Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Weather

Lately we've been having a lot of weather around here - as in, lots of different sorts. I guess it's just that time of year - warm and sunny one day, raining and cold the next. So I decided on a weather theme for today's Muffin Tin Monday.

First I got some appropriately coloured cupcake papers out, and popped them in the tin. Then I got all the foods ready on a board, and then got The Muffin to match each food to which colour cupcake paper she thought it should go with (eg Me: "What type of weather is white?" Her: "Snow." Me: "So which of these things goes in the snow?" Her: "The polar bear!")

Top Row: Sunny (clementine segments); Cloudy (cheese clouds cut with a squished flower cutter); Rain (umbrella cookie).

Bottom Row: Cold (frozen berries); Snow (yoghurt in a bear-shaped cup); Hot (or Warm, really - sausage).

The yoghurt polar bear's facial features were cut out using my new nori cutter - yay!!

The After Shot:

I was quite pleased with my idea for this tin, but was pleasantly surprised at how well it went over. The Muffin was quite excited about it - I think maybe because of the matching game at the beginning. She told me this tin was one of the best ones ever!

To see what other mums are feeding their offspring this Monday, go to The Muffin Tin Mom's blog! Oh and by the way, a note to the other MTM mums... if I'm not leaving comments on your blog at the moment, it's not because I don't think your tin is awesome. It's because for some reason Blogger won't let me comment on most blogs at the moment. As in, for the last week. Which is annoying. I keep reminding myself that Blogger is a free service. And I am trying to be patient, I am trying to be patient, I am trying to be patient....

Friday, May 27, 2011

Playdate Bento (and New Stuff!!!)

Four very nice things happened to me in the last 24 hours...

Thing One
Today, my little girl had her first playdate at our house with a friend from kindy. It happened over lunch time, so I decided to make them a bento lunch each.

Each of them had a sandwich cut with the new Lunch Punch cutters I got for my birthday (fairy princess for The Muffin, frog prince for her friend, who is a boy). I love these cutters, because they use up virtually the whole sandwich - there is very little waste (especially if your child, like mine, leaves her crusts even if they are served to her - so this way is no different really). They also had carrot hearts (and one carrot offcut each), sultanas, and yoghurt with a few mini M&Ms on top. Also a juice box each (which I didn't take a picture of. But I'm sure you've all seen a juice box before).

It was a nice day, so they had a lovely picnic on the grass, and they loved their cute sandwiches! More importantly, they got along really well and played really nicely together.

Thing Two
Last night, I got a comment on one of my blog posts... Now, I love all your comments. I really do. They are all special, and I always appreciate the time and interest you spend looking at my blog. But here's the thing: This comment was extra-super-duper-special. Some of you might remember that I made a Muffin Tin Meal a while back based on The Muffin's favourite books - "Chicken Pig Cow Horse Around". And last night, a comment was left on that blog post by Ruth Ohi - the author of the book - saying how cool it was!!! How Awesome Is That?? I was kind of brought up to worship books, so getting a comment from the actual author of an actual book I like is kind of a bit like getting a comment from Robbie Williams. Really. And here sister, talented writer-illustrator Debbie Ridpath-Ohi, has featured my tin on her blog, too! Now I feel all famous...

Thing Three
This afternoon I received an Extremely Exciting Package all the way from an Extremely Lovely fellow blogger & MTM mum (who I'm not going to name unless she tells me I can. I'd really love to tell everyone how wonderful she was organising this for me, but I don't want to name names just in case she doesn't fancy doing the same for everyone in Australia). It contained this:

Squeeeeeee!! Seriously, How Cute Is This Stuff?? We do not get much in the way of bento equipment in the shops here, and what we do get tends to be hell expensive. This lovely lady happens to live near a store where it is Much Cheaper, so she very sweetly sent me a whole lot of gear I asked for, and did not even make a profit out of it. Needless to say, she has just a) made The Muffin very very happy (for which I am going to get all the mummy-brownie-points, mwah-hah-hah!), and b) saved me a lot of money.

I think she might be my new best friend. :o)

Thing Four
My mummy is home! My mother and her husband have been off on holidays for a couple of months, and as The Muffin and I generally see my mum quite frequently, we have both missed her. They weren't due back for a couple of weeks, but decided to surprise us and come home early.

So today, thanks largely to other people, I had a very good day. Hope you're all having one too!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Cupcakes! (and Bonus Bento)

My daughter had a bit of an unusual lunch today at kindy (ie it didn't involve a sandwich). I would love to say that this was due to me giving her different and interesting meal alternatives to expand her growing palate. Actually it was because we ran out of bread and I couldn't be bothered making any.

This is The Muffin's 2-tier bento box, which we bought online for around $15. Which hurt a little, when I hear about all the American bento mums going down to their local shops and paying $3 or $5. But it didn't hurt as much as going to a specialty store here and paying $30. Yeah. Bento boxes are kind of a designer-or-nothing thing here...

Anyway, The Muffin loves her pink bento box (which has a pink plaid pattern on the lid, and a fork and spoon built in). For fruit time, she had tinned apples with frozen raspberries mixed in (I really need to go shopping. However I do not feel guilty about this fruit - it probably has more vitamins than the "fresh" ones at the supermarket anyway). For her lunch, she had a cheese and corn muffin, cheese bunnies, carrot bunnies, spinach leaves, and a bunny-face shaped egg.

But today is also Muffin Tin Monday! Our theme today is Cupcakes:

Top Row: Banana; Dark & White Fudge Cupcake; Tinned pineapple.

Bottom Row: Cupcake shaped Vegemite sandwich (I cut the "icing" half of the top piece of bread off and turned it upside down, so the Vegemite is showing - hopefully it looks like chocolate icing); Yoghurt with sprinkles; Mashed potato "cupcake" with olive "cherry".

The After Shot:

The Muffin was pleased with this tin, but not terribly interested in eating the mashed potato. It probably is a bit of an odd thing to eat for afternoon tea. But we had leftovers, and I couldn't resist piping into a cupcakey swirl for this tin. She liked the look of it, but only ate three small spoonfuls. Everything else was a hit.

To see what other lucky kids have been eating today, go to the home of Muffin Tin Mondays!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Baking With The Muffin - Dark & White Fudge Cupcakes

One of the gifts my four year old got for her birthday this year was a cupcake kit (I know, it's hilarious, right? She's four and she owns three cookbooks and four aprons. What can I say?). This one included a recipe book called "Delicious Cupcakes" by Susanna Tee, and some paper cupcake cases, all packaged in quite a nice pink tin.

This is not something I would have bought for myself, but it's quite a nice little book for a beginner or someone who's fairly non-experimental in the kitchen (or, indeed, for a child)... And some of the recipes look quite good actually - we tried the coconut cherry cupcakes a while back, and they were pretty good, although we used our own chocolate frosting rather than the vanilla buttercream the book suggested.

Yesterday we tried out one of the chocolate recipes: Dark & White Fudge Cupcakes. The book described them as "little, light and moist cupcakes, with a tempting fudgy chocolate topping".

I have this to say about them: Weirdest Recipe Ever.

It doesn't contain any eggs. And you don't really beat anything. Basically you make a kind of buttery syrup in a saucepan, add it to the dry ingredients, stir it until it's smooth, and bake it. The topping involves making two different mixtures of chocolate, butter and water (one dark, one white), adding icing sugar to each, and beating them "until smooth and thick". What I really had trouble with was that this mixture kept solidifying before I got it onto the cakes, so I had to keep zapping it in the microwave (after Every Second Cupcake). And then it solidified really quickly on the cakes, so the chocolate curls wouldn't stick. Which I suppose doesn't really matter, but it would have been nice.

Was it worth it? No, not really. I mean, they're pleasant enough - I'm not refusing to eat them or anything. But they're incredibly process-heavy for such an ordinary little cake, and also pretty dishes-heavy, and frankly when a recipe is this much trouble, I like it to turn out Wow These Are Really Yummy, not just Yeah, They're Okay.

On the upside, The Muffin was happy - she wasn't massively keen on the white topping (weirdly, as white chocolate is actually her favourite type), but thought the dark ones were brilliant (her attitude being, "It's got chocolate in it - How Bad Can It Be?")

Hopefully our next experiment from this book will be more exciting - maybe the walnut cupcakes, or the citrussy pineapple ones...?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bento At The Zoo!

The other day, The Muffin and I made a snap decision: "Let's go to the zoo!"

So we packed a lunch, and off we went:

The Muffin had a giraffe, crocodile and baby elephant, all cut from a salami sandwich. She also had water crackers with Vegemite and "ZOO" cut from cheese, some spinach leaves (which the giraffe is sharing), and some grapes which could be fish in the crocodile's swimming pool (or "outdoor enclosure", as The Muffin put it. Yeah, we go to the zoo a fair bit). There are more grapes under the croc. Funny thing: The Muffin has a real thing against most predator animals - she cannot abide any mention of foxes, tigers or sharks. But she thinks crocodiles are lovely. I have no idea why. They're not exactly the cutest and cuddliest of beasties. Maybe she doesn't realise what they're capable of (maybe I'll leave it that way for a while!)

Anyway, we ate our lunch sitting in the viewing area that overlooks the giraffe/zebra enclosure.

Please note that my fingernails are Not Usually That Colour. We had a Mothers Day Spa at The Muffin's kindy last week, during which our children got to anoint us with all manner of hand creams, perfumes, makeup and nail polish. It was great fun, and The Muffin was so proud of her mad nail polish skillz that I have left it on (in all its Purple, Green, Yellow, Pink and Orange Glory). I've had some weird looks from shop assistants.

We love the zoo, and it worked so well taking a bento lunch with us. I think we will do this every time in future - it's more fun than just dragging out a sandwich, but a lot cheaper than buying food there.

I'm submitting this to What's for Lunch Wednesday, over at BentoLunch.net.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - The Pony Tin That Wasn't Really

So it's Muffin Tin Monday again, and The Muffin requested a Pony themed tin. "Hooray" I thought. "This Will Be Easy". I even had one lone leftover packet of My Little Pony cookies from that party we had - oh, ages ago. Cool. And then some hearts and flowers, and it'll be All Good.

But it turns out that "oh, ages ago" really actually was quite a long time ago, come to think of it. And that packet of My Little Pony cookies had turned really nasty. Ew. Bin. Okaaaay, so we still have a pony cookie cutter. And nothing else particularly ponyish. Hmmm...

So anyway, It's Muffin Tin Monday! And with promises of a more pony-themed pony theme another day, here is today's tin:

Top Row: Cucumber hearts; Leftover cauliflower macaroni cheese; Apple hearts.

Bottom Row: Vegemite sandwich Pony (with sprinkle hair - yes, I know - try not to think about Vegemite & sugary sprinkles together - ew); Natural yoghurt with sprinkles; Carrot flowers.

Here is a closeup of the one and only Pony that made it into the tin:

The After Shot:

I received some Very Dark Looks over the cucumber. "Don't put that in! I don't like it!" Then she asked what it was. I said "it's cucumber". She said "I knew it was either cucumber or guzzini". (This sooo makes me giggle. Zucchini is the only word The Muffin does a kiddie mispronunciation of, and it's too cute - Husband and I have taken to calling it guzzini ourselves on occasion). She ate two pieces under sufferance.

As for the macaroni cheese, The Muffin does actually like this - it's a Jamie Oliver recipe (from 30 Minute Meals), and it's the best macaroni cheese In The World. You should definitely try it. It bears very little resemblance at all to "normal" mac & cheese, but it's dead yummy. The Muffin will not eat cauliflower in any other form, but she will eat this. This particular batch I over-garlicked Ever So Slightly, to the point where The Muffin said "Mummy this has got a bit too much garlic in it; it is making my mouth hot." Oops. I kind of have a cold I'm trying to kill off. It's not supposed to be that garlicky, really. She did eat some though (and a whole bowl of it last night for dinner, so clearly she'll eat it if she's hungry, excess garlic notwithstanding).

To check out other mummies' muffin tins this week, Go Here!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Horsing Around

I've always loved the idea of using a children's book as the inspiration for Muffin Tin Monday - I've admired lots of tins others have done, but I've never been quite inspired enough by a particular book to do it myself. Until now.

My daughter's newest book is also her newest favourite book: Chicken, Pig, Cow Horse Around.
I have to say, I kind of love it too - it's so very cute, and has a lovely message about making and including new friends. Chicken Pig and Cow are best friends - then one day, along comes Horse. And Chicken isn't too happy about it. She plays a trick on Horse, but then regrets it and, with the help of the others, comes to his rescue. Something to note: in the background of the pictures in this book, Girl (the human who owns the animals, which are all toys) has a new baby sibling. This is never mentioned, but Horse first appears on the same page as our first sighting of the new baby. In the last picture, when all the animals have become friends, the background shows Girl holding the baby. Clearly then, the "including-new-people" message is intended to extend to new siblings, but I would call this so subtle as to be almost subliminal. I didn't even notice it until the third time I read the book, and I'm quite sure The Muffin still hasn't noticed (although she now knows the book by heart). So not sure how useful it would be in that respect, but it's still a gorgeous book.

So anyway, here is our Chicken, Pig, Cow Horse Around Muffin Tin:

Top Row: Jam sandwich Horse with cheese mane (this is copied from a picture in the book. It is Horse's face and front hoof - he is lying on the floor, looking at Chicken); Cheese Chicken; Grapes.

Bottom Row: Rice cracker Cow; Easter egg Goldfish (some of the story occurs in and around the fishbowl); Rice cracker and ham Pig.

The After Shot:

As you can see, The Muffin was very excited about this tin, and also liked everything in it. I'll try something a bit more challenging for her next week I think! ;o)

To see what other mummies did this week, go to The Muffin Tin Mom's blog.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A great big cuppie, and a teeny tiny one...

For my birthday last week, I decided to use my Wilton's Giant Cupcake tin for the first time. I had also decided on a red and white colour scheme, so this is what I ended up with:

I'm not 100% happy with the finish on it - it was my first time using this tin, and I couldn't quite figure out how to extend the white icing down so it went under the red "cupcake liner" icing without creating a bump in the red icing. Yes, I could have made it thinner around the edges, I do realise that. But I made the ganache pretty thin on this cake, so I couldn't press too hard on the icing whilst it was on the cake, or it would have squished in. And frankly in the end I was all a bit "meh, whatever" by the time I got to that stage anyway, so a bump is what I got. I daresay this makes it Not The Most Professional Job Ever. But I figured it's my birthday cake, so I can do it however I want. Including Lazily.

I was however very happy with the swirly effect the top half of the tin gives the cake (which is why I didn't do the ganache very thick, because I didn't want to lose this effect).

I also made normal sized cupcakes in red liners with white swirled icing and a jaffa on the top of each, to mirror the look of the big one.

Anyway, with all the week's family birthdays over, we arrive at Sunday, and Mother's Day. I won't be seeing my mum this Mother's Day, as she's away on holiday, so today we are going to be having a lazy day watching Fantasia (which I got for my birthday, and which we will have to skip the scary bits of, as they would Freak The Muffin Right Out), and eating soft serve icecream from another one of my birthday presents - an awesome Cuisinart Soft Serve Icecream Maker!! Yummo. And all this after a huge breakfast cooked by my lovely Husband this morning - eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, croissants! Hmmm... maybe not the healthiest day ever... Who Cares. :o)

Oh, and the teeny tiny cupcake? That was my Mother's Day present:

Isn't it cute? Love! The necklace was from Diva (I know, 'cause I've admired them there). The little pillow was also part of my gift (it's a pincushion) - it was chosen by The Muffin from the Mothers Day stall they held at her school before the end of last term.

Hope all the mums are having a lovely day! What did your kids do for you this year?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cookies For A Special Teenager

One of my cousin's daughters turns 13 today - Happy Birthday, C! So I made these to take to her birthday party the other night. (sorry - they're not the best photos. Light issues.)

Hearts, nail polish and funky flowers - and glittery shoes and music because she's a dancer.

Interestingly, in the main photo you can see the white outlines peeking out a little from underneath the black - and it looks kind of messy and not great. The funny thing is, I did this deliberately, and I thought it looked kind of groovy in real life.

These two photos show the effect a little better.

The music cookies were inspired by a design of Sweet Sugarbelle's (see hers here - they're much better than mine!)

More baking coming up for me this week - it's a pretty busy time of year for us!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Under The Sea

This Muffin Tin Monday is a bit more substantial than usual again, because the school holidays mean that The Muffin can have her MTM for lunch. We decided on an Under The Sea theme this week:

Top Row: Mini chorizo cut to vaguely resemble an octopus (two, actually); Cheese sandwich "dolphin". Don't judge me, I cut it out by hand in about ten seconds with a four year old attached to my leg ("Mummy I'm hungry. Have you made my dolphin sandwich yet??") Also drawing dolphins has never been my forte; Fish-shaped fish nugget. Do we call them nuggets when they are fish, or is that just chicken? Whatever. I think on the box they are called "Fish Flips" or something equally witty. I used to like the ones that were called "Little Fishies" - essentially exactly the same product, I just thought it was a cuter name. I know, I'm a child.

Bottom Row: Banana and orange zest crabs (yes, I am aware they look like six-legged spiders. Clearly crabs are not my forte either. The Muffin loved them, so there); Coral (ie yoghurt with pink & yellow nonpareils) and another banana and orange zest crab; Seaweed, consisting of rocket leaves and actual seaweed (nori, cut into little strips).

The After Shot:

The Muffin was extremely pleased with this lunch. She was absolutely intrigued by the idea that some of her "seaweed" was actual seaweed - which is actually a little weird, because we've eaten sushi in front of her heaps of times (although she won't eat it herself), and told her what "the black stuff" is. Go figure. Anyway, I didn't really expect her to try it, but to my surprise she ate three pieces of it.

I love Muffin Tin Monday.

To see what other mummies did this week, go to the home of the Muffin Tin, hosted by the Muffin Tin Mom.

Tomorrow: cookies!

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