Archive for the ‘baking’ Category

Gingerbread House

The girls decorated a gingerbread house on Saturday.  It was a kit one that Mum gave us, because I can barely work with even regular cookie-sized portions of gingerbread dough, what with the sticking and the stretching and the burning of edges and final  breaking on cookie-removal.  Oh, the language that goes on in my kitchen when I try and do something fancy with the rolled cookies. My goodness.

Anyway, I did assemble this one per- the box instructions, melting icing sugar in a frying pan.  I kept stirring and stirring, with an increasingly sore arm, until the contents of Frying Pan of Danger were about 90% molten- and nearly-burnt sugar, and 10% toffee-coated lumps of icing sugar.  At which point I gave up and used it as is, lumps and all, to stick the house together, which worked well and with a minimum of third-degree burns.

Billie and Beetle co-operated very well, considering the awkwardness of the setup at the table, and a good half-a-dozen lollies even made it onto the gingerbread house.

Unfortunately, a very sad thing happened.  I put the house on the wrong side of the kitchen when we were dishing up dinner.  Later that night, when I got back from a bit of late-night shopping, I found about three thousand ants  had descended upon the house with great enthusiasm.

I had to knock the seething mass into the sink and gingerly prod it down the garbage disposal as quickly as possible to avoid becoming covered in ants, and trying hard not to breathe in the crushed ant smell.

Serves me right for putting anything sugary in the Ant Zone of the kitchen.


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Today is Beetle’s 5th birthday. We had a very successful school visit, and she will be starting school for real on Monday. But I’m changing the subject for now… everything is going so nicely I don’t want to talk about it yet.

I woke up early enough to take a quiet moment before the big birthday morning, and join SteadyMom’s afternoon tea and chat (which was at 6am NZ time)  I was telling her about the volcano cake Beetle and I made, just for fun, when the kindy kids were learning all about volcanoes and crystals last term, and I realised I hadn’t posted it here.

We started with a chocolate-and-banana cake baked in a bundt tin…


covered it in thin chocolate icing….


…just enough to stick on some coconut-and-green-food-colouring “grass.”


Then Beetle mixed up some lurid red icing for “lava” (I think there was cocoa in there as well)


I jammed a plastic cup down the “crater” of the cake to stop things falling down in there and getting lost, and drizzled over the red icing, which looks alarmingly like we’ve been decorating with the tomato sauce bottle…


Beetle stuck on some lovely, colourful dried fruit for lava. Hooray for the bulk bins! We had dried mango strips, papaya, dried strawberries,  dried cranberries, and some kind of dried apple chunks.  Plus some chocolate coated raisins for “scoria”. Yum!

More applications of the red icing were required. Beetle kept sticking and drizzling icing until she used up all of the dried fruit I’d bought.

It was quite a violent explosion, this little volcano.  Such a lot of molten lava!


When it was finished, we took it around to  Nanny’s place. Beetle was a little concerned that her aunties and uncles might think it was a real volcano, and be somewhat alarmed by that prospect. She carefully reassured them all that it was just a cake, and we all enjoyed having a slice of not-real volcano for afternoon tea.


The next week, Beetle took photos and her story about making a volcano cake to kindy and shared them at news time. Everybody was most impressed 🙂

PS: So many of you are enjoying the beach, recently, following the last of summer, or the very first signs of spring in our neck of the woods. I am so jealous…. the sun is shining here, the beach is so, so close, but we have some Dregs Of Poison Pufferfish or something washing up on the shore. Whatever it is, it is killing dogs and prompting stern warnings to keep children off the beach. Poo.

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Littlest Hutch Dresser

Littlest hutch dresser

My heart has longed for a play kitchen like Soulemama’s for a long time, so I was very enthusiastic when I spotted this little wee hutch dresser on Trademe.  Even better, it came with all the carefully collected vintage cookware from its previous life – lovely little saucepans, tiny enameled baking dishes, wooden spoons and a wee teapot.  I was very happy to bring it home.

Beetle has been busy cooking from a colourful recipe book Mum found for me at the opshop:

Amazing Magical Jello Brand Desserts from 1977 – promising “72 GELATIN AND PUDDING RECIPES YOUR KIDS WILL ENJOY, plus MagicTricks by Marvello the Great”

The graphic design is magnificent, but Beetle is a literal sort of a girl and struggles with “cooking” recipes that she doesn’t have the “ingredients” for.  She was probably happier when she was mixing the dry ingredients (dolly was mixing the wet) for her carrot pixie buns, without the book.

(in one of those synchronicity-of-the-universe moments, we discovered pixie buns when we saw the trays for sale at a kitchenware shop at Thames on holiday last week, then found a tray amongst the lovely bits and pieces with the shelf)

1977's best Jello-Brand Recipe Book!

Here she is studying the recipes for Ambrosia Pudding and Sunny Whip.

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Almost a storm

There was supposed to be a storm, this weekend. Well, there was an actual storm. It just didn’t blow any roofs off houses in our particular neighbourhood. But, lacking a crystal ball, I spent Saturday morning checking the weather news on the ‘net and trying to decide to which extent my storm preparations should go.

See… the North Shore City Council Civil Defence website says if there’s a wind warning you should tape big windows? Is that ridiculous to do that or not? (Nobody else is, but maybe they just want their windows to blow in) Well, maybe just on that one with the thrashing tree next to it.

And how about I move the toy oven and so forth away from the Window With Thrashing Tree for good measure, and then shout at the girls when they try to set up elaborate games in the newly emptied space.

Ooh, golly – the herald says the metservice says that if the storm gets bad to stay away from windows and Retreat Within the House. Where can I make myself a bunker? Downstairs? They say the storm will hit worst at midnight. Hey Bear – can you take a camp stretcher downstairs, just in case?  Thermos?

So, in short, I spent the first half of the day fretting and checking my supplies of candles and torches, and putting batteries in the radio. In the meantime I followed the actions of my family, who periodically checked in by phone as they drove around in the storm, looking at the beach, going to LAN parties on the other side of the city, shopping, visiting one another for dinner, and so on.

I swear they do this just to bother me… of course they came away unscathed.

The power went off here at 3pm, just as the storm shifted away from us, saving me from stormblogging live.

And in the end…. we set up a bed in our room for Beetle, in case the power didn’t come back on and she didn’t like sleeping alone in the dark end of the house. Bear cooked sausages and baked beans on the BBQ (set up in the garage) and we took advantage of the darkness to trick the girls into going to bed (in their own rooms) an hour early – just as the power came back on.

The threatened midnight storminess never happened, and we spent Sunday morning cooking (and eating) ginger gems and making a double batch of lemon squash.  I must remember to get out the gem irons more often.  Anything that gets cooked in a heated pan with its own sizzling square of butter and THEN gets thoroughly buttered on serving is fine with me.

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ANZAC biscuits

ANZAC biscuits

I made Anzac biscuits on Anzac day. We invited round friends, Bear made coffee, and we had a lovely, lovely afternoon.

We are lucky.

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I made these for the cake stall at the kindergarten trike-a-/bike-a-/ride-a-thon.

The cakes are the “Melt and Mix banana cake” (from Allyson Gofton) recipe which I have been using since forever, because it is a lovely moist banana cake that makes all other banana cakes seem dry in comparison. It is extra easy since you don’t have to cream butter and sugar, a step I avoid because I can’t get butter into any states other than Fridge Cold Brick or Exploding So Liquid Drips From Microwave Roof.

This is because I Lack both Patience and Foresight.

Melt and Mix Banana Cake

Makes 1 ring cake, or 12 muffin-sized cupcakes plus 20 mini-muffin sized cupcakes (more…)

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