Candy Cane Christmas Tree Brownies

I know it’s only the last day of November, but with Christmas just around the corner and so many shops already bursting with decorations, I thought I might as well jump on the bandwagon and start sharing Christmas ideas. A number of friends have already put their trees up too, but I try to get through November before starting to concentrate on Christmas.

Candy Cane Brownie Christmas Trees

I can’t claim that this creativity belongs to me though, but I do have permission to share it with you. Last Christmas, one of my friends used my Best Chocolate Brownie Recipe Ever to make these gorgeous Candy Cane Christmas Trees and I loved the idea. Kids love the idea too, combining the peppermint flavour of the candy canes with the gooey chocolateyness of the brownies, adding a few M&Ms for decorations glued in place with melted white chocolate and you can’t go wrong.

When my son was still in kindergarten I used Christmas shaped cookie cutters to cut seasonal shapes out of freshly baked Brownies to take to his school Christmas party which also worked a treat. Dusted with a light sprinkling of icing sugar to give a snowy effect and everyone thought I was very clever, but now I’m thinking my friend is very clever and you can be too.

What you will need:
1 quantity Best Chocolate Brownie Recipe – ever!, baked and cooled
1 medium sized Christmas Tree cookie cutter (or cut triangles if you don’t have a cutter on hand)
8 – 12 candy canes (depends on how many trees you can get out of the brownie based on the size of your cookie cutter)
red and green M&Ms
50 g white chocolate (use more if you prefer)
1 medium plastic sandwich bag

  1. Bake the brownies and allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes. Carefully turn out of the pan onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Then turn onto a chopping board and cut out the desired shapes (triangles or Christmas trees).
  2. Chop off the hook of the candy canes, leaving you with straight sticks to be used as handles.
  3. Carefully insert the candy canes into the base of the trees.
  4. Separate all the green and red M&Ms from the pack, eating all the others you don’t need.
  5. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave for a few seconds until of a pouring consistency. Either transfer to a bag with a small hole in the corner to squeeze patterns onto the brownie trees, or use a spoon and drizzle it on – personally, I think the bag method is easier as you have more control over the pressure, quantity and direction the chocolate will go in but take care to work quickly as the chocolate will begin to set.
  6. Place the M&M decorations onto the white chocolate and allow to “dry”.

Santa might even enjoy a couple of these with his cookies and milk ;).

Enjoy!

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Lamb Salad

We’ve had a very unsettled Spring this year and with Summer supposedly just around the corner it’s strange that we’re still in winter pyjamas, with extra blankets on the beds, sometimes even having the heaters on although the last week has been a bit warmer. It’s been rain, rain and more rain with crazy winds causing havoc around the countryside. A sure sign of Spring is all the gorgeous lambs frolicking around the countryside as well as the Asparagus in-store. I love Asparagus and it works perfectly with the lamb in this salad.

Spring Lamb Salad

A few weekends ago the sun managed to break through and we had a glorious couple of days to walk along the beach, get into the garden to do some long overdo chores and were even able to fire up the braai again but my husband’s marinade recipe will have to wait to be shared another day as I have something I’d like to share with you first. It just looks like Spring on a plate and was absolutely delicious. I’ll definitely be making this again and hope that you will too. A great weekend light meal or an easy one for week nights. Not even 20 minutes and a delicious healthy meal was ready to serve.

New Zealand is world renown for it’s delicious and healthy lamb and takes great pride in it’s distinctive flavour due to it being naturally raised on our country’s beautiful green pastures. When we moved here we noticed how different the meat tastes in comparison with homegrown South African Karoo lamb, they’re both delicious so I guess we’ve been very lucky with the produce from our two “home” countries.

ingredients:
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
400 g lamb steak, cut into slivers (or just buy stir-fry meat)
Olive oil cooking spray
1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
1 large red pepper (capsicum), cut into 2 cm slices
12 cherry tomatoes (or mini roma if you can fine them)
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed
60 g baby rocket or kale salad leaves, they each have a very distinctive flavour
lemon wedges to serve
Hummus dressing (see below)

  1. Combine garlic, rosemary and oil in a shallow bowl. Add the lamb and turn to coat the meat thoroughly. Cover and set aside in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to marinate.
  2. Preheat an oiled BBQ flatplate over moderately high heat or just do this on the stove top if you don’t have a BBQ or are not really in the mood. Add the lamb to the flatplate and stir-fry for 2 – 3 minutes until just cooked. Don’t overcook as the meat will continue to cook for a few minutes after you’ve removed it from the heat and as it is in thin strips, it may become tough. Set aside but keep warm (covering with tin foil is a good idea).
  3. Spray the onion, capsicum, tomatoes and asparagus with oil then char-grill the vegetables in batches, turning occasionally. Should take about 4 – 5 minutes but check, the veggies should still have a crunch to them, not be overcooked and soft.
  4. Spread the rocket or kale leaves onto a platter and arrange the vegetables on top. Top with the lamb and drizzle with the hummus dressing. Serve with lemon wedges.
  5. To make the Hummus salad dressing, you’ll need a ½ a cup of bought hummus dip (unless you make your own) and a ¼ cup lemon juice.  Whisk ingredients in a small bowl until smooth

Enjoy!

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Coconut Fudge Balls

This past week a friend and I were chatting and she told me I’ve become a true Soccer Mum. We laughed at the time, but I suppose she’s right, and I’ll wear that badge proudly. Growing up all I really wanted was to be a Mother. I used to watch all the other mothers of kids at my school who would fetch and carry for after school sport, they were involved and showed interest. Whether shouting encouragement from the sidelines or actively getting involved in other ways and I knew then that I wanted to be that kind of Mum to my own kids one day.

Coconut BallsLast summer my son wanted to play Summer Soccer, but he is a very active child with no end to his energy reserves and already had swimming, keyboard and Tag (a form of junior rugby league) on the go, with cricket on Saturdays so we agreed he could play Summer Soccer this season. When it came time to register him for a team I was told that it was up to parents to put teams together as it isn’t run by the Soccer Club the way Winter Soccer is, with proper leagues, etc. After a couple of weeks of frustration trying to find a team for him to join, my only avenue was to create and manage one myself. So our Stormers were born. 6 little boys all eager to release their energy on a Monday afternoon. You should see them, they’re an awesome little team and I have the pleasure of collecting 3 of them from school and looking after them until time for soccer. Last week a friend had to work late so I had 4 of them with me and it was an absolute hoot! Mayhem probably describes it better with one singing at the top of his lungs, the other yelling greetings out the window to passers by (nice greetings, and truth be told, probably not loud enough for anyone but us to hear him), one had my iPhone and was directing us using the compass and the 4th just laughed and laughed.

Eventually we got home and I was able to let them loose in the back yard while I prepared some afternoon tea for 4 hungry tummies. I still had some of the Healthy Muffin mixture in the fridge so popped that into the oven but soon discovered it was these little fudgy morsels that were the favourite. They not only look great and store well in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week (they could probably be stored for longer but they’re normally all gobbled up before the week is out).

If you aren’t fond of coconut, just leave it out. It isn’t in the mixture itself, but the balls are rolled in it before letting them set.

ingredients:
250 g butter
1 egg
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
500 g icing sugar
1 – 2 tsp vanilla extract/essence
1 250 g packet plain biscuits (Marie or vanilla wine biscuits work well)
desiccated coconut

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over a low heat. Remove from the heat.
  2. Beat the egg well and add to the butter, stirring continuously with a bulb whisk – you don’t want to scramble the egg, just gently cook it while combining with the butter.
  3. Sieve the cocoa, icing sugar and salt into the butter-egg mixture and add the vanilla extract.
  4. Stir well to combine.
  5. Crush the biscuits into fine crumbs and add to the mixture. When well blended place in the fridge to cool (not too long as you don’t want it to set too much).
  6. Roll teaspoon sized blobs of the mixture into little balls (just use your fingers people, don’t be fiddling with 2 spoons!) and coat in the coconut. This is easiest if you spread the coconut onto a plate and literally roll the ball around in it.
  7. Set all balls onto a tray and put the tray back into the fridge for them to set properly. Once set, you can pack them into a Tupperware container (or similar) that has a lid that seals well.
  8. Depending on the size balls I roll, I normally get about 50 balls from this mixture.

Enjoy!
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Chocolate Peanut Cups

These chocolate peanut cups are to die for and anyone you share them with will think you’re very clever, but I can promise you, they are so quick and easy I think you’ll be surprised when you make them. I remember being incredibly impressed when a friend made something similar a year or so ago for a little “do” at her home, and she protested that they were indeed simple to make, but we didn’t believe her at the time as she is a genuine baking genius.

Decadent Chocolate Peanut CupsI found the recipe for these tasty morsels on the back of a Sun Valley chocolate wrapper and couldn’t resist trying them out. The ingredients are pretty standard; milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter, butter, icing sugar and cocoa. If you’re not keen on a bitter dark chocolate, use semi-sweet instead or you could just use milk chocolate for the whole thing but then you’ll lose the lovely two-tone effect.

The only thing you might have to source is the mini muffin/cupcake cases – and I mean the very tiny ones – like the ones you’d use to serve truffles in. They’re easily peeled off after the chocolate has set or you could leave them in the cases to add a bit of colour, but I like seeing the three layers of chocolate (including the sprinkling of cocoa on the top).

With Christmas just around the corner, a few of these beautifully packaged in cellophane bags with colourful raffia or ribbon would make lovely home-made gifts or with all the school galas (fetes) on at the moment, they’d add a bit of style and charm to the tea shop or bake sale stall.

I suggest halving the quantity of peanut butter, butter and icing sugar as you’re left with an enormous amount in relation to the chocolate after completing all the cups unless of course you have other ideas for this leftover mixture.

1 tsp of butter weighs approximately 4.7 g (see Traditional Oven butter converter) so if your scale is one of the old non-electronic ones you’ll probably have trouble getting an accurate measurement. If you do halve the quantities stated below, use only 3 level teaspoons of butter, 62 g (1/8th of a cup) of smooth peanut butter and a ¼ cup of icing sugar instead.

ingredients:
¼ cup smooth peanut butter
28 g unsalted butter
½ cup icing sugar
125 g dark chocolate drops/chips
125 g milk chocolate drops/chips
a little cocoa powder for sprinkling

  1. Place 12 – 16 mini muffin cups (silicone, foil or paper, it doesn’t matter) into a muffin tray (supports the shape as the melted chocolate is runny and will cause the sides of the cups to lean over if unsupported).
  2. Heat the butter and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl until soft, not melted, check every 10 seconds or so. Mix thoroughly with the icing sugar – no need to sieve it – and set aside.
  3. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler and share it among the muffin cases, filling each a little under halfway. Repeat until all the chocolate is used up.
  4. Place a tiny teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture on the top and centre of each milk chocolate case, pushing it down gently so the chocolate forms a cup around the mixture.
  5. Repeat step 3 using the dark chocolate and top up the cups until full and all peanut mixture is covered.
  6. Lightly tap the cups or tray on the counter top to remove any air bubbles and place in the fridge to cool completely and set. Once cooled, remove from the cups and dust with a sprinkling of cocoa powder – use a fine mesh sieve so you don’t get clumps of cocoa.

Enjoy!

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Halloween Cupcakes

Ever had one of those mornings where you’re woken up at some unholy hour of the morning by a very loud car droning it’s way up a nearby hill and realise your peaceful bliss has been shattered so you best get up and get an early start to the day? But because your sleep was so rudely interrupted, you’re a tad grumpy and that sets off a domino effect of really annoying things happening “to” you (or possibly “by” you because you’re half asleep and not concentrating).

Halloween cupcakes

Well that was my morning today, but the story only gets better – while brushing my child’s hair the brush snaps in half and I realise the handle has quite literally come apart in my hand. OK, I can deal with one more frustrating thing, so I put my smiley face on and head to the kitchen to locate the Super Glue. Armed with my Super Glue and having positioned the brush perfectly to receive the thin line of extremely sticky and permanent glue, what happens? Can you guess? The glue bottle explodes in a bubble and burst and squirts glue all over my mobile phone case, the stone bench top and not a single drop lands where it was supposed to go. So now all hell really does break loose in the lightning speed with which I now have to move around the kitchen to remove the glue residue before it hardens on the stone bench top and is a lasting reminder forever more. With the glue tube deposited into the trash and after a good 10 minutes scrubbing the bench top with various cleaners that should not be used anywhere near the bench top, I finally have a result which isn’t perfect, but a lot better than it could have been.

So with half a hair brush set aside to be dealt with later, I turn my attention to making the packed lunches and have a brain wave. How about a few sliced pickled onions on a cheese and lettuce sandwich to spruce it up a bit? After rinsing my hands to remove the pickle juice with a plan to return the glass bottle to the fridge, I half heartedly dry my hands before grabbing the bottle and … yes, you guessed it…it slips seamlessly from my grasp and lands with a fantastic smashing crash on the tiled floor. I now have pickled onions, glass shards and pickled juice all over the floor and stand dumbly for a few seconds watching it spread under the fridge. Oh Joy!! More work for me and it is barely 6.30 am!! I could quite easily cancel this day and go back to bed, but you know what it’s like – it won’t clean itself and there is really no such thing as a cleaning fairy so I set about sorting it out.

And how does this relate to Halloween cupcakes I hear you ask – well, my only explanation is that the ghosts and ghouls have been at play and hopefully now that they’ve had their fun they can move along. But seriously, I’ve been wanting to share these gorgeous little Halloween Cupcakes with you and decided now was as good a time as any. I’ve already shared this pic with my friends who follow Chocolate Goose on Facebook, but haven’t had a chance to share them here yet. I made them a few years ago for my son’s kindy class but just looking at them always makes me smile, partly because they look happy but also because it reminds me of his little fingers and excitement to help me position all the worms!

No recipe to follow again this time, just bake cupcakes and decorate with any number of bought or made Halloween lollies, or use this lovely vanilla cupcake recipe. I particularly liked the idea of the worms climbing in and out of the mud and grassy bits so have fun – too late for this year but I couldn’t get myself together in time for last Friday.

Enjoy!

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30-Day Health Muffins

The secret to baking the perfect muffin is to mix the mixture as little as possible. After combining the liquid with the dry ingredients, stirring just enough to moisten, the batter should still be lumpy. One of my oldest and possibly my favourite recipe books states that “over-mixing the batter will destroy the light texture of the muffins and can result in tough, coarse muffins that contain tunnels”. And who wants tunnels?

Fig Muffins

I love muffins. They can be as big or as small as your muffin pans will allow and the basic mixture is so versatile, the options are virtually endless and limited only by your imagination. Whether sweet or savoury, few can resist the smell of freshly baked warm muffins direct from the oven.

The beauty of this particular recipe is evident in the name: this batter can literally be stored for 30 days in an air-tight container in the fridge, but I predict that you won’t be able to make the mixture last that long as you’ll want to use it all in a week. Fresh muffins for breakfast have certainly never been easier. The recipe calls for the batter to be left in the fridge overnight before baking, but I’ve found this isn’t absolutely necessary.

Today I decided to add chopped dried figs as I love figs but you can replace with an equal quantity of fruit cake mix or pitted dates, sultanas, raisins or a few walnuts or pecan nuts. If you do decide to bake them all in one go and then have a few leftovers, they can be individually wrapped in tin foil or packed into freezer bags and frozen for up to three months. Great for lunch boxes – remove the foil and pop into the lunch box. It will have defrosted by lunch time.

ingredients: (makes 48 medium size muffins)
2 eggs
125 ml cooking oil (preferably a light flavoured oil so it doesn’t overshadow the rest of the flavours)
375 ml soft brown sugar (300 g)
500 ml milk
250 ml Wheat flour (150 g)
375 ml cake flour (210 g)
500 ml digestive bran (I used Oat bran) (60 g)
5 ml salt
5 ml vanilla essence or extract
10 ml bicarbonate of soda
300 g dried fruit, chopped (figs)

  1. If baking immediately, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Using a hand/bulb whisk, whisk the eggs, oil and sugar together.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined.
  4. Spoon into well-greased muffin tins or use baking cups, filling each two-thirds full.
  5. If storing the mixture in the fridge overnight, then follow steps 2 and 3 before transferring to an airtight container and into the fridge.
  6. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.
  7. Serve warm with butter.

Enjoy!

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Ice-cream Cupcakes

I haven’t made these eye catching little treats in a while but whenever I do, the kids (any kids, both big and small) absolutely love them! Not only ‘cos they’re a little confused as to whether they’re actually getting an ice-cream or a cupcake, but they can hear something secret hidden away inside. They’re also great to theme as just by changing the decorations and colour of the icing, you can use the same idea again and again and again.

Ice cream Cupcakes

I have to admit though that they can become a little tedious and fiddly, but the reaction you get is well worth any extra time spent on colouring the batter. You see, inside each cupcake is a rainbow of pure joy! Now don’t get too impressed by my cleverness because it isn’t really very clever at all – once you’ve completed making the batter, simply spoon it equally into separate bowls and add a drop or two of colour – seriously, only a drop or two as a little colour goes a long way.

Ice cream Cupcakes with hidden candy

Once all the batter is coloured, carefully layer it spoon by spoon into your cupcake/muffin cases. And please Please PLEASE remember the golden rule of making cupcakes: Always put the cases into the muffin trays before you begin filling them! It’s best to do this as the first step when making cupcakes as I have a couple of friends who have forgotten to do this and then battled to get the cupcakes out, or they’ve placed the empty cases onto a flat baking tray in the hope that the cakes will hold their shape, but be warned – they won’t! The batter oozes out everywhere and you end up with a disappointing mess.

Now, back to these adorable creations. Some people bake inside the ice cream cones but I haven’t tried that, and to be honest, I probably won’t. Also make sure that the cupcake base matches the size of the opening at the top of the ice cream cone before you begin. You want a fairly tight fit, but not so tight that the pressure begins to crack the cone’s edges.

While the cupcakes are baking, you can make your icing as normal. I use butter icing and again, you can colour this however you please. Here I chose Strawberry and Chocolate “ice-creams” which worked well – please excuse the photos, as I said, I haven’t made these in a while and came across these pics while looking for inspiration the other day.

I find that flat bottom cones work best as they happily stand on their own, like rows of little soldiers so hunt around to find them, I promise they are far less frustrating than the traditional cones unless of course you have a “cone holder” stashed away at home that you can use.

Once the baked cupcakes have cooled and the icing is ready, line everything up in a conveyor belt type operation and begin by adding a few lollies/candy to the cones. Then fit the un-iced cupcake to the cone and ice as normal, but be careful as you don’t want to dislodge the cupcake. I’ve found that little fingers are always willing to help decorate with sprinkles or more candy but some advice from me? Serve them outside as they can be almost as messy as real ice-creams.

Below I haven’t listed the ingredients for the cupcake batter or the butter icing, but you can use your own. I have hundreds of these recipes and am experimenting with which I like best so will add in a future post. This post is really just to give you an idea of how to put it altogether and lists a few things you’ll need to have on hand to begin constructing.

You’ll need (for the cupcakes):
Cupcake/muffin trays
Cupcake/muffin cases
Vanilla cupcake batter if you’re wanting to colour it or if not, try whatever flavour you’d prefer
Bowls to separate the batter
Food colouring
Cooling rack

You’ll need (for the icing):
Butter icing
Bowls to separate the icing if creating more than one colour/flavour
Food colouring

You’ll need (for the construction):
Flat bottomed ice-cream cones
Small unwrapped lollies/candy
More lollies/candy/sprinkles for decoration

  1. Preheat your oven to the desired temperature and add the muffin/cupcake cases to the muffin/cupcake trays.
  2. Prepare the batter as per your recipe and separate into individual bowls. Colour with a drop or two of food colouring being careful not to contaminate/mix colours.
  3. Using two spoons, carefully layer the batter into the cupcake/muffin cases.
  4. Bake as per the recipe and remove from the oven once done. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  5. Prepare the butter icing as per your recipe and separate into individual bowls. Colour with a drop or two of food colouring being careful not to contaminate/mix colours.
  6. Stand the flat-bottomed cones and add a few lollies/candy to each.
  7. Insert the un-iced cupcake until secure and then ice.
  8. Decorate with the remaining lollies/candy/sprinkles.

Enjoy!

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