Baking with Mrs Bouw: Sweet Potato, Parsnip & Coconut Soup

Thursday, February 26, 2015



My cooking style may be best described as 'winging it' (ha!) but I would to the think it has more to do with following my instincts and my heart because I really do love being in the kitchen! Last weekend, I had my heart set on making a big pot of homemade pumpkin soup but when we got to the supermarket, there were no pumpkins to be found! I think here in the US pumpkins are used either for Halloween or more for sweets (i.e. pumpkin pie) so can easily be found pureed in a can but they don't seem as common outside of pumpkin/halloween season. So, instead I just randomly grabbed a few ingredients as we went along. When I got home I didn't really have any idea what I was going to make but this was the end result and it was bloody delicious if I do say so myself! Mr B gave it the big thumbs up and my little Narnie just LOVES soup and this one was no exception... she had one bowl for lunch and three helpings for din dins so it is definitely one for the kiddies too! Not only was it super easy to make but it's also easy on the pocket and you may even have most of the ingredients in your fridge and pantry already. It certainly hit the spot during this cold, snowy Chicago winter... yum!

Mrs Bouw's Sweet Potato, Parsnip and Coconut Soup

Ingredients

2 medium to large sweet potatoes
1 parsnip
1 large brown onion
1 litre vegetable stock
1/4 cup coconut milk (1 tablespoon extra for serving)
2 tsp fresh, finely grated ginger
2 cups water
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Coriander to garnish (optional)

Method

- Peel your sweet potatoes, parsnip and onion and chop into large chunks.

- Pour stock and water into a large pot, bring to the boil and throw in all of your veggies.

- Reduce heat, place a lid on you pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes until veggies are nice and tender (the longer you simmer, the tastier).

- Separate the veggies from the broth and place to the side.

- Using the same pot, heat your oil and ginger over low heat to release aromas (approx one minute) and then add to the bowl with the veggies.

- Place your veggies and one cup of your broth into a blender or food processor (I did it in two batches and used my Ninja!) and blend until smooth.

- Pour the mixture into a clean pot and add extra broth only if need be to get to the right consistency.

- Stir in coconut milk, season to taste with salt and pepper and place over low heat until soup is heated through.

- Serve with a drizzle of extra coconut milk and fresh coriander.

- Enjoy!
 

Baking with Mrs Bouw: Easy Peasy Fritters!

Monday, February 23, 2015



Gotta love a four ingredient recipe! Last week I whipped up these pea and corn fritters and they were a hit with three out of four in our household. Allegra on the other hand asked if I could never make them again (haha!) but don't let that stop you from believing that there are many kiddies that would love these... you could even make them slightly smaller into bite sized fritters! They are so simple and tasty (even more so if you prepare them ahead, let them sit for a little bit and then reheat) and a great little snack to have in the fridge. I had them for lunch two days in a row with a yummy side salad and if you're feeling naughty you can also serve with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yoghurt for a healthier option.

Easy Peasy Fritters

Ingredients (makes 15)

3 cups of frozen peas and corn
2 eggs
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 milk Salt and pepper to taste

Method

- Cook the peas and corn in a saucepan of boiling water until tender. Refresh under cool water and drain well.

- Using a potato masher, crush until they are mashed but still coarse (a few while pieces of corn give the fritters a nice texture).

- Using a whisk, beat the eggs in a bowl and gradually add the flour and milk, stirring until all combined.

- Add the flour mixture to the peas and corn, stirring to combine.

- Season to taste.

- Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large, non-stick frypan over medium heat.

- Using a 1/4 cup scoop, pour batter into frypan (I cooked 4-5 at a time).

- Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden underneath, flip and then cook for a further two minutes.

- Cover to keep warm and then repeat with the remaining batter.

- Serve with a mixed salad.

- Enjoy!
 

Get the Look: The Tuxedo Shirt!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's no secret that Aussie brand Cartel & Willow has become a favourite of mine. I'm always excited to see what newbies they have in stock so when I saws this 'Tash tux shirt' I knew it had to be mine (in this colour AND white hee hee)! On top of the fact that I am having a little love affair with emerald green at the moment, I am such a huge fan of the tuxedo tailed shirt and Cartel & Willow do it so well! You may remember a previous post which featured my Leopard Print Shirt (which I still wear ALL the time, also by C & W) showcasing the adorable tux tail which I find so flattering... I am a huge fan of the 'half tuck'! To create this look I compiled a few of my absolute favourite items including the divine Missoni turban that was this years Valentines Day gift (thanks Mr B! xxx)... I love love love that it has so many beautiful tones in it making it such a versatile accessory! Perfect for all seasons (in this case teamed with some cosy faux fur for the chilly Chicago winter) I have a feeling I will be wearing this beauty for many years to come...
 

Get the look:

Cartel & Willow 'Tash Tux Shirt' here
Missoni 'Mare' turban here
Valentino 'Rockstud' sunglasses here
Chloe 'Suzanna' studded ankle boots here
AG Adriano Goldschmied distressed skinny ankle jeans here
Zara faux fur coat here

Baking with Mrs Bouw: Fake it til you make it! How to create a showstopper cake!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Last week I shared with you all the details from Anya and Allegra's recent joint Birthday party including the cake I made for them! Well today, I am here to share my big, fat dirty little secret so that you too can create a showstopper cake with little effort! For the last fours years running I have made all of my girls' cakes from scratch (including Allegra's rather dodgy second Birthday cake less than two weeks after I gave birth to Anya... I remember it perfectly because I remember cursing and asking myself 'what on earth were you thinking taking on such a task with a crying, hungry newborn and zero sleep?!' haha!) and this year was no different. The only problem I faced was that we were only having a small gathering (probably a third of the size as previous years) so there was no way I was going to attempt another 2-3 tier cake, slaving in the kitchen for hours, only to have most of it go to waste. So I got to thinking... I can still have my cake and eat it too ;)
Allegra's 1st Birthday cake
Allegra's 2nd Birthday cake
Anya's 1st Birthday and Allegra's 3rd Birthday cake
This years cake for Anya's 2nd Birthday and Allegra's 4th Birthday!

So what is my dirty little secret you ask? The two bottom tiers are fakes! Yep, tasty, yummy polystyrene goodness ha! I really had my heart set on creating a feature cake that would steal the show but like I said above, I couldn't justify so much cake for such a small gathering so it was Cake Dummy to the rescue! I still did all the decorating using fondant and then applied my amazing floral edible icing from Custom Icing made to match my invites (honestly, I couldn't give them a better wrap) but because I didn't have to factor in keeping the cake fresh, I could decorate the two bottom tiers days before the party... winning! I often hear people say that they are terrified to even attempt working with fondant but I can assure you it is so easy! There are loads of online tutorials that demonstrate how to apply fondant, here is just one video as an example. As for the top tier, I can assure you that WAS cake hee hee! I used my delicious White Chocolate Mud Cake recipe (refer below) which I also used for last years cake and baked two small cakes using the one mixture. I then added a layer of my vanilla buttercream frosting before stacking the two cakes on top of each other and then covered completely with the remainder of the vanilla buttercream frosting. Once the icing had set a little I then finished off by once again covering with fondant, the custom made black and white striped icing and then topped with the hand made paper flower I made. Because the cake is designed to be dense and super moist, I was able to make it two days in advance, once again eliminating the stress of baking and decorating like a mad woman in the lead up to the party! So the cake was finished on the Friday and the party was on the Sunday... I was relieved and thrilled with the result! So go on, fake it tip you make it...

  

White Chocolate Mud Cake 

Ingredients


300g white chocolate (use Cadbury Dream white chocolate if you can)
200g butter
1 cup milk
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

125g butter, lightly softened (I usually take it out of the fridge half an hour before I plan on using it)
2 1/4 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

* Note: I doubled this frosting recipe for the purpose of this cake.

Method

- Preheat oven to 160°C degrees Celsius (145°C if your oven is fan-forced).

- Grease and line you tin with baking paper.

- Place chocolate, butter, milk and sugar in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Once chocolate and butter have melted, remove from heat and stir (I use a whisk) until the mixture is completely smooth. Set aside to cool until mixture is at room temperature.

- Once cooled, add vanilla essence and eggs to chocolate mixture and stir until well combined.

- Combine sifted flours together in a large bowl.

- Add the chocolate mixture to the egg and flour mixture in a three batches, stirring until combined after each addition and until mixture is completely smooth. This method will help prevent a lumpy mixture.

- Pour mixture into prepared tin.

- Baking time will vary depending on the size of your cake. If you use the entire mixture to make one cake, bake for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. I made x2 smaller cakes so baked for approximately 50 minutes per cake.

- Important note: This recipe is designed to be super moist so if the skewer comes out clean or with moist crumbs (not gooey batter) attached, the cake is done! If not, return to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes before testing again. The cake will also set once cooled (I promise!) so be sure not to over bake it as you don't want to dry it out!

- Once cooked through, remove from oven and allow to sit in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack. I also always cover my baked goods with a clean tea towel to keep them nice and fresh!

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

- Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for roughly six minutes or until light and creamy.

- Add in icing sugar a half cup at a time and add vanilla half way through (food colouring is optional).

- Beat until well combined at piping or spreading consistency (approximately 5 minutes, you should be able to tell when it's done).

- Enjoy!

Anya and Allegra's Joint Birthday Party- November 2014!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

  Hello! I'm super excited to share the photos from Anya and Allegra's joint party held over the weekend. For a while there, I wasn't sure if we would be throwing a party this year but I knew that if we did, I had already found my source of inspiration! Whether it be putting together an outfit, styling a room or creating a party theme, my inspiration usually stems from a pattern or print that catches my eye. And in this case it was the gorgeous 'Trendy Trim' invitations from Tiny Prints! You probably already know by now that I love a bit of pattern clashing, so when I stumbled on the gorgeous floral and black and white striped invites months ago on Instagram, I was itching at the chance to use them! Whilst they are not your typical themed children's invites, they still sum up my girls perfectly... feminine, striking, fun, bold and beautiful. Throw in some gold glitter and you have one beautiful party palette! And given it is also fall here in the US, I thought they suited the season well too.

So, using the invitation as my source of inspiration, the rest of the details came pretty easily. My trusty hot glue gun got a work out again this year (still the best $7 I have ever spent) putting together some of the finer details such as the party favours, handmade bunting, decorated mini milk bottles and gold glitter cutlery. And the wonderful Michelle from Custom Icing was amazing again this year helping my vision for the cake come to life! I wanted to incorporate the same patterns from the invite on the cake and Michelle was very patient whilst I threw her a handful of questions so I could be certain all of my measurements etc. were correct. I was still so in love with the mini sugar cookies I made for the girls' party last year I decided to make them again and I knew the floral print would look just darling on them! I was so happy with how both the cake and cookies turned out and both were such a striking feature yet easy to achieve!

It was a relatively small gathering this year so we kept everything else pretty simple and I outsourced most of the savoury food. We ordered fresh, party sized Jimmy Johns (which is Allegra's favourite) along with Pizza from our local Pizzeria. Of course the weather was crumby again and it was a super dark, wet and gloomy day which made taking photos almost impossible (at least we were inside!). Not to mention despite charging and testing my SLR earlier in the week, it was bringing up a lens error on the day (Arrghh) so I reverted to my good ol' iphone for photos! The party was a success (I think?!) and the girls had an absolute ball which is the main thing. Enough rambling from me, I'll let the photos tell the story :)



Party details!

'Trendy Trim' Invitations from Tiny Prints
'So Much love- Cute Crafty Hearts' gift stickers also from Tiny Prints
Edible icing (used cake and cookies) from Custom Icing
Giant paper flower for cake handmade by me
Coral Noodle Boxes from Paper Mart
Black and white striped tags for favour boxes I created myself (and then placed gift stickers on top).
Paper straws and plain wooden cutlery from Creative Juice Cafe (I adhered gold glitter paper to the spoons myself).
Coral cupcake wrapper from Sew Pretty in Vermont
Charcoal cupcake wrappers from Simply Wrappers
Glitter gold cupcake wrappers from We Like Parties
Gold spotted cupcake cases (used for popcorn) from Petite Party Studio
Custom made tutus with matching top from Strawberrie Rose
Mini glass milk bottles from Sweet Style
Paper Bunting made by me using left over invitations and paper from Paper source
Glass drink dispenser from Targethttp://www.target.com
Cake, cupcakes, cookies and Rocky Road made by me.

I still can't quite believe that I now have a two year old and a four year old! This Mumma is party pooped... until next year ;)

Baking with Mrs Bouw: Mrs Bouw's Chicken Laksa!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

After posting the odd photo of this dish on Instagram over the months, I have received several requests to share the recipe so here it is... finally! This recipe is one of my own that just kind of 'happened' one night when I wasn't really sure if I was making a curry or a broth... and boy am I glad it did because it is SO delicious! It's also a dish that you can tailor to your liking and it's relatively easy to substitute ingredients if you are missing a few. So don't panic if you don't have Kecap manis in your pantry because I guarantee it will still be super tasty! AND my biggest tip when making this recipe is to make slightly ahead of time as it only tastes better the longer the ingredients have time to fuse. I like to have my greens prepared in the fridge so that when it come to serving time all I have to do is prep the noodles (which takes all of a few minutes) ladle the broth over the top and then garnish with the greens. Too easy and beyond tasty! So go on, get your laksa on! :)
 

Mrs Bouw's Chicken Laksa

Ingredients

250g Rice Vermicelli noodles
250g Chicken fillets finely diced (breast or thigh depending on your personal preference)
2tbs coconut oil
2 tbs red curry paste
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp paprika
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbs fish sauce
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
2 tbs kecap manis
2 tbs peanut butter
1 400ml tin coconut milk
A handful of snow peas, washed and finely sliced
A few lengths of spring onion, washed and chopped into rounds (I use both the green and white of the onion)
Fresh coriander, washed and removed from the stems

* Please note: how much of the 'greens' you use to garnish is often a personal preference and if there are other vegetables and herbs you prefer you can alway substitute for the ones you are not a fan of. For example, many people are not fond of coriander so this can always be subtitled for something else such as bean sprouts. You can also substitute the chicken for seafood if you wish.

Method

- Heat the coconut oil in a medium to large pot/saucepan, add the red curry paste a stir for a minute or so until fragrant.

- Add your chicken and then cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until chicken is sealed but not browned.

- Throw in your tumeric and paprika and stir continuously for no longer than 30 seconds (you don't want the paprika to burn as it will give your laksa a bitter taste).

- Add the stock, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, kecap manis and peanut butter and stir until well combined.

- Lastly, add in the coconut milk, again, giving it a good stir and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

- Reduce heat to your absolute lowest setting and cook for at least another 30-40 minutes (the longer the better).

-After the 40 minutes I like to turn the heat off completely, place a lid on the pot and just let it sit for a while as it give the flavours more of a chance to come together. And it is even better the next day!

- Just before you a ready to serve, place your vermicelli noodles in a large bowl and cover completely with boiling water.

- Loosen them a little with a fork and then let the noodles sit for 5 or so minutes. Drain once soft.

- Place noodles in bowl, using a ladle cover the noodles with your laksa and then top with coriander, snow peas and spring onion.

- Enjoy! :)

Body Image Issues: Pre and Post Baby

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Body image is a sensitive, serious and complex issue amongst woman today. I am definitely no expert so I will start off by saying that this post is about sharing my personal experiences (no one else's) along with some tips on what I am doing to try and overcome the body image issues that have haunted me for years.

I remember it perfectly, I was just eight years old. It was a sports day at school and I was wearing my white pleated netball skirt when a couple of girls came up to me during lunchtime and began teasing me about how my skirt sat on my hips differently and how I looked 'funny' compared to all the other girls. Physically, I was just an average child, not overweight or underweight by any means but I did (and still do) have very high hips. After that incident, I remember asking my Mum countless times if I could have a 'hip operation' so that I could just be 'normal' like the other girls. Did I mention that I was just eight years old? I was also the only girl to wear pants to my Grade 6 Graduation because I was too self conscious about how I looked in a dress and I became increasingly fearful of wearing a swimsuit in front of anyone. Just ask my Mum. She will tell you she only saw me in a swimsuit without a coverup (for the first time in over fifteen years!) a few years ago. And I am still one of those people who will shyly and discreetly slip off my kaftan and sneak into the pool while no one is watching.

Over the years that followed (high school and puberty, need I say more) I found myself yoyo dieting from about the age of fourteen and whilst I am very thankful I never went down the eating disorder path, I have always been very conscious of what I eat (even though there have definitely been stages throughout my life where my diet suggested otherwise). And my hangups with my body continued throughout my teens and early twenties.

And then came babies. Boy, oh boy, oh boy. My fellow Mummas, I'll stop there shall I? I've always been very sporty and very active so throughout both my pregnancies I kept up my regularl exercise and maintained a healthy, balanced diet. As a result, I was lucky enough to only put on 10.1 kgs with both my girls (yes, I put on the exact amount of weight, to the gram, with both!) so that coupled with breastfeeding, I was able to drop the baby weight quickly. But also due to breastfeeding both my girls (Allegra for twelve months and Anya for eight) let's just say I now refer to my boobs as empty milk sacs. Ugh. I know I'm definitely not alone on this one. And I'd be lying if I said I hadn't contemplated breast augmentation. Maybe one day.

Left: 40 weeks pregnant with Allegra. Right: 10 days after giving birth.
Left: 40 weeks pregnant with Anya. Right: 48 hours after giving birth. Yes, even I was like 'what the hell... where did my tummy go?!
About four months into my second pregnancy, almost over night, I developed hideous, bulging leg veins in my right leg. There was one enormous protruding one running all the way up my thigh and then a series of large ones running off the main one down behind my knee. To say I was devastated is an understatement. My legs had always been one part of my body that I was 'ok' with so to have this happen was so upsetting. Wasn't there already enough going on with my body, you know, with making a baby and all?! So, what was my solution to the problem? I covered up my legs. Yep, that's right, I then wore pants for almost a year and a half as treatment is not permitted whilst you are still breastfeeding. So with my high hips, saggy boobs and vein infested legs I did what I try to do best... be the best Mum I can be. I fed my beautiful 100th percentile baby for eight long refluxy months, wearing pants (even in the heat of summer) that were mostly covered in vomit. And the week after I finished feeding I booked myself in to have Sclerotherapy. It was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It was still another few months before the bruising of the treatment died down but the veins are now completely gone and all I am left with is the tiniest black mark which looks like a very small bruise. I still remember how liberated I felt the first time I bared my legs in public after such a long time (ok ok, a sneaky spray tan may have helped ease the brightness of my sun-deprived legs hee hee). Hence why I am now not shy to wear the odd mini here and there ;) If any one suffering from legs veins would like to hear more about the treatment before contacting a professional, please don't hesitate to email me, I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have!

Left: Just so you know, this is very confronting for me. Up until now I have only ever shared the photo on the left with two, maybe three, people. It was taken just before my treatment and I still can't bring myself to share a photo of the largest vein that ran down my thigh. I still find it so upsetting BUT am delighted and grateful I achieved the results I did after treatment. Right: Taken during my first session at the gym wearing shorts after almost a year and a half. I copped some slack on my Instagram page when I posted this one but hopefully after seeing the before shot you can appreciate why I was so happy about being in shorts again!
Not so surprisingly, my body and shape has changed a lot since having children. One of the strangest things for me personally about my post baby bod is that the areas I never used to like or appreciate are now becoming strengths rather than weaknesses. I never really had a toned, defined tummy pre-children but I have found this last year or so I now have obliques! Well they were always there but you know what I mean... they are now defined! I'm just as baffled as you believe me. AND surprisingly, I think I am slowly (very slowly) embracing my least favourite part of my body, yep, my hips!


I still feel silly writing this because I know there are probably many people reading this thinking 'what has she got to complain about'... but that is my point exactly. It's often the people you least expect who suffer from being severely self conscious. What you see in the mirror can be very different to how others see you. Your least favourite body parts are often what other people like best about you or even what they wished for themselves.  He'll probably kill me for writing this but when Mr B, how shall I put this, first saw me with my kit off the first thing he commented on was my hips... and I mean that in a very good way ;) But sometimes it doesn't matter how many times you hear it, you can't change to way you think and feel about yourself... or can you?!

I am definitely still a work in progress and I still have my days where I really don't like what I see... but here are a few tips on how you can begin improving your body image issues and make friends with the mirror. It's nothing overly profound but sometimes we all just need a little reminder:

- Be gentle with yourself and focus on the parts of your body you do like. Make a conscious effort not to put yourself down around others and instead turn your focus to something positive you have done that day/week.

- Learn to appreciate what your body is capable of and how it serves you daily. Fellow Mummas, um hello, we grew a human being inside of our bellies. How amazing are we!

- Spend a bit of time learning about dressing to best compliment your assets... feeling comfortable and confident in clothes will also help with feeling comfortable and confident out of clothes (your partners will love this... nudge nudge wink wink).

- Avoid crash dieting and instead slowly start making healthy lifestyle changes that are realistic for you to reach your goals. Everything in moderation. And for what it's worth, I still don't believe in sugar free cupcakes ;)

- Meal planning is a great way to introduce healthier meal options into your household. There are always healthy AND tasty alternatives to some of your favourite not-so-healthy meals.

- Exercise regularly! This in itself will help boost self image, self esteem and energy levelsBut again, be realistic with your approach and don't exercise beyond your ability. Regular exercise has always been a big part of my lifestyle and is something Mr B and I feel very passionate about and couldn't live without.

- Stop making excuses! This is a hard one for many of us. It is easy to fall in to the 'oh I will make a change tomorrow' or 'it's too late for me' or 'I don't have the time' trap. Whether it be a mental change or a physical change, today is the day. There is always time. Make the time. YOU CAN DO IT!

- Surround yourself with supportive and inspiring people! A happy and healthy way of life is contagious :)

Thank-you for reading and for allowing me to get a little of that off my chest. It's not often easy to reveal your weaknesses especially when others may see you in a totally different light. This was a bit of a long one so I think I will save some healthy eating and exercise tips for another day. Until then, be the change you seek! xxx

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