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Category: Blender

Rather Good Banana Smoothie

The advantage of having fussy children is that they’ll keep gently encouraging you to keep trying until you get that banana smoothie just right. It’s just the thing for a growing lad who’s spent the day at tennis camp and has come home all pink and starving.

You do need to do a bit of of advance planning. Apart from buying bananas. Once the bananas are fairly ripe, but not at the banana bread stage, peel them, break them in pieces and freeze them.

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Nobody eats fresh bananas in our house, they like them processed. I usually just fling this smoothie together, but for the purposes of the blog I measured everything for this afternoon’s batch. It was a pretty good one, if I do say so myself.

Place in a blender (though the kids request the Thermomix, it gives a noticeably smoother result) about two frozen bananas in chunks. Add half a cup of (homemade) plain yoghurt and a cup of milk. Add also half a teaspoon of cinnamon and some sweetener, and this depends on your kid and the initial sweetness of the bananas. Today I put in two tablespoons of maple syrup and two tablespoons of rice malt syrup. You could use honey, and you could use less. Zap it for about twenty seconds, or on the smoothie setting on your blender.

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It made three big glasses full, one each for me, Moose and the Muffet. The Horror won’t eat bananas except in cake form. I shouldn’t have had mine, being a little intolerant to both bananas and milk, but goodness it was delicious, thick and creamy. I wonder if the kids would mind making their own dinner tonight? I feel like a lie down.

Nutella in the Thermomix

I foolishly asked the boys if the was anything they fancied that I could buy or make for them as I had a fairly free dance card today. After much discussion, they decided they’d like me to make a vanilla cupcake with caramel swirls that you could stick a sparkler in, light, then it would explode. I don’t know why they bothered deciding on a flavour. The German billet piped up from the back seat “Have you in Australia … Nutella?”

Well how did she know that was on my long list of things to try in the Thermomix? It’s actually horrifyingly easy, and almost as easy with a blender and a saucepan. First place ninety grams of sugar in the Thermomix and zap it into icing sugar. You can vary this with the sweetness of your chocolate. Then add one hundred grams each of chocolate pieces and hazelnuts.

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Did you know you can get skinned hazelnuts at the health food shop? Usually when a recipe suggests skinning the hazelnuts, I fetch a small sigh and decide to see how the recipe copes with skins. I don’t think you could do that to Nutella. I’m using 70% cocoa Callebaut chips, which I’m finding a little strong for some uses. This may be one of them, the finished product tastes like a limited edition extra dark Nutella. Jumping ahead of myself. The instructions suggest zapping it for ten seconds, which gives you a powdery substance.

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I taste it and while it’s undeniably delicious, it’s pretty gritty. I decide to zap it five more times for thirty seconds each time, scraping down the sides in between zaps. This turns the hazelnut into a butter rather than a powder.

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Add seventy grams of butter, one hundred grams of milk and fifty grams of cocoa. Cook at fifty degrees for six minutes on speed three (this is the bit you could do in a saucepan if you were using a blender). This gave me a very smooth, shiny mix, which I had to find a container to contain it with. That’s one problem with making everything from scratch, at some point you run out of recycled honey jars.

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After refrigerating it for a couple of hours it stiffened up, but was still easily spreadable. Lucky, because by then the Muffet and the German billet were home and were very pleased to be tasters.

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Not a health food, but I did use Callebaut chocolate, Callebaut cocoa powder, organic milk and organic butter. The hazelnuts weren’t organic, but they were from a health food shop, does that count? So it’s as good as it can get. It made about half a litre, if you’re planning to do it yourself, and I would recommend it, and want to be organised with containers. And if you’re wondering how it went down with the German billet, all I could get out of her was “Mmmmm, mmm, mhmmmhhmm!” Plus a request to have some for lunch tomorrow on a roll.

Mandarin Syrup

I haven’t done a syrup for a while, have I? At least, that’s what the kids tell me. I like to make syrup out of any fruit that’s cheap and plentiful, and at the moment that’s mandarins.

It’s a pretty simple one. I was inspired to try it because the a Thermomix recipe book had a recipe for Mandarinade. I made it. It was just awful. I tossed it in the compost. Don’t bother trying it. Here’s what you do instead.

Boil up two cups of caster sugar with a cup of water. You can do this in the Thermomix, put it on 100 degrees, speed two for about seven minutes. Then take six mandarins and two limes and skin them.

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I put them in the blender and zapped them good. Put the steamer basket in the Thermomix jug and tip the citrus pulp in. Squash it down with a teaspoon to get all the juice out. Or just strain it into a bowl if you’re doing it the old fashioned way. You should get about 250 grams of juice. Zap it on speed four for a few seconds to mix it in. Now you should taste it, because there’s a fair bit of variability in the tartness of the fruit. Mine was a bit sweet, so I stirred in a teaspoon of citrus acid.

I then strained it into a jug, I like my syrup clear. You don’t really have to.

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You add it to soda water, don’t drink it straight unless you’re trying to mess with your blood sugar. The German billet liked it better than bought lemonade. So there.

Wrapped with annoyance and frustration

Well, it lasted all of two months. It’s not like I flogged it, we only made a few milk shakes, some almond meal, some pistachio meal, a whole lot of slushies, breadcrumbs, two jugs of lime syrup, about a kilo of icing sugar, many Boost Juice knockoffs and about eighty fruit iceblocks with it. Then on the weekend, things always break on the weekend, I made a milkshake that I couldn’t help notice was oozing slowly but surely onto the bench top. My new blender was leaking.

I rang Sunbeam today and they helpfully suggested returning it to the shop with my receipt. That’s never going to work. For a start, who buys that kind of stuff from the shop in this day and age? I got it from Kitchenware Direct. I went on to their website in an attempt to remember my login and possibly get some receipt type information. I clicked the “forgot your password’ button. They sent me an email that contained a helpful link to a pixelated photo of a champagne bucket. Finally I called them, and they were very helpful and said they’d have it back and would send me one that didn’t leak all over the benchtop. They emailed me a packing slip to stick on it when I packed it up so I wouldn’t have to pay postage. They suggested that they’d quite like it mailed back in the original packing, but understood if I didn’t have it any more. I don’t have it any more because the Horror from Outer Space made a Minecraft hat out of it, then burnt it, and anyway who saves packaging?

An industrial strength blender is not an easy thing to pack up. Fortunately we still have a large amount of the box that the barbeque came in, so I spent a sweaty hour crumpling up P&F minutes for packing then wrestling the cardboard and about a kilometre of packing tape around my defective kitchenware.

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The end result seemed fairly secure and I didn’t hear any rattling when I shook it. It didn’t look terribly professional and I was pleased not to get the man at the post office who always purses his lips at my packaging. I’m fairly sure it contains many of the ants who have been making a pilgrimage across my kitchen bench for some weeks now and I hope they enjoy their trip to Western Australia.

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Of course the kids are very put out not to have a milkshake for afternoon tea and have started rationing the remaining fruit iceblocks. I had planned to do some peach and raspberry ones, but we’ll just have actually eat the peaches now, and that’s not nearly as much fun. I hardly ever used a blender before getting this one, but now I use it nearly every day. I’m pretty sure Thermomixes don’t start leaking after two months. But I don’t want one of those.

The Kids’ Favourite Ice Block – So Far

It is mango season, but I’m finding the classic eating mango, the Kensington Pride, a little pricey at the moment, and I’m not willing to commit to a case of them. There are a lot more varieties of mango about than there used to be in the olden days, and the ones I’m buying are the giant ones that evoke Star Wars for us, the R2E2. The kids aren’t that keen to eat them straight, though will at a pinch, but there’s such a lot of flesh on them that they just groan with potential.

The first thing to do when you get the kids all hot and sweaty from school is to cut the cheeks off an R2E2 and scoop the flesh into the blender. Pour in a slug of the lime syrup we made a few blogs ago, add a cup of ice and press Smoothie on your fancy blender. Instant refreshment for three kids, if you use the small glasses. But the way they like them best is in iceblock form.

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My iceblock moulds are the rocket shaped Avanti ones that you can put a wooden paddle pop stick into. It makes them feel like a real iceblock. So take the flesh of one giant mango and insert it into your blender. Add the flesh of half a pineapple, cut that really hard core bit out. Add one lime, from which you have removed the peel and hopefully saved the zest for cola syrup. Add a third of a cup of coconut cream. You put the rest of the tin into a little Decor plastic container for the next batch that you will inevitably be making the next time Graham Creed talks about high pressure systems over central Australia. Press the Smoothie button on the aforementioned fancy blender. I get about twelve ice blocks out of this, which annoys me a little because the moulds are in sets of eight. The kids whinge a little about the fibrousness of the result, because I will insist on making the iceblocks with an actual pineapple rather than a chemical facsimile, but it’s still their favourite.

So far.

Blender Apple Muffins

I don’t have Thermomix envy. Well, actually, I really do, you may have guessed that by now. But a result of obsessing about that magic German machine has been getting the kids to buy me a blender for one tenth of the price of a Thermomix, and I’m determined to get an enormous amount of use from it. So far, I have been extremely successful. And yesterday I made muffins in it.

They’re still not the greatest apple muffins, but they’re an improvement on the Green Apple Muffins I posted a few months ago. I think they need more fat. And wheat germ. Half of them are gone already, so they can’t be too bad.

Place into your super dooper blender three small or two large green apples, cut into quarters and with the seeds chopped out. Don’t peel them. Add a quarter of a cup of oil, a tablespoon of sour cream, two thirds of a cup of brown sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla essence, a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon of mixed spice. Zap it. You may need to use the poking stick (supplied with blender), or to stop the blender a couple of times to move the fairly stiff mixture around. Add an egg, and this time just use the lowest setting to mix it in. Add in a cup and a half of flour, two teaspoons of baking powder and half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Again, just use the lowest setting to incorporate that flour. Get in there with a soup spoon and make sure it’s all mixed in. I’m using baking paper squares again to line the muffin tins. You do need to prod the paper down first before filling them up, they’re a bit more fiddly than muffin cups, but they do look good, and that’s one less thing for me to forget when I go to the shops.

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Of course the one I take a photo of (aiding homework) is in the second last muffin cup, I had to use them up. It is hard to get an interesting shot of a muffin, there’s a certain sameness about them. I feel sorry for magazine food stylists. Perhaps next time I’ll put it up a tree or something. This mix makes the fairly annoying number of ten medium sized muffins. Something else to work on, a mix that makes an even dozen.

Lime slushies

There are many fine things about a hot day. You can get all your washing done, including doonas and school bags. You’ll be getting your money’s worth from the pool. And you can get some use out of your brand new blender.

Making homemade lime slushies takes a little preparation. First, you need to organise for your kids to get you a really excellent blender for Christmas. “Oh thanks kids, that’s EXACTLY what I wanted!”. Well, they benefit too, it’s not that bad. Then you need to make a lime syrup. Normally you can make a syrup for soft drink minutes before serving it, it doesn’t matter if it’s still hot because you can top it up with ice and soda and no one will notice. But to make a slushie you need the syrup to be cold, and if possible the glasses too.

So get hold of a whole lot of limes while they’re on special. Normally I’d juice citrus for a syrup, but these ones were tiny (that’s why they were cheap), so I went for a different approach. I roughly peeled the limes with a small knife and put them whole into the blender. There were about twelve of the little guys. I also put in an orange and a lemon, similarly treated, both to bulk it up and also because lime by itself is a pretty strong taste.

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Meanwhile you have dissolved two cups of caster sugar in a cup of water over some heat in a saucepan. Balance a large wire sieve over the saucepan. Blend up the citrus in your super powerful blender. Don’t worry about deseeding or getting all the white bits off, you have a life to live, just blend it! Then tip the resulting mush into the sieve over the saucepan. You’ll need to squash it through with a spoon or your fingers. Having had a lot of experience with feline effluvium, I can tell you that what’s left in the sieve looks a lot like cat sick. Make sure you’ve squeezed as much liquid as you can be bothered getting out of it before tipping it into the compost. With any luck you’ve added about another cup of liquid to the syrup. Decant it into a jug and stick it in the fridge.

To make the slushie, tip about two cups of crushed ice into the blender and press the ice crush button. It’ll work with ice cubes too, but will need some poking with the plastic poking stick. My blender gives a result that looks a lot like snow. Fill up two glasses with this, drizzle syrup on top, then a bit more snow on top. Serve with a teaspoon to any damp little boys you have sitting in front of your TV playing Lego Lord of the Rings on the Wii while having a break from swimming. Assure the little friend that it doesn’t need to be bright green to be lime flavoured. Take orders for the next round of syrup flavours, I’ll be making cola next. Then raspberry, but with frozen raspberries, fresh ones are way too expensive for syrup. Interestingly, the kids love my cola syrup in ice block form, but not as a soda. We haven’t tried it in slushie form yet.

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I am Boost Juice

One of the many advantages of getting older is an increased pragmatism around gift giving events. In our youth we imagine that those who love us can also read our minds and will occasionally buy us the perfect gift. If you are young and are feeling slightly disappointed once again, take my advice. Buy your own presents. Or at least have very tight specifications to minimize the risk of getting something from Aldi.

For those of you who follow my meanderings on Facebook, you’ll know that I chose for myself a blender. I decided on the Sunbeam Cafe after a great deal of research and deliberation. It arrived from Kitchenware Direct with days to spare and was very neatly wrapped for reasons I’ve yet to get to the bottom of by the Moose’s friend Charles. He also has lovely handwriting. The kids hustled me up to Broadway shopping centre today to spend their Christmas money and I promised them that if they didn’t nag me for any food or drink, I’d make them homemade Boost Juice as a reward. We even went to Harris Farm to pick ingredients.

Proportions of ingredients are different for smoothies than they are for ice blocks or sorbets or soda syrups. Some trial and error will be necessary, but here are two I’ve tried today.

Pina Colada. Place in blender a cup of crushed ice from the button on the freezer, half a chopped pineapple, half a cup of shaved coconut (this doesn’t disappear entirely, only include it if you’re prepared to chew your drink a little), the juice of three limes and a quarter of a cup of condensed milk. Why the condensed milk people haven’t given me money and a cookbook deal yet I just can’t fathom. It adds sweetness and creaminess which was otherwise a little lacking. The blender has a smoothie button, which you press and it goes through a couple of different speeds then stops by itself, having produced the perfect consistency. This makes two tall glasses of something really very delicious. The kids didn’t like the coconut bits in it, but I did. This group of ingredients would also make a terrific ice block.

Mango Apple. Actually, mango apple passionfruit. One cup of crushed ice, one large mango cheek, one peeled, chopped green apple and two passionfruit. You guessed it, kids didn’t like the crushed up bits of passionfruit seed. The blender made very short work of the chopped up green apple. This only made a bit over one large glass. The kids advised me that next time I should leave out the passionfruit and double the mango. This mixture didn’t need sweetening.

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I can see why Boost Juices are so expensive, it’s a really quick way to consume fruit. On the plus side, you’re getting the whole fruit, not just the juice, only without the trouble and expense of chewing it. I still have to try various berry combinations, but I’ve bought frozen berries for that, way cheaper than fresh. I’m thinking they’ll go nicely with yoghurt and possibly honey. I’m also eyeing off some lychees that are past their best and a bag of peaches that was on special.

I must go and wash out my new blender, I’m planning schnitzel for dinner and have some dried up bread rolls that are going to be pulverized in there shortly. It’s a far far more impressive unit than my poor old one hundred and forty watt Ronson and I can’t wait to turn all kinds of things into liquid or powder, according to original composition. I just need the weather to warm up. Or to have a cocktail. Anyone got tequila?