Wednesday, December 30

Cookbook haul!

I was so lucky to receive some wonderful cookbooks for Christmas, some on my list, some lovely surprises.  2010 there are going to be A LOT of new recipes hitting my kitchen and my blog so watch out!

Here's my haul!

This one is beautiful to look at and some great bread recipes I'd love to try - Leila is a swede who lives in NYC, interesting influences, achievable recipes!  Perfect for morning and afternoon teas.

Well it had to be done!  If only for the choux pastry recipe!

Very eagerly anticipated - this is SO me, it's got a growing guide to every type of harvest you could think of for your back garden, it's Australian, so no guessing if it will work - beautiful photographs, and yummy recipes.  Much treasured!

I love Luke's recipes and I think he does a brilliant cross-over of restaurant food to home food.  He writes a lot of his influences, his mums' cooking - a surprise gem - I think this one is going to get big via word-of-mouth - and it should.

Auntie Becky (my sister) knows her sister and nieces SO well.  My girls love anything pasta, and this cookbook is a great variation of standard italian cookbook where it not only targets the kids' tastebuds but their involvement in the cooking.  Love it.

This one's more a 'wordy' cookbook than pictorial but it's a good read (so far) with giving an understanding of the care and attention to detail about ingredients and the methods of italian cooking.  Some complex recipes but mostly the K-I-S-S principle.  I'll learn from this one.

Santa knows me so well and I've often seen this (and previous versions) and almost bought it.  Probably the reason that I've hesitated is because of the lack of photos  - I'm a very visual person, but the variety and shear nature of the book (very tried and tested) is a winner.  Got some great jam and preserve recipes in there I'm definitely going to give a whirl!

Monday, December 28

Why hello!

Hope all your Christmases were fabulous.  I'm at present just winding down with my family of five, trying to find new and interesting ways to use some leftover leg ham (got a great recipe to share tomorrow, promise!) and catching up on some telly... and not even tempted by the year-end sales (got an overdose of retail in the lead-up to Christmas!)

Last couple of days I've been having some quiet reflection on the year and in particular my girls.  Given my two littlest frills have just turned four one week ago, I marvel just how much they have grown up this past year, and in particular this past few months.   I will post about this separately, as it really does need a bit of it's own space and attention.

In the Christmas preparations I also did some overdue wardrobe redistribution with many things being moved to labelled boxes for sale or passing down.   One thing I moved into a wardrobe however, was the school Uniform of my eldest little frill, Eloise.   Opening up her wardrobe now is almost like it has a stun-gun attached the the locking mechanism as I seem to stare at the uniforms hanging there, school bag and school hat at the bottom in utter disbelief.   I wonder if this will ever go away?  Possibly not?

So what are 2010-2019 going to be called?  The 'teenties'?

The naughties started with me as a single gal, in a demanding job with alot of travel, Jack Russell Terrier and a flatmate.  My hubby and I got together in 2001 after meeting in 1997, were engaged in 2002, married in 2003 and had our first frill in 2004.  2004 I lost my Puppy dog Leroy,and had a miscarriage and 2005 we welcomed our two twin little frills.  2006 we lost both my uncle and my grandmothers' partner in a span of 10 weeks.  2007 we moved here to the Hills and 2008 I returned to work for a while.  2009 I stayed at home mostly with the kids.

The 'teenties' also marks a new era for me and our family this year.  

My eldest frill going to school, me working out what to do professionally - some work at home stuff initially and then back into my *real* profession (IT consulting/project management) - my little frills are off to school in 2011..   I think we'll get on our feet financially this decade and hopefully do some travel.   I think my hubby and myself will take on a bit more professional study, him to move up and me to allow some more flexibility and diversity in my skills to work more locally or short term work to fit in more with family life.

What about you?  Plans for the teenties?  Big changes coming up in 2010?

Wednesday, December 23

Make it from Scratch Carnival #147 Christmas Edition!

Well hello everyone!

In an unprecedented absence I am pleased to report that Laura and Olivia's birthday party went swimmingly (report to follow promise!) and my Christmas is albeit done - a few presents to wrap and one ingredient to buy!  Not bad!  

I'm presenting this weeks' Make it from Scratch Carnival which invites submissions worldwide on household ways to 'make from scratch'. Anyone can submit!  See end of post for more details!

Without any further a-do - here is this weeks' carnival!

RecycleCindy over at this week had me reminiscing about crafty gifts my grandmothers used to make - I still have a few of these Christmas Towel Toppers and they are brilliant for hanging off kitchen cabinets and door knobs to keep hands dry or any general kitchen use.  Now I can make my own (when I learn to crochet of course, must put that on my new years' resolutions!)

It's all about snowmen this week (and it's strange for me because currently it's warm and summer here!) and here is a cute little craft using glass icecubes - Icecube Snowman ornament!  Cute huh?  Thanks to Jessica at the Factory Direct Craft Blog for submitting this!

Thanks to Kim the HomesteadMommy over at Homestead Acres has shared her pattern for crochet snowman tree decorations - they would also be great glued on to napkin rings I think for your Christmas table don't you think?
We didn't have one of these this year, but thinking about next year, it's great to see how simple it is to make your own Advent Calendar!  Pamela at Blah, Blah, Blog shows us how she made hers!

The Homemaking Helper this week shares one of those yummy morsels that's sure to get your festivities going off with a bang - Sausage and cream cheese mushrooms, these sound and look delicious ( and a little bit moorish!)

My friend Rina over at Gotta Little Space this week shares her recipe for Crockpot potato chowder - that does look like it will warm the cockles..!
Still on potatoes, the ultimate comfort food  - have a looksee over at Funny About Money this week.  You'll find a recipe there fit for anyones' Christmas table: Crockpot scalloped potatoes - hold the canned soup!

If you're more of a potato traditionalist, or you don't have a crockpot you can't miss the submission from Amanda at My Daily Diner this week - Creamy-Cheesy-Scalloped Potatoes.  *drool*
If you're looking for shortcuts for the dinner table this week - look no further than this easy creamed spinach recipe from Chief Family Officer.   We luckily, have so much spinach (silverbeet) in the garden we won't need to buy frozen, but those of you up there in the Northern Hemisphere - it's a great alternative when it's not in season!

Now talking of soup, have you ever thought of preserving your own home made ones?  It's not a common practice here in Australia but it looks super easy!  Thanks to Kim the Homestead Mommy - she shows us how she makes her Homemade Canned Beef Soup over at her blog - Homestead Acres. Here's the VIDEO!

Katie over at Kitchen Stewardship has been cookie spotting!  Head on over and see recipes for a healthier Christmas alternative: Wholewheat chocolate chip cookies 
If you don't mind a guilty indulgence (especially at this time of the year!) try out Kristia's Chocolate Whoopie Pies over at her blog Family Balance Sheet!  It's her mothers' recipe and if you ask me, look absolutely irresistible!
Have you ever thought about making your own coconut milk?  Not me!  But if you'd like to - Thailand Breeze explains how!
Gramma Greenjeans at Better Gardens than Home obviously knows I have two trays of peaches sitting in my kitchen! This week she's submitted her recipe for Homemade Peach Cobbler! Nom-nom!! Thank you!

Oh my I love this!  Cyndi at Mixed Media Artist shows us how to make a journal or scrapbook cover made out of the most amazing things!  This week it's a circuit board!  Now if you have a geek in your life who has everything, this might be a winner for you - how cool!

Crafty Rose from Fine Craft Guild has assembled a range of easy, achievable handmade Christmas presents for her this week.  From stamping, to knitting and sewing -  there might be something you can make for a quick stocking filler or for that person who has everything!
Brooke from Ramblingbrooke is obviously queen of the scarves!  This week she shares her tips for making your own faux fur scarf!  Very stylish yes?
Here's a scarf idea if you love to recycle - Make your own 'Necklush' Knockoff (aka turn and old t-shirt into an awesome scarf) presented by Emily at Insert Catchphrase Here.

Thank you to all those who submitted this week - please don't forget to use the social media  buttons at bottom (twitter, stumble, delicious, Technorati) to spread the love and generate more interest in both the carnival and individual submissions!

Next weeks' carnival will be held at Frugal Changes - submit by clicking this link!

Tuesday, December 15

Let the festival of food colouring begin!

Been a bit quiet lately haven't I?

It's not that I don't love you (my readers) or my blog anymore.  I do!  I miss it!  I'm just ridiculously busy!   All the last minute Christmas stuff - posting interstate presents (just how long an Australia post queue could get was frightening in my experience today!)  We also have my mother in law coming to stay next week, and my parents and sister and neices travelling into town this weekend, so I want to enjoy the week leading up to Christmas as much as possible (hubby is off work also) so I'm cramming this week.

Christmas shopping is almost done.  I'm so pleased, relieved, elated to report.  Just a few nick-nacks left and no stress!

Now for the big stuff.

 My tiniest frills are FOUR next Monday!  Their party is this Saturday - and they want a RAINBOW party.  Apparently it's all about rainbows if you're four.  So I have been wrought with indecision about what I should do for their party food.

It's so tempting to be a tad lazy given there's so much other cooking going on but it's not just one child, it's TWO and they deserve a birthday like their big sister who luckily has hers well away from everyone elses' in June.

So this is the menu (so far)
Rainbow Cakes in shape of 4 (2 of these, you need your own cake you know!)
Rainbow Jelly arches
Rainbow icecream cones
Rainbow Marshmallow bags
Fairy bread
Party Franks and sauce
Sandwich rolls
Sweets and crisps

Any other suggestions?  I know this is a lot of junk and sugar, but you know what?  My girls eat very well normally with not a lot of treats (albeit home-made ones!) and definitely sweets only happen at birthdays, Easter and Christmas, so I figure "ahh - what the heck!"  The good news is that the party is 10am-noon which means that the participants and run off all that sugary-energy and have some hope of getting to sleep that night.

Sunday, December 13

Sunday Baking Project: Honey Chocolate Celebration Cake

You probably won't believe this, but I'm not much of a cake person.  I mean I love to make them, but I seldom eat more than the obligatory piece to check it turned out right...  This cake however I think will have me eating at least a few pieces.  It resembles somewhat of a toblerone style with the honey and chocolate combination, but it's so warm on tastebuds, you will be licking your fingers - that is, if you don't eat the cakemix first (Oh my, it's scrumptious!)

I like making cakes as gifts - there's something so loving about giving someone a cake I think.  Someone who needs a lift or a special way to say thank you - it always put a smile on the face of whoever you give it to.  I made two of these cakes (the recipe below is for one) one for us, and one as a gift... to give it a bit of Christmas cheer I used a cookie cutter and some royal orchard icing, and sifted pure icing sugar to decorate.  I will also add some silver glitter just before I deliver it also.. looks magical that way.

The actual cake recipe is from

125g butter, softened

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

  • 3/4 cup honey

  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • Chocolate icing

  • 1 cup icing sugar

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 1 tablespoon hot water

  • Method

    1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line your cooking pan - you could use a lamington pan or large loaf pan, I used a small spring-form tin.
    2. Using an electric or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each. Add honey. Beat well.

    Sift flour and cocoa over butter mixture. Fold into butter mixture until combined. Stir in milk until combined.

    1. Spoon into pan. Smooth surface. 

    1. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand in pan for 5 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool.
    2. I cut the top off my cakes to make them flat, and freeze before icing, less crumbs!   Turn cut top bottom down to decorate:
    Chocolate icing:
    Melt 100grams of dark chocolate in the microwave, but breaking up, putting in a microwave safe bowl and microwaving for 1 minute on medium-low power setting. Stir, and repeat.

    Add 2 tb of cream, stir. 

    Add 1/4 cup sifted pure icing sugar - this gives it a grainy texture - which I like if I'm adding glitter or icing sugar on top - but if you're not - omit.

    Place overlapped squares of baking paper underneath the perimeter of your cake - this allows you to decorate on the serving plate, and remove the mess once decorate.

    Pour entire icing on top of cake and smooth to edges and side. Use a knife run under hot tap to smooth if icng starts to set.

    Remove paper and decorate as desired!

    Friday, December 11

    Festive Friday - Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

    Aren't these a picture?  Wouldn't YOU like to receive these?  Now that I've made them, I will answer for you.. YES you would!!

    This recipe makes about 35-40 biscotti - great  if you want to give away a lot or if you're like me, would like a stash for home, and a stash for gifts. If you don't, well half this recipe!

    Recipe adapted from

    1 1/3 cup white sugar
    4 large eggs
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 1/2 cups plain flour
    3/4 cup  shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped (I used one packed sunbeam)
    3/4 cups dried cranberries (I used craisins)

    Preheat oven to 180 degrees c

    Put eggs and sugar into electric mixer and mix on high for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy, then add in vanilla extract and beat for further minute.

    In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

    Then fold in your dried cranberries pistachios (I like mine whole but you can have chopped if you wish!)

    Next, fold in the egg mixture bit by bit until all in combined.  This takes a strong arm!

    Pour out onto a lightly floured surface and make into two logs.  Place onto greased tray.

    Reduce oven temperature to 165 degrees and bake in oven on middle shelf  for about 30 minutes, until top is golden and crusty, but not burnt.  Leave to cool for 20 minutes.

    When cooled, turn onto chopping board and slice loaves into 1.5cm thicknesses. regrease tray and lay out flat (You will probably need 2 trays) Return, one tray at a time to the middle rack of the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, take out, then turn over biscuits and repeat.

    Leave to cool completely and store in airtight container, these also freeze very well.

    Watch out, quite moorish!!

    Thursday, December 10

    Our Vegetable Garden - Update#1 December in pictures

    Well I must admit we have done little to the vege garden in the past few weeks other than water it, and harvest from it.  And in theory that should be enough but we really do need to weed.   I think that's this weekends' agenda as well as transplanting the onions.

    But man, in two weeks has it GROWN!!  Tomatoes alone are 5ft tall and very thick!

    Here are the ears of corn - about 10cm tall now and growing nice and fat.  Gorgeous.  So proud of these as we grew from seed.

    We have started to harvest the rocket (below at right) and the silverbeet will be ready very soon.. in fact we plan to use some on the weekend for a spinach dip.

    Leeks, we've harvested one, and I think we'll be eating these a lot in the coming weeks as they're ready to come up.

    And here just some of the tomatoes!  (Tomatoberries) in hindsight we have planted the tomatoes too close together this year, but it's not affecting harvest, just hard to access.  We're eating them every day at the moment, picking two or three.  There seriously is no more beautiful or flavoursome tomato than one directly from your garden!

    Here's a pic of our first tomato we picked, a grosse lisse about 10cm in diameter.

    The cos lettuces are a regular feature on the dinner table too at the moment - lovely and sweet.  Again, I planted close together and they've grown a bit vertical, funny looking but taste and grow the same volume!

    Here are the celery - we have about 4-6 weeks I think until this is ready to harvest.. looks magnificent though!

    Rhubarb is along the same lines as as the celery will be a January/February harvest.

    On the other side of the garden is the baby cos, looking beautiful, as soon as the regular cos are thinned out we'll start eating these.  We will not need to buy any lettuce this summer!

    The climbing beans are well and truly living up to their namesake and they've started to weave their way in and out of the net!  Will look pretty anyways!

    And here's our first beans growing!

    'The patch'.  Pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchinis and watermelon.  LOTS of flowers.

    The butternut pumpkin are going crazy!

    Here's the eggplant, it's flowering also, fruit soon! (watermelon in foreground, herbs and seedlings in background)

    And lastly but not leastly, here are our fruits outside the opera house:

    Passionfruit finally planted and staked - 4 varieties, 7 plants - next year will be big for passionfruit, and it will cover the unsightly back fence - the neighbours chopped down the magnificent yellow flowering shrub that used to be there.

    And our one peach !! (the others have been taken by the cockatoos!!)


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