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caramel & cocoa

Caramel & Cocoa - cooking, parenting, fashion, diy, eating, living, a blog

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why this blog?

Someone recently asked me a simple question.

"Gabi why do you spend so much time on your blog? There must be days when no one visits your page."

And the reason streamed from my mouth as if I had rehearsed it before. But I never had. I don't even think I'd ever really vocalized it.

Yes. This blog is about cooking & baking, children & weight loss. But there is more to it than that - it is a life blog documenting the journey I started years ago and that will take me ... who knows where, in the next ten years. Ten years ago, I was 20 and my expectations of life were very different than that which is my reality now.  Life is harder than I had thought and I realize I was a tad too idealistic in my youth.

I see this blog as an opportunity to document my life and what I am doing so that 10, 20, 30 years from now, my girls can see what their mom was up to, having sacrificed a bit of a career to stay home and "just be a mom."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Vickii's Brownie

I was skeptical about this brownie recipe when I first read it - only because I've tried about 20 brownie recipes in the last 4 months and have always been disappointed. This brownie is luxurious and perfect. It tastes  & looks like a high end brownie you would find at a posh shop on the high street. You get a very flaky top and a moist middle. Thumbs up to Vickii who concocted this recipe over a period of years. Make and give as a gift & you will have friends for life!

For the recipe - click here Vickii's Brownies. Though below are the ingredients measured in both grams & ounces for your convenience. Dont forget to grease & flour the tray because brownies will stick to the baking tin. Also, when you stir in the eggs to the butter/chocolate mixture, stir it alot, well and quickly which will ensure a flaky top. You get a crispy top on brownies because you are creating a "natural meringue" which is nothing more than whipped egg whites & sugars. That is why most brownie recipes require you to cream or melt butter & sugars and THEN add the eggs. Basically, the more you beat the mixture AFTER adding the eggs, the crunchier/crispier the top will be. yum yum.

300 grams/10.5oz dark chocolate (At least 70% cocoa solids)
250g/9oz unsalted butter
100g/3.5oz milk chocolate cut into large chunks
100g/3.5oz white chocolate, cut into large chunks
175g/6.2oz plain flour
1tsp baking powder
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsps vanilla extract
200g/7oz dark brown sugar
125g4.4oz caster sugar (or superfine sugar in US)
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules

Peanut-Butter Cheesecake

This is my version of Nigella's peanut butter cheesecake and it is phenomenal. You have to try it - It is sure to impress your guests. 

200 grams/7oz of digestive biscuits (if you can't get any use graham crackers)
85g/3oz ounces unsalted butter (softened)
500g/1lb of cream cheese
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
200 g/7oz caster sugar (or superfine sugar in US)
125ml/4.24 fl oz of sour cream
250 g/9oz of smooth peanut butter
250 ml/9fl oz sour cream
100g/3.5 oz milk chocolate chips
30g/1.25 oz soft brown sugar

How to:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 (remember if using a fan lower heat about 20 C)
  2. Make the base: process the biscuits (or crushed graham crackers) and butter in a food processor. Once the mixture comes together in a clump, turn it out into a 23cm/9in springform tin and press it into the bottom of the tin and up the sides, using your fingers.  Place in the fridge for at least 10 minutes or until your filling is ready. I do not own a food processor so I crushed the biscuits in a bag first and then slowly kneaded the butter in using my fingers. I also HIGHLY RECOMMEND buying a springform tin as opposed to using a traditional 9 inch tin. Here is a description of what a springform is - I actually had no clue until I started baking about a year ago.
  3. For the filling, combine the cream cheese, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, sour cream and peanut butter in a food processor until smooth. I used a blender & it came out fine.
  4. Pour and scrape the filling mixture into the cheesecake base in the chilled springform tin and cook for 1 hour, checking after 50 minutes. The top – only – should feel set and dry. When cooked, remove from the oven.
  5. Make the topping:  warm the sour cream and chocolate chips with the brown sugar gently in a small saucepan over a low heat until melted & combined.
  6. Spread the topping very gently over the top of the cheesecake (IN THE SPRINGFORM TIN). Put it back in the oven for 10 minutes.
  7. Once out of the oven, let the cheesecake cool completely in its tin, then cover and put into the fridge overnight.
  8. Remove the cheesecake from the fridge about 15 minutes before serving so that it is easier to spring from the tin. It gets mushy - so keep it cool. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Waste not Want not Wednesday - Love - o - Leeks

I was really agitated this morning when I opened the fridge and saw 5 whole leeks in there. Even better, my veg box arrives tomorrow and I am expecting - you guessed it - MORE LEEKS. 

For lunch, I washed then cut up the leeks and sauteed in some butter after seasoning with salt & pepper. It turned out lovely. And I am looking forward to having a bit more with dinner. All that is left in the fridge is a tomato. 

A Day in with the kids

If I am being 100% honest, this post is sort of a self-validation & justification. Why? Today I did something I never really do. I kept the girls indoors! I don't like to do that because I think it is important for the girls to get out, get some fresh air and socialize with others. 

Originally we had a play date scheduled for the morning but that was cancelled due to a cough & the sniffles. Now. It is very cold outside but dry and I am not naturally an outdoorsy person in that I really dislike being cold or getting dirty & wet. In my defense, I do force myself to take the girls to the park, on walks, or to the library - rain or snow - every day, except today of course. In comes the guilt. 

That being said, I have not let them watch ANY tv because I kind of feel that watching too much tv can be a source of depression when you get older and I don't want them to develop bad habits. I remember being very young and wanting to go out and do things like play sports or see friends but my parents were so strict I stayed indoors all of the time - watching tv. 

In summary I did not let them out and I did not let them watch tv. 

What did we do? In the morning we made some cookie batter for chocolate sugar cookies and all got very dirty and messy. We then made the cookies & ate some of them. After that we all spent an hour drawing and practicing our colors on a massive piece of cardboard paper. Finally, the girls helped me make lunch and we went upstairs for a book and nap at 1pm. It is now nearly 3pm and the girls will be up soon. It gets dark by 4 and it is cold and windy so I am not sure if we will get out for more than a walk around the block. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gingerglazed Ham

This recipe takes minutes to prepare and is no work at all but the result is good enough for a Christmas dinner. I cannot take the credit here. The recipe comes from my all time favorite "DG" Nigella Lawson. I suggest you read my summary and then click the link at the bottom of the post to watch a 3 minute youtube video on how it is done. 

Ham (I prefer smoked)
lots of dry gingerale (2-7 liters depending on size of ham)
Hot English Mustard (like Grey Poupon in USA) 2 tablespoons
Ginger Preserves (250g or 9 ounces), if you cant find any use orange marmalade & add a teaspoon of dry ground ginger
dark brown sugar (100 grams or 3.5 ounces)
teaspoon of cloves

1. First, rinse off the ham and place in a large pot. Pour the gingerale into the pot until the ham is fully covered and bring to a boil. Once bubbling reduce heat slightly and cover. It needs to bubble for 20 minutes per 500grams (20 minutes per pound).
2. When ham is nearly done boiling, heat oven to 220C (390 F) (remember some ovens, like mine are very hot so you might need to lower the temperature by 10 - 20 degrees). GET TO KNOW YOUR OVEN. ;)  
3. In a bowl combine mustard, preserves, brown sugar and cloves. Mix well. 
4. When ham is done place on foil lined oven tray and remove most of the fat. Pour the glaze over the ham and pop in the oven for 20 minutes. This is delicious cold or hot. 

FOIL LINED TRAY IS ESSENTIAL because the glaze will stick to your tray. 

Nigella Lawson Ginger Glazed Ham 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie (large & crispy)

This chocolate chip cookie is INSANELY sweet but has a lovely crispyness to it. I am having major sugar cravings since I am trying to watch what I eat. So I decided to toss an insane amount of sugar and chocolate into a cookie. If you don't like EXTREME SWEETNESS then I suggest you reduce both of the sugar amounts by about 50g (or 1.5 ounces) each and add less chocolate chips.


250 grams (9 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
170 grams (6 ounces) butter (very soft)
200 grams (6 ounces) light brown sugar - reduce by 50g or 1.5 ounces if you don't want them too sweet
100 grams (3.5 ounces) caster sugar (also called superfine sugar in US) - reduce by 50g or 1.5 ounces if you don't want them too sweet
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
290 grams (10 ounces) of chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 170 C (349 F).

2. Sift flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

3. Whisk or beat together butter, brown sugar & caster (superfine) sugar until creamy. Beat in vanilla, egg, egg yolk. Slowly mix in the sifted ingredients until well combined. Add chocolate chips and mix with a wooden spoon. Drop cookies onto parchement paper or greased baking trays. Each cookie should be about 4 tablespoons (THIS IS A LARGE COOKIE). Place them 8cm (3 inches apart). I made smaller cookies (only 1 round tablespoon) for the kids because there is no way they can eat that much sugar without getting sick. The smaller cookies take about minutes less cooking time.

4. Bake for 14 - 16 minutes, until the edges begin to toast. Cool on baking trays for 2 minutes then move off of baking trays to cool completely.

5. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Letting kids grow

Ok - In summary I had a strong disagreement with a friend called "Jane". Her name is not really Jane but for purposes of this piece, I will call her Jane.

This does not happen often, actually it never happens because I am a very passive person. I would rather silently know and accept I am right than "get in your face" about something. I do not like to start controversy and amongst groups of people I am definitely not one of the most outspoken.

Well, I am not exactly sure how the conversation came about, but in summary, the conversation turned to two main points. First, why did I potty train A before her second birthday and second, why on earth did C only drink from a cup starting month 10.

For those of you reading who have kids, yes, in Jane's opinion A and C were far too young to have been pressured into any of those. In response, and a bit annoyed, I simply explained to her how clever my girls are. And then I proceeded to explain that it was easy. A had seen a close friend a couple months older use the potty and since then she wanted to try and use it. C, was breastfed until recently and so as a result, did not miss the traditional "bottle" when I tossed it at month 10. Jane's opinion, and this is a quote, was that it was a bit "inconsiderate" to have had my kids so closely together and that the potty training and bottle weaning pressures would manifest in some other way later on in life. I started laughing hysterically but managed to utter the word "bologna" followed by "you should see A eat with a knife and fork." I have not heard from her in 5 days.

Ok. In retrospect. I ADMIT, I handled the situation poorly. Having had the time to sit down and respond this is what I have to say. My job is to educate and teach my children skills that will help them in the "real" world. These skills are essential for them in life and will make them feel independent and a sense of accomplishment. I see every day as an opportunity to teach something new to both of them and if I were not to do that, I'd feel as if I were letting them down. It is a tough world and they need to be prepared to compete.

To you and I, drinking from a cup and using the toilet are easy tasks but to toddlers, they are big things to do. I am so proud of A for being potty-trained and yes, selfishly, it makes my life a whole lot easier. C at 10 months was capable of drinking from a cup. A bottle, like the breast, serves a purpose, to provide nutrition to those who are unable to drink from a cup. I will admit it was not easy for "me", not C, to stop breastfeeding. I loved the bond, the connection, but at the same time realized that I need to let my baby grow.

We all make decisions for our kids and all we can do is hope they are the right ones.