Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thai Beef Salad


After a very warm day and not getting home from being at Mum's all day this Australia Day, I threw together this Thai Beef Salad based on a recipe from Taste.com with what I had on hand. I could also add this to this fortnight's Cooking Challenge with a 'citrus' theme, if you count the lime juice.

Thai Beef Salad

1 piece of rump steak
1 1/2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs fish sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 baby cos lettuce
Baby Roma Tomatoes
1 Lebanese cucumber, halved lengthways, thinly sliced diagonally
3 spring onions
2 tbs hot chilli sauce
1 bunch fresh mint, leaves picked, large leaves torn
1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked

Mix lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Marinade steak in half of this mixture for at least 2 hours. Pan fry steak. Mix salad ingredients and toss through remaining marinade mixture. Slice steak and toss through salad.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Appliqued School Chair Bag

I finally got around to appliquing the unicorn picture I bought for Emelia but not as originally intended. It was meant to be appliqued onto fabric, embossed and embroidered and framed but I thought of putting it on her school chair bag. She started Grade 1 today and instead of putting all their books and pencils in a desk they have a chair bag on their seat which stores everything.




Bit of fiddling here and there but I think she likes it.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Cooking Challenge 2011 - Lemon, Spinach & Chicken Pasta

Lemon, Spinach & Chicken Pasta

Fortnight 2 of the Cooking Challenge 2011 theme is 'citrus'. I'm lucky to have both oranges and lemons in the fridge so I stumbled across a recipe on the Taste web site and adjusted it slightly. This was a lovely, light summery pasta dish and quick to throw together. The addition of the lemon gave it a fresh 'zing' and a lift.

Lemon, Spinach & Chicken Pasta

250g dried penne
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 chicken breast fillet, trimmed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
Half a bag baby spinach leaves
1 tbs dried basil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Shaved parmesan, to serve

Boil pasta until al dente. Soften onion in EVOO, add chicken and cook until browned. Add garlic, basil, zest and juice of lemon and 1/3 cup of water from pasta. Add spinach and cook until just wilted.

Drain pasta and mix chicken mixture through. Top with shaved parmesan to serve.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No Bake Chocolate Caramel Slice

What started out as a Honey Nut Bar then a Marbled Marshmallow Slice today, turned into a No Bake Chocolate Caramel Slice. I found I couldn't substitute enough ingredients for the Honey Nut bar and my marshmallow wouldn't whip up so it finished up down the sink. I had already made the base and had a can of condensed milk in the cupboard so Chocolate Caramel Slice it was.

You can make the traditional shortbread base but I prefer the biscuit crumb and butter base for the No Bake element.

No Bake Chocolate Caramel Slice

1 packet Arnotts Chocolate Ripple Biscuits, crushed (or 1.3/4 cups of biscuit crumbs)
125gm butter, melted
1 tbs walnuts, chopped

Caramel Topping
395gm can condensed milk
60gm butter
2 tbs golden syrup

melted chocolate to top

Crush biscuits into fine crumbs, add melted butter and press into a slice tin. Refrigerate.

Mix caramel topping ingredients into a saucepan and stir on a medium heat for approx 8 minutes or until caramel has turned a golden colour. Allow to cool and pour onto refrigerated biscuit base. Drizzle with melted chocolate and store in fridge.

Maybe I'll get back to that Honey Nut Bar and Marbled Marshmallow Slice next time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Apple, Cherry & Walnut Crumble

Not exactly crumble weather in Brisbane at the moment. Something we usually like to keep for our cooler winter nights but I had some Granny Smiths lurking plus a half jar of Morello cherries waiting to be used up. I added the walnuts to the crumble mix and there was dessert for tonight.

You can use any fruit you like; peaches, apples, pears, cherries, nectarines, plums, pineapple, mango, bananas, whatever you like. My crumble mix is usually a bit of this and a bit of that. No real quantities and I like to use a nut of some sort in the crumble for a bit of extra crunch. I choose a nut that will compliment the fruit.


Apple, Cherry & Walnut Crumble

5 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 cup Morello cherries, drained
1 tbs caster sugar

Crumble Mix
1/2 cup plain flour
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped finely

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Mix apple and cherries together, sprinkle sugar on top and put into a greased ovenproof dish.

Mix butter into the plain flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in other ingredients and place on top of the fruit. Bake for approx 20 mins or until golden. Serve with ice cream, cream or custard or all three!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Butter IS better


Once upon a time we were a household of margarine and butter (margarine for sandwiches and butter for baking and cooking) but after discovering some very interesting facts on the benefits of butter, we've converted to a 'butter only' household and besides we prefer the taste. We've been 'butter only' for a while now but just wanted you kids to know the benefits. If for nothing else but the taste, you can't go past it. Try to get organic butter, if you can.

Twenty Reasons to Eat Butter
  1. Butter is rich in the most easily absorbable form of Vitamin A necessary for thyroid and adrenal health.
  2. Contains lauric acid, important in treating fungal infections and candida.
  3. Contains lecithin, essential for cholesterol metabolism.
  4. Contains anti-oxidants that protect against free radical damage.
  5. Has anti-oxidants that protect against weakening arteries.
  6. Is a great source of Vitamins E and K.
  7. Is a very rich source of the vital mineral selenium.
  8. Saturated fats in butter have strong anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.
  9. Butter contains conjugated linoleic acid, which is a potent anti-cancer agent, muscle builder, and immunity booster
  10. Vitamin D found in butter is essential to absorption of calcium.
  11. Protects against tooth decay.
  12. Is your only source of an anti-stiffness factor, which protects against calcification of the joints.
  13. Anti-stiffness factor in butter also prevents hardening of the arteries, cataracts, and calcification of the pineal gland.
  14. Is a source of Activator X, which helps your body absorb minerals.
  15. Is a source of iodine in highly absorbable form.
  16. May promote fertility in women.
  17. Is a source of quick energy, and is not stored in our bodies adipose tissue.
  18. Cholesterol found in butterfat is essential to children's brain and nervous system development.
  19. Contains Arachidonic Acid (AA) which plays a role in brain function and is a vital component of cell membranes.
  20. Protects against gastrointestinal infections in the very young or the elderly.
Source:  http://www.bodyecology.com/

You may get frustrated with the butter being too hard to spread on soft bread but what I do is keep a 250gm block of butter in the fridge and take out about 2 tablespoons and put into another container which I keep in the cupboard and that's what I use for the day for breakfast toast and lunch time sandwiches. It gets used daily and the remainder is safely stored in the fridge. I usually buy a kilo per month and store that in the freezer in 250gm blocks and take it out of the freezer and put in the fridge when I'm about to run out.

There'll always be the same old argument about margarine vs butter but in our house and for our lifestyle, butter will always win.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Quick Mix Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Another one of my favourites. Quick and easy. I love traditional baking, things like creaming the butter and sugar together etc but sometimes, with Benjamin and Emelia wanting to help all the time, I'm all for quick and easy. This recipe was given to me by my fellow foody friend, Claire Collins in Tasmania. A lovely crispy outer, chewy biscuit. I prefer to use block chocolate, cut into chunks rather than chocolate chips. If you're going to have a chocolate chip cookie, you may as well be able to taste the chocolate, right?

Quick Mix Chocolate Chunk Cookies

3/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C caster sugar
1 1/2 C SR flour
1/2 C plain flour
185g butter - melted
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
100gm chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 160 deg C.  Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients. Mix together. Bake for approx 15 mins or until golden. 

Another happy customer!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bulk Pancake Mix

This is another great recipe I got from the Simple Savings forum. It has been so versatile and I use it all the time for pancakes, pikelets, crepes, fritters, etc. No need to ever buy "Shake'n'Pour" batter mixes (not that I ever have).

Wholemeal Apple & Cinnamon pikelets
Bulk Pancake Mix
6 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk powder
3 tablespoons sugar

Method:

Mix together the following lightly:

1 1/2 cups pancake mix
3/4 cup water
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil

I sometimes use Self Raising flour instead of the plain flour and baking powder. I normally don't add sugar to the bulk mix allowing me to use it for savoury dishes but instead add the sugar to the batter if I'm making sweet. This is also a good gift to give. Just make up the bulk mix, store in a nice jar or container and add instructions to make up on a label.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

No Fuss Fudge Cake


I've been a member of Simple Savings for over 3 years now, a web site with handy hints to save money in all aspects of your life. I came across a thread in the member's forum for a "No Fuss Fudge Cake" and being a traditionalist with baking, didn't think much of it at first but eventually gave it a try. It's one of my most used recipes and favourite cake recipes. It's so quick and easy and produces a gorgeous, moist cake. It's so easy to adapt to a slice, brownie, bar cake, loaf, cupcakes, you name it.

This is the basic recipe as submitted by Annette Bennet on 7 September 2007.

No Fuss Fudge Cake

1 and half cups plain flour
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon white vinegar
6 tablespoons oil (I use canola)
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
half teaspoon salt

Turn oven to 180 C. Grease a 20cm tin well. Dust inside the tin with a little flour. Tap out excess. Put the flour, sugar, cocoa and water in a bowl. Add vanilla, vinegar, oil, baking soda and salt. Mix with beaters until smooth. (Mixture is runny.) Pour into the tin. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes then take out of tin. Ice with your favourite icing.

Tonight I made a Black Forest version, using the exact recipe above, except replaced the water with 1 cup of the liquid from the jar of sour cherries, 1 cup of sour cherries. I then split the cake and filled with whipped cream and topped with chocolate ganache (100gm melted dark chocolate and 100mls cream, warmed and mixed together). Very moist, very light and very quick.

Basic muffins


I'm not sure where I got this recipe from but I've had it for years. I was never one much for muffins, rather preferring cake or biscuits but since having the kids they're a great, healthy little bundle of goodness that can be thrown together in a minute while you've got the oven on and can have so many different things added to this basic recipe. I like this recipe because it doesn't have a lot of fat or sugar in it. The picture above shows coconut muffins I made this afternoon for Benjamin's Kindy lunch box.

Basic Muffins

2 cups Self Raising flour
1/4 cup oil (I used Canola)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg

Add all ingredients, mix lightly and pour into cupcake papers and bake in a 180 deg C oven for 15 minutes. Makes a dozen large sized muffins, 18 cupcake sized muffins or 24 mini muffins.

Variations:
  • Coconut:  Add half a cup of coconut and a teaspoon of coconut essence or use coconut milk instead or normal milk.
  • Choc Chip:  Add half a cup of chocolate chips.
  • Banana:  Add 1-2 mashed overripe bananas.
  • White Chocolate & Macadamia:  Add half a cup of white choc chips and 1/2 cup roughly chopped macadamias.
  • Breakfast:  Add half a cup of rolled oats, half a cup of chopped nuts and half a cup of any dried fruit.
  • Walnut & Carrot:  Half cup of chopped walnuts and 1-2 grated carrots, 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  • Apple & Cinnamon Crumble:  One grated apple and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Make a crumble mixture of 1 tablespoon of rolled oats, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of plain flour, 1 tablespoon of butter and mix together. Top each muffin with a sprinkling of the crumble mixture before baking.
  • Muffin Doughnuts: Make a batch of basic muffins in small cupcake/muffin pan. Once cooked, brush with melted butter and roll in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.
  • Chocolate & Zucchini:  Add 1/2 cup of cocoa, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1-2 grated zucchinis.
  • Pumpkin: I tend to add pumpkin puree to anything I bake so the kids get their vegie intake and I have added 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree to any of the above variations.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chicken, Camembert, Grape & Cashew Salad


After another hot, humid day, a salad was the order of the day for dinner tonight. I love just using what I've got on hand but coming up with something a little bit out of the ordinary.

This salad was very refreshing and a great way to use up those Christmas leftovers.

Ingredients
Poached chicken breast, shredded
finely shredded lettuce and sugarloaf cabbage
pickled cocktail onions
seedless green grapes
Camembert cheese, chopped
cashews to garnish

Dressing
3 tbs whole egg mayonnaise
1 tbs white wine vinegar

Combine all salad ingredients. Mix vinegar with mayonnaise and mix through salad. Sprinkle cashews on top to serve.

Serves 2.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Getting organised in 2011

I hope that 2011 will be the year for me to get back to being organised. I was pretty 'anal' about being organised, before the kids, but have had to let it go all by the wayside, just so I could cope with child raising and getting the basics done.

I love to be organised. I love knowing what I have, what I don't, what I need, what I don't, where I can find anything at any given time. It gives me a great sense of joy.

From the 10th of January, Benjamin will be going to Kindergarten for 3 days a week and Emelia will start Grade 1 at the end of January. This will be three whole days (well, 9:00am until 2:15pm) to get things done. Throw into those three days going for long walks, cooking everything from scratch, menu planning, working a couple nights a week, still trying to stay on top of the basics around the house and, well, let's hope it all works.

Some of the blogs I enjoy viewing on a regular basis, regarding organising, include Super Organiser Mum here in Australia run by Jade. She always has fresh, practical ideas and I can relate to all she does because she too has a young family. I Heart Organising in the USA, run by Jen, is also very good. She is always so inspiring and I wonder how she finds the time to get stuck into painting a piece of furniture or a wall, just to freshen up an old space. I love the way she uses what she's already got to give the space a new look. Both of these blogs have links to many other organising blogs that I frequent from time to time.

I'll hopefully be keeping track of spaces, before and after, to keep up my motivation.