Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Meat Free Week Recipe Round-up

Did you know that this week is Meat Free Week? This national campaign that runs annually aims to raise awareness of how the meat we eat effects our health, the environment and animals. It also helps to raise money for worthwhile charities by challenging you to go meat-free for a week.
 
I am by NO means a vegetarian but I do like to be conscious of the amount of meat our family eats and also buy ethically farmed meat as much as possible.
 
Interested in reading more? Head over to www.meatfreeweek.org.
 
If you are thinking of embarking on the challenge or even just adding some meat-free options to your repertoire I've gathered a few of my recent ones, thrown in a new one and added a couple of sweet treats! Enjoy!


Eggplant Parmigiana (top left)
Kale Walnut Pesto (top right)
Walnut and L.S.A. Biscuits (middle left)
Vegetable Fritters (See recipe below)
Zucchini and Chocolate Cupcakes (middle right)
Zucchini and Cheese Spelt Scones (bottom left)
Spinach and Ricotta Parcels (bottom right)


Vegetable Fritters

Ingredients

2 cups grated vegetables (I used pumpkin, capsicum and carrot)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
Salt & Pepper
60g feta cheese diced
1 egg

 

Method

1. Grate vegetables and squeeze out any excess moisture
2. Whisk together milk and egg
3. Stir flour into vegetables until coated, stir in feta
4. Pour in milk and egg and mix to combine, season with salt and pepper
5. Heat oil in frypan, drop heaped spoonfuls of mixture (equivalent to 3 tbsp) to pan, flatten fritters slightly and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side
6. Transfer to plate lined with paper towel
7. Serve with yoghurt

As always linking up with Lila from Little Wolff for Meat-less Monday!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Things I collect...Leaf plates

Yep you read right, serving plates in the shape of leaves! So my collection is small at the moment only four plates but I think they are so pretty. It started years ago after going through some of my Nanna’s things at my Mum’s house. Sitting down with my Mum and reminiscing our way through my Grandma’s glory box is one of my favourite things to do. We have both seen the things contained in the beautiful wooden chest hundreds of times before but I never get bored of sifting through the memories and listening to Mum re-tell the stories attached to each treasure. My Nanna passed away when I was very young but handling these cherished bits and pieces I feel connected to her.
My Nanna was a softly spoken woman my Mum says, a wonderful cook and a mean tennis player. She met my Pop whilst they were both serving in the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War. My Nanna was actually of a higher rank than my Pop- a fact which really delights me!
 
My Leaf Plate Collection!
 
The dark green leaf plate (top right) was a tennis trophy of my Nanna’s, my Mum has vivid memories of this plate always containing toothpicks holding onto pieces of cheese, cocktail onions and cabana at parties. (Ooh I could go a retro cocktail nibble right about now!) Apparently glasses, plates and the like were common sporting trophies back in the day (even my Dad has a trophy that is a serving plate in the shape of a banana!).  The long light green plate (bottom) was handmade by one of my Pop’s relatives and was given to my Grandparents 32 years ago.
 
My fave
 
The origin of the light pink one above (which is actually my favourite) is unknown, I am sure it was also my Nanna’s but neither Mum nor I can recall the story behind it, hopefully one day soon it will come back to us! The embossed overlapping leaves and the light pinkish hue makes it such a sweet plate that I can barely stand to cover it up with morsels of food! The long dark green plate (top left) is the first one in my collection that actually belongs to me and was a present from one of my closest friends. I love the colour, the Asian feel but most of all love that my first contribution was given to me by someone I hold dear. A whimsy cute little collection, don’t you think?
I am not normally one for holding onto too many possessions but I really treasure this collection and  look forward to adding to it. When Miss M is a bit older we will sit down together and I will  tell her the stories behind each of the plates and that of the inspiring, creative, competitive and strong women that came before her.
 
Do you have a collection of trinkets that you hold dear?
 
This post was written as part of an awesome group link up hosted by Leaf and Petal. Why don’t you head on over and read about some more collections!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Renew the Menu: Basil Walnut Pesto and Eggplant Pasta

If you had a chance to read my post from weekend you will know I recently pillaged a huge haul of beautiful homegrown vegetables from a friend's garden. One of the dishes I made was Basil Walnut pesto and Eggplant Pasta. A really quick and easy family dinner. Give it a go!


Basil Walnut Pesto and Eggplant Pasta

Serves 4

Ingredients

400g pasta (I think penne or similar is the best for this dish)
2 cups of basil leaves
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 a large eggplant, diced
Salt
Pepper
Extra olive oil

Eggplant in-situ!


Method

1. Place basil leaves, walnuts, garlic and parmesan into a small food processor
2. Drizzle olive oil into processor until you have a good consistency
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste
4. Boil water, add good pinch of salt and cook pasta until al dente
5. Whilst pasta is cooking, dice eggplant.  In a saucepan heat 1 tbsp olive oil, sweat eggplant for 5 minutes, place lid on saucepan cook until soft but not mushy. Make sure to stir eggplant occasionally.
6. Once pasta is cooked, drain and stir in pesto. Add eggplant. Serve with extra parmesan.

Thanks to Flick from Strawberry Jam Sandwiches for requesting the recipe!

As usual linking up with Little Wolff for Meatless Monday


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Veggie Garden Dreams: A week of meals from one fruit and veggie basket! (6 dishes including dessert!)

This week I was lucky enough to get a phone call from our family friends ordering us to go and pillage their overflowing veggie patch whilst they were on holidays. When I say veggie patch, I really mean market garden. Their backyard oasis is a veritable array of nearly every fruit and vegetable imaginable. It really is any cook or green thumb's dreamland. Juicy pears litter the ground, zucchinis the size of your arm hide underneath their fuzzy green leaves and the smell of basil wafts through the air. I really find it hard to contain my excitement at seeing these beauties in their natural state not a fluorescent light or fake wooden crate in sight.


The resurgence of the backyard veggie patch is a trend I wholeheartedly embrace. I do have to admit my attempts at my own little veggie plot have been up and down over the last couple of years. Enthusiasm wasn't the issue but time and the effort required whilst managing the two babies was a bit much for me up until recently, so growing my own veggies was put on hold. This week's little sojourn into the dirt has certainly moved restoring my veggie patch to the top of my to-do list. I like many others can only dream of a veggie plot the size of our friends but even just growing your own herbs is extremely satisfying not to mention the flavour it can add to your dishes.
 
Gorgeous Greens!
Seeing the kids enjoy this experience was so gratifying; they oohed and ahhed with each discovery, their excitement equaling that of any Easter egg hunt- and with a much healthier reward!
 

Upon returning home and taking inventory of our harvest my mind raced with recipe ideas to highlight the amazing produce. Since dinner time was quickly approaching my mind turned to another simple pesto recipe adding the eggplant it became Basil Pesto and Eggplant Pasta. Simple and delicious and yes the kids ate it!
 
From here...

 
...to here
After being rewarded with such a crop I decided to forgo the weekly trip to the supermarket and make the rest of the week's meals from what we had in the cupboard and include as much of our veggie haul as I could. It is surprising how much you can come up with when limiting yourself to pantry staples and some seasonal fresh produce.

The next day the usual sandwich was replaced with Zucchini and Cheese Spelt Scones (recipe below), absolutely delicious and definitely a recipe I will be repeating! It fed the four of us for lunch, even more satisfying when you can sneak in some veggies for the kids at lunchtime!
 

 
Zucchini and Cheese Spelt Scones
The leftover eggplant was grilled in some olive oil, salt and pepper and used for our weekly pizza night. I also retrieved some capsicum (from the same garden) from the freezer and made a yummy vegetarian pizza, certainly beats the antipasto out a jar!


The cucumber, zucchini and tomato also made it into two of my lunches inspired by Sarah Wilson's latest book I Quit Sugar for Life ; Great Grated Salad (I was too hungry to take a photo of this one!). Grating some zucchini, carrot, slices of cucumber and tomato I added some cheese and some sunflower and pepita seeds, drizzle of homemade dressing and voila! Yummy (carb free) lunch!

Crazy Cucumber!
Last night it was my favourite Pear and Walnut Salad (we added some grilled haloumi after the photo!), the pears were so sweet Miss M was eating them off the salad plate! We ate this with Potato Frittata made by my Mother-in-law so I got out of this meal easy!


Only one thing left to cook and that is dessert,  I am a sucker for Zucchini and Chocolate (you can find my Zucchini Chocolate Cake recipe here) so next on the weekly menu was Zucchini and Chocolate Cupcakes. Quicker than a cake cause when you need a chocolate fix you can't wait around! (refined sugar-free but I did sneak in a tiny bit of 70% chocolate into the mixture!). Finally had an opportunity to attempt some sugar-free icing using powdered milk and it worked a treat!


Zucchini and Chocolate Cupcake

Amazing what you can come up with when presented with fresh, healthy produce that you have pulled from the ground yourself!
 
Thanks to the Brunos for letting me pillage their amazing garden!

 
******

Zucchini and Cheese Spelt Scones

Ingredients

1 cup plain flour
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup milk + 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice (or 1 cup buttermilk)
1/2 tsp paprika
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 cup tasty cheese, grated
3 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
1. Add lemon juice to milk and let stand for 5 minutes (if not using buttermilk)
2. Grate zucchini onto paper towel and squeeze out excess moisture
3. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder into bowl
4. Add salt and paprika to flour mixture
4. Stir in zucchini into bowl, separating strands
5. Add tasty and parmesan cheese and shallot
6. Stir together using knife
7. Once dough comes together turn out onto well floured surface and knead gently
8. Press into 2cm thick circle
9. Using scone cutter or floured glass cut out 10-12 scones
10. Brush scones with milk and place on lined baking tray
11. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden and bottom of scone sounds hollow

*******

Zucchini and Chocolate Cupcakes with Sugar-Free Powdered Milk Icing

Ingredients

3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup wholemeal plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
5 tbsp organic cocoa powder (or you can use cacao powder)
1 1/2 tbsp stevia powder (or you can use sugar)
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1/4 cup rice malt syrup (you can use honey)
40g 70% Dark chocolate
180g butter
2 eggs

Method

Preheat oven 170 degrees Celsius. Grease or line a 12 hole muffin tin and a 12 hole mini muffin tin (Yes this recipe made 12 normal size and 12 mini cupcakes!)

1. Grate zucchini onto paper towel and drain excess moisture
2. Sift flours, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa into bowl. Add stevia and combine.
3. Place butter, rice malt syrup and dark chocolate in small saucepan on low heat. Stir occasionally and remove from heat once melted.
4. Let butter/chocolate mixture cool for 10 minutes before adding lightly whisked eggs. Stir to combine.
5. Pour butter/chocolate/eggs into bowl and stir gently to combine.
6. Spoon mixture into prepared muffin/cupcake tins to 3/4 full
7. Place trays in oven, bake mini muffins for approx. 10-12 mins. Normal size cupcakes will take approx. 15-18 mins in oven. An inserted skewer will return clean when cooked.

(Note: These muffins/cupcakes won't rise a lot, this is normal due to the dense mixture)



Sugar-Free Powdered Milk Icing

You can find the recipe for this on my previous post here (this time I used milk powder instead of soy-milk powder. The milk powder produces a creamier, less nutty-tasting icing and my preferred option!)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

I heard the news today, oh boy

In my life PC (Pre-Children) I watched the 5pm, 6pm and 7pm news. Upon arriving at work my first order of business after checking my emails was to read the day’s news online. I felt compelled to be ‘in the know’ not only because what was happening around the world or at home could at times impact on how my day at work could pan out but also because I didn’t want to be the one admitting they were unaware of the current state of the world. To be honest domestic politics or foreign affairs held little if no interest to me. I used to fake knowledge of international relations, secretly hoping no-one would throw any in-depth questions my way. I know some people might relish having a job like mine which would often change at the whim of a new government initiative or in response to an incident overseas but honestly over the years my ability to feign enthusiasm in this “fluid environment” was crumbling. Putting it bluntly, I just couldn’t give a shit (not that I would ever want to admit that to my colleagues, or even to myself for that matter).
Morning cloud blanket
Now after two and a half years of maternity leave my exposure to the day’s headlines is limited, basically if it’s not showing on ABC for Kids then I didn’t hear about it. It did take a while for me to let go of the ‘need to know’ what was happening in the world outside the four walls of our house but I can honestly say I now feel freer and less stressed by not having to be across every goings-on. Of course this is also relative to my current-role and the social situations I find myself in, e.g. there are not many discussions on the asylum-seekers' situation at Playgroup! (Although I am sure the girls could hold a lively discussion on the topic if required).
 
My little family has become my world with the daily top stories usually revolving around the violent overthrow of cereal bowls, ownership disputes over a Peppa Pig phone and top-level talks to solve a sleeping crisis.  When I actually gained the courage to admit the fact that I felt happiest being cut off from the harshness of the outside world to husband, he replied, “That’s no way to live”. Naturally part of me agrees and my pre-kids self does cringe at hearing myself proclaim such a statement.  Of course I don’t live in a bubble and with our 24/7 news cycle there is no avoiding most of it but for me the news I gain from the bulletins between my nightly TV viewing and snippets from the radio are really enough for me.
Cuddles before choking each other
My desire to focus more on the ongoing toddler/vegetable war and less on the troubles in Crimea are not only fuelled by a lack of energy on my part but also because my sensitivities to any sad story or tragic event has quadrupled since having kids of my own. Each day there seems to be a headline involving a tragic toddler incident or a family being ripped apart and hearing these stories cuts me to the core. Before kids I can honestly say I was pretty immune to these kinds of headlines, but now I can no longer take it all with a grain of salt. Nowadays these tragedies stay with me. My thoughts go straight to my own kin, my heart aches for the victims and I feel it in the pit of my stomach. I immediately think of how I would cope with such heartbreak and then quickly stop myself before I sink deeper into sadness. I double-check on the kids before I go to bed, laying my hand on their chests, breathing in their sweetness, fighting the urge to want to squeeze them tight and never leave the relative safe confines of our home again.
Morning sunlight
This reaction although in part a natural reflex of a protective parent is not healthy when you are at the point of wanting to avoid the world around you. I do realise that I cannot prepare my kids properly for the world which they will inherit without taking an interest in it. That although the majority of the news stories that run across our screen will have little direct impact on my family they do serve as a reminder. A reminder that the world and life in general is fragile and unpredictable. I can only hope and pray that my own children will not have to experience the level of hardship that we hear of too often in the news. But I am also acutely aware that there will be a time when the reach of my arms will no longer be enough to protect them.
Footprints
The saying you “wear your heart on your sleeve” is no truer than when you have kids. It opens a floodgate of emotions that on one hand allows you to have unlimited and unconditional love for your little ones; a depth of which you have not known before, but it also leaves you wholly open to heartache and to worries that if not kept in check can sometimes take hold of you. At the moment my babies are just starting out in the world and for a person that up until this point has probably looked at life with a ‘glass half empty’ attitude (a “realist” I liked to describe myself as!) I am keenly aware that this is not the kind of outlook I want to encourage in my children.
Solitude
Therefore for this moment in time, to help foster the imperative that I look upon this world with a more positive view I may need to continue to live in the dark when it comes to the ‘bigger issues’ facing those around us. There is no need for my children to know the harsh realities of life at their age. My job is to protect them from that. Childhood is so fleeting and yet so instrumental in influencing the adults they will become that sometimes the responsibility is overwhelming.  So right now I am ok with being blissfully ignorant and content to concern myself only with the battles that are waged by my two toddlers, the rest of the world will just have to wait.
 
Do you agree? Do you find it hard to watch the day's headlines now that you have kids?

 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Renew the Menu: Beef Gozleme

Although I started out cooking this meal in a cool and calm mood for some reason by the time it came to actually putting it together and serving it I had lost it! I made the mince mixture during the day and this was an easy, stress-free affair. But when it came to making the dough my blood pressure started to rise. I think it was because the dough was such a different recipe to what I am used to and although it eventually turned out alright I found it a little hard to work with. Attempting this kind of recipe during cactus hour can really push you over the edge!
 
By the time I sat down to eat the kids and husband had finished theirs, the kids ate most of what was on their plate so that was a bonus. The flavours were nice, our family likes anything that can be dipped in yoghurt so I am sure this one will appear on our tables again! (possibly with a different dough recipe though!).


Beef Gozleme

Ingredients

500g organic beef mince
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
150g feta, crumbled
2 handfuls baby spinach, chopped
2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup greek-style natural yoghurt
Salt
Olive Oil

Method

1. To make dough combine yoghurt and pinch of salt, gradually stir in flour until dough forms. Knead dough until firm but sticky. Place in clean bowl, covered for 30 mins.
2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large saucepan, add onion and garlic cooking until beginning to soften.
3. Mix spices together in a small bowl and add to saucepan
4. Add mince and cook until well browned, breaking up any lumps.
5. Once cooked, leave to cool before stiring in feta and spinach
6. Season with salt to taste
7. Divide gozleme dough into 4 pieces (or 8 if you want to make smaller ones for kids)
8. Roll dough out into circles (approx. 25 cm for 4 or 15 cm circles if making 8)
9. Spoon mince mixture onto one side of circle and fold over dough. Pinch edges of dough to seal.
10. Heat a frypan with 2 tsp olive oil, cook each gozleme for 3-4 minutes each side, until dough is golden brown.
11. Slice into wedges and serve with dipping yoghurt.


This recipe was adapted from That's Life magazine


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Renew the Menu: Eggplant Parmigiana

"What no meat?" was husband's comment when we sat down to eat this meal. We are not huge meat-eaters but if we have a meat-free dish it usually involves pasta or rice. For this meal I took a punt and crossed my fingers this Eggplant Parmigiana  or Melanzana Alla Parmigiana in Italian could replace the meat as the star of the dinner.
 
I made a few simple side dishes; roasted potatoes and 'insalata' (a simple Italian salad of tomato, cucumber, onion, oregano, salt and huge glugs of olive oil!) warmed up some crusty bread and hoped for the best!


The result was delicious and could certainly hold it's own against any meat dish. Husband thought it was delicious and went back for numerous servings even though he is not normally a huge fan of this dish as it's traditionally made. I even managed to convince Miss M to eat some! Master Q kicked up a fuss and refused to eat it, but with toddlers you win some, you loose some!
 
I recently borrowed Bill's Italian Food cookbook from the library and this is where I found this recipe. Bill Granger's Bill's Food was the first 'Celebrity' cookbook I bought over 12 years ago now and I still use the recipes in it today. His food is simple, honest and delicious. His recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana stood out from typical Eggplant Parmigiana recipes as the eggplant was grilled and not fried. Not one to normally steer away from anything fried but I do find Eggplant Parmigiana a bit too oily and heavy for me so this recipe was appealing. It seemed really simple and although it was easy it did take a while, so take into account when cooking this dish.


Eggplant Parmigiana

(I have adjusted the original recipe slightly, this would serve 4 as part of a meal)

Ingredients

2 extra large eggplants
200g Edam or fontina cheese slices
80g ricotta cheese
Handful basil leaves
Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Tomato sauce
400g tin diced tomatoes
1/2 cup passata
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

1. Place tomatoes and passata in saucepan and bring to simmer, once simmering remove from heat and stir in crushed garlic and olive oil
2. Slice eggplant into 1cm rounds, drizzle olive oil on each side and sprinkle with salt and pepper
3. Grill eggplant in batches until golden and beginning to soften
4. Once grilled place the eggplant onto a plate and cover loosely with cling film
5. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
6. Spoon a layer of tomato sauce into a 30cm round ovenproof dish, place 1/3 eggplant onto sauce and top with half cheese slices and some grated parmesan
7. Repeat step 6
8. Top with remaining tomato sauce, eggplant, crumbled ricotta and basil leaves
9. Grate a final layer of parmesan, cover with foil and bake in oven for 20 minutes
10. Remove foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling
11. Leave to cool slightly before serving

Just making it in time for this week's Little Wolff Meatless Monday!