Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Herbed Chicken & Cream Cheese Pastry Parcels

In one of my last posts I was talking about this adorable guy I have been with for 7 years and am still dating.
He's my husband. Yep! Still dating. I'm going to shut up now because I hear that talking openly about your relationship (at least on social media) is an unlikable trait. Strange, I always like hearing about everyone else's relationships! Anyway, I wanted to share our date night dinner with you because this meal hits the list of favourites in this house. Luke brought home a gift for me one day, the most beautifully bound Italian cookbook called Limoncello and Linenwater. It's filled with nostalgia--old black and white photos, quotes from old Italian mamas and old fashioned good housekeeping advice. It's loaded with delightful Italian recipes that make the reader salivate.
The first recipe we both picked out of the book to create was for these delicious herbed chicken and cream cheese pastry parcels.

Encased in a golden envelope of pastry lies a tender chicken breast, marinating as it cooks in cream cheese, fresh rosemary, sage and thyme.

 The smell wafting out of the oven is sensational and the taste utterly enveloping of the senses. Due to its style of cooking in this herby, cheesy sauce, the chicken breast remains moist and tender, and the texture contrast is lovely.
Apologies for the flash photography-that's the trouble with cooking at the end of the day!

 Herbed Chicken & Cream Cheese Pastry Parcels (Adapted from Limoncello and Linenwater by Tessa Kiros pg. 173)

2 x small chicken breast fillets
3 heaped tbsp cream cheese
4 large tyme sprigs
4 large sage leaves
1 small rosemary branch
salt to taste
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).
Remove the pastry from the freezer to thaw.
Meanwhile, pan fry the chicken on medium heat for a few minutes on each side until the exterior is nicely golden.  Strip the leaves off the herbs and chop finely (you should end up with 2 tbsp of herbs in total).
In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese with the herbs, and season with salt.
Cut the pastry down the middle so that there are two even rectangles. Lather both parts of the pastry with half of the cream cheese mixtire. Lay each peice of chicken on each peice of pastry. Use the remaining cream cheese mixture to spread over each chicken breast. Fold the pastry up over the sides of each breast, making sure to overlap some of the pastry so that it holds together over the majority of the breast. (It's ok to have a small gap at the top where the pastry doesnt cover the meat.) Brush a little of the beaten egg over the pastry and discard the remainder.
Cook the parcels for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up and is glossy and golden. Remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 2

NOTES: The cream cheese can be substituted for sour cream or mascapone.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cowch Dessert Bar Review

There's a new kid on the block. A kid that tickles my fancy.
Actually it's a dessert bar. You can see why I've fallen in love with it, because it hits my sweet tooth, and sweets are basically my niche when it comes to baking. Ooh la la!
Cowch has risen to one of my favourite spots in Brisbane city.
The front invitingly opens onto the street, and cushioned milk crates and small comfortable tables spill out onto the path. Glancing inside, you see a cocktail bar tucked over on the left, and a large open fire set in a circular stone pit close by to keep you toasty while you browse the extensive cocktail list. To the far right, across tables and couches, is a large glass cabinet of delightful desserts, a window of pastel ice creams suspended midair, and quirky decor. The ceiling is dotted with cow udder light fittings and glowing glass milk bottles. My eye is drawn to the back wall behind the counter, which shimmers mermaid-style in a silvery pink scaled tile. (What I would do to have that look in my bathroom!)
We are seen to immediately, and have a short wait before being seated, in which time we scoot over to the bar and order from the dessert inspired, cream laden cocktail menu.
I saw why the people piled inside, it was the perfect place to head after dinner or a show for a drink and to finish off with a decadent dessert. My friends and I loved everything about this place.
To top off the night, we even spotted and had a brief chat to the lead dancer (Romeo) from the Romeo and Juliet Ballet sitting on the table next to us. Night made!

 Drawn in off the street by the amazing, glowing dessert cabinet...

 The decor roughly revolves around cows and cream...loving it! There's a large table in the centre of the room for larger groups of people.

A window of at least 15 different ice creams and gelato that is readily available to taste test.  My pick was peanut butter ice cream. To die for!

 Some of the exquisite cocktails you can expect to be served at Cowch.

Birthday girl and her strawberry mocktail.Yum! The bar staff were happy to create cocktails by request, and also made my sister in law a cookies and cream cocktail.

 Those cocktails went down smoothly! Oh and here's the proof of my size, for those who have recently enquired (yes people ask this!) I am not huge from eating all my bloggy stuff! Yet.)

 You can order desserts from the menu or front window at this counter, and go across to the ice cream display to choose your flavour for the side (yes, taste testing available!) Pretty sure this fella is Cowch's owner, he looked as if he ruled the roost and was very accommodating. Staff were friendly, helpful and efficient and happy to pack up a box for take away-with ice cream for the husbands!

I can never, never go past a good looking Bacci Torte. And that is peanut butter ice cream on the side!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Avocado Pecan Cheese Ball

That gorgeous man gazed over at me across the crowded room again. His blue eyes twinkled and four adorable dimples popped just on either side of his mouth. He winked at me.
Meanwhile, a baby regurgitated on my blouse. Quickly wiping it away with a tissue I sighed and wondered when we'd ever get together. He flashed his wedding ring at me. Married. There goes my coffee, all over me.
Yes, that hot man is my husband, and we can never get quite enough time together.
We've been together for 7 years, 5 of which we have been married. He still makes me choke on my coffee and that smile gets me every time. What can I say, I'm completely smitten. Three children later, and many sleepless nights, we often get to the end of the day and collapse on the bed, exhausted, only to land on a dozen toys buried in the sheets. Thomas the Tank, Percy and Peter-Sam have all become day in day out characters in our lives. And we can't even escape them after the kids have gone to sleep.
Married ones-do you ever feel like you actually saw more of your significant other before you started living together? The working hours, the kids demanding you (sometimes 24/7), the weekends full of outings and chores. We wave across the room at each other over baby bowls full of mush and sinks full of dishes and wonder when we'll be next to each other without all the kids squishing in between. I am not sure how they do this, but those little bums sure work their way into the tiniest gaps between us.
So as you can see, date nights are absolutely essential, and much anticipated parts of our busy lives. Even if we don't get a babysitter in time to go out of the house,  we can always have a quiet late night cheeseboard and a bottle of wine once all those little eyes are closed. A gourmet dinner. Candles and jazz. Laughs and uninterrupted discussions. Give it to me now! The time we spend together is golden, we appreciate each other and time together more than ever before.
If you're looking for something new to share with your significant other on a night like this, or when you have company, this delicious Avocado Pecan Cheese Ball is the bomb, and will get people guessing at the ingredients. Its made up of cream cheese, cheddar cheese, avocado, paprika to season and crushed pecans. It's firm enough to handle, yet soft enough to dip a cracker into. So delicious!


1 avocado, mashed
250g cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
2 tbsp sweet paprika

Peel and deseed the avocado. Mash into a medium sized bowl, then add the cream cheese, cheddar and garlic. Mix until well incorporated. Form into a ball and place in the refrigerator. In a ziplock bag, add the pecans. Crush them until they resemble crumbs. Add the paprika, then roll the avocado ball in this mixture until well coated. Serve with crackers.

Introducing the hotty that makes me spill my coffee...see what we ate for date night next post!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

3D "Me to You" Teddy Bear Cake

Yesterday at the Woolie's self serve checkout, I was alerted to staff members with flashing red lights and was unable to pay without assistance. After 5 minutes of waiting, I found out it was because I was buying plastic knives for a catering job I had. They presumably had to check how unhinged I looked I suppose...just in case I was about to go on a plastic cutlery stabbing spree through Oxley. Mustn't look as crazy as I am, because they let me buy them after all. 
The following day I was out with my husband couch shopping, and on finding a glorious leather looking Chesterfield, I inquired to the assistant concerning its material. "It's sympathetic leather" She replied. I looked at her incredulously. Sympathetic?
Not synthetic, sympathetic. Turns out there's such a thing. Oh my. Good for the cow though, some one took heart and it didn't get the chop to make that couch. 
It appears I have been living under a rock. During this time of hermit like behaviour, the world has stopped selling plastic knives freely, and has turned plastic into faux leather with emotions. Who would have known!
And just what have I been doing with my time? Not blogging, obviously.
In fact, I hardly have been cooking anything imaginative or exciting at all. The year has gone in a heartbeat, and my baby girl has just turned one. Was that not the fastest year in the history of mankind? 
Anyway, without further ado, here is my daughter's first birthday cake, modelled on the famous "Me to You" teddy bear. (my husband gave me one of these when we were dating, so it holds a very special place in my heart.)
I had never made a 3d cake before but took the plunge, and it was simpler than I expected...except for the icing. I thought that would be the easy bit, then I discovered, in that moment when I was ready to ice, that I did not possess the required piping nozzle...the grass nozzle. I turned the house upside down in a cake-induced frenzy. My husband and my kids hate when I make special cakes, it sort of makes a mad woman out of me and the house goes to seed. It takes a week to recover from the havoc wreaked on the kitchen. (At this moment visualise a scene from the epicentre of world war three).
So the cat ate my homework, or more to the point (no pun intended) my piping nozzle. So I went shopping, and found that piping sets from cheap shops and regular supermarkets come with everything BUT the grass nozzle.
I came home with a garlic crusher, determined to pipe that darned fur!
Necessity is the mother of invention. It was not pretty. The icing bag burst every 3 minutes. I couldn't pipe in the crevices and joints. It was the stuff nightmares are made of. But standing back, once eyes and patches and the nose was on, I totally loved the outcome. It was shabby but cute, and perfect for a 1st birthday party. As long as no one looked too closely! So I highly recommend, not going the garlic crusher route. Buy a good, metal grass nozzle, you will have greater control over where that fur is going and how shaggy your teddy becomes.
The cake it self was a Mississippi Mud cake-This is a great recipe for working with with cakes like this. It's special enough to be used as a wedding cake, and keeps moist and delicious for at least a week. Best of all, other than the flavour, it is very easy to carve and shape after a rest in the refrigerator. I used a double mix of this recipe and had a bit of cake left over. The teddy was made up of two 5"x3" cakes for the body and a 4"x2" cake  (approximately) for the head. I also made a few more cakes with that double batter, most of which got used in the modeling of the arms, ears, nose and the legs. (The cake was crushed into crumbs, and then mixed with a generous amount of butter cream icing to make a moldable cake mixture.) The head and the nose were secured with the help of some wooden skewers. The nose and smooth accessories on this 3D teddy cake were made from rolled fondant.
I hope these pictures help you on your cake journey! I apologise for not taking pictures when I was in the thick of piping that icing, everything was so sticky and frustrating, I didn't even think of it. Shoot me any questions you may have, I am always more than happy to help where I can! Good luck!

Mississippi Mud Cake Recipe can be found here. I doubled this recipe for this cake.


 There are five cakes involved here (only a double of the recipe) The two taller ones are for the bady, and the top small one was the head. The other two (sorry one cut out of picture a bit) were for limb molding.

I cut off the top off one of the 5x3 cakes and stacked it with the other 5x3. Using the electric knife I carved the top layer to make it rounded. These cakes had been in the refrigerator, and that makes it much easier to carve.

Using wooden skewers, the head cake was placed on top of the two 5x3 cakes. I trimmed a little off the head cake because it had a few rough edges.

The cake board was prepared with a covering of rolled fondant, and the uniced cake placed upon it. The remaining cake and the cut-offs were combined with butter cream icing to make a moist mixture which is able to be molded into the arms, the legs and feet, as well as the ears and nose.

The arms and legs and feet as well as the ears have been attached. Only the ears needed skewers, the rest just sat there and looked stable, but feel free to use more skewers. I then did a generous crumb coat, before piping the fur like butter cream icing all over the bear. (use the grass piping nozzle) The snout was covered in fondant and skewered into place after icing, as well as the patches, eyes and insides of the ears.

The unglamourous innards of my kitchen after the job was done! Told you it was like a bomb had hit the kitchen.

The infamous garlic crusher-turned-grass-nozzle. Yes that's a hair tie. Never again. Do yourself a favour and buy a real one!

A few pictures of the birthday and the cake cutting. Yep, that's me and my loves!