apple and oat muffin season

Slack jawed, and with my elbow cast at an odd angle, my eyelids creaked open. It seemed I had fallen asleep. These things happen sometimes. It’s  called the sneaky nap. Not a nap that you sneak in, more a nap that sneaks up on you.

There you are going about your business, and then suddenly… whooshka! You wake up slack jawed and no feeling in your arm. The sneaky nap as struck again.

Bleary eyed I staggered out to the lounge room only to find things were looking a little different. Very different. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The Monkeys were quiet and going about their monkey business, surprisingly not causing havoc at that particular moment. So it wasn’t them.

I continued looking about. Things looked clearer, clearer than they had for quite some time. I didn’t think I had napped for that long, so it can’t have been clarity of thought that had returned. I squinted… then it dawned on me, that was it. The fact that I was squinting. Squinting in my lounge room. Squinting in the afternoon autumnal sunlight. At that same moment Mr Chocolate cheerily walked in with a wad of newspaper in hand, and proceeded back to the windows. The light was different…

That was it. The windows were clean!

To celebrate the soft autumn light, and to use up some seasonal apples, Apple Oat Muffins it was.

Apple and Oat Muffins

150g softened butter

3/4 cup raw sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup of whole oats

1 1/2 cups self raising flour

2 beaten eggs

3 grated apples *

Cream butter and sugar together. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Spoon mixture into lined muffin tray. Sprinkle with a little extra raw sugar. Bake at 190C for approximately 25 minutes.

*Apple season runs from January to May.

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Sunday musings and banana crumble muffins

There is nothing quite as enjoyable as some long weekend musings over a deep cup of coffee, and a muffin or two. Mr Chocolate even indulged me by having a decaf coffee with me, while pretending it was the real deal.

Once we had world politics sorted, discussed the plight of Australian farmers versus big corporations, the annoying-ness of facebook, a spot of fracking thrown in and what we should have for dinner. My mind was let loose on to other matters.

Olive tree in a pot. They look good, but can I make it work given my minimal sun, teeny tiny space and very pale green thumb? It wouldn’t be for ever, but could I keep it happy until we found sunnier pastures down the track?

When does a night time snack turn into an early breakfast?… Just how early can breakfast be?

Tattoos, could you, would you, should you? Is it a pregnancy induced want of mine? I think I’m keen… but then again, maybe it will pass?

Talking birth is a bit like talking religion or politics. Everyone has an opinion and things can get rather heated… aren’t people funny?

How about you? Been musing on anything lately?

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As for the muffins to go with your musings, I saw these delectable little goodies- Cranberry and Crumb Top Muffins, and I wanted to play. Actually most of the things Greg and Katherine make, I want to have a crack at. But the muffins were calling, not in a cranberry kind a way, but in a banana kind a way. Actually the bananas had developed quite a tone on them, noisy buggers. Help, my skin is turning brown, and I really need a focus! Cook with me!

Who am I to ignore a helpless banana on a bench, Banana Crumble Muffins they were to be, (and just quietly… they were kind of  delicious.)

Banana Crumble Muffins

125g softened butter

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

2 tbls honey

1 beaten egg

3 mashed bananas

2 cups self raising flour (300g)

Mix all ingredients together except flour, then fold that through too. Spoon mixture into lined muffin tray.

Crumble Topping

2 tbsp melted butter

2 tbsp dark muscavado sugar (or regular brown sugar)

2 tbsp plain flour

Mix together and spoon mixture 1/2 tsp at a time over muffins.

Bake at 180C for approximately 30 minutes or until light golden.

eggs two ways- Frugal Friday

Eggs are always a quick and easy thing to prepare. Cool or warm weather, these little fellas are easily adaptable to what ever your taste buds fancy.

For warmer weather or an easy lunch try and egg salad. Dictated by what’s in season, what’s in the fridge and pretty much what you fancy eating.

Egg Salad

boiled eggs

lettuce

celery

walnuts

parmesan shavings

olive oil

Baked Eggs

In a baking dish add some tomato passata or left over pasta sauce. This one was a eggplant and zucchini pasta sauce. Make some slight hollows and crack the eggs in. Bake at 200 until golden. If you like your eggs still runny, bake until just the whites are cooked. Serve with some crusty bread.


Moroccan Chickpeas- Frugal Friday

Super quick, and super easy. If you prefer dried chickpeas just soak them before hand, and for the tomatoes if you have fresh ones available in abundance use them. Garlic is also another thing I would usually put in here, but not having access to Australian garlic for the moment, most dishes are garlic less. If you have it at home though, whack it in.

Moroccan Chickpeas

In a pot add a couple of good slurps of olive oil

a diced onion

2 tsp coriander

2 tsp cumin

1 can chickpeas

1 can tomatoes

rinse the can out with half water, pop it in

2 bunches of chopped English spinach

2 chopped carrots

and whack the lid on for about 10 minutes.

Salt to taste and serve with basmati rice or cous cous, a dollop of natural yogurt, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of turmeric.

10 minutes to prepare, and ten minutes to cook

spiced warm hug

Brown slop. Thats what I hear you say. Brown slop in a pretty bowl….Actually you are right, it is.

But, it’s good brown slop.

Had a light dinner and need a little something else to ease you into the evening?

One spiced warm hug coming up. That’s what this dish is, or that’s what it feels like when you eat it. Warm, nourishing, you can feel those spiced milky arms envelope you. Feeding your inner soul with its goodness of spices and hint of lemon. Giving you the quiet sugar kick that you were after with out crushing all your taste buds in one mighty swoop. Some nights don’t suit chocolate, some nights are a simple curl up on the couch with a spiced warm hug.

Some people might say brown sloppy rice pudding, I say spiced warm hug please.

Spiced Warm Hug

2 cups milk

150mls cream

1/3 cup muscavdo or molasses sugar (or any other dark unrefined sugar)

6 green cardamom pods

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp dried ginger

1/3 cup any short grain rice

1/4 cup sultanas

1 large strip of lemon rind

Bring milk, cream, spices to a simmer, turn it down a little lower, so it doesn’t bubble over. Now add the rest of the ingredients and stir continuously on a gentle simmer for 15 minutes. Then put the lid on the pot, turn off the hot plate and leave it for 20 minutes. Don’t peek, it’s still doing its thing.

Eat on the couch, with a blanket on your lap, and a book by your side.

Basmati Kale- Frugal Friday

Kale is something that has been sneaking into more and more of my cooking lately. It’s an easy one to chop up and quickly cook, provided you are not using the stalks which can take a little longer. (It’s also known as tuscan kale or cavolo nero.)

I find it a subtle taste, which somehow quite often gets by The Monkeys.  They seem to ignore the obvious green foliage in their dinner and any time that happens I’m certainly up for making the dish again. Being a dark leafy green it’s also loaded with all things exceptionally good for you.

The leaves cook up quickly like spinach or silverbeet, in a wilty kind of fashion that doesn’t require a whole lot of stove time. Perfect for a Frugal Friday dinner.

I used my flat bottomed wok with this little number because, 1/ I’m addicted to using the thing and 2/….actually there is no two. I just really like using the flat bottomed wok. Easily done in a regular pot though.

Basmati Kale

A couple of slurps of olive oil in the pan

add some diced garlic

the chopped kale leaves

and some basmati rice

cover the rice and kale mixture with water until it’s just over the top

add a good couple of shakes of dried cumin, coriander, (don’t be shy) and salt to taste

pop the lid on

keep a beady eye on the pot, add some more water to the top of the rice mixture when it’s all absorbed

give it a stir around and pop that lid on again

when the water has disappeared again, check to see rice is juuussst about cooked

turn hot plate off and leave the lid on for 5-ish minutes (it’s still doing it’s thing)

serve with natural yogurt or fetta and some local nuts*

for a vegan option just drizzle with extra olive oil and local nuts

and a dusting of dried chilli if you like a kick in the pants.

* I used pecan halves here. Pine nuts, walnuts, cashews etc. would all taste great though. Use what ever you can get that is grown locally. Alternatively try your local bar at closing time on a Saturday night… local nuts a plenty, (although not so great on top of your kale.)

Blueberry Frangipane

3am and I’m sitting in an armchair next to Little Monkey’s hospital bed when he broke his leg. The armchair was my bed for the duration, swamped by blankets I’d made a nest for myself so I could keep one eye closed for sleep and one eye watching carefully over the little fella as he slept.

In my hand however was a the most delicious thing I had encountered for quite a while. Not hospital food, but a frangipane fruit tart. Brought in earlier, by my very thoughtful sister from Brasserie Bread.

I’m not sure whether it was the fact that I was eating it at 3am that made it delicious, or it really was the best darn tasting tart I had ever tasted. Either way, it was superb and I couldn’t get enough of it. Fast forward 2 months, and that hopsital stay is happily a distant crappy foggy memory, but that tart….

That tart, was the kind of tart that makes you sit back, and let those taste buds reminisce. I put the tart in my, will have to give that a crack one day… thought pile and then went about my business. Until Amy at Tiny Tea Room posted on a pastry-less almond Pear Tart. Now with Amy’s stunning photography I’m sure she could make a white bread cheese sandwich appealing, but non-the less that sweet almondy goodness was brought back to my mind, front and centre…. and no pastry? Even quicker!

I wanted not crazy sweet, vanilla-y tones, and a gritty type texture….oh and easy. Let’s play…

Blueberry Frangipane

150gms softened butter

1/2 cup raw sugar

2 tsp vanilla essence

3 eggs

150gms almond meal* (1 1/2 cups)

100gms course semolina (1/2 cup)

125gms blueberries

Cream butter and sugar together, Add the vanilla and eggs. Stir through almond meal and semolina. Blueberries on top. Bake in a greased, floured tin (approx 23cm square) at 180C for about 30minutes or until light golden.

* I lightly toasted whole almonds, skin on, and then blitzed them in the blender to make the almond meal.

Verdict? It didn’t quite match that 3am frangipane fruit tart but I was happy with it. Super easy, and really quick. I think this one might become a regular favourite. You can easily up the sugar if you want it sweeter, and swap the blueberries for other seasonal fruit.

Cardamom Semolina Diamonds

Indian Semolina Balls.

That’s what I’ve got these little cardamom treats written down as. A recipe that is well entwined into my childhood memories with cardamom flavours, plump sultanas and nutty cashews. Given half the chance I would have eaten my weight in these little things. One, two…oops, ten.

I’d re-written the recipe from my mum’s recipe folder a long time ago, although had only vaguely written down the quantities and even more vaguely written down the method. I knew how they were supposed to taste, but wasn’t so sure how to get there. Then I realised I didn’t have cashews…. and I didn’t think I really wanted to roll them anyway… So that changes a few things doesn’t it.

Indian Semolina Balls turned into squares? That’s not so exciting.

Diamonds?….much more enticing.

Cashews? I never have them about…

I’ve got flaked almonds though…would that work?

Cardamom Semolina Diamonds

(Inspired from my mum, and before that a 70’s Indian Vegetarian Recipe Book)

4 tbls ghee

1 cup semolina

1 cup loose brown sugar

1 cup milk

1 1/2 tsp cardamom

toasted flaked almonds

Melt ghee in a pot, add semolina and fry until golden. Add brown sugar and cardamom, mix through. Add milk and handful of sultanas. Stir until thickens. Pour into square tin, press down and add flaked almonds. Into fridge until hardens up a bit. (or wait until mixture cools and roll into balls, replacing almonds with toasted cashews.)

10 minutes tops to make, if you’ve already got the toasted almond flakes.

scones

I never seemed to have mastered scones. They have always been a hit or miss kind of affair. Some times delicate airy morsels begging for a little jam or cream. At other times hockey pucks. That if stuck together, could make a rather solid house for a pint-sized person. As a teenager I once made scones that had so much bicarbonate of soda in them that everyone’s mouth tingled for an hour after eating them, (I wanted to make sure they got that ‘lift’.)

Let’s just say my scones weren’t winning awards any time soon.

So with a canny eye, and a raised eyebrow, why would I be posting a recipes for scones?

As I finally cracked it, well I think I did. I finally got results that I felt were worthy of placing on the table instead of scuttling out the back when the hockey pucks were offered up. What changed? Back to Sally Wise’s presentation at the Taste Festival in Hobart. Wise by name and wise by nature it seems as I can finally say scones and I are friends, and it’s all thanks to watching her whip some up in just a few minutes.

Perfect thing to make for a relaxing long weekend.

Scones

3 cups s/r flour

1 cup cream

1 cup of water

Lightly mix the ingredients all together in a bowl. Once combined, on to lightly floured bench, pop your dough on, and then lightly knead with your finger tips. Flour the rim of a glass (or another cutter of some sort) and cut them out.  On to a tray, and then bake at 220C for 20mins.

 Just the thing to team up with your favourite seasonal jam.

songs to make cupcakes to

Cupcakes were on the menu.

Nothing fancy, just simple little numbers to be eaten after dinner. Mr Chocolate’s parents were coming over. A special dinner to celebrate my father-in-laws birthday and to also celebrate the fact that he and Mr Chocolate’s mother had been in the country for 40 years.  I was thinking a pavlova with a few typical Australian flavours thrown in, however Mr Chocolate seemed to think vanilla cupcakes would be better. Needing a tiny excuse to make mascarpone, I agreed.

The boys were out, and I had myself a little mama time. Time to get the oven cranked and perhaps some music to.

What songs to make cupcakes to?…

I used the Strawberry Vanilla Cake recipe, and just changed it to mini cupcakes.

Now how to make your own mascarpone?

Thanks to my trusty The Real Food Companion book, I wanted to have a go at making it. Mascarpone is soft and mild Italian cheese. It’s usually quite expensive to buy, but well worth it to be used in desserts, such as Tiramisu or my birthday meringue cake last year. I also use it diligently instead of a butter frosting for cakes. I had tried to make it late last year, but wasn’t bowled over with the results. So I wanted to redeem myself. Now where was that mascarpone love?

Mascarpone

300mls cream

2 teaspoons lemon juice

In a pot bring the cream to a simmer, adding the lemon juice and cook for about 1 and half minutes. Allow the cream to cool completely in the pot, and then pour into a muslin lined strainer and leave for 1-2 days in the fridge. For this one I popped in a vanilla bean directly after I had turned the pot off and allowed the bean to infuse with the cream for about 15 minutes. I then gently squeezed the tiny vanilla specks out, and into the fridge the whole lot went for at least 24 hours.

Result, is a speckled mascarpone, with a lovely real vanilla flavour. Just cream, lemon juice and vanilla bean.

It came out thick, smelling lovely and tasted like mascarpone.  You have to plan a little a head of time but it beats buying it.

Quickly whisked it up a little, and then adding 1/2 cup of icing sugar to the mixture. Slap it on to the cupcakes and decorate with strawberries.

Optional Australian flag.

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…but the songs, what about the songs to make cupcakes to?…

Boy and Bear