Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pop Pop Pop

Caramel Popcorn - devil's food, I'm sure.  I am addicted to this stuff.  Once in a while, I buy that awful stuff from the supermarket and binge on it.  Sadly (or thankfully  - I don't know!!), I seem to be the only one in the family to love this stuff.  I thought I would try to make some at home.  So... 


 I made a batch on Tuesday night - one jar full plus 4 and a 1/2  brown bags full.  I gave away one bag to a neighbour.  I gave the 1/2 bag to my husband for work.  And I "shared" (as in I think I ate the lion's share of it) one bag with some friends who came over on Wednesday.   I was surfing Pinterest last night.  And on Thursday morning, I wake up and this is what I'm left with...

Before the photo shoot...


After the photo shoot (I took about 3 photos!!)...


And that's it - no more after this jar is emptied!!

On another note, I had a go at creating "art".  Art, as in something to hang and display.  What do you think?  The inspiration came from here.  I think I need to practice a bit more on painting the canvas and balancing out the proportions.  Hmm.. looking at this photo... I'm going to give it another go, I think.


Caramel popcorn

How to make the perfect popcorn  (adapted from here)...
1.  You will need a saucepan with a fitted lid; about 1/2 cup popcorn; and enough oil to coat the bottom of your saucepan.
2.  Heat the oil in the saucepan (lid on) with 2 or 3 corn kernels.
3.  When the kernels start to pop, take the saucepan off the heat, pour in the remaining corn kernels, shake around to coat the corn in oil and count off 20 seconds.
4.  Put the saucepan (with lid on) back onto the heat and wait for the popping to start.
5.  Smile joyously and shake occasionally with the lid slightly ajar as you hear the popping.
6.  When the popping slows down significantly, take it off the heat and immediately pour the popcorn into a big wide bowl.  Add your butter and/or salt at this point if eating oh-naturelle.  Otherwise continue on to the caramel part below.  

I was a popcorn virgin before.  And, I promise you, in the two times I have made it this way, there were no burnt bits of popcorn and only about 10 kernels unpopped.

Caramel popcorn
Adapted from allrecipes.com

125g butter
2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
popcorn from above.

1.  Preheat oven to about 100C.  Place popcorn in a large baking tray (largest you can get to achieve a flat layer of popcorn.  Mine was not very large so there ended up with huge chunks of caramel popcorn rather than an even spread).  Place the popcorn in the oven to keep it warm.
2.  Over medium heat, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  And then add the sugar, syrup, and salt.  Bring to the boil while stirring constantly.  (Please be VERY careful with hot sugar.)
3.  Let it boil without stirring for 4 minutes.
4.  Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.
5.  Pour the caramel mixture in a thin stream over the warmed popcorn and return the baking tray to oven.
6.  Bake the popcorn in the oven for 1 hour, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.
7.  Remove from oven and let it COOL COMPLETELY before breaking it into small pieces and storing...  or shoving it into your mouth by the handful.

Seriously, keep your tongue away and your children away from the caramel until it has cooled completely.  You can get seriously burnt from heated sugar/caramel.

Edited to note (shamefully), as I finish writing up this short post, this is what is left in the jar.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Amazing

Food amazes me.  Eating food amazes me.  I mean, who would have thought to pick the apple from the apple tree and bite into it?  Who would have picked out the basil plant and discovered its gloriously delicious leaves?  And who thought to pick wheat and ground it up to make flour?

And then, add to that, who would have thought of putting simple ingredients together, say like flour, butter, sugar and eggs, to create cake?  Cake - nothing like flour, nothing like butter, nothing like sugar, nothing like egg - something new created with totally different properties from the ingredients that make it up.  Food alchemy!!

Sure, we now have pound cake, cup cakes, sponge cakes, Angel Food Cake, Devil Food Cake, cakes galore, but how ingenious was that first cake?  That first cake upon which formed the basis of our cake baking... how truly genius and amazing was the creation of that first cake?

Yep - food amazed me.  And it continues to amaze me.

Simple ingredients such as Marie biscuits, coconut, cocoa powder, and that glorious invention sweetened condensed milk; mix, roll, and chill and then - Ta Da - chocolate truffles - an elixir of life in my books!


Simple ingredients such as blueberries, eggs, milk, flour, sugar, and a pinch of this and that; mix, stir, and bake and then - Ta Da - Blueberry Muffins!!


 And finally, simple ingredients such as an egg, a sperm, and a fertile womb; mix, bake and wait and then - Ta Da - greedy little hands and a greedy little mouth!!  Children also amazes me; amazes and amuses me.


What amazes you?

Chocolate Truffles

1 packet Marie Biscuits, crushed
60g soft butter
180g dessicated coconut, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup cocoa
395g sweetened condensed milk (serious note : a little less won't matter if you need to taste it, you know, to check for quality sake)

1.  Combine the biscuits, butter, coconut and cocoa in a large bowl.  Mix well, preferably with your hands.  
2.  Slowly add the sweetened condensed milk.  Mix well and ponder on the wonders of sweetened condensed milk.
3.  Roll the mixture into balls.  Roll the balls in the extra coconut.  Refrigerate for a bit, until chilled.
4.  Bite into one and be amazed at the simplicity of the ingredients and the complexity of the taste.


Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 big ones

2 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp custard powder (the secret ingredient)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup blueberries
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup oil
icing sugar for dusting
(optional) a husband in hot lips shorts to make it for you while you sleep.

1.  Preheat oven to 190C.  Line a muffin tray with paper liners.
2.  Sift the flour, baking powder, and custard powder into a bowl.
3.  Add the sugar and the blueberries.
4.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and oil.
5.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix delicately, until just combined.  Add a pinch o' love (the other secret ingredient).
6.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tray and bake for 15-20minutes
7.  Dust with icing sugar and eat.  Immediately.  For breakfast.  Or a midnight snack.  Appreciate the crunchy muffin top.  And leave one to enjoy later.

Sorry - I couldn't resist!



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A little glimpse

Sometimes I find that it easy to get caught up in the chaos of life and forget to stop, breathe, and appreciate what I have.  So, I've borrowed this concept for today to show snippets of my day and the beauty in my life.  Enjoy!!













A special thanks to A Bit of Sunshine for sharing this project.  I can relate to how this project came about; and it spoke to me in a way that nothing else and no-one else has been able to.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sleep (or lack thereof)

Apparently, short people are predisposed to sleeping poorly.  It is a well known fact that tall people sleep longer (ba-da-bing).

Poor joke aside (provided by my Dear Husband and had me cracking up.  And then, after a minute of chuckling, had me asking if that was supposed to be a pun or a real fact, which, in turn had him cracking up at my gullibility).  As I was saying poor joke aside, I do sleep poorly.  Not quite an insomniac, just a bad sleeper.

And how do I remedy this, especially in the middle of the night?  I turn on my brightly lit iTouch while in bed and activate a puzzle app.  Yeah - thinking puzzles are the best way to get back to sleep.  Even better are the puzzles that time you, so that you keep trying to get a better and better time.  Nothing like those competitive juices to relax you and get you back to sleep.

Like this one - it's called latkin, but it's actually a game called KenKen.  It's like Sudoku, but it incorporates arithmetic.  Just the perfect thing to do in the middle of the night trying to get back to sleep.
Here are my top three recorded scores...  Take note : the time of day is the top number (hence the "am" or "pm" and the one underneath that is how long it took me to complete the puzzle in minutes and seconds).

 

Yes - it says "Awesome" and yes, it says 1:45am.  And look at the battery life... I used up half of it getting to this point.  And did I stop there?  Nooooo - I had to try and replicate it.  Sad that this is what I do for "fun and relaxation".  Sad that I couldn't replicate it.  Just Sad.  Sad.  Sad.

So let's look at something not so sad.  PRESENTS!!! More specifically, presents that I made and hence proving that I do not waste all of my time.


 I'm loving the kinda retro look of this one (I used an old pair of jeans) and I had a relaxing time embroidering the name onto the ball.  Quite therapeutic - hand sewing.

Happy Birthday, Ethan!

And also this set of goodies for my dear friend, Ms P.


And what's that tasseled thing, you ask?



A book weight!  I noticed that Ms P did not have a cookbook stand in her kitchen and thought this might be a nice alternative.  Twas a be-atch to make, but it came together in the end.  A big thanks to my super imaginative Dear Husband who suggested fishing sinkers to use as weights.

Happy Birthday Ms P!!  I know you love to bake and cook, so I hope you find many occasions to use your book weight (and that the sewing stays intact!).

PS.  The book weight was made using my imagination but the inspiration came from this wonderful blog.  The purses were made using the patterns from this talented designer, Nicole Mallalieu.  I have just read that Nikki will probably be closing her online retail shop (which was THE BEST source for bag and purse making supplies), so I would suggest checking it out quick before her store goes offline.

For more creative inspirations, head on over to JAQS Studio.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lazy Sunday

Come Sunday dinner time, our apartment looked like a bomb site.  So we brown-bagged our dinner, shut the door on the mess and hoofed it out to the park.  

 

A couple of toasted sandwiches later, some fruit and a refreshing run around the park, the mess in the apartment didn't look so daunting and was cleaned up in a flash.  Woohoo - score one for procrastination!!

Please excuse the confused Spanish Donuts with Chinese Tea Cup combo. 
Call it eccentric.

Now Spanish donuts or Churros... you don't need to wait for these.  You don't need to rush out to the Queen Victoria Market for these.  You don't need to fight for a carpark in your shopping centre for these.  You can make them.  Yourself.  Now.  Because I know you have all the ingredients in your cupboard/fridge already.  No excuse.  No procrastination.  Let's start!

It all begins with your basic choux pastry.  Fancy words; basic technique.

Heat your water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat.


Dump your flour in all at once and stir like crazy.


Remove your dough from the heat, let it cool a bit and add your eggs.  You don't want scrambled eggs here, people.  So let it cool down first for a couple of minutes.  (Apparently you can use a food processor for this step - me, I can't be bothered getting out a big ol' machine to do something my burly arms can do.  Plus I don't have a food processor.  Actually, I don't have burly arms either.)


It will be a soupy mess, but don't fret.  Just keep stirring until combined.


Put the pastry into a pastry bag with a star nozzle and deep fry these babies until cooked, golden and deep-fried delicious.



Dust with icing sugar (or cinnamon and icing sugar mix) and serve with hot dipping/drinking chocolate.


Eat and enjoy!!




Churros
Adapted from The Age (I think).

Ingredients:

100ml milk
80g butter
1 ½ tsp caster sugar
½ tsp pouring salt
120g plain flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1L vegetable oil, for deep-frying
½ cup icing sugar, mixed with
3 pinches ground cinnamon

Method:

1.     Combine 100ml water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
2.     Bring to the boil.
3.     Add flour and stir quickly with a wooden spoon to combine. 
4.     Cook for 3-5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
5.     Spoon mixture into a food processor and add eggs, processing until mixture is smooth.
6.     Heat oil in a large pan over high heat until oil reaches 180°C on a sugar thermometer.
7.     Oil a spatula, then use a large piping bag with a star nozzle to pipe a string onto the blade.
8.     Slip churros into the hot oil.  Cook for 4-5 minutes, turning often, or until golden and cooked.
9.     Drain on paper towel. 
10.   Repeat with remaining mixture.
11.   Dust with icing sugar mixture and serve with hot chocolate.


For more crafting and cooking goodness, check out these ideas!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Squelch that guilt

Going to Ikea can be a family treat in this family.  We wander around together; look at furniture together and have a little bite to eat together after all that walking.  It can be great... until we want to buy something big, and then it becomes a logistical nightmare.

With a small sedan storing a stroller in the boot and two small children needing huge car seats in the back - buying a bookshelf together is impossible. 

So, it is with much guilt that I instruct my Dear Husband to empty the car of the stroller and car seats and send him off to Ikea by himself with a list of things to buy (yes - I am an I.C.A (Ikea Catalog Addict) so I have a list).

And I have also asked my Dear Husband to stop off at the local baby store to see if the stroller we were interested in buying is available.

Oh, the guilt of sending him off to run these errands for me.

Until... 

Until I realize that I am the one at home entertaining an energetic pre-schooler and a curious little bub.  Until I realize that I am the one that is cleaning up the kitchen spills, the toilet mishaps and the pooplosions.  Until I realize that I am probably going to have to gulp down my morning tea and cake.

No - the guilt stops now.  My Dear Husband has it good.  He can go shopping with a coffee in his hand.  He can stop by the local Bunnings for a sausage or two.  He can think his own thoughts in peace and quiet without having to juggle them with the all-important questions of "Why is the moon out in the middle of the day, mama, and why can I not pick my nose?" 

And so, I'm going to stick my kids together in their room and enjoy my cup of tea.  With cake.  And extra icing.  Using my fancy fork.  Thank you very much.


Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Weekend Wedding

We enjoyed a long weekend away in Tasmania to celebrate the long awaited wedding of our dear friends.


From the generous welcome pack (especially after a long drive up the mountain)...


To the final farewell walk around...


It was a relaxing, fun, touching, surprise-filled weekend, set amongst the glorious scenes of the Tasmanian mountains and surrounded by loving friends.







Thanks D and S for a wonderful weekend.  We loved everything about it - the Gallery Reception, the Cheese and Wine tasting, the Corvette, the Buffet Breakfast, the Dress (!), the mountains, the Reception food (amongst the best ever at a wedding!), the company, and the radiant bride and ever-so-proud groom.

We can't wait to see the photos.

xoxoxo