Monday, 30 January 2012

chilli chocolate zucchini cake

every summer i plant zucchini seeds rotating their position to minimise disease and pestilence..this year i planted them where i had just dug up my garlic on the premise that garlic acts a soil the time of planting i also dug in a large bag of pigeon poo..there's a pigeon person living near me and i've been lucky enough a couple of times to be driving past when he has been putting free bags of it out onto his nature strip..anyway when the innocent first leaves emerged i let the plants know who was going to be boss this i'm not sure whether they just didn't take heed or whether maybe..just maybe..all my preventive care and fertility rites have back fired on me..

as any zucchini grower knows this vegetable is particularly prolific..but mine are beyond prolific..they are positively fecund..for instance, on several occasions i have noticed premature zucchinis too small to pick grow overnight into'd think i'd learn..

anyway..all these zucchinis i'm producing have to be used..every summer i make at least one huge tray of moussaka in which i add zucchini along with potato and eggplant..and i also make the ubiquitous zucchini slice..but because i have been wanting to expand my zucchini repertoire, over the last few months, i've been keeping an eye out for other zucchini recipes..and one that piqued my interest recently was for a chocolate and zucchini cake by the 'shady baker'..and today i decided to make it..i've included the recipe here because i've changed it a little..

chilli chocolate zucchini cake


185 gms softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp salt


grease and line a 30 cm x 20 cm sandwich tin

preheat oven to 190 deg c

sift dry ingredients

cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy

add eggs one at a time beating well between each addition

add half of the sifted dry ingredients and half of the milk and mix gently

add remaining flour mix and milk and mix until flour just incorporated

mix in grated zucchini by hand

spoon into tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until cooked when tested

allow to cool for 15 minutes and then carefully remove from the tin onto a cooling rack

when cool serve in squares dusted with icing sugar and a spoon of mascarpone

note: cake may be iced as desired

comments: the cake has a moist not overly sweet crumb and it cuts into well formed squares..the chilli is discernible with a pleasant slight heat..the sweetness of the mascarpone works well because the cake is not very sweet..

unfortunately the cake didn't really make much of a dent in my zucchini supply because i still have four quite large ones to deal with..

Thursday, 26 January 2012

bathroom decorating..

when my children were growing up we all shared one bathroom and, like most families, we had matching towels..while we had designated hooks behind the bathroom door where they were hung up quite often the towels would get mixed up and so no-one knew whose towel belonged to whom..over time i started to buy individual towels, rather than sets, in each person's favourite colour and so the problem sorted itself out..

since then i have continued to prefer non matching sets of towels, hand towels, bathmats and face washers..and more and more i prefer to buy older style towels such as the australian brands of dickies, tara and supertex and occasionally i find good quality vintage english and japanese towels all of which i buy very cheaply from op shops..i then create different sets for my bathroom from my collection, according to my mood, each time i change the towels..

i still need to seal the polished concrete floor!

i've just washed my 'blue' set so it's on the line drying..and i have many other colour combinations from which to choose..

Sunday, 22 January 2012

'icecream' for breakfast

in winter when it's cold many of us want a warming breakfast such as a bowl of steaming porridge which is a favourite of mine..but it's summer here in melbourne. and the temperatures have been around the 34 deg c range over the last two days and the prediction is that tomorrow will be more of the for me a hot breakfast is not on my preferred breakfast menu..

i was getting ready this morning in my typical leave everything to the last minute style so breakfast was either not going to happen or it was going to be a hurried affair..of all the various options ranging from toast to cereal to grabbing a banana on the way out of the door none appealed so in the end i decided to make a smoothie..and because i didn't have much milk the smoothie was very thick even though i added a little water.. in fact it was more like an ice cream than a drink and so for decorums' sake i served it in a bowl and ate it with a spoon..and surprise surprise it was really a cool way..

i've made plenty of smoothies before but today by sheer chance i had created a deliciously cooling and very healthy breakfast for a hot summers' morning..and i realised i'd made the summer equivalent of winters' steaming bowl of porridge..

breakfast 'icecream'

it's not really a recipe but more of an idea..but this is what i did today..

100 mls organic non-homogenised full cream milk
1 frozen banana (i cut bananas into chunks before freezing them for ease of use later)
1/4 cup frozen rasberries
1 tbs lsa (linseed, sesame seed and almond mix..i grind my own but it can be bought ready ground..
filtered water

put all ingredients except for the water into a blender or food processor or use a stick blender (i use a bamix) and process until smooth adding filtered water if necessary to achieve the consistency desired..scoop into a bowl and eat immediately while it's still frozen..

there are also many other delicious summery options that come to mind such as replacing:

the banana and/or raspberry with fresh or frozen mango, strawberry, pineapple, peach, pear, blueberries, passionfruit (add after processing the 'ice cream'), stewed apricots and so on..

some or all of the milk with yoghurt or buttermilk or fresh fruit juice

the milk with soy or almond milk

other ingredients could be added either before or after processing depending on the ingredient and personal preference too to personalise the 'icecream' such as finely ground oatmeal, chia seeds, flaxseed oil (linseed oil), honey, maple syrup, cocoa, coffee granules or frozen espresso, other nuts apart from almonds and dried fruit such as cranberries, sultanas and fact most favourite smoothie ingredients could be adapted to suit breakfast 'icecream'..

i know i was in a hurry but i really must learn to eat more slowly!

so tell me what would you put in and/or on your breakfast 'icecream'?  

Sunday, 15 January 2012

philosophical questions about two over ripe bananas

the trouble is that when something is very expensive one minute and then it's suddenly very cheap it's hard for me to always stay rational..for instance last week i bought a 1.5 kilo bag of bananas for $2..snaffled it up i did with a slightly heightened sense of accomplishment..come on..they were around $14/k a few weeks ago..up there on the stock exchange as listed commodities..

i'm aware that bargains are usually bargains for a reason especially when it comes to big bags of things in green grocery shops..but i had a bit of a cursory feel of the bananas through the plastic bag and they seemed fine enough for eating and freezing for smoothies..but..and you knew a but was coming..when i opened the bag up at home there were two bananas that had eluded my soft banana detection strategy..and they weren't just a bit soft they were squishy soft..

they sat on my kitchen bench for a day or two while i pondered their demise..and it was then that i started to ask myself the big questions and i had conversations with myself that went along these lines..

question 1 :should i just eat them and get over the repulse factor?

i am being precious in being so turned off by something as inoffensive as a mushy banana..if i was really hungry i would walk on my knees to a banana plantation for an over ripe's an insult to the really hungry people in the world to not eat them..

question 2 ..should i throw them on the compost heap?

apparently bananas make good compost..they are full of wonderful nutrients that do good things to the soil and if my soil is good then my vegetable crops will be good and then i'll be good..or at least nutritionally good..

question 3 ..should i throw them in the bin?

now this question didn't really come up for me because i haven't thrown anything compostable in the bin for decades but nevertheless if i am going to debate the bananas' demise then i need to make sure i've covered every contingency..

question 4..should i give them away?

this is another question that didn't come up..i don't know anyone i don't like enough to wrap two squishy bananas up in quality paper with a matching gift card and give them to them..i could give them away as a joke just wouldn't be funny..

question 5..should i make a banana cake?

this is usually the default demise for the soft banana..but question 5 opened up a whole lot of other questions for me..for instance..
question 5a..what is the sense in turning two bananas worth $0.40 into a cake..there are other ingredients to be taken into consideration that cost a lot more than those two bananas..
question it a saving to make a cake? this question seems the same as question 5a..except saving here means saving them from the other demises listed in questions 1-4..
question i want to eat banana cake? yes i do because i want to make a recipe i saw with banana and coconut the other day somewhere if only i can find the recipe again..and i love eating cake especially with a cup of tea in the afternoon after a day in the garden and i love the fact that i am rescuing two forlorn's an emotional issue that has no relationship to economics..and no i don't want to eat cake because nutritionists tell us it's not that good for us..although they also say we can eat everything in moderation..

well what happened to those bananas i hear you ask? it wouldn't be much of a photo opportunity if i had composted them..imagine a photo of two forlorn bananas sitting on top of my rotting compost heap..not a bad photo if i'd eaten them..that's if you like ugly what's left? cake? yes..i made cake..i know you guessed that anyway..i found the recipe i mentioned in's from a blog called 'technicolour kitchen'..but as usual i made a few changes, this time, because i was short of or missing ingredients..for that reason i have included the recipe..i've put asterisks where i've made changes to the recipe and noted the changes underneath the method section..


banana and coconut cake with lemon* icing  



280 gms plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
100 gms unsalted butter softened and 1 tbs olive oil*
175 gms castor* sugar*
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 mashed over ripe bananas*
3 tbs milk with a squeeze of lemon juice*
3/4 cup desiccated coconut*


icing sugar*
lemon juice*

preheat oven to 180 deg c..grease and/or line a 21 cm x 8 cm x 7.5 cm loaf tin*..

sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt..

cream butter, oil and sugar until well creamed..add eggs one at a time beating for 1 minute after adding each egg..

add vanilla and mix well..

add half of the flour mix, the banana and the milk and mix on a low speed briefly..add the remaining flour and mix until just  incorporated..

remove bowl from mixer and mix in coconut by hand..

put the batter into the tin and bake for an hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer..i placed brown paper over the top of the cake at about the 45 minute mark because it was well browned but not cooked when tested with a was cooked after an hour..

remove from oven when cooked and cool on a cake rack in the tin for 10 or so minutes..

remove from tin and allow to cool..

mix enough icing sugar and lemon juice to make the icing to the desired consistency

ice cake and sprinkle with extra coconut*

notes: the original recipe called for:

a 22 cm x 12 cm x 7 cm tin was fine

113 gms butter.. i didn't have enough so i used a little olive oil to make up the deficit to no ill effect

200 gms  granulated sugar..i used castor sugar and i used less because i don't like overly sweet cakes etc

1 cup mashed banana..i didn't measure but my two bananas mashed was not a cup

3 tbs yoghurt..i didn't have yoghurt so i substituted it with the milk and lemon juice

3/4 cup sweetened coconut..i've never seen this product in melbourne..but even so i would prefer to use desiccated coconut..

1 cup of sifted icing sugar and lime juice..i didn't measure my icing ingredients and i sprinkled the icing with desiccated coconut..


i liked this recipe a lot..visually it's appealing because the slices are nice and high and as you can see it slices well.. texture wise it has an appealing moist density..and it tastes good too..although i'm looking forward to a stronger banana flavour when i make it again with the 1 cup of banana stated in the original recipe..i can't comment on it's keeping quality because there won't be any left at the end of 24 hours post baking..

happy week everyone..x

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

i love making jam..

i think it's embedded in my dna..let's face it it's not that long since human survival depended on preserving food in seasons of plenty in readiness for leaner, at least in australia, we can buy most food stuffs all year round and so there is no intrinsic need for us to stock our larders for survival purposes..but there is something deep within my psyche that gets great joy and comfort from the process of preserving and also from the knowledge that i have been involved in a minor way in my food supply chain..i feel pretty darned good when i open up my preserves cupboard and see the jars of jam glistening orange or ruby, the lycopene capsules in the guise of tomato puree and the naked slices of bottled pears and apples..

i said i love making jam but i only really love eating it when it's quite once it's a few months old i tend to only use it in cooking in foods such as steamed puddings, tarts and biscuits..part of the problem for me is the way the colour and flavour deteriorates over time when the jam is cooked to a good avoid this i tend to boil my jam to a light set but then it is prone to mould..

today i decided to experiment with my strawberry jam making by pureeing the fruit rather than cutting it into pieces..and because i find most strawberry jam too sweet i added a lot more lemon than most recipes recommend and i also added citric acid..then i cooked the jam to a light set so that it can be used as a sauce on ice cream or yoghurt, as a jam for filling cakes, crepes or on toast or bread or swirled through home made ice cream after churning..i was going to add grand marnier to the jam before bottling it but i decided that it would be more versatile to add it to the jam at the time of use..and for the first time i processed my jars of jam in my fowler's preserver rather using the usual method of bottling the jam in sterilized jars and capping with lids or cellophane..if i find that, in the long term, the keeping quality and the flavour of the jam is superior to it being bottled in the traditional way i will continue using this method..

strawberry jam or preserves

ingredients (i made two 1 kilo lots)

1000 gms strawberries washed and hulled
900 gms granulated sugar
juice 1.5 lemons
1 tsp citric acid

fowlers vacola method

put a plate in the freezer to use to test the jam set
wash 8 (for 2 batches of jam as above) each of: size 14 (300 mls) vacola jars, 3 "lids, size 3 rubber rings and clips
put rubber rings on jars and place them on a heat proof non metalic surface
have a funnel and ladle ready
set up vacola unit

puree berries in a food processor or blender and place in a large heavy saucepan
bring to the boil, lower heat, and simmer for 15 minutes
remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, lemon juice and citric acid
place the saucepan back on a low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved
brush down the sides of the saucepan with boiling water to remove any sugar granules
once sugar is dissolved turn up heat to high and bring to the boil 
once boiling place a heat mat under the saucepan to prevent scorching
stir often removing scum as it develops
test jam set at regular intervals by placing a teaspoon of jam on the plate from the freezer and, after allowing it to cool, pushing a finger into the jam..if it wrinkles it is ready..take the jam off the heat to prevent overcooking the jam while testing set especially as the jam gets closer to being ready
once the desired set has been reached turn off the heat and stir in an almond size piece of butter to dissipate bubbles and any remaining foam*
ladle jam into jars and leave to cool before sealing with lids and clips
place jars in unit and fill with cold water, turn on the heat, and process the bottles for one hour (it should not boil in this time)
once processed empty unit and remove the bottles to a heat proof non metallic surface to cool
after 24 hours the clips remove clips and check the seal by observing for concavity of the lid and the security of the lid's placement
label when cool
store in a cool dark place

traditonal method

8 jars with 250 mls capacity
new lids or cellophane covers and rubber bands and labels

place clean jars in the oven, together with a metal ladle and a funnel, on 100 deg c to sterilize while 
preparing the jam

put a plate in the freezer to use to test the jam set

follow method above to *
take jars from the oven and place on a heat proof non metallic surface
ladle jam using funnel into hot jars and seal with lids or cellophane covers that have been wiped with vinegar and secured with a rubber band
label when cool
store in a cool dark place

afternoon tea anyone?

Friday, 6 January 2012

fatigue reprieve

for the last 10 years i have had periods of fatigue that come and go for no explicable's had a huge impact on my life..i had to withdraw from a university course where i had completed most of the course work and placements and i had started my thesis but fortunately i wasn't far into the same time my 5 year research position contract expired..i had never planned to be a was temporary employment until i graduated as a health psychologist..i then planned to work in health promotion as a counsellor..after being an unsuccessful applicant for a couple of other research positions i applied for i realised that it was a pointless pursuit given that my future career as a psychologist was not to be..

in a previous life i had been a registered nurse but my registration had lapsed so because i needed work i applied to do a 3 month nursing refresher course..ironically i did my refresher course at the hospital that i trained at that, after graduation, i had vowed to never work at again..after working in the renal unit for 12 months after completion of my refresher course i left to do agency work because, due to my fatigue, i needed to manage my own working hours..i managed to work as an agency nurse for 2 more that time i worked in the busiest emergency departments in melbourne, in cardiac and trauma units and anywhere else i was sent..the problem was that i couldn't work more than 2 shifts and i couldn't survive on the resulting ration income despite having been extremely frugal..for example i used to walk to and from the hospital from where i parked my car to save on parking costs..that usually meant an 1-2 extra hours on top of an already exhausting day..and it also meant walking at 10pm at night because i only worked afternoon shifts..

the day came when i'd had enough so i put my house on the market and i applied for a bank loan to tide me over until it sold..buying a run down smaller house in a less salubrious suburb enabled me to retire..i finished most of the renovations a couple of years ago but there've been a few outstanding things that i've needed to complete but months of fatigue, where even minor exertion, has resulted in me spending days in the horizontal position..and i mean resting! but as luck would have it my daughter alexandra has needed a bit of extra income so she has been helping me with some cupboard and storage trunk painting..

in the last couple of days i've been feeling ok so i've finally finished the spare room..and i love fact i love it so much i feel like moving in to it..i just hope that i'm not out of action now for the next week..

i still need to remove the paint from the left side door glass

and add handles

it contains my cookbooks

the cup and saucer is a christmas gift from my daughter katerina..
she knows i love cross stitch

i first saw neapolitan cyclamen nestled in the arid rocky and hilly
 landscape behind the main town of hydra in greece when i was
 travelling with my mother and two family friends..i retrieved
 some of the corms, that she had brought back with her, after she
 died and i have them growing in a pot

alex painted this op shop trunk where i now store
blankets, extra pillows and the continental quilt
for the spare room (i decided against the red quilt cover..
i realised i don't like bright colours in bedrooms..
i've cut the softer floral backing back from the quilt
cover to make a new cover)

 it feels good to be back in blog land again x