Tag Archives: Gifts

Life in a bubble: Ultimate Macaroons

10 Jul

I have a tendency to live in a bubble. I call it my little world. It is a lovely place, happy, like munchkin land in the Wizard of Oz. Bright colours, jaunty tunes and maybe even a lolly pop guild. However sometimes, something intrudes into my otherwise happy world and ruins it. Usually poisonous people, not easily identified by being green and wearing a pointy hat. It is always a little soul destroying to find that some people insist on acting selfishly and manipulatively even when they know how much it hurts you. It is at times like this that a girl could lose all hope and trust in humanity. But it also at this time that people can show you their inner Glinda and make you realise that some people aren’t looking for a weak spot to exploit, but rather fiercely protect and support you. Now unfortunately my real life Glinda’s didn’t give me some shiny red shoes when they waved their protective wand over me, but they did do an exceptional job at reminding me not to lose hope.

Such kindness requires a kindness in return and so these little macaroons were made as a gesture of gratitude, for lending a helpful ear, shoulder and in one case a couple of strong cocktails. Please note these are actually macaroons not macarons. Yes I know I sound like a foodie wanker when I point out that people keep calling the French sweet delicacy by the wrong name, but I wouldn’t want to lead you astray with baking miscommunications 😉

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These are dense and coconutty yet still light enough to feel that you could easily have 2 and it wouldn’t stop you floating around in a bubble. They also keep very well in a container for a few days. They are sourced from my baking bible which I simply can never praise highly enough. Thank you Ms Lawson you are always welcome in my special world.

What do like to give as gifts of gratitude?

Ultimate coconut macaroons

Makes 12

Only very slight adapted from Coconut Macaroons by Nigella Lawson in How to be a Domestic Goddess

  • 2 large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar
  • 100 gms of caster sugar
  • 30 gms of ground almonds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of vanilla paste
  • 225 gms of shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees.

2. Beat the egg whites until frothy with an electric beater.

3. Add the cream of tartar and keep beating until soft peaks start to form.

4. Then add the sugar 1 teaspoon at a time until the egg whites are stiff when the beater is stopped and removed it holds to the beater

5. Add the almond meal, salt and vanilla and fold into the egg whites a couple of times before adding the coconut and folding in until completely combined

6. Using a soup spoon measure out the macaroon mixture and form into balls and place on a lined baking sheet

7. Place into the oven and cook for 20 mins or until coconut is turning golden

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Accompaniment to a Lazy Sunday: Fig, Brandy and Cinnamon Jam

5 Jun

Sunday afternoons at home has to be my favourite time. I love just taking some time out from chores, seeing people and doing things and savouring those last few hours of the weekend. For me this usually means a cheese platter with a glass of wine or if I am feeling particularly naughty, a cocktail 🙂

I do love a good selection of cheeses. Triple cream brie is pretty high up there in the list of things I must have on a cheese platter and a good blue, Stilton or something that is bitey. I usually have some sort of fruit or a quince paste. The sweet and sharp against the salty tanginess of a blue and the luscious creaminess of a brie, is just heavenly. For this reason after handing in my last paper of the semester on Friday (Hallelujah!) I decided this week I would make a fig jam to have with my cheese platter.I love figs and rather than rely on fresh ones I wanted to use dried figs so I could be safe in the knowledge that I could make a sweet accompaniment to my Sunday cheese platter any time of year.

I only halved the figs, in future I would quarter them. They hold their shape quite well and while I love a chunk of fig in the jam, sometimes it really throws out my cheese to jam ratio, and no one wants that. Don’t be concerned about the brandy, it is not overwhelming and simply adds a warmth and depth to the jam that stops it being overly sweet

Sunday afternoon

Be warned this is an extremely sticky and thick preserve, it is completely moreish and we have finished a 1/3 of the jar in our house in the space of a few days I also suspect this jam would be great on scones which I have no doubt I will be forced to make shortly, for the purposes of research and testing obviously 😉

How do you unwind on Sundays?

Fig, Brandy and Cinnamon Jam

2 small jars

  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of brandy
  • 1 packet of dried figs or about 20 dried figs stems removed and quartered
  • 1/2 apple peeled and diced
  • rind of half a lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick

 

1. Heat sugar, brandy and water in a pan on medium to high heat until it has dissolved. Do not stir simply swirl occasionally to ensure that it dissolves evenly

2. Add the apple, figs, lemon rind, lemon juice and cinnamon stick to the mixture and bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally.

3. Simmer for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove cinnamon about 1/2 way through the cooking time, if you like a more aromatic flavour you can leave it in for the full cooking time. The apple should have completely broken down and only some of the fig pieces will maintain some shape.

4. Place in sterilized jars and refrigerate after opening.

 

Self Awareness and M&M Cookies

6 May

Recently I have been going through a little stage of hating people. My faith in them has been seriously undermined by a combination of being exposed to the worst qualities in people in both my work and my social life. It doesn’t happen that often, but a few incidents of poor behaviour in a row and a wealth of stewing on and analysing disappointments can really put me in a mood. So here goes the rant….

People just seem to be prepared to have no self awareness.  Let’s be honest no one wants to admit that they can behave badly, but recently I have become increasingly frustrated at people who run away from their mistakes or minimise their involvement. I sometimes feel that this complete unwillingness to be brutally honest with ourselves means that people can engage in some hurtful and often self harming behaviour. We learn nothing and gain nothing when we ignore our failings. We all make mistakes and bad choices, we respond in humanly flawed ways to challenges and humiliations, I think it is how we deal with them that is the measure of who we are and who we will become…. Deep breath….

When I get into my hating people funk I like to spend time with children. I can’t have any expectation that a small child will have any self awareness and empathy, I can’t feel betrayed when they hug me and tell me 5 mins later they don’t like me and I know that all I have to do to win a smile is present them with a cookie. If only everything was so simple. I have to admit these cookies were crunchier than I would have liked but they were still tasty, maybe a little less cooking time would have rendered them more chewy. I also used M&M’s instead of Smarties. Chocolate freckles would be good too.

I brought the cookies along with me for my play date and they did elicit a smile and that smile plus some cuddles went some way to rebuilding my trust in people, plus they look like such happy cookies, how can a world filled with cookies be bad? In the meantime I have to keep practicing acceptance and repeating the mantra the dude abides…the dude abides

M&M Cookies

Very slightly adapted

 

Happiness in a biscuit


 

Do you ever have difficulty accepting things as they are?

 

Sweets for my Sweet: Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcakes with Pink Frosting

12 Feb

I know a lot of people despise Valentine’s Day as some commercial beat up, requiring you to buy overpriced, poorly thought out presents for your significant other. But I have to admit that I kind of like Valentine’s Day.

When I was a kid my dad always bought my mum a big bunch of flowers and I always got a single red rose in a plastic tube. I loved it! 🙂 I felt so grown up. Mutti also used to buy us kids little chocolates for Valentine’s Day. So for me, Valentines Day was never something people did only for a romantic partner, but rather just a day where you exploited the opportunity to show the people in your life you loved them.

Now I am a person who loves a reason to do something special and create a little moment, be it Christmas, a birthday or a job promotion, there is a little special moment that can be created in celebrating all of these things. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but why not celebrate the end of exams with apple pie and ice cream!

I can’t say that the men in my life have felt the same. A few days before Valentine’s Day the conversation usually goes like this.

Him “So do you like.. celebrate Valentine’s Day?’

Me “What do you mean celebrate?’

Him “You know.. do you like to do something special, specifically for Valentine’s Day?’

Me “I always like doing something special”

Now at this point you would have thought they would have just erred on the side of caution and organised something and stopped asking questions…particularly because they had consumed more than their portion of the end of exam pie, not that I am keeping track 😉 No their questions continue…

Him “I mean… like will I get in to trouble if I don’t do something? I don’t care so I won’t do anything unless you want me to’

Me “I don’t want you to do something that you don’t want to do, and you won’t get in to trouble. It is up to you”

Now I know this might sound annoyingly like I won’t give a straight answer, but what I have said is completely true. Valentine’s Day to me should not be some forced mushy fest where presents are begrudgingly bought because you have to. I like to take part in it because I can show people I care and have an excuse to eat sweets!

Sweet treats for those who sweeten your life!

I don’t like the tacky gifts that are for sale on Valentine’s Day, although I would love a bunch of lemon roses….anyone?! So I usually make something for loved ones. These cupcakes are the perfect sweet addition to any day.  They are beautiful to look at and I found some very  appropriate little candy hearts to top them with. Most importantly they are beautiful to eat. You would have to feel loved just consuming them.

Do you celebrate Valentines Day?

Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcakes with Pink Buttercream Frosting

Makes 6-8

Cupcakes

Adapted from 1001 Cupcakes, Cookies and other Tempting treats

  • 85 grams of unsalted butter
  • 85 grams of caster sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 70 gms of plain flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of bi carbonate
  • 1 tbsp of cocoa
  • Raspberry jam

1. Cream together sugar and butter and the vanilla extract, until fluffy

2. Add eggs one at a time allowing the first to be incorporated into the mixture before you add the second one.

3. Sift in flour, cocoa, bicarbonate and baking powder and mix to combine

4. Spoon mixture into the lined cupcake tray

5. Bake in oven for 20 mins or until skewer comes out clean and the top of the cake is springy to the touch

6. Allow to cool completely.

7. Then using a small serrated knife cut a small disc about 1-2 cm deep into the cupcake.

8. Fill with raspberry jam but be careful not to overfill as the cut out lid needs to be placed back on top.

Frosting

  • 200 gms of unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp of milk
  • 250 gms of icing mixture (or enough to get desired consistency and sweetness)
  • 2 drops of Rose pink food colouring

1. Cream together butter and milk until fluffy

2. Add colouring, add more if you want a more intense colour

3. Add sifted icing mixture and beat until combined.

4. Spread or pipe on top of cooled and jam filled cupcakes.

Bondage, Butter and Ham: A Christmas Tale

31 Dec

Hello Readers!

I have been enjoying a few days off work and blogging and indulging in the Christmas Festivities. Here is a brief run down on how I have spent the last week.

The Christmas season commenced as it always does with me fondling a duck on Christmas eve. Once I had massaged the duck with butter and seasoning, I trussed the duck with such precision and overt delight, that my father who was observing me in the kitchen renamed me the S&M Queen. I am pretty sure I have shoes to go with that new title!

My Motto that butter makes everything taste better was proven to be correct again, with dinner one evening being thick steaks topped with a Parisienne butter prepared by Mutti. It was delicious! I will be making this butter next time I have steak.

The steak  was served as a break from leftovers. Once again the true miracle of Christmas is not the Virgin Birth, but rather that no matter how small the ham, you are still eating it on Australia day.

I got some lovely cook books, including an encyclopedia of food knowledge from the Culinary Institute of America and a cute new Apron.

Now it is all about the New Years and the challenges ahead. I am looking forward to discovering new recipes, making new foods and continuing my blogging adventure. But first we have to get rid of the Christmas leftovers.

What did you get for Christmas?

Happy 2012!

Christmas Food Gifts: Strawberry, Pear and Vanilla Jam

5 Dec

I approach many festive events or celebrations with the type of organisation and efficiency that you would expect from the leader of an army. Christmas is by far the biggest festive event that I participate in every year, requiring  honed skills of preparation and organisation.  I don’t like feeling stressed or frazzled….no I take that back. I like feeling only mildly stressed and frazzled. Just frazzled enough to know I am alive and achieving things, but not so much that I am crying over a bowl of cookie dough.

The only way to strike this stress balance is to plan ahead. As previous posts have suggested, I like to plan and write lists and plan just a little bit more. This is why I am thinking of Christmas presents in October and I aim for having all Christmas shopping completed before November is even completed. Now for over organised freaks like me, one of the things we fear most is being caught short. Caught short of food. Caught short of presents. Worst of all caught short of booze. So on top of stocking up on wine and bubbly for the month preceding Christmas, I also start putting little stocking fillers aside, just in case. Food is a nice non gendered gift, that still requires effort and love to create. This year on top of my usual Christmas biscuits, I also decided to make some Jam to give away.

Christmas Presents!

I have never made jam before and was very excited to find I could make it quite easily, so don’t be afraid. I am not a great lover of strawberry jam as a rule. I find it can be overly sweet, but the pear, although not obvious, cuts through the sweetness. I do plan on adding more vanilla to my next batch, as I felt one pod was not sufficient. There are no setting agents added to this jam. But I did add lemon peel to provide extra pectin and set, as I like a firmer set jam.

Strawberry, Pear and Vanilla jam

Makes 2-3 small jars

Adapted from a recipe by Dan Lepard on BBC online (Original Recipe)

  • 2 large hard pears
  • 500 gms of strawberries, hulled. I cut the larger strawberries in half
  • 400 gms caster sugar
  • Juice of a small lemon.
  • ½ lemon rind grated
  • 1 vanilla pod

1. Grate the pears, minus the core and pips into 500 ml of water in a saucepan.

2. Cook for 15-20 mins over high, until water almost evaporated and pear is tender

3. Add strawberries and boil until liquid has evaporated. Then add the sugar and lemon. Continue to boil the jam until reduced and sticky.

4. Stir frequently to ensure that it does not stick to the bottom.

5. When the jam is the consistency you would like turn the heat off

Firm set

6. Stir in the vanilla seeds only.

7. Pour into warm sterilized jars, put the lid on, tip upside down to create a vacuum.

8. Once opened place in the fridge

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