Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Awesome 30% OFF Book Sale from my Paperback Distributor!




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IPG is offering 30% site-wide discount with promo code so readers can stock up on any of my paperback books.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Baking with Kids: Easy Blueberry/Fruit Crumble Slice


We're all struggling to find things for our children to do during this extended break. And whilst we are working on some homeschooling, we felt it important to do things with the kids that they can only experience while at home with us. Activities that are special, enjoyable and of course, delicious!

So over the next few weeks I will be posting some of my adapted to the scant pantry and messy little chefs - recipes that we've come up with that have actually worked. 

The first is this super easy, cheap and simple, really tasty crumble slice. I love the flexibility of this one. Now, I used blueberries because they were sitting in the back of our freezer, but you could use any fresh or frozen fruit you have lying around. Just make sure the pieces are cut quite small so they turn into a jammy middle layer when baked. 




BLUEBERRY/FRUIT CRUMBLE SLICE:

Crumble base and topping:

·       250 g plain/all purpose flour
·       100 g rolled oats (or just extra 100 g of flour if you haven't got rolled oats)
·       1 tsp baking powder
·       1 tsp cinnamon (if you have it)
·       230 g cold butter cut into small cubes
·       150-200 g sugar depending on your preference
·       1/2 tsp salt
·       1 large egg beaten

Blueberry Filling:

·       450 g blueberries or any frozen or fresh fruit (cut small)
·       100 g sugar (can use less if you're trying to reduce sugar intake)
·       3 tsp cornstarch
Instructions:
1. Preheat your oven to 190c/375f. Grease and line a 32.5cm (12.8") x 18.5cm (7.3") tray with baking parchment and put to one side.


2. Make your crumble. Place the flour, oats (if you have them) baking powder, cinnamon and cold butter cubes in a large bowl. Your kids will love this sensory mess: Rub the butter into the flour and oats using your fingertips until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Don't worry if you have some large chunks in there - it adds to the texture. Add in the sugar, the salt, egg and vanilla extract, then give it a mix with your hands. Take approx. half of this mixture and place it into your prepared baking tray. Flatten the mixture down and squash it to the edges and corners with hands or the back of a spoon.
3. Take a medium sized bowl and add your blueberries/fruit, sugar and cornstarch. Mix together gently and then layer this mixture on top of your crumble base evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture on top of the blueberries and place in the oven to cook for 40 minutes - until the topping looks golden brown. 

4. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin before gently lifting the slice out of the tray using the edges of baking parchment onto a cutting board. Cut the bake into whatever size pieces you prefer.

The kids really enjoyed this one, especially getting in there with their hands. And I just had to bite my tongue at all the mess, which is definitely something I am homeschooling myself on. Let me know how you get on with this recipe :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

I'm Not on Holidays But Can't Stop Eating All the Pies...


I’ve been in this country for about six weeks now and one of the consistent struggles I’m finding is fighting the feeling that I’m on holidays. Though here it would be called vacation. My brain knows that I’m here for the long haul. But the rest of me, the me that drives most of what I do, still thinks it’s holiday time. Time to eat and drink and buy stuff I wouldn’t usually buy.
My biggest issue: Pies.

Could you say no to this fruit packed slice of heaven?

I am eating all the pies. And not metaphorically like we say in Australia when someone’s put on a little weight, look who ate all the pies. I am very literally eating all the pies.
Now at first, I justified it by saying I wanted to try all the different flavours. I mean come on, how am I supposed to know which one is the best if I don’t try them all? So we started with strawberry and rhubarb, then apple and strawberry, blueberry, cherry, pumpkin… the list goes on. They are pretty darn good, all of them, I have to say. And if I were on holidays there would be an end to this. I would hop on the plane and wave goodbye. No more pies for Lauren. But… I’m not.

Just an aside, punpkin pie is gross. Don't put vegetables in sweet pies, people.
You're giving the pumpkin an identity crsis, trying to turn it into something it's not.


Canada you need to make your pies less delicious or at the very least more expensive. How can I say no to a giant blueberry pie with deliciously flaky, not too sweet, shortcrust pastry that’s only $6.99? For that price in Australia, I’d be lucky to get a frozen Sarah Lee pie that was half the size and full of soppy apple mush and ice crystals, with a crust that’s chewy when it really shouldn’t be chewy. 
Canada, your pie game is too strong for me.
Other justifications include that it’s fruit and is therefore somewhat healthy. The bonus is that my kids are allergic to fructose, which precludes them from getting in on most of this pie action. Another one is that I only have one small slice per day. But after six weeks, that’s still a hell of a lot of pie. I have successfully worked my way through all the flavours now and have ended up back at the start. But I haven’t tried the strawberry rhubarb pie from Sobeys. It might be better than the one from Fortinos. And so on, and so on. I can probably come up with endless reasons to keep buying them. Annndd… I probably will.
I wonder when the holiday feeling will wear off. Will I start being more sensible at some stage? Or will I continue to grab a pie with every grocery shop? Or not so guiltily send my husband out after the kids have gone to bed to fetch desserts! What’s that you say? I still haven’t tried bumbleberry? I don't what that is but I absolutely must rectify this oversight
For my health and my husband’s, let’s hope it’s sometime soon. I’ve got to at least broaden my dessert scope to include other sweets. We don’t want to be narrow minded about this.
Then again… the cherry pie I last bought was out of date. So surely that doesn’t count…  

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A Dilemma at the No Frills Grocery Store...



Desperate for desserts, I ducked into a No Frills supermarket after school with my two daughters in tow. Confidently, they walked the aisles asking for things to which I repeatedly said, no. Jumping up and down, they found a pumpkin pie and I said, yes.
We lined up at the self-checkout since we only had two things (whipped cream was a must!). My eldest daughter stood in the line clutching the frozen monstrosity while I stood a little to the side so people could get past.

As the line moved inch by inch a large, broad shouldered man, complete with Fonzie leather jacket and thinning grey hair came up behind her, having joined the line from another aisle when the line actually went around the corner. He shifted from side to side, looked around and then approached my daughter. Looming over her threateningly with an aggravated expression, he accused her of pushing in.

She looked up at him with her beautiful blue eyes, holding a pie that was almost bigger than herself and shook her head. She told him plainly, “No, I didn’t.”

He crammed himself well into her personal space, a good foot or more taller than her and asked, “are you sure about that?”

Without flinching, she said, “Yes. I’m sure.”

My girl was holding her ground, unafraid and unmoved. The man’s eyes scrunched and he moved closer, anger starting to boil over.

I watched this exchange with a fast-beating heart. Proud of my daughter for standing up for herself but also highly aware of this large man and the threat he posed to her safety.

So, what did I do?

I gently took her arm and pulled her out of the line. I said to the man, “You go ahead. We’re not in any rush.”

Nostrils flared he shoved his way forward and took our place in the line.

As we paid for our items and walked to the car, I was left wondering, why did I do that? And, was it the right thing to do?

For a woman, this is not an easy question to answer. Many of you reading might be wondering why I didn’t tell the man to back off and allow my twelve year old to stand her ground. She was in the right. She was doing what I’d raised her to do; be a strong, assertive young woman. But here’s where it gets tricky…

Let’s start with why I did it.

I am almost one hundred percent sure a man in the same situation would not do what I did. I knew my daughter hadn’t pushed in line, but I behaved as if she had. The simple fact of the matter is, this big angry man was looming over my daughter threateningly. Did I think there was a possibility, however slight, that he might harm her? Yes. Sadly, more often than not, the answer is yes. So, I folded. Men have the power to do that. Simply with their larger forms. Physical intimidation. In my mind, it was not worth even the slimmest chance that this could escalate. It is ridiculously unfair. Stupidly backward. And I felt small and weak for doing it. My daughter was confused, but she played along. Asking me once we’d left the store, why I let the man push in front of us. I simply said it wasn’t worth the risk of him getting angry. That’s the thing with men like this. The words risk and angry go together. Because him getting angry posed a risk to my daughters and to me.

Now, was it the right thing to do?

Honestly, I’m still wrestling with it. The simple answer is, no. I cannot preach assertiveness and standing up for yourself and then allow a man to push past us simply by using his size and tone to threaten. BUT, the complicated answer to was it the right thing to do, is yes and maybe. Yes, because I saw a threat to my daughter’s safety and as her mother, her protector, I did what was needed to remove her from any possible harm. Maybe, because maybe he wouldn’t have hurt her. Maybe he would have simply used verbal abuse to express his anger, maybe he would have abided my emphatic little twelve year old and stepped back in line. But maybe isn’t good enough, I couldn’t risk her safety on a maybe.

Perhaps, the maybe we should be looking at is, maybe this man shouldn’t have been threatening a young girl in the first place. What need was there, even if he thought he was right, to act this way in front of a child? But he was in that male privilege position. He could just take what he wanted because no one was going to stop him.

I come back to it again, should I have stopped him?

I still can’t decide. Morally, yes, no question. But physically, realistically, if he had decided to do something to us, we’d be stuffed.

And he knew it.




I welcome discussion on this subject very much as I still can’t quite decide what was the right thing to do in this scenario. Maybe there isn’t a right or wrong. All I know is, I hated being put in the position in the first place.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Mystery of Milk in Bags...

When you move to another country you think you'll be swept off your feet by the romance of it. The big, big change of it. And some things are really different. They drive on the other side of the road. They think speed limits are open to interpretation and then there's... milk....in plastic bags...

It took us several trips to various supermarkets to be brave enough to buy the milk in bags. We lugged the two plastic bladders full of milk, bouncing around like misshapen implants, into our trolley and stared at it. The kids poked it and laughed. I yelled at them, scared they would pop it in the aisle and we'd be escorted from the supermarket. Silly Australians. A trail of milk behind us.

Milk in bag inside another bag 😳
We brought them home, put them on the bench and went, 'now what?" It seemed pretty messy and with dopey almost teenagers in the house, a downright recipe for disaster. How did you get the milk out the bag without it going everywhere? Buy a jug, I guess. Again, we showed ourselves to be complete noobs, buying a water jug to pour the contents of the milk into. All wrong.

Something I just have to get better at is asking questions. This is probably my number one issue. I slink around people in the school parking lot. I wait for someone to come to me. It's probably not going to happen. I am very scary looking, after all. Point is, we wasted money on jugs, washing and felt like idiots because we didn't ask.

Must buy this jug. Not an ordinary, run of the mill jug.
So, for any new-to-Canada milk enthusiasts, scratching their heads at this bizarre plastic blob wondering how you do it. Here's the scoop: You have to buy a specific milk-in-plastic-bags jug. Designed exclusively to house your milk bladder. It costs about $1.50 and even comes with a just asking for injury razorblade inside the handle.


The milk IN the jug. That's it! Simply slice the corner off
 with the razorblade that sits inside the handle.
If allowing your kids to dot it, have 911 on standby.
Bloody sharp!

So after a embarrassing long month of wondering. Mystery solved!

Now if anyone can tell me where you find full fat milk I'd be so grateful. I need the whole milk. None of this 2% nonsense. Gimme the fat!