Thursday, May 26, 2016

Spanish Chickpea & Spinach Stew (Garbanzos con Espinacas)

I totally love my sweets and processed foods, but you only realise how they lack when you eat something that is delicious, nutritious and made of good, unprocessed natural ingredients. I find myself taking a spoonful and sitting up a little straighter, and thinking "Why the heck don't we eat like this everyday?"
It's the type of food that fills you with a sense of nurturing your system. You find yourself thinking on this food often, wanting more of it in the future, yet being completely satisfied and not needing more after a serve. All that processed food leaves you feeling momentarily satisfied, then almost instantly wanting more. It's like a drug. It doesn't fill you.
That's why I usually don't buy cereals for my kids, but give them porridge made on milk instead. After a bowl of cereal, my kids are asking me for snacks. After a bowl of porridge, I don't hear the word snack for a few hours.
This is one of those high fibre, super nutritious and utterly delicious meals that eaves your tummy feeling happy for a long time. If you're vegan or vegetarian, this is also the perfect meal for you and will leave you with a happy face as well.
It's great for meat free Fridays if you're Catholic like I am. (In case you where unaware, we traditionally don't eat meat on Fridays. Fish is permissible.) If you totally need your meat in every meal, shredded roast chicken is perfect in this dish too.
Whip this up and your house will be smelling amazing, with infusions of garlic, onion, paprika and cumin. You can serve with rice or cous cous- pasta would probably go well too! Buen provecho!


SPANISH CHICKPEA AND SPINACH STEW (Adapted from Lazy Cat Kitchen)

2 tbsp oil
2 heaped tsp crushed garlic
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
3 tsp ground smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp brown sugar (optional)
2x 400g tins diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
100g baby spinach, stalks removed
1/4 cup almond flakes

Heat up the oil in a large fry pan. Add the onion and cook on medium with the lid on, until almost translucent. Add the garlic and cook, stirring a little, for two minutes.
Add the spices and stir through the onion and garlic mix, careful not to burn these ingredients.
Add tomato paste, combine thoroughly.
Pour in the tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper to your taste. (At this point you can add the optional sugar if your tomatoes are very tangy, or just leave out.)
Turn the heat to low and let the sauce thicken, with no lid on. Stir it from time to time so that it doesn't burn.
Stir in the chickpeas. Lastly, add the spinach and heat until wilted. Garnish with the almonds. Scoop generous serving on rice and enjoy!

SERVES 4



ll

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Decorated Heart Sugar Cookies with Gumpaste Roses

This Mother's Day I asked my kiddies what they would like to make for mum, and my eldest daughter pulled out the cookie cutters. Mr 5 pored through a recipe book and pointed out a recipe for sugar cookies-so we got to it. I knew these gorgeous cookies would make the perfect budget friendly gift!
How important is involving children in cooking? I think it's a crucial life skill that needs to be encouraged at a very young age. I've vowed not to let one child of mine leave home without a good set of cooking skills under their belt-and not only the essentials. If you're wondering how to instill a love for cooking in your kids, there's a wonderful guide to cooking skills outlining appropriate cooking tasks listed by age, starting from three years and up. As painfully slow and messy it can be, I always allow my kids to get involved when I'm baking. They're too small to do much yet, but they do love activities like beating, rolling, measuring, sifting, licking the spoon....





BASIC SUGAR COOKIES (Adapted by Love Food pg.16)

115g butter, softened
55g caster sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 egg yolk
175g plain flour

Mix the butter and sugar with beaters until creamy. Beat in the rind and the yolk. Sift in the flour and mix into a soft dough. Gently knead until smooth, then halve the dough and form into two balls. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or the freezer for 20 minutes)
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
Grease and line two baking trays. 
Unwrap the dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of about 5mm/1/4 inch. Using a heart shaped cutter, cut out the dough and place the shapes on the baking trays with at least 2cm space between them.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden.
Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack. When completely cool, ice with royal icing, and decorate if desired.


ROYAL ICING

2 tbsp beaten egg white
175g icing sugar
water or lemon juice, if needed

Place the egg white in a bowl and add a little sugar. Beat until smooth. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar to make a smooth, thick icing that holds soft peaks. For a thinner, spreadable icing, beat in a few drops of water or lemon juice to get the required consistency. To colour the icing, use a toothpick to add a little liquid or gel food colouring an mix thoroughly.
To ice the hearts, outline the cookies with the thicker icing and allow o ry, then fill in with a more spreadable royal icing. We decorated with a smaller version of these gumpaste roses and store bought edible pearls.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Chunky Cheesecake Chocolate Brownies (flourless-Gluten free)

Dark, fudgy, brownie, with soft gooey chocolate bits dotted throughout a delightfully creamy cheesecake centre-could there be a more moorish brownie recipe out there? This incredibly effortless and elegant gluten free, flourless brownie is sure to woo guests for morning tea, afternoon tea or dessert alike.With its two toned, creamy swirled design on the top, and lines of fudge chocolate brownie pulled through the cheesecake centre, this is simply an irresistible dessert. Best of all, it's also gluten free for those who are intolerant, and also freezes well for the times that you are too busy to bake. It's a new favourite, and has guests clamoring for more. Ooh la la!



FLOURLESS CHUNKY CHEESECAKE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES (Adapted from All Recipes)

12oz (1.5 packet) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 175C (350F). Grease a 9in pan, and line with baking paper.
Combine the softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup of the white sugar. an one egg in a mixing bowl. Beat until smooth, then stir through 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Set aside.
In a microwave proof bowl, place the remaining cup of chocolate chips with the butter. Heat or 20 second intervals on high, stirring in between, until smooth and glossy. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 eggs, and baking powder and salt.
Spread half of this mixture into the prepared pan, and smooth so that it covers the bottom. Then spread the whole cream cheese mixture over the top of this chocolate layer. Top with the remaining chocolate mixture (This does not have to completely cover the cream cheese.) Using a knife, swirl the top layer of chocolate into the cream cheese to create a marbled pattern. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the sides are firm and the top crinkled. The centre will remain softer than the outer and will firm up on  refrigeration once cool. Cut into squares after chilling, and serve.

NOTES: These brownies also freeze well.




Thursday, April 7, 2016

Apple & Rasberry Iced Tea

What makes a great hostess? Who's with me in feeling like a failure in this regard most of the time? Guests swish in all glammed up, and you're standing there in the kitchen covered in a cloud of self raising flour in bare feet wondering where time got to. In a flash you have bolted to the bedroom, thrown on that trusty little black dress and cleaned up with a baby wipe-only to realise your guests are standing around without a drink in hand. There's nothing like that sense of  panic of feeling like the world's worst host or hostess (they should make a TV reality show on that one)
Never feel like that again. Be the host (est) with the mostest.

-Plan your gathering in advance. Try to visualize the ambiance, mood and the food you want to create. Make a list of cooking supplies you will need for your meal, as well as music choices for the night, beverages that you will serve and of course, dessert. Make a list also of when you will be making each of the edible components of the night. Make sure that there are a few you can make in advance to reduce the fluster and time spent in the kitchen when your guests are over. Ensure one option is non alcoholic, for those who are the designated drivers, or pregnant.

-Make sure you take into account any of the guests who may have allergies or intolerance when planning the menu.

-Feel free to buy any food from the store to make your job quicker and easier, as long as some components are home made (okay, lets leave that packet of quick cook pasta Alfredo on the shelf, though). You can buy things like meringue nests that can make putting together a dessert effortless and quick, and it looks like you've slaved the whole afternoon over the stove for your guests.

-Keep the food simple. You may want to look like Mather Stewart, but refrain from creating anything too complex and time consuming. At least make sure this is not the first time you are cooking the meal-it may go terribly wrong or just not taste as good as you thought it would. Also, if you are planning a three course meal, ensure there is a variety of textures and flavours. Too much of a good thing can often be a bad thing! (for example, risotto for entree, curry and rice for main and creamed rice for dessert. Too much rice, obviously. Keep the entree and dessert lighter than the main.)

-The first bite is taken with the eyes. Keep the dishes looking good! A sprig of fresh herbs here and there goes a long way and makes it look like you've made efforts where you have not.

 -Have your table set in advance, if possible. Also, any mood lighting such as tealights or candelabras should be lit before guests arrive so that they can experience the ambiance change as soon as they enter your house. If you are dining outside, such as the garden, fairy lights or tea lights set out in mason jars is a lovely way to make the even magical by creating warm glowing surroundings. If you're not planning on lighting any wicks, see if you can dim the lights a little.

-Prepare a welcome charcuterie platter in advance. You can whip this out of the refrigerator as soon as you hear the first knock on the door. Place it somewhere central where the guests can see it and help themselves to it while you fix the last bits and pieces of the food or set the table. You could also have a tray of drinks ready and waiting to be given for after your guests put down their coats and bags.

-Have a small table or coat rack handy so you can take jackets and bags when your guests enter. Your friends will love to be waited on, and it makes them feel more special.

-Surprise your guests with something unexpected. When my girlfriends come for tea, for example, I like to pamper them by offering to give them a Jamberry Manicure while we chat. This works well for an afternoon tea, but you might like to try something less time consuming if you're holding a dinner party. A friend of mine has a drinks trolley that he wheels out when he entertains. There's a cocktail book on the trolley along with a selection of liqueurs, and the guest chooses one, and the host will create it for them. You could also have a little take home gift of chutney or something you have made as a thank you for the guest's company.

-Make sure there is something on your charcuterie platter or tea and coffee tray that your guests have never tasted before, just to add to the experience. It might be some cookies from a foreign country, or wasabi covered dried peas to snack on-something exotic and unusual. These sort of surprised are often pleasant and make the night memorable.

-Chill out! Have a glass of wine or something to relax before any one arrives. Turn that groovy music on. And if anything goes off plan, go with it, just roll with the punches. Your guests are actually there for your company-the food, atmosphere and the rest are just a bonus. Enjoy yourself!

Do you have any other tips for entertaining? What's your fool proof go to? We'd love to hear! And while I'm waiting for your responses, I'm going to be sipping this delicious iced tea. Its delightful on hot summer days and so easy to make in bulk, you could pour some into a bottle and tie a ribbon around it and send it home with your guests! Perfect for sipping on a balcony with a good friend in the afternoon too, with a side of cake. There should always be cake.




APPLE & RASPBERRY ICED TEA

4 strong black tea bags
4 cups boiling water
2 cups iced water
1/2 cup concentrated Apple Raspberry cordial (add more or less to taste)
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup mint leaves

In a large heat proof jug, place the tea bags and boiling water. Stir the tea bags around and let steep for two or three minutes. Discard the bags. Add the chilled water and concentrated cordial to the tea. Add lemon to taste. Before serving, garnish with mint, ice and a slice of lemon if desired.

NOTES: this recipe is largely dependent on your tastes and the strength of your chosen tea and cordial brands. Alter as desired. A few tablespoons of sugar or honey may be added to the hot tea if desired to increase the sweetness. You can also use other flavours of cordial to change the type of iced tea-the options are endless!



Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fluffy Pikelets

A parent requires a great deal of devious know-how. Often mind games and trickery are involved to get the goods into tiny bodies and picky little eaters. My mum used to try to disguise the left over breakfast porridge by adding it to our after school pikelets. It was a pretty ingenious way of getting more fiber into us and not wasting food. She inspires me-waste not, want not, right? Sometimes when I sweep the floor at home, my toddler and two preschoolers make sure I feel guilty at the amount of food swept from under the table and into the bin. It could feed a small army, I assume. Don't even get me started on the amount of remnants I find in the bin-bananas with one bite taken out of them, crusts from lunches that my daughter has snuck in there when I popped out of the room for a quick bathroom trip. I'm pretty sure we're fermenting various fruits under the couch, regardless of how frequently I sweep. That funky odor you may smell on entering the house? Possibly a lost orange stashed somewhere impossible, slowly rotting away.
Just kidding.
But sometimes this food wastage makes me thinking about how repetitive the snacks can become for the kids. That's when I make an emergency batch of soft, fluffy pikelets, sans the porridge. A small spread of jam on these warm little beauties and the plate is soon completely cleaned off. If you wanted, you could even make them bigger to make pancakes-they really are the same thing just in a different size. My favourite use for this recipe is making mini ones and stacking them with a fresh berry on top and a skewer through the middle-perfect appetizers and a great party food idea!



FLUFFY PIKELETS (Adapted from Taste.com)

3 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/4 cups Self Raising flour
2 tbsp sugar
extra butter for cooking

Place butter, milk and egg in a medium bowl. Add the flour and sugar. Beat with the electric beaters until incorporated and smooth. Heat  a teaspoon of extra butter in a large frypan; turn the heat down to low. Dollop the batter in spoonfuls onto the hot pan, leaving a little room for spreading. Flip the cooking pikelets when small bubbles come to the surface and the bottom is golden. Cook the other side until golden also. Serve with a spread of jam, or stack the small ones with a toothpick down the centre with a berry garnish on the top. The small stacks also look really pretty with a fine sprinkling of icing sugar on the top.

Makes approximately 12snack sized pikelets, or 6 snack stacks


Monday, December 14, 2015

Slider Buns -Mini Burger Buns

I've been quite unwell the last 6 months, so I have refrained from doing any new projects. If you've noticed my lull, I appologise-new babies and health problems don't mix well with food blogging. With Christmas on the radar, I am back into cooking! So much of the mirth around Christmas time revolves about food, dinner tables shared with family and friends and an added emphasis on gourmet foods and drinks.
Recently we had a fundraising beer tasting session which I volunteered to cater for to raise money for St Philomena's School in Park Ridge. It's a blossoming little Catholic school where my eldest son is starting prep next year. (Yes, I'm feeling sad already!)
I made lots of scrumptious finger food and thought how well the same food might go at a Christmas party or gathering with friends on Boxing Day.
I did a quick poll on facebook about what foods people would like at the beer tasting, and slider buns came out on top. You know those adorable miniature hamburger buns you sometimes see in magazines and on blogs? Well I couldn't for the life of me find where to get hold of them  (apparently Coles sells them but I'm thinking that might be a grand old myth.)
Well they're the perfect entertaining bread roll. And I needed them.
So I made them from scratch and they were fabulous. Cute even.
Hubby cooked up a pork roast and we shredded it, and threw on a bit of lettuce with mayo for the centres too. Scrum-diddly-umptious!
They were a hit! The favourite of the night by quite a few accounts.
And just on a side note, the beer presenter and connoisseur Matt Kirkgard was nothing short of fabulous. If you ever get the chance to go to one of his tastings, run to it! I don't even like beer and completely enjoyed myself listening to him from the kitchen. It was fascinating and funny and everyone had a wonderful time.
So try out these gorgeous home made mini burger buns. They're perfect for entertaining and will be a big hit on your Christmas table for friends and family big and small. Merry Christmas!




SLIDER BUNS-MINI BURGER BUNS (adapted from Cook Republic)

7g dried yeast
250ml (1 cup) lukewarm water
400g bread flour, extra for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp. sesame seeds
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 250C and line and grease two cookie trays with non stick paper.
In a large bowl, combine yeast and water, and set aside until foamy, approximately 5-10 minutes.
Add the flour and salt. Lightly flour a clean surface. Gently mix the contents of the bowl, and dump this loose dough onto the prepared surface. Kneed for 10 minutes until soft and elastic and well incorporated. Roll the dough into a smooth ball.
Lightly grease a glass bowl and place the dough inside. cover with cling wrap and let it sit to rise for 30 minutes.
It should double in size.
Knock back dough and divide into 24 golf ball sized rounds. Roll them a little bit in your palms to get a nice shape.
Place them on the prepared trays with a generous gap between them to allow for spreading. Cover the trays with clean tea towels and allow them to double in size, about 10-15 minutes.
Beat the egg and blush this egg on the tops of each uncooked roll. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Place in the preheated oven. Spay the bottom of the oven with water and cook for 10-12 minutes.
Serve warm with your choice of filling. You can also freeze these for 2 months.


Makes 24


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Decadent Flourless Chocolate Torte

When sugar, chocolate and egg come together, it's hard to imagine it becoming a cake without a flour. My amazement is in the gluten free, the slop that looks too runny to become a solid-but does upon baking. If you love gluten free treats and you love being pleasantly surprised in the kitchen, you will die over this scrumptious gluten free chocolate torte-complete with decadent, fudgy centre, crispy, crackly top and lavish deckings of thick cream and strawberries. It's indulgent and chic-the type of food that is impressive in its simplicity. Of course if you're like me and need embellishment, a pile of strawberries and cream in the middle could never go astray...and some edible gold dust is a beautiful enhancement on it's own, especially if this torte is gracing your Christmas table.
There's often  a "healthy" gritty consistency of most gluten free things I have eaten-but not this one. It doesn't contain any unusual ingredients and isn't particularly healthy. But even people with gluten intolerance need naughty, wickedly decadent desserts sometimes-I am certain of that!
By the way, I recently went for a week without dairy. My breastfed son came out in a nasty allergy looking rash, and we thought it might have been a cows milk protein intolerance. The test results came back negative, but I'd already taken myself off dairy in anticipation, and in desperation to get dairy out of my system for his sake. Did you know it takes 2 weeks for dairy to completely leave your system?
I tell you, once you start reading labels, you will never look at anything the same again! I even found dairy products listed in the tomato based pasta sauce in the pantry.
I lost 5 kg that week.
My diet consisted of ice. It was one of the only "solids" I could be sure was dairy free.
Okay, there was some fruit as well.
But little else.
I jest-but honestly, when the results for my son came back negative for that intolerance, I embraced dairy again like it was a long, long lost child of mine. How funny it is that my life revolved so much around it, and I had no idea. What foods are a staple in your pantry? I've got a feeling this torte is about to become one of mine! I have a few of those pretty glass pastry domes that don't get much use, after all...It would be wasteful not to have a torte or two not residing in them at least once a week.

Ps. I picked up that beautiful tea towel with hand crocheted trim and matching oven mitt in a lace shop in Richmond, Tasmania. Isn't it divine?


 DECADENT FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE TORTE (Adapted from Simply Delicious)

6 eggs
100g white sugar
100g brown sugar
300g dark chocolate
1 tbsp instant coffee

Optional garnishes:
100g strawberries, sliced
3 tbsp thick dollop cream
edible gold shimmer dust

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 27cm round springform cake tin (or 2 x 13cm round springform tins like I used)
Whisk together the eggs and sugar with an electric beater until light and creamy, approximately 5 minutes. Place chocolate in a microwave proof bowl and heat  gently until melted, stopping and stirring a few times to avoid burning. Pour the melted chocolate slowly into the egg mixture, whisking continuously to combine. Fold in the coffee granules.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and bake for 25 minutes. The top of the torte should feel firm to the touch, and will have risen slightly.
Cool before decorating and serving.

Serves 10-12



Torte at time of serving.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Rose Petal Princess Doll Cake

After the arrival of my new son, I found myself doing what I might have considered unthinkable years ago. My daughter turned 2 just weeks after his birth, and I found myself cakeless the day before and thinking her birthday was a few days away. What a cloudy fog that is the first weeks after a baby is born! I found myself buying Woolworth's sponge cakes, whipping cream for the middle and decorating it with strawberry jam,vanilla icing, strawberries and marshmallows. Her eyes were wide and excited as she gazed at it, and I was delighted to realise that the little people don't mind if you can't give them the Minnie Mouse or Toy Story cake you thought you were going to attempt creating.
However, she had asked for a Dolly cake, and I found myself making one for the weekend of her party. It was a fairy themed party, and although I didn't have time to affix wings to the Barbie decked out in a pink ombre rose petal cake dress, Cece didn't notice. She kept saying "Princess! It's a princess cake! It's so beautiful."



I used a packet cake mix for convenience and speed. The dress was made by cooking the cake in two separate oven-proof bowls. One was a bit smaller than the other, and stacked to create the A-line skirt of the doll. Once stacked, I cut a hole in the centre of the cake stack for Barbie's legs to slide into, and wrapped those legs in plastic wrap to avoid toy and cake from meeting.
A thin crumb coat was applied to the cake. Then I divided the fondant (or gumpaste) and used liquid rose coloured food dye to shade them from light to dark pink.


Starting with the darkest pink and the smallest petal cutter, I rolled the fondant thinly and cut out a multitude of petals. I shaped the edges slightly for variation and applied them layer-style with Wilton Dab and Hold Edible adhesive. (You don't have to use expensive edible glues if you don't have them. You can dampen the parts of the petal you apply with a touch of water to make it adhere, or use a tiny dab of icing as a glue).


Once I had completed the doll's bodice, I used the next darkest pink and continued on in a larger  petal cutter size. I continued in this fashion, working downwards and sliding the next row of petals slightly underneath the previous row. Allow to dry, and voila! Cake done.