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My Last Supper…

November 9, 2017

This is the end of the road for me as a food blogger and I’m guessing you may not be surprised.

Anyone who has been following me for the last while may have noticed that I haven’t been so prolific lately and have complained about being “stuck“. I have spent the last few months with a constant, nagging feeling of “I should really write a blog post.”

I have lists of recipe ideas that have languished, waiting to be written. I even have photos on my phone that are just waiting for testing and dialogue. But I just can’t get it together.  When I first started this blog, I couldn’t stop working on it. I was cooking and testing every day. I spent hours figuring out how to build a website, how to improve my photos and, of course, cooking, testing and writing – hours and hours of writing. I absolutely loved it. The words flowed freely and easily. And now they don’t. I just don’t. So I know it’s time to call it quits.

Last night I went out to dinner with a group of fellow bloggers; all very successful in their own right. And when our meals were served, everyone’s cameras immediately appeared to photograph their plates! Except mine. Despite the fact that the meals were beautifully presented, I just didn’t have the inclination or the passion and it made me a bit sad.

Life evolves, priorities change. My family has had a few dreadful years and my energy is waning. Juggling a “real” job and maintaining normal pace has been a challenge.  I’m feeling less sociable and have less to say. I think I am needing a change. Perhaps I will concentrate my creativity elsewhere, I’m feeling a call back to clay (I was a potter in another life), maybe…

Whether you have been following for one year or five years, thank you so much for your friendship and support – your comments and emails have meant so much and have made this whole journey incredibly worthwhile. I hope that you have enjoyed it as much as I have, I had so much fun – Thank you!!

I started this blog in January 2012 and have published over 400 recipes and amassed readers far and wide. I have made wonderful friends through this site from as far away as the UK, Canada & France. Not to mention my many followers in the United States and New Zealand. And of course my local friends in Australia, who are very special, and without this blog I would never have met! And I am grateful for my Thermomix, its notoriety is in its divide. I haven’t worked for Thermomix since 2010 and would not recognise the company now from its humble roots back then, but I remain loyal and still use it everyday. It opened doors in my mind that I never would have considered opening.

I started this blog to fill 3 needs: at first I was experimenting with my own diet and exploring the Paleo template. The way of thinking diet was new then, no one had heard of it until chef turned heath nut, Pete Evans was infamously quoted about his activated nuts! Personally, I know that activated nuts TASTE so much better, but if you aren’t able to make your own, they are too cost-prohibitive to buy. Eat regular nuts. I’d prefer to spend my money on better quality meat if I couldn’t make my own. The second need was to support my old Thermomix customers, who had attended my private cooking classes and wanted more. I had met some lovely people who had shared their kitchens (and stories) with me and I wanted to keep in contact. And finally, the third need was to fulfil my requirement of a creative outlet. Cooking has always brought joy to me, I find it a meditation and distraction from the mundane. I loved the challenge of “healthifying” known junk foods, like “paddle pops” and “chokito bars” and “spicy fruit rolls“.

By far the most popular recipes on this blog were chocolate ones! Waning readership? Publish something chocolate!! From my Magnum ice-cream to Paleo Royals, my Magic Bean cake was what paved the way. It is still the most searched for recipe on the Thermomix website – and the most copied*.

My Fantabulous Gluten Free Bread (and its few renditions) proved to be the most sought after and popular recipe on this site. My flatbread recipe is a winner, as is my $hit-hot Brandy sauce. (It’s coming up to Christmas, folks!)

As for my favourites, my most often cooked ones: my banana muffins and Anzac biscuits  and Crispy Roast pork (from 2012) are my go-to comfort food. For celebrations I always fall back on my favourite cheesecake (but there are many!) Or perhaps this one!

I have so many favourites that it is too hard to pick. Just way too hard! One day I would like to put my recipes in a book, but I realise that writing a book is a huge commitment and I’m not sure where to start. How do I choose 100 out of the 400?  Is 100 recipes too many? One day.

This site will continue with my domain name so you will still be able to access this blog and it’s archives. And I’ll still be active on social media, so I hope you’ll follow me on Facebook where I will still post recipes. (I might even learn more about Instagram and snapchat.)

Now that I have finally written this, I am glad. And I am sure. I am saying good-bye to a baby. Thank you so much for your support and desire to cook. Keep cooking – for you too, are a clevercook.

 

*It was even plagiarised and published on the ABC radio website, MY photo and all! But I’m flattered.

 

Chocolate Not So Wheaten

August 6, 2017

I have said previously that sometimes some good comes from kitchen disasters.

I usually call these “happy mistakes”  – when they happen soon after the disaster – that is!

During my “lost mojo” phase  (I am calling it a phase as I am optimistically waiting for it to pass),  I made some Anzac biscuits to go with my comforting hot chocolate without giving the recipe a glance first. I have made these a billion times, I’m thinking, as I throw in seed after seed, more of this and more of that.

Well, they came together OK; they didn’t spread much; but were much ‘too heavy duty’ according to my husband! I resignedly put them in the fridge for when I was really desperate and made another batch – by the recipe.

I revisited them a few days later desperation prevailed and admitted that nothing would fix them except maybe a coating of chocolate. Everything is better when it’s dipped in chocolate, right?!

Shazaam! They tasted just like a chocolate wheaten, only crunchy!! 

Chocolate Wheatens were on my B list when I was a kid. I have previously mentioned Chocolate Royals being on my A list, not to mention my penchant for squashed fly biscuits and  chocolate mint slice biscuits too. Chocolate wheatens were like the pretend chocolate biscuit; when mum was on a budget and couldn’t afford the real deal.  This was before chocolate montes or chocolate butternut snaps were invented. As I got older, I came to really appreciate the wholesomeness (or wholewheat) of this particular biscuit and loved them.

But it’s been a long time since I bought packet biscuits (apart from the occasional gluten-free macadamia shortbread), and this happy mistake reminded me of those days – even if they are a ‘bit heavy duty’ – they’re a healthier option.

 

90g buckwheat
40g millet or quinoa
2 teas linseeds
60g rapadura or coconut sugar
40g desiccated coconut 
50g sunflower seeds
50g pepitas
1 tab chia seeds
1 tab sesame seeds
30g flaked almonds (optional  – sub 1 tab quinoa flakes if nut free)
120g butter (or coconut oil)
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teas bicarb soda mixed with 1 tablespoon of warm water
100g chocolate, melted with 1 teas oil
 
Mill millet and linseeds on SP 9 for 1 minute and add the buckwheat. Mill again on SP 9 for 30 seconds. Add the flours the rest of the dry ingredients a large bowl.
Melt the butter and honey on SP 3 for 1 minute at 80°C. Add the bicarb and water and  mix for a few seconds to combine. Add and stir through the dry ingredients. If the mix is a little dry, add a little water, teaspoon at a time, you don’t want it too wet that it falls apart when forming balls.
 
Roll into walnut sized balls and flatten on tray. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes at 160ºC until golden. They will crisp up when they cool.
 
When cool, dip the underside in chocolate and refrigerate to set.
 
 

 

A Recent Story of my Life..

July 23, 2017

This post isn’t about a fabulous recipe but the journey I have been on for a few months now.

Quite frankly – I’m STUCK. I have lost my cooking mojo, It’s gone. Vanished. Kaput! And writing seems such an effort. Usually the words flow from me like water from a tap. I felt that I needed to explain why you haven’t heard much from me of late.

Usually I have an insatiable appetite. An appetite for creating; for colour; for texture and flavour. I was always inspired, always moving forward. I thrived on challenging myself in the kitchen, creating something delicious, creating something new, but recently I hit a wall and not only my creativity suffered but my appetite too.

A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with an unusual lesion on my brain called a tectal glioma. It explained relentless headaches and fatigue that I had been suffering for some time. The worst part was not the fact that it was inoperable, but the fact that there was nothing to be done about it, except sit and wait.  I spent 7 months of waiting, ruminating, catastrophising, & holding my breath.  The stress was exhausting. Mr Netflix and Mrs Lindt became my best friends.

After an interminable wait, I had another brain scan to be told that my tumour was very slow-growing, most probably benign, and definitely in the short term not life threatening! The best they could do was to treat the symptoms (headache & fatigue) and forget about the unusual small dot that showed up on my scan! HA! F&*k you small dot!

Luckily, I consider myself to be an enthusiastic optimist. Life goes on. I’m a get back on the horse kinda gal.

I have a list of recipes in my drafts folder that I have been working on. I have a book of scribbled notes and recipe ideas but I just can’t seem to get any to fruition. Recipe testing is an involved & lengthy process that requires energy. I have not been cooking nearly as voraciously – any cooking has been resorting to tried & tested dishes with the least amount of thinking and effort. (My husband has been heating up a lot of meat pies lately!!)

Which compels me to tell you this story.

Last week I was watching a TV show called Shark Tank. I had never seen it before and was only inspired by an ad I saw where they showed a product: a dairy free ice-cream that I had seen in the supermarket but never tried. The premise of the show is that a panel of investors listen to entrepreneurs pitch ideas for a product they wish to develop. These self-made multi-millionaires judge the business concepts and products pitched and then decide whether to invest their own money to help market and mentor each contestant. I only watched it because I was interested in the ice-cream!!

According to the judges the coconut milk ice-cream was AMAZING! Although apparently the business concept was not! But it was the information I needed to go and buy a tub and try it for myself. I didn’t like it very much – too gummy, (lots of E numbers) and too coconut-y. My husband turned his nose up at it immediately and wondered how many people bought a tub after seeing the rapture of the judges on the show! But here I was faced with a new challenge: How not to waste this $10 tub of ice-cream!

In the past I had read about an idea for cake using two ingredients: melted ice-cream and flour. OK, lets give it a try! I couldn’t quite bring myself to confine the recipe to the two basic ingredients so I added an egg. And a little chocolate.  I threw in some gluten-free flour and then in a moment of doubt, added some more. As soon as I spooned the batter into the cake tin, I realised I shouldn’t have added the extra flour, it looked a bit stiff. Needless to say, the resulting cake was dry and lifeless. So I iced it with chocolate frosting. It didn’t fix it.

Now I had a batch of crappy $10 cake with expensive ganache…… it sat on the kitchen bench overnight, while I pondered.

Eternally the optimist, I sliced up the cake and made a batter of 2 eggs, a dash of almond milk & some leftover ganache and baked it as a chocolate pudding…

It was bloody delicious. And I was shocked!

Now having written this I feel I need to lie down.

I will persist in looking for my baking mojo and hopefully finish some of my drafts soon. I can’t promise when.

Thank you for your patience and may you continue cooking happily. 🙂

 

 

 

Apple of my Eye – Mothers Day Pie

April 25, 2017

Seeing as Mothers Day is fast approaching (Sunday 14th May 2017), I was thinking about a favourite dessert that my mum used to make: apple pie. Rather than baked in a typical pie dish, she always made it on a flat sheet, resembling a buttery pastry mountain Uluru, crammed with freshly stewed apples. It was delicious hot or cold and would last for a few days as it was a generous recipe.

Whilst my friends were chowing down on “snot blocks” and jam donuts from the school canteen, I would always prefer the apple shortcakes which were much more like flat little pies. They were filled with a sweet & gloopy apple mixture and blanketed with a thick layer of white fondant! I have never seen them here in Queensland and have fond memories of chipping off the icing in thick shards. This recipe is definitely a refined version; much healthier and gluten-free.

Australia produces a large range of apples, but the top five most popular apples in Australia are: Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Pink Lady, Fuji and Gala.  As a kid I only remember there ever being Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Jonathans.  We would drive out to the orchards (now 30-year-old housing estates) and buy 3 kg bags and munch on them in the car on the way home. Those were the days when the bakery closed at 12 noon on a Saturday with the queue starting at 8am! But I digress.

I always use granny smith apples to cook with as they are lovely and tart but if you prefer a sweeter pie, you could use your favourite.

By the way, Granny Smith apples are named after Mrs Maria Ann Smith (1799-1870), who in the mid 1800’s cultivated the first crop of our now famous Granny Smith apples. She was an illiterate who migrated to Kissing Point (Ryde), New South Wales under the government bounty scheme in 1838.

It is said that she had developed a seedling from the remains of some French crab-apples grown in Tasmania. The apple was not a commercial variety in her lifetime but its cultivation was sustained by local orchardist’s and by 1892 ‘Granny Smith’s seedlings’ had begun to win prizes in the cooking-apple class.

What are your favourite apples to cook with?

I like to steam my apples in the Thermomix, rather than cook them in the TM bowl as I like them to retain their shape.  Just peel and quarter them (or cut in eight, depending on the size), place them on the Varoma tray, sprinkle with a little lemon juice and steam for 15-20 minutes, Temp Varoma, SP 1. I only use about 350g water.

By all means you can cook them on the stove in a little water or use canned apple.

                             Ready for the oven

You will need about 450g stewed apple – cooled.

Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to taste

1 tab currants

2 – 4 tabs sugar (to taste)

1 teas tapioca flour (or cornflour)

For the pastry:

3 tabs sugar
1 lemon, rind only
240g GF flour mix
½ teas xanthan gum (or guar gum)*Optional
110g cold butter
1 egg + 1 egg, beaten & divided
2 ice cubes
 
Mill the sugar & rind on SP 9, 5 seconds
Add the flour, butter & ice and mix on SP 7, 5 seconds
Add 1 whole egg and half an egg, mix on SP 6 until just forming a dough.
 
Rest the dough in the fridge for 20 mins, then divide in 2. Roll out half the dough into a 7mm base.  Sprinkle the base with a dusting of tapioca flour** then top with apples, currants, spice and a little sugar if required.
 
Roll out a larger round of dough and squish the edges up. Brush with the remaining egg and sprinkle the top liberally with sugar. Prick with a fork to allow the steam to escape and bake for 30 – 40 minutes in a moderate oven or until golden. Serve hot, cold or warm with cream or ice-cream. Or nude!
 
* Helps to keep the pastry strong without breaking.
** The tapioca flour helps absorb the juices from the apples, preventing the base from going soggy.
 
 

Chocolate Cherry Brioche Pudding – Happy Easter!

March 30, 2017

It’s nearly Easter time – hot cross buns, family get-togethers, the Easter bunny and of course…..CHOCOLATE!

I have to admit, I have been partaking in far too much chocolate recently, so rather than another chocolate recipe, I have decided to offer you this as my Easter contribution.

My husband woo-ed me with this dish. Well, it was a much sweeter, gluten-ful version!  And it was LOVE at first bite!

Many moons ago (when we were still trying to impress each-other), my yet-to-be husband and I would plan intimate little dinner parties for two, with lavish 3 course meals inspired by extensive research of my cookbook collection. (This was before the internet was even considered a recipe resource.) One did the cooking for the other, and we would alternate spoiling each-other with a fine dining experience in our own home. The one that wasn’t cooking was banned from the kitchen while the cook spent the day (sometimes two) toiling over a hot stove as an expression of love. Aaaawwww! I think back to those meals with fondness, when life was simpler and everything was rose coloured! I should have done this post for Valentines day but I wasn’t organised enough!

I’m not sure where he got this recipe from but it has been stored in the back of my mind as one of those special but rarely visited treats as it would have never have jumped out at me to make myself.

I never had bread and butter pudding as a kid, it seemed so alien to me. Those I encountered as an adult were always stodgy, heavy affairs, often served cold which offered no appeal to me. Something about this recipe resonated with my husband (as he did grow up with bread and butter pudding) and I am so glad that he introduced it to me all those years ago.

The secret is to use brioche instead of bread – and less of it. This recipe is almost a custard pudding rather than a bread pudding as it is amazingly light – but rich! It is studded with chocolate and cherries which makes it as decadent a dessert as you will find – and one certainly worth being woo-ed with!

You can certainly substitute the cream with coconut cream and the milk for nut milk but don’t tell my husband as he would be horrified! I used a 600g bottle of pitted cherries and had some leftover.  Try to find a light and airy brioche or panettone although finding a gluten-free one might prove difficult so I tend to make my own. Don’t worry – it IS worth it!  This will make a great dessert for your family Easter feast as it can be done the day before, or certainly prepared in the morning. Have a Happy Easter!

3 extra large eggs (4 if smaller)

250g cream

250g milk

2 tabs sugar* (or Natvia)

pinch cinnamon

vanilla

350g brioche (stale)

200g cherries, drained

120g chocolate chips

200g drained cherry juice

2 teas cornflour

1 tab port or sherry

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

In a wide bowl whisk the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon & vanilla well.

Roughly chop the brioche into 1 inch dice. Place into the bowl with the drained cherries and chocolate and mix the custard in gently, trying to avoid breaking up the bread. This is certainly not health food!

Tip into a greased baking dish and let stand for at least an hour or overnight and bake for 45 minutes, turning the oven down to 160°C after 5 minutes of putting it in the oven.

While it is baking, make the cherry sauce by adding the cherry juice, cornflour and port to the TM and cook on SP 3 at 100°C for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Serve the pudding warm with the cooled cherry sauce with fresh cream.

*I find that the chocolate and cherries sweeten this enough, but add more to taste.

Pete’s Magic Muffins

March 18, 2017

These will always be known as Pete’s Magic muffins, even if I have converted them to gluten-free and significantly reduced the sugar. I can’t exactly say that I have healthified the recipe as they contain copious amounts of white chocolate and there’s no getting out of that one!

White chocolate is not really chocolate at all but a derivative of chocolate as it does not contain the cocoa solids, the nutritional constituent of chocolate liquor—chocolate in its raw, unsweetened form. During the manufacturing process, the dark-coloured solids of the cocoa bean are separated from its fatty content, as in milk, semi-sweet, and dark chocolate. But, unlike those other chocolate types, the cocoa solids are not recombined. As a result, this wonderful fat; cocoa butter, is the only cacao ingredient in white chocolate. Because it contains no cocoa solids, white chocolate lacks the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate, such as thiamine, riboflavin, and phenylethylamine. So you can’t even eat it and feel vaguely virtuous about it except that it contains trace amounts of the stimulants theobromine and caffeine, if that’s your thing!

Good quality white chocolate will contain cocoa butter that is not deodorised, retaining its lovely strong flavour and will contain some natural anti-oxidant as vitamin E, but cheaper white chocolates are deodorised via steam stripping and flavour is artificially added (usually in the form of vanilla). Fake white chocolate, known as confectioner’s coating (think yoghurt coated sultanas), is made from inexpensive solid or hydrogenated vegetable and animal fats, and are not at all derived from cocoa.

Anyhow,  real white chocolate is sweet and creamy and buttery and a delicious foil for the sharpness of the fresh strawberries in this recipe. You could substitute dark chocolate for the white and use any other berry instead of the strawberries, but this is my favourite combination.

So why are they called Pete’s magic muffins? The original recipe was gleaned from an old colleague when I worked in the art department of a local school. Peter was a fellow art teacher whose zest of life and all things creative was insatiable. He was considered by far, the coolest of teachers by the male student body!  He couldn’t believe that a recipe as simple as this, made muffins that tasted like ‘pure magic’! The original recipe had rolled oats and all-bran cereal with double the sugar – needless to say, I have made a few tweaks here and there, but I think they are still magic!

160g gluten-free SR flour

120g sorghum flour

80g rapadura sugar (or Natvia)

5 tabs flaked quinoa

60g shredded coconut

2 teas baking powder

170g white chocolate chips

4 eggs

260g milk (or nut milk)

100g oil

250g fresh strawberries, sliced

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients together.

In the TM bowl (or in a jug) whip the wet ingredients together on SP 6 for 10 seconds. Add the mixture with the sliced strawberries to the dry ingredients and mix very lightly. It will be quite runny and lumpy.

Sprinkle the tops with a little extra sugar and bake at 170°C for about 25 minutes. It makes about 13 muffins so the recipe can easily be halved for an after school snack! They are best eaten warm out of the oven but freeze well.

Banana, Date and Walnut Loaf

March 3, 2017

datewalnut-bananacakeDate and Walnuts are a perfect match! Just like chocolate & hazelnut or ham & cheese!

This moist date loaf is based on bananas and carrots and has no refined sugar.  I had a surplus of bananas to use up last week and was looking for something a bit different so came up with this. It’s full of healthy stuff including teff (or you could substitute quinoa) and walnuts but they could be omitted if you are nut-free and is also dairy-free. The molasses contributes a good dose of iron also.

Dates would have to be one of my favourite sugars, they are rich in several vitamins, minerals and fibre. These delicious fruits contain calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, selenium , zinc and magnesium which are all beneficial for health. They are a natural source of energy, sugar and soluble fibre and promote healthy bowels!

I do try not to eat too many as they are so very sweet, but I have used them here instead of sugar. The soft medjool dates are a favourite but they are super expensive so I use the ‘garden variety’ dried type in this recipe.  Try to find ones that are not coated in oil or added preservatives.

I’m also happy to say that “chia eggs” work well in this recipe so it will suit those who are egg-free too!

170g teff (or quinoa)

100g carrot

140g dried dates, pitted + 80g dates, pitted & chopped

100g water

1 teas bicarb

1 teas cinnamon

400g ripe bananas (or you could substitute roasted sweet potato)

60g molasses

80g oil

2 teas baking powder

2 eggs (or 2 tabs chia seeds soaked in 6 tabs water)

100g walnuts, chopped (optional)

Mill the teff (or quinoa) on SP 9 for 30 seconds. Set aside.

Chop the carrot finely on SP 4 for 10 seconds. Set aside.

Add 140g dates and 100g water with the cinnamon to the TM bowl and cook on 100°C for 2 minutes on SP 1. Stir through the bicarb and set the paste aside.

Without cleaning the bowl add the bananas, eggs, oil & molasses. Blend on SP 5 until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients: flour, date paste, carrot, baking powder, extra dates and walnuts and stir through on SP 2 REVERSE.

Pour into a loaf pan and bake for 40 – 50 minutes at 170°C. It will be quite moist. Serve with lashings of butter for afternoon tea or with caramel sauce and ice-cream for a decadent dessert.

*I love a dark molasses-y loaf and ginger would be a welcome addition.

 

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