24 December 2010

Christmas-y layout

One of my wonderful friends allowed me to use her beautiful digital scrapbooking designs when I decided to get rid of that boring stock standard blog design. I met the very talented Kristin Cronin-Barrow from KristinCBDesigns online when we had our first babies. I think my oldest was one year old when I first met Kristin, so that's 7 years ago now. I can't believe that was so long ago! We were both into digital scrapbooking back then, but I went against the grain and when from digitial scrapping to traditional paper scrapbooking. I don't think many people do it that way, but I never claimed to be normal!

I've used papers, elements and the alphabet from her 'Tis the Season - Joy' range over at Sweet Shoppe Designs. If you're looking for something stunning, be sure to check out her designs.

Thanks again, Kristin!

Do You Hear the Silence?

So much for posting daily! I guess Christmastime wasn't really the best time of year for that to happen.

I've been busy getting things ready for Chrismtas and forgetting to take photos of most of it.

I've been cooking up a storm. I made more cookies, brownies and coconut macaroons for my boys' teacher's gifts and added in little recipe cards that I whipped up until 1 o'clock that morning. Ah well, it was worth it. I really like the way they came out.

I've also been cooking more dinners, which was the whole point of starting up a blog again. It's hard getting back to blogging after being away for so long.

I adjusted my Spaghetti with Bacon and Garlic Sauce recipe and it's much nicer now. I'll put up a post after Christmas with the adjustments. I've also been taking photos of more of my cooking, new recipes to follow after Christmas for those, too.

I've also been crafting just a little. I used to be a pretty obsessed scrapbooker and card maker. I haven't done either in well over a year, probably more like two years. I broke out my Stampin' Up! papers and made origami gift boxes for the boys' Kris Kringle presents for school and just now whipped up another three for family members. If I keep this up I might need to buy more papers!

07 December 2010

Recipes I Want to Try

Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

The photo of this particular chocolate chip cookie made my mouth water. I really think I need to make them. Right. Now!

Blueberry Crumble Bars

These look quick and easy and could be the perfect lunchbox treat for the kids. I just so happen to have a couple of bags of frozen blueberries in the freezer.

I've always wanted to made my own pizza, but never got around to it. I'll give this one a go at some stage, possibly next week. With a family of five, I'm guessing I'd need to make at least two.

They sound delicious and I think they kids would love them as a snack in their lunchboxes. Until last week they were getting a store bought "healthy" treat in their lunchboxes every day. I'm not actually sure how healthy they were, but they loved them. Homemade has to be better than store bought, and they both love cheese. I figure I could make up a batch of this dough and use small pieces at a time and freeze the rest, cooking only what I'd need in a week.

Broccoli Cheddar Ale Soup

This sounds delicious. It's not something I've ever seen in Australia, and certainly never tasted. Having said that, four cups of grated cheese? In soup? That seems like a really, really unhealthy dish to me. Maybe one day.

Ina Garten's 'Beatty's Chocolate Cake'

Two of my favourite cake bloggers have called this chocolate cake their favourite. I figure there's a reason for that. Definitely trying this one soon. This week, in fact, if I can swing it.

ETA: I actually made this one Jan 20th 2011. I made up a half batch just to test the recipe and made cupcakes. It was late at night and my brain wasn't working well and I forgot to halve the eggs. It turned out too egg-y and had a tough crust. It wasn't quite chocolate-y enough for me, but that's probably because the recipe calls for "good" cocoa and I just used my standard Cadbury cocoa powder. I've been looking for better quality (aka more chocolate-y) cocoa for a while. It's not easy to come by in Australia, apparently.

Death by Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate chocolate chip cookies that you can add anything to. Contains a packet of chocolate instant pudding mix.

Crockpot BBQ Chicken and Oven Fries

This one sounds delicious and quick, which is always a bonus. I'm not sure how well it would go down with my family, but I definitely want to try it.

Tortellin Soup from Tasty Kitchen

This one sounds just as tasty as the other version I want to try. I keep forgetting to pick up tortellin at the supermarket, though! I must plan ahead more and hopefully I can do that when the kids go back to school next week!

ETA: I finally made this last night, 22/2/11, and it was absolutely delicious. I made it with spinach and ricotta tortellini and modified the recipe slightly. I'll be posting my modifications soon.

"Better Than Sex" Poke Cake

This cake sounds delicious and possibly heart attack inducing. It's chocolate cake with holes poked into it, covered in sweetened condensed and caramel ice cream toppping, then covered with whipped cream and caramel candy bar pieces. I don't often, like nearly never, bake cakes from a box mix, but I might give into it for this one!

Perfect Chocolate Cake

I just came across the blog One Perfect Bite and saw this chocolate cake. It looks delicious. I'm always on the look out for the perfect chocolate cake. I've been looking for years and never found it. I'll keep you posted!

Chicken Fried Rice

My kids have been asking me to make fried rice for a while. This one sounds pretty good.

I'll be adding to this  post as I see recipes I want to try.

Menu Plan Monday 6th - 12th Dec

I've definitely been cooking more, which was the motiviation behind this blog. So, that's a great thing! 

Last week's menu plan didn't come off perfectly, as I mentioned in a previous post, but it was pretty close.

I didn't get a chance to sit down and actually plan anything again this week. I'm bad with the planning. That's something I need to work on, but here's what I came up with for this week. Let's see how we go..

Monday: Spaghetti with napolitana sauce and garlic bread

Tuesday: Chicken Massaman with basmati rice

Wednesday: Beef tacos

Thursday: Slow cooker chicken casserole with rice 

Friday: Take away/takeout night.

Saturday: Cajun Chicken Salad

Sunday: Impossible Quiche and leftover salad.

I hope I can stick to this pretty stricty this week. I'll let you know how I go. Wish me luck!

04 December 2010

Spaghetti with Bacon and Garlic Sauce.

My first attempt at menu planning was apparently a failure. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday all went according to plan. Thursday and Saturday, not so much. While menu planning on Monday, I forgot that Thursday night was going to be a busy one. My youngest son had a special night at school and I had a meeting later that night. We ended up taking our other two kids to McDonalds for dinner, they wanted to play on the playground. 

Tonight, Saturday, also didn't go according to plan. Totally my fault. I had a bag of chicken fillets in the fridge that I bought on Tuesday and then forgot about, they ended up behind something else. So chicken was out for tonight. 

I came up with the following, which I'm guessing is sort of like a carbonara sauce, only not. I don't like carbonara, not sure why. I love bacon (who doesn't?!), eggs and cheese, but all together on pasta? No. 

I'm sure it's not all that original. 

Spaghetti with Bacon and Garlic sauce


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon minced garlic
250g bacon with most of the fat removed, chopped into 1/2" squares
3 spring onions (green onions)
200mls cream (I had thickened cream in the fridge)
pinch of chili flakes


Heat oil in fry pan and saute garlic. Add bacon, and fry off, but not until crispy. Add chopped spring onions, white and green parts and continue to fry for a minute or two. Reduce heat and add half of the cream and mix well. Add cream little by little until you get the desired consistency, you may not need all the cream. Simmer on low for about five minutes, stirring regularly. You may want to add more cream. Add a pinch of chili flakes.

Serve over freshly cooked spaghetti, or the pasta of your choice.

Notes: Like I said, I threw this meal together without planning it. We had bacon, eggs, cheese, fresh vegies, cream and some other ingredients that didn't appeal to me tonight. I had planned on adding the cheese, a soft cheddar, but after tasting the sauce after the addition of the chili flakes, I decided it was perfect as it was. When we sat down to eat it, it felt a little heavy, though. Next time I'm going to try this recipe with evaporated milk instead and see how that goes. At the very least, it felt like it needed some acid to cut down on the creaminess. Maybe lemon juice or white wine. All in all a lovely dish.

The kids all loved it and our nearly four year old daughter, who said "I don't want it, I'll just have a sandwich" then asked for a taste and ended up finishing her brother's bowl for him when he'd had enough. It's definitely a dish I'll be making again. It was delicious, quickly prepared and quick to cook. What could be better?

01 December 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I felt like a snack around 11am today and since I'm trying to cut down on the amount of junk food we buy, I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. These are our go-to cookie. It's an easy recipe, they taste delicious and everyone who tastes them asks for a copy of the recipe. They are known as 'Sarah's Magic Choc Chip Cookies' by friends and family. 

I'm not really sure they're magic. They do taste pretty great, though!

Before I get to the recipe, let me just say that I used two of my most favourite kitchen tools for this recipe - my Candy Apple Red KitchenAid Mixer and my cookie scoop. I even took photos of them. Yeah, I'm kind of crazy when it comes to photos when I get in the mood to take them.

Exhibit A: KitchenAid Mixer

Not a wonderfully composed photo, I'll admit. I'll also admit that just to the right of the photo, past that cup tree is a pile of the kids' school paperwork that is very embarrassing. The kids' rooms are covered in pastings and drawing and painting and.. and.. and.. you get the idea. Anyway, just to the right of this picture is chaos that I was contorting myself around to get the photo of the mixer and not the mess. It'll do for now!

So this is my kitchen pride and joy. I saved up birthday money and Christmas money for a couple of years to buy this. I could have bought it at any time, really, but I could never justify the price; here in Australia they are close to $700. $700 that could be spent on the kids, on bills, on a new lens for one of my other favourite things, again, you get the idea. So, I saved up my money, money that was originally being saved for stamping and card making supplies and bit the bullet and bought it. I kind of justified it by using my money to buy it as a Mother's Day present. It's brilliant and I love it. A lot.

Exhibit B - Cookie Scoop

I have been trying to hunt down a lever action ice-cream scoop to use for cookies for months. Would you believe they are nearly impossible to find here? I saw a couple online at Amazon and the like and always put off buying them. We were out last week buying knives for the boys, I mean Santa was out buying knives for the boys. Ok, let me clarify that. Our boys are aged 8 and 6. They LOVE to cook with me. They love watching reality TV cooking competitions and recently we had one here called Junior MasterChef Australia - a competitive cooking show for kids aged between 8 and 12 years old. The kids loved it. All the kids in the show were given Scanpan Spectrum knives in the utility and Santoku styles. The kids said they were going to ask Santa to bring some for Christmas. The Santoku is basically a cook's knife the right size for kids. We didn't bother with the utility knives as I never use them. I'm pretty much a one knife girl most of the time.

Ok, where was I? Yes, buying the cookie scoop. So, the shop where we bought the knives also had these lever action ice-cream scoops. I bought a size 40 for cookies, which is a bit bigger than I wanted, but the didn't stock the smaller size. This one makes cookies that are about 3" wide, I guess. I prefer small cookies normally, but with how quick cookies are to make with this scoop, I'll settle for the big ones.

I also bought a size 20 which is bigger (the smaller the number, the bigger the scoop), for cupcakes. I haven't tried it out yet, maybe next week. You can usually tell what size your scoop is by looking at the base of the handle, or in the scoop bowl itself. Mine have the size punched in both places.

If you've made it this far, here's the recipe!

Chocolate Chip Cookies


125g of butter
1 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of SR flour
100g milk chocolate chips
100g white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 170C/355F. 

Cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well, scrape down sides of bowl at least once. Add SR flour and mix until just mixed through. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and make sure all flour is incorporated well. Add choc chips and give it a quick mix.

Roll into small balls - if I'm doing these by hand I make 1" balls, when using the cookie scoop they end up much bigger than this, maybe 1 1/2". Place on silicon paper or baking mat covered trays and bake.

Cooking time for 1" hand-rolled balls is 7 mins to get a chewy cookie, 9 mins to get a crisper cookie. Times may vary for your oven, so keep an eye on them for the last two minutes, they could turn dark quicker than expected.

Cooking time for size 40 cookie scoop - approx. 1 1/2" balls is 10 minutes for a chewy cookie and I'm guessing about 12 minutes for a crisper cookie. We prefer the chewy kind so I haven't tested crispy ones with the cookie scoop yet.

Let them cool on their baking sheets for a couple of mintes before transferring them to cooling trays. 

I dare you not to eat one right out of the oven. These cookies are worth burning your mouth on!

Note: An Australian 1 cup measure is 250mls, US 1 cup measures are slightly smaller, you may need to add a little more flour.