Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

NYE 2011

So much has happened this year - I started studying my Bachelor of Business (Accounting), I discovered I was pregnant, my husband and I separated, I moved in next door to my mum, my gorgeous Zoe turned 2 and I welcomed little Grace into my family. There have definitely been lots of ups and downs - but I have to say that at the end of it I am happy and I am excited to see what 2011 will bring.

Sparkler Heart

I hope you all had a great year in 2010 and I wish you all the best for 2011. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cherry Pavlova

Cherry Pavlova

To me pavlova would have to be one of my all-time favourite desserts - so light and fluffy, so sweet and in general - so easy to make! Now I say 'in general' because there are a few areas where people go wrong. Firstly you need to be sure that when you are beating your egg whites that the bowl and whisk attachment are perfectly clean and dry - otherwise you won't be able to get those lovely stiff white peaks. Secondly you need to make sure that the oven is turned down nice and low so that you don't burn your meringue. And thirdly - don't open the oven door! The heat that escapes from the oven each time you open that door will mean that the element turns on, therefore you risk browning the pavlova. So if you avoid all of the usual traps you shouldn't have a problem baking your pavlova and you should have a very tasty dessert for very little effort.

Serves 6-8

4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup caster sugar plus 2 tbsps
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
  1. Beat egg whites until stiff but not too dry.
  2. Add sugar 2 tbsp at a time.
  3. Add cornflour, vinegar and vanilla and beat for 1 minute.
  4. Put onto a lined tray and smooth into a circle.
  5. Cook at 110C fan forced for 1.5 hours.
Cherry Syrup (from Margaret Fulton)

250g fresh cherries, stones removed
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold water
  1. Cook cherries, sugar and water on a medium heat for 5 minutes or until cherries are soft.
  2. Puree in a blender, rub through a sieve.
  3. Return to a saucepan and cook on a high heat for another 5 minutes, until thick and syrupy.

450ml thickened cream, whipped
1kg fresh cherries, stones removed
  1. Place pavlova on a serving plate and cover with whipped cream.
  2. Decorate with whole cherries and cherry syrup.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Grace - 2 months old

Grace my darling baby girl you are now 2 months old and so much has happened this last month...

Grace - 2 months old

You gave us your first smile.

Grace - 2 months old

You discovered the bouncinet.

Grace - 2 months old

You fed a lot and grew a lot.

Grace - 2 months old

You found your favourite place to sleep.

Grace - 2 months old

You experienced your first Christmas.

Happy 2 month birthday baby girl! I can't wait to see what the next month brings.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

20 Sweets in 20 Weeks - Voting time!

Folks I am restarting the 20 Sweets in 20 Weeks project. In case you can't remember way back in February I started this project where I would pick a different type of sweet food each week and I would give you, the readers, 3 different recipes to vote on. I would then post that recipe the following week, along with my rating. So far I have done cheesecakes (New York Cheesecake), cut-out cookies (chocolate cookies) and layer cakes (caramel layer cake). I posted a poll a while ago to let you choose which hot pie I should bake - and this week I am going to bake an apple pie. In the meantime however I want you to vote on what kind of brownie I should make...

Indulgent Brownie Torte


Lemon & Coconut


Double-Chocolate Marble Swirl

Monday, December 27, 2010

Move it to lose it - Week 1

Move it to lose it - 12 Week Challenge

Starting weight: 75.2kg 
Previous weight: 75.2kg 
Current weight: 75kg

Week one of the challenge is done and I am extremely glad to have lost 200g. I know that it isn't much, but frankly the fact that I lost any weight over Christmas is a win in my opinion. I am actually quite surprised that I lost any weight at all because I ate a lot of naughty food - rum balls, cointreau balls, panforte, dips, cheeses, pate.... everything you can think of really. And not only did I eat badly but I only managed a few walks with the kids for exercise - so that wasn't too flash hot either. So I think that I can probably attribute my loss this week to breastfeeding and not much more. 

This week is going to be a different story though! Christmas is done and dusted and now it is time to get serious. So here are my goals for this week...
  • Eat reasonable portion sizes at every meal
  • Eat healthy foods - except for dessert twice in the week 
  • Drink at least 2L of water every day
  • Exercise four times
And hopefully if I can achieve these goals I will see a better loss at next week's weigh-in.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Day


Well Christmas has come and gone, and I have to say it was one of the best ones I have had for a while. We started the day with the usual present opening, but this was the first Christmas where Zoe was able to open up her own presents - and she had a ball discovering all of her new toys. This year she was given a whole heap of play food, a tea set, the Fisher Price Little People backyard set, wooden blocks, a play toaster, a Dora the Explorer puzzle, some In The Night Garden books, a cute green pot and the big present from me...


A play kitchen! A very fitting present I think from a mum who loves to bake - and so far Zoe seems to think that it is pretty cool (but not as cool as her new tea set).

I gave a Grace a few rattles and some toys for the pram, not much - but she seemed pretty happy with it...


I was given a lovely towel set and some gorgeous new coffee mugs from my mother, a beautiful sarong from my sister, a sheet set from one of my best friends and a gorgeous little guardian angel and 'Dream' sign from my other best friend. The little guardian angel already seems to be doing its job in helping little miss Grace get to sleep. Thank you Auntie Leah!


After all of the present opening we let Zoe play while we had our Christmas brunch - ham and cheese croissants. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed with a nibbles dinner (cheeses, dips, turkish bread and oysters) outside in the glorious summer weather, and then later lots of chatting, laughter and pavlova (I'll post the recipe for that later this week).

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas too.  What did Santa bring you?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas


Tomorrow my little family will be having a quiet brunch after opening lots of presents (Zoe is going to love it) and then we will be having a relaxed dinner to finish off the day. What have you all got planned for the big day? I hope it is filled with lots of good food, love and great company.

I'll be back on Sunday to recap our Christmas day fun - in the mean time have a very merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Baking - Panforte


I have seen a lot of recipes for panforte over the years and I was always interested in giving it a go, but for some reason I never did. This year I decided it was time to finally take on the panforte challenge. I have to say that it is quite easy to make except when it comes to stirring in the hot syrup. They are not joking when they tell you to quickly mix it all together - it turns as hard as rock really, really quickly! I found it incredibly hard to stir - it definitely gave my arm a good workout. The other trouble I had was with baking it - after the allotted 45 minutes mine was no where near baked through but the top and edges were starting to brown. So I ended up having to remove it from the oven, wrap it in a few layers of aluminum foil and then bake again for around 20 minutes at around 275 F. That seemed to do the trick.

The end result is a tasty Christmas treat with lots of dried fruit and nuts, that sends a lovely honey-cinnamon aroma through the house. So what are you waiting for? Give it a try.


Makes 60 pieces

330g caster sugar
1 cup honey
300g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
750g mixed dried fruit
250g blanched almonds, roasted
250g hazelnuts, roasted
pure icing sugar, to dust (I didn't bother with the icing sugar)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease and line a 30cm x 20cm cake pan.
  2. Heat sugar and honey in a heavy-based saucepan on low, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and boil until mixture reaches 115 C on a sugar thermometer. (If you don't have a sugar thermometer, drop a little of mixture into cold water - it should form a soft ball.)
  3. Meanwhile, combine flour, spices, dried fruit and nuts in a bowl. Add hot syrup and quickly mix together (really quickly!). Scrape mixture into prepared pan. Use wet hands to pat down flat. Bake for 45 minutes (see above for what I had to do to get it to bake). Cool in pan.
  4. Turn out and dust liberally with icing sugar. Cut into thin slices (warning: you need serious arm muscles to slice it).
Me - 4/5 - I love the rich honey flavour together with the fruit and nuts.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Baking - Cointreau and Sponge Finger Balls

Cointreau and Sponge Finger Balls

So in my last baking post I mentioned that I would be making four Christmas treats - well scrap that. I attempted a new recipe for almond brittle rocky road and it was a complete disaster. And I mean complete. The brittle melted all of my rocky road and then it didn't set! So I was left with one soggy melted chunk of supposed rocky road, a huge mess and a grumpy attitude. Funnily enough it was a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, which you may remember gave me a whole heap of trouble last Christmas time (see here, here, here and here). So that is it - definitely no more recipes from Better Homes and Gardens for me.

Now back to the real baking - these little balls of Cointreau and chocolately goodness are just delicious, and so easy to make! If you are short on time this Christmas but want a tasty treat to give away then this is the recipe for you.

Cointreau and Sponge Finger Balls

Cointreau and Orange Sponge Finger Balls
Makes 35

1 tbsp Cointreau
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
250g sponge fingers, processed until fine
1/2 cup desiccated coconut, plus extra to sprinkle
grated rind of 1/2 orange
395ml sweetened condensed milk
50g butter, melted
500g white, milk or dark chocolate, melted
  1. In a bowl, pour Cointreau over dried apricots and set aside to soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Combine apricots, sponge fingers, coconut, orange rind, condensed milk and butter in a bowl to form a soft mixture. Form small balls, and allow to set in the fridge.
  3. Once firm, dip balls into melted chocolate and sprinkle with extra coconut. Chill until set.

Me - 4/5 - yummy, I love the little chunks of dried apricot through them.
Mum - 4/5 - tastes just like a jaffa.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Move it to lose it - 12 Week Challenge

Move it to lose it - 12 Week Challenge

I have a confession to make - I am overweight. Yes I know I just had a baby a little over 7 weeks ago, but that doesn't change the fact that I need to lose some weight. I managed to put on 19 kilograms while pregnant with Grace and so far I have lost just over 14 over those kilograms. That means that I am just 5 kilograms off of my pre-pregnancy weight. The only problem is that I was also overweight before I got pregnant, so I have even more to lose.

Now you might be thinking that the week of Christmas might be a strange time to start a new health regime, but I am sick and tired of making excuses for myself. Christmas is only one day and sure I will enjoy myself that day - but the rest of the week I can start to get my body back into shape! So today I start my "Move it to lose it" 12 week challenge where I aim to make over my lifestyle by eating well, having good portion control and getting a healthy dosage of exercise each week. Hopefully by the end of it I will have lost some weight, but even more importantly I want to look and feel great.

So here are my beginning statistics:

Weight: 75.2 kgs
Bust: 102 cm
Chest: 87 cm
Waist: 89 cm
Hips: 106 cm
Thighs: 58.5 cm
Calves: 38 cm
Upper arm: 28.5 cm
Forearm: 26 cm

Join me if you want - otherwise you can read about my 12 week challenge here on my blog. I'll provide an update every Monday that will detail my new statistics and how the week went (all the gory details of the blood, sweat and tears).

Maybe at the end of it I will even provide a before and after shot - if you are lucky ;)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Baking - Rum Balls

Hello again! Look at this I am actually staying true to my word and blogging again - and so soon!

Well as we all know it is that time of the year for Christmas baking and while I am not going as crazy as I did last year (see the 12 Days of Baking Days of Christmas) I am going to bake up a few goodies (four to be exact) to give to people as gifts. First on the agenda is rum balls - a classic Christmas treat that is super easy to make, great for gifting and of course tasty.

I thought I would try a new recipe this year and I while it is good, I think the recipe I used last year was better - but nonetheless I shall post the recipe up for you to peruse and I'll let you decide which you would like to make (if any).

So without further ado...

Rum Ball

Rum Balls (from some magazine - I tore out the page so now i'm not sure which)
Makes 45

400g packet digestive biscuits, broken
120g shredded coconut
125g good quality drinking chocolate
120g butter, melted
395g can sweetened condensed milk
60ml rum, or more to taste
25g good quality cocoa, to dust
1/2 cup sultanas (an extra that I decided to add)
  1. Place biscuits in a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Add coconut and drinking chocolate (and sultanas if you want).
  3. Stir in butter, then condensed milk. Mix well.
  4. Stir in rum.
  5. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours.
  6. Roll teaspoons of mixture into small balls.
  7. Roll balls in cocoa to coat.
  8. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve.
Rum Ball

Me - 3/5 - I thought it was a tad dry, but otherwise yummy.
Big sis - 4.5/5 - "I like it a lot. I could eat more."

Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm back....

And hopefully this time for good.

So let me give you a short update on what I have been up to.
  • Very, very little baking has been going on in this household - I just haven't had the time or energy for it for quite some time now.
  • I finished my second subject in my Bachelor of Business (Accounting) degree - and I got a high distinction
  • And oh yeah - I had a baby!

Grace Ellen Zakarevicius
Born 29th October 2010 at 6:28pm
Weighing 4.1 kilograms (9 pounds 1 ounce)
Measuring 50cm

After a very quick (and painful) two hour labour my darling daughter arrived in this world. I won't bore you with the birth story, but it is suffice to say that I won't be doing that again in a rush! Ouch! Focusing on the positives though, there were no complications - Grace was perfect and I was up and about within minutes. Here we are just minutes after she was born...

And then after a lovely warm shower, with Grace dressed in her first ever wondersuit...

And in case you are wondering this was my last pregnancy photo that I got to take - it was taken the day before Grace was born, when I was exactly 39 weeks.

So that is my rather large news - only took me 7 weeks to tell the blogosphere, because now little Miss Grace is 7 weeks old and going strong.

I hope to keep this blog alive, but at this point in time I'm not sure what I will be blogging about because I am trying to lose a little bit of weight and baking does not fit into the weight loss equation very well. I'm sure I will think of something though.

Stay tuned!