Saturday, 30 June 2012

Banana Cake

I've been home for two weeks now and it's been great. Admittedly, I've spent most of the time eating and watching movies and baking with my mum. But it has been fun.

One of the things we baked recently was this banana cake - it's a recipe of my Mum's that she's been baking for as long as I remember, and I'm glad I finally got around to taking pictures of it to share with you today. This cake is rather sweet, but the dark chocolate chips definitely add the right amount of bitterness. It is easy to make, and trust me, easy to consume.

Level of Difficulty: Easy – you just combine all the ingredients in one bowl! It doesn’t get easier.
Average Cost: $ - unless of course bananas near you are expensive. Every other ingredient is pretty common.  
Menu Options: Obviously, you can add or subtract the amount of chocolate, or change the type of chocolate. I’m sure you could add more fruit, too. I haven’t tried it, but if you want to make the recipe healthier, you could try using whole wheat flavour.
Slightly adapted from: Australian Women’s Weekly – I do mean slightly adapted.

Makes one very large banana cake – I recommend using a square tin for this cake (23 cm square cake pan) as it is rather large and rises significantly – so if using a round tin use a large, deep set one. I cut my cake into relatively small pieces, but the calorie count here is for a square cake sliced into 15 pieces.

What you need:
-          1 cup castor sugar
-          2 ¾ cups self-raising flour
-          1 tsp bicarbonate soda
-          1 cup vegetable oil
-          4 eggs
-          5 bananas – make sure they are overripe – that is when they have the best flavour
-          1 cup dark/bittersweet chocolate chips

What to do:

Preheat an oven to 160 degrees Celsius and grease your cake tin.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Place the dry ingredients in before the wet ones. Using a handheld or stand mixture, beat the ingredients together.

The ingredients should be completely combined. The mixture should be smooth and a light yellow colour – there should be very few banana chunks if the banana was mashed correctly and the mixing is complete.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate chips until they are evenly spread throughout the mixture.

Pour the mixture into your tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. When the cake is a beautiful golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean, the cake can be taken from the oven. The top of the cake may possibly split, but don’t worry, it still looks pretty.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

WIAW - a birthday lunch

Sorry I haven't really posted much in the last couple of weeks. Being home has made me infinitely more lazy and I've been spending a fair bit of time out of the house and not near the kitchen. Which means unfortunantly few recipes have been developed. So I decided I might as well participate in WIAW, as it is one of the few things I actually still do.

As usual, a huge thanks to Jenn for hosting the party - go check her out at Peas and Crayons. This week my eats are from Sunday, which was when my family had a lunch for my aunt for her birthday.

Breakfast was two pieces of wholegrain toast with apricot jam and canola spread.

When I got back from playing tennis with my Dad (I won again), I had half a small bread roll (unpictured).

Lunch was a birthday lunch, so being Italian, lasagne was obviously on the menu. Along with garlic cheese bread, an asian-ish salad, a chocolate cupcake and a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. We made two lots of cupcakes - chocolate and apple pie.

I wasn't too hungry when dinner rolled around, so I had plain oats with the best Australian honey out there.

And now I shall leave you with two plates made by me and my brother when we were in preschool. You can tell I put a lot of effort into mine and he didn't. They're quite cute plates. And yes, I did black out the name of my school.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Banana and Pineapple Pancakes

I decided to write this very early this morning as I have a big day ahead of me and I wanted to post this recipe. I am meeting up with one of my best friends from high school, and I haven't seen her in over six months, so I'm pretty excited.

Being home has been great. Especially since the high school kids are now on holidays, which means I get to see my brother and one of my best friends.

It's hard to explain this, but when I was a kid I didn't have many friends. Throughout primary school I had about three constant friends. In high school, it wasn't until Year 11 did I make a great group of friends. Well, my neighbours, who I have mentioned before, were two of those three constant friends. Will is my age, Annie is my brothers age (two years younger), and the four of us did pretty much everything together when we were younger. Sure, we fought like crazy, but we also had great fun.

I remember we used to play Bionicle games with my brother, and in return he would play mermaid games with us in the pool. We had a really epic game of mermaids once, where Will was the bad guy and Shaun was the prince. We also frequently played Harry Potter, in which I was the eldest sibling, Shaun was the middle child and Annie was the youngest. I always fell in love with Draco Malfoy when we went to Hogwarts. We also pretended we were in a movie, and played Hilary Duff loudly and pretended we were in the opening credits scene.

Being back home I've had a chance to catch up with Shaun, Annie and Will. It's been great, because while these days the boys play computer games and Annie and I go for long walks, it's just a great reminder of being young.

We also spend our time mocking bad movies. Last night we spent a very long hour and a half watching a pretty terrible movie and having the best time doing so. I don't know a lot of people who would do this, so it's great to have friends who love to do this with me.

Now, these pancakes kind of remind me of our childhood. Annie and I used to force the boys to have picnics with us, and pikelets or pancakes were usually on the menu. These definitely weren't the pancakes we could make back them - hell, back then, you couldn't make me step in a kitchen.

If you don't like pineapple, there is no need to leave it out of this recipe. My brother, who doesn't like pineapple, liked these. You can't really taste it - the pineapple more or less does the job that sugar would usually do. If you add some of the juice with the pineapple chunks, the pancakes will be sweet without the need to add sugar. The amount of fruit in these is a lot, but I swear the fruit does the job the sugar would do - these pancakes are light, sweet and fruity. Served warm with maple or golden syrup, and you have a definite winner.

Level of Difficulty: Easy – you only really need one bowl and a frypan.
Average Cost: $ - unless of course bananas near you are expensive. Every other ingredient is pretty common.  
Menu Options: You can definitely omit the pineapple if you want to, but maybe add more honey if you like sweet pancakes. You can also change the fruit around depending on what you want to eat. Like usual, this recipe is pretty basic and you can do what you like with it. These pancakes can also be frozen or placed in the fridge for future use. You should cover each pancake with foil or wrap and place in a plastic bag if freezing. To reheat, place them in the oven for a few minutes to warm up. Note that the calorie count is without the serving syrup.
Adapted from: 100 Days of Real Food

Makes 12 medium-sized pancakes.

What you need:
-          1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
-          2 tsp baking powder
-          1 ½ tsp baking soda
-          1 tsp salt
-          2 tbsp honey
-          2 eggs
-          1 ¾ cups milk
-          2 tbsp butter
-          3 bananas
-          ½ cup pineapple chunks – I would use canned pineapple chunks in juice, rather than a fresh pineapple. This is because you want to include some pineapple juice with the chunks to sweeten the batter.
-          4-6 tbsp butter for frying
-          Maple or Golden Syrup, to serve

What to do:

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients – remembering to sift all of the ingredients together.

Add the wet ingredients, and whisk together well. Prior to adding the eggs, make sure you beat them separately in a small bowl. Make sure there are no streaks of honey or egg in the mixture. It should be a thick mixture.

Mash the bananas in a small bowl and add, with the pineapple chunks, to the batter. Mix thoroughly, so the mixture is yellow in colour, and thick and chunky. Taste the batter – if not sweet enough, add more honey or pineapple juice.
Heat a frypan over medium heat. Add approximately 2 tablespoons of the frying butter – this depends on how big the frypan is, and how many pancakes you intend to make at once. The frypan I used was massive and I could easily make four pancakes at once.

Add the batter to the frypan. I used a ladle to figure out how much batter I wanted per pancake. But 2-4 heaped tablespoons would make a pancake approximately the size of mine. This will mean you should get around 12 pancakes from the batter (more or less depending on the size of your pancakes).

When the batter begins to bubble – the entire surface of the pancake is bubbling – flip the pancakes gently. The second side will take less time to cook as the pancakes should be mostly cooked through when you flip them. When each side of the pancake is golden brown, they are cooked.

Serve warm with maple or golden syrup. I have mine with fresh berries, greek yoghurt and golden syrup. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

WIAW - Back at home

Wow, I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been home and enjoying the weather and sunshine and doing as little as possible. You see, unlike the rest of the world in Winter, except for other countries close to the Equator, my little home town does not have a season that resembles winter. It actually hit 30 degrees the other day. In winter. Don't get me wrong, the mornings are cold, but by 10 o'clock, you are back to wearing shorts and t-shirts and avoiding the sun. I have sunburn. Seriously.

So here is this week's WIAW. A big thanks as usual to Jenn at Peas and Crayons for hosting this lovely event. This is my day on Sunday.

At 6 o'clock I had a lovely piece of toast with plum preserves, as I was going to play tennis with my Dad and I wanted to have eaten something. This was unpictured.

We played tennis from about 8 - 10 and came back. We made banana and pineapple pancakes for breakfast and ate these around 10:30. The recipe will be coming soon - you won't believe how healthy and filling these are! I was so sore from playing tennis - it was the first bit of exercise I had done in weeks and it certainly was a workout. I couldn't walk for two days, my shins were killing me.

Lunch was a simple ham and cheese sandwich on white bread. This is not my usual lunch - I am usually more creative. But since coming home this has been on the lunch menu every day - usually with freshly squeezed orange juice (oranges from our backyard) or milo. I know, I know, healthy, right? Makes me feel like a kid again.

Dinner was fajitas. On this baby was beef, onion, capsicum, fajita sauce, sour cream, tomato sauce and cheese. It was amazing.

And there was, surprise, a bowl of Weetbix (unpictured).

I hope you are all having a lovely week! I'm off to write a chapter of a story I'm working on. It's about time I got back into it.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Vegetarian Pasta

Things I have learnt since returning home:

- I like the weather up here in Far North Queensland - sunny, hot even in winter, no breeze, warm sun.

- I miss heated towel racks - even though its not cold, I love wrapping myself up after hot showers in warm towels.

- Little kids grow up fast. My two little cousins have all grown up now - the youngest one is so tall and can talk in proper sentences! It's so scary how quick they grow up.

- My little town now has a sushi shop. My Dad and I went there today and I had an amazing prawn and avocado roll, and my Dad had a salmon roll. We are definitely going back there.

- All the tv shows that my Mum TiVo's are now back to where they were six months ago. I have seen one particular episode three times in the past year. I am so sick of reruns. 

But onto this fabulous vegetarian pasta!

As I am writing this post, I am actually eating the leftovers from this meal - it was last nights dinner. If you don't like meat pasta, this is perfect for you. Full of fresh vegetables, in season all year around, most of which are probably in your fridge already. The vegetables aren't exactly expensive and it is an incredibly easy pasta to cook.

It is the first meal I have cooked for my family since I started the blog and actually learnt how to cook. It went over pretty well - my brother went back for seconds so it can't have been that bad!

Level of Difficulty: It’s relatively easy – it does involve a bit of chopping and stirring and the cooking time is full on.
Average Cost: $$ - there is a decent amount of ingredients here, but usually ones which are in your fridge or cupboard anyway.
Menu Options:  You can alter the veggies based on what you have on hand. You can use less onion or garlic if you don’t like it. You can change the nuts you use – but flaked almonds are the best as they are thin and cook quickly.

Serves 4.

What you need:
500 g pasta of your choice – I used wholemeal penne for me, regular spaghetti for the family. I personally prefer the taste of wholemeal pasta with these vegetables
4 tbsp butter
400 – 500 g mushrooms
3 tsp sea salt
1 large brown onion
2 tbsp crushed garlic – you can either use garlic from a bottle or use 3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 sprig of rosemary
1 zucchini
3 – 4 medium tomatoes
2 tsp dried coriander
4 tbsp flaked almonds
1 cup spinach
2 tbsp lemon juice (or to your taste) – this can either be fresh or from a bottle
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
Parmesan cheese, to serve (optional)

What to do:

Place the pasta in a pot of water and bring to the boil. Add a pinch or two of sea salt. Then lower heat and cook pasta until soft, or until you are happy with the texture. Stir frequently to avoid the pasta sticking together. This should take 20 – 30 minutes. I like my pasta soft, and I find wholemeal pasta takes longer to cook.

Over medium to high heat, melt the butter in a saucepan. Chop the mushrooms finely and place them in the saucepan with the melted butter. Add the sea salt. Cook the mushrooms for approximately three – five minutes, or until they are starting to brown. You want the mushrooms to soak up most of the butter and salt.

Dice the onion finely, and add it to the pan. Add the rosemary. Cook, stirring the onion and mushroom mixture frequently, for approximately 10 minutes.

While the mixture is cooking, dice the zucchini and tomatoes very finely. Place the diced veggies in a bowl and toss with coriander. Add to the saucepan. Cook for approximately five minutes. At this stage the veggies should mostly be cooked – the mushrooms and onions should be soft, the tomato rather squishy (for lack of a better word) and the zucchini should be starting to soften.

Add the flaked almonds to the mixture. Cook for a few more minutes, until the almonds are slightly toasted and the veggies are soft.

While the almonds are toasting, chop the spinach finely.

If the veggies finish cooking before the pasta, take them off the heat. When the pasta is ready, drain the water from the saucepan and add the veggie mixture. Also add the chopped spinach, lemon juice, basil and oregano and toss. If necessary, add more lemon juice so the vegetables stick to the pasta.

Serve hot with parmesan cheese if desired. I recommend it, the parmesan adds a lovely kick to the pasta. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

WIAW - Going Home

I am writing this post Tuesday night as tomorrow I have an incredibly busy day. I have to be up at five to finish packing, and then I have my final shift at the radio station where I am an intern and then I have to rush to the airport to catch my flight home. I cannot wait to get home tomorrow - I've missed my family tons. It is sad to be finishing my internship, I've had so much fun working with the guys there and it was a great experience. I don't know if I want to work in radio when I graduate, but it has definitely made me want to be journalist.

Also, Jamie Oliver is currently on Masterchef Australia. He is calling the girls he is competing against 'babe' and 'sweetheart' in his gorgeous accent. He is so humble, and so lovely. My roommates and I are sitting here swooning.

So, enough talking. Onto the eats for this week - and this month WIAW is focusing on sensible snacking. As usual, to check out other WIAW, go to our lovely hosts website - Peas and Crayons. Thanks for hosting Jenn!

Breakfast: Peanut butter, banana and honey on wholemeal toast

Lunch: Brown rice and salmon, followed by fresh cut pineapple and the last of my sugar coated almonds

Snack (unpictured): Weetbix and a little bit of brownie

Dinner: I tried a new pasta tonight - if you want the detailed recipe let me know! It involves whole wheat pasta, zucchini, tomato, sauteed mushrooms, spinach, flaked almonds, and good amounts of garlic, lemon juice and onion (and good herbs - basil, rosemary, oregano and coriander). Topped with parmesan, obviously.

Dessert: Greek yoghurt with a healthy oatmeal chocolate chip cookie (Skinnytaste recipe slightly adapted) and a brownie. It is possible another brownie was consumed after the photo was taken. I am sorry about biting the brownie - I got ahead of myself.

I think overall I did a pretty good job - four lots of veggies, two lots of fruit, a good amount of dairy and whole grains. Maybe a little too much sugar was consumed for my tastes - I shouldn't have had the brownies after dinner, but overall, I think I did sensibly snack.

Hope you are all having a fantastic week! 

Monday, 11 June 2012

The Best Brownies - one bowl, fudgy, double chocolate brownies

I'm pretty excited I get to go home on Wednesday. I haven't been home in six months, so this is exciting. I have been lucky enough to see both my parents in this time, but not my brother. We talk mostly to send each other funny things we have found on the internet. But lately I've actually had conversations with him and its cool - my roommates have been so busy studying lately I'm glad I've had him to talk to. It's going to be good to see him again - I've already planned out some stuff to bake - he's not big on sweet things, so this was hard.

He sent me this picture and said he thought of us when he saw it:

I'm not sure what to say to that.

Also my roommates introduced me to this incredibly funny tumblr - whatshouldwecallme. Seriously, go check it out. These are three of my favourite gifs (mostly because they apply directly to my life):
- My relationship with my siblings
- When you're alone in public
- When I see someone eyeing my food

Also the entire time I've been writing this post I have been listening to the same two songs. And singing along. Loudly. My roommates probably want to kill me. 

I thought, given the insane number of brownie recipes I have bookmarked, it was about time I actually did one. This recipe is pretty much a combination of most recipes out there - I've made it about every second day for the last couple of weeks, and I can assure you of its brilliance.

These are one bowl brownies, quick to both make and bake, and deliciously rich. You can use a microwave to melt the butter and chocolate - hell, I advocate doing it this way instead of taking your time over the stove. No need to mess around here. They are dense, fudgy and not remotely like cake. There is a lot of chocolate, but less sugar than in some other brownies. Also, use the best chocolate out there - at least 75% cocoa. This means the chocolate does all the talking in these brownies. They are very rich - just how I like them!

This will probably be the first thing I make my brother when I get home on Wednesday. They are perfect if you are craving chocolate or need to whip up something quickly for a party or an afternoon snack.

And I swear - these are way better than any package mix (and package mix brownies are my guilty pleasure). I hope I did a good job selling these in the title of the post, and in the post itself, because I swear, if there is one unhealthy thing from this blog you should treat yourself to - it is these. You won't regret it.

Level of Difficulty: Super easy – they are one bowl!
Average Cost: $ - the good chocolate is often expensive though – I buy a ton of blocks when they are on special. I admit people do stare at me when I load my trolley with chocolate blocks.
Menu Options: You can change the recipe rather easily – the amount of chocolate and chocolate chips can be changed to suit your taste. If you prefer milk/sweet chocolate, you can change the type of chocolate.

Makes 21 small brownies – this is how I cut them to restrict how many I eat, but you can cut them into however many brownies you want.

What you need:
-          100 – 200 g dark chocolate - depending on how rich you want these. In all honesty, I use 200 g of 85% cocoa chocolate. Use unsweetened or ‘dark’ chocolate. For the best results, make sure the chocolate is at least 75% cocoa.
-          ¾ cup butter
-          ½ cup brown sugar
-          1 cup sugar
-          3 eggs
-          1 tsp vanilla
-          1 cup flour
-          1 tsp salt
-          ½ cup of dark chocolate bits (unsweetened chocolate bits work best)

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Grease a brownie pan and line it with parchment paper. I always advise this because it so easy to remove the brownies from the pan.

Break up the chocolate and place in a large, microwave proof bowl with the butter. Microwave the butter and chocolate in 30 second increments until the butter and chocolate have melted together.

In the same bowl, provided it is large enough, add the sugars. Whisk until the mixture is well combined.

Add the eggs and vanilla at once and whisk until well combined.

Sift the flour and salt into the mixture and using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture together. Be careful here not to overmix the brownie batter. You want to mix until the last of the flour strands are fading because you will mix the mixture again in a minute.

Stir the chocolate bits into the mixture. This won’t require a lot of stirring – make sure the chocolate bits are evenly spread throughout the mixture and there are no flour streaks.

Pour the batter, which should be heavy and thick, into a brownie pan. Place in the oven and cook for 20 – 25 minutes. Keep an eye on the brownies after 20 minutes because you don’t want the edge of the brownies to burn. The mixture may seem slightly undercooked when you first take it out of the oven, but once it has cooled the brownies remain fudgy yet firm.

Allow the brownies to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Of course, I rarely follow this advice. Usually I take the brownies out of the oven and cut them and then burn my mouth when I eat them straight away. These would make the great basis of a sundae when hot (and cut into larger squares then usual) – paired with ice cream and caramelised bananas. I find these brownies are amazing hot and would make a perfect dessert, if cut into bigger sizes. They are pretty good at room temperature – not quite as brilliant as when the chocolate bits melt in your mouth. But once cooled completely and put in the fridge, they are dense, fudgy and still rich. And better than any package mix. They make the perfect snack, and if cut into 21 small pieces like I suggest, you will be able to stop yourself from eating too many.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Salmon and Potato Pizzas

I wonder what it says about my personality that my two bookmarks with the most pages bookmarked are 'pasta' and 'brownies'.

I also wonder what it says about my personality that today, at one of the best markets in Australia (in my opinion, and I have been to a few markets), I bought no things, just food. Dutch pancakes, so light and fluffy, drowned in maple syrup. Sugar roasted almonds, so sweet and crunchy. Two bagels, claimed to be as good as those in New York (this was claimed by an actual New Yorker buying them in front of me). Raw honey, made by a woman who kept bees in her backyard. Mango chutney, homemade with Indian spices for a tang. Greek yoghurt, made with half goats cheese yoghurt, by a woman who bred the goats and made the yoghurt at her home.

In my defence, I did not eat all of this in one day - obviously the honey, chutney, almonds and one bagel is leftover. Obviously.

Now this pizza here; it is refreshingly easy, wholesome and wonderfully sweet. There is a delicious crunchiness to the dish, as the base is thin and nutty. The potatoes are soft, yet slightly crunchy, while the cheese melts over the pizza. The salmon is light, refreshing and sweet, contrasting with the hard taste of the base and potato.

I cannot tell you how much I want you to make this. It is absolutely wonderful. It is even roommate approved, and I had one roommate never eat salmon until I made this.

Level of Difficulty: Easy – slicing the potatoes is the hardest part of this.
Average Cost: $$$ - damn you, salmon. Of course the cost depends on the type of salmon you get. If you buy real, fresh salmon, it is incredibly costly. If you are like me and buy frozen salmon which requires you to cook the salmon in the microwave for a few minutes, it’s much more affordable. The salmon I buy involves no cooking, but trust me, it doesn’t taste as bad as it sounds.
Menu Options: You can change the cheese, you can add other types of cheese, more oil, change the type of base, etc. Like most of my recipes, this is very simple, not so much a recipe as more of a throw-together kind of meal, and is definitely something I recommend trying this way first. Like all my recipes, it can be changed easily and to your taste. This will, of course, change the nutritional values.
Adapted from:

Makes 4 pizzas.

What you need:
-          4 wholemeal pita breads
-          Canola oil spray (other ones will work too)
-          4 -6 potatoes, depending on size and how many potatoes you want on your pizzas
-          3 tsp dried thyme
-          3 tsp dried rosemary
-          1 cup grated low-fat mozzarella cheese
-          2 – 4 salmon fillets, depending on size (I used 3, and mine were average sized fillets)
-          2 tbsp sour cream
-          1 tbsp  lemon juice
-          4 tsp oregano

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Place the pita breads on a tray and spray them each with canola oil.

Thinly slice the potatoes and arrange them on the pita breads so the slices overlap or closely touch.

Divide the thyme and rosemary over the four pizzas. Be sure to spread the herbs evenly over each individual pizza.

Divide the cheese over the pizza. Ensure the cheese covers all the potato.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes. Check frequently from 10 minutes on, to make sure the cheese and pita bread doesn’t burn, but you want to make sure the potatoes are cooked through. Remove from oven when cheese is golden and bubbly, potatoes are tender and base is crisp and not burnt.

Meanwhile, cook the salmon fillets over medium heat in a frypan. Season with salt and lemon and cook for 3 minutes on each side or until the salmon is cooked through and tender. I personally buy packaged salmon which requires 2 – 3 minutes in the microwave to cook. You can do either method – this is how I cook salmon if I buy real salmon, but I don’t do that often (okay, so I’ve only done it once), and this is how I cook frozen salmon. The point is cook the salmon however you want or however instructed to by the package.

Using a fork, flake the cooked salmon into chunks.

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and lemon juice and mix until well combined.

Remove the pizzas from the oven and divide the salmon chunks equally between the pizzas. There should be a lot of salmon on each pizza. Also divide the sour cream mix between the pizzas. Finally, top each pizza with a teaspoon of oregano, spread over the surface.

Serve hot.