Saturday, April 28, 2012

Choc-Banana Cupcakes

The last banana cupcakes that I posted were good, but these are better. Actually, they're probably the best banana cupcakes every made. The last ones were really just my banana cake recipe poured into cupcake tins. And decorated in a cute way. Though now I have gone back and changed that recipe a bit so that it is more like this one, because I don't want people to be following a recipe of mine that isn't perfect. These ones are very much like the Elmo cupcakes, with pudding mix used for extra flavour, plus some cocoa powder for that little bit of extra chocolatey indulgence. Then there is the amazing chocolate frosting that I have commandeered from the the Chocolate Wasted Cake. They are so soft and fluffy and banana-y and the frosting is rich and not too sweet - it's lucky they are cupcakes because then you are limited to a small portion. If this was a proper cake I would definitely have cut myself a huge slice, and then I would have regretted it because I eat far too much sugar as it is.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Couscous Salad

Now the the weather is getting warmer and the days longer it seems like the evening meal should be something a bit lighter. I love salads that are so packed full that they are not just a side but can be the main dish. It appeals to my laziness - this particular meal only uses on bowl and one pan. A lot of people might not think that anything with the word salad can be a full meal, but the addition of bacon in this one puts a halt to pretty much all complaints. The courgette is cooked until it is really soft and tender and the couscous is cooked in stock so that it adds flavour as well as texture. I had some pine nuts in the cupboard so they were added to the mix for a bit of crunch and what you are left with is a salad that you just can't get enough of.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chocolate ANZAC Cookies

It's ANZAC day tomorrow! In New Zealand and Australia it's already ANZAC day and soon people will be getting up for the dawn service. I have no idea why we have to commemorate our veterans at dawn, and personally I have never done it, but I'm sure they appreciate it. On this side of the world ANZAC day is just another excuse for expats to get together and behave badly from what I've heard, as if it's actually a day for celebration instead of a serious occasion in which we are supposed to remember how our troops were slaughtered on multiple occasions. I went to Gallipoli one year, before ANZAC day, and the rows of garishly-coloured seating were already being set up - I'm glad I wasn't there for the actual day because it would be so terrible crowded. It was much nicer to do the tour while it was quiet and be able to take in the gorgeous scenery. What I do take part in for ANZAC day is wearing a poppy (though I am not actually buying one for a charitable cause because I'm all the way over here in Ireland) and making ANZAC cookies! They are a great cookie, full of oats, coconut and golden syrup. When I share them with people here they can't understand what I am calling them, partially because of my accent and partially because they don't know the word, so then I explain ANZAC day to them and that these cookies were sent all the way from NZ and Aussie to troops on the front line. Apparently they last really well. They don't in my house though because I eat them all before I have the chance to see how well they keep. I already have a recipe for ANZAC cookies on here though, plus a slice version of the cookie, so this time I'm going to mix it up and try to make them chocolatey. I saw a recipe for chocolate ANZACs somewhere else so I know that it has been done before but I'm just going to take my usual recipe and chocolate it up.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Stew For Spring

There have been far too many sugary treats this week and it's high time I posted about some real food. I like meals that I can cook in bulk so that when I come home from a long day at work, and especially if I have been playing sports, I can just throw a bowl of whatever is waiting into the microwave. What has been keeping me going recently is an Irish-inspired stew (it's Irish because it contains beer and potatoes). I used lamb because it's spring and there's lots of it on the supermarket shelves at the moment, but you could use any stewing meat. There was a bottle of beer in the fridge and again, doesn't really matter what sort of beer it is. To be really Irish you could use stout but maybe the taste would be really strong. I don't actually like beer so I was worried how the stew would taste, but after about an hour of simmering the boozy smell had disappeared. I know a stew is meant to be sort of watery (I think a lot of my soups should probably more correctly be called stews actually) but I like gravy so when the stew was nearly cooked I thickened it up with plenty of cornflour and so here I give you a recipe for what is essentially meat and vegetables in gravy. Yum.



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwich Cookies

It's improvisation time for bloggers everywhere that take in the Improv challenge, with this month's ingredients being peanut butter and jelly (i.e., jam). There's probably lots of random things that you can do with peanut butter and jam, but I had been intending to make peanut butter cookies for quite awhile now, so I figured that there was definitely room there for some jam improvisation. So I decided to make thin, soft peanut butter cookies and sandwich them together with raspberry jam. Only not just with jam, that's not enough. I thought of making a buttercream frosting with jam in it, but then decided that maybe my sandwich cookies could have two layers? Thick and creamy vanilla buttercream and bright red raspberry jam, between two sweet and salty peanut butter cookies. They were very yummy. But they are so rich it's sickening. I recommend sharing them, because more than one of these at a time will probably leave you with a tummy ache.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies, Revisited

My first blog post was one year ago and everybody else seems to celebrate their 'blogiversary' so I am too. I am not making myself cupcakes though, because while I love cupcakes, they are not my favourite. My favourite is the thing that I have been baking since I don't know when, that my Mum used to bake when we were kids and I just took over at some point: Chocolate Chip Cookies! I have been making these for so long that I know the recipe by heart and can whip up a batch in about 10 minutes. This recipe is the basis for all the other cookie recipes that I make up and is one of those recipes that often turns out completely different depending on your oven, your flour and baking powder, how well you mix the ingredients and a whole bunch of other factors. Mine used to always be flat and crispy but these days they are more compact - I think that's something to do with being in Ireland, the ingredients here must be slightly different. These cookies can have loads of chocolate or hardly any and it is difficult to keep them for any length of time because they are just so good that they get eaten right away.



Friday, April 13, 2012

Rhubarb Strawberry Pie

This week at the supermarket bunches of rhubarb were only 29 cents. That is so cheap! I had to buy some, how could I pass it up? But what to do with it? Well, first there was this recipe that I saw a while back, Rhubarb Strawberry Pie.Then there was this cooking demonstration that I saw at the Galway Food Festival by the wee cafe that is below my apartment building (that I have never actually been to), which was a demonstration in making shortcrust pastry. Which I can do and have done before. So it was decided. I had to make rhubarb strawberry pie. Only, who do I make the pie for? Everybody went away for easter. I guess the pie is just for me. Perhaps I can put slices in the freezer and then have pie anytime that I want? Although there was so much fruit that I have enough filling for another pie and that is already sitting in the freezer. Which is perfect because this pie was absolutely amazing! It is so much better than apple pie, the two are not even comparable, this is so good that I could eat the whole lot at once. It is tart yet but still sweet and creamy. I will be making it again very soon.



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chicken Lasagna

After a long day at work and a couple of hours of playing sports what you really need to come home to is a good meal. Like lasagna. It has rich tomato sauce. It has creamy cheese sauce. It has meat and pasta. How much better can it get? This is the third different lasagna recipe that I now have on this blog and there is at least one more to come, maybe two. Maybe more. They are all different. The butternut lasagna was very mild and creamy and my classic lasagna recipe is what most people would expect a lasagna to be. This one uses a tomato sauce that is packed full of vegetables, a creamy parmesan cheese sauce and a layer of chicken that has been cooked with garlic and basil.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Cookies

A couple of years ago I was in Vienna for Easter and I wanted to make some sort of treat for my friends. I had an idea but I wasn't sure if it would work because there don't seem to be any other recipes like this out there. See, what I wanted to make was cookies that reminded me of Easter eggs - I wanted to use milk chocolate and marshmallows and I wanted to make the sweet and pink by using raspberry jam. I tried to look for similar recipes using google so that I could get the proportions right but all I could find were cookies that were sandwiched together with strawberry jam - does nobody else actually put jam in their cake batter and cookie doughs? I also couldn't find many recipes that bake cookies with marshmallows in them, and for good reason - the marshmallows melted and caramelised and made a huge mess. However, I was not using miniature marshmallows because I couldn't find any at my local supermarket - I just chopped up big ones. I thought that those little ones that you put in a hot drink would be better. They weren't. Unless the marshmallow was completely surrounded in dough it melted into a big pool of caramelised sugar. So I would suggest trying to locate hard 'marshmallow bits' that I have heard tell of, that don't melt away. Or leave out the marshmallow. Or put up with a sticky sugar mess. It's not so bad, unless you eat too much of the melted marshmallow. Like I did. Then  you'll be left with a tummy ache.



Saturday, April 7, 2012

Blueberry Muffin Challenge

This month's cooking challenge is more baked goods, my favourite!
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The only problem is that you aren't allowed to use your own recipe, so I'm just going to sneak in a reference to my own really good blueberry muffin recipe and then continue on to tell you how I found this new recipe through Google. It was simple. I typed in blueberry muffins and after scrolling through a few pages I found this blog recipe for Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins by Joy the Baker. I had never used browned butter but I've read it in other recipes so I finally wanted to give it a try. Now, I really wasn't too sure if I would make this my challenge entry because the recipe seemed quite ordinary, aside from the butter, and surely that couldn't make such an amazing difference? Well, I was wrong. It was so good, I could have eaten the entire bowl of batter without making any muffins. Who would have thought that cooking butter like that could make it so yummy? I am definitely using it again and again and again. I wonder what my cookies would taste like with browned butter? One thing that I noticed, however, was that the taste of the brown butter was far more noticeable in the uncooked batter, so perhaps this would be good to use in unbaked slices and cookies?



Friday, April 6, 2012

Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Last year I made hot cross buns, and they were one of my first blog posts. It's nearly a year since I started this thing and I'm still not bored of talking about food. If anything, my obsession has gotten worse. However, on a positive note, I have learnt how to make bread, which is something that I always wanted to be able to do. The hot cross buns were just the beginning, and one of my favourite breads that I learnt to make was chocolate bread. It was not overly sweet and it was really yummy as toast. In New Zealand you can buy chocolate hot cross buns, because a lot of children (and adults) don't like sultanas and normal hot cross buns. So this year I am making both! My chocolate hot cross buns still have cinnamon but they have no mixed spice, and they have chocolate as well as sultanas. Of course, the sultanas could be left out but I like them so they can stay in for now.



Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lemon & Strawberry Cupcakes

I have been very lazy, and have not posted a yummy new recipe here for nearly a week! So this is my first April post and it really suits the lovely sunny day that we are having here today. Lemon and strawberry always put me in mind of summer and I don't know why I haven't used these flavours for cupcakes in the past. I saw a blog post for Strawberry lemonade cupcakes and suddenly I knew what I would be making for my friend's birthday. I already love to put lemon and strawberries together in my amazing lemon cheesecake and now I have managed to make a cupcake that tastes just as good! When I was small my Nan would always have plenty of baking to feed us for afternoon tea and my favourite were her little cupcakes with lemon icing and sprinkled with hundreds & thousands. When I tasted my own cupcakes they immediately put me in mind of that, which is nice because she has never shared her recipes with me. It's not that she doesn't want to, but she is very old and not used to having a helper in the kitchen, and I was very small when I used to try to help her bake. Now she does no baking because she no longer has a coal-stove and is too wary of electricity to learn how to use an electric oven (she's 93, and I guess she fits into the stereotype of old dogs not learning new tricks). Hopefully she will not be completely eccentric by the time I get back to NZ and maybe it won't be too late to learn a thing or two from her. For now, however, I will stop reminiscing and get on with the recipe.