Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Family Weekend Away

I am so excited for this weekend.
It is my grandpa's 70th birthday and the whole family are going down the coast to spend a weekend together.
It is a beautiful place, only a few hours South of where we live.
Our family have always spent holidays down there, my husband & I used to take many camping trips before we had the kids. It is such a beautiful place to relax and unwind.


The last time we went down was years ago, before I had any fancy cameras, but I still snapped up some lovely photos at sunrise...


I have been put in charge of the birthday cake.
Apparently my baking is up to par, so I have designed, and started to bake, the custom creation.


My rough sketch is a bit messy, but you get the idea!
Since my family is rather large, I chose to use the Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt recipe that I used for my boy's caterpillar cake.
It is rich, dense, and tastes divine!
I figured that it would be good since we only need small pieces, it will go far!

I have to use my huge square cake tin to make two squares, and cut them into a football field shape.
With the remaining I will be making some delicious cake pops, hopefully in a football shape!

So my week will be full of baking (I also need to bring a dish to share for dinner one night) and hopefully a quick dash to the shops because I have come to the realization that I do not own a swimsuit!!
Oh dear!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chicken & Coriander Asian-Style Salad

Our fridge was full of chicken.
Breast, and a whole bird stuffed in there.
I looked at the breast and brainstormed.
Lunch?
Dinner?
Both?

Both, of course!

I took the smallest portion out and marinaded it in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, coriander and garlic that had been pulsed into a runny paste.

While I let that sit and absorb the flavours, I chopped up some Chinese cabbage (Wom bok), sliced some cucumber, grated some carrot, and sprinkled some torn up coriander on top.
Next was the dressing...
Vinegar, olive oil, sugar, soy sauce and a splash of sesame oil.
Delicious!

Out came the chicken and I grilled it until golden.

I tossed the salad with the dressing and plonked the chicken on top.

Voila!


Flavour..... Amazing!
Preparation time... Express!
I think this one is a winner.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cheesy Stuffed Pasta Shells

I stumbled across these giant pasta shells at the supermarket the other week and I just had to buy a packet.
Many years ago, a friend's mother had made us the most delicious dinner using these shells stuffed with cheese and spinach and I have wanted to try cooking it myself ever since.

I had no recipe, but gathered a few ingredients that were lying around...


I crumbled the ricotta...


Mixed in the beaten eggs...


Boiled up the pasta until it was almost cooked through...


Mixed in the defrosted pumpkin puree and spinach...


Added some fresh parsley and seasoned it with salt & pepper...


Then I spread a layer of pasta sauce over the bottom of my baking dish...


I found a huge clove of garlic...


...And I grated it finely over the sauce...


I set up a stuffing station...

I stuffed the shells with the cheese mixture...


Then placed them on top of the pasta sauce...


Covered with grated cheese...


Baked until golden...

Delicious, quick and so easy!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Deliciously Decadent Carrot Cake

It is no secret that I love cake.
I love to bake cake.
I do like to eat that cake sometimes.
But honestly, the baking is my favourite.

Our fridge has been overloaded with vegetables, and I have been a busy bee.
I pureed up a big batch of sweet potato, carrot and peeled zucchini to give meals a little sneaky boost.
I was cooking so much food that our little family could not keep up!
Our freezer is full to the brim!

I decided to change tack and go in a totally different direction.
Of course that was cake,
I am predictable.
I have not made a carrot cake for years.
The last time I used my kid's cookbook.
The cake was nice, but it was more plain cake that carrot, the flavours were lacking.
It was obviously meant for kids, not the cake connoisseur.

I flicked through my many cookbooks, skipped past recipes with pineapple and sultanas...
Then I found this one...


I had all the ingredients necessary and began mixing...


All mixed up and it did not look very appealing.
But the aroma from the mixed spices was alluring.
I popped in my trusty old springform tin and into the oven for 1hr 15mins.


It came out golden and fragrant.
I could not wait.
I mixed up a zesty cream cheese frosting...


I popped the warm cake out of the tin...


Gave it a quick slice in half and slathered some frosting on, sandwiched it between the two layers and then smothered the whole cake in the remaining frosting...


I should have waited for it to cool...



But of course I didn't!


I scooped out a warm, gooey slice and devoured it....
No, sorry, that is not what happened at all.
I had my cake in front of me on my desk, while I sipped my coffee and checked my emails.
I looked down to see a chunk was missing....
Hmm!
I looked up again, read a few emails, sipped some coffee.
I looked down and went to reach for my spoon so I could try some of this fragrant cake...
It was gone...
And some was almost all of my cake!
I looked to my left, and just out of the corner of my eye was my husband, standing with my spoon, crumbs on the corner of his mouth, and a guilty look on his face.
Oh, I see!
I ate the remaining sliver of cake, sharing with our children who were hovering around like hungry little flies.

The next morning the cake had cooled, and I sliced myself a small piece for morning tea.
It was so moist and dense.
A deliciously decadent carrot cake.


Carrot Cake With Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

3 eggs
1 1/3 cups (250g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (250mL) vegetable oil
3 cups firmly packed, coarsely grated carrot
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I used pecans instead)
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsps mixed spice

Cream cheese frosting:
(I doubled this recipe so I could make a layer cake)

30g butter, softened
80g cream cheese, softened
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1 1/2 cups icing sugar (may need more to reach right consistency)
1 tbs orange juice

Method:

Preheat oven to 180*C.
Grease a deep 22cm round cake tin, and line the bottom with baking paper.
Beat sugar, eggs and oil in a bowl using an electric mixer, until thick and creamy.
Mix in carrot and nuts, then sifted dry ingredients.
Pour into tin and bake for 1hr15mins.
Stand in tin for 5mins, then cool completely on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make frosting by beating cheese and butter with a mixer until creamy then add zest and juice and gradually mix in icing sugar until the right consistency is reached.
Cover the cooled cake in frosting and enjoy!








Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Fluffy Addition To The Family

After weeks of discussion, my husband & I finally settled it.
We would get a puppy.
We called the surrounding animal shelters that we knew had small puppies (can't have a big dog here especially with little kids) and we were put on waiting lists.
We received message after message...
Puppy sold.
All gone to homes.
Sorry, none left.
We did want to rescue a pup, but it seems there were plenty of others who wanted to as well!
We had done some research into what breeds are good with kids, and found one that we both fell in love with:
Japanese Spitz.
Fluffy, puffy, balls of white fur with rounded bear-like ears.
Gorgeous!
But they were expensive, very expensive.
We put it off, and decided that we would wait.



One afternoon we decided to go for a drive with a friend of ours to the local pet store so Eve could say hello to all the animals.
She had heard all of our puppy talk and was so desperate to see one.
We got the to see an empty shop.
No puppies.
We had a quick chat to the man who runs the place and he said new pups would be arriving the following week.
Oh, what breed?
Japanese Spitz.
REALLY??
We couldn't believe it!
The one pet store was getting the breed we were after.
And for a bargain price, much less than every private breeder.
We went home and thought about it.
We had a week to decide.
We had shocking nights of sleepless kids and gave up on the idea of looking after a puppy.
But then we had Eve making up "The Puppy Song" and they began to settle.

So now, say hello to Bailey...






The kids are madly in love with her.
Eve loves to cuddle, and Eli loves to run around and play with her.
Perfect!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Father's Day Is On It's Way...

I am not a huge fan of over commercialized "holidays".
But I am a fan of showering the people you love with gifts.
Personal gifts, special gifts, keepsakes.
I love encouraging my kids to make things for family members, they have fun painting, drawing and glueing and whoever the lucky recipient is is always proud to hang their artwork on their wall.
It captures a moment in their childhood, one I know we will all treasure.

Apart from the usual gifts of drawings, I found some other lovely crafty ideas for Father's Day gifts.
(Though you can do this any time of the year!)
Click on the image for original post...






Have fun, and show some love!




Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wild & Windy Weather

The weather has been a little crazy lately.
A big old gumtree in our neighbours yard came crashing down with an almighty crack and fell into our backyard.
It didn't reach the house (Thank God!), it didn't damage the fence, but it crushed my father-in-law's shed with all his car bits and pieces in it...


Not good!
But it is ok, nothing terribly valuable in there. 
But we are now facing the mammoth task of removing the tree!
It's a big complicated mess with our neighbour, solicitors, and the not so helpful council.

But my task, lately, has been trying to keep the kids happy while being stuck inside!
We have been getting a bit crafty...



Eve has figured out how to take photos of herself with my phone...


We have taken the kids to the local shopping centre for play time with other kids in a big, fun play ground...



The really love these days!

Our cat, Cedric, has been super affectionate lately, he just can't get enough of me!
(Maybe he knows what is coming.....)


I gave the kids hair cuts, and decided to go back to having a fringe...


And for the first time ever I went and got acrylic nails!
I have very thin, weak nails that I have been trying to grow forever but they always peel and chip off, no matter what treatments I try.
Now I have super strong nails, but I still kept them short, so I can function!!


(I treated myself to a Lindt Cafe coffee afterwards!)

And when the sun shines in through the kid's bedroom window...




 We all lap it up!!