It seems that I need to whip up some baking for a bake sale quite a lot lately. The baking bit is usually stress free but wrapping up the offerings in an inexpensive and practical way can be tricky. If you know that each item will be sold for $1 each, you don’t really want to spend $5 on packaging for each one! It would be better to donate that money to the cause! So, if the bake sale directives are for individually wrapped cupcakes I use this method. I bake my favorite chocolate cupcakes in good quality liners, then drop them gently into squat clear plastic glasses. It is then I frost and decorate, taking care to keep the frosting away from the plastic glass sides and making sure the frosting does not extend higher than the top. It is much simpler not to frost first, keeps everything clean and tidy.
Then you have two options:
- Cut squares of Seran wrap/cling film so there is an overhang around all edges and then I secure with a rubber band and then I slip a plastic spoon in behind the rubber band as it will be impossible to remove the baby cake from the glass without a hellish mess ensuing. This method is as cheap as it gets.
- Instead of using the Seran wrap you carefully drop each glass into a cellophane treat bag and tie with twine or ribbon incorporating the plastic spoon into the ribbon bow/tie. This version looks adorable but requires more attention.
Obviously there are no pictures of the final wrapped product…. I was so rushed that I had no time for pics! I will wrap some others and pop them here sometime soon.
Wanting to know about this frosting? This is my trusty chocolate ganache made with milk chocolate and then whipped to be thick and light colored and piped on with a large nozzle.
Chocolate Ganache frosting – Milk chocolate version ( Best whisked upon cooling)
- In a saucepan add 1 cup of whipping/thick cream and heat until about to boil
- Add 1 1/2 cup milk chocolate buttons/bits and let melt for 3 mins and whisk to fully incorporate.
- Allow to cool and pop in fridge til needed.
- Whisk until thick and holds it shape without collapsing. Ready to pipe!
As I had left over Candy Melts from Easter I quickly melted, poured it quickly onto baking paper lined small tray and spread thinly and sprinkle generously with non – pareils or your favorite sprinkles. Move the tray to the fridge to set properly. Simply break into rough triangles and pop into the frosting, super quick and festive.
Pecan pie is a favorite of mine, even before we moved to the States. I love all types of nuts so a sugary, nutty pastry delight called my name from a young age. I must admit I have usually purchased this pie piece by glorious piece and had never tried to make it but no longer my friends. This recipe is a winner and is perfect for a picnic if you can take it in it’s dish. Delicious with cream, yogurt or sour cream.
- 1 x Pie pastry (either bought or home made) line and parbake pie dish – usually 400F for 7-10 mins making sure you use baking paper and pastry weights to hold down the pastry – do not brown
- 6 Tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup golden syrup ( available here at Amazon or at World Market – see note)
- 1 cup soft brown sugar
- 1 1/4 cups chopped pecans ( mixed sized pieces)
- 1 1/2 cup whole pecans ( best to do more than needed so your design is not half finished)
- pinch of salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1-2 tsp vanilla essence
- splash of whiskey, rum or bourbon if that’s your thing
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Heat oven to 350 F
Lightly toast your pecans pieces (1 1/4 cups) by dry frying in a large non stick frying pan being very careful to keep moving them and DO NOT BURN. 5-6 mins but be careful!
Place sugar, butter, golden syrup and salt in pan and simmer over a med heat for 2 mins stirring all the time. Remove from heat and add the toasted chopped pecans pieces (1 1/4 cup), vanilla, liquor, vinegar and set aside to cool for minimum of 15 mins. After cool add one egg in at a time and beat well after each.
Pour the filling into your par-baked pastry shell and then go about decorating the top using the whole pecans.
Bake for 45 mins, edges will be firm and middle will be set but may still wobble slightly, you may need to cover the pie edge crust with a tinfoil or a protector if it gets too brown too early
NOTE: This recipe calls for Golden Syrup, a very popular sugar syrup throughout most Commonwealth countries. This is to replace the usual corn syrup component to this dish as it has become an unpopular ingredient lately. However, the tinned versions available on Amazon may be thicker than the bottled dessert version from World Market so as I only had the dessert version to hand I did add 2 Tablespoons of corn syrup to firm things up a bit.
Pies, pies, pies.
How can someone not like a filling encased in flaky layers of deliciousness. We have a saying in our house, “You could wrap anything in pastry and it would taste darn good.” Although you could be a domestic diva and whip up a block of homemade puff pastry but who does that? Or should I say who does that more than once! Just pick up some pre-rolled puff pastry and you are good to go.
I used raw fruit rolled in raspberry jam and a spoonful of corn starch because I had so little time but you could lightly cook the fruit down with a touch of sugar and again, a thickening agent to stop an overabundance of liquid spurting from the seams whilst cooking. Talking of seams, my trick is to wet the pastry, add the second layer over the filling, and press to seal but the final step is then to use a cookie cutter to cut through both layers of pastry but make sure you you cut well away from the filling.
It is important not to overfill the hand pies as they will always want to burst and always make a vent for steam by cutting some holes in the top before baking which also helps with this. Also check your pastry’s packaging for a recommended oven temperature. My kids love these in their lunch box but are also perfect for picnics as they are yummy hot or cold.
In the Commonwealth countries the scone looks very different to an American scone, they resemble a ‘Biscuit’ but can be sweet or savory. They are a hardy wee number and they can travel well. Date scones are best served warm with butter slathered on but can also be refreshed slightly in the microwave.
TIPS: It is important to have a light touch when mixing the milk into the dry ingredients. Use very cold butter to cut into the flour. Feel free to use self rising flour, I rarely have it.
Date Scones ( Biscuits)
- 6 Tblsp very cold butter ( chopped into small pieces)
- 3 cups plain flour
- 6 tsp baking powder
- 1 Tblsp sugar
- 8 dates medjool are nice but dried are good too ( I often soak the chopped dried dates in the milk mix to soften for 15 mins)
- 1 1/4 cups milk
Heat oven to 400 F and arange the top rack 1/3 from the top of oven.
If you have cold hands you can cut or rub the butter into the sifted dry ingredients but if like me your hands are as hot as Hades use this trick. Place half the flour into food processor with the the sugar and baking powder and add the butter, pulse until breadcrumby and pour out into your mixing bowl. Quickly add remaining flour and mix with a knife to incorporate.
Add the dates and milk and again mix with the knife. The dough may be sticky but not sloppy.
Scrape out onto well floured bench and quickly press together into a manageable dough, just a few turns and presses and the the briefest roll with a rolling pin to 1 1/2 inches thick. Do not over handle!!
I use a 1 1/2 inch fluted cutter but cutting into squares is attractive also. Make sure you dip your cutter or knife in flour between each cut as micx will be sticky within.
Place on a tray lined with baking paper, with only 1/4 to 1/2 inch between them. When they bake they will just touch and keep softer on the sides.
Brush with a milk/ egg wash if desired
Bake for 10 – 12 mins until top and bottom are light brown and when you pick one up it doesn’t feel heavy.
Remove from oven and place in a basket lined with a clean tea towel which also covers the top. Serve immediately with butter. They are still delicious cold in your lunch but cut in half and buttered is highly recommended!
Ahhh the old faithful muffin. It is easy to see why they are still so popular, easy to make and so easy to switch out flavours, they are a crowd pleaser as the young and the not so young love them. To save cleaning my muffin pan I use cupcake cases and it also helps with keeping them nice and neat within the lunch box. Good for a picnic, a school snack and even a breakfast on the go. The inclusion of rolled oats and the fruity tart berries makes it a little healthier and are a snap to whip up and store in the freezer until needed.
Easy Berry and Oat Muffins
- 1 1/4 cups sifted plain flour
- 1 1/4 cups oats (I use the Raley’ s store brand)
- 3 level tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 canola or similar baking oil
- 3/4 cup mixed berries, frozen is fine but cut any large berries smaller
Preheat oven to 410 F
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and rolled oats in one bowl.
Mix egg, milk and oil in another bowl and then pour into dry ingredients and gently mix.
Lastly, fold berries in and spoon into a 12 muffin pan, either greased lightly of with a liner.
Bake 20 – 25 mins but don’t overbake.
I also cooked mini sized but they were tough as I cooked too long and they were tough as boots.
Rice is my fave and my best, I could eat it happily for every meal. The versatilty of this grain makes you realise why it is a staple in so many countries around the world. Obviously because of its widespread popularity different types of grain are available to suit different dishes. In this instance Arborio rice is used as it short starchy personality makes the risotto cream and stick togerther nicely. You do not usually want to rince arborio rice before cooking as you want to keep that starch hanging around.
As a Mom I appreciate this recipe as it does not involve all the stirring you associate with Risotto making. The trusty microwave does all the work until the shallow frying at the end transforms the rice into a crunchy cheesy hot delight. These are yummy cold also but you could try them in a thermos to retain the warmth (if not the crunch) or microwave gently. Serve with a tomato relish and a zingy green salad and your lunch box never looked better.
Crispy Risotto Cakes
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped very finely
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine ( or extra stock)
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
- Extra butter and oil for frying
Place onion, oil and butter in a large microwave proof dish. Cover and microwave on full power for 4 mins. Stir in the rice, cover and microwave for 1 1/2 mins. Add the wine plus 2 cups of the stock, stir, cover and cook for 10 mins. Stir in remaining stock, cover and cook a further 5 mins or until rice is tender and creamy.
Allow to cool and stir in parmesan and eggs, then place in fridge till completely cold. Shape mixture in small balls and then roll in panko crumbs flattening slightly.
Shallow fry in a mix of butter and oil until crispy and golden.
I like the easiness of this pulled pork as it can be made with little effort, in advance to use in a multitude of lunch dishes. Although, pulled pork is super convenient if cooked in a slow cooker I was lucky enough to be given a used Le Creuset lidded casserole which worked beautifully.
Dishes that are just thrown together, left to cook and then are versatile, ticks all the boxes as far as meal preparation. I am much better thinking about meals in the morning than at 5pm.
Although this pulled pork has its own light sauce at the end, you could add your favorite thicker BBQ sauce on reheating. Also it may pay to chill the saucy liquid so you can lift off the set fat.
- 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup or a mix of both
- 1 heaped tsp smokey paprika
- 6 finely chopped garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsp yellow mustard
- 1/4 tsp chili flakes or to your taste
- 1 onion (red or yellow) sliced
- Pork butt 4-5 lbs
- Salt and pepper
Place the chopped onion on the base of your slow cooker or heavy casserole dish. Place the salt and peppered pork atop ( I do cut any thick fat layer off first)
Mix all the remaining ingredients together and pour over pork, making sure all sides are covered. Place lid on and turn slow cooker on high for 5- 6 hours, turning halfway through. Or, lid the heavy casserole and place in 320 degree F oven for around 4-5 hours. Turn once.
The meat is cooked when it easily breaks apart with a fork. Drain if you like and chill liquid to remove excess fat. Add BBQ sauce if you like it saucy.
Enjoy with tortillas, sliders, on rice or in wraps. So many uses.
FYI, I would serve coleslaw and tortillas on the side, not in the the thermos and assemble as I ate. Don’t forget napkins!
These are a snap to make for picnic boxes or a quick lunch. Asparagus rolls are good at using these healthy spears in perhaps a new way for you. Very popular at tea parties, they are quite robust once you get the knack of rolling and maybe securing. They are a splash of color and a good alternative to the usual triangle sammie.
You can find the recipe and more instructions here.
Your kids may be tricked it to trying a ‘new’ vegetable in its sassy new bread outfit. Served cold and the asparagus a tiny bit crunchy, it’s a taste of spring.
Make sure you don’t overcook the asparagus as it will be very limp, never good and also don’t prepare them the day before, soggy bread sucks also.
Hit’s a new day, time to jump up and pack that lunchbox. Not inspired? I hope I can help you out with a few ideas. Whether it be the kid’s school lunch, a workday lunch or a romantic picnic lunch, there will be some ideas here for you. Mix and match, adapt to suit and the stress of the empty lunchbox will disappear!