Saturday, November 30

Sunday baking project: Festive Rhubarb Cupcakes with stiff cream icing

I'm getting with the Christmas spirit early - in fact I've been in Christmas preparations most of the year believe it or not, as we're going to be in New York City for Christmas this year!  So all the presents for those not coming with us are bought, wrapped and a few remaining to be delivered, and now I'm just starting to get excited!  

I made these today for our work Christmas barbecue tomorrow as  I was asked if I could make a cake. However I think cupcakes are much easier - there's no cutting and you don't need a plate, people can just pick up, and devour. I guess I could have made a Christmas cake or mince pies or something but I think you can overdose on those in the lead up to Christmas - and a lot of kids don't like them so I opted for these.  Rhubarb looks so festive, and tastes so yummy.

I put the Christmas carols on and Eloise and I started to get in the mood: Singing merrily along to 'Jingle Bell Rock' it was lovely!  

So here we go- easy, moist and a crowd pleaser - hope you give them a go!

Ingredients: (makes 24)
1 bunch (4-5 stalks) rhubarb
200g butter at room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups self raising flour
1/2 cup sour cream

1 block (250g) philadephia cream cheese
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C

Chop your rhubarb int 1/2 cm chunks or slightly thicker or smaller if you like.

Cream your butter and sugar, add vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time until it's well combined.
Add one cup of flour and mix well on a low speed.

Add sour cream and mix again on a low speed.
Yes, you can try it now if you must!  It looks spectacular - no?

Add your second cup of flour, and mix again on low.

Do NOT mix on high or you cover your kitchen in flour as Eloise discovered (while White Christmas was playing, no less!)

Lastly mix in your rhubarb.

Spoon into lined cupcake tins and bake for 20-25 minutes

I really must swap my trays over half time, the top layer got a bit more of a tan... ;)

Set to cool.

For your icing, whip your cream cheese and sugar together until well combined.

Keep whipping and gradually add your cream

When it becomes heavy and stiff, stop beating.  It should stick to your beater(s) like this and NOT drop.

Push into a piping bag with your desired tip (I used 1M) and get icing your cakes - they need to be COLD when you do this, not even warm... or your cream will melt!

Don't they look pretty?

Sprinkle now if you want to - I found some little sugar trees at a very cool cake supplies shop in Malvern Vic when I was visiting this week

Very festive!

Friday, November 29

Your busy night solution: Doner kebabs at home

My Dad once told me not to trust what was in a Doner Kebab.  "they are the bits of the animal you don't want to buy or eat' he would say.  It didn't deter me at 3am in my twenties to grab one on the way home from a boozy night... nor did it stop me for blaming that illness I had from probably a few too many cocktails on 'it must have been that doner kebab'.

These days though Doner Kebabs don't get such a bad wrap (boom-tish!).  In fact when I do need to choose something that my kids will eat in a food court/strip mall - if there is a doner kebab I will usually try and sway it that way because there's at least some salad involved and it seems, something you can recognised that isn't too over processed.

Now this doner kebab is pretty saintly.  It's has all recognisable ingredients and is great when you are rushing around after your busy day at work or after school activities.   Set this to marinade in the morning or lunchtime (I did mine the day before) and pop it in the oven.  You can even cheat a little by buying the accompaniments if you don't want to make hoummus, tzatziki or tabbouleh.

Put the ingredients on your shopping list and this recipe on your meal plan.  You'll love it!

Adapted from

1kg butterflied lamb
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1//4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 small tin crushed tomatoes

Lebanese pocket bread
Sliced tomatoes
Thinly sliced onion
grated cheese

Slice your lamb thinly.  Place into an airtight container

In a jug or small bowl add all the rest of the ingredients and stir well.

Pour over lamb and pop the lid on top.  Give it a good shake to ensure all the meat is covered.  Place in fridge for a few hours or overnight.

1 hour before serving time, heat oven to 220 degrees c.  Place the lamb in a tray/shallow casserole tray lined with baking paper, and place in the oven when the oven reaches 220 degrees (about 15 minutes depending on your oven)

Now's a good time to make tabbouleh if you want to..

At about the 30 minute mark check on your lamb, you are looking for the edges to turn dark, this is not quite yet there..

This is what it should look like!

Place lamb onto your pocket bread, down the centre. I love to sandwich mine between hoummus and tzatziki.  You may want to add a chilli sauce or cheese or... both!

When you've added everything fold one side over and roll it up.

Now I cut this up and shared it amongst two of my kids.. and of course I ate a whole one.  No leftovers which is quite sad, I will need to make double next time as the lamb is so flavourful and tender.  Not fatty either.  It would nice on it's own with just a tzatziki dollop on top!

So who feels like a doner kebab now and is going to give this a try over the weekend or next week?!

Thursday, November 28

Smooth slow cooker fudge

 There's nothing like getting busy in your kitchen after being out of it for so long.  I haven't cooked at night for ages because we made a terrible error in judgement by buying pendant lights with red inners.  Cue:  Red light district in our kitchen and very bad light!

Finally last Friday we had them changed and a few more downlights....
So I got busy in my kitchen that night and made a quick batch of slow cooker fudge.  You can make this sugar, gluten and dairy free by choosing your choc-chips carefully.  Sweet William has some great choc-chips which you could use.  I used what I had - a combination of milk and caramel choc chips (my hubby's fave).

I used this recipe as a guide, but I must say I made my life a little easier because I do not have 6 hours to wait around.  It's super easy and no fuss. The other good thing is no extra butter or sugar too and perfect for last minute gifts for Christmas

3 cups chocolate chips (I used 2 x Cadbury baking chips, 1 x Nestle Caramel bits)
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/4 cup honey
1 tb vanilla extract

Turn your slow cooker on low and add all ingredients, give it a stir and put the lid on.

After two hours, take the lid off - don't be scared!

With a whisk, give it a good going over - about 2-3 minutes

Pour into a lined tin, and leave overnight or at least a 4-5 hours until solid.  Lift out and get ready to so slice with a sharp knife.

Slice it up - make bars if you like or you could even press out shapes with cookie cutters, it's a good consistency for that.  Place into airtight container between baking paper.

Tuesday, November 26

Lunchbox legends: Shortcut apple coconut and raisin muesli bars

I've been on a bit of a muffins bender of late.  I've made the banana maple muffins a few times and made strawberry cream cheese in between.  My girls need a change.  I was going to make the cinnamon choc-chip muesli bars but when Eloise asked me the other day in the supermarket could she get some flavoured porridge I had a better idea.  Shortcut muesli bars.  She loved this idea and so we bought the Be Natural brand with pink lady apples, raisins and coconut.

I didn't want them to be so full of sugar so I sweetened it with agave nectar and brown sugar.  You could use honey instead of agave nectar.  They are simple to make and make about 15 bars.

4 cups quick oats/porridge mix of your choice
2 cups rice bubbles
200g butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 160 degrees

Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

In a bowl, mix porridge mix and rice bubbles.

Place butter, sugar, agave nectar and vanilla extract in a saucepan and heat until butter melts and the mixture starts to boil

When it looks like this remove it from the heat and add it to the dry ingredients.

Add it half at a time and mix through.

When fully combined then pour out onto your tray.

Press down with the back of a spoon (remember it's hot!) making sure you get into the edges.

Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden.  Let cool for 1 hour and then slice up!

Wrap these in strips of baking paper and place in an airtight container in the pantry for about a week.

We're taking ours along to our big week of final lessons and jazz ballet concerts - fuel on the go!

Saturday, November 23

Super easy gingerbread truffles

Oh my, oh-my-oh-my-OH-MY.  My gingerbread craziness has really kicked in this year and I've been on the hunt for a new recipe for something ginger-bread-y.  

You might have seen my forays into Gingerbread Men, Gingerbread cake, liebkuchen, Dutch Taai Taai and good ol' Gingerbread stars... I'm a gingerbread NUT.  Guilty.  THESE are my favourite discovery this year.  I saw them over at What Megan's Making and thought - hello - we need an Aussie adaptation of THAT, and STAT.

These are very easy to make and look very sweet but actually I think the white chocolate is a great compliment for the PUNCH of flavour you get from the gingernut filling.  Yes.  These are made with good ol' Arnotts gingernut biscuits.... otherwise known as jawbreaker cookies!

Only 3 real ingredients here and you'd never guess it by the taste!

2 packets arnotts ginger nut biscuits
250g (1 block) philadephia cream cheese
250g white chocolate
Decorations for top if desired.

In your food processor (or thermomix) process the ginger nut biscuits.  As they are very hard I suggest pulse to start with and then full process.

Then add your cream cheese and process until well combined.  It will resemble moist sand.

Get out some baking paper, and if you have little helpers or are OCD and like everything to be the same-ish size like me - draw a circle on your paper.  This will give your kids a guide to how big the truffles should be.

Get rolling!  Very easy :)

Many hands make light work but sometimes, it's easier doing it with one.. but my girls love gingerbread too so there was no stopping them...

Then melt your white melts - I do mine in the microwave - 1 minute on 50% power, take out, stir, return for another minute on 50% power, stir - if not fully melted put it back for 30 seconds.

Get your decorations at the ready - Megan used some reserved crumble mix, but I used sugar snowflakes for a Christmas touch or you could use silver dragees (or balls) or even sugar balls.  Let your creativity go - or just leave them plain!

With a skewer, dip the balls into the chocolate and cover completely.

Let as much as the chocolate as you can drip off... before placing back on baking paper and add your adornments..

Leave to set for about 20 minutes and store them in the fridge before serving, great for teacher/neighbour gifts and a great little something to take to Christmas drinks or get-togethers.

The taste as I said, is different to what I expected.  The punch of the ginger is perfectly complimented by the white chocolate, it's not overwhelmingly sweet.

Now to give them away before I eat them all... <help>


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