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Archive for February, 2011

Recipe: Pinata Birthday Cake

I saw this recipe for a Pinata Birthday cake on the Australian version of Better Homes and Gardens. It’s for a children’s birthday cake, but it was also perfect for my sweet-tooth father. I was a bit short of time and didn’t make the cake. I purchased a sponge cake and filled it with strawberry jam and whipped cream. Before I did this, I cut a hole in the middle of the sponges to create a ring cake.

If I were making the cake from scratch I’d use a ring tin and make a chocolate, banana or carrot cake.

For a child’s birthday cake, purchase some of their favorite candy and fill the hole in the middle of your cake with these. You could ice the cake first or not–depending upon your child’s likes or dislikes.


My father likes dried fruit so I filled the cake centre with dried slices of apple, papaya, crystalized ginger, dried strawberries and banana.

For the next step you need a bowl that will fit over comfortably over the cake. Line the bowl with tin foil. Melt some chocolate–I used both dark and milk chocolate. The quantity you require will depend on the size of your bowl. Brush the chocolate over the inside of the bowl. Once complete, place in fridge to harden for five minutes. Add a second layer of chocolate to the inside of the bowl and chill again. Once the chocolate is set, remove the chocolate shell from the bowl and place over the top of the cake. Peel off the tin foil to reveal the chocolate shell. Decorate the top with icing writing or candy. I used fruit jubes.


To serve: arm the birthday person with a wooden spoon and get them to bash/hit the chocolate shell to reveal the treasure cake beneath.


My father didn’t really understand what to do, but you can see the small hole he’s made in the chocolate cover.


The Senses: Thirteen Things That Relate to Smell

Thursday Thirteen

Two things made me think about smell today. I’m currently working on polishing book twelve in my Middlemarch Mates series and I’d overdone the word “smell”. Also one of the ponds we walk past during our evening walk really honks. I think it’s due to the hot weather and lack of rain to wash it out.

Thirteen Words That Relate to Smell

1. fragrance

2. malodorous

3. waft

4. whiff

5. bouquet

6. fresh

7. stink

8. odor

9. inhale

10. nose

11. reek

12. perfume

13. musty

What smells/scents do you dislike? (the pond ranks right up there for me!)

Recipe: Easy Beer Bread

Easy Beer Bread

Here’s a very easy recipe for bread. It’s the sort of recipe you can whip up very quickly when you’re short of bread or you need some bread to go with a pot of soup. The recipe is from Jo Seagar’s Easy-Peasy summer entertaining recipe book.

Beer Bread

3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (I use about half of this)
1 can beer (400ml or .845 pints) – If your can is smaller, make up the amount with water. Don’t use low-alcohol beer
1 handful of grated cheese (about 1/3 of a cup)

Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and beer in a large bowl and combine well. Tip into a well-greased loaf tin or two smaller tins. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the dough. Bake the large loaf for 50 – 60 minutes. (That’s what the recipe suggests. With my oven I find around 30 – 40 minutes works so you might have to experiment with cooking times) Bake the smaller loafs for a shorter time – around 30 minutes depending on your oven. Tip out and cool on a wire rack before slicing. This bread also makes good toast.

Thirteen Ways to Have The Perfect Pout

Thursday Thirteen

This week I’m all about a sexy pout.

Thirteen Ways to Have Sexy Lips and the Perfect Pout

1. The skin on the lips is delicate and tender and it pays to take care. Dead skin on the lips needs to be removed carefully. Do not bite or chew it off because this can lead to a bacterial infection. The easiest way to exfoliate the lips is to use a special lip exfoliator. Apply and rub in a circular fashion, blot dry and use a lip balm.

2. Sun damage is cumulative and can leave white patches if the skin gets burned. Look for lipsticks that contain a sunscreen.

3. Try not to lick your lips because when the moisture evaporates they become even drier and will crack and peel.

4. For soft and sexy lips use a lip moisturizer or balm. Apply several times a day. The thin film from these products will protect lips.

5. Lipstick balances your make-up, adds definition and draws attention to your mouth.

6. Look for lipsticks that contain a moisturizing core. Long-lasting lipstick tends to dry the lips.

7. A lip brush gives a more professional look and allows you to color the corners of your lips easily.

8. Do not alter the natural shape of your lips unless absolutely necessary because this can result in an unnatural look.

9. A lip pencil is a girl’s best friend when it comes to shaping. Use a sharp lip pencil and keep the lip liner as thin as possible.

10. Lipstick color should complement hair, eye color and skin tone plus your outfit.

11. If your lips are too full, avoid bright colors and stick to matt finish lipsticks. If your upper lip is too thin use your lip pencil and draw just outside the top line. If your bottom lip is too thin, outline the bottom of the lip line only. Apply two coats of lipstick to the top lip and only one coat to the bottom lip.

12. Once you’ve applied lip pencil and your lipstick with the brush, blot it with a tissue, powder, re-apply lipstick and blot again. Personally, I don’t usually do all this but done this way your lipstick will last.

13. Pampering your lips will help them to look plumper and fuller. Your lipstick will also last longer and you won’t get an unattractive lipstick bleed.

Do you wear lipstick?Do you have a favorite color?

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Thursday Thirteen

Apple Crumble is one of my favorite desserts, which leads me to the main ingredient—apples.

Thirteen Facts About Apples

1. A pippin is an apple grown from a pip.

2. Here’s a centuries old cooking tip: cook or serve apples with fatty meats and the acid will balance the richness.

3. British apple pies have pastry on top. American apple pies have pastry top and bottom. This is according to the magazine article I have on apples. I’m not sure that I agree with this. My mother always used to have pastry top and bottom on her apple pies.

4. Pies came about in medieval times when cooks encased food in a thick pastry crust called a coffin (coffin).

5. A medium apple contains about 80 calories.

6. In Ancient Greece if a man tossed an apple at a woman, he was proposing marriage. If the woman caught the apple she was accepting his proposal.

7. Apples do not grow true to form from seed. They have to be grafted.

8. When baking an apple, score a line around the middle to stop the skins bursting.

9. Apples are the second most popular fruit in New Zealand. Bananas are the most popular fruit.

10. The most widely available cooking apple in New Zealand is the Granny Smith. This apple was named after a little old granny from Kent, England. She emigrated to Sydney, Australia around 1840 – 1850. She and her husband set up an orchard. The granny found an apple seedling growing by a creek and the rest is history.

11. If you’re making apple puree don’t peel the apples. Slice thickly with both peel and pips still intact. Add a knob of butter and a sprinkling of sugar and cover with a piece of butter paper and put on a lid. Cook slowly until apples soften. Pass through a coarse sieve. Eat warm or cold with custard, cream or ice cream, spread over crepes or flavor with sage and serve with roast pork.

12. The most popular apple in New Zealand is the Royal Gala. It’s available from late February to late March. Not long to wait!

13. Each country has developed their own apples. Golden Delicious apples were developed in America. Fuji apples are a Japanese variety. NZ Rose apples are a cross between Gala and Splendor. New apple varieties are being developed all the time.

Source: An article by Julie Biuso in the March 2007 New Zealand Taste magazine.

Do you like apples? Do you have a favorite variety or way to eat apples? As I mentioned earlier I adore apple crumble.