Heading West

We have made it to Darwin! Yes I realise I am a long way behind in my blog posts but aside from being really busy doing stuff, I haven’t had phone coverage for internet or power to charge my laptop.  But I will catch you up on the highlights in more detail in posts to come soon.

We’ve been on the road for 100 days now.  42 of them since we left Atherton and headed West along the Savannah Way then North up the Stuart Highway.  Far from being monotonous, the landscape of the Savannah Gulf of far North Queensland and the outback of the Top End is ever changing.  From sun bleached grasslands, scrubby bush, red stone cliffs, flat barren plains to tropical National Parks there is always something interesting to watch out the window as we tick over the k’s.

   

We have camped beside rivers, creeks and billabongs; in dry and dusty bush; in National Parks and surrounded by cattle, buffalo, horses, chickens and the odd cranky donkey in many outback stations, but always under a night sky filled with more stars than I ever thought possible.

     

We have swum in creeks and swimming holes as clear as they are cold; soaked off the dirt and dust in toasty warm thermal springs; learned that as long as you leave them alone it’s fine to swim with the “freshies”; paddled a canoe up gorges; hiked to waterfalls; fossicked for gemstones; watched the sun set over the Gulf of Carpentaria; marvelled at natural geological wonders and been amazed by the raw and sometimes harsh natural beauty of the Aussie Outback.

      

We have eaten, drunk, listened to live music and partied in some iconic Aussie pubs.  Not the least of which was the Daly Waters pub. A quirky one of a kind place where every square inch of the walls, ceiling and bar are covered with business cards, hats, shirts, shoes, bras and all manner of paraphernalia people have felt the need to leave behind.  Here we ate beef and barra off the barbie, drank bad house wine and had a loud and boisterous night with two other amazing families on the road with their kids.

We have met many friendly, warm, adventurous, down to earth, wonderful people.  Serveral of whom we became good friends with in spite of the transient nature of relationships on the road.  We have spent many hours chatting and swapping stories with other travellers over camp happy hour and around the campfire.  We met one family in particular at Banka Banka station between the Barkley Roadhouse and Daly Waters, who we clicked with immediately.  We happened to be heading in the same direction so were able to spend 5 fun filled days with them exploring the path North.  Bubba hit it off immediately with their oldest son and they quickly became best buds.  We hardly saw him for those days, disappearing out the van after breakfast, reappearing only for the odd meal.  Poor Jazzy desperately wanted to be one of the big boys and trailed after them.  The boys were great though, often including him in their games.  We have plans to meet up again and I’m sure we will remain friends for many years to come.

We have all had our tired and cranky days but the boys have changed and grown so much since leaving. It has been a joy to watch them flourish in this bush setting.

This is why we packed up and hit the road.

To celebrate reaching Darwin I thought we should have cake.  Well, muffins at least.  These little babies are easy to make and so long as I have some pre-ground sunflower seeds and pepitas, they don’t need power to do so.  You could use store bought almond meal instead, if you tolerate nuts, to make it easier but I quite like the taste the seeds give them. The recipe below is the base recipe and you can go nuts (pardon the pun) with changing up the flavours you add to it.  I have given you a few ideas after the recipe.

So until next time, eat well & live happy.

xMel

MUFFINS

1 cup gf plain flour

1 cup mixed ground sunflower seeds and pepitas

3/4 cup rapadura sugar

2 heaped tsp gf baking powder

1/3 cup olive oil

2 eggs

1 cup UHT coconut milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

Heat up the Weber (or your oven) to approx 170deg.  Line a 12 hole muffin tray with cup cake cases.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and use a fork to remove any lumps.  Make a well in the centre and crack eggs into well.  Add oil, vanilla and milk then use a fork to whisk wet ingredients slowly incorporating the dry ingredients until well combined.  Spoon mixture into muffin tray.  Bake for approximately 25-30 mins until tops spring back when lightly touched. (makes 12)

Variations:

Apple & Cinnamon: Add 1 tsp cinnamon to dry ingredients.  Grate 2 pink lady apples and squeeze out the juice.  Add to mixture at the end.

Chocolate: Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to dry ingredients

Banana: Add 1 tsp cinnamon to dry ingredients and 2 mashed bananas at the end.

 

Free Camping

Since heading into the outback along Queensland’s Savannah Way we have discovered the joys of free camping.  Technically free camping refers to a lack of facilities, ie no showers, water, power and sometimes no toilets rather than no cost although many are free of charge or only ask for a small donation.  Many are located at the outskirts of a town, along rivers, at historical sites or can even be a gravel pit on the side of a major highway.

We love free camps, not only because it keeps the budget down but for the extra space and ability for the kids to run freely without us worrying they will bother the neighbours or be squashed by a four wheel drive. There is also a camaraderie between travellers staying at free and bush camps that we just haven’t felt in caravan parks and have met many lovely, like minded people by camping in them.

We have stayed in quite a few free camps now but hands down our two favourites have been the Cumberland Chimney site 20km west of Georgetown and on the Gregory River.

The Cumberland Chimney is the remains an old brick chimney dating back to the late 1800’s and used in the mining heyday of the area.  There is also a large lagoon that is home to many different species of birdlife.  Actually the whole site is a haven for birdwatchers, we had a flock of red tailed black cockatoos living in the tree right next to our camp, which were beautiful to watch and listen too.  There is a gravel area up top that people like to camp on as it overlooks the water but we bypassed this opting for a flat, grassy, shady spot further away from other vans giving the boys plenty of space to run around.  We were even able to have a camp fire – excellent real estate!  Another bonus of this camp was its proximity to Georgetown, one of our favourite outback country towns.  Georgetown had a great playground, a small but well stocked foodworks, potable water tap, dump point (to dump our porta-pottie at), TerraEstrial – a museum with large collection of gemstones and crystals and just a general friendly feeling about the place.

 

The free camp at Gregory Downs was located on the Gregory River and had no facilities at all.  Being self-sufficient is a must at many free camps and we are so glad that we bought a porta-pottie for this trip – it has definitely been one of the things we couldn’t have managed without.  The section of the Gregory River that runs through this camp is very shallow and fast flowing.  It’s also icy cold but given the temperatures are in the low thirties during the day a wonderful activity here is to float (or ride your boogie board) down the river with the current pushing you along at quite a brisk pace. The four of us had a ball cruising down the river then walking back up the top again for another go.

  

One thing with free camps is that there are, of course, no set sites and no bookings.  It is purely a first in best dressed kind of deal.  Both our favourite camps were really popular for obvious reasons.  We got into the Cumberland Chimney site a bit before midday, which meant we had a good choice of places to pull up but our trip to Gregory Downs was a longer one meaning we arrived at the camp at about 2.30 and managed to squeeze into the last tiny spot – there are definitely some bonuses to having a small camper trailer rather than a huge 20-something foot van!  We watched quite a few vans pull in after us and have to leave again.

I think I am definitely overdue for a recipe so I thought I’d share my savoury mince recipe with you.  Definitely a camping favourite there is something so comforting about a bowl of savoury mince around a campfire.  I love it made with plenty of veg and served with brown rice for a nice boost of fibre and B vitamins.  You can easily mix around the combination of veggies and I often do depending on what I have available to me.  If I was making this at home I’d use a homemade chicken stock in place of the water, which adds extra richness and all the benefits of lovely gut healing meat stock but unfortunately stock is just too hard on the road!  The recipe below makes enough for our dinner and lunch the next day.  I just warm it on the stove in the morning and pop it into the thermo pot to keep it warm for lunch on the go.

So if you are out there on the road or planning a trip we highly recommend you give free camping a go and hopefully we will see you out there! Until then, eat well and live happy.

xMel

SAVOURY MINCE

500g grass fed beef mince

500g pork mince

1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise then diced

1 large carrot, quartered lengthwise then diced

1 brown onion, diced

3-4 celery sticks, sliced thinly

A few good splooshes of gf tamari (actually its probably about a tablespoon but you know what I’m like at measuring!)

2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp herbamare

3 heaped tsp arrowroot

olive oil for cooking

cooked brown rice to serve

Heat olive oil in a deep frypan or flame proof casserole pot over medium heat.  Add onions and sauté for 2-3 mins until they are just softening.  Add mince and cook until browned all over.  Add veggies and enough water to just cover the mince/veg mixture.  Bring to a simmer.  Add tamari and herbamare.  Simmer for approx 20 mins until veggies are soft, stirring occasionally.  If you are cooking it in a fry pan you may need to add a bit more water during cooking time if it starts to dry out.  Add honey and stir.  Place arrowroot in a cup with enough cold water to make a thick liquid then add to mince.  Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring to thicken.  Serve with brown rice.

Cairns & a Visit From Granny & Pa

Cairns is a lovely city with a definite holiday feel.  It is quite the tourist destination with many Aussie and international visitors.  The Esplanade is well set up to cater for them too. With a beautiful man made lagoon safe for swimming in that we made great use of, many cafes and restaurants and nightmarkets Cairns definitely has a great little buzz about it.

We spent 8 nights at a caravan park a few minutes out of the main tourist area.  The weather was unfortunately terrible and it pretty well rained from the minute we got there til the day we left.  That didn’t stop us though and we packed loads into our days.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day at Tjapukai, an Aboriginal cultural centre, which was tasteful rather than blatantly touristy.  We threw boomerangs and spears and watched a dreamtime story reenactment as well as learning about bush food and weapons.  They catered for gluten free in their restaurant too, which was great.  We also spent time at the Cairns aquarium, Muddy’s playground (a fabulous free waterpark and playground) and splashing in the lagoon despite cold water and cold weather.

We spent a day out at Hartley’s Crocodile farm and another at Kuranda Village in the rainforest, which included a tour on an old army DUK that goes from land to water – a lot of fun for the kids.  A real highlight though was a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef pontoon where we had a ride on the glass bottom boat, semi submersible and best of all went snorkelling with Bubba out along the reef.  We were really lucky and while snorkelling saw a sea turtle!  These guys also catered really well for gluten and dairy free.

One of the best parts of our time in Cairns was a visit from Granny and Pa.  They flew up from Melbourne and spent a few days seeing the sites with us.  They also baby-sat the kids for us so Matt and I got to go out for a grown up dinner – quite the treat!

We were quite spoilt for choice in terms of restaurants catering for dietary requirements.  We headed to Grill’d two nights to give Bubba his fix.  Whilst it is still fast food and not ideal, it is great to be able to let Ben feel “normal” sometimes, something that is becoming more of an issue the more he grows up.  At least they have gluten free buns that don’t contain nasty bread additives that many do and fresh grilled chicken and salad.  Matt and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Ochre and although we had a few false starts eventually managed to get delicious gluten free meals.  We also still cooked lots of meals at the van and I made this rice salad that I will share with you below one evening for dinner with Mum and Dad.  Dad loved it and asked for the recipe so this is for you Dad! Unfortunately I did have a photo of it but my phone has packed it in courtesy of the Jazzy Devil and I have lost a few photos in the process so you will have to imagine what this one looks like.  Or better yet, make it and then you will know!

Until next time, eat well & live happy.

xMel

RICE SALAD

1 cup brown rice

red capsicum, cut into small squared

1/2 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced

1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved

1 avocado, diced

2 cups mixed lettuce leaves

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp apple cider vinegar (or to taste)

sea salt

Cook brown rice and drain excess water.  Add salad veg to a bowl then add warm brown rice.  Mix oil and apple cider vinegar together and season with the sea salt.  Add dressing to salad and toss well.  Serve with your choice of protein.  You can also make it into a meal on its own by adding sunflower seeds, pepitas and some soft goats cheese.

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.

 

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.

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

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.

Catching Up

So I thought I’d write you a “worts and all” post today… Keeping up with washing, cooking and maintaining the van in some semblance of order is challenging with two munchkins champing at the bit to get out and about.  Washing piled up and we had slowly munched our way through the stockpile of food I made before we left.  The final proverbial straw came when the trolley from Coles puts it’s wheel lock on to stop you crossing the road with it and I had to carry six full bags of shopping, a box of nappies and a squirming JD across the road to the car.  That evening mummy threw a minor hissy fit!

So over the last couple of days in between surfing, fishing and mini golf we have squeezed in some much needed house keeping.  So far this trip is testing my ability to cope with limited forward planning and lowering my hygiene standards.

Multiple loads of washing had to be got through.  Having our little portable washing machine is very handy but the spin cycle doesn’t really cut it and until the weather really warms up, drying clothes is a lengthy task.  In the end we paid for a couple of proper wash loads to catch us up.

I desperately needed to restock our food supply too so I have now made two loaves of bread, two batches of cupcakes, ‘chocolate porridge’ (don’t worry a recipe for this will be in a future post) and more bliss balls which hopefully will at least get us through the next day or two!

The cupcakes are the ones I usually make at home for Bubba’s lunchbox, but camping style they are baked in the Webber. The recipe comes from Quirky Cooking’s Mr I’s Far Too Easy Chocolate Cake To make it gluten free I use 45g chickpea flour, 40g brown rice flour, 25g arrowroot and 20g potato starch in place of the spelt flour (which is not gluten free).  You could also use a premixed gf flour blend but I prefer to use the less refined whole grain flours.  I also add in 3/4 tsp xanthan gum to help the texture.

At home I bake these as cupcakes in the oven at 160-170 deg (depending on your oven) for 25mins.  Here, they baked beautifully in the Webber at around 165 deg for 25 mins on the convection tray and trivet.  We have the Webber with the thermometer on the lid so I can control the temperature.  If you don’t, follow the guide for baking in the instruction book.

The verdict… Delicious!

I am learning slowly that you can actually wear clothes two days in a row and it’s ok to wash dishes in warm water when it requires 10 minutes of boiling on the stove to achieve hot water.  But for now we are all caught up and all is right in our world again…

Eat well & live happy

xMel

Follow

Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: