Monday, March 31, 2008

Oh my sweet giddy aunt... (Pioneer Woman's Dumplings!)

We had Beef Ragu. With spuds. It was tasty. But I don't want to talk about that. Because for dessert, we had this:

Bad photo, awesome dessert.

All 16 pieces of it.

Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings

You can find the original post here. I made it with strawberries as well, as I love strawberries, and wanted to make something to enter Strawberry Seduction.

Strawberry and Apple Dumplings to Die For
1 Granny Smith apple
16 strawberries
2 sheets of puff pastry
250g butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup Mountain Dew

Peel and core apple. Cut the apple into 16 thin slices. Trim the tops off the strawberries, and slice vertically into three. Slice the puff pastry into quarters, then cut each small square in half diagonally, to make triangles. Place a slice of apple in the centre of each triangle and top with one strawberry's worth of strawberry slices.

You can't see the apple in this photo, but it's under the strawberries, I promise.

Roll up each slice in the pastry, and place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan. Melt butter in a saucepan, then add sugar and barely stir. Add vanilla, stir, and pour over dumplings. Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 175°C for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.

Dumplings with butter sauce - lots of butter. Probably too much butter.

After adding the Mountain Dew these babies are swimming!

Try them. It may sound sinful, it may sound ridiculous, but just take my word and try it. I too, was a cynic once. You must try these dumplings! Before Pioneer Woman revamped her page and got rid of the blog format, there was a lot of comments on this recipe. One lady said her husband got down on one knee and proposed to her again after taking one bite, another said her husband exclaimed "Now why would I want to eat at restaurants when I get food like this at home woman?" after tasting them. And it doesn't suprise me at all. Many people have blown diets over this dish. I, myself, have had four pieces tonight. I plan on having more tomorrow, as they are apparently just as good cold. Just a small mention, I've written the recipe here for Australian cooks, but the only thing I changed was slightly more Mountain Dew (though less than then 375ml can originally called for) and adding the strawberries. Please. Try this, your tastebuds will thank you.

This was an entry for Strawberry Seduction. Check back here for the round up link sometime early next week. C'mon... strawberries... you know you want to!

***EDIT*** Round up is here!

Menu Plan Monday

Monday Beef Ragu with potatoes
Tuesday Chicken and vegie pies with Pioneer Woman's famous Apple dumplings - made with strawberries
Wednesday Lasagna
Thursday Chicken skewers with rice
Friday Fish and Chips
Saturday Homemade sausage rolls
Sunday Sandwiches or leftovers

It's my mother's birthday on Wednesday, so we are driving down to her place on Sunday for afternoon tea. If we get home in time for dinner and don't just eat down there, I won't feel like cooking much, and the kids won't feel like eating much so we'll see how we go for that meal.

The lasagna on Wed is the last part of this fortnight's Cook's Club challenge. I'm looking forwards to Tuesday's dumplings... to the point where I might just make them tonight! Seriously, check them out. The recipe doesn't look like that much to me, but people are making (and linking) these all over the blogosphere, and giving rave reviews, so I had to try them myself.

As usual check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for literally hundreds of other menu plan blog posts.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spaghetti Jaffles

In an effort to encourage cross-continental understanding, I didn't just declare tonight a lazy dinner night and post an interesting link. I went to the trouble of taking a photo of the jaffles I made for the kids (DP had some cheese ones) just so the American readers I have can truly understand what a jaffle is.

As you can see, it's just a toasted sandwich, but note the sealed edges. That allows for runny things like tinned spaghetti, leftovers, savoury mince, chilli (if you eat it) to get sealed in, and cooked without making too much mess. You need a jaffle iron to make this though, so be hitting eBay because my DP tells me you can't buy them in America. You poor things.

It's very handy on a night when you don't want a big dinner, or are feeling too lazy (or ill/tired/pregnant) to cook. And the kids love them.

So, that's my community service announcement for tonight, tune in tomorrow for menu plan monday, and now I'm going to watch the CSI/Without a Trace crossover.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

French Toast

For the best recipes, you need the best ingredients. So for french toast, I started with this:

Home made bread only ten minutes out of the oven.

Then pcmitcho on the forum said to do this:

French Toast
3 tablespoons thickened cream or milk
3 eggs
3 tablespoons caster sugar
pinch of cinnamon
6 thick slices of bread each cut diagonally

Combine the cream/milk, eggs, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Soak one slice of bread at a time in this mixture.
Melt half the butter and cook 3 or 4 pieces of bread at a time until golden on each side. Melt more butter and continue cooking until you have used all the bread.
Serve with crispy fried bacon drizzled with real maple syrup and a fried or poached egg on the side.

I didn't serve with bacon, just fake maple syrup, because we don't have the real stuff.
And tonight I found out a few things.

One: French toast hasn't "grown on" DP any since he was five when he decided he didn't really like it. (A fact I learnt after I fed it to him - but at least he tried it for me! True love!)

Two: I like the idea of french toast much more than I like the actual food itself - unless it's not actually supposed to be soggy and eggy tasting like mine was, and DP says it is supposed to.

Three: If you put enough maple syrup on anything, it'll taste like pancakes.

The only thing I did different was make up a second lot of egg mix half way through cooking, as I ran out of egg before I'd finished all six slices of bread. But perhaps that was meant to be six pieces of bread, ie three slices cut in half. Doesn't matter, it was all good anyway. I know this, since my housemate does like french toast and has had it before, and he said it was good.

So, not my cup of tea, but at least now I've tried it, and cooked it, and like last fortnight's Lemon Meringue Pie, that's not something I could have said without Cook's Club Challenge.

Chicken Parmagiana, with chips, bok choy and mushrooms

As you can see, I'm still working out how to use my new camera. Taking photos without getting excess glare from the extremely bright flash seems to be a problem, as does focusing. I know I've got a digital zoom, but I haven't figured out yet how to use it. Ah well, all in good time. At least the pictures are somewhat less blurry, and big enough to see now.

Dinner was nothing particularly special, just the parmas we were going to have on Wednesday till I got lazy. But it is a family favourite, and the bok choy with garlic, bacon and mushrooms was praticularly nice. Nothing elaborate - just slice about 5 or 6 mushrooms, and two cloves of Australian garlic (it's stronger, for chinese I'd use about 4) and fry on low heat in a pan with no oil or butter. I used the pan I'd fried the parmas in, but there was very little, if any, butter left in it. Chop up some bacon, I used one short cut rindless rasher, but that's all I had left, otherwise I'd probably use two. Add that to the pan too, and bring the heat up to high. While that's frying off, chop a bok choy in half, slicing the whites into managable pieces (if you have toddlers) and then add them. Do the same for the leaves, but only add at the very last minutes, and remove from the heat as soon as they begin to wilt and go bright green.

I always cheat with our parmagianas, I buy pre-crumbed chicken schnitzels from the butcher. Then all I really do in the way of cooking, is fry them till golden on both sides, and season a little. Then I throw them in an oven tray, smear them with pasta sauce from a jar, top them with a slice of ham (or if I'm feeling expansive, a lightly fried slice of bacon) and cover with cheese. Then I stick the lot in the oven till the cheese is melted and golden brown. Usually this is about the time the chips are done. Easy, but effective. It's not the best Chicken Parma DP has ever tasted (his sister holds the honour of making that) but it's good enough that he'll request it every now and then, and that's good enough for me.

Dessert post coming soon... the timer only just went off!

Friday, March 28, 2008

It would have to be, wouldn't it?

That my new camera would arrive on a night I wasn't cooking?

So as consolation, and to go with tonight's distraction, here's a badly lit picture of Master Three and Miss Two, taken while I was playing around with the camera today.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bolognese ala SilverMoon

I posted the recipe for this the other day, coincidentally when it was cooked - tonight I just reheated a defrosted bag of sauce from the freezer. Well, mostly defrosted. Actually, that's not really true. I pulled the bag out of the freezer at 1pm, and by quarter to six, about 1cm deep all around was defrosted. But it was enough for me to be able to break it into chunks, which then defrosted in exactly the same amount of time it took for my big pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

For DP and the kids, I served it as is, just topped with a little cheese, but in what was left I added a bit more salt and some freshly ground pepper, and a little squeeze of pre-chopped basil I had in a tube - not a usual purchase. That I dished up for housemate and myself, also topping with some grated cheese. Nothing extra special, but nice all the same.

The camera is due to arrive tomorrow, so hopefully this will be the last post with tiny, blurry pictures.

Kids Cooking Thursday: Anzacs

Another fortnight, another Cook's Club Challenge. Three recipes, as usual - one you should see tomorrow, another next week, but today, handily enough in time for Kids Cooking Thursday, we made Anzac biscuits, more commonly known just as Anzacs. In fact, we are so fond of these biscuits in Australia that we have a whole day off for them, called Anzac Day. (Just kidding - it's really about this though to my mind (and yes, I am expecting to get flamed for this) a holiday commemorating thousands of people dying, because England told us to go invade another country that wasn't really doing anything to us makes about as much sense to me as a holiday for the making and consuming of biscuits.) That's about a month away - the day after Master Three's birthday in fact. I have a feeling that in about 15+ years, he'll be referring to it as Hangover Holiday - we should all be so lucky to get a public holiday after our birthday.

ANZAC Biscuits
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
¾ cup coconut
125grms butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
½ teaspoon bicarb
1 tablespoon boiling water

Combine oats, shifted flour, sugar and coconut.
Combine butter and syrup, stir over a gentle heat until melted.
Mix bicarb with water and add to butter mixture. Stir into dry ingredients.
Place tablespoons of mixture on lightly greased trays allowing room for spreading. Cook in a slow (140-150) oven for about 20minutes.
Loosen while warm and allow to cool on the trays.

This was a lovely simple recipe to do with the kids. I melted the butter before they came in to help, and everything else they could do. Miss Two particularly loves mixing with a wooden spoon, and tipping in measuring cups full of ingredients.

Crumbly mix

But I can't help thinking we did something wrong. Our mix was crumbly, so much so that I added another tablespoon of golden syrup. I had to ball these up with my hands to get the mix to stick together, and then very carefully flatten them with my hands - not a fork like my mother does.

Going in to the oven

Ours came out of the oven very pale, and not spread at all, but they were squishy in the centre, just like I remember Mum's to be, and hardened up after cooling slightly to be a nice chewy biscuit. But they don't taste quite as strong as Mum's, leading me to think that Mum used considerably more golden syrup in hers. I think perhaps I'll get her recipe, and make a comparison batch. After all, you can never have too many biscuits can you?

Out of the oven

Out of the oven close up

***EDIT*** Turns out my mum uses the same recipe, except she only uses 3/4 cup sugar, not a whole cup. So now I have no idea what went wrong.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lazy dinner night

Well, I was prepared to cook tonight, this is less of a lazy dinner night, and more of a lazy afternoon post, because we didn't get all the shopping done. And there was one ingredient vital for tonight's dinner that I needed to buy from the one shop we didn't get to. I could have walked down this afternoon, but it was raining. So I will have to get DP to drive me down tonight after the kids are in bed. Because I'm all out of peppermints again, and we don't have enough milk to last overnight. So while we enjoy Cheesy Bite pizza for dinner, here's another distraction.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Braised Steak & Onion Pie with mashed potatoes

The other day I made my leftover steak and onion into pies. Tonight we ate them. With mashed potatoes. T'was tasty. And finished the meal with the last of the vanilla bean ice cream, that I topped with broken up pieces of choc bunny.

In other news, I won eBay this morning, so there's a 3MP camera on it's way to me, which should improve everyone's experience on this blog, mine included. Plus, it's just in time for baby photos ;)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lemon Honey Chicken

Lemon Honey Chicken with Onion, Capsicum and Bok Choy
500g skinless chicken breasts (about 2), thinly sliced
1 large brown onion, sliced in half, then in thin chunks
1 green capsicum, sliced in thin strips
1 baby Bok Choy, sliced into bite sized strips/pieces
2 tbsps honey
2 tbsps water
1 (100g) pkt McCormick's Lemon Chicken with Honey concentrated sauce base
rice or noodles to serve

Lightly brown onion at high heat, then add the chicken in batches. When the chicken is brown, add the capsicum and the whites of the bok choy. Stir in the flavour base, honey and the water. Simmer for around 10 minutes, or just let boil/fry on high heat until your rice is ready and the sauce is the consistency you'd like (as I did ;) ) Add the bok choy leaves, stir quickly then remove from heat and serve.

Hey, it may be cheating to use a premade sauce concentrate, but it was worth it. Although Master Three proclaimed that Lemon Chicken was "yuck" several times during the day, after hearing the response to his frequent "what are we having for dinner?" there was no such dramas at the dinner table itself. I told him it was Lemon Honey Chicken, and that he liked lemon, and honey so he had to eat it all. By the time I got to the table after dishing out the adult serves, half of it was gone, and he was barely pausing for breath in between shovelling his mouth as full as it could get. His only comment? "I love Lemon Chicken!" And everyone else liked it too. So... we have another keeper.

When I decided to make this, I was thinking of the powdered sauce mix, that was a yellow packet, with a purple stripe for the heading, and it had snow peas and baby corn spears in the serving suggestion picture. I can't remember the brand, but either it's not made anymore, or my local independant supermarket simply doesn't stock it. That was a lovely sweet lemony flavour, not highly authentic tasting, but delicious, and I'd had a hankering for it. The flavour base sauce however, made a dark soy-sauce coloured sauce, very authentic chinese type flavour. It was delicious, but not quite what I personally was after. Now I wish I had brought home the two leftover slices of my LMP back from my mother's house. Sure, I've got more lemons, but they are earmarked for ice cream. Lemon and Speculaas ice cream. really, I should stop my pointless anti-dishes strike, clean up the kitchen, and go make that now. That would satisfy my need (it's not quite a craving) for swett lemony things. And seriously, even though all the dishes were dirtied by me cooking for everyone else in the house, no one appears to have noticed the piles growing, so I'll end up having to do them myself anyway. *sigh*

Meh. Be on the look out for that ice cream soon...

Menu Plan Monday

Monday Lemon Chicken with rice
Tuesday Braised steak & onion pies w/ mashed potatoes
Wednesday Chicken Parmagianas with veg
Thursday Bolognese ala SilverMoon
Friday Fish and Chips
Saturday Broccoli and Bacon pasta bake
Sunday Spaghetti Jaffles

As usual check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for literally hundreds of other menu plan blog posts.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Too much foooooood!

As you can see above, my LMP didn't get much height at all in the meringue, but it tasted very good. The family said so, so it must be true. I thought it was rather nice myself. Worth trying again sometime to get it right even. I stuffed myself - Mum made roast pork, and deep fried mashed potato balls, and I ate for two solid hours. Everything tastes better when someone else cooks.

As is the custom on a lazy dinner (or no dinner as the case may be) night here's a distraction.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Another recipe from Rozy at the forums, for this fortnight's Cooks Club Challenge.

Lemon Meringue Pie

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp icing sugar
125 gms butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsps water, approx
1/3 cup cornflour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 tsps grated lemon rind
1/3 cup lemon juice
30 gms butter
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1/2 cup castor sugar

Sift flour and icing sugar into basin, rub in butter. Add lemon juice and enough water to mix to a firm dough, cover, refrigerate 30 mins. Roll pastry on lightly floured surface large enough to cover base and sides of pie plate (base measures 20cm. I usually roll pastry a bit thinner cos we dont like thick pastry, but its up to you.) Prick base well with fork. Blind bake in moderately hot oven for 10-15 mins, if you want it a little browner take the paper and weights off and put in oven again for a few minutes or until golden brown. Cool.

Blend cornflour and sugar with water, lemon rind and lemon juice in pan, stir until smooth. Stir over heat until mixture starts to thicken at base of pan, remove from heat. Stir until mixture becomes smooth and thick. Return to heat, stir constantly until mixture boils, stir further 1 min. Remove from heat, quickly stir in butter and lightly beaten egg yolks, cool. When cool, spread into pastry case.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, gradually beat in sugar, beat until dissolved. Spread on top of lemon filling in the pastry case, spreading to edge of pie, bake in mod oven about 10 mins or until light golden brown.

I've edited this only slightly, because it was a bit over the place, and because Rozy went back to add the bit about the blind baking. This really does shrink if you don't. In fact, mine shrunk so badly, I had to grab a storebought one while I was out getting nappies. Sure, I could have just bought more lemons, and tried again, but we're going down to Mum's for lunch tomorrow, and I a)won't have time to make an LMP when we get home, and this needed to be done before Monday, and b)wanted to take this with me to share for dessert.

Failed pastry = :(

Plus, I'd never made a shortcrust pastry pie shell before. In fact, I've never made an LMP before either. I have made meringue though. The lemon filling on this was simple to make, and tasted awesome (well, what else was I going to do with the scraped out bowl? Put it straight into the sink? I think not!) - a perfect blend of tart and sweet, leaning on the tart side. But I did something wrong with my meringue. I was whipping my egg whites by hand, and got to the soft peak stage easily enough, even if it did take me half an hour. But since the recipe said nothing about adding the sugar bit by bit, I just dumped the whole lot in, and whisked it through. The recipe said till the sugar was dissolved. Well, that only took me about 2-3 minutes. But I had a liquid then, the consistency of slightly thick pouring cream. I whisked that stuff for another half an hour, it was still glossy, not dry or granular, but all the same I was scared I'd over beaten them, and it was quarter to twelve anyway, so I poured the lot on top of my pie, and set it to baking. It cooked ok, but doesn't look nearly as pretty as everyone else's on the forums, and has nowhere near the height. Also, it seems like it will be nice and crunchy on the edges, but the middle feels a bit squashy to me.

Ah well. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow, and I'll try to post a photo of a single slice then. At least it's only my family, and not anyone I need to try and impress!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mallee Quiche

Mallee quiche
4 eggs
125g grated cheese
125g chopped bacon
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup S.R. flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tblspn chopped parsley or 1 tspn dried

Fry bacon and onion together until golden. Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Bake in a well greased 8 inch deep sided tin at 180°C until set, about 30 mins. Alternative to bacon: salmon, tuna, mixed vegetables, mushrooms or anything you fancy (including leftovers). Things like mushrooms or capsicum are nicer when fried with the bacon and onion.
This can be cut up into squares of any size and served with salad, or cut into finger or bite size pieces for parties (Using muffin pans works well too!). Serve hot or cold.

This recipe has been in our family for twenty or so years. It's the one thing I think everyone of us can cook, and most of us girls know the recipe off by heart. The kids have helped to make this on occasion, and we are even planning on using it as one of the cooking activities at Master Three's fourth birthday party, which has a cooking theme.

Both my two love to cook, though sometimes I have trouble getting Master Three to eat this. I can't get him to eat eggs in any format - fried, scrambled, boiled, in sandwiches or on their own, so perhaps this is too 'eggy' for him. He'll usually eat some of it though, and these days, everything is "Yuck" or "I don't like it" so I keep perservering since everyone else likes it, and it's nice and easy for me to cook.

There was supposed to be a Lemon Meringue Pie with this for dessert, but I got started on that too late. I'm only halfway through, but the pastry is already a dismal failure. I have to run out and buy more nappies, so I'm thinking I might just have to cheat, and buy some short crust pastry while I'm out and start again! (Shhh!)

Blog Rolling...

The Foodie Blog Roll that is.

As you can see from my sidebar, I've joined The Foodie Blog Roll. This is a great resource for food bloggers, and food blog readers (readers is so much a nicer term than addicts) alike. At the time of writing this, there are 1240 blogs on the roll. If you have a food blog, you really should think about checking it out. If you don't, but you like reading food blogs (and if you don't like reading food blogs, why exactly is it you are reading this here?) and have massive amounts of time on your hands, check it out anyway. I mean, 1240 blogs! There has to be something in there to tickle your taste buds!

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Simple things...

Sometimes it's the simple things in life that are the best. A child's smile or laughter, sunlight glinting off water, a single flower at the height of its bloom, all these things have just as much power to please as a well executed move on an expensive games console, or any of today's other modern 'necessities'. Food can be like that too. Sure, there's a lot of satisfaction to be gained from accomplishing a huge ten course dinner for twenty of your closest friends, or sucessfully making a complex dish you've never tried before. But when it comes to eating, nothing really tops the beauty of a few simple, top quality ingredients thrown together very simply with no fuss. That's what I had for lunch today.

Fresh home grown tomatoes

My mother dropped by yesterday and gave this bag of tomatoes freshly picked from her garden. I'd already taken about six out of the bag by the time I took this photo. I'd made fresh bread this morning, so I cut myself a nice thick slice, and laid those tomatoes down in neat little slices.

Tomatoes on fresh bread

Really, all this need was a tiny grind of some sea salt, and to be eaten as is, but I was hankering for something warm, and couldn't resist gilding the lily a little. Besides, I knew I was only going to aggravate my heartburn with all that acidic tomato so I thought I better get the full treatment while I could. (Incidentally, the heartburn last night was more likely from the choc buns than the sausage since I had a toasted bun this morning for breakfast (yes, they do toast well) and my heartburn was back within half an hour. And now I've been fighting it all day, which is not good, because I'm about to run out of peppermints and milk, and can't go and buy any more till tomorrow. *growls* I don't see why the whole nation should get a day off for a Catholic holiday. Most of the folk around here are Hindu anyway. I guess they didn't take Diwali off...but anyway I digress.)

Grilled tomato & cheese sammich

So I threw on a couple of slices of cheese, and whacked the lot under the griller for a few minutes - perfect! I sliced it in half before remembering to take a photo, so it's a little messy, but I assure you it was no less delicious because of that.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

CMOT Dibbler's Sausages Inna Bun

"And then you bit into them, and learned once again that Cut-me-own-Throat Dibbler could find a use for bits of an animal that the animal didn't know it had got. Dibbler had worked out that with enough fried onions and mustard people would eat anything.
— (Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures)"

Lots of onion-y goodness

There's not a lot to say about tonight's dinner, except perhaps that it wasn't the best idea for feeding a pregnant woman with a predilection for heartburn. It was very tasty though.

Our lovely butcher provided us with some garlic and onion sausages that most likely, the closest they'd been to a pig was from sitting near the pork chops on the other side of the room (but they were beef sausages, so that's ok), and although by the time they were cooked, the pan was swimming with sweated out fats, I drained the sausages well, so that was all good. Hot dog rolls toasted under the griller, and spread with french mustard, and then heaped with fried onions. And a splash of tomato sauce, mostly for DP's benefit, since he doesn't like mustard. (I didn't put mustard on his, but the kids and I ate it).

When I'd finished, I was kinda disappointed I'd only made one each, but two hot-from-the-oven Hot Chocolate Buns (as Master Three called them) filled the gaps, and now that I'm suffering the aftermath, I'm glad I did only have one. So, very CMOT Dibbler-ish in that respect I guess. See what lengths I go to for accuracy? *stands up* "Hi, I'm Silver, and I'm a blog event-oholic" *sits*

Seriously though, this has been an entry for the Spring 2008 edition of Novel Food hosted by Lisa @ Champaign Taste and Simona @ Briciole

***EDIT*** Novel Food round-up is here

Kids Cooking Thursday: Choc crossless buns

Now, we don't go in for religion much in our household, so we won't be glutting ourselves with Hot Cross Buns and chocolate eggs this weekend. But Hot Cross Buns were part of the Cooks Club Challenge, so I thought we'd have a go. Since we aren't too fond of mixed peel, and the regular HCB, I thought we'd go chocolate. But after looking through a heap of recipes, even one that came with my bread maker, I decided just to modify my standard roll recipe. So here it is, for other lazy type people who can't be bothered with the warm milk/bread improver/whisking and standing type steps in the standard methods.

Chocolate Hot Cross Buns (for the bread maker)
275ml water
500ml bread mix (not bread flour!)
1 1/4 tsp yeast
1 tbsp cinnamon (use dutch, it's vastly superior)
1 tbsp cocoa (likewise!)

1 cup sultanas
1 cup chocolate, cut into chunks (or choc chips)

Put the first five ingredients into the bread maker's pan, in that order. Select "dough" setting on your machine. Wait for the beeps that tell you it's time to add in your add-ins. Add the sultanas and chocolate. Wait for the rising cycle to finish. Form into roll shapes, and place on tray, about 1cm apart. Cover with glad wrap or a tea towel, and let rise again for about 30 mins, or till doubled in size. Bake at 200C for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a bun comes out clean. Pipe on crosses with melted cooking chocolate (if desired). Serve warm.

Melty butter goodness!

These came out a little denser than I would have liked, but they didn't get enough rising in, as I got interupted by a woman wanting us to go back to our old phone company in the middle of the process. And they had a definite crunch to the crust. DP says this is normal, and it's been so long I'll have to take his word for it, though I'm pretty sure I'd remember if I'd ever had any like that. But they were gooey, and chocolatey, and ever so tasty, and after a few bites, I forgot I wasn't 100% happy with them. And the kids had a ball, rolling them into balls, and getting their hands filthy (and picking the sultanas and chocolate out of the raw dough and eating it when they thought I wasn't looking!) They didn't double in size after being made into buns, so they didn't touch each other in the oven, and that may have been the problem with the crunch, and the density as well. See?

These were actually more of a brown cocoa induced colour, not this golden

They made a great dessert though, I had two, and they were very filling. I'm looking forward to seeing how these go toasted under the griller tomorrow.

Cooking up a storm

Beef ragu

So with my cube steak that I had sitting waiting, I whipped up a little ragu. At least, I guess that's what you'd call it. Chopped an onion really chunkily, added a clove of Australian garlic (it's stronger than the foreign sort)and a slice of chucky chopped bacon and threw in the meat. Seasoned it with a hefty sprinkle of Season-All and about 1 teaspoon of curry powder. Added a can of diced tomatoes and a few bay leaves, and then thickened it up with some gravy powder. Smelt really good actually.

Then I made my family's favourite pasta sauce. It lends very well to freezing, and cokking straight from frozen with little advance warning, so it's a great standby to have. I made a double batch, with two lots of mince, but I'll give the recipe for a single batch, and you can double it, or adjust as you see fit.

Pasta sauce

SilverMoon's Pasta Sauce (Serves 4)
400g mince
1 onion, finely chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, depending on size, strength, and love of garlic, chopped to preference
1 finely chopped short cut rindless rasher of bacon
1 medium sized zucchini, diced
5 or 6 (or 8, if you have that many) mushrooms, diced or sliced to your preference
1 can diced, peeled, tomatoes
1/2 jar pasta sauce or 3 tbsp tomato paste & 3 tbsp water (that the pasta cooked in if possible)

Melt a little butter in a large pan - not too much, but just enough to stop the bacon sticking to the pan. When pan is hot (don't burn the butter!) add the onion, garlic, bacon and zucchini, and stirring constantly, fry until golden. You can add the mushrooms at this point too, to get a lovely golden colour, but you'll need more butter, and I prefer to add them after the mince to soak up all those lovely pan juices. Clear a space in the pan directly above the flame, or where ever your pan is hottest, and add the mince, making sure to break it into small bits. Give it a bit of colour, then stir through the vegies, so nothing burns. Now add your mushrooms, as the meat will be starting to let off a lot of juices, and you don't really want this to be stewing just yet. Then add your tomatoes and sauce, and any seasonings, like rosemary, thyme, freshly ground salt and pepper, Season-All (yeah, I put that in everything lol). Let the lot simmer till you get your preferred consistency, or thicken with a little bit of gravy powder, or add more tomato paste if you used that/have any.

Serve over pasta, or let cool completely, then place in freezable containers/zip-loc bags and freeze. Tasty!

Braised Steak & Onions... (and pies)

Braised Steak and Onions with Noodles

Well, the plan was to have this with mashed potatoes, but the whole day was weird and one mistake after another, so two minute noodles it was. I think it was easier to get the kids to try this this way though. Master Three isn't too sure about mashed potatoes, and he's is becoming notoriously difficult about new foods or foods he doesn't recognise, but he loves noodles, and finished his entire plateful with no fussing. This is a recipe my mum makes a lot, and one of my favourites. Here is the recipe as my mother wrote it to me via MSN... only slightly edited to account for her not so great english and grammer skills.

Steak & Onions
1/2 kilo stewing/braising/blade steak
1/2 kilo or more onions
40ml small shot glass of vinegar

Fry the steak brown and then cover it with water and let it simmer until it just about falls to bits. Take out of the sop, and cut very fine. Put aside, fry the onions slowly nice and brown. Add it to the meat, add vinegar and let the whole lot simmer for a few more minutes. Thicken with gravy powder. Stir while you are adding the gravy powder, and have this with mashed potato - yummmmm

So like I said, it was just one thing going wrong after another today. I like to brown my onions first, then let them simmer with the meat, so the meat gets that lovely oniony taste all the way through it. So I'd already started my onions, and turned to the freezer bag of meat, only to open it and find Sunday's meat instead. Too late to stop cooking the steak and onions so then I had to hunt down the gravy beef I wanted to use, defrost that quickly, and continue on. Not a big deal really.

While the meat was simmering away for a few hours, I made some chicken and vegetable pies. Well, I made the filling, the pies didn't end up getting made till the steak and onions was finished.

Pie filling

So I figured I'd have to make up the meat on sticks for dinner tonight, and just make pies out of all of the steak and onions, instead of just making pies out of whatever we had leftover, as I'd planned to. Of course, I ran out of time to put the cubed steak on kebab sticks, despite starting all the cooking around 3pm, so in the end I went with the noodles. Mind you, since I thought this mix was destined purely for pies, I added a few handfuls of frozen mixed vegies, because they were on hand. My mum usually adds frozen peas to her leftovers before wrapping in a sheet of puff pastry and making into pies. But I used up all my mixed vegies, and then the kids decided they really wanted noodles for dinner. Ooops. No chance now of giving them the cubed steak just fried up with some onion and noodles with vegies. So I used my steak and onion pie mix as noodle sauce. As I said, they all ate it.

Steak and onion sans noodles

When I finally got around to making the steak and onion pies (after the chicken ones had all finished cooking) I was tired, and cranky, and running between feeding kids vanilla bean ice cream with Choc Honeycomb flavoured Ice Magic and wrestling with my kitchen to give me enough space to work in, amongst the dishes racked up that afternoon. I had a great big beautiful meat pie, that promptly fell over, and broke in half all over the oven door as I was about to put it in. Then I had to clean up all of that, and get the kids into the bath. Luckily my partner was doing the actual bathing, I just had to get them ready. After all that, I came back to the kitchen, decided I only wanted to make two more big pies, instead of more little ones and consequently over stuffed them. Which resulted in them not sealing properly, and leaking during cooking. At this point I didn't care. I wrapped them in alfoil, and that's how they'll sit in the freezer, and get defrosted, and get cooked. Sure it'll make a mess, but at least it's a disposable one.

Tomorrow I plan on making some sort of a stew with the cubed steak because we are having 'Sausages inna bun' for dinner, and I have no more noodles to go with meat on sticks anyway. Also on tomorrow's cooking agenda is a big double batch of pasta sauce, and possibly some ice cream mixture as well. Not that the next lot of ice cream I'm making is a recipe that requires overnight refrigeration, but the bowl from the ice cream maker needs a minimum of 24 hours freezing prior to making ice cream, and I only got it into the freezer late this evening. But I may leave that to do completely on Friday, since tomorrow is the kids' cooking day, and we are making Choc Crossless Buns, as part of the Cooks Club Challenge from the forums.

Chicken and Vegetable Pie (again!)

Right about now I'm pretty well tired, still haven't caught up in my sleep from the weekend yet, but I wanted to get all this down while I remembered it, and I'm only up so late because we watched "The Seeker: The Dark is Rising" at 10:30pm instead of going to bed then (which I kind of wanted to do). Good movie, although the book, (and the four others in the series) was much better, but that's a gimme anyway. Even though this movie is based on the second book in the series, it's somewhat stand alone, so it works, though I'd personally like to see them all made into movies. Maybe then I'd be able to find all the books at the bookstore, instead of just number two, and therefore be able to buy them for my niece, whom I think would really enjoy this series.

Agh, enough! Off to bed for me!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pizza Scrolls - partying the Blog Party way.

Ah, at last. I've been blogging for *quick check* oh! Exactly a month! Wow. That flew by. Well, as I was saying, I've been blogging for a whole month now, and I'm finally achieving the main goal I had when I started blogging. I wanted to take part in one of Stephanie's Blog Parties, over @ Dispensing Happiness. Last month I was just too busy, and too tardily informed, to break out the deep fryer for fried foods, but this month's theme is ever so kid friendly, and I had the perfect recipe too... It's Pizza Time!

Now, if you look back to my first ever post, the original Menu Plan Monday, posted one month ago today, you'll see that I had this recipe down to be made on the last day (Sunday) of that week. If you were to skip ahead one week to the next Menu Plan Monday post, you'll that I did indeed make them, I wasn't impress, but everyone else was, so I said I'd make them again. (Or you could just take my word for all of that, and not have to dive through my archives at all.)

Recipe here for mini scroll pizzas!

For those who aren't aware, blog party is a monthly blog event, in the form of a cocktail party. All food must be able to be eaten with one hand, and be provided with some kind of beverage to go in the other hand.

These cute little scrolls pass the one hand test... DP is proving it to me right now as he types away with his other hand. Just a few tips that don't seem to be on the recipe: if your oven in fanforced, drop the time down to 25 mins (and the temp down to 200°C if it's a hot oven like mine), and don't try and substitute greased alfoil for the baking paper... it doesn't really work.

As for a drink, well Stephanie, I'm sorry I can't be more inventive, as tired as I am, but I did have a couple of suggestions. What is the perfect drink with pizza? Coke of course! And what can you do with Coke? Well, if you are strange, like myself, or my sister who taught it to me, or the Yugoslavian (I think) ex-DJ who taught it to her, you mix it with red wine. A cheap trick I used many a time in my misspent youth to make the most unpalatable goon juice taste drinkable, I even developed a fondness for this drink, but failed to ever convince any of my friends it was good. I did get a few to try it, but even they were of the opinion I was nuts. Mix red wine (cask of course - we're thinking teenager's budget here!) with Coke, in what ever quantities you prefer.

I'd post a photo of this too, but since I am 29 weeks pregnant, I currently don't consume alcohol or caffeine, and so have none of the necessary ingredients on hand. Also no way of getting rid of said drink once photographed, since DP doesn't drink either of the included beverages, and the housemate is still on holidays.

I'd better go and pack some of these away into a freezer container for an easy Sunday dinner one Grandparent visiting night, or spur of the moment picnic food. I have to be quick, because DP (who was asleep during dinner - catching up on the last four nights!) has already demolished five of them, and blatantly admits he has no plans of stopping at all. Thus endangering almost a whole batch... out of 24, we only have 13 left! Good thing I made a double batch. I've tried to like these, but you really have to like scones to like these I think, and I just can't do it. But, they are tasty enough to have as a meal, I can eat them without making a face (not something every scone can boast of! lol) and DP and the kids like them. Like I said last time... a keeper!

This has been an entry for Blog Party #32: Pizza Party, hosted by Stephanie @ Dispensing Happiness

Menu Plan Monday - the week that could have been.

As you've no doubt already read, we just got home from the hospital, and I hadn't done any of the cooking planned since Friday. I'll post what I had planned for this week, but obviously, Monday's meal was bought, and tonight's meal was the Pizza Scrolls held over from Saturday (because we got home too late to take meat out.) This is just the dinner menu, expect lots of extra posts while I load up my freezer with all the groceries not eaten in those four days.

Monday Pasta with meaty, tomatoey vegie sauce
Tuesday Home made Chicken Fillet burgers
Wednesday Braised steak & onion, mashed potatoes
Thursday CMOT Dibbler's Sausage inna Bun
Friday Calzones
Saturday Quiche
Sunday Meat on sticks with noodles, Lemon Meringue Pie

For once, a week without a stack of links. Although the Lemon Meringue Pie recipe is coming from the forums there, as part of the Cooks Club Challenge. And apart from the calzones, which I have no idea where I'm sourcing the recipe from yet, everything else I'm going to make up as I go along. Well, not the quiche or braised steak nights either, they're hand-me-down recipes from Mum. So that only leaves three out of seven meals I'm making up as I go along. Ah well, less typing out for me I guess!

As usual check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for literally hundreds of other menu plan blog posts.

Appy Polly Logies

Just got back from being in hospital with Master Three for his asthma. We went in at 4:30am on Saturday morning, so I've done no cooking since then. Expect a lot of catch up posts as I hurry to cook the meals I missed before food starts going bad. (On the plus side, my freezer's going to be stuffed - on the downside, we've all been eating over priced bought muck for the last four days.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mixed Berry Smoothies

With a forecasted top of 40°C today, I was glad it was fish and chips for dinner, especially as yesterday I well and truly overdid it with the making of soup, rolls, ice cream and cake. But yesterday was only 38°C.

Not that I had fish though, and DP thought it was too hot to eat anything salty... in fact he must think it is still too hot to eat anything, even though the cool change has come in (now).

But at the time I finished dinner, it was still 38°C. And I thought it was the perfect time to try a Mixed Berry Smoothie, as blogged by Shyamala, over at Food, In The Main... This is a fairly old recipe of hers, so click here for the pertinent post, or click on my ever so arty pic above. Her recipe was as follows:

Mixed Berry Smoothie:
1-1/2 cups mixed berries (she used strawberries, raspberries and frozen blueberries)
3 scoops low-fat vanilla icecream
2 cups milk
1 cup yogurt
a few ice cubes
Sugar to taste

Blitz all the ingredients (minus the sugar) in a blender. Taste for sweetness and add sugar as required. Blend again. Serve cold in big glasses.

Now, I didn't change much, but I feel to be honest, I should share the changes I made. I used frozen blueberries and frozen raspberries. I had no strawberries, as it's impossible to keep them in my house with Miss Two around... she can sniff them out of fridge at 5 metres away, and then she won't stop pestering till she can eat them! I also had no low-fat vanilla ice cream. I have vanilla bean ice cream I made yesterday, but that is far too good to go in a smoothie, no matter how good the smoothie! But I did have some moderately low fat strawberry ice cream that I made back in January, that was a little on the undersweet side, so we haven't been eating it. I also used wildberry flavoured yogurt, because I couldn't find a big enough single plain or vanilla when I did the shopping. Oh yeah, I didn't use ice either, because all my fruit was frozen. And I used a couple of drizzles of honey instead of sugar to sweeten.

Still, it turned out this lovely bright purple colour, and once again I find myself lamenting the lack of a real digital camera, as opposed to the dodgy one on my phone, or the 7yo one we have with no connecting to computer abilities (anymore). You really can't tell the beautiful colour this was from these photos.

Wish you could see the real colour this was

This was an entry for March's Monthly Blog Patrol, hosted by Sig at Live To Eat and originally thought up by Coffee at The Spice Cafe

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Food Porn Meme

Kazari dobbed me in for The Food Porn Meme, as thought up by Rosanne. I have no idea what rating my blog was before, but have no doubt this will 'adultify' what ever I was.

1. What food do you consider the best “date” food? In other words, what meal or food item do you think is sexiest to eat in the company of someone you would like to look sexy around?

Ice cream in a cone. Or maybe a long phallic icy pole. But I'm leaning more towards the ice cream in a cone.

2. What well-known person would you like to share a meal with—with or without clothing. (saying whether or not clothes are involved is optional).

Well, although I've never tried sushi, so I don't know if I'd even like it, it's always been one of my goals to eat sushi off a naked body... and Jessica Alba would make a great table - and she's brainy too, so we could talk afterwards!

3. What does your perfect breakfast-in-bed look like? (Food AND the details, please. Candles? Music? Flowers? Hot tub? Dancing girls?)

Um... In case you hadn't noticed, I'm not really much of a romantic. A partner who doesn't believe in Valentine's Day, and two young children seems to have leeched out any romantic leanings I once may have had, and I seriously don't know how to answer this. I guess it would have bacon, and either no toast, or not be in bed (crumbs in bed = bad!) but honestly the only thing I can think of is that it would be 2 or 3 years in the future, be made by my kids on Mother's day or some such occasion, and probably be shared by the whole family all sitting on our bed. Actually, all 'food porn' and romantic thoughts aside, three kids and my DP all crowded around sharing a breakfast the kids made for me sounds pretty much perfect to me.

4. What do you consider the best application of whipped cream to be?

Well, the best use for whipped cream is to make ice cream, but once again I feel I'm missing the point, or perhaps just being deliberately obtuse. Whipped cream is cold though, so I'd have to say used for a dip for strawberries, perhaps piped on to the tip of strawberries, so you could lick the cream off the strawberry, for an effect much akin to the answer in question one.

5. Oh-God-No, Biff, the yacht is sinking! You are sent to the galley to retrieve the food. What luxury food items do you snatch first? The champagne? The caviar? Smoked Salmon? Truffles? Chocolate? Or something else?

Um, is the yacht sinking in the harbour? If so, the sun-dried tomatoes and prosciutto. If not, and we are miles from land, I'd grab the big tank of fresh water, and whatever staples I could lay my hands on. Not luxurious I know, but I was a scout, and practical is not really a trait you grow out of.

Now I get to put another five people through this torture... not sure this is the best way to make friends in the blogosphere, but here goes none the less:

1. Katrina, @ What Katrina's Up To At The Moment
2. Stephanie @ Dispensing Happiness, because I know she open tags instead of passing on memes, so I don't have to fear getting tagged back with a new meme.
3. Purple Goddess @ A Goddess in the Kitchen, purely because she's always eating the most interesting foods, at the coolest places, and I'd love to see how she answers. But she doesn't know me, so I don't know how well she'll take being tagged by a stranger.
4. Sara @ i like to cook, another tagging a stranger deal-y, but I don't 'know' that many bloggers yet.
5. Lynn @ Cookie Baker Lynn - see above *blush*

Cauliflower soup and homemade rolls

Cauliflower Soup
50g butter
1 onion
pinch of caraway seeds
50g plain flour
3 litres water.
3 beef cubes
1/2 cauliflower
1 potato

Melt butter, fry onion and seeds. Add flour, add water slowly. Crumble in beef cubes. Add vegies and mash all together. Cook until vegies are cooked and soup is thick.

At least, that's how my sister sent it to me in an email years ago. I usually don't try to mash the vegies before cooking them. I just boil the lot till the vegies are mushy, then use a stick blender in the pot (take the pot off the heat source first!), or if I'm feeling pedantic, I'll pour it in a blender. A blender needs to do a few batches, because this makes quite a bit of soup, and you have to be careful with hot liquids and blenders.

And to go with, I made rolls for the second time ever! Last year, for winter solstice, I made bread rolls from scratch, following the recipe on the back of the yeast box. They were so-so... didn't rise quite enough in our cold kitchen in the middle of winter.
Today, I just used my usual bread recipe, but used the dough setting on my bread maker, instead of bread. Since it was so hot, I had no problem getting them to rise. And they came out of the oven right before dinner... mmm, melty butter goodness!

Kids Cooking Thursday: Mars Bar Mud Cake

I don't like posting catch up posts, let me just say this now. I managed to get some drafts in for all the posts I missed while my computer was having an internal makeover (new o/s install), so everything should get datestamped accurately. And I even remembered to take photos, for a change. But what I didn't think to do was jot down a rough draft of the text for each post. I quite often do this, like when I have made a casserole for the freezer, but don't intend to blog it till we've tried eating it. The thing is, I'm somewhat attached to my technology. Instead of grabbing a pad of paper, and a pen, I automatically sit down here and open a new notepad file.

I have scores of these: one for my son's upcoming birthday party (what will happen @ party, and what I need to do before hand), one for what I will pack in my labour bag, I was using one for my monthly menu planning, till I found a spreadsheet template that looked like a calendar (and auto wrote dates/days in for me). I still have that old menu plan txt file, because I use it for inspriation, and to keep track of what each fortnight has had. I have one that tells me every birthday/occasion that needs a present bought for in the year, and what date, in a nice long list, and another one the same, that I write in what I plan to buy, and then delete names as I buy something for that birthday. I have a big family, and I usually start xmas shopping in July, so that list is a necessity.

So here's the problem. With my profile backed up, all my files were saved, but I couldn't write new ones. Yes, not only did I barely have access to the net, I had no access at all to my beloved notepad. So the thought of taking notes for a rough draft of a blog never crossed my mind.

So consequently, I really don't have much to say about this mud cake the kids and I made. Except what it says in reviews on the recipe site, and that is that this doesn't really make a mud cake, it's more of a brownie result. But with brownies this good, who cares?

I'd been running around doing too much all day... taking our housemate to the airport, making soup for dinner (had to get that done early 38°C today), getting bread mix in the machine to make dough for bread rolls, freezing up the ice cream mix I'd made and put in the fridge the night before, so by the time I got to cooking with the kids, it was 4pm. And this took ages to cook. But it was good. It came out of the oven just as we settled down to dinner, and although it was not completely cooled when we ate it, it was still good. Especially with a scoop of fresh home made vanilla bean ice cream. *grinz*

After going in the fridge overnight, these go chewier, and less crumbly/cakey, and more fudgey, just like a good brownie should be. It's very rich though, so eat it warm with ice cream, or cold with a big glass of ice cold milk. I'm such a kid sometimes!