Friday, December 28, 2012

Post Christmas Purge

So there we are for another year.  Christmas has come and gone.  I hope everyone who celebrated the holiday had a wonderful day. 

Now that all the fuss is over and I still have 3 weeks off work, I have been feeling a little lost.  Christmas is such a busy time, (well, I am my own worst enemy) where you have to rush about, cook all sorts of things you wouldn't normally cook any other time of year, clean your house ready for your visitors, make space in the refrigerator for all the extra food and drinks... (You feelin' me?)

The visitors have since left and the house is still in wearing its Christmas party dress - I never take my decorations down until New Years Day, its just a superstition, though I am kind of wistful that the excitement and anticipation is over for another year.

Yesterday I started off feeling really lazy.  Here is a rundown of my morning.
  • I watched  'Love Actually', 
  • I watched Australia beat Sri Lanka in the Boxing Day Test cricket and then
  • I got a serious bug up my butt and totally went nuts on my kitchen pantry.
As you do.

 My pantry has been bothering me for a while.  Since I moved in.  More so the last few days, where it has become a kind of irritating focus that I can't seem to function with the thought of it in the back of my mind.  It has served me well, however the whole 'Hardware store purchases trying to mimic an industrial look' has become a little messy and unsightly.

Unless I could resolve to neatening and sorting through the shelves every other day, or only purchasing items that looked the part (chances are they would be either too pretty to use or expensive to want to eat), I figured I needed to find a different solution to disguise my ugly pantry and the items on show within, without it looking like it was wearing a Groucho Marx mask.

I did indeed try this with some colourful drapes I whipped up on my sewing machine the day before, but in my kitchen, this really didn't work.  It looked like I was trying to hide something.  My original idea was to make it look fresh and carefree!  It was like putting a band aid on a gaping wound.  Boy, who was I trying to kid!

The original pantry that was in this house when I moved in all those years ago has had a few reincarnations around the house.  Firstly, the doors were falling off the hinges so I took them off.  This became my start of having an open pantry.  Then, after a while I decided that it just looked way to ugly.  So it found its way into my laundry and did time in there as a junk cupboard.  After another possibly seasonal attack of OCD I revamped my laundry and said cupboard became a neat and tidy linen press.  As for its ugly exterior, cheap mouldings made the cupboard look more like updated shelving than the sad, sorry, chipped, clapped-out thing it was.  It even made its way opposite the entry way so it was the first thing you could see when you walked in or past the room.  So I had a lovely little cupboard with my good towels and a couple of chic baskets that made me smile whenever I looked at it.

After spending a few hours laying upside down on my couch looking at posts about pantry at 'Houzz', 'Pinterest' and 'Apartment Therapy', a light bulb went off in my head which caused me to leap up, stride confidently into the kitchen and pull apart my old pantry with the maniacal view to swapping the laundry cupboard for the kitchen shelves.  Genius! was what I was thinking at this point.  I wish I had a before photo of how my kitchen looked during this brainwave.  Why does cleaning always make a mess!

It was a struggle to get the cupboards switch-a-roo'd but with a little help,(and a thorough vacuuming of the chipboard breadcrumb trail the poor disintegrating cupboard left behind), I got there. 

I have to glue a little more moulding onto the sides, where the damage still is, but as long as it is left alone, there shouldn't be too many tears.  I think I ought to get rid of that ugly sticky tape repair (not mine!) as well while I am at it.  Nothing a little Spak Filla won't fix!

So here is the project as it stands right now.  Everything looks so much neater and visually pleasant.  I am able to stow away all the packages and cans into my baskets.  My jars look much more part of a display, than a mess.  I even re purposed my three candy jars to hold sugar, and I think these look really sweet!  (Pardon the pun).

As for my laundry, I  think the metal shelving came up okay in the space.  I even strung up my curtains.  They won't win any design awards, though I think they add a little colour and whimsy to soften the look of the metal. 

What makes me so happy about this little project was that it cost me nothing.  I re purposed what I already had in the house, I just had to think outside of the box to do it.  My intention was to create a neat, contained display of my pantry items.  I was able to do it with bottles, jars and baskets I already had on hand.  I didn't have to rush out to the department or dollar store to buy anything, all I had to do was use my imagination.  I figured I would try and do whatever I could with what I had on hand, before feeling the need to just go out and buy for the sake of buying.  I even found that some of the things are now fulfilling their purpose, rather than just 'filling in' or on display.  

I will probably re evaluate the smaller spice jars which contents are probably overdue for a toss or refresh, but I know that things look so much better than before I started.  I have much more room, I know where everything is and I am inspired to keep it tidy and best of all, cook!

Next job, kitchen cupboards and drawers.  Time to do some kitchenware purging!  Wish me luck!

Until next time...
Kitty xx

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas 2012

I love Christmas.  I never really used to, but after my first trip to America, which included both Christmas and New Year in New York, I am smitten.  If there were ever a time you didn't feel Christmassy, a trip to New York is the cure.  Or in my case, the catalyst for me falling in love with it all over again.  

I guess its the whole idea of a 'White Christmas', the snow, the Rockefeller Plaza Tree (check out cheesey me!), Bloomingdales, Macy's and movies where shoppers hustle and Santa rings a bell and you drink hot toddies and cocoa is something that you can actually drink without breaking out into a sweat in December in the Northern Hemisphere.

As it is Summer here in Australia, I tend to feel a little ridiculous, singing Christmas Carols about snow, the weather being 'frightful' and fires inside being 'delightful'.  Especially when its while I am sweltering with the oven on, trying to get my Christmas baking done.

As I have spent 3 Christmas's in New York now, I tend to feel a little 'homesick' around this time of year.  Especially homesick for the cooler weather!  I guess the good thing about Christmas in Australia is we don't have the tradition of the 'Ugly Christmas Sweater'.  To cure my blues, I bust out a bit (or in my case a lot) of decorating.  It always makes me feel good. 

My tiny little house is abundant with Christmas decorations and vignettes.  This year, I have tried to exercise elegant restraint, keeping to a colour theme of red, silver and gold.  It is hard to hold back, with so many great decorations, lights and garlands that you can dress up your home with.  Outside is not spared, with rows and rows of coloured lights clinging to the gutters and trees, along with some inflatable Santa's friends have kindly loaned out. 

Christmas also sparks my creative side.  I love being resourceful and making something out of 'nothing'.  My star (above) was just 5 pickets I found in my backyard from some over-the-fence construction which I got help to nail together (I am a designer, not an engineer) and I strung some lights around for some extra sparkle.

My tree is my miniature interpretation of the Macy's tree in San Francisco.  (I adore this tree, even more than the Rock Centre tree!).  I love the look of red against the green.  I also add to my tree each year, new decorations from my travels.  It is ever evolving and always different.

I have always wanted to learn how to do origami.  However, I have absolutely no patience.  Somehow I taught myself how to make some origami stars.  I was determined to make a garland out of them, and by the sixth star, I was a pro! 

I thought it would be fun to make a buffet table out of a sofa table I kind of made/re purposed from another project (which is another story in itself).  I had an old window which was a perfect fit to lay on top and underneath the glass I have scattered old Polaroids and photos from Christmas's past.  As Mum and Dad will be here for Christmas Dinner, I hope they enjoy the nostalgia of it.  Oh yes, more little lights underneath to give it a little razzle-dazzle!

I think the whole fuss I make wears poor Nugget out. 

As mentioned, my Mum and Dad will be coming for lunch this year and it will just be us, as the rest of my family are all spread out and it is difficult for us to come together.  I just plan to set a nice table and make a simple roast dinner this year.  We will be having chicken, pork and ham.  Mum and Dad are bringing the plum pudding, while I made Tiramisu (I can't help myself!).  As for gifts, we have decided on just a very small present each for under the tree.

I would like to think of the day as more an 'attitude of gratitude' than the whole ridiculous commerical blowout.  It is a little rustic, a lot hand made and a whole lot of love.  It will be nice to be able to spend the day with my Mum and Dad and to spoil them with a lovely meal, made by me. 

I hope everyone has a really great Christmas.  Please be safe and be good to each other. 

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Good Mornings!

I never used to be a morning person.  There was nothing more I would love on a Sunday, than to pull up the covers and hide away from the world for a few minutes (or hours) more.  It wasn't because I would stay up late, I would just love the comfort and sanctity of my bed.  Cold mornings or the drudgery of the morning rituals that go with getting ready for work never helped either.

For a while now, I have embraced the early morning wake up and bounce out of bed.  Now that it is summer, the sun is usually up at around 5am, so it is harder for me to keep my eyes shut, especially through my not-so-thick curtains.  This doesn't really bother me, as it is nice to be up and about.  It gives me time to make breakfast, do some early morning exercise down at the beach or just sit outside in the cool of the morning and enjoy my tea on the patio.

Breakfast is a good motivator on the weekend.  I get up early and head down to the stairs on Hastings St.  These are like no other stairs I have ever encountered.  They take about 3 minutes to climb, at a steady pace, and when you get to the top, you virtually feel your heart beating in your mouth.  I do 2-3 laps up and down and then take a leisurely cool-down walk to the National Park before heading to one of the local cafes for breakfast.  Well, I figure I have earned it after all that sweat!

I have to give a plug to my local go-to place for Sunday breakfast - Grind on Gympie Terrace in Noosaville.  They make fantastic coffee and their breakfasts are generous and filling.  I love their scrambled eggs.  They make a wonderful breakfast sandwich which usually tides me over sometimes until dinner.  Keep an eye on the specials board too, their offerings never disappoint.  The service is fast and friendly, the staff are wonderful and the atmosphere is lively.  It makes the whole idea of exercise much more appealing when I know I have a delicious breakfast to look forward to as a reward!

My breakfast habits tend to improve after my visits to New York.  I eat more 'brunch' than breakfast (let's blame jet lag for early morning misdemeanours) which is better than my usual cup of tea, which is what I tend to pass of as my Monday - Friday breakfast when at home.  I am improving though, I keep breakfast bars in my desk and have one once I settle in to my work day.  These aren't ideal, I know, but I feel better to at least eat something than nothing at all.

I am feeling all exercised, fed, bouncy and ready to embrace the day.  I have plans for Christmas baking and straightening up in preparation for Christmas day.  I would never had this much done or the motivation had I stayed in bed!

Have a fantastic weekend whatever you do!

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Friday, December 14, 2012

Here we are in December...

My goodness, here we are at the close of another year almost.  I can't believe it is only 10 days until Christmas.

So much has happened in the time since my last post, I went to New York for 6 weeks in mid September, having a wonderful time and even surviving Super Storm Sandy.  I arrived home and on November 6, my beloved Chihuahua Buster (Below), passed away, 2 days after my return home.  His older Brother, Nugget is just as devastated as I and merely a week after losing Buster to congenital heart failure, Nugget was rushed to surgery for a corneal (eye) ulcer.  He is doing great and, like me is starting to get back to feeling themselves after much sadness.

I didn't blog in New York, because, well I was having such a fantastic time eating my way around the city!  No, it was difficult as I was without laptop and to try and coordinate my photos/phone and borrowed iPad, I resolved to do some writing when I got home... Which as you may well understand, didn't happen.  I don't know how many people follow this blog or just stumble upon it, but it did feel strange to not write.  I felt like I wanted to share my feelings and what I was going through, but I was just feeling so numb I couldn't find the words - even to write about food.  So if my absence has been felt, please accept my humble apologies!

Now on with the food!

As it is Hanukkah and I am not Jewish, it made sense for me to make Latkes.  (If you know me, this makes perfect sense).  I think of Latkes as if a hash brown had a steamy relationship with a pancake (ie they fell in shallow fried love). 

I made these last night and served them with apple sauce and sour cream.  This is a really great recipe and I am really excited to share it with you.  It comes from the book 'Love and Knishes' by Sara Kasdan.  It was a gift from my recent visit to New York from my new favourite bookstore in the world, or Greenwich Village at least, Bonnie Slotnicks (163 W10th St NY, NY 10014)

I have a whole Bonnie Slotnicks blog I want to share, so I am just going to keep you salivating on that (cookbook aficionados you will love this place) while I get these Latkes out of the way.

Potato Latkes - (Pancakes)
Recipe from 'Love and Knishes' by Sara Kasdan

2 cups grated raw potatoes (measure after draining) ***
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 rounded or heaping tablespoon flour or matzo meal (I used all purpose flour)
pinch baking powder (I was anal retentive and measured 1/4 tsp)
1 small onion grated - optional (I had a small french shallot in the fridge so I used that)

Combine all ingredients.  Mix well.  Drop pancake mixture by the tablespoonful onto a hot skillet generously greased with butter or shortening (I used olive oil). 

If you like thin, crispy pancakes, flatten with the back of a spoon.  Fry on both sides until brown.  Serve piping hot with sour cream, or with applesauce as an accompaniment to a pot roast.

*** When draining the potatoes, I grated them into a colander, set upon a bowl to catch the liquid.  I squeezed as much liquid out of the potato as I could, and reserved the liquid.  As I added the other ingredients to the potato, the starch in the potato water settled to the bottom of the bowl.  I poured off the reserved water and then added the starch to my potato mix.  I don't know why this is important but I read it somewhere or someone told me to do this  and it  has just stuck with me.

Happy Hanukkah!  (Don't worry Christmas, I'll get to you later!)

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Friday, August 17, 2012

Out of Hibernation

Winter.  There are good things about you and the things I don't like so much.  I like the fact that I can use you as an excuse to wear short skirts and cover up my pasty legs with black tights and still feel so fresh, so chic.  I like that my dogs who snuggle with me all four seasons are more welcomed when it is a cold night and we share it on the sofa watching television.  I don't like it so much when they need to go outside before bedtime and I am hopping from one foot to the other in a ridiculous beanie and my pajamas.

There are a couple of weeks left of winter, but we are starting to feel the welcome of a glorious spring.  My garden is looking pretty and has lots of pops of colour (more so from me buying instant potted colour from the nursery but, whatever!) and my bones are thawing out, thus making it easier to heave-ho and get out of bed without feeling bitterness and resentment about having to go to work or simply, on the weekend, just having to get out of bed.

This morning was the first morning in months where I bounced out of bed and did something other than grumble.  I went to the beach and did some exercise, which I thought at first was going to kill me, but I am glad I did it.  I feel good about myself and when you feel good about yourself, well, everything else seems to fall into place. 

As a reward for good behaviour, I treated myself (for the second time this week - oh shock, horror!) to breakfast.  Breakfast is one of those lovely things I like to do because, well I'm worth it.  I love eating out, but I think most of all, eating out during the day is more enjoyable for me.  I guess because eating out at night is more of a production, you know, the appetizer, the main event, the dessert, the wine, the coffee and I can never say no to cheese.

Breakfast, brunch and lunch are more casual, less complicated.  There is less expectation and less stuffy waitstaff pompousness.  (I really don't like restaurants who make you feel they are doing you a favour just by seating you.  Take note.  I am a big eater, a generous tipper and I have a few places on my shit list because of crap service.  Treat every customer as your most fierce critic and with the same respect).  Phew!  That felt good to get that out.  Wow, do you think I have felt a little unloved in some places?

So yes, twice this week I have treated myself to breakfast!  I guess things are looking up as far as the weather is concerned to be able to say I have been up and about!  (Well, where there is the promise of food, it is a great motivator for me). 

I am off to NYC in five weeks time and I am so excited.  I have included photos within this blog entry of my two favourite places to brunch, purely because I can never get myself moving in time to eat there during breakfast hours.  (Thankfully they do all day breakfast!).  They are Kitchenette in Harlem and The Clinton Street Baking Co, Downtown (Somewhere... use your fancy phone and a tricky subway commute to find it, you won't be disappointed).  I love the Turkey sausage at Kitchenette, so crispy, sticky and salty, while the French toast with maple butter at Clinton St is to die for.  Seriously if I were Cleopatra, I would bathe in that stuff every day.

Until next time,  I wish your eggs to be scrambled soft and silky and your bacon to be crispy.

Kitty xx

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pure Creamy (salty) Gratification

Sometimes in life you discover things you know once you experience you can't (or don't want to) live without them.  Right now, mine is a certain flavour of gelato.

Salted Peanut Caramel.

When I first tried it a few months ago, I told the girl at the Gelato Bar that if it were legal, I would marry it. 

She laughed and told me I would need to get in line.

I am enamoured with this flavour.  It is creamy like gelato should be.  It is textural - crunchy with little chunks of peanut praline.  Then comes the gentle touch of salt which rounds out the flavour and is a beautiful finish.

Salt is a wonderful thing.  It makes things taste more of what they are.  It is the only true seasoning.  I love salt sprinkled on slices of fresh cut pineapple and also I love salted chocolate as well.  Now before you screw your nose up at me at the thought, why not give it a try.

But back to the gelato.  I get it from what is in my opinion, the best little coffee place in Noosa, Amo Gelato.  It is a intimate little place, my local secret which is open until late.  The staff are friendly, the coffee is perfect and the serves of gelato are generous, especially if you are a good customer like me :)

This stuff makes me smile.  I should eat more of it.

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Berry Good!

I love it when inspiration hits.  It can come from nowhere and from there can come great things.  Like staring at my little raspberry bush, thinking about how lovely it was to have grown my own little spartan crop of sweet little berries and how nice they tasted.

Then remembering that I had quite a large bag of berries in the freezer that, while they were not fruit of my vine, were able to satiate my feelings of nostalgia for something sweet and berry-ful. 

I wanted to bake something, and I was thinking of the classic combination of white chocolate and raspberry.  You can usually find these as a muffin, though I wanted to do a riff on this and turn them into a cute little cupcake with the addition of a sweet vanilla butter cream.

The result?  Delicious.  You get the sharpness of the raspberry which cuts the sweetness of the white chocolate.  The butter cream works.  While you may think it a little overkill, it is a lip smacking addition.  There is nothing like feeling a little naughty when it comes to sweet things, so why not up the ante and smother them with frosting?

I took these to work to share for morning tea yesterday and got wonderful reviews.  (My colleagues are my most tough and honest critics).  Definitely part of my baking repertoire from now on.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Chip Cupcakes (Adapted from Best

2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup castor sugar
2/3 cup white chocolate chips
120g melted butter, cooled slightly
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 180C.  Line a 12 cup capacity muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Sift flour and baking powder, add sugar and choc chips.  Stir to combine.
Mix milk, melted butter, egg and vanilla and add to dry ingredients, fold gently to combine.  Add raspberries and fold through gently.  Spoon into liners to about 2/3 full and bake for 25 minutes.

Vanilla Butter cream

2 cups icing sugar
1 tbs butter
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs milk

Sift icing sugar and add butter and mix into the sugar.  Add vanilla and milk, a little at a time, mixing until combined.  With electric beaters, beat until combined and fluffy.  The texture should be light but stiff enough to pipe or spread onto the cooled cakes - if you feel the mixture is too tight, add a little more milk and beat further, if it is too runny, sift in more icing sugar.  You can also add a few drops of food colouring to tint it if desired.

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Friday, May 11, 2012

What does your garden grow?

I live in a rental and there is not much opportunity for me to make the gardens look as lovely as I wish to.  I could if I wanted to spend money on someone else's investment (and over time, I have - I can't help wanting my nest to look appealing for my own benefit). 

Instead I grow things in pots.  I also like to strike cuttings from plants that I have liberated from friends, family or 'in passing' and plump up the garden beds at the front of the house. 

My back patio has evolved from humble ratty beginnings into may own little culinary garden and it is bringing me so much joy.  I am so proud of all my little plants.  They are doing so well.  My garden is a wonderful ambient and sensory place for me to relax and enjoy.

I never thought I would ever grow my own raspberries!  The above photo is the first raspberry that came off the bush.  I was so enamoured with the fact that I cultivated it I had to mark the event with a photo on a pretty plate!  It is so exciting to be able to walk out my back door and pick them, fresh off the bush.  Unfortunately there are only enough at the moment for snacking purposes, but I get such a buzz knowing that they grew from my tender care and love.

 Herbs are essential in my garden.  You would be suprised how much more inspiration you can be filled with when you have beautiful fresh herbs on hand, ready for picking.  My 'must have's' are mint, parsley, thyme and basil.  (Above is my lovely 'Boxwood' basil).  Any of these are a wonderful addition to bring dishes to life.  Especially pasta.  I grow them in the pots I bought them in, in a container (which started its life as a humble automotive oil drip tray can you believe?!) in a sunny spot right by the kitchen door, so all I need to is reach out and pluck them as I need them. 

I love to pick at my herbs and nibble on them while sitting outside while dead-heading daisies and marigolds or just enjoying the space.  Pinching them out from the top encourages more bushy and compact growth so it's a win-win.  After much consideration (as to what I would do with it) I bought a Stevia plant and it is great for guilt-free snacking as it is a natural sweetner.  I simply pick a few leaves and roll a mint leaf around them and it staves off hunger pangs (and makes your breath sweet and minty-fresh!). I haven't experimented yet with it (apparently its sweetness is intensified by drying) though I do plan on trying it in my baking sometime soon. 

I have all kinds of fruit trees, flowers  annuals and perennials.  In addition this year I have Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses.  I keep pests at bay where possible using organic pesticides - and natural ones, encouraging Lady Beetles and companion planting (aphids hate marigolds!).  Catterpillars are welcome as they turn into beautiful butterflies.  I love how they munch on the leaves, it reminds me of the book 'The Very Hungry Catterpillar'.

My garden is a lovely place for me (as well as Gidget) to sit and contemplate.  To flip through magazines, read my cook books, or to just soak up the beautiful morning sun.  On weekends I treat myself to breakfast at my table.  Warm summer nights are perfect for barbecues too.

You don't need rambling acres of land to enjoy a garden.  Mine is very compact and modest and I love it.  All you need is a small sunny area or windowsill - even the World's greatest gardens started with just one plant.

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A New(ish) Season

Autumn is a lovely time of year here in Queensland.  Along with spring, it is my favourite season.  Autumn is when the weather is just starting to cool down as it comes into winter, and my tummy always craves things that are warm and satisfying.  Come to think of it, when does it not crave anything!

I bought some beautiful new season apples at the supermarket yesterday.  I love how they look in the bowl just as they are as a still life. 

Of course now my mind starts to race at what I could do with them.  I love the smell of apples stewing.  All that lovely aroma, laced with clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.  It is comforting and enveloping like a warm hug.  Especially on a cold rainy day. 

Stewed fruits are delicious hot or cold.  With ice cream, cream, custard or alone.  Apple is particularly nice mixed into yoghurt or muesli or on my new found favourite - Latkes (with a hearty dollop of sour cream).

Apple and Rhubarb would have to be one of my all time favourite stewed fruit combos.To stew the fruit it's basically thus: 

Cut a few ribs of rhubarb and 2 or three peeled and cored apples into chunks.  Place into a saucepan with a few tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (You can also add cinnamon/cloves etc here to taste).  Bring to a gentle simmer.  The fruit will yield some moisture, so you will not need to add water, but if you wish you can add a little splash of water to help the cooking process along.  If you are trying to cut down on your sugar intake, add a little apple juice in lieu of some of the sugar.  Cook for about 10 mins.  Once the fruit is fork tender, remove from the heat and clamp on a lid.  Use as desired. 

On a side note, if you are using young rhubarb it should be nice and tender.  If it is older it may be a little stringy so just run a potato peeler along the stalks to remove some of the strings.

My Dad makes a really great apple pie.  I always love his baking.  I have tried to get some recipes from him, but his recipes are more like 'a bit of this, bit of that, bung it in the oven' kind of thing.  Somehow what he does seems to work - I guess I get my baking courageousness from him.  Even if he isn't as experimental as I am with flavours and textures it is nice to know that he has had some influence!

Maybe when I'm done admiring my beautiful bowl of apples I will just eat them as is, cut them into wedges and spread them with Nutella (yum!) or bake them into a pie.  If I go out and talk nicely to my rhubarb plant there may even be a whiff of that too.

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Little Mouthfuls of Gorgeousness

For the past few months I have been looking for recipes that I remember eating when I was a kid.  You know, the stuff that you eat today that reminds you of what 'Grandma used to make'.  The things that make you giddy and smile to remember the simpler times, when your mouth wasn't quite big enough to cram in a whole piece of cake, or your mother was constantly dabbing away at the cream all over your fingers and face. 

Baking has had a resurgence in popularity lately, and things to me seem a little too primped and technical.  I am looking for the good old fashioned things, sponge cakes with jam and cream, pies with home made pastry and sticky gooey caramel fillings (Even if I can never bring myself to try boiling a can of condensed milk to make caramel - kids don't try this at home).  All the good stuff that we remember eating as kids, is the stuff I am yearning for today. 

As you know I am quite the fan of little individual baked treats.  Even though I love a grand layered cake at the best of times, these are easy and fun to bake, look sweet, petite and best of all, when it comes to serving you don't have to have the 'who's going to cut the cake' argument.

Jelly cakes have become my latest little love.  I used to eat these as a kid and have had a craving for them in the past few weeks.  They are these delightful little patty cakes, filled with cream and rolled in semi-set jelly and coconut.  They look so dainty and pretty.  Making them again brings back so many fond memories.

I love them piled high on a pretty plate and shared among friends.

Perfect with a lovely hot cup of tea. 

Jelly Cakes - Recipe adapted from

60g butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk
85g packet of Port Wine jelly crystals
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
3 cups dessicated coconut
1/2 cup thickened cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 12 x 2 tablespoon capacity patty pan. (Oil spray is perfect for greasing these pans) Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, a little at a time, beating until well combined.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt.  Gently fold in half the flour and half the milk. Repeat with remaining flour and milk.

Spoon about 1 tsp of the mixture into patty pan. (You may need more depending on the size of your patty pans - if you use muffin pans, use a tablespoon of mixture) Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool cakes on a wire rack.

Cut each cake in half horizontally. Sandwich halves back together using 1 teaspoon of cream.  Place in refrigerator for 10-20 mins.  (I find this step really helps the cream to adhere the cake halves together and makes them easier to roll in jelly and coconut.  You could also freeze the cakes at this stage if you wish and jelly/coconut later).

Stir jelly and boiling water together in a bowl until crystals are dissolved. Stir in cold water. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until cold and slightly thick.

Place coconut into a large bowl.   Roll cakes, 1 cake at a time, into jelly. Gently shake off  excess jelly. Toss cakes in coconut until well coated. Place onto a lined tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.

These cakes freeze well.  Just pull out of the freezer and place on a plate for 20-30 mins to reach room temperature.  Great for when you have company coming and want to have a little special something that looks like you have slaved all morning away on!

Feel free to experiment with different jelly flavours.  I especially like Port Wine because it gives the cakes a lovely pink hue.

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hello Sunshine!

I am so happy to see the sun.  Like you wouldn't believe.  Not only do I get my laundry done (what is it about women - at the first sign of inclement weather all we think about is how are we going to get our sheets dry).  I don't have to stay inside getting fat from all the baking and episodes of Mad Men I have been watching.

Despite all this shiny happy weather, I do have plans to cook today.  I have a hankering for French Apple Cake.  I bought some New Season Delicious Apples last week which really should be called 'Floury Disappointment Apples' because they were exactly that.  On the outside they looked stunning.  Deep red, shiny and achingly crisp (I know crisp is more a texture rather than a visual but you get the picture).  They looked like the kind of apple a Wicked Witch would offer a Fairy Princess.  And, just like in the fairy tales, one bite was all it took.  Yuk.

So I think rather than throw them away, I will try and transform them with the magic of adding , rum, sugar and heat. 

As I write you, I am sitting out in my garden enjoying my morning cup of tea and trying to stretch out my black skinny jeans.  I really need to stop kidding myself when I buy clothing.  I mean, 'skinny'... One can dream.

It is amazing what a little sunshine can do for your day.

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wet Weather, Weekends and Slow Cook Sundays

Weather.  It is starting to drive me a little crazy.  It really shouldn't though.  I have lived here for 10 plus years and I should be used to the whole monsoon-type weather we experience here in Queensland.  I can't complain too much, we get lots of sunshine, our winters are mild and our summers really are delicious, even if they can get a little hot and humid.

I escaped the mild Australian Winter last year for the most part, enjoying a warm New York Summer.  Then I escaped the harsh Australian summer for a cool but mild New York Winter.  So I not only swap hemispheres, I swap seasons as well.  Cheeky!

I love cold weather, I love New York in the Wintertime (apart from trying to get about when it is snowing and it is hard to fall with style and grace on black ice...) though to compare it Winter in Queensland it is like night and day.

Still, I always joke that the mercury only needs to drop half a degree for me to put the soup pot on.  Rainy weekends like this inspire me to get into the kitchen.

When the weather is cold and wet I crave big, hearty food.  I love rich, thick soups and stews, slow cooked veal shin and lamb shanks, served with thick buttery polenta or mashed potato.

There is nothing like slow cooked meat on the bone, yielding its sweet and sticky marrow.  Delicious!

Slow cook weather is my favourite kind of cooking weather, next to baking.  If I were married to baking, I would cheat on it with slow cooking.  It is uncomplicated and looks after itself with minimal effort or fuss.  Even though Autumn has only just begun here, I have started early, my tradition of  'Slow Cook Sundays'.  Sunday is a great day for me to kick back and unwind.  To do a little work in my patio garden, to hang out with my dogs or to read books and magazines or work with my hands.  (I love designing and making things from wood and recycled materials but that could be another blog in itself).

The things I love to cook most are the ones that you can just put on the stove on a low heat and forget about, like Osso Bucco, Lamb Shanks, Slow Roasted Pork and tonight's offering, Corned Beef.

I am really looking forward to my dinner tonight.  I mean what could be simpler?  Take beef out of bag, put in a dutch oven with a few peppercorns, a splash of vinegar, a bay leaf and a tsp of sugar.  Cover with water, bring to boil, simmer away for a couple of hours, serve with mashed potato and cabbage.  In two hours I'm a happy girl.  Plus there is the extra goodness of corned beef sandwiches for lunch tomorrow.  Mmmm... with lots of mustard pickles on fresh bread.  Yum-o.  I am almost looking more forward to my lunch tomorrow!

Enjoy your weekend!  I hope I have inspired you.

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Gentle Prod...

A prod, a boost, whatever.  Yes!  Sit at the laptop and enjoy seeing the words magically appear on the screen again.

Oh how good it feels!

I have been so very busy of late, holidaying over Christmas and settling back into work for the new school year.  I even had my first attempt at catering, baking cupcakes for a Wedding!  How exciting!

I spent December and January in my adopted 'homeland', America.  Enjoying time in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Christmas and New Year in New York.  Oh bliss!  And my yearning for all things buttery, maple-ey, hot-doggery and pretzel-y will likely see my return in September this year.

But enough about my summertime antics, lets talk about the absolutely gorgeous cupcakes I made for the Wedding last month... 

Bless you Larissa Lindsay for asking me to bake the sweet morsels for your nuptials.  It indeed was a pleasure. 

Also many many many thanks to The Hummingbird Bakery.  I have no affiliation with you (or anyone in the bakery world for that matter) but it is your cookbook that provided me with the recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes.  In my opinion, this is the best Red Velvet recipe I have ever baked and I have tried a few.  I doubled the mixture and baked it 6 times and it worked out perfect each time, producing a whopping 85 large cupcakes.

I was a little nervous to start with as I had never really 'catered' for anyone before.  I turned my nerves into confidence and made sure I had everything at hand on the day of baking.  I even did a test batch of the cupcakes for the Bride and Groom beforehand so I knew for certain that they were going to be happy.  I mean, you do want things to be perfect on your wedding day, right? 

I am happy to report there are no tales of dropped cake pans, faulty ovens, broken mix masters or tantrums.  I was super-organised and started early.  I baked all morning up until lunchtime with Def Leppard playing in the background.  I was rocking out old school and having a wonderful time. 

The following day, after coming home from work, it was time to pipe on the cream cheese frosting.

Frosting the cupcakes was a little more of a challenge.  With there being so many cupcakes and such a large quantity of cream cheese frosting, I knew I would need a little help.  I enlisted in the help of friend (and the Bride's Maid of Honour) Kellie and her beautiful 9 year old daughter, Chloe to gild each cream cheese frosted cake with gold dust as I piped on the frosting.  It was like a little production line!

I delivered the cupcakes, all 7 boxes of them to the restaurant, with my car air conditioner pumping overtime and felt the biggest sense of relief as the cakes were taken from my hands and placed into the restaurant's cold room.  Be free my little babies!

So for two days work, (including me going to my day job) a lot of love, rock music and over-heating electric hand beaters, I got the cakes baked, iced and delivered.  I even got to attend the Wedding and Reception!  I was very nervous as dessert was served, but I was worried over nothing.  The cakes were a success!  *Phew!*

The whole experience was a very positive one for me.  I really love baking.  Most of all it is lovely to hear from others that my efforts are both delicious as well as visually appealing.  Maybe if I had a bigger oven and a mixer with a little more oomph I might even consider doing this more often.  Who knows!  At this stage, my biggest aspirations are to buy a stand mixer.  I still love my dinky little hand beater, even if at times it feels and smells like it is going to blow up. 

Would I do this again?  Absolutely!  I really enjoyed the whole experience.  I truly feel that I have a calling for baking.  It is something that really does make me happy.  If I could make a living out of it and still be happy?  Well that remains to be seen.  Wish me luck anyway!

Until next time...

Kitty xx