Baking with Mrs Bouw: Watermelon and Pineapple Icy Poles!

Monday, August 3, 2015



I first spied these healthy, refreshing and delicious little suckers on my lovely friends Instagram page back in January when it was summer back home in Oz but the middle of our freezing cold winter here in Chicago (where icy poles were the furthest thing from my mind) and I have been dying to try them since. Liz is an old friend of mine (I was actually her boss many many moons ago) and along with being an urban and environmental planner, she is also a part time blogger. Her blog I Spy Plum Pie is full of drool worthy vegetarian recipes (even you meat lovers will be salivating... hello Creamy Avocado and Spinach Pasta!), how-to guides, reviews of natural, organic and/or sustainable products and tips and tricks for sustainable living. Liz really does do a wonderful job of spreading a positive message to encourage others to reduce the negative impact (they might not even realise they are having) on the world around us.

So, with the Chicago summer finally arriving these last few weeks, it was the perfect time to try out these babies... and they were SO good! This recipe makes approximately 6 icy poles but you can scale it up or down if you want to make more or less. I reduced the amount of mint slightly as I wasn't sure if it would be too overpowering for my girls but I personally love the freshness it adds and Allegra and Anya loved it too! Yay for another recipe that ticks all the boxes... healthy, fresh, tasty, quick, super easy and one where you can involve your little ones! I have a feeling these will become a regular in our household and I think I might just have to try Liz'a Berry Mint Icy Poles next!


Watermelon Pineapple Icy poles

Ingredients

Watermelon-Mint Section

1/4 watermelon
1/4 cup mint
Zest and juice of one lemon

Pineapple-Lime Section

Half a pineapple
Zest and juice of two limes
1/4 cup coconut water

Method

- Remove the skin and rind and chop the watermelon into chunks.

- Finely chop the mint and combine with the watermelon, lemon zest and juice.

- Place in a blender (I used my Ninja) and blitz until smooth.

- Pour into the base of your icy pole moulds and freeze for an hour.

- Remove the skin from the pineapple and chop into chunks.

- Place the pineapple, lime zest, juice and coconut water in blender and blitz until smooth.

- Pour into icy pole moulds until full and insert stick. Freeze for 4-6 hours until set.

- Enjoy!

Keeping House with Mrs Bouw: Tips on how you can be organised at home!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The daily grind of being a full time stay at home Mum can be so amazingly rewarding don't get me wrong... but... there are days when it seems like there are endless lists of 'things to do' (didn't I just restock the cupboards two days ago? How can there be no food in the house?!) and you feel like you are chasing your own tail around in circles (probably because you literally are as you pick up those toys, clothes, pencils, shoes for the hundredth time in a matter of hours). I guess for me personally, given that I am not 'working' at the moment and am at home full time, I try to be as conscientious at home as I would be at work. So, I have found my groove and it works for us!

As organised as I like to be I don't actually have a set schedule/list for housework... I have always liked a tidy home so personally don't really feel I need a reminder to get things done... sometimes just the motivation :) I know it sounds corny but organisation, communication and fun are the key. None of what I am about to write is overly profound or a stoke of genius but you asked for my tips on my daily/weekly routine so here they are! ;)

Rise and Shine!

How I start my day more often than not sets the tone for the remainder of the day so for me it's really important to get off to a good start! My girls are generally pretty predictable with their waking times and I'm one of those freaky people who will wake up at the exact same time every day without an alarm (and usually with around 5-6 hours sleep) so the first thing I do is:

- I ditch the lay in and instead opt to have 20 minutes of peace to get myself ready! I set my alarm (just in case) for 20 mins before my girls usually wake up. I'm usually 3/4 ready by the time they wake so it makes all the difference already being two steps ahead! Giving up that extra half hour of sleep is TOTALLY worth it. AND having that little bit of 'me time' to shower, apply a little make-up and brush your hair etc. can absolutely set your mood for the day. Feeling good about yourself plays a big role in how you tackle everyday, regardless of who you are!

- Once the girls are awake I whizz around the house and make all of the beds. The girls will often ask to help me so I happily let them and then just covertly tidy up their work afterwards hee hee. I make the beds every day without fail because it makes the entire house instantly look and feel about 75% cleaner (and because I'm too much of a clean freak to be able to function properly otherwise). And on the days that Allegra wakes super early (which seems to be the case alot lately) she will often make both hers and Anya's bed all on her own ;)

- We then all have breakfast. When they were younger and messier eaters I used to dress the girls after they had eaten so that their clothes would remain clean but these days they dress themselves :) On the days the girls have school, I check the weather forecast the night before and lay out there clothes, shoes, hair bows etc. so there is no need to scramble in the morning.

- I like to wake to a clean kitchen but if you are still finding you are running late in the mornings, lay out your breakfast items the night before.

Feeding Time at the Zoo!



Is there nothing worse than walking in the door at the end of the day, walking over to the fridge and thinking 'what the hell am I going to feed everyone?'. Meal planning and food prep is the answer. I know this might sound like a lot of work initially, however, the few minutes you spend on putting thought into what your weekly meals will consist of and how to help make the preparation of these meals easier, will be totally worth it! The weekends are easy for us as we tend to grab a late lunch/early dinner whilst we are out and about, however, when it comes to our Monday to Friday meals, here's what I do to make life easier:

- On a Saturday or Sunday I will have a think about what our schedules look for the coming week ie. which nights won't I have to factor Mr B into the dinner equation if he is working late or travelling, are there any evenings where we will be home right on dinner time etc. meaning I will either need a quick dish or something I have prepared earlier.

- I will then place an online order for the bulk of the weeks groceries to be delivered on a Sunday or Monday morning... I love having a fully stocked fridge and pantry at the beginning of the week! There are a few fresh items that I prefer to pick up in store during the week as I need them but by ordering the majority of it online means the few things I do need to pick up myself will only take a few minutes instead of hours (those with kiddies will know what a task it can be)!

- On a Monday (usually when the girls are in school for the morning) I take an hour to prep dinner for that night and the following few. Even little things like washing and cutting your veggies ahead of time makes all the difference when it comes to what I like to call 'Happy Hour' aka the daily dinner/bath/bed ritual with children.

- Once I have dinner for that night prepped I will whip up something for the next few nights. Think of things that store well in the fridge for a few days like soups, curries, bolognese, fried rice, falafels etc. and are easily reheated. Being just one step ahead for the following evening will make that day much more stress free.

- To make this whole process a lot more enjoyable, I often prop the iPad up on the kitchen bench and catch up on some of my guilty pleasure (trashy realty) TV shows whilst I cook away :)

- If you are finding the whole 'prepping meals days in advance' a little overwhelming, something else I often do is prepare part of dinner whilst I am making lunch. For example, if we are having pasta or rice for dinner I will pop it on the stove to cook away or I will prep veggies if I haven't already done so, which makes one less thing I have to do later on and also saves on having to clean up twice! Less dishes during 'Happy Hour' is always a plus!

- You can of course cook and freeze although I am not one to do this often. It's just my personal opinion but I don't feel dishes taste as nice once they are defrosted. Plus, I always forget what I have in the freezer :)

- Include your children! Both my girls are already quite eager in the kitchen and grab their stools daily to come over and 'help' me with lunch, dinner or a spot of baking! Under supervision of course, let them help beat the eggs, mix the cake batter or crumb the chicken (Allegra now knows how to make our infamous schnitzels from start to finish on her own!) and talk about the different food groups, where things come from, measurements etc. It might result in a little more tidying up than if you were doing it on your own but it serves as an educational activity you can do together minus the guilt of you feeling like you are neglecting them again because you have mouths to feed!

- Oh and if you have school lunches to make for the following day, try and prepare as much as you can the night before. Once again, this will take the morning madness from a 10 on the stress scale down to at least an 8 hee hee ;)

Washing and Ironing



The dreaded washing basket!!! Eh, is there anything worse than walking into your laundry to see an overflowing wash basket and then walking straight back out because the thought of tackling it is just too much! I know this is something ALOT of you despise and I know it is also something many outsource to save themselves the time and effort. But if you are like me (slightly old fashioned sometimes hee hee) and still wash and iron everything from the linen to your hubbies work shirts or if outsourcing isn't an option for you due to the cost etc. there are most certainly little things you can do to make this whole process less painful...

- Don't procrastinate!!! As soon as I have washed and dried a load of washing, I quickly pull out all of the things that don't require ironing (towels, underwear, socks, stretchy gym clothes and those magic items that just don't crease etc.) and then fold and put them away. This usually takes all of two minutes and immediately halves your basket load (and your anxiety haha).

- Again, let your little ones help if they please. My girls have lots of fun sorting out what belongs to who and for some reason get a kick out of putting things away in Daddy's drawer :)

- I usually try to do the ironing twice a week, usually on a Wednesday night once the girls are in bed and on a Sunday afternoon/evening. And to make the process an enjoyable one I simple pop the ironing board in front of the TV or pop in my earphones/handfree and call/skype a friend or my Mum... you will be surprised to see how much you can get through whilst chatting away... by the time I hang up the phone my basket is practically empty.

- By doing the ironing twice a week the process never seems overwhelming and also doesn't take very long as the basket is never overflowing.

The Floors

At the moment we are lucky enough to be living in a super functional apartment (perfect for the stage of life we are in with our little ones) so it is a real treat compared to our previous home in Sydney that was spread over five levels with SO many stairs. The only downside is that our beautiful dark timber floors paired with the abundance of natural light (first world problems right) means the floors show up every spill, crumb, dust or bit of fluff... it does drive me nuts some days. Obviously everyone has a different level of clean but here are my tips for floors...



- I actually have two vacuum cleaners! I have a big powerful one that is heavier to lug around but does and amazing job especially on the carpets but I also invested in a cordless 2-in-1 vacuum (around $90) from Target) and it was the best $90 I have ever spent! I wouldn't recommend it for carpets but if you have floorboards/hard flooring I would absolutely recommend! It is super light and easy to whizz around to suck up those crumbs that are never ending. It also converts into a dust buster (little handheld vacuum). It also feels like less of a chore as it really is super quick!

- I usually run the vacuum over the floor every day but like I said we are on a one level apartment so it's no big deal. I will then mop 2-3 times a week and almost always just after I have popped the girls to bed. That way there are no little feet running around and once I sit down to relax I can do so knowing that the floors are nice and clean and I also wake the next morning with one less thing to do.

The Bathrooms



We have three bathrooms in our apartment but two of them get used daily... our ensuite and the girls bathroom. Neither are overly difficult to keep clean but here's what I do to make it less of a hassle...

- I recently read a great article here about 'cleaning caddies' which is a similar approach to they way I tackle the bathrooms but again, given our apartment is all on one level, I don't really need several spread out across the home. I do have one just for the bathrooms though which means the sponges, cloths and scrubbing brushes etc. stay separate to those used in other rooms in the house and I stock it with my bathroom cleaning products. It makes it super easy to carry from bathroom to bathroom.

- I don't like leaving the girls unsupervised in the bath (thank-fully the layout of our apartment means if I need to run to the kitchen fro a second to turn the stove down etc. it is only a few steps away and I also have clear view of the bathtub from the dining table) so I find the best time to clean and tidy their bathroom is when they are in the tub! I will do the benches, sink, mirrors etc. whilst they are washing and then once I have pulled them out I will drain the bath and give it a wash while it is all still wet.

- As for cleaning our shower, this is one thing I never really enjoy. To give myself a kick up the bum i simple place the cleaning caddie inside the shower so I have no choice but to be reminded that it needs to be done. Sorry, no real tips for this one haha.

General Tidying



Ok, this task is never ending, especially if you have children so here are my tips...

- Did I mention procrastination?! It is easy to put things in the 'too hard basket' but instead why don't you put it in the toy basket or the wash basket. More often than not these simple tasks only take a matter of minutes (sometimes seconds) but for some reason we take one look and think 'I'll do it later'. So the next time you are in the bathroom and see an empty toilet roll, just change it (that goes for hubbies too hee hee) or that pile of mail on the bench, just sort through it because more often than not most of it is junk mail anyway. Whatever it is, do it before it gets out of control and becomes a real task!

- Don't let the dishes pile up! Just like a made bed can make a room immediately look 80% cleaner, a clean sink and bench has the same effect on the kitchen! I'm one of those people who washes as I use them or rinse and pop in the dish washer but I never ever leave them to pile up in the sink... and especially over night! I know there are definitely worse things in life but I cannot imagine waking in the morning to a pile of dirty dishes.

- Storage storage storage solutions! This is a big one, again, especially when living with children! I find that if everything has it's own 'place' it makes tidying up super easy. We have several large toy hampers throughout our apartment for all the oversized toys and dolls etc, a lowline unit in the girls play area where their dollhouse, princess castle, beauty parlour and cash register is always left out on top for easy access but underneath we have storage cubes for all their little people and play food etc. along with shelving for their tea sets and books. We also use storage tubs that are labelled with easy to remove lids for inside the girls wardrobes. These house more toys such as lego, their play cookware and crockery, dress ups and dolls clothes. We have a separate cabinet for all of their craft goodies and again everything is in boxes and is labelled i.e. playdoh, paint, stickers, stamps, texts, pencils etc. You can pick up great storage solutions almost anywhere these days. Some go to places for me (some are in the US some are in Australia) are Target, Ikea, Howards Storage World, Bunnings and The Land of Nod.



- Chore Charts! This is something I have recently introduced at home with my girls. They are generally pretty good and don't need to be asked too many times but I think (despite reading an article two days ago encouraging children NOT to clean) that teaching them the basics of not only how to look after themselves and their belongings but also the importance of work ethics and values.

- De-clutter regularly! We have two large drawers on one side of our kitchen bench that are so good to 'hide' mess. They are mostly filled with mail and bills, pens, loose change, phone chargers and million little knick knacks that belong mostly to the girls that I throw in their as I am on the run during the day. Oh and did I mention the million cards, pictures and letters Allegra draws daily that 'you are not allowed to throw out Mum' that I slip into the draw and keep long enough for her to forget about and then toss them into the recycling hee hee Well, once a week I go through these two draws and give them a tidy.

- It's pretty simple, the more regularly you de-clutter and put things back where they belong will over time reduce the amount of crap stuff you have lying around therefore reducing the workload each time.

So there you have it. I'm not sure if you will find any of that helpful but that's how I roll ;)

I'd love to know how you stay on top of things in your home. Do you use a cleaning schedule or list and do certain tasks on certain days? Or do you not bother during the week and then do one quick tidy up over the weekend?

Again, it's each to their own but I personally really do feel more in control and mentally better and on top of things if I am organised and our home is tidy and easy to maintain :) xxx

Baking with Mrs Bouw: Anzac Biscuits!

Sunday, July 26, 2015



I know there are so many variations of this classic Aussie recipe but I thought I'd share mine... because these babies are pretty darn delicious! Some prefer their Anzac biccies to be thin and crunchy but to me the perfect Anzac biscuit it slightly crunchy around the edge but soft and nummy (that's a word right?! hee hee) in the middle. The great part is you can achieve 'your' perfect Anzac biscuit simply by flattening a little more before baking if you like them nice and crunchy or leaving them a little more rounded if you like them the way I do. I love that the recipe uses ingredients that I almost always have in the pantry and fridge as it makes the perfect 'whip me up' treat if you are expecting guests or like us, are heading to a friends place for a playdate in the morning. There is nothing quite like some homemade biscuits to say 'thanks for having us' and put a smile on everyones face! :)

Anzac Biscuits

Ingredients

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
125g butter
1 1/2 tbs golden syrup (for those of you living in countries where it's hard to find golden syrup, you can substitute with half corn syrup and half honey)
1 tsp bicarbonate/baking soda
2 tablespoons boiling water

Method

- Preheat oven to 150c and grease/line baking trays.

- Place oats, sifted flour, sugar and coconut in a large bowl and mix until combined.

-  In a small saucepan over low heat, stir butter and syrup until butter is melted. Combine soda and boiling water and then add to the butter mixture.

- Whilst the butter mixture is still warm, stir into dry ingredients.

- Using your hands, roll mixture into balls approximately the size of a heaped teaspoon and place onto trays about 4-5cm apart. Flatten slightly either using the palm of your hand or the back of a large spoon.

- Bake uncovered for approximately 15- 20 minutes or until lightly golden and brown.

- Transfer to wire racks to cool.

- Enjoy!

Baking with Mrs Bouw: Basic Scones!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015



Last week the girls and I whipped up a batch of fresh scones (yum!) and it dawned on me that whilst scones are LOVED by many, there may be some of you out there who have never attempted to make them yourself or have tried but haven't gotten it quite right. So, here is the fool proof recipe I use to make basic scones! Served warm with butter and jam (and fresh cream if that's your thing... although I'm not a big fan of cream) it's hard to beat homemade scones and hard to stop at just one! ;)

Basic Scones

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups of self raising flour, sifted
1 tbs caster sugar
30 grams butter
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water, approximately
2 tsp extra milk

Method

- Preheat the oven to 240c (220c if fan forced)
- Line a baking tray with baking paper (or you can grease with butter)
- Combine sifted flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Rub in the butter using your finger tips.
- Stir in the milk and enough water to make a soft, sticky dough.
- Dust your workspace with a little extra flour, turn out dough and kneed quickly and lightly until smooth.
- Using your hands, press dough out evenly until around 2cm in thickness and then using a 5cm round cutter (I use a small glass, dusted slightly with flour) cut into rounds.
- Place rounds onto tray and brush the tops with extra milk (this gives them a nice glaze).
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes.
- Turn on to wire rack to cool slightly (or if you are like me, cut one open immediately and spread with butter... yum!).
- Serve with Jam, cream, marmalade or what ever takes your fancy.
- Enjoy!

Baking with Mrs Bouw: Vermicelli Chicken Salad!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015



Be it for lunch or dinner, I just love this dish! It really does tick all of the boxes... it's healthy, quick and easy, super tasty, fresh and adaptable! You can add or subtract ingredients as you please (adding cashews, peanuts or fried asian shallots for some crunch or chilli for some heat) and choose to have it cold which is how I prefer or warm like Mr B :) Always a winner in our house!

* Please note, this recipe is to serve one person, simple multiply as required.

Vermicelli Chicken Salad

Ingredients

100 grams of cooked chicken
1 cup vermicelli noodles
1/3 cup chopped, fresh tomato
1/3 cup chopped, fresh cucumber
1/3 cup chopped/shredded, raw carrot
1/2 cup fresh mint
1/2 cup fresh coriander

Dressing

1 tbs fresh lime juice
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tsp tamari (or soy sauce)
1/2 tsp brown sugar

Method

- Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl (or small jar if you have one) and mix/shake until well combined. Set aside so that the flavours have a chance to infuse

- Cover the vermicelli noodles in boiling water and soak for a few minutes than drain and rinse under cold water (this stops the noodles from sticking together and cooking further).

- Combine noodles, chicken and remaining salad ingredients in a bowl.

- Just prior to serving, drizzle with dressing and toss all ingredients together to ensure the dressing is distributed throughout.

- Enjoy!

Baking with Mrs Bouw: Homemade Cheesymite Scrolls!

Friday, July 3, 2015



Who doesn't love a Cheesymite scroll right?! Ok, so maybe it is an Aussie thing hee hee :) Whilst we don't eat truckloads of bread in our household, the girls have been missing Australia's Bakers Delight Cheese and Bacon Rolls and Cheesymite Scrolls as they don't really sell an equivalent here... so why not make our own :) These are a bit of a cheats version as they use puff pastry as opposed to a dough BUT the upside is they are much lighter than bread, take no time to make, are perfect for the kiddies lunch boxes AND use just three ingredients, yes THREE... that has winner written all over it if you ask me!!!



Homemade Cheesymite Scrolls

Ingredients

Puff pastry, thawed
Vegemite
Grated cheese (tasty or cheddar)

Method

- Preheat oven to 220c.

- Spread your thawed pastry sheet with Vegemite (just like on your toast, I find the amount you use to be a personal choice).

- Sprinkle cheese over the top of the Vegemite (again, its up to you how generous you are) and then carefully roll into a log.

- Slice into 1-2cm pieces and place on a lined baking tray.

- Cook in the oven for 12- 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

- Allow to cool before eating.

- Enjoy!

* These are great for school lunch boxes and can be frozen, however, I recommend freezing in an airtight container shortly after you have baked (and once they have cooled of course).
 

Baking with Mrs Bouw: Basic Risotto!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015



This morning when I did a quick grocery run to pick up some fresh produce, I had a real hankering to make risotto... pregnancy craving or not, all I know is that I wanted needed it! It has been a while since I have either made it myself or ordered it in a restaurant as many of you might agree, risotto is one of those dishes that is usually amazing or really disappointing... I don't find there is an in-between. If I do order it when I am dining out, I will only ever order it as an entree as I find most risottos can be quite over powering and a little 'too much' if you know what I mean. That's why I love this recipe... it is a basic but delicious dish that isn't overcomplicated with too many rich ingredients and one for the whole family to enjoy. Having said that, it is also the perfect risotto recipe to act as a base if you do want to build on it by adding extra ingredient such as roasted pumpkin, mushrooms, chicken, seafood etc. So, for those of you who have always been a little hesitant to attempt making a risotto (there is a bit of a stigma attached that it is difficult to make a good one), please do give this one a go as it really isn't difficult at all! It does however require a little love and attention so make sure you have the half hour to dedicate to the process without interrruptions... I simply propped up the iPad whist I was stirring and ladeling caught up on some trashy TV ;)

Mrs Bouw's Basic Risotto

Ingredients

1.2 litres chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 tbs olive oil
60 grams butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 large sticks of celery, finely chopped
2 cups Aborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
Sea salt
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Extra chopped spring onions to garnish

Method

- Heat the stock in a small saucepan.

- In a separate pan (I use a large, deep fry pan), heat the olive oil and half the butter (30g)

- Add the garlic, onions and celery and fry on a very low heat for 10 minutes ensuring the ingredients don't brown.

- Once the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.

- Keep stirring as the rice begins to fry lightly. After a minute or so the rice will begin to look translucent, this is when you should add your wine.

- Once the wine has been absorbed into the rice, add some salt and start ladling in the hot stock (I use my 1 cup measuring scoop).

- Turn down the heat to a simmer and keep adding the stock, a ladelful at a time, stirring slowly but continuously ensuring each ladelful is absorbed before adding the next.

- Stir and ladle until the rice is al dente (soft but still with a bite), this should take 15-20 minutes.

- Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter (30g) and parmesan stirring into the rice until both are melted.

- Spoon the risotto into dishes, season with a little bit of cracked salt (and pepper if you please) and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped spring onions and pinch of freshly grated parmesan.

- Enjoy!

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