Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pointy Kitty needs a home!

I made my first drop for The Toy Society this morning - a pointy kitty made from a free pattern by Wee Wonderfuls. I dropped her at a small park near home. There were lots of kids playing on the play equipment, so my husband and I had to be very sneaky so that we weren't caught!

Sampson saying goodbye (nicely this time!)

I felt kind of bad leaving her there, but hopefully she finds a lovely new home!

There's more info about The Toy Society here and lots of photos of other drops here

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

mmm...ginger and chocolate! My husband and I often nibble on uncrystallised ginger along with a piece of dark chocolate, so the thought of combining the two in a cake sounded fantastic.

This is my favourite of all the new recipes I have tried lately and will definitely get another run in our house. Soon!

Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

For the Cake
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
160g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup treacle
150g dark chocolate – 50g melted and cooled and 100g chopped
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk soured with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar)
1 tablespoon finely chopped stem ginger in syrup (available in Asian supermarkets - although I only found this after I made the cake, so I chopped up some uncrystallised naked ginger and threw that in instead)

For the Icing
75g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon strong coffee
45g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons icing sugar
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and put it on a baking sheet (I made half the recipe and it was the perfect amount for a loaf tin).

Put the fresh ginger and sugar in a small bowl, stir and set aside.Sift the flour, baking soda and spices together.

Beat the butter and brown sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Pour in the treacle and beat until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted chocolate, along with the sugared ginger. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk (begin and end with the dry ingredients), mixing the batter only as much as needed to blend the ingredients. Fold in the chopped chocolate and the ginger in syrup.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan. Cool to room temperature before icing the cake.

To Make the Icing: Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, put the chocolate and coffee in the bowl, and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl and, using a small whisk, stir in the butter one tablespoon at a time. Sift the confectioners' sugar over the chocolate and stir in. Transfer the bowl to a counter and let the icing sit for about 10 minutes.

Put the gingerbread, still on the rack, on a piece of baking paper or foil. Pour the icing onto the centre of the cake and spread it evenly over the top. Allow the icing to set for 30 minutes before cutting the cake.

recipe from Baking, From my home to Yours. By Dorie Greenspan.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cat Vs Softie

Sampson is very taken with my latest project.

First there was a staring competition:

Then, Sampson won!
Please note: no softie was harmed during this photoshoot ;)

Friday, April 17, 2009

leaving on a jetplane...

Well, we're not leaving just yet, but we are currently planning our upcoming holiday to Europe! I can't wait - I am very excited!

So, on the weekend I turned my excitement to productivity and put together these passport holders for us to take. The pattern is from A Spoonfull of Sugar.

I had a little trouble with the tablecloth plastic - it kept sticking to everything! I ended up having to sew it through baking paper (and then tearing the paper away carefully) so the stitching isn't especially pretty, but it will do.

I hope you all have a good weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I think I need to learn to crochet...

I have a crochet hook, but I haven't spent much time practicing. However after finding these beauties, I think I need to have another go. They are so damn sweet!

And there's a blog too - I'm off to have a read!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

easter weekend

I spent the 3 weekends prior to Easter in Melbourne, and while I love flying, I was so very tired come the long weekend. I was so glad to be able to enjoy the 4 days at home in Sydney and my husband was very lovely and left me to spend much of my time at my sewing machine.

For a while now, I have been a huge fan of Kellie's work (Don't look now). When the latest issue of Homespun arrived last week featuring Kellie's "Meg's Garden" on the cover, I was inspired to have another go at some free motion quilting.

I had a go at free motion quilting a little while ago and, while I don't think I was Too bad at it(!), I haven't had much of a play since. So I made myself up a little quilt sandwich and off I went - and I was pretty happy with the result! Although not having a "needle down" function on my machine was a pain in the A*%!

On Saturday, we dropped past The Remnant Warehouse on our way to do some shopping and I picked up some Helmar Quilt Basting Spray. My most hated part of quilting is the basting and I have been sorely tempted by these sprays for a while. Now I am wondering why I didn't buy it earlier!!

I decided to try out my new spray on a quilt that I could also practice my free motion quilting on. So, it was Sampson's quilt that I used - a quilt top I had put together a while ago so that I could practice triangles.

I was a little sceptical when I first put the quilt sandwich together, I wasn't sure if the spray would hold it firmly enough. However, while it moved a little (perhaps I didn't use enough?), it was SOOOOO much better than putting it all together with safety pins. And after just an afternoon of sewing, I had basted, quilted and bound Sampson's quilt! I was thrilled!

I took the quilt into the lounge room to show off to my husband, and while I layed it down next to him to show him, Sampson jumped straight onto it! He must have known it was for him!

yes, Sampson is a rather large cat :)

my rather large, free motion 'meander'

After finishing Sampson's quilt, I felt so inspired to keep sewing. What often stops me starting new quilting projects, is the fact that it takes me so long to finish them. I can get a quilt top finished without a problem, but actually completing them and turning them into usuable quilts... well I am just terrible at that.

So, inspired by this quilt, and this one too - I got started with some material I purchased a while ago. This will be a quilt for our lounge room. Something for us to snuggle under as winter takes

I got all my pieces cut...

and 10 blocks pieced...

Only 26 more to go!

the aftermath...

this is what my sewing room floor currently looks like... There was lots of activity in here over the long weekend, hopefully I'll get some photos together this evening of what I actually did and not just the mess!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Very Chocolatey Ovaltine and Malteser Biscuits

This week it was my turn to bring morning tea for our meeting at work. Knowing that a number of my workmates are chocoholics, I thought it was a good time to try out these biscuits.

It looked a bit like icing at this stage!

With Ovaltine and Maltesers as well as chopped dark chocolate, these biscuits had a rich chocolate flavour with a malt undertone. The original recipe called for malted milk powder, suggesting Ovaltine as a substitute. If I was to make these again, I would probably use malted milk powder to tone down the chocolate a little and increase the malt flavour which was a little overwhelmed in my biscuits.


However, while I thought they were perhaps a little too chocolately, my workmates loved them and I came home with an empty container!

Ovaltine and Malteser biscuits
makes ~30 biscuits

1 3/4 cups plain flour
1 cup Ovaltine
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
150g unsalted butter at room temp.
2/3 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup milk
2 cups Maltesers, halved
160g dark chocolate, chopped

Line two baking trays with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Sift together the flour, Ovaltine, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until very smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about a minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the dry ingredients, mixing until they just disappear into the batter. Then mix in the milk followed by the remaining dry ingredients, taking care not to overmix the batter. Fold in the halved Maltesers and chopped chocolate by hand

Using a tablespoon as a guide, drop batter in mounds onto the baking sheets, leaving room for the biscuits to spread. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 6 minutes.

When done, the cookies will be puffed and set slightly, but still soft to the touch. Let them rest for 2 minutes before using a wide metal spatula to transfer them to wire racks to cool (if you can wait that long!)

Recipe from Baking, from my home to yours, by Dorie Greenspan (Chocolate malted whopper drops)

I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter break!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lamb shank soup with pearl barley and lentils

I love my Chasseur pot. My husband gave it to me for my birthday last year. I have been waiting for the weather to turn a little cooler so that I could pull it out of the cupboard and start making some soups and casseroles. So, when the rains hit last week, I decided it was time.

This soup has everything I want in a hearty, healthy winter meal – meat, pulses and vegies and loads of flavour. Plus it freezes beautifully which is always good in my book. The recipe comes from Karen Martini who I know I've gushed over before, but she is the queen (in my opinion!) of hearty meals, and this recipe is another of her best. I know the ingredient list looks a little daunting, but it is worth it – trust me!

Lamb shanks with pearl barley and lentils
Serves 4-6

50ml extra virgin olive oil
2 large lamb shanks – cut into 3cm pieces (ask the butcher to help!)
Salt flakes and cracked black pepper
1 ½ brown onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-3 small red chillies, finely chopped and seeds left in (or to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly cracked black peppercorns
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp caraway seeds
Generous pinch of saffron threads
150g celeriac, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 sticks celery, sliced
1x 400g can tomatoes
8 cups water
1 tsp beef stock powder (or 1 cube)
½ cup (100g) pearl barley
50g red lentils
100g canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
30g fresh or frozen peas
Natural yoghurt, lemon and extra virgin olive oil to serve

Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add lamb, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Add onion, garlic, chillies and spices and stir well.

Add fresh vegies and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes. Add tomatoes and water, stock powder, barley, lentils and chickpeas. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the dish and reducew heat to low and simmer for 2 ½ - 3 hours or until meat is very tender and falling off the bone.

Stir in peas and check seasoning. Serve topped with a dollop of yoghurt, lemon wedges and a drizzle of olive oil.

Recipe from Where the Heart is, by Karen Martini