Hey, so a LOT has been going on in the past week or so. I visited home, my car got in a bingle (it’s weird saying it like that, like Billie did it herself. It’s not true, guys. Someone crashed into my car. Reversed straight into it. From a driveway. How does that happen, exactly?) so I’ve been driving the Beast, otherwise known as the Fitzmobile, otherwise known as a Tarago. Back and forth. I’ve travelled a lot over the past few days.
But on the up side, the day I got home from home – back in Melbourne after spending a few days with the fam, who rings me but my darling favourite one and only sister – who’d just gotten engaged.
It’s very exciting, and it seems even more so because her and her now-fiance have been together for seven years (seven!) and they’ve been talking about getting engaged slash married for a while now. In fact, he proposed on their seven year anniversary.
One, two, three: aaawwwww!
So, to celebrate, that night I made brownies again.
And covered them in alcohol, as that is the true Australian way to celebrate: by gettin’ our drink on.
And ice cream as well. Because you can’t really go past ice cream as a comfort food. And after driving for three hours and working for seven, comfort food was definitely in order. Especially since the kitchen was a mess when I got home.
There was due reason – our dishwasher decided it did’t like us, so we had dirty dishes and also the bottom rack of the dishwasher and the contents of the under-sink cupboard strewn around the room.
So major kudos to my housemates who fixed the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen. Congratulations to the very happy couple.
And as you can see, these brownies are so good you may need to make them twice in two days, or else you may run out. And another tip – keep ‘em in the freezer. Mmmm…
Confession time again: I am a huge nerd. I’m not really the computer-game-playing type nerd, nor the maths nerd or the science-y nerd. I’m a book nerd. I adore reading and books, stationary, writing. I love to read. I used to stay up till all hours, reading. Once I started reading, then forgot the time and forgot to tell my parents good night. It was pretty late (for me – I don’t know how old I was, but young enough that ten thirty was pretty late) by the time I got up and said, I’m sorry, I forgot to say good-night.
Actually, I still stay up till all hours reading sometimes.
I also used to spend my lunchtimes at school reading in the library. Not for my entire school life, but I didn’t always have friends to hang out with, so I’d go to the library and read. And chat to the librarians.
I got to know my librarians really well.
I’m now out of school, at uni, doing well. I still love to read. I still like my librarians. And since I’m home this week, I went to visit school with my sister.
Yes. We visited our old high school. We are major nerds. Also, our dad works there (hi, dad!) so we’ve always been friendly with the teachers. We went around and visited people and marveled at the fact that there were many people we didn’t recognise.
There were a lot of them. Some were people who’d grown up, some were entirely new.
And I brought brownies to share.
Teachers are known sugar addicts (wouldn’t you be, if you had to deal with teenagers all day?) – we used to have chocolate fundraisers for various things, and we’d only have to ask Dad to bring a box to school. They’d be gone within the week. A few days, usually.
So I knew the brownies would be well-recieved. Plus, Dad likes showing off his daughters, especially since they bring treats, so he offers them around.
“Want a brownie? My daughter made them.”
The chocolate in them comes from cocoa, but don’t stop reading there – it’s really amazing. There’s a little over a cup and a half of cocoa in there. That’s a lot of chocolate. And mixed with the butter, sugar, a little flour and some eggs, you’ve got yourself a dense, fudgy, cakey brownie that pleases many palates.
Especially around report-writing time.
The Best Cocoa Brownies
From Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet via various sources around the web
I doubled this recipe because I had a slightly bigger pan and because I’d heard around the web that they were a little on the thin side. My doubled recipe made in a 9×13″ pan (I think…) made over sixty small brownies. They are the perfect size to freeze and eat later, and also the perfect size to share.
288 g butter (I’m sure 290 or 285 would also be fine)
482g raw sugar(2 1/2 cups)
164 g cocoa (1 3/4 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, cold
1 cup flour
(1 1/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces, optional)
Preheat oven to 170 degrees and put a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Line a baking tray with baking paper, leaving overhang so you can lift out the brownies once they’ve been cooked.
Put the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a heatproof bowl – pyrex or metal or glass – and place over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until the butter is melted. For me, I didn’t feel I cut the butter into small enough pieces, so for a little while there it didn’t look as though it would work. Fortunately, eventually, the butter melted and it looked grainy and sludgy and black and not smooth. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon, then beat the eggs in one at a time, vigorously. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Now it should be just right – smooth and silky.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes in pan and then lift out, leave until cool and then cut into squares.
Eat. Or freeze and pretend to yourself that this makes you eat less.
Today I got up fairly early. I have gotten up earlier, and on a regular basis, but today was slightly different. I’d stayed at my sister’s because I had an exam today. My last.
Yay! No more uni for five weeks!
So, today I had an exam. Then I had some errands to run – tickets to pick up, spare tyres to order, you know, everyday stuff like that. (not mentioning that it’s the second spare tyre I’ve had to get in the past couple of months. Me and my car, we’ve had some ups and downs.)
ANYway, by the time I got home it was past one, and I hadn’t eaten since seven. I’d had two coffees, but coffee does not a meal make. Well, maybe breakfast sometimes. Anyhow, I had this plan to fry some eggs and eat them on toast with butter and cheese. I was so hungry and so ready to eat but then I remembered that our stove blew (it’s electric. Luckily the oven’s still ok, otherwise I’d be going stir crazy).
Anyway, I wanted eggs. And carbohydrates. And cheese. And when I thought about it, some mustard, salt and pepper, tomato wouldn’t go astray.
Take a ramekin and rub it with butter. Lots of butter, if possible.
Tear up some bread (turkish bread is really nice…I used bread from the bakery0
Add some cheese and tomato.
Some more bread and cheese
Now crack two eggs in a bowl (I did one, but then added another later)
Add some dijon mustard…
Whisk and pour over the bread
Crumble some cheese over the top and bake for about twenty-five minutes in a 180 degree oven
Try not to burn your mouth!
Every now and again, I get this urge to declutter. I have to get rid of my stuff and recently, it’s been gnawing at me a whole lot more. It’s not just the ‘oh, I have to tidy and I don’t really use that stuff anymore’; rather, I’m feeling like I need to live a lot simpler and enjoy life the way it was meant to be.
Plus, I have way too much stuff.
So recently, I’ve been sifting through the piles of stuff that I own and sorting them into piles. Stuff I want to keep, stuff I want to keep but don’t have room for at the moment, stuff I don’t want to keep, stuff I want to form into something else, stuff I’m using and stuff I’m not using. It’s a pretty big job and it doesn’t help that a lot of my stuff is still at my parents’ house. Yay, more stuff to go through.
My sister and I are planning to have a garage sale. We both have stuff to get rid of, but not enough for a sale each. (Although going through my stuff, I’m not so sure about that…:)
I come from a family of packrats. Hoarders. My Opa kept stuff in the back room, in his two garages and the tiny shed in the backyard, all over the back yard… my mum is queen of ‘we might use it later’ which is a mindset I’ve adopted. I’m also a collector, of sorts; I like pretty things, those free postcards, business cards, ribbons… I like to remember things.
I write things down and put them on my walls… I have a lot of paper related products lying around that need to go. Where, I’m not sure. They’ll probably end up in the recycling bin. Or possibly the fireplace, not sure yet.
With the help of Love and Trash, Courtney at be more with less, the bloggers at SuperForest and a whole bunch of other influences (including Jesus and some of his followers) I am on a journey to live simply so that others may simply live. On that note, let’s talk about cake.
This is a simple cake. It comes together in about ten minutes, takes about half an hour to bake and is simply delicious. It’s called a Swedish Visiting Cake and so in another, yet somehow related train of thought it immediately brings to mind not only visitors, but visiting – getting to know your neighbours, connecting with real people instead of a computer screen.
And yes, I’m aware that you’re reading this off a computer screen.
The point is that by learning to live without, others can live with. And you don’t even notice the difference, except that you’re happier, more content with yourself and with the world. Surprising, isn’t it?
So make the cake. Bring it to a neighbour’s house and share it over stories, stories that remind you that each person you encounter is the star of their own story, just as you are the star of your own.
Swedish Visiting Cake
Adapted from Baking: from my home to yours
zest of one lemon
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste/scrapings from one vanilla bean/two teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour*
125g butter, melted and cooled
Preheat oven to 180 degrees and butter your pan. Traditionally this is made in a cast-iron skillet. I don’t have one so I made it in a springform tin – I suggest using a nine-incher, as my ten-incher cake turned out a little thin. Not that I’m complaining…
Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until incredibly lemony and you can just help yourself licking your fingers. Or not. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Add the salt and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
Fold in the flour, then the butter. Pour into your pan and sprinkle the almonds over the top. Bake about half an hour.
Share with strangers.
*The first time I made it, I made it with spelt flour and it was amazing. I think you could also do this with a mix of almond flour and perhaps another type of flour for the gluten-free among us. Just a thought.
Did I mention that it’s total soup weather over here? Because it really, really is.
I told you guys earlier how much I love soup. I still haven’t gotten around to cooking 44 clove garlic soup but it will be happening soon. Maybe by my birthday? It’s coming up. Maybe that’s why I love winter so much, it’s my birth season. I was born smack bang in the middle of winter.
Although I know people who were born in summer who hate the heat and people who were winter babies who spend the season in a grumpy daze. But hey, why worry about the whys and wherefores, when it’s winter outside, the fire is blazing, the blood is pumping, the mist is rising… It is such beautiful weather in Melbourne! I love it when the sun rises through the mist. Because we live in the hills, you can see so much more and it is just amazing.
I’m excited because I’m planning to go ice skating soon.
I’ve never been ice skating before. I’m scared I might fall on my butt. Tailbone accidents are never fun. We used to have a bunk bed… well, we still have one at the family home, and me and my sister used it. I was heading down the ladder from the top bunk and the door and the bed were positioned in such a way that the door opened towards the ladder. I sat on the doorknob by accident, quite hard, and whacked my tail bone. That was no fun at all.
Worse, though, my sister did the same thing but worse. I don’t think she could sit down without a cushion for at least a week. Ouch.
Still, ice skating should be fun. I was going to go a couple of years ago but never got around to it. I only learnt how to ski two years ago and I haven’t been back to the snow since then. I’d love to have a white Christmas at least once in my life.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…
Until then, though, I’ll sit on my couch in front of my fire, eating this amazing corn chowder. It’s really, really good. I’ve made corn chowder before, but this one uses cumin. It’s supposed to have fresh corn but I used canned and it was still really nice.
It’s supposed to serve eight and we did get eight servings from it, only five of those were eaten by three people on one night. It’s really nice and it’s perfect for a cold winter’s night when you’re really hungry.
This would be really good for a shared meal. It’s infinitely adaptable – more corn, less potato, more cream, pepper, hot sauce, sour cream… and so easy to make more than the eight servings.
So what are you waiting for?
Adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook
2 large onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 litre vegetable soup
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can creamed corn
1 can corn kernels (or canned corn)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I didn’t add this bit. It was too cold and dark to wander out to our back porch. But do. It’s a good idea. )
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
three tablespoons (or more) sour cream (or regular cream)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, to garnish (also a good idea that I did not implement. Do not make my mistakes! [make your own, they're much more fun and sticky to get out of])
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cumin and cook about a minute; put in stock, bring to the boil, add potatoes, and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes. Add corn (both types) and parsley, and simmer another ten minutes.
Stir in cheese, cream and salt and pepper to taste, and turn off heat. Stir until cheese is melted. Garnish with chives.
Share with friends.
Woah. I haven’t been here in a while. Is that a spiderweb I see in the corner over there? Gee, someone needs to do some vacuuming.
It’s been a bit of a birthday week this week. My Oma (that’s grandma for all of you who aren’t Dutch [or German?] out there) turned 80 [!] (double [!] – I revealed a lady’s age!) and there was a party and there were relatives who flew in from all over the wide brown land (I actually don’t really like that poem… sorry…) and there was cake.
But not this cake.
Because then my friend had her birthday today and I made this cake for her.
It’s chocolate. It has cream cheese icing. It’s soft and moist and crumples up when you smoosh it on someone’s face, as I found out this evening.
I was the smooshee, rather than the smoosher, in case you were wondering. My hands were full with camera so I couldn’t defend myself. And it was totally unexpected because Leah was threatening my sister with the smooshing so when the cake came my way…
You get the idea.
So we had a birthday feast with onion soup and birthday cake and cookies and much junk food, some tunes and a fancy camera to play with.
But back to the cake…(and yes, those are cookies there and yes, I will be posting about them… I thought I might give you guys a break from cookies) it is really beautiful, soft and moist and crumbly, shiny dark and yummy. The cream cheese icing I think went really well but was a little too overpowering so I would definitely use less next time. And use an electric beater so there aren’t any lumps in it. [whoops].
It is the most beautiful chocolate cake. But make sure you grease the pan really well because mine stuck just a little bit to the sides.
There are also baby chocolate cakes… because the original recipe made a layer cake and I had no time for layers. None whatsoever. So I made a slightly larger than usual cake and eleven cupcakes.
Yep. Eleven Exactly. If my cake pan was a nine incher, I feel I would have just tipped over into twelve (and the perfectionist in me was really disappointed in my eleven!) but it turned out fine. Especially when m ‘n’ ms were added.
If someone you know has a birthday, make these. In whatever format you use, they will taste delicious. I promise.
Or you could do this.
I always seem to try a different chocolate cake recipe. It’s not that they don’t all taste delicious, I just feel like there’s always a new recipe to try and while the ones I’ve already made would be fine to use, I love the excitement of a new recipe.
This one, I adapted from i am baker – I didn’t have vegetable oil, so I used olive. I didn’t have buttermilk or even vinegar with which to make buttermilk, so I used sour cream and milk. I didn’t sift my dry ingredients (but I implore you, even if you are not a sifter, like me, to sift your cocoa. You will appreciate it.)
1 3/4 cup plain flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
about 1/2 cup sour cream
the rest of the cup measure filled with milk (as in, about 1/2 cup milk)
1/2 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil, if you’re not like me and you keep essentials like that around the house)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed coffee
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Prepare your cake pans – I used a ten inch springform tin and eleven cupcakes.
Sift (if you’re a sifter) your dry ingredients into a large bowl. Combine the sour cream, milk, eggs and vanilla in another bowl, then make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Whisk until just combined. Add in coffee carefully and slowly and whisk until combined.
It’ll be pretty thin but don’t stress – it comes out just fine.
Pour into your cake pan(s) and bake large cake about 35-40 minutes, cupcakes 20-25 minutes.
Cream Cheese Icing
I just kinda threw this together… It is infinitely adaptable. I would maybe add a splash of milk next time and just glaze the cake a little.
250g cream cheese, softened
juice of half a lemon
about 3/4 cup icing sugar
Again, I’m not a sifter but I would suggest you sift the sugar for this one. Beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth, then add the sifted sugar and lemon juice and beat until combined.
I say almost because I kinda forgot an important ingredient.
See, when you make muffins – even awesome muffins born from the cinnamon walnutty goodness of last post’s cookies – it’s kinda important to have some sort of ingredient that works together with the other ingredients and does some sort of scientific thing that not only helps it to taste awesome but makes it rise and makes the texture fluffy and lovely.
It’s a leavening agent. Yes, ladies and gents, I forgot the baking powder AND the baking soda. I am a very smart cookie.
But I’m a nuff nuff muff muffin.
They taste really really good, don’t get me wrong. They taste just as good as the cookies. (maybe even better. I don’t have a direct comparison. We ate all the cookies already.)
I get this feeling I’m missing something in my life. Flour one day, baking powder the next… I don’t know what’s going on. Baking still calms me down and makes me happy, but I think I need to … re-evaluate or something. Journal more. Be more. Just be.
This is why it’s a good thing that holidays are around the corner. This is also why I’m trying not to freak out about the fact that I’ve got two exams in the next two days, and I’ve been procrasti-baking and procrasti-cleaning and procrasti-tooling around on the internet for the past week. Or so.
It’s ok. I have almost-muffins. And hot chocolate. And Glee.
And I’ll be even more ok when I visit my Oma on Friday for her birthday.
It’s a pretty special occasion. She’s turning 21! No, that’s me next year. She’s… thirty! No, no one needs that freak out again. Or do they?
40? She is looking pretty good for her age.
Keep going… Ok, no, we’re actually going to stop there. Let’s just say that it’s rude to ask a lady her age, and my Oma is grand and wonderful and mature and sometimes giggles like a schoolgirl with me and my sister and our mum.
And her party is going to be so much fun! But I can’t think about it until after my exams.
Well, after these two anyway. I do have another (yep, I chose four subjects that have exams in my first year of university) but it’s not for a couple of weeks and I’m going to smash it out of the water. Just like I’ll smash these and the one I did today.
Ok, time to stop talking about [exams] and tell you about these muffins you absolutely have to make.
Just don’t forget the baking powder. And soda.
P.S. Please tell me about them! I was totally going to make a new batch but I’d run out of walnuts. And dates. And there weren’t any apples. And my nose is cold. And this blanket is warm.
125g butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup greek style yoghurt (I’m sure other plain yoghurt would work just as well)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup walnuts, chopped
about 3/4 cup dates, chopped
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup ground almonds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Beat the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and scrape down the bowl, beating until fluffy again. Stir in the yoghurt and milk.
Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients (you can sift ‘em first if you want to … or not…) and the walnuts and dates. Scoop tablespoonfuls into patty cases lining muffin tins (I have a feeling these would be brilliant in the kind of huge, Muffin Break-esque texan muffin incarnation. Try it. I dare you.) Bake… in a 180 degree oven… well, mine took about twenty-five minutes but I don’t know how leaveners change the baking times. So, check them regularly. Then eat them.
I know what I’m having for breakfast.