Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Rosemary Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


Rosemary scented mashed pumpkin, ginger and cinnamon spice, infuse this cake with lovely flavours, a cake which just melts in your mouth. This cake is made from scratch, and yet is very easy and quick to make. The shortcut is to have the pumpkin already mashed and chilled in the refrigerator, ready to mix with the other ingredients. I also keep mashed pumpkin in the freezer, then the cake can be mixed up in a flash. Thanks to my friend Julie for this recipe, I'm so happy I finally made it. I hope you can find time to make this cake as  I know you will just love it. It makes a large cake, so it's one to share  with friends and neighbours. However it will keep very well in your refrigerator. It's Autumn, it's time to celebrate the pumpkin, and it's a lovely time to start baking cakes again.

Pumpkin yummy...I roast the pumpkin first with sprigs of rosemary for heaps of flavour, then mash. Roasting the pumpkin instead of boiling it works best for cakes, as the pumpkin is a drier mash than if it was boiled. My tub of mashed pumpkin kept in the refrigerator for a week. There's no need to peel the skin off before you bake pieces of pumpkin. I love to eat the skin as well as the flesh and use it in my dishes, as it provides so much flavour and texture. However it peels off easily after cooking for mashed pumpkin. This saves so much time as well. The colour of pumpkin is also a real giveaway that it is an excellent source of beta-carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A.

We went for a delicious lunch at the Marian Hotel in the nearby Pioneer Valley about a month ago, and bought a large Kent pumpkin at a roadside stall on the way home. I love buying fruit and veg from roadside stalls, I'm sure the produce tastes better, and I think it's important to support the local small scale farmers. Pumpkins grow all year round here, but Autumn is definitely the best time to buy them. I looked at this very large pumpkin in my laundry for about a fortnight before I bit the bullet and asked Mr. HRK to slice it up for me. I am very happy to hand over that difficult job. By then it had matured into a rich golden vegetable. So I baked a lot of it with rosemary, some of which we ate as roasted pumpkin, and some as mashed pumpkin. I made a pumpkin soup, cooked some in a curry, and there was still enough pumpkin mash to make this delicious cake . 

Rosemary Pumpkin Spice Cake


•2 cups sugar
•1 cup vegetable oil
•4 large eggs
•2 cups SR flour
•2 teaspoons baking soda
•2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
•1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
•1 teaspoon baking powder
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•2 cups cooked mashed pumpkin
•1/2 cup chopped pecans
Sprigs of Rosemary


Grease and line a 20 cm x 32 cm, 5 1/2 cm deep, pyrex lasagne dish, (that's what I used)  or two greased and floured 9-inch round layer cake tins.

Method for pumpkin cake:

Combine sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl, stir into the oil mixture, beating well. Stir in the pumpkin mash. It's as easy as that.

Adding pumpkin to the cake mixture
Bake at 160° for 35 to 40 minutes in the round cake tins (50 to 60 minutes for the lasagne pan). Turn out onto a rack to cool. 

Cream Cheese Frosting


•2 tbs butter, room temperature
•125 g cream cheese, room temperature
•1 ½ cups icing sugar
•1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese until softened and well mixed. Add butter and mix until  well combined with cream cheese. Add vanilla and mix lightly. Add icing sugar 1 tablespoon at a time.
Frost pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Waiting to be chopped up

Pumpkin is one of the most versatile and economical vegetables to cook with. In Australia we love to cook and eat them all year round, rather than just save them for festive occasions. Buying a good pumpkin can be easier said than done though, so it is might be best if you are not sure to buy one already cut to show its colour. Generally, the deeper the orange colour, the riper it is likely to be. You are allowed to be fussy about this.

Poor Locky was in the wars last week. He needed a blood test to test his thyroid  again. The test results showed his thyroid levels are back to an acceptable range which is a relief, and he looked so cute when he came home from the vet with a little pink bandage around his leg. Low thyroid can be a problem with large breed dogs in the the more mature age group. He is nearly 11 now. The lovely vet said he would attract more sympathy with a pink bandage, and he sure did. 💙

Hope your week is going well my friends, and that you can find time to bake this cake. It's delicious and who doesn't love Cream Cheese Frosting.

Thanks for dropping by.


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Surviving in My Kitchen during Renovations

Aussie Beef Salt Bush Pie, read on

Now that the dust has settled, literally, I have some time to write on my blog again. Have you noticed I've been a bit quiet in the blogging world? Last week after taking a deep breath, we had our whole house retiled, except for two bedrooms and the bathrooms. All the furniture was removed from the lounge, dining area, and the two main bedrooms. It happened quickly, as surprisingly the tradies were ready to do the work. So the house inside was shrouded in plastic as the first couple of days were very  dusty and noisy when the existing tiles were removed. 

Luckily, we could move into the bedroom at the back of our house near the kitchen and still use the guest bathroom until the last day of tiling. There was less upheaval for us that way, and it was quite comforting during all of the mayhem to still be in our own home and to be able to use my own kitchen and laundry, even though friends offered for us to stay at their house during the tiling, which we really appreciate. The plastic was removed from the kitchen once the old tiles were removed. I also found some comfort in going shopping!

We chose our tiles, they were laid over three days  and now we are very happy with the result. I love our new look. Mr. HRK and I moved all of the furniture back into the house, the beds, the lounge suite, the China Cabinet,  the dining suite etc,  and along the way we needed to make compromises about what we should keep and what should be sold or disposed of. This was the perfect time to scale down and decide what we really don't need. It really came down to what is essential for us now, and what we are emotionally attached to. Now our lounge, dining area and bedrooms have a whole new layout, lovely refreshing new tiles and we are happy with the result. Our backs were sore for a day after the shifting, but that was the least of our worries. It was done. However there is still some sorting through cupboards and drawers to be done, but the worst of the renovations, the heavy lifting and the decision making, is over. 

But how did we survive with enough food to nourish us during this experience? Those of you who read the last In My Kitchen post, will already know that we have a mandarin tree which has just been laden with fruit, so we have had plenty of fresh citrus to enjoy, and as I am writing this post I am sipping on some freshly squeezed mandarin juice. It's really delicious. We've had a couple of cold snaps and some rain, so the mandarins are at their peak of juiciness. We've also had lots of dried mandarins to nibble on.

I'm really happy that we didn't need to buy any takeaway meals, and we didn't dine out during all of the upheaval, as nice as that is. We were too tired to be bothered. In anticipation of what was going to happen, I made my very easy and tasty Zucchini and Bacon slice which is always a great standby during any kind of upheaval and busy times. I also delivered a couple of slices to a sick friend, and another friend who visited during the mayhem was plied with a  slice for lunch. The slice stretched a bit like the Biblical Loaves and Fishes tale.

I'm still surprised that not everyone knows about this great slice, which is so tasty and easy to make. Sometimes we just need a small reminder about how delicious these classics still are, and everyone enjoys this one. This post is about nutritious and tasty food, circumstantial and essential food, not adventurous food. Although for those that don't generally cook, I suppose it could be adventurous.

Zucchini slice was originally created, back in the 1980's to assist busy parents to cook a healthy, nutritious and very tasty savoury slice for the whole family, requiring no precooking of any ingredients, just some grating and slicing. It became so popular, that  you could depend on there being a Zucchini and Bacon slice at any family gathering or party. Bring it back I say.

There are many variations available now, however the basic ingredients of eggs, flour, cheese, zucchinis and bacon still provide the base for a popular and economical meal.

Zucchini and Bacon Slice


375 grams zucchini (approx. 2 large or 4 small)
1 large very fresh onion, finely chopped
3 rashers bacon, finely chopped, fat removed
1 cup very tasty grated cheese
1 cup SR flour
1/2 cup Rice Bran oil
5 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

I added a 1/2 cup of corn this time, and 1 grated carrot.


Grease and line with baking paper a 30cm x 20cm Lamington Tin.
Grate zucchini in a food processor and finely chop onion and bacon. Combine zucchini, onion, bacon, cheese, corn, sifted flour, oil and lightly beaten eggs.

Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt or to taste

Pour into your lined and greased baking tray,  or you can also use a  pie dish or a large quiche dish. Top with sliced tomatoes if you wish.

Bake in a moderate oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until brown.

Homemade Chicken stock or Broth 

Homemade Chicken stock being cooked

It must be nearly Winter if I am writing about soup here in the Tropics. With three containers of my homemade chicken stock in the freezer, and the weather cooling down, it was also very easy to make some chicken and barley soup, which only takes about an hour to make. It has been a wonderful standby to have on hand for an easy dinner or lunch.


1 1/2 kg chicken wings, or 1 whole free-range chicken, or 1 1/2 kgs of bony chicken parts such as necks, backs, breastbones, frames  and wings  ( whatever you have works)

3 1/2 litres of water ( so that it covers the chicken) and 2 tablespoons vinegar
2 roughly chopped carrots
1 onion, peeled and  halved
4 stalks celery roughly chopped
3 stalks fresh parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 garlic clove peeled
A few peppercorns

Bring to the boil in a large stainless steel pot, and simmer the ingredients on the stove top for 8 hours so that the marrow from the bones is completely removed and enriches the stock. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavoursome and healthy it will be. 

About  10 minutes before finishing the stock, add the parsley.

Remove the whole chicken pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let this cool and remove the chicken meat from the carcass for other uses such as sandwiches and curries, enchiladas or salads. (The chicken meat can also be removed from the bones after only 2 hours of cooking when it will be nice and firm.) I don't bother removing the fat from the stock now by chilling it first and letting the fat rise to the surface, as I think the fat gives the stock a beautiful flavour. However that is a personal choice. You might also prefer to make your stock in the pressure cooker or slow cooker. The stock can then be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

I really believe that chicken soup made from scratch is very healing. Some say it reduces allergies, improves digestion, and gives us strength. I love to give chicken soup to friends and family who have colds and flu, I'm sure it helps their recovery.

Chicken Barley Soup Recipe

2 Litres homemade Chicken Stock
4 finely chopped carrots
1 finely chopped brown onion
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup barley or short pasta (rinsed in water)
2 teaspoons Fish Sauce
Leaves from 4 stalks of fresh celery, finely chopped
Salt and ground pepper to taste

A Handful of fresh herbs

I make this very simply. Fry up all the vegetables in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the onion is translucent and vegetables slightly softened.

Add the stock, fish sauce (my secret ingredient) and bring to the boil. Then bring the heat down to a simmer. Add the fresh chopped herbs including parsley, the barley, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until the vegetables are softened, taste to check the seasoning. and the soup is ready to serve.

Last Tuesday night our football team was playing, they are the North Queensland Cowboys. This is Rugby League football, for those who don't really follow it. Mr. HRK played Rugby League when I first met him, and then when he moved away to Teacher's College he stopped playing competitively, but never stopped loving the game. In the morning, I assembled my Salt Bush Beef Stew in the slow cooker and it was cooked by lunchtime. The Aussie meat pie and football are synonymous, and feeling that we needed some stamina to watch the football and hopefully will the Cowboys to win, I converted the beef stew into a meat pie. I added a couple of extra teaspoons of Worcestershire Sauce to give it the Beef Pie edge, and  because I was short on time and the tilers were still around, I used frozen shortcrust pastry for the base, and puff pastry for the top layer. It worked a treat. Mr. HRK loved it. After all, what's not to love about a delicious Aussie Beef Pie with Tomato Sauce. And the Cowboys had a great win. Overall, a successful night.

You can find the Aussie Salt Bush Beef Stew recipe at this link on the blog where I have loaded it previously.

Football night

Have you noticed there are no sweets listed here in my menu plan? Dessert each night was yoghurt with fresh fruit, or with Tropical Stem Ginger in Syrup from my preserves stash. Which reminds me, it's nearly time to harvest our crop of ginger again, now that the foliage is dying off.

Hope you are all having an enjoyable weekend,

Warm wishes


Thursday, May 6, 2021

In My Kitchen - May 2021

It's citrus season, and Dried Mandarins feature in this edition of the May IMK. Where did April go? And now that it's May, the weather here in the Tropics of North Queensland is cooling down so we are spending a lot more time in the garden preparing the garden beds for Winter planting, and also it is really a pleasure now to be preparing delicious food in the kitchen. 

A lot of the activity in my kitchen this last month and in Mr. HRK's workshop, has been centred around the mandarin fruit. The branches of our mandarin tree in the front garden have been sagging to the ground with the weight of the mandarins it is producing. Even though the skins hadn't ripened, and are only just starting to ripen now, the flesh is sweet, and we needed to pick some of those mandarins to ease the load off the tree, and then find  a way to use them, as well as give a lot to friends. We also needed to find a way to preserve them. Did you know that even though the skin of the mandarin fruit is still green, the fruit can be ripe enough to eat, and in fact be very juicy and delicious? It takes a cold snap in the weather, which we are really still waiting for, for the skins to change colour. We also don't have a clue what variety of ,mandarin this tree is. 

When my Mum passed away on the 13th May, 13 years ago, just after Mother's Day, my Aunty Mary, my Mum's stepsister, gave me a mandarin tree to plant in memory of Mum, a lovely and very thoughtful idea. That was in 2008, so the mandarin tree is 13 years old, and this is the best crop it has yielded. This is all very special to me as my Mum would have been 100 years old this year. During those 13 years due to the tree's lack of interest in producing fruit, Mr. HRK  has threatened it, cajoled it, fed it, watered it, but not hugged it, however something has worked because this year it has excelled itself, just when seriously it was under threat of  being faced with it's demise. Because of it's sentimental value to me, of course I have protected it, or it might have met it's sad end a few years ago, but it just shows that trees have feelings and after 13 years it is coming into its own, a late bloomer. Sadly Aunty Mary is also no longer with us either, but I will let my cousins know this story. We never found out what the variety of this mandarin is. But it is a large fruit, thin skinned, with very few seeds and very sweet. If you have any clues as to what it is I would love to hear from you. Anyway it has adapted to living in the tropics, like all of us.

These are the fruit just starting to colour up. There are a few green ant nests in the tree as well just for added value.

This is the mighty mandarin tree in our front yard  surrounded by some tropical colour; Coleus, Ixora, a Desert Rose, purple ground Orchids, Geraniums and the large leafed exotic Caladium with a pink heart. Around the  base of the tree is well cleared though as it needs to be.

And bucket loads to give away.

However when we started thinking about how to preserve some of them, Mr. HRK was very keen to experiment with dehydrating them. So the dehydrator moved into his workshop to work away quietly during the night, and off  we started. Well the good news is that they are delicious dehydrated, and will keep bottled and well sealed in a cool place for 12 months. For the first batch we tried, we left the skins on the fruit when we sliced them up, however because the skin was still green, the fruit tasted quite tart when dried. However if you can dry them with the golden skin still on the fruit they will look very pretty, even prettier than mine:)  I hope that enough fruit will survive the bugs and not become stung by fruit fly before they ripen enough to pick them, so we can dry some more with the skin on. That was another reason why we were fearful about leaving the fruit on for too long, as the fruit fly wreak havoc on citrus in our part of the world. We try to spray with eco friendly sprays and hang bottles of various concoctions from the tree guaranteed to repel the bugs but some fruit still gets stung. 

This was our second batch where Mr. HRK removed the skins, and sliced the mandarins as finely as he could, and then dried them in our dehydrator overnight.

Then I decided to sprinkle a spice rub over the next batch before drying for some extra flavour, which took them to another level, and this photo below is the result. We have taste tested them on friends, and I recommend this method to you for oranges and mandarins. Bottle them up, label them, enjoy them at home, and they will also be delicious edibles to give as gifts. I still need to print off some labels, but they look really nice bottled in jars. 

 We are now sprinkling the mandarins over our cereal in the morning as well. We also dried some pineapple slices which is more popular and commercially available for sale than the mandarin, and we think it's delicious as well, and great for a snack if you are travelling.

Here's the very simple  recipe for the spice rub that I used.



4 large mandarins or oranges thinly sliced

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

large pinch of sea salt


Fruit can be dried in the oven or in a dehydrator or even in the sun. Using the dehydrator is an easy way to do it as it can work overnight, and if not quite dry enough in the morning, then adjusted by the hour until the fruit is just right.

Wash and dry your fruit, then cut them into very thin slices, (as thin as possible)

Mix the spices and the sugar in a bowl and sprinkle evenly over the mandarins or oranges

Layer them on dehydrator trays, or if you want to use your oven, dry them on trays lined with baking paper at 200 deg. F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. They may take longer.

We were using two dehydrators by this stage.

When dried, they can be stored in ziplock bags, or in bottles. Store them in a cool, dry place and they should store well for 12 months. In my neck of the woods, the humidity can cause problems, so they need to be packaged as soon as possible.

Dried mandarin or orange slices can also be added to decorate a cocktail, a fruit shrub, or any drink really. There are endless possibilities to how they can be used, only limited by our imagination. The flavour is really developed by the drying process.

The other day, whilst I was cooking a chook with stuffing in the oven for lunch, I made a Banana Sultana cake and to save time and electricity, I baked it in the oven with the chook. The cake was delicious, so was the chook by the way. I used some dried mandarin to decorate the top of the cake before baking. The dried fruit browned off a little too much for my taste when it was cooked, however it didn't take away from the overall success of the cake at all. This cake was just so delicious straight out of the oven that I will definitely be baking it again. I can't see any reason not to add both walnuts and sultanas if I have the ingredients on hand. This is a photo of my cake before it went into the oven.

Here is the recipe, which just happened to be on the back of a Sunbeam sultanas packet. I think the sugar content could be halved if you are watching calories, and this would still be to your taste.

Banana Sultana Loaf


70 g butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1 1/2 cups self raising flour

1 cup sultanas

2 tablespoons milk


Preheat oven to 180 deg. C.

Grease and line the base of a loaf tin, mine measured 22 cm x 12 cm and was perfect

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy, add the beaten egg, and then add in the bananas one at a time

Add the flour, sultanas and the milk and stir by hand to combine

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. AT the end of the cooking time, insert a skewer into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean it is cooked.

Cool in the tin and then slice to serve while it is still warm and enjoy. 

When I was growing up and still living in my family home, I remember  that this kind of cake was often served warm and with butter spread on it, gosh we were naughty back then weren't we, but it was so very good.

If you read my blog regularly, you will already know that I play Mahjong once a week, and as well as having the fun of playing Mahjong with friends, we also enjoy some delicious cake at each others homes. This week was my turn to host Mahjong, and I made my Ginger Syrup cake, which is a recipe I really enjoy making, and this time I decorated it with a slice of the dried mandarin. The ladies really enjoyed it. The cake recipe is now being distributed to all the Mahjongers. You can find it at this link. The flavours of the spice rub and the intense ginger flavour of the cake complimented each other perfectly, all enhanced by the wonderful espresso coffee  made by our barista for the afternoon, Mr. HRK.

This month we also enjoyed cooking up a Turkish Feast on Anzac Day, always the 25th April, and if you missed that, here is the link.

The weather here has plummeted to 14 degrees this morning, so a pot of my healthy and delicious Green coconut cheesy soup is on the stove right now, ha, ha. Bring on soup weather.

Well that's it from me for this edition of In My Kitchen. This is part of the IMK event hosted globally by Sherry from Sherry's Pickings, where lots of bloggers participate to showcase the highlights of what they have been doing in their kitchens for the month.

Take care, and thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes,