Saturday, 22 December 2007

Best Cookbooks of 2007

As some of you may know, I have a slight cookbook addiction (amongst others). I find myself getting on a bit of a theme and suddenly I have (accidentally) just bought 5 new books on bread. I think I have more cookbooks than everyone else I know put together! It’s nothing to do with me, though. I have a perfectly reasonable amount of cookbooks, perhaps not even enough. It’s just that everyone I know is slack. It’s nothing to do with my issues. (I’ll be right back, just have to blistex).

Actually, I have put myself on a ban until at least 1 January. No more cookbooks. I am still allowed to get all my standard monthly cooking magazines (and all the special Christmas ones!) – just no books! Only 10 sleeps to go! Wooohooo! You should see the size of my amazon wishlist!

I thought I should share the benefits of my addiction with you all, and let you know my absolute favourites for 2007. These are the books that I think even the most part-time home cook should definitely have. I have included their amazon links so you can order them today!

2007 Grand Champion: “The Perfect Scoop” David Lebovitz
This is a book all about ice cream. Nothing more, nothing less, just everything ice cream! (including sorbets, granitas and gelatos; and sauces, add-ins and cones). This is a seriously cool book ! (haha!) The photography is great and the recipes are better. It has a huge range of weird and wonderful flavours, as well as all the classics. You could spend the next few years trying them all out! My favourite part of this book is the basic ice cream method. I have made a few different ice creams before but this method gives me the creamiest, tastiest ice cream (the only problem is that it uses heaps of bowls!). 10/10 Love this book. Get it NOW!

Second Place: “Everyday” Bill Granger (not available on amazon - just get it at k-mart!)
Bill Granger has been hanging around for quite a while now and I have never really got into him. Earlier this year though, I received a freebie DVD (with my delicious magazine subscription!!!) which had him doing 3 recipes from his new book. I loved all of them! It also happened that around the same time, my friend FattyBoombah had got the new book and absolutely loved it. So of course, I felt compelled to get it, and I was definitely rewarded! For sheer ease of access, his recipes are 10/10. The methods are straightforward, they use straightforward ingredients, and they turn out how they are supposed to. This is a great book to help you with ideas for weeknight dinners and weekend entertaining. It’s so good, I felt compelled to go out and get 2 more of his earlier books! (Which are also great, but this is the best). I am having some severe issues trying to restrain myself from getting his newest one, “Holiday”, which was recently released. I am going on holidays soon, and I like to have the odd new cookbook to look at, so it will be interesting to see if I can last til my self-imposed deadline!!!

Third Place: “Whole Grain Baking” King Arthur Flour
King Arthur Flour is a baking company from Vermont, USA. I think I have written about them in a previous post. They have quite a few big baking tomes, but this one caught my eye this year, because I decided it was probably time for us to incorporate some marginally healthier foods in our diet. I was hoping this would be a way to get some whole grains happening without compromising my love of white flour baked goods! And it has been quite successful! What I love most about this book is the whole encyclopaedia-type thing it has happening. The structure of the book makes it an excellent reference, and it is well and truly aimed at the home cook. Whilst there are a lot of American-style ingredients which are not necessarily available in exactly the same form in Australia, there are no poshy-weirdo things which are downright annoying. All the baking bases are covered, and all the recipes I have made to date have been great. I am very tempted to get their baking book which just uses white flour!!!

Honourable Mentions:
A few others could also take a handy place on your bookshelf:
“Jamie at Home” Jamie Oliver – the usual Jamie stuff. I got my fabulous 4 hour lamb shoulder from here. (K-mart)
“Mix and Bake” Belinda Jeffery – great Aussie baking. (K-mart)
“Just a Bite” Gale Gand – fabulous desserts

Happy Reading!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Gingerbread Train


In previous years, I have made a gingerbread house and a gingerbread tree so this year it was time for a gingerbread train! Boof and PorkChop love trains, so it made it an easy choice. The only problem is keeping Boof's little hands away from it until we are ready to eat it!

I used the design from Family Fun's website: http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/special/feature/ff1106-gingerbread-train/ but I used the gingerbread recipe from the Wilton website: http://www.wilton.com/recipes/recipesandprojects/Xmas/gingerbread.cfm. I replaced the molasses with golden syrup and the shortening with butter. I also needed a bit more flour. I have used this recipe quite a few times - it is fabulously flexible and forgiving! I love that you don't need to cream the butter and sugar, and also there is no need to refrigerate the dough. That requires way to much forward planning for me! I like to be able to make a decision on the spur of the moment to make some gingerbread and go ahead and do so in the minimum time possible! It makes quite a soft cookie, but I guess you could add more flour and cook for a longer time if you wanted something more crispy. It tastes great plain, but the addition of royal icing makes it beautiful!!!

As I trawled through the net to find the best gingerbread train, I came across a new tip which could apply for any roll-out cookie, but was particularly useful for the large pieces of gingerbread which formed the train. When you roll out the dough, roll it out between two sheets of baking paper, to the size of your baking tray (just cut off any excess and save for the next roll). Then transfer the sheet of baking paper (with the dough on it) to your baking tray, then cut out the shapes, but leave them right where they are and just remove the excess dough. It is so much better because you don't have to worry about the cut shape sticking to the bench, or the paper, or losing the right shape when you move it. It's also heaps quicker because you don't have to stuff around with flouring spatulas and the like to move the shapes. I LOVE this method! I think I will use it for any dough shapes I have to cut out from now on!

I also used this dough to make some Christmas cookies using my new Wilton push n print cutter. They probably could be smaller, but they were still pretty good. I decorated the snowflake ones with some of my royal icing which looked nice. I think you can get quite elaborate, but I was way too lazy!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Snowman Christmas Cake




I love Christmas. I get a little bit excited in the kitchen when Christmas comes around. I like to do a bit of cake decorating here and there - not too much though - I find it quite complicated and time consuming, which is difficult when you have 2 little tackers pulling at your pants all day long. This year I just did one cake for mum. She likes to have a fruit cake each Christmas, so she baked that, then gave me half to decorate. We both wanted something simple this year, so we went with this snowman theme. I love the colours - they're a bit different to the standard red and green and they go well with the whole winter/snowman theme. Perfect for an Australian summer Christmas!

You may recall the Noah's Ark cake I made for PorkChop's 1st birthday. The cake is sitting on a shelf in our dining room. I love it so much I just can't bring myself to cut it! The cake itself would be quite dodgy by now, but the animals are made from rolled icing so technically they should last forever. There is one small problem with this plan though, and that is Boof. Boof has inherited a double-batch of sugar craving from both his parents. This means that things like bright yellow tiger heads made from icing are perfectly acceptable breakfast foods. The other day, as I woke, he greeted me while chewing on something bright yellow. I couldn't work out what it was that he was eating, so I did a scan of the kitchen, the pantry, the office, the lounge room, and then the dining room. This was when I noticed that the Noah's Ark cake was now missing 2 tiger heads! I asked him where they were and he quite proudly said "in my mouth, in my tummy. You can't get them in my tummy". Lovely. So impressed. And he was absolutely revolting that day. Another small example of the power of artificial food colouring!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Bailey's Balls


Everyone has a recipe for these, but I forced my friend Princess to try this particular batch the other day and she DEMANDED the recipe! (she only wants it because its very very easy!) These little balls sometimes come under the guise of rumballs, or chocolate balls. I am not a fan of rum, so up until now I have made them with Frangelico (YUM!).

A few years ago I did a test batch which I divided up into 4 - one with Frangelico and rolled in chocolate sprinkles, one with Frangelico rolled in coconut, one with no alcohol in sprinkles, and one with no alcohol in coconut. The Frangelico with sprinkles was definitely the best - even GKGK agreed and he cannot stand the slightest taste of alcohol. The tiny bit that's in there just adds that little bit extra flavour.
Anyway, last year I saw some Baileys Balls at a farmers' market and of course I had to give them a go. They were great, but a ridiculous rip off for something you can make so easily at home. (Also, I'm not really sure how someone making Baileys Balls qualifies as a farmer!) So I made them last week, and they turned out perfectly. And as with a lot of my favourite recipes, they freeze beautifully so they are a great thing to make in advance for Christmas. You can whip them out with a flourish and exclaim how tired you are from making all these fresh and perfect sweets for your guests! There is only one small problem with this plan. Because they have alcohol in them, they don't freeze solid, and they don't really need to be defrosted. So if you happen to have a 3pm munchie attack, and you remember that you have some in the freezer, you can just quickly sneak a hand and grab one or seven, and quickly scoff them down without anyone being the wiser. Then when you go to the freezer at your Christmas party, all ready with your flourish, you may find that you have NONE!

Bailey's Balls

1 packet (250g) Arnott's Marie biscuits*
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
4 tbs cocoa powder
1-2 tbs Baileys (or other liqueur of your choice)
1 packet chocolate sprinkles **

Blend the biscuits in a food processor. ***
In a bowl, mix the biscuits, milk, coconut, cocoa powder and Baileys until all ingredients are moistened.
Wet your hands, then roll the mixture into balls. (Whatever size you want. Personally, I don't think bigger is necessarily better).
Roll the balls in the sprinkles.
Refrigerate or freeze after taste testing several.

* This is not some subconscious promotion for my previous employer, but I think these are the best biscuits to use. I've tried arrowroots, morning coffee and malt, but I think these give a nice soft ball. My mum actually prefers to use Weet-bix. If that's the way you want to go, substitute the biscuits with 8 weet-bix. (My mum also adds 1 cup mixed dried fruit, which is good too)

** Beware, not all chocolate sprinkles are created equal. You need to get the thin ones in the packet, not the thick ones in the tube. The thick ones don't stick very well. HOWEVER, the thick ones in the tube also come in caramel. I have had previous success with a combination of the thin chocolate ones with some thick caramel ones thrown in for extra flavour.

***If the thought of getting a food processor out just for the sake of mushing one packet of biscuits, (with all that subsquent washing up) is just too much for you, you can put the biscuits in a plastic bag and beat them up with a rolling pin. I have done this before. It sounds like a good plan, but it's really not. You don't get a nice even crumb and it takes a lot longer than you think. I think its actually quicker with the machine. It's also infinitely more lazy which suits me just fine.


Friday, 7 December 2007

Totally Tasty Teeny Tiny Cinnamon Rolls


I just caught up with some friends and got bashed for not blogging enough - which is probably fair, but in my defence, the cranberry scone post was physically published after the meat post, but I mucked up the dates. So it actually hasn't been quite as long as you might think looking back over the dates.

Aah, but that's just all excuses. The real reason is that I am just slack!!! Consider this.... I like to think of myself as a decent home cook, someone who spends almost every waking minute thinking about food. However, when it came to Boof's upcoming Christmas party at pre-school, I was so slack, I volunteered to bring jelly beans. Yes, jelly beans. They put up a list of all the things they would like parents to supply - there were lots of fun things, like fairy bread and cupcakes, but slack old me chose jelly beans. So there you have it. No good excuses. Not even any creative excuses. Just plain old slackness!

HOWEVER, I do have an exceptional recipe for you to try! Of course, it's not MY recipe - I'm way too slack for that, but it is a good recipe! It's for "Totally Tasty Teeny Tiny Cinnamon Rolls" and it comes from Muffin at Ooh you tasty little things.... I made these for some friends the other day, and we ate them straight out of the oven! They were very very good! The girls and I made a serious dent in the batch, and GKGK has since polished off the entire remainder! Good food does not last long in this house. (That's PorkChop's chubby little hand trying desperately to reach the treasure!)

If you do decide to make them, a couple of things I did differently (of course, there had to be some)..I needed more flour in order to get a decent dough; I skipped adding almond or orange flavouring or colouring in either the filling or the icing; and I only used 2 cups of icing sugar. This made more than enough icing - the 4 cups suggested would be an insane amount! I also needed to add some water to the icing to get it liquid enough to drizzle.
It's a bit time consuming with all the waiting for rising, but they are well worth the effort!

Monday, 19 November 2007

MEAT

It's been all about the meat this weekend - and how good is that!
On Saturday night GKGK and I went out for dinner for our wedding anniversary (MIL stayed at our place and looked after the kids - woohooo!). We went to Kingsley's Steak House on King St in the city. Now before you get all just-another-steak-restaurant-so-what?, this is not some dodgy suburban steak house with peanuts on the floor and the standard range of chicken wings, ribs and steak with diane sauce. This is a decent restaurant which is all about the STEAK! Normally, I would go to a restaurant, scan the menu, and very often just go straight for the steak. But that was never happening here! One page of the menu covered entrees, sides and mains and the next page only covered STEAK! It actually made it really hard to choose because there were just so many excellent options!

We considered the 1kg t-bone, but after the chef held one up for us to check out the size, we decided maybe that was just a little bit too large! GKGK ended up with the Havericks Dry Aged 450g sirloin on bone and I went with the 350g Angus Rib-Eye. One word summed it all up - YUM!! We were so full from all that meat that we didn't even have dessert (until much later, but that's another story!)

We would both highly recommend Kingley's for people who like their meat, but if you like your 50g minute steak well done, this is probably not the place for you!

BUT WAIT! The meat weekend didn't end there! Last night I had 14 members of my family over for dinner. Nothing like an easy Sunday night! My brother W(h)ine is visiting from New York, and he is on a mission to eat as much lamb as possible while he is here. A few weeks ago I tried a slow-cooked lamb shoulder from Jamie Oliver's new book - Jamie at Home. It was tasty, and easy, and good for a crowd, so I decided it was perfect for W(h)ine's dinner. The very best bit is that it cooks for 4 hours! 4 hours? How can that be a good thing, I hear you ask. Well, all four of those hours require absolutely no attention from me! Once it's in the oven, it's all done! So at 2pm yesterday, I whacked it in then went shopping! So much for slaving in the kitchen! (Apparently, GKGK cooked dinner, because he was the one at home while the lamb was in the oven. Wow. All the makings of a celebrity chef there.)

The lamb is excellent. Because it has cooked for so long, the meat just falls off the bone. It is so tender it just melts! It is also cooked with 1 whole bulb of garlic per shoulder so there are lots of roasted caramelized garlic cloves to suck on. So good! The only fiddly bit is making the sauce at the end, but considering the rest of the benefits when you're feeding a crowd, I think I can cope with that.

So if any of you are coming here in the next little while in a big group, there's a good chance you'll find lamb shoulder on your plate!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Cranberry and Choc Chip Scones



There are two words that come out at this time of year that I think might just be my two favourite words in the whole English language. They form quite an American phrase, and they are not necessarily two words Australians would put together - although they are two words that individually, Australians love VERY MUCH! So what are these two fabulous words?!??!


HOLIDAY BAKING!!!!


Each year, I feel some strange compulsion to buy all the magazines that come out with any form of Christmas theme. As much as I love all my Australian cooking magazines, when it comes to baking for Christmas, the US has some absolute gems! So far this year I have got one which is called (wait for it)...Holiday Baking. (It was my favourite last year). I also have one which I think is called Christmas Cookies. I can't quite remember its name though because my mother stole it and HAS NOT YET RETURNED IT. I also like the Australian Better Homes and Gardens Christmas special - last year they were the generous providers of the mini caramel pecan tart recipe - YUM!
So when friends were coming over for morning tea today, I took some inspiration from these magazines and decided to go with some American style scones. They're very similar to our scones, but instead of rolling out the dough and cutting them out with a round cutter, you just pat the dough out into a rectangle, cut it up into squares then cut the squares into triangles. It's much easier than mucking around with the cutter and it also means you don't have any dough scraps that need to be re-kneaded and re-rolled (which results in tougher scones).

This recipe is also a little tiny bit healthier than normal because it uses wholemeal flour, and it's got dried cranberries in it. The original recipe (from King Arthur Flour Wholegrain Baking) called for dried cherries, but they cost about $50 per cherry and strangely enough, I didn't have any in the cupboard!

I was a bit tentative, but they actually turned out pretty damn good! Boof managed to eat 2 of them before our friends even arrived, and while he hasn't yet met a cake he doesn't like, that's still quite an achievement! So have a go. They are easy and tasty!

Cranberry and Choc Chip Scones
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
125 g cold unsalted butter
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup choc chips
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
Milk, for brushing the tops
Preheat the oven to . Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with baking paper.
Whisk together the flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
Using a fork or pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the cranberries and the chocolate chips and stir with a fork until just combined.
Whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla in a separate bowl or large measuring jug. Add, all at once, to dry ingredients, and stir lightly and quickly with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead two or three times.
Pat the dough into a rectangle 20cm wide by 25cm long: it should be about 2cm thick. Cut the dough in half lengthwise then in quarters across its width with a lightly greased bakers bench knife. Cut each resulting rectangle in half diagonally to make a wedge shape.
Transfer the scones to a baking sheet. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar. Bake until scones are puffed and golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes.
Serve warm.

Sausage Rolls



Look at that! A pile of golden crunchy taste sensations!!!

If there was only one item of food people knew me for, it would be these sausage rolls. My mum got the recipe out of some (forgotten) cookbook many years ago, and after some tweaking then, we have made them again and again and again. Over the past 10 or 15 years, we have probably made 5000 individual sausage rolls. They are that good!

Husbands, fathers and brothers have harassed us for bigger ones, (or have even tried to make them themselves (scoff!)), but they are just not as good. This size gives the perfect balance of pastry to filling.

And the very best part is that they freeze beautifully, so mum and I, as we have done so many times before, had a sausage roll day last week. We whipped up about 150 of them in preparation for Christmas, plus or minus the 20 or 30 I gobbled down for lunch!

Now I COULD give you the recipe for these golden treasures, but, I am not going to! This post is a very special post dedicated to my brother-in-law - DirtySOD. He has been harassing me for the last 6 months for some of these tasty morsels. I have given him 3 warnings, but he has continued to whinge and whine like a 3 year old (I can make this comparison from direct experience), so this photo is as close as he is going to get to these PERFECT CREATIONS!!!

So unfortunately, because of his carryon, the rest of you have to miss out on the recipe, because otherwise he could go and make them himself!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Chicken corn and zucchini soup

Sorry I’ve been so slack. There’s been a fair bit of dodgy sickness in this house over the last couple of weeks, and talking, writing, even thinking about food has not been a priority! And for me, that’s really saying something. Anyway, enough with the excuses!

One of my new soups this winter was zucchini, corn and bacon. It is so easy and so tasty – perfect to whip up for lunch at the last minute. Because it was perfectly good, just the way it was, of course I had to go and change it! I go through these phases where there is a kind of taste-flavour thing floating around in the back of my head. It’s a bit annoying but it’s also quite handy because it’s what seems to inspire me to create new recipes (or at least change existing ones!). Over winter I had this filling-soup-with-rice-in-it thing happening, but I never really got around to cooking anything like it. I also had the zucchini corn and bacon soup which kept popping up in my head, demanding to be made again and again and again, so when the weather looked so nasty today, I decided it was finally time for my 2 head-space-flavour thingies to meet!

I started off with the basics for the zucchini soup, but I just added a bit of extra stock so the rice would cook properly. I also added some chicken to give it a bit of extra filling-ness, and I threw in some fresh thyme that was languishing at the bottom of the fridge, doing its best to become dried thyme. While the soup was cooking, I was a bit concerned that maybe I was wrecking a perfectly decent recipe, but oh no! It was great! It was thick and filling, and super tasty. The creamed corn makes it seem, well, creamy! It actually came out a bit casserole-ish, but that’s good, because it will work well for PorkChop’s dinner. So I am a pretty happy camper this afternoon! I love a good tasty creative lunch followed by a good bit of blogging!

Chicken, zucchini and corn soup

1 tbs olive oil
2 green onions, chopped, green bits reserved
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 full bacon rasher, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
200g tin creamed corn
125g tin corn kernels, drained
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup white rice
3 chicken tenderloins, sliced
Pepper

Heat large saucepan over medium heat.
Add oil, onions, garlic, and bacon.
Cook until onions are softened and bacon is slightly crisp.
Add zucchini and cook for 2 minutes.
Add corns, pepper and stock and bring to the boil.
Add rice.
Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add chicken.
Cook for a further 5 minutes or until rice and chicken are cooked.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

The International Year of the Potato

Can you believe this? The world is FINALLY coming around to my way of thinking. It has taken the powers that be a long time to realise, but eventually, it just had to happen.... 2008 will be the International Year of the Potato.
Hmmmmmm, I think someone has been making some potato home-brew or something!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Another Warm Salad!


Lately I've been trying to be a but healthier by increasing my fruit and vegetable intake, and one of my "things" I've still got happening is the warm salad. I must admit, I am starting from a very low base of fruit and veg, so anything is an increase, really! Just to prove this is so, today, I ate (just one or two!) choc chip cookies and an egg jaffle. Not a green bit in sight!

However the other day, I was feeling a little more creative, so I decided to whip up another warm salad. I was feeling kind of pumpkin-y, or chicken-y or something, I wasn't really sure. So I did the old open-the-fridge-and-stare thing until I was inspired.

I was going to go with pumpkin, but I had half a kumera left, so I started with that. I also like to have a bit of protein to keep me a bit fuller, (in the vain hope that I will have 17 chocolates after lunch instead of my usual 25), so I threw in some chicken, and I was also feeling a bit Moroccan, so I thought I would have some couscous and some spices. Couscous is just pasta, really, so it's probably not even remotely Moroccan, but it always seems to be floating around somewhere in Moroccan recipes, so I officially deem it Moroccan!

My taste buds must have been having some sort of decision making crisis, because I rubbed the chicken with the Moroccan spices, but also made a maple syrup lemon mustard dressing! The dressing got put aside in the fridge for some other day and some other warm salad so I'll write about it once I have eaten it!

Couscous Chicken Salad
1/4 cup couscous
1/4 cup hot chicken stock
Small handful toasted flaked almonds
Small handful currants
1/2 kumera, peeled and diced
2 chicken tenderloins
1 tbs moroccan spice mix
Handful baby spinach

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degC. Spray the kumera with olive oil. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until browned to your liking.
Pour the stock over the couscous and set aside for 5 minutes.
Pour boiling water over the spinach, leave for one minute, drain, rinse with cold water, then drain again very well.
Add the spinach, currants and almonds to the couscous, mix well.
Spray chicken with olive oil then sprinkle over the spice mix.
Heat a small frypan over medium-high heat. Spray with olive oil.
Cook chicken until just done.
Mix hot kumera with couscous mix. Serve topped with chicken.



Thursday, 11 October 2007

Super Snack: Scrambled Eggs with Salsa

One of the benefits of getting older is that your taste buds die off. (It must be true if a website with this name says so.. http://www.supermarketguru.com/page.cfm/299 ) Some of you may not necessarily see this as a benefit but just think - this allows you to eat all those strongly flavoured foods you thought were yuck when you were a kid! Think of avocado and mushrooms. Before….ewwwww! But now…..wooohooo!

Avocado is something I have only just started to enjoy. This is because all those sleepless nights are drastically ageing me and killing off my taste buds at a far more rapid rate, thus allowing me to eat this slimy green mush. This is not really the greatest theory, because PorkChop eats avocado, but it will do.

Anyway, I think avocado is healthy – good fats and all that – so it fits into my new health regime. This very stringent new regime involves me abstaining from any junk food until after 9 o’clock. (in the morning, of course). Today I managed to get all the way to 9:15am before cracking the marshmallows. I foolishly left them beside the computer from my post-dinner sugar hit last night, so they were still there this morning, softly calling my name. But I digress. Back to avocado.

One of my current favourite snacks is scrambled eggs with salsa. It’s one of those things you can have at 3pm to tide you over until dinner. The eggs give you that protein-filling-you-up-ness and the salsa cuts the richness of the eggs with a good burst of sharp flavour. It also adds to your vegetable score for the day! It’s also very tasty! It would be good for breakfast or even lunch with some toast or bread (followed by a croissant to wash it all down).

Two little tips for new players…
Maybe everyone else knows this, but because I am new to avocado, I only recently found out that it is the stone that keeps the avocado from going brown. So when you cut open your avocado, leave the stone in the half you are not going to use, cover with glad wrap and keep in the fridge. I always thought you had to put lemon juice on, but that is totally unnecessary.
My other fabulous tip for today - when you cook scrambled eggs, if you salt them before you cook them, they will be tough. I don’t know if this is true or not and I can’t remember where I read it, but it seems reasonable, so I go with it, and my scrambled eggs seem pretty good (according to me!)

Scrambled Eggs with Salsa
Serves 1

1 small roma tomato, seeds removed, diced
½ small tin corn kernels, drained
½ avocado, skin removed, chopped
1 green onion/shallot/scallion, chopped
Squeeze lemon or lime juice
Salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together for the salsa. Serve with scrambled eggs! (You don’t really need a recipe for scrambled eggs, do you?!?!)

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Away

It's been a bit light on in the old post department this week - probably because I was away enjoying some quality time with the family. There is nothing better than being woken up at 5am by two children demanding attention and breakfast! Love it!

Anyway, just a short one today. For the most part I absolutely cannot stand all those smarmy lovey dovey the-world-is-beautiful type emails. As a general rule, if you send them, I will delete them. I will never send them on and I will never respond. But one came today with a great line at the bottom that I thought everyone should spend some serious time reflecting upon....

save the planet...... it's the only one with chocolate

Monday, 1 October 2007


I started doing cake decorating about 2 years ago. I’m certainly no professional, but I really enjoy it. Since the very beginning, the one cake I have wanted to make is Noah’s Ark. So a few weeks ago, I decided to take the plunge and make one for PorkChop’s birthday. I was talking about it with my friend Mopik and she commented that I really should do the best possible job considering it’s the cake I always wanted to make. No pressure there!!!

The animals can largely be made in advance, except for a few ears and tails which need to be molded to fit in and around the other animals, so over the past few weeks, when the kids had gone to bed and I wasn’t too tired, I made pigs and pandas and giraffes! I baked the cake a few weeks ago and put it in the freezer so I could carve the ark shape out of it. I just rented a cake tin - $2.75 to rent for one day, $45 to buy it outright – the decision was easy.

On Friday, Mum came over to help with PorkChop (Boof was at pre-school) while I constructed the ark. It actually came together much easier than I thought – it still took ages though! Each plank was cut and stuck on individually so that was a bit time consuming, and I wasn’t really happy with the roof in the original picture so I changed that, and I made a few extra small animals.

I love food, and I love to cook but I am not the most co-ordinated crafty person in the world, so I am absolutely over the moon with the results!!

Friday, 28 September 2007

Caramel Popcorn

We are having PorkChop's first birthday party on Sunday. It is incredibly strange to think that he is going to be one. I still look at his birth photos and almost cry! (which is even stranger really!)

His first year has totally run us over with all its illnesses! We have had at least one of us sick almost constantly since March. Boof was sick last week, PorkChop, GKGK and I all got sick from Boof, but we seem to be over it now, so hopefully we can all hold out for 2 more days so we can at least have PorkChop's party on time! After all, we can't possibly have it next weekend, because THE RACE is on. (We are a car house, not a football house!)

Anyway, mum came over today to help look after PorkChop while I decorated the cake. PorkChop obviously understood the gravity of the situation, and slept from 8:30am til 12! That left mum with not much looking after to do, so I got her cracking on the caramel popcorn. It's fabulous stuff - you can make it days in advance and it's still great on the day.

Mum made one batch, but it looked a bit small, so we decided that we probably needed another batch. This was an excellent idea, because the whole problem with making caramel popcorn in advance, is that it gets eaten in advance! It is so incredibly addictive. It's light and sweet, and you don't even realise that all of its own accord, your arm has just reached out and taken your 14th handful, and maybe you should probably stop now. I must admit, a good chunk of the popcorn mum made today is now nowhere to be seen! But don't worry partygoers, there's still plenty and I have hidden it away where I am not constantly looking at it, so there should be at least a handful left for Sunday!

This is not my secret recipe. I think have mentioned it before when I made it for Boof’s birthday – the recipe is off the back of the popcorn packet! (I omit the nuts though – so maybe I’ll claim it as my own after all!)

Caramel Popcorn

½ cup popcorn kernels
5 tbs oil
125g butter
¾ cup sugar
2 tbs honey

In a large saucepan (much larger than you think, compared to the ½ cup kernels), slowly heat the oil over medium heat. Drop in a couple of kernels, and once they start slowly spinning, the oil is hot enough. Add the remaining kernels, put the lid on, and give it all a good shake. Cook, giving a shake every now and again, until the popping stops. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar, honey and butter. Stir until butter has melted and sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes or until mixture is a deep golden caramel colour (or whatever colour you like your caramel).

Quickly pour caramel over popcorn and mix well until caramel is evenly spread throughout. Spread out over a baking sheet lined with baking paper to cool. Once cool, break into small pieces.

It really does taste better once it has cooled, but if you are anything like me (and my mum) you will probably burn your mouth trying to shovel it in while it is still hot! (I am going to be sooooo in trouble for writing that!)

Friday, 21 September 2007

Blog Code Names!

Just a little note: for those of you in my life who are complaining about not having your blog code name yet, you need to do something which inspires me to write about you! Otherwise I have no need to give you a code name! Be bold! Cook me something which demands my attention and forces me to wax lyrical about you all over my blog! It's not up to me, it's up to YOU!

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Patty Cakes


The other day, I was having my standard Friday catch up with the girls (FattyBoomBah, Mrs F and ButterLover), and they were hassling me for a patty cake recipe. What kind of dodgy food blogger would I be if I didn’t have a decent patty cake recipe?!?! More importantly, what kind of cooking mother would I be if I didn’t have a decent quick and easy patty cake recipe!?

I love this recipe. You don’t need to remember to get the butter out of the fridge to let it soften, everything goes in at once, and while it does use an electric mixer, the whole mixing process takes about 1 minute. I whipped up some more today because I wanted to test out a few things. I got some of those mini silicon patty cases (in pretty colours, see!) and I wanted to see if they were any good. I also wanted to test out some smaller cakes for PorkChop’s upcoming party, and I also wanted to test out my new cake flour – to see if it made my cakes any softer.

So off I went this morning, with 2 kids snapping at my heels the whole time. I forgot to use unsalted butter, I put too much butter in, I forgot to change the setting on the oven, and once I had put them in the oven, I realized I had introduced way too many variables to find out whether the new flour made any difference at all! Doesn’t matter! They still tasted great! I think the unsalted butter really does make a difference to the taste, but don’t worry if you only have salted – we managed to scoff them this morning without any problems!
The silicon cases seemed to work pretty well. The cakes weren't quite as golden brown as usual, and the silicon may have something to do with this. Also, they domed up quite high in the centre but not on the edges - kind of like a bell shape, so maybe the edges were well and truly stuck to the silicon and found it hard to rise. Then again, they came out very easily and I didn't grease them at all. This is a very big thing for me because I am a slack greaser and I want everything to just fall out its tin with minimal effort! So the silicon is great for that. I haven't washed them yet, not that there was much cake left in them, but if that proves traumatic, I'll auction them off the highest bidder!

Patty Cakes
(adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly)

125g unsalted butter, chopped
1 tsp vanilla essence
¾ cup (165g) caster sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups (225g) SR flour
½ cup (125ml) milk

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl of electric mixer. Beat on low speed until ingredients are combined. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth and changed in colour. Drop 1 ½ tbs mixture into paper cases. Bake in moderate oven about 18 minutes. Turn onto wire rack to cool.

The original recipe said this makes 24. I reckon it makes about 18 – and fairly small cakes too. I always find that I am making more than 18 for parties and stuff, so I scale on the basis of 1 egg = 9 cakes and then go from there. This morning I used 1 egg and it made 24 of the little cakes in the silicon cases. I recommend cooking small ones that size for about 10 minutes.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Taylors Patisserie has opened!

Taylors Patisserie has opened! It actually opened last week, but I have been slack and haven’t posted. On their first day we tried the stuff in the photo: a nienish tart, a berry almondine and a Portuguese custard tart. All were excellent! Since then, we have also had a mini face cake, a pineapple tart, a donut and a croissant. (That’s actually a scary list when you consider the place has only been open 8 days! I promise I don’t usually eat that many cakes – it’s just cause it’s new and I have to try it out!)

While the nienish tart’s success was very close to my heart, today was the biggest test of all – the sponge cake. David’s Cakes make the very best sponge cakes, so it was going to be a massive challenge for Taylors to live up to that standard. I bought a passionfruit sponge today, to share with some friends. I had all my fingers and toes crossed, hoping it was going to reach those same lofty heights. And the verdict………..

10/10!!! Everyone loved it! I am never attempting sponge ever again! I have a 7-day-a-week supply 500 metres from my front door. Wooohoooo!!!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Mini Friands

Lately, I have been trying out some recipes for my gluten-intolerant father-in-law. We have the PorkChop’s first birthday coming up in a couple of weeks, and I like to have a range of sweet things for everyone to munch on. I think we need some new gluten free things other than meringues and caramel fudge. (I don’t need anything in life other than meringues, but some people are just plain weird and want cakes and sausage rolls and stuff. Hmmmmmm... maybe I should change the name of this blog............)

The latest delicious magazine came with a recipe for gluten-free fruit and nut loaves, so I thought I would give them a try. (The recipe doesn't appear to be on their website just yet). They were pretty good for a gluten free baked good, although they were a bit dry – however this may not be the fault of the recipe. It is more likely it had something to do with the fact that the recipe asked for 250g yoghurt, but I only had 200g, so I just went with that ! (and didn’t make any corresponding adjustments) Oh well! It was just a test run. GKGK still managed to eat most of them (the recipe made about 48 - that was too much even for him!)

It got me thinking though. The recipe was quite similar to a friand recipe, and I really was after something with a chocolate flavour, so I thought I would apply some of the gluten-free ideas to my standard friand recipe, and just add chocolate! The whole friand thing also proved quite useful because it used a lot of egg whites. I am on a bit of an icecream kick at the moment, so I have egg whites falling out my bum and I need to do something other than meringue. (or do I?)

So this morning I baked some gluten-free chocolate chip mini friands and served them up to some friends, and all 24 are well and truly gone! There was not even chance for a photo! So it would appear that the recipe was a success – they all demanded copies – so here it is!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Mini Friands
Makes approx 24 mini friands or 6 normal sized friands

105g butter, melted and cooled
120g icing sugar
30g rice flour (or plain flour if you have no gluten issues)
30g cocoa powder
75g almond meal
3 egg whites
100g white choc chips

Pre-heat the oven to 180° C. Grease a 24-hole mini muffin tin.
Sift icing sugar, almond meal and flour. Lightly beat egg whites until frothy, but not stiff.
Fold into dry ingredients. Add cooled butter and mix.
Add the choc chips and mix.
Fill the tins almost to the top.
Bake for 13-14 minutes or until a skewer in the centre comes out clean.
Allow to rest in pan for 5 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.
If making normal sized friands, bake for approximately 20 minutes.
If you want to take a photo of them, do it before they are GONE!

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Warm Chicken Salad

I seem to be having some weird lunch salad thing happening. My body has been telling me to eat salad quite a few times in the last week or so - it's all the extra poundage from Turtles Crossing I think! Anyway, I have been doing as instructed, and I have made one salad 3 different times, 3 different ways! It's a great way to create something new. I just stood in front of the fridge, picked some random stuff and threw it all together. It actually worked out really well, and, dare I say it, healthy. Eeewwww!

There's no real recipe. I generally peel, chop and construct til it looks like there's enough in the plate. But I can give you a list of the ingredients.

The first one came about because GKGK and Boof wanted satay chicken for lunch. So we marinated some chicken tenderloins in satay sauce (from a bottle, nothing creative there) and threw them on the BBQ. I also couldn't go past some BBQ'ed onions, so they went on too. The salad bit contained: watercress, carrot, snow peas, tomatoes, pineapple, corn and avocado. I was way too lazy that day to make a dressing, so I just used one out of a bottle - olive oil, balsamic and lemon juice or something like that. (It's actually very good, so I have used that for all the salads.) The chicken and the onion ended up on top of the salad, with some parmesan shaved over the top, and it was tasty tasty tasty! Easy, healthy, and tasty!

The second one came about when Peace and her family came around for lunch. Because I was making a salad for everyone, and we were barbecuing other meat, I left out the chicken, as well as the onions and parmesan. I may have also left out the carrot - I can't remember. I jazzed it up with some very finely sliced eschallot, (As Jamie says, no-one in their right mind likes big chunks of raw onion in their salad) then dressed it with the same dressing. Peace absolutely loved it and demanded the recipe.

The third one came about today. I ate a lot of junk on the weekend, so I had to have another salad. (hmmmmm.... seems to be a theme there somewhere!) Same basic idea, slightly different to keep things interesting! I didn't have any chicken today, so I thought I could have some protein in the form of bacon and eggs! I had previously bought some organic free range eggs from the butcher to bake with, without looking in the pack, and as it turns out, each egg is a totally different size, so I don't think they would give me the best results for baking. So they have to be eaten in things like this! The base salad bits today were: tomato, corn, pineapple, snow peas, carrot, paremsan and cucumber (a new addition). I left out watercress and avocado - for no good reason other than I was sick of chopping by then. Today's new bits were some diced bacon, fried til it was crispy, and a poached egg. Unfortunately, Boof had a toilet incident while the egg was poaching, so it was way overcooked and I couldn't be bothered cooking another one. The dressing was the same.
Today's wasn't quite as good. Maybe I'm just over these particular ingredients. Maybe it would have been better if the egg was cooked right. I think maybe it was the onions. The barbecued onions added so much fantastic flavour to the first one. I think I would try to include them again in the future.
Anyway, it was all a good lesson. In order to be creative and find something new, just stand in front of the fridge and see what you can see!
PS: for those who read my previous post about the new cake shop down the road, I am hoping the shop is finished and I can go there this afternoon and get my very first nienish tart. I have everything crossed hoping they are just as good as Davids!



Thursday, 6 September 2007

Very Good News and Very Bad News!

The bakery at the shops down the road is currently being refurbished. They have said it will take one week. That seems very quick to me, but go ahead, please, take one week, because I want my fresh rolls back!

Anyway, while I was down there today visiting the butcher, I happened to walk past the bakery. I noticed a man standing out the front wearing a t-shirt bearing the name of my absolute favourite bakery/cake shop - David's Cakes - which is about 20 minutes drive away. He looked like he was somehow involved in the refurbishment, and exciting little thoughts started dancing around in my head. What if? Could it possibly be? Maybe...just maybe...they were going to open a branch here right under my very nose! I walked past, then I stopped, and had another look. Should I ask? Surely they wouldn't mind if an interested customer asked a quick question. Being the nosy and impatient person that I am, I decided the question was essential. I held my breath, and asked. Could it possibly be?

No, was the answer. Disappointment swelled. I acknowledged his shirt, hence the reason for my question. Well actually, he said, he is indeed taking over this bakery, and as it so happens, he is wearing that particular shirt because he worked at David's Cakes for 14 years and he expects his bakery, right here on my very street, will be about the same!!!

I swooned, I yelped, I almost died! My favourite nienish tarts, now 500m from my front door.

Which is where the very bad news comes in. Do you realise how much weight I am going to put on?!?!?!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Rosti with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Hollandaise

Last weekend we had the annual migration to Turtles Crossing. Turtles Crossing is a very big house just near Forster, about 3 hours drive north of Sydney. We are up to our fourth visit now, and the only thing that has changed is the number of children. The adults have now officially been overtaken. We had 11 adults and this year, 12 children! All in one house! (It's a very big house!) I think we were all a bit sceptical this year - we thought maybe there were just too many children and this year would be the last year, but it all worked out beautifully.

Every family has a turn at cooking either a dinner or a breakfast. This year, I volunteered us for a breakfast. GKGK doesn't get a say what we do, because he doesn't cook. I must must say though, this year he helped out quite a bit. I think he probably had an ulterior motive - but this is a family blog so I won't go there!

Anyway, I don't think I've ever cooked breakfast for a big group before, and I didn't want to do the standard bacon and eggs, so obviously I needed to get some more cookbooks!! Amazon helped me out as per usual, with two breakfast/brunch cookbooks to get my creative juices flowing. I finally decided on a variation of eggs benedict, along with some apple crumble and some spiced date pastries.

For the apple crumble, I used GKGK's standard family recipe that they have for breakfast every Christmas. It's out of the Australian Women's Weekly Barbecue cookbook, so I can't put it up here. (Yes, work that one out! Apple crumble, cooked in the oven, in a barbecue cookbook!) Initially, everyone struggled with the whole crumble-for-breakfast thing, but they were hungry and it was sweet and tasty so they got over it quick enough!

For the spiced date pastries, I used a recipe from donna hay magazine. I'm not sure I would call them pastries. They're really just a scone-ish dough, rolled out flat then sprinkled with mixed spice and sugar, then rolled up and sliced up into scrolls. The magazine said to cook them in baking paper in individual muffin tins, but that sounded like way too much work to cut up all that paper so I just threw them all in a baking dish together. And I have to say, they were excellent! Unfortunately though, I was unprepared for their excellentness and I didn't make enough. They were good in my trial run at home but they turned out much better the second time around. I can't believe I undercatered. I think I must be someone else masquerading as me.

The piece de resistance was the eggs. I can't have any meal without potatoes coming in somewhere, so I started off with some potato rosti. Nothing fancy, no eggs or flour or anything to take away from that perfect potato flavour. On top of that, some rocket for a bit of colour and bite. Then an option - smoked salmon for the snobs, ham for the knobs who don't like seafood. A poached egg came next - I used those little poaching doovalackies that stand up in a saucepan. For the hollandaise, I had my cheat's version ready to go (It's a holiday. I wasn't going to stand there for half an hour whisking butter in). I also bought a jar just in case my version didn't work, but I was really hoping mine would perform, because I thought the jar one was dodgy. And of course, we sprinkled some chives on top to make it pretty. Which of course, makes you ask - where are the photos??? I only took photos of the first two serves, and they don't really look that pretty at all, so they're not going up here! But here is the recipe. Make it yourself and take your own photos! (Unless it all gets scoffed before you get the chance for the photo!)

Rosti with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Cheats Hollandaise
Serves 1

Rosti
1 medium potato, peeled and grated
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper

Hollandaise
1 egg yolk
1/2 tbs lemon juice
40g melted butter, hot

Smoked salmon or leg ham off the bone
Rocket
1 or 2 fresh eggs
Chives, chopped

For the hollandaise, blend the egg yolk and lemon juice in a blender. With the blender running, drizzle in the butter until sauce is slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.

For the rosti, squeeze all the moisture out of the potato. Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan to medium. Add the butter and oil. Squeeze handfuls of potato together and place in the pan. Flatten out with a spatula or egg flip. Cook until golden brown, then flip and repeat for other side. You should get 2 rosti from one medium potato. Drain on paper towel.

While the rosti are cooking, poach the egg. Put the poaching doovalacky (that's its technical name) in a saucepan of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat so that there are no bubbles breaking the surface of the water. This is below a simmer. Break the egg into a teacup or small bowl first, then slip the egg into the poacher. If you crack it directly into the poacher, you are much more likely to get egg white all through the water rather than in the poacher. Gently lower the poacher into the water. Cook until soft or firm, as you like.

Construct your breakfast. Rosti, rocket, salmon/ham, egg, hollandaise, chives.

Eat!

Note: I just noticed there is a recipe almost exactly the same as this on taste.com.au. But this hollandaise is better than that one!!!

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Sick Sick Sick: Catch up baking

Sick sick sick. That has been my house for the last few weeks. It has been an absolute joy. Boof* goes to daycare 2 days a week and GKGK likes to blame every illness that ever besets us on this fact. He even went as far as suggesting that it wasn't worth sending him because we all just get sick. But in reality, I probably bring all the diseases home from all those dirty trolleys I push around when I do all that shopping for food, cookbooks and kitchen equipment. And if GKGK wants to stay at home and look after Boof on my two "days off" (never mind the other child hanging around at home) then he is more than welcome to do so. We'll just look forward to a whole new batch of sicknesses when Boof goes to school. (Apparently the first two years your oldest child goes to school or preschool are when you will get the most sicknesses. So we're not even half way. Great.)

Anyway, enough of the whining - on with the food. It's very hard to cook when you're either in bed or you have a cannula in your wrist, so not much happened for a few weeks. But once I could go two minutes without coughing up a lung, I felt the dire need to bake. So bake I did. Only none of the baking was really all that great. Quite disappointing really, when you aren't allowed to do something for weeks, and then when you are, it doesn't quite meet expectations. Anyway, I made coconut macaroons, and caramel macadamia slice. The texture of the macaroons was pretty good, but they weren't anywhere near sweet enough (I was aiming for sickly sweet!) and they weren't moist enough. But they were pleasantly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I got the recipe here. If you don't want sickly sweet, this might be the perfect recipe for you!

The caramel macadamia slice is kind of like every other caramel slice except the base is a cheat's base made with morning coffee biscuits, and of course it has macadamias in it. I obviously wasn't quite switched on when I made the decision to make this, because I only realised halfway through that this was just a glorified caramel slice, and I don't even like caramel slice. Work that one out. Maybe all the antibiotics stole what was left of my brain. At least this turned out sickly sweet and rich. The dark chocolate on top overpowers the rest of the flavours, but the whole thing hits the spot in terms of a choco/sugar hit. I got the recipe on the masterfoods website. There's actually quite a few good things on this site. The ginger honey and choc chip cookies are beautiful. I could eat them everyday!

Hopefully the sicknesses are gone and we can get back to some nice regular posts soon!

*Due to some anatomical irregularities, BallBoy will now be known as Boof. This is due to his large mass of boofy hair that we can do absolutely nothing with unless we shave it. Which we will not do. He has his parents to blame for his dodgy hair genes. I am sure he will remind us of this regularly when he is a teenager.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Food for Kids: Pork and Apple Stew

As you may know, I've got a thing about cooking for my kids rather than buying baby food. It's just one of those things. I didn't manage to breast feed them, but at least I can give them decent food now!!
This is a really easy dish which is good for toddlers right down to babies who have just started on solids. It freezes well, and it's a good way to introduce kids to pork, because of the sweetness. Not that it's really a problem for PorkChop. He eats absolutely everything I put in front of him. He had his first sandwich today (vegemite - eeewww!) and you would never know he hadn't had one before. He hoed it down with no gagging at all. He is just an eating machine!! We thought BallBoy was pretty good with his food, but PorkChop leaves him for dead! So I guess that makes this a very appropriate recipe!

Pork and Apple Stew for Kiddies
250g pork fillet, diced
1 tbs olive oil
½ leek, white part only, trimmed, washed and finely sliced
1 small kumera, peeled and finely diced
1 potato, peeled and finely diced
1 apple, peeled and finely diced
600ml chicken stock

In a sauté pan with a lid, heat ½tbs oil. Brown pork. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add remaining oil to pan. Saute leek until soft. Add potato, kumera and apple. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add pork and chicken stock to pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer on low heat with the lid on for 30 minutes or until everything is soft.
Allow to cool slightly then puree (or mash, or chop finely, whatever is right for your child)
Add cooled boiled water if mixture is too dry or thick.

Monday, 23 July 2007

BallBoy's 3rd Birthday Party: The Train Cake!


The train cake!!!! Woohooo!!! I have always wanted to make the train cake, and seeing that BallBoy loves Thomas the Tank Engine so much, this was the perfect birthday for it! He loved watching me make it - he kept asking if he could eat it! It didn't turn out quite as well as I had hoped. I used chocolate cake, and the brown crumbs ended up all through the icing. I followed the recipe (fairly) closely, and there was not enough icing. It could have been better if I had made more icing, but I was too lazy. Also, I would have had trouble getting the colours the same and I absolutely hate colouring icing because I am so clumsy and end up with little drops of colour all over the kitchen. (The drops then tend to reappear for the next week or so - once they were on the bottom of GKGK's sock and he walked colour all around the kitchen!)

The only thing that matters though, is that BallBoy absolutely loved the cake. He said it was his favourite part of the day! We let him loose once we had sung Happy Birthday. He picked off all the smarties, the other lollies and the mint slices. He kept coming back all afternoon trying to sneak more bits off it (ably assisted by his aunties!)

This was the menu:
Chocolate Birthday Cake
Lemonade scones (see previous post)
Meringues
Chicken drumettes (from the butcher down the road)
Mini pizzas (made them myself on slices of baguette - too easy, too tasty and they freeze well, which is something I am always looking for - because I like to make things ahead of time)
Mars Bar Slice
Caramel popcorn (the recipe is on the back of the popcorn packet - not microwave popcorn - just the basic kernels - you wouldn't believe how ridiculously addictive this is, even if you don't really like popcorn!)
And lollies and chips of course!!!

And we had a lolly hunt for the kiddies - they went psycho!

All in all, a great day - BallBoy had the best birthday he's ever had!






Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Ballboy's 3rd Birthday: Lemonade Scones

.Mmmmm.......meringues!!! I know the title of this post is Lemonade Scones, but we're having the family bash for Ballboy and GKGK's birthdays this weekend. I thought meringues would be good as they can be whipped up in advance - although there is a VERY BIG risk that I will eat the entire batch before Sunday - but I can't do that because I need as much time as possible, not only because I have to make the cake, but to read HARRY POTTER!!!!!!! Unfortunately, GKGK is working on Saturday. I was hoping I could convince him to look after the boys all day while I went out, bought the book right on 9:01am, then spent the whole day reading! I could probably have it all read and be home by 5pm. I think that's entirely fair and reasonable. Somehow though, he thinks it's more important for him to go to work. Very mixed up priorities if you ask me.

Anyway, so I can't eat the meringues because I don't have time to make more, and I had to make them during sleep time today so that BallBoy didn't see them. He absolutely loves them too (finally something he shares with his mother!). He calls them "rens". Every time I walk past the oven, I see them. They're softly calling "eat me....eat me.....eat me". So I thought I would share the photo with you so you can hear them calling too!!! (Of course, there are 2 that look a bit wonky, so I'll have to test them to make sure they're OK.....)

But anyway, onto today's recipe!!! I was thinking maybe some lemonade scones would be good for the birthday party. It's an afternoon tea party, and scones are always good, and lemonade scones are better than good because they're just so easy. (Hopefully I will have finished reading Harry before about midday Sunday, because then I'll have to start getting ready!)
.
Lemonade Scones
1 cup pure cream
1 cup lemonade
3 cups self raising flour
pinch of salt
flour, for dusting
jam and cream to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C or 180°C fan forced. Lightly flour a baking tray. Place all ingredients in a bowl. Mix lightly until combined. Scrape onto a floured surface. Knead lightly and shape into a rectangle about 3 cm high. Cut out with a 5cm scone cutter. Lightly dust with flour and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is browned. Serve with jam and cream. Eat!

Monday, 9 July 2007

Kids Birthdays: Mini Meatballs

We had our Mothers Group joint 3rd birthday party on the weekend. My contribution was mini meatballs. I got this recipe from Mrs F, who (I think) got it from the newspaper. As with any good recipe, it has undergone some tweaking, and it is now a bit healthier than the original. Whilst making things healthier may seem like a strange thing for me to aim for, the idea is to hide some vegetables in something that kids will eat. The only problem is that the bbq sauce is full of salt, which is not great for the kidlets, but if that's what it takes to get them to eat vegetables, well you need to decide if the trade-off is worth it! I should add that the adults seem to enjoy these just as much so don't think they are just kids food! (Also, I haven't tested it out, but I think they would probably freeze quite well if you wanted to make them in advance).

Mini Meatballs
500g pork and veal mince
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 zucchini, grated
1 cup baby spinach leaves
2 tbs bbq sauce
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated cheddar or mozarella (or a combination of the two)

Preheat oven to 210 C. Place spinach in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 2mins, then rinse under cold water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop spinach.
Place spinach and all other ingredients into a bowl. Mix until combined. Roll spoonfuls of mixture into walnut size balls. Place on a tray lined with baking paper.
Bake for 15mins or until cooked through.

Winter Lunch: Lamb and Mushroom Salad with Poached Egg

I overdid the sweet things on the weekend, so I thought a salad might be the way to go for lunch today. The only problem is that today is a very cold wet wintery day, so my salad had to have some warm bits in it to combat the horrible weather outside.

This is one of my new "things" at the moment - warm lunch salads. It's a good way to get more vegetables in, and if you do it right, it can be a very fulfilling lunch that might just help keep the munchies away. I looked through my salad book, "tossed", for some inspiration using some ingredients I knew I had. I had some leftover lamb leg steaks which we barbequed for dinner last night, and I wanted to use my new egg poacher, so I started from there, took some inspiration from the book then added whatever else was in the fridge.

This is not the world's healthiest salad. It's full of veges but I cooked the mushrooms in butter and the bagelettes (which are store bought) are definitely not low in fat, so with the lamb and the egg, it ended up being fairly heavy. It probably needs an apple for dessert just to help it all digest!

Lamb and Mushroom salad with poached egg

Handful baby spinach
5 snow peas, chopped
1 roma tomato, chopped
Handful button mushrooms
1 egg
1 lamb leg steak
Handful garlic bagelettes

Dressing
2 tbs lemon thyme olive oil
1/2 tbs red wine vinegar
Pinch brown sugar
Salt and pepper

Lightly saute the mushrooms in some butter or olive oil (or to be healthier, just a spray of olive oil)
Poach the egg
While the egg and mushrooms are cooking, place spinach, snow peas and tomato in a bowl or plate.
Make the dressing
Reheat the lamb and slice into thin strips. Place on top of spinach.
Add the mushrooms.
Drizzle dressing over salad.
Top with bagelettes and poached egg.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

New Baby!!!! - Fiori di Sicilia Muffins

FattyBoomBah finally decided to pop out her baby! This time she managed to go all the way to 38 weeks (last time she only managed 34 weeks!) A gorgeous little boy with lots of thick dark hair has joined our menagerie of children!
It is customary for us to provide baked goods to the mother of a newborn whilst they are in hospital. The breast feeding at midnight (and 1 am, and 2 am and 3am......) can make you very very hungry, so I thought muffins would be good. They fill you up without being too sweet and sugary. I also needed to try one of my very new and very exciting purchases, and muffins were a good way to test it.
A few months ago, I found a baking magazine put out by King Arthur Flour in a local newsagent. King Arthur Flour is a baking supplies company located in Vermont, USA, so I was quite (pleasantly) surprised to see their magazine so close to home! I actually visited them about 6 years ago - I was visiting my brother, who was living in Vermont at the time, and my sister-in-law took me there. At the time, I didn't realise the potential of the place, so unfortunately, I didn't make the most of it with lots of interesting purchases!
They have a fabulous range of baking supplies - things like speciality flours, ingredients and pre-mixes, as well as baking equipment. Of course, being on the other side of the world makes it ridiculously expensive to have their products delivered (not to mention half of them are banned from importation in Australia), but I did find two little items that I couldn't resist. One is maple flavour - not syrup, flavour. I have been looking for this in Australia for a couple of years and have not been able to find it, so I was quite excited to see it. The other was a flavouring called Fiori di Sicilia, which is a combination of vanilla and citrus. The people from King Arthur Flour raved about it in their magazine, and I was swayed by their sales pitch! So I spoke with AQIS to make sure I could import it (and the maple flavour) and so a couple of weeks later it arrived!
I thought a basic muffin recipe would be a good place to test it out as there are not a lot of competing flavours, and it turned out fabulous! It's very subtle but you can definitely notice something. You can't necessarily identify exactly what the flavour is, but it gave the muffins a real zing!

This is the basic recipe. If you can get your hands on the flavouring, go for it!
Basic Choc Chip Muffins
2 cups (300g) self raising flour
2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
3/4 cup (140g) white choc chips
1/3 cup (80g) dark choc chips
60g butter, melted
3/4 cup (180ml) milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp fiori di sicilia

Preheat oven to 190 C. Grease 3 x 12 hole mini muffin pans.
Mix all ingredients together. (Who doesn't love that line in a recipe!)
Spoon mixture into prepared pans. Bake for 15 minutes or until a skewer in the centre comes out clean.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Girly Afternoon Tea: Lemon Meringue Pie

The girls came over for afternoon tea today. Mrs F needed some chocolate-flavoured emotional support so we scoffed that in the form of Mars Bar slice! There is nothing more rewarding than emotional eating - especially when the recipe includes 6 Mars Bars!!!

I thought we could probably do with some other food-based support so we also had some mini lemon meringue pies and some mini quiches. (Following my love of mini food)

Everyone knows Mars Bar Slice so I won't bore you with a recipe for it - although some people's recipes are better than others. I have to thank FattyBoomBah for her little trick with the Mars Bars (I can't tell you the trick - it's her secret).

So today I thought I would include a recipe for the lemon filling for lemon meringue pie. The rest is easy - just use bought tart cases or bought pastry and make you own. The meringue is just 1/4 cup caster sugar per egg white. This filling is good because it is not too tart - i like my tarts sweet, not tart!

Lemon Meringue Pie Filling
1/2 cup (75g) cornflour
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
125ml lemon juice
310ml water
2 tsp grated lemon rind
3 egg yolks
60g butter

Combine cornflour and sugar in pan, gradually blend in juice and water, stir until smooth. Stir over heat until mixture boils and thickens. (Mixture should be very thick). Reduce heat, simmer, stirring vigorously for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, quickly add lemon rind, yolks and butter, stir until butter is melted. Cover, cool.

Mixture freezes well. Make sure you bring it almost to the boil when reheating, and stir thoroughly.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

In Law Dinner Part 2: Pilaf

So what did I do for the big in-law dinner? Well I cheated with the whole meat part.....I got some marinated chicken from one of my favourite butchers, along with some of his tasty sausages, and some plain old lamb leg steaks, all of which GKGK barbecued!! I also did my standard pilaf - which is perfect for GKGK's Dad who is gluten intolerant. Everyone who has had this pilaf loves it (it's probably not a proper pilaf, but I'm sticking with the name!)

Pilaf
Serves 2: ( as a decent sized accompaniment)

1/2 cup basmati rice
1 cup stock
Handful currants
Handful slivered almonds, toasted (you can toast them while the rice is cooking)
Handful baby spinach leaves.

Put the rice and stock in a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to very low. Simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. Turn off the heat. Leave with the lid on for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix through. Replace lid and leave until spinach has wilted (approx 2 minutes).

Eat!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

The big in-law dinner: Whole Baked Pumpkin

All of GKGK's family came over for dinner last night - complete with kids, which BallBoy just LOVES! He goes absolutely crazy running around with his cousins. I asked all my sisters-inlaw to bring something along so that I didn't have to cook so much.

Blondie brought a garden salad - nothing different there, but a big meal like this doesn't seem complete without one. Fire brought her special pasta salad, which I have requested from her many times. It's even good the next day, heated up! (which is the only way GKGK will eat it - that way, it is pasta, rather than salad!) I have made a special request for the recipe - we'll see if it comes!
Peace brought a whole baked stuffed pumpkin, which is something new for me. She has cooked it quite a few times now, and it's just fabulous. It's not something I would normally cook. She got the recipe from delicious magazine - which i subscribe to - so I would have seen the recipe, but I probably just turned the page and thought it wasn't for me!! I guess this is a lesson to be more open-minded! You can get the recipe online at www.taste.com.au/recipes/3427/whole+baked+pumpkin. delicious magazine have very kindly listed all their recipes on this website, along with all the recipes from magazines from the same publisher. It makes it very handy when you remember a recipe you read, but you can't remember which month you saw it.
And what did I do for the dinner? Well that can be the subject of another post!

Friday, 15 June 2007

Chocolate and Zucchini Cake

My current favourite food blog is chocolateandzucchini.com. Lately I've been feeling the need to bake something for the family which has at least some form of vegetable in it, so Clotilde's blog was definitely the place to go. I decided to go with the eponymous chocolate and zucchini cake, and we were definitely not disappointed. Even GKGK (the ultimate vege-phobe) was more than happy to eat half the cake! You couldn't see any zucchini in the baked cake, so there was no risk of seeing any scary green bits. This is the place to go... http://www.chocolateandzucchini.com/

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Pork with Mustard Maple Sauce

Wow. My first ever post on my first ever blog. A whole lot to say and no-one to read it!
I just had a tasty "leftovers lunch". Pork with mustard maple sauce with some saffron rice. This was a new recipe we tried last night. I'm giving it 8/10. I forgot to ask GKGK what he gave it, but he said he would definitely eat it again, just not every week (which I agree with). The recipe came from BBC Good Food magazine, but you can get it on their website....http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3941/panfried-pork-with-maple-and-mustard-sauce.jsp