Monthly Archives: May 2013

Brown Sugar Pecan Muffins


Brown Sugar Pecan Muffins

My grandparents lived for a time in San Antonio, Texas.  It was a place that they loved, and the friendships they made lasted forever. For many years, until my Grandfather’s passing, they made an annual trip back to visit their friends and to play golf.

My Grandmother would always bring back 2 or 3 enormous jars (they were SO big I’ve always wondered where she got them) of freshly picked pecans.  They were her favourite nut to bake with and she had a stack of recipes for them.

Her muffin recipe here dates back to the 1960s.

Usually I believe that muffins are best fresh out of the oven, but I think these muffins are best the next day.  They are moist and chewy, and the nutty flavours enhance once cooled.


  • 1 c pecans
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • ½ c macadamia or canola oil
  • 1 lg egg
  • 1 T maple syrup


  • ¾ c dark brown sugar, packed
  • 4 ½ T butter, melted
  • ½ c crushed pecans

Grind pecans into fine crumbs (my Grandmother had the coolest hand-grinder that screwed onto a jar – I wish I could buy one) and set aside. You need to grind enough for the muffin batter and the topping.

Make the topping by mixing all ingredients together and set aside until needed.

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 1 hold muffin pan with paper baking cups.

Sift dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, oil, egg and syrup in a small bowl. Add egg mixture to dry indgredients and mix until just combined.

Divide batter evenly into the prepared cups.  Sprinkle topping over the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Chocolate Shortbread Stars


Chocolate Shortbread Stars

I often bypass cookie recipes that involve kneading the dough. I always think of them as a hassle, although the truth is, kneading the dough is not a lot of work, and is actually kind of fun.

These cookies have a very rich chocolate flavour, a good crunch and they melt in your mouth.  They are adapted from an Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook (always reliable) called “Bake”.  Another one of my ‘go to’ books for kids treats and quick desserts.


  •  250 g butter, softened
  • 1 c pure icing sugar
  • 1 ¼ c plain flour
  • ½ c rice flour
  • 1/3 c cocoa powder (my preference is the Woolworths Home Brand because it is very intense)
  • 125 g dark chocolate bits
  • 2 T icing sugar, extra
  • 1 T cocoa powder, extra

Beat butter and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add sifted flours and cocoa in 3 batches.  Knead on a floured surface until smooth.

Roll dough between sheets of baking paper to 3/4 cm thick.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 160C, and line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

Cut stars (makes about 30 x 6.5 cm stars) from dough. Place them about 4cm apart on oven trays. Decorate with chocolate bits.

Bake for 16-18 minutes.  Cool on trays.

Sift combined extra icing sugar and cocoa onto cookies before serving.

Raspberry Rose Cupcakes


Raspberry Rose Cupcakes 3

These cupcakes are divine.  The combination of raspberry and rose with a sweet vanilla icing works deliciously well.  And they are SO easy.


  • 125 g butter, softened
  • ¾ c caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/3 c self-raising flour
  • 1 c ground almonds
  • 1/3 c milk
  • ¾ c raspberries (fresh or frozen), plus extras for decorating
  • 1 t rosewater *

Preheat oven to 180C.  Line a 12 x medium sized cup muffin pan with paper cases.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in flour, ground almonds, milk, and rosewater. Then very gently fold in the raspberries.

Divide batter between cases. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Leave to cool in pan.


  • 175 g butter
  • 1 1/2 c icing sugar
  • 1/4 t rosewater
  • 1/2 t vanilla

Beat all ingredients together until light and fluffy.  Spread generously over cupcakes and top with raspberries.

Raspberry Rose Cupcakes 4

Honey Jumbles and a Tribute to Angelina Jolie


Honey Jumbles ready to eat

Anyone who has lost a beloved family member to breast cancer understands the agony of it all: the initial shock of diagnosis, the roller coaster of emotions as hopes rise and fall throughout treatment and then the devastation if the cancer wins the battle.  But what people don’t talk about is the legacy of uncertainty left behind by that cancer – as family members start to wonder if they are next.

Angelina Jolie made such a brave decision to have a double mastectomy. Even having a genetic mutation that almost guarantees that cancer will come, it would have been such a hard decision.  But being brave enough to tell the world about it, is just amazing. It must help to make the decision a teeny bit easier for others with the same health issues if a strong and beautiful woman can share the experience and declare her femininity unscathed. She has my enduring respect for doing so.

These cookies come from a recipe in a special issue of the “Australian Good Taste” magazine (October 2009) promoting “Pink Ribbon Breakfasts” to raise money for breast cancer.  They are soft and chewy with a lovely hard icing, just like the commercial ones – but SO much nicer!!


  • 2 1/3 c plain flour
  • 1/3 c self raising flour
  • ½ t bicarb soda
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • ¼ t ground cloves
  • 60 g butter
  • 1/3 c brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/3 c golden syrup
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked

Sift flours, soda and spices into a large bowl, and make well in the middle.  Combine the butter, sugar, golden syrup, and honey in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring continually, until ingredients are melted and well blended. Pour into flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Add egg and mix until well combined.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky. Wrap in non-stick paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest.

Honey Jumbles dough

Pre-heat oven to 160C and line 2 large baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. With each portion, roll into an 18 cm log, about 1.5 cm thick. Cut into approximately 6cm lengths. Round the edges and flatten slightly and place on trays, leaving some room for spreading.

Honey Jumbles ready for oven

Cook for 10-12 minutes or until light brown.  Remove from oven and leave on trays until cooled completely.

Honey Jumbles Cooked


  • 1 egg white
  • 1 ½ c icing sugar
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 3-4 drops red food colouring

Whisk egg white in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in sifted icing sugar.  As the icing thickens, add the lemon juice to thin out. Whisk until icing whitens.  Spread half the cookies evenly with the icing.

Add the food colouring to the remaining icing and whisk in. Ice the remaining cookies.

Honey Jumbles read

Set cookies aside to allow the icing to set.

Sesame Green Beans


Sesame Green Beans

This is a super simple and super yummy way to liven up some green beans.  It’s great as a side dish but I will often make it for myself when I feel like having a green lunch.


  • 200 g fresh green beans
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • few drops of sesame oil
  • 1 T toasted sesame seeds

Steam or boil green beans until just beginning to soften. Drain the water from the pan. Add soy sauce and sesame oil and toss well to coat.  Place in serving dish and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds.

Potato Cauliflower Dill Soup


Potato Cauliflower Dill Soup

There is nothing like coming home from a holiday to find your home ransacked and burgled. It is such a rude shock to find your personal space violated, and precious keepsakes (worth so much more than money) taken. But the worst part is watching your innocent young children suddenly realise that their home is not the impenetrable sanctuary that they had always thought that it was.

So the sooner we could return to a sense of order and normality the better.

So that night, as an important step in reclaiming our space, we sat down to a quiet, comforting and warming soup.


  • 1 med onion
  • 1 T oil
  • 2 large potatoes, washed but not peeled
  • 1 head cauliflower (about 1.2 kg)
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 5 c good quality vegetable or chicken stock (preferably homemade)
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh dill
  • 180 g cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Chop onion and sauté in oil until starting to soften.  Add chopped potatoes and celery and 2 cups  of stock.  Bring to boil, then turn down to a simmer and add cauliflower. Cook until cauliflower is soft.

Add dill, cream cheese and salt and pepper and remove from heat. Once cooled enough, blend in a food processor or blender on high speed til as smooth as you like it.  I like to leave mine a little rough and chunky.

Serve with garlic bread.