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31 July 2013

July Foodie Penpal

I am really enjoying being part of the Foodie Penpal, it is so much fun. I love receiving a goodie parcel each month and wondering what is going to be inside this month. I love getting to know the pen pal that I am buying for too, and finding out what challenges face me this month!! 

I had Maya this month, and apart from being a vegan who is allergic to wheat, she also wanted a healthy parcel!! I truly don't know any vegan/non wheat food that isn't pretty much healthy, but it was still fun to have these constraints. My favourite item that I found was popping corn that was still on the cob, that you pop straight in the microwave, with bags provided of course. I wish I had of bought one for me too, they looked fun. I got a mix of other healthy snacks and treats and hope Maya enjoys it all, without guilt!!

Angie from had the task of buying for me this month. I knew from the get-go that it would be a fun and well thought-out parcel because she was so engaging and "up for the challenge" of having me as her pen pal. I am tricky to buy for, I really do know that, but month after month, I get such awesome treats, and this month was definitely no exception! How good does all of this look?!

The selection of teas look amazing and I have packed them away to take with me to the USA. I have a soft spot for Chai, it is my all time favourite tea, so am most excited to try another brand of chai. The lavender earl grey is the next tea I am most interested in, as I like lavender and I like earl grey, I wonder how they will go together. I suspect well, and I suspect I will make lavender earl grey cupcakes soon. Watch this space!

I like the selection of snacks. I am obsessed with Nakd bars. They are wicked. They don't look like much when you unwrap them, but they are healthy, gluten free, tasty, filling, sweet, and fill a void in the afternoon when I have my milk cravings!! 

Cooking supplies - love them all! I am out of potato flour Angie, how did you know!!! I am also out of cinnamon sticks, because I use them all the time! I have ground cinnamon as a back up, but nothing compares to the real thing. And the vanilla looks so fancy, I'm excited to give it a go and see if it is any different to the extract I use. 

Now, these biscuits, they look ordinary, sound ordinary, but can create something EXTRAordinary!!!!! (not extra-ordinary, to be clear). 

I used these biscuits as the base of a Mango Curd Marscapone Cheesecake, recipe HERE, and my gosh, they were divine. 

I made them for friends at a picnic around the corner from our house, and just loved them. I made six for the six of us, big mistake! Should have made 20! We all nailed them within a few minutes, and nobody could believe that they were gluten free. So, huge thank you for these little gems, will be looking for them everywhere I go!!!

Thank you so much Angie, I really really enjoyed my parcel and appreciate the time and effort you went to for each item. I hope you had such thoughtful goodies too!!!  

If you're interested in joining the Foodie Penpals, the European set-up is organised through Rock Salt, follow the link to find out more and to sign up. The set-up in the USA is through The Lean Green Bean. It really is so much fun so if you enjoy trying new foods and meeting more people in the blogging community, get involved!!

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29 July 2013

Mini Lemon Shortbread Pavlova

Or, Lemon Meringue Shooters I guess you could call them!

Recently I was the cakerer for a sweet baby shower and made these as the 4th dessert to accompany the Almond & Orange cake, Ombre White Chocolate mudcakes, and Anzac Blondies

There are three components to assemble these Lemon Shortbread Pavlova's and yep you guessed it, they are 1) lemon curd 2) crushed shortbread biscuits and 3) itty bitty pavlova's. 

The first component - Lemon Curd

Have you heard the thing about curd.... it is delicious! I have always been put of a curd because curd to me doesn't sound all that appetising. But, I am so happy that I overcame my prejudice against curd  because it is actually darn tasty! Not that I can eat citrus, so it isn't much of a breakthrough for me, but still, a little teaspoon of it here and there isn't going to kill me!!

I used the Donna Hay Modern Classics 2 recipe for Lemon Curd and it worked perfectly and was really simple to make.  

1/2 cup of lemon juice
100g butter
1/2 cup of sugar
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks


1. Place the lemon juice and butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the butter has melted. 

2. Whisk the sugar and eggs (whole + yolks) into the butter. 

3. Stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken (about 5 minutes)

The second component - Shortbread base

This is even more simple to make, possibly the most simple thing to make in the kitchen!! Crush whichever biscuits you like (and by biscuits I mean cookies) with melted butter. Done. 

The third component - Pavlova/meringue/cream

Pavlova is an Australian (New Zealand - - depends who you are but there's a bitter feud between our two nations over who first created the pav) dessert that is basically a huge meringue, baked and topped with seasonal fruit and cream. I've been making a lot of Pav's lately, I always forget how easy they are to make! But yet, when we had one of Mr M's friends' over for dinner one night and he was beyond excited about dessert, he reminded me the importance of a gentle fold, something he was never able to achieve, and thus could never make this lighter-than-air dessert!

(Full Pavlova recipe)


3 egg whites
1 cup of sugar
3/4 t cornflour
1 t vanilla
1 t white vinegar


1. If you have a stand mixer you will find this an easy peasy dessert! You need to beat the egg whites for a few minutes until they start getting white and fluffy. 

2. Start adding in the sugar, bit by bit and beat well in between. You need to beat until stiff peaks form - this means that when you dip a spoon finger in to the fluffiness, you should be able to lift and a peak will be created! It's fun to do!

3. Slowly and very gently fold in the vanilla, cornflour and vinegar. Gently, you don't want to take all of the air out of the eggwhites. 

4. For these shooters, I traced the top of the shot glasses on the piece of baking paper and piped little mounds to fill each circle. 

5. These mini ones were baked for 15 minutes on a low oven. For the full pav instructions, follow this link

Assemble by placing the shortbread base in first, then some lemon, repeat and place each pavlova/meringue or alternatively whipped cream, on top! 

I really loved how these turned out. I tried each component separately and they were all delicious, so I can only imagine how tasty it was all in one mouthful!! I think it is a striking dessert for an event or dinner party and something you can mostly prepare a bit ahead of time. 

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The Aussie Pav

Or, if you are a kiwi, let's call it a day and say that you can keep Russell Crowe and we'll have the Pavlova... I'll even offer up Kylie to sweeten the deal!

Anyway, trans-Tasman rivalries aside, whether it was New Zealand or Australia who first created the pavlova, this lighter-than-air and larger-than-life dessert almost tastes like home too. Wherever in AustraZealand your home may be!

There are many different variations on the simple formula:

egg whites + sugar + extras = heaven


3 egg whites
1 cup of sugar
3/4 t cornflour
1 t vanilla
1 t white vinegar


1. If you have a stand mixer you will find this an easy peasy dessert! You need to beat the egg whites for a few minutes until they start getting white and fluffy. 

2. Start adding in the sugar, bit by bit and beat well in between. You need to beat until stiff peaks form - this means that when you dip a spoon finger in to the fluffiness, you should be able to lift and a peak will be created! It's fun to do!

3. Slowly and very gently fold in the vanilla, cornflour and vinegar. Gently, you don't want to take all of the air out of the eggwhites. 

4. How you assemble the meringue next is a very important step and can result in a flat meringue pancake if you're not careful!! I currently love using springform tins to bake my cheesecakes in, because I love the depth it gives the pavlova (not depth as in spiritfuality, but as in actual depth!). Firstly line the tin with parchment paper and then carefully and slowly spoon all the mixture into the tin. I use a medium cheesecake tin for this recipe, but I like mine quite deep. 

5. Bake for an hour in a moderate oven, but check regularly that the tips aren't browning. The trouble with pavlova is that you can't really test it until you cut the first piece. There's nothing more heartbreaking than slicing a dessert in front of everyone, and it not being cooked properly, so be sure to allow this time to bake properly. It's harder to overcook a Pav than it is to undercook (and who likes raw eggwhites....blergh). 

6. Turn off oven and allow the pavlova to completely cool in the oven. 

7. Add whipped cream and whichever fruit you desire. Traditionally we always used to have strawberries, kiwi fruit and passionfruit drenching (ruining) the pav, but as I am not partial to these last two fruits, I make mine berry-topped.

I recently turned the pavlova recipe into mini-pavlovas atop Lemon & Shortbread shooters!

Whichever way you do it, its delicious, light and plain heavenly.

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26 July 2013

Photo Phriday #16

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Flourless Orange & Almond Cake (GF)

I used this cake as the main cake at the Baby Shower I cakered for a few weeks ago, and have made it a few times in the past but now that I am gluten intolerant, will be making it a whole lot more, I had forgotten how much I like it!!

The recipe is from a cake decorating book called Planet Cake.

The recipe makes a monster-sized batch of cupcakes or large two round cakes. The most time consuming part is preparing the oranges, however it can be a very useful hour or so to do other things too, like feed a hungry little toddler!!

Start off with 2 to 3 oranges and clean their skin well. Put them in a large saucepan with enough water to cover them. Put a small plate on top of the oranges to keep them submerged in the water (otherwise they float) and bring the water to the boil. Reduce the heat and let the oranges simmer for an hour. After this time, they should be quite soft to touch. 

Drain the water and let them rest until they are cool enough to handle. Cut each orange into quarters, remove the pips, then puree in a blender or food processor.

Meanwhile, beat 8 eggs (yep, EIGHT) with 420g of sugar and 1 teaspoon of baking powder. 

Beat for about 5 minutes until the mixture is quite pale and very fluffy. 

Slowly beat in 420g of almond meal and then 420g of the orange puree. The mixture is supposed to be quite runny as it is a very moist cake, however it still needs to resemble cake mixture, so add more almond meal if you need. 

Pour into the tins and bake in 180 degree over (350F) for 1 hour 30 minutes until golden brown and a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. Cool completely in the tin.

I think the icing that best suits this cake is a cream cheese frosting. Mix a few tablespoons of butter and a few tablespoons of cream cheese with as much icing sugar as is needed to make a nice thick icing. 

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25 July 2013

Baby Shower Cakerer

(Okay, just in case you are worried due to my very Royal-inspired week thus far, no, I did not throw The Duchess of Cambridge a baby shower, I'm not that coo coo!!). 

My friend Lauren asked me a few weeks back if I would be interested in making a cake for a baby shower she was hosting for a friend of hers, and without hesitation I said yes! I had met the mama-to-be a few times and so was really excited to be doing some baking to celebrate the imminent arrival of her little girl! Plus, when Lauren hosts, she pulls together some pretty awesome people, and I for one was thrilled to bits to be the cakerer alongside the likes of tableware supplied by Laura Ashley. 

I started planning right away and luckily for me, there was already a theme (you know I love my themes!!). So, everything was to go with a general theme of yellow and grey. Knowing the mama-to-be works in children's book publishing, I thought of a few little ways of personalising the sweets in her honour.

Order One: A cake

I decided to make an Orange & Almond cake, because it would handle being made the day before, wouldn't dry out in the hot weather, and because it was in line with the theme colours! 

Recipe HERE

Order two: Small side cakes

Lauren and I had pinned the same exact idea on Pinterest! We both loved the idea of mini-ombre cakes, but with yellow of course. I used my trusty White Chocolate Mudcake recipe for this, which again, would be best made a day or two in advance and would be sweet enough on its own without all the icing that is usually on cakes. I baked four separate mudcakes, each a varying shade of yellow, and was happy with how they came out. Yellow is a tricky one for ombre, but I think it looked sweet. 

Being a group of Americans, it was no surprise that this was requested!! It's sweet, gooey, chewy and perfect for one who is soon to be due-y!! Haha oh dear. 

Order 4: Anything else I liked

Well, this one was a tricky one! The ideas just kept flowing and flowing, but I had to think of what would make sense with the other flavours, be easily transportable, and something that would withstand the heatwave that we were in. 

I decided to create Mini Lemon Shortbread Pavlova's.  

I loved how these turned out, and love that I can make them gluten free easily too. I used shortbread for the base, made lemon curd for the first time, and baked mini pavlova's for the tops! I think they looked gorgeous and out of everything, was a bit envious that I wouldn't get to have one!!

And then there were the little extras! 

Confetti-filled balloons

meg-made Confetti-Balloons on Etsy. I've also done them here and here.

Neither of us got a good photo of the yellow and grey confetti-filled balloons, but my darling husband spent two hours inflating every balloon and then hanging off the ceiling trying to tape them up. The heat combined with the high ceilings made his job difficult, but they looked beautiful scattered all over the ceiling (you'll have to take my word for it) and I was so grateful for him for staying and helping me out! He subs as sous chef often enough at home, and now can throw in balloon-tape-attachmenterer too).

Book Heart Picks

Browsing through Pinterest I saw these adorable heart food picks and knew immediately that I wanted to make some too!!

I went to our little antique store down the road and bought an appropriate old classic penguin book. It felt a little wrong cutting it up, but it was worth it when I saw the finished product. I think the vintage look of the texts compliments the modernness of the ombre cakes, and together is sweet, and yet personal. 

The bunting!

I was a bit chuffed actually with the little bunting I made. I resized some pictures of children's book covers and placed them on the front of some page inserts from the antique book I purchased. I then attached them all by needle and thread to some skewers, and finished with grey polkadot bows. 

Thanks for sharing some of your photos Lauren (meg-made-AK), I was in a mad rush to clean up and get my tired little girl out the door before the guest of honour arrived, and so my photos were pretty shoddy! 

From all reports, Grace had a wonderful shower and was well and truly pampered by all the girls! I can't wait to hear all about her little girl in a few weeks, good luck Grace!!!

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23 July 2013

Cambridge Crown Headbands

Once upon a time, in a land far away (or very close by be that as it may), the bells tolled in jubilation, a new Prince was born. The little Prince is sure to be charming, for he will need to find himself a play date Princess to become his Queen one day. For this little Prince is destined to be King.

Hopeful Princesses stalked his home, flashing dimples and grins up to the Palace from the comfort of their Bugaboo's. Will the little Prince be out to play today?

They wanted to assure the Prince that they are a suitable play date, so dressed accordingly.

Only the finest of hair adornments would suit the young hopeful Princesses, for without such headbands, however would he notice them.

Limited edition Cambridge Crown Headband, to celebrate the birth of HRH Baby Cambridge. 

 Each headband is 6.50GBP, plus shipping. Made to order, sizes per age below. 

Size for age

The Royal Easel & Baby M's BBC Debut!

I've been nattering on about the Royal Easel now for the past few months, hoping that the Palace would continue the old tradition of informing the world of the Royal Baby via an official statement placed on the historic easel, in the same way that Prince William's was announced 30 years ago. When I saw photos of the easel I knew if I could only be part of one event, I had to see it. It is likely that the next time this easel is displayed at Buckingham Palace will be to announce this little fella's own child, and who knows where in the world we will be by then. 

We were up and about early this morning in a window of calm between two thunderstorms and so decided to make our way to Buckingham Palace in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the Royal Easel. 

I was a little concerned when I saw the line that snaked along the front gates and wrapped around the sides, but joined in anyway. There was a lot of cafuffle because there was limited viewing time prior to the changing of the guard, so Baby M and I were 3rd from the end of the line, before they started turning people away. 

We got to see it though!!! 

I had Baby M all ready for her close up, but were rushed along so quickly I couldn't take a clear photo of her with the Easel. 

Never mind, BBC helped us out!

BBC Video
I am totally not comfortable infront of the camera, but, when the BBC ask you if they can interview "you and your adorable little girl", you say yes!! (I MUST work on getting rid of my Aussie inflecTION though).

 So we've had Mum on BBC, and Mum & Bub on BBC... Mr M, it's your turn!!

It was so wonderful to be able to see this little piece of history, and share it with my "adorable little girl". I'll be telling her about this for some time to come!

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