The Blog! Archives

Cooking away from home

This website is called ‘Cook at home’, but my blog this week is titled ‘Cooking away from home’ … interesting!

I am travelling.  Again.  But this time I am blessed to be staying with my in-laws and they have graciously allowed me to invade the kitchen when the baking craving hits.  And those of you who know me well, know that I crave to bake when I’m stressed … or just want to eat cookie dough!  So the urge to bake has been around for most of this week, and I’m learning about transferring my recipes and cooking knowledge into other kitchens – it’s just not the same!

Lessons learned this week:

  • I miss my food processor (AKA the Wazzer!) – I tried to make my granola slice (recipe here) without processing the fruit and nuts, and the slice turned into a yummy granola to add to my yoghurt for breakfast in the mornings … butnot the hold-in-the-hand slice that I’m used to.
  • A tin of caramel does not substitute well for the same quantity of peanut butter.  When I told my husband I tried this, he said it never would – the caramel is basically sugar, peanut butter is basically oil.  When you put it that way, why did I try?
  • Quinoa is not an adequate substitute for nuts.  I wanted to use up some quinoa that my in-laws had bought for me (I had made a quinoa/roast vegetable/chickpea salad for my lunches while staying here – also very yummy), and found on the internet that someone had used a recipe similar to the healthy chocolate nut fudge slice (recipe here) that I had made a number of times ago, but used cooked quinoa instead of nuts.  Well, it was an interesting taste, not really a slice, but probably would work ok with either ice cream or cream as a dessert.  At least I used all the quinoa, and a few other superfluous ingredients I had left in my in-laws cupboards from this and a previous stay!!

On the website front, I’ve made a few updates to recipes and photos (where I update the recipe to what I did that time as well) – these were done at home:

Peanut butter brownie bites

Peanut butter brownie bites

Peach muffins

Peach muffins

 
Healthy chocolate nut fudge slice

Healthy chocolate nut fudge slice

 
And … drum-roll please …

For those who have been following my quest for the ultimate chocolate peanut butter slice, you can rest easy now – I have done it.  Yes, I have found a combination of recipes that results in a delicious (high calorie-laden) chocolate peanut butter combination that has seen me reaching for way more than I needed at a time (recipe is here)! 

Ultimate peanut butter slice

Sarah’s ultimate peanut butter slice

Peanut butter fudge

Peanut butter fudge

Peanut butter cookies - stack

Flourless peanut butter cookies

And as I’m away from home at the moment, I’m going to have to try this again, so my family can sample what I consider to be my ‘ULTIMATE CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER SLICE’ (can you tell I’m a little excited?). 

You may notice that these photos don’t have my little ‘Sarah’s kitchen’ tea-kettle in them … well, I forgot to pack it.  I guess that leaves the opportunity for me to make these recipes again, just so I can take the photos for the website with the kettle, of course!

As always, please feel free to comment here on my blog, on the suggestions page, or on the recipes themselves!  I welcome any and all comments – it shows someone is reading this!  Also, if you like what you read, please share the details of the website with friends and family and convince them to subscribe here too.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home (or wherever you are)!

Sarah
  
  

Cooking … for photo’s sake

I have made it my mission to go through all my recipes on here so far and take photos of the finished products that I make myself.  And if that means that I have to re-visit some of my favourite recipes, and have to taste them to make sure they really represent the recipe, then, what’s a girl gonna do?  So this past 2 weeks, I’ve been busy baking and cooking (and sampling), and taking photos of everything! 

I was given a wooden tea-kettle many years ago, with ‘Sarah’s kitchen’ nicely written on it, so I thought I’d try to incorporate that in all my photos, just a little quirk for my website only … again I’m only a novice at photography so would welcome any and all suggestions on how to make them ‘better’!

Cookies & cream cheesecake slice

Cookies & cream cheesecake slice

Chocolate peanut butter cookies

Chocolate peanut butter cookies

Gluten-free cornbread

Gluten-free cornbread

 

   
Peanut butter granola - Sarah

Peanut butter granola

Chocolate peanut butter oat slice

Chocolate peanut butter oat slice

Egg muffins

Egg muffins

   
Chocolate crackle cookies

Chocolate crackle cookies

Thai coconut curry

Thai coconut curry

Monster cookies

Monster cookies

   
Chickpea peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Chickpea peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Healthy granola bars

Healthy granola bars

Friendly granola

Friendly granola

   

I have tried to make it so you can click on the photo and it should take you directly to the recipe page – enjoy clicking, reading (and maybe drooling …!)

All suggestions, with regards to both the recipes and the photos, are greatly appreciated – that’s what the Suggestions tab is for.  Also remember that you can comment on any of the recipes – I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time – happy cooking at home!

Sarah

Chocolate crackle cookies experiments

Today I thought I’d try some experiments with my chocolate crackle cookie recipe.  I guess I should have paid attention to the old adage – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

White chocolate crackle cookie fail

 

For those of you keeping up with my adventures, you will recall I tried substituting the milk chocolate and cocoa powder with white chocolate for Grant’s special Valentine’s Day menu.  The taste was ok, but the cookies spread to fill the whole sheet pan.  We ended up crumbling the cookies on top of ice cream etc.

 

 

Chocolate crackle + PB2

When I was in the US last week, I thought I would try some powdered peanut butter (PB2) – only 45 calories for 2 tablespoons instead of the nearly 200 calories in the ‘real’ peanut butter.  But when I added the water according to the directions, it just wasn’t quite right for me.  So I wanted to try using the PB2 in baking instead.

I used the same recipe for chocolate crackle cookies, but instead of the cocoa powder, I used half and half cocoa and PB2.  The texture was pretty good, the taste wasn’t that ‘peanut buttery’, but not bad for an experiment. 

Chocolate crackle - only PB2

 

It was actually a mistake – I really wanted to substitute the whole amount of cocoa with PB2 – so I had to make another batch.  And these turned out like this – do you see a similarity with the white chocolate crackle cookie failure?  Again, the taste was ok, but I wasn’t so keen on the cookies spreading out so much, and not keeping their cookie shape!

 

 

Chocolate crackle + peanut butter

And then I wanted to try another recipe that looked pretty similar to the one here, but instead of using chopped nuts, it included 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.  I used crunchy peanut butter, so I still had some pieces of peanuts in the cookies.  The texture of these was really chewy, but, as Grant said, it wasn’t chocolatey enough to be a chocolate cookie, and not peanutty enough to be a peanut butter cookie – it was a little confused.

Moral of the story: chocolate crackle cookies need cocoa to get the right texture … so use the cocoa and stop trying to change something that works well!!

Remember, all are welcome to make comments and suggestions on this website – I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time, happy cooking at home!

Sarah

Experiments in the kitchen

I didn’t get to post a blog (or cook, for that matter) last weekend as I was travelling, but as soon as I got back I got right back into the kitchen and tried out a few things.

Almost as soon as I got home from the airport I went into Monster Cookie mode!  I had thoughts of trying a few things with this all-time favourite recipe of mine, just to see what happened.  So here are the 3 trials:

  • Monster cookies experimentFollow the recipe (here)
  • Chill the dough since I microwaved the butter to soften it up
  • Process part of the oats to see if the texture changed

And the results … no significant difference between the normal and chilled cookies, but the processed ones were a little more chewy.  I don’t think I’ll bother processing in the future, but it was a good experiment to try.  Oh, and yes, I sampled bits of each type of dough as well as the finished product … in the interest of science, obviously!

Peach melba slice ... fail

 

We had a dinner to go to on Saturday night, so Grant thought it would be a great opportunity to use up some more of our peaches … yes, the tree in our backyard is still full of them!  I tried to make a peach melba slice, but considering the recipe called for 250g butter and 300g sugar, it was really REALLY buttery.  I may have overcooked it as well, but it tasted good warmed up with ice cream!Cinnamon & date oatcake

 

Sunday morning I thought I’d try something different for breakfast.  I subscribe to a blog called ‘Chocolate covered Katie’ and I get recipes in my e-mail inbox on a regular basis.  This one came in over the weekend, and as I had all the ingredients, I thought I might as well try it.  The actual recipe is called ‘single-serving cinnamon roll’, but mine turned more into a ‘cinnamon, date and peach oatcake’.  I might try it again – if it works better, I’ll put my version of the recipe on here.

Pudding experimentsThen for Sunday lunch, we had taco quesadillas (mince, beans, shredded cheese and other veggies in between 2 corn tortillas, lightly fried – thanks Grant!) and for dessert I thought I’d continue the theme of experimenting – so tried 4 different single-serving recipes: a one-minute chocolate cake with chocolate peanut butter frosting, a chocolate peanut butter mug cake, a single-serving banana muffin (recipe actually called for tinned pumpkin and chocolate chips, but I substituted mashed banana instead) and a chocolate chia pudding.  The kids actually prefered the banana muffin over all of them.  I didn’t mind either of the chocolate cakes, but probably prefered the one with peanut butter incorporated and the last place went to the chia seed pudding.Quinoa choc chip cookies

 And finally, I wanted to try a quinoa chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Don’t think this was a great success, but it wasn’t a dismal failure.  Interesting texture, not sure if I want to try it again though.

And then I went for a walk … a long walk!

 

Microwave scrambled eggs

 

As an added bonus for you, let me tell you about my experience with cooking scrambled eggs in a microwave.  I had a microwave and a fridge in my hotel room, so instead of getting frozen dinners or tinned soup, I thought I’d try to make my own scrambled eggs.  The first night, didn’t work so well as the eggs cooked too much on the outside of the bowl and not at all in the middle.  After chatting with a few people, I realised I had to cook them in 10 second increments and stir well before the next 10 seconds.  This worked much better and tasted really good too!  Just two eggs and two pieces of ham torn up …

 Next weekend I’m helping out with the catering for lunch for 70+ people … using some of my favourite recipes.  I’ll let you know how it goes!!

Until then – happy cooking at home!

Sarah

Valentine’s Day

So this weekend we got to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I made up a fancy menu for Grant and tried to cook the dishes he likes … obviously!

Friendly granolaValentine’s Day started out with some home-made granola, just for Grant, as I still don’t have any gluten-free oats yet.  I used a different blend of fruit and nuts with which had more seeds than normal.  And I also added some coconut, rather than maple syrup, to give it the sweetness he likes.  He said it was really yummy, so meal 1 – tick!

 

 

 

 White chocolate crackle cookie failI wanted to try my chocolate crackle cookies, but making them into a white chocolate version.  I thought I could just substitute the milk chocolate for white chocolate and leave out the cocoa powder … massively wrong assumption.  The cookies spread out in the pan and just didn’t work!  The taste was there – probably use it as crumbles on top of ice cream in the future!

 

 

 

Bacon & broccoli spaghetti carbonaraSpinach peach saladFor lunch I made a spaghetti carbonara with bacon and panchetta, with a side salad of spinach and peach salad.  Both of these were winners with the whole family, which was a good feeling after the failure of the white chocolate crackles!

 

 

 

Chocolate cheesecake brownie Chocolate cheesecake brownie (full)

Dessert I got a little too creative for my own good.  I made a gluten-free brownie base (from a packet mix), topped it with a cream cheese/icing sugar/cream filling and then chocolate pudding on the top with shaved white chocolate.  Tasted good, but it was a little confused as to whether it was a slice or a cheesecake or something else.  But it was in a heart-shaped pan for Valentine’s Day, and the whole family enjoyed, so meal 2 – tick!

 

 

Chocolate prune energy bars

 I also found a recipe for a healthy slice/bar thing that uses prunes, rather than dates or raisins … and I just had to try it.  Couldn’t really taste the prunes in it, but the chocolate (cocoa powder and milk chocolate) made it nice and rich.  All using natural ingredients … apart from the milk chocolate!  Don’t think this will become my favourite (that’s currently my healthy granola slice recipe here) but still good for a change.

My goal is to go through all the recipes I’ve posted here, make them all and take photos so I can use my own pictures, rather than those from the website.  And hopefully I’ll get better at my photos as well!  Any suggestions for better photos (and recipes) are always welcome – just comment on either the recipe or the Suggestions page!

Bars, slices, cobblers and more

I had lots of time to play in the kitchen this weekend, as evidenced by the commentary below. And I’ve also started taking photos of everything I cook – I’m sure I’ll get better with lighting and arranging as I go through this process!  Any suggestions are welcome to make the photos (and this site) better – I’ve added a Suggestions tab for any comments you would like to leave.

Lessons learned this weekend:

  • Pizza crusts need bread flour, not just plain flour, or gluten-free substitute plain flour.
  • Always measure the baking pan you’re planning to use BEFORE putting the mixture in.
  • When a recipe says to process dried fruit first, before adding the rest of the ingredients, do it – don’t just process everything together and hope it will hold together.

Started out on Friday night, where I wanted to try a few different things:

Quinoa barsI made my quinoa bars, but realised I didn’t have enough cooked quinoa for the whole batch and had some leftover puffed rice cereal, so thought I could combine these in the recipe.  The taste was there, but it was very crumbly and didn’t stay together, even with more peanut butter being added (you can never have too much peanut butter in my opinion!).  So I added about 2 tbs of honey but still it was very crumbly.  They’ll still get eaten over the course of the next week or so, though.  Once frozen, they seemed to stick together a little better and still very yummy.

Raw energy bars

I also wanted to make a ‘raw energy bar’ using a recipe I found somewhere – I had copied it down on a piece of paper without referencing where I got it from, so it could have been from one of my e-books, or a website from somewhere.  But the recipe is here – and this worked really well.

Flourless brownie cookies

And then I got a craving to make some cookies.  And I found this recipe for flourless brownie cookies from yammiesglutenfreedom.com and it was very yummy.  I’ve put that it made 16, but in actual fact I only made 15 … the other bit of dough didn’t quite make it to the oven! 

Pancakes & Fruit

Saturday mornings the kids traditionally make pancakes for breakfast.  Yes, they actually do the measuring, mixing and cooking generally.  But this weekend I was in a generous mood and wanted to try something out for them.  So I used Grant’s pancake recipe and added fresh fruit, cream and maple syrup – trying to get creative with my ‘plating up’! 

 

Peach cobblerNectarine muffins  Then the PLAN was to make a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, but I soon realised that the dough just wasn’t going to work, so ended up just using a gluten-free base I had bought a week ago for myself and some other bread roll-thing for the rest of the family.  Still quite yummy, but not quite the outcome I wanted.  And then we continued to get stuck into the fruit from our backyard … with a peach cobbler, and nectarine muffins.

The final attempt for the weekend was to make some quesadillas using chorizo sausage – we saw this on an episode of ‘Kitchen Boss’ and it looked quite good.  But baking the corn tortillas in the oven I used a little too much oil, the chorizos themselves were quite oily, so it ended up being quite greasy.  The photo I took of this really isn’t worth posting … maybe next time when I use some other ingredients, and just fry it in a non-stick pan with no oil, like I normally do!

 

 

 

Wk #1 February

So my wonderful husband (Grant) has helped with the web-site this week and set up ‘The Blog!’.  Here is where I think I’ll keep you all up to date with my adventures in the kitchen, what worked (and what failed).  Obviously, if a recipe was a success, it will go onto the main part of the website for all to enjoy …

I spent a reasonable amount of time in the kitchen last week and over the weekend, and here is the run-down:

White chocolate fudge – from a Facebook post from one of our friends.  Worked well enough, but probably not enough white chocolate taste in there for my liking.  Grant and the kids really enjoyed it, though!

4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Fudge. No candy thermometer, no stove - just a microwave and a big bowl! 

Peanut butter fudge – this was a winner in my book – and will be added to the website shortly.  I found it here at Sally’s Baking Addiction and tweaked it a little.  I think this will become the middle bit of my ultimate chocolate peanut butter slice (which is hopefully soon in coming to a plate near you!).

 

CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY PAVLOVA

I asked the kids what dessert they wanted me to make for the weekend – I try to make a really nice meal for Saturday lunch for the family to sit down and eat together – and they asked for a chocolate raspberry pavlova that we saw on one of Nigella Lawson’s shows.  It used 6 egg whites, and I didn’t want to throw away the yolks, so I looked up recipes with egg yolks. 

 

 

Grant has always had a soft spot for any pasta with alfredo or carbonara sauces, so when I found that most recipes for alfredo sauces used egg yolks, I found a recipe from an obscure website (so obscure I can’t find it again), but basically used the egg yolks, cream, butter and parmesan cheese.  Unfortunately, the parmesan cheese that we get here in Chile is not as flavourful as we’re used to, and we also didn’t have enough of it, so we added about 60g cream cheese.  It made the sauce pretty gluggy, but still relatively tasty.  I also fried up some bacon (which we amazingly found here – it’s not a staple supermarket ingredient), and added some broccoli, as a variation on my Creamy Bacon & Broccoli Fettucine recipe.

Lemon Coconut Slice

And with the other egg yolks (since the alfredo sauce only needed 2), I made some cookies.  I made half of this recipe from food.com, used my gluten-free conversion for the flour and added some lemon zest to it.  These cookies then became part of the base of a lemon coconut slice (recipe here) as we still had some lemons leftover from our backyard trees. 

So for our Friday night dinner, the bacon and broccoli alfredo, followed by the lemon coconut slice were a winner with one and all.

 

Saturday lunch was planned to be Honey & Tamari beef with rice noodles (vermicelli), followed by the chocolate raspberry pavlova.  I marinated the beef stirfry in the honey & tamari marinade, but, as opposed to when we did it with chicken, tipped the whole beef and marinade in the frying pan at once.  It kind of lost some of the flavours – I’ll learn from that!  The pavlova … well, let’s just say that my son, Henry, makes a better pavlova than what I ended up with.  Crunchy on the outside, yes, but not chewy on the inside.  It was more a big crunchy chocolate cookie, topped with cream and raspberries.  Still good to eat, but not exactly what I was after.

Sunday I tried to make a chicken masala using some of the seasoning we bought on our recent trip to Australia … the less said about this the better.  Way too spicy, not at all creamy, desperately need to try again and get it right this time!

So, it was a pretty busy time in the kitchen, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself this weekend.  I wonder what I’ll make next weekend … my brain is already ticking over!

Happy cooking!

 

 

 

Update – January 2014 #3

Peaches, peaches and more peaches.  Our backyard has two peach trees that have just started producing really yummy, really ripe peaches.  And the question was, what should I do with them?  I can find lots of recipes for peach crumbles, peach cobblers, etc, but wanted to branch out into using peaches more in the main meal.  And I found this salad recipe – it was awesome!  And the dressing is amazing as well!!

Spinach peach salad

I also had a craving for hamburgers, but had run out of gluten-free bread (and didn’t want to pay the outrageously high price for GF bread that tastes more cake-like than bread).  I had this recipe from last year so thought I’d try it again – and it worked well enough to hold the hamburger fillings, as well as a number of other sandwich varieties I tried with the rest of the bread.  The kids also thought it was pretty tasty with jam and cream – kind of a pseudo-pancake.

Cloud bread

One day I came home from work and had a serious chocolate craving, but my husband and I are trying to eat relatively healthy during the week (trying to combat the Christmas over-indulgences!).  I love chocolate no-bake cookies but most of them have oats in them, which need to be gluten-free for me, and are not available in Chile.  So I found this recipe and adapted it slightly to make use of what I had in the cupboards and it was absolutely delicious!  Really fudgey and yummy … healthy in the sense that it uses all natural ingredients and has no added sugar – not low calorie …!

Healthy chocolate fudge nut slice

Other new recipes that I’ve added to the website, that are tried and true (by me only, since no one else in my family likes pumpkin!) include:

Please feel free to comment on any of the recipes here – I’d love to hear your feedback!

Cheers, Sarah

 

Update – January 2014 #2

I’ve had a bit more time at hand this month so I’ve been able to try and post more recipes.  All of these have worked absolutely fantastically  – I’m on a roll with successes at the moment!

Check out these for some new ideas!

Breakfast ideas:                 Pseudo-Bircher muesli

Slices:                                   Rocky Road slice

Cakes & other desserts:    White chocolate berry baked cheesecake

Sauces:                                 Honey tamari marinade

I’m also on a quest to find the best chocolate peanut butter slice recipe – so I’ve tried these combinations:

Attempt #1               I used flourless peanut butter cookies (1 batch), processed and added a little melted butter (approx 50g) to form the base, then put the Chocolate peanut butter slice recipe on top.  Worked well, but didn’t put enough melted butter in the crust so it was a little crumbly.  I also added about 1 tbs cream in with the milk chocolate for the top – not quite the soft, but hard, texture I was after.

Attempt #2               I used the ‘graham cracker crust’ for the base, then a peanut butter pudding recipe (I need to add this recipe to the site) for the filling.  I topped it with melted milk chocolate and cream, but had way too much cream so it didn’t set very well.

Comparisons between attempts #1 and #2 had about equal favourites – I handed samples of both of these around to a group of friends for their opinions.  I personally couldn’t choose between the two, but realise I could have improved on both (and will try …!)

Attempt #3               I found a recipe for frozen chocolate peanut butter pie at food.com and made some chocolate peanut butter cookies for the base, and thought it was interesting since it used sour cream in the peanut butter filling.  I used a normal pie tin, but found that I really needed to put some baking paper down before pressing the base down (melted butter didn’t really assist in the removal of the slices).  Also, the pie tin was too wide, so the filling was very thin – could have worked much better in a smaller tin and having thicker toppings.

Attempt #4               My Husband and I adapted our widely successful cookies & cream cheesecake slice recipe to having the flourless peanut butter cookies for a base, and for being chopped up through the cheesecake bit, then added milk chocolate instead of white chocolate into the cheesecake, plus about 1 tbs cocoa. Very more-ish!

Comparison between attempts #3 and #4 has #4 winning from all who tried both!

We have more ideas about things to try, especially on the cheesecake front, but am always open for other ideas on the slices as well!

Hope you enjoy!!

Update – January 2014 #1

I’ve been experimenting with different ingredients for a lot of my ‘classic’ recipes:

Aji de gallina – instead of using a whole loaf of gluten-free bread for the sauce, we’ve found that poaching the chicken in milk, then coating with aji amarillo paste and cream works just as well, and much easier!  Thanks to my husband for working this one out xx

Cookies & cream cheesecake slice – we tried this with gluten-free ginger nut biscuits for the base, and then blueberries in the filling instead of Oreo cookies.  Very more-ish, we’d pay money for a slice of it!

Chickpea chocolate peanut butter cookies – I found some chickpea flour and thought I could just substitute the actual chickpeas with the flour.  It worked ok, but needed an additional tablespoon of honey to avoid them being too crumbly.

Almond chocolate chip cookies – again, wanting to see what chickpea flour could do so I substituted the almond meal for 1.25 cups of chickpea flour.  Also cooked for less time than the almond recipe called for.  The overall taste was interesting, but still edible.  I’m not sure if I’d try this again, though!

Rice flour pancakes – Another trial for the chickpea flour.  I used 1/4 cup of chickpea flour to 1 egg and 1/4 cup of milk.  The pancakes were a lot less runny but possibly a little too dense.  Gives me some ideas for further experimentation.

I’ve also added a few little tips and tricks that may help you in your cooking – feel free to let me know if you have others!

There’s lots of new recipes that I’ve added, and as I have time, I’ll keep adding more.  Hope you enjoy trying them out!!

Cheers,

Sarah

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