Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The ease of pancakes.

Tonight I made pancakes for dessert. According to Mark, I should be calling them pikelets, because that's what they really are. But I've always called them pancakes, and I'm not about to stop now. The reason I really made them was that I'm almost out of muffins in the freezer. We've been back at school one week, and already my stocks are getting low! So I needed something sweet for morning teas, without to much sugar and preservatives.
I do try to feed us few preservatives. I'm not fenatical (how do you spell this word?) about it, but I try wherever possible.
The other requirement I had was to be cheap. So, I whisked together (mixing after each new addition to the bowl) one egg, 1/4 cup of caster sugar, 3/4 cup of milk and a cup of self-raising flour. Spoon mixture into the pan, wait for it to bubble, flip it and a minute later you have pancakes. Couldn't be easier, couldn't be cheaper.
With this recipe so easy, don't get sucked into the pancake mix in the bottles. They have preservatives and additives to ensure dried egg-like substances last in the bottle. Of all the things to bake out of a packet, pancakes are just too simple to waste your money and possible health.
So, if you're looking for something to spread with jam and add to the lunch-boxes, whip up a batch of these, and see if they last (doubling is allowed!!)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chocolate Brownies....need I say more?

I adore Brownies! I don't know how I ever lived without them before I discovered them as a teenager ( I know, a bit slow!) So, whenever I need to take a sweet to a party, I usually whip these up. This weekend was no exception.
On Friday night, I got the butter and chocolate melting, then set about locating the rest of the ingredients. Of course, I hadn't a single egg, so I raced down to the takeaway where I was convinced I'd seen eggs before. Thankfully I was correct! So, back to the recipe. It honestly is a job that takes about 10 minutes, including washing up, then you need only keep an eye on them in the oven.
To make this master-piece, you will need:
200g unsalted butter
125g dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup plain flour, sifted
2 cups caster sugar
2 Tbspoons cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
4 eggs
sifted icing sugar to dust
Here's what you need to do:
Melt your butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stir until melted and smooth. Try your best not to just drink your concoction straight from the saucepan!
Place the flour, sugar, cocoa and baking powder in a bowl. Add the eggs and chocolate mixture, and stir well to combine.
Pour into a lightly greased 20 x 30cm rectangular tin lined with baking paper.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out with crumbs, not fudge on it.
Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Slice the brownies and dust with icing sugar.
Eat as many as you can!!
This recipe is from a Donna Hay magazine, and has been my staple Brownie recipe for a few years now. Donna Hay really knows how to do sweets!
I love that this recipe is very quick, and I often cook it when I haven't a long time for preparation.
One change that I have made over the years, is to use Lindt Mint chocolate instead of normal dark choc. This came about when I was making these and had no normal dark choc. I had all the ingredients out, and had my heart set on brownies. I now make this substitution regularly. Brownies with a hint of mint are fabulous!!
I hope you give these a go, they're hassle free and delicious, if a little TOO moreish!

Monday, July 19, 2010

More games to play...

Most of us know that us adults should have 5 serves of veg and 2 serves of fruit a day. Do you know what kids should have? At 4-7 years old, they should have 2-4 of veg, and 1-2 of fruit. At 8-11 they should have 3-5 serves of veg and 1-2 of fruit. And at 12-19 years of age, they should have a whopping 4-9 serves of veg and 3-4 serves of fruit!
The serves of fruit aren't usually a problem. Fruit is generally sweet, so it's quite nice to eat. Veg, on the other hand, can be a bit different, for kids and adults! For those of you who are parents, how do you deal with veg? I have to say, I'm lucky. My boys do eat a decent number of vegies, though not all, and not always the same ones as each other! But they do eat some. The problem I have, is with those meals that just don't onvolve many, or any, vegetables.
Will loves Thai chicken and rice (a specific recipe that we call 'chicken and rice', not just any will do!!) We all love spaghetti bol or schnitzel and chips, but to be honest, even I don't feel like a salad with these meals, and I usually can't convince any of the boys (small or large) to eat salad!

So I play the game......for them and for me. Pureed cauliflower is one of my favourites. Coat chicken with it, instead of eggwash, before crumbs for schnitzel or nuggets. I also add it to the cream for a very thick carbonara. It may only be a little, but it's better than nothing!
I can add almost anything to spaghetti bolognaise! It already has tomatoes and onions in it, but I like to add grated zucchini and carrot, or a marinara sauce if I've got it in the freezer (this has carrots and celery in it).
These games I play, they're not jsut to hide nutrients from the kids, but is also saves me from cooking veg on the side for my health!!
What do you do to maintain Fruit and Veg levels for you and your family?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Prepared and ready....bring it on!

We are ready!! School goes back tomorrow, and our household is ready to go! We have 2 dozen banana muffins individually wrapped in the freezer ready to pop into lunch boxes the night before (well, technically we're down to about 18!)
We have mashed cauliflower packaged and ready to discreetly add to any dish that requires extra nutrients.
We have marinara sauce in 2-cup bags to add to lasagne, spaghetti bol, chicken parmigiana or to toss through fettucine.
We even have minestrone to last a few days for lunch or dinner.
We are so prepared, I've made a double batch of cookies (some with mini m&m's, some with choc and macadamias, and others with crushed violet crumble). These, I roll into balls and freeze on a baking sheet. When they're frozen, I bag them up so that when we need morning teas, or even have unexpected visitors, I pop them in the oven and have fresh cookies in 12 minutes!!
We are ready for whatever this term throws at us!!
...did anyone buy bread? How can I survive without a freezer full of sandwiches????

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sleepy places....

Oh, to be able to sleep anywhere.
I just found these photos while going through photo folders on my computer.
Too cute....

Birthdays, birthdays everywhere.....

Yesterday was the birthday of my wonderful husband. He is only a few years older than me, but of course I tease him about being old!! He's not of course. He's young, fit and fabulous. He grunts a little when getting up off the floor, but to be honest, so do I!! Yesterday morning, I got up at 6.30 so I could make some crepe batter, and decided to do waffles too. Mark had to work, but had someone coming to pick up plants in the morning, so I'd invited him for breakfast too. Crepes were demolished, waffles untouched (Will had begged for them!) But, at least the waffles can be frozen, and cooked at a later date in the toaster.
Today, we had Mark's family over for lunch. I made Jamie Oliver's sticky chicken thighs with chat potatoes and cherry tomatoes, a salad of baby spinach, roasted beetroot and sweet potato with goats cheese and caramelised balsamic, and a dessert of choc cupcakes, choc kisses and melting moments. I'd like to suggest that I don't go overboard with food, I'd be lying!!
I loved that his birthday cake was actually cupcakes, and that there were bikkies involved. Not just because I love them all, but because I have the excuse to get my favourite kitchen item out, my slice stand. This was picked up at a market for about $30. Mark found it for me, and I love it. It's one of the best gifts he's given me!
It always makes the cakes and things look so much yummier.
Also this week, I went and saw one of my beautiful friends for her birthday. Will and I made cupcakes which we took in a gift box, we made grilled vegetable paninis, we also took a jar each of fudge sauce and lemon butter. It was a lovely day, and with her being pregnant, I enjoyed waiting on her!! The only problem being, this birthday celebration was just a touch late. Being mid July that we celebrated would be ok, except that her birthday was in May! Where does time go and what is going on with our priorities??!! Ok, new resolve, friends birthdays must always be celebrated in the month of their actual birthday!!
Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

For the love of Mickey

Today we head off to the opthamologist (eye specialist for Will), the dentist and the neurologist (for Mark). So no time for a lengthy one, but I really wanted to share these gorgeous pictures. Charlie is obsessed with Mickey Mouse at the moment. I'm not complaining. Mickey never tries to fight anyone, blow up buildings or take care of 'baddies' with a smart-alec comment.
Here in Australia, it is hard to find Mickey merchandise, particularly clothes. Still no luck on the clothes, but at Coles on Monday, who do we see? Mickey! At $30, and with birthday money still neither spent nor banked, it was a no-brainer! And what fun we've had so far!! It's just cute beyond words sometimes :)

Have a great day everyone, and don't forget who the leader of the club that's made for you and me is!! We are so in love, Charlie, at 3 1/2, can now spell M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Control freak, or just organised??

I've been listening to audio books for a couple of months now. I love them, because I hardly get time to read anymore, and I spend alot of time in the car. So this solves the problem of car boredom, and never reading a new book! After a spate of books about moving to Italy and eating some seriously awesome food, I'm now onto regular novels. The latest one I've started to 'read' is called "Warnings of Gales" by Annie Sanders. I'm only on disc 2 at the moment, but it's not bad. When I read the back, it stated that one of the characters, Imogen, is a control freak. So here I was, ready to ridicule her. I start listening, and it turns out that she just likes to write lists, read maps before she goes somewhere so she doesn't get lost, make sure everyone is fed well and on time, and likes her kids to mind their manners and be in bed on time. What's wrong with that??!!
After listening for a little while yesterday, I took Will to a friends place for a day of play. While chatting to 'friends' mum, we were talking about the fact that I had my kids while at uni. I mentioned that Will was born in between semester 1 and 2 of first year, and that Charlie was born in the Christmas holidays at the end of 4th year (I took 5 years with littlies). She mentioned that I was lucky with my timing, to which I stated that I had actually timed them that way. I had timed it all out so that I wouldn't miss much uni (I had to do 2 exams under special conditions). Is this controlling? Or just organised?
So then, last night I asked Mark if I was controlling. There was a nervous grin and a 'why?' That was all the answer I needed!! Just because I like my lists (for everything), I want things done my way and in my timing and I get a little cross if it doesn't all work out, that doesn't make me controlling. Just loving and organised!!
Anyway, I'd better get back to my morning list of things to do. Including starting lunches for the term!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bread - it's actually not that hard - promise!!

I'll admit that I don't make bread as often as I used to, but I'm back on the bandwagon. There's nothing like fresh bread for breakfast. And I've found a way to do it without having to get up at 4am to wait for all the rising! All 'regular' breads require 2 risings. One as a dough, one in shape. So I just make mine the night before, let it rise once, punch it down and shape it, and let it do its final rise slowly in the fridge overnight. Then I simply take it out of the fridge in the morning, let it warm a little on the bench while the oven heats up, and cook it. Viola, fresh bread for breakfast!!
Now I'll admit, I've mastered this 'breakfast bread', filled with seeds and honey, but I have yet to master a regular loaf. Of course, in order to master it, I might need to try making it more than once!!! The thing is, when I make white bread, I tend to make ciabatta. But that's a story for another post! So, this breakfast bread, I got it from a Gordon Ramsey cookbook, and I've no idea what it was called!! Sorry! Anyway, it's a matter of putting into a bowl:
225g wholemeal flour
225g white flour (strong bread flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
50g mixed seeds (poppy, pumpkin, linseed, sunflour, sesame)
7g sachet of dried yeast
Stir all of this, and make a well in the centre. Then add:
2 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp olive oil
275ml tepid water (about body temp, not hot, just warm)
Mix this together until a dough forms, and turn out onto a floured surface (like below).
Knead (adding flour if it gets sticky) for 5 - 10 minutes. Now, when wholemeal flour is involved, it's always best to knead more, rather than less. And I've learnt to time myself, when you think it's 10 minutes, it's often only 5!! It's good arm exercise though, and lets out any frustrations of the day!! Kids love to help with this bit too!!
Once it is smooth like this (above), place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling film, and leave to rise in a warm spot for an hour or so. It needs to be doubled in size.
Now punch it down and knead lightly.
Divide into 2 pieces and shape into a round or oval loaf. Place each on a lightly oiled large baking sheet and cover with lightly oiled cling film.
This is where you can choose what you do, depending on the time of day. You can leave to prove in a warm spot until almost doubled in size (about half hour to an hour) or you can do what I do, and pop it in the fridge. Make sure it has a little room above it to rise.

Above is before the fridge, below is the next morning. It has risen well!
Now brush a thin layer of milk over the top, and cook in a preheated oven at 200C. It takes about 20-25 mins and should be a golden colour. When tapped on the bottom, they should sound hollow. Personally, I don't know what hollow sounds like!! I also suggest you don't walk away without setting a timer, to do things like blog about lemon butter, otherwise they will look like those below!! Don't worry, they still tasted good!!
Leave to cool on a wire rack and serve warm, but not hot. Apparently, you shouldn't cut bread while still piping hot. It keeps it doughy or something? I'll admit, if it's a morning I'm off to work, I cut it hot and it's fine! I try to find something to do for 5 minutes, and then it's knife time!
I love it with just some marg, and the next day, when it's not as 'fresh' (no preservatives!!) I slice it, and grill it lightly, then spread with jam. It's so yummy!!
Anyway, happy baking, this process of overnight proving should work for whatever bread you fancy, within reason. I don't imagine it will be useful for naan (again, another blog-post!), but then who eats naan for breakfast??!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Giant lemon = lemon butter

Last night I came home from a lovely afternoon spent with the Fabulous Kristina, only to find some serious lemon measurement going on. Don't get me wrong, the fire was on the kids were bathed, all the essentials done. But then I see tape measures and scales and measuring cups, all centred around THE lemon. This lemon has been weighed and measured many times since being picked 2 weeks ago. It was picked due to it's fascinating size, but was picked a little early as it would be devastating to see such a wonder of the natural world eaten by sugar gliders!

Photos have been taken every-which-way (including next to Charlie's head!). So what was the verdict? It weighed 735 grams whole. It's circumfrence was 35cm. It produced 240ml of juice, and that was without including the apparent mess all over the bench because the lemon was too big for the juicer! Yes, it was one of Mark's prouder moments. This was the biggest measured so far! And to be able to compare, 2 other lemons were juiced; one from the big old lemon tree next to our creek, the other from the 1 1/2 year old lemon tree in a large pot next to our fence. They averaged 100ml, so that made our whopper a WHOPPER! It also meant we now had about 440ml of lemon juice.

"Well, I suppose you'd better made lemon butter," was Mark's suggestion.

Now, when it comes to lemon butter, not just any old recipe will do. So I dug out Aunty Elsa's recipe and got to work. It was a good thing I'd bought some eggs from our post master/neighbour on Friday. Here's what's involved:

Lemon Butter:

Place 6 eggs in a double saucepan and beat well. For this, I use a pyrex bowl, while bringing half an inch of water to the boil in a large saucepan.

Add 125g of butter (not margaring people!), 500g of castor sugar, juice of 3 large lemone (or one giant whopper and 2 normal ones!!) and the grated rind of one lemon.

Cook this, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, over the simmering water until thick. Now, this should be the consistency of custard, it should coat the back of the spoon so that if you run your finger through it, you can see the line you've made. Now, I'll admit, this takes awhile to cook, but it is worth it, and you can chat on the phone for awhile anyway!!
Wait for it to cool, then put it into 4 or 5 small jars, sterilised by boiling them in water for 10 minutes. Now, Mark has this on toast and saos, but I also make little lemon tarts with it. In the freezer section of the supermarket, you can find little shortcrust tart cases. Bake them in the oven according to the instructions, and fill them with the lemon butter. A small jar also makes a wonderful gift, if it lasts long enough. Personally, I'm happy to just eat it from the jar with a spoon!
Have a go, and enjoy! Let me know how you go!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Today I made chocolate peanut butter fudge. Not the sort that you cut up into little squares. The sort you pour over banana splits. I've never made fudge before. I don't know why, it was extremely easy. I got the idea from Will, who decided we should have fudge sundaes. Remembering that I had a fudge recipe in a Nigella book, I went searching. The one in her 'express' book had peanut butter in it, I figured we'd try that (I generally don't like to change a recipe until I've tried it correctly first).
The recipe and photos of Nigella's version are here: http://www.nigella.com/recipe/recipe_detail.aspx?rid=94
The recipe calls for:
175ml of double cream, 100g milk chocolate, chopped, 100g smooth peanut butter and 3 Tablespoons golden syrup.
All go in the saucepan, where you melt it, stirring occasionally, until it's a sauce.
How easy is that??!!

We got out the bananas and icecream.....and viola.....banana splits with chocolate peanut butter fudge.

I'll admit, mine was eaten a little quickly for someone who'd just had a big lunch, but it was yummy!! Charlie seemed to agree, though Will wants his without the peanut butter next time. It's so easy to make, I'm sure we'll do a batch his way again before the holidays are through. So off you go, get off the computer and give it a go! And please, let me know how you go!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Portuguese Custard Tarts...mmmmmmmmm

Ever made portuguese custard tarts?? Ever even eaten them??
If you answered no to either of these questions, you need to rectify the situation immediately! Sooner if possible. They are sooo tasty, you won't know how you've lived without them! They are a custard tart that is baked in flakey, rather than crumbly, pastry. And if you think they sound difficult to make, they're not. My sister, who will admit that she's not into baking, made them recently and they turned out fabulously! Give them a go, here's what you need to do. In a saucepan, whisk:
3 egg yolks, 1/2 cup castor sugar and 2 Tablespoons of cornflour.
Gradually whisk in:
230ml cream and 2/3 cup of milk. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens and coats a wooden spoon well.

Before the milk and cream are added.
Remove from the heat, and stir in 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming (the plastic needs to touch the custard) and leave to cool.
About to add the plastic to cool. It is so hard not to just spoon this into your mouth at this stage!
Preheat the oven to 190 C. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
Cut 1 sheet of puff pastry in half. Put one half on top of the other and set aside for 5 mins. Roll the pastry tightly lengthwise and cut the pastry log into twelve 1cm rounds.

10 of my pastry rounds.
Lay each pastry round on a lightly floured surface, and use a rolling pin (or some PVC pipe in my sis's case!!) to roll out until each is 10cm in diameter.
A rolled one next to a 'non-rolled' one!
Press the pastry rounds into the muffin tin as you go. Spoon the cooled custard into the pastry cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry and custard are golden. Lick the bowl as best you can when finished spooning the custard out! It is just. that. good.
Ready for the oven.
I have to warn you here. The custard does bubble in the oven. It needs to do this, so please don't stress. Of course, sometimes it will bubble over the sides, but that's ok, you just have to peel it off to eat it!!
Leave the tarts in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Try, if you can, to eat only one at a time, I dare you!! They are so more-ish. I've been drooling and craving them the whole time I've been writing this! I even had to get up and get a chocolate to satisy me (it's not the same as CUSTARDDDDD).
These are the 10 that didn't bubble over and end up looking deranged!
So have a go, I'm sure you can do it. This recipe is constantly bookmarked in my Bill Granger 'Every Day' cookbook. It was the first Bill Granger cookbook I ever got (a present from Mark and the boys), and it's never let me down. Bill's recipes seem to be failsafe, at least the ones I've tried making!
I hope I've inspired someone to have a go. If so, let me know how they turned out!!