May 30, 2013

Rainy Days Are Busy Days. Vegan Baking.

The sun's out in Perth this afternoon but it wasn't the case earlier on. There were clouds, grey skies and heavy lashings of rain as far as the eye could see. From my vantage point at the dining table, it made good sense to plan a day of indoor activities.

 



The local Koko Black wasn't a bad place in which to seek shelter from the elements. They also make the best mochas I've had in Perth.
 
A kitchen with views of the high street.

Whilst waiting for my takeaway coffee (which was delivered Claremont style on a silver tray), I had a chance to peer into the kitchen for some baking inspiration. Marble cooking surfaces, a basket of lemons and a gleaming white KitchenAid...... Along with my coffee, they helped fuel my power grocery and baking ingredient shop at Coles.

 


My baking project today was sort of healthy and thankfully involved flour (see previous post on my epic fail peanut butter cookies for the reason why flour is my friend). Inspired by the Girl Who Cooks and having found a few super ripe avocados in the house, I decided to use this recipe for a vegan Avocado Chocolate Cake. The recipe calls for one cup of mashed avocado, which works out to be one avocado. I simply mashed mine with a fork rather than use a food processor. I did however use a stand mixer instead of beating by hand as the recipe suggested.



It took just under 45 minutes for my cake to bake in an 180C fan forced oven. I was a bit worried at how black my cake looked out of the oven, I've never previousy been able to get such a richly brown chocolate cake using cocoa powder alone. Perhaps the six tablespoons of baking cocoa had something to do with it.

 

 

 

Fortunately, my cake was baked not burnt. It's very moist and dense in texture. It's not sweet at all and you could never tell that avocado is a key ingredient. I didn't make the chocolate ganache that goes with the cake, mainly to delude myself that I was being responsible and doing chocolate the healthiest way possible.

If you were planning on being slack with your avocado prep, this is what you'll see in your cake. The occasional sliver of green but otherwise an evenly crumbed cake that's very moreish.

 

 

 

Mum's retro slow cooker came to the party today by delivering another batch of chicken and vegetable soup for lunch. I think that soup singlehandedly banished the rain cloud from the sky to give us a hint of sun this afternoon.

 

And I think I'm done cooking for today. I've got a good read on my Kindle and some Offspring to catch up on.

 

Stay warm and toasty!










 

May 28, 2013

Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies - Sort Of.





Do you ever have those days where you feel that a little effort is in order when it comes to your peanut butter fix? Eating it by the spoonful straight from the jar is fine. Eating it on toast with honey is even better. However, how good would it be to go that extra mile and whip up a batch of cookies in the time it takes to make some toast?
I was having one of those extra mile moments this morning and decided to test out this three ingredient recipe for peanut butter cookies that's all over the Internet.
Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies (as per multiple sources on the word wide web)

Ingredients:
  • 1 generous cup of peanut butter
  • 1 cup of sugar (white, brown or both - I used white)
  • 1 egg
My trusty mearuing cup.



Optional ingredients include 1 teaspoon of vanilla, a pinch of salt and a pinch of bicarb. I threw caution to the wind and added all three. Which could have been why my cookies didn't rise to the occasion.





Basically, all you do is beat all the ingredients well enough to combine them. In hindsight, I think I over beat the mixture. I ended up with a grainy, heavy batter which didn't really have much hope of holding its shape.




I dropped tablespoon fulls onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. I then cross hatched the top of each round with the back of a fork.  Bake at 200C for 12 - 15 minutes, until the edges crisp up a little.
Now, this is what the final result is meant to look like...
PeanutButterCookies
www.slate.com

And this is what mine ended up looking like...


Spot the difference? 

Anyway, I know they look ugly but they actually taste pretty good.  A little on the sweet side but with a decent hit of peanut butter with each bite.  Oh, and if you're on that Paleo diet, these cookies are meant to be a-okay for you.


Have you had much sucess with four ingredient or less cookie recipes?  I think I'm going to go back to the slightly more involved recipes for future baking projects.



May 27, 2013

Afternoon Tea At Ikea. Size Zero.

 


 

You can't leave it too long between trips to Ikea and you can't pass up the chance to visit Ikea's largest store in the southern hemisphere. It's so large I got lost trying to find the car park entrance. But once inside, the store layout was reassuringly similar to the Ikea at Rhodes. Except for the fairy lights in the parents' room and the minimalist trees in the restaurant area.

 

Predictably, my first (and only) stop was for food. I'm already looking at having to pay for extra baggage for my flight back to Sydney; add a few flat packed pieces of furniture and you're looking at the equivalent of on extra ticket in baggage.

 


It didn't take long to find myself a bargain. Fifty cents for a chocolate truffle! Don't mind if I do.

 
Ikea in WA isn't part of the Ikea Family program so I had to shell out for a mug of tea which came with a Danish. While the Danish was dry and rubbery, the chocolate truffle was all kinds of good.

 

It had a rich chocolatey taste yet was as light as a feather. Well worth a try the next time you're there. I hope the truffle makes its way over east.

 

 


 

In other food news, I've been getting my Japanese fix all over the city.


Baby SSG had to make do with just having a look at the sushi train ... for now.

 

Speaking of Baby SSG and food, he's moved on from rice cereal and onto fruit purée. I'm being a lazy mother and relied on purée from the supermarket at the moment (but is it all okay if I buy organic?) until I get the right consistency on my own. The good news is, Baby SSG loves his fruit. The bad news is that anything else I feed him has to have a squeeze of fruit on it. He's even refusing to drink plain water and I'm reluctant to add purée to it or give him fruit juice at this point. Has anyone got any ideas or stories to share?


Oops! These are 00 but I had to exchange them for the 0.

 

Besides discovering (or perhaps because of) his sweet tooth, my bubbly little man is now a size zero in Bonds. Which, as any parent will tell you is the reverse of vanity sizing for adults. Bonds tends to run rather small for babies and you tend to reach sizes a few months earlier than you would in most other brands. To celebrate, I splashed out on a couple of half prices Wondersuits at Coles last week.

 

I hope all is well with you. Apologies for the infrequent posts these days. If blogged for you every day, id run the risk of being extremely repetitive and time is too precious to be wasted on reading the same old same old.

 

Have to run. A pair of small, sticky hands and a mouth(!!) wants a go on this iPad.

 

May 22, 2013

We'll Always Have Rock Cakes.

 


 

When it comes to making scones, I'm a bit of a dunce. I just can't help overdoing things. I over knead the dough, I over flour each time I cut out my scone discs and I aways go overboard with the addition of dried fruit. I've always been a bit envious of my fiends at work who effortlessly turn out perfect batches of scones before work which they then share with the rest of us for morning tea, complete with a pot of jam and a tub of cream on the side.

 

This morning, my mum needed to bring something in for morning tea at her work. We needed something quick that would be perfect with a cup of mid morning tea. I didn't want to chance it with my scones, so I decided to have a go at another classic Australian baked good, the rock cake.



Mix and Melt Rock Cakes (from Best Recipes)

 

To make 2 dozen cakes, you will need:

 

2 cups SR flour, sifted

2/3 cup sugar

125g margarine or butter, melted

1 1/2 cups sultanas (I made up the total with chopped glacé cherries and slivered almonds)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 eggs, lightly beaten

 



 
Method:
  1. Place sugar and flour into a large mixing bowl
  2. Add remaining dry ingredients. Mix slightly.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the mix and add the butter, vanilla and eggs. Mix well.
  4. Spoon tablespoon fulls onto lined baking trays. I topped mine with sugar before baking.
  5. Bake at 180C for 12-15 minutes.

 

They were so quick to make and what's not to love about the melt and mix, one bowl and a wooden spoon technique? The prep work was done before my morning mug of Moccona even had a chance to cool down.


There's also something very satisfying about seeing a batch of biscuits waiting to be baked first thing on a Wednesday morning.
 
 
Even Baby SSG took a moment out of his morning giggle and babble session to take a closer look.

 


 

Mum loved them and I've just had one for afternoon tea. This recipe makes a very crumby textured rock cake. Whilst other versions feature cinnamon and other spices, I much prefer the simple, homely taste of vanilla essence alone. The glacé cherries and slivered almonds worked well.

 

You know what? Perhaps I don't need to fret about refining my scone making technique. I've got rock cakes instead.

 

May 21, 2013

A Mug of Tea. Breakfasts.

 

Have you ever had one of those days where, if you could, you'd put the kettle on and make a large mug of tea for google and the internet in general? Because it must be such hard and draining work, neither of them would have time to scratch themselves, let alone scrabble around for a tea bag in the office tea room.

 


Well, I made that mug of tea today and drank it on their behalf.
 
Perhaps I should elaborate. This morning, my iPhone developed the dreaded black screen of death. It suddenly refused to turn on and nothing I did to it could get rid of that blank screen of blackness. These things happen always happen at the worst possible time, don't they? My mind went into overdrive as the implications of my dead phone crossed my mind. Months of baby photos gone, being uncontactable the day after I'd left messages for friends to call me, the thought of having to visit an Apple store with a pram and baby in tow....
 
And just when my head was threatening to explode, google calmly stepped in to save my day and my phone. It turns out the sure fire way to fix 'black screen' is to press both the power switch on the top right corner of the phone and the circular master button on the front for a full 10 seconds. The white apple icon should then appear on screen and you're back in business.
 
In even more dramatic (!!) news, there's been a slight change to my breakfast lineup. I'm taking a break from Weetbix with my yoghurt and having BelVita breakfast biscuits instead. Goodbye, soggy wheaty stuff that doesn't always get enough yoghurt on it and hello crisp biscuits that I dip into my yoghurt instead. I've tried the cranberry and fig varieties of BelVita so far and of the two, fig is my favourite.
 
And so another day in Perth has come and gone. The endless blue sky over the river, the space and the easygoing speed at which my little corner of the city strolls at are so very calming, it's going to be hard to snap back into Sydney speed. Thank goodness I've go a few more weeks here.

 

May 19, 2013

And Then There Were Cronuts.....


I don't know where I'd be without my daily fix of the Mail Online. Whether it's celebrity gossip, the low down on retail trends in the UK or even.... major world news (listed in order of priority, of course) - you can count on the Mail to tell it like how they think it should be.

www.thrillist.com


The highlight of today's issue would have to be these visions of butter pastry and cream. Trademarked already, cronuts are taking New York City by storm. You can get the low down here.


marivelous.me


A hybrid doughnut / croissant, cronuts consist of layers of croissant like pastry shaped into a donut, fried and then filled with layers of vanilla cream. The finishing touch is a dusting of rose petals. It's only a matter if the before we see a version of these in Australia, I reckon. Or else, I've just found the perfect reason to head back to New York.

 

 

 

In baking adventures on domestic soil, my rediscovery of retrotastic cooking appliances in my mum's kitchen continues. I dusted off mum's Kenwood mixer from the seventies yesterday. It's onto it's second motor but is still a demon at creaming sugar with butter. It's funny how present day KitchenAid mixers look more old school than this Kenwood model. Perhaps its because baking these days is a pursuit we tend to associate with the 'simpler', more certain times of the past and appliance designers see fit to perpetuate this notion.

 

Is this limited edition tomato and sweet chilli sauce the best thing since sliced bread (but before cronuts)? Quite possibly. I'll have to stock up when I get back to Sydney.

 

 

There is a little bit of Paris in Perth, after all. The search for today's mid morning skinny cap took me to the other end of the suburb where I found Barrett's Bakery, another one of those local institutions from my pre Sydney life. Famed for their bread, I did what the French often do and got myself a freshly baked baguette to take home for lunch.


www.facebook.com


Fellow Offspring fans, our moment has come. Season four starts on Channel Ten this week. My plan is to hoard the next few episodes on my iQ and have a marathon session of back to back episodes on one of those cold and wet wintry Sundays I know are coming our way. So I guess I'll be giving Twitter a wide berth in case I read a spoiler by mistake.

 




 

May 17, 2013

The Forty Year Old Slow Cooker. A Day Without Chai.

 

 

 

What's not to love about a kitchen appliance that's still going strong in its forties?


Meet my mum's retrotastic Sanyo Slow Cooker. It's got all the features I love most about appliances from that era. That orange heating unit, the brown enamelled cooking bowl, the fabric coats power cord, even the font on the heat dial. Mum's slow cooker has survived three children and three house moves. Despite the signs of wear on the outside, the glassware is without a single crack or chip - which is more than I can say for my five year old model.

 

Mum unearthed the slow cooker this morning when we decided that it was perfect weather for chicken soup. As she got to work giving it a clean, I chopped the ingredients for our soup. It was just like the old days when I lived at home and would give mum a hand in the kitchen to prepare dinner after she'd come in from a long day at work.


Speaking of long days, I had a dire situation in the pantry earlier this week. A lone T2 Chai teabag with a whole day ahead of me. I usually have two (or more) mugs a day and the thought of being reduced to a single drink was almost enough to make me cancel the rest of the day. I've only recently discovered chai and I think I'm making up for lost time. I like the smoky, heady warmth in its taste. It has more soul than the black teas I usually drink yet it's more subtle with its flavours than coffee.
 

 
It was a long Thursday without my chai but today we were brought back together in spectacular fashion. I wasn't taking any chances with running out again during this stay in Perth so I bought a tin of 60 tea bags just in case.
 

 

May 15, 2013

The Budget. Mothers Days.

 


Well ahoy there! It's felt like ages since I've last posted.

 

I've been on strict rations with my mobile data allowance these last few days which explains my absence from the blog. Too much fancy wifi-ing via my mobile phone by the looks of things. Fortunately, I'm now a day and a half out from the start of a new billing cycle with megabytes to fritter away so let's do this.

 

How have you all been? Besides waiting for the Federal Budget, I mean. The projected deficit is currently some crazy number - around $20 billion?! Then again, that was from today's paper. Who knows what it will be by the time I finish this post. Whatever the case, it looks like Mr Swan and Co. are feeling even less love for me than they did in the last budget (if that's even possible).

 


 
With that in mind, I've been applying myself to the art of austerity. As exemplified by my bottle of J&J baby oil. It was my go to makeup remover back in my student days and by jingo, it still works a treat in everything. Even those hardcore mascaras that practically renovate you entire lash line with the flick of a wand.

 

Does Pantene count as pinching pennies? It's all relative I guess. I've noticed that the supermarkets are now stocking spendy hair care these days so under $5 a bottle for Pantene looks frugal in comparison. I've mixed things up by trying the Nature Fusion conditioner with my old faithful Aqua Light shampoo. The Nature Fusion range has a lovely honey scent.

 

It's been Mothers Days for me this week. I'm blessed to have so many strong, generous and inspiring mothers in my life. So many that it has taken me most of this week to catch up with them all.

 

It's not a family lunch at my Aunty's unless her made from scratch spring rolls are on as entree.

 

Mothers Day proper was at my Aunty's house. We had a steam boat lunch on the back verandah, surrounded by my uncle's amazing citrus trees and herb garden. The next day, Baby SSG and I were guests of honour at a 'ladies lunch' at my parents' house. Many of the ladies present were the women who shaped my childhood with that blend of straight talking (delivered with tablespoons of love) and delicious home cooked food that you don't realise how much you miss and treasure until you're given it all again as an adult woman and new(ish) mother of one.

 

I've also caught up with my beautiful friends from uni and school who've barely changed except for their uncanny ability to maintain the thread of a conversion through squeals, tumbles and urgent requests for their attention from the children who've brought so much joy and contentment to their lives. Yes, we're all just a little different from our glory days at uni and then when we were flush with the freedom our first pay cheques from work bought us.

 

 


 

Speaking of mothers, I entered a new phase of my own fledgling motherhood today. I started Baby SSG on solids. It was a pretty smooth introduction actually. Baby SSG took to the concept of a spoon and organic baby rice like a discerning foodie. He's obviously got his parents' food loving genes. Barely a mess was made as those spoonfuls made it into his mouth and stayed put. I am told though, that the real fun begins when those curious, constantly moving hands decide to do the feeding for themselves.

 

 

 

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