Thursday, April 16, 2015

Roasted Sweet Potato with Honey and Cinnamon Glaze

How does one get out of a dinner rut? You know, how you end up always cycling through the same meals and the same sort of ingredients, and it just gets a little monotonous?
Sometimes you just have to mix it up a little at the dinner table. I always think it's a good idea to buy one new thing a fortnight and force yourself to cook with it. It's a good way to spice up meals a bit and adds to your cooking repertoire, making it more diverse and less boring.
It's a little challenging with small kids, because often you have go-to meals because you know meal time will be easier to bear. Yep, that's right! My kids would rather eat dry cat food than some of the things I serve. It's humbling. I try to reassure myself that their taste-buds haven't sufficiently developed yet, while I force feed them.
I was reading an article written by a dietician the other day about the "shared responsibility eating" theory. Basically you place the dinner on the table buffet style, and your children get to serve themselves, deciding what they want to eat and how much they will eat. There is no obligation to finish or taste anything. Well I think that's crazy. My kids would starve themselves. Or eat crackers for the rest of their childhoods. (trust me, I have been there in my own childhood, resulting in one never-hungry and malnourished girl. That's right-I never felt hungry enough to eat.)
My kids get served a portion of what we are eating and have to finish it. They at least have to have a taste of the things they're not used to, for example, if I add a new veggie or make something they've never tried before, they will have to at least experience it once.
We usually have our sweet potato boiled and mashed, but for Christmas lunch I decided to roast the sweet potato in wedges, drizzled in a honey cinnamon glaze. This was served alongside Gordon Ramsey's Beef Wellington (Oh my. This is a must-make!) The roasted glazed sweet potato  was so divine that I could probably have eaten the lot of it in one sitting. I have since brought it to the dinner table as a side, and it's always been a much-savored hit.



ROASTED SWEET POTATO WITH HONEY & CINNAMON GLAZE (Adapted from Food Network)

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thick fingers
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven at 190C.
Lay all the sweet potato fingers flat on a lined baking tray.
Combine the oil, honey and cinnamon in a small bowl until well incorporated. Drizzle this mixture over the top of the sweet potato. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until tender. If you prefer some more colour, you can finish off the roasting with a few minutes under the grill on a high setting.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired before serving.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Chewy Choc Chip Biscuits

Mumma's got a bee in her bonnet, and it's got nothing to do with food.
Heading into the post office yesterday, the man behind the desk who was about to serve me stuck his nose further over the edge to peer down at three gorgeous little tykes in tow and one blossoming bump on the front of me. He counted the kids out loud, slowly and like a fool, as if there were just too many to number.
Then he looked at me with wide eyes and said, "Four? What are you doing? I mean, you obviously know what you're doing, but WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"
I'm used to people commenting on the size of my little family with a wry smile, in semi joke form, and have found it easy to laugh off, with most people making no further comment. But this guy was unsmiling, obnoxious, and I knew he wasn't going to let it go.
"Have you got it worked out yet?" he asked. No, I'm just so uneducated, I don't now how babies are made.
My blood was steady boiling, but I had nothing to say. I just laughed, but inside I was punching in his irritating face. I wondered if I could get away with assault with the excuse of crazy pregnancy hormones raging around. A cat had totally got my tongue and I had no clever retaliation.
"Two is enough for me" grumbled the man, huffing. I turned around and there was a huge queue behind me.
"Well I admit, they're hard work, but so worth it" I smiled at him. "Four 500g satchels, please."
Inside I was saying "go screw yourself" but I am glad I didn't say that. My babies are my everything. Since when has it become okay for people to make rude comments on family size choices and pregnancy? It feels that as soon as you're showing a baby bump it gives every man and his dog the okay to go and judge and poke and make the rudest comments about fertility, family choices and the size of your body. "Don't you have a TV?" That's my favourite, along with "There are ways of not having more, you know."
As I left I turned back to him and said "I'm one of ten kids, you know. Four is nothing." I laughed at that jaw drop and out we all trotted.
Then I went home and stuffed my face with these biscuits. They're wonderful comfort food and packed full of happy-inducing chocolate chips. Bring on the questions as to whether I'm expecting twins, these thick, chewy delicious choc chip biscuits were well worth it.




CHEWY CHOC CHIP COOKIES (Adapted from All Recipes)

2 1/4 cups plain four
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
170g butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla essence/extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup chocolate chips (or more if desired)

Set the oven to 165C.
Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well combined. Add the vanilla and egg as well as the yolk. Beat until incorporated. Add the sifted mixture and beat until just combined. ix through the chocolate chips by hand.
Place rounded tablespoon-worths of mixture onto greased and lined trays, about 6 cms apart to allow for spreading. Bake for 15-17 minutes until they begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and leave to cool on trays for 5 minutes, before removing and placing on a wire rack.

Makes at least 20 (they started getting eaten before I had the opportunity to count them all!)








Monday, March 30, 2015

Tomato & Spinach Tortellini Soup

I was only 19 when I met my husband and started dating him, so I had only been on a handful of proper dates with other people up until then. So maybe I just don't know what's the norm, but I always thought I'd see swags of other young people out for dinner beside us, wining and dining. Do young people not do dinner dates in the 2000's? Where do they go, and what do they do? We always seemed like the youngest ones eating out in a restaurant, surrounded by couples aged 30+. Was dining out uncool? Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I think it's an amazing way and opportunity to get to know people better, and to me that's what dating is partially about. Those talks over dinner were priceless! I wouldn't have traded them for drinks with my boyfriend in a noisy bar. You know, the ones with such loud music that you have to yell, and then just end up giving up and dousing down another drink, with the hope to soothe your sore throat?
Okay, I realise I'm beginning to sound old now.
Moving on! What's your favourite cuisine? I have two in particular,  French and Italian, closely followed by Indian. Take me out for Italian, and I'll probably be hanging around you for life.
If you're looking for great spots to go out for dinner in Brisbane, try out the Ceylon Inn for Indian, Boucher for French and Mario Sarti for Italian. They're three of our favourite places to dine out. And they never disappoint.
Neither will this Italian recipe I'm about to share with you, inspired and adapted from a blog called Diethood. Now you know I don't believe in diets, and this soup is filled with delicious carbs (oh yeah!) It's also vegetarian, so it is perfect for those who are looking for meatless meals, which are great for Lent and Fridays. Or if you don't indulge in meat. If you'd like a meat addition, you can add any sort of tortellini, and many have a meat filling. I used spinach and ricotta filled agnelotti and it was just divine! The recipe feeds many mouths too, and is great with a dollop of sour cream and some nice, crispy garlic bread on the side.



TOMATO AND SPINACH TORTELLINI SOUP (Adapted from Diethood)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp crushed garlic
2 cans diced tomato with added herbs (basil, garlic and oregano)
4 cups passata/tomato sauce (pasta sauce)
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 package tortellini (frozen or fresh is fine)
1 cup fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Place the oil and butter in a saucepan, and heat until the butter has melted. Ad the chopped onion and cook for two minutes or until somewhat softened. Add the garlic for a further two minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring to the boil on a medium-high heat.
Add the stock and return to the boil. Then add the tortellini and spinach. Cook until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with optional dollop of sour cream and crusty garlic bread.

Serves 6-8






Monday, March 16, 2015

Chocolate Rum Hearts

Lovers-it's that time of the year again. I've crawled out from my hiding place to bring you a very quick, easy and yummy recipe that is perfect for Valentine's Day, especially if you don't buy gifts but just do something thoughtful for your significant other. The only problem is life caught up with me and I wasn't able to post it on time, but never the less, it's a good recipe for just surprising your lover, regardless what day it is. Who needs a particular day to express their love anyway?
Just in case you've been wondering what rock I've crawled out from under, I am pregnant! That's one big boulder on the front of me. I haven't been up to doing much cooking or baking, and would rather be laying down and catching as many zzz's as I can muster with three toddlers under my care. Just kidding- toddlers 1, mummy 0.
But that's okay, because over the weekend, hubby and I and the kids are heading off on holidays to the Sunshine Coast. I cannot wait to get my grubby mits on that little beach house and really relax! Anyway, these heart shaped rum bites are delicious and you don't need to use an oven. If you're in one of those hot climates like I am, you will not want to pass this up. It's too hot to have that thing on.
If you're curious as to what you'll be creating, I can tell you what will be passing your beloved's lips-dense, chocolatey hearts with a nice dash of rum, rolled in red coconut. You will need a silicone heart mold. I suspect mine is supposed to be used for ice making but it's always been more handy for other non liquid creations like this...yum!




 CHOCOLATE RUM HEARTS (A Lick the Spoon Original)

350g biscuits (I used a bunch of different ones like Marie bisuits, plain sweet ones)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup (300g) sweetened condensed milk
2-3 tbsp. rum
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
1 tbsp red food colouring

Crush the biscuits into fine crumbs in a food processor. Pour into a medium sized bowl.
Add the cocoa, sweetened condensed milk and rum. Mix until well combined.
In a zip lock bag, place the coconut and the food colouring. Mix around until the coconut begins to change colour. Sprinkle a little of this mixture into the bottom of each heart shaped silicone old.
Press the chocolate biscuit mixture into the silicone heart molds and firmly press the tops smooth. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes, then pop them out. Refrigerate in a airtight container until ready to serve.





Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lemon Meltaways

Is it really Christmas without a good helping of home made shortbread on the scene? These delectable lemon meltaway shortbreads are adorable and festive looking, coated in a thick layer of icing sugar. The flavour has been amped up with the fresh addiction of lemon juice and lemon zest, taking this melt in your mouth biscuit to heightened levels. They are great for gift giving, especially for that last minute Christmas cooking, and are a pretty addiction to any Christmas entertaining table. Forget Christmas, these babies are to be made all year round, they're that good!




LEMON MELTAWAYS (Adapted from My Baking Addiction)

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup icing sugar, divided
1 1/2 tbsp lemon zest (2-3 lemons depending on size)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 3/4 cups + 2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp corn flour
pinch salt

Preheat the oven at 180C.
Cream together the butter and 1/3 cup of the icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add the zest, juice and vanilla, and beat until all the ingredients come together and are smooth.
Combine the flour, corn flour and salt in a small bowl. While beating the butter mixture, gradually add the flour mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time until well incorporated.
Divide the mixture in half, and roll each into 1 1/2 inch logs. wrap both in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1/2 an hour to harden.
Take the rolls from the freezer one at a time and slice with a sharp knife into 1/4 inch rounds. Place them on greased and lined biscuit trays. Bake for 13-14 minutes, or until the bottoms begin to turn golden. Leave to cool on the trays for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. When cool, use the remaining icing sugar in a bowl to coat the outside of each cookie.

NOTES: you can store these biscuits in an airtight container for up to one week.



Sunday, December 21, 2014

Homemade Limoncello

If you were to ask what the most exciting thing I have made and tasted this year it would be this-heavenly, liquid gold. Lemony, sweet, alcoholic, utterly refreshing and served ice cold straight from the freezer, this home made limoncello is definitely a case of saving the best till last. It's a recipe with history, passed around Italy. I nabbed it from the glorious hardcover Italian cookbook Limoncello and Linenwater by Tessa Kiros, and she writes

 "This recipe is from Massimo, Giovani's friend, and he got it from his Sicilian friend's grandmother." 

Don't you just love recipes that have been passed on through numerous people and generations? You just know there's something special about it, something coveted. It just adds to the flavour.
This drink really is a labour of love. But food and drink always does taste better with lashings of passion and love poured into it, I am certain of it. I had blisters on my hands after spending hours peeling the lemon yellow off the pith with a potato peeler-but it was so worth it. I can not stress how worth it it was. Thankfully we made a double batch of this lovely drink, so that we could gift it to friends and family this Christmas. It's the ultimate homemade Christmas gift for anyone who enjoys a good drop and is a foodie lover.
We had been saving interesting liqueur bottles over the years for this very moment-after weeks of soaking the peel and waiting for it to settle, we finally got to bottle our very own home brewed limoncello. The feeling of satisfaction was beyond what I expected, especially after we had chilled it in the freezer and taken our first sips. Ahhhhhhhhhh! The perfect beverage to have on a hot summer's day.
Just to test how good our limoncello was, we poured a comparative shot glass of limoncello we had purchased from a well known boutique liqueur store in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Theirs is a clear pure colourless liquid scattered with gold leaf and set in a cello shaped bottle. Fancy!
Ours is a clear, lemon coloured liquid, brilliant to the eye. In comparison, ours smells and tastes much more lemony, sweeter, with an alcoholic warmth at the end. The store bought one is less aromatic, and perhaps more alcoholically potent. The first impression is "Wow, strong alcohol! Mmmh, lemon."
It's the exact reverse for the home made limoncello.
I'm pretty biased, but I prefer our batch, as does my husband. That dash of love sure is a tasty addition. We hope to carry on our home made liqueur tradition to many future Christmases.And you may ask, what am I going to do with all those peeled lemons? Make old fashioned cloudy pink lemonade of course!






HOMEMADE LIMONCELLO (From Limoncello and Linenwater, by Tessa Kiros. pg. 17)

8 lemons
1 litre (4 cups) pure alcohol
1 kg sugar
1 litre (4 cups) water

Wash and scrub the lemons very well.
Pare them with a potato peeler, removing only the yellow of the skins (any white pith will make the limoncello bitter, so just skim off the yellow). Put the yellow skins in a wide mouthed glass carafe  with about a 3 litre capacity.
Pour the alcohol over the top and seal. Keep covered for one week, shaking occasionally to make sure all the peel is soaking.
Put the sugar in a saucepan with the water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for just under 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Using a fine strainer or sieve, filter the alcohol into a jug and discard the lemon peel.
Slowly pour the strained alcohol into the hot sugar syrup and stir to combine thoroughly.
Cool completely.
Pour back into the carafe. Cover again and leave for 10-15 days.
Serve well chilled. You can even keep it in the freezer.

NOTES: We used vodka as the alcohol in this recipe. Most pure alcohols are between 96-98%. Makes about 2.25 litres. We made a double batch, and spent about $100 on vodka, sugar and lemons, and got about 4.5 litres of pure Italian bliss. (8 varied sized bottles!) You can store this in the freezer permanently for a super chilled drink-the alcohol cannot freeze.



The process in pictures:


 Just to show you how thinly you need to peel the rind from the lemon, the first slice I took out of the first lemon looked like the above. The peel had lots of white on the bottom, so skim lightly and peel like the rest of the lemon pictured above.


 Your peel should look like this. In the beginning, until I got the knack of peeling well, some of my peel had white on it. This makes the limoncello bitter, so try to avoid it. My small dose of white didn't seem to affect the flavour noticeably.


 All the peel place in glass container.


 Vodka is added to the peel.


 Bottle is sealed and left to sit for a week. Careful when you go to inhale from the bottle, it will burn your nostils!

 
After that the lemon is removed and water and sugar is boiled together to create a hot sugar syrup. This is added to the vodka. It then sits for 10-15 days before bottling.


 Hubby bottling the limoncello.


Voila! Chill and serve.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dark Chocolate Ganache and Coconut Tart

Being in Australia, I missed out on all the foodie enjoyment associated with Thanksgiving-but that didn't stop me from making pie! I believe it's a Martha Stewart creation originally- and so simple, delicious and gluten free just as an added bonus. I love that only four ingredients are used to create this luscious silky dark chocolate tart. It's somewhat ganachy, with that gorgeous coconut crust-sort of like a giant, chocolate covered macaroon, really. Its impressive yet takes next to no effort or skill, and feeds an army die to its glorious richness. Could there be any more perfect a dessert for Christmas? Easy, quick, delicious, festive, impressive! Perfection.



DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE & COCONUT TART (Adapted from Marin Mama Cooks)

4 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 cups dessicated coconut
350g dark chocolate
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 180C.
Place one third of the coconut into a medium bowl with the butter and stir thoroughly to combine. using your fingers, combine the remaining coconut with the butter coconut mix.
Line a 9in pie dish with baking paper. Press the coconut mixture firmly into the base and then up the sides of the dish, leaving the top edge more loosely packed and fluffy. Lay a sheet of foil underneath your pie dish and draw a circle around it. Cut off the edges so that you have a foil cover the size of the pie. Fold this in half and cut a half circle about two inches from the edge. Unfold to reveal a "o" shaped ring of foil. Place this on the pie so that it covers the top of the edges. This will stop it from over browning. Place the pie in the oven. You will need to carefully watch the pie, as ovens vary hence does the cooking time. Also what you cook in (glass, tin, ceramic etc) will alter the browning time. I cooked mine in a tin and it took about 12-15 minutes to start tuning a golden brown. Then remove the foil and cook for a further 4 minutes until just golden on the edges. Be careful not to let the bottom get too brown. If one area is getting too brown, cover in a piece of foil to stop the browning process in that area.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When the crust is cool, chop up the chocolate and place it in a medium sized heat proof bowl. Place the cream in a small saucepan. Over a medium-low heat, bring the cream just to the boil.  Pour the cream over the chocolate, and let it sit for 10 minutes undisturbed. Mix together until fully incorporated and smooth and glossy. Pour into the coconut base and smooth the top if you need to.
Refrigerate until the chocolate has set (this will depend on the the of chocolate you use, it can take from 2 to 24 hours)

Serves: 10-12 (slice small as this tart is very rich)




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Best Ever Beef Marinade

There are ten of us kids in the family. Well, not kids anymore, but we were kids when I was of the opinion that meat was disgusting. Twiggy little me thought it was like to hunting and killing the beast itself to get the knife through those rubbery, sinewy steaks. I felt like I was sawing away at it for hours on end just to get a bite. Okay, so there were a stack of us, and my parents couldn't give us prime steak every night. I didn't even know there was such a thing as tender, succulent meat until I had my first blissful meat experience on my dinner break when catering for Peter Rowland. My goodness! Safe to say I almost fell off my chair.
I had a brief and idiotic spell there for a while at university when I almost went vegetarian. Don't tell my husband. He will be scandalized. Honey, if youre reading this, forgive me! I momentarily lost my head trying to please everyone.
But the memory of that juicy steak woke me out of my reverie, and I decided not to follow that path after all.  It would only have been to please someone I was trying to impress, and wasn't worth impressing after all. I could have married into malnutrition and meatlessness for life. (Don't worry, I know all you vegans and vegetarians aren't horribly malnourished. What are you doing reading about steak? Get out of here!)
MEAT. It called me! I left that veggie man and took myself to the closest kitchen.
But...I had no idea how to handle the stuff, or get that juicy, tender quality I had once tasted in the back kitchen at Ripponlea Estate. How did they get that flavour?
I still don't know exactly how they got that steak so good. I figure it's probably a lot to do with a really great cut of meat, tenderizing and a the perfect chef.
But since finding out I'm super low in iron, I decided to get myself some awesome steak and get marinating. I found this wonderful recipe and got all excited over it. My husband is the king of meat, sauces and marinades, and I finally made something on his level in the savory department-I was pretty proud of myself and couldn't wait to share the recipe. It's now my go-to recipe when cooking up kebabs or beef steak. So. Delicious.





BEST EVER BEEF MARINADE (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp french mustard (or Dijon if preferred)
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk until combined. Add the raw steaks and marinate for 24 to 48 hours (I only had time to let it sit for 4 hours and it was still awesome). Remove from the marinade and cook until desired doneness. Serve.


NOTES: This recipe serves 4. I also used some of the left over marinate to concoct a gravy, adding a little corn flour to thicken and some gravy powder. Combine and cook until thick, and use over your veggies. Yum!