Monday, 23 June 2014

Back to Basics

Hello and Good Morning to you all!  This week I am lucky enough to be involved in a wonderful expo organised by a good friend of mine - "Back to Basics".  There will be heaps of stalls there where people can find out about living savvy and sustainably.  You can find out more here.

I will be doing a stall with homemade vegetable soup, pumpkin soup and pumpkin scones.  People will be able to have a taste, take some recipes and also view my cookbook - only have a few left so will be taking orders!

Anyways, if you are in the Ashburton area on Saturday afternoon, I hope you do pop in and have a look.  It's free entry and I'm confident you will go home inspired!  There will be preserving, recycling, natural remedies, power saving, DIY and much more!

I have done a little experimenting this week.  Coconut sugar is something I have been wanting to try for a while and my girlfriend bought some the other day and gave me a bit to try.  This wasn't in granulated form as we expected - though have since found out you can get it that way.  It was more like a dough really.  I have used it in some biscuits and a slice.  Didn't turn out too badly either.

Chocolate swirl biscuits

1/2C coconut sugar
50g butter
1tsp vanilla
1 1/4C flour
1tsp baking powder
1/3C chocolate drops

Heat sugar, butter and vanilla in a saucepan over a low heat until combined.  Add flour and baking powder, mix then when almost combined, add chocolate.  It will start melting so stir quickly.
Roll into balls and flatten.  Bake for 10-15 mins at 180C

*This does get messy with the chocolate melting so you may want to use gloves or spoons.

Apricot and Date Bars

This recipe is from the FB sensation "Feed a family of 6 for under $20" and I just changed a few things :)

1C rolled oats
1C cornflakes
1/4C dried apricots
1/4C dates
1/4C raisins
50g butter
1/4C coconut sugar
1/4C golden syrup
pinch of cinnamon
1tsp vanilla
1/2C dark choc

Preheat oven to 180C and line slice tin.
Put oats, cornflakes, cinnamon and fruit cut into bits into a bowl.
Heat sugar, butter and golden syrup in saucepan.  Allow it to simmer for a few minutes.
Add vanilla.
Pour into dry ingredients and mix well.
Press into tin and bake for 15mins.
Allow it to cool before drizzling with melted chocolate.

Just the two recipes for now, but do keep an eye on my page where I put up different recipes all the time :)  Have a great week and I hope to see you on Saturday!  Happy Cooking!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Forever Hopeful

What an interesting weekend I have had!  My darling daughter turned two on Saturday and we had a family get together for it.  I spent a very long time the night before preparing her cake.  This is what it was meant to look like:

I of course decided that I didn't need to see the pic again and did it from memory.  I didn't really think too much about the shape of the car - I should have rounded it off on the edges.  The wheels didn't look how I'd hoped they would, and so I kinda gave up and just went "That'll do".  It wasn't until then that I decided to have a look at the original picture.  As you can see, mine is not quite to par!  But Kaylee loved it and that's all that matters.

However, on the day, Kaylee thought she would help herself to the cake instead of waiting for me to bring it out.  I caught her in the pantry, with the cake off the shelf, off the plate and on the floor - still up the right way I might add - and she was pulling the lollies off of it!  The cake was then labelled "Floor Cake" and was a running joke for the rest of the day.  Good times.

In her defence - we had done a photo shoot "cake smash" earlier in the week, where she had the whole cake to herself (and her sister after a while) and they ate it sitting on the floor.  Perhaps she was re-living this fun day!

The other awesome thing to happen was that I picked up my Organic order on Friday!  Oh My Gosh!  My cupboards are so full right now, it's fantastic!  And the taste of some of that organic stuff is A-Maze-Ing!  Dried apricots and raisins are so much plumper and have much better flavour than regular run of the mill supermarket brand stuff.  The apricots had an almost purple colour to them and taste like a cross between a date and an apricot.  The raisins are not gritty and are twice the size of supermarket ones.  My kids are loving it!  I've been making everyone try them :)

On that note, I used the apricots to make a Dried Apricot Jam, which tastes almost like a marmalade.  I also made some Green tomato chutney, a sausage cassoulet, and some shortbread biscuits.

The jam is the recipe from the Edmonds cookbook - only I used Organic Demerera Sugar instead of white sugar.  Gives it a caramelly (yes I'm making up a word) flavour.

Dried Apricot Jam
250g dried apricots chopped
2 3/4C water
1/2C lemon juice
440g tin crushed pineapple
3 1/2C demerera sugar (or white if you want to stay traditional)

Soak apricots in water for 12 hours - I didn't soak as long as these are not as dry as other apricots and they were really soft after only a few hours.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 20mins.  Add lemon juice and pineapple.  Return to the boil.
Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Boil briskly, stirring occasionally, until setting point is reached.

Now as you know, I've had trouble recently getting my jams to set - this is no different I'm afraid.  I think I get too impatient and worry that I'm going to overcook it.  This time though I think I needed a bigger pot cause I had to keep turning it down a bit to stop it popping jam all over the stove!

My chutney I have not tried yet, so I'll wait before I give that recipe.

The sausage cassoulet is one of Jamie Oliver's recipes.  I made a double batch so that we could have it two nights for dinner.  This is one of those meals that can really stretch and you could do what I did and add more veges to make it go even further.

6 slices of streaky bacon chopped
4 quality sausages
olive oil
2 carrots
1 red onion
1tsp sweet smoked paprika
1x 700ml jar passata
1 tin cannellini beans
1/2 bunch rosemary fresh

Preheat oven to 180C
Using an ovenproof casserole dish, place on top of stove at medium heat with a good lug of olive oil.  Add bacon and sausages and keep stirring until golden. 
Meanwhile, cut up carrots and onion.
Remove sausages and cut into three on an angle, then put back in pot with carrot, onion and paprika.  Cook for another 15 minutes.

Add passata to pan then fill half way with water and swirl around then tip that in pan also.  Drain and rinse cannellini beans and add to pan with salt and pepper.  Cover and put in oven for 20 minutes.

Pick rosemary and toss in olive oil.
Remove lid from cassoulet, sprinkle rosemary over top and put back in oven for another 30 minutes.

Serve on hot ciabatta bread or over rice.

Now as I said, I double it - I had 8 sausages, but still used the same amount of passata.  I also added leftover roast veges from the night before, which included a whole roast onion, so I omitted the red onion.
We are having this again tonight and I will put it in the slow cooker shortly to heat it up again, and will serve with cheese on top and some warm crusty bread.

Last but not least, biscuits.  Now these were for the birthday lunch.  I was sent this suggestion on FB and thought they looked fun.  As some of you may remember, I attempted some biscuits that were meant to be swirled and then rolled in 100's and 1000's last year.  These are similar only they were meant to look like butterflies.

Again, the recipe suggested is a shortbread recipe.  Any of you who have ever made shortbread will know that it is a dry recipe.  So again, I was unable to get this to work and instead ended up with striped "zebra" biscuits instead:

Here is the actual recipe:

powdered sugar, 1 cup;
• baking powder, 1 teaspoon;
• margarine, 3/4 of a cup;
• flour, 2 cups;
• corn starch, 1 cup;
• vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon;
• cocoa, 1 1/2 tablespoons;
• 1 egg;

As said before, the recipe is based on a traditional and simple cake but with a creative twist. First, stir in all, but the cocoa, in a bowl in order to prepare the dough, while the oven is preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. When the ingredients are combined in a nice mixture separate into two balls of equal size. Take the cocoa and add it in one of the balls. Put the pair of dough wrapped in some plastic for about 30 minutes in the fridge.
Remove from cooling and spread the balls into rectangles, with the cocoa layer underneath the simple one. Slice in half with a knife and roll up each of them. Press them next to each other in order to look something like a fat or bloated butterfly. Take the knife again and cut into pieces. Take each slice and press a bit together with your fingers. It should look like a proper butterfly now. Place onto a tray and bake for some minutes. Yummy and creative!

I found the dough much too dry, and knew from past experience that chilling the dough first only makes it more brittle.  I challenge you to make these and prove me wrong! 

Anywho, that's me for the day!  I hope you have enjoyed this one :)  Oh and the cookbooks had a set back on formatting so fingers crossed we will have those this week!
Have a great week and Happy Cooking!

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