Peanut Butter and Gilly

I’m having a completely bipolar experience while typing this – Gillbean, my favourite chef who doesn’t mind responding to ridiculous foodie questions at ungodly hours, is heading out for a new adventure in the Republic of Cape Town… on the one hand I’m wildly excited and ecstatically happy (it’s Cape Town! How can it not be AWESOME!!) but on the other hand I am selfishly a little sad that my friend will be far away.

Study the map Gill!

Gill loves peanut butter – I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like it (what’s a childhood without PB and J sandwiches), but she likes it extra – so these peanut butter cupcakes from Ming’s recipes (thanks Ming!) were a no-brainer for me. Last week involved a very long bus trip, which gave me ample downtime to think about these…. I had grand visions of cupcakes topped with little chocolate mountains, and chocolate seashells, and chocolate jelly beans, with little borders of toasted peanut bits…. full of sophisticated sssymbolism. Of course what really happened is that I bought the wrong size Toblerone so that the mountain peaks were substantially larger than the cupcakes, I could not find chocolate seashells for love nor money, and the chocolate jelly beans turned out to be orange-flavoured which will not taste good with peanut butter no matter how hard you pinch your nose shut while eating it. Anyway, the same amount of love went into them with their plain old Reese’s Pieces topping, plus I think if you look at them kind of on the slant with your eyes a little squiff you can almost kind of see a little Table Bay effect….

{crunchy sugar-coated monkeys?}

{crunchy PB-flavoured monkeys? awesome!}

The cupcakes are dense, not at all light and airy like pouffy little cupcakes. They’re more robust, kind of like a brownie – but I suspect that mine turned out like this because I used Honey Crunch PB (my domestic helper and I LOVE Honey Crunch) instead of the regular stuff. The higher sugar content probably gave it that stickiness plus a slightly crunchy crust. We are not complaining. They are also uncharacteristically ugly which is where the chocolate glaze comes in handy – my new topping of choice, since it’s less of a topping and more of a dip; no piping bag and fiddly nozzles! My inner lazy-person just did a mental happy dance.

peanut butter cup

peanut porn

just roll'em

its getting hot in here

nobbly nutty cupcakes

For about 20 PB Cupcake-inated cupcakes or 12 regular ones:

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pinch of ground cinnamon

1 cup PB (Honey Crunch is YUMMO)

6 tablespoons butter at room temperature – life is too short to wrestle cold butter

1 cup brown sugar

A few drops of vanilla extract.

1/2 cup milk

Firstly, read the recipe. This step is critical to avoid adding the sugar to the flour, then having to spend 15 minutes carefully spooning the sugar back out. Natch.

Once you’ve avoided this major time-waster, either fire up the Cupcake-inator (remember to give it a blast of non-stick cooking spray – never trust Teflon) or preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Next, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. In a separate, larger bowl, mash the PB, butter, sugar and vanilla together until it’s evenly mixed. It will still look granular, now stop tasting it before you eat too much and throw the whole balance off and end up PB-scented vanilla cupcakes instead. It is that yummy, I agree.

Next, alternately add some dry mix then some milk bit by bit while mixing. STOP TASTING IT ALREADY. For crying out loud.

Either pop it into paper cases in a cupcake pan and bake for 15-20 minutes in the oven or until a toothpick comes out “almost clean” (says Ming – “almost” is such a non-specific word). Or, pop heaped tablespoonsful into the Cupcake-inator and bake for 12-15 minutes – it sounds far too long compared to the usual 6 minutes, but when I tried to remove them early they fell apart and kind of scrambled themselves. Not pretty.

Carefully remove the cupcakes to a cooling rack and allow to chill out while you prepare the glaze that will hide a multitude of scrambled sins:

shoulda sieved it

smooooth as a rhesus' bottom

Melt 2 generous tablespoons of butter; add 1.5 heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder and about 125g icing sugar (sift it – if you are lazy, like me, prepare to battle granite-like lumps for a good while), then once it’s mixed stir in just enough milk to give it a nice smooth dip-able texture; add more icing sugar or milk to adjust the consistency. If you’ve checked out Ming’s recipes, you will notice that this is a half-quantity of the glaze – this is because the original quantity made far too much. I popped it into the kitchen sink, rinsed it out, then turned round to see one forlorn naked cupcake staring back. Happens… I ate it.

Plonk spoonfuls of the glaze over the cooled cupcakes – it really does smooth itself out. Before the glaze sets, get to work with the embellishments. If you can find those elusive chocolate seashells, please use them on my behalf (what are guys giving girls as little presents now anyway, if faux-Belgian chocolate seashells have gone extinct?? Clearly, I am an old spinster, and young couples these days are probably presenting each other with chocolate-coated iPods).

nutty nomnoms

Gill, take off your watch, put on your flip flops, get some local jazz going, consider giving up your front teeth, and have the BEST time in the Mother City!!

(if you don’t know this song yet – trust me, newby Capetonian, you will!)

♫ Welcome to Cape Town,

come join the party,

put on your dancing shoes,

Cape Town welcomes yo-00-u ♫

obey the signs

 

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Five Things: Best Ever

Did I say five things? I meant lots of things – when three BFF’s get together in their hometown after far too long, five photo’s are not enough.

{congrats to a beautiful young couple}

{congrats to a beautiful couple xoxo}

{wedded bling}

{wedded bling}

{au naturel beach bling}

{au naturel beach bling}

{we heart vintage}

{we heart vintage}

{building a bonfire or building a cottage?}

{building a bonfire or building a cottage?}

{tea and giggles}

{tea and giggles}

{beautiful wobbly handmade plates}

{beautiful wobbly handmade plates}

{my beautiful Caribou, contributor of all the green tomato recipes!}

{my beautiful Caribou, contributor of all the green tomato recipes!}

{my beautiful Laladybug - top commenter for 2012!}

{my beautiful Laladybug – top commenter for 2012!}

{my new favourite heading on a menu}

{my new favourite heading on a menu}

therapy in a mug

good to the last drop

{strolling by the seaside}

{strolling by the seaside}

love you with my lover

Shot on location *sniggers at pretentiousness of using those words* in Blouberg and more specifically in the shabby-chic and delicious Petits Fours Deli and Decor.

Miss you both!! XOXO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magical Unicone

Who doesn’t love unicorns?? *silence*. Yes, that’s right, we all love an embellished pony!

uni uni unicorns

So my friend Gillbean found this hilarious giggle-snorty picture, and it started one of those long trains of thought on how this could be translated into something edible (because everything’s better when it’s edible):

coney pony

Logic told me that I needed to replace the unicorn picture with ice-cream, and I was feeling mighty smug about this brilliant idea of mine when *gasp* I happened to be out and about with my long-lost Kiwi cousin and his lovely Kiwi girlfriend… We decided to a do a nostalgia-fuelled trip to the Milky Lane (classic, right?), and oh my goodness! They had beat me to it!

how very dare they!

Humph. I had already purchased the “horns”, so I went ahead with my plans to make my unicone. The ice-cream recipe is from Jenny Morris‘s cookbook… um… Cooking with Jenny Morris (do you think she got a little tired of thinking up exciting titles?). It sounded fairly foolproof, having four ingredients and requiring minimal effort. True, I managed to turn the ice-cream into a coffee-flavoured slushy and also true that a coffee-flavoured slushy is not the best base on which to apply eyes and noses… but let’s just call it an “organic” attempt. It was yummy enough and absolute magic in the hot weather we’ve been having. If you make the same oopsie don’t worry, just nonchalantly call it a “granita” when serving (it helps to flutter your eyelashes a bit, this makes it seem like you whip up such exotic-sounding things all the time and are a Domestic Goddess) and everyone will be hopelessly impressed and ask for the recipe.

Attempt 1

Attempt 2

(Ok this is a first for me… I’ve managed to lose all except two of the photo’s from the ice-cream making process! So you will need to use your imagination for the first part. Oopsie-daisies).

For lots and lots of luscious Coffee Ice-Cream Unicones:

1 Litre Ultramel vanilla custard (don’t be tempted to make a smaller quantity and buy the 500ml – it’s the same price as the 1 Litre! And why would you want LESS ice-cream?)

1 tin (397g) sweetened condensed milk

4 tablespoons strong instant coffee granules

1 cup milk

Ice-cream cones, AKA magical unicorn horns

Sweet bits and bobs, if you want to go to all the trouble of facial features (optional)

This is so easy that it makes it extra embarrassing that I managed to do it wrong. There’s only one word for this: Doh!

Whisk the custard and condensed milk together and dissolve the coffee granules in the milk by stirring vigorously. Whisk the two mixtures together and chill for an hour. As I type this, it occurs to me that I skipped this part. Oops.

I don’t have an ice-cream machine – if you do, this is where you pour the ice-cream base into the machine and press Play. If, like me, you like to do things the old-school way (read: there’s no space in your minute overstuffed kitchen for any new fandanglerations), pour into a freezable bowl and, um, freeze. Once the ice-cream has frozen, give it a solid spanking using an electric beater to break up the ice-crystals, to ensure a lovely creamy smooth end product (this is the other part I omitted, hence the “granita”). Repeat once more (oh wow. I really messed this one up).

Scoop the ice-cream into a bowl, and top with an ice-cream cone. I tried so hard to attach facial features but as soon as I tried to point the lens at the assembled Unicone, something would drop off with the melty ice-cream. It was easier to just leave them off, to me it still looked pretty convincing (she says to herself reassuringly).

crack is whack

Best get into the kitchen quick, and take advantage of the ice-cream weather while it’s still around – I’ve noticed this weekend that the sun is starting to set sneakily earlier than at the festive season. Go have a magical Unicone, it makes everything better! *twinkly Disney-type sounds*.

PS: I had this at the Milky Lane:

{Milky memory Lane with David and Elli}

{Milky memory Lane with David and Elli}

Five Things: Happy Year of the Snake!

Kung Hei Fat Choi             (Cantonese)

Gong Xi Fa Cai                    (Mandarin)

So yes I am a little late with my well-wishes but they aren’t any less sincere. I was home on the coast with my two long-last BFF’s for a long weekend and Once Upon a Wooden Spoon was very close to the back of my mind, and that’s only because gym and healthy eating beat the blog to the deepest recesses.

I made the mistake of googling “snake recipes” and decided that it would not be kind to start out the Chinese New Year on this inauspicious note (the descriptions on how to prepare rattlesnake were somewhat stomach-unsettling), so here are a few ideas which I would love to try out in honour of the New Year (except for the snakebite – someone more adventurous is most welcome to give it a shot and report back to me!).

{snakebite - read these thoughts on the drink}

{snakebite – read these thoughts on the drink}

{pecan, walnut and honey snake cake}{pecan, walnut and honey snake cake}

{strawberry shortbread}

{strawberry shortbread}

{my favourite, and no preparation needed}

{my favourite, and no preparation needed}

Tough Love

It’s not that I’m not crazy about Valentine’s Day – it’s just that I’m not crazy about those overbearingly coochy-cooey, soppy sappy couples who suddenly feel the need to out-PDA each other, and then try to sell you the idea that you cannot possibly be single on Valentine’s Day and live to tell the tale.

Valentine Shmalentine.

The thought of having to put on my faux-gleeful face when presented with one of those acetate cones containing a plastic rose and a little white bear wearing a red bowtie  – blegh.

{remember these? Cardies still sells them}

{remember these? Cardies still sells them}

I got this idea for chocolate Valentine’s pinatas from the movie Valentine’s Day. Remember the part at the end where Jennifer Garner has just delivered her best performance EVER (when she’s the waitress for the cheating McDreamy – the pork dish description is legendary) and marches into the Indian restaurant and beats the bejeezus out of the pink heart-shaped pinata? Yes, I got the idea from that bit of the movie. Making an actual life-sized pinata out of chocolate seemed to me a potentially messy operation so I scaled it down some, and replaced the baseball bat with a hammer. It doesn’t make it any less satisfying to smash the heart to pieces, and once you’ve finished unleashing your anti-Cupid wrath on the heart you get to eat it all up including the yumminess within.

show it who's boss Jenny

This is where you can really get creative, and personalise the contents. I made one with white chocolate-coated toasted almonds (these were quite big though, and only 3 fit comfortably – which seems a little stingy to a greedyguts like me). Then there was another containing chocolate-coated strawberry-milkshake flavoured sweeties. And then a third for those nauseatingly health-conscious types who will exclaim with false joy on receipt of the gift only to pull a face and slip it into the nearest potplant when you turn your back – 70% dark chocolate heart containing toasted almonds and dried cherries. I didn’t have anyone to test my other option on. Well maybe I did but then they would read this and know it was done on purpose. If you absolutely hate someone’s guts and hope to spoil their Valentine’s Day might I make a wee suggestion to fill the heart with something slightly unsavoury. Nothing dangerous or illegal, mind. I’m thinking more along the lines of – no, actually all the things I was thinking of probably are dangerous or illegal (chopped raw liver; a dust bunny fresh from under the couch; there were worse ones but I would probably get into some kind of trouble for publishing them) (you can call me if you think you need to use one of the worse ones).

Anyway, back to the good hearts – they are lots of fun. I know this because I made someone test a prototype out this morning so that I could post this before Valentine’s Day proper. There’s nothing quite like being able to conclude business by saying, with a huge smile on your face, “Thank you for taking the time to break my heart”. 🙂

hot molten lurve

smothered

i heart chocolate

fill her up

get hammered

i made it for you

Remember that presentation is everything, so line a gift box with something pretty and Valentine’s-y, decorate it with a nice label and a suitable message (I kept mine succint – “Valentine Shmalentine”), and then go to town with ribbons and all the fluffy bits of schmaltz that is Valentine’s Day.

For one chocolate heart:

Lots of chocolate. I’m guessing 100g for the heart – but have extra on hand because you will be snacking throughout. Pink baking chocolate and a nice snappy 70% dark chocolate worked for me.

More dark chocolate – for the hammer.

Filler – such as jellybeans or chocolate buttons or nuts or toenail clippings. (I’m KIDDING!!).

Heart-shaped chocolate moulds – I like the silicone cupcake ones because they are dual-purpose.

Heart-shaped cookie cutter, similar size as the mould base.

Hammer/tool chocolate mould – mine came with actual chocolates in it, it was a Father’s Day chocolate gift pack. I bought it just for the mould.

Okay – break up the chocolate for the heart into little pieces and put these into a microwave-safe bowl. CAREFULLY melt the chocolate at about 60% power – after 30 seconds, check every 10 seconds and shove the pieces around with a spoon. Remove from the microwave while there are still a few blobs remaining and keep stirring – burnt chocolate is never fun (but it’s not bad to eat, kind of fudge-like. In case it does burn, don’t be too miserable, just eat it). Spoon a little into the moulds and use a food-safe brush to mush it around the heart shape. Spread a tablespoonful onto greaseproof paper or a silicone mat and while the chocolate is still partially set press the cookie cutter into it.

Pour the chocolate for the hammer into the mould to the top, then tap it a few times to remove any air bubbles hiding down at the bottom.

The heart shape will most likely require a second coat – especially for the point of the heart and in the dink, as these were most likely to break when unmoulding impatiently. Chocolate does not like to be rushed.

I left the components to chillax overnight before assembling but this is not strictly necessary. Place a few of the filling materials into the heart shape (don’t pack it too much, as it shouldn’t be so heavy that it breaks the heart or doesn’t make a nice rattling noise) then carefully attach the “lid” with a little melted chocolate along the perimeter. Allow to set before placing it into the gift box with the hammer. If you like, you can spread a tiny bit of melted chocolate onto the heart and sprinkle embellishments onto the chocolate before it sets.

knock knock

sing it janis joplin

you broke it you bought it

Some recipients will laugh. Some may cry. Everyone will LOVE being able to smash a heart to pieces.

{i used this on the packaging. it seemed apt}

{i used this on the packaging. it seemed appropriate}

Cooler As Egge

OK, so many many deep breaths and zen-y calming techniques later (read: gnashing of teeth and shaking of fists until exhausted) I have calmed down from my crazy-lady rant about the misconceptions of the eating habits of the Singleton. As mentioned in a previous post, I have been planning to tell you all about these wonderful microwave recipes I’ve discovered, but I had to wait until I could slow my ferocious vitriolic typing down to a speed that didn’t have sparks flying from the keyboard. I found literally hundreds of recipe ideas on the Net, then narrowed them down by picking the things that I like to eat, then narrowed them down further by eliminating all the duds. By duds, I mean anything that resulted in a wobbly lump of rubber in my mug (I was surprised at how often this happened actually. It was a bit like being Robin Williams’ character in the movie Flubber – except these duds, regrettably, did not perform any funny dance moves).

cos crack aint so whack

This recipe for a “microwave omelet” is amazing – I wouldn’t really describe it as an omelet myself, it’s more like set scrambled eggs. A scromelet? Hmm. Sounds like it could be a technical word used in school rugby.

u crack me up

Anyway the name is beside the point since it is absolutely YUMMY if done right, and it scores bonus points for literally using only a mug and a fork and also … wait for it…. being DONE in 2 MINUTES! Up until this past Sunday I had been telling anyone who would stand still long enough about what a time-saver the kettle-boiled-eggs were of a weekday morning. Now I look back at the boiled eggs through slitty eyes and with heaps of contempt, since I can have a high-protein hot breakfast ready in the same time as it takes to make a cup of coffee.

dig in

I’ve decided that this is my new favourite omelet because it’s not as fiddly to make as a proper folded one in a pan (because it will always tear and the filling will spew out and burn onto the pan) and that it’s even yummier than my previous most favourite omelet ever. My previous favourite was the ham and cheese omelet prepared by the nice lady at the City Lodge. Nice lady – you have been wasting your time. Use the microwave rather.

that is all

butter me up

it takes 2

embellished

peekaboo

For one microwave omelet:

(I’m not even going to list the ingredients. It’s just that simple).

Either give a microwave-safe mug a burst of cooking spray or alternately (and this is the yummier option), plop half a teaspoon of butter into it, melt it in the microwave (5 seconds should do it) and swirl it round the mug to coat.

Crack 2 eggs into the mug. Give them a beating, then mix in your choice of bitsy embellishments and seasoning. I like ripped-up ham and roughly crumbled feta with lots of black pepper.

Put the mug in the centre of the microwave and press play for a total of 2 minutes. At 30 second intervals, stop the microwave, carefully remove the (very hot) mug and stir the contents – there will be a layer of cooked egg forming on top and you need to distribute this to prevent a dry rubbery layer forming. The last 30 seconds are my favourite – it starts to rise up to the top of the mug as if it’s peeping out, and when you open the microwave door it shoots back down again (maybe it’s only funny at that time of morning when my sense of humour hasn’t really woken up yet?).

You will know it’s done when there’s no free liquid. It shouldn’t be too dry either, my guess is that it will be like eating those green foam cubes that florists stick floral arrangements into. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh chopped herbs and prepare to be impressed. Or impress someone else. Easiest breakfast in bed ever.

nom nom nom

A note of caution: Microwave cooking is awesome BUT things that go into the microwave seem to get much much hotter than other cooking methods, the kind of heat would worry the devil himself into blowing on a forkful of food before eating it. It also tends to stay hot for a longer time, especially in the middle. Be very careful when removing the mug from the microwave and also when shoveling the scromelet into your mouth. Scorched tastebuds are not the ideal way to start your day.

PS: About the name of this post. I have been avoiding names that are too local but since most of you reading this are South African I’m not too bovvered anymore. And if you aren’t South African you can use Google translate or ask your nearest friendly South African. The name comes from the Jack Parow song (love Jack Parow! Esp since I lived in Parow back in the good old days). And according to my sister, he’s cooler than Steve Hofeier.

PPS: I found this really funny slogan generator and plugged the word “egg” into it. The first one to come up was “Hungry? Why Wait? Grab an Egg”. How perfect is that! The others were way more arb…. here’s a sample:

  • Does the hard egg for you
  • Because so much is riding on your egg
  • Egg, take me away
  • Ribbed for her egg

(This is my new favourite online tool – expect some strange post names in future).

Guest Post: Green Fingers (Part III)

Boohoo, last post courtesy of Caribou and her amazing green thumbs (and green tomatoes). Thanks amazing friend!!

{big green high 5}

{big green high 5}

Tomato Pickle:

“I’ve tried this with both green and red tomatoes, so don’t discriminate against older, riper fruit!  This recipe I found online (at the same New Zealand woman’s magazine that gave me the jam recipe). This was also the most popular of all the recipes amongst friends and the one I’ve made the most.  The quantities listed here will not make enough, I suggest doubling it!

just a little one

Ingredients

500g green tomatoes, chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

250ml brown vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

100g brown sugar

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground allspice

3 cloves (ground in a mortar and pestle)

¼ tsp turmeric

2 tsp mustard (I used a grainy mustard)

Method:

Mix the tomatoes and onions with the salt and stand in a colander for 10 minutes so the salt can draw out any excess moisture.

Warm the vinegar in a pan then add all the ingredients including the tomato and onion mix.

Simmer until most of the moisture evaporates (if you can draw a spoon along the bottom of the pan leaving a track that doesn’t immediately fill with liquid, you’re good to go).

Prepare for a lot of love coming your way once people taste this one.

Troubleshooting:

I had no trouble with it at all with this recipe.

If you use red tomatoes, they will give off more moisture but cook faster, falling apart to leave quite a smooth consistency.  The green tomatoes don’t contain as much water, and take longer too soften, so that was slightly chunkier.  If you are using green tomatoes but want a smoother pickle, chop them finely rather than roughly. “