Saturday, February 20, 2010

Valentines Day - The Day Before

This Valentines Day, Teena and I decided to stay home and cook our own food rather than going out and having an overpriced meal somewhere.  So we planned what we were going to make and made sure we had all the ingredients ready to go. 

We made a couple of things the day before, so we could take it easy on the actual day.  The first thing we wanted to make was a savory pull-apart.  I made the dough in our bread machine, because it's just so easy!  Then I divided the mix into about a dozen or so pieces and flattened them out a little bit.  We mixed some capsicum, tomato, chili, garlic and herbs together in a bowl, then layered the dough and tomato mix in a pan.  We used a round cake tin as that's all we had available.  The top layer of dough, we shaped into love hearts and brushed them with oil. 

It turned out rather well in the end, and was delicious!  We'll probably make this again using different ingredients.  You could add almost anything to it really.

As the pull-apart was baking, we made some Lemon Mrytle Biscotti and Rose Water Biscuits.  The Biscotti was much the same as my Almond Biscotti except with Pistachios instead of almonds. We had wanted to shape them into love hearts, but realised that wasn't going to work.  The Pistachios took a while to de-shell, but they tasted great!  We decided we couldn't really taste the Lemon Myrtle though.  Not sure why, perhaps we didn't add enough? 

The Rose Water Biscuits turned out really well.  We used a cookie cutter to shape them into love hearts and Teena sprinkled some pink sugar over the top to finish them off.  They are a bit messy but easy to make, and taste great!

While the biscuits were cooking, I also had an eggplant wrapped in foil sitting in the oven.  This was for a recipe I found somewhere on the net a while ago (can't remember where), called Poor Man's Caviar.  Here's the recipe:

Poor Man's Caviar as a spread or dip.
* 2 (1-pound) eggplants
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
* 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
* 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon dried basil
* 1/8 teaspoon pepper
* 1 (16-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained

Preheat oven to 400°.
Pierce eggplants with a fork; place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool slightly; peel and finely chop. Place eggplant in a colander; let drain.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, and garlic, and saute 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in eggplant, parsley, and remaining ingredients. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

You can serve chilled or warm it using vegetables, bread or chips.

We didn't follow it exactly as we only had one eggplant and half a capsicum, but it still tasted great with the corn chips we had in the cupboard.

The last thing we made was some Hollandaise Sauce which we put into a jar in the fridge so we could use it the next day.  However, that left us with some left over egg whites.. so Teena whipped up some pink Meringues (actually I did the whipping!).  I won't post those here though, you can check out Teena's blog if you want to see how they turned out.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Glass Fusing

Teena's father gave her a glass fusing kit which has a microwave kiln in it.  The kiln, pictured here, can be put in a microwave and it reaches temperatures hot enough to melt the glass.  We were a bit apprehensive at first, but this weekend we decided to give it a go. The kit we have comes with some different coloured glass and other little bits and pieces which you can combine to make some interesting items.  

Our first attempt... exploded.  Not a huge, blow up the microwave type of explosion, but the glass ended up in a couple of pieces inside the kiln.  Much like this one which exploded later, after we'd already had a few successful attempts.  We're not sure why it exploded, we think it might have had some residue or something on it or it went in for too long.

This is what it looks like when it comes out of the microwave.  As you can see the glass is red hot, apparently the temperature inside the kiln can reach up to 1600 °F or 871 °C!  Surprisingly the temperature on the outside of the kiln is only warm to the touch, though I still wore the safety gloves provided.  It only takes a couple of minutes for the glass to fuse.  We checked it quickly after 2 1/2 minutes by lifting the lid on the kiln.  If it needed more time we would give it another 30 seconds and check it again.  That's the method that gave us the most success anyway.

And here is the end result. 

There's not much more we can do with these.  They need to be buffed and polished to remove all the sharp edges and shape them but you need a grinding/polishing wheel or something to do that properly.  Then you can either glue some hooks on them or try and drill holes to turn them into pendants or some other little trinket.
    Overall it was fun creating new designs and fusing them in the microwave.  Previously you would have needed an expensive kiln, but this little device makes it possible for anyone to fuse glass at home.  However it's a very time consuming process.  You can only do one item at a time, then you have to wait about 40 minutes until the kiln has cooled down before you can fire another one.  So if you wanted to make things to sell at the markets or on eBay, i'm not sure if it would be worth it based on the amount of time you would have to invest in the process.  Also the kiln is showing signs of wear already, there are a couple of hairline cracks on the inside and the base has a few chips in it after only a few days of use.  I'm not sure how long it would last if you were using it frequently.  It might be more suited to making some interesting gifts now and again for friends and family.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Almond Biscotti

We have a heap of almonds sitting in the cupboard, Teena bought them when they were on special.  So the other day I was searching the net trying to find something to make with them and I came across this recipe from one of my favorite sites, 

I'd never made Biscotti before although I'd seen pictures and thought it would have been difficult!  Well turns out it's easy, you just mix the ingredients together, form it into a log and bake it for about 20 minutes.  Then you cut it into thin slices and put it back in the oven to make them crisp.  The hardest part for me was cutting the log into thin slices.  I tried a couple of different knives, the serrated edge knives worked the best, but it's still hard work!

The end result was delicious!  We want to make some more soon with different ingredients, maybe Pistachio or Macadamia and Lemon Myrtle (which we have growing in the courtyard).
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