Getting crafty.

Hey friends.

This afternoon we’re going to poke our heads around a new corner, and embark on an adventure down a different street. You may have noticed that the tagline at the top of the page says “adventures in gardening, cooking and craft”. It’s hardly a secret that numbers one and three in that trio are pretty heavily overlooked, though in actual fact, they feature quite prominently in my day-to-day happenings. I spend many days in the garden, tending to herbs and vegetables for the kitchen and for sale at the local farmers’ market. Most other times are spent cooking or baking, or surrounded by calico, glue, and paper-making equipment.

Earlier in the year, I came up with this little plan to make things from recycled, found and foraged materials, and create an online store where they could sit, and hopefully find a home. Over six months later, I have finally taken some mug shots and escorted them to Made It – an online market for goods handmade in Australia (similar to etsy). Let me introduce you to twig & stitch.

At this stage, there are only three items, looking a bit lonely. But I’m hoping that making twig & stitch known will provide me with some motivation to pursue the crafties and get creative.

Have a look if you like, and enjoy your evening :)

www.madeit.com.au/twigandstitch

Chocolate (and vegetable) cupcakes.

I don’t really know what to say.

I’ll be the first to admit to being quite a fan of slipping legumes and vegetables into sweeties, so I was fairly stoked to find that this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop theme is “Cake and Three Veg”. However this time, I may have developed a slightly crazed obsession and got a little bit freaky with my veg-sugar combinations.

It’s always nice to think that eating a cake could actually be providing you with nutritious goodies like iron and protein, not just sugar. In the past, I’ve experimented a lot with chickpeas, pumpkin and zucchini in cakes, and have come up with delightfully tasty results. As I sat, brainstorming ideas for this month’s little challenge, for some reason I became fixated on the idea that including just one vegetable would definitely not be enough. The result was this: Chocolate, bean and chard cupcakes with potato icing. I know. I’m still not sure whether this decision was a strange delusion or what, but I did it. The truth is that these are just the vegetables and legumes I happened to have in the kitchen and garden. Simple decision really.

I stealthily went about my baking, feeling terribly uncertain about what on earth I was doing. My dad walked past as I was finishing icing the last cake. He remarked that they looked good, and asked if he could have one. My response was something along the lines of, “Errr, yeah, you can if you like… but they might be a bit… weird. I don’t know. It’s up to you. I won’t mind of you hate them.”
Not exactly brimming with confidence, was I? Must work on that.

I was pleased that the feedback was positive, and that they were “good” and “chocolatey”. Relief. I chose not to tell him what was in them, out of fear that the rest wouldn’t be eaten.

And so, here is a piece of advice on serving sweet foods made of vegetables. Unless you have very adventurous friends, hold off telling people what’s hidden in your tasty creations until after they’ve tried it. In fact, it may not even be necessary to tell people at all. Though in the case of these cupcakes (which are pretty much a meal in themselves), a warning not to eat too many might be in order. You could even try serving them as a main+dessert combination, just to revel in the confusion that will follow.

There is just one problem. I know exactly what is in these cakes, and my head is putting up an extreme mental barrier to eating them. Healthy – yes. Chocolatey – yes. But there’s chard in them. I love chard, but my brain screams “not with chocolate!”. Never mind. I’ll just have to feed them to unsuspecting visitors*.

*To my friends, I promise I won’t trick you into eating any more vegetables unknowingly. Legumes, yes. Chard and potato, no.

Chocolate (and vegetable) cupcakes

Makes approx 15 cupcakes

Cake mix:
2 large leaves (or equivalent) of chard
230g cooked red kidney beans
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa

Icing:
320g potatoes
3/4 cup icing sugar
50g dark chocolate

(Note: if you’re piping the icing, you’ll need more than this, so scale it up a tad. But you should be right if you’re just spreading it on with a knife.)
Preheat the oven to 180C and line muffin pans with patty pans or other liners as you see fit. (I made some up out of squares of baking paper and brown wrapping paper. Suitably earthy, I thought, given the contents of these cakes.)

Blitz the chard in a food processor, then add beans, oil, sugar and water and whizz until you get a fairly smooth consistency with as few lumps of chard and beans as possible. It will look green and you will wonder what you’ve got yourself into. Don’t worry!

Combine the remaining dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the wet to the dry, and mix well. Fill the pans to 3/4 full, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Meanwhile, peel, chop and boil the potatoes, then drain and mash really well. Melt the chocolate using which ever method works for you, then add it to the potato along with the icing sugar. Mix well, and pipe (or spread) on the cupcakes when cool.

Place innocently on display and wait for people to eat them.

 

This post is part of the November Sweet Adventures Blog Hop. Check out the other entries via the link above.

 

Vanilla chai biscuits.

A few years ago I travelled to India. Of all the things I brought back with me, possibly the coolest but least-useful items were wooden stamps.

On the odd occasion, I’ve felt really creative and dusted them off to create stamped gift cards or decorated book covers and such. But I have never been so excited when I thought of using them to stamp food. “Such genius!” I told myself, as my mind raced with possibilities.

I have to confess that stamping biscuits has quite possibly become my new favourite activity. I thought that a vanilla chai flavour would be quite fitting for the Indian stamps, though the flavour seems somewhat less important than the fact that these just look really cool! The biscuits themselves are flavoured with spices, with the vanilla flavour coming from the icing on their bottoms.

Might I suggest enjoying these with a cup of tea?

Vanilla chai biscuits

1 egg white
1 egg yolk
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup olive oil (or other oil)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
approx 10 cardamon seeds, ground (or a small pinch of ground cardamon)
1 tablespoon ginger powder
1 cup plain flour

1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
dash of water

Preheat oven to 180C.

Whisk the egg white until fluffy, then add in sugar. Whisk the yolk with the oil, then add to the egg white along with the spices.

Fold in the flour until combined.

Roll teaspoon-sized quantities of dough into balls, then space evenly on a lined baking tray. If you have a stamp, now is the time to get funky. Push the stamp into the balls of dough to flatten. If you don’t have a stamp, try using a fork or a spoon.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until solid and turning golden. Meanwhile, mix the icing sugar, vanilla essence, and enough water to form a just-runny mixture (which will fall from a spoon, but not in a continuous stream).

Cool the biscuits briefly, then dip the base of each in an icing mixture. Allow to dry on a cooling rack. Tasty!