Monday, January 21, 2013

On the Road

On the Road, Tips for Road Trips

Living a relatively short drive away from our home town means that we often drive back to stay for the weekend and visit friends and family.

Car trips can be boring, but we always try to make the most of it. Our trip takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, usually on a friday afternoon and then returning on the following sunday afternoon.

Tips for Road Trips

Home Made Muffins

1. Pack Snacks

It doesn't matter if we leave straight after lunch, if I am driving I always need some food to keep my energy and concentration up. It is important to make sure that your blood sugar is not dipping too low when you are driving 110kms/hr on a busy highway. My favourite snacks include: almonds, cut up apples, flavoured milk, rice crackers, ham and salad sandwiches, homemade muffins and, of course, chocolate!
Your travelling buddy is obliged to take charge of obtaining, opening packets and providing your mouth with snacks.

*Please take care when eating and driving. You should never prioritise your attention on anything but the road. For more substantial meals you should always stop, stretch your legs and give your brain a rest.
7/11 Zilched Mango Slurpee

2. Keep Hydrated

Dehydration make me cranky and it's also dangerous and bad for your concentration. I prefer to have drinks that are in cups with a straw when driving as it is safer than drinking from cans or bottles (no sharps edges, no cas to remove) although this means that I'm usually drinking soft drink or a delicious Slurpee. My latest craze is 7/11's Zilched Mango Slurpees. They are seriously yummy and not full of sugar (although they are full of controversial artificial sweeteners, but don't worry I'm not living off them or anything).
For a healthier choice you can purchase a drink cup with built in straw and fill it with water or your beverage of choice.

On the Road, Tips for Car Trips

3. Listen and Learn

Ok, so you might think differently of me after reading this point... I enjoying listening to ABC Radio National. It is my radio station of choice. No FM "cool" rock'n'roll for me. I won't even pretend that I listen to TripleJ. Mr Canbella turned me on to RN years ago and I've never looked back. (Except when they have those weird spoken word with trippy music segments. What is that all about???) They have great stories that draw you in and teach you something about the world. I love being taken in by a topic that I never would have ever cared to research.
Another option is downloading podcasts from interesting places and listening to them. I also download podcasts from RN, they have great stories. Another great place to learn about people and the world is "This American Life".

On the Road, Tips for Car Trips

4. Rock Out

Upbeat, happy, pop or rock'n'roll is the order of the day to keep things rolling on car trips. We keep a collection of our favourite turns in the car (no iPod connector in our old ride) and love putting them on and singing (with the volume turned up so we don't hear our own voices.) It's also a great way to learn about each others musical tastes. For group road trips it would be great to have each person make a CD or playlist of songs they love.
Another way to enjoy music is The Radio Game. In this game the passenger must operate the stereo. They will scan through the stations. At each station (that is playing a song) they will stop. The first person to correctly state the Artist wins a point. (You could also do Artist/Song or Song.) If you jump in with the wrong answer you lose a point. If no-one guesses within about 20 secs, you move on. Unless it's a really good song, in which case, rock out! That's it!

On the Road, Tips for Car Trips

5. Conversely

Take the time to just talk. Really talk. Decompress from the work work, talk about your dreams, plan imaginary holidays. Anything you like really. I think the car trip really gives you space to get in to long, deep conversations that might otherwise get interrupted by life or a waitress.

On the Road, Tips for Car Trips

And most importantly, drive safely and take breaks when needed!

Ella xx

Saturday, January 19, 2013

OMG! Totallly Adorbs!

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

So, this week Mr Canbella requested that I bake something different and amusing for him to take into work for a morning tea. I immediately headed to Pinterest and trawled for something that caught my eye.

Normally when baking I prefer to think of my own ideas and then use research to work out my recipes, but this time I just wanted to try something trendy and wacky. I found the perfect idea at Bakerella's blog, a Mini-Burger Cupcake!

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

Due to the complicated decorative elements of these cupcakes, I used some shortcuts via cake mixes and pre-made frosting.

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

1 box Green's buttercake, made into 16 cupcakes (only fill tins halfway) (use milk and 10 grams extra butter)
1 box Coles brownie mix, made into a shallow brownie (use a bigger tin)
1 tub Better Crocker Vanilla frosting, divided into 3 bowls

1 Tbs maple Syrup
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs water
2 Tbs sesame seeds

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

1. Colour each bowl of icing: yellow (for mustard), red (for ketchup), and green (for lettuce). If the frosting becomes to runny (it needs to be quite stiff to maintain the shape when piping) add icing sugar as required and beat to combine.
2. Use a round cookie cutter to cut circular pieces of brownie, make sure your cutter is the same size as your cupcakes (a little bit smaller or larger is still ok I think).
3. Slice each cupcake into two halves to form the bun.
4. Place a brownie "meat patty" in between each cupcake bun, use a small dollop of frosting inbetween the bottom "bun" and the brownie to help them stick.
5. For the frosting on top of the "meat" patty: pipe the mustard and ketchup using a small round tip, do two overlapping squares with the corners going out over the edge of the patty. Then use a flat corrugated tip for the lettuce, and pipe in a squiggly pattern around the edge. Don't worry about piping icing in the middle of the cake, it doesn't need it.
6. Place top "bun" gently on top of frosting.
7. Mix maple syrup, honey, and water together and gently heat in microwave. Using a pastry brush, coat the top of the bun with glaze and then sprinkle a small amount of sesame seeds on top.
8. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered for at least 30 minutes to set the frosting.

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

It was a nervous car trip taking these to Mr Canbella's work, but we made it. He reported back that they were a great success, very amusing and delicious!

Mini-Burger Cupcakes

Ella xx

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fresh and Light in the New Year

Maple and Grapefruit Chicken Skewers
This year at my work we did a "Bad Santa" Kris Kringle. Which basically involves gift stealing. I was the last to choose/receive my gift, meaning that I could choose any gift that had already been opened or open the last unwrapped gift. Loving a surprise, I chose to open the last gift.

And I was rewarded with a gift that seemed perfectly chosen for me! Donna Hay's new Fresh and Light book. It is a beautifully designed book that gives lots of ideas for healthy and satisfying meals, snacks and sweets. I vowed that I would work my through the book in the new year.

In my first adventure into Fresh and Light I couldn't help myself and I changed one of the recipes. But it wasn't really my fault. See, the original recipe called for an orange; Coles only had oranges from the USA and I hate to buy something that has been imported all that way when we have perfectly good oranges here. (Nothing against the USA, just the fossil fuels it takes to get them here is ridiculous!) So in my search for Australian oranges, I noticed Australian Ruby Red Grapefruit. Hmmmm. And so it began.
Maple and Grapefruit Chicken Skewers

Maple and Grapefruit Chicken Skewers
Adapted from Donna Hay's Fennel and Orange Chicken Skewers

1/2 Ruby Red Grapefruit, juice of
1 Tbs pure maple syrup
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp sesame oil
5 free range chicken thighs

1. Soak skewers in some cold water.
2. Combine juice, maple syrup, garlic and sesame oil in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Trim large sections of fat off chicken thighs, then slice each thigh into about 6 - 8 squarish pieces.
4. Thread chicken pieces onto skewers and place into a large glass or ceramic dish.
5. Pour marinade over the skewers, ensuring they are evenly coated.
6. Cover and place into the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes to 2 hours (longer is better).
7. Remove from refrigerator. Place on a lined baking tray and cook under a medium grill, turning every couple of minutes until cooked through. Mine took about 8 minutes.
8. Serve!

I served the skewers with the Miso and Sesame Broccoli from the same Donna Hay book and some SmartRice Brown Rice (which is AMAZING!) for a light but wholesome midweek dinner.

Maple and Grapefruit Chicken Skewers

Ella xx

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A new experimental baking challenge!

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

You say donuts, I say doughnuts... Whatever you call them, they're delicious. That being said, I never deep fry anything at home, due to health concerns and my clumsiness making it a little dangerous on two fronts. I've been noticing a lot of baked doughnut recipes on pinterest lately, and so today while out shopping for totally unrelated boring household items I bought a 6-hole doughnut pan.

Mr Canbella says it is destined for black hole back of the baking cupboard due to it's limited fad-ish use but I think it could become a new classic, if only I can gett the recipe right. And so begins the recipe experimentation and testing!!!!

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

My first foray into baked doughnuts is inspired by a recipe that I found via pinterest, it attracted me because it uses Chobani yoghurt which I am a big fan of. I have changed some ingredients, you can find the original here.

Baked vanilla doughnuts with vanilla bean glaze

For doughnuts

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • 3 Tbs Natvia
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 Tbsp Chobani 0% Vanilla Greek Yogurt (or plain or strawberry)
  • 4 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Nuttelex, melted
  • 1/4 tsp butter essence
For Glaze
1 Tbs Plain Non-Fat Chobani yoghurt
1 tsp pure vanilla bean extract
1/2 cup sifted pure icing sugar

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 (fan-forced)
2. Mix flour, sugar, Natvia and baking powder in a bowl
3. In a small jug, combine all liquid ingredients (make sure melted Nuttelex is not too hot), and whisk to get a smooth consistency.
4. Add liquid to dry ingredients and mix to a just smooth consistency. Don't mix beyond this point as it will make the batter tough.
5. Transfer the batter to a zip lock bag. Chop off one corner of the zip lock bag and pipe the batter into your doughnut pan.
Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze
6. Bake until lightly browned and springs back to the touch, about 8-12 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together glaze ingredients. At first it will seem like there is not enough liquid, but just keep whisking and the yoghurt will absorb all the icing sugar and turn into a perfect glaze consistency.
Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze
 8. Remove from oven and cool in tray for 5 minutes.
8. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool.
Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze
9. Dip each doughnut into the glaze mixture and allow to set on wire rack. You could glaze and serve them straight away while they are still warm, I think this would be ideal if they were a special breakfast treat!!
10. Serve! 
Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

Note: Keep in an airtight container, unglazed they should last for 2-3 days. Glazed they would probably only last for 1 day, the yoghurt glaze tends to go a bit gunky. 

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

These were delicious and satisfying but I think I can still make some improvements. Next week I am going to make some tweaks to the recipe to attempt to achieve a lighter, fluffier dough. Wish me luck!!

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze

Ella xx

Baked Vanilla Doughnut with Vanilla Yoghurt Glaze