Saturday, October 30, 2010

first birthday, fourth time

We held a lunch today for my youngest she turned 1 a few weeks back. I wanted a small gathering of family and good friends to celebrate her last year. Compared to others I've thrown in the past this was very low key, I was very happy to have laid out a beautiful lunch for my family whom I don't see enough of.

We gathered around chatting of new jobs, ailments we are suffering as we get older, joked of more children, thought of our sister who couldn't make it and hoped she was feeling better today, thought of how we ought to see each other more, pull together those strings that have come lose or fallen away. A baby turning 1 ought to make us all reflect on life, on how precious it is, and on how much we all need those around us.

Coconut Jelly
2 400 ml tins of light coconut milk

2 tbsp of gelatine or agar

1 cup cold water

1 cup caster sugar

Heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan till hot but not boiling
this will take about 6 minutes.

Remove the coconut milk from the heat and keep in a heatproof jug,
covering it with a tea towel to keep it warm.

Wash and dry the saucepan.

In your dry saucepan add the cold water, sprinkling the gelatine, stirring over heat till it is dissolved.

Pour in coconut milk and add the sugar, keep over the heat and stir for 3 minutes or so, until the sugar has dissolved.

Pour into the mould, and carefully carry to the fridge, where it will rest overnight!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

school lunch

I am supposed to like food. But school lunches, having to prepare them at the end of an already busy day just makes me cringe. Ahhh how I dread them.

I have two school age children, and in kinder they ate salad, sandwiches, wraps, anything. Once they begin school though they have found this aversion to sandwiches. Sandwiches are easy, they're a meal, an all in one. Instead now I have to be a nutritionalist: I have to have it be balanced, contain protein and calcium all without a sandwich. This is hard. There are alternatives to bread, but some crackers go soggy. Sadly, I know which ones do and which ones don't.

And I need to be able to do it the night before.

I don't know why we don't have school dinners, well good school dinners anyway. Aaron says when he was a kid in school back in Missouri it cost 95c a day for lunches. I am sure they were not great but it meant his mum didn't have to worry. 

My mum would have been making 6 lunches a night whilst trying to watch Don Lane. My eldest sisters would have gotten leftovers - sautéed peppers in white soft bread, or schnitzel home made in a lovely fresh roll my father baked that night. He'd bring home warm bread at night from the bakery he worked at. I think mum got a little less enthused by the time my brother and I went to school, Dad would get us some Fonzies and a banana.

The weekend lunches go something like home made pizzas, or a really quick stir fry, and rice features nearly always. My kids prepared this list for Aaron while I was out having a coffee, he is a little more laid back about when lunch would occur, it could be 11 it could be 3. There is variation and flexibility, or possibly starvation.

I was a childcare cook before I had children and I made lovely nutritious food. The parents would want to buy the leftovers of if there had been any.  So I love school holidays, lunch can be cooked, they love cooked lunch. 

But now I'm even avoiding writing about school lunches, because I hate them. I do whatever I can to make it easier how to  do a rubbish free lunch, both in the "packaged" sense and the "bad for them" sense, it isn't easy ticking all these boxes. I pop my own popcorn I love it they love it, I avoid the packaging  excessive salt or sugar it's a win win.

Ines' real-food microwave popcorn
small handful of popcorn
Brown paper bag 
salt or sugar is opptional

Simply place the handful into the brown bag , fold top down allowing room for expansion 
lay bag folded side down and microwave for 2 minutes or till they don't pop for 5 seconds. 
Melted butter can be added at this step, only  if you are going to keep it in tupperware to send to school.
keeps really well in an airtight container.

Monday, October 25, 2010

cupcakes: serves one hundred

I remember when I was a little girl,  maybe 5,  we lived opposite an old woman, I think she lived alone. She baked the most wonderful cupcakes, always iced pink and with sprinkles.  My mum, an Italian immigrant would never have seen a cupcake in her life.  The old  woman knowing Mum was busy with 6 children, would bring round an old duck egg blue plate with her delightful cupcakes for us to devour and fight over. She gave Mum one tip: Your eggs, milk, butter all had to be at room temperature. 


That little old woman died when I was still quite young, we missed her and her cupcakes.  Mum began to make those same wonderful little cakes.  I think that  whole experience shaped me, it is why today I love baking for my children, that my kids will as I do today have a memories of the things I cooked and baked for them.

Depending on where you are from you may or may not know that the cupcake has made a comeback in the last say 3 years, the rise in the popularity of the cupcake in this country has been a big one. I was asked to bake 100 for a 21st birthday, I hadn't done catering in a little while as I'd been busy having babies. I was a little nervous about how I'd manage, what with a 1 yr old and a 3 yr old at home. I then went into super organisation mode, a mode  which I wish would spill into the rest of my life.

I have a recipe of Tessa Kiro's which I love, from her book Apples for Jam.  However this time I wanted to trial a different recipe.  

My research involved a trip to the library, and I left clutching Primrose Bakery's gorgeous book devoted entirely to the said cupcake. But I didn't end up making theirs either as I'd already made a batch that I was really happy with! This recipe came from a cupcake workshop my daughter had attended out at beautiful Heide (an amazing gallery/homestead) last school holidays.  I must credit Cafe Vue for this recipe.  

I Knew when  Eliza my 3 year old ate everything beyond icing that they were good. These kept really well in an airtight container for 3 days, do not even think of refrigerating these or any other cupcakes, they will dry out and not be as good.
For all practical purposes 100 made and iced in a day was more than I could manage, so I knew that baking them 1 day ahead keeping then airtight overnight and then icing them the following morning would be very do able. The 3 large boxes I'd bought to transport them served as the best airtight container I had.
Here they are, the larger cake you see was made using the same mixture and  measured only 11 cm, the tiny cake tin it was baked in is too cute.
I was thrilled to receive a text saying "My cupcakes are so pretty" that made it all worth while. I ended up with a spare 20 which I gave away.
225g butter at room temp
1 1/2  cups  caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tsp vanilla essence
4 eggs at room temp
2 1/2 cups self raising flour
3/4 cups of milk at room temp
pinch of salt.

Preheat oven to 170 deg c
Mix together butter and sugar I used an electric beater, beat till pale and fluffy 
Add the eggs one at a time 
Add the vanilla essence and corn flour
sift the flour and add to the mix, Mix till beginning to combine
Add the Milk and pinch of salt, mix for 2 minutes scrapping the sides to really combine well.
Spoon the mixture into patty pans fill  halfway.
Cook for 18 minutes or till lightly golden and springy. Don't be tempted to open the oven as cool air getting may make them sink. 
When you turn them out allow them to cool completely before icing, if possible ice and eat the same day. I found them to be just as good day 2. 
Store the ones you don't eat, if there are any left, in an airtight container. 
Remember don't refrigerate them.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Three breakfasts

Welcome to my Humble Habit, a place where I can escape the chaos of a house with 4 children whom always bring with them 1 or 2 others, adding to the already chaotic whirlwind. My home centres mainly around the kitchen table, the food that was prepared to share with family and neighbours, the sewing the crafting the homework, all take place in this the epicentre of our home.

A normal Sunday morning entails a Brunch of some sort, today however we went simply from one breakfast to another ending up with three scrumptious meals. We began with all of us sharing the same breakfast for once, porridge with pears cooked till glazed and sticky with agave syrup, with the option of hazelnuts or currants. Even my 7 year old whom on the weekend only ever wants pancakes polished it off. We then went and laid down to doze or snuggle in bed, all 6 of us.

Aaron's breakfast followed, this man of mine poaches eggs like nobody I know, I pride myself on being a good cook, but my gosh I cannot poach an egg like he can. Today it was currant and black olives cooked along side maple glazed bacon, served with an unusual accompaniment, a coconut, carrot and lime salad. So yummy and good.

My 7 year's heart felt plea's for his habitual, ritualistic pancake weekends, were to much to ignore. Heart shaped pancakes for morning tea were on the go. Donna Hay's pancake recipe is a favourite, served with strawberries , a scoop of vanilla ice cream, maple and a dusting of icing sugar. He and his little sister were quite content. Tea and more tea followed, as we sat around and spent a nice Sunday morning.