cup of warm water
First, pulse the freshly grated coconut for a second.Then add the warm water and blend till the coconut is all ground and appears milky.
Squeeze out the milk by wringing or pressing the blended coconut really well with your hands through a sieve or cheese cloth.
The FIRST blend of fresh coconut milk  that is the thickest is the first milk.
Add water again to the the left over  squeezed out coconut pulp and  blend again , the consistency of the coconut milk gets thinner and this is the second milk.
Repeat the process and the third and Last blend is the thinnest coconut milk.
Cook Book Scribbles:
  • The most important thing to keep in mind when using the thick first coconut milk is to never let it boil (in the curry or stew etc)  as it will curdle  and spoil the taste.
  • If fresh coconut is not available, frozen fresh coconut can also be used . It is available at Yogiji Christchurch.
  • Dry desiccated coconut however, has not worked for me and Louise.

 

The Curator’s House |Review

The Curator’s House |Review



Today’s review is of the Curator’s House restaurant, set on the corner of the Botanic Gardens and the Avon River, near the Antigua Boat Sheds and the Hospital.


We wandered through the Botanic Gardens from Riccarton Ave to get to the Curator’s House, however, it is located on the edge of the city centre, on Rolleston Ave at the main entrance to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

The quaint Old English Tudor style building in which the restaurant is housed is surrounded by cottage style fruit and vegetable gardens.  This heritage building was the original 1920’s residence of the curator of the Gardens.
Prior to this there was a Head Gardener’s cottage located within the footprint of the present day building built in 1872 and before this a small Government Gardener’s cottage existed on the same site.

Wandering down the garden path…..

There is plenty of outdoor seating with large sun umbrellas to provide shade.  We chose to sit outside as it was a very warm sunny day and it was just lovely sitting outside enjoying our surroundings.

My eldest daughter and my Mum (whose birthday we were celebrating over lunch).

The staff were friendly but rushed and barely had time to stop and we had to ask for them to explain what tapas are and how to order from the tapas menu.
To start we ordered bread with a selection of dips and a tapas platter so we could taste a variety of tapas dishes.  I was pleased that a lot of these dishes were gluten free so I was able to try most of them.
The calamari was the stand out tapas dish, the patatas bravas with aioli a close second along with the yummy dips with bread.

We could have chosen more from the tapas menu and shared several tapas for lunch but we were so tempted by the a la carte menu we decided to choose a main dish each.
My husband chose the venison with vinaigrette, cherry tomatoes, mushroom and potatoes.  He enjoyed this dish, the venison was cooked to perfection and the crunchy vege crisps were delicious, but he didn’t find the meal amazing (and he tells me for this price he expects to be really ‘wowed’).

My Mum and I both ordered the slow cooked lamb shoulder which was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  Falling off the bone, this lamb shoulder was slow-cooked to perfection.  The portion of lamb is huge!  I would have loved a few more spring greens with this dish.
Mum loved the wine she bought to accompany her main so much that she ordered a second glass!

This delicious flavourful and fresh salad was the dish my daughter chose.  I nibbled on her salad and really enjoyed the strong Mediterranean flavours.  The price was reasonable too.



None of us thought we’d be able to fit in dessert but when we looked at the dessert menu we changed our minds and decided to splurge!  We all ordered the Pannacotta de Chocolate – a silky chocolate pannacotta with morello cherries, candied almonds and espresso syrup, this really was the cherry on top!

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our meal but due to the prices it isn’t a restaurant we can visit often.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Christchurch Botanic Gardens


Christchurch Botanic Gardens, located in Hagley Park in the heart of the city, are one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve visited.

This week I took a walk with my Mum and eldest daughter. We started at the West Bridge next to the carpark off Riccarton Ave (free parking) and walked along the river until we reached Rolleston Ave (where we had an amazing lunch at The Curator’s House).

This pathway takes you along the Avon river,

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Past Water Gardens,

Through the New Zealand Gardens,

Beautiful shaded native bush pathways,

With stunning displays of native NZ trees like this Kakabeak in flower,

Tall stands of NZ native trees on the edge of the river,

Gently shaded pathways and gardens,

Opening out to beautiful green spaces.

Arching bridges over the clear Avon River.

Wide pathways with lush green lawns.

Dappled light under tall trees.

At this time of year you will be certain to spot ducklings.  We were delighted to spot several groups of ducklings, especially these silver and brown Paradise ducklings with both their parents nearby.

Their parents marched them across the path and down the the river just before us, their Father in the front and the Mother duck following closely behind, quacking as she walked.

Into the clear water they went and delighted us with their diving antics.  We also spotted several trout in the river.

A very common scene on the Avon river is Punting,

A leisurely boat ride up the river, pushed by a friendly guide’s long pole.

Tiny ducklings!

We paused our walk at the Curator’s House Restaurant where we had lunch before walking back to the car.

There are multiple pathways and directions one can walk throughout the gardens, all of them beautiful and most enjoyable.

After our lunch punting would have been a relaxing way to get back to the car!  We contended ourselves by watching the boats on the river as we strolled back along the path at a leisurely pace.

How to make Soy Candles

How to make Soy Candles

img_3939Making soy candles is simple and does not take long.  Once finished you have gorgeous, professional looking candles to use and give away as gifts.

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If you are a beginner I would recommend purchasing a soy candle making kit to get you started.  I purchased a candle making kit which came with soy wax, wicks, fragrance oils and glass candle jars.

Other equipment you will need:
A clean pot to melt the wax
A jug for pouring
A hot glue gun to glue the wick tabs in to the jars (or you can buy stickers for this purpose or use a drop of wax)
Wick holders (I used a knife to keep the wick centred)
A thermometer
Scales to weigh the wax and fragrance oil

To begin measure your wax into the pot and set to a low heat to melt the wax.Stir wax as it melts to break up clumps.

Using a hot glue gun, apply a drop of glue on wick tab (or use a small piece of double sided tape or wick stickers).Position wick in the centre of the jar and press onto glass.  Be careful not to have any glue (or tape) showing as it may be a fire risk.  If you have tall glass jars you may need to use a knife or screwdriver to press down on the wick tab to stick it down.Pour melted wax into a jug to cool.

Once the wax is 40 degrees or less, the fragrance oil can be added.  I used a ratio of 10-15% fragrance oil, to wax.  Mix well.

Place your jars into a position where you can leave them to set.  Pour melted wax carefully into jars until half full.  Adjust wicks to stand in the centre (I used knives to help position the wicks) then pour in the rest of the wax.

Leave wax to cool.  Ideally candles should not be moved until the wax is completely set (about 3-6 hours).

Excess soy wax can be poured into silicone mounds and made into soy wax melts.
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Once your candles have set (after about 6 hours) it is time to trim the wicks with sharp scissors to 1 – 1.5cm above the level of soy wax.  Leave candles to settle for a day before using (or packaging up to give away).

Label your candles.  I used cute gift tags with gold thread.  I popped the soy melts into a cellophane bag.  When you burn your candle for the first time, allow the entire surface of the candle to melt right out to the edges of the glass.  This will ensure you get an even melt pool.

HOW TO MAKE IDIYAPPAM AKA STRING HOPPERS : the easy way

HOW TO MAKE IDIYAPPAM AKA STRING HOPPERS : the easy way
Idiyappam or string hoppers is a very common and a very traditional breakfast dish in my part of South India. It is a very simple dish to make. Made with roasted rice flour , water and salt,and steamed in pressure cooker or a steamer , it is a dish that is well loved by adults and kids alike. It  is also often prescribed by doctors as part of a soft meal diet for patients.
Idiyappam is one of those dishes that I never tried to make before I got married. Jacob however loved  Idiyappams and that meant I  had to learn how to make it , you know, the way to a man’s heart and all that, so I  called  my mom  straight away to get the recipe . As it turned out, making the dough was  a much easier task compared to coaxing  the dough out of the Idiyappam press.
However hard I tried, I could not manage to  get the dough out through the press. Jacob ever willing to help around the kitchen,offered to help me . But only ended up breaking the  Idiyappam press  one too many and left me flabbergasted  how  someone could break something that I couldn’t even get move an inch !
Then my mom discovered a ‘magic press “as she called it and Idiyappam making has been a breeze ever since.
As much as I enjoy cooking  for my friends and family , if there is a easy way to do something, then thats what I  go for.
So here goes.
Ingredients to serve 4
 1 cup Roasted Rice flour .  white or red ( I used Double Horse Appam/ Idiyappam mix , available at Yogiji Christchurch
3/4 _1 cup Boiling water
1tsp oil
Salt to taste.
Method
Take flour in a mixing bowl, add salt . Pour boiling water slowly

little by little mixing with a wooden spoon to form a soft smooth dough

Pour in the oil

When it cools down enough to touch, form into soft dough .Taking care not to knead too much

Grease the hollow part of the Idiyappam press with oil and fill in the dough inside the press.

Fill upto the brim of the press hollow

In the meantime, grease the Idli mould with oil and keep aside.
Press Idiyappam presser onto greased idli moulds
Repeat until all the dough is pressed on to the moulds.
Steam in the pressure cooker without the pressure ,for 7-9 mins on medium  flame. Once done, let it stay covered in the pressure pan for a minute or two
When the steam stops coming out of the vent,open and transfer the cooked Idiyappam to a hot pack.
I like to serve Idiyappam with sweetened  thin fresh coconut milk or chicken stew. Ofcourse, chicken curry and mutton curry also taste great with idiyappam.
Cook book Scribbles :
  • when  the Idiyappam is cooked through is , it starts to look glossy.
  • Idiyappam tastes good served hot or cold.
  • Scrapped coconut can be sprinkled over the cooked idiyappam

 

Quick trip to Queenstown 

Quick trip to Queenstown 

One can never get enough of the beauty ,South Otago region offers. When my cousin visited New Zealand with his friends, we decided to tag along on their two day trip .

First stop was Lake Tekapo. About three hours drive from Christchurch, the deep turquoise waters against the backdrop of the rugged brown Southern Alps is just breathtaking.lake tekapoOn the banks of the lake adding charm to the scenery ,stands the Church of the Good Shepherd .Apparently a favourite spot for wedding photographers.DSC_0499.JPGEnroute to Queenstown, stopping at various Scenic Outlooks to admire the magnificent beauty of the landscapes meant our supposedly six hour drive from Christchurch to Queenstown ,was stretched by a couple more hours. DSC_0542.JPGHence we reached Queenstown late at night  .

Ready to crash ,The Scenic Suites hotel where we stayed, with its spacious bed and clean self contained utilities ,offered just the cozy comfort we needed. DSC_0570.JPGThe stunning views of the lake and town were an added bonus.DSC_0551.JPGOh ,the breakfast of eggs benedict  with english muffins and bacon we had at the hotel restaurant was large , filling and scrumptious.

Of all the adventure sports that Queenstown offers, DSC_0645

DSC_0681.JPGDSC_0660.JPGmy favourite past time at Queenstown is people watching , canva-photo-editor-6having a juicy burger at Fergburger , IMG_0784

(one  of the best tip we received and found immensely helpful to avoid the serpentine queue ,was to order beforehand on phone and then go get the burger . )

Or grab an ice cream at Patagonia. Not only do they have a wider variety to choose from but you can also create your own cone , add things you like . So fun and so so yummy !IMG_7102

or walk on the side path gawking at all the sights and sounds enjoying the touristy vibe of the town.

Looking at the pictures  just makes me want to go back there.

How to make Ginger Chai aka Indian Ginger Tea 

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Holding a cup of chai, watching the steam come up in curls, inhaling the aroma of ginger and tea leaves, just enjoying the quiet hours of dawn,  is my little morning  ritual. Even my dog Amber, knows to remain still, and let me savour my cup of chai, sip by sip. It does not last  long, but those few moments to myself, help me anchor myself and gear up to face the rest of the day.
In a home  dominated by staunch coffee drinkers, I cannot remember where my love for a good cup of chai came from. I did not fancy the karupatti kappi ( coffee made with palm sugar) that was offered at evening snack  time, so skipped drinking coffee altogether. J is not a coffee or tea drinker either and so I did not have the need to make ritualistic early morning coffee in our home.
It was in Pondichery that I was introduced to masala chai along with a spicy plate of kothu parrota. ( minced flat bread with eggs, meat and a spicy curry) Still there was never the ritualistic chai making in our home until we came to NZ!
A couple of years back, when we were in India, my aunt introduced me to Red Label Nature Care tea powder and it turned out to be my go to drink during the really cold first winter in Christchurch. My comfort for soul drink (as I like to call it) for homesickness and warmth !
When I had finished the tea stash I brought with me from India, my search for Nature Care Tea all over Christchurch came to nothing. I was relieved I found the Red Label tea here in Yogiji Indian Supermarket. I just add ginger or cardamon and I’m good to go!
Whenever I need a pick me up, I just make myself a good cup of ginger chai. And  I love making ginger chai for my friends too.
I thought I will share it on the blog for our  readers  to make at home as its pretty easy and quick.
Ingredients to serve 2
 
Water :  11/2  cup
Milk :    11/2  cup
Fresh Ginger : 2″ piece
Tea  Powder  :2 tsps
Sugar to taste
Method:
Crush the ginger. Add it to the water in a saucepan and allow to boil till you can smell the aroma of the ginger come through.Add the tea  powder and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. Add in the milk .Switch off the flame. Let it sit  for a minute. Strain into a cup with a tea strainer.Add sugar as required. Serve piping hot!
 Cook Book Scribbles :
5 slightly crushed cardamom pods can also be added for a spicy aromatic chai. ( tea)

Thai Orchid |Review

Thai Orchid |Review

We enjoyed a nice family dinner with our family and another family at Thai Orchid recently.  The owner is a very friendly guy who came and explained the menu to us and suggested dishes and drinks to order.

Our younger kids all wanted Chicken Green Curry and Pad Thai but our older ones ordered from the ‘Stir Fried’ section and their dishes looked really yummy!
I ordered Beef Massaman Curry (pictured above) which was nice but could have done with a bit more spice.  The Green curry was also very mild but the kids really enjoyed it.

We didn’t have to wait long for our meals to arrive and the staff were very friendly and attentive despite being short on two staff members that night.

All curries are gluten free and many of their other dishes are able to be made gluten free.  I ordered curry for myself but forgot to ask for the other dishes to be made gluten free so I could try them, as we planned to all share so we could taste a bit of everything, so I was a bit disappointed as the other dishes all looked so delicious!

We found this restaurant to be family friendly.

Pepper Mushroom Masala

Pepper Mushroom Masala
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Growing up in the southern most part of India, I had only heard of edible mushrooms in storybooks and seen them  in picture books. The ones that appeared out of nowhere during rainy season in my hometown were usually very tiny. We were warned not to touch them as they were poisonous and so we never did .
By the time I was in college, my family had moved to a town that was dry for the major part of the year and mushrooms were rarely seen around.
The University Of Agriculture which was situated in a village nearby was conducting an one day training course for growing Oyster Mushroom in homes. They were promoting it as a small business idea for small scale farmers.
My mom’s friend and our neighbor (whom we lovingly called Lawyer aunty because her husband was a Lawyer), is a science teacher and she wanted to go and learn the process of growing mushrooms for profit at home. She wanted company and asked me if I wanted to go, when my mom couldn’t get leave from work. I tagged along with her because I could skip college .
I must confess that although I went there without expecting much, I came away very fascinated by what we learnt there.
Along with the training on how to grow mushrooms at home, each participant was given a little booklet with detailed instructions of all that we learnt there and some recipes plus a bottle of spawn.
I promptly got to work. All the stars aligned. Amma let me use the little shed outside our home. Since it was harvest season, there was plenty of hay from our paddy fields which  I used to sow the sample spawn I got at the University, to grow my very first batch of mushrooms .
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I was so thrilled when those pristine white oyster mushrooms appeared on the little hay bundles I had prepared for the mushrooms to grow! For you see, the green thumb thing completely skipped me even though I was born into a family of agriculturists.
After a bountiful harvest we didn’t know how to cook the mushrooms so we gave some to friends and neighbours and Amma added them to the curries she made.
One day, I decided to try a recipe from the little booklet we got at the University. The recipe was rather simple but quite tasty! And quickly became a regular in our home. DSC_0474Later, I found out that our farm help on my dad’s farm also used this same recipe to cook wild mushrooms. The only spices used here in this recipe are pepper and cumin.
The original recipe used Oyster Mushrooms, but I’ve substituted button mushrooms and the taste does not differ muchDSC_0008



INGREDIENTS:

250 gms Mushroom (chopped )
1 tsp pepper
1 Onion (chopped)
1 small tomato
1 tsp grated coconut (optional)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp mustard
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Curry leaves, salt to taste

METHOD:

Heat oil in a skillet.

Add Cumin, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Let it splutter.

Add Chopped onions, cook till they are pink in color.

Then add the tomato pieces. Saute well till mushy.

Add salt and pepper.

Now add the Mushroom. Saute well.

Sprinkle a little water. Cover and let it cook.

Add chopped corriander leaves.

Cook till the mushrooms are soft and well cooked but still firm .

Sprinkle grated coconut.

Serve as a side dish for rice.

Cook book scribbles: Without the coconut, this masala can also be used as a sandwich filler.















 

 

Costas Greek Taverna |Review 

I had a delicious dinner out with some girlfriends at Costas Greek Taverna Restaurant earlier this week.  Two of us had been before several times but our other friend had never been so was very keen to try it out.

We were not going to have starters but one friend wanted to order the Moussaka for her main and we were told it would take 30 minutes to cook, so we decided to get a starter to nibble on while we waited.
I recommended the Dolmades which are little parcels of rice risotto wrapped in grape leaves and served with salad and the most delicious tzatziki.
It worked out perfectly to share this dish between the three of us, giving us two Dolmades each.  My friends both loved the dish and would order it again in future.

It was relatively quiet that night but every other time I’ve been it’s been absolutely packed!  The atmosphere is fun with music playing, blue lights on one wall and red lights at the bar, with a greek-looking wall with round latticed window at the back of the restaurant.  The staff are very attentive and friendly.

Peeking through the wall to the bar.

This photo does not do the dish justice at all.  Mamma’s Moussaka was served as a tall stack of piping hot moussaka with a gorgeous fresh greek salad and tzatziki on the side.

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The Falafel Souvlaki Platter came with two vegetarian falafel patties, two pita bread, salad, four sauces and chips.  There was an option for a Grande size platter with three falafels for those who are feeling extra hungry.

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The Lamb Shanks with fire roasted vegetables and fragrant rice.  It’s a dish I’ve had before and I keep going back to it!  You can choose one or two shanks (this was two).  I found I kept glancing over at my friends’ salads and tzatziki so next time I might order these on the side (and only one shank).

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After such large main dishes we opted for desserts from the ‘Mini’ range of options.  These little chocolate mousse cups were the perfect end to our delicious dinner at Costas.

Costas has multiple gluten free and vegetarian options and the portion sizes are very generous with options on some dishes to ‘upsize’ to a ‘grande’, while the mini desserts are perfectly bite size after such large mains.  Absolutely delicious, if you haven’t been to Costas before, you definitely should!

Pearlin went to Costas on her birthday as they sent her a free birthday dinner voucher and they gave her a dessert for free too, candle and all!


They also send out free $20 vouchers from time to time so it’s well worth signing up on their website!

You can book online on the Costas Taverna website.

Day trip: Akaroa

Akaroa, which means Long harbour, is an hour and a half  drive from Christchurch. We might have taken a little longer than that as we stopped in a couple of places.IMG_0967

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A little stop at the picnic area on the way at  Lake Ellesmere to admire the Swans glide gracefully on the lake…

 the next stop was at Little River where a for a little dose of history awaits at the railway station now converted into a little craft storeIMG_4031

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with all  the antique memorabilia on display…Lanterns,ticket collecting booth are a sure attraction for adults and children alike
There is also a cafe to get coffee or grab an ice-cream at the diary nearby.

With stunning scenic views to greet you on the hilltop , it is a delightful drive up to Akaroa
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This picturesque town is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll around , stopping by the Museum to get an understanding of the historical heritage of the erstwhile French ColonyDSC_1351The French street names and the antique buildings bear witness to the  bygone eraDSC_1270 A French bakery, Cooking school and loads of souvenir stores  in the town centre are a sure giveaway for the  French flavour that is still very much prevalent in the town.

Other than the idyllic old world charm of the town, a walk down the beachfront IMG_2111IMG_4048DSC_1318IMG_8405IMG_2139IMG_2131IMG_2109 lounging and eating fish and chips  while sitting on the pier, listening to the sound of the water and the sea gulls is extremely relaxing.IMG_8410Then a visit to the spectacular Giant’s House, another heritage house, is a must do.DSC_1236.JPG  The Mosaic art and original art work  vibrant and amazing, are truly a treat to the eyes, that need to be experienced first handIMG_1045IMG_1083IMG_1103The drive to the lighthouse also offers magnificent views of the peninsula and the boats docked in the harbour.DSC_1406

How to host a no fuss birthday party

How to host a no fuss birthday party

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As a mother of 6 children, aged 7-19 years, I have thrown quite a number of birthday parties over the years!  I am not the most creative or organised person and I like to keep things simple so I don’t spend a lot of time preparing for parties in advance but I can throw a party together pretty quickly!

Here are my 10 tips for throwing a very simple kids party:

  • Host at Home
    We nearly always have parties at home because they are cheaper and are more personal.   Invest in some reusable plates, cups and platters suitable for parties.  These can be used time and time again.  I have a range of plastic plates and cups for younger kids and for older ones I use mini glass milk bottles, a drinks dispenser and our regular plates (or paper plates).  These have had years of use!
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    Drinks dispenser and mini milk bottles with paper straws – a great investment
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    Drinks dispenser, mini milk bottles with paper straws and tiered stands (with our regular dinner plates) get used at many of our parties
  • Colour Theme
    There is no need to decorate your whole house with a particular theme but by decorating the table with a colour or theme you will set the theme of the party.  This can be done cheaply by buying paper plates, cups, napkins and straws at the $2 shop.  Additional items like a table cloth, balloons, bunting and streamers further enhance the look.  A photo frame with a photo of the birthday child or a cute poem or verse is another simple way of decorating the table.
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    Blue themed party for teen girl (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) using our regular side plates, a light up star decoration which has been used for all sorts of table displays and tiered stands using our regular dinner plates.  Table cloth is plastic from the $2 shop.

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    Girls’ birthday party – pink and white plates and straws in mini milk bottles with thank you gift (or party favor) on each plate (packaged in $2 shop pillow boxes)

  • Cake Centre Piece
    I don’t do fancy cakes.  I stick with my favourite chocolate cake recipe and decorate simply, many times using lollies as decorations.  Often people bring out the cake just before serving it but I like to put it at the centre of the table as part of the decoration.
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    Black, red and white Minnie Mouse themed party with the cake as the centre piece
  • Party Food
    I serve juice and water to drink and a range of sweet and savoury food to eat.  I generally stick with popcorn, chips, vegetables with dip, sausage rolls, mini pies, fruit, jelly, cupcakes or cake, marshmallows, crackers etc.  These items need little to no preparation, with only the cake, cupcakes and jelly requiring some forward planning and the sausage rolls and pies needing to be warmed in the oven.  I like to platter up the food and let the children choose what they’d like.
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    Healthy party food – veggies and dips, marshmallow and fruit skewers
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    Simply decorated cake, reusable plastic plates and cups and easy party food on the table – popcorn, mandarins, applies, golden kiwifruit, grapes, potato balls and sausage rolls
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    Easy party food for younger children – popcorn, wafter cookies, crackers, marshmallows, fruit (I also served cheerio sausages hot at this party)
  • Games
    It is a good idea to have a brief plan for the party and some games planned for younger childrens parties.  I stick with Pass the Parcel and Treasure Hunt type games (which may be as simple as hiding 20 chocolate coins in the lounge and getting the kids to find and count them all in a pile in the middle of the room).
    A pinata can also be a fun (time consuming game).
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    Pirate Treasure Chest Pinata (The Warehouse) with prizes (Tissue packs, mini chocolates, lollipops).  It took about 15 minutes to break open this pinata so the children got to have multiple turns hitting it and had great fun
  • Prizes
    Depending on the games we play and the take home party bag I have planned, prizes are kept simple like a mini chocolate bar, a lollipop, stickers, pencil and eraser. Sometimes I will purchase quality items which become both prize and take home gift, for example small boxes of lego can be prizes in the pass the parcel, can be played with as a game (who can create the piece the fastest using only one hand) and then become the take home gift.  Although a more expensive item at $7 per box (on sale down from $10) there are no additional costs for little bits and pieces to fill up a party bag.
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    Prizes at a pirate party – pirate hooks and ‘treasure’ candy bracelets
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    Treasure hunt prizes for pirate party containing chocolate coins and stickers
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    Prizes  for a girls’ party – rings, sticker earrings, candy bracelets and mini mentos, ready to wrap in the Pass-the-parcel
  • Crafts or activities
    Including a craft or other activity can help keep the guests occupied.  Crafts need not be intricate.  For younger children a pot of sidewalk chalk to decorate the driveway can capture their attention for quite some time.  For older ones crafts like decorating cards, colouring in sheets, decorating cookies or cupcakes and even decorating their party bags with stickers keep them happily occupied.
    Other activities may include walking to the park, going to a swimming pool, going to a scooter park, playing basketball, playing table tennis, watching a movie, playing playstation and making your own pizzas.

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    Decorating cookies with icing and lollies – I made the cookies the day before
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  • Opening the presents
    Having the birthday child open their presents with their guests watching is something I include in the programme for the party as it takes up a bit of time, plus it is always one of my favourite parts of parties.  I love to watch children opening their presents (and teach mine to always read each card and say thank you).
    April 05 W1 012.jpgReading a card before opening the present
  • Leave some free time at the end of the party
    Although planning a programme for the party is a good idea so you know how much time you have and what you’re doing next, it is often a good idea to leave a period of free time at the end of the party.  Kids love to play and enjoy playing together at parties so let them have some time to run around, jump on the trampoline, play with balloons or toys (if you don’t want kids playing with the presents it’s best to pack these into a bag and pop out of reach).
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    Enjoying running around and playing games outside
  • Simple party bags
    I like to keep party bags very simple but would rather spend slightly more on a quality item, than send kids home with a bag of junk.
    Sometimes if we’ve had several games with prizes at the party, we hand out items as simple as a bag of chippies and piece of cake.  If kids have decorated cupcakes or cookies these are set aside for them to take home.
    Other times we have very simple prizes, or if we’ve done an activity such as swimming and no games/prizes, I like to make up party bags like the ones below with items such a a notebook and pen (50% off at Kikki K), party blower ($2 Shop), hair tie ($2 Shop), mini chocolate bar and lollipop. Bags are also from the $2 Shop.


Adorable party bags

Birthday cake for cheats

If you haven’t had time to bake a cake the easiest option I’ve found is to buy a sponge cake from the supermarket, spread jam and whipped cream on the first layer (as a filling) then top with the second layer of cake.  Spread a thick layer of whipped cream over the top of the cake then decorate with sprinkles.  Voila!

Add candles and you’ve got a great birthday cake everyone will love.

You can also ice the cake as I did with the cake below.  Fun candles and fresh strawberries really make this cake look special.

To whip the cream for a round sponge I use 250ml of cream, 1-2 Tbsp icing sugar and 1 tsp vanilla essence.

Roasted Beet Hummus

Beetroot Hummus is one dish that brings with it memories of eating at our favourite Turkish restaurant, giving us a chance to have a taste of the beautiful flavours of middle eastern street food of Kuwait right here at home in Christchurch.
Stored in an airtight container, it stays fresh for several days in the fridge.  Beetroot hummus tastes great with fresh cut cucumbers, carrots or crackers, pita bread or pita chips making it the perfect mid morning to late evening snack. What’s more, its so easy to make. The only timetaking process is the roasting of the beets.
Roasted Beet  Hummus
 
Ingredients to serve 4
3 large cloves of garlic
2 x 400g tins of chickpeas
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 1/2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste , available in supermarkets)
salt to taste
fresh black pepper to taste.
½ tsp  ground cumin powder
1 medium beetroot.
1 small green chilli
4 tablespoons of olive oil
Preparation
Peel the skin of the beetroot, chop into big chunks . Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
Wrap the beetroot chunks in aluminum foil and roast them until soft and tender, takes about half an hour to an hour in my oven. When done, remove and let it cool.

Drain chick peas and rinse well. Keep aside. Peel garlic.

Method.
In a blender, add the cooled down beet, chickpeas, and garlic. Blend into a paste.
Add tahini, cumin powder, lemon juice and salt to taste. Blend till hummus is smooth and creamy like a dip.  Add pepper and drizzle olive oil over it. Serve with pita, or with veggies.
Cookbook Scribbles :
Add water only if necessary.
Taste and adjust the seasonings as you like.
In a pinch I have also used precooked beets.
If its too much work roasting the beets, skip and just blend the other ingredients and you still have a yummy hummus dip😉
MLLA is an ongoing, monthly event since 2008, in which, bloggers from any country or cuisine can take part in this event by presenting their vegetarian legume recipes. This event was created and started by Susan of The well seasoned Cook in 2008 and has been hosted by Lisa of Lisa’s kitchen since February 2013.

Diamond Harbour day trip

The Diamond Harbour is only a 10 minute ferry ride from Lyttelton.  We went on a grey day and it was lovely even without the sun shining so would be absolutely perfect on a sunny day.


As soon as you arrive you notice how peaceful it is.  All you hear are the birds singing.

A short walk up the hill takes you to the Diamond Harbour Village where you will find two cafes, a real estate office, a library, a medical centre and an arts and crafts shop as well as the historic Stoddart Cottage.


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We enjoyed a walk around the village then had a leisurely lunch at Preserved Cafe and Eatery before making our way back to the ferry for the return trip.



The ferry departs Lyttelton approximately every hour.  You will need to find a park somewhere in Lyttelton as there is no parking specifically for the ferry.  We managed to find a park along the main road.
From there you walk over the footbridge and through quite a bit of contruction before you get to the wharf.

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We managed our day trip within school hours so were home in time to pick our children up from school but felt like we’d had a real break away since the location was so peaceful.