Eating on the Road

When we started planning our trip I spent a lot of time searching the internet for food ideas.  I found recipes and some lists of snacks for in the car (most of which we couldn’t eat anyway) but I still had no idea what people actually ate on a daily basis.  So I thought that I would write a post about just that… what we eat each day.

As you know I am a nutritionist and I would love it if I could say we ate a perfect diet, that the kids munched down on carrot sticks and ate a mountain of veggies every night but I am also a mum and a realist.  I have tried to keep this blog real too, giving you an idea of what it is actually like on the road with two young children and a long list of food intolerances rather than postcard perfect snapshots that don’t reflect reality.

So here it is… the good, the bad and the ugly of what we eat:

The Jazzy Devil is probably the most fussy and in some ways the most difficult.  There isn’t much you can do when a toddler decides he just isn’t going to eat that lovingly made meal.  Forcing the issue usually just makes things worse – a lesson I seem to forget on a regular basis!  The path of least resistance is our best bet at the moment and I just try to get some nutrition in wherever I can.

Jazzy’s breakfasts are:

  • Rice porridge made with rice milk with an egg yolk thrown in at the end of cooking and sweetened with “Heinz” pureed pear and banana
  • My homemade gf bread toasted with peanut butter and banana
  • Pancakes (I’ve been using ‘Bob’s Red Mill’ mix as it is so easy although not so nutritious so this is an occasional one)

Jazzy’s lunches:

  • ‘Vegemite’ sandwich made using my homemade ‘vegemite’ (see below for recipe) and homemade gf bread
  • Penut butter and apricot jam sandwich (I’ve been using St Dalfours jam as it is less refined sugar than some others) with homemade gf bread
  • Good quality gf ham off the bone
  • Hummus
  • Fruit (Bananas, pineapple, apple, tinned mango, small number of grapes)
  • When we are without power and have run out of bread I use the damper scones 

Jazzy’s dinners:

  • Some type of meat cooked on the bbq (chicken, steak or lamb chops) with his veggie mix that I generally make ahead and freeze – he has mashed pumpkin, carrot and apple or pumpkin and sweet potato.  Sometimes I add some gf pasta mixed with butter and a little celtic sea salt
  • Casseroles the rest of us are eating (see Matt and Mel’s dinners below)

Jazzy’s snacks:

Bubba actually eats pretty well these days although it can become quite difficult as he struggles with new foods.  It can take a while for him to accept something new and while, with some coaxing, he will take a bite, it does make it difficult when we are somewhere where his usual meals are just not an option.

Bubba’s breakfasts:

  • Soft boiled eggs with avocado on my homemade gf bread
  • Banana pancakes
  • Rice porridge made with rice milk and sultanas (unfortunately he won’t eat the version Jazzy does).
  • Bacon and eggs
  • Pancakes (I’ve been using ‘Bob’s Red Mill’ mix as it is so easy although not so nutritious so this is an occasional one)

Bubba’s lunches:

  • Jam sandwich on homemade gf bread with homemade raspberry chia jam (see below) (or ‘St Dalfours’ one when I run out), left over meat (chicken, steak, good quality ham off the bone), cucumber sticks and strawberries
  • Bacon and eggs (occasionally if we are at the van for lunch)
  • When we are without power and have run out of bread I use the damper scones

Bubba’s dinners:

  • Generally the same as Matt and Mel’s with the exception of some veg (he won’t eat asparagus) and instead of the salad we have he will have cucumber and tomato and I cook some pasta with butter and celtic sea salt.

Bubba’s snacks:

  • Chocolate cupcakes
  • Banana/apple/orange/pineapple/grapes
  • organic sultanas
  • ‘Meredith Dairy’ sheep yoghurt with pure maple syrup or mashed banana (only when I have it as it is difficult to get hold of)

Matt & Mel’s breakfasts:

  • Gf toast with peanut butter and banana
  • Homemade muesli
  • Banana pancakes
  • Eggs on toast
  • Bacon and eggs
  • Pancakes (I’ve been using ‘Bob’s Red Mill’ mix as it is so easy although not so nutritious so this is an occasional one)

Matt & Mel’s lunches:

  • Gf crackers (either black rice, quinoa ones or the new sunflower seed and fig ones available at supermarkets) with goats cheese, yumi’s dip (this has a preservative in it which I don’t like but I don’t have the time to make my own), veggie sticks (cucumber, carrot and capsicum), olives, avocado
  • Gf wraps (I like the BFree ones with seeds that you can get at Woolies) with chicken, avo and lettuce
  • Gf wraps with ham, avo, lettuce and goats cheese
  • Bacon and egg gf wraps with avo, mayo and beetroot relish (an occasional treat if we are at the van for lunch)

Matt & Mel’s dinners:

  • Meat of some sort cooked on the BBQ (steak, chicken, lamb chops, good quality gf sausages, burgers, fish etc)
  • Meat gets paired with either veg (mashed pumpkin and sweet potato, potatoes fried on the bbq, corn, asparagus, broccolini, roast veg done in the weber, etc) or salad (any mixture of salad veg, rice salad, pasta salad – home made of course, coleslaw, etc)
  • Honey mustard chicken
  • Kid friendly curry
  • A gf pasta dish that has a vegetable based ‘sauce’ unfortunately without tomato as the Jazzy Devil can’t eat it.
  • Savoury mince

We also have some occasional treats along the way which include 70% dark chocolate, ‘fun size’ packet of kettle sea salt chips, the very occasional gf/df sorbet and some dinners and lunches out at cafes or the pub.

So there you have it.  That it pretty much what we eat.  These meals are generally quick to prepare with as many veg and healthy fats as I can manage to squeeze in and most importantly available while on the road!

Hopefully for those out there reading that are travelling or enjoy doing some camping this gives you a few ideas.  Before I go I will leave you with the recipes for my homemade ‘vegemite’ and raspberry chia jam.  Next post I’ll be back to our travels with another recipe for you.  Until then, eat well & live happy.

xMel

HOMEMADE ‘VEGEMITE’

1/2 cup black tahini

4 tbsp gf tamari

2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well until all combined.  Store in a jar in the fridge.

RASPBERRY & CHIA JAM

Approx 350g frozen raspberries (organic is best because of the high level of pesticides sprayed on them)

2 tbsp honey (or more to taste)

2-3 tbsp chia seeds (depending on how thick you like your jam)

Place raspberries and honey in a small saucepan over a medium heat.  Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 20 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add chia seeds and mix well.  The jam will thicken as it cools and the chia seeds soak up the liquid.  Store in a jar in the fridge.

 

A Castle in the Rainforest

We are getting much better at the pack up/set up gig which means we have more time on our travel days to squeeze in visiting more amazing places.  Our trip from Townsville to Cairns was no exception.

The morning we packed up and left Townsville we set ourselves a challenge to get out early and actually managed to be on the road by 8.45am including having to pack up the annex.  This was a major achievement for us.  Given we only scraped through leaving Canberra by 11am, we have come a long way!

The reason for wanting to get off early was so we could stop off at Little Crystal Creek along the way.  We were certainly rewarded for our efforts as Little Crystal Creek is simply stunning!  Located in the Paluma Range National Park about an hour and a half from Townsville, poor Terry (the Territory) had to drag us and the van up another very steep, very winding road.  The crystal clear water at Little Crystal Creek cascades over smooth boulders, under the historic bridge and down a waterfall  into a clear, deep pool.  Surrounded by rainforest and giant trees overtaken by strangler vines, it feels like you have stumbled into paradise.  You can swim at Little Crystal Creek but the water was as icy as it was clear and too cold even for our two munchkins.  So instead we admired, restrained the Jazzy devil as he threw rocks into the “biy-bong” (aka billabong) and had our picnic lunch.

   

Saying good bye to this amazing part of Aus we headed on our way to our overnight stop – Paronella Park.  Paronella Park was created by Jose Paronella, following his dream to build a castle in the rainforest that would entertain the public and allow people to spend time together there.  The now moss covered ruins easily look as though they could belong in a Tomb Raider movie.  Misty rainforest envelopes the old buildings, staircases and hidden waterfalls and wandering through the park continues to delight and entertain, still achieving Jose’s dream.

We arrived at Paronella Park late in the afternoon with just enough time to set up and grab some dinner at the Mena Creek Hotel before going on the night tour.  Thank goodness for steak with chips (gf ones of course) and salad, this is our pub staple – simple, tasty and the kids will eat it!  Complete with torches, the night tour gives another beautiful side to the park with the waterfalls and main part of the castle lit up.

The next morning we very pleased with ourselves as we were up and out even before the grey nomads.  Quite an achievement!  Spurred on somewhat by the fact it stared raining and we hadn’t put the bed end flys up as we thought we would risk one night without them.  Wet bed ends equals wet bedding as the canvas folds down to be able to wind the roof down, something we were not keen on!  Having packed up in record time, we were able to go exploring around the park again in daylight, which both Bubba and the Jazzy Devil had a great time doing.

  

We then ventured down the road to the Ma:mu skywalk.  A 1km long track that meanders through beautiful rainforest.  Off to the side of the track are a 10m long cantilever extending out over the treetops and river far below and a treetop walk, which quite literally has you walking up next to the tops of the rainforest giants.  The Jazzy Devil put in a massive effort walking the whole kilometre, which given he had already walked all around Paronella Park that morning was pretty impressive.  Thankfully we had the stroller for the hike back again.

I managed to scratch together some lunch out of the van in the car park (I was definitely due a trip to the supermarket), think bits of leftover cheese, crackers, ham, chicken, nut bars, sultanas and bananas, just enough to fill empty tummies.  We climbed back into the car and made our way to Cairns, our most Northerly stop along the East coast.

This was meant to be a short post as it is only two days worth of travel but as you can see we packed a lot in.  I haven’t put a recipe in as we didn’t really do anything exciting food wise these two days, but don’t worry I have some good ones coming up for you shortly!  Until next time, eat well and live happy.

xMel

Townsville

After leaving Bowen we continued our trek further North to Townsville.  Having decided that we definitely prefer bush camps we opted for another ‘kind-of caravan park come bush camp’ about 30 minutes out of Townsville.  Dry, dusty and full of wallaby poo but surrounded by dense green trees, steep cliffs and a sparkling blue lake we were very happy with our home for the next three nights.  It gave us loads of space and with power and basic hot showers we were nicely set up.  The owner was a friendly man who must have been 90 years in the shade and deaf as a post but still manages to get about and keep the park in order.

Our days in Townsville were definitely busy ones.  Given we were so far out we made the most of each day, took a packed lunch and found loads of things to keep us entertained.  The Reef HQ, the Townsville aquarium, was fantastic with a massive living coral reef tank, plenty of sharks and creatures in a touch tank for the Jazzy Devil to terrorise, it kept us entertained for a couple of hours.  Lunch in the park and a treat gluten and dairy free sorbet was followed by a visit to the museum.  We were seriously lucky and were there during a dinosaur exhibition.  Complete with 4 animatronic dinosaurs and lots of skeletons the kids were wrapt.  I also learned something new… apparently it is now accepted as quite likely that T-Rex had feathers! Yep get your head round that one – it spun mine out!  The museum also had an exhibit on the lesser know Pandora (ship) sent out from England to capture the mutineers from the Bounty.  Unfortunately the Pandora came to a sorry, watery end off the Great Barrier Reef.

  

We weren’t sure whether swimming at the Beach at Townsville was ok or not given the risk of either stingers or crocs so we opted for the far safer water park along The Strand (Townsville’s esplanade).  The kids had a ball running, splashing and sliding around the fantastic, free attraction while poor Matty shivered down the water slides with the Jazzy Devil.  It was sunny but really not as hot as we were expecting!

Continuing with our animal theme we also went on a slightly different tour our second day.  In my research of things to do in Townsville I somehow stumbled across Ebuta Goat Dairy.  Last year they ran some open days at their dairy but because of some serious bad luck earlier this year they weren’t running them at the moment.  I messaged them anyway to see if they would do tours and the lovely Brian offered for us to come out and for a small cost he would show us around.  We arrived a bit after 8am so that we could see the milking.  As this is a small, boutique dairy, who produce raw goat milk, it is a very hands on process.  We were able to watch as the veterinary students Brian takes on washed and prepared the goats udders, attached the milking tube things (sorry very untechnical term there!) and bottled the milk.  Bubba and the Jazzy Devil also got to feed the goats and best of all we got to sample some of the delicious raw goat milk and the goat milk gelato Brian and his wife make!  It was a real treat to have creamy ice-cream for a change, coconut milk ice-cream is great but I forgot just how good ice-cream made with milk is.  You can see and hear, when talking to Brian, just how passionate he is about their goats and the whole dairy process and it really shows in a fantastic product.

So I should clarify for you all that we are cow’s dairy free (with the exception of organic, grass fed butter) but we can tolerate goat and sheep milk products.  The difference is in the protein.  Most cow’s milk (with the exception of some specifically bred cows – think a2 brand milk) has the A1 casein protein.  Goat and sheep milk is the A2 version.  I won’t bore you with the chemistry of it but basically the A2 version is easier to digest.  The A1 version ends up breaking down to a small peptide that can cross through the intestinal lining in some people with “leaky gut” ending up in the blood stream where it’s not meant to be.  This can cause health issues for some people ranging from sinus problems to atopic conditions to behavioural problems.

The other bonus of the goat milk produced by Ebuta Goat Dairy is that it is raw.  This is quite a controversial topic, so by all means do your own research.  Unfortunately in many states the option to drink raw milk is simply not available.  Victoria has banned all raw milk, both cow and goat.  Queensland still allows raw goat milk (but not cow) with very strict guidelines to prevent nasties in the milk.  So why drink raw goat milk?  Raw milk also contains healthy bacteria and can be a source of probiotics in the same way yoghurt is.  The pasteurising process, which heats milk to a high temperature kills all bacteria, good and bad.  The high temperatures also break down some of the vitamins present in the milk, lowering the nutritional content.  Often commercially available milks then need to be fortified with synthetic vitamins.  Raw milk also contains enzymes naturally present in milk which help to break down the protein making it more digestible.  Again, pasteurising denatures these proteins meaning they don’t do their job any more.  So yes there are risks of contamination with bacteria that can make you ill but clean, well run dairy’s minimise this risk.  Testing both internally and externally is done with each batch to ensure safety.

But back to our travels…  We had a great morning with Brian and his goats and I’d highly recommend a trip out there if you ever get the chance.  Thanks Brian!

Unfortunately the rest of that day did not go as well as we discovered somewhere in his foraging in the bushes at one of our bush camps the Jazzy Devil picked up a tick.  That meant spending an hour or so in the doctors surgery waiting to have it liquid nitrogen-ed off, followed by a course of antibiotics and a mad dash by me around Townsville for some Saccharomyces boulardii (a beneficial yeast probiotic that can be taken at the same time as antibiotics).  He’s fine though and continues to scurry around in the bushes so I’m putting money on it’s not the only one he gets!

So I have been promising a recipe and really reading back over this blog it should be a goat milk one but I actually wanted to share with you a very simple, yummy, nourishing breaky or snack – the humble banana pancake.  These have been a saviour for me when we don’t have power and the fridge is looking a little bare.  They are seriously filling thanks to the protein in the eggs and sweet from the banana – perfect combo! By the way I did make a smoothie for our breakfast with the goat milk and it was delicious so I’ll give you that recipe too (I didn’t take a photo though sorry!).

So until next time, eat well and live happy.

xMel

BANANA PANCAKES

2 eggs

1 large ripe banana

(yep thats it for ingredients – told you it was easy!)

Mash the banana really well in a bowl.  Add the eggs and beat together to form a very runny batter.  Heat a frying pan with a little olive oil over medium heat.  Pour in the banana-egg mixture and leave until it is almost cooked through (approx 4-5 mins). Flip pancake and cook for another minute.  Serve with butter and maple syrup.

SMOOTHIE

(per person)

200ml milk/milk alternative of choice (we used raw goat milk of course!)

1 banana

20g protein powder (go for one without lots of additives eg plain sprouted brown rice powder)

1 tsp raw honey

1/4 avocado

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Spotting Platypus

We decided to detour from the coast for our next stop and headed inland from Mackay toward Eungella.  To break our drive we did an overnight in another low cost showground in a tiny town off the highway called St Lawrence.  We set up away from all the other travellers so we needn’t stress about the noise the kids make when much to our horror a couple pull up right beside us, closer than if we were in a caravan park!  Karma really does come back to bite you though as a third van pulled up beside them and out stepped a couple with a young baby.  I’m guessing they will think twice about pulling up so close next time!  The exciting part of St Lawrence was we saw our first “Beware: Crocodiles” sign next to the river down the road from our camp.  They are quite the norm as we head further North but for us Southerners we had to get out and take a pic!  Needless to say we are quite cautious about any body of water now!

Leaving St Lawrence we continued on our way headed for our first camp in a National Park.  Located in the Mackay highlands, Eungella National Park sits in a mountain range that rises approximately 1000m above sea level.  Climbing the steep winding road that takes us from the low lying sugar cane fields into densely vegetated, lush green forrest, we are afforded a stunning view of the valley below.  The temperature seems to drop with each twist and turn as Terry the Territory ever so slowly pulls us up the mountain.  Matty did a stellar job of getting us and Terry up (and more importantly down again) in one piece with our transmission and brakes still in tact!

Eungella National Park is a special spot as you can see platypus in the river.  I was skeptical at first that we would see any of these elusive creatures but to my surprise and pleasure we saw quite a few over our 2 days, playing and splashing in Broken River.  We were camped on an embankment overlooking the river and one afternoon we could even see a platypus swimming by us from our van.

Once the kids got over the horror of no mobile phone reception at all (hence no internet connection for iview or footy scores) we thoroughly enjoyed the serenity of camping in a national park.  The campground had composting toilets, which if the wind blew the wrong way got a bit whiffy, but were very clean.  As far as amenities go that was it though.  So it was boiling water on the stove for bucket washes in the tub and all cooking had to be done on gas again.  We have got the ‘no power thing’ happening pretty well now.  We have a solar panel that charges our battery during the day which we can run the car fridge off as well as for lights and charging mobile phones etc so it is still pretty luxury camping really.  We did learn a lesson about conserving water though.  We have two 80L tanks which we filled with drinking water before leaving Kinka Beach, but after a stop in St Lawrence, two nights at Eungella and knowing potable water wasn’t going to be available at our next stop either we realised pretty quickly that we had to be a bit stingy with the washing and bathing water!

I came far more prepared this leg of the trip with food than our last bush camp and stocked up the fridges in Yeppoon (which had an excellent woolies by the way) with food to last us until we hit a big town again.  Lots of salad, goats cheese, good quality ham, dip and gf crackers and wraps make for easy lunches, whilst various forms meat to throw on the webber with veg or salad are great dinners.  A fire pit was provided at the camp ground so with firewood from the information centre we had a fire crackling the second afternoon.  The fire pit had a grill over the top so some damper rolls were cooked over the coals in true bush camping style.  They tasted pretty good with dinner too!

   

After leaving our beautiful bush camp we headed towards Bowen and back on the coast again.  Our stay in Eungella confirmed for us that we are definitely bush camp people rather than caravan parks so we opted to stay at a station stay about 20 minutes out of Bowen.  Glen Erin Farmstay is on a 700 acre property that runs cattle, a few sheep and some chicken and turkeys.  You couldn’t really see any of the livestock but the kids had a ball running around with the owner Lyn’s dog on the huge green grassy lawn provided for campers to stay on.  It must be a full time job for Lyn keeping it so green as the rest of the landscape is a very dry, dusty brown.

After setting up we ventured into Bowen with a stop off at the Big Mango and some delicious mango sorbet.  Actually it was just pure blended frozen mango but Bowen mangos live up to their reputation and it certainly needed no sugar added.  After the obligatory selfie with one of Australia’s ‘big things’ we headed into town and to Horseshoe Bay.  A stunning tiny bay with clear blue waters surrounded on three sides by coarse sand and large smooth, sandstone coloured rocks and boulders.  It must have been clear we were Victorians as the afternoons get quite cool and all the other people sensibly got out of the water whilst our two munchkins dived straight in!

We treated ourselves to dinner out that night and were very impressed by the service and help with gluten free meals at the Grandview Hotel.  Bubba managed to get a gluten free pizza which he was very excited about and my gf marinara pasta was delicious.  Loaded with local seafood, tomato based sauce and the right hint of chilli it left me licking my lips.  We’d definitely recommend this place if passing through Bowen.

We only had one night at Glen Erin as it was meant just to be a stopover, but we were all sad to leave the next morning.  However, Townsville called and we packed ourselves back up again and on to our next adventure.

I do realise I am a bit behind in giving you a new recipe but we have been seriously busy the past couple of weeks!  I promise I will get onto it though and have one up for you very soon.  In the mean time, eat well and live happy

xMel

A Visit to Nanny & Papa in Yeppoon

Oh dear I have gotten very behind here but we have been busy!

We paid Nanny & Papa a visit in Yeppoon last week.  Yeppoon is located east of Rockhampton at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.  We actually stayed in a caravan park in Kinka Beach about 15 minutes South of Yeppoon as we were aiming for a more ‘family friendly’ caravan park ie not smack in the middle of a sea of grey nomads.  Not that we have anything against the grey nomads, all the ones we’ve met seem lovely but with a 1.5yo monster who makes a huge racket and insists on taking off to neighbouring sites we thought we’d give our older counterparts a bit of a break!  As it happened we ended camped right next to a lovely retired couple who were either deaf or very polite as they assured us they didn’t hear anything and “he’s fine”!

The kids, and us, were very excited to see Nanny and Papa and we were very lucky that on our second day they took us out on their catamaran to the Keppel Islands.  The waters around the Keppels are post card perfect blue with whites sands and craggy green islands rising up out of the water.  We were able to anchor near an almost deserted beach and ride the dingy in for a swim and play on the sand.

We also paid a visit to the Capricorn Caves.  Privately owned caves near Mount Etna National Park, these are dry limestone caves, that is they are actually above ground and only get water when it rains in the wet season.  This makes the stalagmites and stalactites all the more impressive as they only grow when drips of water run down them.  The Cathedral tour we took takes us down through a series of caves into a large opening that has been beautifully lit with tiny candle like lights and now has cathedral type seating in it.  We were played Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in near darkness in a moving experience.  Bubba and I also took the fossil tour which taught us all about the mega fauna of the area dating back 500,000 years ago.

The rest of the time in Yeppoon we spent fishing and playing down at the beach and amazing water park on the foreshore.  The kids had an absolute ball and Bubba declared Yeppoon his favourite stop so far!

I was very spoilt in Yeppoon, hardly having to cook at all.  I think we stressed poor Anne out but she did a fine job catering for us and cooked us many delicious meals so thanks Nanny!

We were also spoiled for choice in places to eat out.  Matty and I got a dinner out on our own as we had babysitters!  We went to “Beaches” restaurant down near the Keppel Harbour and had a yummy dinner served to us by a fantastic young waiter who made sure our dietary requirements were catered for.  We also treated ourselves to lunch out with the kids at “Yogolicious” who specialise in gluten and dairy free.  Matt declared his burger the best he had ever had (which is a big call) and Bubba had apple cake to die for!  The Jazzy Devil ran riot as always and after being given the hairy eyeball once too many times we headed off back to the water park.  We pulled in to “Pumped Juice Bar and Cafe”, who are completely gluten free, on the way back and stocked up on some gluten free pies and sausage rolls for Matt and some other yummy bits and pieces.

We enjoyed Yeppoon so much we ended up extending our stay to five nights, a much needed rest from the pack up and set up routine.  After a lovely break we were ready to move on again headed for the platypus at Eungella National Park.  Don’t worry I will catch you up on that adventure tomorrow. Until then eat well and live happy

xMel

Alkoomi Adventure Farm

This morning I sat on the step of our van with a steaming, hot mug of tea and watched the sun rise over the rolling hills and scrubby bush in a moment of rare peace.  Streaks of pink broke up the grey early morning light and the birds started calling their good morning song.  The kids were still asleep and just for a minute life seemed to stand still.

The last couple of nights were spent at Alkoomi Adventure Farm.  A farm stay located in Marmor about 40 minutes South East of Rockhampton just off the Bruce Highway.  We got a wonderful, relaxed feeling the minute we drove down the dirt driveway of this stunning property and the warm, friendly family that owns it.

Welcomed onto the farm we were invited to join in on the feeding of their animals (yes more animal feeding!) and the Jazzy Devil was in 7th heaven as he ran from paddock to paddock patting and shoving tiny fistfuls of grass at the two miniature ponies, two horses and 40 odd chickens.  We also got to jump on the back of the quad bike and help feed the cows.  Bubba and I had a great morning riding the horses and we spent the rest of the day chilling out together enjoying the calmness of the scrubby landscape.

In the evening we climbed one of the hills and sat on the large wooden swing and watched the sun go down, understanding that days like this are the reason we embarked on this adventure.

I must admit I did come a little unprepared food wise for our stay here.  I hadn’t remade cupcakes or bread and the fridge really only had bits and pieces in it and we were without power so whipping something up in the thermie wasn’t an option.  I had to put my thinking cap on for this one.  It’s amazing what you can pull together when you have to and I actually managed to feed the family a pretty tasty day’s food (if I do say so myself!).  Breaky was rice porridge with mashed banana for the kids and homemade muesli for Matt and I.  I had some shop bought gf bread with me, so toast with jam was morning tea.  Then lunch I managed to pull this lot together…

Usually I make quirky cooking’s scones in the thermomix but as that wasn’t possible I made these little beauties that tasted somewhere between a scone and damper.  There were only crumbs left!  Don’t worry I will share the recipe with you at the end.  Being a cattle farm, Bec sells steaks that we of course bought and BBQ’d for dinner.  To go with it I had in the fridge: 1/4 butternut pumpkin, the leftover ends of a couple of sweet potatoes, 1/2 a cauliflower, 2 carrots and a capsicum.  What else could I do but roast them!  Tossed in some olive oil and sea salt and thrown into a baking dish they went into the weber directly onto a convection tray as the dish didn’t fit with the trivet in – thankfully as it turns out as having it sit directly on the heat made the veggies beautifully caramelised and delicious!

I have to say that Alkoomi has been one of my favourite stops so far.  We are definitely looking forward to more days like these ones. Until next time, eat well & live happy

xMel

DAMPER/SCONE THINGYS (Sorry I have no better name for these!)

The basic recipe for these came from this Simple and Delicious Gluten Free Scones recipe.  Of course I can’t just follow a recipe I have to tinker with it, so this is what I changed:

Instead of almond meal I used ground sunflower seeds and pepitas (I always have some of this in my fridge in case it comes in handy).

Instead of 60ml cream I used about 110-120ml tinned coconut milk (I’m not very good at measuring sorry, which is probably why these were more like damper than scones!) and 60mls UHT coconut milk (eg Vitasoy) (in place of the milk).  I didn’t bother with rolling I just squashed the dough flat with my hands then cut into 12 small squares with a knife.  Pop them onto a lined tray, touching each other then I baked in the Weber at 200deg (which we get by heating up at full tilt then turning down to about half way) for 15 mins.  Serve with butter or jam (or both!)

Tin Can Bay, Hervey Bay and a Happy Birthday

We have spent the last six nights staying along the Great Sandy Strait at both Tin Can Bay and Hervey Bay.

Tin Can Bay is a sleepy little sea side village near the Cooloola Coast and we spent a couple of lovely lazy days here splashing in the shallow clear bay waters and playing on the playground while Matt and Bubba cast a rod in.  Tin Can Bay is known for a couple of things, the fist being the blue solider crabs that crawl up out of their holes and scurry around the expansive beach as the tide goes way out.  Unfortunately we missed seeing the hundreds of crabs out and about but we did find one little “cabby” who I managed to just save from certain squishing by the Jazzy Devil, curious as always and never nervous about picking anything up!

The second major attraction at Tin Can Bay, and a highlight for us all, was the chance to feed wild, endangered humpback dolphins.  The story goes that many years ago, an injured humpback dolphin came into the harbour and the locals hand fed him back to health.  After healing he continued to come back into the harbour to be fed and play with the humans.  A while after a female dolphin joined him.  She had a calf named Mystique, who still comes in every morning with his small pod.  A centre has now been set up and is run by volunteers and overseen by government.  Tourists are allowed down to see the dolphins and feed them, under strict supervision by the volunteers.  We were lucky enough to experience a very rare event, one of the female dolphins came in with her newborn calf!

Moving on from Tin Can Bay we traveled about and hour and a half to the Fraser Coast and the bigger bayside town, Hervey Bay.  The first Day here was Matt’s B’day and we treated ourselves to a delicious dinner out in celebration.  Wild Lotus was a restaurant down on the esplanade that had most of their menu gluten free and were really accommodating with the kids meals, who often order a modified adult meal as the standard kids menu fare just ‘aint for us!  Tender Hervey Bay scallops, perfectly cooked salt and pepper calamari, mud crab risotto, duck confit legs and gf & df panacotta and pavlova had us licking our lips and rubbing our bellies in satisfaction.

    

Our days were spent here wandering the esplanade, splashing in the crystal clear, sky blue water and playing in the many toddler friendly playgrounds.  We also visited Reefworld, a small aquarium that had a number of tanks filled with coral and brightly coloured reef fish as well as a centre tank with some large ocean fish and a couple of small sharks.  The highlight here though was the outdoor tank with two green sea turtles.  We were able to pat them and feed them lettuce.  It does seem as this trip is a trail of animal feeding at the moment but the kids love it and I must admit I get quite a kick out of it too!

Whilst a birthday definitely calls for a meal out and we’ve enjoyed a few coffees and snacks out, we do try to keep most of our meals home cooked, one as it’s cheaper and two it means full control over ingredients , which even with thorough questioning things slip through when eating out.  Last night we had honey mustard chicken for dinner.  This is my take on the old “chicken tonight”.  Very kid friendly, this meal has the sweetness and saltiness that appeals in some of those jar sauces without the horrible hidden preservatives, flavours and added sugars.  I also manage to pack a few veg in there.  So I thought that we were due for a recipe and this is a great one that the kids and grown ups will both enjoy.

Before I leave you with the recipe though, I thought I’d leave you with some food for thought too… The Fraser Coast is the traditional home of the Butchulla people.  On arriving here during Creation, three lores were passed down to them by Yindingie: What is good for the land comes first; Do not touch or take what does not belong to you; If you have plenty you must share.  Ideals that we would all do well to live by I think.

Until next time, eat well and live happy

xMel

HONEY MUSTARD CHICKEN

800g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed and chopped into small pieces

1 large zucchini, quartered lengthways and thinly sliced

2 large carrots, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced

4 heaped tsp seeded mustard

1 tbsp gin

3 tsp arrowroot

1 cup coconut milk (the UHT type not the can type eg vitasoy unsweetened coconut milk)

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp herbamare (a vegetable salt available from supermarkets)

150g frozen peas, defrosted

2 tbsp olive oil

sea salt

cooked brown rice to serve

Heat olive oil in a heavy based pot.  Add chicken and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add mustard and gin and cook for another 2 minutes.  Place arrowroot in a cup and add enough water to cover, stir to dissolve and add to the chicken.  Stir for a minute or two until it thickens then add the coconut milk and stir.  Add honey, herbamare, zucchini and carrot, stir and bring to a simmer.  Cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked and veggies are tender.  Add defrosted peas for the last couple of minutes cooking.  Serve with brown rice

Crikey!

After three great nights catching up with family and staying inside a house we hit the road again headed for a campground west of the Glasshouse Mountains in the hinterlands of the Sunshine Coast.  I picked this camp site, Running Creek Parklands, for it’s vicinity to Australia Zoo and based on good reviews of wiki camps and we were definitely not disappointed.  Lush green, grassy fields surrounded by bushland and a small creek greeted us as we pulled off a small road in Stanmore, QLD.  The friendly owners of this expansive property have recently converted part of it into a campground for travellers like us.  Facilities are basic, there are 3 porta-loos and not much else so being self sufficient is a must.  But that really adds to the charm of this gem of a campsite.

Fire drums are provided and a lady in her ute does the rounds in the afternoon selling bags of firewood.  So despite poor forward planning meaning no firelighters or matches (think the kids scrapbook and a gas stove), soon after setting up we sent the boys off foraging for kindling and had a fire crackling.  JD was in Jazzy Devil heaven with a pile of sticks to rummage through.  Of course no campfire is complete without toasted marshmallows (gluten free ones of course) or gooey bananas and dark chocolate, both of which we devoured over our two night stay.

         

The nights got bitterly cold as we huddled around our fire with mugs of steaming tea and coconut milk hot chocolate and the full moon and crystal clear skies lit up the night as if there were huge street lights above us.  The freezing nights brought crisp, clear mornings then glorious days with clear blue skies and shinning sun.

Our full day here was spent at Australia Zoo, which we were all very excited about visiting.  It certainly didn’t disappoint and this zoo is by far the most interactive I have been to.  There are large enclosures where you can feed and pat the kangaroos, a kids petting zoo with goats, sheep and pigs and many staff wandering the grounds carrying koalas, lizards, owls and snakes or walking dingos or wombats (yes that is right we did see a wombat on a lead!) that can be patted by the kids.  We also went to their famous show and saw the croc jump out of the water.  I must say I was actually more impressed by the bird display first.  Parrots, macaws, black cockies and lorikeets swooped and dived above our heads in a spectacular display of colour and squawking.

As expected the food at Australia Zoo is the same as at most attractions: fried and not food intolerance friendly.  We always take a packed picnic lunch, not only because it is healthier and assured to agree with our food issues but is also much kinder on the back pocket.  So on the menu this day out was an assortment of veggie sticks with hummus, cherry tomatoes and bliss balls packed into a ‘nude food’ lunch box with leftover chicken and lettuce on gf wraps for Matt and I and sandwiches, chicken and fruit in the munchkins lunchboxes.

I managed to snap a pic of the veggie stick lunchbox but the kids had already devoured their lunch before I got the chance so I will show you what theirs looks like another time!  I find the bento style lunch boxes so handy for days out as I can easily pack an assortment of veg, meat, dip and fruit.  Although Bubba was rather disgusted when I came home with the plastic ‘nude food’ box… “Mum, you can’t use that! We don’t have plastic, it’s got yucky chemicals in it!” Clearly I have taught this boy too well!  He is right and normally I would use glass containers at home but the reality of life on the road is weight is a big consideration and sacrifices have to be made – I still won’t heat in plastic but a plastic lunchbox has become a necessity.  We did allow the kids some hot chips as a treat after their lunch as we were told they were gluten free.  We discovered too late that they had chicken salt, with god only knows what additives, on them so we are crossing our fingers there isn’t too big a fall out from that!

We have now left our little piece of bush camping heaven and headed on to the beautiful, sleepy town of Tin Can Bay.  But that story will have to wait for another day.  Until then, eat well & live happy.

xMel

 

Hastings Point

So the last couple of days have tested us.  It poured for 36 hours! We discovered that the van leaks in several places, the door is not really closing properly and that the arial does in fact work if your push the on button – took us two weeks to work that one out!  The kids were tired and cranky and watched way too much iview.  My washing was soaking wet and would not dry courtesy of the terrible spin cycle on our portable washing machine and the rain that just wouldn’t let up.  The Jazzy Devil continues to get more mischevious by the hour… turn your back and he is standing on the bench, escaping out the zip of the annex or climbing the stairs of the neighbours permanent van and knocking on their door.  When we stripped him off outside to get the sand off him and then moved our attention from him for a minute he laid a nice little poo on the turf and played with it!  I also managed to sink waist deep, fully clothed, into the water where the river meets the ocean trying to cross the very strong current.  Thankfully the only casualty of that were some soggy kids hats.  But as they say whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you drink more wine… sorry I mean only makes you stronger!

There were moments of sunshine during our stay though.  Bubba had a ball body boarding in the waves despite the crappy weather (he even duck dived under a wave!) and caught a good sized flatty that he devoured for dinner.  We found gluten and dairy free fruit sorbet, which while I shudder to think of the sugar content, put a massive smile on the kids faces.  It is a very rare treat for them to have something like that so it makes it that bit more special when they do.  We did a day trip to Burleigh Heads, one of our favourite places, played a round of mini golf and pulled in to Marie Anitas – pretty much the sole reason we go back to Burleigh Heads so often!  Marie Anita’s is a gluten free artisan bakery and cafe.  They specialise in amazing gluten free bread, food intolerances and raw, paleo and vegan food.  And it is delicious!!

 

We also managed to squeeze the clothesline into the annex and put the heater on in there so my clothes did eventually dry.  The Gods decided we had suffered enough and thankfully the sun shone this morning meaning we didn’t have to pack up in the rain.  We are currently on route to Toowoomba to stay with my lovely Brother in law and Sister in law and their gorgeous kids who have promised us a fire and a roast dinner (and hopefully the use of their washing machine) so things are definitely looking up.

Amid the chaos of the last 2 days we did still manage to have two yummy dinners.  One night was fresh prawns with pineapple salsa and crunchy ‘taters done on the Webber.

The other night was burgers with pumpkin damper and salad.  Most Aussies don’t eat the recommended 5 serves of veggies a day. Veggies are awesome!  They provide vitamins, minerals, fibre and other phyto-nutrients like anti-oxidants.  High intakes of vegetables are associated with lower risks of diseases such as diabetes, cardio vascular disease and some cancers. Apart from the fact they taste great, this is why I like to sneak veggies into our meals in as many ways as possible.  This dinner is a great example.  Loads of pumpkin in the damper and zucchini grated into the burgers give an extra veg boost. Any way I shall take my nutritionist hat back off now and share with you my pumpkin damper recipe.

Hopefully next time I write will be from somewhere warmer or at least drier!  But in the mean time eat well & live happy

xMel

PUMPKIN DAMPER

300g butternut pumpkin, roughly cut into cubes

3 cups gf self raising flour (I do find the more refined flours get a better result in this case – I use the Woolies ‘free from’ brand)

½ tsp sea salt

1 ½ tsp xanthan gum

75g butter, softened slightly & cut into cubes

¼ cup coconut milk (the UHT type not the tinned)

 

Preheat Weber or oven to 200 deg. Steam or boil the pumpkin until soft then cool and mash with a fork.  Mix together flour, salt and xanthan gum in a bowl.  Using your fingers rub the butter through the flour to get a breadcrumb like consistency.  Add mashed pumpkin and rub though mixture.  Add coconut milk and kneed with your hands until well combined and the dough all comes together.  Turn out onto a floured board and kneed for a minute or two until dough is soft. Flatten into a disk shape approx 18cm diameter and place on a lined tray.  Score the top with a knife.  Bake for 1 hour.  The top should be golden and of you tap the bottom it should sound hollow when cooked.  Serve with butter.

Note: to get the Weber to approx 200 deg we preheat it on medium high then turn in down to medium low once the damper goes in.

 

Travel Days

The last two days have been travel days.  We spent the night last night just out side of Coffs Harbour to break up our drive in a place that called itself a caravan park but was in Bubba’s rather aghast words “this isn’t a caravan park; It’s nature!”  So it would seem we have indeed raised city kids.  There is a lot for these boys to learn as we go along this trip!

Our ‘nature’ camp actually turned out to be really nice and we now know that we can function very well without power or amenities.

Travel days go something along the lines of get up early, have a quick breaky and wash dishes, pack up inside van, pack up outside van, hitch up, realise we are late leaving (again), drive for 2 hours, stop for a packed lunch and let the boys burn off some energy, drive another 1.5 – 2 hours to our destination, then race around setting up again.  They are hectic days to say the least.

Today, we reached Hastings Point on the Tweed Coast (Northern NSW) and as we will stop here for a couple of nights we had to set up all the extra trimmings.  I have now officially dubbed myself the annex master and had a moment this afternoon something akin to Tom Hanks in Castaway where he bellows out “I have made fire” when I achieved setting up the annex all on my own – I did a bloody good job of it too!  We actually managed to get our set up time down to 1 hour 10 minutes today which is quite an achievement seeing as it was taking us in excess of 2.5 hours in the beginning.  Plenty of time for the big boys to throw in a line off the Jetty just outside our caravan site.

Given the busy nature of these days (and the fact there will be a lot of them as we travel a very large distance), making sure we have a quick, easy dinner is essential or we’d be spending a lot of time eating in pubs and restaurants.  I have fallen in love with my thermo pot/ thermal cooker thingy (I have no idea of the actual brand name of mine, but there are quite a few on the market).  The best way to describe it is a slow cooker without power.  There is a stainless steel pot insert that can go on the stove, which then sits inside an insulated covering and uses the residual heat from the food in the pot to cook the meal through.  Our favourite meal in it so far is a kid friendly curry.  All our meals have to be tomato free as it sends the Jazzy Devil even more bonkers so this one is a great option for us.  I prep all the veg and meat ready to go the night before.

Then in the morning when I get up I put it all into the pot on the stove to cook for 20 minutes while we are eating breakfast.

The pot then just slides into the insulated covering and it gets stored in the space under the couch while we travel.  All that is required when we arrive is to cook some brown rice (in the thermie if we have power as it is so easy and JD can’t burn himself on it while I’m not looking), warm the curry a little on the stove and hey presto dinner is on the table.

The weather is starting to warm up now, it was about 23 degrees and sunny today and we are able to sit in the annex this evening without shivering so we are definitely looking forward to a swim and surf tomorrow.  For now though, I will leave you with the recipe for my kid friendly curry and see you again soon.  Until then , eat well & live happy

xMel

KID FRIENDLY CHICKEN CURRY

Approx 700g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed and quartered

1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and diced

1/2 cauliflower, cut into florets

1 brown onion, diced

150g frozen peas

1 x 270ml tin coconut milk

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp “Herbamare” (this is a vegetable salt available from supermarkets in health food section)

olive oil

sea salt

Heat approximately 2 tbsp olive oil in the pot of the thermal cooker (or any heavy based pot at home).  Add onion and chicken and sauté for 4-5 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, except peas, plus 1 tin of water (use empty coconut milk tin) and season with sea salt.  Cover with lid, bring to boil then turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Place pot into thermal outer section, close the lid and allow to ‘cook’ for approximately 8 hours.  Just before serving place pot back on the stove and add peas.  Simmer for another 5 minutes.  Serve with brown rice.

If you are making this at home you could just cook on the stove for approximately 30 minutes until veggies are soft.

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