Thursday, February 28, 2013

Make-Up Bags, Birthday Cakes and Trying New Things.

Phew! I realised that my last post was just after my birthday party in October. That's a bit of a gap from then until now. In those missing months I've been busy with Christmas, New Years, a family trip to Torquay, a new (short) haircut, getting my son settled into Year 7 and my youngest daughter into routine as the only family member still in primary school. There have been lots of things baked and consumed, some great and some not so great. I've had my share of cake wrecks, and even a few triumphs.

My favourite triumph was Belinda's 10th birthday cake. I surprised her by making a Make-Up Bag cake. I spent a few nights visiting with Kerrie making some fondant ornaments to go on the cake, and then on the decorating day I convinced her to come and help me with icing the cake. She showed me how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream which I had never done before, and then we got to decorating.  This is the finished product. Belinda was thrilled!

I also painted a placemat set for my nephew's second birthday.

It was fun to paint again, but I'm struggling to find the time to fit it in. I've signed up for another Pay it Forward craft project this year and am planning on doing painting again. It will be interesting to do as I've decided to use a different medium this time. So I'll be stretching my skills again.

Today's baking was inspired by the many patterned Swiss Roll cakes that I have been seeing on Facebook lately. Some of the designs are amazing! I used the recipe and instructions that I found on Rosie Cake-Diva's page. It's a deliciously easy recipe to make, but I hadn't planned a pattern and opted to pipe dots as I figured that it would be easiest to do while my day-care kids were eating morning tea. What I hadn't realised was that my piping tip was too wide and the cake batter was very runny. So my dots were a bit crazy before I even got to the next step. I cooked the dots for a minute as instructed, and then poured in the rest of the uncoloured batter. Disaster! All my dots were moving and smudging and stretching. I finished spreading the batter evenly and cooked it for 10 minutes as instructed. I'm not overly stressed about it's appearance as I've never made a Swiss Roll before so I was more interested to see if I could make it work and roll it without cracking. This is a great recipe as it is spongy and rolls beautifully. I filled mine with plum jam and the left over frosting from yesterday's home made Boston Bun (yummy vanilla frosting). I am looking forward to getting my kids to taste it this afternoon as they will be the judges on whether I will make it again. (I had a small slice after lunch for quality control purposes and I can vouch for it's yumminess!)

The baked Swiss Roll (inside view)

My polka dots are a little dodgy.

If I take the photo just right, you don't see most of the dodgy dots!
Not bad for my first Swiss Roll.
If I do try my hand at another patterned Swiss Roll I will try a couple of different things to see if I can get a better result. Obviously the first thing would be to use the correct piping tip (and don't rush it). Then it's been suggested that I should freeze the patterned batter before I bake it. So I think with those tips in mind, I might have a better chance at getting a clean pattern on the cake. I also might try baking for just less than 10 minutes as the cake is darker at the edges than in the middle. Anyway, those are all things for next time. Meanwhile, it's back to work for me now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mad Hatter's Tea Party - Kerrie's Kreations

Normally my posts are about my own creations but today it is about my sister Kerrie. Last weekend was a joint 40th birthday party for Ja and myself and it was a Mad Hatter themed affair. My gorgeous sister Kerrie offered to help with our birthday cake as I wanted a topsy turvy cake with lots of character pieces on it. In the end she made the whole thing with me acting as her fondant colourist and assistant (which suited my skill set perfectly I think). I was overwhelmed by how amazing each piece was and spent the weeks before the party excitedly anticipating each piece as she sent me the next photo on my phone. Here is the link to her blog so that you can see for yourself how amazing her work is! Be sure to like her facebook page too. Kerrie's Kreations are absolutely outstanding.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Where has time gone?

It's been a long time since my last post, but I have an excuse... I've been busy! I've come to realise that having a house full of preschoolers each day is not conducive to doing much of anything creatively. Having said that, I have tried various smaller projects over that time.

I was very pleased with my Pay It Forward projects for this year. I tried my hand at sewing and made some great little aprons for my recipients. I even made a few extra and managed to keep one for myself. The thing I loved most about the aprons was the fabric. SH and I picked it out from a quaint little quilting shop in Tauranga, New Zealand while we were on our last cruise.


Most recently I have been crafting a gift for my eldest daughter's 14th birthday. She is a huge fan of everything Harry Potter and I really wanted to make something special for her that you can't buy anywhere. I searched Google high and low, and realised that what I had planned to make would be entirely unique! I wanted to make a clock for her room in the design of a Snitch.

So with that in mind, I went ahead with my plans. I sourced a suitable bowl for the body of the clock from my sister and then had a friend who was able to give me a clock mechanism to use. I spent one day base coating it with gold paint and then another day sitting at the table with the laptop beside me for reference as I painted all the details on. Finally, my dad was instrumental in putting it all together as he attached the clock mechanism and the hook to hang it on the wall.

Base coat with gold paint
Place outlines and add shading.
Add highlights and remember to sign!

Finish with two coats of varnish and add mechanism and hook.
Hang on the wall!! :)

 As you all know, I usually post about food and I couldn't put this post up without doing just that. As my daughter was getting a Harry Potter themed gift, I also decided to make her a Harry Potter themed cake. Many months ago she jokingly asked me for a cake that she had seen on the internet. I looked at it and scoffed thinking there was no way that I could possibly make it. Well, guess what... I made it! Today I decorated her "Monster Book of Monsters" cake. And it was awesome!

Anyway, that's it from me for now. I hope you have enjoyed catching up on a bit of what's been whipped up around here lately. I've certainly had fun making them.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sweet Mustard Pickles (Or "What do I do with a Giant Zucchini?)

A couple of nights ago, my eldest daughter (13 yrs old) went out for her first babysitting job. She was very excited and feeling very grown up. It's just great watching her maturity and responsibility come through as she is growing up before our eyes. When I dropped her off at the house she was sitting at, I took her inside to chat with the mum. This lovely lady is one I have known through primary school and high school, and now our kids are at primary school together.

As we were talking, the mum said she had something for me. She had won an Easter raffle and sitting in the basket of eggs and chocolates was a giant golden zucchini! She knows that I love to cook and was certain that I would be able to find a use for it. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it; it was enormous and so very heavy!
We put the 30cm ruler in for comparison. It weighed 2.1kg!

When I got home I started looking up recipes of things to make with it. I have become enchanted with Pinterest, so I did some searching on there and came across a couple of recipes. The first one I have just finished making, so it was worthwhile research!

I decided to make Sweet Mustard Pickles as I love relish, chutneys and pickles. I'm not particularly fussy, so long as they are sweet and don't contain anything too spicy like chilli. This recipe I found was from the ABC Tasmania website by Chef Sally Wise. You can find the recipe here. It was super easy, with not too many ingredients. I've never made relish before, so it was a bit of fun. I'm not a fan of slicing all the vegetables by hand, but my mandoline slicer did the job just fine. I was going to use my food processor but the attachment left the pieces too thick for my liking. I was after a really fine slice.

I love how vibrant the colours are.

Once I had sliced the ingredients and placed them all in the bowl, I had to leave them coated in salt for 2 hours to take the excess water out of them. Then it was into my large pot with the sugar, vinegar, and spices.

The next step in the process was cooking it all for 20 minutes before bottling in the jars. This step made me very unpopular with my kids as they said it was very stinky. I tried to convince them that it smelled like Salt & Vinegar Chips but they weren't buying it.

Needless to say, I have to wait patiently for it to cool completely and then I can give it a taste. I got about 6 smallish jars of pickles from the giant zucchini, which is fantastic. I even have some of the zucchini left over to make the other recipe I found - Baked Zucchini Chips. I will let you know how they turn out next time.

Sweet Mustard Pickles

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dutch Apple Tart

This is one of my favourite recipes from mum's collection of dutch treats. Taste triggers such strong memories, and this is no exception. I have great memories of going to Oma's for Christmas, Easter or her birthday when I was a kid, and now we go there with our own kids. Visits to Oma on these days are an open house affair. My mum is one of 12 children, so when they all get together, it's quite a crowd! Usually there would be upwards of a dozen people squished into Oma's small lounge room, all talking loudly and at the same time. Dutch people are very energetic, lively people. I always joke that if you made me sit on my hands, I would probably be rendered mute!

When I was younger, the aunties would usually bring a plate of something to be shared over a coffee. Oma would bake a half dozen different types of biscuits, and there would be various other cakes arrayed on the table, including the Dutch Apple Tart. This is lovely served warm with icecream, but also equally as delicious cold with fresh cream poured over it. It is such an easy recipe to make, if you like a sweet apple tart you should definitely give this a try. My favourite part of this recipe is the pastry case as it doesn't involve any rolling or blind baking. You simply press the dough into the base of the tin and up the sides. I have included the recipe in the recipe page for you too.

Friday, March 9, 2012

DIY Ceiling Light Shade

I have been spending some time online recently, researching DIY sites to figure out how to make my own ceiling light shades. I am impressed with the amount of information there is out there. There are some seriously talented people! Anyway, I found a few that I really liked the look of, and decided that it was something I would like to try. I don't like spending money on things like light fixtures as I think they are heavily overpriced, and at the moment, not a necessity.

So with the thought in mind that I would make my own, I set off to our local op shops (Salvation Army, Vinnies, Family Life, etc) to see if I could find any preloved lamp shades or ceiling lights that I could work with. I was in luck too, as I found the perfect shade for $5 at my favourite shop! It was a tacky terracotta colour, but I looked beyond that to the perfect frame underneath.

The original shade - yucky terracotta!
After a good strip down and scrub, a workable frame for my shade.
Once I pulled away the terrible original coverings and cleaned all the dried glue off the frame, I was ready to cover it. Another stroke of luck for me, my mum has cupboards full of fabric that she has bought over the years and she had the perfect piece for what I had in mind. It is white, sheer and covered in little hearts. So with the pattern from the old covering, I was able to cut out the 6 pieces I would need to make the cover. I spent the morning at mum's, cutting, stitching and then gluing with her hot glue gun. I put the sewn cover over the top of the frame, glued down the seams, and then glued them shut again on the inside of the frame. At the bottom of the shade I added a little white frilled trim for a cute finishing touch. I am really happy with how it turned out!

Working with the hot glue gun, I stretched the fabric around the frame.

Pretty little hearts.

Finished project. Hanging in my youngest daughter's room.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Family Recipes

Well we have been back from the cruise for two weeks now and life is starting to find it's rhythm again. I'm yet to start working in my new role as a Family Day Care "Educator" as they now like to call all the carers. This means that I am home alone, with no kids or job to distract me, possibly for another week still. I have been doing all the usual chores associated with being a mum of three kids, but that isn't enough to keep me from going stir crazy. Casting around for ideas for things to do, I suddenly realised that I haven't finished my photo book from albumworks.

Last May I won a competition for my photo of my Cookie Monster Cupcakes and the prize included a $100 voucher to get my own photo book printed. I decided that I would use this voucher to make a cookbook/photo book of my favourite family recipes that I have been collecting over the years. These are recipes from my Grandma, Oma, mum, mother-in-law, and a few aunties. I have them all handwritten in a notebook that is well thumbed and coated in flour and fingerprints. I am hoping that this project will turn into a book that my kids will love to look through and will be able to keep as a memory of all the great food that we have baked together over the years.

Anyway, when I went to the albumworks program on my laptop and started to put together the photos and recipes that I have already taken over the last 9 months, I could see that I didn't have any where near as many photos as I thought I did. Obviously I got distracted from my goal as I know I have been doing plenty of baking and cooking - just not the "right" recipes. So I have spent the past two weeks looking over the notebook and working my way through these recipes again. I'm making good headway now and I am getting more excited about it with each photo I take.

Here are the latest photos of recipes I have been whipping up:

Short stack of Pancakes with Vanilla Ice-Cream, Golden Syrup and Apricot Jam

Linda's Boiled Pineapple Fruit Cake

Scones with Apricot Jam and Cream

Grandma's Cupcakes

Dutch Poffertjes
I haven't put the recipes in the other page yet, as I'm not sure which ones I should do. If you would like one of these recipes, leave me a comment and I will post it for you. Cheers!