Easy Peasy Party Food Cooking

This month my baby turned 6.  6!  It was his turn for a party this year.  It’s fair to say that by mid July I was pretty much over party foods that involved cereal and puff pastry.

But you know, while I made most of the food myself, it wasn’t hard because I had two basic criteria – I had to be able to make most of it ahead of time; and it had to be simple to make.

Bruce’s party was on Saturday at 10:30 – I had a plan of attack.

Wednesday:

Made the Mars Bar Slice.  Nothing easier than this microwave version.  I doubled the quantities as we were expecting 20 kids (plus parents).  We came home with 6 or so squares left over.  It kept in the fridge really really well.

Thursday:

I work a half day on a Thursday.

I made the Honey Joys/Honey Crackles before I went to work – they are that simple. The recipe came from the side of the Cornflakes packet and Kelloggs have it on their website too.

After work I made the sausage rolls based on this recipe I found on Taste.com.au  – I did make a change to this one.  I don’t like sausage mince much so instead of the meat they suggested I used 500g pork mince and 500g veal mince.  It made around 36 which seemed to be more than enough.

After dinner on Thursday I made the pizza scrolls.  Again – too simple.  5 sheets of puff pastry, defrosted.  Spread a tablespoon of pizza tomato paste on each.  Scatter with chopped up ham, grated cheese and crushed (drained) pineapple.  Roll up tightly, cut each roll into 8 slices, arrange on a tray lined with baking paper and cook in a hot oven for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Friday:

After work I did the cake.  IGA make big slabs of vanilla sponge cake.  I bought one of these and chopped it in to a monkey shape and then decorated it.  A few problems – I should have left the coco-pop “fur” until the morning (they were all soggy) and I ran out of icing to properly cover all of him and ensure they stuck.  He looked a bit like a moth eaten toy monkey but Bruce didn’t mind.

For the parents to snack on while the kids were playing (we went to Jungle Gym in Willetton) I had tea & coffee supplies, a packet of Tim Tams and a yummy, but basic, lemon loaf that I had made as part of a big batch of loaves a few weeks before and frozen.  The night before I pulled it out of the freezer, iced it and chopped it into squares.  It was still delicious and moist.

Saturday morning only involved chopping up watermelon and strawberries for some fruit platters, packing the car and we were off.  He had a great party, celebrating his birthday with some wonderful friends.  Not a lot of food came home.  Perfect.

The birthday boy moving so fast, the camera could barely catch him

What’s that on your plate? Is it a cupcake? Is it a muffin?

No, according to DB and his work mates it’s a muff-cake.  Debate has raged in our house lately over whether what I’ve been baking constitutes a muffin or a cupcake.

Last week I made lemon and yogurt muffins which were simply DELICIOUS.  The recipe stated it would make 12 muffins.  I stretched that out to 18 (for lunch boxes throughout the week).  And thus started the debate.

You see, this recipe was very light – the combination of the lemon juice, yoghurt and the bi-carb soda made the mixture so fluffy it looked more like mousse than muffin batter.  DB’s argument is that a muffin should be denser.

And it was missing what seems quite the critical component of a muffin – the muffin top (probably because I’d stretched the ingredients to make 18 instead of 12).

DB also told me he wouldn’t pay $4 for one of my muffins – they are just not big enough, not like the ones on sale at work.

Believe it or not this consumed a fair amount of the adult chatter in our house for a few days.  I sent some in to work with DB to garner opinion.  The term muff-cake was devised by DB, 2 Computer Scientists with PhDs, a Computer Programmer and a Software Engineer.  I can’t argue with that.

To summarise, my muffins lacked:

  • density
  • a muffin top
  • size

Enter the texas muffin pan which we purchased on Saturday afternoon and welcome the raspberry and white chocolate chip monstrous muffin.

Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffin

Where before I could get 18 muffins out of this batter, in order to get the size, density and muffin top, I made 6.  Which you have to chop in half because one is too large to eat on its own.  Go figure.

This is a recipe of my own, adapted from one that’s been used for so long I can’t remember where it came from.  But it’s worth trying – big or small, they are delicious.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (300g) self-raising flour
  • 2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup (140g) white chocolate bits.  I usually use more and cut down on the sugar
  • 3/4 cup frozen raspberries (can be substituted for toasted macadamias)
  • 60g butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Method

  • Grease muffin pan (6 hole or 12 hole) and/or line with cups/baking paper
  • Pre-heat oven to 160 – 180 degrees celsius
  • Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, stir in remaining ingredients
  • Fold through frozen raspberries
  • Spoon mixture into pan
  • Bake in oven for 15 – 20 minutes for the normal size and 25 – 30 minutes for the enormous size

By the way, the 2 Computer Scientists with PhDs, Computer Programmer, Software Engineer and DB have deemed this monstrous muffin a mini-cake.  Fair enough.

Easter Cooking

As with most celebrations, we spent one day with my family and the other with DB’s.  Sometimes we’re organised enough to schedule something all together (like Christmas last year) but not this year.

I did some cooking for our gathering for DB’s family.  The other was much more casual, just a picnic at a playground where the kids can go crazy – called colloquially The Dr Seuss Park (actually called Kadidjinny).

Why is it called the Dr Seuss park?  Lots of red and white stripey poles, blue hills to run over, around and hide behind – basically a world for kids to discover and make their own.

I love this tree sculpture at the park:Back to Easter with the in-laws.  My mother-in-law was making delicious pierogi so between us, my sis-in-law and I threw together some side dishes and desserts.  Unfortunately, no photos of either.

Oven Roasted Pumpkin Salad

This is now DB’s all time favourite salad.  That’s good enough for me.  Here’s how:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Toast 1/4 cup pine nuts, or slivered/flaked almonds
  3. Peel 1/2 butternut/kent pumpkin and chop into 2cm chunks
  4. Place in a single layer in an oven dish with 1 red onion sliced thinly, and 4 cloves crushed garlic
  5. Drizzle with 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil & 60ml maple syrup
  6. Bake for 40 minutes turning occasionally until pumpkin is tender but still firm
  7. Cook 6 rashers bacon which have been finely diced
  8. Remove pumpkin from oven and gently stir in 30ml balsamic vinegar
  9. Add the pre-cooked bacon and set aside to cool
  10. Place 1 packet spinach & rocket salad leaves on a platter. Spoon over pumpkin mixture, nuts and some diced fetta cheese
  11. Serve at room temperature

This recipe came from our local primary school’s 10th anniversary cookbook, but no name was attributed.

Semolina and Almond Cake

Ohhh, I love this cake.  My middle sister introduced me to it and it’s one of the best cakes. It’s also a ‘grown-up cake’ which isn’t entirely fair to my children as they love it too.  But I make it when I want a dessert that’s a break from muffins and cupcakes.

At Easter it makes a nice break from chocolate flavours and the lemon syrup that you pour over at the end means it’s always moist.  Mmmm mmmm.

Best served with thick cream.

Rather than type out the recipe again, I’ve found it online.

Let me know if you try it (and like it!).

Finding Harmony

Wednesday 21st March is Harmony Day in Australia.  It’s a day to celebrate our culturally diverse society.

It’s a day when our Primary School asks – what’s your heritage and can you bring a plate of food to reflect that?

My heritage is multi-generational Australian, descended from  the English, Scottish and Irish with a Dane thrown in for good measure.  It’s never, ever occured to me to send in a plate that reflects this ancestory.  What would I contribute?  Pavlova, ANZAC biscuits, home-made vegemite scroll?  I’ve never made a pavlova before – perhaps that’s what I’ll do next year.

We typically rely on DB’s heritage because his parents are both immigrants and therefore his heritage is more recent.  His parents are Polish and over the years “I’ve” contributed a cake that DB’s mum makes – a Polish tea cake.  This year however I decided to branch out and make something myself.

A quick Google search led me to a recipe for an apple cake.   Placek z Jablka in Polish – it literally means flat cake with apples.  Finding a cake I could make easily was a relief.  I can’t imagine many of Bruce’s class-mates tucking into cabbage rolls (as delicious as I think they are).

I thought it worked out well – DB has just taken it to his parents for the Polish taste test.  I wonder how it will fair???  I followed a suggestion on the website and included vanilla and cinnamon.  Best served with cream – lots of thick cream.

So, come Wednesday we’ll be taking Placek z Jablka to school for Harmony Day.  What favourite recipes do you have that reflect your heritage?  And can I have some ideas for next year please?

Peeled, cored and thinly sliced jablka

The batter mix