Why pancakes?

As my eldest goes to a German kindergarten, he and his friends will be celebrating Karnival today — going to kindergarten dressed up in their favourite fancy-dress (I think we can expect a fair few pirates, policeman and princesses!).

I love how our family combines the traditions from both our cultures — I think it is providing us with a very rich life and so I cannot let the day slip without what Shrove Tuesday always meant for me growing up …. pancakes!

Quite a few of my German friends, who will join us for pancakes, had never heard of our tradition before so I thought I better check out why it is we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?  Although our traditions seem quite different they stem from the same idea.  During Lent you would abstain from parties and celebrations and certain foods.  From what I can work out, in continental Europe the week before lent starts is all about extravagant celebration (hence the dressing up) knowing that there will be no more celebrations for 40 days.  Whilst here in the UK we focus on eating up all the foods in the house that will not be allowed during lent, typically fats, dairy and eggs — hence pancakes were made as they used up these ingredients. (more…)

Fresh cakes delivered to your door

Oh how I love macaroons, especially chocolate ones! They’re one of my many favourite things about visiting Paris. So imagine my delight when I learned about La Dinette — a cake delivery company in London set up by a French pastry artist. La Dinette delivers fresh cakes, macaroons, tarts, and cupcakes straight to your door — perfect for birthday parties, brunch with friends, or just to satisfy your sweet tooth. I have personally tested the macaroons and cupcakes… and they’re delicious!  Visit La Dinette for products and prices.

-Courtney

Thé Boutons de Rose…. (Rose Bud Tea)


I’m loving this rosebud tea I got for my birthday… It’s never too late to learn in life, and in fact rosebud tea was completely new to me (I first thought I was given a little bag of potpourri), but now I’m completely hooked. It’s very subtle, and lovely to drink in the evening. And it smells so delicious; I just love the smell of roses… And apparently the taste too!
If you’d like to try, you can get it either through Fauchon or Dammann Frères (or next time when you’re in Paris)…

xxx Esther

Amazing Grass Kidz Superfood

Confession.  One of my daughters is completely addicted to chocolate milk.  What started so innocently as a special treat is now pleaded for (multiple million times) daily by the four-year-old junkie who lives in my house.  I usually cave to keep the peace. Thankfully, a while back I learned about this miracle powder made by Amazing Grass Kidz that offers a healthy, quick-mix version of chocolate milk!  The powder is organic, gluten-free and packed with 31 hidden fruits and veggies and I must tell you the taste comes pretty darn close to the real thing.  I weave it in a few times a week as an alternative to the “real thing” and she loves it (and trust me, she is a very tough customer).  You can find the brand at health food stores, Whole Foods or on-line.  It also comes in Berry flavor.

-Dina

Igloo Zoo


No matter the weather, every Friday after school my children and I head down to Igloo Zoo for a fix of creamy frozen yogurt. YUM-OH! We patiently wait behind the hoards of teenage schoolkids who are equally excited. It is pure decadence and relatively sinless (I figure) given that it is made with real yogurt (live cultures) is 99.5% fat-free, high in antioxidants and low in sugar. There are 4 flavors on offer — original, green tea, cocoa and pomegranate. As an incentive (not that we need one) they offer an array of amazing accoutrements like organic kaffir, lime biscotti, white chocolate, pomegranate seeds, passion fruit puree, halva (a middle eastern treat made from sesame seed), choc-covered goji berries, lychee and a host of other treats. Admittedly, I usually eschew the more exotic toppings in favor of good old triple choc crunch, passion fruit puree and coconut…beyond divine!

If you are visiting Melbourne, the Gold Coast or Sydney check out locations here ! If you live elsewhere in the world and you are hankering for your own sampling of Igloo Zoo  — I apologize profusely for the tease!

- Sara

Dear Avocado…Thank you.

The summer in New York City has been brutal.  I’ve heard that it was the hottest July on record but August was pretty unbearable as well.  Meanwhile, I have been outdoors most of the time, forgetting to re-apply sunscreen and definitely not taking care of my hair which now is the consistency of straw.   So… the other day while sitting around making guacamole with a friend, she suggested I mash up an avocado, mush it around with an egg yolk and put it in my hair.  So next thing I know I am massaging in the green goop and wrapping my head in saran wrap (sexy!) and after sitting with it for 45 minutes I was shocked!  It really did give my hair a noticeable boost as it felt suddenly thicker and healthier.  I am going to do it with the kids because I think they would love it — especially after a summer of chlorinated pools!!!  I also hear that Mayo works well — I will try that next and let you know.
Just to recap: mash up avocado, mix in egg yolk,  apply to hair (more at the roots), sit for a bit, rinse it, done.

-Dina
(Image from For The Birds)

Picard


The French are known for their elaborate cuisine, but there is a secret hidden in many French freezers and its name is Picard. When I first moved to France I could not figure out what went on in the Picard shops — they are huge expanses, kept all white, with freezer upon freezer standing beside each other… and, as I found out, full of frozen food. Even then I wasn’t convinced — years of terrible frozen pizzas and microwave dinners had turned me off frozen food. Turns out the French are addicted to their local Picard, and with reason — Picard food is (mostly) fantastic. (more…)

Tea Time for Tots

For the past few years my family has had the good fortune of spending a month living in London.   We are always quite sad to leave, but memories of London remain with us day to day via our much improved vocabulary, our deep appreciation for the BBC & Peppa Pig, and our proclivity for afternoon tea. You don’t often see children drinking tea in the states, however some of my friends love to serve their children chilled chamomile or herbal teas.  At first I thought it was a bit strange but now I think it’s a fantastic alternative for kids and at least one of my girls is catching on.   I found these German designed tea-bag cup loungers from Donkey Creative Labs and I think they are absolutely hilarious.  They come in all sorts of themes — mostly for adults — but I thought they were so cute I just had to share.

-Dina

Beetroot

I think I only discovered the beauty of beetroot in my thirties. If I am not mistaken, when I was a kid, beetroot used to come out of a tin and had the texture of a wet piece of Styrofoam. Now that I have started buying fresh beetroot and have learned to roast or steam it, I have developed a new appreciation for this vegetable. Plus, my kids love it… though that might have more to do with the fact that I told them that their pee would turn pink if they ate loads. (This is very exciting if you happen to be four years old). So here are a couple of things that I have started making with beetroot…

1. I roasted them for an hour in olive oil and a bit of lemon juice and balsamic vinegar in the oven with a garlic clove or two and I then served them as a side dish garnished just with a bit of parsley. (more…)

Berry season

I remember as a kid I came home during lunch break and my mum sent me to the neighbours (who had a strawberry farm) with a very little amount of money and I came back with a wooden crate filled to the top with strawberries — the reddest, sweetest, biggest and tastiest variety you can imagine. Before I came home I had eaten about a third, for lunch we had another third (on bread, with a little sugar), and the rest was eaten with yogurt for desert. Bliss.
Last week, in my father-in-law’s Mr. McGregor-like garden I picked a generous amount of raspberries, and quickly made raspberry jam (my favourite ever jam)! And yesterday I picked the few redberries from our neighbour’s shrub that came peeping through the hedge, and made blue redberry muffins of them. I just love berry season! Can’t wait for the blackberries to be ripe (blackberry jam is my second favourite jam)…

Have you been eating berries? Any good recipes to share??

xxx Esther

P.S. That cute cutting board is from Tas-Ka

Vegemite — a great Aussie icon


Ah, Vegemite. Without doubt it is Australia’s favorite sandwich spread. But while it is loved by the locals, it is generally repulsed by our visitors.Visually, I will concede, it is a little unappetizing (hmm…black sticky tar?). And chances are, unless you grew up on it or follow the guidelines below (without digressing I should add) you will probably never acquire the taste for it. For first timers the taste of Vegemite is very unexpected, surprisingly sharp and in order to avoid gagging which so many of the uninitiated do on their first bite, you need to apply the Vegemite sparingly with liberal amounts of butter. But, rich in Vitamin B Aussie kids are brought up on the salty-tasting spread from babyhood (hooray for toasty Vegemite soldiers dipped into soft-boiled eggs!) and it is a school lunch box staple. I personally know many Aussies who won’t travel without a small jar or easy-squeeze tube of Vegemite for fear that they will not find it and then shock horror, what on earth would they have on their toast in the morning? (more…)

Bear foods

I can spot a new kids snack a mile off — it’s like I smell something new in the air as soon as I enter the supermarket.  I spotted Bear yo-yos last year and immediately my fruit-loving daughter was a fan.  Now we are all fans of the Bear snacks (I especially love the Cocoa Cherry Pie nibbles).  They are not just for children — their selection of nibbles are delicious combinations of fruit and granola and come in bags that are all under 100cals — so perfect for my 4pm sugar-fix.

Bear was started by personal trainer, Hayley, last year in an attempt to find a tasty alternative to chocolate, biscuits and treats — clearly a lady with my needs in mind!  She chose the name ‘Bear’ after she read an article which said that bears who had found their way into cities and therefore foraged for foods in bins behind fast-food joints ended up being 30% fatter and 30% less active then their wild counter-parts.  They also died younger.

So Bear produce all their nibbles as nature intended — no fiddling, no air-freight fruit and fairly-traded.  You can buy Bear goodies through Ocado.

-Mo. x

Roooooooooobarb!

I made this today and feel so wholesomely brilliant that I just had to write and tell you about it.  It is a rhubarb compote and it is my new favourite thing for these reasons:

1.  So easy to make!
2.  Makes delicious dessert when served with yogurt, ice-cream or whipped cream.
3.  Stores in the fridge for ages (well at least a week/10 days) so is a great fall-back for unexpected visitors.
4.   It’s fabulously pink (and looks great in one of those old-fashioned jars!)
5.  Soooo in season (that is Rhubarb but I hear pink is too).

The recipe is based on Nigella Lawson’s Rhubarb Fool from her book ‘Forever Summer’, which I have been making for years now.  But it wasn’t until I left it  in the oven for too long that  I came across my own version of it… (more…)

Egg Heads

DSC_0048Last Easter we decided to make some Egg Heads with the mustard & cress seeds we got in our lunchbox from Kew Gardens.  Now I’m not in any way saying this was an innovative idea — most of you probably grew some of these little men/women yourself as children.  But for some reason my childhood missed this particular activity… something I now plan to take up with my Mum and Dad as it is a reaallllllly cool thing to do!

I am not the slightest bit green-fingered and manage to kill all plants/greenery in my care (even cacti have a hard time living in our house and my husband doesn’t understand why I still buy herbs in pots as they always die within days), but mustard and cress are stubborn little plants and grow despite a lack of due care and attention.  And they grow very quickly so you see results on a daily basis — appealing to my impatient nature.

So if you never made egg-creatures as a child then I urge you to take this eggcellent (terrible – I know!) holiday as an opportunity to  redeem your deprived childhood just as I did. Your kids will love it too! Here’s how to make them: (more…)

Melrose & Morgan

melrose and morganTwo years ago our Christmas got canceled on Christmas Eve — well the trip we had planned to Switzerland did anyway.  It was our first Christmas with a child and you know how important they are!  We were devastated.  I think the only thing that saved us was Melrose & Morgan, our local deli in Primrose Hill (where we lived at the time).  We turned up at 12pm to a packed store of everyone collecting their orders and they thankfully managed to make us up one of their ‘Christmas’s in a box’.  It honestly saved the day.

But Melrose & Morgan is not just for Christmas, their fantastic home-cooked meals are perfect to take home, heat up and make you look like a domestic goddess.  Sadly my better-half isn’t easily fooled – Melrose & Morgan’s food is just that bit too delicious for him to believe it was made by me whilst I had 2 children hanging off my arms. (more…)

Meri Meri Cupcake Kits

450108How cute are these cupcake kits!!!!  What a simple solution to make you look like a baking rock star!  Meri Meri has something for just about every occasion and the quality is just beautiful. Now that the coldest months are rolling into the city I like doing cooking projects in the afternoon to deal with those often painfully long hours between the “end-of-school” and the “start-of-dinner”.  There are tons of other really adorable and creative things on the website as well — invitations, thank you cards and notepads.  And speaking of cupcakes… I want one.

-Dina

Sweet Parting Gifts…

testSo someone dared one of my husband’s very conservative and straight-laced co-workers to grow a shaggy 1970’s style moustashe last month.  I guess everyone chipped in $10 and pretty soon the guy was going to make a small killing — so he did it.  Anyway, after a month or so the moustache was in full force and he looked, as predicted, ridiculous.  So after the jokes were told ad nauseum the poor guy got his loot and was free to shave it off.  As a parting gift, they took a picture and printed out his face on an M&M and gave tiny tin boxes to the entire staff.   I thought it was a cool idea!  Who knew you could print an image on that tiny thing?  While I don’t advocate the eating of junky candy per se, I do like silly ideas.  We just ordered a bunch with a picture of the girls to give out at their birthday party next month.

-Dina

Hope & Greenwood

DSC_0095I used to keep a picture in the front of my diary of an old-fashioned sweet shop.  You know the kind: shelves stacked with glass jars brimming with brightly-coloured sweets.  The Juliette Binoche in me always quite fancied being a ‘purveyor of splendid confectionery’.  However these days there would be little point in me following this dream as Hope & Greenwood do it so perfectly.

They have stores in Dulwich & Covent Garden (which would be perfect if you happen to be taking a trip to Benjamin Pollocks as per my last post), but they are also sold in some pretty lovely other places:  Liberty, Selfridges, Fortum & Mason (to name but a few) and of course you can buy them online from their site.  I find the Miss Hope’s Jolly Mixture a very exciting treat and the Sugar free Gummy Bears a good one to ensure the children don’t bounce off the ceiling with too much sugar!

-Mo. x

The Toadstool Tea

DSC_0053I can’t believe my daughter has just turned one — time has flown. Now I know a one-year-old might not appreciate a proper birthday party, but I can’t resist one.  And in the spirit of being ‘girly’ there was nothing for it but a fairy tea-party, to be more specific The Toadstool Tea (for those of you unfamiliar with fairy-lore, The Toadstool Tea is a secret party for all the fairies, elves and imps to celebrate the Fairy Queen’s birthday.  It takes place under the thicket deep in the middle of the forest (according to Mo)).

Toadstools, it turns out, are not only a really great theme for a party but also rather fashionable.  In my month or so of preparation I saw them everywhere (I couldn’t resist adding a cute Toadstool money box from Cath Kidston (stores only) and this adorable Shinzi Katoh print to her presents). Toadstools also make for a fun theme because they are easy to draw and craft. Here are some other toadstool ideas… (more…)

Quinoa (‘keen-wah’)

Asparagus-and-Shiitake-Mushroom-Teriyaki-Quinoa-Salad-500I will confess that I’m really not a very good cook… I do try, really I do but the reality is that it just doesn’t come naturally to me. I find it tedious and stressful, not to mention expensive due to my high turnover of pots and pans and regular culinary disasters. Despite this, I am adamant that my children eat healthy food. As I only allow them one takeaway meal a week (usually sushi, sometimes pizza) this means that I do more cooking than I would like to. Fortunately I have found that the healthiest cooking is actually often the simplest.

One of my greatest discoveries is ‘quinoa’.  Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is a small disk shaped seed that looks a lot like a sesame seed. Classified as a grain, quinoa is actually the seed of a leafy plant related to spinach. It was a staple of the ancient Incas who called quinoa the “mother grain” and revered it as sacred. I revere it too – for it’s nutritional qualities and the fact that it’s so easy and fast to prepare; just perfect for ‘simple’ cooks like myself.

Nutritionally quinoa is a ‘protein powerhouse’ – it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a “complete” protein. It is also high in antioxidants, fiber, and minerals and is gluten free. (more…)

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