New Mama Baby Shower Menu

Always pleased to be cooking for a crowd, I was delighted to provide lunch on Sunday for a surprise baby shower for my lovely cousin, Sarah.

As requested, here are the recipes!

Soup – Chicken and Barley

Cook the following until soft, in a large pot with 2tbs of olive oil:

2 Onions – diced

2 Carrots – Peeled and diced

2 Sticks of Celery – diced

2 Cloves of Garlic – crushed and chopped


400gr Tin Diced Tomatoes and

2 litres of chicken stock (homemade, cubes, ready made….whatever you have on hand!)


200 grams of barley, then simmer for at least 50 mins. Stir it every once in a while so it does not catch on the bottom of the saucepan – I use a heavy Le Crueset
When it’s tasting delicious (add salt and pepper if you need it) add:

300 grams shredded chicken (I used 1 chicken breast. Boil a saucepan of water then turned off the water and put the breast in and leave it for 15 min – then take it out and shred it)

and a handful of chopped parsley.

Lemon Polenta Cupcakes


225gr Butter (softened) with

225 raw caster sugar (or regular – this cake is not fussy)

Add and beat in:

3 eggs – 1 at a time

Fold in the following;

110gr ground almonds (raw or blanched…again, not a fussy cake)

110gr shredded coconut (you could probably use dessicated, but the shredded gives it a great texture)

110gr fine polenta (or whichever polenta you have laying around – this recipe always works!)

Finely grated rind of 2 lemons

2.5tbs Lemon juice (about 2 small lemons)

1tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract – but you won’t regret investing in vanilla bean paste…makes everything taste AMAZING!!!)

Makes about 16 mini cupcakes (with about 60grams of mixture in each…OK so that bit sounds slightly obsessive, but when making them for a special occassion – like I did for Grandma’s 100th birthday last year – it’s really impressive to have them all looking the same size. Robert Gordon make good little cupcake cases – perfect for this)

Ice with a cup of sifted icing sugar mixed with a little lemon juice – be careful to add the lemon juice slowly!

Bake for about 30min at 180 degrees.

Sesame Slice

OMG – this is incredible! It tastes like those Europe Sesame Bars (you know, the ones in the red packs from my childhood…oh, hang on, maybe you don’t know…)

Mix (I did it in the KitchenAid with a paddle) until well combined

375gr Sesame Seeds

200gr Desiccated Coconut

180gr Smooth Peanut Butter

225gr Honey

180gr Coconut Sugar (this is really expensive, but I think it really makes this amazing. You can use regular caster sugar)

2tsp Vanilla Bean Paste (or vanilla extract)

Press into a lined 20cm x 30cm slice tin.

Bake at 160 degrees for 20min – but be really careful – check it often – you don’t want it to be too brown. Slice while warm.

It should be delicious and soft and chewy (actually quite unlike the one I served at the Baby Shower on the weekend – but the flavour was good enough for the recipe to be requested anyway!)

Collette Dinnigan, Piano Lessons and Me

This week I discovered that Collette Dinnigan and I have something in common.

No, it’s not our innate sense of style.

In an interview in the Sunday paper Collette said, “You have to run your life like a military operation but also have the emotional sensitivity to deal with children…and husbands.”

I agree with her!

To get everything done, to achieve a work/life/family balance with the demands of the school run plus swimming lessons, kinder, ballet, Auskick AND piano lessons I’m finding that I have to stick to a rigid 5am-10pm timetable and utilize lot of lists!

This week I realised that some of the activity pages in the All-In-One book had not been completed, so I packed an after-school-car picnic and drove straight from school to the piano lesson.

We had Oolong and Berry tea (finally finding a use for that thermos we were given as a Christmas gift many years ago)

Tamari Pepita’s (or Armadillo nuts as the cherubs called them)
Car Picnic

…and Piano Girl completed her written piano homework, without distraction.
Car Homework

Piano Girl did rat us out to the piano teacher, who cheerily said, “Doesn’t matter where it gets done as long as it gets done.”

All’s well that ends well!

Some things never change…or do they?

Our piano teacher mentioned that it might be a good idea to start on some Dozen A Day exercises.

‘Now,’ I thought, ‘Here is something that hasn’t changed since I started piano lessons 30 years ago.’

However, when searching for A Dozen A Day I found that a myriad of choices are now available. There are even versions available with an accompaniment CD!

The perfect one for 5-year-old fingers turns out to be this one: The Pink – Mini Book.

A Dozen A Day PINK

Same cute stick figure pictures, same original concept: Technical Exercises FOR THE PIANO to be done each day BEFORE practicing. Kind of like warming up or stretching exercises before a gym workout.

Inside a Dozen a Day

This week we used a hug-as-reward system. When each section of practise was completed (3 Dozen a Day pieces, 3 Hal Leonard Student Piano Library All-In-One Book B pieces, 3 My First Piano Adventures Book B pieces) Piano Girl came running out of the front room for her ‘biggest hug in the world’ reward, before hurtling back to begin the next pieces.

It was a GREAT week! Lots of practise, lots of hugs and lots of progress.

Sarah Wilson made a complete hash of my lunch…

And I loved EVERY minute of it!

Last week I bought Sarah Wilson’s new book I Quit Sugar.

I already owned the e-book, but e-cookbooks just don’t work for me, and I had really been enjoying all the recipes I had tried, so I purchased the hard copy.

Such joy – a new cookbook!

The thing I really love about new cookbooks are not necessarily cooking exactly what is on the page, but getting ideas about what kinds of things you could cook.

Like a HASH lunch!

The idea of making a hash of lunch is that you cook up a bit of whatever kind of vegetables and tasty (yet nutritious) morsels you have laying around, throw in an egg or some cheese and voila – lunch!

Today I cooked some mushrooms, corn, spring onion, red capsicum in a pan with a bit of coconut oil. After a few minutes I added some kale – quite a bit of kale actually (even though I was unsure about kale, having only just started cooking with it this week!), then stirred through an egg, a spoon of yarra valley marinated feta (OMG!) and finished it off with a sprinkling of pine nuts.

Super delish!

It’s one of those meals that after you eat it you think ‘Why haven’t I ever thought of doing this for lunch?’

My 3 year old ever so politely declined my offer of joining me in my hash lunch, but I am sure in time she will!