Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Strawberry and Butternut Snap Trifle

OH is sitting here berating me because I made this dessert that even he declared to be fantastic, I didn't use a recipe, I spent ages making it look pretty....and I forgot to take a photo!

So here goes the recipe for Strawberry and Butternut Snap Trifle

You will need:

500g of strawberries
1 x 220g tub of extra light philadelphia cream cheese
3 tbspns cream
1 x tub of vanilla forme yoghurt (optional)
6 x butternut snaps (crushed)
3 tbsnps of icing sugar

The night before combine your philly, 1 tbsnp cream, 1 tbsnp of icing sugar and 1/2 tub of the vanilla yoghurt (purely a taste thing, if you like the mix as is, don't add it). Leave in the fridge as it will let the biscuits soften.

The night you are ready to serve sprinkle diced strawberries with some icing sugar and microwave until soft, syrupy and juicy.

Spoon some of the cream cheese mix into the bottom of some fancy glasses - I used stemless wine glasses. Then spoon over the strawberry syrup. Finally combine the remaining cream with the remaining icing sugar and spoon over the strawberries. If you wanted you could top with crushed up flake or chocolate curls.

But it was delicious, the cream cheese evened out the sweetness of the strawberries and it was only 4 small serves so you could enjoy it without feeling like you had over eaten. Sooooo good!!

Anyway, now that I have a content and happy belly I am going to bed!

Must fill you in on the new pot and the lamb shanks too!!

Night xx

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What a Weekend!!

Well I have lamb shanks cooking in my brand new ceramic dish so here is a quick look at the weekend so far!!

OH made his curry with coconut cream and it was spectacularly good, I found the woolies light organic coconut cream the best one calorie was and it tasted brilliant, just added a bit of creaminess to the sauce without making it too rich, definetly a keeper!

On Saturday we spent the day fishing here

Then today I went shopping and brought these...I'm particularly fond of the lil cardy : )

Before coming home and making these Cherry Ripe Cupcakes, first batch was a failure coz I tried to make dark choc cupcakes with cherry essence and the cocoa just took over, second batch I made vanilla cupcakes with a handful of dark chocolate chips, some cherry and coconut essence and then finished them off with a dob of chocolate frosting, a glace cherry and a sprinkling of coconut, they look and smell soooo good!

Also whipped up some Mini Turkish Delight Cheesecakes for OH to take to work this week, they were very very easy! No photos but here is the recipe - you could replace the turkish delights with 150g frozen raspberries if you want too but OH is going through a turkish delight phase!

350g philly cream cheese
1 pkt fun size turkish delights chopped
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1 pkt oreos finely crushed
40g butter melted
1 tspn rose water essence

Line 2 x 12 cupcake tins and pre-heat oven to 160C (fan forced)
Combine the crushed oreos and butter in a bowl and press tspsn of mixture into each case. Bake for 5 mins.
Beat philly until light and fluffy.
Gradually add sugar. Beat well.
Add eggs one at a time.
Stir through turkish delights and rose water.
Spoon mix over bases and bake for 10-15mins or until just set.
Leave to cool in the oven with the door ajar.

Anyway, it's been such a busy weekend, but it's been great because I feel like we have got heaps done. We got to spend the day together yesterday, went to a friend's bday last night and then had today to potter around the house, clean, cook and we even went out for lunch and got the most delicious salad wraps!

I'm off to check on OH's shanks and cook my chicken and vegies : )

Till tomorrow xx


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Comfort food

Last night OH and I finally went to the parentals for dinner. We didn't make it on Tues night as planned coz OH was visciously attacked by the man flu on his way home from work and therefore spent the night in bed. I, on the other hand, made a spectacular vegie chow mein....possibly a touch too much curry powder, but I'm gonna make it again next week with some tuna so I will try and rectify it second time round! Anyway, last night Mum made this casserole of Sanitarium vegie sausages, baked beans and onion all cooked up in this delciously thick tomato sauce and served with a dollop of thick and creamy mashed spud. It was mega filling, but it was hot and tasty and reminded me of home. It was real comfort food. Which got me thinking about what comfort food is and what my favourite comfort foods are.

Wikipedia defines comfort foods as 'foods consumed to achieve some level of improved emotional status, whether to relieve negative psychological affect or to increase positive. More generally, comfort food can be defined as food that brings some form or measure of comfort, sense of well-being, or easy satisfaction, usually from being warm and filling such as a dish made with a staple food, or basically pleasing such as sweets or desserts.' Like most things I think comfort food is in the eye of the beholder, I mean some people might find a big bucket of kfc or a tub of ice cream or a block of chocolate comforting, and whilst the chocolate and the ice cream sound nice, I don't think they would do much to comfort me. To me comfort food is food that reminds me of home. Food that conjures up images of sitting around the dining table or in the lounge at Mum and Dad's. That's one thing I miss about living at home I think, just having my parents there to chat to. When we go to Mum and Dad's for tea the boys retire to the lounge and Mum fusses about the kitchen while I sit on the kitchen bench in the same spot I always used to and we just chat about everything and anything.

I miss my Dad being involved in that too, but we still talk heaps and times change plus I imagine he is happy to have another boy to talk to! To me, that is what real comfort food is about. That being said, it's really not even about the food, the food is good, but the real comfort is just knowing my parents are there I think and being reminded of that is comfort enough. I love going to Mum and Dad's and having big bowls of Mum's hearty home cooking or Dad's chocolate pudding or my parents Christmas Pudding. Oh the Christmas pudding...it is a tradition that everyone shakes the fruit while it's stewing and everyone has a stir of the batter, it's an annual treat that we try and stretch out as long as possible. The night we have our last slice of pudding is always a sad one!

Big bowls of hot, hearty, mushy food on a cold morning or night comfort me too though, but in a different way. There is nothing like sitting in bed with a big bowl of porridge and golden syrup on a cold winter's morning or curling up with a bowl of thick vegetable soup and hot crunchy bread roll on a cold winter's night while you listen to the rain. I don't seem to need comfort food so much in summer, it must be a winter / warmth thing. That being said however in desperate times I am quite partial to a big bowl of pudding or golden syrup dumplings or even some white chocolate for comfort all year round too!

On another note it is cold and windy and rainy here. I got out for a walk tonight though before it set in and that is two nights in a row. I have been a bit slack on the exercise since switching to maintenance calories, but I feel so much better for having done something the last few days!

OH is currently cooking a chicken curry and we are using coconut cream for the first time ever (I know, I have told you before though that we are a little behind!) but I can smell the coconutty goodness from the lounge room and it smells divine! I can't wait to try it and I will fill you in tomorrow!!

Em xx

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Round Up.....

It has been a long few weeks in our household so OH and I decided to take ourselves away for a day trip yesterday. We got up bright and early and had some fruit toast (essential weekend brekkie) and tea and went on our merry way. Fast forward three hours and we were at the other end of Tassie and sitting in the car park at a place called Kart Mania. I was terrified but OH was mega excited so I kept my concerns to myself. My concerns mainly focused around the fact that many many years ago at the local show, I was going on the dodgem cars and I somehow managed to get one that was possessed...I'm not joking, the damn thing kept going backwards...and dodgem cars don't even have a reverse, it was terrible! So now I associate that with dodgems, go karts etc...they are all evil and I am not capable of driving any of them. But by the time I snapped out of my painful flashbacks, I was sitting in the drivers seat, belted in, helmet on and engine running. All sorts of things were going through my mind like oh god what if I stall, what if I crash, what if I putt around like a nanna....but I turned around to look at OH and even with his helmet on I could see he was grinning from ear to ear...and honestly he wouldn't put me in a dangerous situation so I put my foot down and off we went! For the first few laps I was cautious and nervous, but then I got the hang of it and even though OH did lap me several times, I was having a blast and was even a little disappointed when our turn was up! It was awesome fun though : ) And I'm so glad I actually got out there and did it, there was nothing to be afraid of after all! I might even try the dodgems at the show again this year....maybe.

After that we took ourselves down the road to Christmass Hills Raspberry Farm for lunch coz quite frankly we were cold and hungry. We had never been there before but I have always heard people rave about it. We were given a table near a cosy wood fire and settled in to check out the menu. Everything somehow involved raspberries, there were raspberry bangers and mash, toasties with raspberry chilli sauce, wraps, salads, eggs, bacon, french toast stuffed with fresh raspberries and nutella, not to mention the dessert page - raspberry sundaes, raspberry waffles, ice cream, crepes, pancakes - it was fantastic but terrible at the same time, there was not a single thing on this menu that I didn't want to try! So we settled for raspberry hot chocolates for starters and OH had a lamb and roast vegie wrap while I had mushies stuffed with cream cheese and capsicum served with raspberry chilli sauce....mmmmmmmm.

Our hot chocolates were divine, when they came out they had a sprinkle of rapsberry dust over the top, and you can see the thick layer of chocolate and raspberry syrup on the bottom. The taste was sensational, there was a hint of raspberry but not enough for it to be over powering, it was still a hot chocolate after all!

OH's lamb wrap looked awesome, even to me coz I don't go much on lamb, and I was pleasantly suprised because it had roast pumpkin and eggplant and local fetta cheese in it, yet OH devoured it happily without the slightest 'dirty eggplant' comment! My mushies came out looking equally tempting, cutting into one the cream cheese (also from a local producer) filling just oozed out and it had so much flavour from the capsicum and zucchini mixed through it. My meal also came with a small dish of rapsberry chilli sauce which only had a subtle hint of chilli but it was the perfect accompaniment to the mushies.

I can't wait to go again, so many things on the menu I want to try!! It was honestly one of those places where you nearly broke your neck looking at all the different meals coming out of the kitchen. Plus they also have a great selection of raspberry syrups, sauces, jams, vinegars, lip balms, body butters, ice creams and sorbets for you to buy on your way out. We didn't succumb this time, but next time will be a different story!

Today was a lazy Sunday. I met a friend for coffee this morning and we talked for a few hours, I love being able to sit and talk with someone about nothing imparticular and then all of a sudden noticing that you've been there for 3 hours! Then this afternoon I had a new cupcake recipe I wanted to try. It involved mixing a pack of jelly crystals through the batter and I don't know if I have been under a rock but I had never heard of that before so when I saw Strawberries and Cream jelly crystals in the supermarket today I have to admit I was a little bit excited. I tried one when they were fresh out of the oven and was impressed with how much flavour the jelly crystals really give them, they actually tasted like strawberries and cream! Am thinking port wine will be a good one to try next!

So here is the recipe for Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

125g butter
2 tbspns caster sugar
1pkt jelly crystals
2 eggs
2 tbspns milk
1 cup self raising flour
1/4 cup plain flour

Preheat oven to 160C (fan forced) and line a 12 cup muffin tray.
Cream butter, sugar and jelly crystals until pale and creamy.
Add eggs and beat well.
Add milk and flours. Combine mix well.
Bake for 20 mins or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

I decorated mine with a dollop of vanilla frosting and a strawberry starburst lolly : )

Well thats it for me!

This weeks menu includes Vegie Risotto, a trip to the parentals, Chow Mein and OH has promised a Chicken Curry...which in turn meant I promised to attempt Golden Syrup Dumplings!!

Night all xx

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Massive brain fade....

No food talk today. I just feel like having a bit of a ramble about everything I suppose.

Today was such a full on day. I spent yesterday at a training course on Workers Comp and whilst I was dreading going, it was actually quite interesting and I found that the day went quick and I was interested and alert all day. Normally at a course I am dropping by lunch time so I was really impressed with how yesterday went and am even looking forward to sitting down over the weekend and going over the reading material. Anyway having spent yesterday at training meant I had a decent workload today and on top of that I had to take an hour or so off in the middle of today for a job interview. So I have just told my boss about needing time off in the middle of the day and he is fine with that....then I go to my desk and see my phone ringing, it is my house which means the alarm is going off....OH is working away so I have to go. The boss told me to take someone with me from the workshop just in case, he is good like that but I felt pretty bad about being in and out so much today! I was glad I took one of the guys out home with me too, turns out we had a bird in the garage setting the alarm off and I needed him to catch it for me!

So I went back to work for an hour and a half before heading into my interview. I was suprised on the way in at just how nervous I really was. In the past like with exams and job interviews I have just sort of thought well ive done all i can do and gone with the flow, but today I was sweating and had the butterflies and it was just terrible. The job was a Senior Payroll position in HR within the State Service. I have worked in payroll and HR for the last 6 years but I have never worked in a Senior role. This position would be a decent step up for me and something I think I am ready for. My current job is pretty quiet and I am not heavily involved in pay processing as it all goes through our head office and in the beginning that sounded pretty good to me, but I think now I am ready to get back into a full on role and start using my brain cells again. I am not sure how the interview went really, I walked out of there feeling positive, but now it's a bit of a blur and I think I was fairly repetitive and rambled alot, who knows! Even if I am not successful, it is all good practise though.

In other news, a friend and I were talking yesterday and she asked me for a list of things I would like to do / achieve before I die. Now when my parents watched 'The Bucket List' and explained to me it wasn't a movie about buckets as such, I was quite taken with the idea, but things happened and life went on and I forgot about it. But when faced with the question the other day I thought, why the hell not and to be honest I found it difficult, which only made me more determined to do it. I think the realistic (boring) side of my head was holding me back and not letting ideas through that might not be practical or affordable, but in the end crazy me won the argument and here is what I have come up with.

1. Have a child and raise them to be happy and healthy
2. Be at peace with myself, who I am, what I look like, what I think, feel etc
3. Obtain a job that gives me a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction
4. If 3 is not possible, I would love to work for myself in a successful business and be self sufficient
5. Get my vegie garden really cranking, it's ok at the moment, but I want a big vegie patch over flowing with fresh produce, I would like to grow as much fresh fruit and vegies at home as possible
6. Learn a foreign language
7. Learn an instrument
8. Conquer the pole dancing and be more confident with it.
9. Travel the world, I want to go back to Europe so badly and I want to travel around Australia - maybe spend a summer fruit picking!
10. See an international ballet act
11. Learn to run properly, my running is appalling. And increase my muscle strength
12. Develop a healthier attitude to food.
13. Spend more time living, go out to plays and the theatre, get to Melbourne to see more broadway shows (I would see Phantom of the Opera 5 times a week given the chance)
14. Go hiking and spend more time in the outdoors
15. To be financially comfortable so that I can do all of the above without worrying about meeting the next mortgage payment as well.
16. Early retirement is a definite!
17. Write a manuscript and send it to a publisher.
18. Play a team sport or join some sort of social group.

So that is my list of things I would like to achieve in my life time, some are short term, some long, some mental, some physical. But now that I have my list I intend to add to it, cross things off it and refer to it frequently.

Does anyone else have a similar list?

Good night xx

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Spuds, spuds, glorious spuds!

I finally got to make my spuds tonight, and I decided to change the recipe up a little...potentially due to pure laziness. The general idea is you get the biggest spuds you can find, wrap them in foil and leave them in the oven for an hour or so till the inside is soft and the outside is crisp....then you cut the tops off, scoop out the filling and replace with a new and improved filling...but tonight OH and I were hungry, like hungry hungry so the whole hour in the oven thing just wasn't gonna cut it. Instead I decided to go with something a little like this:

Emily's Not So Jacket Potatoes

1kg potatoes
200ml light sour cream
3 tomatoes
1/4c parmesan cheese
1/2c chopped shallots
1 cup shaved ham shredded
1 tbspn butter
Salt and Pepper

Chop your potatoes and put them on to boil.
Combine all other ingredients in a bowl. I find putting the bowl in the fridge while your potatoes boil really helps bring out the flavours.
Once potatoes are tender, roughly mash and then add the other ingredients. Continue mashing until you reach your desired consistency and serve. How easy is that!
You can also put grated cheese on the top, but I like it just how it is. If you would like the original version, just combine the sour cream mix with the potato you scoop out and then spoon it all back into the shells and ENJOY!!

I was set up a bit with the lasagne last night, Mum gave me a box of lasagne sheets so I thought when they came over for tea last night I would use them....so I had planned my Pumpkin, Ricotta and Spinach Lasagne and when it came time to layer up I looked in the box and was horrified to discover only 4 sheets in there...it was a FAMILY SIZE box! I weighed them, checked the box, weighed them again, checked the box again incase of hidden doors or something...I was mortified. So when Mum got there I immediately began telling her she should take them back or complain or never buy the brand again....then I noticed she was rather sheepish....and the penny drops...she had used some of them and sealed the box back up before they mysteriously landed in my pantry! It was just typical lol and hilarious, especially seeing as I was on my high horse bagging out the pasta company for not packing their boxes properly! The lasagne turned out to be more of a pie, I ended up putting the sheets on the top and bottom and just had the filling in the middle, no layers, but still delicious! Pretty basic too, a layer of lasagne sheets, a layer of mashed pumpkin, a layer of ricotta combined with spinach, put your top lasagne sheets on and cover it all in tomato pasta sauce and cheese....mmmmmmm...going to have to try it with the layers though!

Oh and the pizza poppers came out brilliantly, kinda like lil pizza parcels...I was right though OH was straight into them, I made two trays and this was all I managed to get a photo of!

Otherwise life is peachy, I have a job interview for a Senior Payroll job on Thursday, really nervous about it, but pretty happy I got to interview stage. I am just your run of the mill payroll person so the step up to Senior would be brilliant, I'm not quite sure I'm good enough to be a Senior, but I'm stoked someone thinks I might be! Fingers crossed anyway coz my current work is pretty miserable, lack of work + redundancies makes for a very low work ethic!

And tomorrow I am off to a training course on Workers Compensation Legislation allllllllllllll day....only like a million things I would rather be doing! Maybe I should take a pillow!

Best be off though, have just put an apple crumble in the oven and it is making me a lil sad that I don't have stewed apples for brekkie this week! Definetly putting them back on the menu next week!!

Em x

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fried Rice and First Times!

Oh wow it has been a few days hasn't it! And my god has it been a big few days!

Alright let's go back to the beginning....

Last Thurs night OH cooked Fried Rice and my god it was knock your socks off awesome. It was just rice, snow peas, carrot, onion, ham, egg and some soy and worsterschire sauce....the boy can cook. We both sat down to two over flowing bowls of piping hot rice and the house was totally silent while we were eating except for the occasional noises of happy eaters!

And on Fri night when I got home my darling OH had brought me flowers, a CD and some caramels...not to mention on Thurs night he showed up with white chocolate raspberry bullets and white chocolate freckles : ) he does spoil me!

On Saturday our house was over run with boys...OH was pouring a slab for his shed so all his friends came to help and were rewarded with several bbq's and a poker night. The boys think I'm some sort of novelty when they have their bbqs and I stand there eating a bowl of stir fried vegies or nibbling on some bread! Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the odd hamburger / sausage / rissole but I can take it or leave it. I watched and tried to learn, but alas I just don't think I'm meant to be a poker player! OH ended up winning the game though so he took me to the movies yesterday with his winnings and we watched Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. It was hilarious, but totally random and you have to wonder what people were on when they come up with some of this stuff!

And today is the actual RSPCA Cupcake Day so I spent yesterday morning baking cupcakes for my parents to take to work with them today, OH even helped me decorate!

We also started making pizza poppers for OH lunches. You basically cook up a tin of diced tomatoes with some onion, ham, basil, garlic and pineapple, then you get a sheet of puff pastry cut into quarters and you put a tbspn on each sheet and top it with a small square of cheese. Bring the corners of the pastry up to meet each other and seal it like a lil parcel then chuck in the oven for 15 mins, OH loves them. So yesterday I made the mix and tonight I will make the parcels and post some photos if I can keep them away from OH for long enough!

We didn't end up having the spuds last week but I promise they will be on the menu this week along with a Pumpkin, Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne, Bolognese Rice Bake, Roast Tomato and Lentil Soup and Apple Crumble....nom nom nom!!!

Happy Monday everyone xx

Em x

EDIT: Lol I just realised I had 'first times' in my heading and I never wrote about it! On Sat OH and I were discussing apples and he asked me if I had ever had a toffee apple and I said no....the look on his face you would have thought I had told him I had never tried potatoes or something! So later that day I was doing the groceries quite happily by myself and guess what I found in the fruit and vege section! It was a sign, we were obviously meant to buy some and I was meant to have my first toffee apple experience...meanwhile I was standing in the supermarket on my own giggling to myself in front of a big display of toffee apples! So at the movies yesterday OH and I whipped out our toffee apples and I was very proud that I got the lil stick in there without spearing myself...till I realised that on the other side of the apple there was actually a lil hole for it...my bad. Anyway I wasn't entirely sure what to do with it, do you lick them, bite them or just suck on them for awhile?! OH told me to just dive right in, so I did and it was awesome, kinda like that sugary taste you get from fairy floss mixed with juicy refreshing apple, I was most impressed. So I sat there chomping away, not caring that my jaws hurt from the toffee or that my fingers were sticky and pink or that I had apple juice dripping on my jeans....then I had a light bulb moment and leant over to OH and whispered (very seriously) 'Do these still have the cores in them??' and that was it, OH was laughing so much I thought he was going to need assistance....taking that as a yes, I took a bit more care eating the remainder of my apple and despite the sticky hands and the fact that my nails are still pink and my jaw ached for hours, I can't wait to try another one!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mid-Week Ramblings

I can't believe it's only Wednesday...in my head I keep thinking that tomorrow is Friday, but it's not....booooooooo! It feels like it has been raining for an eternity here. It literally hasn't stopped since last night. It will fill our tanks up though and be good for our lil trees and our vegie patch. I really hate driving in this weather though, it amazes me how some people don't change the way they drive even when the weather is really bad.

Righto, let's start with the mid weekly round up. On Monday night I attempted to make curried sausages. Now let me start by saying my Mum makes fantabulous curried sausages, she uses vegetarian sausages and throws in a heap of vegies and it's all covered in a thick curry sauce and they are always spectacular. So on Monday night when I made mine I was hoping for a similar outcome, but OH insisted I use real sausages (occasionally he has a dummy spit and wants real meat in his meals - which I understand) and go for a more traditional take on it, so that meant more sausages then vegies of course! Anyway I was mighty disappointed, I didn't realise I had only like a tspn of curry powder left and so the result was a curry sauce that coated the sausages and vegies, but that was about it, it didn't have a whole heap of flavour and was kinda just like having sausages and mashed potato for tea, nice, but not what I was expecting. So at Mum n Dad's last night I harrassed Mum for tips and decided that tonight I would throw the leftovers back in the pan and try and fix it. A bit of water, some more curry powder, bit of tomato paste, problem solved! I finally had a thick glossy curry sauce with a hint of tomato and there was plenty of it, it even made OH break into a sweat lol but it was delicious! And it really made me feel like I had accomplished something by finally getting it right. No photos though because honestly curried sausages just don't photograph that well! How about a recipe instead?

Curried Sausages
750g of vegetarian or meat sausages
1-2 tbspns of curry powder
1 onion - diced
2 carrots - diced
1 capsicum - diced
*can also add extra vegies like peas and corn if you want
1-2 tbspns flour
1 tub of tomato paste

Ok if you are using meat sausages, brown them off in a pan and drain the fat, I do mine in the George Foreman Grill, and set aside.
Add onion and curry powder to a fry pan and cook for 3-4 mins.
Add carrot, capsicum, tomato paste, 2 cups of water and flour.
Cut sausages up and return to pan. If using vegetarian sausages, dice and add to pan now too.
Bring to the boil and let simmer until sauce thickens. Serve with rice or mashed potato.

It's pretty simple, if you want more sauce, add more water, if you want it thicker, add more flour and it you like it hot, add more curry powder!

Last night we went to Mum and Dad's for tea and I think I said before, Mum makes a legendary pumpkin soup. The thing is we only get it for a limited time because she makes it from the pumpkins Dad grows in his vegie patch, so when the pumpkin run out, so does soup season : ( Anyway last night was the last of the pumpkin soup for the year and whilst it was very exciting, also very sad, you know that when you get to the end of the bowl you are not getting anymore for another 8 or so months, but you also know you have a very happy belly! Last night we had our pumpkin soup with a pizza base that Mum had drizzled with balsamic vinegar and topped with cheese before throwing it in the oven, it caught us off guard abit coz OH and I were not expecting the vinegar lol but it was yummy!

On Mon night OH and I went to kick the footy around the park and when I was putting my sneakers on I noticed I had a hole in the back of them....I only brought them in February...but they only cost me $20....serves me right. I have known for a lil while they wouldn't last long, the first time I put them on the tag tore off the back of them and when you walk on gravel you can feel every little pebble! So yesterday I gave in and took myself on a shopping expedition. I tried on pretty sneakers and cheap sneakers and expensive sneakers and had the man in the shop tie my foot into one pair so tight I had to get him to help me back out of them, but in the end I went for comfort over price and over looks and came home with these lil babies:

They are mega comfy and although last night on the treadmill they did give me blisters (I think it might have been coz I had them done up too tight) I think it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I can't wait to go for a decent walk in them!!

Hmmmm tomorrow night OH is going to have a go at fried rice so that will be nice, I think, I have no idea what he is going to put in it and I have promised myself not to hover over his shoulder and let him do his own thing.

And I found out today I will be spending alllllllllllllll day next Wed in a Workers Comp training course, now normally I work from 7-3 and this course is 7-5....yick. But they are providing morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. Several years ago hearing that would have made my mind do somersaults thinking of the cakes and biscuits and cheese platters and sausage rolls and mini quiches....but now it makes me very nervous! I have decided to take my own food and like I can pack a few pieces of fruit and some yoghurt in my bag, but normally I only have some rice cakes and philly for lunch, but thats probably not practical to carry in my handbag? I don't know if there will be a fridge or a microwave there but I was thinking of a simple salad that I can just put a tin of tuna through or something...I could keep that in my bag with an ice pack or something couldn't i? Does anyone have any other ideas of what I could take?

Till tomorrow... Em xx

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cupcake Overload!!!

Well going into this weekend I thought I was pretty much home free. Snuggles with the boy Fri night, bit of shopping and retail therapy Saturday, dinner with friends Sat night and then into the baking for the first installment of RSPCA Cupcake Day on Monday...then I found out that there had been a serious communication error. A friend had said 'Do you think you could whip up some cakes for my engagement party?' And I said 'Yep, would love to'....end of conversation - till Friday when she said 'Still right for tomorrow night' Cue me pulling my hair out and having a nervous breakdown! But in the meantime Mum had asked if I wanted to go for a drive to Campbell Town (bout an hour and half away) with her on Friday arvo seeing as my work is pretty quiet and it did sound like a pleasant way to spend the afternoon, plus I needed time to brainstorm engagement decoration ideas! My Mum and I are close, but we don't do alot of Mother / Daughter stuff so it was really nice to have three hours in the car to just talk about nothing imparticular, and when we got to Campbell Town we raided the local shoe shop, craft shop and the lolly shop, it was so much fun!
And then it was back to the cupcakes...I went home and made a batch of chocolate ones on Fri night and intended on making some vanilla ones Sat morning. But on Sat morning, even though I got up at 8am to make cupcakes, even though I got back into bed just to have a quick cup of tea while they cooked, when I went to get them out of the oven they were brown on top....and even though OH protested about the values of a thick layer of icing, I just would not have felt right serving them up, they were rock solid on the outside, and cupcakes are supposed to be light and fluffy, so I fed them to the birds and took myself into town to buy some decorations while I cooled down (I was close to tears at this point...and OH was close to having me confined to a straight jacket). In town I found that Spotlight, general crafty shop, had a whole aisle of cake decorating equipment and icings and coloured chocolates and cake tins that made 3D teddy bears (it was adorable) and so many other cool things that I just stood there in awe picking things up and reading packets for at least an hour! Eventually I found the decorations I had in mind and trundled home via a vintage shop where I tried on a super adorable dress but so out of my budget, and I was feeling much better. At home I was cool, calm and focused. I decided to skip the usual vanilla essence and added some coconut essence to the cupcakes...talk about delicious. I forgot how much I loved coconut coz OH hates the dessicated stuff, and it just took me back to eating coconut buttercake fresh out of the oven with melty butter when I was little...*pauses to remove drool from chin* and after some piping which I was very proud of as I am still a newbie and some lil decoration with those talking heart lollies that say things like I love you, kiss me, flirt etc the finished result looked like this:

And that night I went out for dinner with some friends to a pub and the decision to go there was based on the fact that two of us are vegetarian (Ok I'm a bad vegetarian, but mince is my limit, and in small amounts, I can't handle big chunky bits of red meat...and I eat white meat...I'm not really vegetarian at all am I...but I really don't like red meat that much!) and the vegetarian meals sounded freakin awesome. So I ended up having Eggplant stuffed with ricotta, cherry tomatoes and pinenuts and topped with shaved parmesan....yes it was as good as it sounded!

And yesterday was spent making cupcakes as mentioned for the first installment of the RSPCA Cupcake Day, technically it's next week but I am catering for 4 workplaces, so figured it was easier to do two this week and two next. Anyway, several hours of baking and frosting later, these were the results:

And well it's lunch time and the tray I took to my work is all gone! The trays are fabulous too! I was in our workshop whinging about how to transport so many cakes on day and a few of the guys presented me with these the following day! They hold 35 cupcakes and are heavy so they don't slide in the car, mega impressive and such a life saver!

Hmmmm better go coz I'm on my lunch break, but a preview of whats coming up this week - we have Curried Sausages tonight, Mum and Dad's tomorrow night, OH is attempting Fried Rice and some spectacular Jacket Potatoes...wait till you see what's in the filling, it's just mouth watering!!

Happy Monday everyone xx

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Week In Review

Well it appears that whilst I have done much rambling this week, there has been little in the way of what we have been eating and OH is getting very upset that there is no pictures of his dinner efforts on Mon night...so here goes the week in review!

On Monday night OH cooked a mouth watering BBQ Chicken Pizza, after several attempts he is now the king of home made pizza dough, it comes out light and airy, slightly doughy in the middle yet crispy on the outisde and honestly there is nothing better then home made pizza with fresh capsicum and juicy pineapple, caramelised onions and mushrooms, juicy tomatoes and chicken all on a bed of bbq sauce...mmmmm is it wrong to be craving pizza at 8:30am?? We have even come to an agreement now, on my half I have serious willpower with the cheese, OH on the other hand will use a whole pkt of grated cheese on his side and whilst my head is screaming CALORIES and EVIL every other inch of me watches him take a bite of the cheesy goodness and just salivates. This photo is of my half...imagine that cheese multiplied by ohhh 10 and you have OH's side!

Wednesday night I wanted to try a recipe I had for Sweet and Sour Fish Parcels. You make a simple sweet and sour sauce on the stove top with tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar and cornflour, then you add in some capsicum, pineapple and carrot and let it all boil till the sauce is thick and the vegies are soft. Then you put your fish fillet (any white fish) on some baking paper which is on some foil, top it with sauce and vegies and wrap it all up in a neat lil parcel. Bung it in the oven for awhile and when you come back (this is the part I was excited about) you open this lil parcel and the smell of the sweet and sour just invades your senses and I don't know I think I just like the idea of opening the foil and seeing the transformation thats taken place, from a cold bit of raw fish covered in some sauce you get these gorgeous bits of tender fish infused with flavour. And I served it with a very generous serving (OH's eyes nearly fell out of his head...) of boiled cauliflower and brocolli all smushed together seasoned with a lil bit of salt and pepper...superb! It is only in the last 12 months I have started eating seafood and whilst I'm still a bit wary of some things, I am getting the hang of it and slowly incorporating more of it into my cooking and our meals.

Last night was another learning curve. I had a recipe for lamb and roast vegetable spaghetti which I was keen to try as it had only a little meat and lots of delicious sounding roast vegies in it. But the recipe said to add Allspice to the mince when it was cooking and I was hesitant as I have only ever used it in my Hot Cross Buns! I know I know, I have so much to learn....anyway, last night I thought I would give it a go, I diced a red onion, 2 zucchini, 1 capsicum and 2 sticks of celery, drizzled them with oil and salt and pepper and set them in the oven to roast for 15mins. Tick tock tick tock......then I added some halved cherry tomatoes and put them back in for another 15 mins....meanwhile I put some spaghetti on to cook and threw the mince in the fry pan with some sliced button mushies. Now came the moment of truth, the mince was cooked and apparently screaming for some spices, so I added a sprinkle of allspice and a tspn of crushed garlic and cooked it up for a bit longer. (May I also add now that I was slightly concerned that as this pasta had no 'sauce' as such it would be a bit dry / lacking in flavour) How wrong was I! I had a taste test of the mince mixture and it knocked my socks off, the flavours had infused together to create pure magic. And the roast vegies were just brilliant, so I learnt two things a) pasta does not necessarily need sauce and b) Allspice + lamb mince is freakin spectacular! The final result looked something like this and I am already hanging out for the leftovers tonight!

Plus there have been several cupcake appearances this week such as these Hawthorn (AFL) inspired ones - I think they could also be a good bumblebee if they had lil chocolate wings!

And these crushed Ferrero Rocher ones:

My home kitchen idea died a spectacular death this week too. I had decided on calling myself Miss Muffet's Kitchen because my parents always called me Muffet growing up. I had done some posters, I had done price lists, menus, had a lil folder with all my recipes and ideas in it. Then I rang the local council and they told me that even for cooking for charity like I am with the RSPCA cupcakes at the moment, I should have a seperate commercial kitchen in my home to my every day one....and that would be the case if I wanted to run the business from my home too. I was shattered to put it nicely. Went home and laid on the couch with a tub of ice cream and refused to do business with the universe anymore.But luckily OH lured me outside with Allens lollies and got me to kick a soccer ball for awhile to make me feel better. But anyway, I will figure something out I'm sure. That will teach me for not checking the regulations before I did all the work! Stupid thing is, if I lived in a different suburb under a different council, I wouldn't have any trouble at all. Stupid world.

Ok people, that's me updated!

Happy Friday!!

Em x

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

An Apology....with a side of Zucchini Gratin

Well last night was the usual Tues night dinner with my parents and this week they were coming to our house. I had decided to make a Zucchini Gratin out of a Gratin's and Bake's book Mum gave me last week and it was well worth the grating of 8 zucchini let me tell you! But more on that later....

Mum also brought me a fantastic cupcake book last night, so many recipes, decorating ideas, tips on making toffee, piping, using royal icing, it's like a Cupcake Bible...it's so very cool it has even been put on the recipe book stand in my kitchen - highly coveted position!

One thing that came up in conversation last night was that the parentals had sat down the night before to trawl through every post of this blog, which I was thrilled about, they had taken the time to go and read all this babbling because they knew it was important to me (more on that tomorrow!) but then I realised Mum was kinda hurt at me implying she was a basic cook. And I tried to justify the way I had written it and everything I said made me sound worse. I laid awake thinking about it...I don't think I was nasty in what I said, but then again how would I feel if I worked hard all day, came home and put delicious meals on the table every night and years later someone told me it was basic....I have no doubt my Mum used to cook just like I do now...but it finally hit me this morning (kind of more like a blonde moment then a realisation) if my Mum had dished up a chickpea and paneer curry or butter chicken crepes or anything that looked remotely fancy to me as a child I would have complained and whinged and poked at it and pulled it to bits saying I didn't know what was in it...and it would have been a nightmare. As a child I didn't like alot of things, it's funny how as you grow up your taste buds develop and things that used to see you stuck at the table for hours refusing to eat your dinner can become some of your favourites. I'm quite convinced all my Mum's evenings and weekends baking elaborate meals went out the window upon having a fussy screaming child to look after....and no doubt mine probably will too. And also to be honest I make thinks like casseroles and lasagne and curries because it's one easy thing that you can just chuck on a plate or in a bowl for dinner, I can cook complicated meals, but I can't be bothered chucking chicken in the oven and having 3 seperate pots of vegies boiling on the stove....I know I'm odd.

Maybe what I was trying to say in the first place - and managed to completely bugger up - was that I'm glad now that I'm all grown up my parents and I can sit down and eat proper meals together, we can try new things without worrying that the little girl with curly hair only likes chips or that the surly teenager is whinging about everything on the plate just to upset her parents, maybe I was trying to say that we have come a long way and it's all part of growing up and being an adult, but I'm really enjoying where we are right now.

Ok...enough soppy stuff, I forgot to take a photo last night (my bad coz it looked delicious!) but here is the recipe for a delicious Zucchini Gratin

60g butter
1 x onion diced
6 x zucchini (4 of which are to be peeled)
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh basil or 1 tbsnp crushed wet basil
1/3 c gruyere (sp?) cheese
3 x eggs
grated cheese

Now you start with the fun part..put some music on...and grate all your zucchini
Melt half the butter in a pan and fry up the onion. Set aside.
Melt the rest of the butter in the pan and add the zucchini. Continue cooking and stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Combine onion, zucchini and basil and spread into a baking dish.
In a jug whisk eggs, sour cream, basil and gruyere cheese.
Pour egg mix over zucchini and gently mix through with a knife.
Top with grated cheese and bake for 20 mins at 160C (fan forced)

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm zucchini goodness!

Tomorrow there will be Part 2 of the Cupcake Shop / Business Adventure / Debacle and photos of tonights Sweet and Sour Fish Parcels :)

Em x

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Breadmaking Revolution!!

Well on Thurs night I was happily sitting back thinking I had a free and easy weekend ahead of me....wasn't that a stupid thing to do! On Thurs night I received 3 orders for cupcakes so my quiet weekend was starting to disappear but that puts my total fundraising over $200 for the RSPCA so far and we haven't even had the actual Cupcake Day yet!

Anyway, on Friday Mum called into work and gave me a huge pile of her old recipe books, seafood, chicken, vegetarian, crackles, slices, biscuits, christmas, you name it, it was there, so as soon as I am finished writing this I am going to make a cup of tea and start flicking through them.

She also brought me these fantastic lil tomatoes that are red and ripe...but don't leak so you can make your sandwiches without them going all soggy - what will they think of next! Mum also dropped off her breadmaker as OH and I had mentioned we had a craving for fresh bread and Mum thought that would be easier so we could wake up to fresh bread in the morning (she does look after me!). So after work I went and brought some bread flour and some fresh strawberry jam....mmmmm....and went home to get baking!

First on the list though was some Cookies and Cream Cupcakes...and seeing as the person who ordered them wanted them decorated with Carlton AFL flags I decided to put the oreos in the cupcake mix rather then in the icing. I had no idea how they were going to turn out, but I made a simple Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcake recipe and then added some crushed oreos and when they came out of the oven they looked spectacular! I had some mix left over so I made some super lil baby ones for OH and he had eaten most of them before they had cooled down! So here are the before and after decoration shots!

Now onto the bread, I know bread makers have been around for years and years but this was the first time OH and I had made bread and we had big plans for it! So before going to bed on Fri night we chucked everything in and set the timer for 7am Sat morning. At 5am we both woke up to the smell of baking bread and even though it was a Saturday, by 7am we were both wide awake and hovering around the kitchen waiting for that magical beeping noise that meant we could dive right in. And when it was ready it was perfect, a gorgeous white loaf of crusty bread, that very top slice nice and soft and doughy and we sat there eating it smothered in butter and strawberry jam still piping hot. It was just mind numbingly delicious....so we sat there plotting and scheming and came up with even bigger plans for the remainder of the loaf!

It was a miserable day and so we decided to laze around in our pjs and play twister and monopoly for the morning. There were several twister related injuries and a few monopoly inspired tantrums, but then all of a sudden it was 2pm and that fresh bread was calling us again. We made ourselves up a huge platter of shaved ham, season shaved chicken, tomatoes - and yes they really were non-juicy! - cucumber, brie, vintage cheddar, cream cheese and normal cheese and the rest of the bread warmed up in the microwave. An hour later we had demolished the lot and even though our bellies were at bursting point we were very very happy and satisfied. Coming to the conclusion that there is nothing like fresh bread and we may just need to invest in a bread maker of our own! Even now it is Sunday afternoon and the house still smells like fresh bread. Sorry there are no photos of the bread...we were too busy drooling over it and really that does not make for an attractive picture!

Last night we went out for dinner with some friends and we both ordered the pan-friend barramundi with a mango salsa and some winter vegetables which was delicious (although neither of us ate much after all that bread!). Then we all went bowling and it was a great night. It was nice to have a night out with great company and do something different. OH and I used to go bowling all the time when I worked at the bowling alley but we haven't been for ages, I had forgotten how much fun it was!

I spent most of today baking red velvet cupcakes to be delivered tomorrow and making Lattice Slice for OH's lunches so this afternoon we went up into the back paddock with our new football (purchased yesterday) and had a kick around. I can't believe how much fun it was! I was exhausted and worn out and we were only out there for half hour but it was great, doing something fun together, out in the fresh air and being active, we even thought we might do some stuff like kick the footy or the soccer ball or have a game of basketball instead of going for a walk some evenings and I'm really looking forward to it : )

So what recipes do I have for you today?

I'm going with this dead easy Lattice Slice:

1 pkt lattice biscuits
250g philadelphia cream cheese
250g cooking butter
1/2 c caster sugar
1 tbspn vanilla essence
2 tbspn lemon juice
1 tspn gelatine

Line a slice tin with baking paper and lay 8 lattice biscuits, shiny side down in the tray.
Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.
Add sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and gelatine dissolved in 1/4 c boiling water.
Spread over biscuits in tray and then top with 8 more.
Refrigerate overnight and once set you can cut into squares (as per the biscuits) and serve.

Ok and one more!

Cookies and Cream Buttermilk Cupcakes - Makes 12

80g Butter
1 cup Caster Sugar
2 Eggs
2 tbspn Vanilla Essence
1.5 cups Plain Flour
2 tspn Baking Powder
Pinch Salt
1 cup Buttermilk
8 Oreo biscuits crushed

Cream butter and sugar
Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla
Combine flour and baking powder. Add to butter mix
Add salt, buttermilk and crushed biscuits.

Bake at 160C (fan forced) for 20 mins or until they spring back when touched.
You could top these with any flavour frosting and either mix some oreos through that or simply sprinkle them over the top, delicious!

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend

Em xx


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