Getting Ready For School

One more week of school holidays and my son goes back to school, he is very excited.  I am really pleased he loves school, given his life threatening allergies he handles himself really well, and at 5 1/2 he knows not to eat food that is not prepared by me. My son’s awareness about food

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Gratitude, Appreciation & Abundance

Last year, I remember it being around August, I set myself the challenge of producing a photography book of our son’s life – around 5 years of images, it was going to be a special gift for my husband, a Father’s Day present. Of course when I embarked on this challenge I had no idea that it would take sooo much time, I don’t know if you are the same, but we take a great deal of pictures, store them to computer and never print them. So you can imagine covering a time span of birth to 5 years, it is a long time, two laptops, three hard disk storage bricks, it’s huge!

The process of going through thousands of photographs, was joyful, many tears of gratitude, it made laugh at moments forgotten, I smiled when I remember how fragile my son was when he was born, and now he is this robust, confident and happy child.

As I looked at the start of this year, I reflected on the year that had been, there was no greater reminder than my son’s life, the gratitude I have for this person, this unique being on the amazing planet, this creation – his is indeed, a miracle.

So I start this year feeling very grateful for the joy of having this little boy and sharing it with this awesome person, my husband.  I would also like to thank a friend of ours – Mark, who gently asserted that he should take some photographs of our son at the tender age of 9 weeks and then at the age of three.  Mark did this for free, his work was professional, beautiful and now such a special memory of how tender, precious and fragile our son was, and he now stands before us a confident, 123cm, 24 kilo 5-1/2-year old; where did the time go?

So thank you Mark for this gift you have given us, we really didn’t want to do it, but now we fully appreciate what you did and we are forever grateful.

And if you are wondering how you can convert your digital photographs into a publication, there are so many company’s that offer this online, I chose  The pages for our book weighs in at 224 pages – it will print out like a coffee table book, no photographs falling out or fading, just an enduring publication of our son’s start to life.

I have now set myself the challenge of doing a book a year – because there are just too many photographs to go through if you only do it every five years; too many red eyes to fix!

As I head into 2013, I don’t have any New Years Resolutions, just a feeling of gratitude, appreciation for the life I have and I would like to say thank you God, for all the blessings in my life.



Heatwave Remedy?

zoku with choc topping (1 of 1)

It’s official, we are having a heat wave, 6 days and counting – with temperatures over 38’C (over 100′ F), there is good reason to have air conditioning or to find a hobbit hole and dwell!

My recent kitchen gadget purchase, a Zoku – ice cream maker, has come in handy and I love the way that it takes around 8 minutes to create an ice treat (once you have prepared your mix).

I am also enamoured with new-found ability to create a hard-core chocolate shell for the paddle pop – so now my dairy allergic son gets to enjoy the experience of having a chocolate coated ice cream – he is very happy with that!

I turned to the fabulous Vegan Ice Cream Paradise blog for her chocolate ice cream recipe – it is a winner!  I used my much-loved Valhrona Cocoa – just remember to reduce the amount as it is stronger in taste and complexity.  And I omitted the raspberries, but please feel free to add them back in!  Another tip, with all ice cream making, make sure you place your ice cream maker into the freezer 24-36 hours before you plan to use it, and always make sure your ingredients are chilled before placing into any type of ice cream machine.

You will see in the recipe that it calls for soy creamer, I can’t find this in the store so it is pretty easy to make my own, just check my strawberry ice cream recipe on how to do it.

For the hard chocolate shell, I just use a double boiler and melt some dairy free chocolate with a teaspoon or so of coconut oil – let it cool and then using the Zoku chocolate station, place the frozen paddle pop in, and ta da, chocolate coated ice cream.  It sets instantly so you could eat or place it in the Zoku storage station for eating, later.

And just in case you think I am in love with the Zoku range, well yes I am and I am not even paid to say that!


A special Trifle

trifle complete 2 (1 of 1)

trifle complete (1 of 1)

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in my small part of the planet Trifle is a dessert that is synonymous with Christmas.  My Mother in Law makes a killer trifle.  If you don’t know what’s in a trifle, please let me enlighten you on our version; in a large glass bowl you place a base of sherry soaked jelly roll (sponge cake rolled upon itself with a jam interior), a layer of jelly (jello) with seasonal fruit,  a layer of custard and to top it off,  a fluffy light blanket of cream.  So with every scoop, you need to excavate vertically, carefully, so you obtain a little bit of all of the layers, and it looks like a riot of colour on your plate, very Christmas!

After a large Christmas Eve dinner, I crave trifle, not the plum pudding and brandy butter – although that is also very good.  But as you can imagine here in Western Australia, Christmas Eve temperature is forecasted to be 35’C or 95F – so I crave cold comfort food to cool me down.

Now my little 5 1/2 year old is allergic to almost everything in a trifle except for the jam, jelly and fruit.  Loving a cooking challenge, I set my self the task of creating an allergy free version of my much-loved trifle, safe for him to eat.  I have to thank many a blogger for helping me to accomplish this, so with each step I have acknowledged gratefully these wonderful cooks and chefs for giving me the inspiration and the recipes to make something special for our little guy.

Bobby’s Trifle – Dairy and Egg Free

Jelly Roll

This sponge cake is based on a Fluffy White Cupcake recipe from Shmooed Food; I have used this recipe many a time and it is a wonderful base for birthday cakes and is delicious and moist.  I made this cake in a flat baking tray, I was careful to only half fill it.  When the cake was cooked I used the baking paper to gently roll it – alas it did crack and didn’t do a smooth roll, I quickly wrapped it in cling film in its rolled position and put in the fridge.  For the trifle I just cut a slice and placed it in the bottom of the glass and placed a teaspoon or two of orange juice (to replace the sherry).

sponge cake (1 of 1)

sponge cake with jam (1 of 1)

sponge cake rolled (1 of 1)

Chocolate Custard

The traditional trifle has a vanilla custard, last time I made this it was not such a big hit with my son, who prefers all things chocolate.  So to guarantee a winning combination I made a chocolate custard.  I found a great recipe here by Veggieful.  After making the custard and before putting it in the fridge my boy had a taste, and of course he wanted to eat the rest of the bowl!

Jelly (jello)

jelly and cake (1 of 1)

The easiest part of the dish besides the fresh fruit, I used Aeroplane Jelly –  Raspberry flavour.


fruit (1 of 1)fruit in glass (1 of 1)

I used strawberries, blueberries and seedless grapes.


Typically trifle is gently entombed with fresh cream.  I was contemplating using a whipped coconut cream but thought about the heaviness of this for a little 51/2 year old stomach, so elected to do a shaved white chocolate – thank you Sweet William for making dairy free chocolate!

My son has witnessed the assembly of his trifle and now there is a countdown to eating this dessert as well as Santa’s delivery – “how many more minutes Mum”?!

A special thank you to all the people who inspire me – my son, my husband and my family, bloggers, readers, commentators, likers, face book friends, blog readers, thank you!  I hope you and your family have a safe and happy festive season, Charmaine x

And for my allergy friends – here’s to dreaming and wishing for an allergy free Xmas… day soon xxx


Fruit Mince Pies

fruit mince pies (1 of 1)

fruit mince with holly (1 of 1)

Image above: Fruit Mince Pies photographed near our Australian native Holly Shrub (only one red berry on the whole tree!)

I love discovering new recipes, and found a great one for Fruit Mince Pies in the local newspaper, you can find it here. Unfortunately because of the dairy and egg allergies  in our house I could only use this recipe as an inspiration to tweak my version of this Christmas treat.

I also thought I’d try out my new Vegan Shortening recipe – this is very easy to make and does improve your pastry markedly; it’s all about the food chemistry and the incorporation of air.   A must ‘go to’ site is Vegan Baking and the Vegan Butter and Vegan Shortening pages.  I used my mini cup-cake silicone baking tray to set my shortening in the freezer – you can also use an ice cube tray.

I added jam and black strap molasses to the fruit mince and dutch pressed cocoa to the pastry. It turned out very well!

shortening (1 of 1)

Image above: Vegan Shortening (home made)

Fruit Mince Pies
Short Crust Pastry Recipe
1 cup Atta Flour
1/2 plain flour
3 tbsp of chickpea flour (besan flour)
1 tbsp of coconut flour
2 tbsp of dutch pressed cocoa powder
2 tbsp of icing sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
150 grams of Vegan Shortening
2-3 tbsp of iced cold water

In a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients until uniform in appearance, add the shortening and pulse until the mixture starts to look like breadcrumbs, slowly add the cold water and continue to pulse until the mixture forms a dough ball.  Remove from food processor and roll into a ball and wrap in cling film, allow to rest in fridge for at least 1 hour.  After an hour roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper, cut out base of each pie and stars for tops.  I used a mini cup cake baking tin, but you can make whatever size you prefer.

Fruit Mince

  • 200g raisins chopped
  • 200g currants
  • 200g sultanas
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 tsp mixed spices
  • 2 tbsp of black strap molasses brown sugar
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 40g coconut oil melted
  • 50g jam – strawberry

Mix all the ingredients together and place in an air tight container, best to do this first thing in the morning to give the fruit a chance to absorb the liquid.

To make up the fruit mince pies, cut out the base from the pastry, place a spoonful of mince in each pie, garnish with a pastry star and bake in a moderate/hot over around 180’C for around 10 minutes.

If you have any fruit mince over, you can place it in an airtight jar in the fridge for about a week or so.


Sausage Rolls

sausage rolls (1 of 1)
Once in a while back in the day when I was at school, we were allowed to order our lunch, for 50 cents I would by a blue disc, which included a sausage roll, a fruit, a small drink and a cake!  You can’t get that value for 50 cents these days!  Needless to say, I still have a fondness for sausage rolls, and now make them for my son when he goes to birthday parties.

To simplify the process I use sausages from the store and just wrap them in a homemade blanket of pastry. My pastry is very simple and is similar to other short crust pastry recipes just without dairy, you just have to roll it to the thickness you like, I roll mine quite thin.

Short Crust Pastry Dough Recipe

  • 3/4 cup of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup of Atta Flour
  • 2 tablespoons of chickpea flour
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup of cold non dairy margarine
  • 60 mls of cold water

Just a note you can use the flour you prefer, I like to mix it up a bit and amp up the fibre…but whatever works for you is good!

Place all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to blend for 10 secs.  Add non-dairy margarine and pulse until the mix resembles bread crumbs, slowly add cold water until a dough ball is formed.

Wrap the dough ball in cling film and rest into the fridge for 1 hour.  Whilst the pastry is resting cook your sausages and allow to cool.

Roll out the dough into 2mm thickness (see below).

sausage rolls dough (1 of 1)

Place the sausage in the pastry and wrap gently, brush with a little olive oil and place in a moderate to hot oven around 200’C for 10-15 minutes.

Once out of the oven, you can cool and enjoy with your favourite ketchup.  If you make a big batch you can freeze them, I tend to not cook the pastry, I just roll the sausage in the uncooked pastry and place it in an air tight bag or container.  I then just defrost the sausage roll and bake in the oven and it is ready to eat.


Strawberry Tart


I needed to make up a party plate for my son’s end of year celebration at school (yes they have already finished….two months of summer holidays!), out of the blue I thought about making a strawberry tart.

I used a sweet short crust pastry for the base (you can find the recipe below) and a shot of custard for the filling; Vegan Custard from JeenasKitchen.

The little details in the tart, included a brushed chocolate tart shell and the garnish was fresh strawberries lightly brushed with some warmed strawberry jam.  Although it may  seem like many elements to this sweet delight, it is pretty easy and I quite enjoyed creating something new.

Vegan Custard

For a change I followed the recipe – no alterations!

Jeena’s recipe is easy to follow, one suggestion is to use a silicone spatula to ensure you get all the lumpy bits out the sides of the saucepan.  I am thinking that next time I will swap the vanilla for cocoa…my son loves chocolate!

To start the process off, you dry mix the sugar and corn flour then you add 100ml of soy and mix well to remove lumps, place over the cook top over a medium heat and stir continuously until it starts to simmer, add the rest of the soy and vanilla, keep over heat and once it starts to thicken, remove the pot from the heat, add the arrowroot and soy milk slurry.   You need to keep stirring, then place into a bowl, and pop the bowl into a water bath to gently and quickly cool it (see below).  Once cooled (but not too much!) cover in cling wrap and place in fridge.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

  • 3/4 cup of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup of Atta Flour
  • 2 tablespoons of chickpea flour
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut flour
  • 3 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup of cold non dairy margarine
  • 60 mls of cold water

Place all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to blend for 10 secs.  Add non-dairy margarine and pulse until the mix resembles bread crumbs, slowly add cold water until a dough ball is formed; see below.

Wrap the dough ball in cling film and rest into the fridge for 1 hour.  Roll out the dough into 2mm thickness (see below)

Cut the dough using a sharp knife, trace an outline slightly bigger than the tart shells you are using (see below)

Gently press the dough into the base of the tart shell and trim of excess with a sharp knife, if you want to avoid shrinkage you could place the tart shells back into the fridge for 30 minutes and then trim.  Because you will be blind baking the shell, just place a few strategic fork punctures here and there in the base.  Cook in a moderate to hot oven – 200’C for 10-15 minutes.  Mine came out golden and a little bit crisp on the ends, you can adjust the cooking time to get the right look for you.

Now you have the pastry shells and custard ready to go.  All that is left is to brush the pastry shells with chocolate, I used Sweet William – non dairy chocolate.  I used the double boiler method to melt the chocolate and then the back of a teaspoon to paint the shells.

The last element is to wash, dry and trim your strawberries and gently brush them with some warmed strawberry jam.

The party bento box looked pretty awesome…I also did some sausage rolls (next post!), some lolly snakes and Orgran chips…needless to say my little man was pretty pleased with his box of party food!

The bento box is by Nude Food Movers – great for food on the go.


Christmas Cake

I have never attempted a dairy and egg free Christmas Cake, but it was inevitable that I would give this traditional sweet treat a try.  Of course I did my usual google search and I found this wonderful blog by The Hungry Vegan and a delicious recipe for Xmas cake.

For a special, personal present to my son’s teachers this year I made this recipe into little Xmas cakes and boxed them. They looked very ‘Martha Stewart’ like and I have to say I was pretty pleased with them.

The cake is delicious, you wouldn’t know that it was dairy and egg free.  The Teacher’s received the adult’s version, each mini cake, gently infused with a teaspoon of brandy.

I have modified The Hungry Vegan’s recipe to avoid nuts (because of allergies) and I have added a few other personal favourites to the mix, I hope you give this cake a try, it is certainly one that I will be making again.

Allergy Free Christmas Cake

  • 150g Atta flour (wholemeal flour)
  • 100g Plain Flour
  • 50g Chickpea Flour
  • 50g Coconut Flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 175g Refined Coconut Oil (liquid form)
  • 175g Sucranet (or light moscavodo sugar)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 150g sultanas
  • 200g raisins
  • 150g dates
  • 1 tblsp black strap molasses (or treacle)
  • 100g glacé cherries, halved
  • grated zest of an orange
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 ripe banana mashed
  • 120ml soya milk
  • 2 tblsps apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tblsp of vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 6 tblsps (90ml) brandy


Preheat the oven to 150’C, grease a 8″ round tin and double line it with grease proof paper on the bottom.  I used large Xmas muffin cases that were already pre-greased (these were only used for the presents not for my son’s cakes).

Place the dried fruits (use what ever combination you would like – just try to match the total quantity of fruit) in a bowl and add the orange juice, orange zest and vanilla extract; mix through and break apart any clumped fruit, set aside.

Warm half of the soy milk and add the vinegar, set aside.  In a separate bowl, place the rest of the soy milk and whisk in the bicarbonate of soda.

Sift all the flours, and salt into one bowl; please note, you don’t have to use my combination of flours – whatever you prefer is fine.

Place the mashed banana and coconut oil into your mixer bowl, mix until uniform.  Add the molasses and sucranet and beat until smooth and uniform. Fold in the flour mixture and add both soy mixtures, gently fold in the fruit mixture, mix into a uniform consistency.

Gently place the mixture into your baking dish or muffin pans and place in the oven.  Bake for 2 hours if using the tin or 50 minutes for the muffin pans – keep a close eye on them – you don’t want a burned cake top!  You can test if the cake is cooked by piercing its middle with a toothpick or wooden skewer, it should come out clean.

To garnish you can use glacé cherries or whatever you fancy.

Happy Baking!


Morning Tea Cookie with ‘tude

I have been hunting around for a morning tea snack for my son, it needed to be high in fibre, low in sugar and fats…and I found a recipe that I loved instantly!  Intro… Nutrition Australia, a great place to find some interesting recipes that are healthy and tasty too!  They had a delicious looking Sultana and Cocoa Cookie Recipe. it looked very nice, two of my son’s favourite ingredients,  surely this would have to be a winner.

As is my way, I have modified the recipe and it was a huge success, we even sent some to school for the Teachers and they gobbled them up and inquired if they could perhaps have 100 more (they are working on numeracy…clearly!).  The best part of this recipe was that it was a lovely ‘hands on’ experience for my son, he loves baking; there is always a reward- just wait 15 minutes!

Sultana and Cocoa Heavenly Cookies

  • Weet-bix crushed
  • 1/2 cup of organic sugar
  • 1/2 cup of chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup of Atta flour (Indian wholemeal flour)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons of Valrhona Cocoa (if not using dutch pressed cocoa – then up the amount to  4 tablespoons)
  • 1 pinch of salt (iodised)
  • 1 cup of sultanas
  • 50 grams of refined coconut oil
  • 60 ml of hot water
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Place the Weet-bix in a food processor or blender and blitz until its fine in appearance.  Pop the decimated Weet-bix into a mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients (excluding the sultanas) and mix well, finally, mix through the sultanas.

Mix the wet ingredients, use only half of the hot water and add to the dry mix in the mixing bowl.  Mix the wet and dry ingredients until a dough ball forms, add more hot water to reach a glossy dough ball consistency; too dry and it will be impossible to roll into walnut size pieces – just add more hot water…slowly please, too wet and you won’t be able to do much with it – don’t despair just add more flour.

Take a spoon full of the mix roll into balls, pop onto a parchment lined baking tray, flatten each cookie gently with a fork.

Bake in a 180’C oven for about 10-15 minutes.

The cookies are delightful, robust in flavour and satisfyingly indulgent….and what’s more they are good for you!  Needless to say I will be making them again and again…


Cheesy Bread Rolls ~ Vegan Style


I couldn’t  help but think of PSY when I wrote this title, my son does a lively rendition of ‘Gangnam Style’; he was shown the moves in his Cultural Studies class at School (!).  Watching a 5-year-old ‘bust a move’ is very entertaining!

So back to the bread rolls – Vegan (not Gangnam) Style.  If you have been following my blog you will know that my son is severely allergic to dairy (and quite a few other things) so I need to source new recipes and flavour sensations as a necessity.  Recently he told me he didn’t like the commercial crackers we buy for him – they are by ESKAL and they are called ‘Deli Crackers – Original’, they are safe for him to eat and quite tasty; shame really, as finding something commercially prepared and safe for him to eat is a bonus as my cooking schedule is pretty full!

I did a google search and found this great blog with a recipe for Cheesy Bread Rolls.  The cheese substitution is Savoury/Nutritional Yeast, I have never used this before, so it is a first for me.

Of course I changed the recipe slightly, because it is hard-wired in my DNA (sometimes my changes to recipes work, sometimes they don’t!), happy to tell you that this recipe worked.  The bread was light and tasty, subtle but very moorish (all 8 bread rolls gone!).

Cheesy Bread Rolls – Vegan Style

  • 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast + 1 tablespoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 small white onion, finely diced + 1 tablespoon minced garlic, sautéed in 1 tablespoon of garlic until translucent
  • 1  cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of besan or chickpea flour
  • 4 tablespoons savoury/nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the active yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup water until the yeast dissolves and set aside.  Gently saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent and leave to cool.  Mix the dry ingredients together, add the wet ingredients, you can use a fork or your hand, until combined into a dough ball.  Roll sausage shape pieces of dough and place on a well-greased baking tray.  Gently brush the tops of the dough-loaves with olive oil and leave for 30 minutes to prove/rise – place in a warm area covered in cling film.  Bake in a moderately hot oven at about 200’C for 1o minutes.

The bread rolls come out golden, thanks to the chick pea flour and nutritional yeast, and are delicious.  My son didn’t like them at first and later decided he did, unfortunately there was only one left…looks like I will be making them again.

Do you have any vegan cracker recipes? I did set out to make crackers but as you can see I got side-tracked!  Would love to hear from you!

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