4-ingredient Chocolate Fudge

Fudge always goes down well, whether for school fétes, church bazaars, fund raisers or “just because…”. This was one of those “just because” moments. The freedom of doing something simply because I can and want to is exhilarating and then of course, the simple joy of eating and sharing the fudge afterwards.

4-ingredient Chocolate FudgeYou need to be quick with this recipe though as the melted chocolate mixture begins to set as soon as it starts to cool and that is as soon as you take it out of the microwave.

I’ve made this a few times now, and most recently I experimented a little (also known as just being lazy…) by combining all ingredients into the same bowl and then microwaving it, but save yourself a wasted mission – it doesn’t set afterwards. Somehow, the melting of the butter and chocolate initially, followed by adding the vanilla extract and condensed milk to the already melted chocolate does the trick. I am not scientific enough to explain it to you, but take my word for it. Please.

I came across this recipe via my dear friend, Google and found it on a wonderful page that any true chocoholic shouldn’t be without:

I didn’t do the cooking oil part during one of my experiments but it is better to use it or you run the risk of distorting the beautifully cut squares when you remove them. If you’re like me and didn’t want an oily residue on your fudge, simply place the squares onto a piece of kitchen towel directly after slicing them before transferring to a container or serving platter.

3 cups chocolate chips
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (preferably)
1 x 410 g can condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Line a 20 cm x 20 cm (8 x 8 inch) square baking tin with tin foil or baking parchment and lightly spray with a little cooking oil.
  2. Combine chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on High for 1 minute. Allow to rest for a minute then stir. If still a little lumpy, microwave again for 35 – 40 seconds. Stir until smooth.
  3. Pour in the condensed milk and vanilla. Combine quickly but carefully so it doesn’t splosh out. When smooth, pour into the prepared baking tray.
  4. Place into the fridge for a minimum of two hours to allow it to set before removing and cutting into squares.
  5. Store it in an airtight container, but to be honest – it won’t last very long.




Pink Ribbon Morning Tea

Recently myself, and a number of very special friends hosted a Pink Ribbon Morning Tea at a local golf club. These breakfasts/morning tea’s are held during May in New Zealand to raise funds for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation to enable them to continue their research and to cover the cost of tests and treatment.Pink Ribbon Morning TeaInstead of only a few of us getting together and raising a small amount (yes I know, every bit helps), we invited our wider group of friends…and their friends…and so on, until we had over 80 confirmed guests. Each guest donated $20 to attend and brought along a plate of snacks to share – the food was amazing – so many beautiful ideas and it was all delicious!

Gifts/prizes were donated by local businesses, we made up goodie bags, table flowers were donated and the room looked beautiful. A couple of very enjoyable hours spent together as friends in support of a cause that has touched many of our lives and after raffling off 6 of the donated prizes, we raised just over $2,300.

A fantastic effort by a group of wonderful women. Next time you’re wanting to get involved to support a good cause, remember that an idea can very easily become reality. With a little planning and of course hard work, something amazing can be achieved. From champagne on arrival, to our balloon releasing ceremony at the end in memory of loved ones, it was a magical morning and thanks to Stacey, Charmaine, Sarah, Adele and many others who donated prizes, their time, or travelled from other cities and towns especially to join in.

I recently saw a quote by http://www.livelifehappy.com which says:

Use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, your hands for charity, your mind for truth and your heart for love.

I wish you all peace and happiness and joy.



Slow-cooked Beef and Vegetable Soup

With June being Winter Wellness month, what better way to celebrate health and vitality on a cold night than with a hot and filling veggie soup. Packed with flavour, colour and any vegetable in season you can think of, it’s a delicious meal on it’s own, but I decided to slow-cook gravy beef separately and then shred it and add the shredded meat on top of the soup. Stirred through the soup works just as well, but I liked the presentation of the succulent meat shredded on the top of the soup.

Slow-cooked Beef and Vegetable SoupI suppose this could be classed more as a broth than a soup, given the translucent nature of the liquid, but you can always process it if you prefer a thicker, chunkier soup. Also a good way to clear out the fridge of veggies that have perhaps been sitting looking at you waiting their turn for a few days, but with the addition of parsnips, swede, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, kumara, courgettes, it’s packed full of goodness to keep those Winter colds at bay.

Yesterday our kid’s soccer team had to play in a torrential downpour again. I was so hoping that the fixtures would be cancelled and one of the parents actually commented that they are little children, not the world’s highest paid football players, but if one decides not to play, it impacts the rest of the team. So you stand on the side lines in gumboots and under an umbrella, braving the cold and wet while your darling runs around, freezing cold and soaked through, in the rain. I was very glad I had a steaming bowl of this at home ready and waiting.

I suggest washing, peeling and dicing all veggies prior to beginning to cooking. But if you do decide to add the slow-cooked meat, it will need to be placed into your slow-cooker 3 – 8 hours prior to you serving the soup. 3 hours on High, 6 hours on Medium or about 8 on Low. Nice if you need to put this on to cook before you leave for work in the morning. Just remember to add a cup or two of liquid so it isn’t cooking dry.

Double the recipe and freeze half for another day.

ingredients: (serves 6 as a main meal)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic
1 – 2 large onions
1 – 2 stalks celery
2 large carrots
1 large parsnip
1 large swede
1 large kumara and/or 1 large potato
2 large courgettes
2 litres stock (any flavour)
400 g gravy beef (slow-cooked)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
cold leftover cooked rice

  1. Wash, peel and dice all vegetables.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil and gently fry the onion until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and celery and fry for a few more minutes.
  3. Add all other vegetables and fry for a couple more minutes, then pour in the stock. Season and allow to come to the boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and leave to simmer until the vegetables are cooked through, around 20 – 30 minutes depending on how much you’re making.
  4. A few minutes before you’re ready to serve, add the cold leftover rice. It adds a little more texture to the now soft veggies and makes it more filling as a main meal.
  5. Taste it to check the seasoning as you might want to add a little more.
  6. Lastly, remove the meat from the slow-cooker and shred with two forks. It should fall apart and can be sprinkled onto the top of each filled serving bowl.
  7. Serve with crusty bread or cheese rolls on the side.


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Date Puddings with Caramel Sauce

Today is June 21st, our Winter Solstice; and what better way to celebrate the shortest day and longest night with a deliciously tasty hot winter pudding smothered in a creamy caramel sauce. And of course a dollop of freshly whipped cream never goes amiss.

Date Pudding with Caramel SauceThe combination is very more-ish as we discovered over dinner with friends the other night. It’s always a great compliment when someone who doesn’t ordinarily eat dessert, has a second helping. If feeling very indulgent, you might want to use a 6-hole Texan muffin pan, but I preferred to make them a little smaller, using a standard 12-hole muffin/cup-cake tin. No linings please, just a light spray of oil around each cup/hole or you can wipe with butter – the good old fashioned way, but take care to cover everywhere as you don’t want to be fighting with the tin to get a hold of your pudding!

The dates are gently simmered in water for a few minutes, but instead of adding them whole, I blitzed them after simmering to make more of a puree with the softened dates and residual water. If you prefer bigger pieces of dates, either add them whole or cut them into smaller chunks before adding to the pot.

This caramel sauce and I have become firm friends. It took under 10 minutes to make and was heavenly poured hot over the oven-warm puddings. On their own, the two pair perfectly, but a dollop of the freshly whipped cream adds a third dimension of velvety smooth texture and coolness to the warm pudding and hot sauce.

spray oil
2 cups dates
1 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
120 g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
¼ tsp salt
1½ cups self-raising flour

Caramel Sauce
3/4 cup each: cream, brown sugar
150 g butter
½ tsp vanilla essence
lightly whipped cream, runny cream or custard

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Spray a 12-hole muffin pan with spray oil (or to make larger one, use a 6-hole Texan muffin pan instead).
  2. Place the dates and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 4 minutes, or until there is about 1 tablespoon of water left.
  3. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 2 minutes. Add the baking soda to the dates and stir until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla essence and add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in the salt.
  5. Sieve the flour directly into the bowl and fold in with the date mixture. Spoon the batter into the muffin pans until they are half to three-quarters full.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of one of the puddings comes out clean.

To make the caramel sauce:

  1. Place the cream, sugar, butter and vanilla essence into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until the butter has melted. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly.
  2. Serve the puddings with the whipped cream and caramel sauce, or don’t whip the cream and simply pour over the puddings. Custard is also a tasty addition.


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Feijoa Banana Bread

With the last of my seasonal feijoas, I made this banana bread. A twist on the original, but with an added depth you don’t know you’ve been missing until you taste this loaf. It looks dense, but it has a beautiful texture which melts on the tongue. I can only attribute that to the feijoa pulp/puree that adds a unique but sweet flavour and the little black seeds you can see embedded throughout the loaf.

Feijoa and Banana Bread

It didn’t last long at all! And individually wrapped slices can be frozen and put into lunch-boxes for a treat too. Although similar to my Easy Banana Cake and Buttermilk Banana Bread recipes, it’s a delicious alternative I can look forward to making next year during feijoa season again.

Once sliced, you can enjoy it as is or spread a layer of butter thinly (or thickly, you decide) and savour each bite. A friend who visited over the Summer from Canada loved our New Zealand butter. I honestly take it for granted, but he would enjoy it on it’s own spread onto warm freshly toasted bread. Made me think about it and since then, I’ve done the same a few times. We truly are blessed with our locally grown and prepared produce in this tiny but self sufficient little country we call home.

Warm banana bread straight from the oven is always a treat, but allow it to cool sufficiently as if it is too warm when you slice it, it may crumble a little.

2 medium sized bananas
½ cup pureed feijoas (about 3 or 4 depending on size)
½ cup light vegetable oil (mild flavour)
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs (room temperature)
½ cup milk
2 cups self-raising flour

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C, or 170°C if using the fan setting. Grease and line the loaf tin (makes a small loaf).
  2. Peel and mash bananas. Peel and slice or chop feijoas. Place into food processor along with all other ingredients except the flour. Process until combined.
  3. Sieve in the flour and process again briefly to mix well. Remember to close the lid first though – my processor doesn’t switch on unless the lid is engaged).
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 – 50 minutes until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire cake rack to cool further.
  6. Slice and enjoy!

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Rich Mince Pasta Bake

;Something has happened to my life lately, it is disappearing before my eyes and there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it. I keep getting busier and busier: wake up, school lunch, school drop off, traffic, work, traffic, school pick up, after school activities, afternoon tea, homework, prepare dinner, eat dinner, tidy up after dinner, snack for after dinner, fall onto the couch, crawl to bed and then thankful that it can all start again the next morning. Sound familiar?

Rich Mince Pasta Bake

I’m an ideas person. I have soooo many ideas but I don’t have the time to put them all together, so I have lots of projects on the go at the same time. Very frustrating! But life isn’t the kind of thing to be lived one step after the other, certainly mine isn’t. It’s more like a dance…a little this way, then that, then a bit of mad crazy foot work I was unprepared for; then it might slow to more of a waltz again. And of course the odd Rave or two thrown in for good measure. But it’s funny how I never feel like I know the steps to any of the dances. Just when I feel I’ve got it all under control then a new piece of music begins and I’m madly scampering about again. Frustrating certainly, but it is my life and I’m oh so blessed to be able to live the life I live. And just when I think I can’t get any busier, I come up with another project to throw myself into.

I’ve barely seen the inside of my kitchen lately but even that sounds strange to my own ears as with a pre-teen boy I seem to be making food more often than not and can’t escape the kitchen! Breakfast, school lunch, lunch, afternoon tea, snack before dinner or activity, dinner, post-dinner snack……my creative juices seem to have run dry and I’ve fallen into the trap of relying heavily on bread. Toast, frozen bread (yes, he loves to eat it straight from the freezer), snackwiches, grilled cheese, more toast…thankfully he isn’t gluten intolerant, but at this rate, it won’t be long.

So I’ve begun digging out a few old favourites again to inspire me and came across this one. I know it doesn’t solve my perpetual snack crisis, but it at least meant I didn’t have to think too much about what to prepare for dinner. And as the weather has turned quite cold again since early June, what is more comforting and easy than the pairing of pasta and mince?

This recipe comes from a book* I was given years ago when we started to introduce solid food to my baby’s diet. This is apparently suitable for babies from about 8 – 9 months onwards, just make sure that the pasta pieces are cut up quite fine. It also doesn’t have much seasoning. No salt or pepper is in the recipe, but you can add as you see fit. I do.

1 Tbsp oil
500 g lean beef or lamb mince (normally go with beef as it is a tad cheaper)
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 courgettes or any seasonal green vegetables, chopped
8 button mushrooms, sliced
400 g can tomatoes in juice, chopped (or the pureed one is great)
2 Tbsp tomato puree (different to the above, thicker and richer)
pinch dried mixed herbs

For the topping:
1 cup uncooked pasta shapes of your choice
250 g pot cream cheese
½ cup grated cheese

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C.
  2. On the stove-top, heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the chopped onion until it is translucent and soft.
  3. Add the mince and brown well, mashing it a little so it is a fine crumbly texture.
  4. Then add the mushrooms and vegetables and stir-fry for 2 – 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a slow boil. Season to taste if using salt & pepper. Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water until tender, following the instructions on the packet (about 10 – 12 minutes); then drain and stir in the cream cheese and half the grated cheese. Spread it over the top of the mince and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  6. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve with a side salad or other winter veggies in season.


*Published by the New Zealand Beef and Lamb Association.

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