Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

These have been heralded by my flatmates as "the best melting moment cookies ever!!!"

...I should have published these for Valentine's Day...
They vary slightly from traditional recipes because I've added a little milk to the dough so that it would be rollable so that I could make cookie cutter heart shapes.

But I still wanted that melting-moment feel - which is why I didn't use a standard sugar cookie dough...

The icing is runnier that I intended - because I wanted it to be frosting for my Choco-Caramel Cupcakes (I didn't post a recipe - but there's a picture of them...) but because this icing involves heat it's runnier and not fluffy like frosting... quite how I expected frosting I'm not sure... my brain was tired? But the icing is tasty! And it really made these cookies.

A note on frosting vs icing... if it's liquidy/doesn't hold its shape when piped, I call it icing - if it's pipeable and holds its shape, I call it frosting... and if it's totally liquid and runs everywhere with a mind of its own, I call it a "drizzle"... :)

Cookies on a Chess Board... Just 'Cause...
Read on for instructions on how to make your own crunchy, sweet cookies...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jenny's Famous Chocolate Cake

When I was little... Like 12/13ish I "wrote" a cook book. By "wrote" I mean typed out all my favourite recipes, attached clip art images, printed them off and bound them into books which I proceeded to present to my family and friends as gifts. Copyright infringements were, no doubt, abound - but I never sold the cookbooks nor did I claim to have developed the recipes myself. They were just my tweenage favourites.

Served with chocolate sauce and yoghurt.

Featured in that book was my recipe for Jenny's Famous Chocolate Cake(s) - a delicious cake recipe made in a food processor (or by hand if, as a student, you don't own a food processor) that makes two dark, moist chocolate cakes. Which you can then layer or freeze one for later...

In the photographed image provided I've made the cake with 50% wholemeal flour and some rolled oats for extra fibre/texture but this is not necessary. The chocolate sauce I made is a recipe which comes from Edmonds Food For Flatters.

In my cookbook Katies Kool Kooking (don't ask...), when writing out the recipe I neglected to include sugar at all - instead suggesting that an auxiliary 2 cups of flour would be needed... and I left the cocoa out in it's entirety. The following version of this recipe has only one cup of sugar but it does include that all important half cup cocoa required to make the cake chocolatey...

Egg Flop Omelette

Super healthy, super tasty breakfast...
Omelettes and I get along in kinda the same way that stir-fry and I get along... I like to eat 'em... but I kinda suck a cooking them.

My current theory is that this is because I like to fry my "fillings" and then pour the egg over them and cook it all together unlike a normal person - who either doesn't cook the fillings at all or cooks them separately from the egg part and actually using them to fill the omelette...

My may is easier - and requires less mess. But only when "mess" refers to the number of plates and pans required. The finished result invariably looks a mess... kinda like someone else already tried it and didn't think much of it...

But that's beside the point! Kat Omelettes are tasty and healthy. And that's what matters here. They involve egg, which is good for protein. Spinach (whenever possible) which is good for iron. Tomatoes, which I cook a bit to help prevent prostate cancer ( ;] ). And cheese which is good on everything. Oh! And they're cheap. And easy. Student-able. Yeah.

See how I managed to get the daisies in the background in perfect
focus? Yeah! Mad photography skills...
I dunno... Let's just read the instruction now.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Le Chicken Stock

Vegetarians and Vegans: Avert your eyes now!

Chicken stock. One of the more useful things a person can make in their student kitchen... but one that is very rarely bothered with...

Why? To be perfectly honest - I don't know... it's not like it's difficult or expensive to make - all your need is the carcass left over from your Sunday Roast or, failing that, chicken bits are next to nothing from the supermarket... My guess is that, to most, it seems like too much hard work...?

I'm here to tell you that that is not the case!

Chicken stock... it's never going to win a prize for
"most presentable ingredient of the year"...
Granted, it's not very pretty or photogenic work - but it's pretty simple.

First. Eat your chicken and pick of any leftover bits to have for lunch the next day.

Then put your chicken bones into a large pot (like the one you'd normally cook pasta in...) with the lemons you roasted it with (or new lemons if you didn't roast the chicken with any... or no lemons if lemons aren't your thing), a little oregano, salt and pepper. - basically match the flavours you're putting into your pot now, to the ones you used when you roasted your chicken.

Then toss in a quartered onion and a couple of crushed garlic cloves. Celery tops and/or beet heads are good here too - next time you buy a celery, cut of the leaves and freeze 'em until you want to make stock - they add a lovely, savoury flavorur. Beet heads turn everything a gorgeous pink!

Now, fill the pot with tap - warm water and put it on the heat. Medium heat is probably Okay. - You can also half fill the pot with tap hot water, then top it up with just boiled water (this method is more power usage friendly I believe)...

Turn on your extractor fan, if you have one.. and allow the pot to bubble away until the quantity of liquid has halved.

At this point you can either strain it straight away into a bowl before allowing the liquid to cook and the fat to rise and solidify and then scrape the fat off later (this method is good if you want to reboil the chicken bones for a second [slightly lesser] chicken stock) OR you can allow the whole lot to cool and solidify in the pan and then strain the whole lot, fat and all (this is my preferred method). My chicken stock is never jelly-y (I think because I use so much water to only one chicken carcass) so that's never a problem when straining the cooled stock...

I find playing around in cold chicken stock trying to pick out little discs of congealed fat kind of repugnant, which is why I prefer the second method. The fat sticks to the bones and, if your sieve is fine enough, gets strained out.

Steam it up!
That's it. Pretty simple, really. Next time you roast yourself a chicken - try it out and let me know how you go! :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Decorated Cake

My Psychological Synaptic Transmission Cake

This is not a recipe. I used a boxed cake mix. This is a suggestion as to how a student might decorate a cake...

First - buy a packet cake mix... this is cheaper than if you have to start totally from scratch and don't plan to bake at all in the immediate future. Thus, you have more money for decorations.

This cake was a packet chocolate (note the term "packet"... I didn't even splash out for a boxed cake mix... although, in future, I probably would) with some added vanilla in an effort to make it feel more homemade-ish.

The white "frosting" in the background is, in fact, white chocolate which I melted and spread over - I wanted the decorations to be sufficiently durable that I could cover the whole cake in cling film and take it to my exam without worrying about ruining my design. If I were at home with my fancy thermometers I would have bought "real" white chocolate and tempered it - but these were just melting buttons.

The dendrites (purple), terminal bouton (purple), vesicles (pink)and transporter (blue, cropped out of photo - woops!) of my neuron as well as the words are from standard supermarket gel pens/tube-y things.... The neurotransmitter are 100's and 1000's (I've decided that it's a serotonin cake, 'cause all the insulin from the sugar in the cake will assist with tryptophan crossing the Blood Brain Barrier) And the soma (purple berry lolly), axon hillock (red berry lolly) and myelin sheath (white milk bottle lollies) are all gummy lollies... found in a cheap party mix bag of lollies... I got to eat the rest! :)

And that's how I decorate on the cheap! The cake was much admired and well received... All my friends and I did well in Psyc that year!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Macaroni Cheese Pasta Bake

Disclaimer: despite the presence of a small quantity of green atop this dish... it is by no stretch of any imagination a health food... this, right here, is pure, glutinous comfort food.

...because three green leaves totally makes this healthy...
 But sometimes, in the life of a student (and I'm sure in the life of a Real Person as well), the need to feel comforted out-importants the need to feel virtuous. In these times, more often than not, what is called for is cheese. Cheese and carbohydrates. And, if a little bacon can be thrown in? So much the better.

Other times what you really need is chocolate. But... I don't know that chocolate would work here...?

This is my favourite baked macaroni cheese recipe because it's super cheesy and - if you bake it in a large dish there's plenty of surface area for the delicious melty cheese on top. Yum!

The method is fairly simple - but it does require a fair few pots and pans...but hey! This is all in the name of warm fuzzies.

If you really want to add more than the merest hint of good-for-you-ness offered by the three green leaves - make it with wholemeal pasta...

Mmm! I feel better just looking at it!

Sweet, Skint Lentils and Rice

I put a lot of faith into Sam when I tried out this recipe... literally all it is is rice, lentils and onions... but, as he promises it is "surprisingly gorgeous".

I made this one day, two weeks after I last went to the supermarket... my cupboards were getting pretty bare! - But we had to eat! Lentils for protein, rice to bulk it out and onion to make it taste good... truly - that's all you need!

This is a very low effort meal, even if it takes a little while to cook - but you don't actually have to do a lot to it!

I've made this since, and will do so again - whether my cupboards are near empty, or I just got back from the supermarket... Skint Lentils and Rice are here to stay!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Yummy Mince (Burger) Patties

These little mince patties don't have to be made into burgers... and have been well received even when served on their own!

The (unfortunately) over-exposed discs at the front are the patties I'm talkin' about!
I don't really have a recipe for these... but the basic idea is the same every time... a little bit spicy, a little bit aromatic and a whole lot yummy!

I first made this version while staying in India in 2010 so I guess you could call them Indian "influenced"? I think the mince used might have been lamb though... :)

My favourite spice (aromatic?) at the time was cumin (jeera) which is why I've included fresh ground, roasted and whole... the chilli is intended to be more of a subtle push than a kick and I added the onion, ginger and coriander for a bit of freshness and because that's what I had available.

These are all ingredients which I have always had readily available in any flat/home where I've lived and the photographs come from a flat-warming BBQ from early 2011 (I'm finally getting through my back-log of images!) so I'll call these student friendly...

The hand in the back is showing a big thumbs up, and a happy grin!
Delicious and easy - that's what a student likes!

Taste & Create: Rawa Dosai

Dosa are something I first tried in India last year... to an untrained, Western eye they're basically delicious, savoury pancake. When Taste & Create, which is my favourite monthly blog event, paired me with Jayasri Ravi of Samayal Arai this month I was super excited to see her Dosa Section, and I immediately hopped on over to have a look.

Most dosa recipe than Jayasri has listed require several hours fermentation which put me off in this instance - simply because I decided, about two hours before teatime that I wanted to make dosa to serve alongside. Here, it should be noted that dosa are primarily a breakfast food, I think, so usually you'd make them the night before and let 'em sit over night.

The recipe I chose to try out was for Rawa Dosai - I think 'rawa' is the term used to describe grains once ground into a flour-like consistency... but I'm totally unsure about that! We had most of the ingredients already, because we do eat a lot of Indian (or, more accurately, Indian-style) food at home - but if you don't, and I don't expect many students would... it'd be well worth going to your supermarket or local Indian market and trying to source them - these dosa are divine!

Rawa Dosai, served with a Goan-Style fish curry.
I did learn, after my very, very pale first several that it's vitally important to get the pan really, really hot before you try to cook these. Leave your impatience at the door when you enter the kitchen to cook dosa!

I was excited because I was able to cook these on our tawa - a flat, side-less frying pan, which meant I was the first to use it for it's intended purpose, but any frying pan will do - just as long as you can pick it up and swirl it! :)

A real, live, tawa... :)
These were great, and we'll definitely make them again... and, one day when I'm a bit more organised, I'll try out some of the other varieties too!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thin (Dessert) Pancakes (for Breakfast)

Made in India and served with fruit, cream and honey on my 20th Birthday...
I love,  love pancakes they're one of my top five favourite foodstuffs of all time (along with spinach, olives, ice-cream and whatever happens to be flavour-of-the-month)!! However although I love all pancakes in all their different incarnations at all times (buckwheat, crepe, American stacking, buttermilk, dosa... etc...) my favourite way of the moment varies. Currently, it's super fluffy buttermilk that I crave... when this photo was taken (and post intended to be posted) *gulp* over a year ago in India I loved thin, tender, almost crepe like pancakes.

This kind of pancake is often presented as a dessert pancake, I guess because it is more delicate than it's fluffier cousins? The batter needs to sit for at least an hour to allow the gluten in the flour to soften which results in a more tender pancake. I like to make my batter the night before (or morning before - if you're making dessert) just to be sure to be sure...

Also - don't let the fruity presentation of this post or the term "dessert" pancake blind you! There's no sugar in  this recipe - and I have been know to make these for breakfast and then keep some over to make Enchiladish later, using the now "savoury" pancakes in place of the traditional tortillas... Just make a basic chilli (or bolognese for an Italian feel...) roll the pancakes up with a little filling and place into a baking dish, seam side down, pour over a little tomato paste or pasta sauce, sprinkle some cheese on and bake at 200 until heated through and the cheese is bubbling. Yum. Yum!

That's enough chat... time for the recipe, I feel.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Apple Pie

First, a word of warning: Don't expect your boyfriend who believes that "fruit has no place in dessert" to eat this. He won't. And then you will be cross. And then he will wonder why you are cross because you know he doesn't like fruit based pudding... and then you'll get crosser-er. Which is silly. Just serve this to your appreciative, fruit eating flat mates who will tell you wonderful things about life, the universe and your pie and then you will feel that all is right with the world. The end.

Now, on to the pie in question...

I made this because we had, all of a sudden apples coming out of our ears at our flat! It's a sort of amalgamation of two recipes, both from student cookbooks - so, I guess if you have a glut of apples - this counts as a "student" recipe...? Yay me!

I made the pastry from scratch - because I find pastry making an easy, and soothing thing to do. But if pastry making is not your thing - buy some sweet, short crust pasrty (although flaky puff would be good too!) from the supermarket, I won't judge! Promise. :)

Here it is, in all its glory!
A close up of my heart shaped steam holes... I was really proud
of these... I cut them out before putting the lid on the pie, but
wonder if, in future it'd be easier to cut the holes out after the lid
is on the pie...? Any thoughts?
The pastry recipe (and inspiration to make apple pie in the first place) comes from Sam but the filling I took from the Edmonds Food for Flatters cookbook... just because I wanted a slightly thicker filling than Sam offered.

The pie (with the exception of the Boyfriend) was a success! And I'll totally make it again when the need to cook some apples arises again...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Pasta Puttanesca

Why don't ask, don't tell? Because puttanesca sauce contains three things people commonly believe they don't like: olives, capers and anchovies.


Before you give up on this recipe in disgust - know this, I loathe anchovies and am only just learning to tolerate capers (olives and I on the other hand... well put it this way - for much of my childhood I preferred olives to chocolate) but "a la" puttanesca is one of my favourite ways to eat pasta! Even when I've made it myself and I know what's in there!

See? Looks pretty harmless, really...
If you really, really can't stomach the idea of anchovies, you can substitute them for bacon or salami, I suppose. And the capers for gherkins. The olives? Pick 'em out you lazy so and so's...

Thus, if you're feeling brave, read on for the recipe:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Amazing Not-Too-Sweet Cream Cheese Icing

Computer Board Brownie Birthday Cake...

...Carrot Cake Cupcake...

...Red Velvet Cupcakes... 
...a little Red Velvet Birthday Cake...

...Big Red Velvet Birthday Cake...

...and a slice of that big ol' Red Velvet Birthday Cake...
What do all these cakes have in common? (Aside from the fact most of them are Red Velvet...)

You know it! Cream Cheese Icing... which is, basically, the bestest, most yummiest kind of frosting in the world... along with all the other kinds of frosting, off course!

Now, the problem a lot of people have with frosting is that it is really, really sweet... a direct result of all the icing sugar needed to make it stiff and fluffy... and not just butter or cream cheese with a bit of vanilla stirred in.

You'll often see question in the comments section "But *insert type of frosting here* is really sweet and it hurts my teeth... is there any way to make it less sweet?" and the answer is often "No - it's sweet because of the icing/confectioner's/powdered sugar... and you need all that sugar to get the right texture for the frosting"...

But... there is something else in your pantry with a very similar texture to icing sugar... and it isn't sweet... what I'm thinking of is... CORNFLOUR!!! (also know as cornstarch, I believe?)

Now, I'm not saying I'm the first to come up with this theory... but as far as I came up with it all by myself. :) And it really works for me! I just take out one 1/4 of the icing sugar the frosting recipe calls for and sub in that same quantity of cornflour... et voila! Frosting with the same texture you need but not as sweet as you dread...

I wouldn't sub any more than a quarter of the sugar for flour because then you start to taste it a little bit, which is kinda average. But a 1/4 or less and you have the same taste, only less sweet. Excellent!

Read on for my converted recipe for cream cheese icing...

EDIT: I have successful used this method for buttercream frosting too!

Carrot Cupcakes (with Cream Cheese Icing)

This recipe hasn't remodeled for cup-caking purposes - so, if you wanted to make a  full sized cake, or muffins? all you need to do is a adjust the cooking times and you're good to go!

The recipe is adapted from the one Moll Katzen features in her Moosewood Cookbook I've played around with the quantity of sweetener, the kinds of spices and halved the recipe overall. Finally I topped these little babies off with my delicious cream cheese icing (which I'll feature in another post...) and little icing carrots (I'd meant to use the walnuts I'd omitted from the batter - but I got carried away!)

Aren't they the cutest?!
I took them with me on a picnic where they were very well received. Flavoursome, moist and not too sweet (a trick of that mysterious icing) because they contain both wholemeal flour AND carrots they've got to be good for you, right?

A delicious cross section...
If you've got the stuff with which you can bake in your flat anyway - there's nothing particularly prohibitive about this recipe... if you're not living in a baking friendly flat - try these when you get home!

If you have to give the cream cheese icing a miss (not always a flat friendly ingredient)  they're almost as good on their own - or a simple drizzle of lemon juice and icing sugar would be a suitable substitute.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Omega 3 and Protein Power Salad!!!

Also know as chickpea salad with feta and (optional) smoked salmon...

it's preeetty... <3
... this inspiration for this salad I picked up from work. The only real requirements (according to me) are chickpeas and feta... that's your "protein power" add salmon and avocado for Omega 3... or just avo if you're vegetarian... or omit both salmon and feta for a vega option (you'll need to play around with the "dressing" a little too... but it can be done!)

Here, we have a can of chickpeas, drained... 50 (ish) grams of feta half chopped, half crumbled, half an avocado and some olives, red capsicum and spring onion that I took to with a knife, somewhat haphazardly - but, hey! that's part of the fun... :)

This dressing is about 2 tsp of mayonnaise thinned down with lemon juice... and re-thickened with that crumbled feta...

A little mint stirred through and some salmon and basil on top and you've got yourself a gourmet little lunch right there!

A more "student friendly" version doesn't involve salmon... and change the dressing to olive oil, lemon and cumin (salt and pepper to taste)...

So this is maybe not a real recipe per se... but it sure does taste good! And is providing a corner stone in my current diet... YUM!