Archive | October, 2012

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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Basil Pesto Awesomeness

23 Oct


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 I love basil.

I love it, like *flicks fringe* SO MUCH.   🙂 haha.

One of my favourite ways to eat it is as fresh pesto. It is great on hot fresh pasta, but also delicious served on its own as a dip. This is my recipe, cutely refereed to by my sister in law, Emma, as “Hey Pesto”. 🙂

Often if I have a large bunch of basil in the fridge that I haven’t got around to using, this is what I will do with it, so that it doesn’t go to waste.

What’s in it?

  • Basil (Heaps more than you think you will need. Handfuls and handfuls. Fill up the blender/processor, blend it up and then add more again.)
  • Olive oil (A good couple of generous glugs. More oil than you want to admit to your friends is in it when you serve it to them.)
  • Pine nuts (large handful) – I use cashews a lot of the time. They are cheaper, and taste just as good in this.
  • Parmasen cheese
  • Garlic, chopped  (one clove, although sometimes we use two, but we really like garlic.)
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Admittedly, rather than being able to give you specifics on the process, this is one I make from tasting it as I go. Bottom line though – Add all the ingredients into the processor, or blender (either work fine), and blend the bergebers out of them. Taste and add more of various ingredients until you like what you taste. I know when I have it right because I go from making my thinking face, to it making me smile and nod my head. You just know. It will be more basil, more parmesan and more oil than you are expecting. Go easy on the oil at first and add it in as needed. If “something” is missing, but you are just not sure, give the salt and pepper a go.

This night I cheated and used store bought packet spaghetti (shock horror, I know!) But it was still delicious. 🙂 Leave a little (very little) bit of the  starchy “pasta water” in with the pasta when you stir in the pesto. This will make it creamy.

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A Seasonal Note: In Australia basil is in season in Spring and Summer. Just a little something for us all to keep in mind. 😉

Jamie’s Smash

20 Oct

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This is (our bastardised version) of one of Jamie Oliver’s quick meal ideas. We use it A LOT. It is, as he would say, “proper tasty”. We have his 30 Minute Meals book, but I couldn’t find it in there. We pulled this from his tv show.

What is in it?

  • 1 – 2 Potatoes halved or quartered
  • 1 – 2 Sweet Potatoes halved or quartered (or sometimes we use pumpkin, depending what is in the house.)
  • A handful of chopped Feta Cheese
  • A handful of chopped fresh coriander (The coriander really makes this recipe. We have a friend who doesn’t eat coriander and we replace it with parsley when they come to dinner. It really is not the same, but it does the job.)
  • Chilli (Fresh is best, but when we do use dried chilli we chop some red capsicums very finely and add them in too.)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Cook the potatoes. Jamie cooks his potatoes (both kinds) in the microwave in a bowl covered in cling wrap. We just boil them and drain them (drain them well).

Meanwhile, “dress the board”. This is an expression Jamie uses when he serves things on a “rustic” wooden chopping board. Drizzle olive oil over a large board, add salt and pepper. Chop the coriander, fetta, chilli roughly. They will get more chopping later.

After the potatoes are cooked through put them on the “dressed” board, on top of the other ingredients. Using a large knife chop the potatoes mixing through the ingredients. Use the flat side of the knife to flatten the potatoes and flip the underside ingredients to the top. Leave some large chunks throughout. It is a smash, not a pureed mash.

Serve immediately. It goes cold really fast.

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Yogurt and Cucumber Dip

16 Oct

This is one of my fav dips. Awesome on its own, dipping with biscuits, bread or fresh cut veggies. Also great with lamb, kofta, cous cous etc. It is from The Australian Woman’s Weekly Cookbooks: Great Vegetarian Foods.

A tip on straining whey from yogurt:
You know that watery stuff that you get on top of natural yogurt? It needs to be strained before you can use it for dips etc.
I have strained yogurt the “proper” way before, but to be honest usually I don’t bother. I have a lot of food paraphernalia around my house, but seriously, cheese cloth… on hand… all the time? Yeah, that’s not happening.
Here is an alternative method, which works just fine.

Place a smaller strainer (just the kind you would drain pasta in, or wash small veggies or herbs) over a bowl. Make sure it can balance there on its own. Line the strainer with about 4 layers of good quality paper kitchen towel. Dump the yoghurt onto the paper. Place the whole “thing” into the fridge. The paper and bowl will draw out/catch excess whey from the yogurt, making a thicker, more delicious end product. 20121103-233713.jpgLeave it in the fridge for a few hours at least, but over night is ideal. You can loosely cover the whole thing in glad wrap, I suppose, if that’s your sort of thing.

Make this dip at least one day before you want to eat it. It gives all the ingredients time to make friends and invade one another’s personal taste space. 🙂

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Mum’s Hommous

16 Oct

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I make this one, it is never as good as my Mum’s.

FACT: My Mum makes gosh darn good hommous.

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What’s in it?

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, save half the juice from the tin
  • 3/4 cup of tahini
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • “a glug” (dollop, sloosh etc) of olive oil.
  • chilli to taste

Put all the ingredients in a blender, or food processor and blend the bergebers out of it. Then blend it some more. Then blend it a little more, for good luck. You want it to be as smooth and silky as possible.

I like to sprinkle a little cayenne pepper over it, once it is presented. But this is just a personal preference. Parsley is good too. Fresh flat bread (Lebanese bread probably if you’re buying it) is a necessity here.

Sam’s Double Choc Raspberry Brownie Cups

14 Oct

These are made with the usual Double Choc Brownie recipe I use, however, in this case I substitute the plain flour with self raising flour. (You can make the normal recipe, if you want more of a “cupcake” rounded look. They still taste great.) If you DO substitute the self raising flour, for whatever reason, they rise, and then collapse in the middle. I suspect they are torn between the will to rise, and their insanely rich density, and it all gets too much for them. Happy accident for us, because it makes the perfect little cup to fill with raspberry buttercream, and then pop a sweet little raspberry on top. If they don’t want to sink in the middle I find calling them horrid names while banging the tray on a chopping board (while they are still hot) helps. 🙂

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For me, in this case, the raspberry buttercream, and even more so the raspberry on top is, as they say on the Telly, the real “hero” here. For me, it cuts through the heaviness of the chocolate brownie.

What’s in the buttercream?

Based on the basic recipe in The Australian Woman’s Weekly Cookbooks: BAKE

  • 125 grams unsalted butter
  • 240 grams pure icing sugar (You might need to adjust this and add more, depending on your raspberries. Keep it handy.)
  • a few raspberries, keep adding until you are happy with the taste/colour (I use frozen, because that’s what I usually have around.)

Beat the butter, until it is as white as possible. Sift the icing sugar. Push the raspberries through a sieve (I usually use both the juice and the pulp, because I like the raspberry seeds in the buttercream, but pushing it through the sieve breaks the fruit down.) Beat the icing sugar and the raspberry “puree” into the butter in two batches. Use a piping bag and nozzle to pipe into the brownies. (If you do not have a piping bag, Google how to make them out of a plastic bag, or greaseproof paper, it’s pretty easy.)

These brownies are full on rich, like for reals people. Rich as, bro. Enjoy!

A note, but not a lecture: When buying the choc chips and the cocoa powder, I strictly avoid the Nestlé brand. I initially came across the international boycott of this brand at my first University. They had a campus wide ban, and I was cranky because I couldn’t buy a certain chocolate bar I liked. It was an effective way of getting the message out there, and it certainly changed my view of things.
There is plenty of information about this boycott on the internet, and I’ll allow you to do your own research. 2 minutes of Googling and you’ll know enough to inform your choice.

HOW TO: Make fresh pasta

13 Oct

Here is a link to a video of how I make fresh pasta.

What’s in it?

  • 200 grams of plain flour (plus extra to use during process)
  • 3 free range eggs

A Tip on cooking fresh pasta:

Whether you are cooking it fresh straight after you have made it, or whether you are pulling your fresh made pasta from the freezer (it freezes excellently UNCOOKED) this tip is the same.

Add salt and a drizzle of olive oil to water and get it boiling. The olive oil stops the pasta from sticking together. The salt adds muchly important taste. Remembering that it is not a processed food with salt added at the factory to preserve it for a 100 years on a shelf.

Once the water is boiling add your pasta. As you stir and separate the pasta with a fork, watch it. The water will stop boiling for a little bit. Once it returns up to the boil, then your pasta is pretty much ready to be strained. Obviously this takes longer with the frozen pasta, but the same rule applies.

You will know if you have over cooked your fresh pasta because you will be eating a sloppy mess of unpleasantness. Try not to overcook it, it makes me sad.

It should only take a few minutes  and the correct result should be silken pasta that you bite into and think, “Oh man. Seriously? THAT is what pasta is supposed to taste like? All those years!! All those wasted years!!”

No pasta maker machine? No problem.

Never fear, roll the dough out with a rolling pin or (dare I suggest) a wine bottle. 😉 And then simply cut strips with a sharp knife. Wide strips work really well.

Fabulous Fruit

9 Oct

I find it heaps easier to remember to eat fruit if it’s cut up and looking ridiculously stunning.

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Sure, I could present it in a beautiful white bowl, with some natural yogurt and honey in the background (YUM btw), but that’s not what this blog is about. It is about me, at 6am, making my lunch for work and thinking, “Gosh, that is just too easy (and delicious!) not to share!” That’s all.

What’s in it?

  • An orange (segmented)
  • A handful of blueberries
  • Half a punnet of strawberries (halved with their greens removed)
  • A few mint leaves from the garden thrown in at the last minute.

Just you try NOT (healthily) snacking on that all day, I dare ya! 🙂

Seasonal Note: While different varieties of oranges are available throughout the year (Navel in the warmer months and Valencia in the cooler), in Australia blueberries and strawberries are only in season in Summer. That’s December, January, February. Just something for us all to keep in mind. 😉

HOW TO: Grow your own Rosemary

9 Oct

This is a really simple tip that I learned from my Mum. When you use rosemary in your cooking only use the bottom half of the sprig. Strip the bottom “leaves” from the stem, use them as normal, but leave the top half untouched.

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Push the stem back into a pot of dirt (earth) and leave it be! It’s that simple. Nine times out of ten, it grows happily away without complaint. And woolah – you have a brand new rosemary plant! I keep a pot by the back door, especially for this use.

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Brownies you would sell your first born for

7 Oct

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My husband came across this recipe at a site cutely named “cook like your grandmother”. I suppose I judged a book by its cover at that point, and we gave it a go. I have been making it for years now, and has become one of my most requested baked goods.

It is seriously rich, you only need a small piece. You may eat 4 of those small pieces, and no one is judging, you have been warned. 🙂

What’s in it?

  • 1½ cups Caster Sugar
  • ¾ cup Plain Flour
  • ¾ cup Cocoa Powder (the best quality you can get your hands on)
  • 3 free range eggs
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (the best quality you can get your hands on)

Stir everything, except the choc chips, together in a bowl until they are JUST COMBINED. Add the choc chips and stir in. Pour/scrape into a square tin, lined with baking paper. Use a spatula, or a spoon, to spread the mixture out evenly. Bake at 160 degrees for 20-30mins. The website gives the great advice that when checking to see if it is cooked through (with a skewer), remember that the choc chips will stay wet.

A note, but not a lecture: When buying the choc chips and the cocoa powder, I strictly avoid the Nestlé brand. I initially came across the international boycott of this brand at my first University. They had a campus wide ban, and I was cranky because I couldn’t buy a certain chocolate bar I liked. It was an effective way of getting the message out there, and it certainly changed my view of things.
There is plenty of information about this boycott on the internet, and I’ll allow you to do your own research. 2 minutes of Googling and you’ll know enough to inform your choice.

Classic Choc Chip Cookies

7 Oct

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These choc chip cookies are one of my “go to” recipes for when we are craving something sweet. It is pretty much fool proof. The recipe is from The Australian Woman’s Weekly Cookbooks: COOK.
The raw dough keeps happily in the fridge, (it’s awesome to eat raw too) and these cookies are definitely more delicious baked fresh when you want them, and eaten hot when the chocolate is all melty. Yum!

It is not possible to pretend that these are good for you, so I’m not going to even try. Enjoy. 🙂

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A note, but not a lecture: When buying the choc chips, I strictly avoid the Nestlé brand. I initially came across the international boycott of this brand at my first University. They had a campus wide ban, and I was cranky because I couldn’t buy a certain chocolate bar I liked. It was an effective way of getting the message out there, and it certainly changed my view of things.
There is plenty of information about this boycott on the internet, and I’ll allow you to do your own research. 2 minutes of Googling and you’ll know enough to inform your choice.

Quiche: If I can do it, you can

7 Oct


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This was my very first attempt at making quiche. I read several different recipes and in the end, I sort of used a combination of them. I went with a Feta and Spinach combo, because let’s be honest, I’m such a fan of those two hanging out together. And I have to say, it was pretty tasty. I will definitely try making quiche again. I have heard that people use a lot more eggs than most recipes I saw called for. Thoughts? Opinions? Helpful quiche based tips?

Really I guess I’m asking you guys if you have a tried and tested quiche recipe you could share in the comments below? I’m yet to have one to recommend.

Apple Streusel Muffins

7 Oct

These are one of my favourite muffins, and they look and taste fancy, without a lot of work.

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Some notes on this recipe:

  • I have made these with tinned apple, and it was fine, but I have always used fresh green apples since, and you can really tell the difference. If I have them in the house, I use fresh.
  • I also often substitute some of the apple weight for berries (apples and fresh blueberries has been our latest fav combo).
  • Usually there is more streusel mix than you can use. I freeze the rest for next time. There is always a next time with these. 🙂

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I don’t claim to be making these recipes up. Simply enjoying the fruits (pun intended) of the labours of people who actually know what they are doing.

This is one from The Australian Woman’s Weekly Cookbooks: BAKE.

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Seasonal Note: In Australia apples are in season in Autumn. That’s March, April, May, while blueberries are in season in Summer. That’s December, January, February. Just something for us all to keep in mind. 😉

Museli should be toasted – got that?

7 Oct

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My fav way to start the day (or finish the day, or spend the day) is in the sun, with a pot of tea and a bowl of this – my homemade toasted muesli. I like it with natural yoghurt, honey and fruit. It’s really filling and really good for you. I have tried really hard to like the soggy so called “trendy” bircher muesli that circulates in cafes, but I just can’t enjoy it. I like my muesli to go *crunch munch munch crunch mmmmm* True story.

This one sorta actually kind of IS my recipe. It is a combination of various other toasted muesli and “granola” recipes that I have read, and it’s also inspired by a Low GI muesli recipe that a friend gave me. Over the years it really has become a “whatever is in the cupboard becomes that week’s muesli” situation.

What’s in it?

You can use a combination of any of the below. The apple juice and the oats are kind of the backbone though. Obviously if you add ALL the fruit options it is much sweeter than just one or two of them. Each to their own though, you might really like dried fruit.

  • 3 cups of rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup of oat bran (I have also used “bran” cereal plenty of times too)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon of ground ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (100 grams each) of any of the following nuts: hazelnuts, brazil nuts, almonds, desiccated coconut
  • 1/4 cup (each) of any of the following seeds: flax seed (or linseed), pumpkin seeds, sunflower kernels, sesame seeds, pepitas
  • 1/2 cup of apple juice
  • 1 cup (each) of any of the following dried fruits: apple, cranberries, mulberries, sultanas… any fruit you want really. 🙂

Mix all the dry ingredients, except the fruit, together in a bowl. Spread out over a baking tray. Pour the juice over the entire tray and stir through. Bake for 40 mins at 160 degrees. Every 10 minutes take the tray out and stir through to get rid of the lumps. Don’t let it burn. There is no saving it once it tastes like burnt grossness.

You can add the fruit in at the very end while the muesli is cooling, or you can add it in for the last “10 minute baking block” if you prefer them a little toasted.

Serve with natural yoghurt, honey and fresh (or thawed, frozen) fruit. You could use milk instead of the yogurt, if that is your sort of thing.

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Better Banana Bread than you can buy

7 Oct

One of the things I love about Banana Bread is that we, as a society, have come to a socially constructed agreement that we will all ignore the obvious fact that essentially it is cake. It is CAKE, people! 🙂 We shall ignore it, and continue to uphold the delicious assumption that Banana “Bread” is the ok-breakfast-afternoon-anytime cake, for which we SHALL NOT BE JUDGED too heavily for enjoying. 🙂 Enjoy.

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This is how I used to make banana bread:

1. Buy bananas
2. Leave them in my fruit bowl until they are no longer recognizable as bananas
3. Feel sad and/or guilty about it for a day or so, regretfully throw out the bananas, while pouting sadly at them
4. Go to the shops and buy banana bread. (It’s not as nice as your homemade woulda been, Sam, but at least it actually exists. Unlike your planned banana bread, Sam, that never happened because you are a wasteful fool, SAM!)

Funnily enough, this wasn’t working for me. I finally learned to listen to the “Mums” around me who were convinced that you could freeze blackened bananas (at step 2 or even 3 above), and they were of course right. Thanks Mums of the world! How do you guys know this stuff? 🙂

SO – this is how I NOW make banana bread, and like, *flicks hair* omg, it is so much better than store bought bread. 🙂

Banana Bread is one of my favourite “pretend healthy” things to make. One by one, I freeze the poor neglected fruit bowl rejected bananas until I have 4 ugly horrible gooey black (delicious) ‘nanas frozen and ready to go for when the cooking mood strikes.

Here is the recipe I use. It is from the October 2009 edition of Australian Good Food Magazine. I always skip the nuts (personal preference), but NOT the lemon. Trust me, the lemon MAKES this recipe. It says use four bananas, but I find three works better. Four (“normal” sized) bananas tends to make the mixture too wet, and its hard to get it to cook just right.

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Tip: There is no escaping the fact that it is really, really icky peeling thawed, frozen, blackened bananas. It’s just so gross. I try to go to my happy place while doing it. If you are grossed out too, I find it helps, if while peeling off their skin – you smile and think to yourself, “It is just a banana. Just a banana. Come on, harden up!” I don’t know why, but it helps me, anyway.

Seasonal Note: In Australia bananas are pretty much in season all year. So that’s good news for homemade, sustainable banana bread. 🙂

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Sugar Rush Wedding Cupcakes

7 Oct

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I recently have taken quite a serious interest in cake decorating. I received a “Wedding Cup Cake Decorating Course” for my birthday this year, and this is my completed box of beautiful cupcakes. 🙂 I was more than a little chuffed with my (first time) efforts. Gosh darn it, I made those! 🙂 Sugar Rush ran a fantastic class, and I will definitely be back for more!

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Ombré ruffles, sugar flowers and piped hearts. Had so much fun learning these new skills!

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