Friday, November 29, 2013

Strawberry and Coconut Cake

I never ever thought it would happen in our house.  But I had an over supply of strawberries.  It was time to make a Vanilla Strawberry Cake.  But unfortunately, the beautiful bottle of pure organic vanilla extract I brought a few weeks ago for a small fortune went walkabout and was no where to be found.  Lucky I came across this recipe in my local newspaper and it saved my cake baking day.

A beautiful cake and perfect for summer.  The kids ate theirs as is, but the hubby ate his with vanilla ice cream.  Its good.

500g strawberries, hulled and sliced
150g softened butter
3/4 lightly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (I obviously didn't have this, so used strawberry essence instead)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 20cm round baking tin with baking paper.

Put the softened butter and brown sugar in a food processor and process until soft and creamy. Add the eggs, vanilla and cinnamon and process until just mixed.

Add the flour, baking powder, coconut and milk.  Pulse briefly until combined.

Spoon two thirds of the mixture into the prepared tin and spread evenly.  Scatter the sliced strawberries over the batter and then drop spoonfuls of the remaining batter over the berries.

Place the cake in the middle of the oven and bake for 40 - 50 minutes until cooked.

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before lifting out and leave to cool before serving.

I did eventually find the missing bottle of vanilla.  It was hanging out in the jug of the juicer at the bottom of the cupboard.  It must be time to clean out my pantry.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Activity Advent Calendar

The 1st of December is looming.  My favourite time of year.  I played Christmas Carols today. Loud.  Very loud in fact.  And while I sang out of tune in my happy place, I worked out our activities for our Advent Calender.  This worked so well for us last year and I am excited to get started again.

I'll be using the same labels as last year - found here.

So in date order, our list goes:

  1. Put up the Christmas Tree
  2. Read the Christmas Story from Luke 2
  3. Donate cat and dog food to the SPCA
  4. Decorate Mini Gingerbread Houses
  5. Decorate your bedroom windows
  6. Make Christmas Chocolate
  7. Watch a Christmas movie
  8. Go to the Hamilton Santa Parade
  9. Decorate Paper Christmas Trees
  10. Decorate T.Shirts to wear on Christmas Day
  11. Make Reindeer Food (instructions and free printable here)
  12. Make a purchase for the KMart Wishing Tree
  13. Make Peppermint Playdough (recipe here)
  14. Go for a drive to see the Christmas lights
  15. Visit Santa and get a photo
  16. Make Santa bread - instructions here
  17. Go and visit Great Grandma
  18. Take funny photos in our homemade Christmas Photo Booth
  19. Bless Daddy Night (will interview the children about Dad, cook him a special dinner and thank him for being such an awesome Daddy)
  20. Go see the Christmas Drive-In Movie (in Hamilton only - details here)
  21. Go see Trees at the Meteor (again Hamilton only - details here)
  22. Make cookies and deliver to the neighbours
  23. Go Candy Cane Gifting (idea from here - kids are going to bomb people with Christmas cheer)
  24. Put out milk, cookies and Reindeer food
Hurry up already December!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Herman the German Friendship Cake

I came home from a weekend away in Napier with an ice cream container full of Herman starter. If you haven't been introduced to the wonder that is Herman, read all about him here.

I've lovingly stirred and fed him, and finally he was ready for baking.  I choose, from the above link, a Chocolate and Orange flavour.

It was a strange mix to be working with, and once cooked it resembled more of a giant cookie than a cake.

It was different - nice, with quite a strong sourdough flavour.  The hubby must of liked it as he ate half of it in one sitting.  He does like sourdough though.  The kids ate it, and as I always say that is a good sign!

I haven't shared my Herman starter yet with anyone, so have plenty more to experiment with.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Making Marshmallows

Marshmallows are the only 'sweet' that I can make.  Anything that requires soft ball, hard ball stages etc just seem to be a no go zone for me.  I have never successfully made fudge, unless its a microwave version, and have nearly burnt my house down trying to make toffee.  I even have a special sugar thermometer.  It doesn't seem to help me much.

But I have mastered marshmallows.  And they are good.   I couldn't not share as with Christmas just around the corner, these marshmallows with peppermint essence added and rolled in toasted coconut would make the sweetest gift.

2 Tablespoons edible gelatin
2 cups caster sugar (I used normal sugar this time as had no caster sugar and it turned out fine)
Essence and/or food colouring of choice

Sprinkle the gelatin over half a cup of water in a bowl and set aside.

Combine the caster sugar with 1 cup of water in a large saucepan and stir constantly over a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved.  Add the thickened gelatin mix to the saucepan and mix until combined.

Increase to a medium heat, bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes without stirring.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a heat proof bowl.  Leave to cool until just warm, add any essences at this stage if using them, and then beat for 10 minutes until very thick and peaks form. I use my Kenwood on high, and just walk away to leave it to do its thing.

Add any food colouring and beat to combine.  Pour into a lined 18 x 26 cm slice pan and chill until set. The easiest way to cut this is to use a wet knife.  You can then roll the cut squares into toasted coconut or just eat it as it is.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Clay Christmas Decorations

I want to incorporate more white decorations on our tree this year, without paying a fortune for a half dozen ornaments mass produced in China.  I've seen some great ideas on Pinterest using Salt Dough, but to be honest, I just have bad memories of soggy Salt Dough from when I was a child and just didn't really want to go there again.

A quick trip to Spotlight and I was home with air drying Jovi Clay.  It promised to be really easy to use, not too sticky, not strong smelling and should only take 24 hours to dry.  Perfect.

I am by no means a sculptor, so simple was the way to go.  Cue the cookie cutters, rubber stamps, ink, a drinking straw and a rolling pin.

I am stoked with how they turned out, especially the deer.  I only brought a small packet of Jovi, so am definitely going to get more and do some mass producing of my favourite designs.  Especially now I am the proud owner of a deluxe, worthy of a heart attack when I saw the price tag, huge 7ft Christmas tree that my darling hubby brought me the other night.  This baby can be filled with a heap of decorations.

I did let the kids, hubby and a friend have a turn.

I have to admit I may of turned into one of those scary growly possessive of my craft, type people at this point.  But I got through it without too much snarky behavior.  I think.  I didn't share my rolling pin though.

Can't wait to see these strung up on the tree.  Ohhh, love the festive season.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Op Shopping - Scores of Goodness

Its been a good few weeks for me in the local op shops.  Scores of summer clothes for the children, clothes for myself, books galore, coat hangers, fabric, Christmas decorations and a new tea cup. Most of the clothing got absorbed into the washing basket straight away, but I did manage capture these cute T.Shirts for The Girl before they too found their way into the abyss of washing.

Buying second hand clothes for the children is just awesome, especially for Danger Mouse and The Girl who seem to be unable to stay clean for even an hour.

2 metres of pretty fabric.

Bollywood!  Thought I would start a new collection.  I love Bollywood movies.

Books for the kids.  Some of the Golden Collection ones are in great condition so will be stocking fillers.  Also picked books up for me - I love the .50c table at Habitat For Humanity.

 Bag of Christmas goodies and a great tin.  I only brought the bag for the Angel, so most of this stuff will probably be re gifted back to the op-shop I brought them from.

And my tea cup trio - Colclough.  I brought this in a market in Napier last weekend. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Rather Rustic Bird Feeder

Danger Mouse mentioned on Friday he wanted to make a bird feeder.  We randomly found a pine cone in a car park in Taupo yesterday so it was only appropriate it came home with us to start a new life as a bird feeder.

He told me how to make it.  Roll it in peanut butter and then roll it in bird seed.  "I saw it on TV Mum, Oso the Bear made one"... gotta give that annoying little bear some credit then.

He did the whole lot himself, apart from the tying on of the string and the attachment to the tree.  It got rather messy.  Next time I know to make them outside.

Although I am seriously doubting its ability to function as a bird feeder while Oscar the Cat is about .....

Linking in with other mummies here.