Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Chicken On a Stick

Short and sweet - I thought I would post a little appetiser before heading off to bed.

A couple of nights ago I had some chicken tenderloins leftover from making the almond and coconut chicken I mentioned in the last post (must share that recipe - I borrowed/ adapted it from the wonderful Primal Journey and it's going to be a keeper!). The kids love to eat anything 'on a stick', so put the two together to make chicken skewers with thai flavors.



These tender little chicken bites are great as an appetizer (use short skewers or even toothpicks and just put a couple of pieces of chicken on each one) or you can use them to create a meal by using a little more chicken and longer skewers.



Thai Marinated 'Chicken on a Stick' (Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, grain-free)

Ingredients:

300g chicken tenderloins
1 tbsp thai red or green curry paste (try to find one without any nasties in it - I use a Thai brand that you can get from most asian food shops which has no additives, crazy oils, or sugar. See picture below)
a handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp coconut milk or coconut cream
Juice of half a lemon or lime

Directions:

1. Cut chicken into bite size chunks and place in a medium, non-metallic bowl (the acid in the marinade can react with a metal bowl causing a metallic taste in the food)
2. In a small bowl combine all other ingredients (curry paste, coriander, fish sauce, coconut milk, lemon juice) and mix until combined
3. Add liquid mixture to the chicken and leave covered in fridge for at least half an hour (you can cook it straight away if you are pushed for time, but the flavour is better if left to sink in for a bit). At this stage I'd recommend putting the skewers you are going to use in a bowl of water - this prevents them from burning during the cooking process.
4. Preheat oven to 180C and line a baking tray with cooking paper
5. Thread the chicken onto the skewers (use as much chicken and whatever size of skewer you would like. I used skewers that were about 15cm in length and put 4 pieces of chicken on each)
6. Bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes or until chicken is still moist, but no longer pink. The cooking time will vary depending on how big your chicken pieces are and how many pieces you have on each skewer. You will just have to keep an eye on them and sacrifice one as the 'tester'...pull it to pieces to see if it's done, and if it is cooked you may also then have to taste test it just to make sure it is okay!!

These delicious little skewers are very simple to make, and if you have some extra chicken they are a great way to create a little starter for a meal, or even whip up a batch to keep in the fridge for lunch. They are just as good cold the next day and would be great just with a simple green salad for an easy, healthy lunch.

As mentioned above, here is the picture of the brand of red curry paste I use


Happy mid-week everyone!

x




Monday, 29 July 2013

Bean and Coriander Salsa & Raspberry Mousse Pie

Wow what a day - HUGE working bee in the garden. Hubby and I pruned all of the fruit trees, removed the massive pile of garden debris that was starting to take over the corner of the section, and just generally tidied things up a bit. According to the dump the total haul was 390kg...think we'll have a few aching muscles in the morning! The place is looking a lot better though, and the kids had a great day mucking around in the garden - helped that the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. I even managed to get in touch with my inner child and climbed one of our trees to get to a couple of high branches that need sawing off. Good fun!

Last night we had my wonderful cousin and her lovely husband over for dinner. We had a great evening catching up, and the kids were in full swing showing off and putting on concerts for our very patient guests!

On the menu for dinner was 'chicken and chips' - oven baked chicken breasts coated in an almond and coconut crust; hand cut potato chips oven baked with just a little coconut oil and salt; a big green salad and a couple of vegetable sides.

I have recently discovered a great new product called Flower Sprouts. They are a cross between kale and brussel sprouts. What a superfood! Brussel sprouts = awesome. Kale = awesome. The two combined = genius! And they are delicious. I will post a yummy recipe for them soon - keep an eye out for these little delicacies in your local supermarket.



Once again I've gone off topic - really must learn to stick to the planned post! So much to share, so little time...

Today I wanted to share the starter and dessert that we had last night - a very moreish bean and coriander salsa courtesy of my brothers very talented mother-in-law, and a decadent tasting (but secretly healthy) raspberry mousse pie.


Coriander and bean salsa 

My sneaky shortcut for a speedy salsa

Bean and Coriander Salsa

Ingredients:

1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 jar Herdez Salsa, medium
3 cloves of garlic, finely grated
1 cup coriander, finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. You may like to play around with the quantities of each ingredients depending on your taste preference. Serve with chips or crackers for a starter, or use as part of a meal. So many options for this delicious salsa!

Notes:
I found the Herdez Salsa at our local supermarket (New World) with the rest of the Mexican food. It has a great flavour and is made entirely from real foods (no additives, preservatives, dodgy oils or other dubious substances). If you cannot find it, you can recreate the magic with a tin of chopped tomatoes, half a very finely diced red onion, very finely chopped coriander (about half a cup) and some very finely diced jalapeno peppers (about 4 or 5 but adjust according to your preference for heat). 

The base in the tin ready to go

Terrible photo sorry, but this is the final product. The photo certainly does not do it justice!

Raspberry Mousse Pie

Ingredients:

For Base:

1 cup raw cashew nuts
½ cup raw walnuts
4 tbsp cocoa powder
4 tbsp pure maple syrup
6 medjool dates (or dried dates) 
½ cup desiccated coconut
¼ cup cacao nibs (or chocolate chips, but the cacao nibs give a great crunchy texture)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/8 cup coconut oil

For Filling:

2 frozen bananas
1 ripe avocado
1 cup frozen raspberries
2 tbsp coconut milk

Directions:
  
   1.     In a blender or food processor blend together all of the ingredients for the base until well combined. They should come together into a ‘doughy’ texture (sticky rather than crumbly)
   2.     Press base mixture into a pie dish (I used a quiche tin with removable base). I found that using my fingers to press it in was very messy and it kept sticking to my fingers so I lay a piece of baking paper over the top before pressing it into the tin
   3.     Put prepared base into the fridge for at least half an hour to set (or freezer if you are short of time)
   4.     About 5-10 minutes before serving prepare the filling. It will be easier to blend the filling if you have taken the bananas out of the freezer a few minutes beforehand to soften slightly.
   5.     In a high-speed blender or food processor place all of the ingredients for the filling. Process on high until smooth and creamy.
   6.     Take base out of the fridge and fill with filling.
   7.     Decorate with fresh fruit as desired
   8.     Serve immediately 



x








Thursday, 25 July 2013

Spinach Cookies (aka Peppermint Choc Chip Biscuits or Monster Biscuits!)

As predicted, a reboot was all that was required to fix my computer problems - I think the main culprit was having about 20 internet pages open simultaneously....perhaps overloading a little?! I have a bad habit of finding great recipes or information and leaving the page open so that I can keep reading it over and over again. I think I'm a website hoarder - the new-age hoarder!

I have a quick recipe to post while the kids are occupied making popcorn to take to their friends house for a movie afternoon. It's a cold windy day, the last official day of holidays, and the perfect excuse for us mums to have a bit of a gossip and the kids to have a bit of chill time. (When I say making popcorn, the kids are watching our popcorn machine spit popcorn into a big bowl. Just thought I'd clarify in case anyone thought I had a 2 and 4 year old over a hot stove!). 

For so many reasons we choose not to make microwave popcorn in the house 1) I prefer to only use the microwave when I'm really pushed and desperate (I feel that there is so much controversy over their use that I prefer to err on the side of caution) 2) There are some scary ingredients in microwave popcorn. The ACT II variety has 'less than 2% butter', colouring, flavoring, loads of salt, and a mystery ingredient called TBHQ...never heard of it! 3) Buttered popcorn is a really reactive food for my IBS so with my oldest having similar digestive problems I prefer that we don't eat it. In saying all of this, the kids do eat it at parties etc, and I do still have some in the pantry, although to be fair it's probably past it's useby date! These days I prefer to buy the whole kernels, pop them in the machine and then drizzle with coconut oil. The flavour options are endless too - sometimes I sprinkle a little garam masala or ground cumin over it for a tasty savoury popcorn, or a little maple syrup and cinnamon for a sweet option. We don't eat a lot of popcorn, but when it's a rainy winters day and a movie is in order then popcorn is really the snack of choice to make the experience authentic!

But I digress! (surely not...Usually so good at staying on topic!!) The recipe I wanted to share was for Peppermint Choc Chip Biscuits (Also known as Spinach Biscuits for those who are not put off by veges, or Monster Cookies if you are trying to sell the idea to kids!)

I found a recipe for these on a website and thought they looked like fun as they are bright green and kind of crazy looking.




These photos don't do the biscuits justice - they are even more green in real life!


Mint Chocolate Chip Biscuits  

(adapted from recipe on the blog www.itsmecharlotte.com)

Ingredients:

1 packed cup spinach leaves
¼ cup coconut oil, softened
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 eggs
2 tsp peppermint extract/essence
5 tbsp coconut flour
¼ cup chocolate chips (roughly!)
2 tsp chia seeds
pinch of salt

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 170C and grease or line a backing tray.
  2. Add spinach leaves, coconut oil and maple syrup to a food processor and blend until well combined.
  3. Add eggs, salt and peppermint extract and blend well
  4. Pour mixture in to a bowl and add coconut flour. Mix well.
  5.   Add chocolate chips and chia seeds to mixture and combine.
  6.   Ideally, place the bowl in the fridge for around 15 minutes to allow the mixture to harden a little. This makes it easier to shape, and also means that the biscuits hold their shape a little better, but if you are in a hurry you can skip this step.
  7.  Use about 1-2 tbsp of mixture to roll into small balls. Flatten with your fingers or a fork.
  8.  Bake for around 15 minutes or until lightly golden.
  9.   Cool on a cooking rack
  10. Eat!

These biscuits are a fantastic way to get some sneaky vegetables into the kids. If you really want to make them healthy I would omit the chocolate chips and just add a little more maple syrup or some dates to sweeten. The peppermint essence and the chocolate hide the taste of the spinach so they will not be able to taste it. The biscuits are bright green, which is somewhat of a giveaway, but if you sell them to little ones as ‘monster cookies’ or ‘slime biscuits’ they will be none the wiser!

I am all for encouraging kids to eat vegetables and to know what they are eating so that they can learn to love wholesome foods for what they are, but I also know that there are plenty of children out there for whom eating greens is somewhat of a none event, so if they have to be disguised then so be it.  I am lucky enough to have the best of both worlds with my two little rascals – my oldest will always give anything a try, enjoys eating a wide range of vegetables, and happily tries new ones. The youngest actively avoids vegetables where possible, and if she had a choice she would live solely on rice, bread and potatoes. The irony is that with these green biscuits it was not the green colour that she objected to, but the chocolate…go figure! It seems hard to believe that I could possibly have given birth to a child that doesn’t like chocolate, but pigs obviously do fly because it has happened! Switched at birth perhaps?! 

Happy friday everyone 

x


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Home Sweet Home! (And delicious Nut Loaf)

After a whirlwind trip to Seattle I made it home safe and sound, and got right back in to the swing of things - the girls have been on kindy holidays so we have been spending lots of quality time together to make up for the days I was gone! I really missed the little rascals though, and I cannot write this post without giving huge credit to my amazing husband for taking care of things while I was away. He did an amazing job of looking after the girls, and even managed to keep on top of the washing and vacuuming - bonus points!

Aside from the most stunning wedding and an amazing day at the baseball in a supremely beautiful city, I ate a lot of fantastic food in Seattle. Coming from New Zealand where we are absolutely spoilt for lovely fresh food, it was really nice to visit a city where they share a similar passion for great, fresh food. 

I am getting incredibly frustrated writing this, as my computer seems to be operating at snails pace tonight which is making typing very tedious. I have a few cool photos of the trip and some great foodie stories to tell, but I think I will save them for tomorrow after I have managed to get this machine working to the standard I am used to!

A quick recipe though - after all that's what this is all about...

I finally got around to making my own almond milk today (bit of a story there too - will save it until tomorrow), and as a result I had a couple of cups worth of almond pulp leftover. Being the frugal 'non-waster' that I am I couldn't possibly throw it out, so instead decided to turn it into something tasty. The end result was a yummy fruit loaf that was gluten free, dairy free, soy free, free of refined sugars, and most important of all very delicious! 

Fruit Loaf - choc full of fruit and nuts


Fruit and Nut Loaf


Ingredients:

2 cups almond pulp (or almond flour)
1 cup chopped dried mixed fruit (I used dates and raisins - apricots and figs would also be good in the mix)
1/2 cup choc chips (optional)
1/2 cup chopped nuts fo your choice (I used walnuts)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup sweetener of your choice (honey, coconut sugar, date puree) optional depending on how sweet you like it
1 tbsp orange zest

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 170C. Grease and line a standard loaf baking tin.
2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined(you may need to melt the coconut oil if it's a cold day!)
3. Tip mixture in to the prepared baking tin and smooth down with a spatula
4. Bake for around 20 minutes or until golden brown on top and no longer soft to the touch
5. Cool in tin for 10 minutes then tip on to cooling rack. Enjoy while still warm with a little butter or eat as is either warm or cold. 

Incredibly easy to make, and very delicious!

I am going to leave this post now before I throw the computer at the wall in frustration - I think a good old fashioned reboot is going to be in order...the great fixer of all computer problems!!

I hope everyone has had a great hump day - not long now until the weekend

x



Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Fresh Fish and Stuffed Pumpkin

Oh my goodness, it's Wednesday which means today is the day I fly to Seattle! So much to do, so little time. I am picking my oldest little girl up early from Montessori so that we can spend a little extra family time together before getting on the plane.

Feeling a bit anxious about leaving my little family and heading overseas - they will be absolutely fine and have a blast hanging out with their Daddy for a week, but I'm going to miss them SO much! No doubt they will be in heaven as my husband will play hide and seek for hours on end, their dinners will most likely consist of sausages and chips and a few frozen veges for good measure, and they will be able to wrap him around their gorgeous little fingers!

The last couple of nights we have had a couple of good meals so thought I'd share the joy. Hubby went fishing on Monday and got a pretty good haul considering the wintery conditions...a couple of snapper, a john dory and a gurnard. I have to admit to having my doubts that he would catch anything - had a backup meal plan ready!

The haul

In my very humble opinion, when fish is that fresh the best thing to do is simply pan fry it in a little butter (coconut oil) and garlic. I generally do use a little butter even though we are dairy free as I find that the odd bit of butter in small quantities is absolutely fine for us, and also really gives a yummy flavour to the fish! Feel free to use coconut oil though - it would still be delicious. 

I served the fish with potato and celeriac chips, green salad and steamed vegetables. Kept it simple and let the fish be the champion.

Fresh green salad (lettuce, radish, avocado and cherry tomato)

 Crispy celeriac and potato chips

Simple but tasty

This recipe really doesn't need a recipe as such - it's one of those ones that's pretty self explanatory and also is best when adapted to suit your tastes, but here is a guideline. I fried the fish in a couple of cloves of garlic and about 1 tbsp butter, plus seasoning (s&p)

For the chips, I cut a celeriac and a potato into thick chips then popped them in boiling water for about 5 minutes. I then coated them in about 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tsp garam masala and salt and pepper. spread out on an oven tray and bake for around 30 minutes until crispy (on about 180-200C). Serve with steamed veges and salad of your choice.

Last nights dinner was a little different. I was at the supermarket the other day and saw these cute little baby pumpkins called Gem Squash. I thought they looked like fun and decided that they would be perfect for stuffing. We ended up with lamb stuffed baby pumpkins topped with the leftovers of the kumara bravas from the other night (see previous post for recipe). 

 Cute little pumpkins with top-hats

 Seeds scooped, ready for stuffing

Stuffed and topped with mash ready to finish in the oven


Kumara Topped, Lamb Stuffed Pumpkin Top-hats


Ingredients:

2 x gem squash
300g lamb mince
2 loves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp coconut oil
1 large kumara (or 1 cup leftover kumara bravas)

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 200C. Place pumpkins on a baking tray and bake for around 30 minutes. They will look quite dark, and some juices may ooze out
2. If you are using fresh kumara (as opposed to leftovers) cut into chunks and boil for 15 minutes until soft. Mash with a little coconut oil, salt and pepper. If you are using the leftover bravas, reheat in a small pan and then mash
3. In a frying pan heat the oil and add the chopped garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or so. Add the mince and cook until browned. Add the grated carrot and tomato paste, and season with salt and pepper. 
4. When pumpkins are cooked, cut off the tops an inch or so from the top. Scoop out the seeds, leaving the pumpkin flesh intact. Reserve 'hats'
5. Fill pumpkin with mince mixture and top with mashed kumara.
6. Put back into the oven and bake for around 10 minutes until browned. Remove from oven and place hats back on top. 
7. Serve with vegetables of your choice

Have a fantastic week everyone - I'll be back for more recipes in 7 days... 

x




Sunday, 7 July 2013

Spanish Night - Kumara Bravas and Paprika Chicken

How funny - I just sat down to write this post about our spanish influenced dinner and put The Food Truck on which I had recorded. It is all about Spanish cuisine! My brain is going into overdrive trying to remember the recipe to write for this post at the same time as mentally planning more spanish themed delicacies...yum!!

Tonight I decided to do something a little different. I don't generally do a lot of spanish food and found a recipe for Kumara Bravas on the Foodhub website. My gorgeous cousin was in Spain a while back, and I still remember her raving about the bravas they ate there. Clearly these bravas will not quite be in the same league as the delicious tapas snack that she enjoyed in Spain, but hopefully the basic premise is still there, as well as keeping within the idea of clean eating.

This dish uses kumara instead of the traditional potato. I am not against potato and use it often, but I thought the kumara would create a nice twist to the dish. This also makes this dish suitable for anyone who eats a Paleo based diet, or is unable to eat nightshades, or for any other reason is anti-potato!

Mmmmmm saucy, kumara-y, caper-y goodness

Small serving of the final meal with chicken - excuse the overcooked steamed broccoli!


Kumara Bravas with Paprika Chicken


Ingredients:

1kg kumara, diced into 2cm cubes (I used orange, but you could use any colour depending on preference)
4 tbsp coconut oil
6-7 whole fresh tomatoes roughly chopped
1 eggplant diced into 1cm cubes (optional)
1/2 a red onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tbsp paprika
a pinch or 2 of chill flakes (adjust according to taste)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup water
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp capers
salt and pepper to season

8 chicken thighs
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp chilli flakes
salt and pepper to season


Directions:

1. In a frying pan heat the oil and add the diced kumara. Cook until browned and slightly softened but not mushy. Remove from the frying pan and set aside.
2. In the frying pan, on a low heat, heat another tablespoon of coconut oil and add the chopped onion. 3. Cook until softened for a few minutes, then add both types of paprika and the chilli. Cook for a minute or so then add tomatoes, eggplant, bay leaf, honey, tomato paste and water.
4. Cook for around 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick. (at this stage cook chicken - see directions below)
5. Remove from the heat, take out the bay leaf and use either a stick blender or food processor to blend the sauce until thick but still a little chunky. You could also eliminate this step if you prefer a chunky sauce.
6. Reheat the kumara, keeping it as crispy as possible (maybe even throw it in the oven for a few minutes to really get it toasted). Place on a platter and pour the sauce on top. Garnish with parsley and capers. Serve with chicken and steamed greens.

7. While the sauce is cooking, you can prepare the chicken. Remove excess fat from chicken thighs, and sprinkle thighs with paprika, chilli and seasoning. In a frying pan, brown chicken then place on a roasting dish in the oven on around 200C for about 20 minutes. Chicken is cooked when juices run clear.

x







Friday, 5 July 2013

Winter Madness!

Since the last post total madness took over our household and now it's over a week later and I'm only just able to even think about this blog! I think in the last post I mentioned that our youngest had to go in to Starship with croup and pneumonia. Well, a few days later she and I had the pleasure of staying a couple of nights in starship...the antibiotics she was sent home with initially just weren't able to do the job due to a sick little sweetheart being unable to keep them down on her empty stomach. Now, in any given week a couple of nights in hospital would have been a bit of a disruption, but also a bit of a novelty to break up the normal weekly routine. Unfortunately, last week was not just any other week - it was the week of my brothers wedding. A family wedding always makes for a busy week, but just to really up the ante we were all included in the wedding party (hubby was Best Man, I was Maid of Honour and the two girls were flower girls), and just for the icing on the cake (pun intended!) I was making the wedding cake so all in all, not the ideal week for a trip to hospital!!

Taking the positives from such a crazy week though, it was actually really special to spend so much quality time with my little monkey - we are often at home together when big sis is at Montessori, however there are always a thousand things that need to be done at home and being in hospital ensured that we had lots of time to read books, play games and watch movies together without any distractions. I was also so so proud of my little baby girl for how well she handled all of the poking and prodding that comes with a hospital visit.

Back from hospital, it was time to get into cake baking mode - I have never done a wedding cake before, so I was not really 100% sure of what would end up on the cake stand! Here is a picture of the final product... I was pretty happy overall! The picture is missing the cake topper (a really cool stylized 'M'), but you get the general idea. Being a winter wedding we went for a winter theme for the cake with the twigs and leaves. It also really worked well with the wedding dress which was made from stunning hand-made lace.


Although this cake does not technically fit the theme of this blog, it was really fun to make! The bottom layer was a gluten free dark chocolate cake with a raspberry filling, and a chocolate buttercream outer (fondant coated). The top layer was a white chocolate mud-cake with a passionfruit filling and a vanilla mascarpone outer (fondant coated). 

Right, on to matter a little more closely related to the point of the blog! I have not been very adventurous in the kitchen this week, as we are just managing to catch up on everything that needed to be done after last week. I have made a couple of tasty little things that were a way to use up some of the food we had that was starting to get a little close to the best by date. Todays tasty concoction was a fruit salad muffin (gluten free, dairy free, nut free and soy free) which I made using some very borderline looking fruit that was lurking in the bottom of the fruit bowl. 


I made these nut free with gluten free flour so that the kids could take them to kindy and I wanted something that held together well, however they could be made using almond meal or coconut flour instead if you wanted a grain free option. These summery little bites are really easy to make and can be made using whatever fruit you have lingering. With all of the fruit in them, they do not require much else in the way of sweetener and I found that just a little bit of honey was all that was needed, and that could even be left out depending on the fruit you use. 

Fruit Salad Mini Muffin Bites 

(gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, refined sugar- free)

Ingredients:

2 cups mixed fruit of your choice (I used banana, pear, mandarin, kiwifruit and pineapple)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup honey (optional)
1.5 cups desiccated coconut
3/4 cup gluten free, self raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 24 hole mini muffin tin 
2. Puree fruit, egg, honey and vanilla using a food processor or stick blender. 
3. In a large bowl, sift dry ingredients (flour, coconut and cinnamon). 
4. Add pureed wet ingredients and mix until combined. 
5. Spoon mixture into prepared muffin tin. 
6. Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until golden. 

Options:
- Replace gluten free flour for 1 cup of almond flour or 1/2 cup of coconut flour for a grain free option
- I had a little bit of pineapple left over so cut it up into 1cm cubes and pressed a piece into the top of each muffin before baking. This added a nice bit of texture to the final product .
- You can remove the honey if you prefer your baking a little less sweet. Whether or not you use it will also depend on the fruit mix you use. If you use more banana/apple/pear the muffins will probably be sweet enough, but I used quite a lot of acidic fruit (kiwifruit/pineapple/mandarin) so the honey just helped to take away some of the tartness.

I have a couple more recipes up my sleeve that I will hopefully get on here before I head away to SEATTLE!!!! Super excited, but also feeling very anxious about leaving my amazing little family for a week. Hopefully I will feel inspired by the beauty of Seattle and come home feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world - look out!!!