Saturday, 15 December 2018

Dulce de Leche Banana Bread and Merry Christmas


How can any cake with Dulce de Leche, sour cream and chocolate in it's list of ingredients not be absolutely delicious? This one certainly is. Dulce de Leche, made by boiling tinned condensed milk for a couple of hours  to make real caramel, lasts for ages in the refrigerator as well, as long as it is hidden from the man of the house, ha, ha. I boiled four cans of condensed milk early in September and this is the last one to be used. However it can also be purchased at gourmet deli shops. I used my largest loaf tin for this cake, the one I bake my largest loaf of sourdough bread in and it was the perfect size. That was probably the most difficult decision I had to make, otherwise this was a cinch to make.

It's holiday time, so happy holidays and Merry Christmas everyone. I've really enjoyed hearing from you all during the year and reading your blogs as well. I hope you spend Christmas with the people that you love, doing the things that you enjoy, and eating the foods that comfort and excite you. I will be.

This recipe is adapted from a Delicious Magazine recipe. Thanks Delicious.

Ingredients:

Makes approx. 14 slices

2 cups (300g) plain flour, sifted
 1 1/4 cups (300g) sour cream
100 ml thickened cream
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
250g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
50g dark chocolate chips
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup (100g) walnuts, toasted, chopped
1/3 cup (110g) dulce de leche
125g pure icing sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tbs espresso, cooled

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. Grease a 28 x 12 cm loaf pan (mine was a little bigger)and line the base and the sides with baking paper. (I used the largest loaf pan I own for this recipe, which is the one I bake a loaf of bread in.)



Add the sour cream, thickened cream and bicarb soda to a large bowl which will serve to mix the whole mixture.. Lightly combine this mix, and set aside for 10 minutes, when bubbles will appear through the surface.

Add the cooled melted butter, the sugar, and the beaten eggs, and stir to combine.

Stir through the cinnamon, the flour, and the baking powder.
Add the dark chocolate chips, the mashed banana, and half the walnuts.
Fold through the dulce de leche .





Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean . If it browns too quickly cover with foil, I didn't need to do this.

Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine the icing sugar and the espresso coffee until a soft icing forms, I didn't need to use all of the espresso to achieve the right consistency. Drizzle over the banana bread and top with the remaining crushed walnuts.This icing is so very delicious.

Until next year, stay safe.

Warmest wishes

Pauline  x



Friday, 14 December 2018

A touch of Christmas Red in our Tropical Garden



This morning the sky was blue, and the garden looking lovely, despite the ominous warnings of the impending cyclone, named Owen. However as the day has drawn on, the weather has become more sultry, the skies cloudy, and the weather forecasts are changing by the hour it seems. I think that the media drives a lot of these reports however the average person is over a barrel in determining what is actually happening, and often it is a wait and see game. We should see some weather action here  by Tuesday.

I hope you enjoy these photos of my garden turning on it's red Christmas lights, without any batteries or electricity involved, just the sun and the rain. The African Blood Lillies appeared without any fanfare and are stealing the show, and the rain has certainly helped their bulbs to multiply and produce magnificent blooms this year.

African Blood Lilly




Medinilla


Bromeliad flower


I hope you enjoy your weekend my friends. I have had enough of the shops this Christmas. I think that one of the solutions to a stress free Christmas is to stay away from the shops and shopping centres as much as possible.  All of my Christmas shopping and wrapping is done, our Christmas letter written, Christmas menu partly planned (of course), edible gifts distributed, and now I am preparing batches of Rum Balls, and whatever else I find time to do. 

I have been surprised, frustrated  and dismayed at the amount of up selling that department store staff are trying on this year with every customer. Surely this must result in overspending by many people which becomes very stressful when the credit card is due in January. No doubt the message and training is coming from upper management to shop staff to try and sell as much as possible above and beyond what the customer came into the shop for. Oh well it didn't work with me.

On the kitchen front, I made a delicious cake loaf yesterday, which I hope to share with you in the next couple of days, combining Dulce de Leche, banana, spice and all things nice. Stay tuned for that. Hopefully I will get back to blogging in the next couple of days.

Take care everyone and I hope you have Christmas preparations under control and don't feel stressed out by it all. 

Best wishes

Pauline






Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Itsy Bitsy Broccoli Bites for the holidays



With a free morning up my sleeve, I made a batch of these green goodies  for the freezer to have on hand at Christmas time. These nutritious and fun snacks are great for small children to munch on and for adults to enjoy with a cold Christmas drink. If you know you are being visited by young parents over Christmas with little people you will score some serious Brownie points if you produce these little beauties which the kids will love. They don't even realise that they are packed with nutritious green vegetables and no sugar. Finger food and vegetables are essential for healthy children and if they see us eating them as well, they will want them. The Sweet Chilli Jam on the side is strictly for adults only.

The rain has stopped for the moment leaving muggy and oppressive weather, suggesting that more rain is on it's way. The Dove orchids are coming out in bloom again, also a promise of more rain,  so hopefully they are right. According to the BOM reports Cyclone Owen will be bearing down on us this Sunday so batten down the hatches. I am trying to get all of the housework, washing etc done today knowing that over the next couple of days the wet weather could hamper our activities.

To make these little gems, I whizz the broccoli up in the food processor to save time doing all that chopping and then the rest of the ingredients just need to be mixed up, shaped into bite sized balls and put in the oven to quickly bake. So easy and just serve with Sweet chilli sauce or Sweet chilli jam for the adults,  or homemade relish or eat them unadorned! This is my version of Sarah Wilson's clever recipe. I also find it easier to grease my hands with a light layer of coconut oil when rolling them as they can get sticky.

I am putting this recipe up again as I last posted it two years ago and for some reason all of the photos disappeared. This recipe has endured the test of time.

Ingredients:

Makes 36 Bites

2-3 cups of finely chopped fresh broccoli or frozen, thawed and chopped broccoli
1 1/2 cups grated cheese ( cheddar, Parmesan or whatever you have on hand)
3 free range eggs, beaten at room temperature
1 cup flour (plain, gluten-free or almond)
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon freshly chopped oregano
sea salt
olive oil, coconut oil or butter for greasing (I use coconut oil and put a little on my hands as well when rolling the balls)

Let's cook:

Preheat your oven to 190 deg. C.
Line two baking trays with baking paper and lightly grease the paper.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.



Roll the mixture into bite sized balls and place on the baking trays. Or spoonfuls of the mixture can just be plopped onto the tray to resemble small fritters.



Sprinkle a small amount of dried oregano or black sesame seeds onto each ball before cooking for the rustic look and for added flavour. Reserve the black sesame seed bites for the adults.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.



These will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 4-5 days, or freeze for a few months.



Best wishes

Pauline





Sunday, 2 December 2018

Moroccan Chickpea Salad



Here in Mackay, in North Queensland, we are very relieved that the history making fires in our vicinity up on the Eungella range, through  Finchatton Gorge, and at Sarina Beach seem to  have been contained at last.  Last week was a horror of a week, with record high temperatures exceeding 40 degrees, strong winds and widespread fires. Nobody living in our area, ever thought that we would see such destruction in our favourite nearby natural retreats. Friends of ours and former neighbours, were evacuated from their home at Eungella last Tuesday, and came down to Mackay to live until they could return home on Saturday. Ann said it was like returning to a war zone, where not only was the former rainforest vegetation charred black, but the air traffic of helicopters dropping water bombs on the fires, and the fire crews working in the area were creating a lot of noise as well. It sounds like a version of hell. However the emergency fire crews from all over the country have done an amazing job and our local community are embracing them and showing their appreciation in as many ways as possible. What incredibly inspiring people they are. Thankfully as far as we are aware there has been only one casualty to date. One too many. Our hearts go out to all of those who continue to bear the consequences of the fires that are still burning in some areas throughout Queensland, and we are all praying for rain. Thank you to those of you who have enquired if we are ok here in Mackay City. Thankfully we are.

So with all of this heat and the shocking daily news, last week was a low key week with salads being a popular menu item. Shannon and Dan arrived on holidays, hoping to also do some camping, but unfortunately all of the local spots are closed because of the fire danger so they are exploring the beaches and sights of Mackay. Even though they live in tropical Cairns, they seem very impressed with our beautiful beaches here in Mackay, particularly Eimeo and Halliday Bay beaches where they are swimming each day.

This salad was one of the first ones I made for all of us after they arrived. This is a hearty and aromatic dish which can be served as a side dish or as an individual vegetarian meal. The spices make it stand out. Preparing and cooking food is about sharing it with family and friends and my daughter and her fiance are very appreciative to cook for which is lovely. The flavours in this salad develop beautifully if it is allowed to marinate for at least an hour. This is so easy and I know you will enjoy it if you decide to make it.

Adapted from Delicious Everyday

Ingredients:

2 x 400g cans Australian organic chickpeas (or use home cooked ones), rinsed and drained, or garbanzo beans
1 diced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tbs. dried currants
1 preserved lemon rind only, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 tbs. ground cumin
1 tbs. sweet smoked paprika
1 tbs. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt for garnish to serve
1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped for garnish to serve
Pomegranate Molasses for garnish to serve

Method:

Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and add the onion, garlic, cranberries, currants, preserved lemon rind, and spices. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together to emulsify and add to the mixture. Add the soy sauce.

Toss all of the ingredients together in the large bowl, cover, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour. I left it for the whole day before serving, and it was delicious.

To serve, garnish the chickpea salad with chopped parsley, and then top with the yoghurt and pistachios and drizzle with the pomegranate molasses.

For special occasions, line the bowl with baby spinach leaves and fill with chickpea salad. Unfortunately I wasn't as well organised as usual, (who am I kidding?) and didn't have any baby spinach on hand, so please just imagine green leaves lining the bowl in the photo :)

This could also be served as a filling vegetarian meal.

Bye for now,

Best wishes

Pauline