Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Best Banana Cake

Posted by MANDI at 7:48 PM 5 comments
Trish, over at Light. Sweet. Crude. told me she had a terrific banana cake recipe a couple of weeks ago when I had some over-ripe bananas to use up. I used those ones in a different recipe but hid some of the next lot in the back of the fridge, a necessary measure in a house with two little monkeys, in order to give Trish's recipe a try.

All I can say is: make this recipe! It was delicious. It was moist. It was loudly and widely complimented. And, next time I'm not going to wait for it to cool down, I'll be eating it warm.

Here's a very bad pic of the cake but you'll have to go check out Trish's blog to get the recipe - it's under the heading 'What's Cooking' way down on the right hand side. I used three large-ish bananas and cooked it in a ring pan for about 45 minutes - delicious!

A personal note: I had a lovely comment from a new reader that I had every intention of responding to but... now I can't find the comment! So, thankyou new reader for reading my blog, I'm glad you enjoyed it and hope you come back and comment again so I can respond properly and come visit you!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Scrapping, Of Sorts

Posted by MANDI at 12:31 PM 5 comments
It seems that Offspring #2 had her birthday ages ago but now that I know the thankyou notes have arrived in faraway places I can post pictures the invitations I made for her birthday party and of the thankyou notes that took me far too long to get to.

The birthday invitation was in the shape of a little purse

And it opened up to divulge the details of the party.

The thankyou cards were very simple but I was happy with how they turned out. Even though we took (literally) hundreds of photos of her during the week of her birthday we didn't end up with one decent picture of #2 smiling, at the camera, without a totally silly face! This was the closest we came to a 'nice' picture and since I was already quite late with the thankyou's I figured that it would have to do.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Best Pav, Ever.

Posted by MANDI at 12:47 PM 2 comments
Sorry for the delayed absence. Let's blame a particularly social weekend, tutoring headaches and a spike in the maximum temps up this way - it was 37 on Saturday - for keeping me from the computer. We can also blame the computer itself as it is slowly dying and causing problems.

We had a great weekend, a little busier than I would normally want in just a few days but lots of fun. Friday night was #1's soccer club wind up and all the kids were presented with medals (photos will be forthcoming in a day or two) and then enjoyed a sausage sizzle. It was lovely to see all the kids at the presentation - they were so chuffed with their medals, or metals as #1 insists on calling them. While we were there a friend phoned to see what I was doing for dinner and if I could be persuaded to join her and another friend at a local restaurant. I was easily persuaded and enjoyed a 'girls night' with a yummy meal, nice wine and fun conversation. Saturday dawned a little earlier than I really wanted but since Red Dirt Daddy had been great about letting me have a little extra sleep during the week I thought it would be nice to return the favour. That night I went round to visit a friend whose hubby is away for three weeks. She has twins in #1's class at school and was in need of some grown-up company. More wine, pizza and lots of gabbing led us to midnight when I declared that I really really had to go home. Again dawn arrived waaaaaay too early. Then we had friends to dinner Sunday night! Three families from soccer and/or school came over for a bbq - we purposely made it an early start so the kids wouldn't be too late and everyone was gone by 8.30. Everyone contributed to the meal and we had some great food, more wine (for someone who rarely drinks I did fairly well this weekend) and a terrific afternoon/evening. One of our guests is gluten intolerant so I racked my brains for a gluten-free dessert that she could eat that didn't have citrus in it so that I could eat it too and finally settled on pavlova. This was the first time I'd made a full-sized pav, I usually make mini ones or just meringues and I also made it using the convection setting on my microwave. It was a little flatter than I expected (but I think I spread it out too far which didn't help) but was absolutely delicious. Certainly, there are more simple pav recipes but this one was worth the extra effort. It received outrageous compliments and went straight to my top 10, which is mostly made up of desserts anyway!

The Margaret Fulton Cookbook (2006 ed.)

4 egg whites
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
300ml cream, whipped (I used 600ml)
punnet of strawberries
pulp of 3 passionfruit

Preheat oven to 200-210 degrees Celsius. Place a piece of baking paper on a baking tray and mark a 20cm circle (the pavlova will spread a little).

Beat the egg whites and salt in an electric mixer until they stand in stiff peaks. Sift the sugar and gradually sprinkle in 1 tablespoon at ta time, beating at full speed only until all the sugar has been added. Lastly fold in the vinegar and vanilla. Spoon large dollops inside the circle on the baking sheet and smooth over the top lightly. Place in the oven (reducing the temperature to 150) for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and leave the pavlova int he oven until cold. If using a gas oven , bake at 150 for 1 hour, reduce heat to 120 for a further 30 minutes and then turn oven off and leave the pavlova in oven until completely cooled.

When the pavlova has cooled, slide onto a large, flat cake plate and remove the baking paper. Don't worry if the pavlova collapses slightly, also expect cracks on the surface. Whip the cream until stiff and scoop over the top of the pavlvova. Hull and slice the strawberries and scatter them over the cream. Spoon passionfruit pulp over the top.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Posted by MANDI at 4:00 PM 1 comments
My camera just arrived back home. The people in Sydney pulled it apart, cleaned it all up, fixed the broken bit and sent it back to me all for free! Hubby found out that our camera had been part of a recall due to a defective part but we weren't sure if that was really the problem(especially after I dropped it on a tile floor and the playback bit never worked again - oops) . We figured it needed fixing anyway so we sent it to the proper people, rather than just the bloke in town who fixes cameras, who promptly declared that the whole thing was part of the recall. So, now my camera's fixed, it didn't cost us anything, and I can go crazy with my photos again!
Like I said, Woohoo!
Oh, and it's just in time for our next holiday. More on that next week.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Deliciously Simple

Posted by MANDI at 9:46 PM 8 comments

I kept passing over this recipe, party because I don't like coffee-flavoured anything but mostly because it just looked too simple and I was sure the end result couldn't possibly be all that great. Well, how wrong could I be? These little cookies are delicious, the coffee flavour is totally masked by the other ingredients and, what was initially a point against them becomes a huge point in their favour, they are so simple. I took some to afternoon tea today and they were very well received. I loved how well they turned out that I borrowed a camera to take photos of them - is that bordering on obsession?

Mocha Cookies
from Cheap Eats

Makes 20 cookies

150g butter, softened
3/4 cup (165g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon hot water
1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
20 dark chocolate Melts (I used milk chocolate)

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line two oven trays with baking paper.
2. Beat butter, sugar, egg yolk and combined coffee and water in small bowl with electric mixer until smooth. Transfer mixture to large bowl; stir in sifted flour and cocoa in two batches, Knead dough on floured surface until smooth.
3. Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls; place 5cm apart on trays, flatten slightly. Press 1 chocolate Melt into centre of each cookie; bake about 12 minutes (mine took closer to 15-20 minutes). Cool cookies on tray.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sticky Fingers

Posted by MANDI at 12:39 PM 2 comments
While Hubby was working on Sunday Offspring #1 and I decided to do a little cooking. #1 wanted to make a cake - "not cookies this time, Mum" - but I managed to persuade him to let me have a go at some Finger Buns. I'm pretty sure it was the pink icing that won him over, that and telling him they were really called Sticky Buns and didn't have fingers in them! I kind of messed up this recipe - we forgot to do the second rising and the end result was a little heavier and dough-ier than we would have liked. But I'd make them again and I'll be sure to follow the recipe properly next time.
In other news, my camera is fixed and is winging it's way back to Red Dirt Central from Sydney! Finger's crossed, I should have it back by Friday. Woohoo!!!! I. Can't. Wait.
Finger Buns
from Woman's Day magazine, April 16, 2007
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup warm milk, plus 2 tablespoons extra
2 tablespoon caster sugar
4 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup sultanas
2 x 7g sachets dried yeast
1 cup icing sugar mixture, sifted
10g butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon hot water, approximately
few drops pink food colouring
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1. In a jug, combine water, milk and half the caster sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Add sultanas and yeast, mixing well. Make a well in the centre, gradually add the liquid and mix to a soft, sticky dough.
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic. (If the dough is sticky you may need a little extra flour)
4. Place dough in a large, oiled bowl. Set aside, covered, until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
5. Using fist, knock down dough to remove air. Divide dough into 10 equal portions and shape into buns about 5 x 10cm. Place close together on a greased oven tray. Set aside, covered until dough doubles in size (about 30 minutes).
6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to hot, 200 degrees Celsius. Bake buns for 20 - 25 minutes until golden and hollow when tapped on the base.
7. In a small bowl, combine extra milk and remaining sugar until sugar dissolves. Brush over hot buns. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
8. Icing. In a small bowl combine all ingredients, except coconut, until smooth. Spread over buns and sprinkle with coconut.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Posted by MANDI at 12:04 PM 3 comments
While Nan and Pop were up visiting Nan took some time to flick through a couple of my foodie mags. She only ended up with one new recipe to try but she is being my guest blogger today with that very recipe!
As she was serving dinner Nan told Pop that she wasn't sure what the meal would be like and it was just a 'try'. Apparently Pop didn't make it further than a couple of mouthfuls before requesting it be made again... soon. So, a successful experiment that comes highly recommended.
Curry Chicken and Tomato Pilaf
from Good Taste, September 2007

Olive oil spray
2(about450g) single chicken breast fillets, cut into 4cm pieces
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 tbs Mild Korma Curry Paste
400g (2 cups) basmati rice
750ml (3 cups) salt-reduced chicken stock
2 tbs toasted slivered almonds
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup fresh coriander leaves
Low-fat natural yoghurt, to serve

1. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Spray with olive oil spray. Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes each side.Transfer to a plate.

2. Add the onion to the pan. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the chicken and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 12 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Set aside, covered, for 10 minutes.

3. Top the pilaf with almonds, tomato and coriander. Serve with yoghurt.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bananas. In A Cookie?

Posted by MANDI at 8:58 PM 2 comments
Yeah, kind of weird, I know. I was looking for recipes to use up my over-ripe bananas and wanted something more than my usual banana and ginger cake (which gives #2 a sore belly) or banana muffins (which were delicious but I already tried them) or banana and walnut bread (that's winter comfort food and it's too hot now for that). A funny thing happened, for every banana cake recipe I found I came across a banana cookie recipe. Who ever thought of putting bananas in cookies? To me, cookies are kind of crispy and crunchy while bananas are soft and not exactly an ingredient I would consider. But, venturing bravely into new ... um... ventures (I'm tired and that's as good as it's going to get today, sorry!) I decided to give it a try and came up with these Banana Oatmeal Cookies. They are less cookie-like and more small-cake-like with a fluffy-ish texture. They were quite nice when I served them an hour or so after they were baked, and certainly our play-date guests polished them off happily, but they have gone soft and kind of soggy since then - only to be expected I guess but still disappointing. I'll probably let the kids have one or two with some ice-cream for dessert tomorrow night. The original recipe reportedly makes 4 dozen cookies. I halved the recipe (and made some necessary adjustments), not wanting to be stuck with oodles of cookies if they weren't all that flash, and still ended up with 3 dozen. Luckily they are only little.
The original recipe was from Wonderful Ways to Prepare Cakes and Cookies, bought from Coles New World sometime in the late 1970's. This was one of my Nan's cook books and I have kept it simply because it had a wonderful, at the time, peanut butter cookie recipe. Of course I have never made those cookies again and would probably think they were fairly disgusting now but at least I used the book today, thereby vindicating my decision to cart it round the countryside for the last umpteen years!
I still didn't use the sour cream so I'm thinking that nachos or tacos might be making a dinner appearance in the very near future.
Banana Oatmeal Cookies
3/4 cup sifted plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
85g butter or margarine (I used butter and they ended up flat so I thing marg would be better)
1 egg
2/3 cup mashed banana (2 over-ripe bananas)
3/4 cup rolled oats
choc bits
1. Sift together flour, baking powder, bicarb soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.
2. Add butter/margarine, egg and half the mashed banana. Beat with an electic mixer until creamy.
3. Fold in remaining banana and oats.
4. Drop from a teaspoon onto a greased cookie tray. Top each cookie with a choc bit.
5. Bake in a 190 degree Celcius oven for 15-20 minutes until golden. They will still be soft.
6. Leave cookies to set on cookie tray and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Posted by MANDI at 8:03 PM 5 comments
After a hectic week or so life is settling back to normal. Nan and Pop have been and gone - we had a lovely time during their brief visit and it was great for the kids to spend time with them. #2 took a little while to warm up to them, not too unnatural since she last saw them at Christmas and is still only little, but once she did she followed "Bop" around like a little shadow. #1 enjoyed lots of cuddles with Nan, as well as lots of games of Go Fish with both Nan and Pop.
While they were here I managed to sneak away and spend the morning being the parent helper in #1's classroom. I love being parent helper - you get to see the kids in action, check out what the teacher is really like, and of course decide which kids you definitely don't want your kid to be friends with! The highlight of the day was making parachutes out of freezer bags with the kids but even better than that was #1 bringing home a "Star Of The Day" certificate declaring him to have been "a shining star all day long" and praising his good listening. We were pretty darn proud! It has been blu-tacked to the kitchen cupboard for all to see.
I can see from the comments about the photos of the birthday party that I am going to have to post pics of myself more often! I could seriously grow to love you guys telling me how good I look. The words I'd most commonly use would be old and haggard but cute and petite work a treat for me! BTW - I think if you saw the rest of me you'd probably revise that opinion, in the meantime I'll just stay hidden behind kids and tables LOL.
I'm off to look at recipe books. I haven't done any real cooking for a while and I miss it badly. I have some sour cream that needs using and I also have a couple of past-their-due-date bananas that need to be made into some sort of cake-type creation. I'll let you know what I come up with tomorrow.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Birthday Party

Posted by MANDI at 9:15 PM 7 comments
Offspring #2 had her birthday party this afternoon. We had some little friends from playgroup and creche, along with their families, over for lots of yummy food, some games, face painting and lots of fun in the backyard. Everyone had a great time, all the kids played beautifully, the food was great - a little too much but not crazily so - and the birthday cake was a big hit. Added to that, I worked REALLY hard at not stressing over every little detail and at not being totally insane about the whole thing and Hubby was most impressed by those efforts!

So... some pics of the whole thing. We borrowed a camera for the day and it takes the most gorgeous photos. Now I want one just like it.

The birthday girl and her Red Dirt Mummy.

The party area, as created by a very clever Red Dirt Daddy.

A beautiful shot of mass bubble blowing.

The birthday cake - another cupcake birthday cake, but this one had some fancy icing and pretty sparkly bits.

And singing Happy Birthday. You can see how impressed #2 is by the whole thing. I also love #1's "Blues Brothers" impersonation!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Offspring #2 turns 2!

Posted by MANDI at 9:35 PM 6 comments

My baby is a baby no more. She turned two today and was the most feral, monster-like and generally horrible child you could imagine. Luckily her Nan and Pop are a little one-eyed and thought she wasn't so bad but, compared to her normal behaviour, she was a bloody nightmare!

However, in the aim of celebrating her birthday...

...she received lots of lovely presents including a bike (with trainer wheels) that she thinks is pretty darn fantastic, a mini trampoline with a bar to hold onto that comes a close second to the bike, a torch from her big brother (it has found a permanent home in the basket of her bike and she has just about worn out one set of batteries checking that it still works all day long) as well as lots of lovely clothes, more toys, dress ups, colouring stuff and lots of girly bits like necklaces, bracelets and the like. In all, she is one spoilt and very much loved little two-year old. We had her favourite meal - spaghetti bol with garlic bread - for dinner and a birthday cake with Hi-5 on it for dessert. She threw the spag bol about like there was no tomorrow, munched her way through her weight in garlic bread and oohed and aahed over her birthday cake before demolishing her piece. Now she is fast asleep and we're hoping she wakes up a little bit happier in the morning.

Two Years Ago Today...

The Birthday Girl Today

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

More Visitors

Posted by MANDI at 8:47 PM 4 comments
Nan and Pop arrive for a flying visit tomorrow. They are up for #2's birthday and are only staying a few days but we're planning to pack lots in. #1 is sooooooo excited, especially since I offered to pick him up from school at lunch-time so he can come to the airport with me. Of course, I demanded absolutely perfect behaviour in the three days leading up to it so it has been a win-win situation LOL.
#1 had his last game of soccer (for the season) on Saturday. I think the team played their best game of the whole season, and it didn't hurt that we won ;) We gave the coaches (who happen to be married to each other) a voucher to one of the local restaurants and are having a team wind-up in a couple of weeks. I have really enjoyed soccer. I've had the opportunity to get to know some of the mums a little better as well as meet some new people and it has also given us something to do as a family on the weekends. Most of all I have loved watching #1 grow, not just as a soccer player (of sorts!) but in confidence and learning some new skills. He has made some new friends and is more likely to wander up and ask kids if he can join in their games than he was just a few months ago. He's a fairly tentative kind of kid so it has been lovely to watch this development. Of course #2 thinks soccer is a hoot. She hollers and claps from the sidelines, all with absolutely no idea what's going on, and generally keeps the spectators entertained. I think she's planning on signing up next year - we'll deal with that when it gets here LOL.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Straight To The Top 10!

Posted by MANDI at 8:58 PM 3 comments
Yes, that really is what Hubby decreed upon tasting this dish. High praise indeed. I have made (and blogged about) Fettucine Bosciaola before but I really think I could love this version. It was quick, easy and absolutely delicious. The extreme reaction might have been because we were all starving hungry, it might have been because there hasn't been an awful lot of interesting food happening around here lately or it might have been well-deserved. I guess we'll find out next time I make it. Either way, I highly recommend this one!
Fettucine Boscaiola with Chicken
From Short-Order Cook
500g fettucine (I used about 350g, and I used spaghetti instead!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium brown onion, chopped finely
2 bacon rashers (strips) chopped finely
200g button mushrooms, sliced finely
1/4 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup cream
1 cup milk
1 cup thinly slice cooked chicken (I used about half of a cooked chicken)
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Cook pasta in large pan of boiling water, uncovered, until just tender; drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large saucepan; cook onion, stirring, until soft. Add bacon and mushrooms; cook stirring, 1 minute.
3. Add wine, cream and milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring 5 minutes. Add chicken; stir until combined.
4. Add pasta, cheese, parsley and reserved cooking liquid; toss gently over low heat until hot.

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