Sunday, August 29, 2010

Easy Peasy Banana Pikelets with a Twist

Are you one of those people who avoids cooking pikelets because you just cannot get the cooking part right? Are you sick of pikelets that burn on one side and yet are soggy in the middle? Or do you have pikelets that become a concertina fan as soon as you try to remove them from the pan?

If you answered yes to any of the above then you are not alone. In fact, that was me until I discovered a fantastic and idiot-proof way of cooking pikelets. Here is my favourite banana pikelet recipe made on my sandwich press:

You need:

2 1/2 cups self raising flour (I combine wholemeal and white)
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
3-4 very ripe bananas mashed

What you do:

1. Beat eggs, sugar, milk and water in a bowl.
2. In another bowl mash banana (I use a fork) and add the bicarb so that the banana mix expands slightly.
3. Add the banana mix to the milk/water/egg/sugar mix. Stir.
4. Add the flour to the bowl and combine. (you can add a little more water or milk to make the mix slightly on the runnier side).
5. Drop tablespoons on the preheated sandwich press. I do not use cooking spray but rely solely on the non-stick surface of the press.

6. Lower the lid so that it sits just above the pikelets. After about 30-60 seconds, drop lid onto the pikelets.
7. Your pikelets will spread so start with smaller sized spoonfuls until you get the mix correct.

8. After about a minute, lift the lid. You may need to lift them off the surface with a plastic spatula.
9. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chocolate Decadence In the Slow Cooker

It's been a while since I posted a slow cooker recipe. It's not that I haven't been using my slow cooker, just that I have been slack at posting! Lol!

This one is fantastic for the kids and grown ups alike and makes a quick and easy dessert which is not only delicious but not as bad for you (ok, minus the chocolate and cream) as some! It's also great for us Queenslanders who are currently in the middle of strawberry season!

You need:

1 packet chocolate buds or buttons. I used a large packet of dark chocolate
1 container thickened cream
Fruit pieces including strawberries, bananas etc. You could also use marshmallows or assorted lollies.

Turn slow cooker on high and fill with some water.

In a heat proof bowl put chocolate buds and cream. The ratio is about 4 : 2 tablespoons (ie for every 4 tablespoons of chocolate, put in 2 tablespoons of cream). Mix together.

Sit heat proof bowl in the water that is in the slow cooker (so make sure that your bowl fits before starting this recipe).

Place lid on slow cooker and heat for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.

When melted through, serve in a bowl so that fruit can be dipped into chocolate. We used skewers to handle the fruit pieces.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Wonder If His Nose Twitches, Too!

Our family was lying on the bed, doing what families usually do (talking and laughing) when Miss Ten suddenly changes conversation topic......

"Mum, who are you going to vote for?"

For those of you who don't know, our federal elections are coming up in less than a fortnight and at the moment, our televisions are saturated with coverage of the two main campaigners - current prime minister Julia Gillard and leader of the opposition Tony Abbott - vying for political kudos!

"Gee", was my rather shocked reply, "I don't know" (ie, me the fence-sitting, swinging voter!). Then Miss Ten looks at me in the most innocent, wide-eyed way and says:

"Are you gonna vote for Tony Rabbit?"

Naturally, I burst out laughing and then went on to explain that his name is actually 'Abbott' and not 'Rabbit'.

"Oh, I know that!" she calmly replied. "I just call him 'Tony Rabbit' because he has big ears!"

Leave it to kids to say the very obvious!

Photo courtesey of:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Rocking In Rome!

The final leg of our holiday was Rome. It sounded like such a wonderful place, however even before our arrival we had an idea of things to come when people starting talking about a 'heatwave'.

And heatwave it was! After leaving our train from Florence and walking into a wall of heat, we arrived at our apartment only to find that there had been a mix-up in times with the owner and we had a two hour wait with luggage and children! Thankfully, things picked up after this and the apartment owner was fantastic following her error and offered us a bottle of wine and a little economic saving on the rental agreement!

Our apartment's position was amazing. It was literally a five minute walk to both the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps and overlooked Barberini Piazza. And to make it even more was air conditioned!!!!!!

We once again took the option of an open bus tour of Rome to help us find our way. We also managed to take in the obvious sites like the Colosseum and the Vatican and because of the heat, we booked ourselves on a bus tour to Pompeii and Naples for a day. Pompeii was incredibly hot once we got off the air conditioned bus and this did somewhat spoil our visit to this incredible place.

Finally, after a week, we waved goodbye to Rome and began our long voyage home to Australia. It definitely was an amazing holiday!

BEST SIGHT SEEING EXPERIENCE......the Vatican. Without a doubt St Peter's Basilica was the most beautiful church I have seen. It literally took my breath away. We joined a tour outside the Vatican which did help us avoid some of the waiting crowds. The Vatican museums were very interesting but because of the volume of people, we felt like cattle being herded through it. St Peter's Basilica, however was the rushing, temperatures cool and architecture that was completely stunning.

OTHER THINGS WE DID.....the Colosseum (btw, only EU children get a child's entry price here....totally unfair if you ask me!), the Pantheon (lovely), Pompeii (hot), Naples (did not appeal to me), and my 'Roman Holiday' experiences....the Spanish Steps (loved these), the Trevi fountain (beautiful) and La Bocca Della Verita...the mouth of truth (which was closed by the time we got there but we still managed to snap a photo!).

CULINARY DELIGHTS......gelati! We had one every day! We did try some of the pasta dishes which were ok but we all loved the local prosciutto which was far, far better than any we've found at home!

THE KIDS RECOMMEND.....Villa Borghese is a huge park that has a zoo, which we went to and where you can hire bikes, which we did! In fact, we hired a four-person bike for an hour and laughed our heads off for most of that time!

BEST TIP......You can fill up your water bottles at many of the fountains in Rome. At first we were worried about what the quality of this would be like but after we started seeing locals doing it, we figured it must be ok. The water was cold and tasty and my family preferred it to most other water.

NEXT TIME....We would not travel in the middle of summer!!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Flouncing In Florence and Pouncing in Pisa

We used Florence as a stop-over for a day trip to Pisa. We arrived there early evening after our horrendous exit to Venice thanks to a national transport strike.

Our hotel in Florence was fantastic. I cannot say this enough. We were hot, tired and stressed when we arrived at the hotel and were thrilled when they offered us a complimentary welcome drink. The room was a family room but was one of the few hotels where my kids had genuine single beds (no pull out/fold out sofas or cot beds!). The staff were friendly and helpful and gave us fantastic tips on getting around. The breakfast was delicious and the owner even went out of his way to drive us to the train station on two occasions. I cannot recommend this hotel more and suggest that if you are taking a trip to Florence then book the Hotel Giglio.

We found Pisa - like most of Italy - hot! I bought one of those lacy tourist fans for a couple of Euros in a stall across from the Leaning Tower and declared that it was the best two euros that I'd spent on the whole trip. The tower itself was interesting although we decided not to climb it. We did take the 'holding up the tower' pictures that every tourist puts on their 'must do' list when visiting there.

BEST SIGHT-SEEING EXPERIENCE......We loved the markets in Florence. Fantastic shopping to be had!

OTHER THINGS WE DID.....We went to Pisa by train then took a bus to the Leaning Tower.

CULINARY DELIGHTS.......We had dinner at a restaurant called 'Trattoria Da Tito'. This was a recommendation from the hotel that we stayed at. It was a great place to eat with friendly, helpful staff who delighted us with a complimentary tomato bruscetta to go with our meal. I would definitely recommend this place to my friends.

THE KIDS RECOMMEND......The markets in Florence. The spent a lot of money there!

BEST TIP.......Buy leather goods in Florence. This was by far the place that we visited that sold the best price and quality leather. There are so many to choose from as well so you can afford to be picky and bargain with the sellers.

NEXT TIME....We would definitely stay longer in Florence. We didn't even get to see a lot of the main sites in this city. We had intended to see the Statue of David but were too hot and tired to bother in the end and went back to the air conditioning of the hotel.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Venturing in Venice

We only stayed in Venice for one night. And what an interesting night it was!

We took a short flight from Paris to Venice via a 'cheap as chips' airline! Once there, we queued up at the ticket machine to get one-way water bus tickets to the city proper. Fifty-three (yes 53!!!) euro later, we set off dragging our bags on the long haul from airport to boat dock.

Naturally, things could not go smoothly. In the heat of the afternoon, we arrived only to be told that the water bus was full and that we would have to wait an hour for the next one (thank goodness that there was a toilet nearby!). The swaying of the waiting dock didn't help my non-sea legs so I opted to stay on terra firma for most of this time.

Once in Venice, we took in the beautiful sites......lovely waterways filled with boats and the famous gondolas. We were lucky as our hotel accommodation was near the Rialto Bridge, therefore not a long walk with luggage.

Our evening and next day were spent mainly taking in the sights and walking the narrow streets of Venice. I loved the beauty and the uniqueness of the city. The fact that there are no cars in Venice makes it so much easier to manoeuvre. Unfortunately, this beauty is marred by litter and graffiti. We saw bins over-flowing with rubbish and waterways that had debris floating in them.

Our exit to Venice, however was not particularly fun. When we arrived at the Vaporetti station with luggage in tow, we were told that there was a strike and we would have to walk to the station. What following was a 30-40 minute walk in the incredible heat lugging bags over oh-so-cute bridges that were not made for heavy bags with wheels. This also meant that we missed our train and had to wait for over 2 hours for another one....without designated the strike had effected all national transport!

By the end, we wondered if we were cursed with transport issues!

BEST SIGHT-SEEING EXPERIENCE.....walking through this city is an experience in itself and nothing like anything we've ever experienced before. Of course, we did the obligatory walk to San Marco Piazza.

OTHER THINGS WE DID.....we shopped! There are amazing little shops in Venice.

CULINARY DELIGHTS......Gelati!!!! They are everywhere in Venice and very cheap. We had dinner at a sidewalk pizza and pasta ristorante which was very tasty.

THE KIDS at the street carts in San Marco. The Superteen was delighted with his Italian football team shirts that he bought there.

BEST out for hawkers who shower you with compliments while giving you long-stemmed roses. They want money for them! And if you decide that you do want to feel romantic while carrying a long stemmed rose around Venice, barter with the street seller before accepting. They want one price but are willing to go lower!

NEXT TIME....we would love to do a trip to some of the outer islands and stay longer.