Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Christmas Rush

You know what the problem of Christmas is? You are so busy getting everything sorted all month for the big day, that little things don't get done.

I made all these really yummy treats to share on Christmas day. I got a lot of positive feedback about it all, and I wanted to make a really cool blog post showing you all, photos, recipes etc. Well, um, I never did get around to taking those photos! But I want to share the recipe for what I thought was the winner on the day (and I think it was the favourite of pretty much everyone) - gingerbread cake balls! (yep, them cake balls again lol). So christmassy, and something a little bit different. I actually got the idea from Pinterest, from this blog here - linky link. I, however, don't do packet mixes, so I baked my own gingerbread loaf from scratch - and I have to say, my recipe its pretty damned awesome. So here it is

Gingerbread Loaf

50g Butter
1Tbsp Golden Syrup
1 egg
1/2c brown sugar
1c flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
(I then also add some grated fresh ginger in, just to make it extra yummy!)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4c milk

Melt together the butter and golden syrup.
Mix together the egg and sugar. Add the syrup mix.
Mix all ingredients bar the baking soda and milk.
Mix baking soda and milk together. Gradually add to mix, and stir in.
Pour into a greased/lined loaf tin

Bake at 180c for 35mins

Now, this particular recipe makes a very flat loaf in my loaf tin, so the last time I made it (for these cake balls) I doubled it, and it was the perfect loaf! I cannot tell you how long it took to bake though, it did take quite some time. But the end result was this beautifully moist, gingerlicious loaf that I nearly cried when I had to crumble it up to make the cake balls haha!

Right, now to make them into cake balls. Just use your fingers and crumble the loaf up (cake balls are the perfect way to use up cake that has failed... even if its dry and overcooked, cake balls make them so moist and yummy). Make up an icing, I just made a very plain vanilla icing (ya know, a knob of butter, however much icing sugar, a dash of milk, a splash of vanilla and voila!), and then SLOWLY add it into the crumb mixture. The trick is to not put too much icing in, you only want enough to bind the crumbs together and no more. Though even if you do put too much in, they will still taste fine, just be a lot wetter in texture.
Then chill the cake ball mix in the fridge for a while (I actually prepared the mixture a day early, just as I ran out of time to finish them haha). Once they are nice and cold, start rolling them into balls (think rum ball size).
Now to finish the cake balls, you have a couple of choices. I choc dipped half of them in white chocolate (like in the link) but I hadn't bought enough white choc melts (and being Christmas Eve I was NOT going to brave the supermarket for more). So the other half I rolled in coconut. And you know what? I think I preferred the coconut ones, the white chocolate gets a bit much after a while, but you can eat more coconut ones in one sitting. Oh, did I mention I put on 1.6kg over this past week? Yeah, all my goodies along with the usual Christmas fare have not been diet friendly lol!
Anyways, other flavour cake balls I have done in the past I have rolled in cocoa - but the cake ball itself has to be really sweet to offset the cocoa, and then others I have rolled in drinking chocolate as that's sweet itself (or if you have no drinking chocolate, mix cocoa and icing sugar together).

I made a few other truffles and stuff too, maybe I'll blog about them another day! It is school holidays now, and being Summer I am spending less time indoors and more time at the beach and school pool, so while I will try to blog about some fun things we are getting up to, I may be slack about it!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

From Flab to Fab

Recently I lost weight, and toned up... I have 3 kids so there was quite a bit of toning in the mid section to be done lol. Anyways, the past week or so I have been getting a few comments about my weight loss (it wasn't dramatic, I wasn't overweight to start with but as you will see in the photos I definitely had some to lose!). All up I have lost about 7kg. People want to know how I did it. So I have decided to write this blog post to tell you how I personally have done it. It's still a work in progress - I don't want to lose any more weight, but I do want to build more lean muscle. Especially in the mid section - it looks fine (good even) when standing, but when sitting, it pushes all the fatty bits back out lol, so I'm still working on it.

And for the first time in years, I bought a bikini. A well fitting one, and I wore it for the first time last weekend, in front of my husband's extended family. It felt a lil weird, but I have to admit, I don't think I looked half bad lol, despite having a VERY indulgent weekend with a lot of bad food and a LOT of alcohol.

This is the picture that sparked it all, the one that it dawned on me I had been putting on weight instead of losing it. I am normally around 60kg, and in this picture I was 66.2kg. A friend took it and posted it on facebook. And I had back rolls. I was horrified. It's the heaviest I had ever been without being pregnant. I wish I took a proper before photo for comparison, as the one in my comparison shots I took a couple of days before I weighed in around 64kg. But here, this is the culprit

Now, you may not think it's bad, but it sparked something in me! I wanted to get back on top of my weight now, rather than putting more on and having more to lose. I estimated my weight was about 65kg, I had been 64kg when I got married in March, and this photo was taken in June. But no, I was 66.2kg. That really shocked and upset me lol so there sparked my desire to lose weight.

So there we have it, excuse the fact I am in a bra (at least it's a pretty one aye! haha). I actually have abs you can feel. You can't *quite* see them yet though, that is what my next goal is, just for kicks!

So how did I do it? The old fashioned way really - diet and exercise. But I didn't "diet" - I still had my treats, I would still eat maccas and muffins and everything - I just moderated what I ate a lot more!

I joined www.myfitnesspal.com - HIGHLY recommend doing so. It's calorie counting made easy. It helped me learn a LOT about what I was putting in my mouth. It makes me think twice about eating all the treats I used to eat. I will still have one or 2, but I no longer will eat 6 or 7 muffins in one sitting like I previously might have lol (gross I know). With using MFP (myfitnesspal) I managed to shed 6kg in 6 weeks - I thought it would be a struggle being that I was already at a healthy (just chubbier) weight. But it was really easy. I wasn't even exercising at that stage.

But then it came time to maintain the weight. That was the tricky part. My weight started fluctuating, I started exercising, and it took many months to balance out to where I am now.

What do I do for exercise? Well I play netball once a week, I always have done that though. Then I came across Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. I can not recommend this HIGHLY enough. It is only 20 minutes a day, and it gave me my abs. TWENTY MINUTES. Its so easy to find 20 minutes a day! I even did it in the school holidays with all 3 kids around me. Mr 1 likes to pretend hes doing it with me, and Mr4 and Mr7 like to have a go at the video when I'm finished. I have been lent a couple ofher other dvds but they are 40minutes long and so far I haven't been able to find 40 spare minutes. But 20, that's easy.
And then more recently I have realised I really need to step up my cardio, it's the only way I'm going to burn the last of the fat off my stomach. I have been walking/jogging just under 8km 2-3x a week. I wish I could do more, but unless I invested in a treadmill, it's just too hard with the kids.

So there we have it. I will repeat the important 2 things I said here, if you read nothing else, at least read this - www.myfitnesspal.com and Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Santa is a-coming!

So tomorrow is December 1. This means it's the day we put up the Christmas Tree. It also means it's the day advent calendars get started.

I came across this really cool home made advent calendar idea on (you guessed it) Pinterest. Look here for the original blog post and how they did it

This is my version. The cotton balls will be added each morning by the kids, secured by double sided tape. I used the same poem and santa. I was quite lucky, I actually went shopping yesterday to try to find some papers to use but came up with nothing - I tried 3 local shops! In the end I decided I would just paint it. But today when I decided I realllllly had to get my A into G and get it done, I dug out some papers I bought ages ago when I tried my hand at scrapbooking, and turns out there were the perfect colours in there, even a skin colour! Fancy that. Was obviously meant to be.

Anyways, the picture:

The kids think its kinda cool, its hung on the wall in the dining room and the 2 big ones had to sit on the opposite side of the table to what they normally sit so that they could see Santa. A bit cute.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Filling a blank space

I have this wall in my kitchen that was happily empty. Till I started browsing Pinterest. Then I realised it needed something on it. I did have one particular craft idea that would have gone there oh so nicely, but I don't think I will ever find the time to do that project... at least not any time soon anyway. Anyways, the inspiration for this one actually came from TradeMe. I have no idea what I was browsing, but this particular wall art thing stood out to me, but I wasn't going to pay for it when I knew I could make it for free (had all the materials I needed just lying around - cardboard, a craft knife and paint).

This is what I created:

All I did, was find plates, bowls, plastic containers of various circle sizes. Grabbed an old cardboard box from the recycling and found my trusty craft knife. I looked for circles that would give me roughly the same dimensions per circle. This is what they looked like to start with:

As you can see, I off centred them, looks better that way. I then used my craft knife and carefully cut them all out. I did this 4x.

Once I had them all cut out, it put them back together and painted them (half black, half white, I found I needed 2 coats to get them looking nice. I wanted to throw a colour in there too, but my whole kitchen is in black and stainless steel, and the walls are a greyish pinkish colour so I thought I best stick to plain black and white and I'm glad I did). I'm quite happy with how it turned out, not bad for something that didn't cost me anything!

Another wall art I have done previously was in my bedroom - I always liked those wall quotes you can get but (in case you can't tell) I loathe to spend money on things like that. So I made my own - printed the letters out, traced them onto cardboard, cut them, painted them, and blu-tac'ed them to the wall:

(BTW it IS straight on the wall, I just took the photo on an angle!)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Cake gone wrong

It always happens when you are pushed for time. I need to baked 2 square shaped cakes in order to make mr7's birthday cake on the weekend. I needed it on Sunday, and unfortunately hubby had to work on Saturday. So along with making the cake, I also had 3 kids to wrangle, AND had to make a trip down to the Shore. And I was fully aware my mother-in-law was coming up in the afternoon too to stay the night.

So I decided to bake one cake first thing in the morning, then do the trip to the Shore, then when I got back around lunchtime I would bake the next one, then tackle the housework. Well, the first cake stuck to the pan. To the silicone pan. This never happens. It shouldn't happen. I came to the conclusion its a stupid pan. Anyways, the cake was unusable as a cake. Cue stressy me! I was ready to throw the bloody thing across the kitchen haha.

In the end, I just left. I couldn't face making another cake and I was running out of time to do my trip to the Shore before mr1's sleeptime. Luckily driving helps me clear my head.

I realised I could turn the cake into crumbs and make cake balls. Yum! Ok, doesn't help the fact I still had 2 cakes to make AND it also added to my workload, but at least the cake wasn't a total waste.


All you need to do to make cake balls is to crumble the failed cake, make up a batch of icing (various flavours, cream cheese icing makes for very yummy very rich cake balls), mix the icing and the crumbs together, roll into balls and roll balls into something like coconut, cocoa or my personal fave is to chocolate dip them! yummo!

These particular ones I separated into 3 batches (one I did later on so didn't photograph). The cake was vanilla flavoured. The first I mixed with lemon flavoured icing, and rolled in coconut. The 2nd I added chocolate chips to the mix, made a plain vanilla icing and rolled in a cocoa and icing sugar mix (as I was doing that I realised I could just use drinking chocolate!). Then later I made a chocolate peppermint icing and mixed that into the last lot and rolled in drinking chocolate. Oh yum!

I managed to bake 2 more cakes without any issue (I sprayed the bloody pan with oil lol), and that evening when the kids were in bed, over a glass of wine or 3, I decorated mr7's cake....

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Hotcakes, hot off the press

I have been without my computer for a couple of weeks, it got a nasty virus that wiped everything. Not to worry, it's all fixed now. It's now school holidays and I was hoping to do lots of fun things with the kids, ya know, to make for some interesting blog posts. Well somebody out there had other ideas. We spent the first week catching up with people, and had big plans for adventures for the 2nd week. Well, we got sick didn't we! From Friday till today I still feel like absolute s***. A nasty cold, it's ripped right through the family. Ruined all our plans.

Today I am feeling half human though, I can actually move from the couch for more than a minute at a time. Mr6 asked for hotcakes for lunch. Normally I might make crepes or pikelets... hotcakes aren't really common around here, except for at McDonalds lol. So I googled for recipes - I needed one I could make dairy (or at least lactose) free. Which brings me to a product plug...

Anchor Zero Lacto. Its still got dairy protein in it, so not good for dairy allergy people, but for people who are lactose intolerant like most of my family, its perfect. And it's the same price as rice milk. I only buy it for cooking with though, as its easier to buy rice milk to keep in the pantry till needed. It is as close to milk taste as you can get for a lactose free product - its not sweet or anything like rice or soy milk so it doesn't taint flavours. Drinking it straight however, it tastes a little like sour milk lol. It gets a thumbs up from me.

Anyways, back to the hotcakes. I found this recipe here. And I made it using the Anchor zero lacto milk, with a tablespoon of vinegar per cup to make it lactose free buttermilk. (Previously I have made buttermilk the same way with rice milk, but its just not really the same is it? lol).

And the result? Beautiful, light, fluffy hotcakes, tasting and looking much the same as the ones from Maccas! Shown here smothered in maple syrup - yummy!

Friday, 23 September 2011

A classic, with a twist

I never was a fan of devilled sausages. I love sausages, I love apples, but to me, they just don't go together. Or at least, the cooked apples just feel wrong with the sausages. Its a texture thing more than anything I think.

Anyways, we got this cookbook a while back - The Watties Kiwi Favourites Cookbook, and in it was a recipe for devilled sausages. Hubby and the older 2 boys would often cook dinner most weekends, and would normally follow recipes from this book. Nobody had tried the devilled sausages recipe yet, but I randomly had the urge to make it one night, and started it, only to realise we were out of apples. So that's when I started adapting this recipe.... I dug out a tin of pineapple, and thus my love of devilled sausages began - it just worked perfectly. The pineapple stays firm when cooked and the flavours are divine. It tastes so good, that I felt the need to share it.

So here's my revised recipe....

Kate's Devilled Sausages

8 Sausages (I use 14 - a kilo of countdown's precooks - to feed my troop... I then cut the sausages up, easier for the kids... you don't need to use precooks, I only do cuz they are cheap)
an onion, sliced (I cut into quarters then slice, easier for the kids)
1 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp Vegemite/marmite (I tend to do 1tsp)
1/4 - 1/2 c tomato sauce (I tend to do more as I use more sausages)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (a decent big squirt does the trick)
1/2 tsp prepared mustard (I tend to do about 1tsp, for kicks)
A tin of pineapple in *juice* (not syrup). (I use pineapple rings and cut them up into pieces, as the pineapple pieces are too chunky for my liking. You could use crushed pineapple if you don't like hot chunks of pineapple) - Keep the juice

In a non stick pan, brown the sausages on all sides. Then add the onion and cook for 2 minutes.
Dissolve the Vegemite/marmite in the boiling water then add to the pan with the rest of the ingredients (minus the juice).
Simmer for about 10 minutes, then I add the juice, and simmer for a further 10 mins or until the sauce has thickened.

Serve with rice or mashed potatoes, and steamed vegies (or if you forget to do the vegies, quickly pop some frozen mixed veg into the microwave like I had to last night, oops!).

Monday, 19 September 2011

Organising my pantry one beer box at a time

OK, as a whole I love my kitchen. It is large and spacious. And the pantry is fantastically large but the problem is that it is SO BLOODY DEEP! And not only is it deep, but its TALL too. I have a top pantry and a bottom one. The bottom one is for storing back up supplies mostly (and the tray of eggs, and potatoes etc). Its easy to reach the back of that one. But the main pantry, well..... I suddenly had enough!

It started back in August, was trying to bake Mr4's birthday cake, and cupcakes etc for his party. I knew I had bought sprinkles for the fairy bread in the fortnightly shop nearly 2 weeks prior. But do you think I could locate the container anywhere? No of course not! So a couple of weeks after his party I decided enough was enough (we have been in this house for 1.5 years now,  I'm surprised it took me this long to do something about it lol!) and I was going to sort out the baking shelf... I did not have a plan in place, I just pulled everything out. And I refused to put it back until I had a better system in place.

Luckily for me and my pantry, I was all inspired from Pinterest ;). I decided I needed containers to group like ingredients together, then I can just grab the container. But I didn't want to spend any money either, which took me back to square one. Thought further and realised cardboard boxes would work, so went out to the recycling bin to see what I could find. That's where I found 2 empty beer boxes (thanks to hubby).

Cut them down and just used the bottom half. I had one box for cake decorating ingredients, and one for bread making ingredients. I then realised I needed another for the rest of the random small loose ingredients. That's when the waiting game began. Ya see, hubby generally only buys one box of beer a week. So yay, a week later finally my baking shelf was sorted.


Organised Mess!

Now however, I am trying to sort out my next problem shelf - the one I keep all the dinner type stuff (cans, spices, packets etc). Its a mess, I can never find the spices I want, and end up using whatever is at the front but not a lot from the back. So today I grabbed the box from the recycling (just in time, rubbish goes out tomorrow night) and the big sort of that shelf has started now. I think I'm about 3 weeks away from getting that shelf sorted.... then it will be on to the medicines on the highest shelf (impossible to reach anything on that shelf!).

Just Plain Mess...

 Lucky hubby is a good sport, keeping me in supply of beer boxes.... Because it's hard for him ya know?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

I discovered Pinterest - uh oh!

So a couple of weeks ago I discovered pinterest. I'm a bit slow compared to many. But I found it. And sure enough, I was hooked. I now have so many ideas, so many recipes to try. So many craft projects. Oh I am so inspired! But reality hits and I don't actually have the time or money to undertake most of these projects. Bugger. But it feels pretty damned cool to be feeling this inspired... I used to be pretty artistic before I had kids. But then I guess I got lazy. And cheap. Why does everything have to cost money? So instead of being arty, I tend to bake a lot. In my blog you will probably come across a lot of yummy recipes I am trying out. A lot of them are thanks to pinterest...

Which takes me to today. I am baking something I found on pinterest. This blog post here, from The Girl Who Ate Everything - Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies!

I made my own changes of course. I made my brownies from scratch as opposed to a box mix (you see, I'm too cheap to buy box mixes). I had a bit of a hiccup - appears I hadn't written on my shopping list that we were practically out of icing sugar! Not to worry, I sent hubby and the 4yo off to the shops to save the day.

Drool over this! Watch your arse and hips grow, just by looking! Now go make some, they are seriously far too good to just look at. And I suspect they would be even better if you aren't using dairy free alternatives... as you can see on the chocolate topping, there is oily residue left over from the "spread" I used... don't know if it's just how I mixed it, or what, as I haven't tried it with normal butter....

Here is my altered recipe:

Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies

Brownie Base - (recipe my good friend Nicola gave me)
200g butter (I used budget table spread -its dairy free, it works... oh and its cheap!)
1/2 c cocoa
2 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c flour
2 eggs
optional ¾ c choc melts added after eggs

Preheat oven to 180Âșc. Melt butter and cocoa in a large saucepan. Add sugar and vanilla, then remove from heat. Add flour then eggs. Add chocolate melts (optional). Mix all together, then put into a lined and/or greased 13" by 9" slice pan. Bake for 20 minutes. 

Once the brownies have thoroughly cooled down, give them about an hour or so, then follow on with the rest of the recipe

Peanut Butter Filling
1/2  cup butter, softened (again, budget table spread - works fine)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I used crunchy because that's what we happen to have, it just gives a more bitty texture)
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk - (Pams rice milk I used here, its fine)

In medium bowl, beat filling ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over brownie base.
Now onto the topping:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used Pams choc drops, they are dairy free)
1/4 cup butter (again, Budget table spread, I was a lil concerned it wouldn't set properly but its fine, however seems to have some excess oil lol)
In small microwavable bowl, microwave topping ingredients uncovered on High 30 to 60 seconds; stir until smooth. Cool 10 minutes; spread over filling. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until set.
For brownies, cut into 9 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

YUM. I have just been on a weight loss mission the past 3 months. I have finally reached my goal weight (BTW, if you are looking to lose weight, I HIGHLY recommend http://www.myfitnesspal.com/).... Somehow, after eating these brownies, I think I will have to start tracking my calories again haha!