Friday, April 15, 2011

Grandma's Nut Loaf

Thanks to my commenter Jessica, I realised that I have never told you how my attempt at making Grandma's Nut Loaf turned out. I took her recipe and a recipe from the cookbook and figured out how to make them work as a baked Nut Loaf. This was much easier than all the rigmarole involved with making the original boiled version, and the end result was delicious! Of the two nut loaf recipes I have posted (I just put Grandma's recipe up) I definitely prefer Grandma's for flavour. Whether or not that is because it is a flavour I grew up with, and as such has many great memories attached, I don't know. Perhaps you will make them and be the judge.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reality Strikes

After the roaring success of my Cookie Monster cupcakes, I was asked by one of my friends "What are you bringing to our house for dessert?" I loved making these cupcakes, but didn't know where to go with them next. My biggest concern was, did I peak too soon? Are they the best I would ever make? What on earth was I going to make next?

Anyway, I don't come up with all my ideas by myself, so I decided to chat with my mum about my cupcake dilemma. I had been looking online for inspiration but couldn't find any. I am really glad that I talked to mum as she came up with a great idea, which I was able to bring about. She suggested we make Easter Bunny cupcakes. I loved the idea as it was one that would be easy to implement, and I could get the kids to help with the decorating. This would effectively kill two birds with one stone as I was looking for some school holiday activities anyway.

As you have probably gathered by now, I love to bake and make things "from scratch". Sometimes however, things happen and I have to reassess my priorities.  I have a long standing problem with my neck (too long and boring to go into here) that means that there are times when I am really not capable of much. For the last 3 months I have been in pretty good condition, with little to no pain. Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, the last week has not been so good. I have been experiencing some of my old symptoms and I have been quite stressed about it. The other bad thing about all this is the fatigue it brings with it. So saying, when I was driving with my SH on Tuesday on our way home from dinner with his family, I asked him to stop by the supermarket to pick up the various bits I needed to decorate the bunnies.  I had been exhausted all day and the day before that, and SH very politely suggested that I have a tendency to "overdo" things and really couldn't afford to do that and risk injuring myself again. He is right, and I have started to understand that I need to listen sometimes and not take on too much.

So I will admit to something here and now... my Easter Bunny Cupcakes are not mine! I made the cupcakes using packet mixes. I iced this with the packets that came in the box of cake mix. In fact, I didn't even decorate them! My two beautiful daughters, aged 8 and 12, are the super cake decorators in this instance. All credit should go to them for these beauties!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Something Went Wrong.

After a BIG week at work, I was really looking forward to this weekend. We had been invited to dinner at our neighbours' house, and it was set to be a great night. I really enjoy their company (as does my SH) and their kids and ours play really well together. As dinner was to be at their house, I offered to bring a dessert. It was my intention that I would blog about this dessert afterwards. I was probably going to be really smug about it too, in that annoying way that people who do things really well can do. Yes, I admit that I am that person some times. Look at me. Look what I can do. Well there was none of that in my dessert! (well, there is a little bit of that, but in the other dessert I made for the kids. More on that in a minute).

Anyway, my chosen dessert for tonight is one that we all love. Tried and tested, but I haven't made it in ages. Lemon Meringue Pie. What could possibly go wrong with that? Well apparently, a lot! I chose a recipe from my favourite cook book as I know that it has fool proof recipes. Hmmmm... can you already get the sense that they should have tested their recipes with me before declaring them "fool proof"?

I went the whole hog with this recipe, made my own pastry casing for it and everything. Only trouble is that I was also making the kids' dessert at the same time. In addition to this, I chose this time to have a deep-and-meaningful with my SH. So not just doing two things at once, but three, and this was after a full week at work, with an extra shift this morning thrown in for luck. Needless to say, I probably should have been paying a little more attention to what I was cooking, and a little less attention to my SH. lol

So, long and the short of it, I missed a step while preparing the Lemon Meringue Pie. Just a little step, but with massive consequences. I forgot to blind bake the pastry case! Now, this is pretty critical. You make the pastry, you roll it out, you lay it in the pie dish and you bake it. There is no avoiding this step. Once you assemble the pie it actually only goes back in the oven for 5 minutes, so there is no way that the base would get cooked in that short amount of time. Well, I forgot. Plain and simple. I didn't actually realise that I had forgotten until the pie was finished and I was pulling it out of the oven. It looked gorgeous. Lovely browning on the meringue top. It smelled delicious. But something was off. I knew it. On closer inspection, I realised what I had done. I had a raw pastry casing under my pie. I was devastated! I called mum and told her what had happened, and we both decided there was nothing I could do to save the pie. The filling was perfect, I just couldn't do anything to rectify the base.

It was delicious, we just couldn't eat the pastry case.

Well luckily for me, my neighbours are very forgiving. When it came time for dessert, everyone received a serving of the lemon filling with the meringue topping and some icecream on the side. The pastry was a write-off, but the dessert was still deemed a success by them all. We talked a little about the TV show, My Kitchen Rules, and decided that I would have received a 4 as my score for it on presentation, but would have scored higher for taste. Ah well. I never said I was perfect, and this proves it.

Now, on to the other dessert I made tonight. The Lemon Meringue Pie was for the adults and I had intended to make a jelly dessert for the kids. When I came home from work yesterday I saw a bag from mum on the kitchen bench and it had a box of vanilla cupcake mix in it. This changed everything for me. I decided to make cupcakes for the kids and decorate them up. Turns out the box was only the icing packets, the cake mix had already been used, never mind. So this afternoon I looked up a recipe for cupcakes from a Facebook page I follow called "365 Tupperware Recipes in 365 Days". I had seen it in my news feed a couple of weeks ago and thought they were really cute. I am not going to post the recipe in my blog as you can find it by following the link. These Cookie Monster Cupcakes were really easy to make, and I have to say, a massive success! The kids were so excited, and I was thrilled with Nat's reaction when she first saw them. Taste test responses from everyone were really good too. You should definitely give these a go!

Cookie Monsters!

Cookie! Cookie! Cookie!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Something Grandma Whipped up.

Last night my youngest sister was over for dinner with her 9 week old son. We had a lovely evening, very quiet and relaxed. As we were talking about our plans for the rest of the weekend, I mentioned that I would be baking snacks for the kids' school lunches. My plan was just to use up the couple of packets of muffin mixes that Super Husband (he told me that, after my earlier post, this was now his Official Title) had purchased the week before. Low stress, easy, no mess baking. My subconscious obviously had other ideas.

Last night I dreamed of my Grandma. She passed away a few years ago now, and spent the last years of her life suffering from Alzheimer's. This terrible disease took her from us well before it took her body. My dream was of Grandma as I remember her from my childhood. We regularly went to visit her and Pa for lunch on a Sunday. We would be dressed in our Sunday best, heading straight over there after church. Grandma had this tiny little dining room table that at best sat 4 people, yet there we were, 8 of us, sitting around it happily. We would usually have fresh salad sandwiches that we could make up ourselves, accompanied by a glass of icy cold Cottees Coola Cordial (mum never had this, so it was a real "only at Grandma's" treat ).

After lunch we would sit around and talk and talk. I would do crossword puzzles with Grandma's help, or go into her spare room and read one of the many old books that she had in the book case there. After a while, it was time for the adults to have a cuppa. This was our favourite part of visiting Grandma and Pa because she always baked. She would serve "Slater" Biscuits (so named because they were ridged like a Slater Bug), or Shortbread, and always had plenty of Nut Loaf on hand. This is what I dreamed of last night. Afternoon tea with Grandma and Pa and her Nut Loaf.

Yes, Subconscious Self, I can take a hint. I woke up this morning with a massive craving for Nut Loaf! SH and I went grocery shopping before lunch, and I proceeded to buy the various bits and pieces that I would need to fulfill this craving.

When we first realised that Grandma was getting sick I asked my mum if it would be rude to ask Grandma for the recipes that she uses to bake all the yummy things she served us. I couldn't bear the thought of them being lost for all time as I was quite sure that she just made them from memory (like my mum does). Anyway, mum said I should ask, and so I did. I now have copies of her Nut Loaf (plus a few others) and a sheaf of recipes from my Oma as well. I figured that what was good for one was good for the other. I didn't want to miss any of their great baking treats after they were gone. Good thing I did too, recently one of my cousins asked if anyone knew any good Dutch recipes (my mum is from Holland). I was able to help out with the many recipes that I had "inherited" from Oma. Yay!

Anyway, Grandma's Nut Loaf is a great recipe and we all love it. The only trouble is, it requires soaking some of the ingredients overnight. Obviously having just dreamed about it last night, I hadn't the opportunity to do that. I wasn't going to be beaten however, and dug out another of my many cookbooks to find a suitable recipe that I could use instead. The book I grabbed was The Australian Women's Weekly Cakes & Slices Cookbook. There are a couple of baked Nut Loaves that I have tried out previously and I knew that I could whip one of them up no worries. Looking at the recipes on offer I settled on the Date & Walnut Rolls. My kids love Dates and this was sure to be a winner. It's not a tricky recipe, and before long I had a saucepan on the stove, and then the loaves were in the oven.

Nut Loaf Tins aren't like regular cake tins.

The Nut Loaves smelled delicious and before the hour was up I knew they were ready. Not long after I pulled them out of the oven I received a phone call from my other sister. She wanted to know if they could pop over for a coffee, but I invited them to stay for dinner. By the time they arrived, the Nut Loaf had cooled enough for a taste test so I sliced a little bit off the roll. My plan was for my sister and I to taste it, but not to tell the boys (SH and Brother-In-Law). Why share the goodness? Just kidding. Anyway, I kept slicing because the kids came running once the smell hit the other room. We quickly spread the slices with butter, and I called out to the boys "Who wants some Nut Loaf". Imagine my surprise when an unexpected voice answered back, quick as a wink "Is the Pope a Catholic?". It was my brother, and I had no idea that he was even here! Talk about good timing. He couldn't believe his timing either. He said that he was only telling mum yesterday that she should make some of Grandma's Nut Loaf as he missed it terribly. What luck! I am just really pleased that the recipe makes 2 loaves, given how fast we went through the first one this afternoon.

Kids are in bed... this is my supper. Yummo!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Slugs and Snails and Puppy Dogs Tails

What are little boys made of? Babies seem to be popping out everywhere around us lately. Today we went off to visit some friends and their newest addition, a cute little 11 day old boy. I love babies, but now more than ever, I love babies that I can hand back to their parents!

Anyway, I never like to visit anyone empty handed, it just seems very impolite to me. So into the kitchen I went this morning, with no clue of what to bake. I found a recipe in my cookbook that I really like, and have just now realised that it is the easier (no fuss) version of the Fig Slice I made the other day. I think that if you are looking for an easy, sweet slice, this one is a winner. In the words of my son, "Oh. My. Gosh. That is the best slice EVER!".

Jam and Coconut Slice

Of course, my kids have been known to say the same thing about my Chicken Stir Fry, or my Anzac Biscuits (which I will be talking about later in the month - Anzac Day is the 25th of April).