Sunday, 28 November 2021

Oreo spider cupcakes


Each year we remember our twin sons, Alex and Ian, with a lunch and cake.  Lockdown has made it quite challenging to keep up these traditions.  Last year my parents were unable to come to the Melbourne in early November but this year they visited me for the birthday lunch just days after restrictions were lifted between metropolitan and regional Victoria.  It was many months since I had seen them so it was a special day in many ways.

The previous day, I had made Oreo spider cupcakes with Sylvia.  We wanted something simple, given our energies had been drained by lockdown.  Chocolate is always my choice of flabour so we returned to a chocolate muffin recipe we had made last year.  Last time we made them a bit more wholemeal but this time we followed the receipt more closely.  They were really lovely and lasted well.

We made the cupcakes together and then Sylvia did a lot of the decoration.  Pulling apart oreos was very satisfying and piping chocolate legs was forgiving because the oreos could cover up a multitude of mistakes.

The lunch was pretty simple.  I baked sausage rolls and served them with some baked brie my mum made and a dip platter.  The platter was mostly from the farmers market: jalapeno, coriander and parsley hummus; roasted purple cauliflower; lightly steamed asparagus, cherry tomatoes on the vine and sadly I didn't think to look for crackers at the market so I had to get mine from a box of Savoys from the supermarket.   The cupcakes were our dessert and my mum also brought some chocolate caramel tarts.

The oreo spiders were pretty cute.  The blog where I found the instructions said the oreos soften after a while so it suggested decorating just a few hours before serving.  They were nice with crunchy oreos but also good when the biscuits softened.  Personally if making for a nice lunch, I would prefer more time to prepare than a crunchy oreo.  We also made some mini muffins and just put candy eyes on them because it would not have worked with trying to stick the eyes on mini oreos.  The oreo spider cupcakes were a fun and easy addition to my Halloween recipes.

More spider themed food on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate and pretzel spiderwebs

Cracker spiders

Orange punch with spiders (gf, v)
Smartie and licorice spider cupcakes
Spider cheeseball (gf) 
Spiderweb cupcakes (v)
Spiderweb pizza (v)

How to make Oreo spider cupcakes

You will need:

How to assemble:

  • First prepare the oreos by twisting to separate biscuits and scraping icing off the underside, then pipe chocolate dots where the 2 eyes will go and placing candy eyes on the dots.
  • NOTE: if you don't have a piping bag and nozzle, you can use a plastic bag and snip off a tiny corner to pipe the chocolate.
  • Spread cupcakes with frosting.
  • Melt the chocolate and pipe 4 spider legs on each side of the frosting.
  • Place the oreos with eyes on the cupcakes so the eyes are between the two sets of four legs.  
  • NOTE: If you are preparing the day before, you can set aside oreos and place on a few hours before serving if you want them crunchy rather than soft.

To make the cupcakes vegan:

  • Your cupcakes should be vegan such as these - Chocolate cupcakes (vegan) 
  • The frosting can either be a thick mixture of icing sugar, vegan margarine and a little water or a cream cheese frosting using a vegan cream cheese (such as tofutti) and a vegan margarine.
  • Oreos can be used because they are vegan.
  • Choose a vegan dark chocolate.
  • Make sure your candy eyes are vegan - it seems some are and some have egg or gelatine in them.  If you can't find vegan candy eyes either make some or you could try piping some frosting eyes and piping a chocolate dot on them (I haven't tried this but the frosting might need to be much thicker than then one spread on the cupcakes).


On the stereo:
Wonderland: original soundtrack by Michael Nyman

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Cheese and potato quiche


Dinner can be an adventure.  This is how I feel every time I make quiche.  I am not a big fan of eggs, and pastry has never been in my comfort zone.  Quiches are challenging, demanding and ultimately satisfying.  Sylvia asked for this cheese and potato quiche.  She found the recipe in one of her cookbooks.  She helped me make it and it was a fine dinner for both of us.

Many years ago I had a friend tell me that making pastry in the food processor is so easy.  She was so right.  It is a joy to watch it form into a ball in the food processor as it comes together.  It is even more of a joy to find a fluted, loose bottomed tart tin that I bought some years ago in hope of making some tarts.  Finally I had something to bake in the tart rather than just store marbles in it.

I found baking the quiche pastry a bit fussy.  I don't have baking beans so I used rice in the first part of baking.  Then I didn't read the recipe properly and didn't get my egg whites properly frothed and then I brushed the shell with egg white only to find that I should have baked it for 5 minutes before the second 5 minutes baking.  I think baking it for 10 minutes after I brushed on the egg white was ok (though I find egg white icky!)

As you can see by the above and below photos, making the quiche was a messy procedure.  I gathered the ends of cheeses and found some parsley in the garden.  Chopping, slicing, grating, whisking, arranging, drizzling.  Broken egg shells, mixing bowls, saucepans, chopping boards, mixing boxes.  It was good to have Sylvia's help to get it done.


Sylvia likes her quiches plain.  The original recipe had caramlised onions which sounded lovely to me but not to her.  I would have added some corn or some olives or sun dried tomatoes.  It was a bit like the classic Spanish potato tortilla in a pastry shell!


The parsley looked good on top of the quiche.  It came out of the oven a lovely golden brown and tasted fantastic.  I served mine with baby spinach, grated carrot, purple cabbage and balsamic vinegar on the side.  Leftovers also tasted great cold from the fridge over the next few days.

The quiche in the cookbook was one of the Five Famous Quiches.  Named after Enid Blyton's Famous Five mystery books.  So I have to tell you, that although it was an adventure making the quiche, it was nowhere near as much mayhem, intrigue and mystery as the lives of Julian, Dick and Anne, George and Timmy the dog.  

If you watched lots of the TV show as a kid like me - as well as reading the books - you will now feel like singing their names and then basking in nostalgia of a love of the Famous Five as a kid.  Though I suspect not every kid's idea of playing Famous Five with a friend was arguments between George and Uncle Quentin in a haystack!  Those were fun times and I am sure the Famous Five would have even found mysteries in lockdown.  If you weren't a Famous Five fan, then I hope you just enjoy the quiche!


More quiche recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Crustless asparagus and potato quiche
Mini tomato, goats cheese and caramelised onion quiches
Pumpkin cornmeal quiche
Vegan quiche with tofu and besan (v)
Zucchini and tomato quiche with wild garlic  


Cheese and potato quiche

Adapted from Enid Blyton's Jolly Good Food: a cookbook inspired by the stories of Enid Blyton written by Allegra McEvedy
Serves 4-6

Pastry:
170g plain white flour
60g polenta
[20g finely grated parmesan cheese, optional]
salt and pepper
120g cold cubed butter
1 egg
1 egg white

Filling:
400g potatoes (I used otway reds)
120g grated cheese (I used cheddar, mersey valley, gruyere and parmesan)
150ml double cream
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
handful of parsley, finely chopped
seasoning

Preheat oven to 190 C.  Grease a 24cm diameter round fluted loose bottomed tart tin. 

To make the pastry:

Whizz the flour, polenta, parmesan (if using) and seasoning in food processor to combine.  Add butter in a few lots until incorporated.  Then add one egg and process until it forms a ball of pastry.  If it is too dry, add a little water but mine was on the sticky side.

Knead the pastry very briefly on a flour dusted surface and this roll out until about 0.5cm thick.  Roll pastry around rolling pin and transfer to the tart tin, pushing to fit the edges.  Line pastry with a sheet of baking paper.  Fill with weights such as baking beans or (as I did) with rice.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

While the pastry is baking, whisk egg white until frothy.  When pastry is baked, remove baking papers and weights.  Brush with whisked egg white and return tin to the oven for another 10 minutes.  Set aside while you put together the filling.

To make and assemble the filling:

Clean and peel potatoes.  Cut into  0.5cm slices.  Boil in salted water for about 10-12 minutes until just cooked.  Whisk together cream, 3 eggs and the egg yolk until creamy.

Layer half potatoes, sprinkle with half grated cheese and half herbs, then drizzle half the creamy egg mixture over.  Repeat with other half of filling.

To bake:

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Cool for 5 minutes before slicing.  Eat hot, warm or room temperature.

On the Stereo:
Countdown 40th Anniversary: various artists

Sunday, 7 November 2021

In My Kitchen - November 2021

November finds us finally finally out of lockdown.  Change has come disturbingly fast, compared to coming out of last year's long lockdown.  Two weeks after lockdown ended, I have had my parents visit me, had a few swims at the pool (no bookings required any more), had my first day back in the office, and have plans to go out of Melbourne soon.  

October brought some ups and downs.  Sylvia had her second covid vaccination and within days was advised she was a close primary contact to a covid case at school for the second time.  I had a flat tyre on my bike that got worse and worse as I unsuccessfully tried to pump it up but discovered a bike shop I could walk to.  I hurt my back leaning over to put something in the bin.  At work everyone is excited to look out for cafes open nearby.  I was sad to hear about people dying recently just towards the end of lockdown when opportunities to see loved ones have been limited and funerals were strictly limited in numbers.  This included the high profile death of high profile death of Aussie TV legend Bert Newton.  

And then we have had Australia's embarrassing appearance at climate change COP meeting in Glasgow, lying politicians, a little girl Cleo lost and found, all forcing Covid off the front page of the newspapers.,

Despite feeling uncomfortable at the thought of crowds and large social gatherings, there is also a zing of optimism.  I have been visiting the farmers market more as well as organic food stores, reading some great books and enjoying sunshine while on my bike or in the pool.  Sylvia is excited by Christmas and December will bring us the end of year before we know it.  Above is shopping from a trip to the farmers market.


The colour of the purple cauliflower from the farmers market is so vibrant and cheering.

 
 
I was intrigued by these being named "posh crumpets".  I asked what made them posh and was surprised to hear it was because they used buttermilk instead of sourdough.  Now I am very partial to sourdough crumpets but I really enjoyed these crumpets.
 
 

Here is a posh crumpet being given the fancy sort of treatment it deserves.  I served it with stewed rhubarb - also from the farmers market - plain yoghurt and a drizzle of maple syrup.  Amazing!

 
 
Last month I shared a photo of an uncooked Cauli Roast with Herb and Dukkah Stuffing.  I roasted it with potatoes and pumpkin and also served it with some asparagus.  It was really good but I think it needed a gravy or a good relish.

 
 
There was quite a bit of roasted cauliflower and potatoes leftover.  I chopped them up; cooked up some rice; lightly steamed spinach, capsicum, green peas, purple cabbage, and carrot; added in chickpeas, dried cranberries, and garlic salt.  The dukkah seasoning in the cauli stuffing made it into a very tasty pilaf, that fed me for many nights.

 

I was quite intrigued by this cereal called Cini Mini Churros.  They were very sweet and made a good snack.  I think Sylvia might have eaten them with milk but I preferred mine dry and crunchy.  Of course they aren't a patch on freshly fried churros dipped in chocolate.

 

I've been to La Manna Organics in Brunswick a couple of times.  It is easy to get to on my bike and has some interesting food.  You can't really see them but I was very taken with the chocolate covered licorice.



 
I was quite taken with the label on the ROK (raw organic kombucha).  I really like the "bubbles with benefits".  The flavour was Berry Beats: cold pressed strawberry, hibiscus and elderflower.  It was very refreshing.

 

Those chocolate covered licorice were so good I went back for more when I purchased a copy of Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch (which I recommend).  As well as the seaweed, I went next door to La Manna Fresh and bought some ciabatta bread and strawberries.  But I was most excited to see the first stone fruit of the season.  It was so nice to eat some fresh peaches and nectarines.



I also got back to the farmers market for more sweet cherry tomatoes on the vine, asparagus, potatoes, kale, purple cauliflower, bagels, cheese sticks, green hummus, kombucha and a chocolate biscuit.  It was great to see Cocoa Rhapsody again.  So much good food.  I didn't buy more pasta as I still have beetroot gnocchi in the freezer from the last visit.


I always love seeing Shaheen's pasta salads she makes for lunch.  Every time I see one, I think I should make this sort of lunch instead of sandwiches.  When I had some leftover pasta, I added some black beans, tomato, avocado and spinach.  I thought I had a small tin of corn kernels but it was creamed corn.  I added it anyway with some lemon juice and seasoning. It was very satisfying.  I wish I could tell you that I had a nice pasta salad for lunch tomorrow but sadly I am not usually that organised.



This pasta salad was a leftover from the night before that I served with celery and a beetroot sauerkraut.  I had it for lunch while working from home and read Future Girl by Asphyxia.  This book was so amazing that after a few days feeling frustrated at only time to read a little each day, I read most of the book til 2am one Saturday night.  It is set in Melbourne in the near future where lab grown meat has changed people's attitude to food, where gardens are wonder and survival.



This photo is of a detergent flood.  I've never had a bottle of detergent leak like this.  I didn't realise it until I propped my phone up there while I was at the sink and when I picked it up, there was lots of green goo stuck to it.  Then the flood grew and grew until I finally had a big clean up.


Lockdown has brought all sorts of dysfunction to my world that usually can be fixed by letting the outside world in.  It is quite alarming to sit on the bed and have it sink lower than you could ever expect.  I don't have many tools but I have lots of books.  They were very useful for holding up the bed until I could get a friend to help fix it.  (My bed is not in my kitchen but Sberry who organises the In My Kitchen event encourages a curveball!)

And finally, here are some of Sylvia's creations.  She has been quite fond of avocado lately.  This is her avo on toast with tomato, lemon juice and garlic salt.

And she was inspired by Pinterrest to make her Lord of the Fries burger into a Monster burger for Halloween. 

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event.  A special shout out to Sherry for keeping the event going despite an injury from slipping on a wet bathroom floor.  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to visit more kitchens. 

Monday, 1 November 2021

Remembering Alex and Ian 14


Today is the anniversary of our twin boys' stillbirth.  Alex and Ian would have turned 14 years old today and as the time passes, I get less and less sure of what their life would look like.  I am having a small lunch to remember them.  Always loved.  Always missed.

As I do every year, I share some articles I have seen related to stillbirth and grief:

The things I would’ve liked to have known before delivering my stillborn child by Rebecca Zwier in Women's Agenda, October 2021

Japanese Buddhist priest, wife support other couples after their own stillbirth experience by Sahomi Nishimoto in The Mainchi, 25 October 2021

The Unimaginable: Pregnancy and Infant Loss in Psychiatric Practice by Julia Riddle and Jennifer Payne in Psychiatric Times, 30 October 2021

Nobody Wants To Talk About It When A Baby Dies. Here’s Why We Need To by Kate Suddes in the HuffPost, 25 October 2021

Our baby’s life began and ended the second he was born by Annabel Bower in The Age newspaper, 26 October 2020 (also see her book Miles Apart)

‘Your baby’s heart has stopped’: hell and healing after the stillbirth of my son by Katie Allen in The Guardian, 10 June 2021

Mum's agony as she's told her son was stillborn while her family were kept outside due to Covid restrictions - as lockdown measures heighten the heartbreak for mothers by Alice Murphy in Daily Mail Australia, 13 August 2021

Mums who gave birth to stillborn babies surrounded by healthy ones say it's ‘the worst thing in the world' by Sylvie Wilkinson in My London, 9 September 2021

"You should focus on your living children": What I struggled with the most after losing my son by Ann Marie Imrie in Mama Mia, 18 September 2021.

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Choc chip, coconut and cranberry flapjacks - and random covid videos

Lockdown 6 has given me a craving for milk chocolate.  But my doctor was suggesting I should eat more oats.  And before lockdown began I bought a giant bag of sweet ginger flavoured coconut chips that just needs to be used.  Add cranberries and you have some delicious choc chip, coconut and cranberry flapjacks.  Actually I used dark chocolate choc chips because they are usually so sweet compared to proper dark chocolate.


These flapjacks were so easy and so good.  I made them twice during lockdown because I liked them so much.  I stopped making them because they are very easy to eat.  But lockdown is over, covid normal is starting and I can see times when I can make these for sharing with more people.  The bag of coconut chips is so big I don't think I will ever finish it, but if I do I would be happy to make these with regular coconut chips or shredded coconut and some spice.  

They would be a nice Christmas flapjack with the ginger spiced coconut flakes.  Unfortunately I have less opportunity for Christmas baking this year because lockdown robbed me of my annual Christmas in July.  But maybe I need to start on Christmas baking now to make up for that loss!

Other combinations of add-ins would work.  The recipe is based on a Jamie Oliver flapjack recipe that just directs to use dried fruit and nuts.  He used a food processor which I found quite unnecessary and I also liked that when I baked the second batch that I baked them longer and higher for 25 minutes at 190 C to make them dark golden brown.  They still softened up the next day.  And they last well (she says, as though she didn't scoff them all too quickly because they made working from home that little better).

Finally, here are some fun videos relating to government and covid:

A message to NSW from Victoria: Hookturnistan invades - I love Sammy J's Hookturnistan videos, and this one comparing NSW to Victoria is hilarious.

Extra chewing gum post lockdown advert - one of the best advertisements full of such tentativeness and joie de vivre of the freedom.

Clarke and Dawe - Does Australia need a government - this is an old video from 2015 but still relevant enough to be shared recently with regard to some our of government decisions.

Gladys Bereijiklian takes over the world - this mash up of the NSW premier's lockdown press conferences was clever, disturbing and sadly did not predict that she would lose her job before everyone could get out of lockdown.

2020 vs 2021 vs 2022 part 1 by Jimmy Rees - a humourous look at how our lives have changed with Covid and the anxiety at how they might change if Covid is over in 2022 (I will believe that when I see it).  If you like part 1, there is also a Part 2.

You ought to be vaccinated commercial - another feel good commercial, this one encouraging vaccinations using the jingle from the Meadow Lea margarine advert ("you ought to be congratulated").

More oaty slices on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Choc chip muesli slice 
Fruit, nut and tahini slice (v)
Glo bars (gf, v)
Muesli slice (v)
No bake chocolate oat slice (v)
Rustic muesli squares

Choc chip, coconut and cranberry flapjacks
Adapted from Jamie Oliver

100 g unsalted butter or margarine (at room temperature)
100 g rolled oats
100 g self-raising flour
100 g golden syrup 
100 g choc chips
50 g coconut flakes
50 g dried cranberries
 
Preheat oven to 180 C and line a 20cm square tin with baking paper.

Mix butter, oats and flour.  (I did this by hand because I used margarine and I like to minimise washing up, but Jamie suggests the food processor.)  Mix in golden syrup and then add choc chips, coconut flakes and cranberries.  

Scrape mixture into tin and smooth on top.  Bake for 15-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Roughly cut into 25 squares.  Cool in the tin for 5 minutes.  Remove from tin carefully onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature.  Cut along lines that were cut earlier when straight out of oven.

NOTES: the second time I made this I baked it for 25 minutes at 190 C until golden brown all over and cut it into 25 slices and much preferred it.  However my oven often bakes slower than other ovens!  My coconut flakes were toasted with a sweet ginger flavour but you can add in what dried coconut you have and some spices if you like that sort of thing.  You can also substitute other dried fruits and nuts for the choc chips and cranberries.  If you want these to be vegan, use vegan margarine and vegan choc chips or chopped chocolate.

On the stereo:
Chansons d'Ennui Tip-Top - Jarvis Cocker

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Photos from Covid Lockdown 6 in Melbourne - walking and biking

So we were told we were out of lockdown yesterday but it still doesn't feel like much freedom. 'Freedom' has become a slippery term during Covid.  While we have not been able to travel, go to work and see family, the freedoms we have to discover our own local areas by bike and foot.  Here are some of the photos I have taken, mostly nearby.

The Upfield Bike Path was given a makeover after the skyrail was built to raise the train line so that cars did not have to wait for the trains to cross the road.  Lots of new signs, playgrounds and even the Moreland train station - top photo - and Coburg train station got an upgrade.

A bit of humour in True North cafe.

Toys hanging from a tree.  I thought it was cute.  Sylvia thought it was creepy.


Ice cream truck in Princes Park.  It was one of the few experiences of eating out with a friend during lockdown.  Wonderful on a sunny day!

Bridge over Merri Creek.  On a walk near the swing rope which seems like a magnet for young people.


Fawkner Cemetery has fantastic trees, lots of birdlife and I enjoyed riding around looking at different groups of graves.

War memorial at Fawkner Cemetery.


Fun on the Upfield Bike Path

Cheery guerilla gardening on Upfield Bike Path near Bakers Road.  Love the plants in old bike helmets.

I still haven't worked out this sign on the Upfield Bike Path.  Riding downhill on a bike is a fantastic feeling but when we say life is going downhill is is a good thing?

Yarn bombing on the Upfield Bike Path

Coburg Farmers Market.  A breath of fresh air!/

Another bluestone bridge on a walk near Coburg Lake.

Trip to the city for click and collect Taylor Swift CDs at JB HiFi (not for me).  The steps of the old GPO are usually crowded with people sitting watching others and buskers and trams.

The furtherest I have been from home in months was St Kilda to walk along the pier.  It was odd to drive to the other side of the river.  It was amazing to see the city from the other side of the river.

I missed the beach and pool so much that I was excited to go to St Kilda Beach.  (Too much watching Secret Life of Us).  It was a bit disappointing to see the weird foam at the water's edge but less surprising to see that the sand was not the fine sand I am used to out of town.  I am looking forward to being able to travel out of Melbourne soon.

More Covid posts on Green Gourmet Giraffe: