Thursday, December 29, 2016

Post Christmas Quiet

Well it hasn't been entirely quiet because I have two kids and it's the school holidays, but things have been a bit quieter for me.
 
It began on Christmas Eve after a very busy lead up to the big day.  We had 13 extra members of my family and hubby's family here for the evening which was really lovely.  It's been quite awhile since we were all together in one place.
 
Just before bed I enjoyed a cup of tea by the light of the Christmas tree and enjoyed a peaceful house.  The kidlettes were in bed early which was a miracle but the anticipation of Santa arriving does wonders.
 
 
 
The next morning it was a happy, noisy, chaotic time from about 5.30 am when excited whispers came from Master M's bedroom.  (Little Miss R stayed on the top bunk in his room because my mother-in-law was here for a few days).
 
I'm also happy to say that the chocolate mousse worked a treat in the smaller cups.
 

 
It's such a rich recipe and these Christmas cupcake cups made them into the perfect size.
 
I also made some more gingerbread muffins in them but overfilled them on the first attempt.
 

 
They sort of came out like drunken little soldiers so I adjusted the amount for the next batch.
 

 
With Christmas over it meant that I was hopefully going to be able to get some more quiet time.
 
I have had some which has been really lovely but hubby had to go back to work on boxing day so it's been just the kidlettes and I this week.  To be honest, they have been pretty good most of the time.  There have been the odd moments of course but we seem to have gotten through them unscathed and (mostly) unhurt.
 
I have been able to snatch some quiet moments to do some more of Master M's blanket.  I'm now just over halfway.  Yay!!

 
My goal is to get at least two-thirds of the way through before the end of the school holidays.  That should be easy after the way I've been going the last few days but you never know what will crop up in the next 4 weeks.
 
Wishing you all a wonderful and safe New Year.
 
xx Susan


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Bring on the chocolate mousse

Oh my.  This is divine.  Or as Master M says.  This is so scrumptious mummy.
 
I've been trying so many things lately.  I seem to have channelled some sort of cooking goddess in a frilly apron.
 
That's not a bad thing though and my family aren't complaining.  I quite enjoy cooking and baking to an extent but I'm certainly no Master Chef and usually just do some basic and well loved tried and true recipes.
 
I've been branching out lately and trying things I've wanted to have a go at for years. 
 
Things like chocolate mousse.
 
 
 
 
Completely and utterly DIVINE!
 
The first thing you do is to melt the chocolate.  Now there are two ways to do this.  The traditional way is in a double boiler and the modern way is in the microwave. 
 
On any rare occasion when I've had to melt chocolate before I've done it in the microwave because quite frankly, a double boiler seemed a little scarey to me.
 
Trust me.  It's not.  In fact I think it's so much easier than a microwave and the chocolate melts evenly and stays silky smooth for longer.  You also don't have to stop what you're doing every 30 seconds to stir it like you do when melting it in the microwave.
 
So how does a double boiler work?  You put some water in a saucepan (not even half full), bring it to the boil then turn it down to simmer.  Then you place a heatproof bowl on top with the chocolate in it and leave it to melt, stirring occasionally. 

 
 
Trust me, it only takes a few minutes for the chocolate to melt beautifully to a lovely silky smooth mess.
 

 
 
Meanwhile you beat the eggs and sugar.  (Most recipes separate the eggs to make a really light and fluffy mousse but that was an extra step I couldn't be bothered with so I found a recipe that beats the whole egg.)  Beat the egg mixture until peaks form so a bit more than what I've done in the below photo.
 

 
 
You also need to whip up some cream.
 

 
Be careful to keep an eye on it and not whip it a little too much like I did.  I've never whipped cream in my mix master and didn't realise how quickly the peaks would form!  Disaster averted though.
 

 
Then you fold everything through the egg mixture, first the chocolate and then the cream.  Spoon it into whatever dishes you have around whether they be ramekins, glasses, plastic cups, festive cupcake moulds or just one big dish.
 
The next step is most important.  You give your son the bowl to lick out.  You are not allowed to have it yourself (well maybe one tiny little swipe of the finger for quality control).  Your son and husband will then fight over the bowl and you can serenely put your filled moulds in to the fridge to cool down.
 

 
 
Give them a few hours to set (or overnight) and enjoy.  This is very rich so I recommend small moulds.  I just have to remember that for the second batch that I'm now required to make for Christmas and then the third batch for Master M's birthday in a couple of weeks.
 
..and yes, it really is SCrUMPtiOUS!!!
 
xx Susan
 
P.S.  The recipe I used is this one here if you want to give it a go.
 
P.P.S.  I promise I'll stop with the cooking blog posts soon but that's all I seem to be doing lately so that's what you get.  :)


Thursday, December 22, 2016

A White Christmas?

While a white Christmas sounds something that many of us in the bottom portion of the globe only dream of, it just might be a reality this year for my sister.  Having said that, I've just remembered that she's already had one.  Well that buggered that thought up!
 
Anyway, she flew out to England yesterday evening to spend Christmas with one of her dearest friends Elizabeth in Yorkshire.  I doubt it will be snowing though as it doesn't often snow at their place at Christmas.
 
Driving to Brisbane International airport was a pretty exciting outing for the kidlettes as they've never been there before.  Master M was so worn out by his excitement that he slept nearly all the way down there.
 
Now I never drive into the city because the traffic freaks me out these days but I just told myself that I would be fine and everything would go well.
 
I didn't account for the storms and peak hour traffic though!
 
 
 
 
Two storms converged into one evidently and we drove into it.  Luckily not into the middle of it but we did have to drive through the outside edge of it. 
 
I concentrated on driving while my sister madly took a heap of photos until the traffic got heavier and the rain started.

 
Once we said our goodbyes the kids and I headed home and ran into the back of the storm this time.
 
There was heaps of really HUGE lightning and it got pitch black really quickly.  We ended up stopping on the way home to get some dinner and let a bit more of the storm roll away before we headed for home.
 
So to my lovely sister S.  I hope you have a wonderful time with your English family.  Try to relax a bit and enjoy this precious time with them.  You truly deserve it.
 
xxxxx Susie
 



 
 


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Berry cheesecakes

I know, I know.  It's more food but it is that time of year and I seem to have become a bit of a fiend in the kitchen right now.
 
It's amazing how the thought of having people over for Christmas has made me get off my butt and get things done.  Not that I'm doing much housework, that always seems to get put off as I am very good at finding other things to occupy my time.
 
The latest concoction has been Berry Cheesecakes.  I've been wanting to try these for years and kept putting them in the too hard basket or kept telling myself that I would be about the only person in the family to eat them because they're full of berries.
 
In the end I thought, stuff it, I want to try these so I'm going to make them.
 
They are seriously EASY to make.  Much more so with a food processor to blitz up the biscuits into crumbs.  I think that's one of the reasons I hadn't made them in the past because I've had a couple of terrible attempts at crushing up biscuits the old fashioned way... with a rolling pin.
 
This time I just bunged it all in the food processor, added some melted butter and presto...lovely cheesecake bases made in about 30 seconds.
 
 
 
 
I divided the mixture between twelve cases then pressed them into a nice flat base with the back of a spoon.
 
Then I mixed the rest of the ingredients together which consisted of ricotta, mascarpone, sugar, some vanilla and eggs.
 

 
 
 
Once the mixture is all smooth and creamy then I tossed in some frozen mixed berries.  I threw out the frozen strawberries because they go so soggy and blah when they defrost and just use the raspberries, blackberries and blueberries (at least I think that's what they were.)
 

 
 
I folded the berries through the mixture then divided it evenly between the twelve cases.
 

 
 
I ended up with a bit of mixture leftover and couldn't be bothered blitzing up some more biscuits so I just poured it straight into some Christmas tree moulds I had to see how it would turn out.
 

 
 
After about 25 minutes in a moderate oven they were ready.
 

 
 
Super easy and the verdict is....DeLICiOUS!!! 
 
Well I think so.  No one else in the family wants to try them.  I'm sure lovely hubby would but he's at work so I'm about to see how well they freeze otherwise I'll be a blimp before Christmas is over.
 
Here's the recipe if anyone wants to try it.
 
 
Berry Cheesecakes
 
(Makes 12 ... plus a little more)
 
 
For the base:
 
125g plain biscuits, crushed
60g butter, melted
 
For the filling:
 
250g ricotta cheese
250g mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup frozen mixed berries
 
 

Combine the biscuit crumbs and butter in a bowl or food processor.  Divide evenly between 12 patty paper lined muffin tins and press firmly to make the base.
 
Beat the cheeses and sugar together until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well until combined and smooth.  Then fold in the berries (yes, while they are still frozen).  You could also use fresh berries (or cherries) or whatever is in season.
 
Spoon evenly into the cases and bake at 160 degrees (fan forced) for 20 to 25 minutes.
 
Allow to cool then serve with cream or ice-cream or just gobble them up as they are.
 
 
 
xx Susan
 


Friday, December 16, 2016

'Tis the season.....to cook

I seem to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately.
 
 
 
 
It seems to be a little bit of muffin mania around here because  I ended up making a batch of Anzac muffins which my kids LOVE.  I can't even remember where I got the recipe from for these but it's something I stumbled across years ago and is full of rolled oats and grated apple.  They're perfect for a snack or a quick blitz in the microwave from frozen and enjoyed for breakfast.

 
Because it's nearly Christmas I wanted to make some gingerbread muffins so I searched for an easy recipe that the whole family would enjoy.  This is the first one I found and tried and let me tell you they are pretty amazing and sooooo easy.  Most of them have gone already so I'll be making another batch in the next day or so and I've decided that these will be part of our Christmas morning breakfast.
 
I might even make sure the batter is made up the day before and then all I have to do is bung them in the oven so we have lovely, hot fresh muffins on Christmas Day.

 
Muffins aren't the only thing I've been making.  We're having a bit of a get together here on Christmas Eve so I decided to make my Thai sausage rolls
 
I found the recipe for these in a magazine YEARS ago and they've always been a hit.  Then I somehow lost the recipe and only recently decided to find a similar one by googling.  I forget to about doing that half the time.
 
What do you know that the first recipe that came up in the search engine was the same one I had all those years ago. (Click here if you want to try it.)
 
They're made out of chicken mince, some sweet chilli, coriander and a few other ingredients.

 
The recipe uses 3 sheets of puff pastry but I find them easier to roll up with a little less filling so I use about 4-5 sheets and cut 6 out of a roll instead of 5.  As a result I ended up with about 52 little sausage rolls instead of the 30 it said in the recipe. 
 
 
These freeze really well and I only have to reheat them in the oven on Christmas eve. 
 
It's not all been baking around here either.  Little Miss R was a Zookeeper for a Day during the week.
 
The Zookeeper experience is an amazing programme put on by Australia Zoo during the school holidays.  This was part of Little Miss R's birthday present back in October and she has been waiting (not so patiently at times) for these school holidays so she could participate.
 
 
 
There were 10 kids in her group and they got to go behind the scenes at the zoo and do a few extra things that you don't get to experience on a usual visit.
 
Not only did she help prepare the food for the lemurs but got to go on the special raft over to the lemur island which is not part of the usual zoo experience.  She got to sweep and rake out the rhino enclosure (one of the other kids had to pick up the poo - much to her relief).
 
She got to hold a diamond python and a blue tongue lizard and had a tour of the Australia Zoo Animal Hospital.
 
The kids also had their lunch while they watched the Crocoseum show as well as plenty of other things they got to do throughout the day.
 
We dropped her off, extremely excited, at 8.30am and picked her up at 2pm, still excited but pretty tired.
 
If you have kids from the ages of 6-15 and you're near this area then it's a great holiday idea for them to do something a little different.  They have different programmes designed for different age groups and our girl really wants to do the Extreme Reptile programme now which has really surprised me. 
 
We'll see about next year then!
 
xx Susan


Monday, December 12, 2016

So far, so...okay

The first few days of the summer school holidays have gone by.  They have been a little challenging as once the kids hit 3pm on the last day of school they went FERAL! 
 
It has been a few days of constant fighting and I for one am exhausted.  I haven't been sleeping well anyway so I'm really looking forward to lovely hubby coming home in the early hours of Monday to have a bit of round the clock help for a few days.

I find the best outing for me when the kids are like this is to go to the zoo.  I know I've blogged about it so many times but it really is a great place to go and we are so lucky we are only 3 kilometres from it.

As part of the kids Christmas present we get them an annual pass.  It's only $59 for a child and $99 for an adult so I believe it to be money very well spent considering we go there regularly throughout the year. 
 
 
 Sunday afternoon we were all getting a bit cantankerous so we headed up there just after 2pm to renew our passes.  The kidlettes loved getting an early Christmas present.
 
We were also there for the 2.30pm croc feeding time which is always a treat.  You're much closer to the action than at the main show.  It was Acco's turn for a feed on this particular day and he's the biggest crocodile at the zoo so we were in for a bit of a treat.  The kids loved it!
 

 
 That is one seriously big croc!

 
 
 

 
 As we were only going to be there for a couple of hours we decided to enjoy an ice-cream...

 
 
 ...which was a seriously messy treat.
 

 
 
 Then we checked out a few more animals before heading home.  I love living so close that we can just go for a couple of hours so it's not an exhausting day.
 
Hope you're all getting geared up for Christmas!
 
xx Susan
 
 


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The last week of the school year...

.....for some reason is all about food.
 
There has been muffin trialing.  These are Welsh Rarebit muffins from a Nigella recipe and it seems I'm the only person in the family who actually likes them.  Even lovely hubby is a bit iffy on them.  He eats them but a few subtle comments has made it clear that he's not that fussed on them.
 
I made a double batch of them which I ended up freezing so I can nuke one for breakfast when I want something a little different.
 
Looks like I'll be giving a few more recipes a go before I find one we all might like to eat on Christmas morning.  There's always croissants if we can't agree on anything. 
 
 
 
 
I also branched out and used a packet cake mix!  SHOCK...HORROR!  Yes it was a packet mix but it did say Triple Chocolate Brownies so I thought I would give it a go.
 

 
 
Master M gave it a serious YES vote of approval when he got home from school and when I sampled a little not long after I can heartily agree.  I might have to keep an eye out for these when they're on special again.  Not that Little Miss R will be impressed.  NO...our resident chocolate hater is not impressed at all.

 
 
I also made a double batch of gingerbread men / trees and bells.  These were for the kidlettes class parties on the last day of school for the year.
 

 
 
The recipe said that they made about 20 so I doubled it because I have two children.  It would seem that I need to work on my maths a bit because my 5mm thickness is a bit less than what they actually wish you to roll out the dough to.  In the end my double batch yielded around 100 edible trees and bells.  That's a lot of rolling, punching out, baking and standing.  My feet and legs will tell you that I did actually do that many!
 

 
 
The decorating ended up very basic  because I didn't have the time or patience to do much more than I did.  The kidlettes are happy and they both have a Christmassy plate of gingerbread goodies to take with them to school for the last party day.

 
Then when  I picked them up from school a couple of parents said that they just got chips or told their kids to pick what they want in Woollies.  Makes me wonder why I slaved for 3-4  hours in the kitchen for.  I didn't even THINK about buying something ready made from the grocery store.  I think I may have to work on changing the brain waves or something for next year.
 
 
I'm also intending to have a very quiet 'me' day on Thursday as it's probably going to be the last I will truly get to enjoy until next February.  Please don't be upset if I don't answer the phone. :)
 
xx Susan


Monday, December 5, 2016

Warm weekend

Hubby was home for the WHOLE weekend.  What a treat that was!  Not that we seemed to do anything exciting in the way of outings or anything.  No... not.. at.. all.  We are a homebody family, especially when it is a tad warm outside.
 
We've had a few storms of late but not much rain.  As a result it's pretty dry here and we're really looking forward to a day or two of good soaking rain.  Until then we'll enjoy the storm build ups, the lightning and thunder and the rainbows.
 
 
For some reason we live in an area where a lot of the storms seem to 'split'. 
 
When you are a storm lover like myself we do still get plenty to keep us happy.  This season though, most of them seem to go to the south through Brisbane, or the north through the Sunshine Coast and Gympie.  The Glasshouse Mountains area (my neck of the woods), gets the top or bottom of the storms.  That means that we get the build up and all the flash but about 6 spots of rain.
 
Ah well, at least we don't really get the damage then do we?  There's always an upside.
 
So my Saturday morning started pretty early.  About 3.30am in fact when I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep.  Rather than disturbing lovely hubby who had only arrived home late the previous day, I decided to head out to the lounge to toss and turn to my hearts content and leave him to snatch a few extra good hours.
 
Unfortunately I ended up having two restless children up at different times and I wasn't even able to snatch a few more minutes like I had hoped.  Once Master M was truly up (around 5am), I knew that the day had well and truly started.  Master M has ALWAYS been an early riser so I left him to the xbox with promises of keeping the volume down low, and snuck back in to bed.
 
Not that I slept.  Lovely hubby ended up waking up too and made me a cup of tea which is one of my life's true indulgences.  The indulgence is not just having a cup of tea.  It's someone else MAKING me a cup of tea and me being able to finish a cup while it's still warm.  That is a true indulgence in my book because it's so rare.
 
Since everyone (except Little Miss R) was awake, I decided to finish my snowflake garland.  The snowflakes had been finished and blocked for weeks.  I just hadn't hooked them together which I knew wouldn't take much time at all, I just hadn't set any  time aside at this stage to do it.
 
In a remarkably short time it was done.  Both garlands were done as a matter of fact as I made a small one for Little Miss R as she wanted one for her bedroom.
 


 
Once the whole house was awake and breakfast was had, we started to decorate for Christmas.  My first priority was to hang my snowflake garland up.  I'm so happy with it.  Even though it's white and sort of blends in with the walls and the rest of the house, it still looks lovely.   (I did add tinsel and other colour to the walls and hallways behind a bit later on, just to make things a bit more festive and brighter.)


 
 
There was a well deserved break mid-morning to down a coffee and a fruit mince tart because it is the season......

 
I had another brief moment to admire my snowflake handywork before the kidlettes and I got straight back into the decorating.

 
Now I could show you the pretty bits and the all so happy holiday moments but I'll give you the realistic view of the moment after the tree was finished...

 
There are two children under the blankets on the above lounge.  It was bloody hot and humid outside so we had the airconditioners on and they were content to snuggle up and not clean any of the mess  up.
 
I can't say I made it spotless either but we did get it tidied up a bit so that no one would get injured if they walked through the lounge.
 
Then of course we got to enjoy our handy work when we had another evening storm and the power went out for a short while.  Our new battery lights worked a treat in lighting the place up and created a magical little world for awhile.


 
 
I won't say that the power came back on all too soon because I was in the middle of cooking dinner and really NEEDED it at the time.  For a brief moment the magic of the fairly lights were a wonder though.

 
 
 Sunday started a little differently. I'd been up since 12.30am watching the Rugby Union and then struggled to go back to sleep.  I did snatch a few minutes before Master M was awake just after 5am. 
 
No happy xbox playing this early though.  It was a case of "Mummy I feel a little sick"  and me then having to clean up the trail of vomit that he left throughout the whole house.  It was closer to 6am when it was cleaned up and a load of washing on. 
 
Lovely hubby blissfully slept through it all of course.  :)
 
xx Susan
 
 
 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Blanket update

I feel like I've been so busy lately but I honestly can't tell you exactly what I've been doing.
 
Do you have days/weeks like that too when you feel like all you've done is run around and you're not sure where all the time has gone?  That's been my last couple of weeks and the next two are looking like they're heading that way too. 
 
I was hoping to have a bit of a breather before the school summer holidays arrive but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
 
Anyway, during the busy times, I have been getting bits of Master M's blanket done here and there.
 
It started off small....
 
 
...and then grew a bit more as I was able to spend a bit of time in my happy place.

 
It's now nearly 1/3 complete.  There's still a long way to go but it's coming together beautifully right now and I'm really, really happy with it.

 
 
So for now I'm going to check my diary to see what I've got planned for tomorrow and will hopefully be able to find some time to pick up my hook and get a few more lovely ripples done.
 
xx Susan


Friday, November 18, 2016

Graduation

Congratulations Miss T.

This beautiful young lady has just graduated from high school.

Miss T is our niece (hubby's sister's daughter), and the kids cousin.

She is a beautiful, level headed young girl who has so much ahead of her.

Well done and good luck gorgeous.

xx Aunty Susan