Archive for August, 2009

Baking Aftermath

August 30, 2009

I didn’t end up taking the sugar-free cookies to the church at all – when I went to plate them up on Saturday morning they’d turned into hideous blogs of soggy cardboardish nothingness with a super-strong artificial-sweetener flavour overnight and all they were fit for was the trash can! So that was one thing less to plate up… But the rest of my goodies were all fine and ready to be boxed up.

brownie container

I didn’t have a container or basket big enough to hold five pans of brownies, and I didn’t have time to go to the store to try to buy one, so I improvised. I cut down a (new) mailing box and covered it with (also new) wrapping paper, taped down well… then I made a liner for it from two foil pans cut down and taped together. It worked really well. It kept the brownies off the cardboard and let me stack them up really nicely so they were easy to carry.

full brownie container

The cookies were all piled up in a big ice tub that I bought for the occasion… I toss the spice cookies, sugar cookies and snickerdoodles randomly in the middle because they’re all basically sugar-cookies and they all looked pretty much the same, and then I stacked the oatmeal cookies up around the edges of the tub.


I picked up the leftover brownies and cookies from the church this morning. There were 100 people at the funeral, and they ate half of the goodies I took along. The sugar-free apple slice must have been really popular because there wasn’t any of it left over (or else somebody liked it enough to take it home, which is fine with me too, because it wouldn’t keep and we don’t eat sugar-free stuff ourselves) and I don’t have a photo of it. I divided the leftover brownies in half and put half into the church freezer for morning teas, and brought the rest home for us. I left most of the cookies in the church freezer too and just brought enough home for us to have some. They’ll provide morning tea for church for the next month, and I’m sure they’ll taste a lot nicer than the icky grocery store ‘donut holes’ they usually serve.

All in all, it was a good experience. I enjoy baking, and it was good to do something for the church… we’re having a Revival next month and I’ve already volunteered to do the baking for the suppers, so this was practice! Now I have an idea of how much I’ll need to make for that (the same amount as this, but divided over four nights, not all produced at once. If I have one tray of brownies and one kind of cookie each night, I’m sure it’ll go down well.)


The cooking is done, and I’m exhausted!

August 28, 2009

I was so busy cooking over the last two days that the only tray of cookies that got photographed was the first! But here they are to tempt you…sugar cookies

In total I made the following –

– 1 batch easy sugar cookies (recipe from I’ve made these many times before. You can’t go wrong with a simple sugar cookie with something decorative embedded into it. I stashed away a bunch of bags of mini chocolate easter eggs post-holiday because they make very pretty cookies. Some (most) of the eggs crack in the oven but that’s okay. They taste great anyway. I finished the other half of them off with slices of candied papaya. I’d rather have used cherries, but they only sell them at Christmas and I’ve used my stash. This year I’ll make sure I buy twice as many! It’s strange because in Australia they’re a supermarket staple year-round.

– 1 batch spice cookies (my mother’s family recipe that she taught me when I was a kid. I used pumpkin pie spice to save time and they didn’t turn out as nicely as they usually do. I don’t think it had enough cloves in it.)

– 1 batch snickerdoodles (recipe from I’d never made these before, but they’re very easy to make. I made two changes to this recipe – firstly I used butter, not shortening. And secondly, I used baking powder instead of baking soda/cream of tartar. I’m not even sure why snickerdoodles use the latter – they don’t have anything particularly acidic in them to set off the baking powder! Anyway, they turned out great and DH loved them.

Those first three cookies were made yesterday afternoon/evening so I could take my time. This morning I had to do some laundry and housework, and I got started on the rest of the cookies and slices at about eleven.

– 1 batch sugar-free sugar cookies for the diabetic church-members (recipe from splenda website.) New to me, and not that great. They’d be nicer sandwiched together with chocolate or frosting but that would defeat the purpose of making them sugar-free! I have no idea how to make them taste better without sugar… this dough is very very very soft and you have to chill it for at least an hour before you try to roll it out. It rolled out beautifully the first time and then it got squishy soft again when I went back for a second pass. And the finished cookies are basically tasteless. All in all, it’s not really worth the time and effort.)

– 1 batch of oatmeal cookies with the lot (my own recipe that I make regularly. Just regular oatmeal cookies with a bunch of chocolate chips and raisins and some craisins thrown in. They’re basically fruit and chocolate held together with a bit of cookie dough.)

– 1 tray chocolate chip brownies (my recipe I’ve made many times before, adapted from Barb Schaller’s famous orgasmic chocolate brownies.) Hers are delicious too but I add some cocoa powder and chocolate chips, cut the sugar back half a cup because the chips are very sweet, skip the raising agent,  and cut down the flour to 1 cup for even more chocolatiness.

– 1 tray mocha brownies (made up on the spot and delicious! I used my chocolate brownie recipe and put some strong coffee into it and added extra flour to make it the right consistency because the coffee made it runny. I had a bunch of mix left over, so I made some mini-brownie-bites to use it up and they turned out SCRUMPTIOUS!)

– 1 tray butterscotch blondies with butterscotch chips and pecans. (recipe I found online somewhere or other ages ago and printed out…) For some reason these didn’t turn out as nicely as they usually do… probably because I was tired and rushed. But they’ll do.

– 1 tray coconut blondies. This was entirely my own invention. I wanted to do coconut but the recipe I found that looked most promising used chocolate brownie mix with coconut sandwiched in the middle. I was running out of chocolate and cocoa powder, so I made a vanilla brownie mix with white sugar and sandwiched the coconut in the middle. I have to try to write this recipe down as best I can before I forget it because they’re DELICIOUS!!! If you want the original chocolate recipe, here it is on allrecipes.

– and 1 tray of marbled brownies because there was a bunch of butterscotch brownie mix left over. No recipe required, just half a batch of butterscotch and half a batch of chocolate swirled together and topped with chips.

– and lastly, because the sugar-free cookies weren’t really a success I decided to try making a sugar-free apple slice with an oaty topping. I figured that spice would give it lots of flavour and colour, and oats and coconut would add the crispness that the splenda just can’t create. The recipe needs tweaking but in general they worked. (Dough on the bottom pressed into the pan, unsweetened applesauce spread on it, then finely chopped apple and a few currants sprinkled in the middle, topped with an oat/coconut sugar-free streusel.) The bottom crust is very soft and cake-like and I think it would benefit from being pre-baked for crispness before the filling goes into it. Also I used too much baking powder in it. 1.5 cups of flour does NOT need a whole teaspoon of baking powder if you’re trying to make pastry!

And here are my brownies/blondies in all their glory. The missing squares are because all the new-to-me recipes had to be tasted to make sure they weren’t disasters! (of course…)

brownies,baking,chocolate brownies,mocha brownies,butterscotch chip blondies,coconut blondies,marbled brownies,sugar-free apple slice

More photos tomorrow when I pretty everything up and get it ready to take to the church for the funeral… for now I’m beat!

Fun times a’comin’!

August 26, 2009

One of our church members passed away a few weeks ago and the memorial service is on Saturday. His widow would like to have food, so I offered to bake… my next two days are going to be filled with shopping for ingredients and baking enough cookies and brownies for a crowd of 200! I’m assuming that two cookies apiece will be enough (because not everyone will have two and some people will want an extra) so I’ll make 400 cookies… I expect to make 50-odd cookies each of 4 different varieties. Ooops, I can’t count! That would only be 200… I need to do twice that! I’ll do two large batches of each and see how many that comes out to. And one square of brownie or slice per person, ie 200 squares.  By the time we get to the service I’m never going to want to look at another cookie again! But it’s all in a good cause…

On the menu –

  • – Basic sugar cookies
  • – Oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips
  • – Peanut Butter clouds
  • – Spice cookies? (not sure about these… I might try something different if I can find an interesting recipe.)
  • – To-die-for chocolate brownies
  • – Blondies with pecans and coconut
  • – Lemon sqares
  • Another slice of some kind… maybe a fruit slice or a coconut slice.

The slices will be baked in disposable aluminum trays… and I bought two new cookie sheets today so I’ve got 4 large cookie trays at my disposal instead of just two. That’ll make life simpler because I can prep the next two trays while the others are in the oven baking instead of having to do them one at a time. I usually bake one tray and prep one tray and alternate but this’ll be twice as fast.

Grocery list for tomorrow –

  • – 1 LARGE bag white sugar
  • – 1 large carton eggs
  • – 2 boxes unsweetened baking chocolate
  • – lemon juice

I just bought 4 boxes of butter, 10lbs of King Arthur flour, and a twin pack of baking powder so I don’t need to  buy any of them. I wonder how far that’ll go?

Philly Cheesesteak sandwich

August 24, 2009

Yesterday we went to BJs to round up some bulk meats, and I checked out the steaks. Top round looked appealingly gristle-free and was only $2.99 a pound, so I brought a tray home and sliced it up this morning. Half of it was turned into casserole meat, and the other half was finely sliced for fahitas, stir-fry or cheesesteaks. After the bulk of it was stowed away in the freezer, I cooked us up a cheesesteak for lunch.

I’m really not a big beef-eater, but you can’t beat a good Philly Cheesesteak. They’re incredibly easy to make, too. All you need is some nice steak, sliced as thinly as you can manage it – ALWAYS slice your steak across the grain, not along it. When you’ve cut the slice you should never see muscle strips across the front because they’ll fry up like shoe leather!. You also need some finely sliced onion, bell-peppers (alas I have to leave them out because DH is allergic), fresh garlic, mustard, a nice bread roll or a couple of slices of bread, and some cheese. I’m not sure which kind of cheese you’re ‘supposed’ to use, but I go with regular old American cheese for its supreme meltiness.  Try to eat it plain and it’s revolting, but as soon as you put it under the broiler and melt it, it magically turns delicious.

Fry up your onions and garlic then add the finely sliced beef and give it just long enough to go from pink to ‘cooked’ looking… put some mustard onto your toasted bread and share the meat/onion out, then top it with cheese and put it under the broiler until the cheese melts. And here it is… my cheesesteak sandwich on whole-grain bread.

philly cheesesteak sandwich

My favourite foody links

August 24, 2009

They say you learn a lot about someone by what they like to read… so here are a few of the sites that I like. All of these links open in a new window so you can browse to your heart’s content without losing my entry.

I read Chowhound every day – it’s a busy site and there’s always plenty of discussion going on. And you can get great ideas from the home cooking board. If you want to know what to do with a bunch of arugula, a few lemons and half a bag of basmati rice, somebody will be able to suggest something!

E-gullet is quieter, so I only need to check in there once a week or so. I’m not a professional foodie or restauranteur so some of their conversations go over the top of my head, but there’s still plenty of interesting stuff to be found.

I also read the newsgroup but it’s unmoderated and overrun with spam and junk postings, and it can be very hard to wade through the dross to find the ‘real’ food threads! It’s a shame because that was my first introduction to the cooking community…

When I want a laugh, I go to the infamous Cakewrecks blog… and I need say no more because by now I’m sure EVERYONE knows all about it! I know nothing at all about cake decorating, but I know how not to do it.

And when I just want to drool over delectable photos that look good enough to eat, I visit Foodgawker to feast my eyes… then I can click on some of the links to follow up.

Friday Feasting – Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting!

August 22, 2009

Carrot cake is one of those cakes that seems very complicated because it has a TON of ingredients, but when you put everything together it’s actually very simple… and since it has a vegetable in it you can pretend that it’s healthy! My starting point was the Carrot Pineapple Cake 1 from I was making carrot cakes for two households so I basically doubled the recipe – the recipe as listed on allrecipes makes one large cake, not three small ones.

Firstly, assemble your laundry list of ingredients. Not everything I used is actually shown in the picture because I added a few extra things as I went along. But most of the ingredients are here –
carrot cake

Get a large mixing bowl and put your dry ingredients into it. That includes the flour, sugar, salt, spices, and raising agent (this particular recipe uses baking powder AND baking soda.) Mix everything together really well. My mix is extra-brown because I used brown sugar, but you can use white if you prefer.
carrot cake

Make a small well in the middle of the mixed dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients – eggs, melted butter and/or oil (I used one stick of butter and 1/4 cup corn oil) and vanilla.
carrot cake

I don’t like to use a lot of fat or oil in my cooking, so I cut down on the quantities suggested (1 cup of oil for one cake sounds like an enormous amount to me!) and I substituted an individual container of applesauce and a mashed banana (we happened to have a really ripe banana needing to be used.) Mashed fruit adds sweetness and moistness to a cake and cuts the fat requirement in half.
carrot cake

When I’d added the mashed fruit, I realised that the mixture was WAY too dry, so I added some apple juice to moisten it up. If you wanted you could use pineapple juice or milk or even water… any type of liquid will work.
carrot cake

Next, add your fruit. Carrot cake can have any of all of the following fruits added to it – crushed pineapple (don’t drain it, use the juice in the cake), raisins or sultanas, grated coconut and nuts… I don’t really like coconut in carrot cake so I used a cup of raisins and 1/2 a big tin of pineapple. Whichever you want to use, mix it into the cake to taste.
carrot cake

Now for the fun part… it’s not a carrot cake without carrot in it! So grab a bunch of carrots and start prepping. You can use a food processor to do this very quickly, but I did it the old-fashioned way. You want to end up with about 2 cups of grated carrot per cake.
carrot cake

My kitchen supervisor had to approve the recipe at this point. Tessie thinks I put that chair on the other side of the kitchen counter just for her – cats are strictly prohibited from being on the kitchen counter and they know it (if we catch them up there they get sprayed with the water bottle!) But she loves to stand on the arm and to watch me working in the kitchen… after all, there might be something in it for her!
carrot cake

Oops… almost forgot to add the nuts. I don’t like walnuts so I used pecans. Just crumble them into the cake mix and stir them in. Pecans are so soft that they’re easy to break up with your hands.
adding nuts

Divide the cake mix into your pans. I was making cakes to give away so I used three disposable foil pans because it was simpler… and I stood them on baking trays to avoid any potential disasters in the oven.
carrot cake

Then I baked them at 350F for thirty minutes… then I swapped the trays around so that they could get equally heated, and I baked them for another 20 minutes or so. The end result? Delicious!
carrot cake

I would have been happy to eat the cake just like that… but that’s not the end of it. As DH pointed out to me, carrot cake just isn’t the same without cream cheese frosting on it! Fortunately, frosting is very easy to make. All you need is a packet of cream cheese, some confectioners sugar (or icing sugar, they’re the same thing) and some vanilla. Butter is optional depending on how much cream cheese you happen to have available… Soften the cream cheese in a bowl – the quick-and-easy way to do this is to put it into the microwave for 10-15 seconds. And then squish it and stir it until it’s smooth and creamy.
carrot cake

Then add your confectioners sugar a bit at a time and keep stirring until you have enough frosting for your cakes. In the end it should look something like this.
carrot cake

Dollop it onto your cakes and smooth it around with the back of the spoon until you like the way it looks, then put the cake into the fridge to set.
carrot cake

And there you are… your carrot cake is done. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week and still taste good… if you can make it last that long!
carrot cake

Pizza two ways

August 19, 2009

I know I said the next entry would be carrot cake, but that’s still coming… (the cake was delicious but writing it up is taking awhile.) In the meantime, here’s something I made tonight.

We very rarely eat fast food or takeout for several reasons – firstly, it doesn’t generally taste very good compared to anything homemade, secondly it’s too expensive for what you get unless you spend a fortune on it, and thirdly you can whip up something at home in less time than it takes to wait for delivery. But we love pizza. There are a number of pizzerias around that make BRILLIANT pizza, but they’re outside our price range unless it’s a super special occasion. We used to turn to Dijiorno’s ‘Ultimate’ pizza for our pizza fix, but they’re very salty and not cheap… and since John can’t eat capsicum/peppers any more, the only flavour we could have was pepperoni. And I find that boring and far too salty… so what did we do? I learned to make them at home!

Okay, confession time. I do not make my own pizza crust from scratch. I know it’s not very hard, but it takes 24 hours to make a good dough, and when we want pizza, we want it NOW, not tomorrow! So I started trying various bought alternatives. Frozen bread dough tastes pretty good, but you have to let it thaw out and then sit for an hour before you use it, and it’s VERY sticky and gooey from all the moisture. A precooked bought crust (Bobolli etc.) is expensive for what you get and not very satisfying. It tastes too much like frozen pizza. And the fresh pizza dough they sell in the grocery store fights back too hard when you try to get it into the pan, even though it tastes great when it’s done. Non-pizza crust crusts work pretty well in a pinch – pita bread makes nice individual pizzas… but we wanted the ‘real thing’. And I found it in the most unexpected place. It lets me make a pizza from start to finish inside 30 minutes, it’s exactly the right texture, not too wet and not too dry, it doesn’t stick to my hands, and it tastes amazingly good for what it is. My secret weapon? Don’t shoot me – but here it is… something that I never would have dreamed of using if I hadn’t tried it in a grocery store tasting – Pillsbury Pizza Crust!

My secret weapon for pizza

All you need to do is to pop open the can and unroll it then gently ease it into the corners of your pan. This is supposed to make a ‘thick crust’ for a small sheet pan, but I turn it into a large thin crust pizza instead, and it comes out just right for our liking. If you decide to try the crust, ignore their cooking directions on the pack – crank the oven up to 450 and bake the pizza for 15 minutes.

The other problem with pizza-making is what to put on it? John is a meat lover. He doesn’t mind mushrooms and olives and a little onion on his pizza, but all he really wants  is pepperoni, sausage, salami, ham and/or bacon, or any combination thereof. I’m more of a veggie-girl. I love pizza with all the fresh veggies I can pile on it, a little ham or salami for flavour, some egg for extra protein, and just enough cheese to help hold it together. So what do I do? Either  I split the pizza down the middle and make ‘his half’ and ‘my half’ or if I have a little more time I make two seperate pizzas. That way he can have his heart-attack-on-a-plate and I can have something healthy… and that’s what I did tonight.


John’s pizza –  tomato paste, cheese, onion, mushrooms, olives, lots of salami and pepperoni.

My pizza – tomato, onion, zucchini, mushrooms, olives, cherry tomatoes, a little frozen corn, beaten egg underneath, 2 slices of shredded ham, 4 slices of salami ditto, some leftover chicken, and a small amount of cheese on top.

Now tell me – which pizza would YOU rather have on your plate???


August 18, 2009

After I started this blog I found out that most of the craft blogs are hosted on Blogger… so to make my life simpler I registered over there too. So now I have two blogs… which led to the decision that rather than deleting or moving this blog, I’m going to split it in two.

This blog is going to be devoted to my cooking exploits… and blogger will host my card-making. If you would like to read about my card-making and to try out my tutorials, follow my link to ‘Creating with Kajikit’, and if you’d like to read about my fun in the kitchen, stay right here… but I hope you’ll read both of them! My next cooking post will be ‘Tuesday Treats’ – today I made homemade chicken soup, and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Boy did that cake taste good!

Fall Challenge – One sheet, 10 cards!

August 16, 2009

This entry was moved to my new Crafting blog on Blogger. Find it here –

Friday Feasting – Key Lime Pie

August 15, 2009

(I know I’m actually posting this on Saturday, but it takes time to get used to all the steps involved in creating a blog entry! I’m still trying to figure this thing out…)

We went out to lunch the other day and indulged in a piece of ‘key lime’ pie for dessert. It’s usually one of my favourite things to have, but this piece was disappointingly fake and ‘creamy’ – it tasted like there was more cool-whip and air in the recipe than lime. I could do better than that in my own kitchen, and so can you. Fortunately, it’s easy to make your own, even if you can’t get Key Limes. Regular limes are cheap and easily available (they were eight for a dollar at our Farmers market this week!), and the end result tastes pretty much the same. One of the nice things about a Key Lime pie is how very simple it is to make. If you don’t have limes, you can use exactly the same recipe with lemons… and if you add some cream cheese you get a basic cheesecake! Either way, it’s delicious.

Firstly, assemble your ingredients. As you can see there aren’t a lot of fancy things needed – limes, condensed milk, a packet of biscuits/cookies/graham crackers, some eggs, and some butter is all it takes. Plus you need a big bowl, a fine grater or a zester (if you’ve got a microplane all the better, but I’m not so lucky!) and a baking dish.You don’t even need a food processor…

key lime pie

You may have seen Key Lime pie with a graham cracker crust… we don’t have graham crackers in Australia, so the traditional go-to for crumb crusts is a Marie biscuit. They’re readily available, easy to crumb, and they have a distinctively mild flavour that makes a nice neutral crust. Plus they’re cheap – look in the Mexican aisle of your grocers, or in the ‘imported’ section of the store and they’re only about 80c a pack. Open your pack of biscuits and put them into a big ziplock bag. Then whack the heck out of them with a rolling pin. It won’t take long to reduce them to rubble, and you don’t have a dirty food processer to wash.

key lime pie

I like one-bowl cookery… so while you can mess around with six different dishes, I’m not going to unless it’s really necessary. When you’re making a crumbcrust you need three things – crumbs, melted butter, and a little sugar to taste. It doesn’t really make any difference which order you put them into the bowl, so I melt the stick of butter BEFORE I do anything else and then dump the rest of the ingredients on top of it. It all comes out the same in the end!

key lime pie

Mix everything together until it looks like damp sand. If you pick up a little handful and squish them they should stick together for a moment. If they don’t, add a little more butter.

key lime pie

Grease a baking, pie or cheesecake pan well. This helps the crumbs to stick to the sides of the container while they’re dry, and it will help them to release later. Tip your crumbs into the dish and press them down into a crust with the palm of your hand, and then bake it at 300 degrees for 15 minutes. It doesn’t really need to cook, but the heat helps to set the crust into one piece.


While the crust is baking, you can assemble the rest of the ingredients and make the filling. The first and most important ingredient is the limes, and the first thing you need to do is to grate your zest (that’s just a fancy way of saying the skin…) Pick the two or three limes with the nicest looking outside and rinse them off. If you’re using actual key limes you’ll need to use at least twice as many – they’re much smaller and have less surface area! Grab your grater or your zester and shred the lime zest into your big mixing bowl. Try not to get too much of the white bits into the bowl – the white is where the bitter taste is. If you have a microplane all the better, but if not the finest side of a regular box grater or a small hand-held grater will work just fine.

key lime pie

When you’ve finished zesting, cut the now-naked limes in half and sqeeze them on your juicer, and add as many more as you need. I’m making a big tart to feed a crowd, so I used a cup and a half of lime juice, but for say an 8-inch pie dish you’d only need 1/2 cup. But honestly, it’s one of those things where the more you put in the better. I’ve always used at least twice as much juice as the recipe suggests because it makes for a much more intense flavour.

key lime pie

Set your lime juice aside for a minute. You don’t need it until the crumb crust is out of the oven but it pays to be prepared. Open your condensed milk. A small pie will only need one can, but again I’m making a double-batch so I used two. Note the colour of the cans – one of the cans was freshly purchased and the other has been sitting in my pantry cupboard for just over a year. This does not mean that it’s gone bad! Condensed milk is made by cooking milk, and if you store if for a long period it will gradually get darker, thicker and more caramelized-looking… but it’s still perfectly good unless there’s any visible sign of damage to the can. Never use a bulging, leaking, or very rusted tin for ANYTHING. Your life is worth more than a few dollars in canned goods.

key lime pie

Got your condensed milk open now? Scrape it into the mixing bowl on top of the lime zest and whisk it in. The next thing you need are the eggs. You only need to use the yolks for this recipe, so separate the eggs into a small bowl using whatever method you prefer and put the whites aside. As you can see, I broke a couple of yolks and got a little bit mixed in with the whites, so I won’t be making meringues any time soon! But for the purposes of making the pie it really doesn’t matter… 6 eggs for this big pie, 3 for a little one.

key lime pie

Whisk the eggs into the condensed milk and make sure there aren’t any little blobby bits left in it. Nobody wants little blobby lumps in their pie if they can help it! The more you whisk the mixture at this stage the lighter and fluffier it will be.

whisking the mix

Is your crumb crust out of the oven yet? If not, stop right here and wait. When the oven timer goes off and you take the crust out, set it down on top of the stove or on a cooling rack and do the last step of the recipe. You’re in the home stretch now! Pour the lime juice into your condensed milk mixture and start whisking. The acid in the lime juice will react with the condensed milk and start to thicken it up right away. It looks a little strange as you first start to mix, so just keep whisking. In a minute or two you should have a nice smooth mix.

key lime pie

Pour the mix into the crumb crust and put it back into the oven for about 30 minutes. Take it out the oven and cool it on a rack, then put it into the fridge for a few hours to chill. I can’t show you what it looks like on a plate because I’m taking the pie to church tomorrow, but take my word for it that it tastes great!

key lime pie