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September 2014

Friday Food: Salted Pecan Brownies

BrowniesActually, you can choose any kind of nuts you like: I made this batch with pecans and then the next with almonds. And the next and the next, etc. Of course you can leave off the nuts and it will be just as scrumptious.

 

 

I took the brownie to MrsDrWho's new house drinks and nibbles and, shockingly, the guests ate it all!! I had to bake her some more, and then some for The GardyGardeners and The Vet.

If you want to, you can make the salted nut topping yourself. I decided to use the same recipe from the Sticky Date Cupcakes. Otherwise, you can buy some vanilla almonds or honey macadamias from the supermarket. Either works exceedingly well.

These are super easy and super fast. They are mixed up in the saucepan and then straight into the tin. Being quite rich, you can cut the brownie into 24 pieces easily, even 30 at a stretch. They are moist and the salty sweetness of the caramel nuts and chocolates is divine. The slice will freeze well too.

This recipe is from the BH&G new Chocolate Heaven cook book, and I've already made quite a few heavenly treats. With 196 recipes for around $10, it is a bargain.

 

Salted Pecan Brownie   makes 16-24 pieces

  • 120g good dark chocolate, chopped
  • 120g butter, cubed
  • 330g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 150g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 1 tbspn cocoa (20ml) Dutch cocoa is best but more expensive
  • 1/4 tspn baking powder
  • 180g dark choc bits, 100 in the mix and 80 for the topping
  • 150g (1 1/2 cups) pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 tspn sea salt flakes

Or to make your own salted toffee pecans:

  • 150g (1 1/2 cups) pecans
  • 110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tspn sea salt flakes
  • and 20ml of brandy if you choose

Preheat the oven to 180*C. If you are making your own salted toffee nuts, mix the ingredients in a bowl, and then spread in a single layer on a tray lined with baking paper. Pop into the oven while it is heating. Keep an eagle eye on the mix, it can catch very easily. It can take up to 15 minutes, but more or less depending on your oven. When the nuts are in a golden brown toffee, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Break or chop coarsely when cold. If they do catch at the edges, just break the burnt pieces off, the rest will still taste delicious.

Salted caramel nuts

Grease and line a 26 x 15 x 5cm slice tin.

Put the 120g of chocolate and the butter into a saucepan over a low heat and melt, stirring, until smooth. Cool slightly and then add the sugar. Mix well.

Melting together

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well with a spatula or wooden spoon. Then add the vanilla extract. Sift over the flour, cocoa and baking powder, add 100g of the choc bits and fold until just combined.

Adding the extras

Pour the mixture into the slice tin, smooth the top and then sprinkle with the remaining choc bits and the nuts and salt OR the salted toffee pecans you made. Bake for 25-30 minutes. It should be just set in the centre, but firm and perhaps a little cracked at the edges. Cool in the tin on a rack.

Top and bake

Cut into pieces and enjoy this incredibly easy and impressive brownie!!!

Salted pecan brownies


There's No 'I' In Team (Australia)

Really?? That's the bring-us-all-together cry of the PM?? Operation Everything, where anything becomes a military campaign. If it is the old "if you're not with me, you're against me" then I am against you. Who knew?? I can be VERY contrary. Maybe it is the centenary of WWI that has brought all this military posturing out into the civilian arena. I don't think it sits well.

And so, onto what the PM would call Operation Quilt. Luckily it's not an on water operation so I can discuss it with you. There has been an awful lot of block making going on. When MrsReno laid out the blocks we had made this year I realised I should have sixteen: I always make two of each block.

Mrsreno Mr2

Oh dear. I didn't have sixteen at all. Yesterday I sewed quite a few blocks and made next week's blocks as well. I am missing four blocks, they are in a random bag somewhere. There are only three more blocks to sew, I'll make doubles and that's twenty-four and enough for a quilt. And I will have used up both my fat quarter sets as well.

Quilting  BOM catch up

My friends have finished some more blocks too. My favourite recently has been The Exploding Pineapple, of course: that's the pink once in the middle of the second row below. I haven't ironed or trimmed mine yet.

Other people's blocks

I kinneared Colleen Hewett, very unsuccessfully, at the supermarket the other say. I would be no good as a spy. As I was trying to take the unobtrusive photo, she said to the person on the other end of the phone: "A lady is just taking a photo of me". That's no lady, that was me!! Colleen was here to make a special appearance at a local College's production of Godspell. I do remember Colleen from my teenage years, and I reckon I could sing along to all her songs!! She's pretty fabulous and I told her so.

Colleen hewett

The BlackSpot of Doomlight(tm) had Vogue patterns on sale for $5 or $4-50 with their card. I bought two patterns, very restrained I know. I love the simple dress with the v-neck and flared skirt. View B takes less than 3 metres and I like the Princess Line construction, I find it easier to make a FBA. I have had my eye on the Vintage Vogue coat in the second pattern for a while. I don't actually need a warm coat, but it would be nice of an evening when I am coming home to have just an extra layer in the Winter. I think this will fit the bill perfectly.

Vogue

And on the same topic, a new sewing machine will be arriving at our house soon. My Brother is just not solid enough and won't sew over more than two layers of material now. The GardyGardeners told me there was a sale on in town at the sewing machine shop and so I went in. I have some birthday money, and my tax return and a little put aside and so I can afford a nice sturdy and exciting machine; Janome DC 6030!!!

Come and live with me and be my machine

I am most excited about the Scissor Button. After you have ended off with the Knot Tying Button, the Scissor Button cuts off the threads close to your sewing and leaves long ends. Yay!! There is also a small 'table' which can be attached to the sewing machine. It sews very nicely and doesn't have a bazillion decorative stitches, which I never use anyway. Of course there wasn't a machine in the shop, so I am waiting for a phone call any minute now.

Twirly skirt

I used my current machine to sew a very, very belated Christmas skirt for MrsHouseOf. It is a very swirly peasant style skirt. I used this pattern as my guide, but I did make the layers longer as MrsHouseOf is nicely tall. It is a Two Hour skirt and that is not far off the mark.

We went to the vet 2014

And now to more important things: Peri and Gilly went to The Vet to see Dr Marion last week. They were both vaccinated and examined and pronounced thin and very healthy. Peri has a little arthritis in the leg that was operated on for cancer last year, but she's on the way to 13 and so it is to be expected. The cancer hasn't come back, so we are very grateful and pleased. Gilly was tied to the table and in her excitement she dragged it across the room!! Gilly is very well, and just has one waxy ear. Peri is allowed to be off the lead and wander about the consulting room. She likes to stand right next to The Vets and lean on them as they examine Gilly, and she looks in the rubbish bin.

The weather has been very warm, I had to turn the air-conditioner on in the car. It was 17*C the other day. The BOM said Winter has been up to two degrees warmer than average. Peri and Gilly enjoy the frosty mornings and sunny days.

Sunny day dogs

Peri Naughty and Miss Lorelai Gilmore are very well behaved. There was a little argument between the boy dogs on our walk, and The Girls were quite confused. There is never any growling or fighting at our house, The Labradors always get on very well together. Sandy decided that he would grab hold of Rafa's lead and drag him along. Rafa was not happy and there was some growling and rolling of eyes. They are friends now, but Rafa stays well away from Sandy when he has his lead on. Peri and Gilly couldn't give two hoots when he does it to them. Peri gives him her Paddington Hard Stare and he soon stops.

We don't talk about walk club

This month's Better Homes and Gardens magazine from Woolworths, or Roelf Vos as I still call it, comes with a 'free' bar tin. It is a long rectangular bar tin. I have an old one like it and when I tried to buy a new one last year it was going to cost about $30, so I went back and bought another magazine. $7-20 is so cheap. There is a very good recipe booklet and I shall be cooking lots of cakes and slices in bar tins. MrsDrWho has just suggested I should buy a third, just in case...

Bar tin

MrsDrWho, MrsHouseOf, a Young HouseOf and I went to see Doctor Who Deep Breath at the cinema. It was pretty great, there was a special extra beginning and a making of at the end. I heard a hipster looking man outside pooh-poohing people paying $25 to go and see it, but I think it is four cups of trendy coffee and anyway, I just like Doctor Who. There is something special about watching it when you are with a like minded audience. I am looking forward to more Who next week. Peter Capaldi will be an excellent Doctor, and a Scottish one at that!!!


Friday Food: Smoked Salmon Sushi

SushiThere are a few things I would change if I made this recipe again, and they are all about me: I'd check the size of the tin when halving the recipe, I'd keep a better eye on the rice and cut the finished sushi with a sharper knife.

I would also travel ahead in time and meet Mrs SwanPrincess who would tell me where to buy local wasabi, then I wouldn't have had to use the horseradish supermarket kind.

 

The sushi was delicious, in-spite of all the bumps along the way. I made half the recipe and cut 12 very large pieces, which would have been better as 24 bite sized pieces, eliminating the urge for soy sauce double dipping (we dipped both short ends before eating)

When I bought the rice wine vinegar at the supermarket, I noticed they had special sushi seasoning in a bottle as well. I decided to just follow the recipe. We are lucky to have local smoked salmon, which makes me very happy.

I have never made any Japanese food, and while I am sure this is far, far away from being in any way authentic, it was a good entry point via Donna Hay and the sushi rice I spotted in the supermarket which inspired me!!

 

Smoked Salmon Sushi  makes about 30 pieces

  • 1 2/3 cups (330g) sushi rice
  • 1 3/4 cups (435ml) water
  • 60ml rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbspn (40ml) caster sugar
  • 2 tspn sea salt flakes
  • 200g sliced smoked salmon
  • 1 tspn wasabi paste
  • 2 sheets of nori (seaweed sheets)
  • soy sauce to serve

 

The rice needs to be washed under cold running water for 5 minutes. Instead of a colander, I used my steamer lined with a clean kitchen cloth. I was worried the rice might wash through the larger colander holes.

Wash rice

Put the rice and water in a small saucepan, cover and bring to the boil. The covered rice should not continue at a rolling boil, but rather a slow boil, so turn the heat down a little to medium. Keep a close eye on it as it boils for 10 minutes. Mine stuck to the base of the saucepan a little, but was not burned. I tasted it to check. Remove from the heat, keep the lid on, and set aside for 10 minutes.

Cook rice

Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt. Spoon the rice out into a shallow casserole or onto a tray: nothing metallic. Pour the vinegar mixture over the rice and mix with a plastic or wooden spatula or slide for 5 minutes: incorporating the vinegar and cooling the rice.

Flavour and cool rice

After 5 minutes, or when the rice is cool to the touch, prepare the tin. Line with cling wrap leaving fairly long ends to wrap the tin later on. Cover the base of the tin with the smoked salmon slices, cutting to fit. Here's where I realised my tin was a tad too big.

Line tin

Spread the wasabi over the smoked salmon, as much or as little as you like. I added another dash as I like it hot.

Wasabi and rice

Cover with the cooled rice, smoothing the top, and then the nori. Fold the cling wrap so the sushi is securely covered. Top with a piece of fairly thick card cut to the size of the tin and the weight it down. I used 2 kilos of flour and then a heavy wooden board. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

And finally

Cut into pieces and serve with a bowl of soy sauce for dipping.

Smoked salmon sushi


Friday Food: Lemon Drizzle Cake

Drizzle giftsOr Nigella's Lemon Syrup Cake. Or myriad other names.

When I am poorly, I can only wear the same combination of clothes when I go out. I wash them, and wear them the next time. I just can't think about a new combination to wear. There is something very comforting (and maybe weird) about doing that.

 

In the same way, I've made ten Drizzle cakes in the last few weeks. Once I could remember the ingredients, that's all I could make. Nothing else. So everyone had Drizzle cake, whether they liked it, or not.

This is such an easy recipe: cream butter, sugar and zest, add eggs, flour, then the milk in one fell swoop. The syrup is made from pure icing sugar, as is the drizzle, so no need to boil it.

I made some lemon and orange cakes, but you could use any citrus fruit, or combination of citrus. It is both deliciously light and moist at the same time.

One batch of cake mix fills an ordinary loaf tin, 23 x 12 x 9cm ish, but if you buy the smaller foil take-away loaf tins and mix up a double batch, it makes three cute smaller loaves. And these loaves fit perfectly into my cellophane bags- I found later on at cakes 8, 9 and 10.

 

Lemon Drizzle Cake     makes 1 loaf

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 175g caster sugar
  • zest of a lemon (or your chosen citrus fruit throught the recipe)
  • 2 eggs
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 80ml of milk

Syrup

  • juice 1 1/2 lemons
  • 100g pure icing sugar, sifted

Drizzle

  • juice of 1/2  lemon
  • 150g pure icing sugar, sifted

 

Preheat the oven to 180*C and grease and line a loaf tin (or three!!)

Creaming

Cream the butter, sugar and zest until the mixture is pale and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined.

Flour and milk

Add the sifted flour and fold in a few times, then add the milk all at once. Continue to fold in until the flour and milk are combined.

Spoon into the tin, smooth the top, and bake for 45-50 minutes, The cake will come away from the side of the tin, the top will be quite browned and a skewer poked into the centre of the cake will come out clean, with no crumbs sticking to it.

Syrup

When the cake is almost cooked, make the syrup. Put the juice and icing sugar into a saucepan and stir over a medium to high heat until the icing sugar is dissolved.

Poking holes and syrup

When the cake comes out of the oven, use a large skewer, knitting needle or some such implement, and madly poke holes all over the cake, all the way through to the bottom. The slowly pour the hot syrup over the cake, maing sure it drenches the whole surface of the top.  Let the cake cool in the tin.

Drizzle

When the loaf is cold, drizzle over the icing made by mixing the extra icing sugar and lemon juice. The icing should run easily from the spoon, so add a little more juice or water if it is too stiff. Let the icing set and then slice the cake and enjoy.

Lemon drizzle cake


Tails Of The Unexpected

Well, that was an unexpected absence. I don't know what happened. I do actually. I had a big rest after the school holidays, and then it wasn't The Last Of The Winter Whine and I had a week in bed with the cold/virus (which I still have) and then we had a terrible storm and we had no phone for nine days. Then my mum and aunt came to visit and, lo, a month had gone past and I hadn't noticed.

The storms in our state were terrible, two people were killed by falling trees, and there was so much damage to houses and roads. Before the storm reached it's height Peri and Gilly went for a walk in the very late afternoon: it was just raining too hard in the morning. It was The Most Exciting Walk Ever. They ran about in the dusk and all the smells were better in the dark. They were sooo happy and excited. You can just see their fluffy bottoms in the dark distance on the right.

Night time adventures

The dam was closed for a week and so we had other interesting walks along different roads. Interestingly the road was to the dam was closed, but people were allowed to walk along the paths beside the road. I decided that if a tree fell on the path we might not be seen, but if it happened on the road we would be found sooner. You know, just in case.....

The storm

So that's where we walked. I did check with Sandy's Dad and he walked there too. Peri and Gilly's tails worked overtime: there was so much wagging and so much sniffing.

Interesting walks

I have been making more shopping bags: for my mum and aunt, for MrsDrWho (the Supernatural one) and for The Dutches and The GardyGardeners.

Bags the bags

Tinking Bell visited for a day and we had such a lovely time. I don't have a picture of the lovely Wollemeise wool she gave me, but I shall take one. I made her a Totoro shopping bag. The Totoro is from an anime film. We had lunch and then browsed at the posh fabric shop. We drank copious amount of tea and talked twenty to the dozen!! It is always lovely to catch up with her.

Totoro bag

I also knitted a Birthday Hat for Mr Reno. I knit one every year. It is Woolly Wormhead's Chunkeanie. I haven't made a Ravelry project page yet. I used some Rowan Aran Tweed, almost 100g, on 5mm needles. You can wear it with the brim up, or down. I hate purling, so I knitted it inside out until the very cute decreases.

Mr renos hat

MrsDrWho doesn't know yet, but I have finally finished her House Warming Drinks Party Gift: a cat table runner. I saw a picture of a block and so was inspired to draw up my own pattern, which was a little different. I embroidered/quilted Meow and Purr, a ball of wool and a fish. I hope she likes it: she likes tessellations and cats so I might be on a winner.

Cat runner

I had a lovely time when my mum and aunt came to visit. We ate delicious lunches, visited the trendy garden centre, went to the market on Saturday and found a new and better contract for mum's Ipad. Yay!! Peri and Miss Lorelai Gilmore were a little neglected and for the first time for ages we missed out on a walk. I was just very tired. I don't think they minded. Mum gave them some special treats. I think, really, they were very excited. It's an Ipad picture and so it's a bit grainy. I love Gilly's inside out ear.

A treat from nanny

We have been sitting on the couch and knitting and lying in bed and reading. I have a long list of books to add to my side bar and four big new books came on Saturday. I bought a new book too.

MrsDrWho and I are off to the cinema to see Doctor Who on Sunday 24th. I have the tickets in a safe place, I've told other people where they are so I don't forget!! I am very much looking forward to seeing Peter Capaldi as The Doctor.

And now we are off to bed. We had a long nap this afternoon, and plan to have a long sleep tomorrow as well. I do have a cake ready for Friday Food, and now I've bitten the bullet and posted to my blog I plan to be here more often too: assuming no more storms and phone anomalies.