God help me. My kids are learning to cook. With extra fluffy cheese scones.

Amelia has started cooking.

She cooks twice a week. The twice weekly cooking incidence involves the stove and oven. She cooks dinner on a Friday and bakes during the weekend. I pay her to do both.

She also makes lunches for herself and her brother. This does not involve any heated appliances, generally. I also pay her for this.

The theory was that I could pay her to do some low level cooking which would firstly, take some chores off my hands, secondly, earn her some money, and thirdly, give her some valuable life skills.

The irony of this entire scenario is the amount of time it now takes me to:

  1. Harass her to ensure that we eat dinner before 10pm,
  2. Shout at her to ensure both she and her brother have lunches made BEFORE they depart for school
  3. Threaten her to ensure there is some baking in the tin so they actually have something to put into their lunch boxes other than fruit and sandwiches
  4. Clean up the low level natural disaster zone she leaves behind after she has finished

The food is great! The fact that I don’t have to make it is great! The endless cleaning up when she’s done, not great.

I’ve always felt like a bad mother for not really wanting my children to attempt cooking when they were small. Given my love of food, you would think that I would be the model foodie mother, encouraging little hands into mounds of bread dough, to stir cake mix, to carefully cut carrots. But no. Between being terrified of little hands being cut by sharp knives, or worse, grated (!!), I just couldn’t handle the mess.

I’m hardly a neat freak. My husband will tell you when we first were together he couldn’t cope with my idea of tidy versus his uber fastidiousness. Even then I cannot handle clouds of flour flying into the air, cheese being grated onto the floor, batter being spilt all over the bench.

I don’t think it’s fussiness, it’s mostly that I’m a bit lazy, I can’t stand cleaning at the best of times, and I prefer to minimise the amount I have to do. So I’ve avoided teaching my kids to cook until now.

Now I’m reminded of why I’ve left it for so long, as the dishes pile up in the sink, potato and carrot peelings scatter over the floor, and the rubbish in the bins begins to over flow, while my teenaged daughter creates a culinary masterpiece.

Then come the endless questions.

In moments of good motherhood, I have actively encouraged my kids to ask questions. “People who ask questions learn more” is the general gist of conversation. Except I prefer that to apply to school rather than home life. At home, I quite like not too many questions.

I particularly like an absence of questions that start with “Mum, where’s…”

When partnered with cooking, the “where” questions are matched with a stream of “how” questions (which I know is fair enough, given the girl doesn’t know how to cook yet). I’m not renowned for my patience.

Despite the mess, the irritation, the lack of actual time saved, Amelia is doing a pretty good job. Her food is delicious, made even more so by the sheer fact that I didn’t have to do it myself. She’s getting better at preparation, following recipes, and serving well cooked, well balanced meals.

It’s been worth it. I should have taught her sooner.

Makes 6-8 generous scones

2017-07-01 10.07.27 v1.jpg

Originally this recipe was made with lemonade, but I found it weirdly sweet with the cheese. I’ve changed out the lemonade for soda water, which retains the dough’s lightness, but removes the extra sugar. If you want to make these extra indulgent, you can add in crispy bacon pieces (4 streaky rashers, cooked until brittle) or caramelised onions (1/2 onion, sauted until very soft).

2 1/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
2 cups grated cheese
150ml milk
150ml plain soda or sparkling water

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220°C, and line a baking tray with baking paper
  2. Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  3. Stir through grated cheese
  4. Pour over milk and soda water, and stir until just combined. Do not over mix or the scones will be hard.
  5. Pour the dough out on the baking tray (the mix will be very sticky and wet) and spread out until it’s about 5cm thick.
  6. Dip a knife into flour and cut the dough into roughly equal pieces.
  7. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot with lashings of butter.



The trials and tribulations of school holidays. With a cheesy, tomato-y, chicken pasta bake.

School holidays are a consistent chore. To be fair, it was worse when I was working full time, trying to make plans for what to do with kids over what seemed an eternity.

Now I’m home, they’re home, we get under each other’s feet, and my brain gets muddled with all the stuff they need. I forget that it’s just them on holiday and not me. I forget that I should still get out of bed when the alarm goes off. I forget that there are still chores to do, blog posts to write, exercise to be done.

All normal routine goes out the window and the days drift by. I go to bed very night berating myself for what I didn’t achieve during the day, only to wake the next morning, and let it all drift by again. The washing piles up, plates pile up, crumbs, carpet stains and cat fur take on a life of their own.

And GLASSES! So many GLASSES! Like every drop of water needs a fresh glass. Like my children may be poisoned by a glass that has been touched by the skin of another. They remember where the glasses live when they’re clean, but forget where the dishwasher is when they’re dirty. The dishwasher wears a cloak of invisibility, but it only works if you’re under 18, like some perverse joke from H Potter & Co.

As if having your own kids full time for two weeks wasn’t bad enough, kids at home attract other kids. Play dates, sleep overs, “hang out”s all require other people’s children. So far this holiday we’ve experienced:

  • NERF wars on an epic scale, upstairs and downstairs, inside and out;
  • Teenage toast making at 1am;
  • Light sabre battles, similar to NERF wars, without millions of foam bullets but significantly more likely to inflict pain and possible injury;
  • Loud sleep talking at 4am from teenaged friend;
  • Endless X-Box Kinect games, akin to having a army of pygmy elephants dancing an Irish jig on the ceiling;
  • 6am Instagram/Snapchat related squeals over boy of the week/shoes of the week/cat of the week

In all honesty, it’s cheaper for them to be at school. Other than food that I’d need to give them anyway, my only significant weekly kid-related expenses are fuel and bus fares. During the holidays, there’s movies, snacks, endless cries for sushi, McDonald’s, Starbucks, icecream, trips to JB HiFi to buy more attachments for the latest X-Box Skylanders scam, trips to H&M to buy more of anything really, trips out to the beach…..

But then, that’s the relief of school holidays. We have made a point of committing at least one week of each school holiday period to having a real family holiday. The trips to the beach or the mountain are when the kids can run, can reclaim their independence, where we can all have a break. Where we can reconnect with each other without the endless consumerism driven distractions. Where it’s really a holiday.

One week to go.


School holidays is a good time to experiment with dinners that are easy to prepare and tasty for everyone. I’ve added extra veg into this too, although my son managed to pick all the spinach out, as he does. Everyone else liked it though.

400g dried pasta (penne is good), cooked to manufacturer’s instructions2017-04-18 19.43.12 v1
2 Tbsp olive oil
750g boneless chicken thighs
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or crushed if it’s easier)
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 cup white wine
2 x 440g tins crushed tomatoes
2 cups baby spinach leaves
Large handful fresh basil leaves
1 cup grated mozarella, plus extra for topping
Salt and pepper

  1. Heat the oven to 200ºC
  2. Heat olive oil in a large heavy based frying pan over medium/high heat. Add chicken thighs and cook until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Reheat pan, adding more oil if necessary, over low heat. Add onion, capsicum, garlic and oregano, and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft.
  4. Pour over white wine and allow to bubble up. Boil until reduced by half.
  5. Add tinned tomatoes and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, and cook until sauce is thick. This should take about 30 minutes.
  6. Slice chicken thighs into 1cm thick slices and add to sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes, then stir through mozarella, spinach and basil. Season to taste.
  7. Add cooked pasta to the pan and stir to combine.
  8. At this stage you can either transfer the pasta mix to a large baking dish, or leave it in the pan if it’s oven proof.
  9. Sprinkle over extra grated mozarella, and bake until the top is golden, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and serve.

I love that my daughter fights. And loves my 4 cheese pasta bake.

I love that my daughter fights against me. Me and anyone and everyone.

I love that she’s opinionated, strong willed and outspoken.

I love that she stands up for what she believes in, and she believes she’s the most important person in the room.

I love that her self confidence shines from every pore, that she loves her body and rejoices in her flaws.

I love that she completely owns her anxieties and depressions and will talk about them to anyone who asks.


I love that I have so much hope for her future. Hope that she will have the strength to fight any gender discrimination she faces when she goes to work. Hope that she will be able to fight off any sexual predator, that she will own her sexuality and wear it with pride, that she will never allow herself to be slut-shamed. Although I hope more that she’ll never have that experience.

2017-03-25 20.03.48
Melie & I, March 2017

I love that she’s so brave that she told her science teacher off this week. There was an incorrect answer to a question in a recent test, so she pushed back. She got the extra mark, and got them to change the question for future tests. She also got the top mark for the test.

I love that she doesn’t accept when things are wrong, that she doesn’t back down, that she’s so smart that she can argue her case. And that she gets her own way.

I love that she’s an amazingly mature teenager, with incredible depth and insight.

I love that all of these things will make her an amazing, strong, forthright, outspoken, honest, opinionated, willful, NASTY woman (with thanks to Hillary Clinton…).

I love my daughter. She’s awesome.

4 CHEESE PASTA BAKE2017-03-27 15.44.57 V1.jpg

This is my daughter’s favourite dinner. Actually, if I’m honest, it’s macaroni cheese, but really. This is much more fancy, and about the same amount of work. If I was Italian it would be Macaroni Quattro Formaggi, but I’m not, so 4 cheese pasta it is. Enjoy.

500g dried pasta
500ml milk
2 x bay leaves
50g butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons thinly slice sage leaves, plus 12 extra
250g sour cream
150g blue cheese
100g ricotta cheese
100g mozzarella
50g parmesan, finely grated

  1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente
  2. Heat milk and bay leaves until hot
  3. Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and cook 1 minute
  4. Whisk in hot milk and sage and keep whisking until thickened
  5. Whisk in sour cream, blue cheese, ricotta and mozarella
  6. Simmer until cheeses have melted
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  8. Mix cheese sauce and pasta
  9. Pour into baking dish and top with parmesan cheese and remaining sage leaves
  10. Cook in 200°C oven until golden (about 30 minutes)


Salad of the week: Grilled eggplant with goats’ cheese

For someone who writes about food, who spends quite a bit of time thinking about food, and the rest of my time making food, my salad repertoire is proving to be more than a little woeful.

My default is a green salad with leaf, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, red capsicum and avocado (if I can time the fine line between rock hard and mush brown correctly). The only innovative thing about it is a vinaigrette. And half the time I just sprinkle over olive oil and red wine vinegar.

It is nice enough, just a little sub-par.

So, this year, I am lifting my salad game. This is my first effort.

The irony that it contains many of the above ingredients is not lost on me. Baby steps.

(Serves 4)

1 eggplant, sliced into 1cm slices2017-02-01-19-51-58-hdr-v1
Olive oil for brushing
Mescalin greens
1/2 red onion finely sliced
50g goats’ cheese
1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful mint leaves, finely sliced

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  1. Heat a barbecue until very hot
  2. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and grill until charred and soft on both sides. Set aside to cool, then cut into chunks.
  3. For the vinaigrette, pour ingredients into a jar and shake to combine.
  4. Assemble all the salad ingredients in a large shallow salad bowl or platter and dress with the salad dressing. Serve immediately.

In Season Now: Asparagus

The first time I see asparagus in store it feels like summer is finally on it’s way. Like strawberries, asparagus make me want to fire up the barbecue, pour myself a glass of something cold and refreshing, open up the doors and eat outside. Unfortunately October/November in Auckland is often not conducive to eating alfresco, unless you enjoy inopportune blasts of wind and rain…

That aside, asparagus feels like summer. The season is relatively short – local asparagus is only available from September to December in a good season. The heavy rain we’ve experienced this year has meant that we really haven’t seen local asparagus on supermarket shelves until October, and they have been much thinner stems than in prior years.

Vegetables.co.nz offers a couple of pieces of sage advice when it comes to selecting and storing asparagus:

“Choose straight firm green stems. Insist on fresh, clean product with trimmed ends and a minimum of white butt. Fresh asparagus is ‘squeaky’ – when the spears are gently rubbed they squeak; old asparagus is rubbery and doesn’t squeak.”

“Keep asparagus refrigerated with butt ends either wrapped in wet paper towels, stand up in a jar with 1-2 cm of water (like flowers in a vase), or alternatively wash, then refrigerate in plastic bags.”

So what makes asparagus good for you?

  • It’s a fantastic source of folate, with 5 spears offering 34% of the RDI. Folate is an important element for the production of red blood cells, and cognitive development. It’s especially important for pregnant woment to aid with feotal development.
  • It’s high in vitamins A, C, E and K. Vitamin A is important for organ function, C for immunity, E for red blood cell formation and K for for blood clotting.
  • It’s high in antioxidants, and is one of the top ranked fruits or vegetables for antioxidant properties. Alongside the above vitamins, it also contains good amounts of beta-carotene, the minerals zinc, manganese, and selenium, and glutathione (GSH), which is linked with the breakdown of carcinogens and other free radicals.
  • Of real interest is that it contains an element call inulin. Inulin has pre-biotic qualities, and is broken down in the large intestine, where it feeds our colonic bacteria. This makes asparagus valuable in aiding digestion. It’s also high in fibre.

To snap or not to snap?

A quick online search shows there’s quite a bit of debate around this one. I’ve always snapped the ends off my asparagus. Mostly it’s really fast and easy, since no utensils are required. One snap and you’re done.

There is a school of thought though, that this is a very imprecise method, and that you risk wasting quite a bit of the asparagus. An alternative is to trim the ends with a knife, or to peel the ends with a potato peeler to shave off the tough lower skins.

Blogger, One Creative Mommy, suggests that you don’t remove the ends from young asparagus, only if it’s mature, so the ends are woody.

Ultimately, I’m not sure there is a “right way”. It just depends how lazy you are (and I am).

Grilled asparagus

A few ways with asparagus

  • To be honest, I think the best way to eat asparagus is lightly steamed (for about 90 seconds in boiling salted water), dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of your best olive oil, a quick grind of black pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt.
  • Make a mayonnaise or hollandaise for dipping
  • For breakfast with boiled eggs, replace toast soldiers with steamed asparagus
  • Wrap lightly steamed asparagus spears with strips of prosciutto to serve with drinks
  • Alternatively, wrap asparagus in strips of streaky bacon, then grill until bacon is cooked
  • Go old school and make asparagus rolls with fresh lightly steamed and cooled asparagus, fresh white bread (crusts off please!) and mayonnaise mixed with extra lemon juice.
  • Add asparagus to your favourite green salad. To make this a meal, flake through some hot smoked salmon. Salmon and asparagus are brilliant bed mates.
  • Brush asparagus with olive oil and grill on a hot barbecue until just charred. Squeeze over lemon juice and drizzle with olive oil and serve

Or try this recipe, which my mother used to make in the 80’s when she had ladies for lunch. In those days it was made with tinned asparagus, but I think it’s even better with fresh.


1 bunch fresh asparagus (approximately 12 stalks), blanched, cut into 5cm pieces
500g dried pasta (I used penne)
500ml milk
2 x bay leaves
50g butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons thinly slice sage leaves, plus 12 extra
250g sour cream
150g blue cheese
100g ricotta cheese
100g mozzarella, grated (use an aged mozzarella, rather than fresh)
50g parmesan, finely grated

  1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente (approximately 10 minutes, brand dependent)
  2. Heat milk and bay leaves until hot
  3. Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and cook 1 minute
  4. Whisk in hot milk and sage and keep whisking until thickened
  5. Whisk in sour cream, blue cheese, ricotta and mozarella
  6. Simmer until cheeses have melted
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  8. Mix cheese sauce with asparagus and pasta
  9. Pour into baking dish and top with parmesan cheese and remaining sage leaves
  10. Cook in 200°C oven until golden (about 30 minutes)

Sources: vegetables.co.nz, whfoods.com, eatingwell.com, webmd.com, thekitchn.com, food52.com, onecreativemommy.com

Crunchy cheesy goodness

This is one of the moments when I admit that I am far from a paragon of healthy eating. I get lazy occasionally and reach for snacks in a packet as an easy way of giving my kids something to eat after school. Sometimes those snacks have an orange shade that doesn’t exist in nature, and a list of ingredients of which very few exist in my pantry.

A  few weeks ago, I decided that if I was going to write about food that was additive free, that maybe I need to put my money where my mouth is and come up with some snacks made from ingredients that I can identify.

Additive free, but still with that crunchy, savoury deliciousness that comes from processed snacks.

In the end I reached back to an old family recipe created by Richard’s grandmother, Audrey. Audrey’s in her 90s now, so no longer makes these, but the recipe is well loved in my husband’s family, to the degree that Richard’s mum, Janet, has to hide them so they last more than a day!!


1 loaf day old bread (I use Molenberg or a similar soft, wholegrain loaf)
225g butter, softened
300g grated tasty cheese
1tsp chicken stock powder (ok, you have me, not that healthy….)
2 tsp curry powder (doesn’t have to be fancy)
3 tsp marmite or vegemite
2 tsp celery seeds

  1. Heat oven to 160°C fanbake
  2. Put all ingredients except bread into a food processor and pulse to combine
  3. Spread cheese mixture evenly across all the bread slices (this quantity should be enough to cover a loaf of bread, including crusts)
  4. Cut into thirds or halves and lay out onto a baking tray
  5. Bake in batches for approximately 30 minutes or until golden and crisp
  6. Cool on baking rack and store in sealed container


  • It’s important that the bread is at least a day old. Bread that is too fresh will not crisp up enough in the oven (which makes this recipe a great way of using up stale bread, including crusts)
  • If you can’t find celery seeds, try adding ground fennel seeds or cumin seeds as an alternative
  • If you want to make these look a bit more fancy, you could cut the crusts off for a more even finish, but wastage!