Category Archives: Eating In

Australians just don’t do red velvet

So I was asked to make red velvet macarons for a friend’s hen’s night. So yes, play dough penises and drinking games abounded. The problem was, I loaned my piping bag to someone so they could ice cupcakes. Instead, I make red velvet cookies. I found the link here, but I warn you, it’s very spammy so you’ll need to exit out of a lot of ads.

I really don’t get the appeal of adding FOUR tablespoons of synthetic dyes when without the dyes, you would have had a perfectly fine white chocolate cookie, but that’s just me I guess. I now have a bottle of red food dye. Perhaps a non-edible dying project is in order?

They turned out a little fugly (ok, a lot fugly, but I was taking them out of the oven 5 minutes before I had to be there- I was rushed!) but I was told they taste like Subway cookies.

Complement? I think it was intended as such.

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Christmas doesn’t have to end yet- Chocolate bark

So I couldn’t fit this post in before Christmas, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy chocolate any time of year (amiright?). Obviously. I made these for colleagues for Christmas- my boss can only enjoy Gluten Free goodies and it’s easier to make something that’s gluten free for everybody. Last year I made fudge.

This was surprisingly easy to make. I got a bit nervous about working with chocolate, but it was not difficult at all. I found that a glass bowl helped (I bought one for the occasion but have been meaning to for years). If you want this to be GOOD, use the best possible chocolate you can afford. I used some cheaper white and dark chocolate, and thought it shows. The milk chocolate was divine and make the almond bark great.

It really is simple: Melt chocolate, spread into a pan lined with baking/grease proof paper (no oil or spraying needed). Press goodies on of your choice into the chocolate (I had one with almonds and the other with candy canes) and let set in the fridge. When firm (doesn’t take long at all) melt a second (different) chocolate and spread this over the top. Put back in the fridge. When set, break into large chunks.

Naturally, if you use vegan chocolate, it will be vegan and if you check your candy canes or other mix-ins are gluten free, then your bark will be gluten free.

I made a dark chocolate, almond and milk chocolate bark (definitely the best- the quality of the milk chocolate shone through) and a dark chocolate, candy cane and blogs of white chocolate “snow” one. I also made one serious “block” of chocolate, broke it in half and gave it to good friends at work. I gave these in little noodle boxes wrapped with curling ribbon. I would also try some different mix-ins. You could add mini marshmallows, coconut and glace cherries/turkish delight and make rocky road style bark, or lolly bananas and peanuts (yum!), or dried fruit if you want to be Christmas festive. Don’t you just think you could throw a chunk or two of this into hot milk?! Maybe when it’s colder!

I was hoping to make this for family as well as colleagues, but here’s the thing: it’s too bloody hot to make chocolate gifts in Australia if you’re not sure about refrigeration! Baking something is much easier.

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, luckily it’s still nice and cold and this will keep out of the fridge if you wish.

Enjoy!

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Culinary debauchery: Savoury baked brie!

So I have been seeing sinfully delightful things like baked brie on Pinterest lately (damn you, Pinterest!) and decided that one day, I would try that. Then some friends came round for seasonal jollies and I decided that, as part of a cheese plate, I would make a baked brie.

I got waaaay too excited about this and posted on Facebook: I’m baking a mother f***ing brie tonight. Kitchen and cholesterol bad-ass.

Yeah, I was excited. And lame.

But the problem was, I don’t really like sweet things with my cheese. I’m not a quince paste and grapes with my cheese kinda girl (although I don’t mind a slice of apple or pear) and so I thought I’d make this savoury. I studded the brie with cloves of garlic and rosemary sprigs, rolled that bad-boy in a sheet of store bought puff pastry, added pretty pastry leaves and left it in the fridge in cling wrap until I needed to bake it. It turned out great and between my recent dinner party, Ben’s amazing pizza dough that we took to a pizza party and the brie, I think we’ve established ourselves as kicking ass in the kitchen with these group of people.

If you ever want maximum effect for minimal effort, this is your dish.

Enjoy.

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Morning Sunshine!

So I try to be healthy, but I am terribly lazy. Living in an apartment also means I don’t feel like turning on the blender or juicer at 6 in the morning. I want my neighbours to like me. So when I saw this raw cacao chia pudding recipe on Pinterest that requires no equipment besides a tablespoons and a jar, I knew I had to try it.

I’ve never used chia before. I knew that when you soak them, they swell up and go gelatinous. Well they certainly did! They reminded me of tomato seeds with the gel sack around them. My breakfast gets made while I’m asleep and I can eat it at home or take it to work. Chia is so darn good for you, I can’t believe I haven’t tried it before. I think I’ve found a good 2014 breakfast to obsess over.

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CHOC CHIA PUDDING

INGREEDIENTS:

2 tbs chia seeds (I used white chia, which is actually grey)

1 cup milk (I used homemade almond milk [always using Sarah B’s recipe] but you don’t have to be that committed).

I tbs raw cacao (I used two because I apparently can’t read recipes)

Sweetener of your choice (I used raw honey from Stanthorpe but of course you could use a vegan option)

Add-ins of your choice (I used banana and coconut, but will be buying blueberries and strawberries soon. I would also add sunflower or pepitas or chopped almonds, but I already added almond pulp, as you can read below).

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My other variation:

As I had just made almond milk, I added two tablespoons of the almond pulp leftover from that. It adds some bulk and nutrients and means that the almond pulp doesn’t go to waste (although it’s a great addition to hummus as well).

 

DO:

Stick everything but the fruit/coconut in a jar. Shake well (very well!). Leave in fridge overnight and then add fruit or other add ins of your choice. Use a bigger jar than me. I was adding sliced banana bit by bit. I’ll have to find a good sized jar to take this to work in.

What does it taste like?

Hmmm… well as I said, I added too much cacao, so it had this intense, dark chocolate flavour. The bitterness of the cacao was perfect with the sweetness of the banana. I’d use less cacao just to stretch it further next time. You can never hoard too much cacao.

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Enjoy!

 

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Ben’s baked eggs

So this is probably the last eggy dish in an unofficial egg series of blogs. This was something I whipped up for Ben when he was feeling ill. It’s the easiest, most versatile thing ever.

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  • Grease a ramekin
  • Add veggies of your choice (I added leftover sauteed spinach with garlic and ricotta)
  • Season
  • Bake until eggs whites are cooked to your liking (anywhere between 20-40 minutes, depending on your oven).
  • Eat.

You could also add cheese, or make them more Spanish by adding a tomatoey sauce at the bottom of the dish.

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Simple. Great if you’re feeling ill or lazy.

 

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Easy Quiche for lazy people (aka me)

So I think the final frontier for ex-vegans eating eggs again is quiche. I’m not sure why, but I’d take a poached egg over quiche any day of the week, even though you’d think a poached egg is more “eggy”.

I’ve wanted to create something freezable for work and thought I’d give quiche a try, but also didn’t want to spend ages making bases. Then it hit me, from the packet of mountain bread I buy for me breakfast wraps:

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And so, dear readers, that is exactly what I made. I doubled it for lunchable goodness. When cold, I wrapped them individually in foil and froze.

Has this made me love eggs? Alas, no. I have been eating fewer eggs these days, reserving them for breakfasts, but Ben loves quiche and even as I type told me he was going to defrost a piece for lunch today.

So not quite delicious in my eyes, but if you already like egg, you might really like this recipe.

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Vego Dinner Party for Non-Vegos

So I had some work people over for a dinner party. None of them were vego or ever ate much vego food, so I wanted to impress. No pressure.

I think cooking for non-vegos is an interesting challenge. I want them to be full, but I don’t want to simply replace a steak with a mock-meat and most importantly, I want it to be delicious.

After thinking about my guests, I decided to compromise on the mock-meat rule and serve vego sausages.

The other great thing about my choice is that most of it can be taken care of in advance and all you need to do is cook the polenta and serve up the icecream at the end.

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The main course was a recipe I found in the newspaper years ago. It’s a Matt Preston recipe I adapted for vegos by swapping the sausage for vego sausage. I forgot to add on my menu that it would be served with a fennel salad with a tomato mustard dressing and a rocket salad. The first time I made this, I used regular mushrooms instead of porcini and it still turned out brilliantly. As you can see, the page is a bit worn and splattered from use.

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I’m pretty organised in the kitchen. I didn’t spend all day on this and I didn’t go any prep the day before, which I’ll also try to do if there are lots of steps.

I didn’t start shopping until after midday.

I went to the Swiss Deli Cafe on Boundary Street and bought porcini mushrooms and a nice piece of Australian pecorino.

At Coles, I bought the rest of the ingredients.

At home, I broke the prep into stages: Chopping and veg prep, making the dressing, making the sauce, preparing everything for later.

Chopping and veg prep:

From left to right: Onion waiting to go into the sausage sauce, bowl ready for tomato prepping, fennel all cut and ready to store until the night, scraps bin. I used my food processor to get the fennel sliced finely. Chunky fennel is a bit intense. In the other photo are porcini mushrooms soaking. When drained, you reserve the liquid for the sauce and chop the mushrooms finely. They smell amazing! Regular mushrooms are fine too.

Making the dressing:

The dressing a combination of the tomato gel sacks discarded from the sauce (from about 4 good sized tomatoes), a squeeze of lemon, 1/2 tsp of mustard and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. You strain the dressing to remove the tomato seeds and press the gel through the sieve to get the most flavours.

Making the sauce:

Very easy. Brown two onions in olive oil and a little butter, add the sausage and brown, add the porcini, add the tomatoes, cook whilst stirring for a few minutes, add the porcini soaking water and simmer (I reserved half of the liquid for reheating).

Preparing everything for later:

Firstly I lined up my extra porcini water, measured out my polenta, grated my parmesan for the polenta, shaved my pecorino for serving, chopped and crumbled my dutch gingerbread biscuits, did the dishes, and left the kitchen. The fun part is preparing the table.

I didn’t start any prep until 3, but had from 5-6.30 to get ready and relax in time for our guests to turn up at 7. After cheeses and entrees (which my guests brought along with a bottle of Mumm champagne!), I cooked the polenta (which takes 20-30 minutes but as our kitchen and dining are the same room, remains social and easy to do).

I didn’t take a photo, but to serve, I grabbed a big board and tipped polenta down the middle, making a well. The sauce got pored over the top and then the pecorino goes on top. As it’s plonked down on the table, it got many “oohs” and “ahhs”, which is pretty much crack to a home cook. Eight people were invited, six turned up, but there was enough for about 10 reasonable eaters (or 6-8 starving people). We couldn’t finish nearly all over it and I sent people home with leftovers.

Sweets were chopped gingerbread biscuits with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream and gingerbread crumbles over the top, with a shot of black coffee poured over, affogato style. It’s super easy, requires no baking or fuss and was delicious. The coffee (a triple shot long black bought earlier in the day at a local cafe) runs over the ice cream into the biscuit below and makes it all gooey. Heaven.

As I clear plates, I rinse and stack them. When guests are gone we take out the rubbish, tidy everything away and wipe down benches and tables. It was too late to do dishes without disturbing the neighbours, but they are neatly stacked and ready to go the next day. This is the cooking equivalent of taking your makeup off before bed- it saves you a lot of heart ache, even if it’s a pain sometimes.

This is really a fancy, maximum impact dinner for little work.

Leave out the dairy in the polenta and sausage sauce topping and choose vegan cheeses and ice cream and it’s a vegan meal, too!

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Sweet Potato Protein Bites

So I’ve been cooking a lot with eggs lately. It’s starting to wind down a bit, but I have a few recipes that I’ve had fun playing with and will share.

The first is a packed lunchboxer’s delight and super easy.

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Ingreedients:

Grated sweet potato (will depend on the size of you muffin trays. I used a medium and a small)

Half as many eggs as you have muffin holes (I have 12 muffin holes, so I used 6 eggs)

Salt and pepper to taste

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Do:

  1. Spray, grease or line your muffins pans (I spray but they always get stuck)
  2. Place a few tablespoons of sweet potato in each muffin hole, aiming to divide evenly
  3. Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Season with salt and pepper (I also added herbs).
  4. Divide egg mixture evenly over sweet potato. At this point, you could add a sprinkle of cheese top, but I chose not to.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes in a medium-high oven, until egg is solid and sweet potato is tender.

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Turn out at eat, or save for lunchboxes.

 

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Super Duper Easy Chickpea Rissoles

So this is one of the easiest recipes in the world. I make them regularly and they’re full of protein and very flexible on the flavour balance.

I like to make these on the weekend and eat them for lunches. They freeze well and are nice hot or cold. I took this batch to a picnic on a perfect Sunday afternoon. Very yum.

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inGREEDients:

2 cans of chickpeas

2 eggs (if you want to make these lower calories, just use egg whites. I hate waste).

4 tbls flour

4 tbls parsley or other greens floating around (spinach, coriander, etc.)

Cumin, paprika, ground coriander

Salt and Pepper

Any other spices or flavours that you fancy

 

DO:

Drains and rinse the chickpeas. Chuck those puppies in the food processor and give them a blitz to get them started. Add all the other ingredients and blend until sticky (you may want to mix more or less depending on what texture you like).

Roll into balls or patties and bake on a well oiled tray until outside is crispy.

These are really nice with sweet chilli sauce. I had them the other day with a spinach and feta dip and they were delicious. You could also put this in felafel.

Makes about 2 dozen balls, depending on how small you roll them.

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So easy, you won’t have any excuses not to try them and report back!

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