dark chocolate and raspberry brownies

I’ve passed a significant mothering milestone: I baked for the school fund raiser. I’m a little bit proud of myself … don’t tell anyone that these brownies are super easy to make.

brownies choc raspberry

125g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate melts
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 180°C and grease then line a 20cm x 31cm baking tray with baking paper.
In a small saucepan melt butter and chocolate over a low heat (or microwave gently).
Once melted (but not so hot as to cook the eggs), add eggs and vanilla essence and beat to combine.
Add sugar, flour and baking powder, stir well to combine.
Add the raspberries and gently mix through, then pour into the baking tray.
Bake for 30 minutes. Ideally your brownie will have a crackling top with a fudgy middle.
Remove from oven and let cool for 15 mins in the tin before cutting into portions and leaving to cool on the rack.

I don’t bother with dusting with icing sugar, when you are eating something this yummy, you don’t need to be worrying about making a mess.

almond milk: homemade

I don’t eat much dairy these days. I find that if I divert too far from goat milk cheese and natural yoghurt I feel worse off. Yellow cheese rarely makes an appearance on my menu. To add to my fussiness, soy milk is expensive and it tends to curdle in my coffee. So with the help of my fan-dangled new kitchen tool (a thermomix), I decided to make my own milk – almond milk – and it was surprisingly quick and easy.

1 cup almonds (I used blanched but you can use raw almonds).
About 3 cups of water to soak almonds overnight (this will make them easier to blend).
In the morning, drain the almonds and place in the thermomix (or equivalent quality blender) with about 700ml clean water.
Blend almonds (gradually move from speed 6 to speed 9 for 40 sec) to achieve a fine grind of the almonds.
Place a nut milk bag* into a jug or line a sieve with muslin and pour the almond milk through the bag/muslin.
With clean hands, squeeze the milk out of the muslin into the jug.
You’ll be left with a jug of almond milk and a bag of almond pulp/meal.

Your homemade milk will last 3 -4 days in the fridge. Shake before use.
Adjusting the water content down will make a creamier milk.
Uses for almond pulp/meal to follow.
*nut milk bags are available from some health food shops and online.

almond milk coffee

red ginger refresher

raspberry detailThis mocktail (or with vodka optional) is a very refreshing sunny-day-sitting-on-the-lawn drink. Serve it in a big tumbler full of ice or in a champagne glass, it’s pretty enough to make any glass look impressive. If serving in a champagne glass, combine in a jug over ice and strain out the ice cubes as you pour into glasses decorated with raspberries and a mint leaf.

2 parts ginger beer
1 part cranberry juice
ice
frozen raspberries
mint
vodka (optional 30 ml per person)

when life gives you green tomatoes … make relish

green tomaotes

1 kg green tomatoes
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 green apple, quartered and cored
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp ginger, grated
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground mixed spice
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
¾ cup malt vinegar

green tomato relish jars

Use a processor to chop ingredients. Then, simmer all ingredients in a large saucepan for 60 minutes. Stir regularly.
Carefully pour hot relish into jars, secure lid and invert jar for 5 mins.

Thermomix:
Add ingredients to the bowl, blend speed 6 for 5 sec. You may need to add half, blend and then add the rest so as to not overfill the bowl.
Set to 45 mins, ‘spoon’, 100c.
Carefully pour hot relish into jars, secure lid and invert jar for 5 mins.

jelly bubble bath: a parent’s beauty regime

My beauty regime has taken a turn since becoming a parent. And then another more drastic turn when I went back to a fairly demanding full time job just recently. My leisurely home-made day spa beauty regime has become an ‘as needs’ pluck or snip on the run. I now look for ways to combine the two: Parenting and pampering that is, not plucking and running as I assure you that will never end well. Have you ever poked yourself in the eye with tweezers? I have. It sets you back a bit.

Drum roll, the Jelly Bubble Bath. It’s super fun for little (and big) kids to have a tutti-frutti bubble bath. And it’s probably a lot healthier than actually eating the jelly.

jelly bubble batha packet of jelly
a dash of bubble bath
a slosh of almond oil (optional)
a ducky (not really optional)

ducky in the bath

summer brought me sunshine

We have had some pretty silly weather. At the beginning of summer it was so hot that we thought it would be a fire season. Then it started raining.  And it kept raining. We’ve had so much rain that people walk around looking soggy. At first, you could almost hear the seedlings in my garden sigh with relief when the rain began. But now their little faces, turned to the hidden sun, are bloated and blotchy. Like the people I pass in the street.

But who am I to complain. Summer brought me sunshine in the form of this dwarf sunflower that burst open to display 15 flowers from the one woody stalk. I just had to share this glorious gardening moment with you.

dwarf sunflower

rob roy: the cocktail

This is an ode to the Scottish Robin Hood, Robert Roy MacGregor. Well actually, the drink originated much after that in honour of a musical operetta based loosely on some of the key points of a select few years of the man’s life. With such an intro, it’s only appropriate to garnish this drink with a cherry for ol’ Red MacGregor.

Rob Roy cocktailAs far as drinks go, you could call this a Manhattan made on scotch and you’d be pretty right. Similar to the Manhattan and Martini, you need to do a bit of experimentation to find your perfect balance of dry and sweet, you do this with sweet and dry vermouth combinations. The starting point is this:

30 ml scotch
15 ml sweet vermouth
angostura bitters
maraschino cherry to serve

Add the scotch and vermouth to a well iced cocktail shaker, shake or stir to chill, then pour into a chilled martini glass that has been rinsed with bitters and garnish with a cherry.

I just want something to wear to dinner

I struggle to understand why I can’t just wear my jersey pants and fluffy flats to dinner.

Too often going out for dinner turns into a fashion faux pas. I’m looking for something pretty, but sophisticated, and of course, something with a bit of give in the midriff. The reality is that after I’ve gorged myself on my dinner and several glasses of wine, holding my tummy in isn’t going to be achievable nor consistent.

It’s a 1950’s black pencil dress with some leopard pumps.

I start out looking great, by the time I’ve had my main course I can only remember to hold my tummy flat on the way to the bathroom but not on the way back. I’m alternating between looking great and looking frumpy. I’m confusing people.

My friends decide to go to the local bar now that the restaurant is closing. It sounds like a great idea.

I’ve completely forgotten that my dress has a long slit up the back thats now riding up quite high to compensate for my pot belly out front (that I couldn’t possibly hold in now).

I arrive at the bar feeling the confidence of my last drink but look like the martini, three glasses of wine and two courses that I’ve consumed.

My clumsiness is incompatible with the slit in my dress. Someone should really tell me not to bend over. And the phrase, dance like no ones watching, didn’t originate from this teetering shuffle – because let’s hope they’re not watching.

The next morning its the jersey pants and fluffy flats that make me feel like me again. That, and the alka seltzer.

Alka Seltzer Roy Lichtenstein 1966

image: Roy Lichtenstein, Alka Seltzer (1966)

roasted tomato and red lentil soup

roast tomato soup detail

I like to call this Roasted Red Soup. For obvious reasons.

½ cup red lentils, cooked in 3 cups water
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
about a litre of water, boiled in the kettle

In a roasting tray:
roma tomatoes, quartered
1 red onion, quartered
1 red capsicum, chopped coarsely
olive oil, just a nice slosh
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper

Essentially all that needs to happen here is that you add cooked lentils to roasted tomatoes and capsicum in a pot with some stock, boil and blend, but a more detailed description can be seen below:

Toss the tomatoes, capsicum, onion with oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a baking tray and bake at 160c for about 30 mins. Your aiming for the tomatoes to be soft, and slight darkening on the edges of the capsicum.

Meanwhile, in the soup pot, cook 1 cup red lentils in 3 cups of water, simmer for about 15 mins. Drain out the water from the lentils in a colander (use fresh water from the kettle for the soup but don’t bother washing the pot between).

By now, your tomatoes are looking nicely roasted by not dried out. Add the roasted tomatoes, capsicum and onion to the soup pot with the drained lentils. Add any juices that are in the roasting tray (you should find it quite wet).

Add the boiled water and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes then blend to smooth.

Note: If you feel motivated to do it, peeling the tomatoes after roasting (and leaving them to cool for a bit) will make a nicer textured soup.

Served here with a dollop of greek yoghurt and parsley leaf (crusty bread not pictured).

roast tomato lentil soup

christmas cookies in a jar gift

My dear friend has announced she’s thrown down the credit card and taken up the glue gun for a handmade christmas project this year. So in keeping with her christmas goal, I gave her a jar of make-your-own-christmas-gift cookies for christmas. Not only is she making her gifts but now she’s making her present too. … perhaps not quite the gesture we were aiming for. However, these christmas cookies in a jar do make a very pretty gift.

cookie jar giftLayer the ingredients into a 1 litre jar in the following order:
110g plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicab soda
¼ tsp salt
75g brown sugar
75g caster sugar
65g rolled oats
100g crainins
130g white chocolate bits

The instruction card reads:
You will need:
125g butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence

To make the cookies:
Preheat oven to 190c. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Empty the jar into a large bowl. Add butter, egg and vanilla. Stir until well combined. Shape tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on the baking trays approximately 5 cms apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Turn biscuits onto a wire rack to cool.