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DIY Smoothies

You might have seen these Smoothie Cubes in the frozen section at your local supermarket.

I’ll admit, when I saw them, I squealed with excitement. I love smoothies and fruit juices but I’m always too lazy to make them myself because I never have all the fruits and veg handy at the same time…and I just cant be bothered.

These cubes are pureed fruit packed with nutritional goodness- antioxidants and omega 3s and all that good stuff and come in different flavours. So I bought a packet of each to try them, enchanted by the concept of just adding milk and having a delicious fruity treat.

The premise is simple, you just blend 2-3 Smoothie Cubes and 200ml of milk or juice.

My favourite combination is 2 Tropical cubes and 1 Berry Antioxidant cube plus a few little extras.

These little cubes are a tad on the pricey side so I probably couldn’t keep buying them weekly, so this is the part where the little light bulb pings above my head and I have the great idea of making my own smoothie cubes so I can stockpile all these delicious cubes of fresh fruit goodness. YUM.

I’m going to stock up on fresh and frozen fruits, go on a pureeing frenzy and freeze them into ice-cube trays (albeit they will be smaller in size than the supermarket ones which will mean you will probably need a few extra per smoothie).

You can blitz them up with milk, sorbet, yoghurt, fresh fruit juice, fresh fruit, honey or even use them in cocktails.

Tropical Berry Smoothie

  • 2 Tropical Smoothie Cubes
  • 1 Berry Antioxidant Smoothie Cube
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 150ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

So easy and it literally took 1 minute. AWESOME 🙂

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Too-Easy Blueberry Muffins

I’m a huge fan of Donna Hay’s style and have found myself enamored with her Fast, Fresh, Simple TV show on the Lifestyle channel. The concept of the show speaks to the lazy sloth in me that wants to take the quickest shortcuts to the yummiest food.

So when I saw her dead-easy muffin recipe, using a good, simple muffin base, she had my heart and I knew I had to file this one away for later.

Muffins are so simple and yet for so long, I hadn’t found The Perfect recipe. These muffins are light and not to sickly sweet…and the best part of all is the crackly sugar granules on top! Oh and I suppose blueberries are pretty good too…antioxidants and all that.

The combinations for this basic mix are endless. Today it was blueberries, tomorrow it could be anything.

This recipe serves 12

 

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups (375g) self-raising (self-rising) flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (220g) caster (superfine) sugar
  • ½ cup (125ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup (125ml) milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 300g fresh or frozen blueberries
  • granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Place the flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl. Place the oil, egg, milk and vanilla in a separate bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the blueberries and mix to combine.
  3. Spoon mixture into a 12-hole ½-cup capacity (125ml) muffin tin lined with paper patty cases.
  4. Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake for 30–35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack.

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The Perfect Cheese Platter & Xmas Lunch, Aussie Style.

As much as I love the concept of a white Christmas with a big feast with a traditional turkey and ham, etc, I have recently come to the conclusion that Christmases Down Under are pretty freakin awesome.

Being summer in the land down under during the festive season, many families will no doubt sit down to a traditional turkey dinner, despite the fact that it’s a million degrees outside, the sidewalks are melting and the backyard looks like a burn out barren wasteland. There will be flies the size of your pupils, all the men in the family will be crowded around the TV watching sport and the smell of barbecued meat mingles with the scent of a distant bushfire. (Image source, left)

We spraypaint white “snow” on our windows , leave santa cookies and milk and are fascinated with American Christmas movies when our Christmas couldn’t be any more different.

Christmas feasts have  come a long way in Australia. Yes, many will have an elaborate roast dinner with all the trimmings, but many Aussies are taking advantage of our fresh, beautiful produce, seafood and great cuts of meat and putting together mouthwatering lunches and delectable dinners.

Ideas for Christmas dinner & lunch, Aussie style:

Aussie BBQ

  • A good old fashioned Aussie BBQ- complete with sausages, lean cuts of steak, hamburger patties, grilled onions, corn on the cob, marinated chicken skewers, prawns and fish fillets.
  • To accompany the fine array of BBQ offerings, there’s the customary selection of salads- potato salad, pasta salad, Greek salad and maybe a rice salad.
  • Desserts for the great Aussie Christmas BBQ include the good old fashioned pavlova (Image source, right), trifle, choc peppermint log and chocolate & coconut truffle balls.

Sit Down Lunch

Because Aussie Christmases tend to be ridiculously hot and stressful, your Christmas lunch hostess is not likely to want to be slaving over a hot oven and the guests aren’t likely to be wanting a heavy, hot lunch. So we often opt for a light lunch, full of fresh flavours rather than a heavy meal.

  • Grilled or bake fish (whole of fillets)- barramundi, snapper, salmon and tuna are popular choices. Also, you can’t go wrong with prawns, scallops and oysters if wanting to impress your Christmas guests. We are luckyto have fantastic fresh seafood here down under and the seafood needs minimal preparation and cooking time so you can focus on the sides and desserts. (Image source, right).
  • The easiest way to appeal to the appetites of your guests is to offer a selection of salads or vegetable sides. If serving seafood, I would serve a brown rice and vegetable salad with a citrus and dill dressing; wok stir fried ginger and garlic vegetables if serving Asian-inspired fish. A big green leafy salad never goes astray. Lemon and garlic sauteed potatoes are always a hit as well as a light spinach and walnut salad. The options are endless, but the idea is keep the flavours light, keep the texture light and you want lots of bright colour.
  • The perfect dessert for a light Christmas lunch would be  something like some merengue nests filled with fresh berries and whipped cream; layered berry trifles complete with sponge, custard and fresh fruit, a big fruit platter with honey cream or for a bit of tradition, but with minimal work- how about some brandy snaps filled with whipped cream?

Aussie Christmas Dinner

When the sun goes down on a sweltering Christmas day, the kids have tired themselves out  playing with their new toys and the house starts to fill with dinner guests,  who are undoubtably already exhausted and still stuff from the Christmas lunch they have already endured with their evil in-laws, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. So keep it simple, tasty and light to avoid going to bed like a stuffed turkey.

  • Chicken or beef  are popular options for a light dinner- something simple like a roasted chicken or a stuffed, rolled beef fillet or chicken breast are great, simple ideas that are very satisfying.
  • Roast chicken stuffed with mushroom, leeks and bacon is delish and so moreish, your guests will forget how filling lunch was.
  • If opting for seafood, a baked salmon with salsa verde makes a statement.
  • Marinated chicken breast served with a lovely mango salsa is light and fresh and perfect for summer.
  • A roulade- beef, chicken or even salmon, makes a stylish main course and the possibilities and combinations are endless. Plus, presentation is almost guaranteed to be impressive when plating up. (Image source,right)
  • For the vegeterians, consider a layered chargrilled vegetable terrine.
  • If you’re aching for a traditional turkey, try a different stuffing- walnut, raisin and sage; quince and pistachio; cranberry and walnut; pistachio and pancetta stuffing.
  • You can’t go wrong by finishing the evening with a fruit and cheese platter. For the perfect cheese platter, you need to choose a selection of cheeses with various textures. Choose creamy cheeses like Brie and Camembert, a sharp crumbly vintage cheddar, a peppercorn cheese for a bit of spice, blue cheese (if that’s your thing),  and perhaps a smoked cheese, or fruit cheese.
  • To ensure that your cheese platter is perfect, serve with muscatels, dried figs, grapes, slices of crisp pear and red apple, walnuts, quince paste, water crackers and lavash bread or something special like a walnut bread.
  • Be sure to serve your cheese at room temperature, don’t crowd the platter and ensure there is an individual knife for each cheese. (Image source, left)
 

Homemade Gnocchi & Quick Tomato Sauce

gnocchi 1You have to make gnocchi by hand at least once in your life.

Making gnocchi is great if you have kids, they love helping roll the dough out, cut out the gnocchi and creating the little indents with a fork. And of course, there is the fun of watching them float to the top of the bubbling boiling water when they’re cooked (fully supervised of course!).

So here is a fool-proof method I use and hope you find it equally as easy and enjoyable. It may be a little more fiddly than buying a pack of premade Latina pasta, but you’ll be sure when you eat them that you’ve never had gnocchi as good as the ones you have crafted with your own hands.

The secret behind successful gnocchi is using the right potatoes. Older potatoes are best and they should be the floury type of spuds, like Desiree potatoes due to the lower water content.

GNOCCHI

  • 4 (750g) desiree potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 1/3 cups (200g) plain flour, plus a little extra

METHOD

  1. Fill saucepan with cold water, place potatoes in pan and cook for approx 20 minutes until cooked through.
  2. Drain well.Gnocchi
  3. While still hot, peel by hand and then using a potato ricer or a little tool called a mouli (a French gadget otherwise known as a rotary grinder), puree the potatoes. The trick here is to stop the gnocchi from becoming starchy and heavy, so they need to be mashed quite finely.
  4. Season with salt to taste and then let your mashed potato sit to cool while the Bold and the Beautiful is on.
  5. Mix the flour into the mashed potato and start to knead the mixture with your hands- the amount of flour you add will make or break your gnocchi. Too much and you’re going to be boiling little bullets. If you don’t put enough, you’re going to be having slush soup for dinner not perfectly fluffy and gorgeous gnocchi. You don’t want the mixture to still be sticky, so add the flour in gradual steps until you have a nice dough.
  6. Once you’ve got a nice dough formed, cut it into about 4 equal sized pieces. Roll each piece out to form a log about 2cm wide. Flour a sharp knife and then cut each log into 1.5cm sized pieces.
  7. This is the bit where the kids can help. Once you’ve cut out the gnocchi, gently press the tines of a fork into each one so you leave an imprint of the fork tines.
  8. Now you need a big saucepan, filled with water brought tot he boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches. You will know when they are cooked because they’ll float to the top of the pot. Cook the gnocchi for 10- 20 seconds then pull them out with a large slotted spoon and drain them well. Cook the whole batch, then it’s time to add a yummy sauce to compliment all your hard work.

QUICK TOMATO SAUCE

I am personally greatly offended by the jars of pasta sauce that these supermarkets are selling these days. I honestly have never tasted anything more ridiculous in my whole life. Putting some raw garlic in a jar with half a cup of sugar and some horribly tart tomato paste is not tomato sauce. Until these jars lift their game, I’m all for making your own tasty sauce.

Here’s how I make it.

  • 8 (about 1kg) ripe Roma/egg tomatoes, halved lengthways, cored
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 brown onion, halved, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tsp sugar (optional)
  • fresh basil, finely chopped (to taste)
  • fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (to taste)

METHOD

  1. Preheat your oven to about 160°C. Put your tomatoes, cut side up in a large pan with about 2 tbs of olive oil and season. Roast for about 25-30 mins until tender and collapsing.
  2. Heat your remaining oil in a saucepan, cook your onion and garlic until the onion is soft and mouthwatering and your belly is starting to rumble because the stuff in your kitchen is starting to smell kinda good.
  3. Add your tomatoes and tomato paste to the onion mixture and cook for approx 5 minutes.
  4. Once the sauce is bubbling away, reduce the heat to a simmer and add your sugar and herbs, stirring to ensure everything is mixed well and not sticking to your pot.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and once you’ve gotten the sauce just how you want it, pour your pasta in and stir through for approx a minute or so, to ensure the pasta soaks up the delicious flavour of your sauce.
  6. Serve with some shaved fresh parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

tomato sauceAlternative ideas for your pasta sauce:

Tomato, olive and capers: Add 80g (1/2 cup) sliced pitted kalamata olives and 50g (1/4 cup) drained capers in step 5.

Chili, olive and prosciutto sauce: Add chili flakes to taste, 1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives to sauce in step 5. Then top with crispy grilled prosciutto slices and some fresh basil leaves.

Bacon, capsicum and chili sauce: Cook finely chopped rindless bacon with diced red capsicum with the onion and garlic in step 2. Add chili during step 5.

Red wine and mushroom sauce: Saute your mushrooms with your garlic and onion during step 2. Add 1/2 cup sweet red wine to the sauce, during step 4.

Roasted vegetable sauce: Thinly slice red capsicum, slice eggplant and zucchini, thinly slice kumara/pumpkin and cut brown onion into wedges. Add a few unpeeled garlic gloves to the mix. Add mushrooms. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven until vegies are soft and fragrant, then add to your sauce during step 4. Serve with freshly shaved parmesan cheese and basil leaves and some crusty break to soak up all those delicious flavours.

Note: All the photos in this post are mine- if you would like to use them, please just link back here. 🙂

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2009 in Delish Dinners, How To, Recipe of the Week

 

Valentines Day Romantic Breakfast

Yeah I know.

We’ve barely gotten through Christmas and the New Year and already I’m talking about Valentines Day? Hey, if you think I’m bad, go and have wander down to your local supermarket and have a chat to them about the EASTER EGGS they’r

e filling the shelves with.

So anyway, back to Valentines Day. It’s approaching rapidly and for those of you lucky (or unlucky) enough to be in a relationship, it’s a great opportunity to do something special for your other half. You know, to show them, you, like, care and stuff.

You know the saying. The way to the heart is through the stomach. This is especially true for men and poor people. Could there be a way to lavish some attention upon your special Mr. or Mrs. than to cook them up a delicious, seductive breakfast and eat it together? Hell NO! Hey, you never know, you might be able to negotiate some morning hanky panky. Now that’s a great start to the day. Like I always say, you can thank me later.

Now the whole idea behind this romantic breakfast is requires a little planning. You don’t just casually roll out of bed at 11:45am, scratch your genitals and look in the pantry and hope you have something. No. You actually need to leave the house and go to the supermarket. You need to have money. To buy stuff. Like milk.

Decide before you go what you’re actually going to make. Now you can go as fancy-pants as you like or you can just be laid-back about it. A huge factor influencing what you decide to whip up is the season. If it’s the middle of summer, you’re likely to want a refreshing, fruity brekkie. In winter, however, it would be fantastic to serve up your smoked salmon scrambled eggs, baked beans and sourdough toast.

Now I’m assuming you’re going to do the breakfast in bed thing. If not, set the table nicely with a pretty tablecloth, clean napkins and a romantic centrepiece. Flowers are always a winner, but if you’re a tightarse, a decorative glass bowl of loveheart candy or pink M&Ms would be equally nice. Don’t do candles if you don’t want to look like a dick.

If you’re planning to enjoy the fruits of your labour in bed, then find an appropriate breakfast tray, pop some cute fresh flowers in a little bud vase or sprinkle with pink and white rose petals.

As for the food, there is no limit to the kinds of stuff you could make. You can put as much or as little effort into it. Some popular suggestions:

* Strawberries and cream

* Chocolate dipped strawberries

* Scrambled eggs on sourdough toast, crispy bacon and grilled tomatoes.

* Blueberry pikelets

* Croissants filled with ricotta, honey and raspberries.

* Bagels smeared with cream cheese and morello cherry preserve.

* Omelettes with a variety of fillings like smoked salmon, tomato and basil or ham and cheese.

* French toast drizzled with honey

* Pancakes with any kind of topping, whether it be chocolate fudge sauce, honey or fresh fruit.

* Fresh fruit salad with honey yoghurt.

* Sauteed mushies on thick cut sourdough toast with wilted spinach, grilled tomato and poached egg.

* Crepes

I’m getting hungry just thinking about it all.

 

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Posted by on January 16, 2007 in How To, Inspiration

 

How to deglaze

 

What is this deglazing crap you always hear these bloody chefs carry on about?

Why make things even more difficult for you by having to get all fancy and ‘deglaze‘ your pan?

Before you panic, it’s not that hard.

In short, deglazing is scraping the shit out of your pan, adding some liquid to it and pouring it over your dinner.

The whole idea is that when you cook something yummy, little bits of food are going to stick to the bottom of the pan and caramelize. These yummy little scraps are actually full of flavour and when you pour your liquid in, like some stock or red wine, these yummy flavour infuse the liquid as you cook it down over a high heat. This is not the part where you walk away and chat on the phone about Laguna Beach or tend to your cuticles. You need to stand there and work at scraping these scraps off with a wooden spoon and stirring as the liquid reduces.

At this point, you can add your seasonings like chopped parsley, salt and pepper, peppercorns, whatever you want.

If you’re happy with the texture the way it is, serve it over your meal, but if you want that perfectly creamy, velvety kinda feel, chuck in a knob of chilled butter once you take the pan off the heat and stir it through as it melts. This will act to thicken the sauce up and give it a lovely, seductive flavour.

When you’re ready to plate up, pour some of your yummy sauce over the meal and be satisfied in the knowledge that nothing got wasted! Woohoo!

Oh and the best bit? You don’t have to stand at the sink scrubbing like a lunatic to get all the crusty bits off the bottom of the pan! Double woohoo!

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Posted by on December 24, 2006 in How To

 

Everybody Loves Scones

I’ve never met anybody who doesn’t like scones.

Scones remind me of childhood winters, snug at home while the rain poured outside and the delicious aroma of freshly baked scones wafting from the kitchen. Soft, warm scones slathered in tarty fruit of the forest jam and topped off with a dollop of smooth cream.

Okay, well I know it’s the middle of summer here down under. I know it’s so freakin’ hot today that you think you’re going to die. I know that at the moment you’re more interested in ice-cream, ice-cubes and potato salad instead of warm, wintery scones.

But, here’s the upside. Scones are so dead-easy that you can indulge yourself, and your family with their yumminess and actually do minimal work- they’re the perfect hot weather snack because they take 20 minutes from oven to your belly. And everyone will think how wonderful you are because you slaved away in the kitchen, over a hot oven, to make them something yummy.

Everyone fights about scone recipes. Some swear by cream, others swear by buttermilk and ricotta and almond meal. Pooh, pooh. The secret ingredient is lemonade. Don’t argue with me, don’t pfft me, I am your friend and I wouldn’t lie to you. So you toddle off and go and by your bloody lemonade and then we’ll talk scones.

Ingredients

4 cups self-raising flour

300 ml cream or chilled milk

1 can lemonade (355 ml) Sprite or 7UP etc

½ teaspoon salt

Method

Preheat oven to 220ºC.

Prepare a baking tray with some baking paper and spray with canola oil or similar cooking spray.

Mix all your ingredients in a bowl until it becomes a smooth dough.

Sprinkle some flour on your bench or board and knead it. Yes, get your hands in there. Plus, getting flour all over your hands and clothes makes it look like you worked really hard in the kitchen.

Roll the dough out flat (not pancake flat, but enough to allow them to rise a little bit without resembling little dinner rolls).

Use a round cookie-cutter or even the rim of a glass, bottle or jar of the appropriate size to cut out little circles. Flour the rim of the glass or jars so they don’t stick.

Place the scones on the baking tray, leaving a decent space between each of them so they don’t stick and all that.

Brush the tops with beaten egg or milk to give that lovely golden glaze.

Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes until starting to colour pale golden.

Cool them on a wire rack when ready and perhaps cover them with a tea-towel to keep them soft and prevent them from drying out.

When they’re ready to eat, cut them in half, spread with jam and and top with a dollop of cream.

Eat as many as you can before they disappear.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Once in a while, someone thinks up a great idea to put a twist on the old-fashioned scone. Here are some variations I’ve tried, tested, read about and dreamt about.

· Add some dried fruit to the mixture. Fruits like chopped dates, sultanas and even dried cranberries. Glace cherries, dried figs, dried apricots- you name it, if it’s dry, you can add it.

· Add 1 cup of chocolate chips to the mixture for those with a sweet-tooth. Be prepared to double the quantities of the recipe to make enough because these go. Fast.

· If you outgrew your sweet-tooth when you were eight years old, try making some savoury scones. Try replacing the lemonade with soda water and add any of these extras or a combination of a few–
· 1 large onion, finely chopped
· 1 cup grated tasty cheese
· 6 rashers lean rindless bacon, or smoked ham, chopped
· 3 tablespoons chopped parsley or fresh herbs
· 1 cup chopped gherkins or pickled onions

Here are some other variations I found:

  • Spiced Scones: Add enough cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice to the dry ingredients to total 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Raisin Wheat Scones: Substitute white flour with whole wheat pastry flour or half and half white and wheat. Use brown sugar instead of white and plain yogurt instead of whole milk. A healthy take on a delicious treat!
  • Buttermilk Scones: Substitute buttermilk for whole milk and add 1 tablespoon sugar to the basic recipe.
  • Walnut Scones: Add 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts.
  • Cheddar Scones: Add 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese and 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard.
  • Dried Fruit Scones: Add 1/2 cup raisins, currants, cranberries, or chopped dried apricots.
  • Vanilla Chocolate Chip Scones: Add 1/2 cup white or dark chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon vanilla to the basic recipe.
  • Lemon Scones: Add the juice and zest of 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon sugar to the basic scone recipe.

Image Source, top left.

 
 
 
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