Ice cream cake

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A friend of mine had a birthday recently. Rose and I made her an ice cream cake. It’s not too difficult, provided you don’t try to make it in 42C weather, so consider yourself warned!

We bought a nice quality vanilla ice cream, let it get a bit soft, then mashed treats into it. We went for chopped jelly lollies (they freeze into little rocks so be sure to chop them), peanut M&Ms, and chopped raspberry licorice logs filled with chocolate. We swirled some chocolate fudge sauce through it, and mixed up a second lot with ground cardamom and cinnamon, chopped Turkish delight, and flaked almonds. Then we poured it into a big basin and froze it overnight.

The next day I tipped it onto a plate and decorated it with fresh whipped cream, strawberries, raspberry M&Ms, a chocolate ‘Happy Birthday’ disc, and halved fruit flavoured macaroons. Everything is glued to the ice cream using a chocolate sauce.

It was a success, it’s a very rich dish and you only need a small serve! But it’s very simple, and great for a hot weather party. 🙂

Rainbow Salad

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I crave salads in hot weather. I love them anyway, but a cold, crispy, crunchy, tasty plate of veg is particularly delightful when it’s so hot you can feel your eyeballs boiling in your skull.

Rose has a friend who brings the most amazing Rainbow Salad to gatherings. She was kind enough to share her recipe, which is more of a loose guide, and we’ve been creating our own. They are delicious! Here’s how to do it:

Grate some colourful hard vegetables, such as carrots and beetroot.

Finely chop some greens. Lettuce, spinach, kale, cress, rocket, or any combination.

Finely chop any other vegetables you want to add such as cucumber, capsicum or tomato. Remove the seeds from anything that will make the salad soggy. Add in any small items such as herbs or sprouts.

The idea is to go for a great mix of colours. 🙂

Next, lightly pan fry whatever handful of seeds or nuts you fancy. Hazelnuts, pepitas, pine nuts, sesame seeds… Add them to the salad.

If you’re feeling fancy you can add extra protein such as egg, chicken, sliced beef, or fried haloumi.

Dress with any mix of oils and acids such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, lemon juice, vinegar, verjuice… Don’t dress it until you’re about to eat. It will keep in the fridge if sealed, before you dress it.

It tastes amazing, and different every time. It’s my new favourite salad.

I’m horribly low in iron at the moment and apart from supplements my doc has recommended I eat a lot more red meat, in small portions. Apparently even a little serve of red meat with a leafy green salad like this one boosts your ability to absorb the iron from the salad.

6 Layer Rainbow Cake

Rose celebrated her birthday recently, and part of my gift was an insanely large, 6 layer rainbow cake! It took me a couple of days and was rather difficult to transport, but it turned out beautifully!
imageI’d never made one before so I did a bit of research and came to a couple of important conclusions. The first is that these cakes need a LOT of frosting to glue them together, so it had better taste really good! The second is that just colouring a vanilla sponge was practically false advertising. Take it from the girl who taste tested a lot of those scented textas and was always extremely disappointed… flavour is important!

I decided on a cocktail of fruit flavours that would harmonise together well, and chose for Red – Strawberry, Orange – Peach, Yellow – Passionfruit, Green – Pear, Blue – Blueberry, and Purple – Grape. I chose Lorann Oils as they offered the range of flavours I was looking for. Each layer was basically a whole cake, I used about 1.2 to 3/4 of a 1 dram bottle but could have gone to a whole bottle each I reckon. The tastes are not like the real fruit, but ‘lolly’ fruit versions, which suits this cake pretty perfectly. For really strong colours I prefer the food colour gels. I’ve always used Wilton, which are great, but for a couple of these colours I decided to try Americolor Soft Gel Pastes which I preferred as they are much less messy to use. The purple and green layers in my cake are Americolor, the rest are Wilton.

Start by buying ingredients. A LOT of ingredients! I ended up going back for more eggs and icing sugar!
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Start with a test batch – check out colour and flavour intensity after baking.image

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Mmmmmmmm now make all the separate layers. I used a simple vanilla sponge and substituted half the vanilla with other flavours. Separate each mix into 2 bowls and colour and flavour.

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Pour into lined cakes tins. I have three that are identical for baking layered cakes. wpid-Sarah-K-Reece-Rainbow-cake-layers-.jpg

Next, make up a huge quantity of buttercream. I chose an American Cream Cheese Buttercream for better flavour, it is a crusting type, which means it dries comparatively hard. Good for gluing lots of cake together. wpid-Sarah-K-Reece-Buttercream-.jpg

Then, I trimmed all the cakes flat, and started to stack them. The outer layer of the cake will always be golden brown, I trim off anything crusty as it can make a big cake like this more difficult to cut.

wpid-Sarah-K-Reece-Rainbow-cake-stack.jpgOnce all the layers are stacked, Add a thin crumb coat, and leave in a cool room to set overnight. This is how I transported the cake all the way up to Monarto Zoo where the party was! The reason for that is this way I could hold the cake while wearing latex gloves whenever I needed to steady it (obviously I wasn’t driving the car) without marking the final icing layer.
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Once at Monarto I whipped out a spatula and added the final luscious layer of vanilla icing. image

Then, just slice and serve! Woot!

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It made for very looooong slices of cake. Unlike this photo, I took very thin slices and folded them in half to fit them on the cake. People loved the different flavours, especially the passionfruit.
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We filled everyone up and send many home with extra cake for dessert!image

We applied glitter tattoos to the guests instead of giving out party bags, which went down very well. Our one major oversight was not realising that there are no BBQ’s at Monarto Zoo. The very kind café owner came to our rescue and cooked up all our sausages for our lunch for everyone. We were so lucky! Rose had a great day and the next day I took her back there to feed the lions. It was a really awesome weekend. 😀

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Baking Adventures

Back before I decided to personally host half of the infectious diseases known to man, I baked. Time to share photos! One of my close friends, who’s been a part of Bridges since the very first group meeting nearly two years ago, recently celebrated their birthday and I was invited to make the cake. It was a surprise cake and wonderfully fun! I created a secret board on pinterest and pinned loads of ideas and recipes to share with my co-conspirators. We narrowed the brief down to some specific ideas:
1. Chocolate cake, but not too sweet or rich
2. Pink!
3. Butterflies
4. Glitter
I started by making the butterflies. These were mild chocolate, with purple coloured white chocolate wings, and edible holographic silver glitter. The chocolate was flavoured with kahlua essence. The first lot I made didn’t work because I’d stored my chocolate for too long but a trip to the service station fixed that. It’s good to be near local stores that are open weird hours when you’re prone to nocturnal baking!
You can make them with the wings upright like this by first making just the wings and letting them set, then peeling them off the baking paper, putting folded baking paper in a folded cardboard v, and piping in a little butterfly chocolate body. Then rest each wing gently until it touches the body and allow the butterfly to set.
I made these a week in advance as they keep really well. The cake was a plain simple chocolate cake recipe from one of my decorating books. I baked three flat cakes in three identical tins. I was really not impressed with this recipe, the mix was really stodgy and the end result wasn’t inspiring. Not inedible, but not great. Nevertheless, it did the job.

For a filling I settled on a recipe for creme parisienne, which is a chocolate ganache, cooled and whipped. Wow, did that work well! It became basically invisible once sandwiched between layers of chocolate cake, which was a shame as part of the fun of a layer cake is the stripes, but the taste… Mmmmm.

I carefully chose a buttercream recipe that incorporated cream cheese for better flavour, and added wilton pink gel food colouring for the outer icing. I’ve been working more with fondant lately, which is fun, but the flavour – ugh. And definitely not suitable for someone who wants a less rich, sticky cake.

I iced the whole cake and decided to pipe some basic shells with the extra icing. I’ve not yet much used my exciting set of icing tips so this was new and great fun!

Next, add the glittery butterflies on the side and the chocolate words on the top – they read “Happy Birthday dear friend!”

Then the really fun bit – my first attempts at piping buttercream roses! They were far from professional but they did look like flowers so I was really happy with that. I made large dark pink ones and smaller violet ones.

Then added leaves, dots, and candles. These were cool rainbow candles where the flame was supposed to be the same colour as the candle… it was kinda hard to tell truth be told.

Last step – add all those chocolate butterflies. Viola!

Here it is on my very sweet new white cake stand – purchased as EVERY store I went to looking for a simple cake board that weekend had sold out. Still, it’s gorgeous and I’m sure I’ll use it again. Icing around the little sparrow was a little tricky but… Mmmm lovely.

There you have it. Things I get up to when I’m well. 🙂

Christening Cake

This Sunday morning the adorable Sophie is going to be Christened… and I am going to be a godparent! I am SO excited, I’ve waited my whole life to be godmum to someone… so there is celebratory cake. 🙂

Yesterday I made a very indulgent chocolate mudcake, which turned out to take about 3 1/2 hours to cook in the oven! I was also thrown by my total un-preparedness for the Easter long weekend and all the shops being closed. The store I found open didn’t stock the fondant I wanted to ice the cake with. I thought about buttercream (too messy to do in advance), ganash (ditto), and the marzipan there (nasty colour and sticky), and decided to ice the cake today instead when the shops opened again and I could buy fondant. The cake rose more than I expected and overflowed my tin, so this morning I decided to cut it into a rounded shape and allow the little dip in the middle to be a nest for my rose buds.

This is where things started this morning:

Then purple fondant icing:

Next, I decided to make marzipan roses but both shops I visited today stocked fondant but were out of marzipan… go figure! So I found a recipe for modelling chocolate and decided on white chocolate roses with red glitter instead… It was a real pain to work with and crippled the hands to knead soft enough to use. Fortunately Rose chipped in and helped out with the rose buds:

Lastly, royal icing swirls…

And we have a lovely colourful Christening cake 🙂

So I’m considering that a day well spent, and now Rose and I are off to have a picnic dinner somewhere we can see the city lights in the car. 🙂

Airplane cupcakes!

Rose and I finished them! Despite all the sickness and mess of the week (we’ve both had gastro), today were defrosted them all in front of a fan, dipped them in a second coat of blue fondant and glitter, piped little windows onto the airplanes and clouds onto the cupcakes, and away we went. 🙂 They were a smash hit at the party. Tonight we got back and after an hour of cleaning and tidying I have only about 2 sinks of dirty dishes left to wash,sigh. I’m both looking forward to, and somewhat dreading the christening cake I’ve said I’ll make this week…

Baking birthday cupcakes

Rose has been sick with a nasty bug going around, and I’ve agreed to make 2 dozen cupcakes for her nephews 3rd birthday party this weekend, so I’ve been busy playing nurse and baking the past couple of days. The cupcakes are starting to look wonderful… I spent Tuesday baking a test run of 3 dozen and trialing different methods of icing and storing them. I’m using a dipped fondant for the icing, in three shades of blue. I don’t want to be icing them all the morning of the party so I’ve tinkered and found that I can ice them all in advance and freeze them, provided I thaw them in the fridge for a couple of hours, then in front of the fan after that to reduce the condensation that forms as they thaw. The cupcakes themselves are lovely, a moist banana and spice flavor, in little green foil pans. Rose and I have also molded little air planes out of sugar paste: Which we are painting with edible silver paint. These will be glued onto the blue cupcakes with little white icing clouds. It’s been a bit stressful with the unexpected sickness and I’m feeling pretty rough around the edges, but it has been fun to crack open my icing set again… Hopefully it all comes together okay on Saturday. Next week it’s another big cake to prepare too… 🙂

Burgers!

I’ve been working on a few posts lately, of the serious and thought-out kind on mental health topics… I’ve been pretty unwell and in a lousy headspace for the past few weeks so these are not the kinds of things I can put together in a day. But in the meantime, today I woke up feeling great for the first time in living memory (almost) so I’ve had an excellent day, gone and harassed half my friends in the name of being a facilitator of Bridges, and now I’m home with other friends round and we’ve made enormous burgers and are about to game together in Torchlight 2. So there’s your update – still alive, not in massive pain for the moment, headspace is possibly on the irritatingly cheeky side which is a considerable improvement on the neurotic and teary side that I’ve been stuck in, and all is well with my world. Hope your week finished well too. x

Tiramisu

Making a small amount of time in my schedule to indulge my passion for cooking… My first tiramisu. 🙂 It has sponge fingers dipped in coffee and frangelico, cream, chocolate fudge sauce, fresh cherries and apricots, and toasted flaked almonds. It was delicious and very, very easy.

Dining Table!

I have a stunning antique dining table! I unfortunately, no longer have a lounge room, but that’s a problem I’m working on. 😉 It’s absolutely beautiful and I adore it, belonged to parents of friends of mine. I need some chairs to go with it, and I’m paranoid about the possibility of Zoe gnawing on it, but just think of the wonderful dinner parties I’ll have now! 🙂 
Working in the area of Eating Disorders lately I’ve noticed that my food issues have taken a little bit of a dive under the extra pressure. Getting a dining table to serve myself meals and enjoy them is one of the things I’m doing to manage that. Whee hee! 🙂

Party

I hosted a party the other night at my place. This was the dessert I made – perfect for multiples. It has a kid angle – the immersed freddo frog, and an adult angle – the middle green layer is heavily laced with midori. 🙂 The cream was whipped and flavoured with sugar and vanilla, and the whole thing went down very smoothly. For the alcoholic jelly this is what I did:
200ml boiling water1 packet lime green jelly mix250ml (1 cup) of midori, refrigerated
Mix the boiling water and jelly until all the crystals have dissolved. Allow to cool on the bench until you can touch it comfortably.Stir in the chilled midori (You chill it to prevent the hot water evaporating out the alcohol)Refrigerate until setEat.
Enjoy!

Salad In A Jar

I’d heard of these all over the net and always wanted to try one. (some recipes ideas here) The other day I made this the night before and then took it to work. Yuuuum! Beware of two things however – watery tomatoes make for about 3x as much salad dressing the next day, and you can stuff a lot of salad into a little jar, don’t over-cater! I love having regular work. I love having a work fridge to put my food in, and a desk to eat at. I love feeling like I have a right to be there and use the utensils and not have to ask anyone’s permission or concentrate on not cringing around the ‘real’ staff. I love it. 🙂
You can make up to 5 of these on Sunday night and they will all stay fresh in your fridge until you need them each day. There’s a lot of different flavour options out there, the key is basically to keep the greens and other ingredients that start to spoil when exposed to dressing right up the top where they stay dry, and use the ingredients like cucumber and tomato that will kind of pickle and soak up all the flavour of the dressing for the bottom layer. If you like your dressing well mixed, blend it or put it in a food processor, that will keep the oil and acids blended for a long time. I don’t care and I hate doing dishes so I just pour my dressing ingredients in as is and shake it up a bit before I eat it. Start by pouring in the dressing then layer all the other ingredients in on top. Have fun!

Gardening And Waffles

This is a very busy week for me, and I am remembering why I try to have a couple of days off after gardening; I’m pretty stiff and sore! The lawn was starting to devour the garden furniture though, so there was nothing for it but to roll up the sleeves. Here’s what it looked like at the start:

Then we got in there with a lawnmower borrowed from a friend… It was like magic once we worked out how to start it (hint, use your dominant hand for the pull starter).

Friends came round to help and we collected some plants that another friend had been looking after for me. Thrilled to have such a decent sized garden to be starting here with! A big task now is digging up the lawn and planting all the plants so I’m not struggling to keep them all watered in pots over the summer.

We planted a number of roses round the edge as a thorny fence to protect my veggies 🙂

Then, there were waffles! First cheese and corn:

Then apple and cinnamon with whipped cream:

Totally worth every ache. Can’t wait to get a veggie patch planted!

Hot Chocolate Recipes

I made three, super indulgent hot chocolate drinks for The Party this week, and I’ve had a few requests for recipes. You can substitute your preferred type and brand of chocolate in any of these, the recipes are very accommodating. All these recipes will keep for several days in the fridge and can be gently reheated. If you leave in the spices until ready to serve, the flavour will continue to develop.Hot chocolate
Persian Style:
Mild and sweet. 

250g White Cadbury Melts
1 cup full cream milk
8 cardamom pods
2 Tablespoons of rose water OR 1teaspoon of rose extract

  1. Pour the milk, cardamom pods, and rose into a saucepan and heat gently. Do not allow to boil. Steep the flavours in the hot milk for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Turn off the heat, add the chocolate and stir until combined.
  3. Taste test. Add ground cardamom or extra rose water if desired.
  4. Remove the pods and serve hot in shot glasses or over desserts as a hot sauce.

Warming:
Perfect on cold nights.

250g Milk Cadbury Melts
1 cup full cream milk
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (to taste)

  1. Pour the milk into a saucepan and gently heat until hot but not boiling.
  2. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate melts and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine.
  3. Taste test and add more cayenne if needed. I like a gentle tingle at the back of the throat in the aftertaste, but no actual peppery taste to the chocolate.
  4. Serve hot.



Spiced 
Chocolate:
Complex and delicious.

250g Dark Cadbury Melts
1 cup full cream milk
3 strips of fresh orange peel
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tablespoon of honey (I used Blue Gum, very strong flavour)
1 teaspoon of quality vanilla essence
1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder
pinch of chili powder

  1. Pour the milk into a saucepan with the spices, essence, and honey. Gently heat until hot but not boiling. Allow to steep for at least 1/2 hour.
  2. Turn off the heat, add in the chocolate and stir to combine.
  3. Taste test. Adjust flavours to your preference.
  4. Serve hot.

If you prefer a big mug to a little shot glass for your hot chocolate, you can increase the quantity of milk in these recipes. Up to 1 litre of milk to 250g of chocolate is still very rich and delicious. Alternatively, make up the original recipe, then stir a healthy dollop into a mug of hot milk for those guests who prefer mugs.

The Party

Was an awesome celebration with some of my favourite people in the world. There were incredibly mad hats at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in the afternoon.

There was an amazing spread of food:

Including cucumber sandwiches

And an incredible cake sculpted into the shape of a top hat:

That had three rainbow coloured layers inside!

That evening we had potatoes cooked on the fire

With homemade spiced hot chocolates

And when we were briefly rained on, I found my modest umbrella collection and we stuck it out until it fined up.
Our first year of a peer-led support group for people experiencing dissociation and/or multiplicity has not been without challenges. One of the biggest ones is that dissociation is a broad category and often new members are anxious and keen to feel they fit in. If they are the only guy there that week, or the oldest or youngest member there, or the only person struggling with a particular type of dissociation, or they feel they’re the most functioning member in a room full of mentally ill people, or the biggest wreck in a room full people who are miles ahead in recovery, it can be a challenge to help them feel comfortable enough to stay and engage. The mindset shift to that of being comfortable in a diverse group can take some time, and it’s not unless a newcomer is willing to attend and represent a minority of some kind that the next person with those characteristics who comes along will find somebody in the group like them. It takes a lot of courage to be the first!

It also takes a mental shift to embrace that a healthy group is supposed to be a safe place for you, where your needs count, but also a place you contribute to supporting other people’s needs and helping them feel safe too. Some people find that group approach isn’t helpful to them, not what they needed. Some find groups appealing but stressful for various reasons. Some people connect briefly, then drop off the radar, leaving us wondering if they’re okay, if there was something different they needed, if there was anything else we could do for them. Some come while its needed then go on to other things. Some stay on, become family, helping new members and building a strong group. The lack of pressure and open door policy mean members come and go as they need, can be as free or as close as is helpful for them and change their minds as often as they wish.

Some people opposed the idea of a peer led group for people who are considered to have ‘severe mental illness’. The idea that we may have something to offer each other, and that community is crucial to recovery, are fairly revolutionary even today. After a year of running Bridges, I feel very confident and excited that our trial has been a magnificent success. We have built on positive feedback, adapted to negative feedback and the group has grown and adapted organically with the members. We have learned a lot from each other, and perhaps most importantly, none of us are alone anymore. It was a lot to celebrate. 🙂

Bridges Birthday

The Dissociation support group I co-facilitate and helped found has been running for a year now and today we are celebrating. During group we are planning a Mad Hatters Tea Party, with cake and chocolate and cucumber sandwiches. And some pretty incredible hats I might add! In the evening we’ll be having a campfire, I hope, if the weather holds. I’ve been cooking and preparing, I now have a type of rice pudding called arroz con leche made up:


Some lovely mini lemon meringue pies, starting with the pastry shell in my mini muffin tray:


Then filling with homemade lemon curd and piped meringue:


Then finishing in the oven until browned:


I also have ingredients for spiced hot chocolates, smores, and baked potatoes. I may have got a little carried away. 🙂 It’s nice to get carried away from time to time. Shame the kitchen’s trashed!

Baking Day

I went to the dentist again yesterday morning, and had the rest of a root canal done. I never enjoy dental work, although I don’t find it as harrowing as things involving needles. I’ve been trying to work on the needle phobia in therapy lately, there’s a lot of things driving it for me which complicates the process somewhat. But we must be on to something because I was able to relax so deeply at the dentists today I dropped into a light sleep and started dreaming while he was cleaning out my roots. So I’m feeling very thoughtful and interested in learning more. I wish I could afford more frequent appointments but at least medicare covers some.

Anyway, my face is sore and I’m short of sleep so I took the day off. Lounged about, tried to nap, had a bath, did some laundry, then decided to bake. I made double batches of chocolate – banana cupcakes: tangerine cupcakes: and coconut cupcakes: I’m hoping to have enough to take round to all my groups over the next couple of days. 🙂
Looking good so far 🙂 Shame about all the dishes though!

Pictures to warm you up

Still sick and miserable. Not taking any more painkillers now because I’ve hit all the warning signs of liver and kidney stress. The levels have reduced enough to make this manageable. My world is currently my bed, my armchair, the tv, and my very nice new phone which I’m terrified of dropping. I’ve signed onto a contract and hopefully will manage not to lose, drop, soak, or otherwise destroy my very fancy new phone before the two years are up! Today I had enough energy to shower and put some pears and cardamom on to stew in my rice cooker. As long as I keep heat and gentle pressure on my face, things are okay. Sarsaparilla is being smoochy and adorable – today I discovered that he loves to have his chest and tummy scratched. He’s never rolled over for a rub before, he really seems to be blossoming. I need to buy a cat tree for him however, as he’s taken to amusing himself by clawing up my nice rug and chewing all the plastic ends on my shoelaces. I have watched a lot of people running around on tv (still can’t focus well enough to read) and amused myself by taking photos with my phone. 

Getting back into cooking

I’ve been doing a lot more cooking lately, which is something I used to enjoy a lot but kind of fell by the wayside when life got complicated about 18 months ago. Cooking is a good sign for me, a settled in, I-have-a-home thing. During times of crisis I eat tinned soup or sandwiches from service stations. I’ve recently bought myself a cheap 5 cup rice cooker, which is perfect for someone who lives alone. Here’s my first meal in it, chocolate, orange, and raisin rice pudding. These are awesome and can cook just about anything, I really recommend them. Certainly a lot easier than hand stirring a risotto!

I also cooked a batch of cheesy mini scones recently. I love scones, they’re so simple and tasty.

Basic one-pan cooking for the person who lives alone 🙂

And the ultimate lazy meal – a bit of everything tasty from the fridge or cupboard. Feels good to be preparing my own food again.