Saturday, December 20, 2014

Make Your Own Christmas Gifts

I was having a scroll through all of the blog posts that I have done over the last few years. Aside from some horrendous photography in some of the older posts, I also noticed how many recipes I had posted that would make fantastic gifts at Christmas.

Christmas baking always goes down a treat with my friends and family and is always appreciated! So take a leaf out of my book this Christmas and get baking.

These caramel and salted walnut tarts look very attractive and are great to put on a shared platter.

I originally cut this freezer brownie into heart shapes for Valentine's Day but you could use a star or christmas tree cutter for a Christmas theme.

I posted this recipe for Chocolate bark last Christmas and still think that it makes a really fantastic gift to give.

Nut butter is actually really easy to make and giving someone a jar of this Mixed Nut Butter wrapped in a big red bow makes for a festive gift.

If you want to be able to package these Homemade Bounty Bars up to give as a gift I would suggest dipping them in dark chocolate, as the coconut oil chocolate melts quite easily (and hey Christmas is for indulging).

And finally if you know any ginger lovers, this Double Ginger Slice will make their day!

Enjoy X

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lentil Bolognaise with Zuchinni Noodles

So much has happened in the last few days!! All of our stuff got picked up today and in one week's time we will be beginning on our journey to live up in Auckland. Eek!

I also managed to get food poisoning or some kind of tummy bug, so have been feeling absolutely awful the last couple of days. Five days on and I still have almost zero interest in food. I am still really looking forward to Christmas and preparing to do all of my christmas baking this weekend. I found the best recipe for caramello biscuit fudge that will definitely get made, but I'm still yet to decide what else I will make. I do have a truffle recipe in mind that if it works out I will try and post before christmas.

Today's recipe I made a few weeks back, but thought that it would make a great, lighter meal during this hectic christmas period that often involves waaaaaaaay too much food. I made the zuchinni noodles using my spiralizer which is great! I just bought a cheap, plastic one that you twist by hand, but it works really well. If you don't want to go out and buy yet another gadget for your kitchen, you can still make zuchinni noodles using a wide-blade potato peeler and run it down the length of the zuchinni.

1 onion
1 tin brown lentils, drained and rinsed
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
3 large zuchinni

Peel the onion, then cut in half and slice thinly. In a large frypan, over a medium heat, sauté the onions until soft and clear. Add the lentils, tomatoes, tomato paste and oregano and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let simmer for around 15 minutes or until the sauce is to your desired consistency.

Using a spiralizer or vegetable peeler make noodles out of the zuchinni. Add to the tomato mix and let cook for 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Great served with parmesan

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Japanese-style Chicken Rice Bowl

Just over two weeks until I move away from Dunedin! Eek! We have now found a great wee place to go to in Auckland, so really the last thing to do here is to get everything on to the moving truck next week and get ourselves up just after Christmas.

It's a little bittersweet at the moment as although I am very excited to be moving into the next stage of my life and starting my career, I am having a lot of lasts at the moment. Next week will be my last week at one of my jobs after 5 years of working there and today was my last singing lesson after learning off my teacher for 15 years!!

Oh and one pretty big bittersweet moment will come this Saturday when I graduate!! I have spent the last five years haunting Otago University and while I won't miss the stress, tears and missed weekends, I am still feeling quite sad to close that chapter of my life.

I'm growing up.

One thing that I'm hoping will only get better with my move to Auckland (and the increase in funds that will come from working full time) is the recipes that I can share with you. Today's recipe is something I created a few weeks ago.

Hungry Male and I love grabbing Japanese as a healthier fast food, and although Japanese is cheaper than a lot of options, it can still be made a lot cheaper at home.

So I did.

Ignore the slightly gluggy rice in the picture, I have since found a much better way of cooking it, but this makes a great Friday night or weekend meal that you can easily customise to everyone's tastes.


1 cup sushi rice
1 packet sushi seasoning (I got mine from an Asian food store)

500g chicken breast, sliced
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
Good grinding pepper
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a roasting dish with tin foil and place a wire rack inside of it.

Place the sushi rice in a colander and wash until the water runs clear. Place in a large pot and fill the pot with water until the water level is around 1cm above the rice (if you sit your finger on the rice the water should reach your first knuckle). Over a high heat, bring the water to the boil, stirring every 2 minutes or so, then turn the heat right down and put the lid on the pot.

When all of the water has disappeared (after around 6-8 minutes) the rice should be cooked, but just have a spoonful to check. Using a wooden spoon (not metal!) take the rice out of the pot and stir through the sushi seasoning and leave on the kitchen bench to cool.

In the mean time place the beaten egg in a flat bowl or container. In another flat container mix the flour, salt, pepper, cumin and smoked paprika.

Setting up a production line, coat the chicken in the egg and then thoroughly coat it in the flour mixture.

Place the chicken on the wire rack and give it a good spray of oil. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Serve on top of the rice drizzled with mayonnaise, BBQ sauce or sweet chilli sauce with some coleslaw on the side.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Black Rice and Chickpea Salad

I'm heading up to Auckland to try to find somewhere for me and the boyfriend to live next year so this will just be a short post today.

I popped into an Asian food store the other week as I wanted to grab some sushi rice and seasoning. As I was wandering round (which I love doing in foreign food stores) I spied some black rice. I remembered reading somewhere that black rice has a great nutrition profile, so I thought that I would grab some to make myself some lunches for the week. This salad was my first go using black rice and I absolutely loved it. It has a lovely nutty flavour, with a slightly chewier texture than white rice. Black rice is also full of amino acids and antioxidants from the black colour.

When it cooks up it turns more of a purplish colour, and as you can see in the photo, it does turn other things a bit purple too. This salad is bulked out with chickpeas, avocado, red capsicum, celery and baby spinach, making for a perfect take-to-work lunch.

1 cup black rice (sometimes also called forbidden rice)
2 cups water
1 red capsicum
1 avocado
2 stalks celery
2-3 spring onions
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or you can use any dressing that you like)
Few large handfuls of baby spinach to serve

In a pot place the rice and water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook the rice for around 20 minutes or until almost all of the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes.

In the mean time dice the red capsicum and avocado. Slice the celery and spring onions thinly.

Once rice is ready add the apple cider vinegar or dressing, vegetables and chickpeas and mix well.

Serve on top of baby spinach.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lunchbox Solution- Leek and Blue Cheese (or feta) Mini Quiches

After a few painful weeks of waiting, I have finally gotten back the results for my honours dissertation and also my overall results. I am so happy to tell you that I will be graduating with first-class honours! It feels so amazing that all of the hard work, long hours and occasional melt-down has really paid off for me. So now I suppose I really need to get focused on my move away from my hometown to the big smoke of Auckland to start my marketing career. Apart from the excitement of starting this next stage of my life, I am also very excited to have a huge, huge range of places to eat my way around..... taste buds and camera, get ready!

Continuing on this exciting note, I also seem to be getting my food inspiration back! For quite a few weeks after finishing, I would look into the pantry and instead of my brain kicking into overdrive about all the potential things that I could make, all it saw was a bunch of random ingredients that just seemed like a hassle to put together. Anyway, I have been putting this creative streak to good use, so in the next few weeks you can expect to see recipes for Homemade Japanese Rice Bowls, Walnut and Almond Butter, Lentil Bolognaise with Zoodles, along with a post on budget-friendly $2 lunches and a spotlight on strawberries, since they are available in abundance at the moment in New Zealand (sorry Northern Hemisphere, but you can just dream of warmer times).

Onto these quiches! I had something similar at a cafe the other week and really enjoyed the flavour combination. I also thought that it would make a really fantastic portable lunch meal. You could prep some of these for the week and just grab and go in the morning.

I understand that blue cheese is one of those polarising foods. I used quite a mild, creamy blue cheese in this recipe and I really liked the flavour, but if you are really hating on blue cheese, some feta would also work really well in this recipe.

1 leek
1 tsp butter or olive oil
4 eggs
100g mild blue cheese or feta
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup baby spinach (optional)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease around 10 muffin holes, or line with baking paper.

Cut the leafy end off the leek, cut in half lengthwise, and then give it a really good run under the tap to get rid of any remaining dirt. Slice leek into thin half rounds.

Heat butter or oil in a medium frypan and add the leek. Over a low heat, gently sauté until beginning to soften. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs, self raising flour and milk until well mixed. Crumble in the blue cheese and feta and give another good whisk. Add the leek and baby spinach if using and give one final mix to combine.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pans and then place in the oven for around 20-25 minutes or until golden on top and cooked through (they should spring back when you press the top).

Serve warm or cold with salad.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Food 101: Avocado

I thought that since we are coming into the Avocado season in New Zealand, I thought that I would put the spotlight on this nutrient dense fruit. I would definitely say that I am one of those people who go through avocado phases. Sometimes I just can't get enough of them and other times they will sit there go soft and mushy (even if this happens I never throw them out!).

So what is so great about avocados?

  1. The are a great source of heart-healthy fats
  2. This sort of good fat is great for helping you feel satiated and keeping you fuller for longer
  3. They are so versatile! They can be used in a huge range of both savoury and sweet dishes (scroll down for some ideas on how to use them).
  4. As with other fruits and vegetables, they are high in fibre while also providing a whole host of vitamins and minerals, including B and E vitamins.
  5. These vitamins, along with the antioxidants in Avocados are great for your skin. Basically they help to nourish your skin from the inside-out.
  6. They have phytochemicals in them that may help to prevent certain types of cancer.
Pretty much they are just awesome!

Avocado on its own doesn't have a huge amount of flavour, which makes it so easy to add to lots of different dishes. Here are some ways that I love to use avocado.

  1. Throw an avocado into a smoothie. It gives the smoothie a lovely, creamy texture while upping the fibre and nutrients in it. Try this great smoothie from Healthful Pursuit
  2. Mash it up with some lemon juice and spices to put on toast or crackers. I love using some cumin and smoked paprika.
  3. Mash it with marmite, top with cheese and grill for 5-10 minutes to make delicious cheese on toast.
  4. Whiz it in a blender to make a heart healthy chocolate mousse shown here
  5. Cut an avocado in half, scoop out a little more of the centre, crack an egg into the hole and then bake for around 20 minutes at 180 degrees C. Top with some lemon juice and salt and pepper.
And there are heaps more great ways of using avocado.

What is your favourite use for avocado? Let me know in the comments below

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Nourishing Granola

Hi everyone

I did intend on publishing this post a little sooner, but unfortunately I got knocked back by quite a nasty bug, which involved having absolutely no inclination towards food (which for me is just insane!).

On a side note, here are some pretty cupcakes I made. I made lemon and raspberry ones adapted from this recipe and they were delicious!!

Today I thought that I would share with you a recipe that I adapted for granola (or muesli if you live down the bottom of the world). I really love granola/muesli in the morning, however, almost all of the packaged ones contain refined sugars and quite a lot of it! That's why when I can I try to make my own. Unfortunately, when I get busy I seem to forget how quick and easy it is to actually make your own, even the toasted variety.

I would note though that if you do decide to make your own, watch it like a hawk when it is in the oven! It only takes a minute for your delicious, toasted muesli to turn into bitter, burnt stuff. If it looks like it is getting overdone, take it out! It will crisp up more as it cools.

I adapted this recipe from My New Roots based on what I had in the pantry. I also didn't add any extra sugar aside from the rice malt syrup, but you could add in around 1/4 of a cup of brown sugar or coconut sugar if you feel the need.

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup puffed millet, puffed brown rice or similar
1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup rice malt syrup (or honey)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

In a large bowl combine oats, puffed millet, chopped hazelnuts, and chia seeds. Mix well.

In a small saucepan combine salt, rice malt syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract and cocoa powder. Heat over a low heat, stirring often, until melted and combined.

Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and mix well until all of the dry ingredients are coated (I used a bit of a smushing-movement with my spoon).

Press the mixture onto the baking trays so that there is a thin, even layer of mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, watching it closely. Remove from the oven, give it a really good mix around and then pop back in the oven for around 10 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes or so. The mixture should feel nice and dry.

Leave to cool and then store in an airtight container.


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