Fudgy Avocado Brownies (Paleo, Gluten Free, Clean Eating)

IMG_2016 (427x640)As you may be aware. The first thing I ever made that was a success were brownies. Over the years when I was in university, brownies were my thing. A gift for my lecturers, birthday parties, work morning tea. I celebrated with brownies. I have of course added twists and have made version 2 which is a flourless one and 3 which is a healthier version before. IMG_2012 (640x427)

Most healthy versions of brownies never quite cut it with me. Not fudgy enough or perhaps too cakey. So when I come across the use of avocado in brownies, I had to try it.  Afterall, one of my favourite healthy after dinner treat is a avocado chocolate mousse. They are not the usual brownies of course. The fudgy factor though is there. I love the rich and creamy cacao taste of this little bite. It’s so good that I reckon I could just eat it raw without baking. That spells danger. IMG_2011 (640x427)

I would even think that as this can be made with a nut free butter like a Sunbutter or a combination of that with coconut butter for allergy friendly schools. One thing I can see with this recipe is that it uses a whole cup of nut butter which, while it is great source of protein, it is easy to overeat! I deliberately cut it in small bite sizes and savour each bite. In the future, I would play around with reducing the nut butter and a tbsp of coconut flour perhaps. I have also spotted some sweet potato brownies recipe by a few paleo authors and am keen to experiment with that too. IMG_2010 (640x427)

If you think that the avocado taste is too strong, I suggest adding more honey which a friend of mine did, more cacao or a combination of both. It is quite a forgiving recipe, hence you can play around with the ratios as you blend it up in the food processor. 

Meanwhile, give it a go! I really like it. Avocado Chocolate Brownie

[yumprint-recipe id=’58’] 

 

Apple Cinnamon Cookies (Paleo, Clean Eating, Gluten Free) + Asher’s favourite games and toys

IMG_1983 (427x640)Rain rain go away. Come again another day… Asher wants to go out and play! 

The lovely thing about having a toddler is the amount of play we get into. Everything can turn into a game. It has been such a long time since I did this, but I want to document the kind of games Asher has been into lately. I’m still not sure how it happens but he is 2 as of Friday *insert horror face* I’m a mum of a little man! 

IMG_1981 (640x427)

– Books. I think I have a book worm as a son. He loves books. ANY books. Especially books featuring vehicles. Trains, buses, cars, fire engines. He loves classics too. Like “Spot”, “We are going on a bear hunt”, “10 little fingers and toes” and more recently “the hungry caterpillar”.

-Trains. Yep. He loves Thomas. I’m in two minds about introducing too much Thomas to him. My thoughts are that kids should be expose to as many variety of the same item although I know that is rather hardRight now, he thinks Thomas is one of the trains. He still adores his other train books and will play with any trains. 

– Play shopping! Cash register and fake food

– Play cooking. Sizzling with his pan. As we cooked him some mushrooms or eggs up for breakfast, he would take the borrowed wooden plan and pretend to cook up his own meal too. 

– Ball games. Kicking and throwing. Balloons. 

– Drawing! He loves drawing circles.. and will ask me to help him draw triangles

– Painting. Although at the moment, we are painting with water. He dislikes mess and stickiness. It is a work I’m progress with play doh and textural play. 

– Slides. He received a slide for his first birthday and really love that. He would even slide his teddy down

– Cars. All kind of cars. Plus planes. 

– Lego. He is really into lego now. Building blocks. Telling me he has built a ship or a car! 

– Tractors. We got him a Tonka truck for his birthday (shhhh). 

– Cosy coupe- we don’t have that but he loves it when we visit friends.

– Singing. We can sing Row row a boat, abc, twinkle twinkle, wheels go round, bob the builder, ba ba black sheep…etc. The funny thing is we will catch him singing at random times to himself. Super adorable. 

– Music instruments like tambourines, egg shakers.. anything that has a rhythm. He would even bang on the boxes and call it a drum

– Puzzles. A friend bought him a fire engine puzzle and he loves it. We also have ABC puzzles and animal ones. 

– Rough play-. Tickles, upside downs. Anything that involves heaps of movement.

-Chasey

– Bubbles!

– Peek a boo. This is a surprised. I thought they would grow out of it but he would peek a boo every thing including holding my sweater and hiding himself there. 

– We like looking at buses, trucks, tractors on the road. 

– Tool box. He likes sawing and turning things

– We cook and bake a lot more now. He would sit on the bench and watch me cook or stir things. Sometimes he might have a go. IMG_1978 (640x427)

I’m sure I missed out other things. He is still a little yucky on sensory things like playdoh. I bought some special books that he can paint with just water which he is warming up to. Day care is doing a great job in exposing him to messy play too. He has no problems getting his hands dirty when he eats though!

I’m most surprised by his pretend play. He would stack a car up a truck and said that’s a car transporter. He would grab a bag and pretend that he is going shopping. He would use a toy kettle and said he is making tea. 

Apple and cinnamon. They can never go wrong together. I made these cookies for him and he seems to like it. He loves fruits so much that he probably thought he was eating apple pieces with dough stuck on it! They don’t last as long in the pantry and I do suggest double toasting them if you can. That way they can stay crispy longer. Enjoy these little nibbles.IMG_1979 (640x427)

[yumprint-recipe id=’56’]

My little boy is turning 2…. + Matcha Walnut Cakes to celebrate (Clean Eating, Paleo, Gluten Free)

IMG_5664You may have noticed that recently, I have been writing a lot more on Asher. I think it has something to do with the month of July. I become quite sentimental. I’m still not sure where all the time goes but 2 years ago, I was awaiting for his arrival and here he is now.2 years ago today, I was about to go into labour. 

Perhaps it is because he is a miracle baby.A baby we were told we cannot have. Or perhaps it is just because I am a mother and mothers get a little emotional at times.

Allow me to indulge in being a proud mama. IMG_5589

This year, it has been a year of learning, play and growth. My little explorer. I will return to do a post on what are his current play but I have noticed he is starting to use imaginative play recently. Oh, and then  his speech. He loves pointing things out and telling us all the things he noticed. He is starting to speak in short sentences. “Momma, apple chips please” and “daddy goes to work. On work bus!”. He might tell me “Mummy, arm hurts” wanting me to kiss him and then smile to say “all better”. He is starting to count and sing his alphabets. IMG_6046

His little personality is starting to emerge. Sometimes he can be a little shy. Hiding behind me or wanting heaps of cuddles when someone new visits. He looks at the person blankly, almost not quite sure what to do. When he warm up, oh boy there is his voice. He would run and run. Having that glint in his eye, challenging you to chase him. Matcha almond cakes

How affectionate he can be. Using both hands to grab my face to plant me big kisses. Insisting on holding my hand as we walk in shops. Saying “I love you mummy” at the most unexpected times. Stroking my face as he falls asleep. 

How fair he is. Everything comes in 3. There must be one for daddy, one for mummy and one for Asher. Inventing his lyrics with “Ba ba black sheep. have you any wool. Yes sir yes sir, 3 bags full. One for Asher, one for mummy and one for daddy (who lives with us!).”  IMG_5640

The challenging times has begun of course with the toddler tantrums happening. Over the smallest things at times such as not having the right colour cup. Orange is your favourite it seems. Or perhaps when he is tired. Sometimes, nothing seems to go his way at all. Most days though, Asher tends to manage alright at the moment. IMG_6091

Favourite food? It’s hard to tell but Asher loves sweet potato. Corn is another favourite. I would make him some stir fry buckwheat noodles and he would smash that. Mushrooms is another winner. Not to mention squash, zucchini and even broccoli. Eggs is a classic in our household. Fruits like berries and oranges (here is the word again!) gets his attention. He doesn’t mind meat as much these days too and would happily eat pulled pork, beef ribs or even lamb cutlets. Soups makes him excited. We became lucky in that department that he enjoys whatever we cook. IMG_5875

How about my experience as a mother this year? So much joy. While Asher still wakes at times at night, sleep can still hit us hard from time to time. I’m also finding that the 2nd year is a lot about being present with him. For hubby and I, we are starting to get better with the sleep deprivation haze and time management. We cherish our evenings together and sometimes we would sneak into Asher’s room to watch him sleep.IMG_1987 (640x427)

I will be back with details of his birthday party. Right now though, I’m having a cup of tea and enjoying these Matcha Almond Walnut Cakes. Aren’t they adorable? Perhaps not as cute as my son. Matcha to me just goes so well with both almond and walnut. I love the little crunch of the walnuts as I bite into these cakes. You can choose to add more honey as well since matcha does has a little bitter undertone to it. To us though, we love that the green tea flavour shines through. 

 

Happy 2nd Birthday to my little man! IMG_1993 (640x427)

[yumprint-recipe id=’57’]

Tender Beef Cheeks Curry with Silverbeet (Paleo, Clean Eating, Gluten Free)

Tender Beef Cheeks CurryI have recently discovered that Asher does not mind having a little kick in his food. I found that out accidentally when I did not realise that the soup I gave him was a little spicy. It did not faze him at all and he had 3 bowls of it. 

Gradually, I started incorporating more heat to our food. If I cook a curry, we might give him the chicken without the sauce. I might even put a pinch of paprika powder in our casseroles. He seems to enjoy it, which we are pleased about. IMG_1968 (640x427)

Having some beef cheeks on hand, I decided to make a curry paste to cook it with. There are times that I look at a proper recipe but most of the time, I just blitz up whatever I have on hand with some curry powder, spices, lemongrass and curry leaves. This time round, I actually took measurements! 

The curry powder I have on hand is a mild one. So with it, I added a pinch of chill powder. That provided a gentle kick, to which Asher- who does not eat a lot of beef, gobbled it up. I do realised that if we purchase grass fed good quality beef and lamb, Asher would have more of it. I guess children do know the difference after all! I think I over did the cheeks a little. It was really falling apart and hardly kept it’s shape. Doesn’t matter to Asher though! I loved it when a plan comes together. IMG_1971 (640x427)

[yumprint-recipe id=’55’]

Raw Tahini Caramel Slice (Paleo, Clean Eating, Dairy Free) + Bundle up Time Management?

Raw Tahini Caramel SliceBundle up time management. Have you heard of that before? 

The other day, hubby and I had this discussion about managing our time more efficiently. He quizzed me on how do I manage to get things done with Asher hanging around my ankles, yet being able to make sure dinner is prepared and Asher has his attention? 

Truth is, sometimes I don’t get it all. Most days though, it just come naturally to me that as I am playing with Asher, I teach him to pack an item away before taking another out. That usually works out to slightly less mess. Of course, there are times when I let him have free rein and we have a lego galore day on the floor. IMG_1955 (640x427)

Then we have cooking. I usually cut most of my vegetables a day or 2 in advance. My reasoning is that I’m already cutting, so why not just spend the extra 10-15 minutes to prep the rest of the vegetables. I do not have to take the cutting board out twice, plus I do not have to thin about it for another day or so. Cooking is so much easier when all items are already cut- I do not have to be afraid of Asher reaching out for the knife, and he can simply sit on the counter top while I start my cooking. He would even help stir the pot with supervision. 

That was when he said… “mmm..bundle up time management”! You bundle things up to do so that there is less to be done. It frees up mind space, and it’s using each task more efficiently.IMG_1954 (640x427)

I have not really thought about that before. The same goes with tidying. I’m walking pass the bench, so why not just grab the dirty tea towel and place it in the laundry? How about I put that cup away since I’m passing by that table. Hubby said he would have just walked past- and would not have even see the cup (that he left!). IMG_1952 (640x427)

Is there such a thing I wonder? Or is it a natural thing that women and mummies tend to do?

There has been an abundance of cafes serving up raw desserts lately. I walked into a rather famous on at Mt Lawley one day and attempted their salted caramel tahini slice. While it is of a generous portion, both hubby and I agreed that it was wayyy to sweet and probably has agave in it. We are not big fans of agave at all! That however, gave me an idea to make my own tahini caramel slice. It was much less sweet and the tahini provided a creamy texture. 

[yumprint-recipe id=’54’]

Coconut Shortbread (Paleo, Gluten Free, Nut Free)

IMG_1948 (640x427)The other day it hit me. We are in July. 

That means my baby is turning 2 years old in two weeks. IMG_1946 (640x427)

I know every parent probably feels the same way, but that past year felt like it has gone in a flash. The first year went quick enough, but the 2nd? It totally felt quicker. 

Some of it is because as life gets busier, time just seems to slip pass my fingers even more. The past year has been a year of adjustments and change. Returning to work part time, adjusting my brain cells to not just a mummy but a functioning sleep deprived worker, readjusting my workout goals, our marriage and of course, growing together with our little man. Readjusting our expectations, widening our knowledge about him and learning how to read him. 

We are proud parents. 

Taking the pause to reflect on his personality and his growth. Asher is starting to show a preference in what he likes. A mix of reading and being a boy, he loves his wheels. His speech is clearer and he is saying 4-5 words sentences though not fluently, and sometimes in staccato. Some examples are: “mama, sit down please.” “more milk mama “mama. read. train book. please.” I love how he curls his hands around my neck and give me big kisses and cuddles.IMG_1947 (640x427)

My little affectionate child. Though he seems to shy away from other kids and know how to say no very well when they come close. 

Of course, he loves his “babycino”- a little cup of hot froth milk with some sprinkle of chocolate powder. Often he would say “mama’s coffee”, daddy’s coffee, Asher’s milk milk”.

I’m still figuring out what snacks to make for him. At day care and at church creche, he has an arrowroot biscuit which he enjoys. At home, I try not to give him package food but besides cakes, he has rejected cookies that I have made. This was my attempt to make a clean version of a shortbread. Hubby and I quite like it but Asher still says no to it! Back to the drawing board!IMG_1950 (640x427)

[yumprint-recipe id=’53’]

Mini Orange Coconut Cakes (paleo, gluten free, nutfree, dairy free) + How I survive early mornings and late nights

Orange Coconut CakeYou know those days where setting the alarm is important? It hardly exists in my household anymore. Asher loves waking up early in the mornings. We rejoiced when he wakes between 6-7am. Sometimes it is between 5:30-6:30am. It’s what makes parenthood interesting. You never know what time you will wake. Take this morning, he woke up at 6:50am aka meaning I had a SLEEP IN! How good was that! 

I’m finding it really tricky to sleep earlier though. Since starting work, those quiet evenings when Asher sleeps becomes even more precious. He usually goes to bed between 7:30-8pm. It does varies depending on his nap times and if we are out on weekends. Generally though, he is asleep by 8:30pm latest. Hubby and I would then clean up, prep for the next day, put a load of washing on and watch an episode of Masterchef with a bowl of fruits and hot tea. That is when we attempt to have a decent conversation and plan for the weekend or whatever event we have on. That means we try to get to bed by 11pm, though realistically, it’s closer to 11:30pm. 

IMG_1929 (640x427)So if we have sleep between 11:30pm-5:30am, that’s around 6 hours. Give and take an additional hour or so. Hey, pretty good right? Not on the nights where Asher has difficulty settling or falls sick. On average, Asher will wake once a night. Most nights, it doesn’t  take long to re settle him. He just want to know we are around and nearby. A comfort hug and light strokes and he is back down in 15 minutes. Other nights, we have NO idea why he is up. We would have gone through the list and he would still be upset. It could be toddler nightmares or teething. Whatever the case is, we try to comfort him the best we can by being present. 

So really? On some nights, one of us will have less than 5 hours of sleep. Maybe 3-4 hours. How do we manage to get through the day?IMG_1925 (640x427)

– Hubby and I try to take turns. We learned that it is easier to take turns by days. So at least one of us have a decent night sleep on some nights. This usually makes the next night more bearable.

– Coffee. I would need a shot by 4pm. I try to delay drinking coffee till the late afternoon when I really need it. Some people struggle with sleep having coffee so late in the day. I need it to stay awake till 11pm!! hubby would have his earlier in the morning though. 

– We have a mattress in Asher’s room. Some nights, it is just easier to sleep there or with him on the mattress. That buys us an additional hr or two sleep. Plus it’s more comfortable than sleeping on the carpet. 

– Eat well. I cannot stress how important nutrition is. Just keeping vegetable sticks, nuts, protein like eggs around helps to keep the sugar level balance and not range for sweets when the 3pm slumps hits. Also, breakfast. If I have to wake at 5:30am, give me my food! 

– I may look like a zombie at the gym at 5:30pm but I always feel better after a workout. That endorphins hit is so good…

– First thing I do when I wake up is to hit the loo, brush my teeth and wash my face. Part of my morning routine is put on make up and going out clothes. That helps me feel a little more human and look slightly more presentable. 

– Keep busy. I try not to think about how little or much sleep I have. I just have to keep moving and doing things. 

– On days that I do not work and put Asher down for a nap, I might rest with him. It might be between 10-20 minutes but it makes a big difference. 

– Having something positive to look forward to. On weekends, we have family lunches. A good coffee always makes me happy. And a trip to the farmers markets. 

I like to think that I can be more productive if I wake earlier. On my work days, I tell myself that I get an extra 30 minutes or so with Asher before work begins. On my non-work days,  I might do a quick vacuum around the house before our swimming class. I might schedule in an activity with Asher. Like these cakes for instance. Asher has developed a curiosity  around what we do in the kitchen. Plus he loves oranges. IMG_1924 (427x640)

Using the pressure cooker, I steamed the orange for 15 minutes while he ate breakfast. Then all I did was to sit him on the bench, and get him to tip measured out ingredients into the food processor. He watches it whirls while giving me a cuddle (It still scares him a little!), and then we try spooning it to the little cups. I place it in the oven, and tell him that he made it. He patiently waited for those cakes to come out of the oven, cool and had one before his swimming class. Then he looked at me and said “asher made” with that bright look in his eyes.

That made me melt a little. Perhaps that 5:30am wake up was worth it (who am I kidding…?!?) 

[yumprint-recipe id=’52’]

Stuffed Herb Mushrooms + Any suggestions for roasting vegetables?

Stuffed MushroomsStuffed anything is popular in my kitchen. Heck. Any idea or recipes that uses the oven is a winner to me. 

I know the craze over a thermomix. I am tempted. So ever tempted. After all, a machine that chops, cooks, stirs, steam that looks space like is pretty enticing. It does consists of a hefty price tag of $2000 which makes me hesitate. 

Maybe one day we will “invest” in one.

Right now though, I work my handy food processor and oven hard. Especially my oven. Moving into this house, we installed a 1.5 oven. I should have gone for a double oven on hindsight. A typical weeknight dinner consists of a roast chicken, and at least 2 trays of vegetables ready to be roasted. I rotate my vegetables on a weekly basis. So far, I have roasted

-pumpkin

-sweet potato

-mushrooms

-zucchini

-squash

-beetroot

-celery

-cabbage

-eggplant

-tomatoes

-long beans

-snap and snow peas

– spaghetti squash

– brussel sprouts

-capsicum

-corn

Please let me know if there are anything that I have missed out in this list 😉 

Some weeknights, I make stuffed capsicum. This time though, I spotted some gorgeous huge mushrooms at the markets we go to and I thought, why not make stuffed mushrooms. It was such a winner with Asher that he ate 2 huge ones. The bonus was he discovered that he really likes mushrooms! So much so that he can have it for breakfast.IMG_1922 (640x427)

Gotta love a toddler who likes his veges!IMG_1921 (640x427)

[yumprint-recipe id=’51’]

Pumpkin and Ginger Loaf + Sick Days

IMG_1861 (640x427)It has been nearly 9 months since I started working. Friends asked: how am I coping or enjoying work? I must be having the best of both worlds. Doing something that brings in cash flow but yet being able to have some precious moments with my near 2 year (insert horror and surprise face) old. 

The truth is that it is not easy. It is tiring and exhausting. There is that amount of guilt. I have whispered silently to hubby that I feel like I have a melt down coming. And I have had at least one melt down. It comes back down to why do I still want to work? 

Let me back track. IMG_1864 (640x427)

Working is a choice. When we choose for me to work, we know that there will be some tricky times to navigate. So far, we have managed alright. There are those above moments that have occurred. Often in the combination of sleep deprivation, sickness and feeling that things are getting on top of me. Saying “yes” too often and “no” not enough. 

My luxury is to be able to do part time. Advantages include keeping my registration up, having my mind ticking clinically, saving up for a rainy day or some travels, plus adult conversations, alone loo time and hot drinks. I have no idea what will happen in the future, and I like to think that by working and keeping my connections happening, it provides just that slight security. IMG_1865 (640x427)

How about time with Asher, my love for workouts, cooking and recipes creation? How do I fit it all in? 

The answer is sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Some things are not negotiable. My time with Asher, workouts, family time and eating well. Other things are not so important. I’m probably a lesser friend, and some dinners are repetitive. When Asher naps, I may or may not make something. If not, we have hard boiled eggs, nuts, smoked salmon, ham and some cheese for snacks. 

I have also learnt to schedule in some time for myself. I had lunch by myself one day. At a cafe. WOW! I read 2 magazines and enjoyed HOT coffee. I went to the shops and bought an outfit that I felt good in. That felt awesome. 

I felt recharged. 

Then we have sick days. That REALLY throw me off. Asher had gastro sometime back. That was not pleasant. Those are the days where I had to make a choice. That week, I chose to take time to stay at home. Asher received plenty of cuddles. We sang and read heaps. Most of all, we just chilled. So sick days can turn into ok days too. 

Its the way we make it out to be. 

I made this Ginger Pumpkin Loaf to calm Asher’s tummy. I must have been to heavy handed on the ginger because Asher didn’t liked it! We did though and it was a hearty breakfast for Hubby when he toasted it and spread it with some butter. 

Pumpin and Ginger Loaf

[yumprint-recipe id=’50’]