Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Baby Shower Cupcakes for Wendy - Vanilla Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes with Fondant Shoes

Recently, a lovely lady called Wendy in our finance team left on maternity leave.  It is her first baby, and her Mum is coming from Korea to be with her during the birthing process.  It is a very exciting time for her.

A morning tea was held at work in Wendy's honour.  I like to bake for such occasions (surprising, eh?) and decided to make some cupcakes for Wendy.  I initially thought I should go for fancy flavours, but in the end, decided to make vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing. The classic always go down well.  Wendy is having a little girl, which made the choice of icing colour for my cupcakes a doddle - pretty pink!

I made these cupcakes over there nights.  On a Tuesday evening, I made the little fondant shoe cake toppers while incongruously watching Seinfeld on the TV:

The mould that I used is this one, in case you are interested in getting one yourself.  I stretched my shoes a little when they came out of the mould, which is  why mine look a little different to the ones in the mould photo.  But hey, I am not going to freeze the mould for a few minutes in between making each shoe, especially when I am making 24 of them at night after work.

To mix things up a bit, I used Magnolia Bakery's vanilla cupcake recipe for the cupcakes:

I bought the Magnolia Bakery cookbook from the Magnolia Bakery in NYC last year, so it has special significance for me.  However, the recipe is also online here

I used my favourite icing recipe - the Primrose Bakery vanilla icing recipe - and coloured it pale pink.  It just seemed less over the top than the Magnolia Bakery recipe, which uses tons of icing sugar and butter.  I piped the icing on the cupcakes in a rose pattern (which uses way less icing than the "icecream" swirl), then placed a little shoe on top of each cake, with a few strategically placed pastel coloured cachous: 

I think they were very pretty, and Wendy seemed to be delighted with them.  I also got some rave reviews from my colleagues, so these were a winner all round.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Feijoa Jam

Feijoas are odd little green fruits that I had never heard of until I met a person with a feijoa tree.  You can see what they look like here.

Those people that knew about feijoas seemed to rave about feijoa jam, especially Kiwis. I was curious to try it, and I got my chance when I walked past my local fruit shop and they had feijoas out the front.  I bought some with feijoa jam on my mind.

Finding a recipe for feijoa jam was easy enough - I used this one and scaled it down for the number of feijoas that I had.  I was a bit lost as to what to expect from a feijoa when peeling it - the skin is quite hard and it is difficult to see where the skin ends and the fruit begins.  I have subsequently learned from reading other sites that to get at the feijoa flesh, it is better to cut them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

I was really pleased with how this jam turned out - it set perfectly: 

Feijoa jam tastes like lemon travel sweets.  I do like it, and it is quite different to what I imagined.  I tried it spread on a pikelet - very tasty.

If you do run across some feijoas, I recommend giving this jam a go - I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Date and Banana Energy Bites

I seem to always fall behind with eating my bananas, and frequently end up with bananas that would not be the greatest to eat as is in my fruit bowl.  Not wanting to waste these bananas, I am always on the lookout for good recipes to use them up.

On one of these recent searches, I found a fabulous recipe for Date and Banana Energy Bites on The Betty Stamp.  These bites have lots of good things in them, and even better, I would always have these ingredients (dates, bananas, oats, butter, vanilla extract) in the house.  Accordingly, there is no reason why I can't always make these as a quick snack.

I have had lots of issues with old links becoming broken, and this is a recipe I don't want to lose, so here it is:

100g dates (dried dates are just fine)
2 ripe bananas
200g rolled oats
75g coconut oil or butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 ~100g chocolate for the topping (I used Old Gold 70% dark)

Preheat  your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease and line a 20cm square baking tray.

Place the dates in 100ml boiling water and soak for 10 minutes.

Melt the coconut oil (or butter).  Pour the dates, the water you soaked them in, the melted coconut oil or butter, bananas and vanilla extract into a blender or food processor, and blend or process until smooth.

Put the oats  into a mixing bowl and pour over the banana mixture, and combine well.  Spoon the mixture into your prepared baking tin and spread out evenly.  Place into the oven and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove the bites from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Melt the chocolate and pour over the top of the cooled bites. Once the chocolate has set, cut into bars. Voila!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Scones for Australia's Biggest Morning Tea!

On Thursday this week, it was the official day for Australia's Biggest Morning Tea, the fundraiser for the Australian Cancer Council.  Our work hosted a morning tea on the day, and we had a smashing turnout, raising $660 all up.

I knew lots of other people were bringing baked sweets, so I mainly steered clear of those for my contribution.  Instead, to even up the offerings, I bought party pies and sausage rolls, and made scones with jam and cream.    Most people like these salt of the earth Aussie favourites, so I figured they wouldn't go to waste.

To make the scones, I used Margaret Fulton's scone recipe, which you can find here.  You can watch Margaret herself make them here.

Here is a shot of our morning tea nearly all set up, but before it started:

And here are the tables of goodies - you can see some of my scones at the back of the first table (all made up for ease of eating):

Two of my favourite dishes were Elena's salted caramel and popcorn cheesecake:

and Wayne's sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce:

Here is an action shot of our morning tea - it was a very pleasing turnout:

If you are in Australia, there is still time to host your own Biggest Morning Tea (before the end of June) - visit the Australia's Biggest Morning Tea website to register. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

EwE - BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Traditional Coleslaw - Indy 500 Lunchbox

It's Indy 500 weekend this coming weekend.  On Sunday, Indiana hosts its 100th Indy 500 race meeting.  Kayte, our resident cook from Indianapolis, has suggested this week's Eating with Ellie theme, Indy 500 - What's in Your Lunchbox?

I turned to my new Ellie book, So Easy, for my lunchbox pick.  I made BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Traditional Coleslaw.   Sandwiches are a logical lunchbox choice, and the coleslaw easily packs into single serve plastic dishes for one, or a large dish for sharing on paper plates. 

The BBQ chicken was a revelation - take one run of the mill supermarket rotisserie (BBQ) chicken, shred it and warm it up in a homemade BBQ sauce packed with tomato passata, spices and molasses.  (I skipped the liquid smoke - I wasn't shelling out for an expensive one use item.)  Pack the chicken into a wholemeal bread roll topped with a lettuce leaf, and lo, you have one tasty sandwich.  I can vouch for the fact that the filling is also great on a wrap.

The coleslaw involves just using store bought coleslaw mix and dressing it with a homemade dressing comprising chiefly of yoghurt and mayo.

I really enjoyed this dish, and proved that it is lunch worthy by taking it in to work for lunch myself a few days.

To see what the others have in their Indy 500 lunchboxes, visit the LYL section of the Eating with Ellie website.

And today, my blog turns 9.  I can't believe it's been 9 years - blogging has become such a part  of my life that I don't remember what it was like pre-blog.  I started blogging with no plan other than, "I like reading what other people write, and I can do this too!"  To all my friends in the blogosphere, thanks for enriching my life - I have enjoyed sharing your adventures and sharing mine with you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TWD - Betty's Chocoholic Cake

The second recipe this month for Tuesday with Dorie is a glorious chocolate cake - Betty's Chocoholic Cake, to be exact.  The original recipe is three layers of dense chocolate cake, containing 400g chocolate, 400g butter and 6 eggs.  I halved the recipe and made two layers instead.  I made mine with a commercial gluten free flour mix so that I could share a slice with a gluten-intolerant friend.

This cake is densely rich and chocolatey - a chocolate lover would happily substitute a bar of chocolate for a slice of this cake.

I only used half of the ganache, only having half the cake.  I figured that a cake such of this did not require even more chocolate.  Accordingly, instead of decorating it with white chocolate curls, as suggested by Dorie, I decorated it with hundreds and thousands:

The hundreds and thousands give the cake a festive look but do not take away from the gorgeous dark chocolate flavour of the cake.

This cake tastes as good as it looks - discipline is involved not to keep eating it. 

To see what the other bakers made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Gables High Tea, East Malvern

Last Sunday, Tim and I went to The Gables at East Malvern for High Tea.  The Gables is a gorgeous old house at East Malvern (close to Caulfield Station) that has been impeccably maintained.  It is called The Gables for an obvious reason:

The approach to the building is via a sweeping driveway:

Crowd control is achieved by locking the doors until the time for tea has arrived.  On arrival, we were shown to our table in this gorgeous bright dining room, complete with a chandelier: 

Very soon after being seated, our waitress poured us each a glass of delicious bubbly - real French champagne:

Here is the high tea menu - it makes me hungry just reading it:

And here is the tea tray itself, with Tim smiling in the background: 

My favourites were the chicken and chives sandwich and the fruit scone with jam and cream.

There is of course tea.  You select your own tea (I chose English Breakfast) from the tea menu, and it appears in a zippy little two cup tea plunger.  The cups and saucers are of a smart Maxwell & Williams floral design.

If you can fit anything else in after polishing off your tea tray (and after two scones, I struggled), there is a generous dessert buffet:

I selected these little beauties  - a raspberry eclair (not the greatest), a bounty tart (very nice) and a vanilla slice (superb!):

We overheard some ladies saying that they were not going to cook that night - I assume so that they could go to town on the dessert buffet.  I couldn't manage anything else and was having something of a sugar high, so that was it for me.

Overall, the food was delicious and our waitress was lovely.  

To walk off some of our tea, we walked back to my place, which was surprisingly close (we had come by train).

It was a lovely way to spend a balmy autumn day.

The Gables
15 Finch St
Malvern East VIC 3145
Phone: (03) 9563 6108

Friday, May 20, 2016

Honey-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Sesame and Hummus

Finding interesting recipes for side dishes is a never ending quest for me.  Sure, I can make boiled rice and vegetables in my sleep, and they do the job, but it is great to  be able to mix it up a bit from time to time.

Enter Karen Martini's recipe for Honey-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Sesame and Hummus from p108 of the June edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. If you hate brussels sprouts, you probably aren't even reading this post.  However, if you don't mind them, and want an interesting way to cook them, then Karen Martini's recipe might be for you.  It features Brussels sprouts that are pan fried, tossed with honey and toasted sesame seeds, and served on a bed of hummus.  Love it!

To make these brussels sprouts, you will need:

3 tbspns olive oil
500g brussels sprouts
6 sprigs thyme
salt and pepper
1/4 cup honey
2 tbspns toasted sesame seeds
300g hummus

Heat 2 tbspns of the oil in a large, deep, lidded frying pan.  Add the brussels sprouts, 3 sprigs of thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.  Pour 120ml water into the pan, put the lid on the frypan, and reduce the heat to low.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the sprouts are cooked through and the water has evaporated. 

Remove the lid from the pan and increase the heat to high.  Add the honey and the remaining tbspn of oil to the pan, cook the sprouts in the honey for 2 minutes, stirring all the while to coat the sprouts, then add half of the sesame seeds and stir through again.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, spread the hummus on a plate and pile the sprouts on top of it, and sprinkle with the remaining thyme and sesame seeds.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

EwE - Chicken, Mushroom and Spinach Pasta - Plate of Pasta

This week's Eating with Ellie theme is Plate of Pasta, chosen by Margaret.  This is a fairly broad theme, and Ellie has plenty of pasta recipes, so it was an easy one to find a dish to make.

I chose Chicken, Mushroom and Spinach Pasta from Weeknight Wonders.  It has the kind of flavours that I really like and as always with Ellie, was quick and simple to make.  The use of wholegrain pasta ups the healthiness factor of this dish.  I'd make it again.

To see what the other Ellie cooks made, visit the LYL section of the Eating with Ellie website.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Quick Sticks Ginger Beef from The Good Life

I am always on the lookout for healthy, tasty recipes, so I have been enjoying cooking a few recipes from The Good Life by Sally Obermeder and Maha Koraiem.  The recipes use lots of herbs and spices to add flavour to the dishes, and may of the dishes are things that I would like to eat.

One of the recipes that caught my eye was the Quick Sticks Ginger Beef on p140.  Yes, it is another stir-fry recipe, but it uses ingredients that are slightly different to what I would normally use and which taste absolutely great together.  Best of all, it comes within the Lean and Fast classifications of recipes in the book (327 calories per serve).

To make this dish, you will need:

1 tbspn olive oil
1 sliced Spanish onion
1 sliced red capsicum
200g trimmed green beans
200g bok choy leaves
3 sliced garlic cloves
5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
500g thinly sliced skirt steak
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek

Mix the sherry, soy sauce and sambal oelek together in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat half of the olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add the onion and capsicum and stir fry until the vegetables soften.  Add the beans to the pan and cook for two minutes, then add the bok choy and cook for another two minutes.  Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the pan, then when hot, add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the beef and stir fry until just browned.  Add the vegetables back to the pan with the sauce and cook until heated through.  Top with the sesame seeds.

I served my stir fry with boiled brown rice to soak up the sauce and add a bit of a carbohydrate kick.

Serves 4.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Marilyn Monroe Exhibition plus the Epicurean Delicatessen, Bendigo


A couple of weekends ago, my friend Sandra and I went to Bendigo by train to see the Marilyn Monroe Exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery.  This exhibition features artefacts, photos, film clips, clothing and objects belonging to, or worn by Marilyn, including more than 20 original film costumes.  There is a further Australian connection in that the "nude" sequined dress from Some Like It Hot designed by Orry-Kelly is one of the costumes on display.  Look for the cheeky heart on the left rear, which you can see in the movie if you look for it.

We started with lunch at The Epicurean Delicatessen:

The Epicurean makes gorgeous fresh pastas and salads every day, and I have wanted to eat there for ages.  I had the lasagne with green bean salad ($19.90):

while Sandra had the spaghetti with salmon and the green bean salad ($16.90): 

We then walked up the hill towards the Art Gallery, stopping off at the 8 metre tall Forever Marilyn statue in Rosslyn Park for some cheesy shots on the way.  I had already seen Forever Marilyn when she was displayed in Palm Springs, way back in 2012.

At the Art Gallery, we were greeted by this large Marilyn cutout from How to Marry A Millionaire:

We then made our way through the exhibition over the space of two and a half hours, including a 15 minute talk about Marilyn's life and career by a member of the gallery staff.

Afterwards, we went to The Wine Bank on View nearby for a glass of rose and a slice of pear frangipane tart:

Fortuitously, The Astor Theatre in Melbourne was screening Some Like It Hot the next day:

The Astor is a grand old art deco theatre which is a spectacle in itself, and a fitting place to watch a Marilyn movie:

I have to say I had never previously seen any of Marilyn's movies, so I enjoyed seeing Some Like It Hot fresh on the tail of seeing the Marilyn exhibition (and yes, I looked out for the heart on the Orry-Kelly dress, which you can see when Marilyn's character, Sugar Kane, first boards the yacht with Joe):

If you happen to be in Victoria, it is well worth making the trip to Bendigo to see the Marilyn exhibition and perhaps enjoying the antique stores and eateries in Bendigo.

Bendigo Art Gallery
42 View Street
Bendigo VIC 3550
Ph: (03) 5434 6088

The Epicurean Delicatessen
79 Mitchell Street
Bendigo VIC 3550
Phone: (03) 5443 2699

The Wine Bank on View
45 View St
Bendigo VIC 3550
Phone: (03) 5444 4655

The Astor Theatre
1 Chapel St & Dandenong Rd
Windsor VIC 3182
Phone: (03) 9510 1414

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Andes Mint Cake for Swee's Birthday

On Wednesday, it was my colleague Swee's birthday, and of course, we had to celebrate with cake!  I knew from previously making a cake for Swee's dad that Swee liked choc mint flavours, so I was determined to make a choc mint cake for her birthday.    I settled on this very elegant looking Andes Mint Cake from Bird on A Cake.  Umm, mine got lost in translation somewhat and looked more like The Incredible Hulk than elegant, but it did the job.

Here is what each of the three chocolate sponge cake layers looked like:

The little patches are where the Andes mint chips (that I luckily had stashed away from my US trips) melted into the cake.  The chocolate flavour is all from cocoa, so the cake isn't overly rich.

The layers are spread with a peppermint flavoured buttercream:

I used half of what the recipe says - I think Australian tastes on cake to icing ratio are a little different to the US.  My cake stack leaned a little once I had finished putting on the buttercream, but I decided to stick with it.

Finally, a ganache is poured on top - this is where The Hulk factor came in, as my ganache had thickened a little too much and not so much poured as was pushed, lava style, over the top of the cake:

Andes mint chocolate is not sold here (at least, not outside speciality stores), so I decorated the top of my cake with a crushed Mint Crisp instead of chopped Andes mint bars.

Here's a look inside the finished cake:

It tasted pretty good from where I was sitting! And the birthday girl loved it.

Here we all are, posing with the cake: 

Happy birthday Swee.