Tuesday 17 June 2014

A letter to my Mum

Dear Mum,

Has it really been 8 years since that awful day? It still feels like yesterday that you were here, yet it also feels like a lifetime has passed.  So much has happened and you should still be here to share it with me, with us. 

I have done so much without you now, some days, can you believe it, I still, just briefly think, "I'll just call mum..." or "I should tell Mum..." Because even now, you are still the person I want to share everything with.

You should have been at my wedding for example. Crying, as I know you would, but so so happy, because I know that is all you wanted for me, to find someone that makes me happy. Someone that loved me like you knew I deserved. And my goodness, you would love my Muddled Hubby so much! A sci fi geek, a Trekkie like you! I often think "oh mum would love that!" when he does or says something. I wish you were here to give me advise on marriage, on our relationship. Even at almost 40 I feel so young and inexperienced in a real life relationship, at times I feel completely lost, like I'm doing it all wrong. You always said it took more than just love to make it work, and you were right! 

And Miss Teen, she's a teenager now! If ever there was a time I needed guidance from you as a parent, now is it! She is still the beautiful girl she always has been, but she deals with so much. It's been hard on her too, losing you, all the changes in our lives, growing up. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually think it's harder to be a teenager these days! She has a great group of friends, and even a boyfriend, which I'm sure you, like Dad, would disapprove of! But she is smart, and oh my, so talented!! And her dreams, wow, they impress me! She is strong and brave, I just wish she could see it like I do, like you would. 

And then there is Mini Miss! What a whirlwind. You would love her Mum! She is so full of energy and life. Remember I used to think Maddi was my payback for being a difficult baby and you never quite agreed?! Well, this is my payback baby!! She is a lot of hard work, but I wouldn't have her any other way! Curious, adventurous, full of love, so much love! So stubborn and so certain of herself! You should be here, holding her, watching her grow, laughing at me trying to handle her, and helping me.

2 granddaughters! We were so sure MissTeen would be the only one. Maybe if we could have seen into my future, maybe you would have fought harder to stay? If we had known, had an inkling of how much you still had to look forward to.....

But there's more. Right now, in around a month, a grandson. That's right, I am actually carrying a baby boy! Now THAT is something we definitely thought impossible! The final piece of our family puzzle, to make it complete. You should be here, along side Dad, to see him! To watch him grow! A son. A grandson. 

There is so much in my life now. It's like I wasn't living, then all of a sudden I met Muddled Hubby and I finally learnt how to really live. My life, my meaning in this world, finally made sense. It's full of love, full of craziness, full of stress, full of joy, full of heartache. But always, always, it's still got an empty spot. Your spot Mum. Today, and everyday, I still think of you. I still cry for you. When I am sick or sad I still want you to comfort me. To wrap your arms around me in THAT hug. No one else quite gets it right. When I am excited or happy I still want to share it with you. I want to see your face light up as I share happy news with you. You always seemed to reflect and grow my happiness when I shared it with you. 

Mum, you were so much more than a Mum. You were my best friend, you were my beginning, a part of me. 

It may be 8 years today that you left, but it still hurts like it was just yesterday, if I let it. The pain, the grief, it can completely overwhelm me. The difference now is I'm stronger. I can, for the most part, control the grief, let it out in small manageable doses that don't feel like my heart is being ripped out again.  

I would do almost anything to have one more hug, to see one more smile, to hear your voice...I forget how it sounds now and it breaks my heart....

I love you Mum.

I miss you Mum. 

Monday 16 June 2014

Nutella Scrolls

Ok, so not Slow Cooker made, but they can be. If you want to give it a go, I see plenty of people cooking scrolls in their slow cookers, so go for it! But this recipe will be for the oven. Why? I cook scrolls regularly, and this is how I know they turn out WELL! 

These are fantastic for lunch boxes, heated up with a cup of tea for afternoon tea, and yes, you can freeze them! 

So here it is.....

Nutella Scrolls

2 1/4 cups Self Raising Flour
1 Tbs Caster Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
60g Chilled Butter finely chopped
2/3 cup Milk 
1 Egg
1 cup Nutella warmed (more if you want!!)

Preheat your oven to 200 or 180 for fan forced & line a slice/lamington/biscuit style tray with Baking Paper. 

Sift flour into a large bowl and mix in caster sugar. Add chilled butter and rub together with your hands until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the middle of mix.

In a separate bowl combine milk, egg and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients.

Mix until it forms a sticky batter. Roll batter out onto floured board and kneed for a few minutes. Roll into a rectangle approx 30x40cm, 1-2cm thick.

Warm Nutella in the microwave for about 30 seconds and spread evenly over the top of the dough. Roll tightly along long edge. Use milk to seal the outer edge if needed, and using a serrated knife, cut roll into 12 equal slices.

Place slices, on their side on the tray, brush lightly with milk, and bake in the oven for 20-25 mins. 

Do not over cook these or they will be dry. Just until the are lightly browned is plenty.

I highly recommend eating them warm out of the oven with a cup of tea!!!!

Thursday 5 June 2014

Slow Cooked Sticky Date Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Here it is! The dessert recipe I have been raving about for days! 

This sticky date pudding is sweet, but not too sweet, sticky, as it should be, and just delicious with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream.

Is it healthy? Nope, not even a little! Just because there are dates in it, does not mean its healthy! What it is is preservative free, additive free. All fresh ingredients, you know whats in it, so that has to be better than a frozen store bought pudding. Yep, even better than good old Sara Lee!!

Credit where credit is due, a big thanks to Paulene at Slow Cooker Recipes 4 Families for this amazing recipe!!! 

Slow Cooked Sticky Date Pudding with Caramel Sauce

1 litre Boiling Water
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
75 grams diced butter

2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tso baking soda (bicarb soda)
2-3 tsp mixed spice (I used cinnamon as that was all we had!)
1 1/2 cups dates
boiling water
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
50 grams melted butter

Turn slow cooker onto low to preheat

Mix water, sugar and butter together until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted.
Pour into preheated slow cooker and cover

Put dates into heat proof container and cover with boiling water to soften.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices into a large bowl. Stir in brown sugar and make a well in the centre.
Mash or blend dates with water. I used the rocket blender for a nice smooth consistency. Pour into flour, then add milk. Mix well, making sure there are no flour lumps. Once combined stir in butter.
Spoon batter carefully and evenly over sauce in slow cooker and cover with a lid. 

Cook on high for 1 hour, then reduce to low and cook for a further 3-4 hours.
Do not lift the lid for the first 2 hours of cooking.

Serve with Vanilla Ice Cream!!

Enjoy :) 

Slow Cooked Roast Beef with Mushroom and Red Wine Gravy

I had this lovely Beef Topside Roast, and had no idea what to do with it.

I have never really been a roast cooker. I always found it intimidating, and my Mum was such great cook and roast was her specialty. So I avoided them. I let Muddled Hubby cook them from time to time, and he is a great cook too, but not me.

I decided to tackle this head on. Take my Slow Cooker Challenge to the next level and do a Slow Cooked Roast.

I started exploring for a recipe I knew the family would like. I searched my favourite Facebook pages, my favourite websites, then more widely, google. Nothing. Nothing jumped out at me and said "THIS is your recipe". So I decided since I was tackling a roast, I may as well tackle the idea of creating my own recipe!

I know, from past casseroles and meals that red wine and mushrooms make a good base, so, without further rambling on my part, here is my VERY FIRST own recipe creation!!

Slow Cooked Roast Beef with Mushroom and Red Wine

Topside Roast around 1.2kg 
1 cup beef stock (I made my stock stronger than normal, using 1 1/2 times the amount of stock powder for a stronger flavour)
1/4-1/2 cup Red Wine. (I used 1/2 cup and found it a little too much, but its a personal thing!)
1 tin crushed tomatoes
1 brown onion sliced into rings
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp coriander
2-3 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp basil
1 tsp paprika
2/3 cup mushrooms

1/2 the juices in the slow cooker
4 heaped tsp of beef gravy powder
2 tbs corn flour

Line base of slow cooker with onion rings and place roast on top.
Coat with spices. You could add more or less, depending on how strong you like your flavours to be.
Add crushed tomatoes, red wine and the beef stock.

Cook on high for 3 hours. Turn meat over and cook for a further 2 hours on high. 
Remove approx 1/2 the liquid in the cooker. The liquid will increase during cooking time due to the moisture in the slow cooker. Once liquid is removed, add mushrooms and cook for a further hour.
Remove meat and allow to rest while making gravy

Using remaining juices in the slow cooker, add gravy powder and corn flour and whisk until thick and creamy. Add more corn flour if needed.

Serve with oven roasted vegetables.

Hopefully your family enjoys as much as mine did! 

Sunday 1 June 2014

Slow Cook Gooey Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding

So, this is one I tried last week, but haven't had the time to post! 

I was a little skeptical. Having never used my slow cooker for anything other than stews and soups, I was unsure about the idea of cooking a cake/pudding/dessert type dish in it. 

Turns out, it is a fabulous idea! It was delicious, moist, and as promised Gooey. And for this pregnant lady who LOVES chocolate...it completely hit the spot. The only reason it hasn't been cooked again is time and a lack of slow cookers. I used to think having more than 1 cooker that slow cooks a meal was crazy....I now understand why people not only WANT, but NEED more than one in their kitchen!!

Slow Cooked Gooey Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding

1 Cup Self Raising Flour
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 tbs cocoa
1/2 cup milk
2 tbs butter melted
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups boiling water

lightly grease and preheat slow cooker
Combine flour, cocoa and sugar in a bowl. Add milk, butter and vanilla essence and stir to combine. Add nuts and choc chips and mix.
Pour into slow cooker and spread evenly.
In a separate heatproof container, combine boiling water, cocoa and sugar and until dissolved and completely combined. Very carefully pour slowly and evenly over the top of the cake mix in the slow cooker. Cake mix will likely rise as you add liquid, just continue to add slowly.

Cook on high for 2-3 hours. Then turn off and leave in cooker with lid on until ready to serve. 

Serve with ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Once again, this recipe was tweaked from a recipe at Slow Cooker Recipes 4 Families.

This recipe is NOT healthy, but it is DELICIOUS! 

And honestly, we all deserve to live a little once in a while!!

Slow Cook Sweet and Sour Pork

So, after a crazy hectic week of accidents, miserable toddlers and organising and running the worst garage sale in history (thanks ever so much RAIN!) it was finally time to pull out the slow cooker again. 

A spur of the moment decision saw me throwing pork into the microwave to defrost while i searched for a good recipe the whole family would enjoy. I don't like cooking frozen meat in the slow cooker, although I have been assured it is fine to do, I feel more comfortable, and find its a much better flavour if I brown meat first.

Jumping onto my favourite Facebook group Slow Cooker Recipes 4 Families, I searched the Pork section and stopped as soon as i saw Sweet and Sour Pork. This is one of Muddled Hubby's favourites. Could I slow cook it? Could I cook it from scratch, having never tried before? Only one way to find out! 

On checking the recipe I was short on the amount of meat, and didn't have the vegetables recommended, but that didn't stop me! I used mushrooms to fill out the meat portion of the meal, and just what vegetables I had in the fridge. Having never attempted this before from scratch, I stuck to the basic sauce recipe.

So, without further ado, here it is!

Sweet and Sour Pork

500 grams pork (I used diced heart smart pork)
10-12 mushrooms
2 carrots
1 zucchini
1 tin corn
1 tin unsweetened pineapple pieces, or crushed pineapple, with the juice.
3 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp crushed ginger
1 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tbs Soy Sauce
200 grams raw cashews
1 tbs corn flour
2-3 tsp herbs for flavour (I used garlic and herb salt & mixed herbs)

Turn slow cooker on high to preheat.
In a bag mix corn flour and dry herbs and coat pork pieces. Use a small amount of oil (olive oil for us, but you could also use Sesame Oil) to brown meat lightly. 
Put meat and veg in pan, add vegetables and then corn, pineapple, sugar, ginger, garlic, vinegar and soy sauce and stir to combine. 
Cook on high for 1-2 hours, and then on low for a further 4-5 hours. I put cashews in in the last hour of cooking and left the lid off to reduce liquid and let sauce thicken a little.
Serve with rice.

Easy and delicious!! 

If you have Facebook, head over and like my Page.

Also, if you love a good slow cooker meal, check out the Slow Cooker Recipes 4 Families group. So many good recipes in there worth trying!! 

Please note: no one is paying or asking me to promote this group or any of the recipes. These are just my own experiences of what I have found to be a valuable resource for our family, that I thought I would share. Over coming weeks you will also get to see recipes from Taste.com and the Bikini Cookbook range that I tweak to suit our family.