Archive for the ‘baking’ Category

This year my father’s 85th birthday passed by with dad seriously ill in hospital, suffering double pneumonia. If a person is a smoker, the rate of mortality from this illness among the elderly is high. As a non-smoker, and also a relatively fit person, dad’s chances of survival were better than average.

Nevertheless, none of the facts take the edge off, when you see your father that close to the final curtain. I remember how in those first moments of my first visit, when I saw his face with the cheeks sunken in towards his gaping mouth, I felt my heart clench. A keener sense of reality accompanied it. I felt even more love than usual for my father.

10599505_10202530643248555_4175807170543700148_nThat was a week ago.

Dad’s still recovering in hospital. The family has taken shifts to sit with him and my elder sisters are with him now. I shudder at the thought of what lies ahead. The shadow at the dinner party. The ghost at the gate. The pitch darkness that lies beyond the horizon.

It’s only been two years since my mother died. She passed away blissfully in her sleep, June 25, 2015, just four months shy of what would have been my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. It reminded me never to bank on tomorrow. My teacher always says to ‘live as if death’s at your shoulder’ because it is.

It’s winter here in New Zealand, and it seems fitting to face these thoughts at this quieter time of year. As without so within and all that jazz.

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It’s also the first week of the school holidays.

Normally, my brother and I would take our kids to stay with dad for some of the break. It was so great to see the kids get to do all sorts of adventurous things outside in the fresh air on those visits, stretching their legs and their wings as boys need to do.

Even my boy with Down’s syndrome, Sam-the-man, who gets quite put out by any changes to routine, always welcomed the chance to spend quality time with his grandfather. Sam appreciated that his grandfather would sit and take the time to play cards and board games and patiently explain the rules.

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In Sam’s writing books, brought home from school at the end of each year, I noticed the words ‘Grandpa,’ ‘beach,’ and ‘sandcastles’ cropped up in his stories often.

We’ve had a special time and there are many wonderful memories.

These holidays, instead of going to the beach, the boys and I travelled to spend a couple of days sitting beside grandpa in hospital. We make the next visit soon.

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It’s sad to see an old tree fall. This profoundly good man has sacrificed a great deal for his family. He has given selflessly to all around him. Now, all he asks is to go home. While he is still very weak, we’re hopeful that one day, he will return home, at least in some capacity.

In a few days, the boys and I take our next turn at grandpa-sitting.

My sisters say dad’s health has improved.

We might not have noted dad’s birthday as we’ve done before. But as soon as he’s home we will celebrate.

We’ve remembered life goes on. Hope springs. And the human spirit is irrepressible. Thank goodness, no matter how many crazy despots come into power, life does go on. And I’m reminded of those sage words someone said once long ago; it’s never too late to bake a cake. 🙂 Words to live by.

Love you, dad. Happy Birthday!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – M. Aurelius

 

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*Courtesy warning: contains meat products.*

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I wish you could smell my kitchen right now. The smell is savoury, deeply fragrant and spicy. I’ve spent the whole day making meatballs. And let me tell you, it has been so much fun.

For those of us with children at school, we’re coming to the time of year when the kids take their next holidays. My thoughts have swung forward to organizing our next trip to visit grandpa.

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With travel in mind, the first thing I do is start to plan the food. This time, I plan to make a batch of pumpkin soup and freeze it into small batches to take with us. I like to take a few pre-made things. That way I don’t have to spend a lot of time making food when I’d rather be spending time with my father or with the kids.

I recently went to see a “medical herbalist.” She takes a comprehensive look at diet and lifestyle. She suggests herbs and some kind of eating plan. Mine discovered a few things absent nutritionally from my diet and she sent me an eating plan as well as a great list of suggested snacks.  Boiled eggs. Check. Tahini or hummus with vegetable sticks. Check. And homemade meatballs, “a small concentrated bundle of protein, handy to have as they last well in the fridge.”

I had never considered making meatballs to have on hand as a snack. I thought, what a great snack food for my hungry growing boys as well. I’m always looking for easy protein options for them.

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Mini meatballs would be the perfect thing to go in the boys’ lunchboxes for school as well as for the upcoming car journey. Why mini? Kids like small foods. So I decided to come up with a “healthy meatball” I would feel good about the kids and I eating on a regular basis. I retreated to my kitchen lab today and I came with a tasty low fat treat. The nice thing about having precooked meatballs with you on vacation is that they make a great sandwich or roll filling and can form the basis of a nice dinner with the addition of pasta and tomato sauce.

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Here’s my mini meatball:

Combine 375g mince, fresh herbs and a good dose of dried mixed herbs, fresh ginger grated on the fine grater, a cup of crumbled fresh Vogels (or wholemeal) bread (not the crusts), 2 tbs tomato sauce (I added a few diced angel tomatoes), a handful of minced fresh greens like spinach or silverbeet, I used the light-green inner of one leek, finely chopped, plus a glug of good olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper.

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The best part is smooshing all the ingredients between your fingers and then rolling balls of the mixture between your hands. In case you’re wondering, yes, it is just like rolling play dough into balls as a child! I’ve heard chefs say before that meatballs are a favourite recipe and now I can see way. It was brilliant fun.

All it takes is chopping and mixing a bunch of ingredients, pinch into small balls and you’re done.

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However, as meat is fatty, and I’d added some good fat to make it stick together, I didn’t want to add more fat by frying the balls in a pan. I wanted to bake them like miniature meatloaves. I came up with the solution of placing each little ball in a miniature container.

I baked them for 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.

When they came out they were each sitting, bubbling, in an inch of oil.

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At this point, you have to be ready with paper towels spread over the baking rack, and a pair of tongs. You want to whisk those meatballs out of the oil as fast as you can to prevent them from soaking the oil back up again. If they hit the paper towel warm they’ll continue leaking even more excess oil. The resulting meatball will retain some of the fat but most of it has been rendered.

Take them off the paper and let them cool the rest of the way on the baking rack. Freeze in relatively small batches, so you can take out half a dozen at a time and still have some for another day.

Our mini meatballs look and taste great, they’re our family’s healthy take on an old favourite.

Do you have a go-to recipe to take on holiday?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. ~ Desmond Tutu

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I threw a party recently for my nephew’s 21st and was given the job of baking the cake. My nephew’s top choice is choc/banana which just happens to be my specialty. The cry went out for my “world-famous” double banana-chocolate-cream masterpiece.

Why world famous, you ask? Because it’s a combination I’ve concocted perfected over the years, with wild experiments careful testing in my laboratory kitchen.

I have honed the dynamics to a point where they really work together in sweet harmony, or as my youngest son would say, this cake is “boss” (translation: perfect).

It’s a great “event cake.” In other words, it’s a bit flash. This is the sort of dessert that always gets mostly eaten up, the sort of which leftovers are few and far between, and are sometimes even fought over the next day. When I shared the news I was baking it again, on Facebook, one friend requested the recipe. Here it is.

Double Banana-Chocolate-Cream Cake

Method:

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Start with a basic banana cake recipe. I use the one from the Kiwi classic, the Edmonds cook book.

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I double the recipe because I like a nice amount of cake to work with.

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Pour the mixture into a wide baking tray. A flatter, larger tin is best. Once the filling and the icing is added later, the cake becomes substantially higher. I don’t want to end up with a cake that is top-heavy.

*My tip: I use a disposable roasting dish, lined with baking paper. That way, you end up with a nice sized cake for decorating (and you don’t have to do the dishes, if you’re that way inclined – I recycle mine and use them again).

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I need to let this sucker cool completely. Otherwise, I’ll never get it cut in half and turned over cleanly.

*My tip: I always bake the cake the night before the event, so it can cool overnight.

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I cut the cake in half and line one side with sliced bananas.

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*My tip: I spread a thin layer of cream on the bottom half before applying the banana layer. That way, I can move the slices about more easily if I drop one or make a mistake in the pattern. 

*My tip: While blackening bananas can be used for the batter, use only new perfect fruit for the middle layer. As the slices may be partly visible on each slice served.

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Spread a layer of whipped cream over the bananas. Fresh cream is best.

*My tip: I find I can never make this layer thick enough. Even when I buy the big bottle of cream and whip it, and I put a glacier of cream in the middle, it always somehow is never quite enough when it comes to eating it! I try to be ever more generous.

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Put the “lid” on top.

The next secret to this great cake is the icing must be mostly chocolate, no icing sugar as it adds too much sweetness. I use the “Melted Choc Icing” recipe, also in the Edmonds cook book.

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*My tip: The trick is to make the icing first thing in the morning. This icing needs to cool.

Once completely cool to the touch, I beat it until thick and glossy.

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When icing, sometimes I cover the sides altogether so the filling is a surprise. Other times, like this one, I left the middle layer partly visible. Either way, once I’ve cut this delicious dessert, it’s a matter of standing back and watching the stampede.

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*My tip: Get a piece early or I’ll miss out.

I waited too long on the day, as I was busy in the kitchen. I managed to eat one slice later that evening. The next morning, my family returned. Over cups of tea, they ate the leftovers. Before I could turn around, the cake was gone. Sigh. One slice after all that work! However, that’s a sign they loved it – every cook’s dream come true.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, too. If you do, write to me and let me know.

*My tip: I feel obliged to say, remember the “80/20 rule,” friends: eat good, healthy clean food 80% of the time, and you’re allowed 20% goodies. Yay!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I attribute my longevity to constant smoking and marrons glaces. – Noel Coward

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com