Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

There is nothing quite like the smell of an extra spicy fruit cake baking in the oven, however, the Queen of them all is the old English style Christmas Cake. In essence, it’s a deeply rich fruit mixture heavy on the fruit and steeped in rum or brandy. Thick and dense, it bakes for up to four hours on a low heat, which is a nice long time for the smell to permeate the house. We love it.

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I come from a family of British immigrants to New Zealand, and despite the fact we have summer in the festive season, my parents continued the tradition of the “Christmas Cake.” I have raised my boys with our own version of the family tradition. At the end of November, my kids and I don our aprons and head into the kitchen for the labour of love.

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I think the secret to a good result is in soaking the fruit in orange juice and rum or brandy overnight. In the old English style, the ratio of dried fruit to flour is about four to one. Typically, there will be raisins, currants, sultanas and chopped dates. Most recipes call for glace cherries and crystallised ginger, but, as I’m not fond of these ingredients, I like to add chopped dried apricots and figs and extra blanched almonds.

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This year, my boys and I came up with a fun idea for a crafty gift. We only used half the batter for the traditional rectangular cake, which will be iced closer to Christmas with brandy butter icing.

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The other half of the batter, we fashioned into rough balls and baked in muffin tins. In this form, they take half the time, roughly two to two and a half hours at a low heat. They form a nice firm ball. Once cool, we dusted them lightly with sifted icing sugar.

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We wrapped the individual balls in baking paper, making neat little parcels with cotton gift ties.

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I had been collecting gift boxes and tins from the thrift stores the last few weeks. We wrapped the paper parcels in cellophane wrap to ensure they will stay fresh as long as possible and divided the balls between the tins and boxes.

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We wrote a personalised message on a gift tag inside each lid.

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We tied a ribbon on each box and there you have it, our Christmas Cake Balls as a gift you can make with your kids and give away at this year.

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Do you make your own gifts or have your own crafting traditions at this time of year? If so, let us know!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is never too late to start enjoying a happy childhood. ~ Joy Cowley

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

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Need to reduce some of the overindulgence in your diet and yet still craving some treats and “goodies” to look forward to? Me, too!

Recently, I had noticed a few stomach gripes after eating rich meals. I could see myself heading down a slippery slope to ill health if I didn’t start to make a few informed and wise choices with my diet.

Once you reach a certain age it pays dividends to start to think about things like healthy options which will support optimum blood sugar levels and hormone production. I gave my diet an overhaul as I needed to introduce some good fats and cut down on the not-so-good fats. My health professional suggested adding Chia seeds to my breakfast or in smoothies, as well as adding coconut oil in place of butter. She recommended increasing the healthy oils on salads too. Fat is required to make healthy hormones.

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She also proposed alternative snack foods like fresh fruit and vegetables. I used to buy plenty of fruit during the week for the kids to snack on and yet not eat any of it myself! I started buying more fruit and eating a couple of pieces daily. I started eating the fruit we produce on the trees in our own yard instead of giving it all away.

And yet, I still wanted to have a few yummy “treats” to look forward to after dinner. The desire for a bit of decadence has driven me to do a bit of experimenting in the kitchen of late. I always seek options to help alkalise the body too.

In my mission to cut bread from my diet about ten years ago, I had eliminated all bread and therefore all grains. When encouraged by my health professional to reintroduce bread, the first thing I thought of was spicy sultana loaf. I found Vogels make a beautiful wholemeal “extra thick fruit & spice” bread. However, mindful of trying to eat the right fats, I came up with a viable alternative to slathering my toast with butter.

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I experimented and found that if I spread about half a teaspoon of coconut oil on the toast first, and then all I needed was the lightest of touches of butter on the top. So you feel like you’re eating buttered toast when really it’s mainly coconut oil.

What delicious sort of drink would complement this dessert perfectly?

I came up with an utterly decadent drink which is simple to make: real hot chocolate. It’s purely two ingredients: milk and dark chocolate.

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Here’s the method:

Heat a cup of what I call “good” milk – I bought organic non-homogenised milk. Do not overheat! Aim to bring up the temperature to warm.

Slice a few squares of good dark chocolate and add to the milk. Stir.

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Heat further.

Remember, you’re aiming to raise the temperature of the liquid to near-simmer but without boiling. Once you boil the milk it loses all its goodness and changes consistency.

Once the temperature is right give it a whisk with a spoon. And savour.

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The warmed chocolate milk taken with the spicy fruit bread is the perfect healthy, yet decadent snack. Yum yum.

Do you have any recipes which seem so good they must be bad for you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Keep clean, body and mind.’ ~ Sir Frederick Treves, 1903

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

 

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