DIY Back to School Meal Plan Printables

Is your little one starting school this year? Or are you struggling plan what to give your kids for school? I may have a solution for you at or at least some inspiration.

My daughter is starting prep this year and I was a bit anxious about what I am going to give her for lunch. Until now she has spent most of the time with me and a couple of days at kindy, where all the kids are served the same kid-friendly meal. At home, she is pretty good at eating just about whatever I give her. However, when we eat out or she’s not with me, she’s very picky. So I thought we could create a meal plan for her, so she has a good breakfast in the morning and healthy meals throughout the school week. When I approached her with the idea she was really excited about it. Especially since she is excited to use her new Yumbox (bento lunch box) and Thermos lunch jar.

So one afternoon we sat down together and talking about foods she liked and what she is most likely to eat by herself at school. We browsed lots of pictures of lunchbox, kid-friendly foods and recipes. From that, we came up with a variety of breakfasts, lunches, sides and snacks that interested her. From there we looked for pictures that represented the foods and easy recipe that I could meal prep in advance. Next, I made up an A4 poster for breakfast and an A3 poster for lunch, as well as another document with a collection of pictures of the foods we planned to use. Lastly, I had my posters and food images professional printed and laminated.

So this is the template that I came up with:

And this is the result of our template. I attached the pictures to the poster, with velcro tap, but you could also use blue tack. My side dishes and snacks are missing from my poster currently. I will probably attach them next to the main dishes with blue tack since I didn’t want to add more velcro strips.

If this is something you would like to try out with your little people and would like a copy of my meal plan templates simply private message me on my Live Eat Colour Facebook page or my Instagram page and I will email you the documents directly. You can feel free to alter the colours, font and meal breaks for your child’s school. Just note that I will be on holidays until the 26th of January, so I may not be able to send them until after that date.

If you want some recommendations for non-toxic lunch bags, lunch boxes and accessories, please see my previous posts:

Book Review: Seasons (Tidevarv)

I hope you all had a restful holiday break. Today I can finally bring you my book review of Seasons and the completed pictures that I coloured at the end of 2019. I received a copy of the Seasons and Spirit Animal colouring books by Swedish artist, Hanna Karzlon back in August. Since then I have been trying to work through Hanna’s previous books in order, which I had yet to start.

Seasons is Hanna’s fifth colouring book, which came out in 2018. It originally came out in the Swedish edition, Tidevarv. The format of this book is the same as the rest of her books, which you can see from my other reviews of her first two books, Day Dreams and Summer Nights. You can also see my more recent reviews of Magical Dawn and Smyckeskrinet (Jewelery box).

This book has a light blue hardcover with a black and white design with the addition of gold foiling. The paper is high quality and off-white in colour. The pages are double-sided and there are 96 pages of line art.

The theme of this colouring book is the four seasons, which have been brilliantly divided within this book. It starts with Spring and ends with Winter, following the seasons of the northern hemisphere. At the beginning of each section, there is a design with a magical potion of the essence of the season that will follow. True to Hanna’s style, there are plenty of exotic flowers, mushroom caps, bejewelled birds, insects and furry friends, pretty ladies, forest and water scenes. There are also quite a few pages dedicated to Halloween and Christmas.

I absolutely love the artwork in this book. I especially love that the book was divided by seasons, as I was able to easily choose colour palettes for the time of year. There are plenty of Halloween and Christmas inspired pages that you can refer to in the year or beautiful designs which reflect the current season your experiencing. I wanted to do at least one page for each season, as a few for the holiday season at the end of 2019. In total, I was able to complete 11 pages with a variety of media, which I have detailed below. I also made a video flip through with all the current completed pages. Future completed pictures will be added to my Seasons gallery.

The Nameplate page for this book is very pretty and detailed. It was a bit tricky for me to pick colours since I wanted to illustrate all of the seasons. I’m not sure I nailed that, but I am very happy with the colour I used. I only used Prismacolour Premier pencils and a white gel pen for details.

This Spring lassy was one of my most enjoyable to pages to colour. I love how delicate her face and clothing are. I normally go for gold or silver metallic headdresses for Hanna’s girls, but this one needed some soft lace, satin ribbon and soft spring colours. I was inspired by this French model and this spring colour palette. For the background, I did more of a bokeh effect, since there were quite a few small circled that decorated it. I tried to white them out as best I could, to keep the design nice and soft. I only used Prismacolour Premier pencils and a white gel pen for details.

The Summer sundown was a fun one to colour and use a bright summer palette. I’m not usually a fan of water scenes, as I never find mine very convincing. However, turning it into a sunset gave the opportunity to create a reflective effect on the water. Summer colour pallets are so vast, but I limited my inspiration to these two summer palettes: Blue-Pink and Orange sunset. I tried to reuse the same colours as much as possible, so it looked more cohesive. However, it also has so much going on, which also makes it more interesting to look at completed. My sky came out very smooth and vibrant with the Prismacolours. The water is a bit more course, as the muted blues don’t blend as smoothly. Again I used Prismacolour Premier pencils and a white gel pen.

The Autumn beauty is my favourite page of the bunch. I worked very hard on this double-page spread and it is probably the best face I have ever coloured in one of Hanna’s books. Colour choice was pretty easy since Autumn has probably one of the most defined palettes of all the seasons. I used these autumn leaves as my inspiration and purple ombre as a contrasting colour for the background. To give the stars, mushrooms and dots a more sparkly effect I only partly outlined or dotted each object. I think this is much more effective, then completely outlining them, which is something I usually do in these books. Again I used Prismacolour Premier pencils and a white gel pen.

The Wicked witch was completed for Halloween Colouring 2019. There are so many versions of this page by many other colourists. I wanted to use unconventional colours for this Halloween and I was inspired by this red-headed witch. I loved the smokey green background, which I tried to reproduce in my version. I used Prismacolor pencils for the main image, as well as a white gel pen for details and a black Tombow brush pen for the background

This Christmas giving double-page spread was revisited for Christmas Colouring 2019, in the winter section of this book. As I mentioned in my previous post, I started off really enjoying this page, until I got to the background. Then I took out my watercolours paints and things didn’t turn out as planned. I first used Winsor & Newton watercolour paints to add black-grey and purple background. It looked pretty terrible so I went over it with Prismacolour pencils, as well as gold and white gel pens. I am really not happy with the turn out of this page and probably should of used a different colour palette as well.

The Scandinavian winter was my major page for the winter section. I really wanted this page to be magical and reflect the Northern lights. I was inspired by this photograph of Finland by night. To get a smooth sky I did many soft layers and blended with white and pastel colours. I also used a Prismacolor blender pencil for the darker blue, which otherwise still look a little chalky. I coloured the darker objects last, to not smudge the lighter sections of the page. I used Prismalcolor Premier pencils and a white gel pen to cover black lines, stars and sparkles.

The Tiny decorator is another one I coloured for my Christmas Colouring 2019. I’m not quite happy with this page either. I envisioned using more pastel colours. I used Prismacolour pencils, which always work well on this paper. I then tried out my Winsor & Newton watercolour paints for a contrasting background. It also came out a little patchy, so I went over with a bit of pencil. This page also had a lot of small stars and spots, so perhaps if I didn’t cover them with so much gel pen it would have looked better.

The Folksy Christmas bird is my favourite page that I coloured in this book for the Christmas season. I switched to Polychromos pencils for the main objects, since the design was more intricate and needed a sharper point. They came out quite nice and smooth on this paper. For the background, I tried my Winsor & Newton watercolour paints again, which was much more effective then my previous attempts. I then used white and gold gel pens for the bell and the circular shape.

Seasons and Hanna’s other books can be purchased from:

Happy New Year!..looking forward and back at 2019

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday celebration and start to the New Years. I can’t believe its already 2020, it seems like just yesterday 2000 upon us. When we think about the people we were and the world we lived in, it completely mind-blowing. I’m feeling pretty optimistic about 2020. Not just for the world but also for myself.

Whats coming in 2020

So before I look back at the past year this blog, I thought I would do an update on what’s coming up in this year.

So my baby boy is coming in late May. I am 20 weeks today! I just had my 2nd-trimester ultrasound, which went really well. It made me feel better seeing that he’s still alive in there because he either kicks me for hours or is completely still. He was quite well behaved for the sonographer and she was easily about to capture all his important bits. He is kicking quite a lot now and finally hard enough for my family to just feel him from the outside. I’ve had quite mixed feelings about this pregnancy because I know exactly what to expect in terms of birth and all the sleep recently gained is going to be clawed back off me. But I’m also excited about meeting the little guy and having lots of fun baby time. Things will also be so different now that I can drive, have a few more parenting hacks up my sleeve and more confidence as a mother.

Before the baby comes I wanted to do another little trip with my family. So in a couple of weeks, we are heading to Tasmania! I’ve never been before, so I’m super excited to see what’s it all about and taste all the fresh produce.

I’ve already put together the itinerary for our 7-day road trip. It will begin and end in Hobart. But every day we will stay in a different town and visit others along the way. Some of the stops include Queenstown, Cradle Mountain, East Devonport, Launceston, Campbell Town, Oatlands, Richmond and Port Arthur. So it’s going to be quiet a fast pace road trip, with plenty of sites to see and cafes and restaurants to try. I won’t be able to do any hiking as I had originally hoped. This second pregnancy is a bit more difficult and I can only do 2 hrs walks in an air-conditioned shopping centre at this stage. But who knows, my usual travel boost may power me up so I can go for longer. Normally when I travel I only sleep 4 hours a night and don’t feel like I’ve had a great day unless I’ve been walking for 10-14 hrs. But it’s a lot different carrying a baby in my belly then in a baby carrier or in a pram.

As for the rest of the year ahead, I have no idea what is going to happen. I intend on being focused on my family, doing lots of activities and outings for the kids and trying my hand at meal prepping and new recipes. I’ve already been trying many new recipes from my Christmas present, Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clarke. So far I’ve made Black Bean Skillet Dinner, Sesame Chicken with Cashews and Dates, Zucchini Corn Cakes with Mint Coriander Pesto, Pomegranate Quinoa with Crunchy Chickpeas, Stir-Fried Tofu with Summer Squash, Basil and Coconut, and Fusilli & Roasted Cauliflower with Capers. And yes, they all taste just as amazing as they sound. Many are similar recipes that I have put together before, but just have that extra kick of flavour. So far my family have been a huge fan of all the recipes. Especially the Sesame Chicken, which has been requested to return weekly. I also really loved the Black Beans Skillet, which is so easy to put together and really satisfying. I recommend this book for you or as a present for any of your foodie friends. Its definitely going to be my go-to gift for upcoming birthdays this year.

The last big thing for 2020 will be renovations. At the end of last year, we completely re-tiled downstairs and began renovations on the downstairs bathroom/laundry. It’s pretty much complete, except plaster from the top cupboards to the ceiling and finding a mirror. The toilet, shower and barn door are also done. Marco did quite a bit of work by himself for this renovation. He removed the existing attachments, walls and floor tiles, sprayed the bronze windows black and painted and attached barn door. His father also did the electrical, which also saved us a bit.

Next, we will move onto my en suite and walk-in-robe, the second upstairs bathroom/toilet and lastly the kitchen. I’m most excited about getting a new kitchen, which I have been waiting for nearly 7 years. Since its the most expensive renovation and will have to outsource most of the labour, we may not do this until 2021. But I’m optimistic! We will use the same Carpentry business who did our laundry. They offer exactly the style that I wanted, use good quality materials and do an amazing job.

Look back at 2019

In 2019, I was a bit all over the place with blogging, especially towards the end of the year. The first half of the year was dedicated to my museum internship and the second half I was suffering 1st trimester morning/all day sickness. But I thought I would give you the highlights of all the major posts I wrote, in case you want to go back and check them out.

For the Live section of my blog, I continued writing about our Nordic trip. This 3-week trip took me nearly a year to write about in my off-time because we covered so much. I then began writing about my travels to the USA. It was a few years ago, but it is the only major trip that I hadn’t documented. I haven’t finished this, so I will continue writing about it this year. So far you can read about my first 6 days in New York and some of my older posts Eating through…each city, we well my Tips and guide for the Florida Disney parks and each Disney park in Pictures. Other things I covered this year was my Ancestry DNA results, which have since changed, so I intend to write about this in the future. And also O’s Unicorn Party.

For the Eat section of my blog, I mostly included posts from my travels and a few new recipes. I was pretty lazy in terms of recipe development in 2019. I found myself cooking a lot of the same old meals week to week. They were healthy but also familiar to my difficult child. Here are some of the recipes I did post:

For the Colour section of my blog, I was also quite slack this year. Although, I did spend a lot more time on the pages I coloured and I have improved a lot. Below are some of the book reviews I did with completed pictures and video flip through, as well as my special seasonal colour from a variety of my books.

Christmas Colouring Project 2019

Happy holidays! Today I can finally bring you all my completed pictures from the Christmas period for 2019. Over the past month and a bit I have completed 11 Christmas themed pictures from 5 books in my colouring collection.

This year I experimented a bit more with watercolour and acrylic paints for backgrounds. I normally use exclusively pencils, as I am afraid to ruin the paper or opposing image. However, I had pretty good results and it was much quicker.

If you would like to see my Christmas colouring from past years, see my Special Occasions Galleries, which are linked to the original posts.

Romantic Country: A Colouring Book

The Christmas Present is from Eriy’s first Romantic Country: A Colouring Book. It was the last page I coloured and my favourite one in the bunch. I forgot how much I love the paper in these books, so I would like to do a bit more in them, as I have only really done seasonal pictures. I love that the ink is a light grey, which makes it a little easier to disguise the lines. You can see other pages I have coloured in this book from my up-to-do gallery.

For this page, I only used Prismacolour pencils and a white gel pen to cover some of the white lines. It was such a fun and easy one to colour and it was pretty quick because of the paper quality. There are quite a few Christmas themed pictures in Eriy’s series, so I may take a bit more time in these books next year.

Johanna’s Christmas

The following three pictures are from Johanna’s Christmas by Johanna Basford. This gorgeous Christmas themed book is true to Johanna’s intricate inky style and is her only book that is single sided. I actually did a book review of this book last December with completed pictures. So the rest of these ones will be added to my Johanna’s Christmas gallery.

I didn’t realise this first design was a Reindeer Christmas ornament until I was halfway colouring it. I originally had plans to add fireworks or something in the background, but the time I finished filling in the background of the design I decided to leave it. I had used Prismacolor pencils for the main features and a black Tombow brush pen for the rest. I found it quite spongy and blotchy on this paper. So I didn’t want to add anything else to the black on top. I’m happy with the overall colour choice but not so much with the execution.

This next Christmas scene is one of my favourites in this book. It has also had a similar design on the opposing page. This one reminds me of the Night before Christmas. I have seen this one done beautifully by quite a few other colourists. My favourite is by Chris Cheng, which she has done a video tutorial for. This page took me for ages, because I used a lot of soft layers of Prismacolour pencils, particularly for the leaves and background. I also got a bit stumped on colour choices too, so I tried to reuse pencils as I went to make a more cohesive result. The only other addition I used was a bit of white gel pen for sparkle.

The last page I did in this book is this simple Decorated deer head. Although it looks easy it wasn’t a little difficult, as it had a lot of stylised lines in the head, which were hard to disguise with Prismacolor pencil. For the colours, I was inspired by this picture by Ruby Art and this vintage card. The main design is quite small on the page, so I wanted to do a plain background of turquoise. I used some cheap watercolour acrylic paints, I bought a while ago from Eckersley. I mixed Viridian (dark green) with White and a touch of Sap Green. I applied it with a water pen and watered the paint down a lot, which made it easier to apply the paint onto the paper. I did have to do a couple of layers, so it would cover properly. I am quite happy with the result, as I wanted a bit of a textured look. Other than that I used a bit of silver gel pen for the ornaments.

Seasons

The few pages are from Hanna Karlzon’s Seasons. There are quiet a few Christmas themed pictures in the winter section of this book, so I have plenty to come back to next year. I actually had a review lined up for this book which is already coloured and filmed, so look out for that soon.

When I first started this double-page spread I was really enjoying it. I loved the oversized cat and dog and I think I did a pretty good job on the fur. However, once it came time to do the background things went a bit downhill. I first used Winsor & Newton watercolour paints, to add black-grey and purple. It looked pretty terrible so I went over with Prismacolour pencils, as well as gold and white gel pens. The result looks pretty terrible. I’m still getting used to using watercolour so I will have to practise a bit more. I probably would have been better off using acrylic, but at this point I hadn’t tried it yet.

This Tiny decorator also started off pretty well as I envisioned using more pastel colours. I used Prismacolour pencils, which always work well on this paper. I then tried out my Winsor & Newton watercolour paints for a contrasting background. It also came out a little patchy, so I went over with a bit of pencil. This page also had a lot of small stars and spots, so perhaps if I didn’t cover them with so much gel pen it would have looked better.

My last page in this book is my favourite one I completed. It was definitely the most simple of the four but came out looking exactly how I wanted. I used Polychromos pencils, white and gold gel pen and Winsor & Newton watercolour paints. I improved a lot more at the watercolour effect for the background. I will still keep trying until I get better. I forgot to mention that the paper in this book took the watercolour really well and there was minimal to no buckling.

Botanicum

The following two pages are from Maria Trolle’s Botanicum, which I worked on while I was completing a series of pages for a book review I did last month.

I am pretty happy with this Round robin wreath. It took me a long time with Polychromos pencils, but with plenty of soft layers, it gave it plenty of depth. These pencils are easy to sharpen to a sharp point and don’t dull as easily as other brands, so it was much easier to get into the small spaces.

The Kitty-cat Christmas was a relatively quick one for the mediums I used, which included Prismacolor Premier pencils. Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils, Derwent Inkense pencils and a white gel pen. I was surprised that I was able to glide over coloured leaves with a water pen to activate the watercolour background without disturbing the colour.

Sagor Och Sägner

The last page is from Emelie Lidehäll Öberg’s Sagor Och Sägner. You can see my previous book review and up-to-date gallery from this book.

I was a bit intimidated to start this one compared to the others I have worked on this season. I coloured it all with Prismacolour and then switched to black watercolour acrylic paints. I was a bit worried it would stain through to the other page, which is a double-page spread I would really like to do, but it didn’t at all. To apply the paint, I watered it down quite a lot and applied it with a water pen. This helped get it down a lot smoother, as it was quite dry. It took a couple of lays to get a nearly mat finish. I then used a fine line Posca pen to add the white strings, etc. I did have to keep cleaning my Posca pen that was becoming grey, but other than that it went over the black paint quite well and didn’t fade.

9# Life update: Christmas and travel

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you had a wonderful day with your family and friends and got spoilt.

My Christmas was relatively quiet this year since most of my family are having an icy Christmas in Europe. Meanwhile, large parts of Australia has been burning. Luckily where I live there are no bush fires and the last couple of days have cooled down and been quite rainy. So I only had to set the table for five and food preparations were much less stressful for this pregnant mama. Despite the limited number of guests, our tree was taken over by large amounts of presents this year. Anything we needed for school for the new year or items we needed and found on sale went under the tree. So you can imagine for a 4 year old, opening all those gifts first thing on Christmas morning was very exciting.

I won’t shock you with how much stuff O ended up. When we lined everything up to take a photo with her I was kind of shocked how much she accumulated from her grandparents, aunts and uncles, us and Santa. But I will show you what I received. So everything was handpicked by me except for the Braun Multi Quick 9. I told Marco I wanted a stick blender so he researched the best one he could find. It was a nice surprise to get a model with some many different features.

There are still a couple of presents that are on their way. The first is the Seed & Sprout Eco Starter Kit which came as a free gift with the Braun Multi Quick 9. It includes 1 x Organic Cotton Pocket Tote, 5 x Organic Cotton Mesh Produce Bags, 6 x Reusable Stretch Lids, 1 x Plant Fibre Dish Brush with replaceable head, and 1 x Reusable Straw & Cleaner & Carry Pouch. I’m pretty excited about this since I don’t have of these reusable items, except for the straw.

The second thing is the e-book Erica Adler’s The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Prep, which is being released on the 2nd of January 2020. I recently discovered Fresh Erica on Youtube on the Goodful channel. She is a professional meal prepper in New York city. I just love watching her videos and seeing how she puts together the most delicious-looking dinners and lunch for her clients. I’ve never been into meal prep since I have plenty of time to make everything fresh, but I’m getting interested in this since I know I have another baby on the way, as well as school lunch to prepare for next year. I’m sure Marco will also be excited to have something more interesting for his work meals.

On Christmas Eve, O and I made some Scandinavian Christmas cookies. They were Pressed Butter Cookies from the Beatrice Ojakangas’s The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. I have never made pressed cookies, but I did buy some cookie presses. I didn’t expect the cookie dough to be so soft and sticky. After about the 8th cookie, O and I got into a good rhythm of dusting the cookie presses with lots of flour before filling them with dough and pressing out the cookies. They aren’t perfect but they were homemade.

This year Santa got one of our Pressed Butter Cookies, a glass of our favourite Vitasoy soy milk and one carrot for his reindeer. I figured we didn’t want to overfill him or his reindeers, since they would be eating something similar in every other house they would be visiting.

On Christmas day we started with these delicious Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls (minus the raisins) from Chloe’s Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli. I have made her Pumpkin scrolls a long time ago, but this was the first time for this recipe. They were so delicious! All the evaporated cane sugar and cinnamon that I used in the filling caramelized inside and on the bottom of the scrolls, making them that much more decadent. I was able to make them the day before and bake them first thing in the morning. This is much easier and gave us time to open presents and make an early start on lunch prep.

My lunch menu was very simple this year. It was centred around a Pork Loin stuffed with apples, rosemary and sage that I bought from my local organic butcher. It was served with Thyme roasted vegetables of garlic, carrots, celery, and onions; Maple roasted brussels sprouts, Hassleback potatoes and sweet potato with homemade breadcrumbs and Pecorino; and simple cut salad. Everything turned out pretty good. My only issue was that my pork loin didn’t have any crackling. None of my knives were strong enough to break the skin, so I wasn’t able to score it. I really should have called my brother, who is a chef to ask him what to do. We spoke later that day and he gave me some tips for next time. Everyone was a huge fan of the hassleback potatoes and brussels sprouts, which is not something you would normally see on a Serbian dinner table.

For dessert, I made a Summer Berry Pie à la mode from Chloe’s Kitchen. I made the dough the day before and let it warm up prior to putting it together. I also defrosted and strained the frozen berries, since they are moist enough without added juices. My latticework was a bit rushed so it didn’t come out as pretty, but I don’t think anyone noticed. Everyone loved it, especially my borderline diabetic father-in-law and blackberry hating child. It wasn’t very sweet since I had used Evaporated cane sugar in the dough and none for the filling. But with a scope of vanilla ice cream, it was sweet enough.

So that was my quiet little Christmas. How was your Christmas this year? What did get? What did you eat?

Oh, I nearly forgot. I’m going on a trip in a few weeks to Tasmania! I’ve never been to Tasmania, so I’m super excited to explore this island state. I’ve heard the food is amazing and the scenery is gorgeous. We will do a seven-day road trip from Hobart, to Queenstown, Launceston, Port Arthur and back to Hobart. There will also be a few other stops in between of small towns. So excited to do my last trip before the baby comes.

Pumpkin Pikelets

I’ve got quite a stockpile of root vegetables in my pantry at the moment, and its way to hot to make soups and heavy starchy foods. I’m the only pumpkin fan in my house, so I thought I would infuse some of that pumpkin sweet flavour into our morning breakfast. Little O was really not interested, so I made these after taking her to kindy for Marco and I. We both really enjoyed them and they were a nice change to our mundane morning routine of avocado on bread. I did try them with the little one later, but she still wasn’t a fan. Unlike other children, she despises sweet vegetables, like sweet potato, corn and peas. Zucchini pancakes and broccoli frittata are much more welcome on her breakfast plate. Perhaps, next time I can sway her with some maple syrup, since she still loves sugary condiments. Anyway if you’re open to the deliciousness of sweet pumpkin, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with these pikelets.

Pumpkin Pikelets

Ingredients:

1 small butternut pumpkin

Olive oil

sea salt

1 cup organic plain flour

1/2 cup plant milk, plus more

1 large egg

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/4-1/2 ground cinnamon or pumpkin spice

coconut oil, to cook

real maple syrup to serve

Method:

  1. First, you need to roast your butternut pumpkin, which should be done ahead of time. Just chop the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt. Roast in 180-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin flesh is soft. Then scope out, mash and allow to cool in the fridge, until your ready to use. You should have at least a 1 cup of mashed butternut pumpkin.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add mashed pumpkin, flour, milk, egg, coconut sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt. Whisk until combined and add more milk if the batter is too dry.
  3. Heat your hot plate or crepe pan on medium heat and drizzle with coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, drop the batter into a pan, using a 1/4 cup measuring cup and try to flatten it out a little. Cook on one side, until you start to see little holes appear on the top, or when the sides crisp up and then flip and cook on the other side. They only take a couple of minutes to cook in total. Continue until you have used all of the batter.
  4. Enjoy the pikelets with a drizzle of maple syrup.

Makes 10 pikelets.

Italian birthday feast (with recipes)

It was my Marco’s birthday today! The three of us had a little lunch out to celebrate and saw the new film, The Addams Family in the cinema. However, we celebrated with the family a couple of days ago at home. I wanted to make something special for his birthday lunch like I do every year. I was far too tired to do something as epic as my Feast of Seven Kingdoms, which I did a couple of years ago. And we only had a couple of extra guests. But since it was a special occasion, it was still a good excuse to get out my pasta machine and gnocchi board. I don’t make fresh pasta very often in my day-to-day life. I really should because it’s super easy. When I know I’m making a special meal though, I like to treat my guests (and myself) to some fresh pasta. Gnocchi I do make a bit more often whenever I have too many potatoes piling up in my pantry.

So on the menu today we had Sausage and Basil Lasagne, Gnocchi with bacon, mushrooms and sage, Panzanella salad and Sauteed Kale with raisins and almonds. I was inspired by Joy Behar’s famous Lasagne recipe, which was recently featured on an off-air video on The View. You can also find the find recipe here. My version was similar, but a little different. I made fresh pasta, some of the ingredients varied a little and I didn’t include ricotta and egg in for my cheese layer. To be honest, I totally forgot to include those ingredients when I was planning it out in my head. However, my lasagne turned out pretty good and very similar to my old Abruzzese neighbour’s version. Hers is also amazing and doesn’t include any bechamel or ricotta. As for the rest of the menu, it just evolved on the day, from ingredients I had on hand. I have included all the recipes below. Hope you like them!

Sausage and Basil Lasagne

For this lasagne, you can totally use store-bought lasagne sheets and pasta sauce. Just make sure you heat your sauce with some water added, before layering the lasagne. My lasagne was about 8 layers, but you don’t have to make yours as high. I just made a lot of pasta with 500g of tipo 00 flour and 4 eggs. I really recommend slicing your own fresh mozzarella and grating your own Pecorino or Parmesan, because it really makes a difference. It will taste better and it won’t have any anti-caking agents or preservatives.

Ingredients for fresh pasta:

500 grams tipo 00/organic plain flour

4 eggs, cracked into a bowl

1 tbsp olive oil

chilled water

Ingredients for sauce:

Olive oil

1/2 white onion, diced

1 celery stick, diced

1 medium carrot, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can Italian diced tomatoes (I used Anna Lisa Italian Diced Tomatoes with basil and oregano BPA free)

700g Italian Passata (I used Mutti Passata)

1-2 tbsp Tomato paste (I used Mutti Tomato Paste Double Concentrate)

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Layering ingredients:

10 Italian pork or plain pork sausages (free-range/organic)

350g Mozzarella cheese ball, thinly sliced

1.5-2 cups freshly grated Pecorino/Parmesan

couple handfuls of fresh basil leaves, torn

Method:

  1. First make your pasta dough, either by hand or with a stand mixer. The following instructions are for a Kitchen Aid, so you will need the dough attachment and the lid. Add the flour and place on speed 3. While the mixer is running, add the eggs one by one and then add the salt and olive oil. Mix until a dough stands to form, if the dough a bit dry, add some chilled water, one tablespoon at a time, until it forms a dough. Lastly, shape the dough into a ball and cover with a damp towel or cling wrap and place in the fridge for 30 mins.
  2. Once pasta dough has rest, you can start making pasta sheets. First, attach the pasta attachment to your stand mixer or set up a manual pasta machine, and put some flour on a large chopping board. Cut the dough into 6 pieces and leave the remaining dough under the damp cloth to stop it drying out. Roll the small piece of dough into a bit of flour onto the board, if it is too sticky to work with. Set the setting on the pasta attachment to 1 and speed on the mixer to 2. Run the pasta dough through, fold over and put through again and repeat. Then increase the pasta settling to 2 and put through the machine. Continue to increase the pasta setting and put the dough through, until you have put it through to setting 6. By this stage you will have a long pasta sheet, so you will carefully cut it in half on the chopping board and then trim them into two lasagne sheets. Depending on the size of your tray, you may need to cut the second piece in half to fit. Place these sheets into a flour-dusted tray/baking dish and place paper towels on top. Continue to make the pasta sheets until all your dough has been used and have been layered between the paper towels, to stop them sticking. Set aside until you are ready to use the pasta sheets, on the bench or in the fridge.
  3. Now its time to prepare the sauce. Heat a medium heavy-based pot with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then add the diced onions, carrots, celery and a pinch of sea salt. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat, until the ingredients are lightly fried. Add the diced garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Lastly add the crushed tomatoes, passata, 1/2 cup of water, salt and pepper to taste. Let this simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  4. While the sauce is cooking, heat a medium-size sauce saucepan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add the sausages. Cook for about 10 minutes on low-medium heat, until they are all cooked through. Remember to rotate them while cooking. Once they are done, chop the sausages in round slices.
  5. Now its time to put the lasagne together. First, preheat the oven to 190 degree celsius and take a large baking dish. First put a little bit of sauce on the bottom of the dish, to stop the lasagne from sticking. Next layer the lasagne sheets across the sauce, top with more sauce, scatter pieces of sausage, torn basil and lastly top with sliced mozzarella and grated pecorino. Continue layering the lasagne this way, until you get to the last lasagne sheet, which will just be topped with sauce, mozzarella and pecorino.
  6. Cover the lasagne with aluminium foil, carefully not touching the top of the lasagne. This will help it stay moist while cooking. Place in the oven to cook for 20 minutes. Remove the aluminium foil and cook for a further 10 minutes to brown the top.
  7. Allow lasagna to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Gnocchi with bacon, mushrooms and sage

This gnocchi dish is really simple to make. You can omit the bacon if your vegetarian and use Cashew ‘Parmesan’ and dairy-free butter if your vegan. I made my own gnocchi, which is quite easy to do. For the dough, I just used of steamed dutch potatoes, that have been placed through a potato ricer and cooled, plain organic flour and salt. The more you make gnocchi, the better you will get at judging the correct feel of the dough, so that they cook into puffy little clouds. I also recommend freeze-drying the gnocchi on a tray for at least 30 minutes before cooking, because they cook a bit firmer.

Ingredients:

500 gr fresh homemade or store bought gnocchi

1 tbsp olive oil

250-300 gr free range nitrate-free bacon, diced

8 white mushrooms

2-3 cloves garlic, diced

6-8 sage leaves, roughly chopped

2 tbsp salted butter

sea salt

1/2 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan

Method:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add salt.
  2. While the water is boiling, take a large frypan and heat olive oil. Add the bacon and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat, until it starts to get a bit of colour.
  3. Add the mushrooms and sea salt. Continue to cook until the mushrooms have released any liquid.
  4. Add garlic and sage and cook until fragrant and then turn off the heat
  5. Cook the gnocchi, until they rise to the surface. This should take about 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the butter and cooked gnocchi to the frying pan. Place on medium heat to allow the butter to melt. Sprinkle most of the grated cheese on the gnocchi and gently stir it through with the other ingredients.
  7. Serve gnocchi with and garnish with the rest of the cheese.

Simple Panzanella Salad

I recently made a Panzanella salad for a dinner party that I hosted and everybody loved it. Marco requested it again for his birthday. Although this one was thrown together really quickly, it was still a big hit. When I first came across this salad in an Italian cookbook it said to soak fresh bread in water. I didn’t like the sound of this so instead I toasted the bread and then let it soak up some of the vinaigrette prior to serving.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

4 sliced of sourdough bread, sliced into cubes

sea salt

2 punnets of baby truss/cherry/grape tomatoes, halved

1 cucumber, sliced

1/4 red onion, sliced

handful of basil, roughly sliced

Method:

  1. Combine the extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar in a small bowl.
  2. Place the bread on a baking tray and toss with some olive oil and sea salt, until coated. Grill for 3-4 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.
  3. Place the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and basil in a large mixing or serving bowl.
  4. Coat the salad with sea salt and then add the dressing.
  5. Add the toasted bread to the salad and mix through.
  6. Serve the salad after 30 minutes or preparing, allowing the dressing to marinate the ingredients.

Sauteed Kale with raisins and almonds

This is one of my favourite warm salads to serve. I love the salty wilted kale, the sweet onions and raisins and creamy nuts. Its not Marco’s favourite because he doesn’t like the raisins or any dried fruit in savoury food, but he was happy enough to leave them out of his serve.

Ingredients:

1/2 red onion, sliced

1-2 tbsp olive oil

leaves from one brunch of curly or tuscan kale

sea salt to taste

1/3 cup nitrate-free raisins

1/4 cup sliced almonds or pine nuts

Method:

  1. Heat a fry pan with olive oil and then add the red onion. Cook the onion for 4-5 minutes, or until it starts to brown.
  2. Add the kale with a good pinch of sea salt and allow it to begin to wilt.
  3. Add the raisins and almonds and continue to cook for another few minutes or until the kale is completed wilted and the raisin have puffed up.

7# Throwback Travel- New York: American Museum of Natural History

On day 6, one of our stops was the amazing American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on the Upper West Side. It was established back in 1869 and is the largest natural history museum in the world. If you haven’t heard of it, you probably recognise it from films like Wonderstruck and the Night in the Museum trilogy.

The AMNH has several permanent exhibition halls, as well as special temporary exhibitions. The halls include Biodiversity and Environmental Halls, Bird and Reptiles and Amphibians Halls, Earth and Planetary Sciences Halls, Fossil Halls, Grand Gallery, Human Origins and Cultural Halls, Mammal Halls, Rose Center for Earth and Space, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and the Discovery Room. Each of the halls has one to six specific exhibitions within them.

If you would like to visit this museum you can find Ticket prices are quite reasonable and are cheaper for students, seniors and children. Within the museum, there are also a variety of cafes and food courts, but you can also bring your own food. The museum also offers Sleepovers for children and adults, as well as a range of public and self-guided museum tours. To see the layout, see the map.

Our biggest interest to visit the museum was to see the fossils of dinosaur, animals and human species, as well as geographical cultural and animal life-like displays. So you can see the photos I took are mostly from these sections. We didn’t get around to see all the permanent exhibitions in a few hours. So you plan on seeing it all, make sure you have the entire day. Its unforgettable experience, especially if your a museum junkie like me.

My favourite halls were definitely the North American Mammals and Human Origins species. The halls vary in terms of standard of displays. Some were better lite and detailed, others were a little bland. However, when you compare this with other museums, it’s pretty spectacular as a whole. I did have trouble photographing with the dim lighting and hundreds of other visitors, but I tried as best I could. If you would like to know what I actually photographed, just press the pictures, as I have meticulous labelled most sections.

Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall (Entrance)

Fossil Halls

Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs

Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs

Hall of Primitive Mammals

Hall of Advanced Mammals

Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Orientation Center

Hall of Vertebrate Origins

Mammal Halls

Hall of North American Mammals

Hall of Asian Mammals

Birds and Reptiles and Amphibians Halls

Hall of Birds of the World

Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall

Human Origins and Cultural Halls

Northwest Coast Indians

Hall of Mexico and Central America

Hall of South American Peoples

Hall of African Peoples

Hall of Asian People

Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins