Pumpkin Walnut and Raisin Loaf

16 Jun

Dear Pumpkin,

You’re not the prettiest looking vegetable in the patch

But for those that do the hard yards your inner beauty is well worth a blister or two.

Note : The most difficult thing about this recipe is cutting up the pumpkin!

Pumpkin Walnut and Raisin Loaf – inspired by Food.com’s Pumpkin Loaf Recipe

I lessened the naughty factor a little by…

– using apple sauce instead of oil

– honey roasting the pumpkin before pureeing so I could halve the amount of added sugar

– using wholemeal flour

Ingredients

2 cups pumpkin puree

honey

1 cup white sugar

1 cup applesauce

4 eggs

2 cups wholemeal self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

Method

– Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees celsius and grease two loaf pans

– Cut up the pumpkin and drizzle in honey – best to cut up too much than too little. If you end up with more than 2 cups of puree the excess can be frozen

– roast the pumpkin in the oven until soft but not burnt

– puree the pumpkin in a food processor

– Mix the pumpkin puree, apple sauce, eggs and sugar in a bowl

– Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, raisins and walnuts

– Mix well

– Spoon the mixture into two loaf pans and bake in the oven for 65 mins

– Once cooked leave to rest in the pans for 10 minutes before turning out on to a rack to cool

Enjoy on its own or spread with butter if you’re feeling decadent!

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Quinoa Peanut Butter and Choc Chip Cookies

12 Feb

Sometimes you just want to eat cookies.

And these little beauties are cookies you can feel good about.

Note : although it seems a little un-australian I prefer the word cookie over calling them biscuits. Calling them cookies reminds me of the cookie monster.

And what’s not to love about him? He’s adorable!

I adapted this recipe from the Shape – 10 healthy cookie recipes list.

These treats are  super healthy, yummy and really easy to make.

Organic versions of the ingredients were available  at my local health food store which was nice too; given my recent venture into healthier eating.

I increased the yum factor ever so slightly by adding in some dark chocolate to compliment the cacoa nibbs.

Ingredients:

1 cup of quinoa cooked and cooled (which will then equal 2 cups)

1/2 cup of natural salted peanut butter

1/3 cup of raw honey

1 cup of rolled oats

1/2 a cup of dried, unsweetened, shredded coconut

1/2 a cup of raw cacao nibs

8 squares of dark cooking chocolate – finely chopped

Directions: Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

 Line a tray with baking paper. Flatten tablespoons of the mixture onto the baking paper and bake for approximately one hour.

Makes 24 cookies

My First Smoothie

9 Feb

In 2012 I’ve turned over a new leaf, nutritionally speaking.

It’s funny how you think you’re eating well and doing the right thing – until you realise that you could be doing it all a whole lot better.

To be honest, I’ve always felt the whole organic thing was a bit of a crock. But I now understand that this was just due to my complete and utter ignorance on the subject!

I’ve been listening to the Jillian Michaels Podcast. She mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but she definitely knows her stuff. (Note: I think she’s amazing!)

Based on Jillian’s advice I’ve switched a lot of what I take in (and put on) to healthier and safer alternatives.

One new Sunday ritual-in-the-making I’m particularly enjoying is buying all my produce locally – from the Mulgrave Farmers Market .

*** A totally unexpected bonus is what I’ve saved by not participating in time-wasting-money-sucking trips to the ‘stupermarkets’ every other day.***

This weekend just gone I noticed a new stall with the most incredible looking blueberries I’ve ever seen. The blueberry stall just happened to be right next door to a strawberry stall. Clever product placement if I ever saw it – I bought a punnet of both and headed on my merry way.

I’d already bought some flaxseed meal and whey protein powder at the health food store the other week. With my new found source of fresh berries I decided it was time to dabble – ignoring the fact that smoothie drinking was something everyone else got excited about roughly 10 years ago (when boost juice entered the market).

Does anyone else think that the inside of a blueberry oddly resembles eggplant?! Lucky it’s just a visual thing.

Ingredients (makes enough for two)

1 cup blueberries

1 cup strawberries

200g organic yoghurt

500ml organic coconut milk

2 tablespoons whey powder

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

Chuck it all in a blender and whizz away until it’s a consistency you’re happy with.

Garnish with shredded coconut – adds a nice little crunch!

Australia Day Canberra Style

1 Feb

I think my partner Scott and I reached a new level of patriotism this year.

Firstly we turned a public holiday Thursday into a long weekend by taking the Friday off as well – doesn’t get much more Aussie than that.

We then chose to spend our self-made Australia Day long weekend in Canberra – our nations capital.

More than a few people questioned this decision – actually make that every single person I spoke to.

‘Why Canberra?’ and an incredulous look was what I got whenever I mentioned our mini-break destination of choice.

Admittedly Canberra doesn’t have a reputation of being the most exciting place on earth. It’s claims to fame are fireworks.. and ah…. porn.

Prior to beginning our trip we had hopes of seeing our Prime Minister make a speech – if we were lucky.

We never expected to actually meet her!

Meeting Australia Day ambassador Adam Gilchrist and Australian of the Year Geoffrey Rush was icing on the cake.

Australia Day 2012 was an incredible experience I know we’ll never forget.

P.S. The fireworks in Queanbeyan were awesome!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5Mw08SCjQg

Herb Bouquet (and a lovely surprise)

3 Jan

I finally got around to spending some quality time with my herb garden.

I’ve really enjoyed having an abundance of Basil, Coriander, Thyme, Parsley  and Vietnamese mint at my disposal. But with the weather we’ve been having lately, hot days followed by episodes of torrential rain – the garden has totally boomed. (you’d be forgiven for thinking Melbourne had vacated somewhere tropical to drink cocktails and get a tan)

As a result my beautiful herb garden has become a little overgrown. I was too embarrassed to take a before shot – this shot was taken after some real serious pruning. It still looks like some kind of herby wilderness!

I’ve made enough Pesto to feed a small army and eaten copious amounts of Fresh Tomato and Basil salad but I can’t keep up. So I got to thinking…. what’s a quick and easy way to share this harvest with my nearest and dearest.

A herb bouquet – something that’s perhaps been done a million times before but it was a first for me. I was quite happy with how it turned out. It smelled incredible and if you cross your eyes and squint a little bit it almost looks like an actual bouquet of flowers!!

While I’ve got you I  must say a big shout out thank you to Hollie @ Too Beautiful for Earth for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award. So unexpected and such a lovely surprise!

Going by the rules of this thing – here’s 7 things you may or may not know about me….

1.  I’ve worked for the same company for 9 years – which seems to be a bit unusual these days. Long service leave is just around the corner! *exciting times*

2. I’ve watched the entire series of The West Wing twice and plan on giving it a third run through in the near future – pure television brilliance.

3. I grew up in Adelaide and moved to Melbourne as a teenager. Although Adelaide will always be very dear to me Melbourne is now my home.

4. I have what I feel to be an irrational fear of ghosts. Especially considering I’ve never actually seen one. I get unexplainedly teary just listening to someone telling a ghost story. I can’t explain why, I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember. I’d love to know for sure that ghosts aren’t real (at least in the scary-haunting-people-and-freaking them out sense) but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion they are.

5. My partner Scott and I dream of one day living on a big property and becoming reasonably self-sufficient – not 100% self-sufficient but as much as we can manage while still having a life!

6. I have been keeping a sourdough starter alive for 9 months now. I make my own bread each week and have only bought bread once or twice (in dire emergencies) since learning how to bake it myself – something I’m a more than little bit proud of!

7.  My partner and I bought our first home together 2 and a half years ago – easily the biggest, best, most incredibly fun adventure I’ve ever been a part of. So many good times.

And now for the 15 blogs I most admire, am inspired by and that give me a giggle –

In totally random order … (just like my craft-slash-junk-slash-clean washing-slash-anything else without a home spare room)

I’ll sleep when they’re grown

Walking on Travels

No Names No Pack Drill

Never done it that way before

Sew Make Believe

Too beautiful for Earth

I’ve become my parents

Joy the Baker

Shutterbean

Handmade Life

Sugar and Stripes

Meet me at Mikes

Parenting illustrated with crappy pictures

Imake

Musings by an ND Domers Mum

The Rules of the Versatile Blogger Award

Thank the award-giver who nominated you and link back to them in your post.

Share 7 things about yourself.

Nominate 15  blogs you enjoy reading

Inform the bloggers of their nomination.

Add the Versatile Blog Award picture on your blog post

Easy Passionfruit Tart

19 Dec

I went to a tropical themed birthday party on the weekend. It was 30 degrees and super humid – definitely wasn’t hard to get in the mood for cocktails, pineapple and lei wearing antics

The birthday girl and I were both on the same holiday to Fiji earlier this year. As a souvenir I bought  ‘Unforgettable : a coconut cookbook’. It really came in handy for the event.

I cooked the Easy Passionfruit Tart and true to its name it was very simple.

  • Pre-heat your oven to 160 degrees

*** I’ll take this opportunity to give a big shout to my dad who decided to clean my oven last week – thanks Dad! Who knew oven trays could be so silver and shiny!! ***

  • Measure out the ingredients – careful of that coconut.. it goes everywhere
  • Add all ingredients together in a bowl and you guessed it – mix well
  • What you’ll then have is a heavenly smelling mixture that to be honest…. looks pretty average. Don’t worry though, it tastes much better than it looks.
  • Grease a 24cm pie dish and pour in the mixture
  • Pop the dish in the oven and get started on that sink of dishes you’d much rather put off till later.
  • After 45 mins or there abouts remove the pie from the oven to cool. It should be that nice golden brown colour around the edges.

In the meantime I also made a passionfruit syrup in an equally easy fashion

  • Put water and white sugar into a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes
  • Add passionfruit pulp, lemon juice and tartaric acid and boil for another 3 minutes (it can and probably will boil over at this point – so don’t turn your back for too long!)
  • Set the mixture aside to cool

You can serve this dish hot or cold.

To make it a bit spesh bought some full-strength vanilla ice-cream to serve with it –  Afterall, life is too short to always go low-fat.

I then sprinkled the tart with icing sugar to make it look pretty and wrapped the birthday gift and jar of syrup in matching  paper – Happy Birthday to my lovely friend Linda!

Note: My brand new nephew Hayden had absolutely nothing to do with the making or eating of this dish – but I’ll take any opportunity to show him off!

Ingredients

Easy Passionfruit Tart

1 cup desiccated coconut

3/4 cup castor sugar

1/2 cup plain flour

4 eggs

1 1/3 cups milk

125g butter

1/2 cup fresh passionfruit (about 5 whole passionfruit are required for this – I got away with 4 but only just)

1 tablespoon Lemon Juice

Icing Sugar for dusting

Easy Passionfruit Syrup

1 cup water

2 cups white sugar

1 tin (340g) passionfruit pulp

Juice from two lemons

1 teaspoon tartaric acid

Crack Pie

5 Dec

I hadn’t made a cake in a while, so I spent a bit of time trawling the internet for inspiration.

I performed the usual Google searches, ‘best cake recipe’…. ‘top cake recipe’ …. but didn’t come across anything really special.

I just wanted something sweet and different; it didn’t really have to be cake. So I widened the net a little, ‘best dessert recipe’, ‘favourite dessert recipe’……

It was when I searched for ‘amazing dessert recipe’ that I came across Crack Pie.

Intrigued by the name I did a bit more research. It turns out the name is in reference to the pie’s addictive properties. The inventors of the dish likening it’s affects to something of a slightly more illicit nature. It also has some pretty favourable reviews so I decided I’d stumbled upon my latest culinary experiment.

I found the recipe itself to be very true to form. It took roughly as long to make as it said it would – which was a refreshing change. I normally find that recipes are quite optimistic in time estimates – that or perhaps my speed at following directions isn’t up to scratch!

None of the techniques were overly difficult – I think the hardest part was getting the cookie dough to spread evenly on the baking sheet!

Ta da!

The recipe says you can use either a 10 inch or a 9 inch pie tin – but to just cook 5 minutes longer if using the smaller of the two. I opted for two 9 inch glass baking dishes and with the suggested 5 minutes extra cooking time it seemed to work out fine.

I can’t comment on whether this cake is as addictive as crack cocaine – but it was definitely delicious in an indulgent ‘I’m pretty much just eating butter, sugar and eggs and it tastes incredible – oh my!!’– kind of way. (Here’s a tip – don’t Google the calorie count of this pie, before or after consumption. It’s just one of those things in life that you’re better off not knowing)

The centre was gooey  and very more-ish as promised. The crust did have some unexpectedly awesome hits of saltiness too. It was kind of like eating the best cheesecake base you could possibly imagine but without the cheesey part.

Which I hate to say…kind of made it feel like it was missing something.

As the recipe makes two pies we got to eat/demolish one as a test run. For the serving of the second pie (the next day – we weren’t complete piggies) we added strawberries, kiwi fruit and some whipped cream.

In my humble opinion this only added to the experience. The pie is so very very sweet that the strawberries and kiwi fruit were tart by comparison. This balanced out the sugar hit really well. And the cream, well almost everything tastes better with a bit of cream doesn’t it!?

Would I make this pie again?

Definitely – the fruit and cream were on the spot added extras… but I’m sure there are many other toppings that would finish off this pie perfectly. It would only be right for me to attempt a few more surely… anything for one more bite… just one more bite..

Yummo!

Taken from the Momofuku Recipe in the LA Times

Cookie for crust

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour

Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter

1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar

3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar

1 egg

Scant 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) rolled oats

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated.

5. With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated.

6. Spread the mixture onto a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack. Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust.

Crust

Crumbled cookie for crust

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little of the mixture clumped between your fingers should hold together). Divide the crust between 2 (10-inch) pie tins. Press the crust into each shell to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides of the tins. Set the prepared crusts aside while you prepare the filling.

Filling

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar

3/4 cup plus a scant 3 tablespoons (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon (3/4 ounce) milk powder

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

3/4 cup plus a scant 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 egg yolks

2 prepared crusts

Powdered sugar, garnish

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla.

3. Gently whisk in the egg yolks, being careful not to add too much air.

4. Divide the filling evenly between the 2 prepared pie shells.

5. Bake the pies, one at a time, for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes. Remove the pies and cool on a rack.

6. Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. The pies are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Snap Happy Weekend

14 Nov

I love many things – but I’m never super passionate about any one thing for any great length of time.

It’s one of my best faults.

On the upside it means I’m forever looking for potential new interests in the hope that one day…. I’ll find my true love.

For quite a while photography was a real contender. But like many other previous endeavours, it too gradually faded into the background. (Replaced by my latest love – crochet)

But this weekend a comeback was staged. Perhaps it was the sunny Melbourne weather. Maybe I have some kind of undiagnosed craft related seasonal disorder – who knows.

With sunlight so bright I couldn’t help but squint, I spent Saturday morning wandering around our backyard – finding pure joy in snapping away at all of the beautiful growing that’s going on this time of year.

We visited the Dandenong Show that afternoon where I found myself looking through the lens with a new sense of purpose.

Sunday’s activities – the annual Sheltie Day in Somerville didn’t require any motivation on my part at all! Not surprisingly, the one thing that guarantees never-ending snap happiness for me is shelties running around having a grand ol’ time. So much cuteness.

I’m really hoping the photography flame has been reignited. I love the way taking pictures makes me look for the little things I’d otherwise miss. And it’s especially good timing seeing as my little nephew is due any day now!!! I’m pretty sure there’s an abundance of cuteness just around the corner. Good times.

* Photos taken using a Canon 450D.

* Photo editing performed using Picnik – my new favourite online application – check it out at www.picnik.com

Love your Local

29 Oct

Ok, this might not be as much of a revelation to some as it will be to others – but it was definitely a revelation for me.

My local library is incredible. Seriously.

If this post results in one person getting out there and exploring their local library I will be a happy lady.

For me, the craft section alone is worth the trip. There’s a tonne of  books showcasing an amazing array of activities, all that I can delve into at my leisure without parting with a single coin.

(That is unless I return them late – but so far so good. Must be a grown up thing. Years ago there were times I couldn’t afford to go the library because I didn’t have the money to pay the overdue fines – thank goodness for the after hours “book chute of shame”!)

I’ve often driven past my local library and thought it was a tiny little place that surely couldn’t have much that would interest me. How wrong I was!

It turns out my local  is part of the Eastern Regional Libraries group. Might not sound like exciting stuff but it is.

It means  I can go online and have access to all the books, cds, and dvds that exist at 13 branches plus 3 mobile libraries!

That’s a lot of borrowable material.

You search for the books you want on the website, put them on hold and they then deliver them to the library of your choice – free of charge! Fantastic value.

Today’s haul included

  • a book on fruit trees for my fruit tree obsessed other half
  • a book on slow cooking for my 36 week pregnant sister who’s planning to slow cook then freeze her little heart out for the next few weeks.
  • a stand mixer cookbook – for me!
  • at least half a dozen craft related books – also for me!
  • season 4 of Mad Men
  • season 3 of Food Safari
  • and 5 audio CD’s

Pretty good for just half an hour of my saturday morning.

Not to mention the bonus rush that I used to get buying books – without the guilt!

It’s win/win all round.

On a serious note, with so much  day to day activity like shopping and socialising now occuring online it’s a wonder some people leave the house at all!

Despite this, the local library has obviously moved with the times – and is thriving! In addition to the convenience of being able to reserve and renew books online, the library also provides a great range of services in-house.  I already look forward to taking my soon to be born nephew to visit the childrens section of the library – it’s just gorgeous. With story time for the youngsters, book chat for the adults and even gardening and photography classes the library really does have something for everyone.

Love your local library – it’s a fantastic community resource that everyone can enjoy – and it costs nothing. Quite a rarity in this day and age.

Crochet Little shoes – Take Two

16 Oct

Not wanting to be defeated by my (oversized) first attempt at crocheted booties – I’ve had another crack at it.

Still after something slightly modern looking, I found this pattern online – cute aren’t they. Like little mini sneakers!

I don’t tolerate lengthy projects well.

I’m a great starter. Completely gung ho. The finishing bit I struggle with.

But I found this pattern do-able in one lunch break plus a couple of hours after work which suited me perfectly.

Ta da!

Only one slight problem – there’s no heel. I’m really hoping my nephew has heels – two of them actually.

My search for cute and modern, well fitting booties continues.

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