Short Bites: RSPCA Cupcake Day, Fresh Fruit Salad, Perfect Couscous, and The Garden

Being a cupcake lover I never like to miss an opportunity to bake, and being an animal lover this is especially true when I can bake to support and raise money for the RSPCA. Cupcake Day for the RSPCA was held around Australia yesterday, with cooks around the country baking cupcakes in exchange for a donation at their workplaces, schools, and communities.

There are so many fantastic and creative ideas for animal-themed cupcakes which are perfect for this day. However I knew with my busy weekend, and not arriving home from a day trip until 5pm on Sunday to start baking, that sadly I wouldn’t have time to create animal cupcakes. So I made simple cupcakes, but they were still enjoyed!

For our office fundraiser Tanya made fantastic cookie monster and rocky road cupcakes, Fiona made chocolate butterfly cupcakes, Kelli’s grandma made a variety of cupcakes, including cherry ripe (they weren’t intended for Cupcake Day, but we roped them into it!), and I made lemon butterfly cupcakes and vanilla cupcakes with rosewater buttercream and rose Persian fairy floss.

All together we made and sold around 75 cupcakes, including the few I gave Paul to take to his work, and we raised just under $200! A great effort, and with sugar-filled stomachs we look forward to doing it again next year :D

Fruit Salad with Rosewater Syrup

Recently we had a BBQ with Paul’s family and I was in charge of bringing dessert. This responsibility usually has me looking at cake recipes excitedly but I was given a challenge by his sister Leah: “preferably something low fat please!”. I also wanted to make something quick and easy, and what dessert could be easier and healthier than a fruit salad, right?

This is just assembling really, but I had to share it. I saw this on Good Chef, Bad Chef and yes, the addition of syrup is more of an indulgent treat than every day ‘healthy’ ;) The recipe said to the syrup takes around 10 mins to thicken, but that turned mine way too thick so next time I would try 5 mins or less. Do you have any other suggestions for making a runny syrup rather than toffee?

Fruit Salad with Rosewater Syrup

Simply chop up 1 pineapple, 1 pink lady apple, 1 punnet strawberries, half a pomegranate, and a handful of mint. Lightly toast 1/2 cup pistachios and rougly chop. To make the syrup dissolve 1 cup caster sugar in 1/2 cup of water. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally until syrup slightly thickens. Add 2 tsp rosewater towards end of cooking time. Let stand to cool. Drizzle over fruit salad, and serve with natural yoghurt.

Chicken & Haloumi Skewers with Couscous and Mint Yoghurt

In making an effort to reduce waste and use up everything, this dinner was a good use for the remaining yoghurt and mint from the fruit salad the day before (and the fruit salad and cupcakes both used rosewater – win!). It was a simple weeknight dinner and features one of my favourite carbs: couscous.

I love the texture of couscous. It’s quick to make, and is perfect for soaking up rich stews and sauces. I simply follow the cooking instructions on the box (I use San Remo) and it makes perfect couscous every time. This is instant couscous, not the traditional steamer method. Some make it by pouring boiling water over the couscous in a bowl but I prefer the stovetop method. I’ve found it better to use a large saucepan as it makes the couscous shallower and gives it more room to fluff into a light texture, rather than heavy and claggy. You can also make this with stock rather than water.

Couscous

Place 1 cup (250ml) of water in a saucepan. Add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat. Stir and pour in 1 cup (200g) of couscous. Cover and allow to stand for 2-3 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of butter and heat again on very low heat for 3 minutes while stirring with a fork to separate the grains. Season if needed, and add fresh or dried herbs (I used dried oregano for this dinner). Serves 2-4.

Our Garden

It has been quite a while since I’ve given an update on our garden. 7 months actually! Sadly the winter hasn’t been too kind or fruitful, and we (i.e. Paul) hasn’t had much time to give the garden the attention it needs. However we have some herbs growing: parsley, thyme, rosemary and oregano, as well as bay leaves, and the lemon and tangelo trees are gradually growing.

Our resident bluetongue lizards are flourishing though! Look at this huge guy:

He, or she, is just over a foot long. On the weekend I saw him, or her, soaking up the sun on the deck near Satine and Isis and I’m happy to say they get along fine, i.e. they don’t pay much attention to each other :D

So tell me, did you participate in RSPCA Cupcake Day? And do you have any produce growing in your garden?

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17 Comments

Filed under Chicken, Dessert, Easy, Fruit, Healthy, Quick, Short Bites, Techniques, The Garden

17 responses to “Short Bites: RSPCA Cupcake Day, Fresh Fruit Salad, Perfect Couscous, and The Garden

  1. Nice work, hon! The persian fairy floss looks lovely atop your cupcakes and that’s a great effort with RSPCA Cupcake Day!

  2. Mardi

    I’m quiet upset I missed out on tasting your cupcakes :(

    That lizard is so cute!! It sorta looks like it is smiling!!!

  3. OMG your cupcakes look so cute, and those cookie monster ones are adorable! I’m sure some little animals will benefit :)
    I tried to grow plants, but I only have a tiny balcony that also houses my air-con – all the hot air blowing out killed them. I have herbs on a window sill though.

  4. Animals getting along =) I know cats especially like to play with things like lizards which dart around quickly…although not usually ones of this size!

  5. Good job on the cupcakes!

  6. What an awesome effort for a great cause, I made cupcakes recently and searched high and low for some persian fairy floss – they are the perfect cupcake topping!

  7. Janey

    Could you please put up your chick and haloumi skewers recipe? Looks delish! :)

    • Sure! They were quite delicious :D It’s not exactly a recipe, but this is what I did:

      Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 30 mins (I snapped my skewers in half so they’d fit in the pan). Chop 400-500g of chicken breast (ours was from Urban Food Market) and 1 packet of haloumi (around 250g I think) into cubes. Place into a bowl and add a lug of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice from half a lemon, salt, pepper and dried herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary – whatever you like). Mix to coat all pieces then marinate in fridge for at least 30 mins. Thread chicken and haloumi onto skewers, heat a frying pan to medium and add oil (vegetable or regular olive will do). Fry skewers, turning sides every couple of minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve with fresh chopped mint in natural yoghurt and lemon wedges.

  8. love the look of those cupcakes!! i love how easy cous cous is to make – sooo much faster than rice in the rice cooker and it seems to absorb so much flavor from adding stock.. also, that blue tongue is massive!

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