Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blueberry Pikelets

Sunday breakfasts at our place are usually laid back and as the short order cook, I like to cook up something a little bit special for breakfast. (I'm joking about the short order cook part but some days I think my family isn't!) It's usually bacon, eggs, hash browns etc but today I was in a bit of a hurry to get a few things done before it got too hot and off to the shops for a few groceries so I decided on pikelets.

Pikelets are an Australian version of a pancake. They are a bit thicker than a pancake and more fluffy like a cake. I ate pikelets long before I ever heard of a pancake. I think pancakes only became popular after more American TV shows featured them. Mum always made pikelets for us for afternoon tea after school on the days the biscuit barrel was empty or it was a cooler day. They were one of the first things I learnt to cook. You can find out a little bit of history on the humble pikelet here.

When I haven't got any bulk pancake mix on hand, I like to use this recipe from my high school Home Economics text book, "Day to Day Cookery". I also added blueberries because I had a couple boxes of them and they are super plump and juicy at the moment and good value for money.

Blueberry Pikelets

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp butter or 1 tbs cream
1 cup self raising flour
3 tbs sugar
2 tbs blueberries (or other fruit, eg strawberries, raspberries, grated apple, diced pear, peaches)
  1. Place egg, sugar and half of the milk in a bowl. Whisk well.
  2. Sift flour and salt twice (I don't) and add to mixture.
  3. Add milk until batter is the consistency of thick cream. Add melted butter or cream. Add fruit.
  4. Beat until smooth then pour from a soup soon onto a preheated and greased griddle iron or frypan.
  5. When surface of pikelet is bubbly, turn and cook on the other side.
  6. Remove and place in a towel to cool.
  7. Serve with butter/cream and/or jam.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A train ride to Santaland (in Brisbane city) - Part 1

So far, so good (we hadn't left the station yet!)
It was my son's 5th birthday last Friday and I had promised him, for weeks, a train ride into Brisbane city. It's only about 22km (as the crow flies) from where we live but it takes nearly an hour on the train so an adventure in itself. My daughter had been complaining of a sore stomach all week so I decided to keep her home and she came with us. (Not sure of my reasoning in that decision. One would think if she had a sore stomach one wouldn't venture out on an hour long train ride with no toilets. Oh well. All went well.)

Waiting for the train
 I don't know what possessed me to decide to take both of them in at once. When I had given it some thought I realised that keeping two of them in check, in a busy city, with lots of kids all wanting to see the same things as we did, just had all the ingredients of a disaster but my kids were an absolute delight to take out. They stuck to me like glue and behaved extremely well. Of course there was the obligatory bribe of a small toy (which always works) but even without that, they were very well behaved. (In actual fact, I think they were a little daunted by the number of people, the large buildings and the busy vibe the city had.

Everyone has somewhere to go, in a hurry

A lovely lady offered to take our picture
Once we arrived, we headed straight for lunch at a beautiful little cafe called "Room with Roses" in the Brisbane Arcade. The Brisbane Arcade is one of those beautiful little arcades where you feel like you're stepping back in time and experiencing shopping, the way it used to be. The architecture is beautiful, as are the shops. Now, you might think I'm mad taking my kids to such an establishment rather than the usual fast food chain, but they were dressed so nicely and I wanted them to experience 'fine dining' like I did when I went to the 'big city' with my Mother as a child, even if it was only at the Coles Cafeteria.

Covered chairs, chandeliers, drapes, silver cutlery, tablecloths, fine bone china tea cups for tea and the place was full of ladies celebrating end of year functions or a mother/daughter catch up. The kids couldn't stop saying how 'fancy' it was and we were made to feel very welcome and were looked after very well. The kids were most impressed their water glasses were being continuously filled by a waiter.

My son had a ham sandwich and a Lemon Meringue cupcake with a chocolate milkshake and my daughter had a cheese sandwich with a chocolate milkshake. I had a trio of dainty ribbon sandwiches and a big glass of tropical punch. It was very retro and very delicious. Like a step back in time. Prices weren't unlike those in the major chain coffee shops which don't have anywhere near as much ambience as "Roses" does.

And who doesn't love a tea shop but I thought better of it walking into this shop with the kids jumping up and down and wanting to touch everything. From here we went onto see Santa in Santaland. Where else? Stay tuned for part 2.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Jingle All The Way (by Hallmark)

My family love stuffed animals. Me, I can take them or leave them, but the kids and my (now ex) husband love them. They have teddy bears, a life sized Bambi and Thumper, dinosaurs, Lightning McQueen, dogs, cats, bunny rabbits, you name it. (Daddy even has stuffed Star Wars toys!) When I was asked to try out a new stuffed dog toy by Hallmark called "Jingle" I knew my kids would go ballistic when they saw it. We had the big reveal tonight after their bath. They've just been so busy with their birthday presents, I didn't want to overload them with another gift. (I got around this by saying Jingle belonged to Daddy and I and they were allowed to have a turn.)

[photo source]
The thing is, Jingle is so darn soft and cute I'm not sure I want to pass him up. The best thing about little Jingle is that he's interactive! Yes, interactive! You read the story that comes in the pack and Jingle barks, sings and cries throughout the story. It's a really sweet story involving the big guy in the red suit so the timing is perfect for Christmas.

The good people at Hallmark have also created a free App for your iPhone or iPad which comes with hours of fun and interactive games for your child (or yourself). You can also record your own voice to tell the story. They have other cuddly Story Buddies you can check out here.

I'm not sure how I'm going to go try to get Jingle back but I know the kids are going to have a ball hugging and cuddling him and reading the lovely Christmas story. My daughter read the story to her little brother last night. They get so excited when Jingle interacts with them. (At least Jingle doesn't eat much.)

Use this handy store finder to find your local Jingle stockist. For more information, click here.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pinning & Singing: A story of the doily or doilie

Wikipedia says, "a doily (or doilie) is an ornamental mat, originally the name of a fabric made by Doiley, a 17th-century London draper.  They are crocheted and sometimes knitted out of cotton or linen thread. Openwork allows the surface of the underlying object to show through. In addition to their decorative function doilies have the practical role of protecting fine-wood furniture from the scratches caused by crockery or decorative objects." I love them. I'm not sure but I think many people think they're very old fashioned but a lot of people are repurposing them into beautiful, functional and fashionable pieces.

I grew up with them dotted around the house, protecting the furniture, lessening the amount of dusting to do and giving me something to iron when I was learning how to. Before me, my mother, and those before her, were learning embroidery and crocheting by making doilies. I have many that I'm saving for a quilt I hope to do next year but I have some from my Mum, aunt and grandmother that I will keep for ever for the purpose they were intended. I also have paper doilies I use to put on platters and trays when serving food, just for a little decorative touch. I've made a few that will also remain in my collection.

Here are some beautiful doily pins I found this week.

Source: via Anne on Pinterest

Source: via Anne on Pinterest

Source: via Anne on Pinterest

I'm linking up with Natasha from "5 Minutes Just For Me" and Tina Gray dot me.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Creamy pasta (without the cream)

There's no denying I love Italian food and am probably more partial to tomato based sauces but sometimes the ingredients you have on hand lend themselves to a creamy based sauce. But who's always got cream on hand? Not me. (Probably a good thing.) With some sauces you don't need cream, for example, a traditional Carbonara requires beaten eggs, pancetta and cheese, no cream. I had ham and mushrooms in the fridge and really felt like a creamy sauce.  This easy recipe using milk, flour and stock could be used as a base for chicken, any fish, vegetables and tossed through any pasta. This is also an ideal sauce base for a pasta bake.

Creamy Ham & Mushroom Pasta

100gm ham, chopped
handful mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs plain flour
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup grated cheese (I used Cheddar)
salt and pepper
  1. Gently fry onion and garlic until softened.
  2. Add ham and mushrooms. Stir in flour for 1 minute. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Add milk and stock. Stir until slightly thickened.
  4. Add grated cheese and stir until melted.
  5. Serve over cooked pasta and finish with cracked pepper and more grated cheese, if desired.

There's no replacement for cream, really, but this is a pretty good alternative and made with standard pantry staples. 


Friday, November 25, 2011

My baby turns 5 & birthday VLOG

After all the cupcake baking, pirate party preparations, my daughter's 7th birthday, more cupcake decorating, it was finally my son's 5th birthday today. He was born early in the morning after a worrying night of his heart rate rising and dropping because of me being violently ill with a vomiting bug so it'll be a moment I won't forget for a long, long time.

Not too long after he was born.

I was a little slack in keeping his photos in chronological order. I was only looking at his 'just born' photos the other day and do you think I can find them? Nooooooo!

He awoke to everyone wishing him happy birthday, opening his presents and then we decided his sister, who had been complaining of a sore tummy all week, would come into the city with us on the long awaited train ride I promised him. I was a little nervous taking both of them but we survived to tell the tale.

His cupcakes for Kindy on Wednesday were nothing spectacular. Just the leftover chocolate icing from the pirate cake, tinted with a little black, a white line drawing down the middle to resemble a road and 2 racing car lollies on top. All the little boys at Kindy loved them. (Car lollies available from a confectionery speciality store.)

What he 'always wanted', "Sidley" the plane from Cars 2.

Blowing out the candle on the $2.99 plain frozen cheesecake he requested for his birthday dinner cake
(also his Dad's favourite)

And the obligatory birthday VLOG, complete with toilet humour as expected of a 5 year old boy. We love you Benny boy!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pirate Hat Cake Pops

It was my son and daughter's combined Jake & the Neverland Pirates Party on the weekend just gone and I tried to keep the food closely related to all things 'pirate' so I thought of Pirate Hat cake pops. The thought of them was quite daunting at first. I considered buying a pirate hate cookie cutter to shape the cakes. Once I started 'squishing' them into a triangular shape, they short of resembled pirate hats. The kids loved them. I used leftover red velvet cake from the freezer which worked well. I love the less than perfect shape about them like a well worn, crumpled pirate's hat.

Pirate Hat Cake Pops

2 cups leftover cake
100gm (3.5 oz) dark chocolate
2 tbs butter
300gm (10.5 oz) dark chocolate
1 tbs Copha (or vegetable shortening)
white chocolate, melted (or store bought white chocolate writing tube)
  1. Crumble cake into a bowl so it resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Melt 100gm dark chocolate with butter and pour over cake crumbs. (Reserve 1 tbs of melted chocolate for later.) Mix together until it forms a similar consistency to play dough.
  3. Take heaped tablespoon sizes of mixture and squeeze into a triangular shape.
  4. Using reserved melted chocolate, dip end of cake pop stick into melted chocolate and insert into pirate hat and place on tray covered with baking paper.
  5. Place tray in freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Melt 300gm chocolate with vegetable shortening. Remove cake pops from freezer and dip into chocolate, returning to tray. (The chocolate will harden instantly.)
  7. Draw skull and cross bones with white chocolate pen (or pipe it) and store in fridge until required. 


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Beef & Mushroom Pies

Next to fish and chips (and those horrible so-called burgers), meat pies would have to be one of Australia's national fast foods.  All states have different ways of making them and serving them, ie with minced steak, chunky steak, with mushy peas on top, in a bowl of mushy peas, with mushrooms, onions, bacon, potato on top. Whichever way you eat them, they're pretty good, especially in winter. With the warmer weather upon us, they're still a good meal to have, especially if you have a pie maker, like I do. You don't have to heat the whole house up with the oven on. You can make all sorts of pies like Ned Kelly Pies, a crustless quiche, Cottage pies or using leftovers from stews and casseroles. Cooked pies can be frozen, once cooled, and warmed up either in the pie maker or the microwave for a quick meal.

If you've only got a small quantity of meat, fish or chicken, pies are a great way to get a lot out of little. I only had a small piece of rump steak leftover from last night's dinner so I combined it with onions and mushrooms to make the filling for my Beef & Mushroom pies. Also, you can pick up second hand pie makers on ebay and at thrift stores relatively cheaply.

Beef & Mushroom Pies

beef steak, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
1 handful mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbs plain flour (enough to adquately cover meat mixture)
1 cup beef stock
salt & pepper
2 sheets ready made puff pastry
oil spray
  1. Soften onions and garlic in oil, add cubed beef, brown, then add mushrooms.
  2. Sprinkle over flour, salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce.
  3. Add beef stock and stir until thickened.
  4. Prepare pastry for pie maker or spoon quantities of beef mixture into a ramekin and top with a piece of puff pastry and bake in the oven. Alternatively, make pies in pie maker as per manufacturer's instructions.
This small quantity of beef made 6 pies.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bucky Pirate Ship Cake - Jake & the Neverland Pirates

Just in case you don't have young children and don't watch "Jake & the Neverland Pirates" (lucky ducks), "Bucky" is the name of the pirate ship that Jake, Izzy, Cubby and the parrot, Scully sail in. My kid's were having a Neverland Pirates themed party and I probably tried too hard to replicate some things on the pirate ship but not everything, choosing to opt out when it got too difficult. I really don't think the kids minded and didn't pick up on the minor details. They said I did a really 'cool' job so that's all that matters.

The 'real' Bucky
I made a square slab of chocolate cake and cut out the base of a ship on one side and the same again on the other but left out a space in the middle. The way my cake rose, it was a little higher in the back (the stern). The top parts of the cake were secured to the bottom part with wooden skewers. I didn't build the boarded back of the stern. I had bought chocolate stick biscuits to do this but had nothing to stick them too and they kept falling off. The sails were printed from here and I printed a picture of a real gold doubloon similar to this one here which I glued onto the bottom sail.

Each sail was glued to a bamboo skewer and kitchen twine tied from the top of the bottom sail to the top of the top sail and then another piece of twine tied from each side of the top bamboo skewer to the top of the mast.  I made a crow's nest out of pouring melted chocolate into a cupcake paper, allowing to set and then inserting the mast into it. The mast was a wooden chopstick. I also used one of the pirate flags I printed for jelly cups (in the top picture) which I also attached to the top of the mast. The flag and sail printables were from here.

The cake was iced in chocolate buttercream and I used a skewer to mark horizontal lines to resemble wooden boards.  I used a "Curly Wurly" candy bar to resemble the ballustrading at the bow and the stern, ensuring it stood vertically by inserting a toothpick either side of it and covering the toothpick with chocolate icing.  The yellow candy are 'fruit sticks' similar to the musk stick but yellow. I broke them into inch long pieces and piped yellow icing at the end of each join to resemble the pipework on the ship. The cannon on the front was one of those wafer sticks filled with chocolate and joined with a wooden skewer.

A blue anchor and piping around the port hole, which was a blue Smartie (similar to M&M's), was done in blue icing. I used bits of an orange 'fruit stick on the end of each bamboo skewer. (It was supposed to be yellow but my daughter ate the last yellow fruit stick because she didn't know I needed it.)

I had intended on placing the cake, plus a small round cake I made into an 'island' onto my plastic 'birthday cake platter' but it decided to break just as I started to make the cake. Instead they had to be on separate plates. I rushed to set the cakes up for the Happy Birthday song because one of the children was leaving early so I didn't even get a chance to remove the hard icing crumbs that were left once I removed the baking paper under the cake.

I think because of the blue and white striped sails and the yellow 'pipework' it did look pretty much like "Bucky" (well, the kids thought so). All in all, a fun cake to make and enjoyed by both adults and children.

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