Friday, July 29, 2011

Moist Apple Loaf

Wow I can't believe how many new recipes I've cooked this week as part of my participation in the blogging marathon AND I've been able to post every day too! But I am looking forward to going back to my less frequent blogging posts for a little while. Dhiraj is still waking a lot at night and some days I am feeling too tired to get done as much as I would like. As well I am looking forward to having a break from baking cakes, muffins and biscuits and having a go at some of the yummy dishes fellow bloggers have posting on this week.

These two last recipes I have posted on were made with the assistance of Kalyani and Shaan. Kalyani made the lemon yoghurt cake and Shaan helped with the apple loaf. Though it does make the cooking process a lot more messy I do enjoy involving them.

Now this recipe has been adapted from one I found here. I was specifically looking for a cake that had apples in it because I had 3 lovely Granny Smith apples sitting in the fridge that needed using. Also I love the taste of apple and cinnamon.

Moist Apple Loaf

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (1/2 cup substituted with wholemeal flour)
1 teaspoon mixed spice or ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup sugar (reduced to 1/2 cup)
2 large or 3 medium apples, peeled and grated
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten

To Make
Add flour, bicarbonate of soda and spice together and stir through sugar. Make a well in the centre, add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 180C for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

My mixture turned out too moist which may have something to do with my son continuing to dip his spoon in and eat the dry flour despite my discouragement. :) Anyway I ended up adding more flour at the end to make it a bit stiffer.
Eggless Variation:
I reckon because the apples make it so moist it would be easy to omit the eggs and add a little bit of water if the mixture is too dry, without it affecting the final cake.

Check out what my fellow bloggers are cooking here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

Oh the house is smelling wonderful! I have just pulled out this cake from the oven which the kids (not me, of course) insisted we try a piece while it was still warm. Yummy! Also on the bench is an another batch of muffins that I have cooked for my final post for the blogging marathon I have been participating in this week. Hopefully those ones will go in the freezer for next week's snacks unless we eat them all now. Very tempting!

This cake was based on a recipe I found here. I was looking for something to bake that had in yoghurt in it, lemons and oil instead of butter. The funny thing is that the oil only got reduced because I ran out of vegetable oil as I was in the middle of cooking. Something to do with all the no butter baking I have been doing this week. Anyway I have decided I love this cake!

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

1 3/4 cups sugar (reduced to 1 1/4 cup sugar)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice
Grated rind of 2 lemons (substituted with orange rind)
1/2 cup oil (reduced to 1/4 cup)
1 cup natural yoghurt/curd
2 cups self-raising flour (1/2 cup was substituted with wholemeal flour)

This photo is included because this is gorgeous audience I had when I was cooking.

To Make
In a bowl, mix lemon rind, oil, eggs and sugar with a fork.
Add remaining ingredients and combine well.
Pour into greased tin and bake at 180°C for 50 minutes.
Leave to cool then turn out and dust with icing sugar.

This is my first time baking a cake with curd in it and I love how it turned out. Its a great combination with the lemon and the texture is so moist and crumbly. Definitely one I will bake again! I might even make it for daughter's birthday coming up in a few weeks time. Though next time I think I will reduce the sugar even more to 1 cup as the cake was quite sweet for my taste.

Check out what my fellow bloggers have been cooking here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cornmeal Muffins

Ok a change from baking something sweet today for the blogging marathon I am participating in this week and instead I am going with a savoury recipe. This one appealed to me because it meant I could use up the polenta or cornmeal I have had sitting in my pantry for months or years? I also thought it would be a good one to freeze so I could use them for Kalyani's lunches when she goes back to school next week. I also liked that I could use fresh parsley picked from the garden in them.

Cornmeal Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour (I substituted 1/2 cup with atta flour)
1 cup yellow cornmeal (polenta)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1 cup creamed corn
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

To Make
Mix flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and sugar together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl lightly beat eggs, oil, creamed corn, milk and parsley together.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients. Mix quickly to combine with a fork. Do not over mix.
Spoon into a greased muffin tin and bake immediately for about 10 minutes at 200C. Serve warm.

I added about 1/2 cup of diced, cooked sweet potato that I had in the fridge and wanted to use up. I also think that you could replace the parsley with chopped fresh coriander and masalas for a different taste.

I liked them. The polenta gives them a grainy texture and the taste is mild.

Check out what my fellow bloggers are cooking today here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Crunchy Peanut Cookies

Ok I have to admit that we are not a huge peanut butter eating family. I prefer to give my kids Vegemite if they are to have a spread on bread. Very Aussie! But I liked this recipe because it didn't contain any butter or oil. Is that healthier?

100g butter contains 53.8g of saturated fat.
100g vegetable oil (mine was soy bean oil) contains 18.4g of saturated fat.
100g extra virgin olive oil contains 16g of saturated fat.
100g peanut butter contains only 6g of saturated fat.

Crunchy Peanut Cookies

3/4 cup self raising white flour (1/4 cup substituted with whole wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar (reduced to 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 to 3 tablespoons water

To Make
Mix flour, soda and cinnamon in a bowl. Add sugar, rolled oats, coconut and lemon rind, mix well. Rub peanut butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Make a well in the centre of mixture, add honey and 2 tablespoons water gradually, stirring to make a soft dough. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out dough to 5mm thick and cut out cookies. (I formed them into balls and pressed them flat onto the tray). Bake for 10-15 minutes at 180C.

Shaan and Kalyani have been enjoying how much baking I have been doing this week and getting to taste everything. But I had an interesting conversation with Kalyani who's 4 about doing a blog marathon and how it meant cooking something each day on my theme No Butter Bake. She replied with how that wasn't a good idea. Why did she say that? Because cakes and biscuits are not meant to be an everyday food just a sometimes food. I thought it was funny that my daughter was telling me it wasn't a good idea to eat too much sweet stuff.

Check out what my fellow bloggers are cooking today here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Carrot and Pineapple Loaf

This recipe I'm doing for Day 3 of the blogging marathon I got to cook on my own. No kids helping! Hubby had taken the kids out for a couple of hours and the baby was sleeping. Bliss! So I made an effort to enjoy the process of cooking. Normally I am trying to do 3 things or more at once and then thinking about what I need to do next once the dish is in the oven etc. This time I even got to lick the bowl out all to myself. So nice!

Carrot and Pineapple Loaf

1 cup plain flour
2/3 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (reduced to 1/2 cup)
1 cup grated carrot (about 1 large carrot)
400g pineapple pieces crushed
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk*

* A simple buttermilk substitute which I used is add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup milk. Let it stand for 5 minutes and then use as the recipe says.

To Make
Mix flours, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon together in a bowl. Add sugar, carrot, pineapple and walnuts. Stir to combine. Whisk eggs, oil and buttermilk together in a bowl. Add to flour mixture and combine.
Spoon mixture into greased pan. Bake for 25 minutes at 180C or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the loaf.

I baked this recipe in a muffin tray. Very moist and nutritious. Only thing was that I used extra virgin olive oil in the recipe and it does give them a distinctive taste. Both my kids liked them a lot especially my daughter who loves pineapple at the moment. I think they weren't sweet enough for hubby to really enjoy. :)

Check out what my fellow bloggers are cooking here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

No Butter ANZAC biscuits

Ok these biscuits I made really cannot be called ANZAC biscuits, the traditional Aussie biscuits made from rolled oats, flour, desiccated coconut, sugar, butter, golden syrup, bicarbonate of soda and boiling water. Its thought that the wives and mothers left at home during World War I baked these biscuits for the soldiers because the ingredients didn't spoil easily and transported well. The absence of eggs in the recipe is because eggs were scarce during that time. ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

Anyway I started with the traditional recipe but in the interest of making them healthier came up with a different biscuit. I am calling them...

Date Biscuits

1 cup atta flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/4 cup sugar (reduced from 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1/2 teaspoon ground spice (ie cinnamon)
1/2 cup chopped dates (added for taste and sweetness)
3/4 cup vegetable oil

To Make
Mix dry ingredients together with dates in a bowl. Add oil and combine with water as needed to make a moist dough. Form into balls and press out onto a greased baking tray. Cook in the oven for 15 minutes at 180C.

The dates add a lot of taste to them but I did find that they were quite dry. These biscuits would last well traveling months at sea. Go well with a cup of hot chai!

Both kids said they were yum! We went through them in about 2 days. The hubby reckoned he needed a lot of coffee to wash them down.

Healthy but do miss all that butter and sugar that's found in the traditional recipe.

Check out what my fellow blogging marthoners are cooking today.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Favourite Chocolate Cake Recipe

I am participating in the week long blogging marathon over at the Spicing Your Life blog for the first time. The aim is to cook and post seven different dishes over seven days. My theme is No Butter Bakes for Diet. I have decided to go hard core and as well as replacing the butter in baking recipes also try and subsitute white flour for wholemeal/ atta flour and reduce the sugar. Can sweet treats be more healthy? Let's see how I go!

This has to be my favourite chocolate cake recipe. Its so quick and easy that I often cook it with my kids. Lately I've been giving Shaan and Kalyani both a bowl each and they will make up their own cake (with some assistance from me). That means one cake to eat and one cake to freeze.

Quick and Easy Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cup plain white flour (1/2 cup substituted with wholemeal)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar (reduced to 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 cup water(250mL)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp vinegar

To Make
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Do not over mix. Pour into greased baking dish. Cook at 180C for 30-40mins.

I cooked this recipe for Shaan's 2nd birthday. I know I ruined any reduction in sugar in the cake with all the icing, smarties and hundreds and thousands. :) The cake turned out really well. I definitely couldn't tell that it had less sugar in it, olive oil and wholemeal flour.

Check out what my fellow bloggers are cooking this week here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Caversham Wildlife Park

Here are some photos from our holiday at home when we took the kids to a local wildlife park. We only did half the park because of the time we had and also the amount of walking it required. We looked at some South East Australian animals including koalas (they do look very cuddly sitting in the trees eating eucalyptus leaves), kangaroos and then the farm animals. The kids loved the kangaroos and its a great park because there are so many animals they can get up close to.

The flying foxes were very amazing to look at.

Shaan was carrying a big stick around most of the time. Where's it gone?

An emu and kangaroo hanging out together.

There were so many kangaroos to look at and you got to feed them as well.

That's the way to relax!

Shaan patting a very woolly sheep.

Dhiraj having a ride around with Mum.

The trip home though was unforgettable, Dhiraj screaming in the back because he was overtired, Shaan joining in the screaming because he just wanted to add to the noise, crawling in traffic for ages because of an accident and hubby feeling stressed because it meant he would be late for an appointment. Really wanted to be somewhere else right then!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Girls can be super heroes too!

Kalyani had her first dress up party and the theme was super heroes. She wanted to dress up as Green Lantern. Her Dad's favourite super hero. So one hour before the party we are running around the house looking for things that could be used for her costume. This was the result thanks to her Dad.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Homemade Chicken Stock

I found this simple and delicious recipe for chicken stock from a October 2009 Choice magazine I borrowed from the library. It was part of an interesting article about what really is in the packaged stocks we buy at the supermarket. The overview is that they are not "natural", often high in salt, contain additives, may not contain chicken in a chicken stock and are not good value for money.

I have to admit that I haven't actually used liquid or powdered stock for a long time. If a recipe asks for it I usually use a combination of spices like coriander and cumin and water. But recently I found out that I could get free range chicken bones for the bargain price of $1 a frame and so that along with the article got me motivated to have a go at making my own stock.

Homemade Chicken Stock
500g chicken bones
3.5L water
1 onion halved
1 carrot halved
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon peppercorns
parsley including the stalks
I also added several stalks of celery

Place all ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to the boil. Reduce and simmer covered for 2 hours. Strain the chicken and vegetables and store the liquid in containers in the fridge or freezer until needed.

It smelt delicious simmering away on the stove and now I have several litres of stock in the freezer ready for use in soups and stews.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

10 Things I Consider in Buying Toys for My (Young) Kids

Its that time again when the annual toy sales are on here in Australia and its time to think about Christmas. So soon I know! Well this is the first year I have thought about organising gifts for my kids so far in advance before. My first (almost 5 year old) is now at that age when she's anticipating her birthday and Christmas way in advance so more thought on our part goes into it. And yes it does make sense to buy at sales and not have that task to do so close to Christmas (December).

We also have two of our kids' birthdays in the next couple of months so I like to buy for those as well. First I need to explain though that we already celebrate Christmas in a fairly simple way. I don't spend a lot and the kids generally get two or three small things. My hope in that, is that they will grow up knowing that they are blessed and yet not expecting gift giving to be the major point of celebrations.

Anyway here's several questions I ask when deciding what toys to get our kids:

1) Is it well made or will it last? In having young kids we need toys that are tough and durable and not easily broken. We believe in having less but better quality things.

2) Will more than one kid be able to get enjoyment from it? I like toys that are versatile. Our kids are moving through developmental stages fairly quickly and its great if a toy can be passed on to a sibling when its been out grown. I also like if a toy can be played with by siblings together. E.g. games, puzzles.

3) Do we have a similar toy already or one that performs a similar function? Not much point in doubling up on what's already in the cupboard.

4) How much does it cost? I am amazed at how little some toys are selling for this season. That probably gets back to question 1. Also I try to keep to a budget for gifts for our own sake. Less stress and no debt! Another financial consideration is balancing my spending by what I'm giving, often to development projects through TEAR. I am uncomfortable with our children having lots of "stuff" when kids in other communities are struggling to have their basic needs met.

5) Is it safe? Most toys end up in my kids' mouths at their age. Better not to have things around with lots of small parts.

6) How much space will it take up? Our house is not huge and I don't like the idea of toys spilling out everywhere. So things like doll houses are out because we don't have room to put them away.

7) Can we borrow a similar toy from our local toy library? I love the toy library! We get to borrow up to 8 toys every 3 weeks. Our kids would have played with over a thousand dollars worth of toys since we became members 1 1/2 years ago. Great value and I get to say to my daughter, "We don't need to buy that because we can borrow it from the toy library."

8) Will it get played with over and over again? I like toys the kids will be interested in over a period of time. Things like blocks, sets of farm animals, cars etc. I tend to steer away from one use toys such as craft kits.

9) Does it replace the use of their imagination? It seems like you can get more toys these days based on real life. I would rather my kids used their imagination to say set up a kitchen and cook something than have their play area decked out in plastic appliances and plastic food. Better to have toys that inspire creative, imaginative play rather than stifle it.

10) Last of all will Mum and Dad be interested in playing with it? Yes!! :)

Hope you find these ideas helpful.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A new car, winter stews, pet snails and days at home.

I am feeling like I have spent a lot of time within these four walls of home the last few weeks. Something to do with the kids and I all having had winter colds in progression, the wet weather this past week (It actually feels strange to have had rain every day this week. There hasn't been a lot of rain the last few winters.) and still being on the lookout for a car that fits all 5 of us including 3 booster seats for the kids. Yeh- hubby found a car, a Holden Commodore. Apparently we are officially Aussie bogans now! :) I just appreciate having a vehicle to take the kids to school in.

So here are a few photos from our days at home:

I tried a beef casserole this week for the first time, cooked for 3 hours in the oven. I thought it turned out really well and hubby was even surprised that it had so much flavour after I convinced him that he didn't need to add chilli to it. Just heaps of freshly cracked pepper!

The recipe was an amalgamation of several recipes. I had an amount of casserole beef I wanted to use as well as mushrooms. Then ended up adding crushed garlic, diced celery, carrots, tomato paste, water, bay leaf, fresh thyme and chopped parsley from the garden as well as several onions quartered and mushrooms at the end. Of course I had to add some spices so went with coriander and cumin powder as a stock replacement. It was lovely to have the warmth and aroma spread through the house from dinner cooking in the oven. Definitely will cook it again!

Our daughter is crazy about snails. She's even had a cry or two over the fact that she can't find any more snails in our backyard. Even though its because she has collected them all on previous occasions. Fortunately a friend has said she can go and find snails in their backyard.
For a week we had a pet snail living under our dining table. It was fun to find out where he was each morning. That is until he got tragically stepped on by me as I was walking to the laundry. We had a few tears over that one.

The crazy family and the new car. Very thankful to God for His good provision and hubby's hard work in looking for a vehicle!

Our gorgeous 5 month old baby.

Proving that Dad still can get all 3 offspring on his lap at once and the chair does not collapse.

Have a great week!