to love and to feed them

choccake

By EMMA CRAUFORD

It has occurred to me that when it comes to raising children, nothing can actually prepare you for each new season.

I don’t like this.

If at all possible, I would prefer 12 months notice on All Issues That Will Arise with each of my children. Then I could plan, research, study, hold focus groups and interrogate All Those Who Have Gone Before and demand their wisdom and insights. I could search for the people who have experienced the exact same thing that my kids will and ask them “What do I do?” Continue reading “to love and to feed them”

Raspberry & Pistachio Refined Sugar-free & Gluten Free Semifreddo

by EMMA CRAUFORD

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A semifreddo is a fancy word for a ‘semi frozen’ dessert. It almost always has a base of cream, eggs and sugar, but when it comes to flavour, anything goes.

My boys and I agree that eating this one tastes like eating a frozen Creme Brûlée.

Another simple recipe that’s perfect for summer time entertaining, it only has 3 main steps – whip, fold and freeze and can be made many days in advance.

You will need electric beaters for this recipe, hand whipping won’t get you the desired thickness you need when it comes to whipping the egg yolks and honey.

This has made it to the top of our dessert menu for my family Christmas gathering – alongside my Mum’s Pudding of course.

A shout out to one of my fave’s, Bill Granger, for this recipe. His simple approach to cooking is one I love. I come back to his recipes time and time again. This is my version of his recipe from ABC Delicious magazine, November 2006.

Raspberry & Pistachio Semifreddo (refined sugar free, gluten free)

Related

  • Prep Time: 15m
  • Cook Time: 6h
  • Total Time: 6h 15m

Ingredients

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 250 milliliters thickened cream, whipped (1 cup)
  • 150 grams fresh raspberries, plus extra to decorate
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted, shelled pistachios, chopped, plus extra to decorate
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

Method

  1. Beat the egg yolks and honey together with an electric beater until very thick, pale and double in volume. This will take at least 5 minutes.
  2. Fold in the whipped cream and vanilla.
  3. Line a loaf tin with plastic wrap, leaving enough to hang over the sides of the tin. You will use this to wrap over the top of the semifreddo.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the tin, fold the wrap over the top and place in freezer for 2 hours, until semi-frozen.
  5. Remove from the freezer and carefully stir through the raspberries and pistachios.
  6. Cover with the wrap again and place in the freezer for another 4-6 hours, or overnight, until completely frozen.
  7. 20 minutes before you are ready to serve, invert the semifreddo onto a platter, remove the plastic wrap, decorate as you wish and leave to sit in the fridge to soften a little before cutting and eating.
emma
Emma is from Sydney, Australia, where she is raising 3 beautiful boys alongside her husband.  Her happy place is her kitchen, and cookfasteatslow.com is her blog about her everyday simple food, her faith and her family.

Continue reading “Raspberry & Pistachio Refined Sugar-free & Gluten Free Semifreddo”

Recipes for a crowd: Panzanella Salad

Recipes For A Crowd is a new category on Esther & Friends.  These are tried and true crowd-pleasers that look great on a platter and, most importantly, don’t stress out the host.  Who better to kick this off than our resident foodie, Emma Crauford.   For our lovely friends in Europe and the US, we will try to incorporate some winter-style recipes in coming weeks.  Forgive us our Antipodean summer Christmas and our need for BBQ’s and salads at this time of year…..it must seem very odd!    Bon Appetit!

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by EMMA CRAUFORD

This is the first of a few posts I am going to dedicate to the Christmas season. Whether you need inspiration for a relaxed summer BBQ with friends or a formal Christmas gathering, over the next few weeks I will post some simple and achievable recipes suitable for those occasions. I can’t wait to hear if any of them make it to your menu!

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There are many reasons why this is one of my favourite salads.

Firstly, it’s from Tuscany, Italy. A place I dream of visiting one day.  I long to soak up the history, food and culture. I dream of spending a day in an Italian mumma’s kitchen, learning all that I can. I dream of olive groves, foraging for herbs and eating lots and lots of cheese!

The Italians are well known for being wise with their food and never wasting a thing. This salad was born as a way of using up stale bread. Pure genuis, to combine stale bread with some of summers best produce and finest herbs.

Secondly, it is colourful and so pretty on a big white platter. The red, green and white theme make it a perfect Aussie Christmas salad, especially when tomatoes are at their best and full of flavour.

Thirdly, it’s SIMPLE. A little chopping, a little toasting and a quick dressing, this salad is perfect to add to your Christmas menu, which like me, you are probably trying to keep as simple, yet as tasty, as possible.

My version of the Panzanella Salad is based on one I read about in the Quick Smart Cook recipe book, from the ABC delicious magazine.

Panzanella Salad

  • Prep Time: 10m
  • Cook Time: 20m
  • Total Time: 28m
  • Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf sourdough bread, torn into small chunks
  • 50 milliliters extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for the sourdough)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, to give 3/4 cup (plus extra whole leaves for garnish)
  • 600 grams cherry tomatoes, halved (look out for yellow, orange and green tomatoes to make the salad more colourful)
  • 1 large lebanese cucumber, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup pitted olives, halved (more if you like olives!)
  • 150 grams fresh buffalo mozzarella or bocconcini, torn into chunks

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. Drizzle the torn bread chunks in some olive oil, season with salt and place in a single layer on a baking tray.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes till golden and crispy. Set aside.
  4. Combine 50ml olive oil, red wine vinegar and finely chopped basil leaves in a jar with a lid and shake to combine.
  5. Place cut tomatoes, olives, cucumber, toasted bread and mozzarella in a large bowl and pour the dressing over. Mix well with your hands.
  6. Place on a serving platter and garnish with whole fresh basil leaves.

emma

Emma is from Sydney, Australia, where she is raising 3 beautiful boys alongside her husband.  Her happy place is her kitchen, and cookfasteatslow.com is her blog about her everyday simple food, her faith and her family.

 

Celebrating is Important

The news is heavy today.  Despite the uncertainty or perhaps because of it,  this post of Simone’s couldn’t be timed better.   My heart felt lighter and my soul felt ready to face the world again when I’d finished reading it.  Celebrations are important.  Now more than ever.  Can I encourage you to set aside the news cycle for a moment and read this instead.  Live brave, sister! Meredith xo

BY SIMONE GRAHAM

With Christmas looming and BBQ season cranking up, it can feel a bit overwhelming if you find yourself having to play host when it’s not really your thing. I write a blog called Great Fun etc which is known for its party posts, but can I let you in on a little secret? I’m not naturally a party person. I’m not an extrovert, I don’t like crowds and I struggle day-to-day with organisation. Yet somehow we have managed to create a family culture where we love to celebrate.

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Every birthday, anniversary, and special occasion will see us hosting a party of some kind.  (Which is kind of odd because I am actually a bookworm introvert). This started out slowly. In the early years birthday parties were at Chipmunks Indoor playground, and I’d attempt a cake. But somehow over the years I discovered that I enjoyed making people feel special. And welcome. And I loved creating an atmosphere, using my imagination, using what I have to create a bit of magic… Long before I blogged I began loving creating parties – because of the memories and the warm fuzzy feeling that came when I made my kid or my friends or my hubby feel important.

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Nowadays, we love to have people over and spend time with special people enjoying an occasion together. I can whip up a mean party in half a day. I’ve learnt some tricks (mainly how to stay calm, how to minimise the workload and to always, always have a rain plan).

If you’ve ever been on Pinterest, you’ll know it can be a little bit overwhelming – all that cleverness. If we start to compare our efforts with just a fraction of what we see there we can start to feel terribly inadequate and awfully overwhelmed. So don’t bother comparing. Stop looking at Pinterest, if it’s making you feel that way.

What matters is not that everything at your celebration is themed and Picture perfect – what matters is that you celebrate.

It matters that your guests feel welcomed and that the birthday person feels special. What matters is that you enjoy yourself too, and that memories are made because you’ve spent time with people who matter to you, not that you got hung up on hosting the perfect Pinnable Party.

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Even though I delight in coming up with creative ideas for the celebrations we host, I’m more into making memories and a little bit of magic, not starring on Pinterest with big budget professional parties. I love at-home parties that don’t just look pretty but are fun to be at.

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Round here, we’re fans of the deceptively-simple, we like to re-use, upcycle and get creative. We involve our kids in the planning and preparation, we get a kick out of being clever and focus on having fun.  All our parties are home-made, on a budget and absolutely enjoyed by all (kids and adults alike).

When it comes to birthdays, we believe celebrating each other is a way of showing appreciation and letting each person know that they’re valued and special. At Christmas, we’ve learnt that less is more and magic moments are more likely when you’re not stressed by trying to do too much (but that’s a whole other story).

Celebration is such a part of our family culture now. For us, Celebrations are a must.  They are a highlight. A bright spot. A peak in what can sometimes feel like a year of valleys. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine,” the Proverb says. And so it does.

When things are feeling grim and heavy, throw a party – even if it’s just you and your kids. Celebrations don’t have to involve crowds of people or weeks of planning. Sometimes an impromptu “party for no reason” can brighten up a dull or disastrous week.

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To help with impromptu parties we have:

  •  a pretty impressive dress-up collection which has been added to over nine years
  •  a crafty box, filled with bits and bobs, a glue gun and leftover party bits, like balloons
  •  a cake decorating drawer, filled with food colouring, squeezy tubes of gel icing, sprinkles,
  • cachous and candles (again, collected and added to over the years)
  •  jar lanterns, candles, Christmas lights,  fabric bits,  mosquito nets and tablecloths, for
  • decoration
  •  a collection of face paints and glitter, added to over time, from the good old dollar store
  •  a brazier that we light and sit around – cooking sausages, toasting marshmallows and playing games

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It takes half an hour to whip up a batch of Cupcakes, and set up a pretty table. We raid the cupboards for fruit to chop, popcorn to pop and marshmallows to make it a bit festive. Sometimes we call the neighbours and invite them to share the goodies; sometimes we party on our own. We turn on some music and dance (or ride bikes or have a water fight). Instant party. Impromptu parties are so enjoyable, truly.

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We often throw one during the school holidays. I make sure to invite mums I want to hang out with who have children my kids will enjoy playing with. Everyone brings food to share (“something festive”). I call it a party, and once you call it a party, it is one. 

Throwing the odd party for no reason might be the very thing you need to boost your spirits, every now and then! You may be surprised at how easy it is. All you need is some bunting, a few friends and some cake.  If you don’t have bunting, just friends and cake.  If you can’t find friends at short notice, just cake and bunting and your kids.

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There should always be cake (but you can always train your kids to bake it). A birthday party need take no more work than this, really. When it comes to birthdays, the crucial thing is not the decor, it’s the celebration. Taking a day to let someone know they are a special and valued member of the family. That they are loved and appreciated. King or Queen for a day. Celebrated.

That’s why we party.

A full list of all our parties, including photos can be found here {click}

simone

 Simone Graham blogs at Great Fun etc  she is a Party Nut, Mother, Wife, Book Lover, Blogger, Human Being.  She’s coming to you from Auckland, New Zealand, where she lives with her crazy family in a 1920’s bungalow which she loves to DIY.

 

 

 

Hospitality Hacks for the Domestically Challenged

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“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” ACTS 2:46

Hospitality isn’t necessarily defined by the production of food, however, there IS something magical that transpires when a group of people gather around a table and break bread together.  The simple act of sharing a meal, a conversation, a funny story can break through a fog of social awkwardness that might have taken six months of 5 minute conversation grabs.

I’m not a particularly gifted cook, but what I have learned to do with some modicum of competency is to gather people and create an atmosphere of comfort.  The thought of entertaining used to send me in to a spin, however, after lots of tears and tantrums I have developed some vital hospitality hacks.  This allows me to focus on the heart of hospitality, which is to create space.  Whether that space needs to be in my home or more importantly, in my heart.  Our children have picked up on this.  We’ve always been determined to have an ‘open door’ policy for their friends.  Interestingly, since I’ve stopped freaking out about maintaining a facade of domestic supremacy, we have more of their friends in our house.  In fact, all three couches in our family room pretty much form to shape the outline of 16yr old boys, friends of our eldest son, who regularly sleep there.

Most importantly, I’ve stopped viewing my house, my children, my food offering through a critical lense of scarcity.  We are good enough, just as we are.   {In fact “good enough” might be my new mantra….If I’m a “good enough” mum, a “good enough” host…that is indeed enough, Jesus will make up the rest}.   I am aware that with six kiddos we can seem like an overwhelming herd of buffalo when you’re first getting to know us and  this used to dissuade me from inviting people over.  Now I just embrace it and think “Well, our guests will always leave feeling happier about the state of their own home and family once they’ve witness our craziness.”  It’s a positive, not a negative.  Onwards!

Here’s my recipe for avoiding a nervous breakdown when people come over:

  1.  Grab a large laundry basket.  Throw everything into it that is lying on the floor or out of place.  Put that laundry basket in the laundry and deal with it later.  I usually require more than one basket….
  2. Wipe down surfaces.  If you have clean surfaces, generally the rest of the house looks clean.  You might want to include wiping down the kids. No judgement here, folks.
  3. Stack things.  Books, toys, sports gear.  If household detritus is stacked, it tricks the eye into thinking it is tidy. Although you might want to move the neatly folded stack of underwear from the middle of the table.  I can tell you from experience, that it’s not the look you’re after.  Especially if you’re in the early stages of friendship.  Once you’re my friend, whatevs.
  4. Give the bathroom a once-over, put a fresh hand-towel out, fresh soap and light a candle.  Hey presto, you’ve got a spa-quality bathroom. Note:  Do this yourself.  Learn from me. Trusting one of the kids to do it will result in social embarrassment.
  5. Plan a menu which has people serving themselves, rather than you having to plate up.  The food always looks fab on platters and those picky eaters can just do their thing without awkwardness.
  6. White plates, white platters and colourful tablecloths.  It always looks fresh and it always matches!
  7. BBQ’s are wonderful It gives your husband something to do and a focal point for the guys to stand around and chat.
  8. If people ask “Can I bring something?”  The answer is always YES.  Hospitality is about making people feel welcome and comfortable.  Everyone wants to feel a part of things and bringing something along to contribute immediately puts that person at ease.  This is not an opportunity for you to show off your cooking prowess.  This is about warmth and welcome.
  9. Music.  Get yourself on Spotify {or something} and get a great soundtrack album like Something’s Gotta Give or one of those Putumayo albums on in the background for instant ambience {Although World Music is polarising, so you might want to stick with Norah Jones}
  10. Give people jobs to do once they arrive.  “Here, can you pop this on the table?”  “Can you help serve the kids?” or in my dreams “Would you mind folding that laundry?”….ha!
  11. Best ice-breaker question ever to a couple you are wanting get to know: “How did you two meet?”
  12. Buy the best coffee/tea you can afford and serve it in nice mugs.  This matters.  Whether you’re offering an end of meal coffee or having friends over for a cuppa, you want them to feel special.  My plates and bowls are $1 specials from Kmart.  My mugs are where I’m happy to spend a bit extra.  Having said that, I bought the most fabulous paint-dipped mugs from Target for $4.  Bottom line, we need to conserve our resources and coffee and mugs is a good place to focus our efforts.

 

LAST MINUTE MENU FOR THE PANICKED

For when you’ve bumped into someone after church or at the shops on a weekend morning and in a rush of bonhomie you foolishly blurt out,”Hey pop on over for a quick lunch!”.  Don’t panic.  Do this:

  • Sausages on the BBQ
  • Lebanese flat bread
  • Hummus
  • Tabouli
  • Everyone assembles it themselves and the kiddos can just have sausages, Lebanese bread and tomato sauce.  Super easy!
  • Grab a Pavlova from the supermarket,  whip up some cream, add fruit and you, my friend, have a house full of very happy guests.

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It’s not a competition.  Some of our most memorable, happy dinners have been the last minute, slapped together cacophony of tastes and flavours, laughs and “Sorry it didn’t set, but hey, let’s eat it with a spoon!” type of experiences.  I once served a dish to friends and when they complimented me on it and asked what it was I just said “Chicken surprise”….because it was a combination of two different chicken dinner leftovers with melted cheese on top.

Love God, love his people.  Especially the ones who seem a little alone.  Reach out to them, pop some sausages on the barbie and invite them to sit and tell you their story.  You won’t regret it.  Pinky promise.

Live Brave, sister!

Meredith xo

me

Meredith is the Editor of  Esther & Friends, wife to Dave, mum to six kiddos and Charlie the Wonder Dog.  She believes in the redemptive qualities of God, books and coffee and loves her church and its family with a passion.  Meredith also sits on the board for The Lisa Harnum Foundation which seeks to re-establish families who are fleeing the trauma of domestic violence.  You can contact Meredith here on estherandfriendsmail@gmail.com.

Reclaiming His Peace this Christmas

by EMMA CRAUFORD

“Look Mum,” he screamed in the middle of the store, his finger pointing ahead of him and his eyes wide with wonder.

My eyes followed his finger.

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“It’s a Christmas Tree mum, it’s so BOOOTIFUL!” he said in his cute little-boy way.  That’s when I felt it, the knot in my stomach and then these words came crashing in. Continue reading “Reclaiming His Peace this Christmas”

Living Open-handed Lives

BY EMMA CRAUFORD

The Bible is pretty clear on the two most important commands that God has given to his people.  In Matthew chapter 22 verse 37, Jesus responds to the ‘experts in the law at the time’ who ask him which, out of all the commandments, is the greatest.

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

It’s pretty straight forward.

We are called to LOVE God and LOVE People. Continue reading “Living Open-handed Lives”