Easy peasey desserts

Sometimes we have a hankering for something sweet, but although I will often put in an effort for a really good dessert, there are times when I just can’t be bothered (more often than I care to admit).

One of the quickest desserts to make for cooler weather is my Lemon Impossible Pie.   It takes all of five minutes to mix, and just over half an hour to bake.  Although to make it properly I should be mixing it in a bowl and then pouring it into a sprayed or greased dish, when I am really really tired or just sick of dirty dishes, I mix it straight into the dish that I will be cooking it in!

 

Lemon Impossible Pie:

Lemon Impossible Pie

Lemon Impossible Pie

4 generous servings – your baking dish will need to be at least 5 cup capacity.

1/3 cup lemon juice;

1 cup caster sugar;

4 eggs;

1 cup dessicated coconut;

½ cup plain flour;

1 2/3 cup milk.

Mix all ingredients together, pour into greased deep pie dish or soufflé dish.  Bake in a 200 degree celcius oven, or 180 degree fan forced oven for approximately 35 minutes or until set.

Can be served with cream or ice-cream, but best with cream and eaten warm.

 

In hotter weather, we love a dessert that I call “The Best Bits”.  This came about because every Christmas out would come the obligatory trifle, but I don’t really like soggy, alcohol soaked cake, or fruit served mixed in with the other ingredients.  I like my cake firm, served on its own, and a good fruit salad, but not all mushed together.  I would always find myself trying to spoon out “the best bits” – being the custard, the jelly and the cream.  So then I thought – “why not make a dessert with just the best bits?”  This is really basic to make, and the only real time involved is the setting time for the jelly.  The beauty of this dessert is that you can pour the jelly in before it has completely set to get it to go in “all the crevices” as I have in this photo, or allow it to set and chop it up so that it is distinct from the custard.

With the varieties of coloured jellies on the market, you can even theme your jellies.  For Australia Day you could make up green and gold jellies, if you wanted the red, white and blue of many national flags, you could use less custard – putting it in the middle and putting cream around the edges of the bowl –  perhaps crushing through some meringue for texture (think Eton Mess).  But I have explained how I made this one.  And yes, I did put in a couple of strawberries, but only because my strawberry plant had a couple of ripe ones, and I wanted to beat the insects to them! (Something has eaten all my mint, and has now moved on to the strawberry leaves – how rude!)

 

“The Best Bits”:

The Best Bits

The Best Bits

6  – 8 servings, depending on how greedy you are!

I packet berry blue jelly;

I packet raspberry jelly;

900g tub of double thick custard;

300ml thickened cream;

Optional fruit or cake sprinkles for decoration.

 

Make up blue jelly as per packet instructions and allow to cool.  Pour into transparent straight edged bowl and put in fridge to set.  Make up raspberry jelly and allow to cool.  When blue jelly is set, spread custard over.  When raspberry jelly is cool, gently pour into the dish over the back of a spoon to reduce the impact of the liquid on the custard.  Insert strawberries into raspberry jelly if chosen.  Put in fridge to set.  When set, whip cream until thick but not completely stiff (it should have at least doubled).  Plop over top of raspberry layer, and decorate.

 

My strawberry plant

My strawberry plant

An unexpected barbeque

We recently had relatives visiting from interstate, and although it isn’t really warm enough for outdoor barbequing at the moment (and who doesn’t love a good barbie?) it was still warm enough to cook one and bring everything in for a leisurely lunch.

As well as the obligatory snags (why is it that a sausage cooked outdoors smells and tastes so much better than one cooked inside?), chops and seasoned chicken skewers, we had a couple of salads and a yummy cheesecake.  Normally I do more, but there weren’t that many of us, so I restrained myself and only made two salads and one dessert.  The good news is, although there was plenty to go around, I wasn’t left with lots of leftovers to find space for in the fridge (anyone for Food Tetris?)

 

Curried Bean and Noodle Salad.

Curried Bean and Pasta Salad

Curried Bean and Pasta Salad

This must be the easiest salad in the world to throw together, no cooking (unless you count steeping some noodles in boiling water for a minute as cooking, which even I don’t!).  I often vary this depending on what I have in the pantry.  Sometimes I put in corn niblets, sometimes baby corn spears, or water chesnuts, or champignons, but this time I didn’t have any of that, so it was very basic.

Salad:

One green capsicum, diced finely;

Three to four spring onions, cut on the diagonal into pieces about 1-2 cm long;

One 420g tin of four bean mix, drained;

One 420g tin of red kidney beans, drained;

One packet of ready to serve rice noodles, cut with scissors into small lengths, steeped for a minute in boiling water, then drained.

Dressing (all approximate, vary depending on how much salad you have in the bowl):

2tbs olive oil;

2 tbs white vinegar;

1 tsp white sugar;

1 tsp curry powder;

2 tsp dried parsley flakes.

Assemble salad ingredients.  Shake dressing ingredients in a shaker, pour over salad ingredients and mix to blend.

 

Potato salad with creamy mustardy dressing.

Potato salad with creamy mustardy dressing

Potato salad with creamy mustardy dressing

Everyone has a preferred method of preparing their potatoes, some like to cook them whole, then cut them, I prefer to buy smaller potatoes that don’t need peeling, cut them into bite sized chunks then cook them until just soft enough to eat, then drain them.  Whichever way you prefer, prepare about 1kg of potatoes, then stir through this dressing , preferably when potatoes have cooled a little, but are still warm to touch.

½ cup good quality (preferably gluten free) mayonnaise;

½ cup thickened cream;

1 tbsp wholegrain mustard (the type from a jar, not powder);

2 tbsp chopped fresh chives if available, 1 tbsp dry if not. (optional)

Mix together the dressing ingredients and stir through the salad.

 

Caramel cheesecake (serves 8-10).

Caramel Cheesecake

Caramel Cheesecake

This is a little fussier than my favourite recipes, but the end result is worth that little bit of extra effort.

If you can source gluten free biscuits, then the cheesecake is gluten free as the caramel is ok.  I usually make the base and the filling the day before, and just top it the morning that I require it as it should be cool before the topping is put on.

Cooking time – 1 hour approximately in a 160 celcius oven.

Base:

250g biscuits;

125g melted unsalted butter.

Filling:

750g cream cheese (at room temperature if you have time);

1 cup dark brown sugar;

4 free range eggs;

½ cup thickened cream;

¼ cup gluten free plain flour.

Topping:

380g can caramel top’n’fill;

½ cup thickened cream;

2 tbsp golden syrup;

2 tsp gelatine;

1 tbsp hot water.

Method:

Crush biscuits by whatever method you prefer – either a food processor, in a bag with a rolling pin, or in a hand crusher.  Mix with melted butter, press into the base of a 22 cm springform cake pan, I line the base of mine with baking paper as shown:

Lining the springform tin

Lining the springform tin

Chill while preparing filling.

Beat cream cheese and sugar in an electric mixer until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Beat in cream and then flour, mix well.  Pour over biscuit base, cook in a slow oven for around one hour, or until centre is firm to touch.  Switch off the oven, and cool in the oven with the door open (if it cools too quickly it will crack).  Refridgerate until cold, preferably overnight.

Place top’n’fill, cream and golden syrup in a small saucepan, whisk over a low heat until smooth.  Sprinkle gelatine over water and dissolve, combine with topping mixture.  Cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes.  Pour over cheesecake, refrigerate until set.

To get it out of the springform without it breaking up, I first take the side off, then loosen the paper on one side.  I then use a pizza slice (pictured against an egg slice for scale) and slide this between the paper and the cake.  You should then be able to transfer it to your serving plate and then decorate as you wish.

Pizza slice

Pizza slice

ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day in our house is always observed.  The day will start early, I will drive himself to the train station to catch the first train into the city so that he can attend the dawn service with a friend.  They will then participate in the march, representing ancestors who have passed on.  I will probably then go to a local ceremony before returning home and setting the television to record the march.

This is my great grandfather who lies buried in Belgium, at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.

My Great Grandfather

My Great Grandfather

As far as I can tell from his war record, he was injured at one of the battles around Ypres in October 1917, and the poor soul lived for another ten days before he died, leaving a wife and four infant children behind.

My family unfortunately suffered many losses in that war, one poor man dying on landing day at what came to be known at ANZAC Cove, not even making it out of the boat.  One branch of the family suffered the loss of two sons, one only days before the end of the war.

So I will spend the day with my family, taking it slow and easy, enjoying the fact that I am fortunate enough to have seen my small children grow into adults, when so many people did not get that opportunity.  One thing my daughter and I like to do is to sit on one of the balconies around my house, sipping tea and munching on biscuits in our “café” as we like to call it.

Sometimes we even get honoured with visitors, such as these that flew around for a while before landing nearby:

Aren't they gorgeous?

Aren’t they gorgeous?

Obviously on this day we will be eating ANZAC biscuits.  Most recipes call for coconut, but I have made a batch without it.  If you want to use coconut, delete some of the flour.

ANZAC biscuits and tea at our cafe

ANZAC biscuits and tea at our cafe

The story behind ANZAC biscuits is reportedly that because they kept so well, they were good to send to loved ones at the front.

 

ANZAC biscuits – makes 36.

160 degree celcius oven – 18-20 minutes cooking time.

2 cups rolled oats

½ cup sugar

¾ cup flour (because there is not a lot of flour, you can use gluten free flour without any problems)

1 tbs golden syrup

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tbs boiling water

125 grams butter

Combine oats, sugar and flour in a large bowl.  Melt the butter and set aside.  Mix the golden syrup, bicarbonate of soda and boiling water – while it is still frothing, mix in the melted batter.  Add to dry ingredients and mix.  Drop teaspoons full onto trays, leaving space for the biscuits to flatten and expand.  Bake, let stand on tray for a few minutes after baking, before moving to a cake cooler to cool.

 

 

Lest we forget.

I love my pantry

When we built our house recently, one of the little treasures we loved about it, was the pantry off the kitchen.  My daughter calls it my ‘hobbit hole’ but it is a really wonderful room.  As well as storing food (although I don’t have nearly as much food as Bilbo Baggins – I am astounded by how much food one creature could have stashed away) I do have a bit stashed in there.  But the truly wonderful thing in the room is the amount of storage space.  As you can see by the photo I have room for books and knick knacks and all sorts of little treasures.

I love my pantry

I love my pantry

Now if you look closely at the books, you might see that one of them is missing a spine.  This was my very first cookbook, the one my Mum had to buy for me when I started high school just a few (cough cough) years ago.  I have referred to it so much over the years that the spine fell off some time ago.  Here it is – and yes, I know it is the “Revised Metric Edition” but don’t read anything into that – it really has nothing to do with how old it is…..

A cook book written for children...

A cook book written for children…

The reason I love this book so much is that it was WRITTEN FOR SCHOOLCHILDREN.   So it is simple.   The recipes are basic, so they are brilliant for the cooking challenged like me.   Over the years I have made many of them, and have adapted my favourites to suit me.  Later editions of this book (my children used an edition with COLOURED PHOTOGRAPHS!!) are more contemporary and have more international recipes, but I prefer my trusty old tattered, stained book.  And why not, when it teaches you yummy treats like these – don’t you just feel like pudding when the weather turns cold?

Chocolate self saucing pudding: (Serves 4)

Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding

Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding

Cooking time – 45 minutes

Pudding

1 cup SR Flour

2 tsp cocoa

60g butter

½ cup caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

½ cup milk

Sauce

½ cup brown sugar

1 tbs cocoa

1 ¼ cups boiling water

Sift flour and cocoa.  Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg, mix well.  Stir in flour and milk to get a smooth consistency.

Pour into pie dish.  (If you are truly lazy and/or pushed for time, you can mix the batter in a soufflé dish, and bake it in the same dish).

Mix sugar and cocoa, sprinkle over batter.  Pour boiling water over the back of a spoon (to diffuse the water so it doesn’t make a crater in your batter) over the mixture.  Bake in an oven preheated to 190 degrees celcius (or 180 for a fan forced oven) for 45 minutes.

I like to serve it with cream, but you can use custard if you prefer.

 

Steamed jam pudding: (Serves 4)

Steamed Jam Pudding

Steamed Jam Pudding

Cooking time – 1.5 hours

125g butter

½ cup caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

3 drops vanilla essence

½ cup milk

1 ½ cups SR flour

3 tbs of your favourite jam

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and mix well.  Stir in flour and milk until batter is smooth.  In the bottom of a medium sized pudding steamer, place 3 tablespoons of your favourite jam.  Pour batter over.  Cover the steamer, and place on a trivet in a pot of boiling water.  The water should come about half way up the side of the pudding steamer.  Steam for 1 ½ hours, checking that the water doesn’t boil away, and topping up if necessary.  Upend pudding onto a serving dish so that the jam is on top, and serve with cream, ice-cream or custard.

Easter is almost here – try my KounterFeit Chicken (fake Kentucky Fried Chicken) – Gluten free too!

Like all good chocoholics, I think Easter is a wonderful time of year.  Yes I know there are religious implications, but the sight and smell of chocolate everywhere makes it difficult to think of anything else.  For me, it really doesn’t matter how old the Munchkins get (they are both adults now) – the Easter Bunny still comes to my house, mostly because it is fun for me.  Of course everyone else plays along, because THERE IS CHOCOLATE!

But I do attempt to respect some Easter traditions, and steer clear of red meat on Good Friday.  I really don’t like fish, so unless we want to go vegetarian, our choices are limited.   Maybe we will have some easy chicken and corn soup for lunch?  At my local farmers’s market, I have found the most divine lemongrass paste, with just a hint of chilli.  I use that as a flavour base, add some home made stock (I gather up all my vegetable peels in a plastic bag in the fridge, throw in all those herb stalks and a bit of salt, and simmer it all for about half an hour), some chopped cooked chicken (or if there isn’t any leftover, some chicken mince) and a can of creamed corn.  Delicious.

For dinner we will have KounterFeit Chicken.  The flavourful coating is a take off of a popular take away chain (I wonder which one?)  But it can be made with Gluten Free flour, so Himself gets to eat it, and he loves it.   Everyone loves it.  Since I discovered this recipe, I have to serve it once a week, or there will be a mutiny!  My measurements aren’t exact, it all depends on the size of the chicken breasts, you might have to start with one quantity of coating and make up more if you need it:

KounterFeit Chicken (serves 4):

KounterFeit Chicken

KounterFeit Chicken

Total time including cooking – approximately 1 hour 15 minutes.

Four large chicken breasts;

Milk,

3- 4 tablespoons GF plain flour;

Half teaspoon of salt;

Three quarters teaspoon of pepper (not freshly cracked – just the ground table variety is best here);

Two teaspoons of paprika (I prefer the sweet, but you can use hot if you like it);

One tablespoon of Masterfoods All Purpose Seasoning (the ingredients list does not show any gluten, but it is not declared to be gluten free).

Cut the chicken into lengths about as long as your index finger, but thicker, place in a bowl of milk and soak for 20 minutes.  Mix the dry ingredients and coat each piece of chicken.   I prefer to put the dry ingredients into a bag, and taking chicken from the milk with tongs, put a few pieces of chicken into the bag and mash them around.  When Himself does this part for me, he prefers to take the chicken out of the milk one piece at a time, and roll them around in a bowl of mixture.  It’s not a batter, just a flour dredge that will stick to the milky chicken.  Pour a good quantity of olive oil into a baking dish, roll the chicken to coat and give the top layer a shot of olive oil spray.  Bake in a fan forced oven at 180 degrees for up to 45 minutes (depending on your oven and how thick the chicken pieces are – careful not to overcook the chicken or it will dry out).  I check mine after about 25 minutes, turning them and checking on their progress, and adjust the cooking time if necessary.

Serve with whatever you like.

Just in case we get visitors, I might throw together a cheese log.  If you don’t put the sauce on, it will keep a day or two in the fridge, so you can keep it on hand to serve with crackers.

Cheese log:

Cheese log (with Sweet Chilli Sauce)

Cheese log (with Sweet Chilli Sauce)

Total preparation time about 10 minutes.

250g packet Philadelphia Cream Cheese;

1 tablespoon each sesame seeds, cracked black pepper, and poppy seeds;

Drizzle of sweet chilli sauce.

Roll the cheese into a log shape.  I find it easier to leave it in the foil at this point for the initial squashing and reshaping, and take it out just to neaten it off.  Combine the dry ingredients in a shallow dish, and coat the log all over.  Place on a serving dish, and drizzle with chilli sauce when ready to serve.  You will need a small knife for service, as it is not soft enough for dipping.

 

Now, time to get back to looking at some of those yummy chocolate recipes, and imagine myself making some……

I am the Queen of the Kitchen Disaster

One reason I am so keen to find ‘idiot-proof’ easy recipes is because I have had a few spectacular disasters in the past so now I am trying to minimize the chance of future ones!

When I was first cooking, I used my high school cookbook for recipe ideas, as it was easy and simple, and written for schoolchildren!  Unfortunately, even a supposedly idiot proof book will not turn out an edible cheesecake if the twit cooking the cake mixes up condensed milk and evaporated milk!  Hmm, almost as bad as when I was a child and making up some packet jelly for family.  More people were coming than normal, so I thought if I just doubled the water we would get more jelly!  Oops.

Just over ten years ago, himself was diagnosed as suffering from Coeliac’s disease.  While this diagnosis was good for him, as he was thinking he might have something really nasty going on in his gut (the scary old cancer was present in his mind) – for the bumbling home cook it was a traumatic diagnosis.  Ok, so I don’t feed him sandwiches any more – but of course it was much more extensive than that.  Currently, ‘gluten-free’ is quite fashionable, so there is a bigger range of goods to buy, and many items are now labeled as gluten free, saving all that time reading tiny little labels.  But back then, it was not as easy and things were either horrible tasting, or very expensive, usually both.

So I went out and bought a pasta machine and some buckwheat, and thought I would be clever and make my own pasta.  Well, the kitchen ended up covered in gooey, brown gloop, and needless to say, we didn’t eat pasta that night.   I still shudder when I think what the kitchen looked like that night.  I have never again tried making pasta, even though the quality of gluten free flours has improved unbelievably, and now they are almost as good (although still much more expensive) than ‘regular’ flours.  I suspect that when we recently moved house the pasta machine may have ended up in the donation box for the Op Shop, as I don’t remember unpacking it.  Recently while watching “My Kitchen Rules” I thought to myself that pasta dough didn’t look all that difficult, and had almost convinced myself to have another go, but without a pasta machine, I can find excuses to not try.

More recently, I found a freeform pie recipe in a magazine.  It looked nice enough, so one day when himself was not home for dinner (as it used commercial puff pastry, and the gluten free variety is awful!) I made it for the munchkins and myself.  It looked and smelled good when taking it out of the oven.  Disaster struck when I was trying to transfer it to the serving plate.  It flew up in the air, with me trying to catch it while still holding on to the baking tray and it ended up going SPLAT on the floor.  After a couple of second’s sad gazing at the now inedible mess on the floor, the familiar cry went up –  “Oscar!”.  Our sooky old dog could always be counted on to clean up the floor.  Sadly, when things are dropped to this day, I still find myself calling Oscar, even though he has been gone almost a year.  I think if I am going to keep cooking, I need another dog to cover up my mistakes.  The cat just doesn’t co-operate.

As an amusing footnote, a friend of mine bought the same magazine, and made the same pie, although hers made it to the plate.  When I told her of my experience, and how the pie had now been dubbed “Floor Pie” in my house, she thought the story was so funny, that she now calls it “Floor Pie” as well.  Now in at least two households, when the query “What’s for dinner?” is answered by “Floor Pie”, people understand what that means.

I will post the recipe for this pie.  Hopefully yours will not end up on the floor, or if it does, you have a four-legged co-conspirator to help YOU cover up your disasters too.

“Pie? Did someone say pie?”