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Danielle Symes: First day of school and I can’t WAIT!

Danielle Symes: First day of school and I can’t WAIT!

First day of school and I can’t WAIT!

As I sit here writing this I can hear my two kids out in the lounge-room… one is yelling made up words along the lines of poo poo and bummy face at the top of his lungs and the other is crying because, well that’s just what she does after 3pm. We are at the point of school holidays where the crafts have been exhausted, the park is a bore, we are too broke to go to one of those inside playgrounds again and the guilt of watching too many movies has set in so I have put a ban on the TV from 9am-5pm… that one is self inflicted pain but I had to draw the line somewhere and that line was when Harper started talking with an English accent because he had watched an absurd amount of Peppa Pig.

I started off so well making sure we had an activity for every single day and I truly outdid myself with the crafts. We made cards for grandparents, DIY perfume with flowers collected from the neighbourhood, we sculpted with clay, we sewed dolls clothes AND I let my kids use glitter… GLITTER! If that doesn’t get a standing ovation from the mum bun crowd I don’t know what does. But, there are only so many times you can stop the toddler from ingesting beads and the 5 year old from going rouge with the paint before you eventually crack and admit to yourself that crafts are for places like Kindergarten where they are trained in the art of pack up and clean up and not giving a f*!k about paint on the walls.

two children hugging

So here we are… I’m bored, they’re bored and the countdown till the end of school holidays has begun! But this right here is where I feel like somewhat of a lone ranger. You see, this is Harper’s first year of school and unlike all the other mums that are putting up crying face emojis on #flashbackfriday pictures of their ‘babies’, I am over here counting down till 5:30pm everyday so that I can throw the kids at Brad, pour myself some wine and catch up on some insta-stalking. And for all those thinking it, don’t worry I know I’m an asshole. Yes I appreciate my children and yes I know how lucky I am to have two healthy kids but after one of ‘those days’ (you know the ones) I can’t help but think that Harper is just as ready for school as I am ready to drop him off at the gate. The sass on that kid has amplified in the last couple of months and when I tell him off I am met with eye rolls and talking back with the occasional storm off accompanied by yelling ‘FINE THEN! I’M GOING AWAY FROM YOU NOW AND YOU GET NO MORE HUGS EVER!’ (we are not quite at ‘I hate you mum’ but this one still stings).

It’s the first time I have really noticed the age gap between my two kids being an issue, Harper being 5 and Charlie will be 2 in May. He wants to make the crafts but she wants to eat the crafts. Even jumping on the trampoline has become difficult when Harper wants to perform majestic aerobics but his routines usually end up with a knee in the side of Charlie’s head because she doesn’t understand to get out of the way. I feel like I am constantly telling at least one of them off lately and I can’t help but think that if Harper was at school we would get a bit of that balance back. I would get to hang with Charlie during the day and do the things she loves doing that bore the hell out of Harper then come 3:30pm we will both miss him so much that just hanging out together will be enough to keep us all content (that’s the fairytale I have concocted anyway). As the saying goes… ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ and right now I think some absence is what we all need.

Aside from all that though I am genuinely excited to see Harper start school. It does mark the offical moment where he is no longer my baby boy, but it comes with so many new and exciting things for both me and him. I can’t wait to see him learn to read and bring home his first piece of homework, I am pumped for him that he gets to spend everyday with other kids and the thought of seeing him in his little uniform is up there with when I put him in a fluffy bear onesie when he was 3 months old (cue ‘storage almost full notification’). I’m personally excited about meeting the other mums and having a new group of friends to hang out with; friends that are going through the exact same things as me at the exact same time. It’s a whole new chapter of life for us and I am ready for everything that comes with it…. but you just watch me blubber like a baby when I drop him off on his first day!

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@danielle_symes

Annabel Cooks: Chicken and Leek Pie

Annabel Cooks: Chicken and Leek Pie

Chicken and Leek Pie

This is an absolute family favourite at my house, I can guarantee that after cooking it once it will be highly requested and on repeat.

Serves 6

  • 1 whole Chicken approx 1.8kg OR 1 BBQ chook (don’t add salt if using this!)
  • 30 grams of butter
  • 1 brown onion finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 300gms washed sliced leek (2 small/1 large)
  • 2 -3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup of salt reduced chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 loosely packed cup of parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan
  • 300 mls of thickened cream
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Place in an oven preheated to 190 degrees for 1 hour. (180 if a fan forced oven).
  2. Sauté the onion and salt in half of the butter until soft. Add the rest of the butter, the garlic and leek. Sauté for one minute before adding the stock. Pop a lid on and cook on medium for five minutes or until leek is soft.
  3. Sprinkle the flour over the leek mixture stirring quickly. This will help thicken the sauce. Add the mustard, cream, parmesan and some pepper. Next, add finely chopped parsley.
  4. Once the chicken is cooked (allow to rest for 10 minutes once it’s out of the oven) remove the skin and shred the meat into the leek mix.
  5. Pop in a pie tin, top with a sheet of puff pastry and brush with lightly beaten egg. Bake at 200 degrees for 35 minutes or until brown. We all fight over the pastry so I always cook a spare sheet or two on a separate tray to share at the table.

The chicken can be roasted in advance and stored in the fridge. If I’m doing roast chook I often roast an extra one to have spare for lunches or a pie like this. Certainly saves time!

As an alternative to pastry you can top with mashed potato or sweet potato. For sweet potato mash I pop whole un-peeled ones in the oven at 190/200 degrees for about 1hr20. They steam inside their skins and make a delicious mash. Much less watery than when steamed or boiled.

This pie freezes really well so make double and pop one away for a lazy winter day!

I often add lightly steamed broccoli to the mixture to bulk up the veggies. Otherwise serve with peas, beans or a green salad.


Annabel Bower graduated from the world renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland seventeen years ago. Annabel has since worked in events and catering and her present focus is on recipe development and food styling. As a mum of three and a passionate foodie, Annabel spends most of her time in the kitchen! Her favourite people to cook for are friends and family and even though like all children, her kids won’t eat everything she cooks, she is determined to keep trying and happily share a few of her fail-safe, crowd-pleasing recipes with you!

@foodbyannabel

Annabel Cooks: Ginger Bread

Annabel Cooks: Ginger Bread

Ingredients

Makes 20 Cookies

• 125 grams soft butter
• 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup golden syrup
• 1 egg, separated
• 2+1/2 cups plain flour
• 1-2 teaspoons ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon cocoa (optional)
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
• 1 cup of sifted icing sugar
• food colouring and decorations

Method

1. Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add golden syrup and egg yolk (reserve the egg white for icing) and beat to combine.
2. Sift flour with spices and bicarbonate of soda. Add to butter mixture, beat on a slow speed until combined.
3. Turn out onto baking paper which has been sprinkled with flour. Roll dough out to 1cm thickness, sprinkling with flour as you roll.
4. Cut into shapes and transfer to a lined baking tray. Pop in fridge for 10 minutes before baking at 180°C for 8-10 minutes.
5. Combine icing sugar with egg white to form a paste, add colouring if you like. Transfer to a piping bag and start decorating! Add sprinkles, lollies, cachous or candy canes.
6. The cookies keep well in a dry, airtight container so they make lovely Christmas gifts, class presents or even Christmas decorations if tied up with ribbon.

*For crispy cookies roll the dough thinner, for softer chewy cookies cook for less time.

Annabel Bower graduated from the world renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland seventeen years ago. Annabel has since worked in events and catering and her present focus is on recipe development and food styling. As a mum of three and a passionate foodie, Annabel spends most of her time in the kitchen! Her favourite people to cook for are friends and family and even though like all children her kids won’t eat everything she cooks, she is determined to keep trying and happily share a few of her failsafe, crowd-pleasing recipes with you!

You can follow Annabel:

@foodbyannabel

foodbyannabel.com.au