Made It Monday: Cakefest

Welcome to #MadeItMonday, where I post something I’ve made in the previous week, and where you can join in and post something you made too! The rules are easy: post a pic somewhere of something you’ve made in the last week (ish; let’s say in the last month as the hard-and-fast) and tag it. Sit back and enjoy scrolling through all the beautiful things we’ve collectively created, and celebrate the fact that humans can be awesome! 🙂

So this week we are, shockingly enough, back to cake. Stop, stop, stop. I know. Not MORE cake, you are saying. Does this woman EVER not eat cake?

Well, to be fair, most of the cakes I make are not for me to eat O:) And hey, what can I say? I just really love cake!! 😀

So last Sunday (i.e. a week ago, not yesterday, or today I guess if you are on the other side of the world where it is still possibly maybe Sunday? TIME, WHAT IS TIME) I spent the day baking, because I have a few big cake projects coming up. You can see the glorious stack of results below:

 

Item 1: A birthday cake. This one’s a paying gig that I’ll be completing next weekend (the cake is frozen in the meantime – this recipe freezes REALLY WELL, and hey, did you know that professional cake-decorators actually recommend freezing a cake at least for 24 hours before then defrosting and decorating as if you’re using a mud cake (which for decorating you pretty much should be, as they sturdy and dense enough to hold up under the weight of the decorations) it actually improves taste and texture? There ya go ;)) and I’ll OBVIOUSLY take pics and share once it’s done 😉

Item 2: The baby’s birthday cake. Her party isn’t for over a month, but again with the freezing, and between now and then I have semester finals for all my classes plus end of semester reports and etc etc etc, so free weekends? Yeah, not so much. So I figured doubling the recipe and making it now would be perfect 😉 (PS Still haven’t decided which permutation of a cow cake I’m doing for her party, but rest assured you’ll see that when it happens too!)

Item 3: Weeell. We have a staff lunch and I have to bring food and it’s going to be a Western theme and the baby’s party is cows, right? So I had this genius plan that I’d make cowprint brownies (cheesecake brownies, right?) and I’d just double the recipe and have half for the work thing and half for the cow party and THIS MADE SENSE – RIGHT?!?! Except cowprinting them turned out to be totally impossible. Sigh. It was such a good idea, too 🙁 But hey. They’re still tasty, and Imma still CALL them cowprint brownies – they’re just… reversed. Black with white splodges, right?* Om nom.

* Today in blogging: Amy’s contest to see how many times she can use the word RIGHT.

What have you made this week? (It doesn’t have to be fancy!!) Don’t forget to tag your contribution, or even better, leave a link in the comments!! I love seeing what inspiring things other people have made 🙂 🙂 🙂

#MadeItMonday! Peony Cakes (Includes Vegan Chocolate Banana Cake Recipe)

Last year I attempted to start up #MadeItMonday, where I post something I’ve made in the previous week, and where you can join in and post something you made too! However. Blogging and my life being what they are, it, uh, fell by the wayside. But! I am now attempting to redux it, starting today. The rules are easy: post a pic somewhere of something you’ve made in the last week (ish; let’s say in the last month as the hard-and-fast) and tag it. Sit back and enjoy scrolling through all the beautiful things we’ve collectively created, and celebrate the fact that humans can be awesome! 🙂

Here’s my contribution for this week, a pair of cakes I made for my husband’s work right before Christmas. The cream one is a white chocolate mud cake with raspberry buttercream as both filling and frosting, topped with melted white chocolate (I didn’t even bother making ganache, I literally just melted the white chocolate and poured it on :P). The brown one is a vegan chocolate banana cake* to cater for dietary requirements in husband’s office, with a simple cocoa-icing sugar-water frosting. Both are topped with a couple of peonies and some white chrysanthemums I picked up at the supermarket 😉

* Super-delicious, dead-easy recipe below.

Two cakes topped with pink peony flowers

Vegan Chocolate Banana Cake

This is actually a super-delish, moist and satisfying recipe that’s a crowd-pleaser even with non-vegans. Works great for diary-intolerant diets too!

Makes one small cake (20cm?), as per photo, or 16 smallish cupcakes. My recipe 🙂

1 1/4c self raising flour
1/2c cocoa powder, or cacao if you want a stronger, bite-ier cake
1t baking powder
1t vanilla essence
2 mashed bananas (frozen work great)
200mL coconut syrup (or maple syrup, honey, etc – I used honey this time and it was great)
1/3c sunflower or other flavourless oil
1.5t apple cider vinegar
Combine wet ingredients in one bowl and dry in another, then mix all together. Half fill well-greased cupcake tins or cake pan and bake at 170C for 20 mins (cupcakes) / 30 mins (cake) or until they spring back to the touch/skewer comes out clean. Devour! 😀

Things I Really Need To Bake

Blame it on pregnancy cravings, or the fact that I’ve been too sick to do much cooking in the last 5 months, or a stress-induced desire for comfort food, or the search for procrastination, or anything else you like, but the fact of the matter is the last few weeks have been one giant, continuing saga of OHMYGOSH THIS THING I MUST BAKE.

Obviously, the whole being-sick-and-exhausted-because-growing-new-minion thing has put a damper on my abilities to actually DO any of this cooking, and the list of things I desire to make is growing to such proportions that I’m going to start forgetting things if I don’t write them down soon. Which, on the one hand, so what, but on the other: LIST-MAKING EXCUSE FOR THE WIN!! I love me a good list after all. And because I’m a) a sharing-and-caring kind of person, and b) am attempting to post more regularly on The Blog, you get to share the list too. Ha.

If you do end up making anything off the list, I’d love to know how it goes 🙂 But without further ado:

Amy’s List Of Things I Really Need To Bake

1) A really good Laos curry. Or Thai, at a pinch. But it has to be GOOD. After visiting Laos/Thailand with school in 2013, I’ve fallen in love with good, proper, authentic southeast Asian cooking, but my tolerance for mediocrity in this food genre is low, and finding the good stuff near where I live seems nigh impossible. So: I need to learn to cook it myself.

2) Good spring rolls. Ditto the above.

3) Sweet potato and feta frittata, which I used to make all the time and is the best lunch snack ever, but which I literally have not made in yeeeeears.

4) Cream potato bake, which is in the same category as (3) but is also, like, the ultimate comfort food. (I mean c’mon, it’s potatoes, cream and cheese with a bit of spice. How is this NOT the ultimate comfort food?)

5) Chocolate peppermint creams, because Mint Slices are my favourite biscuits* in the whole entire world, so a homemade version? OM NOM NOM.

* Cookies, for those from America 😉

6) Blood orange oil brownies, because Liana Brooks kept mentioning them on twitter 😛

7) Scones, preferably of the pumpkin or cheese variety. Maybe these ones from Smitten Kitchen (which, yes, American terminology says biscuits :P).

8) Jam doughnuts, preferably these ones.

9) Homemade ice cream. Any variety, I’m not too fussed. The only thing holding me off here is a present lack of freezer space.

10) Bread rolls, or scrolls, or a pull-apart, or all of the above. Just, fresh, homemade, devourable bread.

And in addition to all that, at some point this week or next I need to do a practice cake. Little sister’s birthday is coming up and she has requested a pear and white chocolate mud cake, for which recipes apparently don’t exist 😛 Which is fine, I like making up my own just fine, but given it’s a Big Birthday I do need to do a test run first. In terrible news, it will also necessitate making a batch of salted caramel buttercream, which OH NOES WORLD IS ENDING, clearly, because you guys? The caramel recipe I use seriously tastes like the inside of Fantales lollies, for those of you who’ve ever eaten such things. It is glorious; truly, truly glorious.

So. That’s my to-bake list. If I can summon up some energy at some point, I’ll make said items and post pictures and recipes and trivia when I do. But for now, I’m going to go find something quick and easy to eat for lunch, before my blood sugar levels drop to zero 😛 😀

~Amy

Sugar-free Chocolate!

Also, in other (much more exciting) news, I am now making sugar-free chocolate by the block, and you can have some, if you’d like. Check it out at http://cobbettandpaws.wordpress.com 🙂

In fact, because I am excited about my chocolate, how about I offer you a block? Comment below with your name and some way to get in contact with you (email, facebook, twitter, phone if you live in Australia, whatever), and on Friday I’ll draw the names out of a hat. Metaphorically speaking. Winner can choose a block – at the moment I have 60% dark (all blocks are based on this, so they’re all dark), almond, coconut rough (dark with a touch of milk), and mint (not pictured). Go to, and if you spread the word somehow and let me know you can have an extra entry 😉

Five Pack of Cobbett&Paws Chocolate

Randomly, Wet Wipes

Another baby-paraphernalia post, but in case anyone is a) interested and b) in Australia, Woolworths Select brand wet wipes are the free-est from chemical nasties. I wouldn’t advise munching on them (much to Small Boy’s intense displeasure – he loves the things and will hunt down the packets with ridiculous focus), and there are a bunch of ingredients listed as skin irritants, but nothing actually toxic in and of itself, and nothing carcinogenic, and nothing listed as an environmental toxin.

 

Double check for yourself at www.ewg.org/skindeep, of course, but I’m happy enough with this as an alternative to flannels and spray (which I do still use, but let’s face it, there are some nappy changes where you really want to be able to just toss everything away >.<).

Clothing Disposal

It’s funny how once you begin to question what you put in your mouth, on your body, and into your environment, there comes a point where one day it’s just a habit. The other day, I did another big sweep through my clothing – I’m a little sick of the floordrobe, but the primary reason for it is the lack of space to really put everything away. Might as well stay on the floor, right?

So anyway, as much fun as the facebook clothes declutter was last time, where I took pics of all the clothes, posted to FB, and people commented to claim the clothes, it took forever to get all the unwanted clothes out of the house. So this time I just bagged them all up and sent them to the wotsie shop. Charity. Secondhand clothes. You know the place I mean.

But, I still had a small pile of clothes that really weren’t fit for the charity bin, so I was just going to toss them. I was putting away Small Person’s folding earlier today and did some reshuffling of the drawers to fit in his cloth nappies. Dude, the kid has more bibs than hairs on his head. I pulled out all the small ones and tossed them in the ‘small clothes’ box behind his chair, but a couple were manky enough that I figured the fastest means of disposal was the rag bag. I have to keep up the supply of rags to the rag bag, see, or darling husband does things like nabbing good teatowels for the purpose. Or my singlet top. Though granted, that had somehow been mixed up IN the rag bag, so he’s forgiven for that one.

So. I chopped the straps off the bibs to make is super clear that HELLO, THESE ONES ARE THE RAGS, and while I was doing so it occured to me that I could do the same to the clothes I was otherwise going to bin. I picked them up to begin chopping – and stopped. Could I really condemn these clothes, just like that? Some, apparently yes. A bra went in the bin, because no one wants a secondhand bra and they’re not really great rags, but everything else I forced myself to take a second look at.

Pair of pants that are wearing out in the thigh seams? Well, they have to be rags, right? *snipsnip*, off came the legs – and I realised that I was now left with a perfect good pair of brown cut-off shorts, only in need of a hem.

Black knitted 3/4 sleeve top, with a cute keyhole in the back? REALLY didn’t want to toss this one, as i’d only worn it once, but the fabric had broken under one of the arms. probably, I could learn how to darn and fix it – but that’s a little too much effort. So, the sleeves had to come off at least – and after they did, I realised I had a sleeveless tank top, if I could bind up the armholes again. Or, I could buy a little bit of black chiffon or something nice and floaty and make some pretty ruffley cap sleeves for the top.

Ditto the pink turtleneck jumped that’s seen better days and is nearly worn through under the arms – off with the sleeves, and I’m going to investigate about putting in some new ones (or just leaving it sleeveless). I might not keep this one, but at least I’ll have made something nice enough to go to the op shop :o)

A cotton t-shirt that was worn through became a genuine rag, as did a pair of fuzzy socks (snipped through at the heel so Husbands can confirm their rag status!!). Two 3/4 sleeve knitted tops that I love, but that were looking daggy, were slated for the bin, but I realised one of them will probably be okay with some serious depilling, and one, which is luckily white, might actually come good with a bit of a soak in some bleach.

I don’t really have much more of a point to this post, except to say – hey, you know what? Of all the items of clothes I was just going to bin, I actually found a use for all but the bra. And if the sewing works out, I might even have a couple of ‘new’ items of clothing that I’ll actually like wearing :o) Now there’s a happy declutter win! 😀

What To Do When You’re Feeding An Army…

…at home, and you lack the flatware for everyone to eat off. Seriously, guys: this is an AWESOME IDEA. If we hadn’t just had a massive dinnerware set donated to us, I’d totes be doing this next time I needed to feed a bunch of people 😀

(seriously, read the link – it’s cheaper than disposable plates and so insanely clever it almost feels like you’re doing something illegal…)

http://theyearofless.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/day-87-better-than-disposable-dishware.html

The Making Of…

We’re nearly out of baby wipes. I went to the supermarket about a week ago, intending to buy some (along with groceries for the week), and came out with none. Every single brand except one was choc full of parabens (emerging research – example – shows that high concentrations of parabens are found in breast cancers, and that they encourage tumour growth; the exact link is as yet unknown, and of course, for every study linking the two, there is a study claiming no link – and bearing in mind the fact that a lot of scientific reserach is funded by companies who have a significantly vested interest in parabens NOT being linked to breast cancers… Well, let’s just say I’d much rather be safe than sorry.), and the one that had no parabens was – yay – the organic brand, but – boo – more expensive than I was willing to pay.

Given I’d read like a year or more ago, when still pregnant, that making your own was dead easy, I figured it was time to give it a try. It’s taken a week and of course I decided to do it on the day when I’m sick and feel like my face is going to explode. Maybe trying to distract myself from how ick I feel? But anyway. I’m quite pleased with the result.

I decided to go with the spray-on method. I’d bought a box of wipes (rather than a packet) relatively recently, half-thinking that I’d use the box to make my own wipes when it was empty, but reading around and thinking about it, there doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid making new batches of wipes pretty frequently with this method – too much liquid in the box, it’ll spill everywhere, and the bottoms ones will be soaked and useless, not enough liquid and the paper towel that is the base of the wipes will dry out, and as a friend pointed out, there is always the potential for mould o.O

So. Another blog I found talked about using cloth wipes, and to do that, you just dampen the cloth before using. Tried that at one point, and it was massively inconvenient, because I’d sit down to nappy-change and realise I haven’t wet the cloth, and kid was now half naked, and it was all just too late.

Enter the spray bottle. Which, once I thought of it, I saw in a bazillion places around the web, so you know. A friend linked me to this page, with some ‘recipes’ on it, and being the person I am I mixed and matched. This is what I ended up doing:

 

  • Boil some water, and make a large mug of chamomile tea. The brand I have also includes citrus peel, rosehip, and liquorice root. Double checked, and all are not only safe but good for the skin, so win there.
  • Add the mucousy pulpy insides of an aloe vera leaf. I think it was probably a little less than a tablespoon of the gunk in the end.
  • 4 drops of lavendar essential oil (remember to go easy on the essential oils as they can irritate the skin otherwise).
  • 2 ish tablespoons of grape seed oil (or any good-for-the-skin oil).
  • Put it all into a spray bottle, top it up with cold water if there’s room, wait for it to cool, and use! Spray it onto cloth wipes or paper towels or whatever else you’d like to use, and change those nappies! :o)

 

Also under the category of ‘making of’, I’m in the middle of making a batch of the world’s most heavenly body butter today – it’s in the fridge cooling. It smells like chocolate, you can spread it on toast, it hydrates without stripping your natural oils, and it really is just amazing. Recipe is from my friend Steph here, but instead of coconut and macadamia oils I used grape seed and apricot kernel (and lessened the amount slightly to compensate for the fact that neither are solid like coconut oil). Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

 

Oils, Oils, Magical Oils

The last couple of weeks have been a haze and a blur of pain, aches, and snuffed-up noses. I mananged to contract a pretty decent cold on top of recovering from surgery, WELL DONE ME. To make things even more fun, the Boyo had it last week when he was home baby-wrangling while I was still only semi-conscious, and then Small Person got it on the weekend, and now I have it too, and SP still has it and Boyo has just departed for the long weekend >.<

Suffice to say, I love all the parentals, who have been/are dropping in and out to keep me sane and help with the dinner/bath/bed routine.

ANYWAY, despite all this I’ve been feeling like I’m neglecting the blog, and I figured that I could at least manage a simple copy and paste tonight (though apparently I have also managed a Whinge, Class 1): the research I’ve done into the various usefulnesses of various oils. Variously. And yes, that first one is true – some vegetable/fruit oils actually have an SPF value, though it’s not allowed to be avertised as such without lab testing blah blah blah – but raspberry seed oil, well, estimates have it at at least 30+. Woot. I gots to get me some of that.

Raspberry Seed for sunscreen
Rosehip Seed Oil for face
Grape Seed for body generally (this is what we are bathing the SP in – even better because I don’t have to worry when he drinks half the bath liquid)
Tamanu for eyes, dry/damaged skin, hair shiner
Coconut RDB for (liquid) soap
Sweet Almond for massage base
Blueberry Seed for face serums + everything; berry seed oils are pretty much just magical
Coconut oil for moisture by itself or in stuff (fractionate version as an essential oil carrier for massage etc)
Cranberry Seed as an emollient, for skin, hair, lip, baby – often used for itchy/scaly/irritated skin conditions (again with the magical berries)
Cucumber oil for skin-tightening
Coffee for anything damaged (coffee OIL, people; just to clarify)
Camellia for dry/sundamaged skin/hair (also hand, nail, face)
Borage is anti-aging
Pomegranate for menopause & post-menopause everything
Pine nuts are an appetite suppressant, both the oil and the nuts themselves
Peach/apricot kernel penetrates quickly, so is good to combine with other oils
Macadamia nut oil absorbed very easily also
Castor oil for soaps and cleansing – mix it with another oil for face cleanser (more castor for oily skin, less castor for dry)
Meadowfoam Seed oil for shampoo (especially for dry scalp), soaps and lip balm

So there you have it: the wondrous properties of a bunch of vegetable, fruit and seed oils. For an AWESOME and DEAD EASY example of something you can make with oils (other than my body scrub), Steph over at My Kitchen Crowd just posted a recipe for the most amazing body butter in the world. (Bonus: it smells like chocolate, AND it’s edible. Body butter you can also use to butter your toast, that tastes and smells like chocolate. I told you: MOST. AMAZING. BODY BUTTER. EVER.)