Tag Archives: meals

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.

Apricot Chicken Via the Beach

Apricot chicken is a great meal for busy families to cook together and it really only takes 5-10 minutes to prepare. Once you get the raw chicken in the roasting dish, the kids only need to throw a few ingredients together and you can chuck it in the oven.

This should have been the very first meal I made with the kids as part of my teach the kids how to cook campaign and here we are doing it well down the track. Silly me! Perhaps, it was just too easy. Simple Simon! While I know all about the KISS Principle or “Keep It Simple Stupid”, I’ve only been able to implement the “stupid” part of the equation so far. Complicating things is one of my greatest strengths.

The Abominable Doughman

The Abominable Doughman

On day two of the cooking challenge, I had the kids making pizza from scratch. There was yeast and flour snowing all over the house and my son’s hands morphed into very, very scary Abominable Doughmen. That very same night, we also made Apple Pie again from scratch. All of this while undergoing chemo. Quite typical of me, it was an overly ambitious and unrealistic effort but we did pull it off and it was a wonderful, unforgettable meal. We had a great night and made a zillion memories. That is one of the wonderful things about cooking. You infuse love and happiness into your food. Digest it and that love travels through your body, spreading through to each and every cell. Food from a packet just isn’t the same. It doesn’t come close!!

Mister eating his Ham & Pineapple Pizza.

Mister eating his Ham & Pineapple Pizza.

Last night, Miss and I made Apricot Chicken for dinner.

While the recipe is very simple, there are a few hidden clauses and some serious warnings.

The primary caution anyone has with making Apricot Chicken, is managing the handling of raw chicken. This gives you the opportunity to give your kids a crash course in food safety.

The first basic rule: anything which touches raw chicken needs to be washed immediately before it touches anything else!

This means that the simplest of tasks, actually becomes the most difficult part of cooking this dish. You need to extricate the raw chicken from its plastic wrapper without contaminating your entire kitchen. Moreover, as you’re involving little people, that potential contamination zone extends to include the rest of your house. We all know how those little fingers love to touch absolutely everything and spread their love around!

Chicken germs are all too easily spread. Your hands touch the chicken and then touch the fridge. Meanwhile, the chicken slips onto your kitchen bench and perhaps you wipe it up with a dish cloth, which adds its own germs and bacteria. While some germs are good for your immune system Salmonella isn’t one of them. Salmonella is a bacterium that occurs mainly in the gut, especially a serotype causing food poisoning. Salmonellosis is a type of food poisoning caused by the Salmonella bacterium. Every year approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the U.S.

I found these tips at http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/tools-and-techniques/chicken-safety.htm:

When handling raw chicken, you must keep everything that comes into contact with it clean. Raw chicken should be rinsed and patted dry with paper towels before cooking; cutting boards and knives must be washed in hot sudsy water after using (or run through the dishwasher) and hands must be scrubbed thoroughly before and after handling.

Why? Raw chicken can harbor harmful salmonella bacteria. If bacteria are transferred to work surfaces, utensils, or hands, they could contaminate other foods, as well as the cooked chicken, and cause food poisoning. With careful handling and proper cooking, this is easily prevented.

Chicken should always be cooked completely before eating. You should never cook chicken partially and then store it to be finished later, since this promotes bacterial growth as well.

To be perfectly honest with you, after reading all these health warnings about handling a simple, raw chook, it’s really turned me off cooking chicken altogether. Most of us are not sufficiently OCD when it comes to hand washing and I can’t help wondering how many chicken germs are now running around our kitchen about to lay their deadly eggs. I’m surprised we’ve never got sick but perhaps after all these years of indiscretion, we’ve developed cast iron constitutions. That was a joke. Salmonella isn’t. I didn’t want my daughter handling the raw chicken. It was my job to unwrap the chicken and get it into the roasting dish but then she did the rest

Recipe for Apricot Chicken

Ingredients

1 whole standard sized uncooked chicken or equivalent pieces

1 405 ml can of apricot nectar

1 packet French Onion Soup Mix

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Parent to unwrap chicken. Rinse under cold water and pat dry with a piece of paper towel.
  3. Place chicken in greased roasting dish.
  4. Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.
  5. Using a pair of scissors, child can snip open the packet of French onion soup mix. I’d get them to snip off the corner of the packet so it is easier to pour without spills.
  6. Sprinkle French Onion Soup Mix over the raw chicken. Make sure your kids do not try eating the soup mix from the top of the raw chicken. I caught my daughter doing this. Remember the Salmonella. They can always wash their hands if they do touch the chicken but I would be using this opportunity to teach them about food safety and I’d be opting for a 100% hands off approach: “Do not touch the raw chicken “or “fingers off the raw chicken”. Be clear and firm. This is a serious food safety issue!
  7. Open a tin of Apricot Nectar and pour it over the chicken and French onion soup mix. This is a good time to introduce your child to using a can opener. This may take a bit of explaining and may not be something they’ll immediately pick up. Of course, some can openers are also easier to use than others and not all of them are really suitable for kids. They need to get the can opener over the rim and once it has punctured the can, you will hear the air escape and know they’re on the right track. Warn them about the sharp edges on the can. Fingers need eyes and need to be careful.
  8. Pour the apricot nectar over the chicken. The soup mix will fall off so you’ll need to use a large serving style spoon to dish it back on top of the chook.
  9. Depending on the age and capabilities of your kids, assess whether they are able to put the chicken in the oven themselves or whether that is a job for big hands. I put our chicken in the oven.
  10. I didn’t actually note how long it took our chicken to cook buy I would say around 1.5 hours.
  11. Baste chicken with nectar while it cooks. The skin can start to brown before the chicken is ready.and if so, cover it with a sheet of foil and turn your oven down a little.
The Beach

The Beach

While the chicken was cooking…

Now, I have a bit of a confession. While the chicken was cooking, I took the kids down to the beach for a swim. It was a sweltering hot day and we needed to cool off. I am also conscious that we only live about 700 metres from the beach and yet we seldom get there. We live in such a beautiful spot and yet how often do we even steal a peek at it? I don’t even take the scenic drive to or from school. We take the rabbit run through the backstreets and don’t even catch a glimpse of the water which surrounds us on three fronts. We live on a peninsula. That takes effort!

Yet to be fair on myself, the beach isn’t the easiest place for me to go. I’m not allowed in the sun unless I’m fully clothed or caked in sunscreen all over. We all have fair skin so we usually go at the end of the day anyway. Miss tells people that we go to the beach in the dark. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. We take in the sunset. If I take the kids with me, I need to be able to get them out of the beach when my energy levels sag and historically this hasn’t been easy. We’re also fairly busy.

We had a wonderful time at the beach. Miss with her totally inflated concepts about my physical abilities, had me jumping the waves with her or at least attempting to and really trying to fake it to the best of my abilities. I was covered up from head-to-toe as I can’t go out in the sun both due to the chemo and because my auto-immune disease can be triggered by sun exposure. I felt like such a weirdo wearing clothes in the water but I wasn’t mad keen on slicking myself in lots of sunscreen either. It seemed the better option. However, as my sarong got wet, it felt really yucky and uncomfortable flapping against my legs and perhaps next time I will go the sunscreen. Geoff also suggested that I could get myself one of those full body swimsuits as worn by the Olympic swim team. You never know. If I could only get into one of those suits, I might just swim like a fish and get on the team for the Rio Olympics. Watch out world!

I have to be honest and say that I found myself feeling strangely sad, very sad at the beach. There I was in such a beautiful paradise on an absolutely perfect azure blue, sunny day and the ocean sparkled like a diamond carpet in the sun. Just beautifully perfect. You would think that I would revel in such a beautiful place and being able to actually go to the beach with my kids and be there together jumping waves and searching for hermit crabs. The kids were also is great moods and having fun. Yet, I found myself feeling inexplicably sad. As beautiful as the beach might have been, being at the beach really made me painfully aware that our lives aren’t normal.

I am not normal.

As much as I can stretch and stretch and stretch my skin, it still doesn’t fit. It’s way too tight. I’m struggling to move. Battling to breathe. It simply isn’t me.

At the same time, I lead a very active and fulfilling life. I don’t miss out on much as a whole. I hear you saying that I should be thankful. Show a bit of gratitude and if your situation is more challenging, you probably think I’m being very self-indulgent unless you know that I’m still having chemo. It’s not easy juggling chemo, kids or any kind of life. You simply have too many balls in the air and sooner or later, they’re going to land. Things are constantly splatting for me and I’m struggling with some pathetically basic tasks and yet I appear better than normal. I look great.

While this doesn’t make any kind of logical sense, I’m actually finding things a bit harder at the moment now that I’m getting better and so very close to being “normal”. I now look 98% and so many people are telling me how good I look. These aren’t necessarily people who know I’m on chemo and are judging me using that yardstick either. They are comparing me with me. Much of the time, I do feel quite radiant but the fatigue still hits me and my daily tablet prednisone dose is slowly going down and that’s like depriving me of life-giving petrol. I want it back.

I’m trying to understand these feelings. Unpack their suitcase. Where have these crazy feelings come from? Why can’t I follow my own advice, cape diem and just enjoy such a seemingly perfect trip to the beach with my kids who were being thoroughly delightful as well? This just confirms that I’m a mad woman! Stupid! Get it together, Ro! If you can’t enjoy the beach on a sunny day, you’re doomed. Totally doomed!!

What I think is happening…When I am really sick, my well self, the person I really identify as “me” is somewhere off in the distance. I am so far away from her that she is just a blur…a haze… dare I say a ghost? But as I get better and my health improves, she moves closer and closer. I can hear her breathing. I can smell and touch her skin but then she slips away before I can quite reclaim my skin and slip back inside quite unnoticed and be exactly who I know myself to be.

I still can’t feel at home in this second skin. Surely, it has to be some kind of imposter? A fake? Surely, I’m going to wake up one day very, very soon and be myself again?

I know who I am.

Who is this fraudulent second self???

It’s definitely a case of stolen identity but I’m not sure who to call about this. The police? The bank? Who can reattach me to my lost self? Could some kind of surgeon, perhaps sew or even graft me back on?

Meanwhile, while I’m brooding down at the beach, that chicken was baking away back at home and we needed to get back. I was also concerned about us cooking in the sun, even though it was approaching 6.00PM, it was a hot day and we are all ghostly white.

While on the subject of burning, you do need to keep a bit of an eye on the chicken. Coated in all that sweet, yummy nectar, the skin can burn before the chicken is actually cooked through. If so, cover the chicken with foil and consider turning the oven down.

Now, it was time to get the rice going.

The rice!

That’s right. I need to teach the kids how to cook rice. Rice?!!?!! Add that to the list. Actually, I haven’t made a list of the meals I want to teach the kids to cook…our Cook-It List. I need to do that too. There’s so much to do? You wake up after months of getting by and there’s a lot of catching up and most of it isn’t pretty. I’ll mention one word…Centrelink. If you’re not Australian, read government department. 90 minute waiting times but I must say that the staff  were very helpful once I finally, finally got through. Just as well!

Rice…before I can teach the kids how to make rice, I need to teach myself. I have sacrificed so many good saucepans to boiling rice that I’m in no way equipped to teach them anything. So I’ll need to teach myself how to cook rice before I teach them. I certainly don’t want them picking up my bad habits!!

I managed to cook tonight’s rice without incident and threw in about a cup of frozen peas. I love frozen peas. Such an easy way of getting my greens and they are always fresh and not doing dreadful terrible things at the bottom of my veggie killing so-called “veggie crisper”. You know those floppy jalopies you fish out of there. Give me frozen peas any day.

It is interesting just how much skill is involved in cooking and how my humble idea of teaching the kids how to cook a meal, is teaching them valuable and very practical life skills. Amelia learned how to use a can opener when she opened the can of apricot nectar tonight. I am really starting to appreciate how much the children still have to learn and how much assumed knowledge we have. That you can’t just throw a kid a can opener and expect them to somehow psychically know how to use it. You need to show them. Be patient. Allow extra time in the cooking with kids sessions to allow for mistakes. In the over all scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if you botch up a meal but it is everything if you botch up your relationship with your children. You need to fuel and nurture that love and not destroy it. I know how challenging that can be especially in a hot and busy kitchen but I am starting to see my children blossom and take pride in themselves. Feel they can do something. Even if you have to throw the meal out and get in some takeaway, it is more than worth the effort.

xx Rowena