My delightful twin niece and nephew turned 3 last week. My sister is in birthday season preparing parties for all 5 of her children over the next few months. The party for the twins was themed to Mickey Mouse and Dora the Explorer and my sister did a fabulous job dressing up the party and making cakes. She also saw an idea on Pinterest to do a photo booth/face in a hole cutout. I took up the challenge to create a free standing booth featuring Mickey Mouse and Dora. My husband sourced a spare thin sheet of MDF board which I attached to a base. I simply drew the images in pencil, filled in with paint and used a black permanent marker to outline the images. It took time to layer up the paint but it was an easy process and I was pretty happy with the outcome. What a great photobooth for the kids… and the big kids too.
Lemons lemons lemons! I still have more lemons to use up and I do love finding new ways to bake with them. It also helps to have excuses to make these treats and this time the lucky recipients were the Playcentre Mums at one of our meetings. These Lemon and Coconut Brownies certainly proved popular as I came home with an empty container and several compliments. Although the texture is not light like a cake or as dense like a brownie would usually be, I guess they are still best categorised as brownies. The great news is that it’s a one pot mixture that is very simple to make and doesn’t leave you with many dishes. Despite their simplicity they look good and are easy to cut into either small bite size pieces or larger dessert sized pieces. You could even get creative and use a cookie cutter to cut them into shapes. Make sure you are a coconut fan if you are going to try this as it is definitely a dominant flavour in the recipe. Here’s the recipe if you would like to give it a go:
Lemon and Coconut Brownie
1 1/2 cups Caster Sugar
1 1/2 cups plain Flour
1 cup dessicated Coconut
3t Lemon Rind, finely grated
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
Icing sugar, for dusting
Heat oven to 180°C and line/grease a 20×30 baking pan. Melt butter in a saucepan and then remove from the heat. Thoroughly stir in the caster sugar and then stir in the eggs one by one. Sift in the flour and mix well. Add the coconut, lemon rind and lemon juice and mix until incorporated. Tip mixture into your prepared baking pan and cook for 30-35minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Let it cool in the pan and then cut into squares and dust with icing sugar. (The recipe should make about 16 brownies.)
Recipe adapted from Australian Good Taste.
Lately the weather has been keeping Israel and I indoors. This afternoon I was adamant to do some more educationally focused play with him. I was thinking about the boardgames that we had and how none of them were suitable for him but then I remembered that we had Twister. I dug it out and decided that I could use the mat as a colour aid. After laying it down I grabbed a bunch of green, yellow, blue and red blocks and objects that I could find from Israel’s toys. Israel doesn’t appear to understand his colours yet, which I wouldn’t really expect from a 17 month old anyway, but it was definintely area that I was keen to focus in on. Currently he is very focused on animals and wants to read every book we have containing animals and make the noises or actions that they do. He has a great elephant, fish and giraffe impression! The Twister mat was a great way to show Israel that there are different colours and they can be identified and sorted into matching groups. I tried to focus on one colour before moving to the next, hoping that the repetition will help. This is certainly going to be an ongoing activity for us to try. After a few minutes all he wanted to do was kick around the blocks, but we will get there!
Who likes mussels? I am a big fan myself and often forget how ridiculously cheap they are to buy. At Pak’n’Save you will find them for less than NZ$3 per kg. I bought some for our dinner last night without really knowing how I was going to cook them. After consulting my fridge, pantry and Google, I found a recipe that sounded so delicious I knew I needed to try it. Although the mussels were cheap you will see that this particular recipe’s ingredients aren’t so economical. In the end I made quite a few changes to the recipe to make it into a main meal and to make use of the ingredients I had at hand. It went from being a mussel dish to a fettuccine with mussels dish. I served it alongside some homemade garlic bread, which was a good way of soaking up some of the yummy sauce. We loved the dish and if you are a fan of both mussels and blue cheese then I strongly recommend that you give it a whirl.
Mussels with Blue Cheese and Sundried Tomato Fettuccine (Serves 4)
30 Mussels, cleaned and de-bearded (give or take amount to your liking – you can see there are 7 served on the single plated dish)
2T Olive Oil
1 Onion, finely diced
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
2T Parsley, chopped
1/4 cup of White wine
1 cup of Cream
4T Sundried Tomato Pesto
300-400g of Fettuccine (This is approximate, but just measure out a suitable serving for 4 people)
100g Blue Cheese, diced
1t Black Pepper
2T Parsley, chopped (for garnishing)
Heat a large pot of water ready for the fettuccine to cook in once it has come to the boil. In another large pot (big enough to fit all your mussels) heat the oil and butter together. Add onion, garlic and parsley to hot oil and butter, cooking for 5 minutes until onion softens. Season with salt and then add wine, cream and sundried tomato pesto. At this point, put your fettuccine in the other pot of boiling water and cook for around 10 minutes (or as per packet instructions). When your creamy sauce has come to a boil add your mussels on top, immersing as many as possible in the liquid. Place a lid on the pot and let the mussels cook for 5-10minutes until all of the mussels have opened. You will need to shake the pot every now and then so that the mussels move around in the sauce (keep the lid on as the steam will be helping to cook them). Half way through remove the lid just the once to rotate the top mussels to the bottom, replacing lid immediately. Once all of the mussels have opened, remove them from the sauce and put into a large dish in a warming draw or oven set to low temperature. If any mussels did not open, throw them away. Once your fettuccine has cooked, drain out all of the water and add to the creamy sauce along with the blue cheese and pepper, simmering for 5 minutes. Serve fettuccine in bowls and then arrange mussels on top. Sprinkle parlsey on top and serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from Metro recipe for Blue Cheese and Sun-dried Tomatoes
It’s lemon season around here and my Mum kindly gave me a bowl full recently. A friend of mine had recently mentioned a couple of times that he quite likes Lemon Drizzle Cake and wondered if had I ever made it. I couldn’t recall that I had and set out to find a recipe to add to my collection. It turns out that Lemon Drizzle Cake is just a Lemon Syrup Loaf, and yes I have made it before. I decided to try another recipe by The Londoner who blogged about making this recipe for someone to show them that it was better than Starbucks. It’s ridiculously easy, chucking nearly everything into a bowl and mixing together before whipping it into the oven. I love how fast the loaf is to make, and how moist it is. After making one loaf I quickly realised that it’s probably always worth making two… one just didn’t seem to last very long. I have decided now that I prefer the recipe from The Londoner. The reasons I prefer it are because it has less ingredients than others, is faster to make, has a shorter cooking time, it’s easier using my handmixer than a food processor (plus less dishes) and I thought it tasted better. I think that the lemon syrup is absorbed better when you poke holes through the loaf rather than just pouring on top like the other recipe I tried. If you are looking for a Lemon Drizzle Loaf recipe then you must try this one!
Lemon Drizzle Loaf
170g Self raising flour (1 1/4 cups)
1t Baking powder
170g Caster sugar (3/4 cup)
170g Butter (room temperature/softened)
2 Lemons, zested and juiced
110g Icing sugar (3/4 cup)
Heat your oven to 180ºC, then line and grease a loaf tin. Place eggs, self raising flour, baking powder, caster sugar, butter and lemon zest in a large bowl. Mix with a handmixer (or cake mixer/food processor) until ingredients are well mixed and smooth. Tip into your loaf tin and bake for around 30-35mins. While this is in the oven make your lemon drizzle by mixing your lemon juice and icing sugar until all the powder is dissolved. After the cake is ready (knife comes out clean) poke holes all over it making sure your skewer reaches the bottom of the loaf. Pour your lemon syrup over the loaf and leave to absorb and loaf to cool before removing from the tin.
Recipe from The Londoner
It’s certainly been a lot cooler in Auckland of late which has brought me into soup season. In an effort to use up some silverbeet and pumpkin I stumbled across a hearty and healthy Pumpkin, Silverbeet, Beef and Barley Soup (the pictures don’t do it justice for how good it tastes). I have made it several times now and even Israel loves to eat it. I substitute the mince for diced beef and find that it needs a little extra liquid, but otherwise is very tasty. I made this soup one night recently and then as an afterthought I realised that I should have made some bread to go with it. Time was running out but then I remembered Annabel Langbein had a Busy People’s Bread recipe. The recipe is effectively a no-knead bread that lets the dough rise in the oven as part of the cooking time. I have renamed the bread No-Knead Sunflower Seed Bread as it helps to identify the type of bread a little easier. I would liken this type of bread to that of a Vogel’s loaf. You could get a bit more creative and vary the seeds that you use for a different taste.
No-Knead Sunflower Seed Bread
2 cups of Boiling water
2 cups of Cold water
7t Dry yeast granules (or 5.5t of active dry yeast)
2 3/4 cups of White flour
2 3/4 cups of Wholemeal flour
2 cups of Sunflower seeds
4T Pumpkin Seeds
Heat oven to 80°C then grease and line two loaf tins. Mix the boiling water and honey in a large bowl. Once dissolved add the cold water and yeast, setting aside for 10minutes. Whisk yeast mixture and then add remaining ingredients except pumpkin seeds. Pour half of the wet mixture into each of the tins, then sprinkle 2T of pumpkin seeds over each loaf. Score top of loaf so that it doesn’t split. Bake loaf for 20 minutes and then increase oven temperature to 210°C, and cook for 30-40 minutes. It should be hollow when you tap the top. Make sure you remove the bread from the tins right away and cool on a wire rack so that the moisture doesn’t absorb into the bread.
Recipe by Annabel Langbein
In keeping with the nautical theme, I also offered to make a plate of food for the baby shower yesterday. While searching for ideas I somehow stumbled across a Cob Loaf with Spinach Dip and had the idea to turn the cob loaf into a rectangular loaf to create a sailing boat. Funnily enough I have never made this spinach dip before and it has been years since I have seen this done elsewhere. As several of the guests would be pregnant I opted not to use ricotta or mayonnaise. Instead I combined cream cheese and sour cream, which I could open freshly a couple of hours before the party. This was such a simple bread and dip idea, but definitely a more unique way of creatively serving it. You can keep the lids on until people are ready to eat it, and then it can also be ripped up to use for dipping too. I also took along some carrot sticks as a dipping option and you could also choose to add cucumber, celery, capsicum or crackers. To make the sail you just need a skewer and some paper to create whatever style sail you wish.
Sailboat Bread with Spinach Dip
Loaf of bread
French stick or baguettes for additional bread
500g Packet of Frozen Chopped Spinach (I only used 400g though)
250g Sour Cream
250g Cream Cheese
1 Packet of French Onion Soup
Olive Oil, optional
Heat oven to 180ºC. Cook 400g of spinach as per packet instructions and drain over a sieve, pushing any excess water out. Place cream cheese in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Add sour cream and soup packet, mixing well until combined. Add spinach to mixture and mix well until combined. Place in the fridge for the flavours to settle while you prepare bread. Using a sharp knife, cut out two sections of your bread, leaving a bridge in the middle to place your sail (as pictured). Remove all of the bread from the lid (make sure you keep the lid) and hollow out your bread. Cut the bread into bite size chunks and arrange on a large baking tray, brushing the bread with a little oil if you like. I also cut a french stick into a slices and brushed with oil and sprinkled a smoked garlic salt mix over top. Cook for the bread for about 5 minutes or so until lightly browned. Once cooked, set aside to cool. Tip spinach mixture into the two sections of the bread and then replace the lids. Place boat on a large baking tray and bake for around 20 minutes or so until dip is warmed. Removed from oven and place on a large serving platter, scattering bread around it.