Asher turned 3! A gluten free, healthy and mostly paleo party.

Oh hello there! Welcome back to my little space. I haven’t been far. Just pre-occupied with a few things. This time however, I’m back to document Asher’s 3rd Birthday Celebrations. 

birthday set up

This year, I have been sucked in the whole concept of birthday parties. Asher, having his love for wheels suggested one day he likes a fire engine theme party (what would a 2ish year old know right?!). Anyway, having hear his sales pitch of his list of guests and his love for fire engines, I was sucked right in (didn’t take much) and went researching how do I give a fire engine theme party.

I did take the easy way out, and managed to come across a 1960s vintage fire engine that is being re vamped for kids parties. From there, it just seems certain that we are having a fire engine theme party. 

Our family continued to lived with our philosophy of eating- as healthy and as real as it can be. From that, food planning was easy. An afternoon spread of: 

 

birthday cake

Asher’s Strawberry and Chocolate Birthday Cake with Ganache and Coconut Caramel. 

I’m not sure what I was thinking and used coconut/tapiaco- not an usual blend for a big party. It turned out “okish” but certainly not my best bakes so far. 

fruit kebabs

Fruit Kebabs that appeared to be gone in an instant… 

fruit jellyFruit Jelly- Made of grass fed gelatine, coconut water, strawberries and kiwi. I buy my gelatine from here. I’m really happy with this jelly and made it quite a few times for parties/pot lucks or just because. 

miso butter

Miso Butter Chicken- Something warm for winter

smoked salmon loaf

my all time favourite! Smoked Salmon Mediterranean Loaf. Adapted from this recipe here

vege and dipsDips and Veges- Featuring my Cashew “Cream Cheese” and Chives Dip. LOVING nutritional yeast. Who would have thought blender cashews and nutritional yeast and chives would give such lovely protein hit of a dip? A lovely friend brought a gorgeous garlic and herb dip. 

cheese platterCheese and Nuts

sushiSushi

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Sweet Potato Chips 

That’s pretty much it! We went against the usual norms I guess but it is food that we would generally have + a few treats (like sushi, cheese, sweet potato chips..). 

asher birthday 3rd

I love how much fun our little man enjoyed himself!

13686596_10153740997488091_5151506763638500218_nI wish we have a photo of him running away when the tap was being turned on! Still, he enjoyed every minute and thought it was very special.

asher 3 flowers

From a blink of any eye, my little baby is turning into a little boy (Big boy he would correct me). His cheekiness, laughs and that twinkle in his eyes. His sense of humour, affectionate ways, cautious, empathic, yet curious amazes me. Not to mention how creative he is starting to become, stacking things, role playing and building… I cannot imagine what he would be like when he is 4, but the beauty of parenthood means I get to enjoy him. The way he is. Right now. 

 

 

Salted Caramel Popcorn Double Chocolate Cake (Gluten Free)

IMG_3339 (640x427)One of the things I love to do, is to create cakes for birthdays. It allows me to go “Indulgent” but staying on the relatively healthy side.

I often spoke about how parenthood open up many doors. In this case, it allowed hubby and I to build friendships out of our usual circle. Humans likes predictability. Over time, we sat in the same spot at church, speak to the same people, and even park at similar spots each time! Parenthood ignited our quest to learn how to parent with Christian values, seeking like minded people to discuss dilemmas. Often there may not be any solutions, but it feels good having people to have the discussion, and a community that will look out for each other. IMG_3337 (640x427)

So when a birthday comes by, and it was our turn to host, I jumped on the chance. Oh ok, I couldn’t resist the challenge of making a cake for someone who doesn’t always like the “healthified” version of things. Truth is, I just think if we eat real, it will be ok. IMG_3344 (640x427)

So here come this cake. Yes there is some chocolate, and yes, we used coconut milk for the ganache. The popcorn isn’t “Paleo” BUT i love the salty and crunchiness it adds to it. By the end of the day, we had NO cake left. And that made me happy. IMG_3336 (640x427)

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (Using almond pulp) + Taking breaks

IMG_3330 (640x427)Do we need more cookie recipes? I vote yes! There is something about cookies that shouts comforting. I love the smell of these when it is fresh out of the oven. I created these using left over almond/cashew pulp from our fresh almond/cashew milk. I hate letting things go to waste, and would attempt to make something out of the pulp each week. IMG_3326 (640x427)

To make them more crispy, I deliberately toast them a little more. I omitted any oil but use nut butter to bind them together instead. Anything with chocolate is good isn’t it? So in goes 2 squares of dark lindt chocolate. 

Otherwise, life has been a tad overwhelming in our household. Luckily, hubby and I booked in a few days to the gorgeous Southwest earlier. We had  total blast. We enjoyed nature, slept heaps and ate. Having a near 3 year old is never quite relaxing of course, but the down time was much needed.IMG_3328 (640x427)

Which brings me my next point, why is it that we struggle to take breaks? Do we need to redefine breaks? Does it have to be a long overseas holiday? Or a few days at home? 

When hubby and I spoke about that, we realised that we can never quite “relax” at home. There is always a project or something that needs to be done. Those days are welcomed of course. We often feel accomplished when a section of the house has been decluttered, or if I have created meals that will last us for days. Taking a break for us, means not doing the daily responsibilities, getting out to enjoy nature, and family time. 

We are still learning as a family of what we should do. No doubt it will change (kids club? Bring it on!). However, we shall take what we can for now!IMG_3329 (427x640)

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Rich Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake + My Toddler teaching me to be mindful

IMG_3235 (640x427)I had a mindful moment. It was a friday morning. On my list of things to do :

  • Vacuum
  • Folding of clothes and putting them away
  • Make a double chocolate cake with ganache, salted caramel and popcorn for a birthday
  • a hummus dip
  • clean the kitchen
  • mop the floor
  • tidy up the house 
  • Ring my dadIMG_3237 (640x427)

Then, Asher filled his wagon up with items and told me that he is bring me to the airport. “MUMMA! Come on! We are going away. Come away with me!” 

Then he lead me upstairs. He asked me to sit down. Look out in the sky and said. “Let’s wait and look for the aeroplanes!” So we did just that. We listened to the wind, we saw the birds fly away. We noticed several cars driving about. We spoke about the blue sky and the clothes. 

Then he smiled and went back to his toddler play. IMG_3239 (640x427)

Those items were not completed (But most were), but what re played in my mind was MY toddler was teaching me how being in the moment is so precious. I hope that was his highlight too (and licking the spoon from making chocolate ganache) 

This is a rich and dense cake! Not the double chocolate cake that I mention but certainly one worthy to indulge in from time to time. I like it better the next day- in fact, I nearly chuck my recipe out because I thought it was too dense. Still, I love how it came together in the end. IMG_3231 (640x427)

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Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Slice aka “Snickers” (Paleo, Raw, Clean Eating, Gluten Free, Dairy Free) + Coping with changes

IMG_3142 (640x427)It has been a busy few months. It is now May but time just seem to be ticking quickly away. So far we have,

  • Travelled
  • I have had a few stressful encounters at work 
  • Job offer followed by job change
  • Making the decision to slow down and focus on one job rather than two
  • Being immersed in the world of essential oils. Learning and using them
  • Making some goals around fitness and hitting them 

I have also learned to be kinder to myself and my family. That was a hard one to realise. As I become grouchier and grouchier, the realisation that I have not been taking time to re charge dawn on me. The decision to leave one job and focus on one was not an easy one. In the midst of trying to weigh up the pros and cons, thinking about how to make it work while still focusing on doing “my job right” ultimately lead to the biggest sacrifice.Salted Peanut Butter Caramel Slice

My family.

The symptoms were there. Snappy. Unable to be present focused. Feeling like I’m always in a rush. Feeling unappreciated. Forgetting things. 

So here we go again. Is there ever such thing as lesson learnt? While those indicators were there, it took me a while to realise what was going on. So to re focus I did

  • Decided not to schedule any thing for a day or two of the month. I did that on the past Monday and boy, Asher and I had heaps of fun together
  • There was a week when I had to swop work days. Instead of taking Asher out, I took a day out. I ran errands, met up with a friend for lunch and baked. No cleaning allowed. 
  • I spoke to hubby and he realised that perhaps he has been in the rush himself that he didn’t see the signs. So we made some changes there including scheduling some time to check in with each other.
  • There were some afternoons where I napped with Asher. Rest somehow is quite liberating.

There could be a few more changes in the next few months. Winding down a job, increasing time in one. Adapting to my current job. Still, I’m writing this list to remind me that it is ok to not having it all “balanced” all at once

Of course, indulging in what I love. Playing with my favourite ingredient recently- Peanut butter. I absolutely love this raw Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Chocolate Slice. It actually resembles snickers! IMG_3139 (640x427)

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Happy 7th Year Wedding Anniversary + Persistence + Super Fudgy Brownies

pre weddingThis weekend mark our 7th year wedding anniversary. It is such a cliche, but 7 years seem to have fly  by quickly. 

The 7 years have been filled with adventures. There were moments of stillness, but mostly, we stood side by side each other. 

pre wedding 2The low lights

  • Managing through cancer in the family
  • Stumbling through my grandmother’s health and death
  • Dealing with infertility
  • Work issues
  • Finding out feet as a couple, learning about our values 
  • Learning how to live with each other and working out how to manage our differencestea ceremony

Then we have our high lights

  • Celebrating pregnancy and birth of our son
  • Travelling
  • Learning and embracing our identity as a couple
  • Building and moving into our home 
  • Learning how to be a couple againpregnancy

I’m sure we have more in both lists 🙂 

The last point about learning how to be a couple though rings so true to us right now. Being a parent certainly adds to a different dimension of being a couple for sure. So far this year, we have decided to change a few things to enjoy tine being parents but also to have time being together as a couple. We are definitely finding that hard as whatever little time we have together is filled with conversation about everything else. 

Yet 7 years of marriage has taught me one big thing. Persistence. That’s the beauty of marriage. While there needs to be an element of urgency (if not, we would be pushing our marriage to the back burner!), it is the persistence and the vow of commitment that stood out clearly. The “ok, that didn’t work out too well, let’s try again..and again..and again..and again” with the most important thing reviewing and trying. thomas family

Here is to even MORE years of being us and loving being us!IMG_3084 (640x427)

I would return soon with our celebration cake but HEY nothing spells celebration than chocolate right? This uses tahini, coconut butter and almond butter. It was so good that I cannot stop licking the spoon! Best of all, it is raw so it really takes seconds to whip up. IMG_3082 (640x427)

Happy 7th Year Wedding Anniversary 🙂 

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Wild Orange and Peppermint Raw Chocolate (Raw) + Essential Oils Uses

IMG_3068 (640x427)My first encounter with essential oils was in high school. My mother introduced it to me. She would use an oil burner and use lavender, creating a calm home environment especially when I was studying for exams. At university days, I would be burning the mid night oil (haha! pun intended) with the soft glow of a tea light burner, with the oils burning in a bath of water. 

We have all been there with different smells invoking different emotions. Lavender invokes feelings of calmness and relaxation. I love the smell of geranium and bergamot too. IMG_3072 (640x427)

Fast forward to Dec 2015 when I decided to take the plunge in learning more about the home uses of essential oils. Over the past few months, I have discovered soooo many ways of using them that I think I got my money’s worth. As an introduction, I found out that

  1. Essential oils is best used in a diffuser. That retains the benefits of the oil as it is diffuse using the coldness of water rather than heat. 
  2. When diffusing at night, it helped Asher to sleep through (More often than none) during some tricky times such as a cold or when he is coming down with some form of sickness. I did not know essential oils can help fight off sickness naturally.
  3. We can make up roller blends suitable for little kids for different reasons. E.g. immune support. We definitely use those on day care days!
  4. We can make up spray bottles to help with bruises, insect bites..etc. So HANDY for kids. I even have a purse version
  5. Concentration and focus for us. Diffusing or a spray bottle for it
  6. Supporting different health issues such as headaches, sinus, pains, and hormonal balances 
  7. Cleaning! 
  8. and then we have food 

I have never thought that essential oils can be added to food. It sort of make sense doesn’t it when we have chocolate scented with pure essential oils. The easiest example that come to mind is the use of peppermint essence in our cooking when we could be using pure peppermint oil instead.IMG_3074 (640x427)

 Armed with my cool little collection of essential oils, I decided to add wild orange to a batch of chocolate. I love to store a batch of raw chocolate in my freezer. It takes up a few minutes to make them up, but they are so yummy. I would often sneak a small chocolate bark post lunch for that sweet finish. 

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Travel workouts + Back to Basics Chocolate Cupcakes with Yogurt Cream Cheese Frosting

IMG_3053 (427x640)

Holidays are awesome. A time to recharge but also to catch up with family and friends. Recently our family went on a 3 weeks break. Little Asher relished in grandparents’ care and attention while we just love having some down time. 

While I love our break, the first thing that I miss would be my regular workout sessions. This time round, I decided to go with the flow, opting to rest when my body needs to but aim to move daily. This was what I did

Day of departure Friday- Morning working. 5 TGU 12kg each side, 5 rounds of 10 reps, deadlifting, cleans, rows, push ups and sit ups

Saturday- No workout. Went for family walks.

Sunday- Walking the dog and carrying Asher while walking. That was a workout itself! The humidity means I was drenched with sweat. 

Monday- HIT Mum Plyo Hell

 

Tuesday- Modified workout from my usual group that does a metcon on Monday evenings. I did 14 mins 12 PU twist, GS and burpee with a jump over a mat. (I did 10 rounds), and then 7 min of 10 pairs of mountain climbers, 12 sit-ups and 20 bicycles (I did 7 or 8 rounds)

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Wednesday- HIT Mum 10 for 10 workout (Asher joined me)

Thursday- 10 rounds of 10 reps burpees, pushups, jumping squats and dips. (Asher joined me as well)

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Friday- HIT mum  Legs nd The trim tummy 10 mins

Saturday- Staycation. There is a wonderful gym at the resort. I did 1.2km run, 2×2 TGU, 5 rounds 10 reps, deadlifting, dumbbell squats and dips. Then I went for a few laps in the pool.

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Sunday- Rest day.

Monday- HIT mum All over BB 17 mins

Tuesday- Rest Day (travel day to Singapore)

Wednesday- 4 chin ups and 2 pull ups. 8 rounds of 10 reps burpees, push ups and sit ups 

Thursday- 5 chin ups. AMRAP of 17 minutes of 8 reps dips, burpees, pushups and heel squats. 

Friday-Nike App 15 minutes Advanced workout by Carili Lloyd (Metabolic Kick HIT workout)

Saturday- Hubby and I worked out together to his NAME. We had a “Name workout” I think in total I did 65 burpees, 200 star jumps, 40 sit ups, 40 dips and 20 push ups. I managed 5 chin ups with breaks. 

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Sunday- Rest Day (Travel to Johor)

Monday- Hotel Jen’s gym! 1.2 KM run, 4 rounds of 20x trx rows, 4 rounds 10x 40 kg deadlifting, 20 kg squats, followed by leg curl and shoulder press machines 

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Tuesday- Rest day

Wednesday- (Still feeling off) Managed HIT mum Tabata Power Shred 21 mins

Thursday- GYM day! around 1km run as warm up to the gym and 4 flights of stairs. 10 kg dumbbell TGU 5 each side. 4 rounds 16kg 10x reps squats. Leg press 188Kg PB (5 reps max increasing to 188kg), Chest press, shoulder push press, and leg curl. Walk home for rest. 

Friday- HIT Mum- The big 10 workout. 

Saturday- Rest Day

Sunday- Rest day. Travel back to Australia

In all, my workouts are around 15-20 minutes with 5-10 minutes of warm up and cool down. I’m usually back having a shower within 30 minutes. If I’m feeling like I need a rest, I would either take a rest or do a gentler workout. Everyday, I would climb the stairs to my parents apartments (around 16 flights with 10 steps each). Depending on the day, it would be at least once.  

Holiday workouts to me are a way to keep the momentum moving. I see benefits of doing quicker and shorter workouts than my usual ones (e.g. boxing) as it provides the body a break. I did try to see if there are any Muay thai or cross fit classes to go to- just for something new, but it just didn’t work out in the end of schedules and some places requesting for long term memberships. 

If you do participate in holiday workouts, what do you do? 

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Holidays aside, I shared this once on Instagram where we walked past a cafe and Asher wanted the chocolate cupcakes! I promised him that we would make some when we return home which was exactly what we did. Oh the look on my little boy’s face is precious. What I was even more surprised was that he ate the frosting which consisted of a little cream cheese and yogurt! Both which he generally does not like to have it on its own. I guess the power of chocolate is great. IMG_3050 (640x427)

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Fig and Hazelnut Cookies (Paleo, Gluten Free) + Toddler Play

Fig and Hazelnut CookiesA couple of weeks ago, I wrote generally about Asher’s play. I wanted to expand on that as in just a few short weeks, I have noticed his interest, concentration and language has shifted somewhat. In my attempt to be mindful and present focused, I slowed down and observe. It makes me realise how much he has grown since this post 6 months ago

Playing by himself– Since Asher was a little bub, he prefers someone to play with him. Understandably so, since playing with mummy or daddy is so much more fun than playing by himself. Lately though, I catch him wandering and exploring, coming up with little games by himself. His language has grown, and with that he reasons with himself. As he approach a puzzle, he talks to himself- problem solving along the way.  “This goes there. No it doesn’t. That one fits better”. Or “Hello yellow car, you need to go to the petrol station for fuel”. 

Imaginative play-That has expanded too. Using a water bottle as a “traffic light”. The tissue paper box as a “petrol station” or perhaps a block of towers as “school”. His ability to imagine and make things out of nothing still amazes me. 

Shopping/Role plays– This cracks me up. We have a play kitchen. He would take his shopping basket, fill it up with groceries, pay for it using his toy cash register and proceeded to head to the kitchen to pack away and cook us a meal. He was really pretending to be ME! He cooks us breakfasts (eggs of course), and make us tea. We have tea parties where he would pretend to boil water, complete with a jug of milk. We would pretend we are a zoo, and play act different animals (slide like a snake, crawl like a bear, hop like a kangaroo, walk like a duck)

Vehicles–  He is starting to categories now. He talks about emergency vehicles versus transport vehicles (Although of course emergency vehicles are also transport vehicles). We talk about ambulances, fire engines and police cars. We point out different reasons for using these services. He would pretend to be a pilot and want to fly a plane. Then a fireman next to fight fires. Of course he loves zooming his cars and play racing with them. We use concepts like fast and slow, over and under. We spoke about car safety and seat belts. We point out traffic lights in real life and talk about road safety (possibly a little too well because now he is scared of walking in car parks!). Hubby even takes things one step further and do mini excursions on the public buses with him! He is still into his Thomas the tank engines but thankfully has also expanded that to general trains and cars. 

Puzzles– Not only is he enjoying putting puzzles together, he is also liking flash cards. Matching games, and even counting ones. Although his concentration isn’t quite there yet and he often mis count, he makes me realise how fun learning can be. We match clock numbers to a real clock, we match numerical numbers to pictures of items. We have alphabet puzzles, transport ones and even robots where we have figure out the pattern. 

Music– Where do we even begin? He really loves music now. We bought him a drum kit and he totally loves it. He has a keyboard and he sings into the microphone. Then of course we have bells and tambourines. We dance to music and even when I’m doing food prep, he would start jumping and swaying, looking at me cheekily hinting that mummy should dance. 

Books-His favourite place to go to..the library. He loves books and more books. He likes books with transport, construction and more recently, even books on numbers. 

Rough Play– Tickles and more tickles. Jumping and running. He loves sitting on my tummy and then falling onto the carpet. We do old games like “aeroplane”- one that I raise him up using my legs while lying down. Upside down is another favourite. Climbing up and down stairs. I’m starting to introduce hoping to him. He likes his ball and would kick, throw and roll. We are attempting bouncing next. He loves his slides and play ground. IMG_2905 (640x427)

Messy play– He loves his play dough and painting. We haven’t got much into finger painting though although we have tried stamping. He enjoys water play quite a bit. 

Fine motor skills– We do a little threading, and he does like putting stickers on books. His pencil grip isn’t quite there yet but there is no hurry. His is interested in colours and doing a little scribbling at times. We do sorting out using tongs. We use colour pom poms and sort them into different tins. We try to talk about how sometimes we sort by shape, and other times by colours. 

Gardening– I can’t say I do heaps of that. Hubby do that a lot more with him. He would help to water the plants with hubby pointing out to him how things grow. He has a look of pride when he takes in some herbs for me as I cook a tomato sauce for instance. 

Playing with friends-There is still a degree of parallel play, but I’m noticing that he is starting to attempt to interact with his friends. Perhaps sitting near them and showing them his cars. Perhaps chasing them while “driving” his car. He would laugh and clearly enjoying the company of his friends. He has started telling me who his friends are, and would ask to visit them. He is still not very good at sharing yet- but at least would sometimes pass the item to me , telling me that he is done with it and wanting me to pass it to the friend. 

IMG_2901 (427x640)So there we have it. I might miss some more but just writing this down makes me realise how much he learn through play. Certainly toddler hood is all about fun and I wish he will continue to have this inquisition of learning. 

I am back to baking cookies more regularly and this was one using some leftover dried figs. Figs and hazelnut goes quite well together. Asher loves mixing things and sit on the counter top watching me put these cookies together. He makes me realise that everything is interesting, and while I’m easily on auto mode, being with him helps me to slow down and smell the roses (or the cookies in this case). That is the beauty of having a toddler. IMG_2906 (640x427)

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Overdue recipe- Christmas Dark Chocolate Panforte Slice + Dads’ struggles

IMG_2860 (640x427)hello MARCH! Are you sure we are fast approaching and finishing quarter of the year? I absolutely cannot wait to just have a few weeks off. 

I’m not sure what’s going on but January and February seems full on. Clearly our bodies are exhausted. We are starting to have minor colds- which we don’t usually have. We get cranky at each other and we forget things. 

I read somewhere that mums have to learn how to look after themselves- because at the end of the year, if we fall into a heap, EVERYTHING falls into a heap. IMG_2855 (640x427)

So true.

As I read that article though, I feel a tinge of unfairness for dads. Yes, we mums have to look out for each other and for ourselves. We also have it harder on many different levels. Sacrificing income, career advancement, adult conversation, sleep, hobbies, fitness, our bodies,… I remember someone asked me before “so what do you do at mothers group? drink tea?”. I nearly fell off my chair with the audacity of that statement. I thought and still tell my friends that even if we do that, we have earned it. IMG_2862 (640x427)

It is however unfair for dads too. I reflected on some things that fathers may struggle with

  • For some jobs, being a male means it is harder to ask for part time hours (despite policies). Kinda like a bro code where it is unspoken but cannot be broken
  • Awkwardness in parents room sometimes when there are just chairs for breastfeeding mums., and they walk straight in. Almost like they have to learn how to just look straight ahead and see that as no difference to a mum breastfeeding in public/ restaurants.
  • Public restrooms when they are by themselves, and no parents room in sight with a child the opposite sex. 
  • Taking time off to care for children. Hubby’s work place is great but he said there are some work places where it is still expected for mums to take time off when child is sick and less so for dad
  • Dads needing to look after their own mental health or health too. There are dads who golf and go out for drinks, but there are also dads who are exhausted from working and helping out at home. 
  • Bringing out memories of how they were parented and how different they are trying to be. 

The list might be short but I think at times I fall into the trap of forgetting it is tough being a dad too. Panforte

Today’s recipe is quite late but I thought I might document this anyway. I call it a Christmas Panforte slice. I wasn’t planning on writing it up as I did it on a whim last Christmas. It was such a hit and I received lovely comments that I thought I should write it down here for anyone who wants the recipe. We do not often have dried fruits in the house but it was Christmas afteralll. I love the combination of fruits, nuts and spices.It does not require baking- and come to think of it, makes a nice gift any time of the year! And no, it has absolute no relevance to the above post except that when I’m a little tired, it shows how all over the place my thoughts are!IMG_2852 (640x427)

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