Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cheesy Spinach & Mushroom Spaghetti

Since today's lunch at the ILs got called off due to illness, I thought we might need something a little more substantial than jaffles. But since we still haven't done the fortnightly shop yet, I was a little limited as to what I could make.

I settled on pasta - two votes for spaghetti over the penne, and used up some leftover baby spinach, and neglected mushrooms from the bottom of the fridge. Add a few cloves of sliced garlic and some cream cheese, and regular cheese, and what more could you ask for?

All I did was set the water on the boil for the pasta, and when that boiled, added the spaghetti and boiled till soft. My family prefer their pasta on the soggy side, not al dente. While that was happening, I lightly fried 4 cloves of garlic I'd sliced, along with about 8 large mushrooms (just normal large, not the huge flat ones), also sliced. Then I added roughly 3 tbsp of cream cheese, and a bit of the pasta water. Mixed it until it was nice, added in, hmm, maybe 3 cups of baby spinach? I didn't measure, it was just everything left in the packet. Add it to taste, or whatever you have. Then add about half a cup or more of grated cheese right before you tip the (drained) spaghetti into the frypan. Mix together and quickly serve before your pan gets coated in melted cheese and all yuck to clean up.

The finished sauce before adding pasta

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chicken Parmagiana with chips and green beans

DP's favourite

An oldie, but a goodie for us tonight. Everyone has their own way to make this dish, but I find mine particularly easy, so I thought I might share.

First, you fry a chicken schnitzel for each person. Just until golden and crunchy, it'll finish cooking through later.

Fried schnitzel

Then, place in an oven tray, and spoon a generous amount of tomato-y stuff on. I'll either use flavoured tomato paste (like the pizza kind from the mini yogurt tubs, like I did tonight) or pasta sauce from a jar. If it's a tight fortnight, or the pasta sauce has been used up already, then I'll just use plain tomato paste and add some herbs.

Mmmm, saucy!

Cover each piece of chicken with a slice of ham, or bacon (raw or fried) to your liking. I used to use bacon, because we always have that in the house, but lately I've been buying ham especially for the parmas, because DP likes it better that way, and I usually make this for him. We all like it, but he's the one who asks for it ;) Then cover the lot with cheese. Just plain tasty works fine, though of course fancier cheeses give a fancier taste. If you use a disposable tray like I do (when I have them) just cover the lot, and don't worry about the gaps in between. If you are using a 'keeper' tray, then try to avoid getting too much cheese on the tray because it's a pain in the neck to clean off.

Cheese to the left of me, Ham to the right...

Serve with whatever. I usually have oven bake chips and some sort of microwaved vegies. The green beans tonight really went nicely with the strong taste of the parmesan cheese I sprinkled on top to finish up the packet. It was a lovely, if somewhat fiddly dinner. But this way is heaps easier than the recipes I saw online when I first started making this.

And I need easy dinners, because who wants to be in the kitchen when you could be playing with him:

My mum says he looks like Papa Smurf in this outfit. Hasn't he grown?

He was 12 weeks old yesterday. Doesn't time fly?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Slow Cooking Thursday - Beef & Guinness Stew.

Looking better than it tastes, instead of the other way around for a change. :(

Today's offering is a combination of two recipes from different sources - therefore making it technically my own. lol. This recipe on Taste.Com.Au and another from a free slow cooking recipe book I got from the McCormick site. So here is how I made mine.

Beef & Guinness Stew with Dumplings
800g chuck steak, cubed
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 stick celery, sliced
200g button mushrooms, quarted
375ml Guinness
sachet McCormick Slow Cookers Tomato & Onion Sausages

50g butter, softened,
1 cup SR flour
1/2 cup tasty cheese, grated
1 tbsp dried tarragon
1 tbsp dried basil
2-3 tbsp milk

Brown the beef and onions in a frypan. Put in a slow cooker with all the other vegies. Mix the flavour sachet with the Guinness, and use to deglaze the frypan. Pour on top of everything in the slow cooker, and use a small amount (I used 200ml, but use less if you have a smaller frypan - use as little as possible) of water to deglaze the pan again, because the guinness will leave behind a lovely thick gravy on the edges of the pan. Cook on LOW for 8 hours.

Rub the butter into the flour until crumbly. Add the cheese and herbs and mix through the mix to make a dough. Drop golf ball sized dumplings into the top of the stew 20 minutes before serving.
(photos to follow after dinner time!)
Well, here we are. The first real failure of a meal since I started this food blog. No one ate it. The dumplings were doughy and raw still after 20 minutes, and the stew itself was just... slightly wrong. DP couldn't put his finger on it, but something just didn't gel with the rest of the ingredients. I thought it was too spicy. The kids just didn't want to eat it. I think it was the tomato and onion sausages mix. The idea to add that came from the freebie slow cookers cookbook - in which every recipe had a packet of one of the flavours of the new slow cookers sachets. Obviously they are trying to sell more product, and I don't fault them that, but this was not a winner. I may try using the Taste recipe, to see if this is any better with tomato paste instead of a shortcut. Otherwise, this will be a meal that goes in the never make again basket. If anyone out there is willing to take a chance on it, please let me know how it worked out for you!

Kids Cooking Thursday: Pretzel Butterflies

This was a lovely simple thing to "cook" today, which was handy as we went out for lunch, and were tight for time this afternoon. I got the recipe and idea from the August 2008 issue of Australian Good Taste (the safeway food magazine).

Cut a stick of celery into 2 10cm lengths. Fill centre with cream cheese. Stick two pretzels (bumps pointing out) into the cheese as wings. Place 3 sultanas in a line down the body, and then either use two broken pieces of pretzel, or the "V" from the middle of the pretzel to make the antenna. Place that into the cheese above the wings.

Master Four looking pleased with his butterfly and himself

Miss Two thought they were a riot!

Then devour!

Those poor dismembered corpses!

Short and sweet this week, but the kids had fun, and afternoon tea, and I don't end up with an expanding waistline and/or a freezer full of cake/sweets I'm bound to end up eating by myself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Beef Croquettes

This is a recipe which everyone I've ever known has loved. It's a dutch recipe passed down from my mother. I've only made it myself about three times, since it is so very time consuming, and takes the best part of a day to make. But it makes heaps, and they are nice to have in the freezer, and DP loves them. Since I've been making a lot of his favourites this week, I thought it was about time I spent a day in the kitchen and make some again. After all, nothing says I love you like a hot, sweaty, tired partner covered in goop right? Um, perhaps don't answer that. But, everything has it's payoff, and you can't buy food like this from the freezer section. Damn, I just realised. If I'd only have made these earlier in the fortnight, I could have brought them to the Retro Blog Party!

1 1/2 litres of water
750g mince
4 beef cubes
1 onion (chopped and fried)
1 tsp curry
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp salt

Boil ingredients for 1/2 - 3/4 hr set aside to cool.

200g butter
400g plain flour

Melt butter, add flour slowly mixing together. When mixture is like crumbs, add the liquid from the meat mixture in, a ladle full at a time. When all flour, butter and water has been incorporated, add meat mixture. This is an insanely thick mixture. Blend together with a stick mixer until smooth.

It'll look kinda like this

Then cook for a few more minutes over low heat till it thickens a bit more. Don't let the bottom bits burn! Allow to cool.

Roll into log shapes. Unless you have a nifty croquette machine like I do, then it's just



and squoosh! Perfect logs, just cut to length.

Roll in breadcrumbs, roll through egg mix (1 cup milk , 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon oil), then through breadcrumbs again. Get yourself a little production line thing happening:

Working from right to left cos I'm weird.

Deep fry in hot oil for about five minutes or until golden brown and crunchy. Unfried croquettes can be frozen until needed. Since this usually an all day affair, lunch on these days was traditionally the meat mornay (mixture right before the 'roll into shape' step) on sandwiches. If Mum started too late in the day, then that was what we'd have for dinner, and she'd make the croquettes for the freezer afterwards. This makes plenty to freeze.

I think I had around 50 or so

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chicken & Sultana Casserole

The slowest 2 Minute Noodles I've ever cooked! ;)

I adapted this for the slow cooker from Margaret Fulton's Book of Family Meals.

Chicken & Sultana Casserole
1/2 cup plain flour
salt & pepper
grated nutmeg
4 chicken pieces (I used thighs)
60g butter
2 tbsp oil
2 onions, chopped
8 shortcut rashers bacon, chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
250g mushrooms, sliced
1 can diced, peeled tomatoes
3/4 cup sultanas

Season the flour with the nutmeg, salt & pepper, and coat the chicken on all sides.
Melt the butter in a frypan with oil, and fry the coated chicken until golden on all sides.
Remove the chicken and place into the slow cooker. In the remaining fat, cook the bacon and opnion until the onion is soft. Add any remaining flour and cook for about a minute.
Then slowly add the stock, deglazing the pan and making a nice thickened sauce as you do so.
Pour the lot into your cooker on top of the chicken.
Add the sultanas, the tomato, and the mushrooms and cook on low for about 8 hours, or until done.

About half an hour before dinner time, I added three broken up packets of 2 minute noodles, pushing them under the juice level. These soaked up all the sauce wonderfully, leaving me with no water slopping around at all. Next time I might add a little tomato paste, or another can of tomatoes (or perhaps just use the 4 fresh, peeled and chopped tomatoes the recipe called for). I also might add a tsp of curry powder, because it was nice, but a little bland. Perhaps some tarragon, or anything really, to liven it up a bit. It's very kid friendly though, everyone liked it. I served with loaf style garlic bread. Oh, that's another thing this dish could use, garlic. Tell you what, this is going to be a very different dish next time I make it. You'll only recognise it by the sultanas lol.

Menu Plan Monday

Monday Chicken & Sultana Casserole (slow cooker)
Tuesday Croquettes
Wednesday Chicken Parmas with green beans and chips
Thursday Beef & Guinness Stew (slow cooker)
Friday Dutch Pea Soup with garlic bread
Saturday Leek-y Lovely Legs (slow cooker)
Sunday Steak and Onion Jaffles

Didn't get to make Croquettes yesterday as my sister had her birthday party, so I'll make them tomorrow - that's an all day affair. Tonight's dinner is already in the slow cooker, and I'll post that recipe soon.

As usual check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for literally hundreds of other menu plan blog posts.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Malibu & Coconut Truffles

Mmmm, chocolate...

Ok, so I almost managed to follow this recipe. Everything except the outside coating.
This is from Taste.Com.Au, and they are supposed to have a white chocolate coating with coconut. I used dark chocolate because that's what my sister likes, and I made these for her birthday. (Yes, I know the kids and I made her fudge too - it's her birthday, and I like to cook ok? And I like to cook sweet things. Especially when I can give them away and not have them sitting around the house taunting me until I eat them.)

As you can see above, I coated them all in dark chocolate, then I rolled five in coconut (the bright white ones reflecting the camera flash glare), five in a mixture of cocoa and icing sugar (because dark choc is bitter enough without adding pure cocoa) and two were rolled in very fine crunchy cake crumbs, from the failed parts of the mud cake I baked earlier.

This was the most time consuming, fiddly, finicky recipe I'd ever used. It took 4 days, and the centres still never firmed up properly. I had to coat these by leaving the tray in the freezer, pulling them out one at a time, then putting the finished product straight back into the freezer on another tray. The filling tasted great, there was just too much alcohol for it to set properly. I'd use it again, as it's a great flavour combination, but I think I'll provide strawberries and other fruit, and use it as a dessert fondue recipe. She's just lucky she's worth it, that's all I can say.

Pioneer Woman's Lasagna

Miss Two's serving

I'm not having a great amount of luck with my Pioneer Woman's recipes I've tried. Her site is full of great sounding dishes, and lovely clear step-by-step photos, and thousands of comments from happy cooks. But I'm afraid they just don't do it for me. I tried the Apple Dumplings, and while they were diet-destroyingly good, DP had one, and didn't think that much of them. Likewise with her Lasagna. It was very nice, but I feel I've had nicer, and although it's touted as having caused marriage proposals, I think I could make a nicer one. Ok, so I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but we don't have breakfast sausage here, and I straight out refuse to buy or eat powered Kraft Parmesan cheese. Two points I'd like to make right here to all the Americans reading, and I say this knowing full well it may put some of you off my blog forever, but it needs to be said. Cheese is not orange, and it is not a powder. Sorry. I'll get off my soap box now.

Ok, anyway, I thought I'd take this opportunity to show you all how I cook these days. It's all very sophisticated. At our last house I used to just bring the recipe up on my computer screen and then run in and out of the computer room to the kitchen while I was cooking to consult the recipe. I was connected to a printer, but it only printed with special ink, and I couldn't use the network printer for some reason. Well, those days are gone. I can print through the network on the laser printer now, and all my recipes go on the fridge while I'm cooking.

Miss Two underneath my printed out recipe

I'll let you go to Pioneer Woman's site for the recipe, since she made it up it only seems fair to let her get the traffic for it. But I did make a few tweaks. I can't help myself, even when I try so hard to copy a recipe it ends up different.

To start with, the quantities seemed very high, so I thought I'd make two smaller ones, after all, I'm not feeding a cowboy and who knows how many ranch hands. I also didn't precook my lasagna noodles. And they were perfectly al dente. I also substituted tarragon for the dried parsley, but only used half the amount. I was going to buy dried parsley, but DP told me not to - apparently the back yard is teeming with it. He said he'd pick me some, but I have yet to see any myself, outside or inside. I substituted grated parmesan for the powdered stuff, and full fat cottage cheese. Next time I think I'd make bechamel sauce, it's really not that hard, and add fresh parmesan to that, as it gave slight flavour to the white which is normally quite bland. I didn't dislike the cottage cheese, but it didn't do anything spectacular for the flavour either.

I almost followed the recipe for assembly, I placed a layer of noodles, then the cottage cheese mixture, then grated mozzarella (because I've never seen mozzarella slices here), but then I placed a layer of noodles in between the cheese and meat, because the two shouldn't meet in a lasagna - well, that's just the way my mum did it. I prefer nice thick layers too, so I only attempted one layer each of meat and cheese, especially as I was splitting the lot between two pans. The one we had tonight also got a layer of baby spinach inbetween the cottage cheese mix and the mozzarella, just because I thought it would be nice. I didn't put it in the other pan though, because I didn't think it would freeze well. Pity, because it cut through the richness a little.
On top of the meat, I used the rest of the mozzarella, plus what was left over of a bag of grated tasty I had in the fridge, and a few handfuls of the grated parmesan for good measure.

This was incredibly tasty, but mostly because of the mozzarella and parmesan. I think in future I'd make a bechamel sauce, and use my usual pasta sauce recipe for the meat part, perhaps with some basil (now that I have it in the house) and some tarragon... have I mentioned this week yet how much I'm loving that herb at the moment? lol

Before baking

Mixed Berry Mudcake

Adapted from the August/September 2001 issue of Super Food Ideas.

Mixed Berry Mudcake
250g butter
250g Nestle Club Mixed Berry flavoured chocolate
2 tbsp instant coffee
1 1/2 cups SR flour
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp Galliano
Chocolate Sour Cream Icing
60g dark choc
a knob of butter (I think it would have been about 10g?)
1/4 cup sour cream
blueberries, or other berries to garnish

Melt butter, chocolate and coffee in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Sift the flours, cocoa and soda into a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre and then pour in combined eggs, milk and Galliano. Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients, and then blend in the chocolate mixture. Pour into a greased and base-lined 22cm deep round cake tin.

Bake at 160°C for 1 - 1 1/4 hours, or until cooked when tested with a skewer. It may look slightly wet, but remove from oven unless the centre looks raw.

To make the icing melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl. Microwave or over hot water, I'll leave that up to you. I added some icing sugar because my 70% dark chocolate was very bitter. I don't know how much, maybe 1/4 cup? Once you add the sour cream the icing will start to set so be ready to work quick. Spread across the top of the cake and garnish with berries.

Now, I had some real issues with this cake. Most likely because I only have one round cake tin. I think it is 22cm, but it was nowhere near deep enough. The batter filled the tin, leaving no room to rise. Perhaps I should have called this volcano cake, because it sure erupted in my oven! Even after it had done dripping everywhere, I had trouble getting it to cook in the centre. The top had formed a thick crunchy crust, but the middle underneath was still raw, even after 1 3/4 hours. I ended up breaking that up, flipping the pieces over so the raw side would cook, and upping the temperature to 180°C for another 15 minutes.

Broken disaster cake

Hopefully you'll have a bigger cake tin, and maybe a fan forced oven, and won't have all those problems. I'm pretty sure I can just slice the ragged edges off and ice the bottom though. I'll leave it in the fridge overnight, wrapped in gladwrap, and ice before taking it to my sister's birthday tomorrow.

The bottom isn't so bad

Normally I wouldn't tell you to buy or use a specific product by brand, but the Mixed Berry flavoured dark chocolate is so tasty, and no one else makes it. I had so much success using it in brownies that I had to give it a go in this cake. The original recipe just called for dark chocolate, and added glace cherries just before adding to the tin, to make Cherry Mud Cake (also using Frangelico instead of Galliano) but I'm not as big a cherry fan as I am of berries.

***I took this to the party and it went over a treat! My brother even told me that was how to make Black Forest Cake - and here I thought that was made with cherries! ;) So it was worth the hassles in the end. It tasted great too! I forgot to take a photo of the finished cake, but one of my sisters did, so I'll add that up when she emails it to me***

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cauliflower soup and Tomato Quinoa Bread

Very tasty

Now I've blogged upand down about my Cauliflower Soup, so I'm not going to do it again tonight. Besides, I menu planned this particular soup to go with the bread tonight, as that is the real star. I saw an intriguing recipe for Tomato-Quinoa Bread over at Kitchen Confit which I though would be balanced nicely by the tasty but not overly complicated soup. (It was)

Now, you all know me, I'm pretty lazy when it comes to doing things the old fashioned way, especially if I have a gadget for it. And I also never have bread flour in the house, buying, as I do, bread mix instead. So without further ado, I present an adapted recipe for:

Bread Machine Tomato Quinoa Bread
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1 cup seasoned vegetable juice - such as V8
1/2 cup quinoa
1 pound bread mix

Place all ingredients in bread machine and cook on your preffered setting. I used medium crust, but I think perhaps I should have done dark, as only the quinoa in the centre was cooked. Which is fine, if you are after a multi-grain crunch type thing happening, but I wasn't expecting that, and so was a little disappointed. Also a problem was I didn't remember to buy the V8 when I did my non-Aldi shop, and so I used the juice from a can of whole peeled tomatoes that is for tomorrow's lasagna. This didn't give much of a tomato-y flavour to the bread, just made it a delicate pink colour.

My dodgy camera could not do justice to the lovely pink colour

There is only two slices left, which I plan on having for lunch tomorrow. Master Four ate two pieces, Miss Two ate and and a half, and all the soft bits off the crust that she could scrape. So almost two full slices? Even DP said it was nice, but I don't know if he'd ask for it to be cooked again. I think I might, because quinoa is so good for you, and I have a whole packet here with only 1/2 cup taken out of it. Look out for some more quinoa dishes coming next fortnight! I might have some help finding these, at the Round Up to Let It Grain!. This is a brand new event from Baking A Sweet Life and I'm really looking forward to it. I used to cook with quinoa all the time when Master Four was only one, before we moved across the other side of Melbourne and I didn't know where to find it anymore. Now we are down in Geelong, and this was just the kick in the rear end I needed to go out and find a new source! Anyway, if you're a keen quinoa fan, (hehe) then post your recipes over thatta way until September 1st, and I'll see you at the round up on September 6th.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kids Cooking Thursday: Chocolate Banana Bread

I didn't get a chance to take a photo of this, as it was quickly demolished almost straight from the oven. Master Four and I didn't like it that much, it was that same 70% dark choc again, and that will teach me not to cook with chocolate I wouldn't eat raw. But DP and my mother both polished off two slices each, Miss Two finished hers and picked at Master Four's and Mum took two slices home for Dad as well. So then it was gone, with not a single photo taken after it came out of the oven.

Tasty looking batter

Bill Granger's Chocolate Banana Bread(taken from delicious Aug 2002)
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup caster sugar
3 medium bananas, mashed
125g butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips (or in our case about 125g roughly chopped dark chocolate - it still was 1 cup worth though)
icing sugar, to dust

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a loaf pan. (24x13x7cm size)
Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl and add the sugar.
In a seperate bowl mix the bananas, butter, eggs, vanilla and choc chips. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour (
or in our case, blob) into loaf pan and bake for an hour and a quarter. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm - "so that all the chocolate is molten inside. It also keeps really well; just reheat slices in the microwave for a few seconds before serving."

Look at Master Four with his digital camera - he's gonna be a food blogger I can tell!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jumping on the bandwagon... Yeah, I'd eat that!

The Omnivore's Hundred.

Discovered at Very Good Taste; a list of things he thinks every omnivore should eat. Everyone seems to be posting this one at the moment, so I'll be a lemming too. I'm not a seafood eater, not for any reason other than I generally don't like the taste, but I'll try (almost) anything once. I have it on good authority that Haggis is disgusting, but as long as I'm allowed to pit it out if I agree, then I'm willing to give it a go. I'v only eaten 25, but with only one cross off, I willing to get that higher!

What he wants you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bailey's Chocolate Fudge

Or, A cop out on dinner, and some birthday goodies...

My Menu plan was posted only 5 hours ago, and I'm already changing things. I slept in pretty badly this morning, I actually got up after the MPM post went up (yay for scheduling!). So having a slow cooked meal to day was out of the question, unless we wanted to eat at 10pm. So it's Freezer Suprise tonight as well, but as tomorrow is my sister's birthday, the kids and I made some goodies I've been planning to make for ages, but never got around to. To be fair, one of my other sisters' sons was going to come around and make it with me, but he got alternately sick, busy, lazy, and busy again.

Head over to for the recipe. I used 70% organic chocolate, which made it a little dark for my tastes, but my sister likes really dark chocolate, so that's ok.

Menu Plan Monday

Monday Beef with Mushroom & Sundried Tomato (slow cooker)
Tuesday Freezer Suprise
Wednesday Beef Olives (slow cooker)
Thursday Chicken and Vegetable Pies, Caramel Rice Pudding (slow cooker)
Friday Cauliflower Soup with Tomato Quinoa Bread
Saturday Pioneer Woman's Lasagna
Sunday Croquettes

Only Monday and Thursday last week made it as planned, everything else got shuffled around. We are on a new schedule of shopping now, Fridays instead of Wednesdays, so that threw a spanner into the works, and I discovered that the shopping list was way too long, and likely to go over budget, so I switched some things around a bit and added in some frozen leftover meals to the plan. On the plus side, this means a bit more relaxed week for me.

As usual check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for literally hundreds of other menu plan blog posts.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Red" Pasta

Again, I am unashamedly cooking a meal purely for a blog event. This time, it's not even something we would normally eat. I made this up specifically for the Food in Colours event. I was going to submit the Strawberry Cupcakes the kids and I made two weeks ago, but submissions had to be vegetarian (no eggs), so there went that idea. At least I saved a lot of food colouring, in making them pink and not red ;)

I was planning on using sun dried tomatoes in this, but chickened out at the last minute because I know DP doesn't like them. So, this was simplicity in itself. I boiled up some penne, and when it was done, added a jar of char grilled marinated capsicum strips, some red wine, a little balsamic vinegar (almost red!), some delicious tomato paste with basil and oregano in it, and about two tablespoons of garden vegetable pasta sauce, only because the pasta wasn't 'red' enough for my liking, and the sauce was very thin. I dished a bowl up for DP, and then added fresh tomato wedges. I quite raw tomato in my cooking, especially pastas, because you get a bit of texture, and a little burst of freshness. DP doesn't like his tomatoes raw though, that's why I served him first.

The funniest thing was, even though it was so simple, everyone loved it! Maybe less really is more!

This was an entry for Food In Colours: Red
***Round up is here***

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Slow Cooking Thursday - Chicken & Mushrooms

Chicken with Mushrooms
2 tablespoons of oil
1kg chicken thigh fillets, diced
250g button mushrooms, sliced
2 small leeks
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp of salt
2 tbsp of plain flour
3/4 cup of cream
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Heat oil in non-stick pan. Add chicken in batches and cook over a medium heat until lightly browned. Place chicken in the removable crockpot.
2. Top chicken with mushrooms, leeks, wine, stock, pepper, and salt. Cover with lid and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high 4-5 hours.
3. Stir in blended flour, cream and sour cream 1 hour before end of cooking. Replace lid and continue cooking.

I served this with rice, and it was so good, I threw roughly a cup of rice into the slow cooker with the leftovers, and cooked on slow for another 4 hours, resulted in a lovely risotto. I stirred it once or twice, I should have stirred it a little more often than that, as some of the rice didn't get under the liquid often enough to cook as well as I'd like. I'm looking forward to the leftovers!

Master Four tucking in

Miss Two not sure it will taste better than it looked (she finished the whole plateful though!)

Kids Cooking Thursday: Fruit Salad Bread

This week for Kids Cooking Thursday, we made something for breakfasts. Since the first thing I do of a morning is feed Master 2-Month-Old a bottle, I don't generally get time for a sit down breakfast. In fact, I usually don't even get to drink a coffee until he's finished, which can be up to an hour later. So if I want breakfast, I have to be able to grab it and eat it, in the time it takes for the kettle to boil, and then hot water to heat the bottle. (about 3 minutes all up) Hence the cupcake sized bread. That, and I only had one loaf pan.

This recipe lovingly stolen from Cookie Baker Lynn. You can check out her original recipe at that link, the recipe below reflects how we cooked it.

Fruit Salad Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour
1-3/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1-1/2 cups fruit juice (I used Apple & Mango with a Hint of Lemon Myrtle)
3 cups mixed chopped fruit* (We used 3/4 punnet strawberries, 3/4 of an apple, 1/2 a banana, and 225g dried apricots.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease 2- 9 x 5 inch loaf pans (or one, and put out 20 patty pan cases into muffin tins). Realise you have no baking paper, so you can't cut pieces of parchment paper to fit in the bottom and up the sides of the pans, or put the parchment paper in the pans and grease.
Or you could read the recipe properly before committing to cook it, and buy paper, then you could actually do that step. I didn't.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl; rub in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a medium bowl, toss the fruit with 1/4 cup of the flour mixture.

Combine eggs and juice in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour mixture, stirring well. Gently fold in the fruit.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and the rest into the paper cases. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. For cupcake/muffin sized, that's about 20 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove the bread from pans, peel off the parchment paper, and let cool on wire racks. Leave the paper on if you have cupcake sized, it'll help keep them moist for longer.

* Note on fruit- If you're using leftover fruit that's very juicy, put it in a sieve to drain off the excess juice. You could use that juice, combined with confectioner's sugar to make a glaze for the warm bread.

Yield: 2 loaves

This was a little more detailed than most of our Thursday recipes, but the kids took it in their stride. Above you see Miss Two setting out the patty cases. Our mix was fairly stiff, it was more of a blob operation, than a case of pouring the batter. I really recommend the Native Blend juice we used, it gave a lovely lemony, limey, mango taste to the bread, and the most divine smell to the uncooked batter. The Apple, Strawberry and Rosella Flower flavour would have worked equally well I think. Perhaps we should make another batch to see. :)

This was an entry for August MBP: Fruit Fare, hosted by My Diverse Kitchen. Monthly Blog Patrol was dreamt up by Coffee @ The Spice Cafe.
***The Round-up is here***

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mini Quiches - Retro Blog Party

Mini Quiches

It's Blog Party time again!
Stephanie over at Dispensing Happiness has been running Blog Party for 3 years now. I've managed to attend once. I almost made it to the Chocolate Party in June with our Mini Mars Bar Cheesecakes, as I know Stephanie has a weak spot for cheesecake, but I never managed to blog a chocolate drink in time. Well, I had big plans, but Master 2-Month-Old's arrival and the moving of house a week later kinda interfered with those (in the nicest way). But now that I am back in the swing of blogging again, and keeping up to date with all my favourite foodies, I felt I should at least attempt to attend this month.

Stephanie describes the theme thusly:
For the purpose of Blog Party, 'retro' refers to the period from 1920 through the late 1960's. Other people may have their own ideas, but they're not running this blog, are they?!?

So, anything from my parents first twelve years of marriage then. I asked my parents what they were eating around then, and they suggested quiche. We eat quiche quite often, in fact the kids help me make it almost everytime we have it for dinner, so I thought this would be a nice dish. (It doesn't hurt that Master I-won't-eat-egg Four is more likely to eat the small ones!)

Making a big rectangle one for dinner.

"Look, I know it's your turn, but you are pouring too slow!"

The recipe is back here, the only difference to these ones were I had no onion, so I used half a green capsicum instead. They weren't quite as nice as usual, but I think I got away with it.

"I'm not sure this one is good enough for Blog Party Mum, I might have to eat it."

Two year old not included, shown for size illustrative purposes only

Go join in the retro fun here until the 21st, and look for the round up around Saturday. (Here it is)
Ooooh, almost forgot a drink. (That always gets me with blog party!)
Well, period or not, we served these with glasses of water and mugs of coffee. I'm still not on alcohol yet, so jello shots were out of the question, and somehow I doubt they were around back then, despite everything having 'jello' back then. How about I take a page out of last month's theme then, and instead of Blogger's Choice, I make it Reader's Choice? I'm sure you can all think of something more exciting than coffee. Though to come to think of it, a lot of the old photos of Mum and Dad when they were young had people drinking coffee. Or at least, something out of coffee cups, but I'll give them all the benefit of the doubt ;)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Braised Steak and Onions

My slow cooker is my new best friend

Since having children, well, since moving out of home really, I've been trying to cook a lot of my favourites of Mum's dishes. Steak & Onions in particular I really loved, but somehow I just could not get it right. Tonight was no exception, but I'm getting a lot closer, and at least we didn't have to eat onion flavoured shoe leather. I tried this dish using my slow cooker, and the only problem was there was too much water at the end, which would not have nearly been so bad had I not run out of gravy powder.
Steak & Onions
500g stewing/braising/blade/whatever steak
500g or more onions
40ml vinegar

Fry the steak brown and then cover it with water and let it simmer until it just about falls to bits. Take out of the sop. and cut very fine. Put aside. Fry the onions slowly, until nice and brown. Add them to the meat. Add vinegar and let the whole lot simmer for a few more minutes.
Thicken with gravy mix, stir while you are adding the gravy mix. Serve with mashed potato.

Or at least, that's what my mother emailed to me. I used a kilo of chuck steak, browned in the frying pan and then placed in the slow cooker straight away on Low, with the vinegar and just enough water to cover. Then I fried 1kg onions in the same frypan (in batches), tipping them into the slow cooker after each batch browned. Then I deglazed the pan with some more water, and tipped that in too. That brought the water up to cover the onions, which was too much. Next time I'll just cover the meat, and it'll be perfect.

I've said before that the best thing about a slow cooker is the wonderful smells through the house all day. And while that held true today, the best thing about a slow cooker is actually the luxury of getting to mid-afternoon and not needing to do half a dozen things so that dinner can be prepared, and getting to late afternoon and not having to frantically rush around, cooking and feeding and cleaning and screaming... ah, I mean... it's nice to be able to spend time with the kids, and not just around the kids. Not only does everyone have more fun, you can get some great photos too.

Miss Two loves to dance!

Weekend Eats

If you need me to tell you how to assemble a burger or make mac and cheese, I think you're at the wrong blog. I won't teach you how to boil water either. ;) Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying those meals aren't post worthy, it's just that this time I bought premade burger patties from the butcher, and used packet mix mac and cheese. What? Don't give me that look, it was the weekend. Besides, for lunch yesterday we had Rabbit Mornay with steamed veg and fried potato slices. Both the children even ate a *shudder* steamed Brussel Sprout each. I didn't cook that though - we went to Mum's for lunch. So they plenty of 'real' food enough to be able to justify Pasta with Orange chemical sauce for dinner.

But since it's habit now to take a photo of every meal I cook, and the burgers looked so great, I thought I'd share our last two meals with you anyway.

I thought these burgers looked just like ones on tv

With very 'rustic' oven baked wedges

Mac & Cheese - my camera doesn't like the new tablecloth

Menu Plan Monday

Monday Braised Steak & Onions (slow cooker)
Tuesday Mini Quiches
Wednesday 'Red' Pasta
Thursday Chicken and Mushrooms (slow cooker)
Friday Chickpea & Leek soup with h/made rolls
Saturday Pasta with Meatballs
Sunday Beef with Mushroom & Sun-dried Tomato (slow cooker)

Lots of extra 'baking' this week, lots of blog events, and lots of bulk lots for freezing. Come back on or around the day listed for the recipes or links, as well as photos and children's opinions.

As usual check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for literally hundreds of other menu plan blog posts.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dutch Pea Soup with Stuffed Crust Rolls.

Soup and Cheesy Rolls

One of the first soup recipes I wanted to try when I started the soups on Fridays for Winter was my mother's pea and ham soup. Not that we referred to the ham, to us it was just 'pea soup' and very tasty. I've gone as far as to put this on my menu plan several times, but for one reason or another, I hadn't gotten around to making it until today. Here is the recipe as my mother emailed it to me.

Dutch Pea Soup
1 Smoked Hock
500g green split peas
2 large leeks or 500g onions = 6 onions
3-4 celery sticks
4 beef cubes
3-4 litres of water
2 potatoes opt.

Place hock in water and bring to the boil and let simmer for about 2 hours or until the meat falls of the bone. (I usually do it in the evening.) When the meat is cooked take it out of the water turn the heat off and place your split peas in the water and leave over night.
The next day bring the peas to the boil and then place all the finely cut vegetables in it with the beef cubes too. Let it simmer for about 1-1 1/2 hours until the vegetables and the peas are well cooked. I personally then bamix it all very fine. Only then do I put the finely cut pieces of meat in it that I cut off the bone etc.

Mum was here today and she looked after the kids while I made this - it was nice to cook for a change without having to answer endless questions about ingredients, methods and the nature of the universe from Master Four.

I'm too cute for soup - can I have dessert now?

Hey, I can be cute too, can I skip as well?

I forgot the beef cubes, but didn't really notice the difference in taste. The potatoes really aren't optional, this soup needs to be thick, like a winter scarf.

Piping hot rolls - if you look closely you can see where the cheese leaked

With the soup, I made the usual bread rolls, but stuffed the inside with some grated cheese just for something different. The kids both ate all of their two rolls each, which was a first, so I guess that's a keeper.

Chocolate Mess and ice cream

I promised you all a special slow cooker dessert tonight, and here it is. I found this in a slow cooker recipe thread on a parenting forum I used to frequent. It sounded so interesting I had to try it.

Chocolate Mess - Posted by Sarah_H
1 pkg chocolate cake mix
1 220g container sour cream
1 pkg instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
1 cup water

Spray crock pot with non-stick cooking spray.
Mix cake mix, sour cream, pudding mix, chocolate chips, oil, eggs and water in bowl by hand. Pour into crock pot.
Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours (or high 3-4 hours).
Serve hot or warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

Freshly cooked mess