Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas... (& Sweets for Santa!)

Here in Australia, it gets pretty hot at Christmas time.  Tomorrow is forecast to be 39 degrees Celsius.

So when it fell to me this year to make the dessert for Christmas lunch, I thought something made of icecream would be very welcome in the middle of the day!

Lately I've been a bit obsessed with gingerbread (oh yes, there has been a lot of baking going on.  Just not much blogging).  So I decided it would be rather nice to make a layered molded dessert of gingerbread and vanilla icecreams - mmm....  Ooh, and I could enter it into the latest Sweet Adventures Blog Hop!

Didn't it turn out pretty?  I was panicking a bit about getting it out of the mold before Christmas Day, but it seems to have gone back into the freezer with no problems...

If you're not thinking about licking that picture, with its chewy-crunchy gingerbread base, and deliciously frosty layers of vanilla and gingerbread creaminess, you totally should be.  Trust me.  But wait - it gets cuter.  This is what it's going to look like when it hits the table tomorrow:

Teeny gingerbread men and hearts, with a royal-iced gingerbread star, complete this treat!

So here's the recipe - and it might be too late to make it for Christmas Day, but you could definitely make either of these icecreams on their own just to eat from a bowl - the vanilla is really good, but I am very proud of the gingerbread - maybe I'm biased in favour of anything gingerbready right now, but personally I think it's sensational...

Gingerbread Icecream Tree

Vanilla Icecream
400mL cream
100mL whole milk
1 vanilla bean
5 egg yolks
125g caster sugar

Modus Operandi
Place cream, milk and vanilla bean in a medium sized saucepan, and heat slowly just until boiling point, then remove from heat immediately.  Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy.  Gradually add the cream mixture to the egg mixture, and continue to whisk until combined.  Transfer the mixture to a clean saucepan, and cook over low heat, stirring all the time, for around 15-20 minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon.  Do not allow to boil!  Refrigerate the mixture until cold (preferably overnight), before churning in an icecream maker.
Pour churned icecream into your chosed mold, and freeze.

115g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
300g sifted plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp grated nutmeg

Cream the butter and sugar just until smooth.  Stir in the molasses and egg yolk.
Combine the dry ingredients and stir into the molasses mixture until smooth.  The mixture will be very soft and sticky - that's okay.  Wrap it in plastic, and chill for at least one hour.
Meanwhile, take a piece of baking paper and draw around the shape of the mold you have used for your icecream.  Cut the shape out, and put it aside.
Preheat the oven to 175C (350F).  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about 8mm thickness.  Using your baking paper template, cut the shape you will need for your base out of your gingerbread dough (in my case, a large Christmas tree).  Transfer the shaped gingerbread onto a lined baking tray (note:  you will make your life much easier if you keep the paper shape on the gingerbread tree shape until you have transferred it to the tray.  It will inevitably warp a little in the process, and having the paper template still there means you can smooth it back into shape before baking).  Remove the template and keep it for later.
Bake the large gingerbread in the oven until firm, and the edges are golden brown (the actual time will vary depending on the size and shape of your mold.  Mine took around 15 minutes).
Bake your small cookies for around 8-10 minutes.  Cool on trays.

When it is completely cool, move your large gingerbread shape to a board, and trim it back to the desired shape using your paper template.  Theoretically I imagine this would be easier while the gingerbread was still warm, but I wasn't game enough to move it at that stage.  Please yourself.  :o)

Gingerbread Icecream
600mL cream
Some of your Gingerbread cookies - I used about 90g of them (although I had some left over from my last batch, so depending on the size of your mold's base, you might need to make two batches of gingerbread if you want to decorate with them too.  Not sure... sorry.  But hey, who minds extra gingerbread around the house, am I right?)
6 egg yolks
150g light brown sugar
2 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

Exactly the same as for the vanilla icecream, but add your gingerbread cookies to your cream mixture right at the beginning.  When you remove it from the heat, strain it through a sieve.  The cookies will have turned to mush - stir it a bit to help the liquid through the sieve, but don't force it all through.  Most of the cookie mush will go through the sieve easily - any that doesn't, discard.
Add the spices and molasses to the egg/sugar mixture just before adding the cream mixture.
When the icecream is churned, pour it into the mold on top of the vanilla, and freeze.

To construct:
Take your icecream out of the freezer, and whilst it is still in the mold, press the gingerbread base firmly onto it.  Return to the freezer until it is time to serve.

At serving time, flip the icecream tree out onto your desired serving plate (it's a good idea to freeze that, too, to stop the icecream from starting to melt quite so quickly!)  Decorate as desired.

Wow, that was kind of long.  But trust me, it's totally worth it!  And after all, we all deserve to be a bit indulgent at Christmas, right?

I really hope that you and yours have a wonderful, fun, peaceful holiday season - and do check out the other Sweets For Santa at the blog hop below - this month it's being hosted by Christina over at The Hungry Australian - she did an icecream dessert too, and it looks amazing!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bad Blogger. Bad, Bad Blogger.

Wow...  So it's been a while, huh?  I mean, I know my blogging "schedule" is fairly erratic at the best of times, but I can't believe I haven't posted anything here since Hallowe'en!

So I'm not going to bore you with seven weeks' worth of Muffin Tin Mondays.  We've totally been doing them, but I just seem to have been incredibly busy lately, what with sewing, prepping for The Muffin's first ever ballet concert, baking for her end-of-school parties.  And at the end of any given day, when it's been a choice of:  a) blog latest Muffin Tin and/or cookie;  b) relax with husband in front of the TV;  or c) fold washing / sew something in front of the TV...  well, let's just say that blogging never managed to win that fight.

Wait a minute... did I say "sew something"?  Why, yes.  Yes I did.  Truth is, I've been spending a fair bit of my free time on my new(ish) hobby, which is sewing - not clothes, but toys, ornaments, and cute things.  And guess what - I've even opened an Etsy shop!  And people who are not my relatives have bought things from me!  You can probably guess I'm pretty excited about that.  If you're interested in checking out my Etsy shop, it's here:  Lollybright Toys!  I'd really love it if you'd stop by and tell me what you think...

Now, I do have a couple of Muffin Tins to show you - just this week and last week's.  We decided to do a "Twelve Days of Christmas" theme.  We split the twelve days over two weeks, and it was such fun!

So here goes:  On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Bottom Row (right to left):  Twelve Drummers Drumming (drumsticks made from cherry bocconcini impaled on pretzel sticks);  Eleven Pipers Piping (strips of hash brown, with music note picks);  Ten Lords Leaping (or apple frogs, actually).
Top Row (right to left):  Nine Ladies Dancing (ballerina fairy bread);  Eight Maids a-Milking (milk);  Seven Swans a-Swimming (swan carved out of a pfeffernusse, with pale blue M&M water).


Bottom Row (right to left):  Six Geese a-Laying (hard-boiled egg);  Five Gold Rings (made of cheese);  Four Calling Birds (chopped up mango with music note picks).

Top Row (right to left):  Three French Hens (cut out of carrot, with cheese wings & beaks, black sesame eyes and heart-sprinkle combs);  Two Turtle Doves (dove shaped pikelets with butter);  and a Partridge in a Pear Tree (dried pear)!

She ate the lot out of the second tin (days 7-12), and all but one gold ring and one French Hen out of the first tin (days 1-6).  She had a huge amount of fun with this - the way she ate it was hilarious.  She sang the song, and ate a bit of each thing with Every Single Line.  She even managed to ration each thing out so that she had a little of each left for the last line of the song.  The fact that this meant she was eating sweet then savoury then sweet then savoury the whole time did not faze her at all.  Too funny.

If you want to check out some more Muffin Tin Goodness, click on over to the Muffin Tin Mom's blog - she's on a break right now, but people can still link up.

I promise I'll be back here again before Christmas, to share some yummy treats - 'tis the season to be on a Massive Sugar High, after all!  Until then, I hope you and your families are safe and well, and enjoying the festive season.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday and... Boo! Bonus Bentos!

Hallowe'en is one of the most fun times for Muffin Tin Monday!  Here's what The Muffin had in her tin this Monday:

Top Row:  Bat cookie eating chopped Papaya;  Witches Brew (green sauce - basically a pureed cucumber raita with added spinach for vitamins and green-ness);  Naan bread Witch Hat with string cheese and purple carrot detail.

Bottom Row:  Rice tinted green;  Star-shaped Egg;  Witch Broom (piece of banana dipped in yoghurt, sprinkled with shredded coconut, with a pretzel stick handle).

The After Shot:

The Muffin loved her Banana Broomstick!  She was very pleased with this dinner all round, really, although she didn't love the papaya (this was her first time trying it).  She ate some, and said she quite liked it, but wouldn't like a lot of it.  Fair enough (I felt a bit the same way about it, actually).

To see what other spooky treats were dished up this Monday, check out The Muffin Tin Mom's blog.

But Wait - There's More!  Bonus Bento!

The Muffin wanted Hallowe'en-themed bentos on Monday and Tuesday this week, as well as on Hallowe'en itself, so here's what she had yesterday:

Spook Bento!  The Muffin has four ghost-shaped tortilla sandwiches (stacked - one cheese, one ham, one Promite, and one thick home-made applesauce) - I got eight ghost shapes from a total of two regular sized tortillas.  She also has a ghost pear (I am so in love with these - you should totally try this, it's really easy.  Pears seem to be a naturally perfect shape for slicing a ghost-shape from!)  The eyes of both ghosts are black sesame seeds;  the mouths of both were made from one chocolate chip - the flat part for the tortilla sandwich ghost, and the tip for the pear ghost.  Her snacks are a "Boo" marshmallow, three prunes (with a ghost sticker pick), and vanilla yoghurt.

On Monday, The Muffin had this for lunch:

This is not as neat as the spooks, but I really like the idea of slicing the top few millimetres of crust off the top of a bread roll, to make a flat surface for decorating (desperation being the mother of invention - I had run out of sliced bread!)  She also had chopped pineapple, and a little gummy heart lolly as a Hallowe'en treat (yes, an anatomical heart-shape, not a love heart).

My poor little vampire honestly looked WONDERFUL when I first made him, but this photo was taken after he'd spent the night in the fridge, and he looked a little washed out.  The sprinkle bow tie seemed to have bled its colour into the cheese a bit, and the eyes aren't quite right either...  Still, The Muffin was amused by him, and liked that there were raspberries "bleeding" into her yoghurt!

I'm linking this up with Halloween Bento of the Week over at Bento Blog Network - check out all the Hallowe'en Shininess!

I'll be back in a little while with The Muffin's actual Hallowe'en lunch, so I hope to see you back here soon!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday - Waiting For Hallowe'en...

The Muffin is very much looking forward to Hallowe'en.  As it's on a weekday this year, we're not having a party or anything (and trick-or-treating is not much of a thing here in Australia), but we still like to have a bit of fun, even if it's just a spooky cupcake or something.  :o)

Anyway, the point is, we decided one Hallowe'en-themed Muffin Tin wasn't enough - so we started this week:

Top Row:  Half a pear, with a ghost-shaped piece of skin cut away (and a "boo" pick made with a toothpick and a sticker);  Cauldron full of popcorn;  Spinach leaves.

Bottom Row:  Ghost bread and butter (with choc chip mouth);  Eyeball lolly;  Pea and prosciutto frittata.

The pea and prosciutto frittata was a recipe we found in the newspaper over the weekend, and The Muffin wanted to try it.  So I made them for dinner tonight, and they were yummy.  The prosciutto slices are pressed into a muffin tin as a sort of casing for the frittata filling.  So some of this meal was cooked in a muffin tin, too!  The recipe can be found here.

The After Shot:

The frittata was met with unqualified approval - she didn't even pick any peas out!  Hurrah!

For next week's tin we're planning something witchy...  Until then, why not check out The Muffin Tin Mom's blog, and see what other people did this week?

Monday, October 15, 2012

2012 Royal Show Entries

Once again, The Muffin and I both entered some of our baking efforts into The Perth Royal Show this year.  Here's what we entered...

Cinderella Cupcakes:  I entered these into the "Decorated Patty Cakes"  (ie cupcakes) section - and I won! 

The cupcakes themselves were my usual vanilla recipe (ie Billy Reece's Vanilla Vanilla recipe), frosted with my own vanilla buttercream.  The decorations are almost all sugarpaste (with a little CMC added).  There's a little royal icing to stick everything on, and also a tiny bit of piping on the "glass slipper" - oh, and the wheels of the carriage were lovely piped swirls of royal icing, painted with silver lustre.  But I took these photos after the Royal Show, and sadly the wheels were smashed to tiny pieces by the time I got them home!  So you'll just have to imagine them.

I was quite pleased with my little pumpkin - and it was very easy to do, too - I think with a different colour icing for the base, it would make a lovely Hallowe'en cupcake, too!

And here's a closeup of Cinders herself - she was the most time-consuming to make (unsurprisingly perhaps, although honestly I was expecting to have a lot more grief than I did with the glass slipper, having never made an icing shoe before.  It was easier than I thought it would be).  Cinderella's head and torso (with arms attached) were skewered with a piece of uncooked linguine (I thought spaghetti would not be strong enough to hold this, as it was quite a heavy decoration for a cupcake.  The linguine was a bit thicker and stronger), and left to dry overnight.  Then when it came time to decorate the cupcake, I simply draped a biggish circle of blue sugarpaste over the cupcake for the skirt, added the poofy bits of the skirt on in a slightly lighter blue (please feel free to admire my superior knowledge of dressmaking terms), and added Cinders to the top, pushing the linguine down into the cupcake to support her.

It was a bit of a rush job getting these cupcakes done this year - I just couldn't get inspired, so I ended up leaving it until the day before the delivery day to start making the decorations!  Luckily everything dried sufficiently, and I was happy with them in the end.

Bring on the cookies!  My cookies I was very happy with - no dramas here, I had a clear vision of how I wanted them to turn out, and they did...

Some of you may recognise the Dragon Claw Cookie (top right), and you'd be right - I originally made this cookie design to enter LilaLoa's Creative Cookie Competition way back in March.  It didn't win then, but guess what?  My cookies DID win at the Show!  Woo hoo!

I also got Second Prize in the "Cake Using Honey" class, but I didn't take a photo of that, because it was pretty boring looking (no icing allowed, etc).  It's a really yummy cake though, and it was based on my Sunny Honey Cupcakes recipe.  If you haven't tried lavender and honey cupcakes yet, then you should totally go and make these immediately - they are really yummy!

As pleased as I am about my Show wins, funnily enough the prizes I was most excited about were two little "Highly Commended" certificates - and they weren't even mine.  Because The Muffin entered two classes this year, and she got Highly Commended for both!  Happy Mummy Dance!  I was SO happy she got this bit of recognition, because she works so hard on her Show cookies, and she's always been so good about saying "I don't mind if I don't win, Mummy - it's fun just entering".  But you know that deep down in her little five-year-old heart, she'd love to win something.

Here are her Decorated Cookies:

I didn't help her at all with these, she did the lot herself, including making the little sugarpaste heart and flower (I did help bake the cookies obviously, but the kids' cookies are not judged on taste, only on appearance - they are even allowed to use store-bought cookies - so the baking part doesn't count in this class).

2012 is Year Of The Farmer, so there were special "Scarecrow" classes this year in every category.  I didn't enter any of these, but The Muffin did enter the kids' special class, which was "Scarecrow Biscuit".  What they had to do was use commercial cookies and lollies to make a picture of a scarecrow, glued down with icing onto a paper plate.  Here is The Muffin's entry:

Congratulations, Muffin!  Your Daddy and I are both so proud of you!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mexican Party Cake

 This is a cake I made for my friend's Mexican-themed 40th birthday party a few weeks ago:

 Here's a closeup of the figure on top:

 My friend is known for her big sunnies, bright red lippie, curly hair and obsession with Doctor Who...

Inside, the bottom layer was chocolate mud cake, and the top layer was Margarita Madeira cake.  The Margarita Madeira was SO good - I will definitely be making it again!  I used my regular Madeira cake recipe, and added lime zest and a little lime juice to the batter, then layered it with Tequila lime syrup and Cointreau-laced French buttercream.  Yum....

Hope you're all having a good week - there'll be lots more sugar around here very soon, as I am currently in the process of making my goodies for the Royal Show - wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday - Rainbow Magic

The Muffin is a great reader for her age, and recently she has fallen madly in love with the Rainbow Magic fairy books.  These are short novel-style books (or "chapter books", as she calls them).

This week she wanted a Rainbow Magic Fairies theme tin, but she specified that it must only contain references to the fairies she has so far read.  So here goes:

Top Row:  The Pot At The End Of The Rainbow (here represented by a black silicon muffin liner, containing sausages);  Ruby The Red Fairy (strawberries, one of which is cut into a flower shape, even though you can't really see it in the photo.  In the books, each fairy's magic fairy dust turns into something as it falls to the ground.  Ruby's turns into flowers).

Middle Row:  Amber The Orange Fairy (carrot circles - Amber's dust turns into orange bubbles);  Bertram The Frog (bread and butter frog with mini M&M eyes.  There is carrot and apple salad underneath him, too).

Bottom Row:  Saffron The Yellow Fairy (potato casserole with a little cheese butterfly on top - again, you can't really see this very well as it had begun to melt!  Saffron's dust turns into butterflies);  Fern The Green Fairy (spinach leaves.  Fern's dust turns into little leaves).

Plus:  Two sets of rainbow chocolate chips.

The Muffin helped a lot with this tin, as she was very excited about it.  She decided where everything went (ie in strict order of when we discover each thing in the series), and she loaded most of the food into the cups.

The After Shot:

'Nuff said.  To see what other mums did for MTM this week, check out The Muffin Tin Mom's blog.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday - Jamboree

My daughter's latest musical obsession is The Muppets.  When I was a kid, my best friend had The Muppet Show Musical Album on vinyl, and we loved it.  Now, The Muffin is loving it too.

So for this week's muffin tin, we decided to use one of the songs for our theme:  Jamboree, sung by Gonzo (go check it out, it's so cool!)  The Muffin likes this song because of all the fun, nonsensical things Gonzo "sees", but there's a nice message here too, about making the best of what life gives you, and the importance of imagination.

Here's our tin:

Top Row:  "Cows playing cellos, with bananas where their horns should be" (represented here by a piece of banana);  "Flags being waved by ducks in buckets"(Pasta in cream sauce, bacon duck, red capsicum flag);  "Pigs drinking lemon tea" (water with lemon juice and a little apricot juice mixed in - with an egg cup pig).
Bottom Row:  "Penguins throwing popcorn" (that pick is a penguin - unfortunately I didn't notice it wasn't cooperating when I took the photo);  "Chickens on a well-dressed moose" (apple moose, chicken pick);  "Well you go run from thunder, and you stay away from rain - but I'll be lookin' for the colours in the puddles, to see my jamboree!" (pale blue yoghurt puddle, with rainbow sprinkles and a few mini M&Ms).

The Muffin was THRILLED, and she ate the lot, apart from the capsicum flag.  She hates capsicum - but she did take a tiny bite out of the corner of it, so I consider that a success!  I was really pleased she ate all the pasta, too, as she's usually not a fan of cream, and this was a full-on cream sauce.

To see what other lucky kids got in their tins this week, check out The Muffin Tin Mom's blog!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Doctor WHO?

Okay, so are we all excited that Doctor Who is back?  Yes?  Good.

I wasn't going to bother about the whole Doctor-Who-bento thing, considering that my daughter has never seen Doctor Who.  Now before you sci-fi geeks out there get all judgy, she's really really girly, and she's really really sensitive to scary television, and oh yeah - She's Five.   So give us a couple of years, hmmm?  I did think about a fairly neutral-looking one with a "Hello Sweetie" built in, but honestly?  It didn't seem worth it.

But then we actually saw the first episode of the new series, and I was feeling all inspired.  And then I remembered:  I Have A Husband!  And He Eats Lunch!

So here's my quick little homage to the episode that got even the Daleks asking the eternal question...

(yes, that's a question mark hiding there).

I was quite proud of my Banana Dalek.  The fairy bread Dalek is kind of hilarious, I know, particularly in the lunchbox of a grown man, but there was already kind of a lot of cheese in there, and frankly it was midnight before I started making this lunch, so I ditched the painting-on-cheese idea.  He also has strawberries, and a piece of chocolate brownie.

Luckily Husband is almost as childish as me, so whilst I suspect he found his lunch slightly embarrassing, I think that deep down he also kinda liked it.   :o)

I'm linking this up to Bento Blog Network's Doctor Who theme, so go check it out - there are some awesome entries!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Raspberry Cheesecake

Okay, so first of all:  I'm Sorry.  I know, I know.  These are the Worst Photos Ever.  But here's the thing.  I would like nothing better than to spend all my time making beautiful, photogenic desserts, and taking photos of them with various gorgeous props, from several angles, under ideal light conditions.  While sipping a glass of Dom Perignon, and laughing gaily at the incredibly witty remarks being made by the terribly efficient person who is cleaning my house.  For free.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I actually put the finishing touches on this cheesecake five minutes before leaving the house to take it to a friend's house for dinner, after having spent all afternoon at my daughter's friend's sixth birthday party, after having spent all morning making a stuffed elephant for said daughter's friend's present.  Yeah....  Gorgeous, well-thought-out photography is not something I often get a chance to do, especially for what I like to call "right-now" desserts.  Cookies I can keep for a few days until I have a chance to take a few snaps of them.  Cheesecakes not so much.

So anyway.  When The Hungry Australian announced the theme of this month's Sweet Adventures Blog Hop - "Berry Nice To Meet You!" - I was thrilled.  I love berries, and I especially love  raspberries.  Plus I'd been wanting to make a cheesecake for ages.  There are an awful lot of raspberry cheesecake recipes about, but strangely enough, I find that most of them are actually plain cheesecake recipes with a raspberry puree swirl.  And there's nothing at all wrong with that, but it just wasn't what I had envisioned.  I wanted my cheesecake to have a dark chocolate base, a contrasting pretty pink filling, and a sweet raspberry tang all the way through.  And it did!

Raspberry Cheesecake

370g plain chocolate-flavoured biscuits (eg Chocolate Ripple)
120g butter, melted

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
3 teaspoons powdered gelatine
60mL water
500g cream cheese
1/3 cup caster sugar
300mL cream

1 cup extra raspberries
1 tsp icing sugar
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp powdered gelatine

Modus Operandi

First, line a 20cm diameter springform cake tin with plastic wrap (this makes it easier to get out later).

To make the base:  Process the biscuits in a food processor until fine crumbs.  Add the melted butter and blitz again briefly until combined.  Press the mixture onto the base and sides of the prepared tin, and refrigerate one hour.

To make the filling:  Heat the 2 cups of raspberries in a saucepan until they boil, then press them through a sieve to remove all the seeds.  Set aside.  Mix the gelatine into the water in a heatproof cup or bowl.  Stir over a small saucepan over simmering water until the gelatine has dissolved.  Let it cool for a minute or two and then stir in 3/4 cup of the raspberry puree.
Beat the cream cheese and caster sugar in an electric mixer until soft and smooth.  Beat in the cream, then stir in the raspberry mixture.  Pour filling into the crumb base and refrigerate overnight.

To make the topping:  Pick over your raspberries, and set the best ones aside (about half of them).  Heat the remaining raspberries with the icing sugar, then sieve them to remove the seeds.  Mix the water and gelatine as was done for the filling.  When dissolved, cool slightly and mix into the raspberry puree (you will probably only get about 1/4 cup).  Pile the photogenic raspberries onto the top of your cheesecake, and pour the gelatine-y puree over the top.  This step may be done just before serving (in which case the puree will behave a bit like a sauce), or ahead of time (in which case you will pop the cheesecake back in the fridge and the raspberry puree will set into a jelly.  This also "glues" the pretty raspberries to the top, which is useful if you are transporting it to someone's house for dessert).

To serve:  Simply open the springform tin, peel the plastic away, and lift/slide the cheesecake off the base onto a serving plate.

Be sure to check out everyone else's Berry Nice Desserts, too - just check out the links below!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday In Wonderland

It's Muffin Tin Monday - and it's Book Week!

The Muffin's school has a dress-up day for the Monday of Book Week, and The Muffin went as Alice.  So I thought it would be nice to do an Alice in Wonderland theme for her dinner Muffin Tin.

Top Row:  Bananas with coconut, lemon & yoghurt (with an "eat me" sign);  Chocolate chip cookie (which prompted a discussion as to whether or not the cookies in the White Rabbit's house actually were chocolate chip or not, the book being non-specific on this subject);  two Naan bread teapots.

Bottom Row:  Ham "rose" (use your imagination);  Green sauce in a red Heart cup;  White Rice Rabbit.

The "green sauce" is a sort of pureed raita:  yoghurt, cucumber, spinach leaves, lemon juice and salt.  The Muffin likes it on her rice.

Incidentally, what you're looking at here is a curry night.  Husband and I love hot food, and The Muffin can't tolerate it at all.  So when we fancy a curry, we have one - and I also make a selection of side dishes (either yellow rice or coconut rice, naan bread or paratha bread, green sauce, the banana/coconut mixture, etc).  The Muffin is quite happy to sit down to a meal of just the side dishes, and that way Husband and I still get to have our curry!  It works well for us.

The After Shot:

It kind of looks like she didn't touch the green sauce, but she did actually eat quite a bit of it (although maybe a little less than usual) - the picture is a bit deceiving.  She usually scoffs this coconut rice, too, but to make it rabbit-shaped I put in in a sushi rice mold, so I had to serve it cold.  She said it was fine cold, but really I think she likes it better warm.

To see what other mums did this week, check out The Muffin Tin Mom's blog.

But Wait - There's More!  Bonus Bento!

This is what Alice The Muffin took to school for lunch:

The "Eat Me" cupcakes are made of apple.  The brown heart-shaped thing is a pile of three pikelets, spread with Nutella (and sprinkled with red edible glitter).  The rest is pretty self-explanatory.

She also had a label on her drink bottle:

We love Book Week!  Does your school celebrate it?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday - Small Potatoes!

Yesterday was Muffin Tin Monday, and this week The Muffin wanted a Small Potatoes tin.  Small Potatoes is a very cute three-minute TV show for little kids.  To be honest, I think it's intended audience is a little younger than The Muffin, but it's awfully cute, and she has fallen for it hook, line and sinker.  I like it because it's fun and cute, but also I like the messages that are put across - clearly this is a show that has been put together to help build kids' self-worth, and to help them learn about their feelings and their place in the world around them.  It also exposes kids to a wide variety of musical styles (each episode contains a song on a theme topic).  Worth checking out.  So here's the tin:

Top Row:  Olaf (bread and butter with sprinkle eyes and spinach... hair?);  Nate (sausage with sprinkle eyes.  He had a leaf too - not sure what happened to that);  Baby Potato (two white chocolate buttons pressed together back-to-back, with Gourmet Writer details)

Bottom Row:  Ruby (dried pear with sprinkle eyes and spinach leaf);  Chip (home-made apple sauce);  Potato salad.

The After Shot:

She was very pleased with this tin, aesthetically and taste-wise.   I knew she'd eat most things in this tin happily, but the dried pear was new for her (and she doesn't really like fresh pear) - but she loved it!  This is good as it's another option to go in her school lunchboxes - I like sending unsweetened dried fruit for snacks as The Muffin thinks they're delicious, they're not junk food, and they don't contain nuts (which aren't allowed).

To see what else was served up in a tin this week, check out The Muffin Tin Mom's blog.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympic Bento (No, It's Not A New Sport)

Today The Muffin is having an Olympic themed bento (have I mentioned The Muffin is really excited about the Olympics?  Have I, have I??)

She has a ham and cheese sandwich (on White Bread - very unusual in our house, she'll be Thrilled!), with rather sketchily hand-painted cheese Olympic Rings and Olympic Torch.  Next to the sandwich is a Leda "Baked Fruit-Filled Bar".  These do not contain any added sugar, and they're also gluten-free (if you're into that sort of thing.  We're pretty gluten-friendly around here).  She also has pineapple and banana (which are both Gold - yes they are, people), and a few sultanas in a silver mini cupcake paper (because winning silver is good too!).

Are your kids interested in the Olympics too?

Muffin Tin Monday - Olympic Edition

Have I mentioned yet how excited The Muffin is about the Olympics?  She is loving it - we've been taping little bits of sports she likes the sound of (gymnastics, equestrian dressage, diving), so that she can see them at a reasonable hour of the day, plus she's seen a few swimming races etc live, just before bedtime.  Every day she wants to check out the medal tally to see how all the countries are doing, and she's thrilled whenever Australia wins a medal (of any colour, which I'm pleased about).

So last week she had the following three weeks of Muffin Tin Monday all planned out.
Last week's theme was The Olympics:

Top Row(ish):  The Olympic Rings:  Blue (yoghurt with a little of it tinted blue and piped on in a ring shape);  Black (nori, surrounding the middle bit of cheese from the yellow ring);  Red (the cheek of an apple with the centre of the skin cut out);  Yellow (cheese);  Green (peas, supported by a buttered rice cake).

Bottom Row:  Gold Medal (see this post for how to make one);  Chicken & rice;  Olympic Torch (the torch is cheese, and the flame is made out of very thinly sliced carrot - this was The Muffin's idea).

The After Shot:

She didn't like the rice.  This was a flavoured rice that I bought in the hopes she would eat it because there was a very cute elephant on the front of the packet.  Well.  She tried it because there was a very cute elephant on the front of the packet, but apparently very cute packets do not sufficiently affect the flavour of the contents.  She did eat five peas (which was all I expected, really), and I knew in advance that she wouldn't touch the nori, I just couldn't think of anything else I could do in a hurry that was black.  So although there were a few leftovers, I do still consider this tin a success.

Now, on to This Week's Tin!  The theme The Muffin chose for this week is Countries.  I was a bit worried about this theme, because I was concerned I was going to end up having to cook six different meals in one night, in order to represent each country's cuisine.  In the end though, it wasn't too bad at all.  The dumplings steamed happily over the pasta water, and the chorizo was part of what Husband and I were having for dinner.  So the only thing I spent any time making especially for this was the (very quick and easy!) pasta sauce. 

To make the flags, I simply printed them out and stuck them onto toothpicks.  Here's what I came up with:

Top Row Bread & Vegemite, plus a few slices of Granny Smith apple (representing Australia - did you know the Granny Smith was first produced in NSW in Australia?  I didn't - see, MTM is educational!!;  Chorizo sausage (representing Spain);  Macaron (representing France).

Bottom Row:  Two steamed dumplings (representing China);  Ravioli with a tomato-based sauce and parmesan cheese (representing Italy);  Yoghurt with Maple syrup (representing Canada - I could have used a pikelet as the vehicle for the maple syrup I guess, but I thought there were already enough carbs in this meal, and no dairy.  So yoghurt won, despite not being particularly Canadian).

The After Shot:

'Nuff said.  She loved this meal.  The chorizo was a bit hot for her on its own though.

What did everyone else do for Muffin Tin Monday?  Find out over at The Muffin Tin Mom's blog!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fish Cake

My dad had his 60th birthday over the weekend, so as he is a keen amateur fisherman, I decided to try my hand at making him a fish cake.

My model was this photo of a Western Australian Dhufish, from the Department of Fisheries website.  This large fish is only found off the coast of Western Australia, and is a very popular eating fish here.  The distinctive black stripe across its face made it a ideal model, as my dad recognised it straight away!  Hoorah!

As per usual, I was running late getting the cake finished, so my photos aren't brilliant.  As soon as it was finished I bolted outside with it to catch the last of the natural light (above).

But I've included a couple of night-time photos too (taken at the party), as I think they show the shadows and shiny highlights off better:

The fish was all cake, apart from the small bottom fin (near the head), which was solid RTR fondant.  The cake itself was lemon cake, filled with lemon curd and lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  It was covered in the same SMBC, and then in pale grey RTR fondant.  I then made the scale pattern using three different sizes of little cutters (two leaves and a cloud, if you're interested!).  Next came the colour & fishy pattern effect, which I achieved by covering my entire house in black food colouring painting the cake with dry silver lustre dust and powdered black food colouring.

The Muffin made the eye, and was very proud of herself!

I must say I was Very Extremely Happy with how this cake turned out - it's always nice when things go according to plan!  And Dad was thrilled, so that's the most important thing.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Let The Games Begin!

Over the last couple of weeks, The Muffin has been incredibly excited about the approach of the Olympic Games.  She noticed all the products packaged in green and gold at the supermarket a few weeks ago, and wanted to know what all that was about.  So I explained to her what the Olympics were, and mentioned they were coming up soon, and expected that to be the end of it.

But I had not reckoned on Pre-Primary.  Over the past week, her class has been learning about the Olympics, and I swear she's now teaching me stuff.  It's fantastic;  they've made Olympic torches, gold medals, pictures of the Olympic rings, and more!  So now she is SUPER excited, has announced that next Monday we will be having an Olympic-themed muffin tin, and couldn't wait to see the Opening Ceremony.

So I thought I'd whip up a simple little treat for us to eat while we watched.  Now I know this isn't an original idea, but it is very simple, and lots of fun - The Muffin loved it.  She claimed the Silver.

How to make Oreo Olympic Medals

1.  Grab a packet of Gold Oreo cookies (in Australia I have only found these at Coles;  Woolworths didn't have them)

2.  Brush each cookie with lustre dust in either gold, silver, or bronze.

3.  Cut some fruit leather straps into thin strips and arrange on a plate.

That's it!

This picture shows the shine a little better:

So what did you think of London's Opening Ceremony?  (my personal favourite bits were Rowan Atkinson playing the piano during "Chariots of Fire" - hilarious - and also the very different lighting of the flame). 
And are your kids excited about the Olympics?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hazelnut Macawrongs, And What To Do With Them

I was excited to see that this month's Sweet Adventures Blog Hop's theme (hosted by Dining With A Stud) is "Nuts About Sweets".

I have been in a bit of a Macaron Madness Mood lately, have been playing with a few different recipes, and I think I've found my perfect-match recipe.  It's by Annie Rigg, and I must thank my Nanna for giving me this book for my birthday, because this is the first mac recipe I have had consistently good results with, every time.

Except this time.

It's okay, Annie Rigg.  It's not you, it's me.  I did the unthinkable - I Overmixed The Batter.

While I was piping them out I could already see it wasn't going to work.  I wasn't going to get pretty macarons this time.  But that's okay, because I totally thought of something else to do with them (and also that container of black coffee/liqueur mixture leftover from making tiramisu on the weekend).  And it's Really Good.  I guess you could do it with proper macarons, too.  If you didn't overmix your batter.

I hereby present to you:

Hazelnut Coffee Icecream with Hazelnut Macawrongs

Firstly, you're going to need to make some macarons, but don't use almond meal;  use hazelnut meal instead.  If you want to use the same recipe I did, it's basically this one (she has changed all the quantities a bit, but it's essentially the same recipe as in the book).  Or you could go ahead and buy the book.  You won't be sorry.  Just don't overmix your batter.  I also sprinkled my macarons with some cocoa nibs before baking them, but that's totally optional.

1/4 cup coffee flavoured liqueur (optional)
1 cup strong good-quality black coffee
150mL milk
3 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
450mL cream
1/3 cup Nutella (or to taste)

Modus Operandi
Mix the coffee and liqueur together in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer and reduce the liquid to 75mL.  Add the milk, and bring the liquid back up to the boil.  Remove from heat and set aside while you whisk the egg yolks and sugar until they are pale and thick.  Carefully pour the coffee mixture into the egg mixture in a thin stream, whisking all the while.  Add the cream, and churn the mixture in an icecream maker.

When icecream is churned, add teaspoonfuls of Nutella to the icecream and gently stir them in (you don't want Nutella-flavoured icecream, you want icecream with a Nutella ribbon).  Next, grab around a dozen of your hazelnut macawrongs (or possibly beautifully-made hazelnut macarons), break them up into little pieces, and fold them through the icecream too.  Then pop the whole lot into the freezer and let it freeze properly before serving (otherwise it will be all melty, like in my photos).

And that's it!  Husband pronounced this icecream "Really Good", and didn't have any constructive criticism to add, so it must be pretty good!   :o)

And now it's time for you to go check out the rest of the deliciousness at the Nuts About Sweets edition of The Sweet Adventures Blog Hop (but make some icecream first.  Then you'll have something to eat while you read).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday - Iiin Spaaaaace!

It's Muffin Tin Monday again, and The Muffin and I decided on an Outer Space theme this week:-

Top Row:  Vegemite & cheese sandwich Star and Moon;  Banana slice Planets (you can just see Saturn on the right there with its ring.  Jupiter is at the bottom of the cup - I carved it out of two lengthways-slices of banana so it would be noticeably bigger than the other planets, with the result that it wasn't able to stand up); 
Milky Way Magic Stars  (okay, I confess, these are totally The Entire Reason we are having an outer space theme at all.  I saw them at the supermarket and cast around desperately for an excuse to buy them.  Muffin Tin Monday seemed as good an excuse as any.  They're so cute with their teeny little faces - squee!  Oh yeah, and they're yummy also).

Bottom Row:  Potato shark "Sun"  (oh yes, I know this is a long shot.  But she really wanted these in her lunch, and we couldn't think of what to call them, and then she noticed we hadn't made a sun, so...);  Yoghurt with stars;  Mars (It's a strawberry.  The red planet, get it, get it??)

I do have a rocket-shaped cookie cutter which I wanted to use on her sandwich, but The Muffin vetoed that idea immediately (she is SUCH a girl!), so a star and a moon it was.

She left some of the yoghurt, but ate everything else.

To see what other kids ate today, go check out The Muffin Tin Mom's blog.

But if you come back here later this week, I promise you some sugar!

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