May 28, 2008

Random wonderings

Ever stop to think about something you've never really wondered about before? I have. Here are a few of my random wonderings:

Is it just me, or does strawberry flavouring not taste very much like strawberries?
Why is vanilla essence in nearly every baking recipe I own? Does it really make that much difference to the overall taste?
How come it's so difficult to think of interesting things to make for dinner, but so easy to find a baked-good recipe that I want to try?
Why don't I like coriander?
Why are slow-cooked meals traditional for winter?
Why do recipe magazines all have slow-cooked meal recipes at the moment, do they think people miraculously have more time to cook in winter? I sure don't!

And non-food related wonderings:
What is so good about make-up? No offense to anyone who likes it and wants to wear it, but I don't really see the attraction (I'll admit I'm a bit clueless when it comes to how to apply it and make it look good, but I'm glad I don't wear it much, if ever, because I wouldn't be able to cram it into my morning routine).
How come ironing is such a pain in the butt?
Why is it that whenever I cook salmon, I can still smell it days afterwards, even when our house has been ventilated well and there are no dishes to clean up?

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On another note:

Hubby's birthday today, so we are out to dinner tonight. Made him very yummy cheesecake crumbles as his birthday cake last night. Will post the recipe and photos later.

May 26, 2008

Banana Bread - low fat

Sumara very kindly pointed out that she is waiting for this week's baked goodness. Well Sumara (and others!) here is a very yummy banana bread recipe! The bonus is that it's tasty, AND it's low-fat!! No butter!! You can add 1 and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to this recipe if you like, but I prefer it without. You can also add 3/4 cup chopped walnuts which is a tasty addition, but bumps up the fat content a little.

Unfortunately I didn't get to photograph this creation before it all got scoffed on the weekend, but here is the photo-less recipe anyway:

Ingredients:
2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp bi-carb soda
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup skim milk
2 eggs
1 tbs olive oil
2 large over-ripe bananas, mashed

Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 degrees C for fan-forced oven).
  2. Grease an 11 x 21cm loaf pan and line with baking paper (cooking oil spray is handy for greasing).
  3. Combine flour, soda, cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in milk, eggs, oil and bananas until just combined.
  4. Spoon into prepared pan, and smooth the surface.
  5. Bake for about 50 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (another way I use to tell if it's cooked is to lightly press the centre of the loaf, if it springs back then it is done).
  6. Stand the loaf in its pan for about 5 min before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
Enjoy!!

May 15, 2008

Home made after-dinner mints are way too more-ish.

I made these after-dinner mints from one of my cook books the other night, just for fun, just because I wanted to see how they would turn out, and just because I was looking for something to make with the stuff that was already in my food cupboard. Not because I actually wanted to eat them. Alas, since I have made them and they have not migrated to hubby's work or anywhere else, they have been staring me in the face, and beckoning me to eat them. All. At once.

I see them and think, 'yeah, I'd like to have one of those', just one mind you, but I can never stop at just one. As soon as it has been eaten, I feel like a REALLY want another sugary hit, right away! So I eat another one, but I can't stop there either. I want that sugary taste to stay in my mouth, it's not that I am actually hungry or that I particularly love after-dinner mints, it's that feeling of 'more sugar would be good right now'. So this goes on until I get the feeling I've had way too much sugar.... then I feel like I really really must brush my teeth. I should just brush my teeth after one mint, so that the taste would be out of my mouth and I wouldn't be tempted to eat any more. That would be sensible. Or what would be more sensible is if I sent them away, to hubby's work, or took them somewhere where everyone else could eat them, and I could be saved.

I won't post the recipe unless someone particularly wants it. I don't know if this recipe would have the same effect on anyone else, maybe I am just a sweet tooth (maybe!), but I thought I would save you from potential sugar-induced diabetic comas or something like that and not post the recipe.

On another note, totally un-food related, I'm trying to write up an application for a new job (well, a temporary transfer to another department for up to 6 months), and it's really difficult! I know I can do all the stuff listed in the selection criteria, but I find myself writing up stuff and using the same words over and over like "organisational" and "essential" and "time management" etc etc. I think I need to use a thesaurus or something so that it doesn't end up sounding like a broken record. They only want a two page document addressing the criteria, but there are 8 criteria, and you have to do a paragraph on each one! I don't know how you're supposed to make it sound good enough to actually get chosen for an interview in such small amount of space! I'll let you know how it goes. If actually end up getting the job, it means working in the city (which is only about 15 min from home rather than an hour to where I currently work), and slightly higher salary, so that would be nice.

May 13, 2008

Banana Cheesecake

Some good friends of ours came over last night to help us eat the desserts that I forgot to take to my mother-in-law's. Both desserts got the thumbs up. Here is the recipe for Banana Cheesecake, note that you will need at least 3 hrs cooling time, so it can be better to make it the night before and cool it over night:



Banana Cheesecake

Ingredients:
1 pack of Arnott's 'Nice' biscuits, crushed (you can do this by hand, but food processor is much quicker)
1/3 of a 250g block of butter, melted
2 packs of 250g packs of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 and 1/2 cups mashed over-ripe banana (this is approx. 3 large bananas)
3 eggs, beaten lightly

Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (Fan-forced. 180 degrees C if conventional oven).
  2. Grease and line a 23cm springform pan with baking paper.
  3. Place crushed biscuits in a bowl and mix with melted butter. Press firmly and evenly into prepared pan. Then refrigerate while preparing other ingredients.
  4. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla essence until smooth. Add banana and eggs, beat until smooth.
  5. Place tin on an oven tray, pour cheesecake mixture into tin. Bake for about an hour and a quarter, or until just firm.
  6. Cool in oven with door ajar (cooling baked cheesecakes too quickly can cause cracks on the surface). When cool to the touch, transfer to fridge and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
Very banana-y and sweet without being sickly sweet.

May 11, 2008

Coconut Ice

I mentioned in my last post that I successfully made coconut ice. Well, here is the recipe:

Please note you will need to make this a day ahead, as it takes ages to set.


Coconut Ice

Ingredients
5 cups icing sugar
3 cups desiccated coconut
3/4 of a 395g tin of sweetened condensed milk
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
red food colouring

Method
  1. Lightly grease and line a 20cm square cake tin (I actually used a standard slice tin, but this recipe doesn't entirely fill one of those).
  2. Combine icing sugar and coconut in a large bowl, then add condensed milk, eggwhite and vanilla extract. Mix until combined.
  3. Divide mixture evenly between two bowls, then add a few drops of red food colouring to one bowl and mix until combined (I actually had to knead the 'dough' to get the colouring to spread evenly. You will probably get red food colouring on your hands if you do this, but it washed off easily for me).
  4. Put pink mixture into the prepared pan, and press down, evening it out. Top with white mixture, pressing down to even out.
  5. Cover and either put in the fridge overnight to set, or leave it out on the bench. I left mine out on the bench and found that it set quite nicely.
  6. Next day, cut into squares or rectangles to serve.
You might be wondering what you are going to do with the rest of that can of sweetened condensed milk.... well, that's what I am wondering too. The left overs of mine is in the fridge, awaiting instruction. I figure I might use it in a cookie recipe, as I have seen cookie recipes that call for only two tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. I'll try and find one and post it for you so that the rest of your can doesn't go to waste... if you're desperate, you could always eat the rest by the spoonful!! (That's what hubby would probably be wanting to do if he realised there was any left!)

I presented my coconut ice in a box to my mum for mother's day, and she was thrilled (it's one of her favourites).

On another note, you know how I was attempting a baked custard tart and a banana cheesecake? Well they were supposed to be for mother's day to take when we were visiting my mother-in-law, but after all my efforts, I totally forgot to take them with us!! I was so annoyed because I realised that I didn't have them when we were almost there. We then had to stop off and get something frozen to have for dessert instead. We got Nanna's Apple Crumble and custard. Sorry Nanna, your apple crumble is nice, but it just doesn't cut it compared to something home made :(. I guess the desserts I made will have to go to work with hubby again if we can't find someone to come over and eat them in the next couple of days!

May 9, 2008

New attempts!

I have just re-attempted making coconut ice. The first time I made it, it was a bit of a disaster, tasted oh-so-good, but was such a gooey mess that you practically had to eat it with a spoon. It just did not set! This time after a bit of tweaking to the recipe, I have success!

I am just about to attempt a baked banana cheesecake and a baked custard tart for the first time. Wish me luck!

Photos and recipes will follow shortly!

May 6, 2008

Yummy cake!

I made this awesome cake on the weekend. It was Pear and Ginger Upside-down cake. I made two of them in two small loaf pans (as the recipe called for one large-ish square cake tin, and I don't have one of those... and I didn't want to be bothered with halving the recipe). Yes, one of these delicious cakes went to work with my husband again. The other one got sampled and the rest of it got cut up and frozen for later! (I'm getting quite a lot of use out of my freezer, I think I need a bigger one!)



Pear and Ginger Upside-down Cake

Ingredients:
2 cups brown sugar
250g butter melted and cooled
3 packham pears, peeled, cored and chopped into thick slices
1/3 cup golden syrup
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup honey
2 eggs
1 tsp bicarb soda, sifted
2 and 1/2 cups plain flour sifted
2 tsp ground ginger
200g light sour cream

Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Lightly grease 2 8x4 inch loaf pans or one square 23cm cake tin. Line with baking paper.
  2. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over the base of the prepared pan/s, pour 1/3 cup butter over sugar.
  3. Arrange pear slices in a single layer on top of the butter and sugar.
  4. Place remaining butter in a large bowl, mix in all the syrup, eggs, bicarb soda, flour, ground ginger and remaining sugar. Then mix in sour cream.
  5. Pour batter over pears.
  6. Bake for 1 and 1/2 hours or until skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Stand for 10-15min, then turn out onto a platter and serve.

May 5, 2008

Cooking dinner ahead is the key...

... to more time in your day. It may not work for everyone, but I find it works for me, being one who works full time and tries to make it to the gym after work, while still getting home in time to have dinner on the table at a decent hour (let me tell you, it's really hard work! It doesn't leave me with much time to cook anything interesting).

I'm talking about cooking food for dinner a day or so ahead. I don't necessarily mean cooking the entire meal in advance (you can do that too if you really have time), but sometimes cooking a side dish ahead of time is a big help. (This works well for meals like meat and 3 veg etc). I like vegies and meat better on the first day they're cooked as they never seem to taste quite as good the next day heated up in the microwave (maybe because microwaves tend to cook everything just a little bit more), so cooking a side dish a day or so before it's going to be eaten is one less thing that I have to think about for the next dinner.

Last night for example, I cooked risotto to go with tonight's dinner (in my rice cooker! So easy!). All I had to do when I got home today was cook up the chicken and the vegies. Vegies and meat don't take much time to cook, so all I had to do was heat up the risotto while the vegies were steaming and chicken was cooking. Easy! Dinner is ready in about 15 min as opposed to half an hour or more.

If there's left-overs, you can either use them up another night, or freeze them in portion sizes for future use. I did this with the couscous I made last week, but I didn't think about freezing it in dinner sized portions, so it might be a bit difficult to defrost only the part that we need to use... maybe I'll try and put it in one of my home-made soups. I don't know if it would go, but I'm willing to try it!

I'm trying to get organised enough to do this more often, but I usually only find that I can do it on the weekend.

I'll leave you with my risotto recipe. I don't know how long it took to cook, as once it was in the rice cooker, I went to do other things and didn't really think about it again until it was finished. It doesn't have as much sauce as risotto usually does, but I enjoyed it all the same:

Rice cooker Mushroom Risotto
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish, or 4 to 6 as a main

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 onion
1 clove crushed garlic
250g mushrooms
1 and a 1/4 cups brown rice
4 and a half cups cold chicken stock

Method:
  1. Put oil and butter/margarine in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Finely dice the onion and add to frying pan with crushed garlic.
  3. Cook, stirring for 2 to 3 min.
  4. Chop mushrooms and add to fry pan.
  5. Cook for a further 3 min or so (it doesn't need to be totally cooked as it will finish cooking in the rice cooker), then remove from heat.
  6. Put rice in rice cooker, add mushroom mixture and mix together.
  7. Add chicken stock and stir, making sure that the rice is even spread on the bottom of the pot. (I used cold chicken stock as my rice cooker book says that you need to use cold water when cooking rice, but I don't know if this would make a difference to the end result in the case of risotto).
  8. Set to the "cook" setting and cook until the switch switches to "warm"
  9. Stir again to get the mushrooms etc spread evenly.
  10. Serve (or save for later!).
If you're making this as a main, I would suggest adding peas and corn or some other vegies in step 6, and then cooking some diced chicken to add in just before serving. Also, just a note that if you're using white rice instead, you would need to reduce the amount of chicken stock (to about 3 cups), as brown rice uses more water to cook (and takes longer).

I hope it works for you as well as it worked for me. It's my own recipe, so I made it to my taste I would recommend experimenting and adding other things you like.

I would show you a photo of it, but it was rather brown and not that interesting-looking, and half of it is gone now.... maybe if I remember to take a photo next time I will post it.

If only I could be so organised all the time....

May 4, 2008

Baking and watching your weight

Unfortunately this post is not some new idea about how to lose weight while baking (I wish there was such a method!). It's actually about the dilemma of being someone who wants to get fit and is watching their weight but loves baking too much. Baking is like a hobby for me, I love trying new recipes and seeing how things turn out.

The problem is that I also like to sample the fruits of my labour; a cookie here, a piece of banana bread or cake there.... I am a lot better than I used to be, in that I used to just not be able to stop at just one or two samples, if it was there, I would want to eat it and would probably eat much more than I should have. Now I have a bit more self control and can be satisfied with one or two samples.... but of course the danger is that whatever I've baked will go off if it's not eaten, what a waste! My one or two samples become one or two samples a day, which over a few days can add up to quite a bit.

The best way I've found to combat this is to bake something, save a small portion for home, and send the rest to work with my husband. Problem solved! I've had my baking-fix, tasted the goodies, and now the temptation of eating more is no longer there! I think my husband's work colleagues will be starting to complain that I'm making them fat if I bake too often though. So far this hasn't happened, whenever I need to call my husband at work, if someone else answers first they're always saying "thanks for the cookies" or something like that. My husband says that they have a theory; whenever they say thanks for the cookies, it means that I will make more to send to the office in the very near future. They might be right, or it might just be coincidence, but they get their baked goods often, so everyone's happy.

If you love baking as much as I do, perhaps you should do what I do and send your baked goods to work with yourself or your husband. I would take them to my work, but there are too many people in my office for just one batch of cookies. I would have to bake quite a bit more in order to feed the masses at my work, so unless I make a giant batch of something, my baked-goodness is going to work with my husband.

Another idea is baking for a school cake stall if you have kids (which I don't so this doesn't work for me), or some family event where you have to bring something. I always volunteer to bring dessert as 99% of what I bake is sweet stuff. But my preferred method of getting my tasties out of the house is to send them to work with my husband, because if I'm trying a new recipe and it doesn't work out, then there's no pressure to have an end result (as in, it doesn't HAVE to work out, because they never expecting me to send things, so it's a bonus when I do).

Does anyone else love baking as much as I do? What are your methods of sending your sweet temptations out of the house/What do you do with your baked goods?

Eventually I hope to put up some recipes here so keep your eye out.

May 2, 2008

Nothing to see here yet

Unfortunately there's not much to see here yet. I've been thinking about starting a blog for ages and have finally set one up... though I have nothing else to say as yet! It'll get there eventually.... one day...