Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring baking! Chocolate Eclairs!

Second time lucky with these eclairs!! I found the dough a little tricky the first time, despite having made choux pastry a couple of times before. It seemed to be a denser dough this time and didn't rise as much. It appears that many of the other daring bakers found this too.

I used leftover chocolate pastry cream and glaze from the previous batch for my second batch, and I found the chocolate glaze a lot easier to deal with when it had been cooled. It was still pretty gooey, but that added to the deliciousness as they were wonderfully messy!

These were delicious, I'd definitely consider making them again. I filled half with just whipped cream and these were probably my favourite.

I also took a few and filled with scrambled eggs and bacon and topped with mozzarella as a special treat for my husband who isn't interested in sweet things, he was very happy with these little treasures!

They definitely worked a lot better piped onto parchment than waxed paper, the first batch all stuck to the paper, which was frustrating. I also ignored the tricky instructions about keeping the oven door open, it was hot enough as it was without an open oven door!!

Thanks so much to the lovely Meeta and Tony, who
devised the challenge for this month. It was a fun challenge and nice to do something that wasnt terribly time consuming but involved some tricky techniques!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wilton classes, last class of part 1

This one was a tricky one, I was really exhausted after a very busy week. The rose was the main purpose of the class and I was making a pigs ear of it. I think it made it harder that the icing was a bit too stiff so it was hard to pipe, but I was very frustrated with myself. The cake didn't look too bad as the final product, but I wished I'd done some hand exercises as training before I attended the class!

I highly recommend attending these classes at Michaels, its a total steal! I cant wait to use all the interesting techniques I learned, although I'm not sure I'll be sticking with the Wilton Crisco f

usual I bent the rules, making a delicious caramel cake with caramel frosting, which came out a creamy beige color. I colored it pink to go with the 'wilton way' and did white roses instead of the reverse.

Tina was enjoying a little rest up high away from us and andy snapped a picture. Bless!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mama's Kitchen-Giving something back

After finishing my bike ride, and raising lots of money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I was trying to think of something I could do to help the community.

Mama's kitchen seemed the perfect opportunity. Its an organisation that feeds people who are affected by AIDS or other critical illnesses. They make up a meal and put it in a food parcel that volunteers deliver to people who cant cook for themselves three times a week. It seemed like a wonderful idea, to be able to help people with healthy nutritious food.

I did my first shift today, I didnt manage to stay long as I had to rush off to work, but it seemed like a really nice atmosphere amongst the volunteers and I already met some really nice people. I think this is going to be a very rewarding experience.

This time I was helping to add fruit to bags, and carefully bagging up a mixture of greens and tomatoes. Hopefully one day I'll get to help with some cooking, but we'll see!

This is a really nice way to give back to people in need and make some new friends. I'm sure they are always looking for people to help with the food parcels(mon, wed, fri 8.30-) and to help deliver food, and to collect food on the various food drives. All you need to do is attend an hour long orientation, fill in a form with a couple of references, and then you're ready to go.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Poppies for Poppy!

I'm a very proud aunt to the delightful little Poppy, who is just a few days old. My brother and sister-in-law are just chuffed to bits with her, if a little spaced out from lack of sleep.

Its a little surreal thinking of my little brother being a daddy, but I think it will be a change for the better, he'll make a wonderful caring father.

The whole family is just so excited for them and I thought a fitting tribute would be to make some lemon poppy seed cupcakes with poppy decorations.

What a shame they are so far away in Melbourne, Australia! I think I'll have to bite the bullet and buy an insanely expensive ticket to see them all in the New Year.

I recently caved and bought Hello Cupcake! which is just such a fun little book with lots of tips on making creative cakes, I cant wait to try some of the super cute cupcakes!

This time I just wanted a nice little cupcake with a fluff of frosting and a poppy on top. I had some colored marzipan, so I shaped the petals with that and piped some chocolate frosting in the middle, scoring with a toothpick to get the trademark poppy center. The marzipan isnt quite as forgiving as maybe fondant would be but it certainly tastes better! The poppies wilted a little overnight.

They came out pretty good. The 7 minute frosting is very common, so it was good to give it a try. Very similar to a buttercream, but it just misses out the last step of adding a ton of butter to it. I think it needed something to temper the insane sweetness. Maybe I should have tried adding the juice of a lemon to tart it up a bit.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes (from Hello Cupcake) makes 12

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp poppy seeds

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

2 oz cream cheese

2 oz butter (or 1/2 stick, 4 tbsps)

3/4 cup sugar

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 med/large eggs (I found the smallest from my pack of large eggs!)

1/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350f, line 12 muffin tins with cupcake liners

Combine sugar and lemon zest in the mixer and mix up to release zest. Add butter and cream cheese and beat until light and fluffy

Meanwhile, mix together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating in between. Beat until fluffy again.

Add half of the flour to the bowl and just mix until combined. Add the milk, mix a little, then the rest of the flour and mix just until incorporated.

Divide between the 12 cups and bake for 15-20 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack.

Seven Minute Frosting (from Hello cupcake), makes 4 1/2 cups

1 stick (8 tbsps butter)

1 cup sugar

2 tbsps corn syrup

2 tbsps water

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Set a saucepan onto boil. Place the ingredients in a heat proof bowl (I used my kitchenaid bowl) and whisk vigorously over gently simmering water until very warm. Transfer to the mixer and whip until light and fluffy. This should take about 7 mins! Serve the day it is made.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Scary Clowns!

Its week two of the Wilton class, I was instructed to bring another white cake with white frosting. Of course I rebelled again. I'm currently going through a phase of being obsessed with red velvet cake. I'm not sure why, that amount of red color just gives me the creeps, but I cant get it out of my head. I decided to use the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, she's always doing delicious things.

I did try a 'crumb coat' for the first time, which was very good and very worthwhile, I also dipped the spatula in boiling water and smoothed it and was very happy with the finish I got.

I took it to class and we made the scary clowns, which are easier than I thought, deeply disturbing that they are! I had a piping malfunction with a hole in a bag, which I decided would be very cute as silly string!

Please see Smitten Kitchen for the recipe, I followed it exactly and I'm very happy with the outcome, its a delicious cake! My colleagues were also very appreciative!

As you can see, even Tina was quite interested, I guess the cream cheese frosting smelled nice to her.

I'm still hellbent on trying to find a natural colour, I hope I can succeed with beetroot, maybe even replacing a cup of oil with a cup of cooked blended beetroot.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Almond Peach and Cherry Teacakes

I still had some egg whites and almond flour left and I wanted to try another take on the adorable tea cakes that I found on fresh from the oven. As I mentioned, they were a little on the salty side, and they were also a little too decadent for an every day snack with the butter and almonds, so I lightened them up a little, I loved the cherries in them but didnt love the pits in there, so I pitted them and added chopped peaches. Delicious and healthy!

They would be perfect for a picnic, I'll be taking them to bookclub.

Mini Cherry & Almond Tea Cakes adapted from Fresh from the Oven
Makes 24 mini muffin sized cakes and 6 regular ones, or around 18 larger cakes.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cups almond flour (the kind with the skins still on.
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
5 large egg whites
8 oz non-fat milk
1/2 tsp almond essence
30 sweet (Bing) cherries (pitted or not)
2 chopped peaches

Preheat the oven to 350f
Grease a mini muffin pan and 6 holes in a regular muffin tin
Whisk together the dry ingredients
Whisk together the milk, eggs and almond essence until frothy.
Combine the two, put the batter into the muffin pans until about half-full, add a cherry to each and a couple of pieces of peach.
Bake for 10 mins for the smaller cakes and around 15 mins for the larger. When a toothpick comes out clean they are done!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Celebrity Food Show, Anaheim

Matt from Mattbites was kind enough to give out some free tickets for this event, so I thought it would be a fun day trip. I got there just as it was opening, enjoyed my acai berry beverage, then checked out the cake competition. It was really fun to see all the students working hard. It was unfortunate that some of the spectators couldnt give them enough space to work. Oh well.

I then checked out the stands, some more exciting than others. The 'jesus cookie' stand was completely baffling. Apparently they are choc a bloc with jelly beans, each of which represents a part of the bible. Apparently everyone wanted the yellow forgiveness, but I was lucky enough to get red, the blood of christ. Crikey!

I also saw a very cool chocolate company from Laguna Niguel, Downeys. They had delicious salted caramels dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. I think I'll probably return there at some point to visit a class soon.

There were a lot of 'healthy foods' with antioxidants and stuff in, and some very dubious sweetners. The most disturbing was dr grandmas, a very odd flavor and name!

I also met a very nice lady who runs a cookie company and has landed a deal with Wholefoods. She was so inspired by last years show that she decided to set up a company. Wow! Its a tempting idea!
I then watched a couple of cooking demos with lipton tea, and found myself done with the show at about 12.30. I'd snacked a little but I wanted something real so I made my way to Lee's Sandwiches for a delicious vietnamese sandwich. I chose the veggie of course, which was lovely, it had all crunchy vermicelli, carrots and tofu, and some salad in there with a couple of jalapenos and a bit of cilantro. I also had a vietnamese coffee, which was pretty strong, good to keep me going.
I drove through little saigon, did a spot of shopping, and then stopped off at the enormous South Coast Plaza for a little retail therapy on my way home. A fun day out!

my omnivores 100

Yes, I'm jumping on this bandwagon too. I'm afraid as I dont eat meat its a little on the lean side, maybe I should add a bunch of veggie stuff to even it out!! This comes from very good eating

MY OMNIVORE'S 100 (43 out of 100):
1. Venison *
2. Nettle tea (nope, I've got stung enough times though!!
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare *
5. Crocodile *
6. Black pudding (before I was a veggie, breakfast of champions, mmm)
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho (does veggie at sipz count?)
13. PB&J sandwich (too many on bike centuries!!)
14. Aloo gobi mmm
15. Hot dog from a street cart*
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (oh dear, brings back memories of mum's lethal but good elderberry wine!)
19. Steamed pork buns*
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras *
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn or head cheese*
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar*
37. Clotted Cream Tea
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail*
41. Curried goat*
42. Whole insects (does on my bike count?!)
43. Phaal
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more
46. Fugu *
47. Chicken tikka masala*
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (ick-once is enough!)
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal *
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine *
60. Carob chips (gag)
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads*
63. kaolin
64. Currywurst *
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs *
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis*
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings or andouillette*
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost or brunost*
75. Roadkill*
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie*
78. Snail (tempted after reading knife fork and spoon)
79. Lapsang Souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom Yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu
85. Kobe beef*
86. Hare *
87. Goulash (veggie version)
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam*
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa (Gotta look this one up. Regular harissa, yes.)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano*
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake*

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Weekend Cat Blogging and Wilton Classes

Thought I'd take a picture of Tina surveying the garden in the morning, she has to have a walk around and a sniff to make sure everything is ok before she gets down to some serious napping.

I also got to work on my first wilton class. I am rubbish at piping, so I thought I'd start the wilton classes at michaels. They are very reasonable, just $21 for the first set of four two hour classes, plus materials. I was lucky enough to have a 40% and a 25% coupon, so I got everything I needed for a very reduced price. I decided on the proper box for all the piping tips which also included nearly everything I needed for the first class. You can also buy the basics for $25.

I was told to bring a basic yellow cake out of a box with blue icing. Of course this sounded a bit ghastly so I rebelled and made a delicious new recipe I've been meaning to try, which had a tasty icing which was more of a creamy color. The cake was supposed to have really bright colors and I was very relieved when the instructor suggested I went with pastels. Here's a great example of what its supposed to look like.

I'm pretty happy with my first attempt although I have a lot of practice to do with the writing!!

The wilton classes seem fun although I have a lot of trouble getting past the disgusting icing you have to make with a cup of crisco and a pound of powdered sugar. It makes me gag! Hopefully I'll be making tasty cakes and we'll just scrape the icing off!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Little Cherry Tarts!

I saw these little delights on fresh from the oven, and I knew I had to try them! I had a big box of cherries in the fridge, lots of almond flour, and I wanted something nice for my afternoon snacks next week.

They are absolutely lovely! I did find them very salty indeed, I'm not sure where I went wrong, I followed the recipe exactly, substituting amaretto for cherry liquer. I think I'd try these with half the salt next time.

Monday, August 11, 2008


This place was awesome! There was some discussion on Chowhound about how great it was there, and I finally decided to go check it out. Its really nice and close to our house too, which is always a big plus.

We arrived early and walked through the amazing entrance, and found it pretty empty. It turned out that its a real night owl venue and we're just dorky old people now. It seemed to be getting a lot busier when we left around 10. The decor was just wonderful, I couldnt stop looking around at all the cool mirrors and stylish design touches.

We sampled quite a few of the cocktails and loved all of them. I very much enjoyed the pimms cocktail, the mojito was tops, the moscow mule (see pic) was good and my husband managed to persuade the barman to help him on his conquest to find the bitterest drink. It was nasty but my husband loved it and it killed half the barmans taste buds, poor man.

We moved to a booth and enjoyed a plate of olives and spiced pistachios. The boys had a charcuterie with house made chorizo, salami and dry cured beef. We shared a fry plate which was delicious, tempura covered tomatoes and beans, little falafel, potatoes and a delicious almond dip.

After that I was pretty full and had the house salad, which was still quite substantial, with a delicious house buttermilk dressing and some very pretty red corn. The boys enjoyed a brandt steak and were very happy.

The desserts were a berry cobbler and an ice cream sandwich, made of two toffee cookies and some bland ice cream. I think I'd have saved the calories and had a nice cocktail instead, they weren't that great.

We know we'll be back often, it was a real fun place to hang out. The service was very attentive and we loved the extensive cocktail menu and helpful barman. It was annoying they didnt take reservations, but there was plenty of room at the bar to hang out if we ever had to wait at a table. I noticed they had a little patio at the back, but it was a little smoky for my liking.

Starlite Lounge
3175 India St San Diego, Ca 92103

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mmmm BLT

Andy didn't have his usual Sunday morning bacon fix, so I promised him a BLT for lunch instead. I made the oatmeal bread that I'd seen on Baking Bites. It was delicious if a little dense, I think I may have used whole wheat flour instead of white wholewheat. Other changes were that I used walnuts instead of pecans and I cut the honey by half as we dont like too much sweetness in our bread. Good stuff! I'm especially happy as the bacon came from happy Nieman Ranch Piggies.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summer Salads

I finally got around to making something with a mystery bag of grains I got from North Park Produce recently, I'd seen this delicious looking recipe in Gourmet magazine, and I made some veggie burgers with it. Unfortunately they were rather bland, but it sent me off in a different direction, wanting a warm salad with them and the pinto beans instead. I got some green beans in my CSA box too, so they went lovely with some roasted corn from trader joes. This was much tastier, and very wholesome too.

I also found a fennel bulb in there and have seen the shaved fennel salad everywhere on the web, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to throw them in the food processor, along with cucumbers and celery, to grate a little lemon zest, squeeze the juice and drizzle with olive oil then a dash of salt and pepper and parmesan. I think it would have been even better with something creamy like goat cheese or feta to temper the sour lemon taste with creaminess.

Kashi Salad
1 cup kashi
2 cups water
1 cup green beans, steamed
1 onion, chopped
Garlic, chopped finely
olive oil
1 1/2 cups pinto beans
1/2 cup roasted corn
Bacon Salt
Chopped Walnuts

Cook the kashi in the water for 10 mins, or until al dente. Sautee the onions for a few minutes in the olive oil, add the garlic and cook a little more. Add the green beans and corn, stir and turn the heat off. Mix everything together, adding bacon salt and pepper to taste. Great for a packed lunch or a potluck!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Delicious dinner from california produce

We stayed in and did some barbecuing this weekend, the boys cooked an inordinate amount of food, and bewise came through in spectacular fashion with the first of the season's heirloom tomatoes!

I sliced them and served them with a little mozarella, salt and pepper, basil and a drizzle of nice olive oil. Everyone loves these, even people that don't really like salad much! Mmmm

Experimenting with color-natural red velvet baby cakes

I've noticed that Red Velvet Cake appears to be a very popular choice. With some cream cheese in the fridge to be used up and a beetroot languishing in the crisper, I decided to have a go at a naturally colored one.

You can see I wasn't all together successful. There is a bit of a pink tinge, but it just seems to be mostly brown and a little dry. They were also I think I need to add more beetroot, probably in pureed form, which would also keep the cakes moist.

I used the recipe from simply recipes, a favorite of mine! I think I needed to reduce the cooking time too, they had a really nice rise and were fluffy. I halved the recipe, making 24 mini cakes, substituting some beet juice for the coloring. They were topped with a mix of 6 oz cream cheese and 2oz heavy cream and 1/4 cup sugar whipped to perfection.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Party Food!

As a vegetarian, I often like to take a dish to a party that will satisfy me completely, in case everything else is meaty. This delicious Ratatouille Tart from Ellie Krieger on the Food Network was a big hit. I love her recipes, she makes delicious food and doesn't make you feel like you need to make too many sacrifices to eat healthily.

I made a few changes, but I pretty much kept with her general recipe.

I also made a really lovely fruit tart that I found last year on Mattbites. This is a sure fire hit every time, and its so easy! I have a reputation for making really healthy food and while this is pretty healthy, butter and graham cracker crust, cream cheese and heavy cream don't exactly make for the healthiest dessert! Please see here for the recipe, I always just follow his exactly!

Ratatouille Tart Ellie Krieger
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, chopped into small pieces and chilled
3 tablespoons water

Olive oil
Cooking spray
1/2 pound thinly sliced eggplant rounds (about 1/3 medium eggplant)
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds (about 8 ounces)
3 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
1 pepper, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350f

Add cornmeal to food processor with flour and pulse a couple of times. Add butter, pulse until the butter is incorporated, followed by the water. Pulse again, then press into the base of a 9 inch tart shell.

Bake for 15 mins.

Meanwhile, spray two baking sheets with oil and arrange the vegetables for roasting, brushing with oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Increase the temperature of the oven to 400f when the cornmeal crust is done and roast for about 10-15 mins.

Arrange the eggplant onto the crust, cover with 1/3 of the cheese and half of the basil. Layer the zucchini over the top, then sprinkle on another 1/3 of the cheese and the rest of the basil. Continue with the remainder of the veggies, then sprinkle on the rest of the mozerella and the parmesan. Reduce the oven to 350f and bake for around 25-30 mins until the cheese is melted.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Carnage at the Crab Hut!

What a fun experience! It was a colleagues birthday and she suggested we all go down to Convoy to visit the Crab Hut. I was wondering why it was so empty at lunchtime, but then I realized the average office worker probably isn't going to want to go back to work covered in 'full house' seasoning and grease and shrimp juice! Since we all work in a lab, we never really go all out with our wardrobe at work, we're always sloshing chemicals all over the place!

We selected a mixed fried starter with okra, scallops, cajun fries, calamari, fish and lots of good fried stuff. It was crunchy and fresh and delicious.

The main event is ordering a bag full of seafood, usually a pound, choosing a seasoning and a heat level. You are given a bib, then you tuck into the stuff!

I ordered the 1/2 lb shrimp with the full house dressing. This was a bit bland until I dipped the shrimp in the marinade in the bag and it was delicious! Others had crab legs, mussels and crawdads, and I think everything was very much enjoyed. I'm pretty sure that the snow crab and king crab are on the list not to eat, but I mentioned it in the car on the way there and didnt want to preach!

The only thing that wasnt much good was the potato salad, it was pretty dull, but by then everyone was so full they couldn't have possibly finished it anyway!!

I highly recommend this place for a very fun lunch or dinner out! Its not exactly the healthiest of lunches, but its great every now and then!