Monday, November 4, 2013

Making cups cozy

There's nothing lovelier than being able to hold a big mug in both hands, filled with the most perfectly brewed milky tea, except perhaps if its wrapped up snuggly in a cup cozy.

I've been whipping up cup cozies the past few weeks. My first effort (based on this pattern) was for my CWA meeting mug. It has a built in coaster bottom - yay!


I adjusted the same pattern slightly to make this one for my lovely friend Nic in her favourite colours pink & red.


On a roll, I devised my own pattern for this special birthday present for Olive's teacher. Her favourite colours are pink and black.


I picked up a great tip from here about using rubber grip mat to line the cozy with to stop it slipping down. It worked a treat on the wrap around version.




Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Back in the swing of sewing

I have an old sewing machine passed onto me by my sister.

There is no manual so I haven't been able to work out how to change the machine foot or progress beyond simple straight or zigzag stitches.

Today I found my machine's manual online and instantly, the veil of mystique fluttered away.

I have my sewing mojo back.

I whipped up this sweet little softie for a special birthday gift this week.

Suddenly that quilting kit stashed under my craft table doesn't seem so impossible now.

I also aced my first attempt at back stitch embroidery. How cute is that face?????

Life is good.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pretty little rose brooch


To celebrate my spring cleaning progress, I picked up the latest issue of Homespun magazine yesterday.

Inside was the cutest pattern for crocheted rose rings.

I thought they'd be equally gorgeous as a small brooch.

I adapted the pattern slightly, using 3ply cotton for the bloom and embroidery cotton for the leaves. I was running out of green so I eliminated a couple of the leaves.

So dainty!

Makes me wonder whether people would buy them.........?




Monday, September 9, 2013

Four hens a laying


Hooray! All of our hens are finally laying!

That means 4 eggs a day!

Bliss!

Yesterday morning I experienced the joy that is a poached, fresh egg - literally only hours old.

So happy to be a backyard farmer.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Perfect Banana Bread {Recipe}


I like to think myself as being an organised person.

I keep bags of chopped-up ripe bananas in the freezer, ready to make banana bread and muffins on a whim.

I love this banana bread because it's the real deal - not banana cake masquerading as banana bread.

It holds its shape when sliced, toasts well and I strongly suspect it will be amazing pan fried in a little butter for a decadent Sunday breakfast…..

RECIPE: Perfect Banana Bread
A simple and easy banana bread that should be in everyone’s recipe repertoire. Adapted from Margaret Fulton’s recipe in “Margaret Fulton’s Encyclopedia of Food & Cookery”

Ingredients
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten well

1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup plain flour
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts (omit if you have allergy concerns)

Instructions


  • Preheat oven to 180C.
  • Grease and line base of a medium loaf pan (21 x 11cm).
  • In a large bowl, mix the bananas and eggs together.
  • Sift over the flours and bicarb soda and add the sugar, salt & walnuts.
  • Mix together thoroughly.
  • Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake for approximately one hour or until the loaf has pulled away from the sides of the tin and a skewer comes out clean when pierced into the centre.
  • Allow the loaf to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack.
  • Enjoy the loaf warm or cold.
  • Slice and freeze individual slices, wrapped in cling wrap.



Friday, September 6, 2013

Brightening up a rainy day


The sunny start to spring was short lived. Today it rained and rained. In fact, it's going to rain all weekend.

To cheer myself up I wore my red shoes. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Counting sheep bunting



I'm so proud of this gorgeous bunting I made for my sister's baby shower.

I had been working on a baby blanket but as the deadline drew nearer, I knew I'd never finish it in time.


I'd spied these cute crocheted sheep over at Pardon my Chaos and had tagged it as a future project.

A test-make proved to me that I could whip them up fast, using wool already in my stash.

I modified the pattern slightly in that I made them single sided instead of stitching two together.

I borrowed a bunting string pattern from a crochet magazine and put the two of them together.

Aren't they darling?


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The perfect jelly slice {Recipe}

Since joining the Country Women's Association, I've noticed a change in my baking style.

I've turned retro.

I'm not interested in elaborate fondant covered cakes anymore.

Give me a slice of old fashioned chocolate cake or a classic iced cupcake anyday.

It's all about flavour and appreciating the cook's efforts.

This weekend I challenged myself to make the perfect jelly slice.

A packet of biscuits, melted butter, condensed milk, some gelatine and a packet of raspberry jelly crystals - the result was amazing.

Mission accomplished.


RECIPE: Perfect Jelly Slice

1 packet Arnotts Niece biscuits
170g butter, melted

1 packet raspberry jelly crystals
1 1/2 cups boiling water

1 tin condensed milk
1 tblsp + 1 tsp powdered gelatine
1/2 cup hot water

Start this recipe the day before you want to serve it. This will guarantee that the jelly has set properly.

  • Grease and line a slice tin (minimum depth 3cm) or a 20cm square casserole dish with baking paper. The 20cm square will give you a thicker biscuit base to your slice - it's actually pretty good!
  • Crush the biscuits using either a food processor or putting them in a big ziplock bag and bashing them with a hefty rolling pin till you have small crumbs.
  • Stir in the melted butter and mix thoroughly. Press the mixture into your prepared pan and press down very firmly. Pop the pan into the fridge for 30-45 min to set.
  • Have a cuppa and then get on with the next step.
  • Mix the  jelly crystals and boiling water together in a large jug and stir until all the crystals have dissolved. Pop it in the fridge for a minimum of 45 minutes (but no more than an hour - you want the jelly to be cool enough to pour over the condensed milk layer later but not starting to set.)
  • In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the gelatine in the hot water. Pour over the condensed milk and mix together thoroughly.
  • Pour the mixture over the biscuit base. Tap the pan on the bench a couple of times to get rid of any air bubbles and pop it back into the fridge for 30-45mins to set - longer if you need to.
  • Finally, pour over your cooled jelly and pop it back in the fridge for a minimum 4 hours or overnight.
  • The next day, using the baking paper, lift out the slice from the pan.
  • Trim the edges with a large flat knife to give neat sides (I used a ham slicer). Keep the scraps in a container for a sneaky cook's treat later on.
  • Cut the slice into even pieces and store in an airtight container until needed.
  • Enjoy!

Linking up with Thriving on Thursdays

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pear, Quinoa & Raspberry Muffins {Recipe}



I'm not really a fan of quinoa. Like a lot of you, I jumped on the superfood bandwagon to see what all the fuss was about but when it came to the taste, I just went meh. I think it smells too, but maybe that's just me.

Unsurprisingly I have quinoa flakes languishing in my pantry. Finding something I could 'hide' them in became a mission. Hello PQR (pear, quinoa & raspberry) muffins.

Muffins are not only easy to make, they're also the perfect lunchbox treat because they are completely freezable. I've made a big batch these school holidays ready for the next school term.

I prefer to make my muffins with wholemeal flour. That way there is absolutely no confusion with cupcakes (which to my mind a lot of those cafe bought-in muffins seem to be masquerading as). Teamed up with quinoa flakes and oats, they have real texture. Pear chunks, raspberries and a modest amount of brown sugar make them just sweet enough.

And while they might sound healthy (and they are kind of), they don't taste so much like health food. Olive gobbled down three of these this afternoon - and declared me the best muffin maker in the world!

Can a super food turn me into a muffin making superhero? Maybe there's a place for quinoa in my pantry after all - right now I feel like wonder woman!


RECIPE: Pear, Quinoa & Raspberry Muffins
This recipe makes a big batch of muffins - 2 dozen regular sized or 1 dozen regular and 2 dozen minis. Bake and freeze them for lunchboxes.

Ingredients
2 cups wholemeal SR flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup quinoa flakes
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 large or 2 small pears, peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170C.
  2. Line muffin trays with paper liners.
  3. In a big bowl, mix together the flour, oats, quinoa flakes, bicarb soda and sugar.
  4. Stir through the raspberries and pear chunks.
  5. In jug or separate bowl, blend the eggs, buttermilk and vegetable oil together.
  6. Pour egg mixture onto dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  7. Spoon into baking papers, filling 3/4 full (they don't rise alot).
  8. For mini muffins, bake for approximately 15min. For regular sized muffins, bake for approximately 25mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool 5 minutes in the tin before taking them out to cool on a baking rack.
Linking up with Domesblissity for Thriving on Thursdays.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

5 steps to stay on top of what's in the freezer

A couple of days ago my deep freezer was caked in ice. Mystery bags of long forgotten food lurked at the bottom; their once snappy labels fallen off.

I've been talking about emptying the freezer for a while now but it took longer than I'd anticipated.

Now that its finally clean and frost free, I'm determined to stay on top of what's inside.

These are the 5 steps I'm following to stay on top of what's in my freezers.

1. Stock up on freezer containers and bags. 
I bought a 50-pack of oblong takeaway containers, multi sized ziplock bags and multi sized freezer bags.

2. Buy good quality permanent markers. 
I've tried using adhesive labels on containers but they either fall off while in the freezer or leave a sticky residue on the containers when you wash them afterwards. Permanent markers stay put and are easy to read on frozen items. My marker of choice is the Sharpie Pro (they write on wet surfaces!)



3. Make a  "What's in the freezer" list and laminate it! 
My previous attempts of freezer lists always got messy with crossing out items and constantly having to rewrite the list. Now I can write and edit the list using a fine tipped whiteboard marker and rub out used up items so it always looks neat.

My What's in the Freezer lists take pride of place on the fridge next to my weekly planner, shopping list and monthly planner.

4. Keep your What's in the Freezer list in a high vis area - on the fridge is ideal. 
You'll never add or update the list if it's hidden away.

5. Update your What's in the Freezer list every time you add or take something out (and teach the other members of your household to do the same). 
Meal planning and shopping lists will be so much easier because you can see at a glance what you have.


Linking up with Domesblissity for Thriving on Thursdays

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Yarn along



The lovely Ginny over at Small Things created Yarn Along, a blogger link up for the yarn obsessed, to share what they've been making and reading each week. Although it's essentially a knitting club, Ginny has welcomed crocheters as well so here I am.

Last week I finished my entry for the Country Women's Association (CWA) of Victoria State Exhibition - a red cowl. It's been entered into the Scarves category and I'll find out next Friday how I went.

I made the cowl out of 12ply acrylic yarn and only took a couple of days to make up. The pattern, from the 1st issue of Simply Crochet magazine, includes a button placket but I decided to keep this one plain.

What I love about the pattern is the mock cable effect. So do my fellow CWA branch members - they've asked me to teach them how to do it!

If you're on Ravelry, you can get more information about the pattern here.

I'm also reading about CWA. On my bedside table is "Great Australian CWA Stories" by Bill Swampy Marsh. Along with interviews with inspirational members from across Australia, it also includes 90 classic CWA recipes and household hints.

I've only just started it but already enjoying hearing how other branches operate as well as how CWA branches support their communities in times of need. It certainly makes me proud to be a member.

Linking up with Small Things for Yarn Along


Monday, July 1, 2013

Sweet Swap 2013 & my Mini Rum Balls {Recipe}


One of the greatest pleasures of baking is sharing the spoils. I bake for family, friends, neighbours and charity.

When I found out about the Sweet Swap, I couldn't sign up fast enough. Linking up with fellow Australian food theme bloggers to share some sweet love and get a little in return - who wouldn't want to get sweet parcels in the mail?

It's been like Xmas in July.

The same week I got my matches I accidently killed my blog. Having already committed to the swap, I resolved to start my blog again so I could take part properly. Organiser Amanda was very understanding - thank you.

Choosing what to make was probably the hardest part. It needed to be a completely new recipe that I'd never blogged about, taste fabulous and be resilient enough to survive being posted in the mail. I decided on Di-licious Mini Rum Balls.

These rum balls were particularly special because I used walnuts I’d handpicked from my brother in law’s house in Ballarat.

I must confess that up until now I haven't been much of a fan of rum balls. It's a size thing.

At their traditional size I find rum balls completely overwhelming. In miniature though, they're quite darling and a lovely pick me up in the afternoon.

Despite the decent swig of rum in them, Olive happily gobbled them up. My father proclaimed them irresistible and my mum ate more than she planned to. They'll definitely be on my Xmas baking list.


I wanted the wrapping to be as just as fun as the treat itself so I sourced brown craft boxes and tied them up with red bakers twine.

A message from me was tucked inside and I then wrapped the boxes in brown paper and tied them up with string – Julie Andrews was definitely onto something with her favourite things!

I posted my sweet parcels to:

Wen from What's Mummy Up To
Mary from Beyond Jelly  
Julie from I Dream in Chocolate

Before long three sweet parcels arrived on my doorstep.


 My first parcel was from Guilia at Love at Every Bite. An Italian expat living in Canberra, she made me the most divine traditional Italian Ricciarelli biscuits and homemade honeycomb.  I will definitely be hunting down the recipe for those biscuits!


A couple of days later, another sweet parcel, groaning with treats, arrived from Monica at Gastromony.

Not one, but three delicious treats! Chocolate & Peanut Butter Fudge made in a Thermomix (and dusted with edible gold glitter) was unbelievably smooth and creamy. Caramelised Cornflake Pralines were devoured by Olive in a flash. The crumbs I got to try were pretty tasty! The gluten free Lemon Myrtle and Thyme shortbreads were also lovely and I’ll be forwarding the recipe link to a celiac girlfriend.


Last but certainly not least were the whimsical Pop goes the Brownies from Flick of  Flick your Food.
She thoughtfully included a separate packet of pop rocks in case the brownies didn’t pop in our mouths as planned. It was the first time my daughter had tried them and the look of amazement on her face was priceless!

A big thank you to the organisers of the Sweet Swap. It was so much fun. To see what other sweets were swapped across the Australian Food blogosphere this July, you’ll find all the links here.


Recipe: Di-licious Mini Rum Balls
Recipe makes 120+ tsp sized balls.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups shelled walnuts, roughly chopped
375g Chocolate Ripple biscuits (1 ½ packets)
¾ cups icing sugar
¼ cup cocoa
½ cup white rum (eg. Bacardi)
3 Tblsp golden syrup
Extra cocoa for dusting
R
Method:



  1. Toast walnuts in a clean, dry frypan set over low heat. Be careful not to burn them.
  2. Put toasted nuts into a food processor and process till they are small, even crumbs. Empty into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Break up biscuits into food processor and process to small, even crumbs. Add to walnuts.
  4. Sift over icing sugar and cocoa and mix everything together til evenly distributed.
  5. Make a well and pour in rum and golden syrup. Mix everything together til you have a large sticky brown ‘dough’.
  6. Using a measuring teaspoon, scoop out even teaspoons of mixture and shape into balls.
  7. Toss balls into a bowl with the extra cocoa to give them an even coat.
  8. Store them in an airtight container with the extra cocoa – they’ll last for weeks!


Monday, May 13, 2013

Lemony Sour Cream Cakelets {Recipe}



I love it when a plan comes together.


I had a huge tub of sour cream sitting in the fridge needing to be used and a couple of tired lemons languishing in the fruit bowl.

Inspired by the success of my one bowl, 1st Prize Chocolate Cake, I threw everything in, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

The cake gods were smiling down on me.

These cakelets are good in every way a lemon cake ought to be:
  • Tangy and moist with a zingy lemon icing
  • They’re soooooooooo easy to make.
  • They get better with time – make them a day ahead and continue to enjoy any leftovers the day after.


They'd be perfect for a Mother's Day afternoon tea, dressed up with some sugar flowers.

I call them cakelets because they're small and not baked in papers. A cake release spray like Wilton’s Easy Bake is your best friend here. If you're nervous about your cakes sticking, bake them in pretty cases instead. It’s your tea party after all!


RECIPE: Lemony Sour Cream Cakelets

Zingy, tangy and moist little cakes (cakelets), perfect for a special afternoon tea. Makes 10 cakelets.
An original recipe by Di Nolan

Ingredients
80g unsalted butter, softened
½ cup caster sugar
2 eggs
120g sour cream (I used light sour cream but full fat should be fine too)
½ cup plain flour, sifted
½ cup SR flour, sifted
zest of a large lemon (at least a tablespoons worth)
2 tblsp lemon juice
Icing
2 cups icing sugar, siifted
¼ tsp milk
2tblsp lemon juice
Yellow gel food colouring (optional)
Sugar flower decorations (optional)

Method
  1. Grease a 12 cup muffin tray (or line with cupcake liners if you’d prefer). Preheat oven to 160C.
  2. Put butter, caster sugar, eggs, sour cream and flours into mixing bowl and mix on low speed until it comes together. Increase speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes.
  3. Add lemon juice and zest and mix through again at medium speed for 30 seconds or until evenly mixed through.
  4. Divide the mixture between 10 pans.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until your kitchen smells lemony and a skewer comes out clean when tested. Mine came out with cracked tops – that’s ok. The icing will cover this.
  6. Allow to cool completely before turning out.


To ice
  1. Sift icing sugar into a bowl and add milk and half of the lemon juice.
  2. Mix to form a thick paste.
  3. Keep adding a little more juice at a time, mixing through every time until you achieve a thick, smooth icing. You don’t want it to run straight over the edge of the cakes.
  4. If colouring the icing, use a toothpick to pick up a tiny amount of colour and quickly dip into the icing. Mix thoroughly. I wanted just a hint of yellow in the icing but if you want it darker, add a touch more colour.
  5. Using a spoon, dollop a little icing on a cakelet and spread with a spatula.
  6. Top with a sugar flower if you’re using.
  7. Pop the kettle on grab your teapot – it’s time for a tea party!





Friday, April 12, 2013

First Prize Chocolate Cake {Recipe}



Everybody needs a good basic chocolate cake recipe and they certainly don't get any easier than this.

Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix it together for 3 minutes. That’s it.

No fancy baking super powers required (and certainly a lot easier than a packet mix!)

Better still it tastes great, cuts like a dream, and it makes two loaf cakes so you can serve one up for morning tea and pop the other one in the freezer for a rainy day.

Did I mention that it's a prize winning recipe too? This darling little cake won me first prize in the Chocolate Cake category at the 2013 Mornington Peninsula Group CWA Competition. Just sayin.....


Recipe: 1st Prize Chocolate Cake

Recipe adapted from Merle Parish’s two chocolate cake recipes in Merle’s Kitchen (2012)

Ingredients

1¾ cups self raising flour, sifted
1¼ cups caster sugar
½ cup cocoa, sifted
2 tsp bicarbonate soda, sifted
pinch salt
125g unsalted butter, softened and chopped up
2 eggs, room temperature, lightly whisked
1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
1 cup milk, blood temperature.

ICING (enough for one cake)

1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp cocoa, sifted
10g butter
1½ – 2 Tblsp boiling water

Instructions



  • Preheat oven to 170 C.
  • Grease and line base of two medium loaf baking tins (mine measure 21.5cm x 11.5cm x 5.5cm)
  • Place the flour, sugar, cocoa, bicarbonate soda and salt into your mixing bowl and mix them together so everything is evenly mixed through.
  • Add the butter, eggs, vanilla and milk and mix on low speed until everything has combined.
  • Increase mixer speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes.
  • Using a scraper, check that no lumpy unmixed bits are stuck at the bottom of the bowl. If there is, dislodge with the scraper and mix again at medium speed for 30 seconds.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the prepared baking tins and bake for 40-45 minutes (or until your kitchen smells like chocolate cake and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean).
  • Allow the cakes to cool completely in their tins, resting on a cake rack or trivet.
  • If not using straight away (or freezing), wrap the cooled cakes well with cling wrap. Store on the bench top overnight.

To make icing



  • Unwrap your cake and put it on a serving platter.
  • Put butter and 1½ tablespoons of boiling water into a cup and mix so that the butter melts (this gives you a shinier icing).
  • Mix sifted icing sugar and cocoa in a roomy bowl.
  • Pour over hot melted butter water and mix together to achieve a smooth, lump free icing.
  • If the icing is too thick, add half a teaspoon more of boiling water and mix through.
  • Ice cake straight away (otherwise the icing will start to form a crust in your bowl).
  • Enjoy!