Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Pudding Chocolate Cake Pops and A Cake Pop Maker Giveaway

Christmas Pudding Chocolate Cake Pops

Hello Beach Dwellers
Today we are talking cake pops.  Let me tell you there's an easy way to make cake pops and a hard way.  And you guessed it, I found out the hard way of course.  You may remember these ones I made for my the Beach House Brat's birthday party.  There were only 6 little girls present. I was going to make two each, but I struggled to make it to 7.  Making the pops was fine, but I struggled to keep them on the stick and had problems with the chocolate running off because it was too hot.  They looked OK and were very yummy, but I had to rest them on their bottoms, because gravity was against me and they kept sliding down the stick.  The ribbons saved the day, making them look very pretty, but the effort to wow factor ratio was high and I did wonder whether I'd ever bother again.

Roll forward several months and it was kind of like having a baby.  I forgot everything and jumped right back in.

I received this cake pop maker from Kambrook, and lets just say, you may be seeing a whole lot more cake pops on this here old blog.  This machine and the hot tips in the Kambrook instruction booklet, like 'adding a little vegetable oil to the chocolate melts', really helped to make the cake pop experience much more pleasant indeed.

The Kambrook booklet also provides lots of cake pop recipes which are simple.  The pops take about 5-6 minutes to cook.  The cake pop sticks provided, (24) are washable and reusable.  The pops turn out perfectly and any residue easily breaks off.  The pan is non stick and just needs a thorough wipe over between batches, so the next batch does not stick.

The pops are best covered in chocolate melts, with a good teaspoon of vegetable oil mixed in. This will make the chocolate easier to work with as it cools. Before you start, make sure the chocolate is not too hot, other wise it will just slide off the pop.  

Prick your cake once it has completely cooled on a wire rack, with the sticks provided.  

Hold the pop over the chocolate bowl and use a spoon to drizzle it with chocolate, gently shake off any excess chocolate and place in the stand to dry.

Dipping the balls into the bowl is a no no, as it may lead to them falling into the chocolate and a God awful mess.

Whilst they are drying, make your plum pudding decorations.  I used red smarties and jelly babies roughly cut to the shape of a leaf.

Allow the first coat of chocolate to completely dry. Meanwhile fill a clip lock plastic bag with melted white chocolate (again the melts are the best).  Squeeze the chocolate into one corner of the bag. Snip the tinniest corner from the bag and pipe a good dose of chocolate onto the top centre of your pop. It should run down the sides by itself.  Place the lollies on top, which will assist in making the white chocolate run down the sides for effect as well.

This was a shot I took when I made chocolate crackle plum puddings last holiday season.

As you can see, a generous amount of white chocolate is fine.

And the cake pop recipe I used from the Kambrook book.

Chocolate Espresso Cake Pops
Makes 24
3/4 cup plain flour sifted
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
50 ml/ 1.5 fl oz milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
50 mls/ 1.5fl oz freshly brewed espresso ( I used strong instant coffee)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

For the decorations
200g/7oz milk choclate melts, melted according to the directions on the pack and cooled slightly
100g/4oz white choclate melts, melted according to the directions on the pack and cooled slightly
24 red smaties or other red circular lolly
Green jelly babies cut to a small triangle to form leaves

1. Preheat cake pop maker in the closed position, until the light illuminates

2. In a bowl mix all ingredients with a whisk until combined.

3 Add a heaped teaspoon of the batter to each cake pop well and close the lid for 5-6 minutes

4. Remove using heatproof tongs and place onto cake rack to cool completely, before decorating as described as above.

As there are 12 wells it's important to thoroughly wipe out the cake pop maker between batches to avoid sticking.  I used baby wipes.  Be careful not to burn yourself

Now for the best bit, I am giving away a  Kambrook cake pop maker to an Australian reader of Desire Empire. 

All you need to do to enter this giveaway, is follow Desire Empire on one or more of the following platforms:
Google Friends Connect (over in my side bar)
Instagram @desireempire

Leave a  separate comment for each follow, even if you have for some time.

Sharing this to each of your social media platforms will constitute another entry.  Leave me a separate comment for each share.  

And good luck

For all my other Christmas baking and craft projects go here.
This competition is now closed.  The winner is
Rebecca Senyard
Giveaway Terms and Conditions
This competition is open to entrants living in Australia only.
This competition is open from now until 7 December 2012 12pm Australian EST.
The winner will be announced on this blog, Face Book and Twitter and I will contact you, as long as you have left a valid means.  You have 5 days to respond, otherwise the prize will be redrawn.
I was not paid to write this post, but I received a cake pop maker to review.  Clearly I liked it.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Easy Italian Chicken Pasta with Mother's Little Helpers

Easy Italian Chicken Pasta

Hello Beach Dwellers
In the interests of freeing you up from the kitchen this holiday season, I want to share a great new suite of products I have recently come across.  I find myself calling them, 'mother's little helpers'.  I have always loved Philadelphia Cream Cheese,  I have used it in my frostings and quiches without cream for many years.  I have loved the fact that Kraft has listened to us girls who are weight conscious. They have constantly tried to reduce the fat content of their products, which over the years, has been very much appreciated by me.

 So it was with great pleasure, that when I was invited to the Kids Business Bloggers Brunch earlier this month, I saw a Philadelphia stand there. Now here was a brand I knew I could work with.  They did the catering for the event, using their Cream for Cooking products, which was very impressive.

So whilst the Beach House Brat had her face painted and visited Santa,

  And after I had finished laughing hard at the comedian.

And schmoozing with some gorgeous gals, such as Sonia, from Life Love and Hiccups.

  I made a B line to check out what was new at Philly.  This is what I found.  A new range of Cream for Cooking products.  The Tomato and Italian herbs, having 45% less fat than the original Philadelphia Cream for Cooking, was something that appealed to me.  So guys, this is not low fat by any means, but if you feel like treating yourself to a creamy pasta sauce, this is a great alternative to full blown cream.  Anywhere we can cut back on the calories, has to be good right? 

I made the Tomato and Italian Herb Chicken Pasta last night. The kids woofed it down and us grown ups really liked it too.  The dish took about 15 minutes to prepare and I would have no hesitation in serving this up to dinner guests, for a casual get together.  It really was delicious.

Here's the recipe

Tomato & Italian Herb Chicken Pasta
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
500g chicken tenderloins, halved
1 red capsicum, seeds and membranes removed and cut into 1.5cm pieces
100g baby spinach
250ml PHILADELPHIA Tomato & Italian Herbs Cream for Pasta
Freshly ground pepper

250-300g penne pasta, cooked and drained
1/2 cup of roasted pine nuts or cashews
Basil leaves to garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non stick frying pan on a medium heat and cook the chicken for 5-8 minutes, or until golden.  Remove chicken from the pan and keep warm. 

Add the remaining oil and saute the capsicum for 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and allow to wilt for a minute.

Stir in the Philly cream for pasta and chicken.  Allow to simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce has slightly thickened and chicken is heated through. Add pepper to taste.

Divide the cooked pasta evenly between 4 serving bowls, spoon over the sauce and garnish with the nuts and basil leaves.

And enjoy.

Although I was paid to write this post  I have absolutely been loving using the Philly products I was given at the Bloggers Brunch.  You can see the Strawberry Santas I made here using the Philly frosting and the Baked Porridge with Walnuts and Prunes I made, using the Cream for Cooking, which is 85% lower in fat than regular cream.

So if you are struggling for ideas for dinner, perhaps these mother's little helpers will be of interest to you.  I am loving them.  Oh and by the way, the Thai Green Curry Cream for Cooking was delish as well.
Today I am linked up here
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Chocolate Chip Cookies in Jar, A Sweet Home Made Gift

Christmas Chocolate Chip Cookies in Jar

Hello Beach Dwellers
We are instigating the KISS principle were possible this Christmas and I thought this would be a good idea for a teacher appreciation or hostess gift.  It's a little bit like a home made packet cake, but a whole lot better when it is cooked from raw ingredients with few preservatives or the nasties you often find in packet options, which to me, make the end result usually taste yuck.

I have never really understood the value of packet cakes.  The level of effort required in getting together a bit of flour, sugar, salt and any other dry ingredients, seemed minimal in comparison to adding some eggs and butter to a packet cake. And the home made results in taste and texture, always made the extra five minutes of effort so worth it.  Anyway for this model, the layering was easy enough.  If you are a child of the 70's and living in Australia, you may remember a time when it was OK to go to Fraser Island, off the coast of Queensland and collect the coloured sands from the beach, layer them into jars and take them home for posterity.  That is so not OK now and that's as it should be, but it reminded me of those happy days, when my dad and I used to climb the sand dunes, digging up the beautifully hued sands.

I sifted in the flour and lightly shook the jar to get it to level out.  The sugar I spooned in and patted down to make flat.  This choc chip recipe doesn't usually have the sugar coated peanuts, and they made the cookies very sweet, but the kiddos seemed to love them.  The reason I put them in, is because I wanted to add something red into the mix.  You could use a recipe with craisins or cranberries as well.  Or even red Smarties or M&Ms to double as choc chips.  Really the possibilities are endless.

I made a card, so I could list the instructions for cooking and also advise the recipient melted butter and vanilla needed to be added to the mixture.  I managed to fit an egg into the jar as well, as space provided.  I laid it on crumpled baking paper to provide a little more texture and interest to the jar.

Tie on a big red bow and this becomes a beautiful Christmas gift, made with love.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sugar Coated Peanuts
125g// 4oz melted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1.5 cups of plain flour
1/2 cup dark chocolate bits
1/2 cup red sugar coated peanuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
Pour contents of the jar into a mixing bowl excluding the egg, mix to combine.
Add melted butter, vanilla and the egg. Stir well to combine.
Using a teaspoon take a heaped amount and roll it into a ball.
Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Flatten slightly.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden, stand on the tray for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire wrack to cool completely. 

My other baking ideas are here.

For more Christmas ideas go here.

Wishing you a wonderful week.
Today I am linked up here
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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sweet Beach House in Avalon's Best Street

Hi Beach Dwellers
Our Beach House of the Week is in one of the best Streets in Avalon, on Sydney's Northern Beaches.  Clean lines and large light open spaces, make this home a typically sought after Australian Beach House.  Enjoy the journey down and here is a link if you care to know more.

Hope you are having a great weekend.
Today I am linked up here
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Baked Porridge with Walnuts and Prunes and a like from Tony Bennett

Baked Porridge with Walnuts and Prunes

Hands up who needs a little bit of lower fat comfort food in their lives!!!!  No?  Really?  Believe me, if you take the time to love your body just a little bit, it will love you right back a whole lot more!!!!!  I've been nicer to my body over the last 12 months, than I have been to it for the last 10 years and it is paying off big time.  You know about the weight loss already, but I am starting to get stopped in the street as well.  A friend stopped me the other day after I had been walking towards her for a minute or so.  She told me she said to herself.  "Is that Carolyn, no it can't possibly be, but if it is, I'm going to stop her and tell her how good she looks."  I assume she means good compared to how I used to look.  I mean I am on the wrong side of 40 and we are not talking Claudia Shiffer here, but clearly after all the effort, it is starting to pay dividends.

So last Friday I got in the bath with my new happier body,  some wine and some Tony Bennett on the stereo.  I so enjoyed it, after I got out, I grabbed the phone and instagramed this shot.  Probably too much information, but that's what a few wines and a nice time will do to you. And hey, it's cheaper then therapy!!!!  The tag line was Grateful for #baths and #wine on a Friday arvo. And #tonybennett

It raised a few queries on my personal face book page and we had a laugh, basically around the fact that my shoulder is the best bit of me these days.  My mum, who recently joined face book,  balled me out, but who cares, I'm my own woman.

But on the theme of being noticed, which can often be unusual for a woman of my vintage in Australia, a funny thing happened. Because I tagged Tony Bennett, he liked the photo on instragram, or at least his people did.  Which I thought was incredibly sweet and made my day.  These days I'll take the likes where I find them, they are so few and far between. Even if they are via an over 80 year old crooner.

And the moral of the story is, if you want to be kinder to yourself, have a bath with Tony Bennett and some Rose.  Enjoy yourself, because every day above ground is a good one and I am celebrating that.  Oh and make yourself some of this fantastic baked porridge, Guaranteed to bring comfort and goodness to all who indulge in her.

Baked Porridge with Walnuts and Prunes
1.5 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of pitted prunes diced
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
500ml /16 fl oz low fat milk
250 ml / 8 fl oz thickened cream, I used Philadelphia Cream for Cooking, which has 85% less fat than regular cream
Cooking oil spray for greasing.

Preheat oven to 150C/310F
Spray a medium size baking dish (big enough to hold the milk) with olive oil spray. Toss in the oats, walnuts, prunes spices, salt and vanilla.
Mix to combine
Pour over the milk and cream and stir through.
Mix through 1 tablespoon of the sugar.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes on the top shelf.
Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and bake for a further 15 minutes.
Serve from the oven, melt into the moment and enjoy.

For my other simple baking ideas go here.

And remember what Budda said,

"The trouble is, you think you have time"

Have a great weekend  peeps.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pottery Barn and Friends are Arriving Down Under

Many years ago a sweet girlfriend moved to the US.  As Mr Beach House is a boat builder, she left in our care, a big outboard motor to sell.  They left in kind of a rush.  After much running around, we sold it and in return she sent me a lovely gift.  Included in the package where several catalogues from Pottery Barn, a store which at the time, I had never heard of. However, from that day forward, I realised there was more to homewares and interior design, than was currently available in Australia.  I realised the true meaning of house porn and so began a long distance love affair. 

 I still have those catalogues, they are now well thumbed.  Their covers have been scribbled on by over zealous children and there just may be little a drool on them as well, but I have always loved to look at them and dream.  To me these kinds of homes and their contents were only ever available in the States.  Those lucky Americans seemed to have all the good stuff, beautiful quality designer homewares, at all the right prices. Many interiors bloggers including me, have long lamented the difference and how we wished we had access to some of the beautiful brands which were available State side. 

Well Beach Dwellers, the wait is over, Pottery Barn and associated brands, West Elm and Williams Sonoma are set to become the signature stores in the new Exchange Building currently under construction in Bondi Junction.

Williams Sonoma a high end retailer of quality cookware and accessories, will feature  a cooking school and professional demonstration kitchen, with a calendar of cooking classes, tastings and demonstrations by guest chefs.  I will definitely be signing up for some of those.  Can you imagine rubbing shoulders with some of the best cooks in the country?  I can't wait.

The Pottery Barn experience also sounds fabulous and if they allowed me to move in, I would.  There will be destinations in the store dedicated to living and dining rooms, kitchen, bed and bath.  What is exciting about this store is at its centre, will be housed a complimentary Design Studio, where clients will be invited to sit with trained associates to discuss their decorating and plan their interior and exterior living spaces.

Pottery Barn Kids will also offer a complimentary design service  in store to assist in the planning of your childrens' bedrooms, nurseries and play rooms, with the aim of creating safe and child friendly spaces in your home. Designers will also be available to provide a design service in your home.

The West Elm Brand, also part of the Williams Sonoma family, will take up residence in the Exchange building and is dedicated to creating collections that cannot be found anywhere else. The West Elm team works with artists and designers globally, to develop bespoke pieces exclusive to the brand.  West Elm offers an increasing number of products which are non toxic, recycled, rapidly renewable and organic.  They will also offer a design service to assist you in incorporating these exciting signature pieces into your home. 

So there you have it Desirables, the hottest news in retail to hit Australian shores for some time, will become a reality early next fiscal year.  I hope to see you there.  I have a feeling these new stores will become my second home.

This is not a sponsored post, but I am excited about the arrival of these stores in Australia and thought you would like to know about it too.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Strawberry Santas for Christmas

Strawberry Santas

Hello Desireables

All good with you?  I hope so!!!!  We've been playing with strawberries and philly cheese over the weekend and this is what happened.  I saw this idea over at Kidspot and decided to have a go myself.  It was soooooo easy, I mean 15-20 minutes easy and loads of fun.  I took a plate of these down to the yacht club for dessert at a post race BBQ.  The kids were beside themselves and lets just say, they didn't make it to dessert, rather they became the starter.

I recently attended a bloggers brunch and came home with a bag full of the new Philadelphia cheese products including this frosting.  I spooned about 3-4 dessert spoons of it into a piping bag....  you know the ones from IKEA....yes they work and are very easy to use and wash out in hot water afterwards.  If you don't want to go to the trouble of a piping bag, you could use whipped cream or frosting in a can I guess.  The Philly cheese however, has just the right level of sweetness to compliment the strawberry and was lovely with the santa's hats on Jatz I made below.

At first I used the black Queens writing icing to make santa's buttons, but I do believe they look better with the frosting.

Another option I played around with, was Santa's hats.  They were a little more fiddly than the strawberry Santas, but worth a try if you love this kind of thing like I do.  I just put a dob of philly cheese on the jatz to secure the strawberry.

A dob for the pom pom.

And some 'fur' trim at the bottom.

How to Make  Santa Strawberries

1-2 punnets of large strawberries hulled.
3-4 heaped dessert spoons of Philly Cream Cheese frosting spooned into a piping bag.
Black icing writing (Queens from the supermarket baking section works well)
1 satay stick to attach the 'buttons'

Cut strawberries 1/3 of the way down from the pointy end across ways.
Stand the larger part of the strawberry on its bottom.
Pipe on the philly cream cheese frosting, to form the face. Just once around seemed enough.
Gently press the remaining part of the strawberry onto the philly cheese to form the hat.
Pipe a dob of philly on the top of the hat, to form the pom pom.

Pipe some extra philly onto a chopping board.
Gather a small dob on the end of the satay stick and place on the front of the strawberry to form Santa's buttons.  Repeat to make two buttons per strawberry.

Use the black icing writing to make Santa's eyes and mouth. 

I promise these really were simple and they created lots of Christmas joy.
For other easy Christmas baking and craft ideas go here

Have a great week.

This is NOT a sponsored post I just liked the products.

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