live life, celebrate food, share both with those you love

Thursday, 15 August 2013

C is for cookie... Date and Walnut cookies to be exact!

It’s always been my opinion, that homes with kiddies should always smell like freshly baked cookies… yum! My mum baked cheesecakes, carrot cakes and chocolate cakes but I don’t really remember her as a cookie baker. Yet my fondest childhood memories come flooding back when I smell cookies baking in the oven… yeah, I’m weird, this is not news to me!

I’ve struggled for quite some time to find a cookie recipe that’s simple to make and also spreads well yet doesn’t over crisp.

Last night I had success!! So ladies, gents and kiddie-winkles, may I present… Date and Walnut cookies!

This recipe makes around 40 small cookies if you can keep husband/child/nonna from eating the raw cookie dough!

185g butter, at room temp
½ c caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 ½ c self raising flour
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
100g chopped dates
½ c walnuts

How to...
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Using electric beaters, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and egg yolks for a few minutes until pale and fluffy.
- Add all the remaining ingredients and stir well. I found the mixture a little hard to mix, so with clean hands, I scrunched and squished the dough into submission.
- Roll teaspoons of the dough into balls and place on a lined baking tray, about 4cm apart as these cookies will spread.
- Bake for 12 minutes or until just golden.
- Leave the cookies on the hot tray for a few minutes to firm up before you transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Once completely cooled store in an airtight container for 3 days or freeze for 1 month.

Monday, 3 June 2013

The healthiest Banana Cake recipe I can come up with!

As I mentioned in my last post, my poor little poppet has been sick for weeks. Fever, chills, a cold... all the wonderful lurgies of winter have hit her all at once.

Nobody wants to eat when they feel unwell and even though my little champ is a great eater, she's really struggling to eat much of anything at the moment.

But no one says 'no' to cake, right? :) So, I've come up with a 'cake' that I think you'll agree fits into the 'healthy' category. Stay with me, I promise it's not your usual fat and sugar laden style of cake... not that there's anything wrong with that, hahahaha!

1/4 c coconut oil - for good fats
1/4 cup vegetable oil - because too much coconut oil seems to dry out the batter
2 eggs - protein
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
200g plain Greek yoghurt - packed with protein
200g plain or wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 c caster sugar - optional (my yoghurt is quite strong, and my bananas were a little under ripe so I needed a touch of sugar to balance out the flavor)

How to...
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C and grease a round cake pan with oil or butter. I recommend lining the base with baking paper as this does seem to stick a little.
- Mix all your wet ingredients in a small bowl (oils, eggs, mashed bananas and yogurt)
- In a larger bowl, mix your flour, baking powder and sugar, if you need it.
- Pour your wet mix into your dry mix and stir until combined. You don't want to over mix or it will become tough once cooked. Once you can't see any flour, then you are done.
- Pour your batter into your pre-greased pan and smooth out.
- Bake for approx 30 mins until golden brown and the top bounces back when you gently push with your fingertip.
- Leave to sit in the pan for a few minutes, then flip onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: feel free to use all vegetable oil or experiment with other neutral flavored oils. Or melted butter if you're feeling naughty!

$2 for a bag of bananas - bargain!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Let's make Chicken Stock - it's easy, I promise!

Pot full of goodness!
My poor little poppet has been sick for weeks... It's that time of year unfortunately... Silly winter! Plus she's 18 months old so her little body is trying to build up an immune system, not much fun for anyone.

As much as I believe in Western medicine (to a point...) I also believe in nourishing your body with quality food and plenty of rest when the evil lurgies come around to knock you on you bum. (can I say bum?)

This is why I've started making my own chicken stock, so that I can make my East Meets West Chicken Noodle Soup for my little MissC. We all know chicken noodle soup just seems to make us feel better. By making my own stock, I know that my little one is getting as many nutrients as possible and she seems to love the stuff. Even when she's feeling absolutely rotten, she'll happily drink some plain stock with a handful of soba noodles.

The thought of making my own stock always scared me. Surely it must be laborious and complex? But I swear, it's not! It's so simple and ridiculously easy to make, now I can't stop making it.

1 whole raw chicken, washed under cold running water (cut into pieces is fine but keep the bones in and the skin on)
1 large brown onion, skin on, ends cut off
1-2 heads of garlic, skin on, root cut off
2 carrots, cut in half
2 sticks of celery, cut in thirds
2 tomatoes, cut in half (Roma are preferred)
10 peppercorns
1 tsp salt flakes
5 springs parsley
Optional - Bay leaf or bouquet garni

How to...
- first you will need a BIG pot! Large enough to fit in all the ingredients and a few liters of water.
- next simply throw everything into the pot and add enough cold water to just cover.
- bring the stock to the boil, then turn down low to simmer for an hour. You may like to turn the chicken after half an hour if you are worried about part of it sticking out of the water.
- once the hour is up, carefully lift out the chicken onto a board using tongs. (we'll strip the meat later to make  my East Meets West Chicken Noodle Soup and Sour Cream Enchiladas)
- strain the vegetables out of the stock and discard. They've done their job, all their goodness is now in the beautiful golden liquor in front of you... So many possibilities!
- you will need to add salt at this point, probably up to 2 tsps. Don't be afraid of this, there's a lot of liquid so this will require a fair amount if salt. Add 1/2 tsp at a time and taste.
- you're done! This will keep in your fridge for about 3 days, or pop into individual containers/ziplock bags and store in your freezer up to 6 months.

- leave the lid off! If you put the lid on, your stock will be cloudy.
- a 'bouquet garni' is a little bunch of mixed fresh herbs which will infuse the stock whilst it's brewing. Feel free to make your own, or you can buy ready made options in the fresh herb section of your local supermarket.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Green frosting... yep, it's avocado!

Wow, it's been so long since my last post! Sorry everyone, tech issues over here :( did you miss me? I missed you!

Just a short post today to finally reveal what the green goop was that I made in My shiny new toy!

It's avocado frosting! Don't leave, you know you're fascinated :)

I've been experimenting lately with vegan recipes, which has been lots of fun. I'm not into the vegan lifestyle myself, but some recipes are so interesting, I just can't resist. Also I have loads of friends who are dairy or egg free... it's crazy how many people have allergies these days!

This is a super quick and easy way to make frosting and it's the most fun brilliant green color. It does taste a little like avocado, but on a rich chocolate cupcake it really does work.

You can also easily add some cocoa and it becomes chocolate frosting - the kids will never know the difference! And they'll get a dose healthy fats, win, win!

2 ripe avocados
1 tsp vanilla extract
500g icing sugar (approx)

How to...
- Scoop the avocado flesh into the bowl of a cake mixer. Make sure to get rid of any brown spots.
- Add the vanilla and using a paddle attachment, beat the avocado until smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Slowly add the icing sugar until you get the desired consistency.

Note: the frosting will keep in the fridge for up to a week in an air tight container.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Mexi-Wars! Guzman y Gomez vs Mad Mex

You must know by now that I have a deep love for Mexican food! Need proof? Check out these posts: Andale, andale, arriba, arriba!, Mexiday! The basic ingredients, Mexiday! Orange and chipotle chicken tacos

Mexican cuisine has been so poorly misrepresented in Australia there should, in my opinion, be legal consequences against some ‘Mexican’ chain restaurants when they are clearly Tex-Mex, NOT Mexican! Ok, so maybe legal consequences is taking it a little far, but let me clarify that I have nothing against Tex-Mex. I lived is the Great Lone State, on and off for a few years and a little piece of my heart will always yearn for Texas. But basically, Tex-Mex is smothered in melted cheese and almost always served with a side of refried beans… YUM!

However, In my travels to Mexico and California, I’ve found that whilst refried beans do appear on many menus, the Mexican cuisine is much fresher and tastier. Fried prawn tacos, slow cooked pulled pork enchiladas, spicy bbq steak… sorry, I’m drooling on my keyboard!

Well, finally we have some great options coming to town, and two of my favourite food court options are Guzman y Gomez and Mad Mex – both great options but for different reasons. I’ve heard both have been compared to another American chain called Chipotle, one of my all time favourite cheap eats! But I must say, both GyG and MM fall slightly short of these lofty heights. If only I could combine the two… 

They both have very similar menu options: Burritos, Nachos, Quesdillas, Tacos, etc. The main differences being:

Some like it hot! GyG Quesdilla
GyG – The meat options here are definitely tastier and come in spicy or non-spicy versions. Spicy pork for me please! And whilst you can make a few changes, like swapping white rice for brown, the menu options come as stated. So if it says it has pico de gallo, that’s what you get. I’m sure you could make further alterations, but I doubt it’s encouraged. The other thing I love about GyG is the free condiment bar where you can choose from 3 types of Tabasco (regular, green or chipotle) and fresh coriander, red onion and pickled jalapeƱos. This is what brings me back to GyG!

Little snack today, Kids Nachos from Mad Mex
Mad Mex – this is much more like the Chipotle franchise because you can customise your meal the way you like it. You first choose your meat filling – barbacoa for me please! – then there’s 4 salsas, sour cream, queso, beans, cheese, lettuce, guac, etc. I love coming to Mad Mex for their salsas! Different meats need different salsas and sometimes I want to burn my taste buds off and sometimes I don’t.

So… which will you choose? ;)

Friday, 1 February 2013

My shiny new toy!

Isn't she pretty! Yes, I know I technically asked a question, but it's way more of a statement, so I will stand by my gramatically incorrect exclamation point, instead of a question mark!

Mr B and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary... we can't believe how much time has flown past! We always try to give each other a little something on this important day, but both of us pulled out the big guns, this year... really BIG guns! There was a simply divine visit to Vue De Monde, I'll be sure to blog about that once I've finished digesting the 17 courses :) I gave Mr B a fabulous BBQ just in time for summer... but it's a built in, so hopefully it'll be installed before next summer - didn't think that through, did I?

I thought I might get an iPad. Those who know me well would probably think it an appropriate present. Instead, I was presented with a simply gorgeous ring... ok, I picked it, but he surprised me by taking me shopping!

And then the piece de resistance... my very own, shiny, brand new KITCHEN AID ARTISAN MIXER!!!!!!!!! (enough exclamation points? I'm not sure if you understand the excitement!)

I have coveted one of these work horses for years. I almost purchased one the year we lived in San Francisco, but I knew I wouldn't be able to bring it back home - stupid voltage conversion. I simply couldn't bring myself to buy one here in Oz, as the price was always ridiculous! When the US dollar was at its peak, these mixers cost $900, sometimes more, insanity!

We finally saw one at a much more reasonable price and although I was adamant that I already had a mixer (Breville) and didn't need this, Mr B put his foot down and insisted. Isn't he a dreamboat? ;)

My next dilemma... which color? There were 13 on offer! The safe part of me wanted the Gun Metal Grey, the only mixer in a beautiful matt finish. It's dark and broody... ha, it's me, to a tee! But this is Kitchen Aid and I just had to get a color. So after a frantic phone call to my sister - who lives in Dallas, Texas - I decided on Yellow Pepper... and I heart her!
Can you guess what I'm making? Bet you can't!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Mini Banana+Date muffins… no added sugar!

MissC chomping on a muffin in her trike

How yummy are muffins?! Ok, so we know they are not great for the waist line, but darn it they are tasty!

I’ve always had a good relationship with food. I enjoy it and most of the time I don’t feel guilty! But since my little one started eating, I’ve started to look at food slightly differently. I still enjoy it, but I want to improve the nutrition/quality these days. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve removed half the sugar or butter/oil and you can’t taste the difference.

Here’s a great recipe for little tummies and it’s sugar free but still super sweet. The sweetness comes from the overripe bananas and the dates. You could skip the dates, but remember this is extra fibre which is an added bonus in most diets these days.

1 c self raising flour (white or wholemeal, whichever you prefer)
½ tsp cinnamon
5 dates, seeds removed and chopped into small pieces
3 overipe bananas, mashed
50g butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
¼ c milk

How to...
- Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C.
- Grease 2 x mini muffin pans or line with paper cases. (I prefer to grease so little ones don’t have to mess with paper cases, plus better for environment, right?)
- Grab a mixing bowl and mix together your flour, cinnamon and dates.
- In another bowl, squash your bananas so that they are mushy. Then add your milk, butter and eggs and stir well.
- Add your banana mix to the flour mix and stir until just combined. If you over stir your muffins will be chewy, you have been warned!
- Drop tablespoons of the batter into your muffin trays.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, until slightly golden.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack before gobbling these down with a glass of cold milk! Mmmmm!