Sunday, 22 September 2013

I have a coffee addiction...with a difference



I am a coffee addict. I’m addicted to everything about it. I love the smell, the personal rituals, the sound of a real café espresso machine and the passionate way each person defends their coffee preference. I love the names; macchiato, ristretto, latte and of course the ‘event’ of having coffee itself. I love everything about it…except the taste. I can’t stand it.
My husband is Italian and having a ‘caffé’ is a big deal in his family, but unfortunately no matter how much sugar they put in it or how weak they make it, I still don’t like the taste. To me it mostly tastes like burnt cigarettes. (Not that I know what that would taste like but that’s what is conjured up when I attempt to suffer through a cup).
As a consequence I have always felt like an outsider at family get-togethers and social events in general I suppose. How can you bond with your colleagues at coffee time when you’re ordering a cup of tea? I have never heard anyone announce early in the morning that they were “Hanging for a cup of Darjeeling”! I wanted desperately to announce to the Barrista that I am in fact a “Double shot latte, no sugar”, not an “English Breakfast tea with milk”. My 32 year old Tradie brother likes to defend his beverage of choice by proclaiming that “Real Men drink Milo”. I on the other hand am not so confident in my request.
My preoccupation with coffee became even more pronounced during my first pregnancy. Maybe it was because I wasn’t supposed to drink it, but whatever the reason I was fixated on having a reusable coffee cup of my own and being able to stand in line at our local café with my head held high. My obsession did in fact culminate in hours spent pouring over the design of my own ‘Keep Cup’ but sadly it was only used as a receptacle for hot chocolate.
Just when I thought my obsession couldn’t get any more ludicrous, during my second pregnancy, I found myself watching a whole half an hour infomercial on the shopping network about an automatic capsule coffee machine. I had to have one!
Despite taking every opportunity to hint at the fact I would love my own coffee machine my husband would simply rebut, “You don’t even like coffee, that’s crazy!”
I reluctantly had to agree with him.
Then on the morning of my birthday earlier this year, I excitedly unwrapped one of the many boxes presented to me by my wonderful husband. I would never have expected it but there was my very own, shiny, silver capsule coffee machine. I was ecstatic! I cleared space on the bench and read the manual from front to back marvelling at this impressive machine. My husband reasoned the purchase by stating that it was from the kids, as he would never buy me such a ridiculous present. (Personally I think he was secretly excited about it too, he is a coffee drinker after all and he did ‘happen’ to include a packet of capsules for himself with my present!)
 
So now I was set for the biggest task of all, drinking it. I started out with the weakest kind you could get and as much milk as my cup could handle. My husband warned me that if I was going to do it without sugar that my conditioning process might be prolonged. Consequently I added a teaspoon of sweetener to the first few cups but to be honest it could not drown out the bitterness. So I decided to do it hard core style and tackle the bitter temptress head on.
Each morning now, I get my new dedicated coffee cup and go through the process of frothing my milk and preparing my machine. I love it. The aroma is wonderful, the ritual is calming and satisfying at the same time. The coffee is… well, drinkable.  I have tried three different coffee types and finally found one I can swallow. It has taken time and to be honest I rarely finish a cup. I have however finally managed to go to a café and stand proudly amongst fellow coffee addicts and announce “I will have a latte thanks”. So mundane to everyone else but a proud achievement on my part. It’s a lesson to everyone out there, set yourself a goal, work towards it and you too can acquire a new completely unnecessary habit.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Avocado icing (Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free)



Lately I had started getting very frustrated with my baking experiments. I have been attempting to convert some of my favourite recipes into sugar-free, healthy versions and have had a long run of flops. Thankfully Miss M will eat anything with the word 'cake' in it so she polishes off all the baked goods I was ready to throw against the wall!

After having a craving for chocolate cake I decided to experiment with a Chocolate Cake using zucchini in an attempt to sneak some more veggies into Miss M's diet. 

FINALLY- SUCCESS!

The cake is light and the walnuts give it great texture, you wouldn't even know there was zucchini in it! I used dextrose in this recipe and olive oil instead of butter. I would probably increase the dextrose next time as it isn't overly sweet. If you are sugar-free then you will probably like it but if you are still on the 'sweet stuff' then you will probably need to increase the dextrose.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 145 grams dextrose (or 200 grams castor sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 180ml olive oil/grapeseed oil
  • 170 grams grated zucchini
  • 45 grams chopped walnuts
Method

Preheat oven to 165 degrees celcius (fan forced)
Line a 20cm square baking tin with two layers of baking paper (this is important when cooking with dextrose)
(*Note: This recipe also works as cupcakes - I have made 14 standard size cupcakes and 10 baby cupcakes using this recipe, just make sure you reduce baking time to 15 mins for standard size cupcakes)

1. Sift plain flour, spelt flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder into bowl, combine
2. Whisk eggs and oil together
3. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix gently until combined
4. Add grated zucchini and chopped walnuts and combine
5. Pour into lined cake tin
6. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 mins
 

Chocolate Avocado icing

A chocolate avocado recipe had been on my list for a while now and man I wish I had tried it earlier!! IT IS AWESOME! The avocado makes it so smooth, the texture is wonderful, could easily eat this straight from the bowl or on a slice of toast! YUM!

Ingredients
  • 1 small avocado
  • 1/3 cup rice malt syrup
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
Method

1. Scoop out avocado and place in small food processor (I just use the processor attachment to my stick blender)
2. Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth
3. Spread onto cooled cake

Enjoy!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Top 5 Favourite... Kitchen Utensils

Whilst making tuna casserole for the kids recently  (or what I knew as 'Chicken casserole' growing up as I DID NOT EAT TUNA! :))  I had a moment where I thought 'where would I be without my little whisk?' Yes sounds like a funny thing to get sentimental about but it is really one of the most handy kitchen utensils I own. I actually saw Nigella using one once and sought one out, I wasn't disappointed, so simple but so useful.

So this has inspired me to start a 'Top 5 Favourites list' and here is the first edition:

Top 5 Favourite Kitchen Utensils

 
 
  1. Digital scales- I had been wanting some for quite a while and finally got some a couple of years ago, so accurate and can weigh volume as well, can't bake without them.
  2. Lemon/lime squeezer- Well to be honest I did feel like a bit of a 'squeezer' getting one of these! I had seen Ian 'Huey' Hewitson use it on a daily basis on his show and thought how lazy can you get?! Even after I got one it sat in the drawer for ages before I used it but when I did, wow! It is so much easier to squeeze over your cooking and it gets every last drop of juice out.
  3. Jamie Oliver garlic press- I actually researched this for quite a while, I had a decent one and it disappeared, husband bought a cheap one to replace it and every time I used it I felt like throwing it out the window. So after seeing that you could leave the skin on and slice garlic with this one it made it's way to my Xmas wish list for last year! It does a great job.
  4. Furi knife sharpener- So easy to use and sharpens knives in seconds- love it!
  5. Finally my beloved mini whisk- great for making white sauces and whisking in a jug where a large whisk won't fit. Would be lost without it!
(Reading this list I now realise I have been brain washed by celebrity chefs!! Their marketing strategies are working on me!)
 
What are you favourite kitchen utensils/gadgets?