Monday, 30 January 2012

These Are A Few of My Favourite Things

It has been unbearably hot in Perth this last week. Too hot to do anything except sit very still in front on the aircon. Far too hot to cook, or Bake. Still, I did venture out once or twice, to other air conditioned venues.

Wednesday night I went to Billy Lee's with some friends. This is always a fun outing, the food is always good, cheap, and the menu's provide endless amusement. They've got new menus, which is good, because, as my Friend was telling me, on time he went there, only to have the menu say 'Belly Lee's'. Before ordering a mountain of food (including schezuan beef, Duck in vinegar sauce, and BBQ pork) we scrutinised the menu try to find the funniest error. We came upon the gold 'Fired rice - lager with ham' immediately my friend turned to me and said 'we need to make this. We need to make a literal interpretation of fired rice lager with ham'. And I don't doubt that we will, one day.

Thursday, being the Australia Day public holiday, I wanted to avoid going anywhere there might be crowds of people drinking, and no airconditioning, so my boy, my Mum and my Dad and I all went to see a movie. We saw Hugo in 3D. I try to avoid 3D, but it was so well done in this film. Hugo was one of the most beautiful and enjoyable films I have seen in a long while. No violence (and don't get me wrong, I'm more than partial to the torture porn genre of film, although I think 7 Saw films is too many Saw films), no nudity, no swearing. It was a beautiful tale, told in a beautiful way, about things I really love.

Saturday brought with it a trip to my folks, everyone decided to head up, escape the heat, hang out and have a swim. I got too see my Sister, my 2 nephews, 2 of my brothers, my sister in law, and my niece. Life is so much more fun with little ones. We all headed down to the pool, my nephews have no fear, as soon as they saw the water they ran and jumped in (well, Jacob did, Toby needed some help getting over the edge into the water, but he was just as keen). Even my Mum came in, which is a big deal, she usually complains 'it's too cold' even when it's 45C out.








Toby, wanting food, after a big swim!














A lunch of BBQ sausages, fresh baguette from the French bakery, and Champagne followed. Then I couldn't resist having a little nap on the couch, in the aircon, after 2 sleepless nights due the the heat in my own house.

And how better to end a relaxing Saturday, than an evening on the couch with the boy watching horror films? We opted for classics, and went with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Dawn of The Dead.

I also took some photos of things that I love:








I love this boy.

















Major Tom, my mischievous bunny rabbit. He likes to hog the couch and the aircon, when he thinks no one is looking.















Our orange moose, affectionately named 'Mr Porpoise'

















Other Bunny. He turned up outside our door one day over a year ago, and has lived in our complex gardens ever since. We make sure he's always got water.















One of my closest friends. He decided last night to wear my sunglasses.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Dinosaurs, Glasses & Low Fat Banana Muffins

I had a pretty wonderful weekend. It started with a swim, dinner and a movie at my Mum & Dad's house on Friday night, and continued with a girly morning with Mum on Saturday. We got our eyebrows threaded (I am seriously addicted to this, I've been 3 times now), our eyelashes tinted (another of my favourite things), a pedicure, and a manicure. I bought some dinosaurs























and some new sunglasses, and cut my fringe






















I even went for a swim in the ocean. This is a big deal for me, I don't really like the beach or the ocean, and I went all the way in, and was even happy just to sit in the sand for a bit, much to my fiance's joy (he loves the beach).

Then, Sunday rolled around, and I thought I had better make some low fat banana muffins. For some reason, I always buy too many bananas, and always end up freezing some, just before they turn. This is a good thing, because it means I always have bananas when I feel like baking banana muffins, or bread, or when I want a banana smoothie (which is often). The bananas only take about 10-15 minutes to get soft, and then it's fun to squeeze them out of their skins.

Ingredients

2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup canola oil
2/3 cup skim milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 small bananas, mashed

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12-hole muffin tray with papers.

In a large bowl, stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together, and make a well in the centre.

In another bowl, combine canola oil, milk, egg & vanilla. Stir these together, then add to the dry ingredients. Add the mashed banana, and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.




Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin cups, until about 3/4's full.
























Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until cooked through. Take out of the oven, and leave to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.





You can also add other things to this batter, raisins, choc chips...anything really. But obviously these things add calories. The muffins, just on their own, are 190 calories each. 


Monday, 16 January 2012

Big Pimpin' Rainbow Cake!

It was my little brothers 21st birthday on the 2nd on Jan, but being the holiday period, he postponed his party until last weekend. It was a ‘Big Pimpin’ themed party, so I thought it only right to attempt a big pimpin’ cake.

I have seen this cake many times on various blogs, and pinterest, so I thought I would give it a go. It turned out better than I thought, and I’ve even had a request to bake it for my nephews birthday in June.

(sorry the pictures aren’t that great, I’ll get some better ones the next time I make it)

For the cakes, I used my all time favourite recipe, it’s easy, and it works, but if you have a recipe you love, by all means use that. I doubled my mixture, and it was perfect. I also used buttercream icing, but I think cream cheese icing would work well too.

Ingredients

450g unsalted butter
450g caster sugar
450g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
8 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple food colouring

Ingredients for the icing

750g Icing sugar
450g unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Grease and line as many (same size) round cake tins as you have, or as will fit in your oven. Preheat oven to 180C

Combine butter, caster sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs & vanilla extract and beat with an electric mixer until smooth (about 2-3 minutes). Separate mixture into 6 smaller bowls to mix in the colour. I didn’t do anything technical here in regards to even amount, I just put the same number of same sized blobs in each bowl until I had used all the mixture. Then add the food colouring, and stir it in. Don’t be shy with this as the colour will fade a bit when  you bake them.





















Pour the mixture into the prepared pans and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave the cakes to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Re grease and line the pans and repeat with the remaining batter.

Once all six cakes and baked and cool, it’s ready to assemble the cake. Now I baked the cakes on Friday night, and assembled and iced on Saturday, so there is no need to rush to do it all in one day, if you don’t have too.

I trimmed any cakes that were a bit lopsided, so they were even, then stacked them on top of each other, and trimmed the edges so they were all the same size.

Now, make the icing by combining all the ingredients and beating with an electric beater until smooth. You can add colour if you want, but I just left it as it was, it looks great against the colours of the cake.

Start by placing the purple layer on the plate, or cake board that you are going to serve the cake on, then place a dollop of the icing in the centre and spread out. You don’t want it to be too thick, otherwise the cake will be too tall, then repeat with the blue cake, then the green cake, then yellow, then orange, then red. If you think the cake is a little unstable, now is a good time to put some wooden skewers through the middle, I didn’t need to on mine.

Now, crumb coat your cake. This is basically putting a thin layer of icing over the top and sides, filling in the gaps and making it easier to ice. Once the crumb coat is done, pop the cake in the fridge for the icing to harden, about 10-15 minutes. Now you can ice it! I usually start at the top and work down the sides, but do whatever works best for you.

You can of course decorate it however you like. I’ll probably do some piped flowers or something next time, but this time, I just wrote ‘Big Pimpin’ on the top.

You can't really see the bottom purple layer in this photo, it was dark, but you get the general idea.





It was so fun making these cakes! I enlisted my Sister in Law to come and help me bake them, and we were so happy with the outcome!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Cinnamon Scrolls

Every Friday afternoon we have a team meeting at work, and we've decided to take it in turns to 'cater' the meetings. It was my turn this week, and I though it would be a great excuse to make my cinnamon scrolls. These are so simple to make, make your entire house smell like cinnamon while they are baking, and are totally yummy.

Ingredients for the scrolls

90g unsalted butter
2 cups self raising flour
pinch of salt
2/3 cup of milk

Ingredients for the filling

120g unsalted butter
4 tbs brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Ingredients for the icing

1 cup icing sugar
1 tbs water (give or take)

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C. Mix the butter, flour, salt & milk together with your hands until it forms a dough. Once the mixture has all come together, and there are no butter lumps, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface (I think investing in a pastry mat is the best thing I've ever done, it wipes clean to easily, and I just like it more than rolling anything out directly on my bench top.) knead the dough for about a minute,
























then roll it out (I also invested in a slate rolling pin, it's heavy, nothing sticks to it, and it's easy to clean) how thick you roll it out, is really up to you, i usually roll it to about 2mm thick rectangle.





















Now mix together the butter, sugar and cinnamon until all combined. Slather this mixture all over the dough, so it's nice and covered.


























Then roll the dough to form a log






















Cut out your scrolls. How many you cut depends on how thick you want them. I usually get about 12 nice sized scrolls. I don't like them too thick, and I think they cook better, and have that nice crunchy outside and moist inside when they are slightly thinner.

Place your scrolls on a tray lined with baking paper, not too close together because they will expand slightly. I bake mine for between 8-12 minutes. I just keep an eye on them, and when whey are browning, and the butter mixture is bubbling, I take them out.
























It's really really hard not to eat one as soon as they come out of the oven, after being tormented with the smell of cinnamon while they are baking, but try to wait till they are iced, because it makes them that much more delicious.

Once the scrolls are cool, mix the icing sugar and water together until it's a workable consistency (not too thin) and drizzle (or slather if you are like me) on top of the scrolls.






















Now you can eat one!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Summertime Means Ice Cream!

Happy New Year! What a busy few weeks I've had, and after I get my best friends wedding done and dusted this weekend, I will have my weekends back! I'm also going to get together with my sister in law once every couple of weeks to do something crafty and fun, so that should hopefully mean many more recipes and other crafty how to's.

Well, this past week the hot weather has well and truly arrived, and for me, that means ice cream. Lots and lots of it. I'm quite new to ice cream making (after a few failed attempts years ago, I was scared to try it again) but, after a wonderful success yesterday, I can foresee trying many many flavour combinations over the coming months. I started with just a basic vanilla, but it is so creamy and has such a lovely vanilla flavour, that it really can hardly be called 'basic' at all.

Ingredients

300ml thick cream
300ml milk
1 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
175g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Combine the cream and milk in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds, add these, as well as the pod, to the milk and cream. Bring this to the boil, then remove from the heat and allow the mixture to infuse for about 10 minutes.



Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, caster sugar and vanilla until the mixture is pale. About 3 minutes.



Remove the vanilla bean pod, and carefully pour the milk over, and then return the whole mixture back to the saucepan.

Cook the mixture over a low heat, stirring, for about five minutes, or until the mixture has thickened slightly.

Set aside to cool, and then refrigerate for 30 minutes - 1 hour. If you have an ice cream maker, churn according to the manufacturer's directions, if you don't have an ice cream maker, place the mixture is a plastic container in the freezer until frozen at the edges, then remove and beat with an electric beater, and re-freeze. Repeat this process two more times.




This recipe is a great base for other flavour combinations, but it so delightful, it's hard to not eat the entire batch in one sitting. I found myself getting out of bed last night to grab a giant spoonful!