I am your cake!

Darth Vader eventually went off to conquer another birthday party and overall I think he turned out quite well - not sure if I would ever want to make another one but it was lots of fun and a huge learning experience for me. My client and the birthday boy were both happy with the end result. I was a bit disappointed that due to the size, and having to start baking him so far in advance the cake dried out a bit and was not as moist as usual. I think next time I end up doing a really BIG cake I might freeze the cakes before hand to keep them moist for longer.




The same day Darth Vader left my house I got another call from a lady who was looking for some black and white cupcakes for an adult birthday party as well as a few kiddies ones. She was very specific about the kiddies' cupcakes and only wanted a thin outline of a car on them so that there would be the minimal amount of icing used. It took a bit of practice but I think they turned out really well and my client loved them, it was just what she wanted. For the 'adult' cupcakes I used a black and white swirl pattern with just a touch of edible glitter, they looked very 'grown-up' and she was very happy with them.




I had some black and white icing left after making the cupcakes so instead of wasting I decided to have some fun and play around with some cupcake stencils I got from a company called Paperkutz. I still need to play around with them a bit more but they are a really easy and fun way to decorate cupcakes.




Fun with food

Having fun is what cooking, baking and eating is all about.

I'm the type of person if you invite me to a party I'll spend more time in the kitchen picking up tips from the chef than mingling with the crowds. However, even I sometimes get stuck in a rut and then cooking seems like a chore or even a punishment, I get frustrated, tired and start thinking take-outs. Lately I have been trying to help my kids get through their exams, find ways to promote my business and finishing off arrangements for our Christmas holiday so its no wonder that after a very long day the idea of making dinner has just not filled me with joy and excitement. That was until my Hubby misunderstood a message from my mom.

My Mom lives in England and we communicate mostly through SMS or email, yesterday my hubby was reading one of my mom's emails in which she talks of the Squidlies that she saw. Now I know that, that is our 'pet' name for Squirrels but my hubby was a little confused so he did what we always do when faced with something unknown - he googled it and what he found turned supper into a big laugh.

It seems that Squidlies are one of the names used for a very interesting fun food dish where you start by sticking dry, uncooked spaghetti into hot dog cubes. You then boil theses little 'creatures' in a big pot of salted water till the spaghetti strands are soft and serve with a sauce of your choice.

My hubby decided we simply had to have these for dinner so promptly went on a grocery run after work to get all the ingredients. They were very easy to make and we all loved the end result, they look like little squid creatures and they taste great. My hubby served them with a plain tomato based pasta sauce (or as my daughter said, Squidlie blood) and we will definitely be making these again in the future.






Finding something new and unusual to make with everyday ingredients have once again sparked my imagination and this morning I found myself planning dinner at 8am.

Wonder what it will be.

Stressed? Just read a blog

This week I am taking on my biggest baking challenge to date, I have been asked to bake a Darth Vader cake and a few Star Wars cupcakes for a young boy's birthday party. At first I was not too worried about this but as the big day gets nearer I find myself obsessing about this cake 24 hours a day. I have worked out the basic shapes I want to use to build him but I'm still very worried about getting his facemask just right.

To top it all off my darling hubby has had to go on a business trip so I don't even have him here to calm me down and stop me from turning into a blubbering, icing covered wreck. To stop myself from going totally crazy I decided to peruse my favorite blogs to see what everyone has been up to. This is when I stumbled upon a 'new' blog, not new as in 'just started' but new to me.

Its called Life as Mom, its written by another busy mom trying to find "the road to joyful motherhood". As a Christian, daughter, wife, mother and friend, I'm always trying to do better, help more and be there for others but often this means forgetting about what I want. Don't get me wrong, I love every second that I can spend being there for my family and friends, the rewards I get from them are worth more that all the money in the world. I just think it is important every now and then to remember to look after myself and to find out what it is I need to keep me going. Reading through the Life as Mom blog I found myself smiling, its great to find that there are other moms out there also trying to find that balance between looking after others and looking after yourself.

If you are looking for some inspiration today, go read this blog. I know I will be back there soon.

What we all need

On Saturday I made a Manchester United cake for a 15-year-old fan's birthday. He wanted it kept simple so I just made it a square vanilla sponge cake, covered in white butter icing, then colored and rolled out some plastic icing to cut out the Man United logo.

I had a great time trying to get the logo just right and what made it even better was that my hubby decided to help out - so he cut out the soccer balls in the logo. He did an amazing job and the soccer balls rounded the logo off perfectly. He first tried to cut the red stripes using a template but eventually just cut the design by hand and it looked great.

Its such a blessing to have a hubby that is so supportive and creative - he always believes I can do anything no matter how big or small, complicated or simple, even when I am full of doubt and have no idea where to start - he just smiles and says he knows it will turn out great.

My hubby is no push over though, I always ask his opinion when I'm done with a cake as he knows I prefer to hear the truth - he has very high standards and will tell me quickly if he feels there is something missing or not quite right - but because of this I know I can trust his judgment and when he says its great; I have to believe him.

I know I am very, very luck to have him in my life, we all need someone who believes in us even when we don't, who loves us even when we are slumming it around the house and who is always there to make us smile when life gets in the way.


(and lets not forget; to taste our latest kitchen experiments)


Party Time

When birthdays come around some moms prefer to arrange the entire event via credit card, while others go the DIY route and try to make most of the decorations themselves.

Now while there is nothing wrong with either of these approaches and I'm more in the DIY category, I will sometimes buy a few extras if they really catch my eye. I always spend days and weeks before the party looking for inspiration on the internet or in old magazines and usually have so many ideas that I run out of time and only end up using a few of them.

That was until my daughter decided to have a 50s Rock and Roll party for her 11th birthday, everything from the decorations to the birthday girl's outfit turned out to be a challenge. I got some great decorating ideas from my mom but my big concern was sewing her party outfit.

I googled 'Poodle Skirt Patterns' and started working my way though all the links, by the time I was done I knew all there was to know about the history of the poodle skirt, but still had no idea how to actually make one. A few days later, totally stressed out, I finally turned to my facebook friends for help. An American friend (who is now living here in Cape Town) told me her mom made a poodle skirt by using a round table cloth and cutting a hole in the center.

This worked like a dream and since the bottom (outer edges) are already hemmed it meant a lot less sowing on my part. For the waist I decided to use wide black elastic to make it look like she was wearing the traditional elastic belt that often went with the poodle skirts.

Then there was still the issue of the tulle petticoat; let me just say here that I am no seamstress. I do own a sewing machine but usually it comes out of hiding once or twice a year when I have to shorten new jeans for my hubby or kids, the rest of the time it just sits in the corner and grins at me. I turned once again to my trusted google for petticoat ideas and while I could find plenty of beautiful pictures an actually, easy to make, pattern was nowhere in sight. Two days before the party I finally decided it was now or never, somehow I had to get this done - so hubby patiently took me to the local fabric shop for supplies and once home I sat down and made a petticoat my way.

I was rather surprised at how well it actually turned out and the best part was that the birthday girl loved her outfit. After the entire 'skirt' issue the cake and decorations seemed really easy and the party turned out great. We were lucky to end up with a bunch of really sweet and well-behaved kids who all seemed to have a great time. I have to take my hat off to my darling Hubby and say a big THANK YOU to him; by the time the party started I was pooped so he took over and kept everyone entertained with SingStar and Buzz (a PS3 quiz game) competitions. This way I could look after the 'Milk Shop' serving ice cream and soda floats.



And what is a birthday party without the birthday cake?



Keep an eye out for my new party pages on this blog where I will share more detailed ideas for decorations, cakes and outfits for different themes I have used over the past few years.

Change vs Holiday

They say a change is as good as a holiday; well that might be true most of the time but sometimes there is just no substitute for the real thing.

I’m not talking about staying home and trying to catch up on all those chores you don’t usually get time for; a real holiday is when you get to close the door to your house behind you and go away for a few days. Away from the dishes, the homework, the washing, dusting, sweeping and all those other little things that prevent us from really relaxing at home.

We just got back from a short family holiday and I must say that I don’t believe any amount of change could have meant so much to us. It took us just over two hours to fly the 1 600km from Cape Town to Johannesburg and from the moment we got there we could sit back relax and let the fun begin.

The kids spend the week living in the freezing pool and soaking up the warm rays of the sun to celebrate the end of a long cold winter. While the adults chatted and relaxed in the shade enjoying coffee and fresh baked goodies from my mother-in-law.

I am one of those lucky women who actually love spending time with my mother-in-law, she is very creative and understands my passion for baking. As a treat she took me to a baking specialty shop and bought me a few new toys to come try out at home. I was like a kid in a candy shop, there was just to many wonderful things to look at but eventually I chose some new flower cutters, a JEM baby mould and a few other bits and pieces. I loved the shop so much my hubby took me back there the day before we came home and we also got a set of butterfly cutters and some edible music notes I want to use for our daughter’s birthday cake next week.

My only complaint is that the week went by far to quickly and before we knew it we were back on the plane and on our way home. We landed late Sunday afternoon and by Monday morning it was back to work and school (and washing, dusting, sweeping, etc) but somehow all those little things seem easier to deal with and besides, I still have a bag of new goodies to go experiment with.

A loaf a day keeps the blues away

Today has been another normal run-around day, and to top it off the weather outside has been gray and wet all morning.

I had to go to the shop to get a few extras for a cake order I’m making tomorrow and even though I made a shopping list, I still ended up forgetting half the stuff I wanted to buy, including bread for home.

This is when being a Kitchen Gadget Nut really comes in handy, I unpacked my poor neglected bread maker from the back of the cupboard, gave it a good dusting chucked all the ingredients in for a ‘small quick loaf’ and carried on with my normal life while trusting my little machine to do the rest.

Within minutes I could smell the yeast starting to work and could not resist going right up to the machine and having a good sniff. Less than an hour later the polite little beep informed me that my bread was ready to come out.

There is just nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread, still warm and crispy, to get the taste buds jumping up and down and begging for a slice. Walk into any bakery or local shop just when they are taking the freshly baked loafs out of the oven and you will see people sniff the air and smile to themselves, it’s the smell of comfort and warmth, even on a cold, gray day like today. The only thing better is when that smell is coming from your own kitchen, I think I better go put another loaf in the machine, this one is not going to last long once my kids get home.

Sniff, sniff

The past three weeks have been hectic and I feel like I have become a near permanent resident at my local pharmacy having to run in there every other day for some more flu medication.

It all started with my daughter (10) complaining that her neck and head was sore all the time, two days later she was down and out with a high fever and cold symptoms, it took her almost two weeks to recover and just as she was starting to get better my son (12) started complaining about a sore neck and head (!!). He had me even more worried; none of the medication I usually use for my kids was able to keep his fever down and by that time my hubby and I were both sitting with the neck and head pains so we knew what was coming. My poor hubby ended up with viral bronchitis and I was ‘lucky’ enough to get away with just a bad cold.

The kiddies seems to over most of the flue and both went back to school at the beginning of this week, hubby is still not 100% but at least he is getting better and has gone back to work today, as for me well apart from a blinding headache I think I’ll be right as rain in a few more days.

A few days before our flue fun started I had fun making a pink number 1 cake for a little girl’s birthday, her mom had ordered the cake about a week ahead which gave me plenty of time to plan and make all the bits and pieces to go on the cake.








While I was in the final stages of decorating the cake I had a knock on my door from a frantic neighbor who needed a number 1 cake for a boy’s birthday also for the next day (!!!). Not being one to turn down orders I took up the challenge and started baking a second cake straight away. I used the same basic idea that I had for the little girl’s cake but just made a few color changes to make it appropriate for a boy.




Both cakes got finished in time and both moms were very happy with the results.

My little Lollipop and one of her friends, Boo decided to play around with the bits of left over cake and marshmallow icing – they had a ball and I must say for a 10 and 11year old they did a great job making icing roses and decorating the cakes.



My next project is a number 12 cake for Boo’s birthday next week.

Fun with left overs

Last week I had an order for a 21st cake, I love it when customers know exactly what they want. When it's for someone I know its sometimes fun to have free reign to come up with something for them but when its for a customer I have never met I really prefer them to be as specific as possible. This lady knew exactly what she wanted - a blue number 21 with white icing border and a small bicycle in the one corner.





It made it really easy for me and she loved that she got exactly what she asked for, so we were both happy.

I had some blue and white icing left once I finished the cake and instead of wasting I decided to have some fun and try something new. I made a batch of vanilla cupcakes and filled an icing bag half and half with the left over icing, then I just piped it as usual and finished it off with some edible glitter.





My kids LOVED these and my little Lolipop has already 'ordered' these for her birthday party in October.

New toys

I have to admit that I go totally nuts over kitchen gadgets and I'm always on the lookout for something new to play with.

My Mother-in-law recently found a lovely shop in Johannesburg that specialises in baking equipment and bought me two sets of flower cutters and some edible glitter to try out. I could hardly wait for them to get here and was just about harassing the poor postman on a daily basis till he finally delivered my little pick-up-parcel slip.

The cutter are fantastic and I will post some more pics when I get time to try them on a cake (or even on some cupcakes).

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today is another gray, cold day with the wind rattling the doors and the rain tapping the windows, usually I love this kind of weather but today its just making me feel sad.

My kiddies went back to school yesterday after a lovely long holiday, thanks to the Soccer World Cup, and now the house seems way to quiet and empty during the day. I miss hearing them playing upstairs and knowing that they are safe and warm regardless of the freezing weather outside. I can’t wait for them to get home from school.

I decided to bake some chocolate chip cookies and shortbread as a treat for hubby and the kiddies for when they get home, I'm sure they will love it. So for anyone else out there who needs a little pick me up today, try these chocolate chip cookies they are sure to put a little smile on your face.



Ingredients:


225g (1/2lb) self-raising flour
100g (4oz) butter or baking margarine
100g (4oz) castor sugar
50g (2oz) soft brown sugar (or normal white sugar)
100g (4oz) chocolate chips
1 extra large egg beaten


To make:


- Heat to oven to 190C / 375F
- Sift the flour into a mixing bowl
- Use your fingers to rub the butter/margarine into the flour till it looks like fine bread crumbs.
- Stir in the castor sugar, brown sugar and choc chips
- Add the beaten egg and mix by hand till it forms a smooth dough
- Grease 2 baking sheets with butter/margarine (or spray-n-cook)
- Break small pieces off the dough and roll into balls in the palm of your hand
- Flatten slightly and place on the baking sheet, not to close together as they will spread out
- Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes depending on your oven
- Let them cool and then just enjoy



Notes:

-Both brown and white sugar make brilliant cookies, but if you use soft brown sugar the cookies will be darker and color with a slight caramel taste

- This recipe is very forgiving so if you don’t have castor sugar just use 100g normal white sugar – they will still taste delicious.


Pasta Blanco

Just for fun here is one of my all time favorite pasta recipes, it is stunning as a side dish with grilled chicken, fish or kassler steaks; although it also makes a wonderful light meal with just a green salad on the side. This takes hardly any time and yet it is full of flavor.

This recipe will serve 4 hungry adults.

Ingredients:

1 pkt tagliatelle pasta (or spaghetti)
2 tbs butter
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 container grated parmesan cheese (about 75g or a big handful)
Salt and black pepper to taste.


To make:

- Cook pasta in a big pot of salted boiling water.

- When pasta is just soft drain the water; but keep about 6tbs of the water in the pot with the pasta

- Add the garlic, parmesan, butter, salt and a few good turns of black pepper and toss lightly with a fork till all the pasta is coated and the butter has melted.

- Serve straight away.

Note: This pasta can be quite rich, for a lighter version use only half the amount of parmesan cheese.

Extra Ideas :

- Use lemon pepper instead of the black pepper; it gives the pasta a fresh taste.
- Add chopped up fresh basil leaves just before serving.
- For a delicious meaty alternative add cooked crispy bacon (or chicken bacon or chopped chorizo sausage), and a hand full of frozen peas.

Lesson learned

Not everyone is trustworthy. This is the lesson I learned this week and believe me I have learned it well.

Up till now I have always been willing to happily take telephonic orders even from people I have never met in person. I know this might sound silly and naive but most of the people who phone me have been referred by a previous customer or a friend so I have never had any problems with non-payment.

On Monday I worked for hours on two chocolate birthday cakes for a new customer, only for her to claim that she only ordered one(!!). Even though I had a friend at my house when the lady phoned to place the order and she heard me confirm all the details for the orders I realised I had no way to prove that she asked for both cakes.

At first I was really upset about it but then I decided to use this experience as a learning curve and in future anyone ordering from me for the first time will have to either sign an order form or send me a confirmation email with all the details on. No more blindly trusting people to keep their word, this is my business and I can’t afford to be nice all the time.

The silver lining was that since it was a double-digit cake, I sent half over to my friend's house and both our families got rich chocolate cake for desert. The kids all loved it and the next morning I got another order for a cake from one of my previous customers, so that made me feel all better again.




Wedding cake and surprises

Friday was a busy, busy day. I had my first official order for a wedding cake, as well as 40 cupcakes (vanilla, lemon and chocolate) for a charity tea party and a carrot cake to make.

The only hiccough was that my oven seems to be on a go-slow and instead of the normal 35 minutes per cake was taking up to an hour to cook one cake batter. The result of this was that I had long periods where I had to just sit and wait for the cakes to bake and it was driving me nuts. I really felt that I wasted a lot of time on Friday and will have to find a way to manage my time better so that I have something productive to keep me busy while I’m waiting.

I finished the wedding cake and last of the cupcakes at 12:30am and the carrot cake I did early on Saturday morning. I was pooped but also very happy with the results. I still have a lot to learn but I think overall everything turned out well, the most important part is that everyone was very happy with their orders.

I got a call late on Saturday afternoon from the lady who ordered the cupcakes to say that everyone at the charity tea loved them - and that she will be ordering more and will gladly recommend me to others. To me that is the best reward, I love to bring a smile to people with my baking.












Surprise gift

On Friday afternoon my darling hubby came home with a beautifully-wrapped gift just for me. I was so surprised (it was not even my birthday) this was just a I-love-you and-believe-in-your-business gift. I was over the moon when I opened it and found a brand new Salter Dome Scale. It's brilliant -it measures grams, ounces, milliliters and fluid ounces. I love it and have been using it all weekend.





Years ago I got my first digital food scale as a gift from my Mother-in-law. I loved the ease and accuracy with which it would measure out ingredients and together we have baked untold amounts of cake, cookies, cupcakes and other treats. A few weeks back my old friend just refused to work, at first I was not too worried, I assumed it just needed a new battery. Well, after three new batteries and a frantic search for error codes on the internet, I finally had to admit that it was hopeless and that this was the end of our partnership.

Since then I have been using an old spring scale, which has been giving me a real headache. You can weigh the same amount of flour three times and you will get three different readings. I knew I would have to buy a new scale eventually but I just don't like spending money on myself - besides I was still holding on to the hope that I could somehow fix my old scale.

Then my knight in shining amour came home with my beautiful new scale and I can once again bake with ease. I am very spoiled indeed – will have to bake him something yummy to say thank you.

One proud mamma

This week has been amazing, I got six different cake orders - three for this Saturday, two for Tuesday next week and then the last one still has to confirm the date.

The one I am most excited about is my first official wedding cake that I am making for Saturday. I have had fun planning it and now it’s in the oven baking, I just hope all goes well and that the bride-to-be will be happy with it.

I will post an update with pics once it’s all done.


Have to brag

Both my kids, Lollipop (10) and Mini-Chef (12), have always loved helping out in the kitchen, but lately they have become more insistent on wanting to bake 'on their own' (except for putting things in the oven - that is mom's job).

On Wednesday Lollipop decided to she was going to make oats crunchies - she took my favorite recipe, got all the ingredients together, measured and mixed it all by herself (with mom being allowed to supervise from the other side of the kitchen counter). I was only allowed near her baking when it was time to go into the oven and to take it out again.







They were delicious, not to crunchy and not to chewy - just perfect.

Mini-Chef on the other hand has been begging me to let him try and make a 3D cake for quite some time now. Yesterday was my friend's birthday and he grabbed the opportunity by offering to make her an eye-ball birthday cake.

He had a ball in the kitchen, not only did he bake a vanilla sponge cake from scratch but he also decorated it to look like an eye-ball (brown to match my friend's eyes). Everyone at her party was very impressed and now he is already planning his next creation.





I am one very proud mommy, I love to see how much joy they get from baking and cooking and I am so glad that they would both rather make something at home than to buy ready-made from a shop.

I often hear people say the art of cooking is lost on the younger generation and that they are more interested in take-aways and fast food than learning to make things for themselves. I don't think this is true, kids love to get dirty in the kitchen and try out new things, all we have to do is nurture their natural curiosity and allow them to experiment - so what if they want to make a peanut butter and Bovril sandwich with cheese? How will they ever know what flavours work well together if they are not allowed to try it for themselves?

Kids love to touch food, let them get their hands in there making a fruit salad or a batch of oats crunchies, it will build their confidence in the kitchen and make them much more willing to try out new foods if they actually helped prepare it.

Here is a recipe to get you started.


Oats Crunchies

These easy to make crunchies are always a great treat with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

Ingredients:

1 cup flour (250ml)
1 cup coconut (250ml)
2 cups oats (500ml)
1 cup sugar (250ml)

180g hard margarine
3tbs syrup (45ml)

1tsp bicarbonate of soda (5ml)


To make:

- Mix all the dry ingredients (except the bicarb) in a bowl
- Melt margarine and syrup together in a pot (or in the microwave), once melted take it off the heat and add the bicarb (it will foam up)
- Mix butter mixture into dry ingredients and press into oven proof dish
- Bake at +/- 180C for about 20 min
- Remove from oven let cool slightly and cut into squares, remove from baking dish and leave on cooling rack to cool. Keep in airtight container and hide away.

Note: For crunchier squares use slightly more margarine and for chewier squares use less margarine and more syrup.

Chocolate Cake

Quick and easy to make but delicious to eat, a real treat. My friend, makes this cake for birthdays and special occasions and it is always a hit.


Ingredients:

For cake

2 tbs cocoa powder
90g margarine
1 ½ cup cake flour
½ cup milk
3 big eggs
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/3 cup sugar


For chocolate butter icing

100g of butter/margarine
2 cups icing sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
3tsp milk
cocoa powder to taste


To make:

Cake

- Sift all dry ingredients together.
- Add the rest of the ingredients.
- Beat for 3 minutes with an electric beater (or a bit longer with a hand beater)
- Pour into two lined 25cm cake tins and bake for 25 to 30 min at 180C.
- Once cooled decorate sandwich together with the butter icing and decorate as you prefer


Icing

- Cream the butter/margarine, add the rest of the ingredients and mix till smooth.
- Adjust the vanilla essence and cocoa powder to taste.


Ideas :

- For something different open a tin of caramel, stir till smooth then use to sandwich the cake together.

- Crush up a mint crisp chocolate or flake to sprinkle over the top of the icing or grate some white chocolate to sprinkle over.

Banana bread

Since its to cold to go out here is a tea time recipe to make staying home a real treat.

This traditional tea time bread is also a great way of using up those over ripe bananas so they don’t end up in the dustbin.


Ingredients:

2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
120g butter/margarine
2 big eggs
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
3 or 4 very ripe bananas mashed up


To make:

- Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the eggs and mashed bananas and stir into the butter mixture.
- Add all the dry ingredients and mix well.
- Spoon mixture into a loaf pan and bake for 1 hour at 180C.


Ideas :

- Serve slices hot or cold with some butter or cream cheese.

Corn Chowder

Winter has arrived in Cape Town, but I'm not really complaining, I love this kind of weather. There are many way to warm up and the only thing better than cuddling under a warm blanket with a good book or movie is a big bowl of steming winter soup or stew.

This creamy American style soup is the perfect way to warm up on a cold winters night. Served with salty crackers or chunks of fresh bread it makes a hearty main meal.


Ingredients:

250g salty pork belly cut into small cubes (or a pkt of streaky bacon)
1 onion, chopped
3 big potatoes cut into small cubes
500ml hot water (2 cups)
300g frozen sweetcorn
salt and black pepper to taste
700ml milk

2 heaped tbls all purpose flour (or cornflour)
8tbls tap water (enough water to make a smooth paste)


To make:

- Fry the pork in a big pot over a medium high heat till it has a good color then add the chopped onion and fry till the onions as soft and sweet.
- Add the cubed potatoes and hot water then cover the pot and slowly cook for about 30 to 40 minutes.
- In a cup mix the flour and water till there are no lumps then pour into the big pot and stir through.
- Add the sweetcorn and bring the soup back to the boil while stirring, cook for 3 to 5 minutes till the corn is cooked.
- Add salt and black pepper to taste.
- Add the milk and heat gently for 5 minutes but do not let the milk boil.
- Serve in big soup bowls with a sprinkle of black pepper over the top.





Note: If you prefer a thicker soup add another spoon or two of flour mixed with a bit of water to thicken the soup.


Ideas :

- For a vegetarian version leave out the pork and use vegetarian bacon bits instead.

Bunny Chow

To celebrate the start of the 2010 World Cup today I want to share one of my all time favorite meals, and a true taste of South Africa. Growing up in Durban the Bunny Chow (which does not contain any real bunnies) is still one of my most treasured childhood food memories.

The origin of the Bunny Chow (or just called a Bunny by locals) is still highly disputed; but what can be agreed on is that it started around Durban in the 1940s and that it is still enjoyed by all ethnic groups in SA making it a real national treasure.

To make a Bunny Chow simply take a quarter loaf of fresh white bread (or adjust the size to fit your hunger to a half loaf or even more), hollow out the inside and fill with a delicious curry of your choice. Then place the bread you took out back on top to form a hat. If you want you can sprinkle it with fresh coriander leaves, plain yogurt or tomato and onion relish (known as sambals) or just enjoy it on its own.

The way you eat a Bunny is very important, no cutlery allowed. Break pieces off the bread that was hollowed out and dip into the curry sauce to scoop up the curry bits. As the curry starts to go down, tear pieces of the bread bowl and eat with the curry.

The Bunny Chow is more than just a meal; it’s a fun way to spend time with family and friends. To me a Bunny Chow means home, it brings back the smells of Durban and happy carefree childhood memories of fun times spend with my mom and friends.

Originally only vegetable curry was used in Bunnies but today it is acceptable to use any curry of your choice. Here is my mom's basic curry recipe to get everyone started.






Basic Curry

This is a basic curry recipe but there are no measurements as it can be changed depending on taste, or what you have available in the cupboard. We have curry about twice a week and it never tastes the same!


Ingredients:


Meat (can be Lamb, Chicken, Beef, Ostrich - you decide)
Onion (finely sliced)
Curry paste (or curry spices)
Tomato puree (or diced tomatoes or tomato and onion mix)
Tomato paste
Salt to taste

*Ginger
*Garlic
*Coriander / Dhania fresh of dried
*Masala
*Bay leaves
*Curry leaves
*Ground cumin
*Tumeric
*Cinnamon
*Cardamon pods / ground
*Lemon rind
*Whole kernel corn (frozen or in can)
*Coconut milk / maas / plain yoghurt

* Optional extras but will add the real tast of Durban to any curry.


To make:

- Brown meat in a pot or pan – put aside
- Gently fry onion in a large pot.
- When soft add curry paste, ginger, garlic, masala, other spices (if using) and simmer for approx 20 min.
- Add meat and stir until it is all covered in the spices.
- Add tomato puree (or tomato and onion mix) and tomato paste and stir into the meat and spice mix. (Don’t add any water)
- Cover the pot and let simmer for at least 30min.
- About 5min before serving add the chopped coriander leaves and the coconut milk / maas / yoghurt and the corn (if using).


Note: If using lamb meat then add the salt before the tomato puree and stir it through, for any other meat add it while the curry is simmering

Pizza Sunday

On Sunday hubby and I were debating what to make for supper - should we have something 'special' like roast beef with Yorkshire pudding? or go for a comforting bowl of minestrone soup with crusty fresh bread to warm us up? Well the choice was obvious...we needed pizza.

Anyone who has made their own pizzas will agree that homemade pizzas are just so much better than the take away ones. They beat the store ones both in price, flavor and fun. Once you get the hang of making the dough (which is not hard) you will never want to see another take away pizza again.

Dough

1kg white bread flour (about 2.2lbs or 7 cups)
2 sachets instant dry yeast (about 20g)
1 heaped tablespoon salt (about 20ml)
2 heaped tablespoons sugar (about 40ml)
about 650ml tepid water

- Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl (or on the kitchen table)
- Make a hollow in the center of the dry ingredients and add about 3/4 of the water.
- Start mixing the flour and water together with a fork adding more of the water till it all comes together enough so you can mix it with your hands.
- Kneed the dough by rolling and pushing it around (this is a great way to get rid of tension) till the dough is soft and pliable but not sticky.
- Cover with a tea towel and let it rest in a warm place till it has almost doubled in size or until you are ready to start making pizzas.

To make pizza

- 1 tin tomato puree (or tomato pasta sauce)
- grated cheese
- diced toppings of your choice
(I suggest bacon, mushrooms and green pepper)

Heat the oven to about 240C (about 460F)

Now this part will depend on what size pizzas you want to make, I usually make 4 large rectangular family size pizzas that is enough for supper with left overs for packed lunches the next day. But you could also make about 6 thin crust round pizzas, or 4 thick crust round pizzas. It just depends on your taste.

For my family I take the dough and divide it into 4 equal parts. Each quarter gets rolled out (use some plain flour to dust the counter so the dough won't stick) to the size of my baking sheet. It works best to put the dough on the baking sheet (or pizza tin) before you start adding the toppings.

Spread the pizza base with some tomato puree, sprinkle over tons of cheese (I use mozzarella and cheddar mix) and now just go nuts and add all your favorite toppings.

Bake in a pre-heated over for about 8-10 min (but this depends on your oven so keep an eye on it).

When the base is cooked and the cheese all melted, take it out, slice it up and dive straight in - Yummmy!




More ideas with dough

This dough can be frozen raw so you don't need to use it all at once, when you need it just take it out the freezer the night before and let it stand in a warm place to defrost completely and use as normal. You can use the prepared dough to make a ton of other bread bakes.

- Roll it out, sprinkle with some garlic, olive oil and chopped parsley then bake in a hot oven for a delicious garlic bread that is just perfect with a salad or soup.

- Break off golf ball size pieces of dough, stretch them flat with your hands and then deep fry in hot oil till golden brown on both sides. In south Africa we call these Vetkoek (fat cakes) and in Alaska they are known as fried breed. They can be eaten as is or cut open and stuffed with savory mince, for a sweet treat eat them with your favorite jam.

- Mix a teaspoon of dried herbs and some chopped bacon into about half amount of the dough, then press it into a deep baking dish, sprinkle with cheese and bake at about 200C (390F) till done. Serve with a Greek or Italian salad for a delicious light lunch.

Something new

I decided I need to try out at least one new recipe every week. Baking helps me to relax so on the one hand it will be a great way to make some 'me' time and on the other hand I will be able to expand my current catering menu.

This week has been a bit hectic but on Friday I finally got down and tried out the Lemon Meringue Cupcake recipe I have been dying to have a go at for quite some time. They were delicious and my only complaint is that the recipe only makes a few small ones, next time I will have to double it.



Its a very light and spongy cupcake topped with lemon butter (or lemon curd) and a little mini meringue. I think I will also make the meringue a bit bigger next time and put them on just before serving to help keep them as crispy as possible.

The big search

I have been looking for a tiny daisy (or any flower) shaped cutter for quite some time now and yesterday I spend the day going from shop to shop to see what they have but, still no luck. The only good news is that one of the shop assistants gave me the name and number of a shop in another area that is suppose to have what I’m looking for, so there is still hope that I will find it.

I have a special request from one of my FaceBook friends who is looking for the Microwave Brownies recipe that I use to have on my old web site, so this is specially for Aiden and anyone else who is in need of a sweet treat today. I got this recipe from my mother-in-law and it is a brilliant recipe that can be made in minutes and is perfect with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk – enjoy!


Microwave Brownies

I love making these for the kids during the school holidays; they are super quick and so yummy that they will disappear in seconds.

Ingredients:

120g Margarine
150g Brown Sugar
1 Egg
15ml (1 tbs) Milk
5ml (1 tsp) Vanilla
150g Cake Flour
2 tbs Cocoa
3 ml Baking Powder
1 ml Cinnamon


To make:

- Cream butter and sugar.
- Add egg, milk and vanilla to butter mix.
- Sift dry ingredients and add to the batter.
- Lightly press brownie mix into a 20cm square glass (or any microwave) dish.
- Microwave on full power for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Cut into squares and let stand in the dish for a few minutes before turning out to cool.


Extra Ideas for Brownies :

- Add some chocolate chips or dried cranberries to the batter before cooking for a special treat.
- To keep the kids busy make some butter or glace icing (just mix tepid water and icing sugar to a smooth spreading consistency) and let them decorate the squares with sprinkles or jelly sweets.

Chicken and Bacon Pasta Bake

It’s been another jam-packed weekend. On Saturday morning my darling hubby installed a microwave shelf to help me free up some much needed counter space in my tiny kitchen.



Although the shelve was not as easy to assemble as it said on the box (when is it ever?) hubby did a fantastic job and with some rearranging of a few appliances I now feel like I can breath in my kitchen and is actually looking forward to getting stuck in and having some baking fun.

Saturday afternoon we had some friends over with their adorable 10 month old son, he is such a sweetie and it just reminded me again of how small my own kids use to be and how quickly they grow up. To work around the little guys schedule we decided to have a late lunch early supper so I made one of my family’s favorite dishes, Chicken and Bacon Pasta Bake. Its super quick and easy but packed full of flavor.


Chicken and Bacon Pasta Bake

1pk pasta of your choice (macaroni, penne, screws, etc)
1 X 250g pkt of streaky bacon cut into cubes
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (cut into bite size cubes)
1 tin chopped tomatoes (or ratatouille)
2 big handfuls of crated cheddar cheese
Salt, black pepper and herbs to taste (I prefer basil and oregano)
Oil for frying


- Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water as per the pkt instructions.
- While pasta is cooking fry the chicken cubes in a little oil till just white.
- Add the bacon to the chicken and continue to fry till it is cooked through.
- Add the tin tomato, and season to taste with salt, black pepper and herbs.
- Drain the pasta and place it in an oven proof dish.
- Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix through.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake in a medium hot oven (180C) till
the cheese is melted and gooey.


Serve the dish on its own or add a big green salad and a garlic flat bread to turn it into a delicious family feast. This dish will easily feed 4 to 5 hungry adults and takes only about 30min to prepare, perfect for weekend get togethers or family suppers.

I love recipes that I can chop and change to fit my mood and the contents of my grocery cupboard. So if you are out of bacon and chicken simply use pork sausages or minute steaks, fried and cut into slices they add a delicious twist to this ever-changing pasta dish.




Thank you to my Facebook friend Aiden for the picture.

The start of a new adventure in the kitchen.

After much deliberation, I have decided to follow my heart and take the leap into finally starting my own catering company specialising in cakes, cupcakes and platters. Join me on my adventures (and I’m sure a few misadventures)as I find out what lies ahead on the candy coated road to catering heaven. On the way I will be trying out new recipes, finding out how to best advertise my business and even make time for some general goofing around. Let the baking fun begin!