Tag Archives: cooking

The Masterchef

28 Jun

Eagerly, I thrust my hand in the air.  Despite there being over 300 people in the room, only a few of us had our hands up, volunteering to be in the next Masterchef challenge.  Two challenges had already played out.  This was my last opportunity to be chosen as a challenge participant.

My church was packed out for The Masterchef event with Kate Bracks

My church was packed out for The Masterchef event with Kate Bracks

The first challenge was won by the mother of one of the night’s comedic hosts, for her stellar efforts in the art of mashed potato.

“It’s a good thing you’re in politics.” Kate Bracks, winner of Masterchef Australia 2011, told contestant number two, a local politician and wife of this area’s mayor, after tasting her pitiful rendition of mashed potato.

With a giant grin plastered on my face, I walked up to the stage.

“The last challenge is…. A taste test!” The other comedic host told everyone as I was on my way up to the stage.

Part of me wanted to run back to my seat, just in case the taste test involved red meat. Or beans. Or brussel sprouts.  Or brains.  Or many things really.  I’m picky, remember?

But the other part didn’t care.  I love being on stage no matter what horrible challenge I’d be faced with, and no matter how much my legs shake with nerves.

“You’ll be tasting minestroni.”  In true Masterchef style, three contestants, me, the youth minister of the church I attend, and Kate Bracks herself, took it in turns to name the ingredients of the soup, with elimination for an incorrect answer, until there was just one person left.

Uh-oh, I don’t even like soup.  Or beans.  Or whatever questionable meat lurks in that soup.

I walked over to the giant bowl of soup, eyeing it off whilst stirring.

Not tasting the minestroni soup

Not tasting the minestroni soup

I could clearly see some of the ingredients of the soup without the need to use taste to discern everything the soup contained.

The three of us took turns a few times until Craig said basil.

“Nope, that’s not on the ingredients list.” One of the hosts said.

“Hmmm…I can definitely taste basil in there.” Kate Bracks told everyone.

“The correct answer was pesto.”

There is definitely basil in pesto, but if pesto as a whole was put in the soup, rather than all the parts, then basil would be incorrect, right? I mean if you put chocolate chips in a desert, you wouldn’t say you put cocoa solids and whatever else is in chocolate chips, you’d just say chocolate chips.  It was definitely a controversial elimination, but that just left Kate Bracks, and little old me.  Did I mention she won Masterchef?

Back and forth we went.  Still, I didn’t taste.  I’ve watched enough Masterchef to know what sort of cheeky ingredients not to forget about.  Salt for example.  And stock.  And pepper.

We got down to the last 4 ingredients.  The hosts gave me a hint.  They gave Kate a hint.  Then back to me. I had no idea what to say.

Trying to figure out what's in the soup

Trying to figure out what’s in the soup

“A patch where it’s said babies grow.” One of the hosts said for my hint.  Or something to that effect.  I can’t remember the exact phrase.

I didn’t even think.  Immediately, I blurted out “PUMPKIN!” excitedly.  After my verbal diarrhoea, I knew I was wrong.  I should have known better, Cabbage Patch Dolls were my favourite toys growing up.  Why did I say pumpkin?  Oh, that’s right, because every time I go to the plaza, I walk past a shop full of beautiful kids clothes that would look fantastic on my little monkeys.  If I could justify spending $50 on one piece of kids clothing.  Needless to say, we don’t own any of the cute clothes from Pumpkin Patch.  Seems Pumpkin Patch is ingrained in my brain though.  Stupid expensive clothing store!

Kate Bracks was absolutely lovely.  She is such a funny, nice, down to earth, inspiring person, and I’m so glad I had the chance to do a challenge with her.  It was so much fun.

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Despite what it may look like, Kate Bracks was not trying to grab my butt

She also gave a cooking demonstration using camp stove on the church stage where she almost lost her eyebrows to a fireball.

I got my Sweet Life cookbook signed, and Kate said she liked my hot pink running shoes.  They are pretty awesome.

Kate Bracks and me

Kate Bracks and me

Not only was The Masterchef a fantastic, fun night, but the proceeds are benefitting local charities that feed the needy, and attendees brought grocery items for the needy as well.

A special thank you to Garden Gourmet, who answered my email and supplied recipe cards to the goody bags (Unlike all of the other companies I’ve worked with and emailed, who didn’t bother emailing me back)  Oh yes, attendees got goody bags.  I do like me a goody bag.

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Roast Lamb and Sweet Potatoes – for Baby to adult

28 May

Never in my entire 29 years have I cooked lamb. Or adult sheep. Do people cook adult sheep? Anyway, I’ve never cooked anything remotely resembling sheep.

Until this week. I was road testing the Roast Lamb and Sweet Potato recipe for The Main Meal‘s How to Make Every Bite Count brochure/e-brochure. Ok, fine, it’s actually called Lamb and Veggy (did they spell that wrong? Pretty sure it’s veggie. My spell check thinks so too….) Roast with Potato Wedges, but I didn’t use potatoes, so I kinda had to change it. Since both Hannah and Daniel don’t tend to like potato unless it’s long, fried, and salted, I decided to use sweet potato instead. Besides, sweet potato is rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and it has a low GI. Plus, it tastes way better than normal potatoes. In my opinion….

I had to buy a mini lamb roast, which sent me around the supermarket like a chicken with my head cut off. What the heck does a mini lamb roast look like? I had to read every label on every meat until I found what I was looking for. But eventually I did. They are a bit expensive compared to the usual roast I make – chicken.

I browned the lamb in a pan, as required. If I wasn’t road testing the recipe, I would have been lazy and just shoved it in the oven. I don’t like to use more pans then needed. And why do I need to brown it before cooking it in the oven?  I looked it up on the Main Meal, and found a page called “how and why we brown meat.”  It certainly had the how, but I couldn’t find the why. Sigh. I tried googling it, checked a few other web pages that came up, and still couldn’t find out why you actually brown the lamb before roasting it. Anyone know? Now I’m curious….

After browning, I added the lamb to the already roasting sweet potatoes and carrots and set the timer for 25 minutes. Carrots? Yeah, I added some chunky carrot pieces too. Have you ever tried roasted carrot? DE-licious!!!!

When the buzzer rang, I took it out, rested it as required, made some gravy while it rested, then cut it up. Gravy? Yeah, remember the last recipe I tried?  It was a bit flavourless, so this time I sought advice from Aaron (as he was the one who was actually going to eat it).

“Should I make some gravy?” I asked him. “Does gravy go with roast lamb?”

He said yes, so I made some gravy.

I cut some pieces of lamb off the roast, put them on Aaron’s plate with the veggies, poured on the gravy and served it up. Next I started cutting some more bits off to adapt to toddler and finger food for the kids.

“Are you sure this is cooked enough?” Aaron called from the table.

“Um…I don’t know, I followed the recipe. I cooked it for the longest it said to cook it for.”

Further into the lamb, it was even less cooked. I don’t know if the recipe doesn’t have it cooking for long enough, or if it’s just that our oven is crap. Because it is crap. There is an element at the bottom of the oven, and that is it. No fan, no element on top. What kind of ridiculous oven is that? Everything burns on the bottom, and is raw on top. It’s all uneven too, one side will be burnt, the other half-cooked. Needless to say, I do a lot of turning, flipping, and rotating when I cook.

Regardless of the reason the lamb was undercooked, it was. Probably. I’m not sure. How do you know when lamb is done? I think it would have been great if the recipe included a little blurb about how to tell when the lamb is cooked. I always see chicken recipes saying something about the juices running clear and all that stuff. So what about lamb? What do I look for with lamb? I just googled it and another page from The Main Meal came up near the top of the google search. Hmm… I probably should have looked into that before cooking the lamb. But I didn’t think of it because the recipe had a time on it, and the thought just never crossed my mind.

There is apparently a “touch test,” or you can use a thermometer. The page also has a chart of cooking times. It states 20-25 minutes for a rare roast. Hmmmm… I’m not sure why the recipe would want rare meat when it is intended for babies and toddlers. Can babies and toddlers eat rare meat? (A bit of internet searching just now came back with no, they shouldn’t.)

We weren’t sure, so I put the lamb back in the oven and quickly threw together something else for them to eat, with the plan to give them the lamb the next night.

I gave them some of the sweet potatoes and carrots though, and Daniel loved them. And I mean loved. He gobbled up his serve in about a minute flat.

Meanwhile, the lamb was roasting in the oven. I didn’t leave it in that long, but I did forget to set the buzzer in my haste to find something else for the whingey, hungry kids to eat for dinner.

Crap. It pretty much looked like an old beaten shoe when I took it back out of the oven. Sigh. There would be no eating that. 

“Well, you got to try it Boo, how did it taste?” I asked Aaron. Yeah, I call him Boo. As if you don’t have a silly name you call your spouse.

“Yeah, it was pretty good. Definitely needed that gravy, or some sort of sauce of seasoning or something though. And I think you sliced it too thick.”

Whatever, I’ve never sliced lamb before.

The recipe is a good starting point, but it needs to state other cooking times for if you want it medium or well done. It would be awesome if the recipe including how to know if lamb was done. And it would be super awesome if it also included a seasoning or sauce option as well. Just because a recipe is meant for baby and toddler consumption, doesn’t mean it can’t have seasoning, and lots of flavour. After the initial first foods, that are really bland, store bought baby food tends to incorporate some sort of seasoning in it. Lots of them have basil, parsley, etc. I’m sure there are babies and toddlers out there who don’t like a lot of flavour to their food, but there are also lots that do like it. That’s why it would be great to add a little section for seasoning/sauces.

I might actually try cooking this again. Aaron likes lamb. Hannah has never tried it, and I’d really like to see if she’d eat it. Daniel likes it. At least from his baby food jars. I will, however, look up what seasoning works well with lamb, and whack some on before cooking it. And no, I won’t be trying it. I don’t like red meat, remember?

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Moist, delicious Banana Bread

25 Feb

Hannah wants to bake all the time.  She used to actually help me bake, stirring and putting things in the bowl.  But now she wants to have her own bowl, her own utensils, her own ingredients.  She has her own little play kitchen right next to our kitchen bench (counter).  I put an ingredient in my bowl, then put a little bit of the same ingredient in a measuring cup for Hannah.  Hannah tips it in her bowl on her play kitchen and stirs it around, eating it as she goes.  Her whole play kitchen gets covered in gooey half-mixed batter. Her hair gets clumps of food stuck in it. This continues the whole time I make something.

We made some delicious banana bread the other day (adapted from my mom’s recipe), so I thought I’d share the recipe with you.  I was thinking of making recipes a regular part of my blog.  Like once a week, or once every 2 weeks.  What do you guys think?

Moist, delicious banana bread:

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey (I used manuka honey)

3 mashed bananas

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup apple sauce

1/4 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups wholemeal (brown/whole wheat)  self-raising flour

pre-heat oven to 180c

1. Combine all ingredients except flour.

2. Stir for 1 minute with a wooden spoon.

3. Add flour.

4. Stir until moistened.

5. Pour into baking paper lined loaf tin

6. Place loaf tin into larger pan (I used a brownie pan)

7. Put water in larger pan, to about the half-full mark

8. Bake for 50-60 minutes

Putting the loaf pan in another pan filled with water ensures the bottom of the banana bread doesn’t burn and also keeps everything nice and moist whilst cooking.  Our oven is beyond ridiculous, with just one element at the bottom of the oven.  No, it’s not fan forced either, so if I don’t cook with the in-a-larger-pan-with-water method, the bottom burns and the top is raw.  Why would they make an oven like that???????????????

Baking paper lined loaf tin in a brownie pan filled with water

The finished product

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