Wednesday 21 January 2015

Ocean Grove, Chocolate Bliss Balls, The Dunes and holiday eating

The family beach holiday at Ocean Grove was so much fun last year that we did it again.  We missed the sunshine but enjoyed the beach nevertheless.  There was much good food, laughter, dancing, plotting, couch houses, shared meals, photos, and cheeky kids.  My mum and dad were there the whole week with my sister and her little boy.  Other siblings and their kids came and went, including Sylvia and me.

We were there for 5 nights so I took down two boxes of food.  I also forgot quite a bit of it including the vegetables I meant to take.  Luckily there is very little we can't find at the supermarket.  I also doubled up on a few things with my mum.  Even so, the brown rice chips, crackers, dips, rice bubbles, yoghurt, soy milk, fruit and dried chickpeas were good to have.

I decided I would make some healthy snacks to take as well.  I will talk about the pate later.  The rustic muesli slice above was great for a satisfying sweet snack.  It had malt syrup instead of honey and lots of dried fruit.  Sylvia took umbrage at a few sultanas and didn't eat it but my mum enjoyed it. 

I decided to make some of the chocolate bliss balls that were so popular on Not Quite Nigella last year.  I had the manky bananas.  But my balls were so soft I added more coconut and wondered if the bananas were bigger than the recipe called for.  I made them the day before we left.  It was a busy day making pizza, pate and the muesli slice, swimming, card making and supervising a sleepover.  If I had a dollar for each time I said "go to sleep" I would be a rich woman!

They were best after the first day when the ingredients had softened and melded.  I found it useful to have them in the fridge when I had a chocolate craving.  My sister in law was quite keen to try them until I remembered they had dried fruit in them.

We stayed in the same house with the charming garden.  We could walk to the park and it didn't take too long to drive to the beach.  My parents took their dog along who had lots of space to hang out in the yard.

It took me a whole 24 hours to get to the beach.  Sadly the weather was never brilliant beach weather.  Even when the sun shone it was cold and windy.  Splashing about in the water was great but getting out was c-c-cold.  Yet we also appreciated not having the scorching heat of last year.  I love how much my nieces and my brother love the sea and was pleased that Sylvia enjoyed it more this year.

My sister spied the Simply Vegan Cuisine food truck on one of her trips so we had to go and check out the food being served at Dolly the vegan bus.  It is a cute bus.  Christine, my mum and I shared some lovely raw chocolate fudge that was nutty and dense and a little fruity.

The kitchen saw lots of cooking, especially for my sister's boyfriend's birthday dinner and my mum's birthday lunch.  Sylvia helped her cousin Dash make Nigella's rocky road crunch.  They worked well together under the watchful eye of my sister.  I've posted about my mum's birthday lunch separately.

My family loves eating meat so I decided to take along a favourite voracious vegan pate.  It really was a great choice. It went well in salad sandwiches, on the table with chips and dips, as a starter when everyone else had spag bol or just as a great lunch with vegies and rice crackers.

I didn't have wifi at the beach and my mobile reception was poor.  I really enjoyed being offline (though I still feel quite overwhelmed by being back online now).  I finished my book I had been reading for weeks - American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  It was a fascinating book with lots of very odd mythical characters.  I then read through half of my next book - This House of Grief by Helen Garner - about a local criminal trial.  I am full of admiration for Helen Garner's writing but find the subject makes me melancholy and all the more so for being so close to home.  I even got to read far more of the newspaper than usual.

Being at the beach also gives me a hankering for fish and chips.  I never have fish of course even though I will always call them fish and chips.  I had a corn jack with my chips and potato cake and found that Sylvia seems to quite enjoy corn jacks too.

We had a birthday dinner for my sister's boyfriend Ivan.  This is the impressive marble cake that my sister in law made for him.  We had forgotten the birthday candles and when I put a few blueberries on top some wise spark decided that instead of blowing out the candles he could blow the blueberries off the cake!

On the Saturday we went to the Ocean Grove Farmers Market.  I really loved these onions strung up on the back of the ute.  There were also huge marrows, dumplings, blue potatoes, proffertjes, rhubarb, spiced nuts, herbs etc etc.  My mum had a chat at The Egg Man stall saying she had heard from a government inspector that it is one of the best free range egg farms. 

At the Farmers Market I bought some pastries from A Hidden Secret, who do fantastic vegetarian food.  The above pastie with fennel, carrot, spices etc was amazing with my mum's homemade tomato sauce, coleslaw, lots of vegies and a dollop of my sister Fran's thermomix mayo.

Sylvia and her cousins had lots of fun playing together.  They made houses out of the couches, a house in the walk-in wardrobe, in a tent in the front yard and a camp outside with some fold up chairs and a pile of sticks.

My dad is very partial to the hot chocolate at The Dunes in Ocean Grove so we went there on our final full day.  The fickle weather was sunnier when we got there and instead of hot chocolate I decided to have a glass of the local Flying Brick Pear Cider.  It was quite dry and very refreshing.  Perfect with chips.  Sylvia enjoyed a hot chocolate and her cousin had a milkshake.

One attraction of the The Dunes is that it is right by the beach and has a fantastic view.  After our drinks and chips we went to the beach.  The only kids left were Sylvia and Dash.  They made some sandcastles.  It was so cold that Dash kept his hoodie on.  I had put Sylvia in her bathers just in case.  Last year she wouldn't go near the water.  This year I was impressed that she came in with me and had lots of fun jumping waves.

I really liked all the artwork outside The Dunes.  Sylvia and Dash had a lovely time picking out all the details in the little clay mural and the bollard people on the way to the beach were fun.  That night we had dinner at the Ocean Grove Hotel.  I will write about that on another post.

We were sad to leave the beach house.  It was such a lovely relaxing holiday.  But school is back in a week and there is much to do back at home, even if Sylvia is missing her couch houses and her cousins!

I am sending the bliss balls to Eat Your Veg and Bangers and; Mash for January's Healthy Family Foodies blog event with the theme of Healthy Kids.  Sylvia was not keen on them but I wonder if without the dried fruit or even if it was blended up that she might eat them.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: NCR Vegan caesar salad
Two years ago: Leon Superfood Salad
Three years ago: Nectarine bounty - salsa and pizza
Four years ago: CC Hal's Stirfry Sauce
Five years ago: Cheese and Almond Loaf
Six years ago: Beat the heat with fruit salad
Seven years ago: Pea and Garlic Soup

Chocolate bliss balls
Adapted from Not Quite Nigella
Makes about 24

2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
5 medjool dates, pitted and chopped finely
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup desiccated coconut plus more for rolling balls
2/3 cup quick cooking oats plus more for rolling
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp honey*
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
dash of cinnamon and salt

Soak the cranberries in hot water for about 10 minutes while you mash bananas and finely chop the dates.  Drain cranberries well.  Mix with remaining ingredients.  Use your hands to roll into balls the size of walnuts (some water on hand to lightly dampen hands to keep mixture from sticking).  Roll first in oats and then coconut.  Keeps for up to a week in the fridge.

To make it vegan, use an alternative sweetener such as maple syrup.
I loved having these for snacks but half the batch would have been enough for me so I might try that next time. 

UPDATE February 2015 - we are now onto our third batch of these bliss balls - they are great healthy snacks to have about and I have found Sylvia loves them without cranberries so I make them that way.  I also only use one large banana and today used just 2/3 cup of coconut and it was enough for the mixture.

On the stereo:
An evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer


    1. Looks like a fun trip! The chocolate bliss balls look great, too - and I like that it doesn't require the use of a food processor. :D

      1. Thanks Leaf - I love bliss balls that don't need a food processor too - sometimes I don't want a ll the bother with equipment and noise

    2. Wow, you are busy, but in a good and pleasurable way, most of my nephews and raisins are not that keen on raisins, but they pick them out. Of to check out the vegan pate recipe.

      1. Thanks Shaheen - hope you enjoy the pate recipe - I wonder if the raisins would work in the bliss balls if processed in the food processor

    3. Before I go, what,s a corn jack, I've not heard of it before

      1. I've added a link for you shaheen and a photo here -

    4. I love when you share your family excursions with us, Johanna. Not only do I get stuffed seeing all the food, I also get to see a bit more of your part of the world:)

      It sounds like everyone had fun and there was certainly no shortage of food. Sylvia is getting soooooo big!!!

      Thanks for sharing, Johanna...

      1. Thanks Louise - it is fun to see other parts of the world in the blogosphere - sometimes it is so similar and sometimes so different. Yep sylvia is growing at some rate!

    5. Sounds like a fun, relaxing and very welcome break! It's so lovely to have your family round you and to spend time...... I made something similar in nature and process to the Bliss Balls last year which were amazing and I now have a regular stash in the freezer.... perfect for breakfast and snacks. I reckon they might be worth a go with Sylvia! I called them freeze bites, but they can be eaten unfrozen and even squashed and baked into biscuits! Check them out and see what you think!

      1. Thanks Kate - your banana bites look really good - I like your idea of having them in the freezer and just taking out what you need.

    6. It sounds like a really lovely holiday but what a shame about the weather. It wasn't good on our holiday either - it wasn't cold but so much rain! I like the sound of your vegan pate. I made a vegan pate for our Christmas Eve dinner and everyone loved it (despite loving meat!) xx

      1. Thanks Charlie - rain is not so bad when it is warm but sunshine is so lovely on a holiday - we had wind more than rain - I missed they day the family had it rain on them but it was so cold stepping out of the water when it was windy. My family wasn't that taken by the pate but it meant it got me through the holiday so that was ok.

    7. This sounds like a lovely break Johanna, and I know I'd have enjoyed it more for being a bit cold rather than scorching. You packed a lot into your time and the activities and time with family sound like quintessential Australian summer (and the cold weather part sounds like quintessential Victorian summer too!). I actually have never made Nigella's bliss balls - thanks for reminding me to try and get to them.

      1. Thanks Kari - I think it was probably better than the scorching weather last year but I missed everyone wanting to go to the beach - and we probably had more sun during our time away than many brits get on holidays in the UK :-)

    8. The size of the bananas definitely makes a difference. Just keep adding the dry ingredients until you get a rollable consistency.

      1. Thanks Lorraine - I made them late at night when I was a bit too tired to think it through but I did find it helped to add more coconut - I think I would add a bit more next time - though they did firm up in the fridge

    9. It looks like you all had a fun holiday. I like the look of the muesli slice.

    10. what a wonderful holiday, the cake looks amazing and i love a good foodie market

    11. What a lovely sounding vacation =) The pictures look fabulous - it looks so beautiful and peaceful there. I love unplugging, but agree that it is tough to get back on track with emails and blogging.
      I can't believe how much veg-friendly food there is everywhere you are! A vegan food truck? Just wow.
      Your chocolate bliss balls sound... well, blissful =) I have made dateballs so many times and so many different ways but have never thought of using banana. I think I will actually try them without the cranberry and put the mixture through my food processor.

      1. Thanks Kimmy - I think it would be interesting to try them in the food processor - yep it has taken me a while to feel like I am catching up but I think I am getting there! Yes there was a vegan food truck and when we went to nearby Barwon Heads (separated from Ocean Grove by a bridge) they had a pop up cart with raw desserts and raw pad thai - not every place in Ocean Grove is quite to veg friendly but nice to see a few about

    12. That pastie and salad, omg!

    13. Sounds like a veritable feast of a holiday! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your Choccie Bliss Balls, so much good stuff packed in there. And a fabulous entry to the Family Foodies 'Healthy Kids' event, thanks so much.


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