16 Dec 2014

Top 5 Books to Read This Christms

The nice thing about Christmas is that the vast majority of us get a little bit of time off to celebrate the festive season with our families. Personally, I cannot wait to go back up to Paihia and have someone else cook for me and look after me. Man, being a grown up can be so freaking tiring sometimes.
Our house in Paihia has the nicest deck to lie on. It overlooks the water and it's quiet and private. We totally lucked out when we moved in there!
So this summer I am going to get myself a tan while I sip on lemonade and read. I've put together my top 5 books to read this Christmas so that if you're lucky enough to be in the same situation, you might have a read of these too!

1// Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Knope for President people!
The awesome Amy Poehler from SNL and Parks and Rec fame has gone and written a book. I personally love her cooky style and think she's an all around badass. I haven't read this particular one yet as I've heard it's quite an easy read so I'll be saving it for the beach (or deck) this summer but if it's anything like Tina Fey's Bossy Pants then I think we're in for a good laugh.

2// The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I read this for my PlanetBakeLife Book Club and thoroughly enjoyed it. While this can be a bit of a heavy fiction read, when you get into the storyline and invest in the characters, it becomes crystal clear that it's worth your time. There are quite a few twists and turns and it will keep you guessing as to how characters fit in with each other. Not a bad turn out for a book written for Nanowrimo!

3// Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Reese Witherspoon is being tipped as being back on top form with the cinematic version of this autobiography. I imagine this to be the female version of Into The Wild (the movie based on a book with Emile Hirsch) but without the stupidly disappointing ending. I can see myself becoming emotionally invested in this book and the movie when I get a chance to see it.

4// Mermaids in Paradise
This book looks totally awesome and harmless. It's something to pick up and put down when you need some light relief during your holiday. I love mermaids and if someone suggested to me that there were any in the area, I'd be totally down to go look for them. And how beautiful is that 50's style cover?

5// Stuff You Should Know About Stuff by Tripp and Tyler
So this is one of those books that comes as a stocking filler and then ends up making your belly ache with all the laughter. These two are hilarious! Think of this as one of those books you take with you on a boring road trip and then read aloud to everyone in the car the whole way.

What are you looking forward to reading this Christmas time?

17 Nov 2014

Rum and Hokey Pokey No Churn Ice Cream

Lately I've been thinking about our connections to people and how we see each other. I know it's heavy stuff and you were here for the Rum and the Hokey Pokey and the no churn ice cream and instead you get the feels.
I know. I'm sorry.
But there will be ice cream soon, you just have to bare with me.
I have recently moved in with my boyfriend after I realised how unhappy I was living with my now ex-housemates. They weren't pleasant and it effected me in more ways than I care to think about. I was becoming negative about everything. I never had anything nice to say and I was getting tired of being that person. I was sick of complaining about life instead of just being thankful for everything that I had. Trust me, there's plenty to be thankful for.

PlanetBakeLife No Churn Ice Cream

So I moved in with my boyfriend and it was like a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was smiling again, I was enjoying life and I was being more positive in every aspect of my life. Blogging was becoming easier. I have ideas coming out the yingyang. My poor diary doesn't know what to do with itself, it's never seen so much writing in it's short life (it's only been around since July, give it time).
This got me thinking about positivity.
I feel like the blogging community has been incredibly negative lately here in New Zealand. I'm talking about individuals specifically. I think we all need to make an effort to be a little more upbeat about things. Yes, you may have something to rant about or someone who bugs you in particular but this is just a gentle reminder that saying it on Twitter is probably not the best thing. Open a bottle of wine in your lounge with your best friend/other half/parents/siblings and have a good old moan but please, let's keep the blogging community a safe and happy place.
I'm going to try to do the same!
PlanetBakeLife No Churn Ice Cream
PlanetBakeLife No Churn Ice Cream

Now onto the ice cream!
Remember we made Vanilla Hokey Pokey Shards? Well I promised we were going to make it into something else just as tasty and here it is!
I've used rum in my ice cream because it's my favourite alcohol but you can use vodka or whiskey if you'd prefer. It stops the cream from setting and crystalising when you freeze it (so you don't have to churn it in a machine) and doesn't effect the taste as much as you'd think.

PlanetBakeLife No Churn Ice Cream

500ml Fresh Cream
1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2TBsp Captain Morgan Spiced Gold Rum
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Vanilla Hokey Pokey Shards

1// We're going to beat our cream until there are stiff peaks going on. You can either use a hand whisk or an electric stand mixer. You might find it helps to wipe the bowl down with a little bit of lemon juice on some kitchen towel before you start beating the cream. It clears the grease off the surface and makes it quicker for the cream to whip.
2// Using a spatula gently fold in the rum, vanilla, Hokey Pokey shards and condensed milk.
3// Pop the mixture into either a plastic container or a parchment lined metal container. I sprinkled some more Hokey Pokey Shards on top of my ice cream but you can leave that out if you like.
4// Put mixture in the freezer for 8 hours before serving.

PlanetBakeLife No Churn Ice Cream
PlanetBakeLife No Churn Ice Cream
PlanetBakeLife No Churn Ice Cream

This will keep for ages in the deep freeze, but it probably won't hang around that long.
This is perfect for the summer as the weather heats up but these are great winter flavours too. If you make this, share a photo on Instagram, tweet me or leave a comment!

8 Nov 2014

Vanilla Hokey Pokey Shards

I don't want to alarm anyone but Christmas is coming. And I mean it's coming soon people. Everyone to their battle stations. Ok that did sound a bit alarmist.
If you live in New Zealand then the shipping times are ridiculous. You probably needed to order overseas products in July for them to get here in time. That may be a little over exaggerated. It also may not be. This is why a lot of New Zealand bloggers tend to make homemade stuff for Christmas.

PlanetBakeLife Hokey Pokey Shards

All of this lead to me wanting to jump on that over populated band wagon and make something for Christmas so I don't have to drop a whole pay cheque on gifts. Being a food blogger, I told myself I had this in the bag and went ahead to find a recipe that would suit Christmas gifts. You may want to know why I chose Hokey Pokey Shards. It's because this recipe can be made in bulk and stored for quite some time in an air tight container in the fridge. It's perfect to put in small glass jars with a ribbon and give away to co-workers and friends. It costs next to nothing to make and you only need a little bit because it's very sweet. It's a win-win situation really.

PlanetBakeLife Hokey Pokey Shards 1

I don't actually call this Hokey Pokey because in South Africa it's called honeycomb but I don't want you to all think I'm stealing the bees' business. The term Hokey Pokey actually comes from Cornwall where I lived for 9 years so I guess it's kind of fitting anyway.
Now enough with the talking and back to the recipe.

100g White Caster Sugar
4TBsp Golden Sugar
2Tbsp Vanilla Essence
1 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)

PlanetBakeLife Hokey Pokey Ingredients

1// Pop the sugar, vanilla essence and golden syrup into a large pan (it's going to seem silly to have all that extra space but trust me).
2// Stir this around until you get small brown crystals (the vanilla essence will change the colour and the syrup will stick it all together). Then put the pot on a medium to high heat and put away your spoon. We will not be stirring this again. I repeat DO NOT STIR AGAIN. If it looks like it's sticking or burning due to hot spots then you can carefully swirl the pot.
3// You might want to prepare now for when the mixture is cooked. Take a roasting pan (you will want edges just in case) and cover the surface with baking paper. This is what you're going to pour the Hokey Pokey mixture onto when it's setting.
5// I set the timer to 3 minutes but you can also see when the mixture starts a rolling boil (bubbles popping consistently all over the surface) that it will change to a darker amber colour. If you're a maverick you can try eyeballing it.
6// Take the pot off the heat and add your baking soda to the mixture. Take a whisk and beat it all together. You may want to do this fairly quickly. The mixture is going to turn a light brown colour as it absorbs the baking soda and it will foam up and expand (hence the large pot) so be careful when handling it.
7// Immediately pour the mixture onto your prepared roasting pan and allow this to cool and set.

PlanetBakeLife Hokey Pokey Setting

PlanetBakeLife Hokey Pokey Setting 2

I like to pop the pan into the sink and pour water into it so the sugar mixture doesn't have a chance to stick to the pan. Be careful though because if it's still super hot, the sugar might spit at you and melted sugar sticks like a mother fucker.
Likewise, it is always good practice to have a bowl or sink filled with cold water when working with sugar. You'll want to cool any cooked sugar down immediately if you get it on you. It will continue to stick and burn you if you don't. I used oven gloves whenever handling the pot and work closed toe shoes just to be safe.

PlanetBakeLife Hokey Pokey Smashed
PlanetBakeLife Hokey Pokey Gift Wrapped

I waited for this to set and then smashed it into shards with the end of rolling pin. You can leave it in much larger shards to give away but I have another recipe for you guys next week that uses this Hokey Pokey so I needed it to be smaller. Don't let this put you off.

26 Oct 2014

Crispy Topped Mac and Cheese Bake

Did you know there is a National Comfort Food Day?
Well there is and it's amazing. It's in conjunction with The Coffee Club and it's basically an excuse to consume calories in your pyjamas. These are all things that I like to do.

PlanetBakeLife Mac and Cheese

PlanetBakeLife Mac and Cheese

So when I sat down to think about my comfort food, I had to think back to my childhood when my mom would make us mac and cheese. By us I mean her and me. My dad hates pasta and I don't have any siblings so my mom and I would make mac and cheese together and then eat it straight out of the pot.
For Comfort Food Day, I decided that mac and cheese would be perfect.

PlanetBakeLife Mac and Cheese

Of course, in this day and age, as food bloggers we cannot just make something the way it should be made. We have become scientists, we have become inventors and made creators. We mix and change and develop. Which is how I ended up with a Crispy Topped Mac and Cheese Bake.
Don't wee yourself just yet.
I didn't use macaroni elbows for this but you are welcome to do so, I just didn't have any in the pantry. I made my standard mac and cheese with bacon, then I popped it in a dish, topped it with chips and baked it. BOOM! Suddenly it's more than just mac and cheese. Suddenly you don't need a hug, you just need a bowl of this stuff in your life. Close the door, give yourself a moment alone. It's perfectly ok to drool on your keyboard and cheering is encouraged.

PlanetBakeLife Mac and Cheese

Let me tell you how I did it.

PlanetBakeLife Mac and Cheese


500g Dry Pasta (shape is up to you)
3TBsp Butter or Marg
1 Onion diced
1tsp Wholegrain Mustard
5 Rashers of Bacon
Salt and Pepper
3TBsp Plain Flour
Whole Milk
300g Grated Cheese

PlanetBakeLife Mac and Cheese

1// Dice your onion, cut your bacon into small pieces and grate your cheese. Pop your pasta on to boil while you make your cheese sauce.
2// Pop your butter and mustard into a large pot. Allow the butter to melt and then add your onions and bacon.
3// Let let the onions sweat and the bacon cook and when it looks golden and tasty, add your flour and stir it into the mixture.
4// You'll want to let the mixture cook for a bit. We're going to let the yellow deepen to a gold. This will cook out your flour and make your cheese sauce taste like heaven in a bowl.
5// Slowly add your milk and stir consistently. Add milk as you go along and the sauce gets thicker.
6// Add your cheese and continue to stir as it melts. The sauce will get much thicker very quickly so you can add a bit more milk to get your desired consistency.
7// Add salt and pepper to taste.
8// Drain your pasta and pop it into the pot with the cheese sauce. Stir it in until all of your pasta is covered in sauce.

PlanetBakeLife Mac and Cheese

The Topping
400g Chips of your choice
200g Grated Cheese

1// I used smokey bacon flavoured chips but you can use any flavour you like. Sour Cream and Chives is always popular or even Doritos for a corn flavour instead. You can crush the chips as fine or as chunky as you'd like. I only crushed mine a bit because I like the different texture on top.
2// Pour your mac and cheese into a baking dish, top with your chips and then sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.
3// Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 10 minutes.

PlanetBakeLife Mac and Cheese

Oh yeah! I served this is bowls for lunch but you could also add a side salad or some garlic bread if you're comforting other people as well! I hope everyone has a fantastic Comfort Food Day and consumes more than they should!