Sunday, December 28, 2008

Spiced chai latte cupcakes

Another baked sweet today! While the apricot crumble was in the oven I thought, what should I do in the 30mins it takes to bake? I'll make some cupcakes!

Chai is my 2nd favourite drink (water comes first) as it contains all of my favourite spices, especially my top 3: cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. I drink chai at least once a week and I use all three spices on something or other every week. So when I came upon a chai cupcake recipe I squealed with glee (ok, I didn't squeal per say, but I did slightly smile). It also gave me the chance to use up two egg whites I had in the fridge - double yay.

ease: 4/5. Making the icing is the most difficult.
prep time:
30mins. 12 mins to make batter (make batter whilst milk is on the stove) and 18mins to make icing.
cooking time: 20mins plus cooling time.
total: 50mins - it would take around 35mins if you make the icing while the cupcakes are baking.

taste: 4.5/5. I loved these cupcakes! The cupcake base was perfectly spiced - I forgot to add the apple cider vinegar, not sure what it would have done but I think I'll add it next time. I only had enough batter for 10cupcakes. At first I thought I was going to have a disaster on my hands with the icing as it did not look as written - but after all of the butter was added and it had been beating for about 5mins it finally looked like an icing. It is absolutely lovely but I think I will leave out 1tbs of butter next time as it was a little buttery - it is also fairly sweet, but it has a gorgeous fluffy, smooth texture.
would I make it again: Yes - the icing is a little time consuming but these cupcakes are fantastic.


Breakfast apricot crisp

It is 30C and gloriously sunny outside; and I am indoors folding laundry. My partner however, is down at the beach with friends. I'm not sure if you could tell from those two sentences, but I am none too happy about being un-invited from the aforementioned beach trip, especially since I have not been to a beach since our trip to Hawaii 1year & 7months ago. After venting to my dad about my partner's missing 'consideration' gene I decided to cheer myself up. And no, doing laundry was not how I did it. I decided to do some baking; as it is Summer I thought Summer fruits would be most appropriate.

I didn't always like apricots. My yia yia (grandmother) had an apricot tree so we were given lots of fresh apricots to eat as kids. I found the apricots to have a weird sourness, that especially when dried, would fill my mouth with that 'just about to vomit' saliva, not very pleasant. As an adult I have gone back to vegetables and fruits that I disliked as a child and have tried them again. This year I thought I'd give apricots another try. I still do not like them dried, but fresh I can handle. However, I thought perhaps if I cooked them, and sweetened them then perhaps I would like them even more. We shall never be best friends, but they may make their way into my basket every now and again.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
6mins to get everything into the baking dish - my oven took a little longer to actually heat to temperature.
cooking time: 20mins.

4/5. I used 1/2tsp of nutmeg which I am glad I did as it needs the spice. I used 5tbs of sugar in the crumble but I think I will use the full 6 next time. The apricots were still tart but the crumble balanced them out. I ate mine still warm with yoghurt so I wonder if they will be even nicer tomorrow as said in the blog.
would I make it again:
Yes - super easy. Next time I have apricots I will definitely make this.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Polenta with spiced plums & cream

It has been a long time since I have had 3days off in a row...and it feels bloody fantastic! Today I am going into the city to try and find some shoes for my wedding dress, and maybe some others for good measure :).

Along with a lovely house, we also gained some lovely neighbours - the kind who actually wave when you drive by or invite you in for a cup of tea. Christmas was extra special this year as a few of our neighbours stopped past with gifts, on of which was a bag of fruit from their fruit trees (the area where we live was originally a fruit orchard and a lot of the residents have kept most of the fruit trees, we ourselves have two apple trees, two different plum trees, an apricot tree and a feijoa tree.) In the bag were some lovely little purple plums that were a little too sour to eat fresh so I thought I'd cook them for breakfast.

1 cup instant polenta
2 cups of water
pinch of salt
6 plums
1/2tsp of cinnamon
1/2tsp of nutmeg
1/4tsp of star anise
1/2 cup brown sugar
1tsp unsalted butter
3/4cup of pure cream

Boil water and salt in a saucepan. Once boiling add polenta and cook for a further two minutes and then take off the heat.
In a frying pan melt butter and add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise and plums. Cook until sugar has melted and add 1/2cup of cream. Cook until plums are soft. Pour plums over polenta with a spoonful of cream.

ease: 5/5. prep time: 2mins to slice plums and gather ingredients.
cooking time: 10mins - water takes a little while to boil.
total: 12mins.

taste: 4/5. I loved the contrast of sweet and tart in the plum mixture - I would up the spices next time as I love the particular spices I used. I don't mind polenta but I think this would be awesome over porridge or muesli or french toast or even Greek yoghurt.

would I make it again: Yes - but not with polenta next time.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thousand layer lasagna

A belated Merry Christmas to all! I hope your Christmas was filled with good food, good company and fantastic presents :) Both of my Christmas feasts went well and I had a great time, even our dog Yoshi got to go to one of them.

This morning I managed to drag myself out of bed to go the the infamous Boxing Day sales as I have never been before. I saved up some money throughout the year in anticipation of a big spend up (mostly clothes). However I was sorely disappointed; I came back with few items (mostly non-discounted books) as there just wasn't anything I really liked, or the items weren't heavily discounted (some stores had maybe 15% of their stock discounted 20-30% and the rest was full priced). A few shoppers told me that the pre-Christmas sales were actually better than the today's - Ryan and I even noticed a Hugo Boss jumper we bought for his dad was $20 MORE expensive today than it was a few days ago when we bought it. Oh well, I think next year I shall buy something if I like it rather than wait a year to do everything in one day.

Now onto dinner - all the shopping wore me out (as I am not a seasoned shopper) so i wanted a ZERO effort meal for dinner. This recipe was perfect as I had some fresh lasagna sheets in the fridge that don't need to be pre-boiled.

ease: 5/5. prep time: 7mins to make sauce and layer lasagna if you don't have to boil the sheets beforehand.
cooking time: 30mins.
total: 37mins - only 7mins work in the kitchen, if you can even call it that.

taste: 4/5. I omitted the lemon zest and used 1tbs of garlic - I loved it but my partner thought it was too garlicky - the lemon would have helped to cut through the richness too so next time I will follow as written...well maybe a touch more garlic than written. I used bocconcini, tasty cheese and Parmesan.

would I make it again:
Yes - as a backup as I normally have the ingredients on hand.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fattoush with lemon myrtle chicken

Christmas spirit hasn't visited me this year. Normally I am festive and generally excited about Christmas but for some reason this year it feels like any other day, except that instead of working I will be cooking and shuttling in between two places that are 1hour and a half apart (divorced parents). I didn't even enjoy wrapping the presents which I normally do. I think I'm just a little overworked and worn out, hopefully the break will rejuvenate me and I will be more excited about New Years Eve.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
9mins to chop all the veggies up and make the dressing.
cooking time:
3mins to fry the bread.

taste: 4.5/5. I loved the freshness of the salad with the salty crisp bread (I used wholemeal lavash as I didn't defrost my pita) and the lemony sumac make for a lovely light summer salad. I left out the radish and I served it with lemon myrtle chicken.

would I make it again:


Monday, December 22, 2008

Lamb with roasted potatos and beans

Soaring past 33C I had to succumb to turning on the air conditioner today as the house had only cooled to 25C last night and by 12pm the internal temperature was around 28C - made it a little difficult to work which in turn made me cranky.

I didn't want to slave over a hot stove today but I did want something substantial as I did not eat a lot during the day (save a leftover bowl of macaroni and cheese for lunch with some fresh cherries and a pfeffernusse on the side) so I thought some roasted potatoes would be lovely.
I used a recipe of Donna Hay's for inspiration (rosemary lamb cutlets with chat potatoes, cannellini beans and spinach) and just changed the lamb rub.

12 lamb cutlets
1kg baby (chat) potatoes
4 handfuls of baby spinach
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed
Murray river salt
cracked black pepper
2tsp lemon myrtle rub
1tbs chopped fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove crushed
olive oil

Preheat oven to 200C.
Put the lamb cutlets into a sealable plastic bag with 2tbs olive oil, 1tsp of lemon myrtle, 1tsp crushed garlic, rosemary, black pepper and salt. Marinate for 20mins in the fridge or overnight.
Wash potatoes and then cut in half. Place in a baking dish and generously coat with oil, salt, pepper and 1tsp lemon myrtle. Place in oven and cook for 40mins and then add cannellini beans and cook for a further 5-10mins.
Meanwhile, heat 1tbs oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat and cook chops until done to your liking.
Scatter spinach on plates and serve with potatoes and lamb. Serves 4.

ease: 5/5. prep time: 30mins to marinate lamb int he fridge and prep everything.
cooking time: 1hour. I cooked the potatoes for 50mins before adding the cannellini. To cut down on roasting time parboil potatoes before hand and then jsut roast til golden.
total: 1hour 30mins. Only 10mins active cooking.

taste: 4/5. The boys really liked the spice rub. The potatoes were also lovely.

would I make it again: Yes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cranberry, caramel & almond tart

Twenty or more cold days perfect for hours of cooking, and yet I choose the first 30C day to do just that. The oven was on for about 4hours today, along with 4hours of stove time the temperature in my house despite all the blinds being closed, almost reached the same temperature as the outside air.

Heat-headache aside, I managed to follow through and make this tart, and boy, does it look gorgeous; I just hope it tastes its weight in gold.

ease: 3/5. Time consuming.
prep time: 2hours and 45mins. The prep time should be at least an hour to 12 more as I only rested my dough for 1hour and 15mins. I made the filling whilst the dough was in the fridge to save time as the filling takes almost an hour (cooling time inc).
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 3hours & 10mins.

taste: 3/5. My partner gave it a 4 but I found the caramel quite bitter and with the tart cranberries it just wasn't that nice.

would I make it again: No.


Perfect mac-n-cheese

I thought when I had found Neil Perry's recipe for Macaroni and Cheese that I would never have to look for another recipe again. Unfortunately, my partner did not share my enthusiasm for the dish and since then the hunt has resumed for a recipe that we both like.

I like my macaroni and cheese to be unctuous and cheesy. Ryan doesn't want his to taste like any cheese except tasty. When I found this recipe I had a feeling I'd found the one. Whilst it has Gruyere (yum!) and blue cheese the majority of the cheesiness comes from tasty. It doesn't have breadcrumbs (something he doesn't like) so I thought I'd try once again and see how it goes.

ease: 4.5/5. You make the sauce separately.
prep time:
12mins to make sauce and cook pasta.
cooking time:
25mins in the oven.

taste: 4/5. I found this to be creamy, cheesy and spicy (the chilli powder does have a kick so don't go overboard). I had to sprinkle some parsley over mine as I felt it needed something to break up the heaviness. Ryan like it - but as I used penne he didn't feel it was Mac-N-Cheese and so he can't decide if it is the one until I cook it with macaroni pasta. To be honest I am not sure why the recipe calls for penne, and I'm surprised I didn't realise and substitute with the macaroni.

would I make it again:
Yes - with macaroni next time.


Gingerbread pancakes

Well Summer has definitely arrived. At 3pm the temperature is around 28C and the sun is blazingly strong. Not only that but next weeks forecast predicts daily temperatures of above 26C - thankfully Christmas will be 26C which is comfortable, there's nothing worse than having a furnace for a kitchen whilst trying to stay dry and presentable for the relatives.

I woke up around 10am today, and thought I'd make something Christmas-y for breakfast as I haven't really made anything festive yet. I love gingerbread in all forms, I especially love those Pfeffernusse cookies my great grandmother always used to have in her cupboard. So when I stumbled upon gingerbread pancakes I started rubbing my hands with glee.

ease: 5/5. prep time: 5mins to get batter ready.
cooking time: 20mins - 1min per side. My batch made 10 pancakes from 1/4cup pourings.
total: 25mins.

taste: 3.5/5.
I loved them but I knew Ryan would think they weren't sweet enough so I added 2.5tbs of caster sugar - he still didn't think they were sweet enough. I forgot that I left my molasses at dad's so I substituted it with golden syrup - maybe this is why they weren't sweeter.
The spice mix was lovely and gave them that deep gingerbread smell.

would I make them again: Yes -
I may try another recipe though as there are many out there.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cheesy chicken quesadillas

I managed to make a few meals throughout the day to keep everyone satiated. Normally we'll have breakfast at 9am and then a toasted sandwich at 1pm and then dinner at 6pm - as we haven't eaten much during the day, dinner tends to be a big meal followed by dessert and snacking until bed time. Not a great routine, I know.

As we ate well during the day I thought I'd do something lighter for dinner. I made this salad as well as a salad of mixed greens in a garlic vinaigrette dressing. To go with it I thought I'd make everyone one of these yummy looking quesadillas.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins to marinate chicken and prep everything.
cooking time: 10mins to cook chicken and assemble quesadillas. I cooked my quesadillas in a sandwich press so both sides browned at once.
total: 15mins.

taste: 4/5. The chicken was really tasty but they were a little hard to eat. I prefer the chimichanga method of folding over the bottom into a wrap shape and then pressing so the filling stays in.

would I make it again: Yes. But I would press it after folding to make it easier to eat.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lamb and rosemary pies

Not much to say today. Wanted to make something with minimum prep and hands on time. I love making pies for this reason as they are substanital enough to serve with just a side salad.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 40 mins to get everything in the pan - then simmer for 25mins.
cooking time: 20mins in the oven til the pastry is browned.
total: 1hour - only 15mins of hands on time.

taste: 3.5. The boys liked this pie more than this pie. A better meld of flavours. I might add some potato next time though.

would I make it again: Yes. recipe:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Heather's quinoa

Yesterday's accomplishments, whilst many, left me with nil to no energy. A 7am start this morning left me sleepy eyed and a hair's width from falling asleep by 10am. I somehow managed to soldier on (with the help of cherries and chocolate biscuits) and finish work by 6pm. As much as I wanted to collapse onto the couch and catch up on emails I had three hungry boys (well, men really) to feed. Luckily my father had dropped off some seasoned pork and lamb he had to use up in the morning, so all that was left for me to do was make a side.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 15mins to cook quinoa and prep other ingredients.
cooking time:
total: 22mins.

taste: 3.5/5. I have decided that I really like quinoa, and it seems I have converted my father also, who until today had never tasted it before. Even with the pesto it was a little bland; I did not add the corn and I swapped tofu for haloumi. I also added fresh tomatoes instead of cooking them first. I also substituted kale for spinach. It needs more sharpness, definitely more tomatoes.

would I make it again: Yes.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mum's chicken parmigiana with basil tomato fries

Do you ever have one of those days when everything is going perfectly and you just feel happy? I was having one of those days today; I was getting a lot of things done, spending quality time with my partner and our dog and just overall was in a great mood.

I was carrying a load of laundry downstairs when my gaze was diverted to the lemon tree/lavender area as a bird flapped its wings while launching itself from the rose trellis. I was about to turn my head when I noticed a white flutter, like a mirror reflecting the sun light. Putting down my laundry I raced upstairs to get my camera in case it was a cool looking insect. And just my luck, an absolutely gorgeous butterfly was having a rest on my dried up lavender buds. I tried to snap some shots, zooming in as much as possible with my point-and-shoot so as not to frighten away the little darling. Suffice to say I think I got a few decent shots in - it's times like these I wish I had some better equipment though, and a tripod.

4 chicken breasts
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
1/2tsp garlic minced
1/2tsp minced ginger
1tsp Italian mixed herbs
2cups breadcrumbs
1cup cornflake breadcrumbs
1tbs season all salt
1tsp paprika

Cut fillets in half and flatten slightly. Dust in flour, salt and pepper.
Whisk eggs with garlic, ginger and Italian herbs. Dip chicken in egg mixture.
Combine both breadcrumbs, season all and paprika in a large plastic sealable bag. Put chicken in bag, seal up and toss to coat.
In a large fry pan heat 1/4 cup of oil and 1tbs of butter over medium heat. Add chicken and cook for 10mins or until golden brown on both sides. Transfer chicken to a baking tray lined with foil.
Spread 2tbs of any tomato sauce over the top and of the chicken and then sprinkled a handful or so of mozzarella cheese. Put under grill until cheese has melted. Serves 4.

ease: 4.5/5. You have to flour, egg, crumb, fry and then grill the chicken.
prep time: 15mins - 10mins for fries and 5mins for chicken.
cooking time: 45mins for fries, chicken takes 10mins in the pan and then 3mins under the grill.
total: 1hour.

taste: 5/5 for the chicken parmigiana. I added 1tsp of garlic as I like more garlic and I think I'll leave out the ginger next time, I have a feeling my mum just added it recently because I never tasted ginger in the chicken parmigiana I ate as a kid. I halved the amount of breadcrumbs - I only used Krispy breadcrumbs which are lightly seasoned and slightly crispy. This was my absolute favourite dish as a kid which is why I kept eating chicken after I decided to become a vegetarian at 9, I couldn't resist mum's chicken parmigiana.
4/5 for the fries, I tripled the garlic powder and doubled the Parmesan which was probably mistake as it melted and made all of the chips stick to the foil making it hard to take them off whole.

would I make it again: Yes for both - everyone enjoyed dinner.


Anzac tart with macadamia praline & cinnamon syrup

Last night I spent 15mins filling in almost every line of my diary (the schedule kind, not the 'why is my bf such a tool' kind) with chores and tasks to do today. At 1pm I have ticked off 4 things (which is pretty decent) including most of the prep work on the Anzac tart as it needs a lot of chilling time.
Sundays were my day of rest, but they have now become my day of finishing household tasks and getting a jump start on work. Although I am looking forward to when they revert back to being, 'catch up on tv' and 'eat junk food while watching movies' day, I get a great sense of accomplishment when I look back on my diary page filled with ticks. Getting stuff done feels just as good as doing nothing at all...well, maybe a little better :).

ease: 5/5. A few steps but they aren't hard ones, plus there's no baking involved.
prep time: 15mins - 5mins for the crust, 10mins for the filling and 10mins for the brittle. I did the crust first, and the filling and brittle at the same time.
cooking time:
7hours - they suggest overnight freezing. So you need to make this before hand.
7 hours 25mins - only 25mins active cooking.

3/5. I had it in the freezer for 7 hours but after 30secs of being out of the fridge it was melting faster than ice cream. The honey was actually a little overpowering, I didn't bother with the cinnamon syrup as the tart was already extremely sweet. The filling had an ice cream-like consistency but the crust was really hard to break through.

would I make it again: No.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chocolate-filled oat crunch

Right now I am almost a prisoner in my own home as it has been raining non-stop since I woke at 7am. I braved the weather to do my weekly shop (wish I had gone yesterday) and got completely drenched; even our doggie Yoshi has only gone out once to pee, he's slept the entire day to conserve his energy and wait out the rain. A lot of errands have been sidelined (like laundry, our laundry is only accessible by going outside) and a trip to the movies to see Twilight, but one positive has been that I have had time to check out some more food blogs.

As you can see, my food blog list has grown exponentially, I will probably whittle it down once I know which blogs aren't updated regularly, as I like blogs that post at least a few recipes each month.

180g butter
120g demerara sugar
90gm golden syrup
150g plain flour
1tsp bicarb soda
60gm dessicated coconut
60gm rolled oats
150g milk chocolate

Preheat oven to 160C. Using an electric mixer, cream butte, sugar and golden syrup until fluffy, then add flour, bicarb soda, coconut and rolled oats, and beat on slow until just combined.
Spoon teaspoonfuls of mixture onto baking paper lined trays. Bake for 15mins or until golden then cool on racks.
Melt chocolate in heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cool to thick consistency, then spread over the base of half the biscuit and sandwich with remaining biscuits. Makes 18.
ease: 5/5.
prep time: 10mins - 5mins of this was scooping them out to place on trays.
cooking time: 40mins to make three batches - around 12mins per batch.
total: 5omins to make 20 cookies.

taste: 3.5/5. Everyone else really liked them though but I found them a little oily and sharply sweet, had to drink some water after eating one. Make sure you use 1tsp measures as I made mine a little bigger and they really expanded in the oven.

would I make it again: No. Although everyone else enjoyed them I didn't like them enough to make them again.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thai chicken & bean curry

My partner and I have been flat out with all of the Xmas orders rushing in, we've even had to start working Sunday nights just so we can get everything shipped on the Monday. As I am practically working Sunday through Friday, come Friday evening I am exhausted and dying for a chance to flake out on the couch and watch all of the shows I recorded during the week. So the thought of having to stand up and cook a meal for an hour of more and then do the washing up isn't that appealing.

As we don't like to order takeout more than once a week sometimes I will end up having to cook, so I have started to slot in quick recipes with minimal mess; this recipe was in Donna Hay as a one pot wonder - quick and a one pot dish, awesome.

2tsp vegetable oil
2tbs Thai yellow curry paste
2 chicken breasts, sliced
1x 400ml can coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock
150g green beans, trimmed and sliced
115g baby corn, halved
2tsp fish sauce
125g cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4cup basil leaves
lime wedges and steamed jasmine rice to serve

Heat the oil in large pan over high heat. Add the curry paste and stir for 2mins. Add the chicken and stir for 2-3mins. Add the coconut milk and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and add beans and corn and cook for 3-4mins. Remove from heat and stir trough fish sauce, tomato and basil. Serve with lime wedges and rice. Serves 4.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 8mins to cut chicken and prep other ingredients.
cooking time: 20mins.
total: 28mins.

taste: 4/5. I halved the recipe but added an extra 70ml coconut milk as I love coconut in curries. The flavours were lovely, as I did not have fresh basil I substituted 1tsp dried, however I don't think it was as pronounced as fresh basil would have been. I had accidentally used up my cherry tomatoes (forgot I had to save some for this dish) so couldn't add them.

would I make it again: Yes. Both of the boys liked it, my brother thought it could have used a little more curry. However, I think by not having the cherry tomatoes and basil it probably lacked that extra dimension so I will see how it goes next time before upping any ingredients.

Warm and nutty cinnamon quinoa

Berries still slightly frozen

I occasionally pick up a magazine once a month on my weekly shop, the ratio of what I buy goes something like this:
  • 90% food magazine (Donna Hay & Gourmet Traveler are my favourites)
  • 5% Women's Health (I used to read my dad's Men's Health when it came, I like the small facts and tidbits)
  • 3% house magazine (Trends, Luxury Homes etc)
  • 2% fashion magazine (normally InStyle)
Whilst the majority of my magazine recipes come from food-specific publications, I have grabbed the scissors numerous times to slice out some healthy recipes from Women's Health. After a while I noticed that in every issue there was at least one recipe containing QUINOA. This was something I had never had as none of the local large supermarket chains stocked it. I really wanted to try this out as it has a high protein content, which is great for a veggo like me.

After spotting a few blog recipes containing it as well I thought I'd give my 'best hope' supermarket, Leos, a try. After looking on every shelf for 4 aisles I thought I was out of luck, when lo and behold, there it was, amongst some cracked wheat, bulghur and other 'specialty' grains, seeds etc. I was overly ecstatic - now I could finally try some of this healthy stuff.

ease: 4/5. A little more time consuming than most brekky recipes.
prep time:
2mins to rinse quinoa (important step as it removes saponins which give it a bitter taste) and prep other ingredients.
cooking time:
22mins. Only around 3mins actively cooking.

3.5/5. The quinoa was like a a cross between oats and cous cous in texture, but still quite soft. It had a mildly nutty taste which I liked. I didn't mind this recipe, my partner didn't really like it although he ate most of his bowl. I used a selection of frozen berries instead of fresh blackberries (cost factor) and honey instead of agave nectar (couldn't find it) I will definitely try some savoury recipes but I will also try it as a breakfast option again.

would I make it again: No - not this recipe but will definitely try some more quinoa recipes.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Strawberry jalousie

Strawberries! One of my favourite fruits ever. I absolutely loved them simply with double cream and enthroned in melted chocolate. I don't often enjoy them baked in things, but this looked too easy and delicious to pass up.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 20mins.
total: 25mins.

4.5/5. Really lovely- sweet buttery pastry with hot, soft, sweetly tart strawberries. The almond meal quietly comes through.

would I make it again:
Yes - everyone liked it and it was super easy - I will probably use two sheets next time as it just makes enough for 4 - 1 serving only.


Ainaa's bbq chicken

I started searching the net for recipes when I was around 16 - and this recipe was one of the first I found and made. It's super easy and everyone likes it (so far).

1 chicken, cut into pieces
150g condensed tomato soup
1 tbs garlic powder
3 tbs ginger juice
1 tbs cardamom
1/2 tbs curry powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup buttermilk

Combine all ingredients except buttermilk in a bowl and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.
Mix buttermilk in before grilling.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins to combine everything. Plus 12 hours if you marinate overnight, I only marinaded the meat for 1hour.
cooking time: 5mins.
total: 10mins.

taste: 4.5/5. I really love the flavours in this. This time I used 1tbs of grated ginger instead which was perfect, I also didn't include the curry powder as I had run out.

would I make it again: Yes - made this 4 times so far.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Greek salad

Having a Greek father I've had my fair share of Greek salads. I wanted to try something a little different, so when I saw this version had fresh basil and fried feta I thought I'd give it a whirl.

400g firm feta, sliced
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 white onion, thinly sliced
2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1 cup mixed olives
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup purple basil leaves
cracked black pepper
1tsp red wine vinegar
1tbs extra virgin Olive oil

Heat non stick pan over high heat and fry feta until golden. Divide between plates and top with onion, tomato, cucumber, olives, basil and purple basil. Sprinkle with pepper and drizzle vinegar and oil. Serves 4.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 9mins to chop everything.
cooking time: 1min to brown feta (mine started to melt so I took it out).
total: 10mins.

taste: 4.5/5. My favourite Greek salad to date. The feta didn't exactly brown as much as melt, so won't bother doing that next time. The fresh basil (couldn't get purple) and white onions were awesome. The white onions offered that great peppery sweetness without the harshness the red onions have - didn't have heartburn after eating these. The fresh basil was different but lovely, helped to cut through the heavy feta and freshen the mouth. The dressing was lovely, but it all depends on the quality of your oil and red wine vinegar. I use one large cucumber and only 200g feta.

would I make it again: Yes. Prefer it to other Greek salads, the white onions and fresh basil really made all the difference.

Cinnamon hot chocolate

I was trying to think of what to pair with some chopped up strawberries with organic double cream to make it that much more dessert-y.

I recently bought three jars of white, milk and dark callebaut chocolate drops along with a few other high quality ingredients. I've been sprinkling chocolaty goodness over porridge, cereal, fruit, you name it. So I thought, with the wintry weather we were having this evening, why not make a nice cup of hot chocolate to go with it.

And then I thought, what hot chocolate should I make - vanilla, orange, chilli, cinnamon... I like my hot chocolate to have a partner. And then I stumbled on this recipe, and cinnamon it was.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 1min to grab ingredients.
cooking time: 6mins.
total: 7mins.

taste: 4/5. I made a lot of changes with this recipe so I will just post my version so you can see what I changed. Serves 4.

2 cups whole milk
1 10 cm cinnamon stick
3 tsp best quality cocoa
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp honey
3/4 cup 70% dark chocolate
2 tbsp milk chocolate
2 tsp best quality vanilla extract

1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, cinnamon stick, cocoa, and the ground cinnamon. Whisk constantly. Bring to a boil, and immediately reduce heat to low. Continue to whisk and heat on low for two minutes.
2. Still using a whisk, add the chocolate, honey, and vanilla extract to the heated mixture.
3. Once all the ingredients are combined, pour into small cups.

would I make it again: Yes. Might add 1tbsp milk chocolate an subtract 1tbsp dark chocolate. It is quite a rich hot chocolate, not super thick though.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

cranberry and orange compote with white chocolate mousse

Sundays are my favourite day as they are usually the only day where I have nothing to do, as Saturday I delegate to chores such as the weekly food shop, errands and house cleaning.
However as I was so busy yesterday most of those tasks were moved to today. I found myself at 4pm with some time on my hands while laundry loads were still going and dinner was 2hours away. So I thought why not make a fruity dessert to go with the fruity dinner I had planned.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
15mins to make compote and chocolate mousse - make sure chocolate has cooled before adding to whipped cream.
cooking time: 1hour - I chilled mine for about 1hour 15mins before serving.
1hour 15mins.

2/5. The mousse looked exaclty the same as Tartlette's but was really awful for some reason; I used Callebaut white chocolate and organic fresh cream so I don't understand why it tasted a little odd. The consistency was also a little chalky, not very velvety which is how I like my mousse. Shame, becuase it is such an easy and quick mousse recipe.
I knew I'd have trouble finding anything other than dried cranberries being Australia, but I managed to track down frozen cranberries at Leos; thanks Leos, you really are awesome. The compote was also quite bitter, maybe a little too much orange zest. No one had more than a spoonful of this, what a waste of good ingredients :(.

would I make it again:


Hazelnut-Crusted Chicken with Raspberry Sauce

ease: 4/5. A few-step process.
prep time:
cooking time:

3/5. The boys ate it but didn't like it that much.

would I make it again:
No. Flavour combination didn't meld well or compliment each other.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Lavender oatmeal squares

Sunshine, glorious sunshine. Ahh yes, Summer has finally arrived. There is nothing nicer than finishing a lovely meal and still having some sunlight to eat dessert outside. I findmy energy levels are higher when the weather is warm and the sun is out.

Today I will spend most of the day cleaning or running around to find tiles and taps for my bathroom, but I will also set time aside to bake and cook. I had 30mins spare so I decided to whip up some of these as I just recently bought a little vial of lavender buds.

prep time: 8mins. I chopped my almonds, if you use a packet of slivered almonds it would shave off a minute.
cooking time:

3/5. The flavour was lovely, the yoghurt and honey come out first, followed by lavender and oats. However the texture was rubbery, not crunchy or curmbly in the slightest. Not sure why this happened as I used the exact amounts specified, I used white plain flour instead of whoeweat, maybe that affected it somehow.

would I make them again:
No. Not sure why the consistency was so gluey as I followed the recipe to the letter.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lamb, rosemary & garlic pie

Today I knew I would be working all day and in the evening I would be demolishing my bathroom to get it ready for the tiler when he comes in 4 days, so come dinner, I would not have time to stand at the stove cooking.

Pies are a favourite of mine, as although they take over an hour, there is little hands on cooking time.

ease: 4.5/5. A decent amount of prep work involved.
prep time:
1 hour. 20mins to dice and get everything into the one pan where it simmers for 40mins - so only 20mins active cooking.
cooking time:
25mins in the oven.
1hr 25mins.

3/5. The criticisms were that it was too salty - probably due to the stock I used, I have to find a less salty stock as this as happened a few times before. And that the rosemary was too strong. I used fresh rosemary out of my garden so it may have been a bit bitter. Next time around I will use dried rosemary and no added salt whatsoever. I did not bother to line the base of the dish with pastry, nor did I add cornflour as it didn't need it. I halved the recipe but I also more than halved the cooking times as they were too long.

would I make it again:
Yes - with a few tweaks here and there.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Deluxe Cheeseburger

Another day, another burger recipe. Beef is once again the main ingredient, but this time it comes in the form of a patty with caramelised onions and blue cheese dressing.

If you hadn't noticed I haven't been putting any effort at all into my photos. I am flat out as it is Xmas time which is the busiest time of year for me work wise. On top of that I have been renovating BOTH bathrooms which are due to be completed a week before Christmas. Once the new year has rolled around and my renovations are complete I will take more care with my photographs. I should also be receiving my new Canon EOS 5D Mark II soon as well, my first DSLR which is terribly exciting - so expect more photos (hopefully better as well).

500g beef mince
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 field mushrooms, trimmed
80g butter, softened
4 burger buns, halved
olive oil, for brushing
200g Swiss cheese or cheddar slices
caramelised red onion
blue cheese dressing

Place beef, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl and mix to combine. Form four patties.
Melt some butter in saucepan and add sliced red onion, cook over low heat until onion caramelises.
Place mushrooms on baking tray. Place butter, salt and pepper and mix. Spread over mushrooms and grill for 5mins.
Brush the bun halves with oil and grill for 1min.
Heat non stick skillet with oil and cook patties for 4mins. Turn and top with cheese and cook for further 4mins.
Top buns with caramelised onions, blue cheese dressing, patties and mushrooms. Serves 4.

ease: 4.5/5. A few steps for each addition to the burger.
prep time: 25mins to caramelise onions, make patties and prep everything to grill.
cooking time: 10mins to cook patties, and grill mushrooms and buns and assemble burgers.
total: 35mins.

taste: 4/5. Boys enjoyed it. I had one minus the beef patty and it was super tasty. The tangy sweetness of the onions was gorgeous with the salty earthiness of the mushrooms and the creaminess of the bitey blue cheese dressing. I used cheddar as some of the boys don't like Swiss. Due to misreading, I added 2tbs instead of 2tsp Worcestershire sauce to the patties, don't think it made a big difference.

would I make it again: Yes. Takes a little longer to make than the other beef burger but it's still a good burger.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Beef Burger

Time crept up on me today and left me in a hurry to make something for dinner before everyone went home.

Once again I am making another burger recipe as I want to try each one before the start of summer. It also worked well as it took next to no time to make, and was wolfed down in less than half that time.
olive oil, for brushing
4 burger buns
250g eye fillet
1tbs cracked black pepper
4 dill pickles, sliced
garlic aioli
4 slices prosciutto
200g cheddar cheese slices
Preheat oven to 180C. Heat nonstick pan over high heat. Brush meat with oil and season with pepper. Cook for 1min each side, transfer to baking tray and bake for 15mins for medium rare.
Brush buns with oil, top bottom halves with cheese slices and grill for 2mins until golden.
Place prosciutto on tray and grill for 1minute until crispy.
Thinly slice the beef. Spread buns with aioli and top with beef, prosciutto and pickles. Serves 4.

ease: 5/5.
Easiest burger I have made so far.
prep time: 3mins to sear meat and prep everything else.
cooking time:20mins. 15mins to cook meat in the oven and 5mins to do buns and prosciutto.
total: 23mins. Pretty quick - only around 10mins hands on cooking.

taste: 4/5. All 3 boys loved this - just meat and cheese, who knew they'd love it. I served it with some rocket in a raspberry balsamic reduction. I did not include the pickle as the boys hate pickles in their burgers.

would I make it again: Yes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tandoori lab with rice salad

Blimey - within two minutes of being outside I had sweat coming out of every pore; I know I have been complaining about the wintry weather but at least give me an 'in-between day' instead of jumping from A straight to Z.

I was a little frustrated too as I would have put the hot weather to good use (drying laundry on the line) it also made me rethink dinner plans. I don't like to be at the stove on hot days so I wanted something I could leave or/and that cooks in minutes.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time:
30mins. You need to marinate the lamb for 30mins - in that time I chopped up all the ingredients for the rice and put the rice on the stove as it needs more time than the meat to cook.
cooking time:
10mins to cook lamb chops.
total: 40mins.
About 10mins at the stove.

4/5. Boys loved the lamb, didn't like the rice that much (it also came out a little gluggy :( my fault).

would I make it again:
Yes for the lamb.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Snickers Macarons

Ah, at last, a ray of sunshine to burn through the gray denseness and chilling winds. There is simply nothing that can raise your spirits and inject energy into your body like dazzling sunshine; pure love I say.

Whilst my morning involved Chai and biscuits during a catch up with my Mama, my early afternoon was spent curled up on the couch, hood over my head and sleeves pulled down past my fingers, watching Masterchef, followed by Celebrity Masterchef. And then it happened, it was as if the room had been lit by a million fairy lights. Glorious sunshine streamed through my window; so off came the hooded sweatshirt, and on came my pale pink apron.

I opened my fridge and found 3 eggwhites left over from a previous recipe. Perfecto! What a great excuse to try my hand at some more macarons. Immediately I searched Tartlette's website for a macaron recipe and decided on the devilishly delicious Snickers macarons.

Although I had all the ingredients on hand, I still have not bought a proper piping kit - so once again I will have to try my best to make even circles by hand - here's hoping.

ease: 1.5/5. Once again these are not easy, and this recipe has a lot of extra cooking for the filling. There is also a lot of washing involved.
prep time: 1hour 20mins. It takes around 20mins to make and pipe the macarons onto the baking paper. Whilst they are hardening for an 1 hour you make the chocolate ganache, salted caramel sauce and peanut butter marshmallow fudge.
cooking time: 24mins - I cooked three trays for 8mins each.
total: 1hour 44mins.

taste: 3/5. I like the caramel sauce and nougat but I had problems with everything- my chocolate seemed to seize up so maybe the cream was too hot. My caramel sauce turned gluggy upon cooling and was not very sauce-like. I also found I had to reheat the nougat as it became much too sticky to even use, like viral chewing gum. My macarons on the otherhand, came out gorgeously! Yes, they have tiny frilly feet, and I forgot to push down the little bumps on top before letting them dry, but apart from that I am fairly happy. Will make them a little bigger next time (hopefully with my piping bag).

would I make it again: No. Not this recipe as the filling was too time consuming, but will definitely make some macarons again if I have left over eggwhites.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Apple Pancakes

If someone told me it was Winter I would believe them. Rain, hail and icy winds keep me indoors; what better way to make use of time than to make some yummy pancakes.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
8mins - grating the apple takes the longest.
cooking time:
6mins to cook 6 small pancakes.
total: 14mins.

4/5. I only added 1 granny smith so I couldn't really taste the apple, but the boys liked it -will remember to add 2 apples next time.

would I make it again:


Friday, November 21, 2008

Mango Banana Lassi

After receiving a bearating over the price I paid for a mango, my partner came shopping with me and chose a cheaper alternative which he thought would taste the same as the more expensive ones; well, he was wrong. The mango was quite firm and bland - despite being in the fruitbowl for almost 1 week. As it only had a mere hint of sweetness and lacked that refreshing juicyness of a good mango, I thought the best way to use it would be to blend it.

I accidentally bought a tub of Greek yoghurt (already had one in the back of the fridge) so I thought I'd play around and make a smoothie/lassi.

1 mango, diced
1 banana, roughly chopped
1 small kiwifruit
1 cup Greek yoghurt
1tbs honey
1 tray of ice cubes

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Both of the boys liked this, although next time I would use passionfruit rather than kiwi. It wasn't very sweet, but it also wasn't super tart either. Makes 4 250ml glasses (our glasses are quite large and hold over 500ml).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chicken chorizo burger

Tonight I needed a quick dinner as my partner and I had tickets for Quantum of Solace (didn't like it as much as Casino Royale). As I have a slew of burger recipes, I thought I'd try another.

ease: 4/5. You have to do a few batches of cooking.
prep time: 15mins to prep everything.
cooking time: 10mins to cook chicken and chorizo.
total: 25mins.

taste: 3/5. Not bad, boys hated the chicken and chorizo combo, said it confused them.

would I make it again: No.

Squashed ginger biscuits

Spare time: very rare, extremely difficult to find. I luckily happened to stumble upon a small piece today and used it to bake cookies of course.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 8mins to make batter and place on tray.
cooking time: 8mins - watch carefully as mine were even a little overdone.
total: 16mins.

taste: 3.5/5. The flavour was nice, but they were a little dry.

would I make it again: No. The texture didn't appeal to me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tomato Basil Cream Pasta

After trying the vegan muffins, which were fantastic, I thought I would give this recipe a try.

4/5. You make your own sauce.
prep time: 10mins to make sauce.
cooking time:
5mins - I use angel hair pasta which cooks in 3mins.
total: 15mins.

3/5. I doubled this recipe, so I used two cans of chopped tomatoes. I made the HUGE mistake of forgetting to add salt or even some red wine to the sauce, so to say it came out bland is an understatement. I also didn't have enough fresh basil to double the recipe so I substituted 2tsp dry basil. This may have tasted nicer if I had actually seasoned it.

would I make it again:
No. Would just use a jar of sauce to make tomato pasta.

Oregano Lamb with Greek Salad

Ryan and I tried a new style of shopping on Sunday. We decided we wanted to have the shopping done in 20mins max. To do this we split up the shopping list - I gave him all the fruit, veg, bread and meats (all in the same aisle) whilst I would get everything else (I'm faster as I do the food shop and know where everything is). Not surprisingly I finished first, but we were all done in under 20mins. In fact, we were home in that time.

This new method of ours seemed great, until I went to cook the lamb for dinner and realised that instead of Lamb Loin Chops, my dyslexic and lazy reader-of-a-fiance, bought Pork loin chops. As I did not think oregano or a Greek salad would go well with pork, I had to make a mad dash to the supermarket before everyone came for dinner. Luckily the dinner itself is super fast to make.

4 lamb loin chops (I used 8 lamb cutlets)
1/2 cup fresh oregano
1tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
Greek salad (tomatoes, feta, cucumber, olives and red onion)

Mix lemon, oregano, olive oil and garlic in a bowl. Add lamb chops and toss to coat. Cook lamb chops in pan until cooked to your liking (6mins for medium). Serve with a Greek Salad.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 15mins to make marinade and to make Greek salad.
cooking time: 6mins for lamb cutlets.
total: 15mins. Make salad while lamb is cooking.

taste: 3.5/5. The boys thought the lamb was fine, Ryan didn't like the Greek salad much. I used 1/4 cup fresh oregano and 2tbs dried oregano.

would I make it again: No - they like other lamb seasonings better.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Walnut Crumb Banana Muffins

It's been a while since I last posted and for good reason; I have actually been quite busy.

It was my birthday on the 11th, and along with a slew of gorgeous gifts was a delicious box of xocaltyl chocolates - how divine do they look. My favourite was the violet followed closely by the rose (I love flower chocolates). The day was made even better by the discovery of a lone red flower in my garden; a christmas joy (I have no idea what the name of the flower is but that's what I am calling it.)During the week we were also lucky enough to be invited by Stefano Canturi to preview his collection made for the epic Baz Lurhman film, Australia. There were some seriously gorgeous pieces, a few were snapped up by some of the guests; lucky women.

On Sunday we went to lunch at Bistro Guillaume at Crown Casino with family - during the rest of the day I managed to squeeze in some time to make a batch of Vegan muffins.
\Doggie was eyeing them off all day.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 18mins to make batter and coat walnuts.
cooking time:

taste: 4.5/5. The walnut topping was crunchy, sweet and salty - really lovely, but I used half magerine and half butter. I also had to add 3tbs of milk to the batter as it was dry and dough-like. So my muffins weren't true vegan.

would I make it again:


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chicken fajitas

Boy was it suffocating out today; I had to clothe the house in darkness to keep the sunshine from making it unbearably hot.

As I could do nothing more than lounge with a magazine to keep from building up a sweat, I almost decided to order a pizza as I did not think I could stand being in a hot kitchen. But then I reconsidered, as I needed to cook the chicken breasts that were nearing non-edibility, so I chose something with minimal stove time.

ease: 4/5.
prep time:
15mins to make salsa and marinate chicken.
cooking time:
8mins to cook chicken and toast burrito wraps
total: 23mins.

3.5/5. Not bad, they felt like they were missing something, which was most probably shredded tasty cheese. It could also have been because I did not add avocado or onion (because the avocado was black inside and my onion was a little mouldy - damn hot weather). I also didn't particularly feel that the smoked paprika was appropriate.

would I make it again: No, I've made tastier chicken fajitas than this.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Red capsicum, chickpea & parsley salad

To celebrate summer-ly weather I wanted something light and fresh to go with my BBQ'd lamb; raw red capsicum is one of my favourite vegetables to eat in warm weather.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
5mins to chop ingredients.
cooking time:
1min to make dressing.

taste: 4/5. No one liked the sesame oil and felt it overpowered the other ingredients. I used two red capsicums and 400g tin of chickpeas. I also threw a handful of flaked almonds in.

would I make it again: Yes - I will however substitute olive oil for the sesame oil.