Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Still here.....

My first stitching project. Embroidery is highly addictive - I stayed up to all hours to finish this one.

 It's true I haven't posted for a while. Life has been busy - doesn't it always get like that?

A couple of months as a working mum and I think I can almost say I've gotten the hang of it.

I've had to rethink my approach to the week, how I cook, how I clean and how I carve out time for me.

Inspired by my late Nanna, I've made craft my release valve to life.

I've completed my first quilt, my first stitching project as well as making items for my CWA branch's upcoming craft stall.

I still love cooking but craft has less calories...

And I'm still blogging....it's just that sometimes I get a little distracted.....

A mug warmer for my niece using some vintage buttons from my Nanna's stash.
Making a bundle of tissue holders for my CWA Branch's upcoming craft stall. Great Teacher's Gifts!

Last step of my first quilt - sewing on the binding. I am now a confident ladder stitcher!

The finished quilt. I learnt so much making this. I've promised to make one for Olive for her birthday now.



Friday, July 25, 2014

Berry, Apple & Almond Muffins {Recipe}


"So what do you put in Olive's lunchbox?" my girlfriend asked me yesterday.

It's something I get asked a lot. Generally its a small bread roll with vegemite or jam, a piece of fruit, maybe a cheese stick and something baked.

Muffins make a regular appearance.  They're just so easy to whip up using whatever's lying around in the fruit bowl, pantry or freezer.

Today's flavour combination came about from having some leftover almond meal from making Kransekake last week, the last of the bag of frozen berries and a container of cooked apple in the fridge.



I've been cooking up apple a lot lately since Olive's teeth have gone wobbly. (The tooth fairy will be visiting again tonight.) Cooking it in the microwave is a breeze and means you have apple pieces as opposed to apple mush. Pop it in a container and throw in a spoon and your lunchbox is apple friendly again.

Once the muffins are cool, wrap them up  in small freezer bags and toss them in the freezer. They'll defrost in their lunchbox before morning recess and be as fresh as the day you made them.



Recipe: Berry, Apple & Almond Muffins
Makes 12 regular sized muffins

Ingredients
1 apple - peeled & chopped
1 3/4 cups Self Raising Flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup almond meal
1 cup frozen berries (if using strawberries - cut them up a bit)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sunflower or vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk

Method

  • Place chopped apple in a microwave safe bowl / container and cover with a folded piece of paper towel.
  • Microwave on High for 3 - 4 minutes (depending on powerful your microwave is). Allow to cool slightly.
  • Preheat your oven to 180C.
  • Line a 12 hole muffin pan with baking cups.
  • Put the flour, brown sugar and almond meal into a large mixing bowl and mix together using a whisk to get rid of any lumps.
  • Stir through the apple and berries and make sure they're well coated in flour. This will stop the fruit clumping together and help distribute them more evenly through your batter.
  • Add the remaining wet ingredients and stir through til just combined.
  • Spoon the mixture into the paper cups - almost filling the cups full. There will be slightly more mixture than you need. I know that's annoying but feel free to spoon into mini muffin tins if you feel inclined.
  • Bake the muffins for about 25 minutes or until the muffins are golden and cooked through when tested with a skewer.
  • Leave in pan for five minutes before turning out to a cake rack to cool completely.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Double Choc Raspberry Brownies {Recipe}



Every now and then you experiment in the kitchen and create something magical. This is one of those moments.

I first whipped up these brownies for a BBQ to thank mates for helping shift a very heavy steel workbench. After a lot of beer and wine you don’t want a fussy dessert. It’s much better to have something that satisfies the sweet craving and can be eaten with fingers.

I shared the recipe on the blog at the time and they were really popular. Then I accidently killed my blog and the recipe was lost... And then I lost the photos.....

This weekend I'm catching up with friends, one of whom has been begging me to re-share the recipe on the new Di-licious blog.

So Sandy, this one's for you.

This brownie is a bit different from regular brownies in that there’s no melted chocolate in the batter, just some chocolate chips. 

And raspberries.

I used white chocolate chips because that’s what I had in the pantry. You could easily substitute milk or dark chips but I kind of like white chocolate and raspberries together.

When you make these (& I know that you will), you have to promise me that you’ll resist the temptation to eat them straight away. They need to cool down completely in the pan before you lift out the whole brownie to slice it.

They’re perfect just as they are. No need for cream. Maybe a serviette to help wipe the crumbs off your face and fingers.

Best also to make the kids sit outside while they eat them...

I can’t advise how long they’ll last in an airtight container in the cupboard because they were all gobbled up. If you have a crowd over I can pretty much guarantee you wont need to solve that dilemma either.

These brownies are not a diet food. Enjoy in moderation. Take them to work and charm your boss – who knows, you might get a pay rise or employee of the year!

Recipe: Double Choc Raspberry Brownies
Author: Di Nolan
Serves: 24
Completely irresistible brownies studded with raspberries that are surprisingly light.

Ingredients
125g butter, melted and cooled
2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa
¼ tsp salt
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 cup white chocolate chips

Instructions
  • Preheat your oven to 180C.
  • Grease and line a lamington pan (20cm x 30cm) with baking paper so that the paper overhangs.
  • Whip together the sugar, eggs and vanilla til thick and creamy. Add the cooled melted butter and mix til thoroughly combined.
  • Sift over the flour, cocoa and salt and mix through til combined.
  • Stir through the raspberries and chocolate chips.
  • Pour mixture into prepared pan and ensure fruit and chocolate chips are evenly distributed. Smooth top.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes. Top should be cooked and a skewer inserted will have some sticky crumbs on it.
  • Allow to cool completely in pan on top of a wire rack.
  • Carefully lift out brownie using the overhanging baking paper.
  • Cut into 24 slices.

Notes
Don’t worry about defrosting the raspberries – just stir them through frozen.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Spicy Lentil & Corn Soup {Recipe}



Wintery weather has finally lashed itself over Melbourne and I just want to snuggle up in front of the fire with a big bowl of warm, comforting soup.

I try to make a big pot of soup every week. Not only is it economical, a bowl of lentil-laden goodness is filling and healthy too.

Soups are also a great way to use up the half or near empty jars of spice pastes you have languishing around in your fridge. The harissa paste was almost empty and a perfect match for the sad little capsicums rolling around in the crisper drawer. You could mix and match with whatever you have in your fridge (although I must say the harissa gives a nice hint of heat without blowing your socks off!)

The rest of the ingredients are basic pantry staples - tinned tomatoes, tinned corn and lentils.

This makes a very thick, almost stew like consistency soup (which we love). If you prefer a thinner consistency, use an extra 2 cups of stock or water.

Or why not leave it thick and turn it into a Mexican supper with a generous dollop of sour cream, squeeze of lime juice, fresh coriander and eat it with tortilla chips?

This pot will keep us going for most of the week but it would also freeze beautifully.

What's your perfect cold weather comfort food?

Recipe: Spicy Lentil & Corn Soup
An original recipe by Di Nolan
Serves: 6

Ingredients
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 sticks celery, diced
2 red capsicums, cored and diced
1 Tblsp harissa paste
2 x 440g tins diced tomato
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups extra water (I half fill each of the empty tomato tins, give them a swirl to get the last of the tomatoey goodness and tip this in for the extra water).
2 cups red split lentils
1 x 440g tin corn kernels, drained

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot over low-medium heat.
  • Add the onion, celery and capsicum and saute until the onion is softened.
  • Add the harissa paste and cook for about 2 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Add the tinned tomato, stock,extra water, lentils and corn kernels and stir well. Bring pot to the boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer soup for 30 minutes, stirring every so often to stop lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pan. (Alternatively you could sit the pot on a simmer mat if you have one.)
  • Enjoy! 





Saturday, June 21, 2014

Itty Bitty Brownie Bites {Recipe}


This is my go to recipe whenever I get asked to bring a dessert but I'm pressed for time.

The basic brownie mix is so easy to whip up and can be as posh or simple as you want them to be. Dress them up with perfect raspberries, a drizzle of chocolate glaze or ganache or a sprinkle of cocoa powder. Or better still, simply dust them with icing sugar.

Serve them up as dessert canapé at a posh soirée. Bring them along to a morning tea or take it to your friend’s house for dessert next time you get invited for dinner.

It's also a great beginner's recipe for young learning cooks.

The first time I cooked them I was disappointed because they looked so flat in the pan. “They’re too small!” I wailed to Mr Di-licious.

That was until I picked up my little round cutter, cut one out and tasted it – absolute perfection!

And then there is the matter of the little cook’s treat you’re left with after cutting out the brownies – brownie corners!

Pop them in a bowl and serve them up with a cuppa or crumble them up and mix with frosting to make brownie cake pops! 

Di-licious!

Recipe: Itty Bitty Brownie Bites
An original recipe by Di Nolan

These brownie bites are the perfect sweet treat to bring along to your next party. I prefer to whip them up in my KitchenAid mixer but you can mix them together by hand as well.

Ingredients
185g butter
3 eggs
1½ cups caster sugar
1 cup plain flour
¾ cup cocoa
1 pinch salt
icing sugar to decorate

Instructions
  • Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat and allow to cool. Set aside
  • Grease a lamington pan (20x30cm) and line with baking paper so that it extends over the edge of the pan.
  • Preheat oven to 180°C.
  • Whip eggs and sugar together till well combined.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa and salt. Add this to the egg mixture with the cooled butter and stir until all combined. The mixture will be thick.
  • Pour mixture into lined pan and spread it evenly with a spatula so it is smooth.
  • Bake for approximately 15mins. The brownie should be cooked on top and a skewer should come out with only a couple of crumbs clinging to it – not wet.
  • Allow tray to cool on a rack before turning out onto a cutting board.
  • Using a small cutter (I like a 2.5cm one), cut out ‘bites’.
  • Place cut out brownies onto a rack set over a tray or baking paper and sprinkle over icing sugar.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
  • Brownies are best eaten the day or day after being baked. They will become firmer as they age but are still delicious.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Cleaning bathrooms - my least favourite job


I really hate cleaning the bathroom. I mean I avoid it for as long as possible - probably much longer than I should.

Normally I get propelled into action when I know my mum is coming over or we are expecting overnight guests. 

More often than not the shower languishes for a few weeks and then I think I really should attend to that this week and another week or two goes by until I shudder at the sight of it.  

Perhaps it's this bathroom in particular. Dark slate floors that never look clean; a clumsily renovated shower closet that doesn't recieve an inch of natural light; a badly sealed shower base that has mould growing under the silicone no matter how much mould cleaner or bleach I use. 

I feel defeated before I even begin.

Rationally I know that if I do it every week or two weeks, it won't get so far out of control. I think it's been almost two months. It was nasty this morning.

Aside from the act of cleaning the shower, I also hate the smell of most cleaning products. 

Walking down the 'chemical' aisle in the supermarket makes my nose twitch uncontrollably. Few do what they claim to do and those that do smell the worst or cost more.

I've tried making my own cleaners but they need a regular weekly commitment that I seem incapable of giving - when did I turn into such a commitment phobe?  I prefer to use diluted sugar soap and a scrubbing brush.



Not being able to stand it anymore, I turned up the music loud this morning and scrubbed those tiles.

Twenty minutes later, the tiles are sparkling, the mould is as under control as it can be and feeling incredibly smug, I paused to take some pix and make two cups of coffee and write to you.

The basin is still waiting and the mirror still has Olive's toothpaste splattered all over it.  That'll be a walk in the park now.

Do you hate cleaning the bathroom too? Do you have a secret cleaning weapon you can share? 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Spread the love - Lemon Butter {Recipe}


You could be forgiven for thinking that there is a strong lemon theme happening on the blog lately. And you'd be right. 

When you have unlimited access to a ridiculously abundant lemon tree - you don't cook with oranges.

Luckily we're all lemon fans here. 

Can I just say categorically that I love lemon butter. It's tart, it's sweet and it makes the most decadent white bread sandwich. 

It's perfect on scones and pikelets; is a divine filling for cakes and sandwiched biscuits; and unbeatable eaten straight from the spoon.

It's also pretty easy to make provided you're not in a hurry. If you rush it..... well, you're going to end up with lemony scrambled eggs.

Trust me. I've been there. 

I got asked what the difference was between lemon butter and lemon curd. I couldn't find an answer online but according to my CWA Judging notes, lemon curd/cheese is made with milk and cream whereas lemon butter is not.

A good lemon butter should:


  • have a fresh, delicate flavour.
  • have a smooth and creamy consistency without any lumps. 
  • not be curdled nor show any egg streaks. 
The colour of lemon butters will differ according to the type of lemon and egg yolk colour used.



You can make lemon butter in a saucepan over direct heat but for best results, I'd recommend a double boiler. If you don't have one of these you can improvise by placing a bowl over a pan of simmering water. 

The original recipe was a bit vague in the method directions so I've expanded them based on my own cooking experience so you'll be spreading the lemony love instead of crying over scrambled eggs. 

Recipe: Lemon Butter
Adapted from Alice's Lemon Butter recipe contributed by Erin Morrison in CWA Classics Cookbook
makes 2 cups

Ingredients
3 large eggs, well beaten
juice of 2 large lemons (or 2 1/2 if not very juicy)
3/4 cups caster sugar
50g cold butter, cubed

Warm, sterilised jars and lids 

Method

  • Place eggs, sugar and lemon juice into the top pan of a double boiler or bowl, set above simmering pan of water.
  • Whisk mixture continuously until it starts to thicken and simmer.
  • Take off the heat and beat in the cold butter.
  • Pour the hot mixture into warm sterilised jars and seal immediately.
  • Allow to cool and then store jars in fridge for up to a month.
Notes
If you end up with small streaks of curdled/scrambled egg in you butter, strain the mixture through a sieve into a clean bowl. Rewarm the mixture and then pour into the sterilised jars.



Saturday, June 7, 2014

Good news and Special Lemon Coconut Cake {Recipe}


I'm in a very, VERY good mood this week. Why? Well for starters, I finally landed my dream part time job.

The company is a gourmet food producer and I'll be actively involved with promoting their products through food tastings as well as behind the scenes in the office and (hopefully) helping develop their website. I may even get my hands messy in the kitchen sometimes.....

The other reason I'm very happy this week is discovering my ultimate, perfect cake nirvana - this (very) Special Lemon Coconut Cake.

The recipe comes from the Country Women's Association Classics Cookbook. It was contributed by Mrs Elaine Youd from Devonport Branch, Tasmania who shared that it is her "friend Barb Parson's special cake".


Special is definitely the right way to describe this cake. The coconut keeps the cake lovely and moist, making it a great bake ahead affair. It freezes well and the icing......well tangy lemon juice icing with coconut... it just keeps the lemon coconut flavour going on and on and on.

If you (or someone you know) has a prolific lemon tree then this recipe is a definite keeper.

Once again I'm grateful for the wonderful generosity of CWA women who openly share their fabulous recipes. They are, in a word, special.


Recipe: Special Lemon Cake

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups Self Raising Flour, sifted
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
125g butter, melted
grated zest of 3 lemons

Icing
1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
Juice of one lemon

Method

  • Preheat oven to 160C. Grease a 20cm square cake tin and line base with baking paper.
  • Place the sifted flour, coconut and sugar into a large mixing bowl and mix through to distribute the ingredients evenly. Make a well in the centre.
  • In a separate bowl or large jug (I like to use a big 1Litre Pyrex jug), beat the eggs, milk, melted butter and lemon zest together. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix through. It will most likely be a bit sloppy.
  • Pour the mixture into your prepapred cake tin and bake for about 45-50mins or until a skewer comes out clean. The cake will have pulled away a little at the sides and should be a lovely golden hue.
  • Allow cake to cool in the tin at least 20 minutes before turning out onto a cake rack lined with a folded tea towel (to avoid unsightly rack marks) and let it cool completely before icing.


To make the icing, mix the sifted icing sugar and coconut together. Gradually add the lemon juice until you get your preferred consistency - you probably won't use all the juice. Spread over the cake and if you like, let it drip down the sides a bit. Allow the icing to set before slicing.

Note - uniced cake will freeze beautifully. Ice when mostly defrosted.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A not so perfect day in the kitchen


Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect.  I'm a constant offender in the kitchen.

Yesterday I tried to do too much: I made another loaf of bread, I made up a chicken curry in the slow cooker, threw together a soup, prepped for dinner and then baked a cake - all before lunch.

The soup wasn't ready so we had sausage sandwiches.

I let the slowcooker cook and cook......too long. It was pasty, dry, too acidic and just plain revolting. 

The cake turned out well but there was no one home to eat it because the rest of the household had gone to the park.

Feeling despondent and surveying the dishes already in the sink, I couldn't bear the thought of cooking our planned family dinner of sausage risotto. 

By the time Olive & Mr Di-licious came home from the park, I was in a complete funk.

I felt like a complete failure.

"You know what darling?" he said. "Everyone is allowed to have a cooking fail once in a while. Even you."

"How about I pick up some takeaway?"

And that dear readers is why I love him.  Because whenever I fail at something or fall into a funk, he's got my back. Our 'simple Saturday family meal' turned into fish and chips by the fire. 

I'm still annoyed I didn't get it right (and wasted perfectly good chicken thigh fillets in the process) but that's life. 

On the bright side there's lemon coconut cake for afternoon tea today, our dog happily ate the curry, the chooks will get the leftover chips, we'll have the soup for supper tonight and I've already got Monday nights dinner prepped.

It's not quite the menu I'd planned but no one went hungry.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lemon Poppy Seed Biscuits {Recipe}


I often crave baking biscuits but its normally when I'm feeling a bit lazy and don't have any softened butter to hand.

At times like these a quick mix bickie recipe is a life saver, especially when all you need is a food processor to do all the hard work for you.

I found this Lemon and Poppy Seed biscuit recipe in the delightful Alice in Bakingland cookbook by Alice Arndell.  Alice, a finalist in New Zealand's Hottest Home Baker show, is a champion of real home baking as well as her local community. I found the book at the library and was instantly jealous of the gorgeous vintage styling and delicious sounding recipes. Alice also has a blog Alice in Bakingland where you'll find more of her recipes. It's definitely worth checking out.

Mum and dad had dropped off a big bag of home grown lemons last week and up until now they'd been serving as a charming still life arrangement on the dining table. 

It felt good to put them to use.  The finished biscuit is delightfully crisp with a light lemon tang and fragrance. Next time I think I'd add an extra lemon's worth of zest for a bit more of a zing. A drop or two of lemon essence when adding the eggs might also do the trick.

When I made these biscuits I popped the rolls into the freezer to firm up faster. The recipe recommended a minimum 2hrs chilling time. It was already quarter to three and I needed a snack ready for after school. They were firm in less than hour and it got me thinking that if I had divided the dough up into five rolls instead of three, I would have had a ready to slice bounty at my beck and call.

As it happens I only baked off half of one of the rolls so there's plenty stashed away in the freezer for whenever I get another case of the baking lazies (or when I remember at the last minute that it's my turn to bring a plate to CWA).

Whatever you do, make sure you brew yourself a special pot of tea to enjoy these little darlings. The poppy seeds make them a little more grown up and they're robust enough to survive a dunk or two.

Recipe: Lemon Poppyseed Biscuits
Original recipe by Alice Arndell, Alice in Bakingland (2013)
Makes about 40+ biscuits.

Ingredients
21/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
Zest of 2 lemons (although if you prefer a sharper lemon taste, bump it up to 3!)
2 Tblsp poppy seeds
180g cold butter, cubed
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Method

  1. Put all of the ingredients, except the butter and eggs, into your food processor.  Pulse a couple of times to mix everything together.
  2. Add the cubed butter and process again until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the combined egg and egg yolk and process again until the dough starts to clump together.
  4. Tip the mixture out onto your bench and gently bring the dough together - you will been to squeeze and squash it a bit - and form it into a long log shape. The original recipe suggested a diameter of about 7cm but I prefer a daintier biscuit so I went for 4cm. The choice is completely yours (although the smaller diameter will give you more biscuits!)
  5. Cut your dough log into 4 or 5 sections and wrap each in plastic wrap. At this point you can roll the logs back and forth to give them a nice even round shape.
  6. Pop the logs into the fridge or freezer to chill completely. They'll take around 40minutes in the freezer or at least 2 hours in the fridge. (Of course at this point you can label and freeze your dough for another day if you don't plan to bake all the biscuits during this baking session.).
  7. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C and line your baking tray(s) with baking parchment.
  8. Remove dough roll for the fridge or freezer and slice into 5mm thick rounds. Place onto the tray and bake for 10-12 mins or until the biscuits have a lovely golden tint on their edges and the underside is just golden.
  9. Allow to cool completely on a rack before brewing a pot of tea to celebrate.



Monday, May 26, 2014

Back in the saddle of blogging

I'm back....with a new look, a new name and a new blog address.

I've been Di-licious Cupcakes, Life is Di-licious. I moonlighted for a while as Little Teapot. But now it's just simply Di-licious.

My new web home is www.di-licious.com.

On Facebook you can find me at www.facebook.com/DiLishLife (some addresses are still hard to change).

I'll update all my other contact details over the coming weeks.

So why the break in transmission? Well, after accidentally blowing up my blog Life is Di-licious 12 months ago, I felt all at sea. Creatively, personally and emotionally.

I'll share more in the coming weeks but just really needed to get this announcement post out (before racing off to do school pick up).

It feels good to be back. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My first public icing demonstration

Last Friday I dipped my toe into the world of cooking demonstrations. I was invited to demonstrate icing techniques as part of a CWA Cooking Masterclass.

Although quite nervous at the thought of talking to a room of strangers, once I got going, it was actually a lot of fun.

I was reminded of a public speaking course I'd done back in the day where we were invited to give a five to ten minute talk about any topic we were passionate about. I talked about how to make a true risotto.

It was so easy. I actually enjoyed myself explaining to a room of predominantly men the importance of using the correct rice, how to deglaze the pan and why you absolutely MUST stir the pot the whole time.

When you know your topic, it's easy to show enthusiasm and exude confidence.

So how did the icing demo go? Really well. I received so many lovely comments and learnt so much watching the other presenters over the course of the day.

Talking to girlfriends a couple of days later, one of them said I should run some classes for busy mums on how to decorate their children's birthday cakes.

It's got me thinking she might be onto something. Ideas are bouncing around in my head. Watch this space.....