30 April 2014

Hawaiian French Toast

*Repost - because why not? doesn't it sound just yummy?

Hawaiian French Toast

1 banana, mashed
1 cup milk (I use Almond Milk)
3-4 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
sliced bread - 12-14 slices

Whisk all the ingredients together. Coat both sides of bread slices in batter and cook in a little butter over medium heat until done. Serve with coconut syrup.

Coconut syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup light Karo
1 cup cream or half and half (*can use Almond Milk here too)
1 tsp. coconut extract

Boil sugar and Karo together until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add cream or Almond Milk and extract. Store in the refrigerator.

29 April 2014

Around Wellington - Wrights Hill Fortress

Being new here, we think taking the opportunity to find out as much about our new home and its history is a good plan. Wrights Hill Fortress is only open about 3 days a year, and Anzac Day is one of those days. Apparently, when the weather cooperates, there's a great view from up here. The weather did not cooperate. Aside from the foggy day, this was an awesome place to visit. 

Most amusing moment of the day? When the tour guide pointed at my daughter and asked, "What does Anzac Day mean to you?" Of all the kids, he had to pick on the American. On the other hand, they weren't totally clear on the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, so I guess we're even. 

Heading into the tunnels

Personally, my favorite part is the ruler around the sides for the aiming of the giant guns. Also my family.

Down, down, down to the armory

Gun replica - there were two of these here that were later cut up and sold as scrap metal - to the Japanese

The US Navy and the US Marine Corps were stationed in NZ for a time during WWII. These are some things that were found at old campsites. Everything from pins and patches and coins to a coke bottle. 

We're ready. We dare you.

28 April 2014

Monday Menu Plan

How about a view to the west for a change? Pretty sunset, no?


Baked Fettuccine (didn't get to it last week)


Thai beef kebab 




Sloppy Joes


Travel food - Road trip!




Chili and cornbread

23 April 2014

ANZAC Biscuits (Cookies)

It's great learning about our new home and enjoying different holidays. ANZAC Day is sort of like Veteran's Day in the US. So, just in time for ANZAC day, a recipe.
The ANZACs were WWI soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The ANZAC biscuit was made by women on the home front and sent across the sea to their soldiers. Originally named "Soliders’ Biscuits" and containing just flour, sugar, milk powder and water, these simple biscuits were made to endure the journey at sea. Now, with the addition of other fun ingredients, they are more of a treat. 
Anzac Biscuits
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup coconut
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup sugar (optional)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
125g (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup Golden Syrup
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp boiling water

Preheat oven to 175°C. 
In a large bowl combine flour, rolled oats, coconut, cranberries and seeds.
Melt butter and syrup together and cool for five minutes. 
Dissolve soda in boiling water and add to butter (mixture will foam up). 
Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.
Roll into walnut sized balls and place on baking paper lined baking trays, flatten slightly with a fork and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden.

22 April 2014

Around Wellington - Rugby!

Some people in our family have been to Rugby games, but none of us have ever been to a professional match. We kick off our Easter holidays with a trip to Westpac Stadium for a Hurricanes game. We were a little early...

Did we like Rugby? Oh my goodness YES!!

I know the photos could be better, but it was dark and they were kind of far away,
but all I'm saying is What's not to like??

Also, the Hurricanes won.

21 April 2014

Menu Plan Monday - Teenager Style

Menu planning - teenager style means the teenager is picking the food. He also has to cook it. Luckily for us, he's a pretty good cook. I, for one, love it. Yes there's a kitchen mess to clean up, but I don't have to figure out what we are eating and I don't have to cook it.


YSA Potluck
we are bringing Black beans and Rice


Noodles and Company style Wisconsin Mac N' Cheese


French Dip Sandwiches
Salad - coleslaw


Bacon Wrapped Chicken


Pizza Rolls


Creamy Baked Fettuccine 


Lamb and Apricot Tagine

18 April 2014

Friday Favorites

Chocolate covered Cinnamon Bears. Some came in a package from my sister this week. I LOVE my sister. 

Tretorn Rain boots - it's looking like rain boots are going to be de rigeuer for a Wellington winter

Wrens by Ink & Spindle - handprinted fabric to die for!

Viber - because it's how I talk to my sister and my mom and other people I love.

17 April 2014

Little Fashionista Rocks the Skirt Makeover

Yep. It's raining. And I don't know when it will stop. So we go ahead and take pictures anyway.
She had a jean jacket on with this, and it was cute. But she took it off. If you think I can convince her to put it on again, you've got another think coming.

This is another great skirt that I bought for a screaming deal. You can't beat $1.97.  Especially considering the original price of $58. The skirt is full, and the fabric is good quality. It makes a great skirt for my Little Fashionista. 

First task is to remove the zipper. I have another project I can use it on. 

Next, I measured from the waist to where I wanted the hem to fall on the leg. Then I added in the casing allowance for the waistband, and that told me how much to cut off the waist. 

Last, I made a casing, cut some 3/4 inch non-roll elastic to her waist measurement, 
inserted it and finished the waistband. 

The most difficult part is always to get her to try things on, but we eventually managed it (on the way to church). 

And that's all, folks.

16 April 2014

Lunch Box Pizzas

My kids LOVE pizza in their lunches at school. Since I won't buy them pizza every day, we make it. It takes about 2 hours on a Saturday morning, and it's loads of fun. 

Pizza Dough
2 cups hand-hot water (about 110 degrees)
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
4 Tbsp. olive oil 
2 tsp. Kosher salt
5 to 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Pour hot water into Kitchen Aid mixing  bowl. Sprinkle yeast over the top and add the teaspoon of sugar. Let sit for about 10 min. or until yeast and water mixture is nice and foamy. Add olive oil, salt and 2 cups of flour and mix well using the dough hook. Gradually add remaining flour, mixing each addition in until dough is firm. Knead in mixer for a few more minutes. Remove bowl from mixer and scrape the dough off the dough hook. Roll dough in a little flour to reduce the stickiness and stretch and roll it out into a long log. Cut 1 1/2 inch sections and pat out into miniature pizzas. 

Heat oven to 220 C or 425 F 

Pizza Sauce (In the Blendtec)**
2 cups tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
5 large fresh tomatoes, quartered, or 1 can crushed tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1/2 medium onion, peeled
3-4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place ingredients in jar in order listed. Press the SPEED UP button until blender reaches Speed 5. Allow the cycle to run completely.

**Alternatively, you can use store-bought sauce.

Spread sauce on miniature pizzas and add cheese and pepperoni, or desired toppings. 

Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes, or until dough is brown around the edges and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Let cool, then wrap in plastic wrap and store in freezer bags in the freezer. They thaw beautifully, just in time for lunch. Yes, the mini blueberry muffins in the background are also for school lunches...

15 April 2014

Around Wellington - Kapiti Coast

We haven't been here that long, but we already have a favorite beach. Just up the coast on Highway 1 is a lovely beach called Waikanae. I will go and stay there any time. The beach is long and flat and you can walk way out and not drop off a cliff (unlike the California beaches I am more familiar with).  I will just let the pictures do the talking.

Kind of makes you want to buy a house there, doesn't it?  I won't lie, It has crossed our minds...

14 April 2014

Menu Plan Monday

A foggy, wet morning. Winter is coming...

I'm looking forward to an easy week food-wise. The kids made their lunch food last Saturday, so they can put their lunches together quickly. The crock pot makes evenings so much nicer too. 

Fettuccine Alfredo with bacon and peas


Couscous or rice

Bean burritos (make refried beans in the crock pot)
Spanish Rice


BBQ Chicken

Crockpot French Dips

11 April 2014

Friday Favorites

1. The Tui bird. They can make every sound. They are everywhere in the bush around our house right now. We have lots of Karaka trees around and they like the orange fruits that ripen in the fall. 

2. Healtheries fruit and herbal teas. Delicious. And the tags on the tea bags say funny things. 

3. Puhoi Valley yoghurt. Dreamy. Heaven in a recyclable container. So many flavours. I'm drooling a little just telling you about it. 

4. Marsden Books - a wonderful little bookshop in Karori. It also happens to be the post shop too, so you can go in to mail something and, well, stay awhile. I won't say I have bought a lot of books though. I'm still recovering from sticker shock due to the cost of books here in NZ.

10 April 2014

Little Fashionista Rocks the Drawstring Dress Makeover

It's important to remember that we call her the Little Fashionista because she has always had VERY definite ideas about what she will wear and how she will wear it. Also because she's always adorable.

Ages ago, browsing the sale racks at Target, I came across this knit drawstring dress in Adult XL. I liked the nautical stripey feel of it, and brought it home. I kept meaning to do something with it, but never really got around to it. I think I paid $7.

Then we moved. Serendipitously, the dress was packed up with my sewing stuff and came with. So surprising what we brought and what we didn't, but that's a story for another day. Anyway, last week, I had a chat with my Little Fashionista and we decided what to do with it.

First, I removed the drawstring and casing so that I could use them again later. Then I removed the sleeves.

I used a dress that fits her well as a pattern. I cut along the sides, leaving a seam allowance, and I also left the sleeve area alone at this point. Not a great photo here, I know.

This next bit is is the part of the project where I sort of got involved in the construction and forgot to take photos...

I serged up the sides to about where I wanted the sleeve openings, making sure to match up the stripes. At this point, it was necessary to shorten the middle part of the dress so that the drawstring would be at her waist. So sorry I didn't take photos, but basically, I put the dress on her and then marked where I wanted the waistline. Then I marked how much would need to be cut. So convenient working with stripes! I then cut along the stripe, remembering the seam allowance, and retaining the portion of the dress with the drawstring openings. I pinned and serged the waistline together, then sewed in the casing for the drawstring. That was the hardest part because it was sewn into a white stripe and it was hard to make it look as nice as I wanted to...

Then I needed to figure out the sleeve. Originally, I had planned to cut down the old sleeve and make a new sleeve. However, when she tried on the dress, we both loved the cap sleeve created by the old shoulder. So I needed a way to finish the sleeve that would look nice. There was some leftover blue knit after sewing in the new casing, so I used that to finish the sleeve. I am really happy with how it turned out! No need to worry about fraying with the knit fabric, so I just left the inside edge raw.

We had a bit of a kerfuffle regarding the finished length. Contrary to what you might expect, I wanted it shorter. She did not. She likes it the way it is. She won. 

Last of all, we threaded the drawstring back in, cut it to a nice length and it was finished and ready to wear. Girly and cute, but nice and stretchy for running and playing. I think I'd like it better with blue leggings, but we don't have any at the moment.

09 April 2014

Couscous and Veggie Salad

I just made up this recipe. I was asked to bring a salad that would serve 24 people to a function, and I didn't want to go to the store. Here's what I came up with. I think you could use whatever you have and it would be just as delicious. I also adjusted the recipe down to a reasonable size for a family.

Veggie and Couscous Salad

2 cups couscous
(to cook, put the 2 cups couscous in a large bowl and pour 2 cups boiling water over. Stir briefly and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 red onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 can corn, drained

In a pan, melt the butter with the olive oil. Cook the onion and carrot until tender. Add the zucchini and cook a little longer, until the onion is a little carmelized. While these veggies are cooking, chop up the bell pepper and celery and stir into the couscous along with the can of corn. Stir in the cooked veggies.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
½ cup extra virgin olive oil 
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp dijon mustard 
½ tsp salt 
ground black pepper 

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake until blended, or whisk together in a bowl.

Pour dressing over salad until it is to your taste. I used about 2/3 of the dressing. 
Chill for a couple of hours to allow flavors to blend. Add some chickpeas or white beans, and you have a complete meal in one bowl. 

I think this would be great with feta or goat cheese too, and maybe a little cilantro. What do you think?

08 April 2014

Around Wellington: Te Papa

Welcome to Te Papa! The National Museum of New Zealand. We spent a fun couple of hours here - but we can always go back for more.

The first thing the kids wanted to see was the giant squid. While we were visiting grandparents in Oregon, they watched a Discovery channel show about the capture and study of this exact giant squid. Getting to see the real thing was a treat.

Outside, there is a fantastic exhibit of the bush. There are all kinds of new plants for us to learn about.

I think the tree ferns are the most amazing thing ever. I've never seen a fern so big. They are beautiful.

The Emu. Extinct, but not a creature you'd want to encounter in real life. In this exhibit it is shown with it's only real predator besides humans. This large eagle, also extinct could kill an emu, an animal over twice its size.

Some other great exhibits include an earthquake simulator and a quiz on how to prepare your home so that it is safer during an earthquake, a natural history of New Zealand exhibit, and a history of the Pacific People in New Zealand exhibit that is also really great.

Join us next week for a visit to the Kapiti coast.