tiny sandwich cookies

I had a day off today! It went something like this:

Wake up. Realise that I don’t have to get up because it’s my day off. Turn off alarm and go back to sleep.

Wake up again. Snuggle deliciously in bed. Read a little bit (T.C. Boyle, Wild Child. Get on it). Snuggle a little bit. Check the social media.

Get out of bed, put comfortable hoodie and moccasins on. Pad to the kitchen and toast myself a bagel. Make tea.

Bring tea, bagel and banana back to bed to eat.

Realise I have to wash my sheets at some point. Get dressed and organise washing. This included clothes, sheets, dishes, kitchen…. I went on a bit of a bender. Then I made cupcakes. I like to have a clean slate when I’m cooking.

And no, this post does not include cupcakes. They’re not ready for public viewing yet. (They’re still naked!)

House inspection time! I’m looking for a place to live in. It’s hard.

Library. For the free internet. And here we are still.

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lemon cake

I’m sorry it took me until now to post about this lemon cake! I even posted a teaser photo like a week ago. Two weeks ago. Wow, that was a while ago. And I made it before that, too. NaNo kinda stole my life last month. I’m very excited for the next month. There will be a lot of reading done. Maybe even some book reviews here, if you guys are interested?

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peanut butter fudge

Sometimes it’s really hard to get out of bed in the morning.

I say this because I think it was past one in the afternoon that I got up today. And then it was another few hours before I deigned to get changed out of my pyjamas. (Don’t get jealous that I get to sleep in on a Monday. It’s my Sunday, and Saturday is my Friday. My week is very messed-up, but that’s ok).

But sometimes it’s not the best idea to lounge in bed all morning reading books. I’m not sure when those times are, but I’m pretty sure they exist. Sometimes you have to be an adult and to illustrate that fact, I would like to link you to this page, which expresses my feelings about that obligation pretty perfectly.

Who needs responsibility anyway?

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caramel cake

“Cake! Everybody likes cake. Cake has layers. “

“Ogres are not like cakes. “

I like cakes.

Lots of cakes.

Big cakes

Little cakes.

Red cakes.

Blue cakes.

Green cakes!

Cakes to share.

Not any cake that isn’t to share, really. Where’s the fun in eating a cake on your own?

No, really.

This particular cake is a yellow cake and is best eaten at the end of a spontaneous dinner party with seven other people. Coffee is optional but not recommended if you’re about to go to bed. Which we were, pretty much. So coffee was out. But caramel cake is amazing on its own. Even a day later after being in the fridge, uncovered.

It is also really easy to make and it’s likely you’ll have all the ingredients on hand.

So get on it!

[PS: I know it’s been a while. A long while. I was away, and then I was away again, and then I was sick, and it’s been difficult to get myself back in the groove. But here I am! And ready for a spring/summer of amazing food that I can’t wait to share with you.]

[PPS: You’ll notice a lot of the photos here (the fantasticly shot and styled ones that look amazing) are not of my own doing – I like to share some link love every now and then. Check these people out! They’re amazing.)

Caramel Layer Cake

Adapted (not much!) from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups and 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

125g unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, well-shaken (or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tbsp white vinegar, set out for ten minutes and well-shaken)

For the Caramel:

1 cup heavy cream (I used 300ml)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tbsp light corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Butter a 20cm cake pan (I used a square one), line with baking paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Sift (again) the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients in three batches until they are just incorporated. Fold in the buttermilk.

Pour into prepared pan, smooth out top and rap on counter to release air bubbles. Bake 20-30 minutes. Let rest in pan five minutes, then cool on rack until completely cool.

For the caramel:

First, a note. I did not use a candy thermometer – I didn’t feel the need to, plus I don’t have one (which makes it kinda difficult). I will, however, put the necessary temperatures so that those of you who do have candy thermometers can use them.

Onward!

Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium heavy based saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until it reaches 98-100 degrees celsius. Stir in vanilla.

Place completely cooled cake on a cooling rack, over a baking tray. Pour the hot caramel glaze over the cake and let cool before you gobble it up with those seven other people I mentioned, after a spontaneous dinner party and movie night.

DFTBA.

 

red velvet cupcakes

So I know I just posted about red velvet cake a couple of days ago but in reality, it was about two months ago that I made red velvet cake for my birthday and I got to craving it again after a friend made red velvet cupcakes to share. Man, they were good. Also, posting about it made me crave red velvet cake. It’s pretty amazing.

So I decided to make cupcakes this time because they’re easier to share in a houseful of people [never mind that I ate most of them myself… hey, they’re pretty good. And I have very polite housemates.] , and set out to redeem my red velvet cake making experience. This one probably wasn’t as fudgey nor as chocolatey as I would have liked, but they rose fantastically. And I’m definitely not sad that I’ll have to make them again to find the perfect recipe. They’re amazing.

In other news, I went to the Windsor Hotel for high tea on Sunday afternoon with my sister. It was absolutely amazing and I will have (camera phone) photos along with a full post about it coming soon. There was amazing tea, expensive sparkling wine and lots of delicious food. Stay tuned.

I’m also really excited about going to something called a Truth Lab in Collingwood on Friday night. See, remember when I talked about going to Surrender? (And then promised to tell you more about but promptly failed to keep that promise?) So Surrender do these things called Truth Labs where it’s kinda like a mini-Surrender conference for one night. Amazing people are there, there’s a speaker (or two or three) and there are lots of awesome people to talk about doing awesome stuff with. Like going to SURRENDER:12 (that’s next year. This year was SURRENDER:11. Get it?)

Friday night. St Martin’s, corner of Wellington and Otter. Collingwood. 7.30pm. Jarrod Mckenna is going to be there. [insert small fangirl squee here. Sorry. I’m a nerd, we’re allowed to be uncontrollably excited about things.]

And it’s time to make red velvet cupcakes. Because they’re made of awesome. Sorry for the random jumping aboutedness of this post. DFTBA.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Adapted from Bakerella

So as I mentioned, these ones weren’t quite as fudgy as I would have liked them to be. They didn’t quite stand up to the cream cheese icing strongly enough. So, yes, my quest for perfect red velvet cake does not end here. But hey, no one’s complaining, right?

Also, one of the best things about this particular recipe is the ease in which you put it together.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 Tablespoon cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups oil

1 cup buttermilk

1 Tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 oz. red food coloring

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2 muffin pans with 24 liners. Set aside.

Whisk all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.

Whisk all wet ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet. Mix together with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Divide among the muffin liners (I got 24 standard cupcake size cupcakes filling them almost to the top, but Bakerella mentions that she got 22 and could have filled them less.) Bake 20-25 minutes, until a skewer or sharp knife inserted into the middle one comes out clean. Let cool in pans while you make the cream cheese icing. Ice and share with hungry, appreciative people who you love.

brownies without eggs

You know what I love about cooking? The sounds. The clink of the spoon against the bowl, the bubble of boiling water, the hiss of escaping steam (beware escaping steam!) the whirr of the oven, the crackling of the plastic packaging, the crunch of the salt grinder.

I love music. I love a lot of different music, you may have even noticed a few songs I picked out to share with you on this blog, and I love cooking to music. Music’s a big part of my life. It helps us to connect to others, it takes us to another place.

It’s important to hear the music in everyday life. The sounds of baking delicious, egg-free brownies, the calling of one friend to another, click clack front and back, train choo choo, all of that. It’s important to listen to the cadence of another’s voice.

The science of noise is fascinating and completely confusing (although click here for a really cool, funny, not-too-confusing intro) but what interests me is how we all connect to it. We are all searching for something, but the weird, sometimes comforting, other times frustrating thing is that someone else has probably felt it before you, and even if you feel like you are all alone in the world, chances are that someone out there cares. It may be someone who’s been down your particular black hole before and so therefore can empathise with you, or it may be someone who’s seen someone not come back.

Perhaps it’s just that you don’t look hard enough in your own life to find the person close to you who cares that much about you and can have an actual conversation without being awkward about it. Perhaps you have online friends, who although they’re a million miles away or close enough, are closer to you than those you see everyday.

Hopefully you have some people you see, so you can share brownies and sad stories (or even hopeful ones) but have some virtual brownies on me anyway, and know that I care, and that maybe I even love you.

[what is this, esther day?]

Egg-free brownies

So originally these were vegan but I don’t keep soy milk or margarine around the house (sorry lactose intolerant and vegan people. It’s not that I don’t love you. I just don’t like the taste of those things) so I just made them egg free, which was what I was looking for anyway because I ran out of eggs. I also accidentally cooked them at 200 degrees for fifteen minutes and then realised my mistake and dropped the temperature to 150. So just try to keep it at one eighty, yeah?

**UPDATED** These do actually taste of coffee. A lot of the time the espresso is just put in to enhance the coffee flavour, but these do taste like coffee. Just a warning!

adapted from Milk’N Cookiezzz

4 ounces dark chocolate

3 ounces butter (substitute margarine for vegan version)

1/3 cup milk (substitute soy milk for vegan version)

2/3 cup sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp instant coffee powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp cocoa

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line an 8″x8″ baking tray with foil and spray it with baking spray.

Melt chocolate and butter together. In a seperate bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, cornflour, coffee powder and vanilla.

Combine chocolate mixture and milk mixture. Sift in flour, baking powder and cocoa. Pour into prepared pan and bake about 20 minutes.

blondies

 

Blondies are amazing. Blondies are like brownies without the chocolate mixed in. Blondies can be any flavour or combination you like. Blondies are very popular.

They are so great to share, because blondies are a one bowl recipe, so easy it’s not even funny, and when you put mnms in there like I did, they’re colourful and a bit crazy while still being a neighbourhood staple type treat. Like camp – colourful and a bit crazy but familiar and comforting at the same time.

See? One bowl, only a few dishes.

Not even that many ingredients – but you can add as many extras as you like.

Like MnMs.

Make them. Do. At camp this week I’m on meal crew which means I make lunches for all the leaders every day. I love it. I love working with food, it’s my thing. A clean kitchen makes me happy (props to the girls who did all the cleaning up today!) and baking helps me destress. Truth.

I cook for a lot of different reasons, and part of those is because, let’s be honest, people love it. And I love people. Put the two together and people like me because I bake for them. Sometimes I bake so people will like me. (ps – this works). Sometimes this is a bad thing. Sometimes I should just trust that I am beautiful enough in my own way not to manipulate people into liking me, because they will anyway, just for me.

For anyone out there who’s reading this and understands the concept of the enneagram and you’re a two, you may understand. If not, I just want to say that I find personality types useful in discerning how to be a better person and become closer to God.  It’s also helpful for understanding other people.

These are easy to make and share. Wrap them up and put them in a container, take them to work or uni or school or whatever. Hand them out to random people. Just Do It.

Blondies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

So as you can see from the photos, I made two types. Both were from the same recipe, however I did a couple of things different the second time.

So the first time I used a packet of mnms – that’s 200g of mnms there – and mixed it in at the end, and that was all.

The second time, I felt that I needed more mixture, so I added an extra 65g of melted butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of cocoa, because you can never have enough chocolate. Then I put in half a cup of dark chocolate chips and a packet of mnms, 200g again. Yum!

125g butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch salt

1  cup flour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line an 8″x8″x2″ baking tin with baking paper.

Melt the butter and mix it with the brown sugar, well. Beat in the egg and the vanilla. Sift in the flour and salt. Stir in any additional mix ins.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and bake about 20 minutes. Slice into squares and serve to your friends.

blimey limey shortbread thins

Remember these guys? I had a bunch of logs in the freezer, ready to cut and bake and toss and eat. Yum. It’s really been useful, because… We have camp this week! Camp Sonshine in Melbourne’s east, a holiday day care for primary school aged kids. It’s so much fun for campers and leaders and we take care to provide the best care.

I’m in camp mode. Meal crew, activities, excursions, leaders, campers, averting disasters and dealing with crises. I love this camp.

Our premise is basically to love these kids as much as is humanly possible. More, because we’re opening up to Jesus to love through us. It’s a pretty amazing thing to be a part of.

It’s busy busy busy all day long. It’s great.

This means that posts will probably be sporadic and unpredictable, but that’s not really new, hey. It also means I’ll probably be writing about camp for a while. It’s really all-consuming because it goes for two weeks and it’s basically over twelve hours everyday, on the go.

What I love especially is just those moments where you find you’ve really touched someone or they really appreciate what you’ve done. We do a lot of laughing because the kids are so cute. And so serious! They have so much energy and are so fun and bubbly (kinda like these biscuits) but also fragile – also like these biscuits.

We’ve had them in the office for the leaders to munch on during the day because it is such a long one, and one of the funny moments – it might have been so funny because we were already tired from getting camp ready to go, but they got renamed from lime melting moments to blimey limey shortbread thins (you may have noticed from the title of the post).

They were originally (apparently) lemony shortbread delights but they’re not lemon, they’re lime. And so, that makes much more sense – they’re a really weird lemon! – and they got renamed. Blimey, they are good. Addictive, even. Kinda like leading on Camp Sonshine.

 

 

leek and potato soup

Ah, leek and potato soup. How I adore you.

I was at my sister’s house on Friday night, and we made this soup. It’s cold over here in Melbourne, and soup is definitely on the agenda, but this soup was so good, I made it twice. Tonight, also, see, because it was my turn to cook.

I love sharing a house and being able to cook for each other. Apart from my housemates being great for when I get into a baking frenzy and start cooking batch after batch of cookies, sharing a meal together is one of my favourite parts about this house.

This soup is filling, it’s very vegetable-y, it can vary by creaminess should you be so inclined to do so (adding more cream, as in our house, or less cream. Like no-one I know would.) And it tastes amazing. Especially should you get sourdough bread and rip it apart with your hands, like heathens, and dip it in.

YUM.

This is especially comforting, knowing that next week I will be living below the line. The poverty line, that is. For five days, I will be spending less than $2 a day on my meals. Less than $2! That’s not much, especially in today’s consumer society. If you’d like to donate money to a great cause, my fundraising page is over here. The money goes to education projects in Papua New Guinea to get people out of poverty for good.

So I was thinking about dinner tonight, and about what I’ll probably be having for dinner for the next week, and I’m telling myself to toughen up because you know what? It’s five days. And that’s not long at all. So I’ll be fine. However, many people in Third World countries, and even in a First World country like Australia, won’t be.

Although I really wouldn’t want to be my housemates come Thursday week. Because me without coffee? Not a great look. If I can scrounge around for some teabags, they may be ok. Maybe.

Potato and Leek Soup

On Friday night we used a recipe; tonight I winged it. It’s pretty easy, but the original recipe is here, if you’re interested.

Adapted from Taste.com

Slosh of olive oil

1 large brown onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 leeks, chopped

4 potatoes (We used Desiree), peeled and cubed

1.25 litres boiling water

1/2 stock cube (optional)

1/4 cup cream (more if needed)

Sourdough bread, to serve

Heat the oil in the bottom of a large heavy based saucepan. Add the garlic and onion and cook over low heat until soft. Add the leek and potato and cook until the leek is soft, stirring often.

Fill the pot with the boiling water, until it just about covers the vegetables. Stir in the stock cube. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat, and gently simmer until potatoes are soft, about twenty minutes. Blend with a stick blender; add the cream and blend to combine. Serve with the bread and more cream, to taste.