Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Daring Baker - Swiss Swirl ice cream cake

The car got broken into last night. It is not a flash car, in fact it is a pretty average car,full of Mr Hoopers crap, so I'm not too sure what they were hoping to achieve. They did try to steal the petrol, but the tank was empty, so my first suspicion is BP have decided instead of drilling for oil, they are just going to go on a global syphoning campaign. Good luck mighty BP, we are always running on empty anyway.

So onto my first Daring Bakers Challenge.

The July 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita's world-life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that's then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

The recipe required loads of different components, which is the kind of recipe I tend to shy away from. I prefer to compile in one go, where as this recipe took about 3 days to complete, mainly due to freezing time. It began with making a Swiss Roll, which I found really hard, it cracked all over the place, but due to time I managed to sort of squish it all together. Then there were two batches of ice cream to be made and a hot fudge sauce, this was all layered together to create an ice cream cake sheltered with a layer of swiss roll slices. I moaned the whole way through this recipe, however Mr Hooper hovered like a starving rabid dog, licking everything in sight. As it turned out, the dessert was really yummy, kind of like ice cream with brownie bits, which is my kind of pudding.

The recipe is very long and detailed so if you are interested in giving it a go, check out at the Daring Bakers Website, and if that doesn't work let me know and I will post the recipe details.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blueberry and White Chocolate Muffins

The last few weeks have been all about low fat food, bran and lentils......yawn. Today I have decided to turn an old page and return to my love of butter, chocolate and sugar. Before I go on to this delicious recipe, I need to ask...if you are reading this, I need help. Last night I cooked pork chops, and they were a disaster. I have two pork chops left in the freezer, and they will remain there until I discover a recipe that will actually produce a delicious, tender, juicy chop. Mine were dry and chewy, just terrible, please let me know if you have any super tips.

Onto less piggy issues, the muffins.....yum! I made these this morning while The Boss was snoozing, they took me about 10 minutes to put together, and about 25 minutes to cook. I found the recipe on another blog Blisstree. The recipe included a streusel topping which I didn't do, I wanted to be quick before the beast arose.


makes 12 good sized muffins

2 cups FLOUR
2 1/2 tspn BAKING POWDER
1/4 cup BROWN SUGAR, packed
1/4 tsp SALT
1 large EGG, beaten (I used 2 small eggs)
1/4 cup melted BUTTER
1 tspn VANILLA extract
1/2 tspn LEMON zest
1 cup WHITE CHOCOLATE, either use chips or buttons chopped up
2 cups BLUEBERRIES, should have been fresh, but the frozen ones I used worked great.

Set oven temp to 190C (375F)

Sieve together the flour and baking powder and stir in the sugars and salt.

Mix together the beaten egg, melted butter, milk, vanilla and lemon zest.

Fold the wet and dry ingredients together, adding the blueberries and white chocolate while you mix.

Spoon into the muffin tray. I used cupcake cases, but if you don't have them make sure you grease and flour the tray well, the chocolate and berries can get a bit sticky. Instead of the struesel I popped a white chocolate button on top before they went in the oven. They are done when a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool and then turn out of the tray, you might need to get a knife to help release them from the tray.

These are such a great way to start the week, and so fast and easy, enjoy!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fat Free Apricot Bran Loaf

I stewed beetroot last was weird. I am not sure what compelled me to give it a go, but before I knew it I was peeling and dicing. Mr Hooper detests beetroot, and picks it out at every given opportunity. There is something about this that inspires me to cook with beetroot as often as possible, I am determined to try and convert Mr Hooper into a lover of all things vegetable related. Unfortunately what started out as a delicious beef stew, turned a sharp corner into yuckville! Even after 4 hours in the oven, the beetroot still held onto its crunchy texture which I didn't really like and it went a strange pale pink, which wasn't very pleasant either. I tried stirring some sour cream into the stew in an effort to improve things, which helped to provide a moderate improvement. So the morale of that story.......don't stew beetroot!
So on to more interesting things, a recipe that will please both your taste buds and your bowels (sorry that's really gross, but it is true!). This recipe contains All Bran which is high in fibre, and also provides a good source of B vitamins, Folate and Iron. There is no fat, and it still tastes pretty good....can you imagine such a thing!!

APRICOT BRAN LOAF (make a day in advance as there is soaking required, don't be put off as it is still super dupa easy)

1 cup packed ALL BRAN (care of Kellogg's)
1 cup firmly packed BROWN SUGAR
1 tbspn HONEY
1 cup FLOUR
200g DRIED APRICOTS, chopped
1 cup MILK
pinch of SALT

Oven temp 180C.

Mix thoroughly together the All Bran, brown sugar, honey, apricots, milk and salt. Cover and leave to sit for several hours or overnight. I left it on the bench because it is damn cold here at the moment, but best it goes in the fridge for really warm climates.

Stir in the flour and baking powder. Stir well.

I used three mini-loaf tins. But you could also use a small circular cake tin or loaf tin. Be careful when using a loaf tin as this can take a while to cook in the middle, so you can get a bit of burning on the top.

Grease the tin well, and shake a little flours all over, or use baking paper.

A full sized loaf will take about 1 hour. My little tins took about 35-40 minutes. So depending on what tin you use, you will need to keep an eye for the first time you make it.

I like slices of this loaf served warm with low fat margarine (well to be honest I like it with butter, but as I have already mentioned, I jiggle). It is dense and chewy and helps to fight those chocolate urges come 3pm!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blue Cheese and Mushroom Tart

Its Monday morning, Mr Hooper is back at school, The Boss is in bed, and I am at a loose end. I have tried distracting myself with housekeeping duties, but I am not feeling it. I have pureed some food for The Boss, which I have to say is rather tasty. A delicious combo of broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potato all cooked in a yummy vege stock I made on the weekend. I am tempted to put the whole family on the 'puree' diet, I love that there is no chewing required, and the tasty goodness just slides down your throat. I feel quite militant as I wield my electric hand mixer as if it is some kind of weapon, not a scrap of broccoli floret remains intact! I have also spent some time 'working out' this morning, while I huff and puff my way through squats, kick-thrusts and lunges I can still feel the central area of my torso jiggling...will the jiggling ever cease!

Anyway onto what we had for dinner last night, it was delish! I had a couple of lonely looking big mushrooms in the vege draw, and decided to try out a pastry tart. Teamed with some caramelised onions, this was just a perfect Sunday supper.

BLUE CHEESE AND MUSHROOM TART with caramelised onions (serves 2)

1 large ONION sliced
1 tbspn BUTTER
2 tbspn SUGAR (I used white but I think brown sugar would improve the flavour)
a generous splash of BALSAMIC VINEGAR
SALT and PEPPER to season
a little water if too thick

Melt butter in a small frying pan, add onions and fry gently for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the sugar and stir until onions are well covered. Add the splash of Balsamic Vinegar and stir. Lower the heat right down and cook very gently until the onions are well cooked and sticky, allow about 20 minutes. Season. Add a little water if too sticky.


1 sheet of ready rolled PUFF PASTRY (I used one block from a twin pack, and rolled out to the same thickness as a ready rolled sheet, about 35cm x 25cm, give or take)
2 big brown MUSHROOMS sliced thinly
a good handful of dry SPINACH leaves

Using a blunt knife mark a border around the pastry, not cutting all the way through. The border should be about 3cm from the edge of the pastry. Smear the onions all over the pastry (within the border). Sprinkle the spinach leaves across the top. Layer the mushrooms ontop, so they cover the entire area. Drop nuggets of the cheese randomly across the top. Brush the pastry edge with some milk.

Pop in the oven at about 180C and cook for approx 10minutes. The edges should puff up, and the cheese should be bubbling. The pastry was quite soft on the bottom, but it didn't bother me, so keep that in mind if soft pastry offends you!

We had squares of this with some diced ripe tomatoes and a few slices of spicy sausage. The sweetness of the onions was just perfect with the strong flavour of the cheese, yum! I think these will make an appearance next time I need a super quick entree, they would be great made individually.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Daring Cooks....Nut Butters

The July Daring Cook's Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds and Food Network online.

I am really excited at the prospect of being a member of The Daring Cooks, this is my first crack at it, and I thought it all went very well.

The challenge was to make nut butters. I have made lots of asian style sauces using peanut butter, so I was pleased to see the challenge recipe was to make your own nut butters. I chose a recipe that required cashew butter, and the recipe goes a little bit like this....

1 cup unsalted CASHEW nuts, makes about 1/2 a cup of butter (I used my mortor and pestle as I halved the recipe, and it worked fine, you just need to put in some time and muscles grinding)

1cm slice of GINGER, chopped
8 cloves of GARLIC, chopped
1/4 cup SOY SAUCE
3 tbspn SUGAR
3 tbspn VINEGAR (I used Rice Wine Vinegar)
3 tbspn SESAME OIL
1/4 cup WATER
Hot Sauce to taste (I added half a red chilli, seeds and all)

225g thin RICE NOODLES
3 CHICKEN breasts, grilled and sliced
1 RED CAPSICUM, sliced thinly
1 CARROT cut into thin match sticks
4 shredded SPRING ONIONS
1/4 cup chopped CORIANDER leaves
some CASHEWS for garnishing
LIME wedge to serve

You can add any vegetables you like in an asian salad, and also use other meats such as prawns or seared beef.

The dressing was quite thick, so I would add some more water and some lime juice next time. If I didn't know, I would have thought I was eating a peanut sauce, so if you want to spend less, I would just make this with peanuts in the future. Also, Mr Hooper and I love garlic, but we were tasting it for days after this meal, so I would cut back to 5 or 6 cloves.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fish Chowder in 30 minutes

I am on a diet. Well I am kind of on a diet. Basically I am eliminating excess in the hope I may shed the wobbly bit that jiggles away roughly where my waist once was. I am easing into things by initially removing daily pudding from the menu. Mr Hooper is sad, but with constant reassurance that he 'will be ok' he seems to be coping, we have at least survived day 1 of operation diet.

With my diet in mind I realised I need to increase the amount of fish we eat. I have never been very creative with fish, when ever I buy it I think about doing something fancy, and always turn back to breadcrumbs, cooked in a bit of butter with a wedge of lemon. I constantly return to this method because it is yummy, and suits any kind of fish which is handy for those on a budget. Fish is a hugely important ingredient in our diet, it provides a fabulous source of Omega 3, oily fish more so, but white fish too can increase your intake. Because I am currently taking care of The Boss's nutritional needs I have become very aware of my own dietary needs, and Omega 3 is something I think I need to eat more of. It is meant to improve visual development as well as language, comprehension and cognitive function....who would have thought!

I have never made Chowder before, but I thought this recipe looked so simple that I would give it a go. It only took about 30 minutes, so whats not to love.

Fish Chowder adapted from Ruth Pretty's Favourite Recipes

1 tbspn BUTTER
3 rashers rindless BACON (diced)
1 large ONION (diced)
2tbspn FLOUR
1 large or 2 small POTATOES (peeled and diced)
2 stalks CELERY (finely diced)
2 1/2 cups WATER
1/2 cup of MILK
1/2 cup of CREAM
300g firm flesh white FISH diced (I used Tarakihi and it worked well, you could also use Groper or Cod)

1/4 cup flat leaf PARSLEY (chopped)

1 tspn SALT

Melt butter over a medium heat. Add the bacon, onion and bay leaf, cook until the onion is soft, stirring occasionally.

Add the flour and combine well, stirring for a couple of minutes.

Add the potatoes and celery, stir and coat them with the onion mixture. Keep stirring to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pan.

Add the water and pepper, cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked but still holding their shape. This can all be done in advance, you can set the pot aside until your ready to finish the chowder.

Pour the milk and cream into the saucepan and stir until hot, but not boiling. Don't allow the chowder to boil, you need to watch it quite carefully from this point. Add the fish and parsley, stirring frequently, heat the chowder until just before boiling, until the fish is cooked. Depending on how big your fish chunks are, this should only take a matter of minutes.

Add the salt to taste and it is ready to serve. We had ours with delicious buttered toast, which I highly recommend.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Roasted Mushrooms and Feta

Today is going to be quick recipe, and one that we have eaten two times already this week, because I LOVE it so much. There's not really much of a recipe, the key ingredients are big brown flat mushrooms and feta cheese, any additional ingredients are a bonus, and can be added in if you happen to have them.

So you want to pop your big mushrooms on a baking tray, I normally do one large one per person or a couple each if the mushrooms are smaller. At this stage you can smear the gills of the mushroom with some pesto, crushed garlic or seasoned oil. Then crumble chunks of the feta so the gill area of the mushrooms is filled up. Then they are ready to roast. Depending on the size of mushroom they take about 10 minutes at about 180C. I like my mushrooms to be quite meaty, so don't allow them to get too soft. Liquid will bubble up, I just tip that off before serving. The feta holds its shape, but goes wonderfully creamy.

We eat these mushrooms with anything and everything, this week we had them with some crumbed lamb cutlets which was just delicious. They work great with barbequed meat, roast meat....any kind of meat. They are also fab for a quick lunch with some thick buttered toast.

These mushrooms are rich in flavour, and would be great if your serving a vegetarian, they are so quick to make, and aren't too bad on the fat scale either.

I am going to be back to normal next week, so expect an exciting recipe from the random selection, I am hoping it won't be anything to do with pastry!

Have a fab Friday!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Perfect Pikelets

The Boss has lost his roomy, Grand Mama left this morning for the sunny Hawkes Bay, so I now sadly have to return to the reality that washing does not do it self. But all is not lost, as it just so happens to be the school holidays, so we have Mr Hooper home for two whole weeks, how fabulous! Since having a baby I have a new hobby, it involves drinking cups of coffee and eating multiple offerings that are dense in butter and sugar...I am referring to the exclusive world of mothers groups, I LOVE it. We get together once a week to talk babies and all things in between. A few months ago I could not have imagined ever entertaining the thought of sitting around for hours of baby talk, but I now consider it a form of therapy. My coffee group was established after we all went to the same antenatal class. As strangers we awkwardly examined graphic footage of labour, and found our favourite 'birthing position' together, it did not take long for the barriers to break down and for friendship to evolve. Nothing like watching a 'natural' birth filmed in 1982, to bring people together.

I like to take along a treat every week, and last week I took some perfect little pikelets. This is another NZ classic, and again I began with the Edmonds cook book. But by accident I have modified the recipe, with great results. Pikelets, as opposed to pancakes are sweeter and have a denser texture. Cooked in melted butter, these are just splendid served with some jam and cream. As our wee ones get bigger this recipe will be perfect for toddlers to enjoy, spread with a little butter and sprinkled with 100s & 1000s.

PIKELETS (12-20 depending on size)
1 cup of self-raising FLOUR (or plain flour with 1 tspn of baking powder)
1/4 tspn SALT
1 tbspn GOLDEN SYRUP (if you don't have any just add an extra tbspn of sugar)
2 tbspn SUGAR
1 tbspn BUTTER
1/2 cup of MILK mixed with 1 tspn LEMON JUICE (or buttermilk)

extra BUTTER for the pan

Whipped Cream, Jam, 100s & 1000s, Butter, fresh berries....etc.
Measure the golden syrup and butter into a saucepan. Warm to soften, and then mix in the sugar, milk and egg. (Using a warm spoon helps with managing golden syrup).

Sprinkle in the flour through a sieve, then mix briefly with a whisk or electric beater.

Using a paper towel smear a frying pan with some butter. Using a dessert spoon drop a dollop off the end of the spoon into the pan, so they are nice and round. I cook about 4 at a time. As soon as you have small bubbles bursting on the surface flip them over. When the centres spring back you know the other side is done. Place on a clean tea towel, and bundle them up while you cook the rest.
They are best served warm, but its not essential. Pop them in a container and warm when you need them, if desired. I served them with some whipped cream and Plum Jam, our very clever Grand Mama had made for us.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Afghan Biscuits

I can't believe its Thursday already, this week is going so fast! Yesterday Grand Mama, The Boss and I squeezed a little culture into our day. We went to the Auckland Museum to check out the free exhibition kai to pie, it was fabulous, so if you are looking to kill half an hour and you happen to live in Auckland, it is worth paying the museum a visit. So with all the reminiscing on New Zealand food I thought it was time to pull out my faithful Edmonds cook book. This is a classic, that has been around since my mother was a girl. If you need to whip up a quick white sauce, make some hokey pokey or throw together a fish pie, its to this cook book I would turn.

I had some cornflakes in the pantry, so without a flinch I turned to the biscuit section in search of my beloved Afghan recipe. Why you may ask does a classic New Zealand cook book have a recipe for Afghan biscuits, unfortunately I have absolutely no idea. Perhaps it is a symbol of how cultured we are...or perhaps not. Either way I hope that it is not offensive to the Afghan people, as it really is a yummy biscuit, so I am sure it was named with complimentary intentions.

1/2 cup SUGAR
1 1/4 cups PLAIN FLOUR
1/4 cup COCOA

1/4 tspn BUTTER, melted
approx 2tbsp WATER

WALNUT halves

Heat oven to 180C and grease a baking tray or cover with grease proof paper.

Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Sift flour and Cocoa. Stir into creamed mixture.

Add the cornflakes to the bowl. The recipe suggests folding them in, but I have deemed this impossible. I get my hands in there and gently squeeze the mixture together until the cornflakes are evenly dispersed, trying to avoid reducing them to a fine crumb.

Still using your hands take dessert spoon sized dollops, roll into a ball (of sorts) and pop onto the prepared tray. Press, but don't press too thin, you want them to be quite fat so they don't over cook and go crumbly.

Bake at 180C for about 15 mins, my oven requires staunch observation so I hold vigil in front of the glass and turn the tray at about 7 minutes.

To make the icing, mix the icing sugar, butter and cocoa together, slowly add the water until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

When cold ice with the icing and decorate with a walnut half.

This recipe claims you can also press into a tray and create an Afghan slice. I have found this less successful, the slice comes out slightly stodgy and dry in texture, but it is a bit quicker to prepare.
I hope you enjoy this super quick biscuit, I'd love to hear from anyone who can shed some light on the name.