Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's The End-Of-Year Concert

Posted by MANDI at 3:34 PM 0 comments
School finishes next week and we have the end of year concert and awards tonight. It starts at 6pm and is expected to go until about 9pm. Luckily the kindy kids are up first and are allowed to leave when they have done their piece. The two kindy classes are presenting their piece together and are doing a dance to the Hawaii Five-O music. #1 has shown me bits and pieces of the dance so I'm looking forward to seeing what order it all happens in. Their teacher is a bit concerned that the kids don't really know what they are doing (they have been working on this for about 4 weeks LOL) but I figure that even if they did know what to do once they get on stage they'll either forget, do their own thing or burst into tears anyway!
Anyway, I'm sure it will be very cute and I'm planning to take hundreds of photos - aahhh, I do love my digital camera.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Well That Didn't Work

Posted by MANDI at 11:59 AM 2 comments
I tried a new recipe last night. Nothing odd there. At the moment I try three or four new recipes each week. It sounded good - chicken breasts stuffed with ricotta and prunes. Nothing odd there. It had quite normal ingredients - chicken, ricotta, prunes and some balsamic vinegar and maple syrup for basting. Nothing odd there. It wanted a couple of things not in my fridge so I substituted, just using parsley instead of chives and simple stuff like that. Nothing odd there. Then it cremated itself. The outside was charred - it was bitter and burnt and truly horrible but the inside was still raw. So then I sliced it up and cooked the inside and tried to feed it to everyone for dinner LOL! To their credit every member of the family tried it. Funnily enough we all declared it a flaming failure and decided that it tasted (a) disgusting, (b) a little bit burnt, honey but I'm sure if you did it again it would be terrific, (c) bery yukky and (d) well, no words do justice to the face she pulled but it was a great 'YUK' face.
On the plus side of this, I coped with the failure extremely well and even offered them grilled cheese on toast if they were still hungry (they decided the mashed potato and steamed vegies followed by yoghurt for dessert was fine). Not so long ago I would have been very upset by my failure and probably have burst into tears and yelled at everyone. Last night I just shrugged and gave them more vegies instead. Yay for me.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

More Fish!

Posted by MANDI at 9:27 PM 3 comments
Well it was tuna from a can but I'm sure that still counts as fish!

As some of you may have noticed I have been working my way through my Quiches and Flans cookbook. I have always liked this little cookbook but generally made the same things over and over, like Quiche Lorraine and Vegetable Slice - both firm family favourites. One of the reasons I started my blog was because of Paula aka The Cookbook Junkie, who has so many cookbooks that she decided she should put them to good use and cooks something different just about every single day. I thought I should take a leaf out of her book and start trying some of the other recipes that I had always said, "I'd like to make that one day" or "that looks nice".

I made this Tuna Flan a couple of nights ago and I have to admit that I quite enjoyed it. Hubby thought it was great (gee, it's nice to cook for someone who loves just about everything I make) and #2 polished hers off in record time although #1 was a more difficult critic. Hubby won him over by telling him it was tuna in a pie so this has now been dubbed Tuna Pie!

Tuna Flan (AKA Tuna Pie)
from Family Circle Delicious Quiches and Flans

6 sheets filo pastry
60g butter, melted

425g can tuna, drained
½ cup mayonnaise
4 spring onions, finely chopped Didn't have any so about 12 chives
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cream
½ cup grated cheddar cheese I used closer to 1 cup
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Preheat oven to moderate 180˚C. Lay out oshe sheet of filo, brush with melted butter. Place another sheet of filo over the first, brushw ith butter. Repeat until all sheets are used.
Brush a 21 x 29cm oblong flan tin (I used my round flan dish instead) with melted butter or oil. Place the prepared pastry sheets in the tin, tucking in the edges.
To make filling: Combine ingredients in a large bowl; mix well. Pour the filling into the prepared tin, bake for 35 minutes or until ightly browned and set.

PS: It is stinking hot up here. Last night it was still 35˚C (that's 95˚F) at 11pm!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

To Market, To Market

Posted by MANDI at 8:21 PM 0 comments
I had the Christmas Craft Market today. After a slow start and a higher cover price than I had been told I was feeling a little disappointed (okay, pretty fed up actually) but I ended up doing quite well. I sold a bunch of star albums, some card packs and all of the Christmas Embellishment Packs that I had made up (on the spur of the moment and at the absolute last minute!). I gave out lots of business cards and might even get a workshop booking out of it.
So, after a frenzied fortnight of making stuff for the market I'm sitting back and relaxing tonight. Then I have to finish the rest of my Christmas cards so I can get them posted out.

Friday, November 24, 2006

An Unexpected Dinner Guest

Posted by MANDI at 9:42 PM 333 comments
Time: Yesterday afternoon, about 4.45pm
Place: My kitchen/dining room
Scene: #1 and kindy friend are playing in the lounge room, #2 and kindy friend's older sister are playing in the dining room, kindy friend's Mum and I are fighting to be heard above the ear-drum-shattering noise when the phone rings. It's strident electronic tone silences everyone... momentarily!
Brrring Brrring, Brrring Brrring (that's the phone ringing!!)
Me: Hello?
Other end: It's me!
Me: Hello me. What's up?
Other end (who I now know is my old friend and colleague, T, currently living in Port Red Dirt): I was wondering if you wanted to drink champagne with me?
Me: Absolutely! Where are you?
T: At the (name of motel accomodation). I'm down for a conference. I thought you might feed me dinner too????
Me: Absolutely! What time?
T: Hmmmm, I'll be with you in about 45 minutes.
Me: Excellent! See you then.
Current guests realise the time and decide to head home to start their dinner prep and then I make a mad dash through the house depositing bucketfuls of toys in their sort-of rightful places.
Luckily I already have dinner cooking on the stove - spaghetti bolognaise - and it's easy to stretch to feed an extra one or two people. I phone Hubby who is at the shopping centre having a haircut and request garlic bread and a bottle of champers and I'm ready for the next sitting!
The funniest part is that when we all worked together at Red Dirt Tiny Town, 6 hours away and 9 years ago, I used to feed T (along with several others) spag bol on a quite regular basis. I could cook many other things but it was always so easy to whip up a big pot when everyone decided to come to our place for dinner and it didn't matter if 4 or 24 turned up to eat, I just added a few bits and pieces and dinner stretched - although some nights there was rather more spag and rather less bol LOL!
Anyway, we had a really nice evening. The kids were on their best behaviour, dinner was good, the champers was better and we caught up on all the news. Yay for unexpected dinner guests.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I'm Popeye The Sailor Man...

Posted by MANDI at 9:10 PM 0 comments

or not LOL!

I made Florentine Rolls for dinner tonight and they were delicious. I was suprised that both the kids really tucked into them (I had baked beans in a can for backup). My food processor got a work out - it made easy work of finely chopping the spinach and the semi-dried tomatoes. But my microwave died in the middle of cooking #2's vegies so now I am researching microwaves. I'm thinking about getting a convection one - my reasoning being that it is so hot up here for the majority of the year that I could use the microwave and still cook 'proper' meals (never got the hang of microwave cooking for real meals!) without heating up the whole house or having to resort to BBQ's for 7 months of the year. Anyone have one/had one/used one? Any thoughts or suggestions? All comments would be gratefully received.

Anyway, back to the recipe! The original recipe suggested Florentine Rolls as an entree but I made them for mains and we had a salad with them. In hindsight I think they were maybe a bit rich for dinner. I served a larger portion as the main meal than I would if I was serving them as an entree and I think a smaller serving would be perfect. That said, I will definitely make them again.

Florentine Rolls
from The Ugly Binder

1 bunch English spinach, trimmed, leaves washed I used half a bag of Silverbeet - it was all I could get hold of
200g fresh ricotta I had a 250g tub and used the lot
1½ teaspoon ground nutmeg I only used 1 teaspoon and that was enough
4 green shallots, thinly sliced
100g semi-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced I had a 140g tub and used the lot
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1½ sheets ready-rolled frozen puff pastry, thawed I used two sheets because of all the extra bits I added
1 egg, lightly whisked

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add spinach and cook for 1 minute or until wilted. Drain and refresh in cold water. Use your hands to squeeze out any excess moisture from the spinach and finely chop.
Preheat oven to moderate, 180˚C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Place ricotta in a medium bowl and break up with a fork. Add green shallots, tomatoes, spinach, nutmeg, salt and peppe, and mix to combine.
Lay sheets of pastry on a clean surface. Cut whole sheets in half lengthways. Spread about ½ a cup of ricotta mixture down the long side of each pastry half. Brush other long side with a little whisked egg and roll pastry up lengthways, pressing to seal. Trim edges. Brush tops of rolls with whisked egg and cut each roll into 4 pieces, Place on lined tray and bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Catching Up

Posted by MANDI at 8:11 PM 0 comments
Here are the recipes I have been trying to post for the past little bit. Hopefully my computer, Blogger and my not-so-great technical ability will all have a postive meeting and this post will work!

First up, the peanut butter cookies I made last week. This recipe was chosen simply because I had all the ingredients on hand and I didn't need to use the electric beater - a big bonus when #2 is napping. They weren't that great the day they were made but were quite nice the next day - the honey flavour had developed and made a tasty cookie. I probably won't make then again, they were fine and everyone enjoyed them but there are so many other peanut butter cookie recipes to try.

Peanut Butter Cookies
From Family Circle Step-by-Step Biscuits and Slices

1 cup plain flour
½ cup self-raising flour
1 cup rolled oats
125g unsalted butter
½ cup caster (superfine) sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, finely chopped

¾ cup icing sugar
25g butter, softened
1 tablespoon warm water

Preheat oven to moderate 180˚C. Brush two baking trays with melted butter or oil.
Sift flours into a large mixing bowl; stir in oats.
Combine butter, sugar, honey and peanut butter in pan and stir over medium heat until melted. Add to flour mixture. Using a metal spoon, stir to just combine ingredients. Roll heated teaspoons of mixture into balls. Arrange on prepared trays with room for spreading and press lightly to flatten. Bake 10 minutes or until golden. Cool cookies on tray.
To make topping: Combine icing sugar, butter and water in a small bowl. Stir until smooth. Dip tops of cookies into topping and then into nuts. (I dipped them into the topping but didn’t add the extra nuts.)

We had fish for dinner one night last week (does everyone else have the problem of all the days blurring together? We don't even have much of a social life but we sure have been busy lately!) I'm not a big fan of fish, usually it tastes just too fishy. Everyone laughs at me for saying that but I hope you know what I mean. I find some fish to be quite mild in flavour (like shark) while others (just about anything else!) has a strong 'fish' flavour. Anyway, the ladies at the deli counter at the local shop helped me out and sold me some basa fillets - I've never heard of it before but it was boneless and they assured me it wasn't 'fishy' tasting. I am so glad that I tried it - it was delicious - the kids scoffed it down, Hubby loved it (he loves seafood) and I really enjoyed it. I even ate the whole fillet - very unusual for me.

Herb-Crumbed Fish Fillets
From the Ugly Binder (I think it came for
good taste magazine originally)

1½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
¼ cup finely grated parmesan
¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill I used much less dill, about 1 tablespoon - it's not a favourite
¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless fish fillets
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

Place the breadcrumbs, parmesan, dill and chives in a shallow dish. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Dip each piece of fish into the breadcrumb mixture and use your fingers to press the crumbs firmly onto the fish.
Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until the butter melts and begins to foam. Add the fish pieces and cookd for ¾ minutes each side, or until light golden and the flesh flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with steamed potatoes and asparagus and lemon wedges. (We had ours with steamed potatoes with salad instead.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ahoy, me hearties

Posted by MANDI at 6:13 PM 4 comments
I had grand plans to blog on the weekend with all the things outlined in my last post but... once again real life got in the way and Blogger conspired against me at the same time. This is a very short post with a pic to keep my dedicated readers happy!

My beautiful boy in his pirate costume.

And "Aaarrr-ing" like the best of 'em!

The birthday party #1 attended was great fun - 8 little boys running around pretending to be pirates. I'm sure you can take a guess at the noise level LOL!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bad Blogger!!

Posted by MANDI at 3:53 PM 1 comments
I did post yesterday but for some reason Blogger sent it off to who-knows-where? instead of putting it into Blogland where it belonged. As well as being unable to post yesterday I can't add photos to my posts at the moment! Grrrr, bad bad Blogger!
Anyway, we made peanut butter cookies which I will post pics and recipe for over the weekend. I also cooked fish for dinner last night - a rare event in this house. But it was spectacular - if I do say so myself! Again, pics and recipe on the weekend.
#1 and I are off to a 5th birthday party for one of his kindy friends - a pirate party. He looks so cute and I have taken some really lovely photos (yeah, you'll see them on the weekend too). Then I'm off to an all-night scrap - if I can stay awake. Tacos out of a box for dinner - slack, I know!
So, ahoy me hearties and we'll see you on a day that starts with S!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The House Needs Some Work!

Posted by MANDI at 7:29 AM 2 comments
I didn't get to post last night because Hubby had a meeting for work and I had a friend round to do some scrapping. By the time Hubby headed off, the kids were organised and dishes were done J had arrived and then we scrapped (and chatted, gossiped, laughed and ate chocolate!) until about 11pm. A late night for me! I did try to jump on and blog then but the connection was playing up - again - and I was too tired to fiddle around and get it all working.
I have a craft market coming up at the end of the month so have been busy making items to sell. Yesterday I got 4 star albums finished, a couple with a Christmassy look and a couple of 'pretty' ones, and I got started on an accordian album. I'll post some pics of them a bit later. I only managed to get so much done because #1 was at kindy and #2 had the biggest sleep in the history of... well the history of #2 LOL. The house has been sadly neglected so, in between a play-date and swimming lessons, I really need to do some housework today.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I'm Here Really!

Posted by MANDI at 8:25 PM 3 comments
No, I haven't forgotten my blogging duties. Real life just got in the way for a little bit. Thankyou for emailing me Chantalle - it was very sweet of you to be concerned about #2. I did try to blog on Satuday night but the computer was being temperamental and then I found out that my ISP was having a few problems so I didn't get far.

#2 is FINALLY better. She did just have a virus but it was a doozy and packed a real wallop to the poor little thing. We spent a fairly sleepless Thursday night with #2 burning up, refusing to drink anything, and refusing to doze anywhere except on me. Nothing like a 10kg heatpack firmly attached to your neck! In the end I took her to bed with me and she lay on top of me and we both dozed, on and off, for a couple of hours. Hubby took over at about 3.30am and I got a couple of hours sleep before our day started for real. Her temp stayed around 39.5 until Friday afternoon and then her fever seemed to break. Or so we thought. I had a workshop Friday night so left Hubby home with the kids. He was fine but #2's temp went up again and I got home at 10.30pm to a very hot, very sad baby and a very tired and somewhat stressed Daddy. Another sleepless night and she finally cooled down the next morning. She was grumpy as hell but she was cool. She has spent the last couple of days catching up on sleep and I really hope she gets back to her usual happy little self soon. I have had just about all the whinging I can cope with. #1 was an absolute trooper the whole time - he played quietly and kept himself amused, bought #1 toys and drinks and whatever else she so much as glanced at and was just a great big hero the whole time. I made sure I gave him lots of hugs and told him what a fantastic help he was and how proud I was of him. Of course, now that things are getting back to normal he is being somewhat less helpful and somewhat less fantastic too, but I guess you get that.

I had a market on Sunday morning and then went to scrapbooking for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Hubby was lovely and told me to have a break and enjoy it. I sure did!

Today was #1's first day of swimming lessons. He has done a few lots of swimming lessons in previous years but they have never been particularly successful - he hates getting water in his face (can't really blame him!) and spends more time whining and thinking of excuses to get out of the water than he does learning anything. But, without wanting to jinx anything, today was great. He hopped straight in the pool, joined in all the activities, kicked with the kickboard and had a great time. He didn't want to put his face in the water, and the teacher didn't make a big deal of it so he was fine. We have lessons twice a week for the next 5 weeks and #2 and I will have a swim in the big pool then play in the babies pool while the lesson is on. Fun for (nearly) the whole family!

So, now that thing are getting back to something that resembles normal for our household I have been back in the kitchen. I had two 'kitchen firsts' today - I finally used the steamer that I got for my last birthday, some ten-and-a-half months ago (shhhh, don't tell my Mum after I begged for it!) and I cooked with fresh asparagus. I have only ever used asparagus out of a jar/tin. OMG! What a difference. I am now officially an asparagus lover. This quiche was really easy (especially because I used pre-made pastry!) and so delicious. It was a hit with the whole family, although #1 did pull the asparagus out towards the end and tell me he didn't want any more of the "green stuff" because it was "ewww". I will be sure to make this one again.

Asparagus Quiche
Adapted from Family Circle Delicious Quiches and Flans

Okay, so I need to work on getting all the spears to meet neatly in the middle!

2 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
2 bunches fresh asparagus
2 teaspoons oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup cream
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to moderate, 180˚C. Spray 20cm quiche/flan dish with cooking spray and line with pastry sheets, cutting around the edge of the dish. Prick all over with a fork then blind bake for 20 minutes until pastry is golden.

Instructions for asparagus
Wash spears in cool water to clean any residual soil or sand from the tips.
Bend the spears and they will snap at the natural breaking point, to remove the woody bottoms. Steam asparagus spears for about 5 minutes, immediately rinse them under cool water to stop the cooking and preserve the bright green colour. Asparagus is done if it bends a little as you pick it up, and when the thicker end can be easily cut. reserve 8 spears and chop the rest into 2.5cm (1 inch) lengths.

Heat oil in a frying pan and cook onion over a medium heat until soft.

Place cream. milk and eggs in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well combined.

Place onion, cut asparagus and cheese into pastry shell then pour in egg mixture. Arrange reserved spears on top.

Bake 40 minutes, until golden and set.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Now It's #2's Turn

Posted by MANDI at 9:26 PM 2 comments
I just got back from the Emergency Department at the local hospital. Now it's time for #2 to get sick. Nothing serious, just a virus apparently, but this mummy had a slight panic at how fast her baby's temp was going up and how red she was getting and decided that a quick trip to the E.D. was better than a terribley sick baby. She was slightly warm before dinner and very grumpy but she'd only had one sleep today - she's deciding if she still needs two sleeps a day (my vote is YES!!) or just one - so I put it down to being tired and using up lots of energy perfecting the art of walking. But, while we were eating dinner her temp went up and up and up and we watched her poor little face turn bright red, then her chest and belly and then her arms and legs. Then she started getting splotchy and then... well, I admit it. I went into panic mode. The staff at the hospital were very lovely and checked her out thoroughly - yes her temp was very high at 39.2˚C/102.5˚F, the blotchiness was fading as she cooled down so was a result of being too hot rather than anything sinister, her ears and throat were fine, and although she was obviously not very happy she was alert and responsive. There was some talk of Parvo Virus, also known as 'slap face' because that's what it looks like, but as she cooled down a bit her cheeks lost some of the redness so they decided against that. They sent me home to give her some Baby Panadol to try to relieve her temp and help her settle down a bit and now she's asleep with the air-con on. I think we are in for a fairly unsettled night but I'm relieved that it doesn't seem to be anything more than a virus. I'm off to bed to try and get some sleep in before the Baby Panadol wears off.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Have Legs, Will Walk!

Posted by MANDI at 2:07 PM 0 comments
And so says #2! She is up to about 7 steps at a time and is hugely proud of herself. We all clapped and cheered when she first started taking a couple of steps at a time. Now she claps and cheers for herself! Too cute.Here she is ready for action.

The drunken stagger is cute, the bruised forehead not-so-much! I'm sure her head will survive but I'm not quite as sure about some of my furniture LOL!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Some Craft Projects

Posted by MANDI at 7:38 PM 2 comments
I have been experimenting and trying out a few new scrapbooking/papercraft ideas. I made a tiny little gift bag, it's about 7cm tall (almost 3 inches) so would be perfect for small sized gifts, maybe jewellery and stuff like that.

I also made a cube that opens out to show photos. This was an experimental attempt so it just has a few pics from #2's birthday. I thought I might make one for each of the kids as their Christmas ornament for this year. I usually make something with their photo that can be dated and hung on the tree each year. If I do that I'll put the photos on the outside and maybe some journalling about the year on the inside. Of course, I'd use bright Christmassy colours and ribbons.

Monday, November 6, 2006

A New (to me) Easy Dinner

Posted by MANDI at 7:37 PM 0 comments
Offspring #1 is feeling much better today and, so far, the rest of us appear to have escaped this particular bug (Thank Goodness!!). Last night I was looking for something easy for dinner. I had cooked some rice for #1 to have for dinner as it would be nice and gentle on his recovering tummy and didn't want to have to make three different things for dinner - rice for him, something for Hubby and me and something else, or at least a different version of ours, for #2. As any resourceful Mummy does, I turned to the world wide web! I had rice and a tin of tuna and I figured I could find an easy dinner recipe with those ingredients fairly quickly. How true that was and an hour later we sat down to a Tuna Rice Casserole that I had cobbled together from about 4 different recipes. Not something I would have thought of making but as far as an easy dinner with next-to-no-prep, it was fine. I added some vegies and we pretty much had the food groups covered!

Red Dirt Mummy's Tuna Rice Casserole

1 can tuna, drained
1 can cream of chicken soup
½ cup milk
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup frozen peas and corn
pepper to taste

Heat oil in a frypan over medium heat. Saute onion and celery. Put all ingredients into a greased casserole dish and mix them together. Bake at 180˚C/350˚F for one hour.

Sunday, November 5, 2006


Posted by MANDI at 10:15 AM 2 comments
Offspring #1 has gastro and we have been up most of the night with him. He has had a raging temp, up to 39.7˚C/103.4˚F, for a couple of days but is cooler today and is slowly starting to feel better. He's even started asking for something to eat - a good sign. Meanwhile Offspring #2 has sprouted another tooth so her inner-monster has been more visible than normal. On the up-side of that though, only one more molar to go and then we're done. Well for a few months anyway! He is on the couch watching videos and she is asleep so I have a bit of time off.

I thought I'd share a couple of recipes from Donna's birthday party. The Olive and Parmesan Palmiers were originally a very interesting recipe that called for you to make your own olive tapenade chock-full of yumminess but since I rarely have enough time for stuff like that, and there was a note at the end of the recipe stating that you could buy ready made tapenade instead, I took the easy way and went with the bought stuff !

Olive and Parmesan Palmiers
Adapted from a recipe for Olive and Almond Palmiers in Family Circle Fabulous Finger Food

They might not look too pretty but they taste fine!

1 tub of ready made olive tapenade
¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
¼ cup milk
Preheat the oven to moderately hot, 200˚C/400˚F. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Spread one sheet of puff pastry with half of the tapenade mix. Sprinkle half the parmesan cheese evenly over. Fold two opposite ends to meet in the centre. Fold the same way again. Brush pastry with milk. Repeat the process with the other pastry sheet and remaining ingredients.

Cut into 1.5cm thick slices. Shape the slices into a V-shape, with the two sides curving out slightly. Place the shapes on baking sheets and bake for 15-50 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature

Makes 24

Mascarpone Filled Butterfly Cakes
From a few different clippings in the Ugly Binder then put together to make these special little cakes.

Cup Cake Mix
1¾ cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
125g butter, melted
½ cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to moderately hot 200˚C/400˚F. Line patty tins with paper cases. Place flour and sugar into a medium mixing bowl. Combine melted butter, milk eggs and essence. Stir into dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
Spoon batter into each patty cake cup, no more than two-thirds full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cakes spring back when lightly pressed with fingertips. Remove from oven and stand on a wire rack to cool completely.

Mascarpone Filling
250g mascarpone
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
25g golden syrup
10g icing sugar
Spoon the mascarpone into a bowl and beat in the vanilla, then the golden syrup and icing sugar.

To assemble cakes: Using a small sharp knife cut out a shallow cone from each of the cupcakes and cut it in half. Fill the cavity with the vanilla cream. Set the 'wings' into the vanila cream at an agle, tips uppermost. If you wish you can use a dob of strawberry jam as a 'head'. Sprinkle with extra icing sugar. Set aside in a cool place.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Happy Birthday Donna!

Posted by MANDI at 10:18 AM 0 comments
Yesterday was my good friend, Donna's birthday. We have known each other for close to 20 years but have been been friends for the last 10. We actually ended up being friends when we were posted to the same school here in Red Dirt Central and have both ended up back here because of our husbands and their current jobs. We decided that we should do something nice for her birthday. There's not much worse than having your birthday on a weekday, at home with two small kids, in a town a thousand miles away from friends and family. She decided on an afternoon tea with lots of nibblie-style finger food and champagne (now you know why we ended up friends after all that time LOL!). The kids could all play and we could enjoy the afternoon before husbands arrived and then we would order Chinese for dinner. What a great plan. What a great afternoon. And what a lovely evening.

Some pics of the party table.

Clockwise from centre top:

Olive and Parmesan Palmiers, Mascarpone Butterfly Cakes, Curried Egg Sandwiches, Fruit Platter, Cheese Platter, Choc Caramel Tarts, Basil Dip, and in the centre is Sushi.

A close up with the Choc Caramel Tarts in the foreground. (I really just like this picture!)

You'd never guess there were only 4 grown-up guests to the afternoon tea from the amount of food. And yes, we did manage to consume vast quantities of it, although the husbands and the second shift of guests did assist when they arrived!
We enjoyed Watermelon Champagne Spritzers as our drink of choice through the afternoon. I forgot to take photos of them but here is the recipe, which originally came from an episode of Better Homes and Gardens a couple of years ago. They taste like summer, all zingy and bubbly and fresh and ginger-y! Yum!
Watermelon Champagne Spritzers
Remove the skin from a quarter of a watermelon. Cut the watermelon into cubes. Place the cubes in a mixing bowl and ad half a cup of green ginger wine. Give them a gentle stir and then let them sit for15 minutes or so to soak up the wine. Place the watermelon cubes in a single layer onto a baking tray. Cover with plastic wrip and place in the freezer for a couple of hours.
To serve: Place a few cubes of watermelon into each well-chilled champagne flute. Top each flute with pink champagne (or sparkling wine if you want to get fussy about origins of wine and the correct names and labels).

Thursday, November 2, 2006

A Birthday-Tea Party

Posted by MANDI at 9:19 PM 1 comments

Caramel Chocolate Tarts
Adapted from a recipe in the Ugly Binder

1 cup (150g) plain flour
90g butter, chopped
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
400g can sweetened condensed milk
30g butter, extra
2 tablespoons golden syrup
100g dark chocolate, melted

1. Preheat oven to moderate (180˚C). Grease two 12-hole 1½ tablespoon (30ml) mini-muffin pans.
2. Blend or process flour, butter and sugar until ingredients just come together. Press level teaspoons of butter mixture into each hole of prepared pans. Bake in moderate oven about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
3. Meanwhile, combine condensed milk, extra butter and syrup in small saucepan; stir until smooth. Do not boil.
4. Pour hot caramel filling over hot bases; return to oven about 3 minutes or until caramel begins to brown around the edges. Allow to cool slightly (5-10 minutes) then, using a pointed vegetable knife, gently remove tarts from pans. (Don’t panic if they look a bit ‘damaged’ when you remove them from the pans, you’ll hide the worst of it with the melted chocolate! You'll also get better with practice) Cool on a cooling rack.
5. Spread top of cooled tarts with melted chocolate, stand until set.

Makes 24
This recipe can be made up to 3 days ahead. Refrigerate, covered, in an airtight container.

For those of you at ‘home’ these are the caramel tarts that I made for #2’s christening last December. They are delicious and have been a hit each time I have made them. I have to admit that the first time I made them, for the aforementioned christening, I over-reacted somewhat (who, me??) when they didn't come out of the pans looking 'strore-bought' and 'professional'. Bursting into tears and declaring that the whole event was ruined may seem melodramatic to some but to the hormonal mummy of a 12 week old who was being christened the next day, followed by a self-catered lunch for 40, it seemed a fair reaction. Luckily said child's calm and sensible Nan stepped in, handed me a tissue or seven, passed me the melted chocolate to finish the tarts and assured me we that we still had time to hit the bakery if we needed to. Today's effort was far less Oscar-worthy, and having done a taste test (well, I needed something to go with my cup of tea!) I can tell you that they are just as delicious!

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Offspring Stories

Posted by MANDI at 9:55 PM 2 comments
An Offspring #1 Story

#1 is very interested in numbers at the moment. He wants to know what particular numbers say, like "Mum, what is a 1 and a 7?" I have to ask if he means 1 and 7 together or 1 and 7 next to each other and then we usually have to have both answers and much discussion follows. He also likes to know 'how much' everyone is. Like he is 4 and #2 is 1 and Mummy and Daddy are 34. Anyway, yesterday he wanted to know 'how much' his kindy teacher is. I said that I thought she was 30 or 31. He thought about that for a minute. Then his eyes got really big. Then, "Wow! That's really alot. That's nearly 60!" I tried not to laugh and said, "Really?" and he replied, "Yeah, or maybe it's nearly 20. I'm not really sure." I'm pretty sure I know which one Miss Kindy Teacher would prefer LOL!
An Offspring #2 Story, in picture form.

Is she dreaming about winning a race in the Olympics of taking part in Australian Idol?


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