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Summer Lovin’

I had a short break from posting until yesterday (I have been busy doing other things like writing a book – I feel like this could be a life-long task – and setting up my new blog domain.  But more on that later …).  I dug this out from the start of our summer holidays – hard to believe that was four weeks ago now!!

So where are we in the world?  At the moment, we are in Sanary-sur-mer, a little seaside village on the Mediterranean between Marseille and Nice.  I only discovered this little gem because an Australian friend of mine married a local eight years ago and we were forced (it was hard) to come visit for a week and take part in the wedding celebrations.
port 3 port 1

So I’ve been here three times now – I keep coming back.  There’s a certain comfort in knowing what you can expect from a place when you have your family in tow.  This seemed like the perfect first stop on our eight week summer holiday throughout France, Italy and Switzerland, because it is small enough to walk around, big enough to be spoilt for choice with restaurants and pretty enough to entice you down to the harbour for their glorious, ultra-long twilights and enchanting nocturnal markets.  I am yet again gobsmacked by the French’s ability to put so much effort into detail purely for the joy of aesthetics.  Joie de vivre is alive and well here!
port 2 fish market

Apart from a drastic change in temperature (the French are calling this heatwave a canicule, but in reality it’s low-mid 30s – weather we should be used to as native Brisbanites), we have had a major change of scenery.  After six months of living in a six-bedroom villa in country South-West France, I must admit I found the first couple of days in our 4 x 6m cabin in a camping ground a bit of a shock!  I won’t even go into detail about the “disposable sheets”!  Yes that’s a real thing.

We left the Villa with a car so full I had to sacrifice taking my market trolley with us.  For those of you who know how much I love the atmosphere of fresh food markets, you know how hard this would have been for me!  So it took me a couple of days to “organise” a spot for everything so that our 2 week stay would be comfortable and that everything could be found relatively easily.   But given how full the car was (I’m talking the kids and front seat passenger with their knees up to their chest to make room for bags at their feet!) it didn’t take us long to notice how the French deal with this problem.  Small cars are the go around here (ours is half the size we had in Australia) and so in holiday season they whip out their coffre de toit.  In English perhaps we call it a rooftop storage pod?  It gives you an extra 400L or so of storage … and so we are onto it.  We will leave this place with a coffre on our roof and happier kids – which is paramount when you are doing a 5 or 6 hour drive in a day!

Thermie came with us of course – this is a luxury when you are glamping, and when you have no oven!  Let’s just say it’s been an opportunity to think differently about meals given my space and appliance restrictions.  I am a self-confessed food snob and so I have a lot of trouble spending 50 euros on a meal out for the family which typically includes loads of trans fats and very little nutrition.  Don’t get me wrong, I am no skinny Minnie health freak over here in the land of cheese, bread and wine, but I just can’t feed my family this rubbish – and spend so much on it! – only to see the effects of poor nutrition on my kids.  Did I mention we’re in a 4x6m space for 2 weeks?  Hyperactive, cranky kids are not fun to hang out with.  Feeding them right is critical.
market f&v 3 market f&v 5 market f&v 2

market f&v 7 market f&v 6 rose

So meals have included lots of fresh cut ham and salads  – I’ve found investing in a good quality mango vinegar and olive oil makes the kids LOVE any salad.  The seasonal fruits at the moment (figs, apricots, peaches, raspberries and cherries) make for super tasty and quick desserts (together with 70% dark chocolate which is only 1.20 euro here!!) and of course the luscious cheeses can be added to any meal.  Goats cheese on salad, blue cheese on bread or a brie with olives for a snack is almost too easy.  But I have created a couple of soup recipes that the kids enjoy, which is super easy to do in the Thermie in a tiny cupboard-sized kitchen and is the easiest way to ingest a load of vegies.  Given it’s winter in Australia, I figured these might come in handy for you too!!
market f&v 4

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup (TM31)

This recipe uses a Thermomix but can be easily adapted to your blender or food processor.
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 leek, white part only, sliced
2 large carrots, peeled, sliced
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp cumin
2 tbsp creme fraiche
500gms water
2 tbsp homemade stock paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp butter
Handful of parsley, finely chopped
Blitz the leek and garlic on speed 7 for 3 seconds. Add butter and sauté for 2 minutes on speed 1 at 100 degrees.
Add remaining vegetables, reserving the parsley, and process for 10 sec on speed 6 until finely diced. Add water, stock, salt and pepper and cumin and cook for 20 minutes on speed 1 at 100 degrees.
Once cooked, add parsley, creme fraiche and remaining cumin (to taste – I like lots) and blend on speed 9 for up to a minute until your desired consistency is reached. My kids prefer it smooth.
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and crusty bread. Freezes well for a quick meal solution.
Spending plenty of time around the pool to keep cool has also been a wonderful opportunity to do some serious people watching.  I keep looking for common traits in the French so as to understand them better.  There are certainly plenty of gorgeous bikini clad bodies and perfectly bronzed bare breasts (yes we had to fill our kids in on that one) but there’s also your fair share of tummy rolls, dimply bums and wobbly cellulite.  And I think it’s beautiful!  I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like the women here in my age group (30-40) are much less concerned about what they look like in swimwear.  They’re not reaching for their sarong to cover up the second they get out of the pool.  They’ll happily toddle around the pool area with their beautiful bouncy bodies on show for all.  There’s an air of confidence about them.  There’s a feeling of body acceptance and healthy body image mentality that I don’t think I’ve seen at home.  I love it!  I feel right at home with my wobbly bits and have felt a new freedom to just “hang out” so to speak.
home back bandol wine

Tonight, we’ve booked somewhere a bit special for dinner.  The kids have had a day sleep and we are pumped to celebrate Bastille Day in style!  We’ll be joining the thousands on the Port for fireworks at 10.30pm!

For your next night in, give this soup recipe a try – super easy and packed with 5+ vegies.  And if you can, don’t forget to add a French brie … and maybe a glass of French red!

With grace and gusto,


P.S Quick tip: Dan Murphy’s in Australia sells French red wine from the Corbiere region … we highly recommend it!  Great price and even better taste.  Enjoy!

P.S.S I didn’t get back to talking about the new domain … I am changing the name of my blog to Kate’s Plates.  It’s more work than I first thought (of course) but sometime in the next few months I hope, this will be my new writing home.  It’s easier to remember, reflects what I’m writing about and is a nice nod to my passion for vintage French plates.  Stay tuned!  But don’t hold your breath … I don’t want to be responsible for anyone passing out J

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Breaky in a Jar

I am blessed to be a stay-at-home mum.  Although my “job” requires me to get up early pretty much every morning and sometimes stay up late, I love the privilege of not missing any moments with the kids.  We have friends who are staying with us at the moment, and they both work full time.  It has reminded me of our past life – pre-kids- when we lived to a completely different schedule.  These two are fascinating to watch … they are super disciplined when it comes to structuring their time, and they always prioritise time for preparing nutritious food to take to work each day.  I am impressed!  I can’t say I was quite so disciplined in my days of working a corporate job … rather I looked forward to lunching out and often dining out late at night … sigh … that was many moons ago.

So my guests have inspired me to put this little number together … it’s a fantastic way to do breakfast (or morning tea, or afternoon tea) on the run and make sure you’re getting good quality nutrition.  My next test is to create a nut-free version, pack it in a stainless steel tub from Daiso, and send it off to school to see if that tub comes home empty.  As a side note, Daiso is dangerously good for stocking your kitchen with neat little utensils and containers (among many other things!!).

Let me start with the granola … this really is so simple and you can add whatever your favourite nuts, seeds and dry fruit are.  But stick to these basic quantities as a guide.  For a nut-free version, omit the nuts and add more seeds and dry fruit.

granola jar 2logo

Homemade Granola

5 cups oats
1 cup nuts (I used almonds, pecans and cashews)
1/2 – 1 cup shredded coconut (check supermarket brands to ensure they don’t contain preservative 220)
1/2 cup dried fruit (I used dried figs, dried apples and currants)
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup water
pinch sea salt
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste


Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees fan forced.

Chop nuts and dried fruit in a Thermomix or food processor.  Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together.  Pour onto a shallow, lined baking dish (you may need 2) and spread evenly.

In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil, honey, vanilla bean paste and water until dissolved.  Swirl it quickly to combine all ingredients and gently pour over the granola mix on the baking trays.  Using your fingers, massage the oil mixture into the granola as evenly as possible. Smooth again with a spatula to ensure it cooks evenly.

Bake at 140 degrees for 30-45 mins depending on how crunchy you like it.

For a nut-free version, omit the nuts for other dried fruit and seeds like pepitas, sesame seeds, flax seeds, goji berries, dried cranberries, sultanas or quinoa.


And now for the chia pudding … one of my favourite out and about snacks if I’m stuck without something I brought from home, is a Chia Pod. They’re nutritious and tasty and satisfying … and expensive!  They cost between $3.69-$4.99 each.  This little recipe creates the equivalent for only $1.50 per serve!!  Worth the extra planning to have this in the fridge as a basic.

Chia Pudding

400gms organic coconut milk
50gms chia seeds
2-3 tsp vanilla bean paste


Combine all the ingredients in a jar, shake to combine and leave to set in the fridge overnight.  You can also add berries or passionfruit but just know it will be a little runnier – the acid from the fruit doesn’t help it set as well.

granola jar 1_logo

To Create Your Breaky Jar:

Layer your granola, fresh berries and chia pudding in the sterilised jar and top with more fresh berries before fixing the lid.  Can be prepared up to 12 hours in advance.  Stir or shake before enjoying!

With grace and gusto, kpx



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Strawberry Chia Jam

You have probably noticed the abundance of beautiful, cheap strawberries at the moment?  I don’t think I’ve ever had so many strawberries in my fridge, but a friend recently left me with a whole lot more and instructions to make her some strawberry jam (she knows what I love to do!).

I’ve never made jam before I must admit, and we don’t have it in the house … too easy to get hooked on the sweetness of commercial jam.  So I took it upon myself to play around with a few versions of jam using chia seeds to thicken and maple syrup to sweeten.  I am loving the result. Here is my Thermomix recipe, but if you don’t have one, just boil it all up in a saucepan using the same times and blend once cooked.

strawberry chia jam logo


3 cups strawberries, leaves removed
2-4 tbsp maple syrup
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 vanilla seed pods, cut into small pieces (use scissors)
3 tbsp chia seeds


Put the strawberries, 2 tbsp of maple syrup, vanilla seed pods and lemon zest into the TM bowl and blitz on speed 6 for 5 seconds.  Cook on Varoma temperature for 25 minutes.

Add the chia seeds and taste to see if you need more maple syrup.  Cook for a further 5 minutes on Varoma temperature.

Pour into sterilised jars and close lid immediately to help create a seal in the lid.  Store in refrigerator.  Enjoy on homemade bread or toast!

With grace and gusto,



My Obsession with French Flour

This post is unlike my usual snappy story with a recipe chaser … best to grab a cuppa and a comfy chair before you start reading. This is a post I have been promising for some time and one I am very passionate about … my research will forever continue on this topic. But for now, here’s what I’ve learnt about French flour …

french bread

I’ve had seven wonderful filles au pair work for us since my twin daughters were born nearly five years ago.  All French, and very deliberately so.  At the time they were an absolute necessity and most certainly saved me from checking myself into a sleep clinic! On reflection, almost a year since we’ve had any live-in help, those girls were not just a convenient way for me to keep up my French and have the kids immersed in it, but that time with them living in our home and eating our meals really shaped my curiosity about French food and culture.

Nearly all of them, very politely, turned up their nose to our Australian bread – and rightly so.  I now know that some of the flour produced in Australia, by comparison, is absolute rubbish.

I’ve always been someone who loves her bread and pastries … but I had to really limit it because I suffered bloating as a result. Sound familiar?  There’s no denying us Australians are amidst a “gluten-intolerant” epidemic.  So why is this so common in my generation? Twenty years ago it was barely heard of.

About eighteen months ago on my quest for answers to my twin daughters’ constant tummy troubles, I came across a naturopath whose wife is gluten intolerant.  He shared with me that when they traveled through France, she found she could eat bread without any nasty side effects.  He now sells French flour through his clinic and since that day it’s all you’ll find in my pantry.

My passion for this product has led me to have many conversations (in French and English!) with anyone who knows anything about French flour.  I’ve tracked down bakers in Brisbane and as far as Perth who use the flour, and I’ve scoured pages of the internet in search of more information about the quality of French flour.  I really feel like it’s important to be educated about the food we eat and hopefully once you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll not only be keen to try your own homemade bread using French flour, but you’ll be much more aware of Australian wheat and flour practices.

There are three main points to cover in understanding the differences … how the wheat is grown, how it’s processed and how the bread is made.

There are several factors that come into play when you start asking about how wheat varieties are grown in this country – our weather conditions are drastically different to France and the nutrients in the soil are far richer in France due to common practice of complementary planting.  This means that crops are rotated so as not to deplete the soil of the same nutrients every time a crop is harvested.  I visited a regional area of the South of France earlier this year and noted that my backyard was a rye field but that six months before that I would have looked out my bedroom window to a crop of sunflowers.

In my opinion, the most significant difference is how Australians “over-process” wheat.  In our supermarkets, we find our basic plain flour and self-raising flour as almost our only options.  Self-raising is only so because of the additives and it doesn’t even exist in France.  I’m still learning about this, but for some reason, Australian mills take out some really crucial enzymes that exist in a certain part of the wheat head that enables our bodies to digest the gluten more effectively.  The French leave these all in the product and as a result, they produce breads that are naturally lower in gluten as a percentage but that still provide all the enzymes nature intended us to have to aid in digestion.  Makes sense right? I suspect it must cost far less to mill the way us Aussies do.

There are over six types of flour that are used daily in French boulangeries.  Traditional baguettes use T55 or T65.  T45 or T80 will be used for pastries, cakes or brioche (you may also be familiar with the Italian type 00 flour which is similar). T130 is a rye, T150 is similar to what we know as whole wheat and T110 is a flour that offers colouring half way between white and brown.  These numbers refer to the ash content per 10mg of flour.  The gluten content as a percentage is lower (9-11%)  in the softer wheats (T45) and higher (11-13%) in the harder wheats (particularly wheat harvested in Spring) like T65.

For me, all these confusing numbers come down to one thing: I buy T55 flour from Basic Ingredients to make my family’s bread four times a week.  It takes me two minutes to prepare, I leave it for an hour to prove and I cook it for 40 minutes. I do two loaves at a time and freeze what we’re not eating straight away.  And the bottom line is that we have noticed drastic changes in our tummy health throughout the family.  It tastes better, costs no more than spelt flour, my house smells amazing and the kids notice the difference when they eat commercial bread elsewhere.

My next test was to ask a friend who is highly gluten-intolerant to try the bread.  I really had to twist her arm.  She had avoided gluten for years and was not excited about the possibility of gut ache again.  I am very excited to tell you that she too now buys the flour to bake her own bread and she can once again enjoy a wheat product without the angst of side effects.

France Gourmet imports the flour into Australia, and there are French-trained artisan bakers in Australia who won’t use anything else.  Rob Howard of Harvest Boulangerie in Perth, is one such boulanger.  He was on the Australian Baking Team with Brett Noy in 2010 (Italy) and 2011 (China) and came third both times in the Coup du Monde.  Pretty impressive considering the tough European competition.

He explained to me that most bakers will use 1-2% yeast and often a bread improver to oxidise the dough.  This is a chemical additive to speed up the process and sell bread faster.  He prefers to engage in long, slow fermentation stages using no chemicals at all – just salt.  This is what he was taught in Paris.  Fermentation is a natural process that breaks down the starches and even the gluten to a point, and this can take up to twenty-four hours. The results speaks for itself: Rob sells between sixty and eighty baguettes a day in his Scarborough bakery.

He also highlights that the flour industry in Australia is not regulated the way it used to be.  Wholemeal flours for example used to require a minimum of 90% whole wheat but these days, no one checks!  It’s pretty easy to see why there are myriad reasons why our tummies are suffering at the hand of inferior flour produced in Australia.

In Brisbane, Sebastien Pisasale of Crust and Co Artisan Baking, uses a mixture of Australian and French wheat for consistency.  And what he says is so true – unless the customer demands a superior product, it’s just not commercially viable for bakers to import all their flours.  So once again folks, it’s up to us to take responsibility for our own health, get educated and seek better options.

I’m going to go and live in the country that produces healthier, tastier breads, but if that option is a little drastic for you, I really encourage you to try making the bread yourself using French flour.  I have no commercial ties to Basic Ingredients (wish I did!) but so far it’s the only retailer I have found who supplies it in small enough quantities for household use (I buy 5kg bags at a time).

Give it a try, your tummy – and taste buds – will thank you!

homemade bread and soup_logo

Homemade French Bread

This quantity will make 2 baguettes or 1 loaf of bread.  I use the Thermomix to knead the bread, but you could use a bread maker, KitchenAid or get some exercise and use those arms!


500gms Imported French Flour
300gms warm filtered water
1 packet dry yeast
1-2 tsp sea salt
20gms extra virgin olive oil


Mix your warm water with the yeast, salt and olive oil.  Add the flour and combine on speed 6 for 8 seconds.  Knead on interval speed for two minutes.

Rest on a bread mat in a warm spot for at least 30 minutes.  I have left dough for up to 24 hours to encourage further fermentation. Just depends how much time you have before the kids demand toast for breaky.

Shape the dough into baguettes or a free form loaf (or you can even place in a large loaf tin) and bake on a large baking tray lined with baking paper.  Mark the top of your bread with a sharp knife as per the picture below.  Spray the top with water for a golden crust. You may wish to repeat this half way through the cooking time.

Place in a cold oven and cook at 220 degrees for 30 minutes.  Check the crust is hard and golden.  Depending on the size of your loaf, it may need an extra 5 or 10 minutes.  If you’ve baked it in a tin, I recommend removing it from the tin and baking for a final 5 minutes out of it’s tin.

Now if you’ve made two like I do, allow one to cool completely, slice and freeze in a plastic bag.  The other loaf must be tested whilst still warm with lashings of butter!

With grace and gusto,



Conversation can be as nourishing as food …

I just got off a phone call to my 96 year old Nana after listening to one of her regular, passionate rants.  This time it was about food.   I can only listen, amused by how similar we are – I just hope she realizes her spirit will always live on in me. I am so blessed to still have her on this earth.  She can’t quite get her head around what a blog is (she thinks I do cooking demonstrations) but nevertheless she thinks it’s important that I spread the message about eating real food that is preservative free, less expensive that ready-made meals and way more nutritious.  Noted.  Thanks Nana.

So what have I been cooking lately?  I went back to an old school classic to feed “the boys” on Origin night (I even rang my mother-in-law for advice – she served this regularly to her three hungry boys) … good old Mexican Dip was a tasty crowd pleaser – full of goodness and it fills you up.  The kids happily ate in the next day (it even traveled well to school) and I’m pretty sure there’s still some left in the fridge.  I made a couple of versions this week so I’ve decided which version I like best and it’s here for you to recreate.


1 x 400gms can kidney beans, washed well
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
3 shallots, finely sliced
2 avocadoes
half bunch of coriander, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated cheddar
salt and pepper to taste
corn chips to serve


Using a Thermomix or food processor, puree the beans with the olive oil to desired consistency.  I like it a little rustic and chunky.

Add the diced tomatoes and shallots and stir to combine.  Layer the bean mix onto the bottom of a flat-bottom dish (a quiche or pie dish works well).

Mash the avocados with a fork or blend in a food processor until desired consistency is achieved.  Stir through coriander and lime juice until well combined.  Layer on top of the bean mixture and smooth with a spatula or icing knife.

Spread the sour cream over the top and sprinkle with grated cheese.  Cover and store in fridge – will keep for 2 days.

Serve with lots of corn chips or grilled tortillas.

mexican dip

Then I made myself a raw birthday cake …. but I do have a confession to make before I tell you about this.  Throughout the day I was treated to a coffee at Sirromet Winery (where we ate cake) and then lunch at one of my favourites, Pearl Cafe (I learned today that this is not an ideal place for kids to lunch with you – the best they could do for the girls was a croissant and shaved cheddar!!). But I ate a beautiful Pear Tart after lunch.  And so I didn’t really feel like eating dinner, let alone birthday cake, but I managed both! Back to basics tomorrow.  Promise.

I made a beautiful cashew creme, choc vanilla layered cake based on a recipe by Nicole Joy.  I must admit that I preferred this cake to the other sugar-laden treats I indulged in today – mainly because I feel so good afterwards!  Try it for yourself …



1 tbsp coconut oil
2 cups macadamia nuts
1 cup almonds
12 medjool dates, pitted

Chocolate Creme

1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 6hrs and rinsed well*
1 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp raw cacao powder (a little less if you don’t like it dark)
1 tbsp raw honey
3/4 cup coconut water

Vanilla Creme

1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked for at least 6hrs and rinsed well*
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
seeds of 1 vanilla bean
1 tbsp raw honey
3/4 cup coconut milk

Raspberries to serve.


Combine the macadamias and almonds in a food processor or Thermomix until finely processed.  Add the coconut oil and then 1 medjool date at a time until mixture comes together.  Press the crust into a cake tin, allowing the crust to come up the sides of the pan.  Place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

For the chocolate creme, combine all the ingredients for 1-2 minutes until a smooth consistency is achieved.  Pour into the crust and smooth with a spatula.  Set aside in the freezer.

For the vanilla creme, blend all ingredients just as before.  Reserve about 1/2 cup to use as a serving cream and pour the remaining mixture on top of the chocolate layer.  Freeze for at least 8 hours.

Remove from the freezer about 45mins before you want to serve but make sure you cut the cake into pieces whilst still frozen – it makes life much easier.  Don’t forget to serve it with the extra vanilla creme and fresh raspberries. Yum!

raw choc vanilla cale


With grace and gusto



Peanut Butter and Chocolate

My first job as a fifteen year old was at a local Baskin Robbins Ice Cream shop.  I stayed for three years and fell in love with about six of their 31+ flavours.  Ate too much of it of course but that’s a story for another day … One of the flavours I will never forget was Peanut Butter & Chocolate … a thick, moussey chocolate ice cream with shards of salty peanut butter throughout … so good.

I used this inspiration to come up with a new muffin-style cupcake for my son’s sixth birthday coming up soon.  I’m always conscious of using occasions like this to example nutritious food that kids still love to eat.  I don’t believe kids party food needs to be sugar, sugar and more sugar.  I like to send them home on a high from a good time and some delicious food.

I made this in the Thermomix, but if you don’t have one, you can adapt the recipe simply by mixing all the wet ingredients together first then adding the dry.  I would recommend warming the peanut butter with the coconut oil before mixing through – and mix it in last just before you add the choc chips.

peanut choc cupcake


1 large or 2 small bananas
1/4 cup almond or soy milk
2 tsp chia seeds
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
5 tbsp peanut butter
3/4 cup chocolate chips (you can buy dairy-free/vegan)
220 gms flour (I use french flour – a future post on this wonder!)
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sweetener (I used agave syrup – rice malt syrup would be even better)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder


  1. Place the coconut oil and peanut butter in the TM bowl and warm on 60 degrees for 30 secs, speed 1.
  2. Add the bananas, milk, chia seeds, apple cider vinegar, agave syrup and vanilla to the bowl.  Mix on speed 5 for 5 secs then drop to speed 3 until combined.
  3. Add the flour, salt, baking powder and oats and mix on speed 4 for 10 sec.  Scrape down the bowl and repeat for 3-5 secs until combined.
  4. Add the chocolate chips and mix on speed 3, reversed, for 10 secs.
  5. Spoon mixture into 12 cupcake patties (fill almost to the top) and bake for 15-20mins on 180 degrees.

These will freeze well and keep the kids happy … their tummies too.

With grace and gusto,