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Book Club

I am a member of a book club.  It’s exponentially better than The Jane Austen Book Club (vomit!) and I really enjoy getting together with these women and chatting about books and other unrelated but fascinating topics (relationships, cooking, movies, men, wanky politicians, swingers parties…).

At our last ‘meeting’ we were chatting and nibbling when someone mentioned that cheese contributed to her nightmares.  Admittedly my mind started running down a tangent completely imagined where the cheese we scoffed down that night started enacting its revenge – completely imagined.  For my book club friend the nightmares are nothing to do with cheese apart from it makes her nightmares worse which is not funny at all.  Later that night, or maybe early the next morning I couldn’t sleep and is my habit in times like these I got out my drawing stuff.  Vicious chedder and vengeful baby bels jumped onto the page:

The cheese!

* Names removed to protect the guilty!

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend.

Kim

PS “The cheese!  The cheese!”  Sends me straight back to a really funny night a long time ago.  Those present may enjoy this:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvjRsijFejA]
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Perfect Pancakes (that just happen to be vegan!)

I usually make pancakes using eggs, but this morning there were no eggs.

Perfect Pancakes (that just happen to be vegan!)

2 cups of flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar (or whatever sweetener you like)
½ teaspoon of salt
2 cups of water
2 tablespoons oil (perhaps a mild flavour)
2 ‘eggs’ worth of egg replacer, mixed per package instructions (I use orgran)

Directions:

– In a mixing bowl lightly whisk together all of the dry ingredients

– In a pyrex measuring cup (easy to measure out liquids) whisk together all of the wet ingredients

– Make a well in centre of dry ingredients and add wet ingredients, stirring gently until it is all mixed together

-Heat up a skillet or frying pan on low/med heat. I have a well seasoned cast iron skillet and it’s awesome for pancakes. A friend once told me that the pan is ready when little drops of water dance on the pan – or if you’ve made a bazillion pancakes you’ll just know.

– Ladle on your batter in little or big dollops – suit yourself. Generally I know a pancake is ready to flip when the little bubbles in the batter start to ‘set’ around the edges

PS Have you ever (met a girl that you tried to date…) noticed a yucky metallic aftertaste in any baked goods. It’s probably the baking powder. Not everyone can taste it, maybe I will need to run litmus paper type tests to prove that last statement, but baking powder sometimes has an awful taste to it. So, I just use baking soda/bi-carb and cream of tartar (not a cream, why?). 1 teaspoon baking powder = 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar. Yes, I know it doesn’t add up to a whole teaspoon, but that’s life. Commercial baking powder has some kind of anti-caking agent in that makes up the other quarter.

PPS I love Biz

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Blackberry Jam



So, you want to make some jam?  Well, my theory is that no matter what flavour jam you are making, the rules are the same.  Fruit plus sugar, let it sit overnight, boil it down = Jam.  Granted there are a few details to get stuck into and the all important setting, but making jam is NOTHING to be scared of.  If it doesn’t set the first time, make some cute labels saying ‘syrup’ and distribute it among your friends, and then try again.  I mean if I can make it, everyone can make it.


So, I stole the recipe below from http://scrambledhenfruit.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/seedless-blackberry-jam.html but I have added my own thoughts in italics.  This simply goes further towards my claim that if someone like me who is too lazy to type up my own recipe can make jam, well…

Ingredients 

  • 6 cups ripe blackberries, washed (I bought 4 kilos of frozen blackberries)
  • 2 1/2 cup tart apples, coarsely chopped- include skins and cores (I used small “not quite ripe” apples from our tree)  (I used 2 apples – simply because I had two…) The pectin is found mainly in the skin and the core of the apples.
  • 1 cup water (I think this is a no no, water in jam?  No…)
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I doubled this – as did I)
  • 5 cups sugar (approximately) (Yep, jam has a lot of sugar in it, but you use it by the scant spreadful, so suck it up and move on)

yield: about 6 half pint jars (Umm, I’m not even sure what a pint is.  Isn’t it a glass of beer?  I should have been a comedienne!  I got six Bonne Maman jars full of jam out of my blackberries although on my next repeat I think I will get more as my jam is too thick for my liking)

Directions

    • Prepare jars and lids (per manufacturer’s instructions) for canning- 6 half pints.  I washed my jars and lids in hot soapy water.  My jars were already clean of jam but had been languishing in the cupboard gathering dust for some months.  Then I popped the the jars in the oven for 20 mins @ 110C.
    • Put half of the blackberries in a large pot and crush with a potato masher. Add the rest of the berries and crush. Add apple pieces and water to the crushed berries. I skipped this…
    • Cook mixture over medium heat until apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Stir often to prevent sticking. You may add another 1/2 cup of water if the mixture gets too thick. I did this, water is still a no no…
    • Once fruit is very soft, run through a food mill or press through a fine sieve, using a large spoon or spatula. Discard the skins and seeds that are left. I used a food mill and then pressed remainder through cheese cloth.  The more you squeeze, the more jam you will end up with.
    • Rinse out your pot. Measure the fruit pulp and put it back into the pot. You should have about 5 cups. I did this, you should end up with some amount related in some distant way to what you started with.
    • Add enough lemon juice to make the mixture pleasantly tart. Heat over medium high heat, dissolving sugar.
    • Increase heat and cook rapidly, stirring often. Cook until mixture reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit, or until the mixture falls in a sheet off of your spoon. You can also try putting some of the mixture onto a cold dish to see if it is jelling. Yes, the jelling method.  Put two plates into the freezer, when you think your jam is getting close to setting, drop a little spoonful onto the plate and let it cool.  Then push your finger across the plate and through the spoonful.  If the spoonful wrinkles and is of the consistency you are going for – your done – if it’s too runny keep boiling.
    • Once mixture is ready, remove from heat and ladle into hot prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headroom at the top of each jar. Position lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  I took my jars directly out of the oven (with sterile tongs) and spooned my jam into a funnel (sterile as well) held over my jars.  You don’t want to get any jam on the rim of the jars and a funnel will help with this.  I had a bowl of boiling water holding my jam lids.  I let them sit in the water for a few minutes to clean them off and also to soften the rubber seals.  I pulled the lids out with my clean tongs and screwed them firmly on.  I popped them into my large pot of boiling water, I think the water needs to cover the bottles, and let them boil away for 20 mins.  
    • Pull your jars out of the water, set them on the counter and sit down to wait for the rewarding pop of the lids as your jam seals itself.  Woot woot!

    I use jars that I have kept rather than buying new jars – isn’t economy the whole point of canning?  Well, I know economy isn’t really the whole point anymore, but I quite like collecting Bonne Maman jars and reusing them.  Apparently reusing jam jars, their lids to be precise, is frowned upon by the jam gods.  Well, I think it’s perfectly acceptable, but then I studied commerce and not food science so who am I to know.  My jam is tasty though.


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    Lazy Dinner

    Sometimes I am organised.

    Sometimes I make up and shop for a weekly meal plan. The rest of the time I figure it all out at about 3pm. I know that life would be easier for me if I just got myself ready ahead of time. But alas, usually I’m doing a crossword or the daily newspaper sudoku. It’s my own fault.

    Sometimes I don’t even get it together at 3 o’clock or 4 or 5. So at 5:15 I panic and this is what I make:

    Lazy Dinner

    mix together and let sit for 8 mins or so:
    1 cup cous cous (which I always have buckets of on hand because I never plan my shop and thus always forget that I have some)
    1 cup boiling water

    then stir in:
    1 BIG tablespoon of sundried tomato pesto
    then add any or all of the following:
    1 or 2 Avocados cut into bite sized chunks (I usually always add this)
    Any combination of veggies that I have lying around. Today it was:
    Some lettuce (my boys take these out of their dinner as they ‘don’t eat leaves’ – one day they’ll get get gout or something hideous and ill be able to say that I told them so)
    Julienne sliced snow peas
    Corn-on-the-cob steamed and then sliced so it’s corn-off-the-cob(?)
    Capsicum/Red Bell Peppers cut up really fine (the boys then fall into my trap and eat them)
    Toasted slivered almonds

    Sometimes I have different things on hand so I just go crazy in my disorganised housewife world and toss in:
    Chick peas or similar
    Tofu (husband complains at this 😉 )
    Other peppers/capsicums
    Tomatoes (this is a total lie because I don’t like them uncooked)
    And when the moons are going crazy sometimes I put meat in, usually chicken

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    HAPPY HOLIDAYS

    I am so slack that this year’s Christmas cards now say Happy Holidays as they will probably arrive in Canada after Christmas. 

    I can’t bring myself to buy cards to send out.  I just have to make them and then at some point I get to Photoshop and that is where I lose days of time.  I have little to no idea what I am doing and while I eventually get something close to what I want it is never as crisp as I would like.  Bah!

    Christmas-Card-2012

    The butterfly on the left is a Common Grass Blue (with a name like that they may have self esteem issues) and on the right is a Birdwing Butterfly.  There have been so many butterflies in our garden lately.  I have been looking into what types of plants attract butterflies to see if we can get a few more in our garden.  I might have to take the boys to the butterfly garden at the Melbourne Zoo.

    I am also doing some lino print wrapping paper with flour dots.  I’m sure my boys will appreciate hand printed wrapping paper…

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    East Coast Baking

    I’m having a brief moment of Type A-ness and have made two loaves of bread. It won’t last. The bread nor the motivation.

    The motivation to get baking may stem from coffee, but nevertheless I have two loaves of fresh homemade bread in my Nana Ursula‘s bread tin.


    The recipe comes from a great book, which I received my equally great friend Sandra, West Coast Cooking by Greg Atkinson:

    I love cookbooks and I have quite the collection. Some I just look at, some are dogeared and sticky and there are probably some I don’t even know I have.  I love it when a giver writes a message in any of my books.  When I grab a book down and open it up I always reread any inscription and it always makes me happy. 

    Better than Store-bought White Bread

    This all-American white bread is not unique to the West Coast, but it was, in its day, as prevalent here as it was anywhere else.  Commercial yeast in a very soft dough makes for soft bread, reminiscent of the “batter-whipped” factory-made breads that gave American bread a bad name.  The difference is that this one has none of the strange-tasting chemical additives that make store-bought white bread so disagreeableInstead, this bread fills the house with pleasant aromas while it’s baking and makes terrific sandwiches.

    Makes two 9 x 5 inch loaves

    2 Cups warm water
    2 Tablespoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
    2 Tablespoons sugar
    5 Cups unbleached white flour, plus upt to 1/2 cup additional flour as needed
    2 Tablespoons salt
    2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar    

    1. In the bowl of an electric mixer or in a large mixing bowl, stir together, the warm water, yeast and sugar.  Allow the mixture to stand until the yeast is softened, about  minutes, then stir until the yeast is completely dissolved.

    2. If you are working with a stand mixer (which I did), pile in the flour, along with the salt and vinegar.  With the paddle attachment, mix on low speed to make a thick sticky batter.  If you are mixing the dough by hand, whisk in 1 cup of flour at a time until the batter is too thick to whisk, then switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the remaining flour.

    3. Use the dough hook on the mixer, or turn the dough out onto a well-floured counter top and knead the dough, pressing and folding it until it is very springy, and sprinkling it with additional flour if needed to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.  Be careful not to add more flour than necessary, or the dough will be stiff and the bread will be heavy.  Once my dough stopped sticking to the kitchen aid bowl (I think I used an extra 1/2 cup flour) I let the dough hook work its business for 4 minutes.

    4.  Leave the dough in the electric mixer bowl or return it to the regular mixing bowl.  Cover the bowl with a damp lint free kitchen towel or a piece of plastic wrap and pt it in a warm place until the dough is doubled in size, about an hour.  

    5.  Lightly oil two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans with canola oil.  Punch the dough down, turn it out on to the counter and divide it in half.  Form each half into a ball.  Cover the balls of dough and let them rest for 10 minutes.  The will allow the gluten to relax.  The shape the loaves, roll each piece into a rectangle about 10 inches wide and 15 inches long.  Starting at the bottom, roll the dough like a jelly-roll, pressing it firmly to form a log.  Put the loaves into the oiled pans and allow them to rise until they are light and almost doubled in size, about 35 minutes.  While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 375F (190C)

    6.   Bake until the tops of the loaves are brown and the loaves are baked through.  When the bread is ready, after about 35 minutes of baking, it will make a hollow sounds when tapped, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the centre of a loaf will register about 195F (I didn’t do this, so not sure on the C).  Turn the loaves out of the pans onto a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before slicing.    

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    Inspiration


    “As architecture is about the third dimension, being within a space and having an emotional reaction to it goes way beyond a photographic image.” “A great joy is to have clients reporting back to me that they love spending time in a completed interior.” – Albano Daminato, Belle Dec/Jan 2012/13

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    The Lego Party warm up

    I you have ever visited my home you will notice two things: One – I am very messy and two – I LOVE cookbooks and have a bit of a collection.  Until my husband took over the shelves (that he built for my cookbooks – harumph!) with his work I had all of my cookbooks neatly organised by colour (my brain works that way) with a small spot in the kitchen for my frequently used books.  One of the books that has always lived in my kitchen is Lisa Yockelson’s Chocolate and the muckiest page in the book belongs to her Heirloom Devil’s Food Cake.  I love it.  Regardless of who the cake is made for or belongs to, I usually eat most of it.  Sometimes maybe perhaps I eat all of it…

    For my son’s latest birthday I made my favourite cake, but I have also used it for some other celebrations:

     

     This year’s LEGO cake, in all its lime green glory:

    And some pinata action:
     

    Heirloom Devil’s Food Cake 

    2 ¼ cups bleached all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon salt
    12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    1 ¾ cup plus
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    3 large eggs
    1 ¾ teaspoons vanilla extract
    3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
    1 ¼ cups buttermilk, whisked well

    1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease the inside of two 9-inch layer cake pans (1 ½ inches deep) with shortening, line the bottom of each pan with a circle of waxed paper cut to fit, grease the paper, and dust with flour.
    2. Mix the batter: Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.
    3. Cream the butter in the large bowl of a freestanding electric mixer on moderate speed for 3 minutes. Add the sugar in 3 additions, beating for 1 minute after each portion is added. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 45 seconds after each addition. Blend in the vanilla extract and melted chocolate. On low speed, alternately add the sifted mixture in 3 additions with the buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the sifted mixture. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl frequently to keep the batter even-textured.
    4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly between them. Spread the batter evenly.
    5. Bake and cool the layers: Bake the cake layers in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until risen, set and a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer withdraws clean (or with a few crumbs attached). Cool the layers in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Invert the layers onto other cooling racks, peel away the waxed paper, and cool completely.
    6. Set up the serving plate: Tear off four 3-inch-wide strips of waxed paper. Place the strips in the shape of a square on the outer 3 inches of a cake plate.
    7. Assemble and frost the cake: Center one cake layer on the plate (partially covering the waxed paper square; the strips should extend by at least 1 inch). Spread over a layer of frosting. Carefully position the second layer on top. Frost the top and sides of the cake, swirling the frosting as you go. Once set, gently remove and discard the strips of paper. Let the cake stand for 1 hour before slicing and serving. Bake and serve within 1 day

    Chocolate Butter Frosting 

    4 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    7 tablespoons milk, heated to tepid
    8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

    1. Place the confectioners’ sugar, salt, melted chocolate, vanilla extract and milk in the bowl of a heavy-duty freestanding electric mixer fitted with the flat paddle. Scatter over the chunks of butter and beat on moderately low speed for 2 minutes to being the mixing process.
    2. When the frosting begins to come together, raise the speed to moderate and beat for 3 minutes, or until very smooth. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to keep the frosting even-textured.
    3. Increase the speed to high and beat for 2 minutes, or until very creamy. Adjust the texture of the frosting to spreading consistency, as needed, for adding additional teaspoons of milk or tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar. 

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    I’m a codfish

    My husband is 37 today.  Another year older another year wiser?  I’m not sure – we had a small drama the other day when he couldn’t locate a bowl in a hurry.  Maybe he is focusing on the important things, like what to put in his bowl.

    The boys are currently obsessed with all things Peter Pan, so I made up a Pan birthday card.  The boys recognised the characters so it mustn’t be all that shit.

    We chose a leaf blower for Matt.  Thrilling I know, but I’m sure he will enjoy standing in his own little patch of clipped nature blowing things about whilst breathing in the 2-stroke.  Isn’t that what nature is all about?

    We (actually just me; my mom would call this ‘the royal we’) put together a favourite cheesecake of Matt’s. It’s from Susan Spongen’s cookbook Recipes, A Collection for the Modern Cook and I’ve made it for a few of his birthdays, in fact this year it was requested. 

    I have scoured my archives (my shamefully disgusting messy picture files) and have come up with some terrible photos:

    I love the uranium-like glow in this pic

     This infinitely more tasteful photo comes from Baking Obsession:

    I have purloined the recipe from Oprah.com (Oprah, oh the shame…) as I can’t be stuffed typing the recipe out.  At some point I plan on coming back to this post and inserting the metric measurements (I really can’t be bothered still, but ie:1oz = 30g and one stick of American butter = 1/2 stick Australian butter):

     
    Lemon Curd Cheesecake
     Servings: Serves 10–12
    Ingredients
    • 1/2 cup lemon juice
    • 6 egg yolks
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
    • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter , cut into pieces
    • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
    • 2 1/2 packages (8 ounces) cream cheese
    • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • Salt
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
    • 2 large eggs , plus 1 yolk
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • Butter for pan
    • 1 cup chilled lemon curd
    Directions
    To make lemon curd: Whisk together lemon juice, egg yolks and sugar in a heavy, nonreactive 1-quart saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon until mixture thickens and coats back of spoon, 5 to 10 minutes. (It should read 140° on a candy or instant-read thermometer.)

    Remove saucepan from heat and strain mixture over a bowl. Stir in lemon zest and butter until butter completely melts. Cool slightly before using. Curd can be stored in refrigerator in an airtight container up to 1 week. Warm over a double boiler or microwave briefly to return it to liquid form. It will set up again when chilled.

    To make crust: Preheat oven to 350° and position rack in middle of oven. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by cutting a parchment circle to fit inside.

    In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt. Using a fork, stir in butter until well combined. Press mixture into prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while you prepare filling.

    To make filling: Decrease oven temperature to 325°. In an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese at medium-low speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. With mixer on low, gradually add sugar, then flour and finally a pinch of salt. Scrape down sides again.

    Switch to a whisk attachment and continue by mixing in vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest. Whip in eggs and yolk, one at a time, scraping bowl and whisk at least twice. Continue to whip on low speed and add sour cream. Whip until well blended; do not overbeat. Batter should be light and somewhat airy.

    Brush sides of springform pan with melted butter. Wrap outside of pan tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil making sure there are no holes in foil. Pour filling into pan. Place pan in a large roasting pan and pour hot tap water into roaster so that it comes about halfway up springform pan. Transfer to oven and bake until filling is just set in center, about 45 minutes. If edges start to pull away from sides of pan sooner than that, remove it from oven. Immediately remove pan from water and remove foil. Place on wire rack and cool to room temperature.

    Stir lemon curd until smooth (it should be the consistency of thick sour cream) and spread over surface of cheesecake. Cover springform with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. To unmold cake, place a hot towel around pan to loosen cake from sides. Run a butter knife around edges and remove outer part of pan.

    We are watching Kill Bill.  Such an awesome movie.  Zing!