Mint Slice & Choc Oreo Brownie Ice Cream Cake

2 Apr

This was ridiculously, stupidly, crazily sweet and rich. Like, sickeningly so. But, with every mouthful I was saying, “Next time I’ll… and also next time I’ll…” The point is, you know you’re on to something good when you’re planning that there will *be* a next time before you’ve even finished *this* time. Oh yes, my pretty… there will be a next time. 20140402-104845.jpg

It is not very often that I cook from recipes on the Internet. Of course there is nothing wrong with a lot of them, and it is an amazing resource, but I like to check my cook books I have in the house first, and then if they don’t cover what I need, then I will “Google it”. I recently stumbled upon this amazing looking food blog and have decided to try out a few of her recipes. Stand by for my post about this dessert in future… I have my eye square on it.🙂 But for now, I was looking for a nut free dessert option, so I made this one. I’ve linked to the original content, because Lindsay deserves the credit for her work. However, it is an American site, and all the units needed to be converted (which I’ve done for you below), the sweetness needed to be eased back for the Aussie palate (which I now know for next time) and also some of the key products were unavailable in Australia.  The mint oreos for this mint oreo based dessert, for example, I couldn’t find. Alas, this was not going to slow me down! :) I’ve done some experimenting with substitutions for you and they are detailed below.🙂 The original instructions are well written, so feel free to have a read of her post in its entirely if you want more details and if you find something else on her site that you’d like me to try out (it’s quite likely, they look delicious!), let me know in the comments below.🙂 Ok – so what follows is my (hopefully not too bastardised) version of Lindsay’s Mint Oreo Brownie Ice Cream Cake. It would be great for large groups who appreciate a very rich dessert. It fed 11 adults (to the brim), and there was still half left over. We simply couldn’t stomach it…🙂 in a good way.

What’s in it?

  • A batch of my usual brownies recipe, leaving out the choc chips
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 250grams cream cheese – softened
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tsp mint extract (I had essence rather than extract, so that’s what I used, and that was fine.)
  • Very small amount of green food coloring or icing color (I used too much!)
  • One cup of cream, to whip.*
  • chocolate ice cream topping (I didn’t use as much as the original recipe wanted. I think our sauce is much thicker, so I just drizzled straight from the bottle each time it was needed. This worked well.)
  • 1 packet Mint Slice chocolate biscuits, chopped
  • 1 packet chocolate cream Oreo biscuits, chopped (“Normal” Oreos would work fine, there is plenty of chocolate elsewhere here)

* I tried her recipe for homemade whipped cream and that was really tasty, but I think adding the extra sugar and vanilla here is unnecessary for our Aussie palates Note – I have since discovered that we have mint Tim Tams available sometimes. If I could find these, I would use these next time instead of the two different biscuits above. I think that would work well… What ever you use, divide your biscuits in two larger groups for layering and one smaller, for decorating the top.

What do I do now?
Lindsay says: “An 8-inch springform pan is best for this recipe so that you can easily remove the cake once it’s been assembled. If you do not have a springform pan, line your pan with clear wrap before adding your parchment paper and cake board. You can use the clear wrap to lift your cake out of the pan once it’s assembled and frozen.”
Ok – firstly, take the cream cheese out of the fridge now. I had all sorts of issues, because I forgot to, and it wasn’t softened when I tried to mix it. Whoops.
Then, using the 2 springform pans, make and bake the brownies as per my previous recipe (omit the choc chips and shorten the cooking time –  try 20 mins and go from there). I say “brownies”, because you will devide the ONE batch between the TWO pans. (I made a double batch, and it was WAY too much, as you can see in the photo… and on my hips now. Haha!) Let the cooked brownies cool down, then remove from pans.
After the brownies are cool: using a mix master mix the milk, cream cheese, sugar, mint extract and food colouring. Mix these until completely combined. Remember that the green colouring will be washed out by the cream later on, but don’t go crazy. I used too much. Lindsay says you can hand whip here… Lindsay must be buff-as-bro.😉  After this, fold in the whipped cream.
Putting it all together: 
  • Line the sides of one of your original springform pans with baking paper. The paper needs to stick up above the top edge of the pan, as the cake will  be higher than your pan.
  • Put the first brownie layer in the bottom of your pan and spread over it a mixture of both Mint Slice and choc cream Oreo biscuits. Drizzle chocolate sauce over the biscuits.
  • Pour half of the mint ice cream in on top of that and flatten out. (Next time I will choose to pipe the icecream on with a very large nozzle, right up against the paper, rather than spreading it. Hopefully this would give a cleaner look around the edges when the paper is removed later. If you are not a “piping” kind of person, the spreading worked fine.)
  • Repeat with the second brownie, more biscuits, more drizzled chocolate sauce and then the rest of the mint ice cream.
  • Pop it all in the freezer (best of luck creating the space for it first…) and let the cake freeze completely (I left mine overnight, but I checked on it after only a few hours and it was good to go.)
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When its good and frozen, take it out of the pan, put it on your serving plate and then take off the paper from the sides. Top it all off with a handful of biscuit and drizzle chocolate sauce, allowing it to run down the sides of the cake. (I actually didn’t read the recipe properly here and did this step before I put it in the freezer. It was fine, but then I re-drizzled to decorate the sides once it was on the serving plate.)
Note: It will need to thaw for a bit, in order to be able to be cut… as we discovered at the table… and then had to sit staring at it… waiting…😉

Ummm… was it YUMMMM?     Why yes… yes it was indeed.

Was is ridiculously, stupidly rich, and something you couldn’t eat every day?    Sure.

Would I make it again?     Gosh darn, yes I would!

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Well done, Lindsay.🙂 Here, have a piece of ice cream cake. This version was not perfect I admit that, but it was well enjoyed, and there will be a next time!🙂

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Thai Green Curry with Chicken

14 Mar

Dinner was tasty tonight, so I thought I would share the recipe for this easy Thai Green Curry.

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That photo is not even “styled”, you know? I plated up, and it just looked that awesome. I snapped a quick shot on my phone, just in case it tasted any good. And it did that too.🙂 I didn’t have any Thai basil in the house (it’s an aniseed flavored purplish coloured basil) so I left that out. And despite usually enjoying spicy food I also left out the green chilli too. We served it with rice (it’s hiding underneath the curry), and it was delicious just like that!

Enjoy.

This recipe is from The Australian Woman’s Weekly: The Complete Book of Modern Asian

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Lamb Korma that will make you nod your head.

6 Mar

There is not much that will quieten me down. I’m a talker. I talk a lot. I talk in my sleep, I talk under water and I know its uncouth, but I definitely talk when I’m eating. But – if you ever see me close my mouth while chewing, point calmly and repeatedly at my plate (This thing! This thing right here!!), and nod my head up and down, you know you’re on a good thing.
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My brother in law passed up the offer to come over for dinner last night. Silly, silly bro-in-law. Haha! Because I found a Korma that had me exclaim out loud, “I’ll never get take away Indian again!” And while that of course was probably a hyperbole or just plain untrue, this Lamb Korma was easy, and stop-the-press kind of tasty. Seriously, make this. Make it this week.🙂

Tip of the week: Unless you are fancy (ooh la la) and have bought blanched almonds, you’ll need to remove the skins of normal almonds before you grind them up. Blanching almonds is easy. Put them in boiling water for 60seconds (ONLY!), drain them into a strainer and rinse them under cold water, pat dry with paper towel. Squeeze one end of the almond and it will shoot out of its skin happily. It will also shoot across the room if you are pointing it haphazardly around. You have been warned.😉

We served this with rice, papadums and flatbread. And the yoghurt went really well with it. Even my husband, who is not a fan of yoghurt at all, ate quite a bit with his dinner. Enjoy!!🙂

By the way: When you read the recipe below, it calls for “Ghee”. Ghee is clarified butter. You know when you melt butter, and there is a clear part and a cloudy part? Ghee is a whole jar of the clear part only, which you can buy in the “Indian section” of your supermarket. (You get the Korma paste in that section too.) BUT – You could use oil or butter instead and it wouldn’t make that much difference at all.

This recipe is from The Australian Woman’s Weekly: The Complete book of Modern Asian recipe book.

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Butter Chicken Curry

14 Feb

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This is one of those delicious dinners that you really don’t want to show the recipe to the people you make it for. There is no pretending that this is a healthy dinner, it is BUTTER chicken after all. It is, however, gosh darn tasty and it’s really pretty easy. You do need to be organised with the marinading before hand though, but after that it’s pretty much a one bowl wonder. Try not to let the list of ingredients intimidate. Half of them are thrown in a bowl to marinade the chicken, the other half are thrown in a pot to bubble away in.

Tip of the day: My sister-in-law wanted to make this, but didn’t have all the spices. She was over at our place anyway, so I just quickly popped one “measure” of all the needed spices in a ziplock bag for her. It gave me an idea for the future. So last night when I was making this for dinner, I kept a small ziplock bag nearby, labeled “Butter Chicken marinade spices”. As I was putting teaspoons of spices into the bowl, I put equal amounts into the bag. I’m hoping that being able to pull this pre-prepared spice bag from the pantry will make the process even quicker for next time. Fingers crossed.🙂

We serve this with rice, nann bread and/or papadums.

Another quick tip: Spread papadums out on a dinner plate, pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds – 1 minute, no oil needed. Done.🙂

This recipe is from The Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks: COOK

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Embracing the happy housewife role…

12 Feb

So what with being a new mum and now also a “stay at home housewife”, lately I’ve found that I’ve been at home more often than I used to be. Obviously I love to spend time in the kitchen, so I decided that that was how I would spend my hours as bub began to (thank goodness finally!) sleep (a little bit) during the day. Organisation is another of my loves/ hobbies, and so I decided to get organised. After re-arranging the pantry several times, re-organising the life out my “plastic containers drawer” and taking to my poor kitchen with my label making machine, I figured probably that there were more important things to do.

I wanted to start “meal planning”.

Not having ever done this before, I began googling in an effort to get ideas as to how to go about it. I was bombarded with blogs written by all these fabulously (almost) professional (seeming) housewives, who all had wonderful (OCD like) systems in place. It seemed *very* overly organised, and *like* such a “Mum” thing to do. But then realising of course, that here I am, a Mum now, blogging about meal planning…I took a deep breath, put my judgemental tail between my legs and pressed on. And I learnt a few things in my travels:

1. It can save you money. Plan your meals at the start of each week, and in doing so use the supermarket specials to save money. Initially I thought that I needed to start reading junk mail to do this, and I’m not a fan of that, BUT I found that the other alternative is to check out the online shopping webpages for the supermarkets – all the specials are there too. There are a few days on my plan where I have written “…and meat” and I guess this will be an opportunity for using the discounts to my advantage. I imagine buying in bulk would be another way to save money, but I haven’t jumped on that band wagon yet.

I found this free template from theprojectgirl.com and use it for my weekly/fortnightly shopping. It helps me see what I have in the cupboard, and what needs to be bought.

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2. The freezer is your friend. Some recipes will freeze happily (pumpkin soup for example), and you should make double – making next week/month’s plan easier OR allowing easy meals to be ready/ prepared on the nights when the “wheels fall off”, as they say. I have started freezing “everything” (more on this later, when I’ll blog  about my new found love of all things frozen…) I am sick of how much food we are wasting by allowing it to spoil and have to throw it out. Instead, I have started thinking ahead and if I don’t think it will be used soon, I freeze it. A good example is this week I opened a can of coconut cream and used half of it in a curry. Usually I would, in dead-set-denial, put it in the fridge and it would sit there for much longer than I am going to admit to you, slowly migrating towards the back of the fridge. This week instead I poured the other unused half straight away into a ziplock bag, labeled it and threw it in the freezer. I will use it when that curry comes along again on a plan soon, and it will be there waiting for me, instead of disappointedly being furry in the back of the fridge and having to open another can, only to start the gross and wasteful cycle again.

3. Prepare dinner during the day. At some point in the day when I have some spare minutes I chop everything up for dinner and put it in containers in the fridge. This means that come dinner time it is faster for whomever is cooking to get it all done. One tip here is: Use containers that go in the dishwasher, otherwise you are just creating more work with washing up. Also, group foods together that will be cooked together – onion and garlic for example.

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Since taking this photo I have acquired a divided plastic container, which allows for easier division of the foods, again making the process at dinner time more streamlined, especially if you have a wonderful husband like mine, who is now used to coming home to an open recipe book, and the meal prepped, divided and sitting in the fridge ready for HIM (quite often) to cook it.🙂 I’m a lucky girl, I know.

4. Use cookbooks. They are sitting there, and if you are anything like me, you use them much less than you wish you did. For this first month of meal planning I have set myself the (crazy) goal of cooking out of cookbooks 4-5 nights a week. It’s a bit excessive, but it won’t always be like this. Right now I have the time, so I’m trying it out. If nothing else it is helping me with the stuff out that is of my comfort zone, like fish and balancing flavours.

5. Share ingredients. After the first two weeks, I realised I could have been more organised about my plan in regards to fresh produce. Have a look at the recipes and see if any share fresh ingredients you don’t use for any other reason. Celery is a good example here for me. We cook with it, but despite all good intentions, we will not eat it as a snack. We just won’t. So I realise now, if I buy it and can work a risotto AND minestrone soup into the same week, then it is less likely to be used up, and not go to waste.

For the first month I used a month calendar planner and sat going through cookbooks one night, just filling in each night with the meals, books and page numbers.

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I think it is a great start, and it is working for me. I’m going to stick with it for another month, and then see if I’ll shift to a weekly, or fortnightly system instead. Anyways, there are plenty more ideas and tips I’m sure. But this is what I have learnt so far (only being two weeks into the project.) Please feel free to comment with your tips too so that we can all benefit!🙂 Happy meal planning, peeps.🙂

Edit 14/2/14: Yeap, I’m going to switch to a 2 week system. At the end of the second week of trying this, there is too much food still in the fridge that needs to be used. So the third week I am about to re-plan, aiming to use up what we have already. I also read somewhere recently the suggestion too to clean out the pantry and plan based on all those things in there that “seem” to last forever, but actually need to be used. You know, all those basics and staples and “just in cases”. You can buy fresh ones, after you have planned, cooked and eaten these ones. I shall keep you posted on how this goes.🙂

Kaffir Lime and Nutty Rice Salad

10 Feb

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Tasty and quite easy, this salad is a nice change from my usual greenery based salads. I find it serves well on its own for lunch, or for dinner with a side meat of choice. Tonight we went with honey, soy and sesame chicken cooked under the grill in the oven, and that worked a treat.

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Frozen Bananas – icky, but oh so useful…

5 Feb

I’ve blogged about freezing bananas before. They are beyond icky and peeling them makes your thumbs go numb. So today, as I was switching between peeling frozen bananas, and running my hands under warm water to bring my thumbs back to life, I was also pondering a better system. It turns out you can freeze bananas already peeled. It works, it’s easy and they survive the freezer just fine. I tried this out the other day, in anticipation of this moment, and froze a peeled banana in a zip lock bag. Peachy keen jelly bean!  Low and behold today there was one (perfectly fine) less icky frozen banana to peel.

Having said all that, if you do continue to freeze them in their skins (I don’t know, because maybe you don’t want to use plastic because the banana already comes in a perfectly fine “freezer pouch” (it’s skin) and you are virtuous and lovely and want to save the dolphins, or something and you can bare the possibility of losing your thumbs in a frostbite like banana baking incident) then here is a tip for you too. I used to let them thaw before I peeled them; it was just gross. It was sloppy, messy and they were much harder to peel. It turns out that they peel easier straight out of the freezer and you can be quite rough with them which makes the process faster. Another idea: peeling frozen bananas works better if you peel chunks of their skin off SIDEWAYS, rather than the lengthways way you would if you were going to eat them.

So there you go; icky frozen bananas made just slightly less ickier.

Mixed Berry Muffins

31 Jan

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You know those moments when you feel like baking (or, let’s be honest, eating) something sweet, but you REALLY can’t be bothered making (and cleaning up) a mess? A one bowl wonder is the way to go.

I like these muffins because they are quick, easy and a “one bowl wonder”. They freeze well too and can be brought back to warm-and-tasty-life in a microwave without problems. So they are great to bake when you are just in the mood to do so, and then freeze for later on, say for when people are popping over and there is nothing in the house to offer them.

These muffins work great with whatever berries you have handy. I used blueberries and raspberries this time because that’s what was in the freezer. I add frozen berries to my regular shop for these moments.

This recipe is from Australian Woman’s Weekly: BAKE

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Sam (returns to) the kitchen! Hazzzah!

30 Jan

So it’s been quite a year; Some medical issues later, a few hospital visits, a house move and a new bubba born – and I’m back. I miss sharing my foodie adventures in the kitchen with you and I am looking forward to getting back into it. Over Christmas I’ve been warming back up with some old favourites. I’ve made some quite tasty handmade pasta for dinner, a few lemon meringue pies, several batches of delicious brownies,  and one VERY disastrous gingerbread house. Hopefully I’ll be uploading new adventures from my new kitchen soon – stay tuned!🙂

Tip of the week:

If you want to make a gingerbread house that will not crush it’s little gingerbread residents, resulting in a ginger infused lawsuit, then use a recipe for a HOUSE, and not for COOKIES. (Duh, Sam!) It does seem obvious in retrospect I suppose.🙂

How not to make a gingerbread house 101

I got all the little ginger people out safely, but the house was a write off. Pardon the tin of spaghetti. Inside the house there were five more similar cans, attempting to hold walls up. *Sigh*… the wreckage was so delicious, but just not structurally integral.

Beetroot and Feta Dip

6 Jan

Dip it! Yeah, Dip it Good!🙂

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I’ve never liked Beetroot, for various reasons, one being that I have probably only ever been exposed to tinned beets, but more probably because my Mum doesn’t like it. Isn’t that so the way as we grow up?🙂

But there were fresh beetroots at my Farmers Markets and I thought, “Come on, Sam. You are old enough to give it a go.” And so I did. I admitted cluelessness to the man at the stall, and he said that I could also use the leaves for salads, which I did – and they were ok; peppery like rocket.

But my plan was to make dip, and it went really well, so here we go.

What’s the deal?

Wrap fresh, real (not tinned), uncooked beets in aluminum foil, putting a little water inside each package. Pop them on a tray, also covered in foil, as they leak a bit and (as I discovered) create a sticky mess. Into the oven they go at 180 – 200 degrees for at least an hour and a half. Turns out, beets are surprisingly slow to cook (who knew?), so you need to think ahead a bit for this one.

I used 4 beets and this made twice as much as I really needed. I think I would halve this recipe next time.

Allow the beets to cool down a bit and then blend them in your blender. Add 200 grams of Feta Cheese, and blend it all together. It becomes this beautiful purple/pink colour. So lush. Season to taste, salt, pepper etc.  You’re done! Dip in with fresh bread and raw veggies!🙂

A Few Notes:

  • There are versions of this recipe that bake the beets with oil and salt and pepper and herbs – I haven’t tried it, although it sounds delicious. The way I am explaining here (above) worked perfectly well, and lead to a very tasty dip.
  • These are the two Farmers Markets I shop at in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, NSW. They are both excellent and worth a visit.
  • My husband says I am a Feta snob.🙂 I am ok with that, you can really, REALLY taste the difference. I’m not into advertising, but I have tried a lot of Feta and these days I only use Dodoni Feta. It is the only one (easily available in supermarkets in my world) that is amazing. It looks like this, keep an eye out for it and if you have it, spend the few extra dollars sometime to try it:

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A Seasonal Note: Beetroot is pretty much in season all year round in Australia!🙂 Yay Beetroot!

Gingerbread Goodness

24 Dec

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Recently at a family Christmas lunch I stumbled upon a NEW delicious Gingerbread Recipe! It is heaps better than my other one; It is soft and not as spicy. Thanks to Aunty Linda for a new recipe to try out! =) I’m still learning about flooding cookies with royal icing (this is only my 2nd attempt, here is my first attempt) but am getting better and learning techniques as I go – Which is the point, right?🙂

 

Here is the recipe…🙂 Enjoy!

Gingerbread Recipe courtesy of Aunty Linda

Gingerbread Recipe courtesy of Aunty Linda, from “Woman’s Weekly” (she thinks… :D)

Summer Fruit Blendies!

23 Dec

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It’s hot here. Like, I mean it is really hot. Summer has arrived and for me that means it’s Fruit Blendies (smoothie) time. The “Boost Juice” places that are around are so yum, there is no denying that – but do you know why? Its called sugar, people.🙂 The one thing my dentist really tells me to avoid is those places. Sigh and sadface, Mr Dentist. But never fear, and alternative is here! Have a go at these two blendies. Less sugar than those places, and full on delicious anyway.

In both cases add all ingredients to a blender. Blend. Pour. Drink. Enjoy.

Recipe 1 – What you need:
1 mango
1/2 banana
1/2 lime (juice of)
Handful of berries (whatever you have)
2 mint leaves (I use more, but I like mint)
Handful of ice
1 cup of milk (can leave this out if you would rather dairy free.)

or/

Recipe 2 (Dairy Free) – What you need:
1/2 banana
1 orange (juice of)
2 strawberries
2 mint leaves
6 blueberries
Handful of watermelon chunks (remove seeds)
1/2 slice of pineapple or wedge of rock melon
Handful of ice

Yummo! Obviously these blendies can be made year round, but summer fruits actually being in season at the moment is too good an opportunity to miss!🙂

There are heaps of idea for these drinks out there. If you have a tried and tested one, share it with us in the comments below.🙂

Thumbs Up for Hockey Pucks and Knife Skills!

15 Dec

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As you can see this week has been a bit of a doozy. This is me, in the emergency room this morning, having my thumb stitched back together, on our way out to a family xmas party.

Last weekend we (very excitedly) ordered a new oven (our old one died, but that is a whole other story) and then we went about organising the various trades people we needed this week. We organised for the old oven to be picked up on the Thursday and my new oven to be connected on the Friday.

This week then started out as any other. I went to work (at my “real” day job) and did my thing there. I experimented in the kitchen when I had the time. I got 2 orders for cupcakes and happily accepted them. They were to be picked up on Friday morning. Problem – can you see what I did there? I didn’t.

So, on Tuesday, when I had finally realised that I had promised dozens of cupcakes to people, LITERALLY without an oven to cook them in, I arranged with lovely friends who live close by that on Thursday afternoon I would bring trays of raw cupcake batter to their home and I would cook them there. Fine and dandy, I thought. Except that it wasn’t. I rushed home from work, threw a very-much-tried and tested vanilla cupcakes recipe together (I’ll post it separately soon) and dashed over to their place.

The cupcakes didn’t rise. They resembled sad flat little hockey pucks. I assumed it was simply working with a different oven that threw me and I didn’t think much of it. I put them in the car and drove my hockey pucks home. About an hour later it was still bothering me, and on a closer check of the recipe it was obvious that I had, in my haste, used plain flour instead of self raising. Whoops.

Cut to me at dinner time, now remaking the cupcake batter again, and driving it this time to my husband’s parent’s house (not wanting to stretch the friendship of my lovely people at the original bakehouse) only to make my father in law sad because there were no extra cakes to share with him. The poor dear.🙂 But hazzahh they cupcakes rose and I was pleased that I had bothered to do them again.

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The one on the left is batch one, made with plain flour versus the one one the right from batch two, made with self raising flour. A nice comparison photo, since we are talking about it anyway.🙂 And here is a dodgy photo of one lot of the final products.

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So after all that, today I decided that, not being quite ready to use my new oven, that I would make an “non-cooked” goodie for the family xmas party. You all have probably seen, heard of or eaten the classic: Spinach Dip in Bread. It’s delicious and so ridiculously easy, but based on how this week in the kitchen had been going I should have known better. And you have seen the resulting photo above. Bread knife 1: Sam 0.

So, there is me, calmly packing icepacks around semi-prepared food in the boot of the car, while holding my strapped severed thumb above my head, telling my poor stressed hubby that we will drop past the medical centre for stitches on the way to his family lunch.🙂 See, this is why I like baking. Less knives in baking.

But the dip I made for lunch was a success (I’ll post it up on it’s own soon) and the stitches come out in a week. So alls well, that ends well?🙂 Yeap…

Mocha Madness Cupcakes

12 Dec

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I have made these a few times now, and they are always popular. They are a chocolate/coffee flavoured cupcake with coffee flavoured buttercream.  Now, I don’t drink coffee, but I really love these. They are delightfully delicious, without being rich or heavy. They really are one of those things you bite into and think, “WWWWwwhhhattt?!” Yeah, you should try them.🙂

The recipe is from a book called Love Bakery. Here it is direct from the source. If you click on the picture it should open up big enough to read. If not, please do let me know.

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Here is another option for the “love” as they say in this particular book, or the decorations, as the rest of us say. In the top photo the chocolate shavings were created by running a knife along the flat back of a block of chocolate. These ones below were made with a vegetable  peeler along the side of the block. In both cases I dusted the cupcakes with cocoa powder (through a fine sieve) first.

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Cupcakes, anyone?

24 Nov

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Now, I know that every man and his dog has jumped on board the “homemade cupcake” train. Sadly I am one of those peeps too. I really get enjoyment out of decorating these pretty little cakes though. They give me satisfaction and usually the process is quite relaxing.

Lately I’ve been working on my fondant work, sugar flowers and butter cream piping. I’m happier with where my skill set is at now.

The problem is that quite often there are too many sweet goods in my house. Too many! Oh, my life is so hard!😉

So, I’m looking for opportunities to practice my cupcake skills at the moment; opportunities whereby the cupcakes would then leave my house.🙂

If you would like some cupcakes and you know that you live local-ish to me, let me know when you next have an event and I’ll give it a red-hot go for you!🙂 It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Go here to see some examples of my work.🙂

Here are some of my pieces from a recent farewell lunch at my work. Vanilla cupcakes – some with vanilla bean buttercream, some with fresh raspberry buttercream and some with buttercream and then fondant covered.

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Pete’s Potato Wedges

20 Nov

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Looking for something new to do to spice up your roast potatoes?

What’s in it?

  • Potatoes cut into wedge shaped pieces

PLUS

  • Fresh Rosemary from your garden😉 – chopped finely
  • A clove of garlic – chopped finely
  • Cumin (whole seeds or ground is fine. We use either, depending on what is in the house.)
  • Tonight we also added Cajun Pepper too, just to spice it up a bit. You can left this out if you prefer.
  • Sweet Paprika – one teaspoon
  • Olive oil (more than you want to admit to… glug glug glug)
  • salt
  • pepper

Par-boil the cut potatoes in boiling water. We cooked for two people tonight and 8 minutes on the stove did the job. You can of course skip this par-boiling and go ahead and whack them straight in the oven, it just takes longer.

While the potatoes are par-boiling, prepare and mix all the rest of the ingredient in a small bowl. It should be a sloshy liquid, not a paste. See my note about using fresh rosemary here.

Drain the potatoes and let them sit for a bit. All the water needs to evaporate. I like to spread them out over the oven tray to let off some steam in their own space. I’m about to use it (get it dirty) for the baking anyway, so no loss.

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Here is another tip. You already dirtied the saucepan par-boiling the potatoes, so why not use it again now, instead of another mixing bowl. Can you tell I’m not a fan of washing up?🙂
SO – pop the now “dry” par-boiled potatoes back in the saucepan and pour the liquid spice mixture over the top. Mix together. You can use a spoon, but I find getting in there with your hands gets a better result.

Lay the spiced potatoes out on the same oven tray as before, spreading them out as much as possible. Pour any extra spice mix over the potatoes on the tray.

Cook in the oven until crispy as, bro.🙂 Yum!

Seasonal Note: There are many varieties of potato that grow throughout the year in Australia. So that’s good news!🙂 Eat up!

Seed Lovers Salad w Roasted Pumpkin

5 Nov

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This salad is kinda a combo of my favourite salad and favourite muesli. Nuts and seeds offer us so many important nutrients as part of our everyday requirements, and too often they are missed out. While they can be super expensive from the supermarkets, I’ve found that they are surprisingly cheap from the farmers markets. If you’re not someone who is yet into farmers markets, have a Google around, and see where your local market is. They are much more accessible than they used to be.

Here is an easy, and tasty way of working seeds and nuts into your lunch.

What’s in it?

  • Pumpkin, cut into small pieces and roast in olive oil, salt and pepper

Get the pumpkin sorted first, while it is baking sort the rest out. The pumpkin will be ready by the time all else is chopped, mixed and in the bowl/s (or lunch boxes) ready to serve.

The rest of the tasty things:

  • Cashews
  • Flax seed (or linseed)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower kernels
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pepitas
  • Baby spinach (or mixed lettuce leaves or rocket would work)
  • Carrot, peeled thinly
  • Baby tomatoes, halved
  • Avocado, in small pieces
  • Red capsicum, in small pieces
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Parmesan cheese, shaved
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil/balsamic/ranch dressing (whatever floats your boat)

A Seasonal Note just for us to keep in mind: (In Australia)
Capsicums – are in season in Summer
Carrots – Summer, Autumn, Winter
Pumpkin – Summer, Autumn
Tomatoes – Summer, Autumn
Spinach – Winter, Spring, Summer
Avocados – all year

Lemon Meringue Pie

3 Nov

I found a real cracker by chance tonight. Friends came over for dinner, and on a whim I decided to make a Lemon Meringue Pie. I’ve never done it before, but they are close friends, and they were happy to be my guinea pigs. The pie, it turns out, was pretty gosh darn tasty, if I do say so myself… which I do. AND it wasn’t half bad looking either🙂

The recipe is from Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks: BAKE. Give it a spin, you won’t regret it.🙂

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End of STEP 4: “Blind baked” pastry, (a little too browned in some places).

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A TIP FOR STEP 5: When you are stirring the mixture over the stove, small glutinous lumps will appear. Don’t freak out (I did a little bit). It wants to turn into an almost glue like texture, so when this happens you know it is on it’s way to achieving its dream! It will be ok.🙂 It comes together super fast after this, changing from a milk like consistency to glue-like, in about 2 seconds!🙂 It was impressive to see.

Watch the magic happen on my video here.

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STEP 6: The recipe says to “spread” the meringue, but I choose to pipe it. I think it looks pretty when it browns up. Each to their own.🙂 Also because piping takes up more of the meringue mixture, I suggest using the forth egg white (from the pastry), and a little extra caster sugar, to make up extra meringue. Besides, all good intensions aside, what do most of us do with one left over egg white, in a glass in the fridge? We ignore it, until we can justify throwing it out. Instead: beat it up with sugar, and eat it.🙂

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We loved this pie. I will definitely be making it again soon. Next time I will be brave and leave it in the oven just a tad longer (a few minutes only) to further “crunch-ify” the browned tips on the meringue.

Seasonal Note: In Australia lemons are in season in Autumn, Winter and Spring. Just something for us all to keep in mind.😉

HOW TO: Grow your own mint

1 Nov

This seriously huge mug, filled with water, makes for a cute addition to the kitchen this week while my mint attempts to grow its new roots.

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Growing mint in my garden is one of my secret pleasures. It likes to be drowned in water all the time, and when you brush past it, it smells so gosh darn delicious.🙂 Here’s another little tip I picked up from my Mum. If you don’t grow mint in your garden yet, you may start to, after this super easy tip.

When you pick mint from your garden, (or the next time you buy it from the shops (*cough* farmers markets!!)😉 ) rather than pulling individual leaves off the bushes, cut long stems and remove the bottom half of the leaves. These loose leaves can be used immediately or stored in the fridge to be used within a day or so afterwards.

20121101-210930.jpgPut the stems in water and over the next few weeks new roots will grow out sideways from the stem. (I’ll post photos below, showing the new roots as soon as this lot start to grow.)
20121101-211149.jpg All you have to do then is replant them in a pot (easy to contain and maintain), or the garden (it will spread out a lot though, it’s an explorer. Choose an area you want to fill)… and then you’ll have brand new mint. Plants are kinda awesome like that. Hooray for tasty, sustainable, edible gardens!🙂 Keep them well watered. Mint hearts water.

Here is the recipe I use for “minted yoghurt”. Try it as a dip, with kofta and flatbread, with tabouli etc. YUM!

Edit 11/11/12: After less then two weeks in the water here are the results so far. Most haven’t yet sprouted, but a few have. I will leave them all in the water, even these, for a bit longer.

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Pepper the Fairy vs The Evil Mixing Bowl.

28 Oct

My four year old niece said that these biscuits tasted like “pepper and fairies”.🙂 Haha. I, of course, instantly conjured up a story in my mind about a sweet little fairy named Pepper, who one day flew too close to the mixing bowl and was never seen again, but of course I resisted telling her that.

She is too young to read this… yet.🙂

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This was my first attempt at many of the processes involved. I know I’ll look back at them soon and cringe that I put them up here, but for today I am happy with them. I can see plenty of faults to fix up, but that just makes me more keen to try it again! They tasted pretty good, and they are not so ugly that I wouldn’t share them around family and friends.

Last christmas my sister and I both, as many people do, made gingerbread houses. You can check that blog out here. It was the first time I had built a candy house. My mother in-law had bought us a “kit house” and my husband and I had fun decorating and assembling it. I’m not a naturally competitive person, but somehow the suggestion of a competition (for this coming xmas) arose between my sister and I, and I am full on excited about it.

This year I want to do it properly; make the gingerbread and icing myself, from scratch. This year I want to use my new piping skills. This year I’m in it to win it. Haha🙂 The point is, that this christmas IT-IS-ON!… in the land of building gingerbread houses.

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SO yesterday, mostly in an effort to NOT do my actual work I desperately needed to do, I set out to do three things. ONE to use some of the 99 cookie cutters (not exaggerating)  that were given to us as an AWESOME wedding gift from friends, TWO to make my very first actual gingerbread biscuits (as practice) and THREE to teach myself how to “flood” biscuits with royal icing. I’ve been wanting to learn how to do that for a little while anyway.

Flooding is pretty easy, once you get into the flow of it. (Nice pun, Sam! Why thank you!)😉 I just watched a few You Tube clips, and then gave it a go. Here is one to get you started.

I let my edges dry before flooding, which is ok, but a different “look” to what this video shows you. It is the same principle. I have a few cookies left over, so I’ll try the quick, “wet on wet” method next.

I’m also going to try this one next too!🙂 Eeee! Super excited. (I know, Mum I’m a sadcase. :))

These videos are by Sweetambs.

There are a lot of recipes for gingerbread out there. I’m not saying I know anything about them, except that this recipe worked for me. This is a recipe for a WHOLE house. I’m an idiot and didn’t halve it for the cookies yesterday. There are currently A LOT of cookies in our house. Please come and visit soon.

20121028-193413.jpgAustralian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks: BAKE.

Feel free to comment and let us all know any other tips or tricks you have.🙂 Except my sister. Don’t tell her.😛

Tee Hee (and I had fun with the letter cookie cutters too…)

Once a moosha, always a moosha.🙂
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