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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gingerbread Houses, Tea & Teachers Gifts

written by: bel

I have done my Teacher Gifts!  Feeling organised - a little early yes but i know i just wont have the time in December so better early than not at all.

Thank you to the lovely people at Nature's Cuppa for sponsoring this post and sending me some Organic Tea's to try and include with my gifts. 

Before you jump to it, this wasn't as easy as i hoped.  I've made many a Gingerbread House and iced cookies but i found these so much more fiddlier and it took a lot more time than usual. I also had a complete disaster with icing just not setting on a really humid day, which i eventually gave up on and started from scratch the next day (sometimes that's just easier).   Make sure your measurements are right and if you can find mugs with straight sides not slightly angled like mine (the houses will sit so much better).

Firstly make yourself a cup of tea!   I started with the Organic Ceylon loose leaf for Teapots. Its recommended for breakfast and "kick-starting the day" yep its full bodied and flavoursome.

You need your gift Mugs and Templates.  Wide rimmed mugs are good and straight sided ones will support your house.  I bought these ones ages ago they're not the best for this but i loved them so.
Take measurements of your mug and design your templates. Keep in mind the depth and width of the doorways where you house will sit on the mug. Also remember to make the roof length long enough to cover and slightly go over your house once built.

Then you are ready to mix your batch of Gingerbread.     You’ll need another Tea! I tried the  the Organic Chai from Natures Cuppa. Not usually the one i choose but i opened the box and the cinnamon, ginger and  fragrant spices jumped out and smacked me in the face so its a good one to pep you up ready for hours of work on a Gingerbread house.

250g butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup golden syrup
2 egg yolks (keep the whites for your icing)
5 cups plain flour, sifted
2 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tbs ground ginger
1 tbs ground mixed spice

Lay your templates and cut them with a ruler and knife making sure they are cut straight.
Put your Trays in the fridge for a few minutes it reduces the spreading of the dough in cooking.
Make extras just in case.  I needed four houses - I made gingerbread for eight houses, built six and broke one so not too bad.  If you’re like me it gives you something to nibble on.

While these are baking whip up your icing.
I use this icing but there is plenty of others around.

2 Egg Whites (left over from my gingerbread)
1Tsp Liquid Glucose
3 Cups pure icing sugar

Before you start icing make sure you have everything you need and your house pieces are completely cool.  Check your end pieces haven’t spread too much during cooking and can still fit on the mug. You might be able to trim them down slightly with a knife if you need to.

Another cup of Tea?  How about Nature's Cuppa Earl Grey?  This has a strong flavour and i don't know if it was me but it smelt a little citrussy ?  

I constructed mine by starting with one side and the two ends. Propping them up with the baking paper/wrap roll boxes. Leave to dry and then I attached the other side. 

Once it was dry i turned them on side and decorated it and then when dried turned them over and did the other side.

Same applies for the back and front. Turn on one end and back on the other once dry.

The roof goes on last. 

Then you can add your little finishing touches little glitter sprinkles on the roof. Which you have to do whilst its wet of course so have them ready.

The only other thing i did was a candy heart on the front.

Leave them all to dry completely and have a cup of tea.  This time Peppermint! my favourite tea and Natures Cuppa did not fail to deliver here.  I'll be buying this one from now on for sure.

Whilst they are drying I did up my tea parcels.

Two of Each Flavour:  Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Ceylon, Peppermint, Green & Chai. 
I wrapped them in seal-able plastic bags to keep them fresh.

Put the tea in the mugs attach the little house and a note saying Merry Christmas and Thanks to you TEAcher and you're done.  I wrapped all mine in clear cellophane bought in rolls from my local cheap shop.  

If you do give it a go please let me know I'd love to know how you went. 
I did these over a couple of nights, after the kids went to bed.  It took me around five hours from template to wrapping.  

Good Luck.

Natures Cuppa

Nature's Cuppa is certified organic by the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) and NOP (USDA) Regulation certified by Control Union Certification.

Nature's Cuppa tea is certified Fairtrade®. Fairtrade® means better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fairer terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.

I really enjoyed these teas, my favourites being the Peppermint and the English Breakfast. I was also pretty impressed with the Chai.  It is one i usually pass on but i have enjoyed more than one cup of this tea, I will probably buy this one.

Natures Cuppa teas are pretty readily available in your regular supermarkets. You can also buy online.   


Monday, October 22, 2012

Homemade Baby Rusks Recipe

Homemade Baby Rusks

Baby rusks annoy me.
I hate paying for food that goes straight to the floor.
I hate paying for food that is really average and i know i could cook better.
Rusks are boring!  There is not a lot of flavour, smell, textures - nothing.
So I made my own :)

1 cup Quick Oats
1 cup Almond Meal
1 cup Mashed Banana
3 tbl spoons Olive Oil (or something else)
1 tbl spoon Self Raising flour
1/2 tbl spoon Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Cinnamon Ground
1/4 tsp Mixed Spice

Mix all up and pour into baking paper lined slice tin.  Bake for 1 hr at 180 degrees celcius
Lift out baking paper from slice tin and cut the slice in rusk size fingers.  Put the baking paper on a cookie tray and lay the fingers on leaving spaces between them.  Put them back in the oven for another 45mins or so pending on how thick you cut them.  The middle of the rusks should be cooked.
Take them out and lay on cooling racks, they will go hard once cooled.
Pop into snap lock bags and keep in the freezer until needed.

As with other Rusks and Biscuits these do break down so don't leave your baby unattended with one as it may be a choking hazard.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pikelets Recipe

written by: bel

Piklets are so easy once you've got the right recipe!  

Here is my normal pikelet recipe. they're light and fluffy and can be made the night before you need them just leave them in air tight container on bench not in fridge.

1 cup milk
2/3 cup castor sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup SR flour
1/2 teaspoon Bicarb
1 tablespoon butter melted

Whisk up the milk, sugar and vanilla till its a little frothy.
Add in flour and bicarb then the egg.
Lastly the butter and whisk it all up.

The batter will be quite thick but that's ok that's what makes them fluffy :)

You can double it or triple it no worries and you can keep the batter for a day in the fridge just give it a good whisk before using.

Milo Magic Pikelets

Firstly can you keep this one to yourself because this is the one i take to play dates and things and if everyone knows it then i'll have to find something else, ta.
Make as above but add 2 tablespoons of Milo :)
when you cook them keep and eye out because its harder to tell if they are cooked and you don't want to burn them.

too easy !

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lego Cookies

I made some Lego inspired cookies for a gorgeous little boy's first birthday.
Here's how it went.

Basic Biscuit:

185g Butter - softened
3/4 cup Caster Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
2 cups Plain Flour

Mix the sugar,butter and vanilla till creamy.
Then the egg, keep mixing.
Slowly add the flour.

Bake 170 degrees celcius fan forced for approx 15 mins.  As soon as they start changing colour around the edges its time to remove.

This will make one batch. you can double it if you need lots of cookies. 

I used a basic cookie dough recipe which i rolled into a rectangular shape about 2mm thick.

Then i used a plastic ruler and a sharp knife and made rectangles of the same size. If it wasn't a perfect rectangle it got scrapped and rolled out again.  Make more than you'll need.

Baked them as per normal and while they were cooling i made and coloured my Royal Icing.
I always use pastes or gels for colouring, these give me the best finishes.

Lay the cookies out on trays or racks that they can stay on and one colour batch at a time cover just the base rectangle.  I went around all the outsides of the rectangles then went back and filled them spreading the icing evenly with a toothpick & teaspoon.

By the time you finish the last of the third colour batch if you're lucky (usually depends on temperature of your room etc)your first batch will be touch dry.

Here i piped on the dots.  This is the best way.  I tried baking the cookies with chocolate buds, chips, smarties, mm's and reeses and they didn't work well when it came to the icing part.

Keep your icing bag on the icing and try not to get any air bubbles in them or when they dry they will have little holes in them.   use your extras that you made to practice.

Leave them all to dry. when they start drying if you find a couple of ones drying with holes in them i was able to scrape that particular dot off without too much mess and re do.

Leave them to dry for a few hours. Make sure you hide them and don't leave them on the kitchen table so when you get up in four hours time you don't discover your four year old has eaten ten blue ones because they were his favourite!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Super Easy Halloween Cookies

Super Easy Halloween Cookies 

written by: bel

Make a batch of basic cookie dough
Split into two and put in separate bowls
Colour each batch.  I used colour pastes food colouring
Once you have you colour pop your doughs in the fridge for ten mins to firm up a little.
Pic. 1.  Roll in long snakes and then flatten with rolling pin.  (don't forget to flour your surface and rolling pin)
Pic 2. Layer your doughs on top of each other
Pic 3 & 4. Roll again length ways
Pic 5.  Cut into little discs & bake (watch them you don't want them to go brown and change the colours)
Pic 6. Halloween cookies :)

I've also made Rainbows which you can see here

Basic Biscuit:

185g Butter - softened
3/4 cup Caster Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
2 cups Plain Flour

Mix the sugar,butter and vanilla till creamy.
Then the egg, keep mixing.
Slowly add the flour.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Semi-Dried Tomatoes - Oven & Dehydrator Recipe

So many people have asked me for this recipe - I love it thanks 

Please let me know if you do give it a go 

Use good firm fresh tomatoes.

You need a baking tray with a wire cooling rack on it. You can use the racks in your oven pending on how wide the bars are remember the tomato will shrink up so it may fall through the gap, place a tray underneath.
*  Pre heat your oven to 140 Celsius with the fan on.
*  Slice your tomatoes about 2mm thick  if you are using Roma's slice them length ways.
*  Lay them on the cooling rack don't over lap any.  You can place Basil, Oregano or Tarragon leaves with them and you can Salt & Pepper if you wish (i usually add the tomatoes to a dish that has S&P so I don't do it here)
*  Put tomatoes in the oven. Pending on your oven will take about 3hrs you want them shrivelled but not completely dried, still a little juicy in middle.
*  Wait till they have completely cooled and store in really clean (sterilise if you can) airtight jar. Top up with Olive Oil and dried herbs.
*  Keep in the fridge. I usually throw out after about three weeks.

This is how I do mine now.  I wanted a dehydrator for ages but couldn't justify the $100+ on another kitchen gadget then I found one on sale one day for $40 and its been excellent I am using it all the time.

*  Slice tomatoes about 2mm thick and place evenly no overlapping on the trays.
*  You can Salt & Pepper the tomatoes if you wish (i usually add the tomatoes to a dish that has S&P so I don't do it here)
*  You can add Basil, Oregano or Tarragon leaves to the trays too.
*  Set temperature to 70 degrees Celsius and leave for about 12hrs.
*  You want dried shrivelled tomatoes but still a little juicy in middle.
*  Store in really clean (sterilise if you can) airtight jar. Top up with Olive Oil and dried herbs.
*  Keep in the fridge. I usually throw out after about three weeks.

 Happy Cooking x

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Banana Bread - Slow Cooker Recipe

Well if you've been following me along you'd know i currently have no oven.  
This is indeed an inconvenience but for me its almost a tragedy!  
I accepted the challenge to see if i can live without for a while which is fine except we had so many bananas in our freezer!  (Does your family go on phases with food too? one week I can't keep up the banana supply then they all of the sudden stop eating them and i have ten bananas just sitting there)

So I have played around and come up with a Banana Bread recipe for the Slow Cooker.
(I know there is plenty of them around but i like to make up my own  :)

4 medium mashed Bananas 
2 1/2 cup Self Raising Flour
1 cup Almond Meal
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
3 whisked Eggs
200 grams Butter
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 cup Milk
1 tsp Mixed Spice
extra butter to grease your dish

Soften your Butter and mix in large bowl with your Brown Sugar.
Add your egg little bit at a time mixing it in well
Add a cup of the Flour mix it in then tip in rest with the Baking Powder and Mixed Spice.
Add the Milk and mix really well.
Add the Almond Meal and the mashed Bananas stir them in.
You should have a fairly thick smooth batter.

Grease your dish well.

Tip you batter in and cook on High for approx 2 1/2hrs.
This will depend on thickness of you batter and your slow cooker temps.

I cut a piece of baking paper for the base.
It stops it sticking which has happened a couple of times even though i greased well.

I turn my dish around halfway through cooking i have found one side cooks faster than the other.

Mash your Bananas flat in the freezer bag before you freeze them.
They're easier to store in the freezer and only take minutes to defrost.

If you don't have Mixed Spice just use Cinnamon or Nutmeg.

Don't take the lid off whilst cooking. If you really can't help yourself then lift the lid straight up and away so you don't drop condensation onto the loaf :)

Make a cup of Coffee and Enjoy !

Natures Cuppa have sponsored my "Teachers Gifts" Blog post this year.
Follow my Blog or my Facebook page to see that later this month.

Natures Cuppa Organic Coffee is available in Supermarkets right now.
Stay tuned for my review on their Tea range - I am so loving their teas'