Birthday Wishes for Sharon

Best wishes to my gorgeous sister, Sharon, on her birthday.  I hope you have a wonderful day! Enjoy the cake.

 

Classic Chocolate Cake
from Marie Claire Kitchen

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and line a 23cm springform tin (I used a silicon bundt pan). Beat 250g softened unsalted butter and 225g caster sugar in a mixing bowl. Add 3 lightly beaten eggs, 125ml milk and 1 tsp natural vanilla extract. Stir to combine and then fold in 4 tblsp dark cocoa powder, 70g ground almond and 150g self-raising flour. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Turn out the cake onto a wire rack to cool. When the cake has cooled, transfer it to a serving plate and drizzle with chocolate icing. Serves 10.

Chocolate Icing

Melt 200g dark eating chocolate with 150ml cream in a small saucepan over low heat. When the chocolate and cream have combined to form a smooth sauce, remove from the heat and allow to cool. When the icing is just warm, drizzle it over the cake.

A Spanish Cafe Salad

I think we’ve all established that I love Jill Dupleix. Today’s lunch just deepened that love a little more. A Spanish Cafe Salad from ‘Totally Simple Food’ (of course!). I followed the recipe to a tee…particularly the opening comment where Ms Dupleix explains that it is extremely flexible – ‘…make it your own’. So I dropped the asparagus and tomato and added some feta and grilled flat bread. Not sure that it is still Spanish but it was delicious.

Spanish Cafe Salad
From Totally Simple Food by Jill Dupleix

150g fine green beans, trimmed
250g asparagus, trimmed
Salt
2 tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
200g mixed salad leaves
8 small artichoke hearts, preserved in oil
2 tbsp olives
12 thin slices serrano ham

Dressing:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the green beans and asparagus in simmering salted water for 4 minutes. Drain and cool under cold running water, then drain again.

Cut the tomatoes into quarters, or eighths if large. Peel the cucumber, halve lengthwise and slice finely.

To make the dressing, whisk the ingredients together in a large bowl. Toss the leaves, green beans and asparagus in the dressing and arrange on four dinner plates. Toss the tomatoes, cucumber, artichoke hearts and olives in any remaining dressing and scatter them freely over the leaves.

Using a fork, pull a few of the buried leaves to the surface. Drape the slices of serrano ham on top of the salad and serve.

An ‘App’ortunity to Learn

A few facts about my little boy:

  1. He loves iPhone games
  2. He starts school next year
  3. He doesn’t know all of the letters of the alphabet
    Mother guilt has just kicked in – I let him play too many games instead of learning the alphabet!

The answer: Intro to Letters App by Montessorium.

This App provides a number of activities based on both the letter names and their phonetic sound,  upper case and lower case. The child is told the letter and then shown how to write it…then it’s their turn to practice.

I was a little skeptical that this App would hold my son’s attention, but he really does enjoy it and even asks if he can play it. It’s available at iTunes.

The Perfect Julienne

Wondering how I did this?

With my fabulous new kitchen tool. It looks like a peeler but cuts vegies into the finest julienne.  I love it.

I bought mine at Victoria’s Basement, my favourite kitchenware shop, while I was in Sydney on the weekend. I’ve also seen a similar one at the James Street Cooking School in Brisbane. You simply have to get one. They are fantastic!

Perfect for the julienned cucumber on our Spicy Pork Noodles last night!

Recipe from Jill Dupleix's Totally Simple Food

A Green House

I love indoor plants, but they don’t always love me (or at least the way I treat them)! I’ve just bought some gorgeous new ones and I promise to try very, very hard to treat them well. I love you plants. xxoo

I think I’ll start by re-potting them this weekend into slightly more attractive pots.

Any tips on how best to show them my love and keep them alive and happy would be most welcomed.

Project Blue and White

A couple of weeks ago I started looking for inspiration to give our family room a face lift. Since then I have slowly been re-decorating the room, adding new cushions and a rug, and displaying some of my jugs and bowls that work around a blue and white theme. 

I have a small area in my family room for a table and chairs. Over the years I have struggled to know what would work best in this area. I have been using my parents very first kitchen table for the last seven years. It was tiny and fitted the spot perfectly but I found we really didn’t sit at it often. Then, last week, I saw a round pine table on Ebay. I was thrilled to win it for just $2.43 and I think it is just perfect for this spot. 

I plan to paint it white, but for now I have made a table cloth to cover it and teamed it up with some Ikea Ingolf chairs and stools (that double as perfect side tables!).

I love this new round table. It’s small and compact but very comfortable for us all to sit at. I can look out at the garden while I’m drinking a cup of tea and reading the newspaper. And the best part is we are finally eating dinner and breakfast at it together – instead of at the kitchen bench.

Cupcakes for the Cake Stall

This weekend our school is having a car boot sale. I have more stuff to get rid of than would fit in my car boot but unfortunately we can’t make it so my contribution to the school is some cupcakes to sell to those who can.

The cupcakes have all been delivered but we kept a few just to make sure they tasted OK…

And the results…

Passed (with honours)!

Recipe: Chocolate Cup Cakes from Jill Dupleix’s ‘Totally Simple Food’.

Planning for the Week Ahead

I love to cook. And lately, I love to be spontaneous. But this spontaneity is costing me a lot of time and money at the supermarket as I whip out to pick up the essential ingredients for the latest dinner creation. So – I’ve decided this week to get back on track and plan my menu for the week before I hit the shops. 

I have a Menu Planner that I created some time back and kept tweaking until it was just right for me. It starts on a Saturday, includes all meals on the weekend (just dinners during the week) and incorporates a shopping list so I am only buying what I know we need. Because I always cook from a recipe I’ve also included a place to record the book or website that it came from.

I have also created a version of this that works from Monday to Sunday. If you’d like to try my menu planner I’d love to hear what you think. Does this work for you? How would you change it to make it fit your life better?

Finally – here’s my scrawled completed version of the Menu Planner & Shopping List (and a heads up on what will be appearing in ‘What’s for Dinner’) for this week.

Freedom

I’ve never had a broken bone but I believe that getting the plaster taken off is freedom!  Hamish discovered this today when his broken arm was finally deemed ‘healed’. He discovered a few other things too.

1. Hands get very dirty when not washed for five weeks

2. Under plaster the skin gets very smelly

3. It feels nice to stretch your fingers

4. The skin really does change colour and get flaky when covered up

5. It's soooooo nice to be able to scratch an itch