Monthly Archives: November 2014

Recycling the School Jam Sandwich

Despite the stories of starving children in Africa and “waste not, want not”, our kids stubbornly refuse to eat their school lunches.After even more full lunchboxes arrived home, this time with sandwiches made using my own homemade strawberry jam which was just  oozing with lusciously plump delectable fruit, I became desperate. I could not… I would not… throw them out.

Somehow, they had to be eaten!

I'm getting sick of the sight of these full lunchboxes arriving home again completely untouched. What is it going to take to get my children to eat?

I’m getting sick of the sight of these full lunchboxes arriving home again completely untouched. What is it going to take to get my children to eat?

You see, I hate waste…particularly food waste.

For awhile there, I dutifully fed their sandwiches to the dog and I swear he could pick a lunchbox from space. Code-named “Garbage Guts”, he simply doesn’t stop eating.

Walking with the dog

Out trying to walk off more than a few kilos worth of school lunches. Bilbo alias Garbage Guts just can’t say “no”.

But there’s waste and then there’s waistline. Unfortunately for the dog, avoiding waste on my part meant he packed on the kilos. After getting slammed by the vet, there were no more sandwiches for the dog.

Yet, I still hated the thought of throwing out perfectly good sandwiches spread with lashings of my home-made strawberry jam so I decided to take up Bob the Builder’s environmental challenge to “reduce, reuse, recycle” and came up with this little invention:

Jam Sandwich Bread & Butter Pudding

Ingredients

6 eggs

4 tablespoons castor sugar

2 teas vanilla essence

1140 ml (2 pints) full cream milk

Cinnamon

125g or ½ cup blueberries or sultanas

4 jam sandwiches, crusts removed

Spreadable butter

Directions

  1. Pour milk into a large mixing bowl and heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, using a medium-sized bowl, crack in the eggs. Add sugar and vanilla essence. Beat together lightly with a fork or hand-beaters.
  3. Add the egg mix to warmed milk gradually and stir to combine evenly.
  4. Pour into a shallow, ovenproof dish.
  5. Sprinkle blueberries or sultanas evenly over the surface.
  6. Turn oven onto 180° C and grease a shallow, ovenproof dish.
  7. Now to prepare the sandwiches. Using a bread knife, cut the crusts off the sandwiches. Pull the sandwiches apart. They need to have plenty of jam and I prefer my homemade version which contains large, juicy pieces of fruit so you might want to add some extra butter and jam.
  8. Crusts
    Crusts
  9. Arrange the pieces of bread over the top of the custard and they’ll float across the top like boats.
  10. Add a few bits of butter on top of the bread if desired.
  11. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  12. Carefully place the dish inside a baking tin with enough water to reach halfway up the sides of the dish. This is called a water bath. See note below.
  13. Bake in a moderate oven at 180° C (160° C fan-forced) for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to moderately slow oven to around 160° C (140° C fan-forced) and bake for a further 20-30 minutes or until set. My oven timer broke sometime ago so cooking times are an approximate science for me.
  14. Serves 8.
The pudding baking in the oven.

The pudding baking in the oven.

Obviously, while this approach worked well with jam sandwiches and could be adapted to include the honey sandwich, obviously it really isn’t an option for your leftover Vegemite or peanut butter sandwiches. Yet, where there’s a will, there’s a way. It looks like I’ve just set myself my next food challenge.

Enjoy!

Xx Rowena

Note: Why do you bake custard in a water bath?

Baking your custard pudding in a water bath is your best insurance against curdled custard. You see, although you set the oven temperature to 180° C ,the egg proteins which thicken the custard, set below 212°F.This means that unless these egg proteins are protected from the high heat of the oven, they’ll overcook and tighten or shrink, causing your custard to crack or separate into curdled egg and liquid. A water bath insulates custards from the direct heat of the oven because the water can’t exceed 212°F, unlike the air in a 350°F oven. Without a water bath, the outside of your dessert would also overcook before the centre is done. Moreover, in a water bath, you have more time to bake your custard to the perfect degree of doneness.

The Unexpected

I really found this post very encouraging after a rough couple of days battling my demons. You really do need to believe in that seed lying just beneath the snow. xx Ro

Chronic Conditions & Life Lessons

So lovely yesterday, I was able to take my laptop out of doors in order to catch words running away in my sun topped head.  Soothing warm it felt, with more upon my face.  The old wrought iron swing beckoned me.  “Come hither,” it said, squeaking back and forth.  All was quiet in the thick green grass of my rolling back yard, except for echoes of my little forest land.  From century old trees of weathered stripped bark, acorns fell one by one.  “Bombs Away,” they seemed to say.  They plopped to the ground, falling on a carpet of crunchy, dried leaves.  Fuzzy squirrels of brown patiently waited.  Soon puffed cheeks were round and full.  Bushy tails scampered away to stash nuts in secret hiding places for the cold of winter ahead.

Such a change today!  I awoke to splatters of clear rain against panes of glass windows throughout my home…

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The Great Sunday Sleep-In.

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans- John Lennon

While some people might actively be seeking adventure and fresh challenges, personally I’ve overdosed on personal development. I’ve been stretched so far beyond my comfort zone that my inner elastic is about to snap…permanently. Life might be a journey but I’ve been on enough journeys. I’ve taken the road less traveled, the superhighway and even wondered off the beaten track photographing wildflowers in Western Australia. I’ve skied, play the violin and even wore high heels the other day. In what now feels a lifetime ago, I backpacked through Europe. This may not be an exhaustive list but everyone needs to press the pause button once in awhile and just stop. Now, it’s my turn to vegetate at home and I don’t even care if I sprout. I don’t want to be stretched. I desperately need some time out and to simply snooze for a bit.

However, while some things are meant to be, other things are simply doomed, almost from the outset.

It was Sunday morning. Geoff was taking the kids off to cub scouts for a billycart derby. It all sounded like a lot of fun but we’d been out at a party the night before and I decided to stay home and rest. Pace myself. I didn’t want to end up in bed for another week recovering from too much activity. While I am well at the moment, I am missing the high doses of prednisone which allowed me to lead several lives at once and still fly to the moon and back. That stuff has dreadful side-effects but certainly can give me an incredible energy boost…until I’m on the way down and then it’s just plain nasty. That’s where I’m at right now. I dropped my dose two weeks ago and so I’m feeling sleepy…very, very sleepy. It’s now rest time at the zoo.

After waving Geoff and the kids off, I staggered back to bed and had my nose in a book: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. I had just reached a turning point and was starting to feel that sense of giddy excitement as I galloped towards the finish when the phone rang.

That’s right the phone rang, penetrating through my precious silence like a jack hammer blasting through bedrock.   Like an almighty crack of thunder resonating through a still, dark sky.

I missed the phone the first time but then the phone rang again…insistent!

Trouble was on the horizon and it was closing in. With two attempts, either someone was dying or it was Geoff and that only meant one thing. “Houston,” meaning me, “we have a problem”.

At times like this, don’t you just curse the “royal we”?!! Then again, isn’t that what true love is all about and it’s usually me ringing Geoff with the dire, “jump-right-this –very-second” emergency.

Turned out that in the sheer uphill battle to get the kids out the door, Geoff had left his wallet at home. They were about half an hour’s drive away at the service station filling up and of course, I had been summonsed. There was no opportunity to say no. I couldn’t plea fatigue, tiredness or a near-death experience. I had to go. To make matters worse, Geoff reminded me that I needed to get petrol on the way. Damn! It was bad enough that I had to get up and drive somewhere, especially when I was enjoying peace, silence and my book and now I was having to get petrol as well. Talk about the pits. I don’t do petrol and I don’t like driving so my peaceful Sunday morning just took an absolute u-turn.

Now, if you are one of those personal development types, you’ll probably think it would do me some good. Filling the car up with petrol never killed anybody outside Hollywood and a bit of a drive wasn’t the end of the world either. It could be worse…much worse.

However, as I said, I’ve overdosed on personal development lately. I don’t want to be stretched. I want to be left alone…especially when I’m galloping towards the end of the best book I’ve read (at least for this week) and it’s just won the Man Booker Prize. I mean we are talking about superlative literature and instead what happens to me???

I’m having to fill the car up with petrol all by myself.

Stop laughing. Where’s your sensitivity? Empathy? Compassion? Have a heart!

While I might sound like a lousy feminist getting my husband to put the petrol in the car, I have my reasons. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a severe muscle-wasting disease and at times, I don’t have the muscle strength to operate the pump. My other justification has been having the kids in the car. It is illegal to leave your kids unaccompanied in the car, even just to dash into the servo to pay up. Of course, there have been absolute horror stories where harried mums have dashed in and dashed straight out again only to find that their cars and children gone. Given the oppressive Australian summer heat, these car-jackings are a matter of life and death. If these are justification enough, there’s also the whole matter of splashing petrol on myself and how much that vile stuff stinks!!

Obviously, it’s much easier for my husband to get the petrol. That way, he has to remember which side of the car the petrol cap is on and being a rugged Aussie bloke, he doesn’t convulse when he gets petrol on his pretty, little hands either.

However, now I was having to take on the dreaded petrol bowser beast but this is what you do for your family. Some people go to war. I’m heading for the servo.

While you might find filling up your car with petrol a relatively simple task, it’s mission impossible for me and I know it’s going to end badly before I even pull up. I can’t remember whether the patrol cap is on the left or the right but there’s an available bowser on the left so off I go. Let serendipity or fate decide. Hmm. Not such a good strategy, after all. Of course, it’s the wrong side. Being in a serious hurry, I decide to stretch the hose over the top of the car and I could just force in the nozzle. Relief! I know this looks ridiculous…absolutely ridiculous with the hose draped over the top of the car but I’ve got to get moving. The kids are now running seriously late for the billycart derby and I didn’t want them to miss out. I didn’t have time to change bowsers.

petrol man

Where’s one of these when you need one? I say bring back the bowser man!! There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of old-fashioned service!

However, my relief was short-lived. The pump wasn’t working. Every time I pressed the trigger, it impotently click, click, clicked like an infernal cricket. It clearly did not like being stretched within an inch of its life and was refusing to cooperate. Rather than not working at all, I somehow managed to dribble about $1.15 worth of petrol into the tank so I couldn’t just drive off to a different bowser without consequences. Instead, I had to make it work. I can’t remember the last time I filled up and I was so out of my depth, lost and helpless. I even asked some shady looking dudes if they could help. Of course not. These days I’m definitely on the cougar side of 40 and wasn’t worth their effort. There weren’t any driveway attendants either. They were rendered obsolete decades ago. I was on my own. I jiggled and fiddled with the blasted thing and finally I felt it gush like a fountain. Phew!

Mister jusyt about to take off down the hill. Not so pretty at the other end.

Mister just about to take off down the hill. Not so pretty at the other end.

By this time, I’d decided that I wasn’t meant to spend the day at home and sacrificed peace, serenity and a jolly good book for a hilarious day watching billycarts, kids and hapless leaders career down the hill. There was all the excitement and tension of any race with the added bonus that these vehicles were hand-made and brakes, wheels and all sorts of bits and pieces fell off down the hill. Our daughter refused to get on until they were packing up but there also water pistol fights, slip and slide and a bushwalk through to some caves. I had a relaxing day basking in the sun, chatting and being part of community and while I’ve since spent a few days in bed, sometimes, you need to take a walk on the wild side and that means being stretched beyond your wildest dreams and fears and finally learning to fly.

As John Lennon said: Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.

xx Rowena