Archive for the ‘Afternoon tea’ Category

New city, new job and n20140513-202943.jpgew kitchen… I’m back and a lot has changed since my last post. However some things haven’t and our loveof food, cooking and eating hasn’t. This week is a bit crazy at my new job, long hours, lots of politics and the prospect of working on Saturday. I came home from worktonight and really had major chocolate cravings. I was just going to buy some chocolate but instead thought I would bake.

Over the weekend my brother and I stumbled across a slice recipe that our Mum used to make for afternoon tea when we were young. Now, the slice is called Chinese Chews… I have know idea why and there is certainly nothing Chinese about them. My brother thought his Chinese wife would find the name hilarious. So I decided I would make this randomly named slice.20140513-194233.jpg

It was a very easy recipe and one I don’t think I have ever made. In a large bowl I mixed together 1 cup sugar, 1 cup mixed dried fruit, 1 self-raising flour, 1 cup desiccated coconut, 1 tablespoon cocoa. While I was combining the dry ingredients I had 125 grams of margarine melting.

When the butter was melted I added it to the dry ingredients along with an egg and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Then I just mixed it all together. It is quite a stiff mixture so I got my hands in there to finish combining it all.

20140513-194241.jpgI then pressed the mixture into a slice pan that I had lined with baking paper. You don’t need to grease the tin or line it but I did this so I could easily remove the slice. Once evenly and firmly pressed into the pan I popped it into a moderate oven for 20 minutes.

While it was baking I mixed together the butter icing. Check out my recipe here. When the slice was baked I iced it while it was still hot. The icing melts into the slice and makes it chewy and yummy. The final touch was just to sprinkle some coconut over the top.

I let it cool before tucking in… Organising lunches, dinner and cleaning up while it cooled.20140513-194251.jpg

Then it was ready…. One bite and I was 10 again. Chewy, chocolaty and full of fruit! I behaved and only ate one piece and will take a lot into work tomorrow but it was worth the effort of baking just for that one slice of Chinese Chews….



Sausage RollsWe are back from Hawaii with many adventures to share and food to write about, just give me a day or two to settle back in to real life! I wanted to put a quick repost in honor of tonight’s start of the NFL season. I now have 16 weeks of Sundays where J. will barely communicate ahead of me but we both love the game and of course the food that comes with it.

It is also finals time for Aussie Rules and NRL back home in Australia so it is fitting for my wonderful Aussie followers also.

So here is a favorite recipe and favorite footy food from Australia – the sausage roll! A delicious savory treat with ketchup, relish or bbq sauce on the side and of course the prerequisite beer.

Check out the original entry here – Aussie Footy Food!

Enjoy the recipe and the football – whatever code or team you might follow!

Plum & Lime Jam.jpgWalking through one of our local supermarkets recently I had a flash back to childhood when I saw mountains of delicious red plums on sale… not just for sale but on sale for a ridiculously low price! J. watched with wide eyes as I kept adding more and more plums to my bag! I explained to him that mum used to make plum jam at home and nothing tastes quite as delicious as homemade jam.

The plums weren’t completely ripe so I decided to wait until the weekend to make my jam. During the week I kept trying to think of another ingredient I could put with the plums to make it a little more interesting and possibly even more delicious. It wasn’t until Saturday morning when I was getting prepared to start cooking that I looked down and saw some limes… Plum and lime jam – of course!

My mum’s recipe is 1:1 ratio of fruit and sugar… delicious, yes but high in sugar so I thought I would play with it a bit. I used 4 pounds of red plums that I cut in half and took out the seed. I didn’t cut them smaller because I wanted my jam to have some chunks of fruit in it. Plums and Sugar.jpg

My 4 pounds of halved plums went into a large. I had tasted the plums and they were really quite sweet so I decided to just add a single cup of sugar to the pot. I thought I could always add more later if it wasn’t sweet enough, but in the end I didn’t need to.

I put this pot onto the stove on a medium heat to start the stewing process. I added 1/2 cup of lime juice to the pot and stirred everything together. How easy is that! I just left everything to bubble away while I cooked some other things (fresh bread, triple chocolate marble mudcake – posts to come soon on those!)

Bubbling away.jpgI occasionally stirred the mixture to make sure it wasn’t sticking and also tasted it a couple of times to see if it was too tangy and needed more sugar. Once it was the consistency I wanted – jammy! I turned off the heat and let it cool. While it was cooling I sterilized a few jars.

I loved how this turned out, it was both sweet and tangy. The lime really gave the plums a zesty lift and made sure that the jam wasn’t just completely sweet. J. tried it out on some of the bread I had just baked and really enjoyed it. He like that it was tangy and tasted so purely of plum!

I really enjoyed making this. I haven’t ever made jam by myself and have only watched my mum do it when I was really young. I really only remember licking the spoon. For a first time effort I think I did well. We have a large supply of plum and lime jam now so I won’t need to make any for a while. I might even give some away as edible gifts… always a yummy present. It might make a great Christmas gift in a few months since it is such a fabulously festive color.

Now I just need to think of some other interesting jam combinations!

Passionfruit Choc Brownies.jpgOver the weekend we ran out of sweets. We have been trying to cut back on sweets, which means I have curbed my baking a little but we still like to have one small thing after dinner each night as a treat. So on Saturday when we discovered all our treats had been eaten, I know I had to bake.

I gave J. a few things to choose from and he settled on Passionfruit Choc Brownies. Like every normal person we love chocolate and we are both crazy about passionfruit, even though you can’t get fresh ones here in Arizona.

(I am trying to grow my own vine though…)

Luckily I still have some of the passionfruit nectar in a tin left from our last supply run to Australia!

I must apologize for the lack of step-by-step photos… but it is so easy, the photos aren’t really necessary.

Out of the oven.jpg

First up, I preheated the oven to 180C (356F) and greased my square baking tin. I roughly broke up125 grams of 70% dark chocolate and chopped up 125 grams of unsalted butter, putting them into a heatproof bowl. Over a saucepan of simmering water, I melted the butter and chocolate until combined.

Once completely melted I took it off the heat and added 150 grams of light brown sugar, stirring until the sugar is incorporated. To this mixture I added 2 medium eggs and 1 additional egg yolk… (2 whites, 3 yolks). I mixed all of this together before sifting in 40 grams of self-raising flour, 40 grams of cocoa powder and a pinch of salt. It is best to use a really high quality cocoa powder for this so you get the best flavor in the brownie.

Ready to cut.jpg

When this was all combined I added 4 tablespoons of passionfruit nectar (including seeds) and mixed that in. I poured the mixture into the

tin and placed it on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes.

They smelt delicious when they came out of the oven but we were good and went to the gym, had dinner and then ate a brownie. I cut them up and J and I ate one with a glass of milk.The best way to tell that the brownies are done is to insert a skewer and it comes out with some dense crumbs left on the skewer but no gloopy, wet mixture.

The brownies have a great chocolate flavor with just a hint of the passionfruit. I would probably add more passionfruit nectar next time. However, they are yummy and delicious and not too sweet, just the right amount of sweetness, thanks to the dark chocolate.

This was the first time I have made them and I will be definitely making them again… J. really enjoys them too – a nice sweet treat after dinner!

Chocolate Raspberry Muffin.jpgAfter making the banana muffins last weekend I was inspired into a little more muffin madness. For Valentine’s Day I decided to bake up a batch of Raspberry Chocolate Muffins for J. and I to take into our offices.

This is another Australian Institute of Sport recipe my mother commandeered and just unbelievably delicious!

In a large bowl I sifted 2½ cups of self-raising flour, ¼ cup of good cocoa and ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. I then added in ¾ cup of caster sugar (super fine sugar) and mixed all of this together.

The recipe says to add a ½ cup of Dark Choc Bits but I am not a huge dark chocolate fan so I added in ¾ cup of milk chocolate bits. What harm could a little bit extra chocolate do!?Dry Ingredients.jpg

I mixed all of this together and made a well in the center (pretty much the same instructions as the banana muffins I made earlier in the week).

In a small bowl I melted 1 tablespoon of margarine. I added 1 cup of skim milk to that and then whisked in 1 egg. I then just gently started to fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. When it was nearly completely folded together I added 300 g frozen raspberries. I add these as close to the end as possible because I don’t want them to break Wet ingredients.jpgup to much.

Again, make sure you don’t over mix. Just fold the raspberries through until everything is combined.

I put some paper cupcake liners into my muffin tin and then spooned in the mixture. I filled them to about ¾ because I didn’t want them too large and I needed enough for both of our offices. This made 20 muffins but you could make them larger and only make 12.

I put them into the oven that had been preheated at 350F. They baked for 25 minutes and then I took them out and let Add the Rasberries.jpgthem cool.

We both packed up a bunch each and set off to work. They disappeared in my office very quickly and everyone thought they were delicious. The chocolate bits and the tang of the raspberries really do make them really really good. They are also incredibly moist (still hate that word) from the fruit and chocolate. I have to admit the extra1/4 cup of chocolate did no harm, they probably made them even better!

Ready for the oven.jpgJ’s office didn’t finish them off the way mine did… they were lucky enough to have other treats as well. But those who tried them enjoyed them and more importantly J. preferred my treats over the others that were on offer! Ok, that isn’t sooo important but still nice to know!

Though they are sweet and sugary there is a lot less fat than normal muffins too which you just have to love. I strongly encourage you to give these a try… they are incredible!

Banana Muffins.jpgJ. and I had a pretty lazy Sunday… we were in the kitchen making ourselves some crepes for breakfast and I noticed that a few of our bananas were looking a little worse for wear… Banana Muffin time!!!

A few years ago my mother discovered (I have no idea where she got them from) a bunch of recipes from the Australian Institute of Sport for low fat (or at least reduced fat) muffins! I love a good muffin and they are so often terribly bad for you so I have loved having this group of recipes. Plus they are really easy recipes to make.

So Sunday was banana muffin time.

In a large bowl I sifted 1½ cups of self-raising flour and 1 cup of wholemeal self-raising flour. If you don’t have wholemeal flour you can just use regular self-rasing for the entire amount. Next I stirred in ¾ cup of brown sugar. This was a little difficult because our brown sugar was really hard and didn’t stir through so well. I figured it didn’t matter so much because it would melt down in the oven.

I made a well in the centre of the dry ingredient and put them aside, set the oven for 350°F and started on the wet ingredients. In a small bowl I melted 2 tablespoons of margarine and then added to it my 2 very ripe bananas and mashed all of this together. I added to this 1 cup of skim milk, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence. I mixed this together well and then poured it into the dry ingredients.

Make sure you gently stir the ingredients together – there is no need to beat or whip it together. When it was completely combined I spooned the mixture into my greased muffin pans. I filled each up about 2 thirds of the way. And then into the oven they went for 20 minutes.

When they came out of the oven I let them sit for a few minutes in the pan to cool before tipping them out. We ate some straight away and they were so delicious. The great thing is this recipe makes about 16 muffins so J. and I had them for a snack at work every day this week! Yummy, delicious, and not too bad for you… Gotta love that!

Baileys Chocolate Balls.jpgEvery year for as long as I can remember my mother would make rum balls for Christmas. I would even spend hours in the kitchen helping her make them… getting my hands all sticky rolling the balls and covering them in coconut. When I was young I was never tempted by them and then when I got to an age where things with alcohol in them were mighty attractive I found out I had a bad reaction to rum… (not just from drinking too much). So even after all these years I hadn’t ever enjoyed these delicious bites. This year I thought I was going to make rum balls but make them so I could eat them.

I started this process by checking out what alcohol we had in Fruit in baileys.jpgthe house… bourbon, whiskey, vodka and Baileys… the obvious choice to me was the Baileys, plus it is really the only one J. would like. Yes, I drink the other things. I also had the challenge of replacing weatbix, which mum uses in her recipe, that I can’t find here in the US. I decided to use a plain cookie as a substitute for these. I just picked up some plain butter cookies from Cost Plus World Market

Cookies.jpgNow the problems have been solved… time to cook.

In a sealable container I put 2 cups of mixed dried berries, I used cherries, cranberries and raisins. To this I added 1 cup of Bailey’s Irish Cream and mixed everything together. I then refrigerated this for 24 hours…

24 hours later…Dry ingredients.jpg

I took the berries out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. In a large bowl I put 2 tablespoons of cocoa, 1/2 cup of shredded coconut and 1 packet of plain cookies that I had already blitzed in the food processor so it was a chunky crumble. I added the berries and Bailey’s mixture to the bowl and mixed everything together Condensed Milk.jpguntil it was all combined.

Last thing for the mixture was to add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and stir everything together. This is of course where it gets very sticky and quite difficult to mix together. If necessary get in there with your hands to make sure everything is evenly combined.Ready to roll.jpg

Now it gets really messy. I had to roll teaspoons of the mixture in my hands and then drop them into a bowl of chocolate sprinkles and cover them completely. I found the trick to rolling these successfully was to keep a bowl of hot water next to me that I could regularly dip my hands in to clean them Rolling.jpgoff. So I rolled and rolled and rolled and 70 balls later, yes 70, I had finished.

I put them into the refrigerator to harden and sat down and relaxed! J. was my guinea pig and I gave him one to try. He really liked them, he is not a big alcohol person so this was a success. If he didn’t think they were too boozy then everyone, including people at his office, would be fine with them. I must admit they were really tasty… just tiny, single bites Chocolate Sprinkles.jpgof boozy, chocolaty goodness! These got added to my little boxes and bags of goodies for friends, something decadent and a little different too.

So I finally tasted rum balls, well kind of… I am calling these Bailey’s Chocolate Balls… my favorite new invention!

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Shortbread cookies.jpgWe leave for Australia in a week and I wanted to make sure I gave our friends each something special for Christmas before we left. I thought this year since I had the time I would make them all gifts. I spent the weekend baking and cooking for our friends and for us. All of this so I could make little gourmet gift boxes for everyone. J. actually woke up Sunday morning, walked into the kitchen and couldn’t believe the disaster area I had going. I was making 3 different recipes at the same time so it got a little crazy!

First up, I wanted to make something very Christmassy so I decided on shortbread Christmas trees as one of the goodies. IButter.jpg really like shortbread, the melt in your mouth quality of a good piece of shortbread is unbelievable. I only make it at this time of year because it is so incredibly bad for you!

To start I beat 500 grams of softened, unsalted butter in a large bowl. Keep beating this until it is light and fluffy. To the butter I added 1 cup of sifted confectioners sugar. The trick here it to beat all of the sugar and butter together without getting covered in a fine dust of sugar… I did not succeed.

Mixing it all together.jpg

When the butter and sugar has been combined I sifted 2 cups of rice flour and 1 ¾ cups of plain flour into the bowl. If you want to go gluten free you can certainly just use rice flour but they are very delicate. I went with the recipe Mum had given me. When the flour was all sifted I began folding it into the butter and sugar mixture. This can take quite a bit of time and work. Don’t worry if it seems like it won’t come together, it does eventually.

When it had started forming a ball I got in there with my hands and kneaded it all Dough.jpgtogether for a few minutes until it was nice and smooth. Traditionally you would press the dough out into the pan you were going to cook it in. However I wanted to make shaped cookies so I turned the dough out on to a floured surface and rolled it out until it was about 1cm thick.

Make sure you use lots of extra flour for rolling and cutting because this is a sticky dough. I then just proceeded to use my cookie cutter to cut out the trees. Placing each cooking onto the greased cookie tray. You can put them reasonably close together because they don’t rise Cookie Cutter.jpgor spread too much. Before putting the cookies in the oven I pricked them all a few times with a fork, I actually made them look like lights on the trees instead of just random holes.

Then they went into a 285F degree oven for 35 minutes. Keep an eye on them though because they can brown quickly. Once cooked I removed them from the tray and let them cool. This recipe made 50 large Christmas tree cookies so it goes a long way.

J. and I had a couple and loved them. They aren’t too sweet which I like and the texture is Ready for the oven.jpgamazing. J’s workmates also really enjoyed them when he took them into the office on Monday. They are really easy to make and relatively quick, and so yummy and delicious.

I put a few of these in each of the boxes and gift bags I was making, with a few left for us to share. I think they look great! As for the chocolate balls in the photo that you see, well that is Friday’s recipe! I did have fun playing Santa this week though.

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Fairytale Brownie.jpgOnce upon a time… a long time ago… in a land far far away… a boy and a girl met. Boy wanted to impress girl with sweet, delicious treats, girl was happy to be impressed.

These are the stuff of fairytales, magic and myth… of love, romance and decadence… (I’m talking about my love and romance with chocolate).

Fairytale Brownies

J. had these sent to me very early in our relationship when we were both still trying to impress each other… He told me that they were great, that I would love them. To be honest I was incredibly skeptical. Every brownie I had ever eaten was ok, it was yummy sure but nothing special. Brownies really aren’t such a big thing in Australia.

This spectacular box of brownies arrived at my, then, office. of course, I couldn’t wait until I got home to try them so I ripped Big brownies.jpgthem open right there and then. Inside were 12 individually wrapped brownies of varying flavors. As pretty as the packaging was I still didn’t believe they were as great as J kept saying.

I chose an original brownie to try first… I took a bite, my knees went weak, I quickly sat down. Oh my, these were the best thing I had ever tasted! How is this possible when they were sent across the Pacific all packaged up?

Ever since that first bite it has been true love, a love that will never die. I have brought back countless boxes from the US to Australia for gifts, for my family, for friends. They freeze incredibly well so we used to have a stash of them in our freezer in Australia.

Why are they so good you ask? They melt in your mouth, they are incredibly chocolaty, they are moist, rich and decadent, and last but certainly not least the different flavors are just genius!

  • Original – Belgian dark chocolate brownie
  • Walnut – Brownie piled walnuts
  • Pecan – Bursting with handfuls of fresh, crunchy pecan halves
  • Raspberry Swirl – Raspberry purée swirls through the chocolate brownie
  • Cream Cheese – Cream cheese swirled through the chocolate brownie
  • Toffee Crunch – Big chunks of crunchie toffee have been baked into the brownie
  • Caramel – A thin layer of caramel through the center of the chocolate brownie
  • Mint Chocolate – Mint flavored chocolate hand-drizzled over brownie
  • Espresso Nib – Filled with rich espresso flavor, sprinkled with crushed cocoa nibs
  • White Chocolate –Chocolate brownie with white chocolate chips inside and white chocolate drizzled on top
  • Peanut Butter – Yummy peanut butter swirled through the chocolate brownie
  • Choc Chip – Chocolate chips inside the brownie for some extra chocolate

Sprites.jpgI have to admit that I have tried every one of these at least twice but I do have my favorites. I am a huge fan of the toffee crunch and the cream cheese while J. loves the caramel brownie. I don’t particularly enjoy the walnut or pecan brownies but then if they were my only choices I would still eat them. To be honest I would eat all of them over and over and over again, and we have!

J. and I recently stocked up for our Holiday trip home to Australia. We got one large box of brownies to share with the family. We will cut these up and they will go a long way. We also got a box of brownie sprites which are half the size but perfect to give away as gifts. I don’t think my family is concerned with Christmas presents, as long as I bring them home some brownies.Toffee Crunch.jpg

They are too good to be true; you eat them and think it has to be a dream. So Fairytale Brownies has a fitting name, and they certainly helped J. in his attempts to impress me. A little Phoenix based shop that delivers around the world… perfect!

I have to wait until Christmas for my next bite though… so I’m going to close my eyes and think about them for a little while now…

And they lived happily ever after… (me and the brownies)

No Name Cookies.jpgAs part of my win for the Once a Month‘s Christmas cookie competition they have done a feature profile of me and Life is Short. Eat Hard on their blog.

Check it out. You might learn some new things about me! You can read it here.

Also make sure you check out the winning cookie recipe. I am making a million of these this Christmas.