discovering a simpiler life

discovering a simpiler life

Thursday, 31 October 2013

can I have another piece of chocolate cake

I've been wanting to make this chocolate cake recipe for awhile now and yesterday was the day! Looking at the pictures of it on Mariana's blog makes me lick my lips and want to boil the kettle and snuggle up with a thick slice.  I'm just hoping I can do it justice.
The following is kindly reprinted with permission from Mariana, these are her words and mine in the brackets:

Chocolate Cake              
200g caster sugar
90g salt reduced butter (I used salted as it was what I had)
185ml hot water
2 tbsp rich chocolate cocoa powder (I used raw cacao powder, I also was cheeky and added 60g of 70% cocoa dark cooking chocolate but added it in with the butter and sugar in the saucepan)
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 fresh eggs (free range of course)
150g SR flour

 Sift cocoa powder in a small bowl; whisk in hot water till there's no lumps.  Pour into medium sized saucepan along with sugar & chopped butter.  Melt over low heat till sugar dissolves & mixture begins to bubble; add bicarb; stir till it froths up nicely; take off heat; pour into a large bowl; set aside to cool.  Sometimes I make this step the night before and then complete the cake in the morning.  

I filled the bottom bowl with iced water to speed up the cooling process
& stirred it to also help speed it up, next time I will do it the night before!
Allow to cool; I mean cool - not still warm cos I've done it and the texture changes.  You may notice a skin has formed upon cooling; don't worry; it's perfectly normal.  When cool, hand whisk in the vanilla essence, followed by the beaten eggs till nice and glossy.  Sift in flour; whisk briskly for only a minute.  
Mixture is quite runny.  Pour into greased, bottom baking paper lined 20cm round tin (I used a springform tin); place into preheated 160-170 degree fan forced oven for 35-40 mins or till baked.  Sit for 1 minute; slide a knife all around the sides.  Upturn onto metal rack; remove the paper; allow to cool.

Put 125g icing sugar, 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 2 tspn butter & 1 tbsp milk (you may need to add a little more) into a ceramic bowl. (I used a stainless steel one)  Place over saucepan with hot simmering water.  Mix continuously till the mixture comes together and the icing is nice, thick and pourable.  If it's slightly runny, thats fine, just allow to thicken up a little longer (by letting it cool)before pouring over the cake.

Place cake onto serving plate. You'll need to move faily quickly with the icing as it sets pretty fast. (super fast!!) Pour directly onto the middle of the cake; use a long knife to swirl over top or to simply push the icing to the edges and allow to set in a rustic fashion.  Practise makes perfect.  

Thanks Mariana for the recipe it will be a firm favouite!  I desperately wanted to add some chopped walnuts to the top but alas it is going to school today as a lunch box dazzler and they are party poopers these days where nuts are concerned.

I was talking a friend through a recipe over the phone the other day, and it made me realise not everything I say is easy for someone not so kitchen savvy, so with this in mind I thought I'd take the time to show you how to perfectly cover a round cake tin.  Tear yourself off around 30cm's of baking paper and fold four times until you get a smaller square. Then, keep folding in half until you have an arrow shape.

Hold the pointy end to the center of your cake tin and keep your thumb to where the edge of the tin is then with scissors cut the excess off.

You should now have a somewhat perfect circle
This technique is also used to make a cover for stews, soups and poaching in a saucepan to stop the liquid reducing too much and a skin forming, so perfect when poaching fruit like whole pears, although you cut the tip of the point out to create a little hole in the center.  Its cheffy name is a cartouche.

My word, everyone and I mean everyone, needs this chocolate cake in there repertoire...the icing is just so, not too thick and the cake oh so moist. Do yourself, your family and friends a favour and get on it!

Ciao, Jan

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Moroccan cauliflower cous cous

I wanted to share this delicous salad I made for the dinner party last weekend.  I had my last cauliflower from the garden and put some thought into what it could be transformed into, a little left of center.  It really is a revelation for anyone wanting to cater for a gluten free  friend or you actually are gluten intolerant or just to try something packed full of flavour that is also so good for you ~ cauliflower cous cous.  

The basic principle of this dish, the blitzing of the cauliflower, can be adapted to many recipes in replacing a grain like rice or cous cous itself.  I have made this as a fried rice and another spin on the salad variety with a good feta, sundried tomatoes, avocado and herbs a plenty, using lemon juice and evoo as the dressing.  This moroccan take is just perfect with it, the heady flavours of cinnamon, cumin and coriander with the orange and herbs is just a burst of flavour in your mouth.  Of course, it goes without saying you can make this with ordinary cous cous with equally as well.

Moroccan Cauliflower cous cous
1/2 a cauliflower, blitzed to resemble a crumb-best done in batches as you don't want it absolutely pulverised.
1/4 cup of currants
1/4 cup of almonds, roughly chopped
1 good bunch, the size of your hand say, of fresh mint, parsley and corriander finely chopped
1 large orange, zest and the juice of 1/2 to all of it, you will have to just see what you think
good glug of evoo
salt and loads of freshly cracked pepper
1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, ground coriander, ground cumin
1/2 a teaspoon of tumeric and paprika
You can get it ready many hours before service, just leave the dressing of evoo, orange, and spices to the few minutes before you serve it.


Ciao, Jan

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Break up with the supermarket ~ final week

 no finish line
So here I am, 4 weeks down and only one slip up.  I'm truly amazed I got through these weeks so easily and seemingly unscathed.  The sky hasn't fallen in nor have I once felt deprived or longing.  What I have learnt is that I am a sucker for a bargain and when surrounded by temptation, I can't say no. I was buying every multi-buy available at Woolies and wasting my money instead of saving like I thought I was.  

One interesting notification is how much this exercise has effected my 6 year old daughter.  She was yelling in the car last weekend when we went past Woolies, "Mum WHY can't we go in there, WHY!!" Like it was the bloody golden arches aka Mc Donalds.  Or when I was away during the challenge and she slyly told me that she had been to Woolies with Daddy, like it was a mistress or a forbidden treat.  That has been strange.

Whats the verdict for the future for me and the break up? I'm so over it, so not rushing back any time soon.  I'm threw with running with the pack. This has been a wonderful experience for me.  I've built new relationships with some local shop owners which has really warmed my heart and made me see that good old fashioned service and passion for good produce is really out there.  I also met some like minded people in my area and found some wonderful blogs along the way.  I think all over I saved a few hundred bucks, that's a win right there. 

I know I made a few of you think I was going all Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory on you especially with regard to the rewards programs, but I'm not.  What it has got me thinking about is choice and information.  Each to their own, and we all do what we are comfortable with at the end of the day.  I just learnt with some education on the topic, that it wasn't making me comfortable.

So what about you? Whats your verdict?

I've got a new challenge for the month of November if any of you are this space......

Ciao, Jan

Monday, 28 October 2013

A fabulous dinner with a Gluten free Vegan

I have a dear friend who is on a strict diet due to health reasons.  I was so excited to receive a text off her during the week to say she would be in town over the weekend.  We settled on dinner at our place and I took on the challenge with excitement to create a memorable, tasty dinner for her.  So the challenge ~ gluten free and vegan.......(can you hear crickets....)  We can together not draw breath for hours talking about food and new recipes we have tried and meals we have had, so to just give her a slab of tofu on a bed of lettuce topped with nuts wasn't going to cut it. I got to thinking....and here is what I came up with for the big event using nearly all of produce from the garden.

herb pesto dip with kale chips (so good!!) & croudites platter

olives from a friends tree


Fresh broadbeans with mint, chilli, and lentil salad with a lemon juice & evoo dressing

Moroccan Cauliflower 'cous cous' with currants, almonds, coriander and mint salad with a cinnamon, coriander, tumeric and cumin dressing

Rocket with fresh garden peas, sprouts, avocado and seeds (flaxseed, chia seeds, pepitas and sunflower seeds) salad with lemon juice & evoo dressing

Roasted root vegetables (sweet potato, potato, parsnip,beetroot and carrot) with rosemary, sage and walnuts

Roasted lemony free range chicken for the carnivores


Rhubarb, apple and blueberry nut crumble served with a dollop of coconut yoghurt

Rhubarb, apple and blueberry crumble
for the stewed fruit
2 apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced (I like them to be still slightly firm and not totaly moosh)
6 stalks of rhubarb, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 tblspns of dark agave syrup
1 cup of water or so
Place apples and rhubarb, syrup & water in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes or until the fruit is tender.  Drain off the excess water. Place in an oven proof dish along with the blueberries.  You can leave it covered in the fridge for a day or two at this stage.

for the crumble
I don't measure when I make this but I'll try and give you a guide.  You really can't go wrong.  Add whatever combinations your heart desires ~macadamias, sultanas, seeds but here is the version we had
1 cup of almond meal (if you don't have almond meal, just blitz up a cup of almond until they resemble fine crumbs)
1/2 amaranth flakes
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup of roughly chopped almonds
1/4 cup of roughly chopped walnuts
1 tbspn chia seeds
1 tbspn sunflower seeds
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 tbspns of dark agave or you can use brown sugar
3-4 tbspns evoo
Mix all together in a bowl and it should be a slightly moist mixture, the evoo and agave will have coated all the seeds and nuts well.  Arrange an even spread over the fruit and bake in a preheated 180c oven for approx 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.  I served this with "Co Yo" a coconut milk 'yoghurt' dairy free alternative but its just as good with plain greek yoghurt or vanilla icecream.

Over the next week I'll be adding the recipes from the main course as they are super easy and flavour sensations.

Ciao, Jan

Thursday, 24 October 2013

If I had my child to raise over again.....

If I had my child to raise over again

If I had my child to raise over again,
I'd finger-paint more and point the finger less.
I'd do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes,
I would care to know less and know to care more.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious and seriously play.
I'd run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging.
I would be firm less often and affirm much more.
I'd build self esteem first and the house later.
I'd teach less about the love of power and more about the power of love.

                                                                    By Diana Loomans

Such a profound poem isn't it? Easy words, hard to live. I'm printing it out as a reminder of living in each moment.

Ciao, Jan

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Break up with the supermarket ~ week 3 down!

Vintage Rose Brocante
Phew, its been a busy few days, after a lovely weekend with friends which involved lots of eating, talking and drinking and eating some more, I then headed to the big smoke for an appointment, so I apologise for the tardiness of this weeks wrap up of the supermarket break up.

Guess what.......I'm afraid to say I failed! But I have a very good excuse.  One was hubby was home doing the groceries as I was away and he went to Coles (for the record Coles are the only store that stock his beloved daily addiction to Hoyts hot chillies, he did go to IGA looking for them too so at least he tried!!) But he also went to Woolies,  traiter but I still love him.  My fail was I couldn't stand the thought of eating from the train food kiosk for my 3 hour journey and wanting to save a buck so I went into the Woolies at Southern Cross Station.  Seriously this store is a supermarketers marketing wet dream.  Just the ticket for travellers.  Lots of salads, tubs of great yoghurts, hot soup urns, fruit, free plastic cutlery. So after a foodie heaven few days and my jeans reminding me of it, I settled on a tub of greek yoghurt, a banana and a packet of cheese and bikkies for my train dinner all for a tidy $5.80.  So am I forgiven....I thought so.

Due to visitors and not being home for a days, meals out and the like, this weeks shopping dollars aren't a real summary but I'll tell you anyway,  $270  which was from hubbies trips, Aldi and the fruiterer where he got me in a box of organic apples that I'm splitting with 3 other familys.  It worked out to be $18.50 for roughly 2.75kg's which is, if you do the math, only $6.70 a kilo, very reasonable I think considering last week I paid $4.99 a kilo for 'normal' pink lady apples.  So if you are in my neck of the woods and want to do the same, either hook up with me via email or my facebook page and I'll split them with you or even better, call Materias and ask for Mario, he'll sort you out, just be prepared to get it by the box.  And let me tell you, they are fantastic, sweet, crisp, juicy and appley, like straight off a tree.
How did you go this week? One week to go!

Ciao, Jan

Thursday, 17 October 2013

homemade green cleaners

A few weeks ago, I swear I did serious harm to my lungs cleaning the shower.  The fumes I was ingesting as I was trying to holding my breath, counting to ten then leaving for 5 minutes so the chemical smell was gone to start the ritual all over again, its disgusting and I've had enough. I've been thinking about making some of my own cleaners as all this reading about a simpler life has lead me to read some really easy recipes.  Just put lemon cleaner or green cleaner into pinterest and see for yourself.  I tossed my bathroom mould cleaner as I'd had enough of coughing up a lung, and seeing as my orange anti-bacteria spray is almost all gone,  there's no time like the present.  

So to clean my shower now I'm using bi-carb soda mixed with water to a paste consistency and use either an old toothbrush or scrubbing brush and put in some elbow grease and rinse well.  I couldn't believe how wonderful this worked on my silver shower taps especially, you could see your self in them.  Although it wasnt a pretty sight, I have been doing this before my shower, and it doesn't take too long.

Some of you will be thinking the next time you see me I will be wearing tie dyed hippy pants and will have grown underarm hair, but I assure you its still the old me, I'm just on a steep learning curve and I'm an avid student!

I was given a gorgeous haul of lemons, oh how I'm blessed with true friends, so started the process straight away.  This recipe is the for a lemon all purpose spray however you can use any citrus peels like orange or grapefruit.  Great to use on your benches and stove tops, to wipe over the toilet, bathroom handbasin but don't use in on marble bench tops  if you are lucky enough to have them!

All you needed is some lemon peel (off around 3 good sized lemons), white vinegar, a jar or bottle with a lid and time.  Really? Thats it? Yep too easy campezy.  For the meagerly price of around $1 you can probably make around 500mls of spray, that's a win right there.  Try $4-$7 for the supermarket variety.  Don't forget to keep your original supermarket branded spray bottle, you may as well use it rather than toss it out saving you buying a new spray bottle, just give it a good hot wash.  You can also put aside a jar for orange peels you may collect over the week, then at the end of the week do the same.  I was too impatient and peeled the lemons straight away, but I have saved the juice to use as the week goes by, in a recipe or two, or I could freeze the juice in iceblocks to use later down the frugile road.

Let the peel and vinegar infuse for 2-3 weeks, so you do need to be a bit ahead of the game, then strain into a spray bottle and dilute it 50-50 with either water or vinegar and away you go!! Great for bench tops, stove tops or any general cleaning really.  N.B. I actually wrote this post a few weeks ago and since then I've also made a citrus blend, using orange peel and lemon peel.  The first batch should be ready next week!!

Do any of you use your own cleaners?

Ciao, Jan

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Break up with the supermarket ~ week 2 down!!

Well, well well....I'm here to tell you that this week has been a breeze.  Not a big boy in sight, hooray!!! I'm feeling very smug and quietly satisfied.  If you want to read about the start of the challenge you can do that here, and a bit more about it here and about the results of week one here. Its not too late to start, join me and see for yourself. 

So, how did my shopping experience and dollars fair this week? I'm actually shocked with the outcome. I've in the past fallen victim to the regime of doing the shopping on a certain day, so when that day rolls round I, thoughtlessly, would just go and shop.  Wasting money along the way.  I'm not sure why with this challenge that desire has ceased.  But it has.  I shopped at IGA and the fruit shop on Sunday this week.  Not only is the parking free (tight arse aren't I) but it was quiet.  IGA I noticed has soothing music piped in while you shop, Norah Jones and Hooty and the Blowfish got me in a zen like trance.  I also found at the entrance, a local smart saver newspaper for our area advertising coupons and deals from local retailers, this would NEVER have been at the big boys front door, that's probably why I've never seen it, but I used a coupon at Bakers Delight and saved $4 on what should have been a $10 purchase.  At the local fruit shop, Materias, I asked about the chance of getting organic fruit in.  The owner and I had a great discussion about it and I mention the blog, my facebook page and this challenge.  If I can get a hold of some others in my community that want the organic produce, he will source it for me, by the box only and I'd happily split it. So I've put the call out, will see if anyone out there wants to walk the talk with me.  I only spent $225 this week, thats $120 down from last week, and I even added to my stockpile and some more organice products.
A sign my mum gave me this week,
she must be reading my blog!
I've also cut up my rewards card from Woolies, I don't need it any more and after reading this thought provoking post from Jo at down to earth mother, their fate was sealed.  Such a shame as I'd just seen yet another email from them, telling me to shop up to get $40 cash to spend at Christmas ...what was the catch? Well I only had to spend $200 every week for 3 weeks, so $600, to get it. Let me do a comparison for you.  If I use the bakers delight coupon as an example, I will save $40 by only spending $100 over 10 weeks at Bakers Delight using the coupon I used there today.  I just saved myself $500!! They ended by telling me it was just another way that Woolworths is helping Aussie families save every day...may I just add there is never a mention of the poor Aussie farmers they are ripping off every day.  Clever marketing you may think, I think its a disgrace.

It's looking like the break up is serious now and there's a song that keeps creeping into my mind...Now you're just some body that I use to know.  

Ciao, Jan

Monday, 14 October 2013

melt in your mouth whole roasted beef scotch fillet

It was our wedding anniversary over the weekend, we its actually today but thats a work day and thats no fun!  Instead of going out we decided on  roasting a whole piece of scotch fillet. I grabbed as many of the herbs in the garden that stand up to cooking, like rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano and roughly chopped them up along with a few crushed cloves of garlic, a good glug of evoo, salt and plenty of black pepper.  Into a bowl it all went for a good half an hour, sitting on the bench.  Large pieces of meat like this really benefit from sitting out of the fridge but only for 30 minutes, think food hygeine/danger zone here.

I whacked the oven up to 240c for 20 minutes, then turned it down to 200c and put the meat in.  It was 1.6kgs and took around 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach 70 degrees on my meat thermometre.  It was cooked med-wellish, I'd prefer it a bit pinker, say 65 degrees, but you have to compromise with your loved ones!

I did it like I roast all my meat, over a wire rack with water underneath, it collects all the juices and you are left with a lovely stock you can use for gravy to serve with it or for another day.  Just make sure you drain it into a jug, put in the freezer for an hour or so and then skimm off the fat that will rise to the top.  You can throw this fat out, or keep it for your next batch of roasted vegies.

We had freshly dug spuds from the garden made into chippies cooked with some fresh rosemary.

Teamed with a simple garden salad of rocket, chickpeas, garden peas, fetta and walnuts, a delicious bottle of red wine, it was a wonderful anniversary dinner that I'll remember for years to come.  I will be making this again, I have an uncle who would die for beef, I think I might become the golden niece with this recipe!

We didn't exchange any gifts this year either, I asked hubby to humour me, and we exchanged an 'appreciation' letter to each other, and let me tell you it was a wonderful gift to receive and it didn't cost a cent.  

Ciao, Jan

Friday, 11 October 2013

The generosity of strangers

Last week I was reading a blog called through my kitchen window which is a lovely food/life blog if you want to check it out, filled with some lovely recipes and gorgeous photography....Anyway, Mariana was offering some books as a give away to anyone who wanted them.  I looked, and then looked again and quickly typed excitedly which books I'd love. I really wanted all of them but that was just plain greedy.  And look what arrived today, with a little card with some lovely words. I was truly thrilled, and touched by the generosity of a perfect stranger, thank you Mariana!

So my dear readers, that's my feel good tale.

Now what I'd like to do is to pay that forward....I've got a pile of Delicious magazines sitting here gathering dust that are a wonderful foodie read with beautiful articles and recipes that I'm offering up to someone, anyone who would like them.  I don't want money for postage, there is no catch, the only stipulation is its for Australian readers only, sorry!  Leave me a message and they are yours, first in best dressed!! Although, I've probably got enough for 2 bundles.....

Ciao, Jan
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