Day 117 27 April – dessert cups

My daughter’s best friend’s parents happen to be good friends of ours. Two weeks ago she received news that her brother passed away. He was suffering from an infection which had left him in a vegetative state for over a year. She travelled back to her home town in Thailand soon after which left her husband to look after my daughter’s friend and her younger sister.

To give him a helping hand we invited them over for dinner tonight because from what I heard his speciality has been mince on rice 🙂 I prepared a vegetarian lasagne with chicken nibbles and fresh ciabatta bread to soak up the sauciness. The lasagne took a whole lot longer to prepare than the 1/2 hour I gave myself. The vegetable  sauce took the longest to boil down and thicken. But in all honesty, it was well worth it! All 4 children gobbled it down with my son (not a trusty veggie eater) exclaimed afterwards, “It wasn’t good, it was delicious”.

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For dessert I turned a traditional South African peppermint crisp tart into a dessert cup. A peppermint crisp tart is made from a South African chocolate called Peppermint Crisp which is roughly grated and then folded into a cream and caramel mixture. We use a coconut based biscuit called Tennis biscuits to form the biscuit base. You start off with a layer of biscuits, followed by the cream mixture. Repeat the layers until you have the required height/size you want. Top the tart or dessert cup off with left-over pieces of peppermint crisp chocolate. It needs to set in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. The dessert cups were reasonably large and after a filling dinner it was a bit overkill, so I would suggest serving these in small jars.

Peppermint Crisp dessert cups (serves 6)

500ml cream

1 tin Caramel Treat

3 Peppermint Crisp bars, roughly grated

1 1/2 packets of Tennis biscuits, crushed

6 small mason jars

Whisk cream until thickened. Add the Caramel Treat and gently whisk until the mixture is well combined and smooth. Add the grated peppermint crisp (but leave some for the garnish) to the mixture and fold in until well combined. Layer the mason jars, starting with the crushed biscuits and followed by the cream mixture. Repeat until the jars are filled to the top. Garnish with left-over peppermint crisp. Let it set in the fridge for 2-3 hours. Enjoy!

 

 

Day 116 26 April – oatilicious

I am not a huge breakfast eater at home. Now I don’t mind going out to a cafè, sit, relax and eat till my tummy is satisfied but that’s a luxury we don’t have at the moment so home cooked breakfasts it shall be. I usually have egg or avo on toast, and there was a time when I enjoyed muesli, fruit and yogurt but the trend seems to wear off and I get bored with my meals.

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I’ve seen some incredible creations lately of oatmeal and/or smoothie bowls so this morning I tried making something hearty and warm for myself and the kids. Luckily my pantry is stocked with rolled oats as I often use it for baking the kids’ school treats. The rest of the ingredients I sourced from the freezer and fridge. I made a mixed berry oatmeal, topped with sliced plum, almonds and additional berries. I lightly sprinkled cinnamon sugar over as I know my kids will ask if they can add some sweetner.

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Breakfast took me 10 minutes to make and it was filling and satisfying. With winter approaching this will surely become a favorite in the house.

What is your go-to winter breakfast?

Procrastibaking – when there’s a pile of laundry to iron but you bake instead

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My sister tagged me in a post on Facebook to which I could only giggle as it is so very true. I have always enjoyed baking but only truly found my passion for it over the past few years. I think it came about when I started baking to fundraise for my daughter’s gymnastics competitions back in 2011. We had additional costs that year as we were travelling up to Auckland from Cambridge once a week for extensive training. I started out by baking one of the best biscuits I had ever tasted called Death by Chocolate biscuits. It is not an easy biscuit to bake compare to the ones I bake now, but they are devilish good. Rich, sweet, decadent and literally melt in the mouth.

Soon afterwards my husband bought me my first Nigella Lawson cookbook. I have made several of her desserts and baked goods but what I love the most about her books is the way she writes them. You might as well be having a one-on-one conversation with her. It’s personal, funny, witty, just like her.

Baking cakes only started in 2013 when I worked for a company where sharing your baking was considered the best thing since slice bread. At first I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes (the seasoned company bakers) so I didn’t bake anything for the first few months. It was only when we moved to our new premises in April 2014 and we lost more than 1/2 of our workforce that I brought my baking in. I baked traditional and fail proof cakes, muffins and biscuits at first. It was through the encouragement of my work mates that I started experimenting with flavours and cake combinations. Whatever I baked I took with to work. I baked for individual employees, whether it was to celebrate their birthday or send them off as a farewell. I felt great joy when I could share these baked goods with them. My most memorable cake was the Hummingbird Cake which I baked for the sales manager’s farewell. It was rustic and full of flavour and oh so pretty.

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Today I still mainly bake to share. I bake to give as gifts, to show love and empathy when friends loose a loved one, for my husband to share at work (expecially when the ladies ask for anything sweet with chocolate). One of those cakes was a traditional Black Forest Cherry Gateau. I baked it for my husband’s birthday so naturally he took it into work for everyone to share.

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I bake because I learn something new every time. I bake because I can’t think of anything more satisfying to do. I bake because nothing smells more divine than the aroma of freshly baked cookies. I bake because I owe it to myself to enjoy food.

Day 98 8 April – cookie time

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Today I launched my cookie label, Say It With Cookies. I am very fortunate to have my parents support in that I can promote the cookies in their shops. I have been baking these cookies for about 5 years now and have managed to successfully get 5 flavours from them:

  • Triple Choc
  • White Choc & Macadamia Nut
  • Dark Choc & Hazelnut
  • Mint Choc
  • Choc Chip & Orange

I started baking them as a fundraiser for my daughter’s gymnastics when she had a competition in Wellington and we couldn’t financially afford the trip. I managed to sell enough cookies to cover her flight and accommodation for two days. We sold them at her school and at my parents shop.

Since then I have baked them for morning tea work treats, as gifts for special friends and for the just because-our-cookie-jar-is-empty days.

I have thinking of baking them to sell for a broader market but fear, disappointment and doubt always puts a stop to this. I have spoken to my dad regarding an action plan, how to start small and then build once you see an increase in sales. I have made the sums and he has double checked the cost. I bought the ingredients, spend 2 days baking, decorating and filling bags. To promote the cookies I have an Easter themed cookie called Speckled Egg Cookies. They are sweet and crispy from the candy coated speckled eggs.

I will give it a few weeks to see how sales go inside the shop, but ideally I would like to have my product at market places where people tend to be a bit more open to new baking endeavours.

For now, it’s cookies by the dozen.

 

Day 97 7 April – fishy tales

There’s a great buzz in the house this afternoon because not only do I have 1 1/2 hours left to bake cupcakes for the school disco tonight, but the kids are joyously getting themselves ready. A 10 year old boy who wants his hair coloured to represent the theme of Under the Sea and a 12 year old girl who wants her hair straightened and the tips coloured blue, because that’s fashionable (so I am told).

I thought of the cupcake decoration during the busyness of the day. I found cute little chocolate fish at a local sweet shop and found this very easy and tasty vanilla cupcake recipe. The rest was left to me making the buttercream icing, playing around with the icing colour and popping the little chocolate fish on top.

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The kids had an amazing time at the disco and my son has stiff, sore arms and shoulders from all the dancing aka showing off. What a great way to end a very busy week.

Day 94 4 April – kalicious

A few weeks ago we went out to dinner at a local restaurant and I had kale for the first time. I’ve heard of this greenery before as most cooking series now shows its watchers how to use kale in a hundred plus ways. I was still a bit apprehensive with what it would taste like when the plate was presented to me. They served it deep fried, so it was crunchy, crispy and I must say very tasty. What doesn’t taste good deep fried!

Over the weekend my husband needed baby spinach for a dish he was making. I couldn’t find any at the grocery store so I bought a bag of curly kale. I now understand why there’s such a fuss over it. The serving options are endless. In my husband’s dish the kale was lightly blanched and then added just before serving. There wasn’t much taste to it, but it still provided texture.

Today I decided to incorporate it into the coleslaw salad I was making for the kids’ lunchbox as a wrap filling. In its natural raw state there is a slight peppery taste to it, which adds flavour to the salad. The kids LOVED it and what a great way to get more healthy greens into them.

Experimenting with this green goddess is fully satisfactory.

 

 

Day 90 31 March – carrot fusion

As part of a fundraiser for the kids’ school, the PTA organises parental help to marshal at a local cycling event. The school receives $50 for every volunteer marshal. Now that is easy money! Seeing as I can’t provide my time I decided to rather bake for the cake stall the school is manning during the event. Again, easy money raised!

I found a recipe for small carrot cakes (carrot cupcakes) with a zingy cream cheese icing. It is a recipe from Nigella Lawson, one of my favourite female chefs. I love reading her cookbooks as it reads like a storybook. For those who have seen her on television you would have noticed how she speaks with great passion over the dishes she creates and that is exactly how she writes her cookbooks. It is filled with her wittiness and love for food.

This recipe was easy to put together and I enjoyed baking it more knowing it is going towards a good cause. The only change was setting the oven to 190C as our oven is a bit wonky and baking it for approximately 16 minutes instead of the full 20 minutes. What I like most about carrot cakes/muffins are the spice infusion! I often replace the cinnamon with a spice mixture of nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon.

There’s always a reason to bake!

Carrot Cakes with Cream Cheese Icing:

For the cupcakes
100g light muscovado Sugar (you can use soft brown sugar)
175 ml of sunflower oil
2 large eggs
225 g plain flour
3/4 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
zest of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 orange
2 medium carrots grated
scant 1/2 cup walnuts chopped 
12-cup muffin pan lined with 12 cupcake cases

For the icing
125g cream cheese
250g icing sugar sieved
1-2 tsp of lime juice
12 walut halves

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Beat sugar and oil together, then add the eggs one at a time. Add flour, baking bicarb soda, cinnamon, salt and zests, then fold in carrots and chopped walnuts. Spoon into the cupcake cases in the muffin tin and bake for 20 mins. Cool on a rack.

Beat the cream cheese until soft, beat in the icing sugar, then squeeze in the lime juice. Spread (or pipe) on the icing and place 1/2 a walnut half in the centre of each cupcake.