Sunday, 31 August 2008

Choose your own adventure!

Today's blog is all about you! Today you get to provide the fabulously entertaining and inspiring backstory to my recipe! Do it here, do it at home, do it in your head! Whatever! Here is the recipe............

Devilled Chicken

500g chicken tenderloins
1/3 tsp curry powder
1 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs tomato paste
3 tbs brown sugar
30g butter, cut into pieces
Shallots/green onions, thinly sliced

Mix sauce ingredients. Pour over chicken and mix through. Cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes at 180ºC.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Red Tuna Pasta

When I was a teenager, I was responsible for cooking dinner once a week for the whole family. I think the first meal I learned to cook was spaghetti bolognaise (which I think was the same for everyone!) I used to get very frustrated because my parents wouldn't give me exact amounts. "Put some basil in", they would say. "Exactly how much?" I would plead, knowing the answer in advance. "Some", would be the helpful response!

Now I am the one with the dodgy measurements. While I have included measurements in the following recipe, don't trust them! If they seem like too much, or too little, go with what you think suits you and your audience. I have made this hundred of times since I was a teenager, and I never use a recipe so I daresay it changes every time I make it.

This is one of my absolute favourite every-day, weeknight, easy pantry meals. I always have tuna, tomatoes and pasta in the pantry, and the vegetables can be changed to whatever you have in the fridge. (You might notice, however, that there is a mixture of penne and trivelle because I didn't have quite enough trivelle. And no backup bag in the pantry! The horror!)

As you can see, there is a dirty big pile of vegetables there, so this meal makes me feel quite virtuous. Lots of healthy veges, low GI pasta, omega-3 rich tuna, and a cheesy calcium boost. I would even recommend this tuna dish for non-seafood eating people, because the tuna flavour doesn't stand out. I asked GKGK about this, (he is quite happy to eat tuna) and his problem was more about the vegetables standing out! I think he would be quite happy if it just had mushrooms and cheese in it. Hopeless. My kids love it too - although that's not really saying much, because they love all food. Anyway, give it a go. You won't be disappointed!
Red Tuna Pasta

1 tbs olive oil
440g tin tuna in springwater
2 x 400g tin tomatoes
1 tbs dried oregano
2 cups trivelle (spiral pasta)
½ cup grated tasty cheese
1 small onion, chopped

Other vegetables as desired, for example:
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
3 mushrooms, sliced
2 yellow squash, chopped
1 red capsicum, chopped
½ cup broccoli, chopped into small-medium florets
½ cup cauliflower, chopped into small-medium florets
Handful of beans, topped and tailed and chopped in half
Cook pasta in plenty of salted boiling water
Heat oil in wok or large frying pan.
Stir fry onions until translucent
Add remaining vegetables. Stir fry until almost cooked
Add tomatoes
Season with salt and cracked black pepper
Add oregano
Mix through. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Add tuna, mix through
Once pasta is cooked, drain and add to wok.
Mix through.
Add grated cheese and mix until cheese is melted

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Assorted Sweetlings!

We were having a quiet at-home day yesterday, and I knew I was going to be having some friends over for morning tea today, so of course, it was time for lots of baking! Any excuse, and my friends aren't exactly going to complain!
I got busy with three new sweet recipes. On the left are some coconut macaroons. I have tried a few different macaroon recipes, and none seem to be quite what I want. The only small problem is that I don't actually know what it is that I want, which makes finding it quite difficult. I'm sure though, that once I do find it, it will knock me over with its fabulousness. These ones are different to the dense macaroons you can get. They are pretty much just a meringue with coconut mixed in. Not that that is a problem considering my meringue addiction issues. Some macaroons just get made by randomly mixing the ingredients together. For these, I had to whip egg whites and then gradually add sugar - blah blah blah - all that normal meringue stuff. They turned out pretty well though, and they got good reviews from a tough audience. (ummmmmm.... that's not quite true. That audience will scoff ANYTHING!)

In the middle of the photo you will see some Brownie Roll-out Cookies. I have been eyeing these off for a while now. The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, one of the many food blogs I am addicted to. I used unsalted butter, and then forgot to put some salt in, so they weren't quite as good as they could have been, but I still give them 9/10. They were really really good. My friends were lucky there were any left. Straight out of the oven, salt or no salt, they were irresistable!

Last but not least, we have some almond bread. I am not familar with the site the recipe came from - I just typed almond bread in google and that's one that came up. I have always liked almond bread, which I thought was the same as biscotti. I tried to make some a little while ago, using a biscotti recipe, and I was quite disappointed. I have since found out that almond bread and biscotti, are in fact, quite different. They use the same twice-baked technique, but biscotti use whole eggs and almond bread has only egg whites. This is actually quite convenient for me because my freezer is full of containers of 3 egg whites. Every time I make ice-cream, it uses 6 egg yolks, so I freeze the whites in batches of 3. Why 3? This makes the perfect number of meringues to fit on one oven tray! And look at that recipe! 3 egg whites! It was meant to be!

I was pretty happy with this almond bread. The cloves and the orange peel really made it great. (although 1/2 tbs cloves seemed like too much so I only put in 1 tsp). I once heard Jamie Oliver say something along the lines of "You can put one of these in the top of a dessert, and you can then charge £8 for £4 dessert". So if you come to my house for dessert, these will now be in the top of everything and you can pay by cheque or cash.

Monday, 16 June 2008

BBQ Lamb Lump

Wow! Happy Birthday Chocolate Potatoes!! It certainly doesn't seem like it, but I have now been doing this blog for 1 year. Scary!

In order to celebrate this blog's birthday, we decided to get a new BBQ. Actually, that's not even remotely true! The last one started shooting flames out the front so it had to go! The new one is a schmick stainless steel number, and we got a bit excited and got the rotisserie and also a smoker box and some hickory chips. I think we've had a BBQ almost every day since we got it, and I have used it more often than GKGK. We've done all the usual stuff, which in this house is steak and then steak with a side of steak (with some sausages for the kidlets), which have all gone well, and I've also done some chicken pieces and even a whole snapper.

GKGK insisted we try a roast on the second night we had it, so we put half a leg of lamb on a rack, and I put together a mix for the basting/drip tray to go underneath it, with high hopes for some tasty gravy. We were quite unrealistic though, because we expected that the thermometer on the lid would actually be accurate. Outrageous! After about half an hour, I went to check on everything. The thermometer read 180ºC, and I was expecting some good looking, half-cooked dinner. Instead, I found a good load of CHARCOAL! I grabbed my oven thermometer to see what on earth was going on, and it appears that the temperature inside the BBQ is about 50-70 degrees higher than what the gauge on the lid says. Great.

So the veges were pretty much burnt and inedible, but the outer two thirds of the meat were pretty good. (The inside was totally raw!) A quick inspection of the dripping tray saw nothing but charcoal so the gravy came from a packet! Even so, we weren't totally disheartened by this, so the following weekend, we decided to take the plunge and go for the big rotisserie.

I went to the butcher to work out what lump of meat we should do, while GKGK put the rotisserie together. I came home, very proud owner of a 2kg leg of lamb that the butcher had tied so it would cook evenly, only to find that there was a piece missing from the rotisserie, so we had to go back to the BBQ shop to get it. I was starting to think that the oven was the only way to go for roasts. But GKGK finally fixed the rotisserie, we got the lamb going, and from there, everything went swimmingly!

My one complaint with GKGK’s bbqs in the past, is that he never bastes. Well, with the rotisserie, he has finally started, so now he calls himself “the master baster”!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Passionfruit Slice

When we were on holidays a while ago, I went to a bakery, probably just to get some bread, but I was easily distracted by a fabulous looking passionfruit slice in the display. I asked them whether it was like a cheesecake, or like a custard and they actually told me it was condensed milk. I was so surprised. Firstly, because bakeries are pretty cagey about what's in their products - probably because it's just trans fat and processed sugar and they don't want you to realise just how bad it all is. Secondly, because if it was any good, the condensed milk would probably make it very easy to make. So I gave the slice a try and it was beautiful! (Condensed milk - of course it was!)

When I got home, I was straight to google to find a recipe! It would appear that there are quite a few passionfruit slice recipes using condensed milk, but this one looked the easiest. And it really is very very easy. The ratio of reward to effort here is massive! As you know, I am normally an advocate of using from-scratch ingredients, but the few times I have made this, I have been extra lazy and have used not only tinned passionfruit, but also bottled lemon juice. Oh the shame of it all! But who cares! It's great!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

People and Vehicle Cookies

What a slacker! It's been a month since I have posted. I'll churn out a couple over the next few days to keep you well fed.

The other day I was out shopping at Kids Central (cool toys! sale! woohoo!) looking for a present for Boof's upcoming birthday. In my wanderings I came across the playdough section. Normally I would walk straight past, because I really hate playdough. All that supervision and cleaning just drive me crazy. But for some strange reason, my eye was caught by a tub of cutters. Maybe I didn't actually realize it was the playdough section. All I saw was cutters and my skewed brain immediately thought... COOKIES!!! Now some of you may think I couldn't possibly need any more cookie cutters, but you could not possibly be more wrong. Everyone needs more cookie cutters. Anyway, these ones were special and different! And they were only $1.99 for 15 cutters! Well, not really, but anyway.
As you can see from the photos, the cutters leave an indent in the top of the cookie so you actually get some features. Most cutters I have seen just have the outline. It's very cool. Boof helped me make them, but I think he was more excited about eating large quantities of both dough and baked cookies. Shapes are irrelevant. JUST GIVE ME COOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The people were interesting. The set has mum, dad, the kids and the grandparents. I think there is no mum in the photo because the facial features didn't stay in the cookies once I baked them. You have to roll the dough pretty thick in order to get some of the features and the mum ones were the hardest. (I just used the Wilton roll-out cookie dough recipe)
You could probably dress them up with icing - after all, the lines are already there for you to follow! I just left them plain though. I like the idea of having home made cookies hanging around to give to the boys, although they never really seem to hang around that long!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Pan fried cod with basil dressing and roasted vegetable quinoa

I am still going hard in my less-processed-food-more-vegetables-and-grains quest. One of the grains I have discovered that I really like is quinoa (pronounced keen-WAH). You cook it and use it just like rice, but it tastes earthier, and it has a different texture. It's also gluten-free which is good to remember for my father-in-law!
I'm also trying to include more fish in our diet, but I often find it hard to think of different ways to cook it. This dressing is great, because unlike a sauce, it requires no cooking, and it also means that all you have to do is simply pan fry the fish (or even cook it on the BBQ) and you still get a tasty meal that seems like it took lots of effort! I used the basil in the tube for this. I know it's processed, but I managed to kill my basil plant, and I didn't want to buy a whole bunch. The tubes are great because you can keep them in the freezer. The basil just squeezes out easily, even though it is frozen. (It's probably because it's full of weird chemicals, but I'll cope with that for now!)
You really should give this one a go. It's different and tasty and looks impressive. If you don't like fish, just use chicken. Sorry there's no photo, it all got eaten way to quickly!

Pan fried cod with basil dressing and roasted vegetable quinoa
Serves 4

4 pieces cod (or other fish of your choice, or even chicken if you so choose)

For the quinoa:
¾ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups chicken stock
Olive oil
1 large tomato, diced
1 large zucchini, diced
Pumpkin, peeled and diced (as much as you like)
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 large handful baby spinach

For the dressing:
½ tsp minced garlic (just reserve a little bit from the vegetables)
1 tbs minced basil
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
½ tbs red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Place tomato, zucchini, pumpkin, garlic and thyme in a baking tray. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Mix well. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
Place the quinoa and stock in a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to very low, simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. Remove from heat. Leave to stand with the lid on for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing: whisk all ingredients together. Season to taste.
Meanwhile, cook the fish.
Heat frypan to high. Spray with olive oil. Brown the fish on both sides, then transfer pan to oven to finish cooking. This will take anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on how thick your fish is. (A chicken breast will take around 15 minutes)
Once the vegetables and quinoa are cooked, add the quinoa to the vegetable pan, along with the spinach. Mix well then return to the oven for 3 minutes for the spinach to wilt.

Serve the quinoa, topped with a piece of fish, drizzled with the dressing.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

No-knead Bread

You HAVE to get this book. Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Look at that loaf! It really didn't take me long at all (and no, I didn't just drive down the road to the bakery!) If I didn't try to do the pain d'epi (the one in the picture) and just went with a boule, it really would only take 5 minutes (of your active time). It takes time for the rising and the baking, but in terms of you in the kitchen, up to the elbows in dough, flour flying everywhere, you really could get away with 5 minutes. And think of all those dodgy dodginesses that are in packaged bread these days. As PorkChop would say, ALL GONE! Whoohoooo! I LOVE this bread!
(it goes perfectly with the soups from the last post!)

Soup's Up!

I love winter - just because of all the soups. Not that you can't have soup in summer, but when it's cold outside, there is nothing better than tucking in to a big bowl of home made soup. No-one else in my family is particularly fond of soup. This would usually annoy me, like it does with mashed potatoes for examples. No-one else in my family particularly likes the mash (I know, this post is starting to make them sound like FREAKS! No soup? No mash? I agree. Freaks). I often miss out on the mash because I couldn't be bothered making it just for me when I know I am going to have make something else for the family. But no such problems with soup!

I make up big batches of whatever weird and wonderful flavours take my fancy, and then freeze them in individual serves. I don't have to worry about anyone else's picky tastebuds, and they are all ready for me to pick and choose each day for lunch, with whatever my tastebuds are demanding. My mother loves soup too, so if she happens to drop in for lunch during winter, she is very happy with the smorgasbord waiting for her in my freezer. The photo shows what my freezer looks like at the moment. Colour, colour everywhere! Clockwise from the top: Green bean and almond; White sweet potato with peanut butter; Broccoli and cheese; Spicy roasted vegetable; Roasted tomato and garlic. Yum!

The white sweet potato I posted about earlier. I won't be making it again.

The green bean and almond comes from this book: Breakfast Lunch Tea by Rose Carrarini. The colour is absolutely revolting, but if you can get over that, the flavour is fantastic. It won "New Soup of the Year" for 2007. (This is the personal soup competition I hold each year. Soups from all over the world vie for my prestigious trophy.)

The broccoli and cheese sounds like a strange combination but again, great flavour. I adapted the recipe from none other than my secret flame, Bill Granger.

Spicy roasted vegetable may have won New Soup of the Year in 2006, but I can't remember. I had a similar version at the RSL of all places, and I liked it so much I went home and made up my own. I was surprised at how easy it was to get it tasting so good. It's basically just every root vegetable you have in the house, along with an onion and some garlic, thrown around with some olive oil and spices, and then roasted. Once the veges are all soft and gooey and there's some good caramelisation happening, just blend the whole lot up with some water or stock. They probably just use all the leftover roast vegetables from the night before at the RSL, but mine is full of fresh tastiness and hopefully not full over left-overs bacteria! Maybe I should have thought of that before I had it that day. Oh well. That was 2 years ago and I'm still here.

Last but not least is Roasted Tomato and Garlic. This is a new one - I have only made two batches so far, and it is definitely a strong contender for New Soup of the Year for 2008. This one is super simple - even easier than the roasted vegetable because there's no peeling! All I did was cut some roma tomatoes in half and lay them out in a baking pan, throw in a good handful of unpeeled garlic cloves, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and then roast for and hour or so. I blended the whole lot up along with the some sage (in the first batch) and basil (in the second) and some pepper and then scoffed it. Oh actually, before I blended, I squeezed all the garlic out and discarded the skins. OH MY GOD. How good is roasted garlic? MMMmmmmmmm. People get scared of garlic, but when it's roasted like that, it's smooth and mellow and so incredibly tasty. I think I may have done the same thing for the roasted vege soup. Can't remember, but thinking about it now, it would seem like an exceptionally good idea.

So the only real recipe you get today is for the Broccoli. The sweet potato is unsatisfactory, the bean and almond is in the book, the tomato and the vege are too easy to even qualify for a real recipe, so broccoli it is.

Broccoli Soup
Adapted from delicious magazine, recipe by Bill Granger

1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 heads broccoli, broken up into florets, stems roughly diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
Chicken stock, enough to just cover the broccoli
Grated cheddar cheese
1 tbs grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

Heat large stock pot over medium heat. Add oil and onion and fry gently until onion is translucent.
Add garlic, cooked for a further minute
Add broccoli and potato, increase heat to high and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often.
Add stock and bring to the boil
Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until broccoli and potato are soft.
Allow to cool slightly
Blend in food processor or blender (for smoother soup)
Return to the pan over low heat
Add cheese and season to taste
Stir until cheese melts

Bill put cream in his, which is probably exceptionally tasty, but I like to avoid freezing soups which have dairy in them. Apparently they curdle when you reheat them. Apparently they also cause strange growth around your waistline.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Market Day!

I'm on a bit of a thing at the moment (yes, another one!). I'm trying to reduce the amount of processed foods in our diet, and I am also thinking about going a bit organic. I say "a bit" because I think it will be quite difficult to go fully organic, and I also don't know if I really want to - being seriously lazy and all that. I am quite happy with the (non-organic) fruit and vegetables I get from Martellis, and as far as being a one-stop greengrocer they are definitely the place to go. They have everything you could possibly need, including some organic items. For every item, they specify which country it was grown in, but there are only a few items that have the location of the producer within Australia. Strawberries are one such item, and I'm guessing this is just because the producer has their own label on the punnet. Not so helpful with zucchinis and carrots!
One of the other parts of my thing is trying to eat food which has not travelled so far. One of the great products Martelli's introduced me to was free-range eggs from Kellyville, which is only one suburb away. I'm not going to eggs from much closer unless I have the chooks in my own backyard! I have been buying these eggs for about a year, and feeling good about them, but I have also been reading a bit about free range eggs which has raised a couple of little niggles in the back of my mind which make me think it might not be as good as it is made out to be. It appears that you can legally label your eggs free-range as long as your chickens have access to the outdoors. This means you can put a poxy little door in one end of your shed, and even if your chickens never go out that poxy door, you can still say that they are free-range because they could go outside if they had the initiative to push their way through the thousand other chickens in their shed. And those farms whose chickens actually do go outside, but only to scratch around in a big pile of empty dirt with no grass anywhere in site? Still free range.

I was really hoping for something different. You know those pastoral images on the packaging of anything that's supposed to be natural - lush green grass, black and white cows contentedly grazing, chickens happily pecking, that's what I was hoping to find in suburban Sydney! So it was with some trepidation that I thought I would go to the Kellyville farm for a bit of a visit. I love the idea of being able to get locally produced, free range eggs with very little effort on my part. It's good to be able to do something good for yourself and the environment and still be lazy! And I was definitely not disappointed! There were the chickens, happily pecking around in lots of green grass, with plenty of room to flap and squawk and carry on like chickens generally should. As much as I am not the chicken expert, they seemed happy enough to me!

I was also very pleased to find out that this particular farm not only grow their own vegetables, which they sell to the public, but most of them are also organic! So I bought a whole jap pumpkin (which you can see in one of the photos above), some honey, a cucumber, and some roma tomatoes, which even though they are at the end of their season were absolutely beautiful! I'm pretty excited about this farm. It's only a 10 minute drive from home, and I think it will really help us to be more in touch with what is in season, and therefore eat food that is more tasty and more healthy.

In addition to my Kellyville jaunts, I am also going to make some more effort to go to some of the farmers markets. Last weekend I went to the Pyrmont Growers Market, and got lots of exciting things as you can see from the photos above. I'm very excited about the start of apple season. I think apples would be one of my top 5 foods! I got a few different varieties from a few different producers, and GKGK told me last night they are some of the best apples he has ever tasted! That oozy schmoozy cheese you can see is brie from SOMEONE. Unfortunately, I was very silly and didn't get any information from the producer, so now I have no idea who they are, so I can't easily get more. It is so smooth and so full flavoured, I almost ate the whole piece the minute I got home. The lavender came from a flower seller who was packing up and wanted to get rid of his remaining stock. I only paid $2 for it, and I have since remembered a lavender shortbread recipe I have tagged somewhere, so I am going to dry it and bake it!

I got lots of other exciting food but I'll blog about them later. For the moment, I just had to get my "thing" out there and spread my excitement about the Kellyville farm!

Monday, 31 March 2008

Scali Bread

Very excited. Very very excited. Check out my bread I made!!!

There is something deeply satisfying about making your own bread from scratch. I think it's because bread is just such a basic food, such a fundamental staple. If you can cook bread, then you're set. The whole world could fall over, but I could still eat my own fresh bread! I think there is also quite a big slosh of vanity in there too. Bread is often considered too difficult for people to make at home, and a lot of people who are quite good home cooks would never even bother trying to make it. So I like to think I can justify my little ego boost and say "yes, I made this!"

I may have mentioned this before, but I started on the bread path about 12 months ago. I even named last year the Year of the Loaf. That turned out to be a lot more wishful thinking than than reality! I made a few different breads last year - though nothing that really smacked me over the head with wonder. Lots of 6s and 7s (again) and a couple of 8s, but no smashing star.

This year I have gone hard, and I think I might even name 2008 the Year of Yeast. This is good because it gives me a bit more flexibility! The tiny cinnamon scrolls, the two different monkey breads - all yeast based baked items, but not really bread in a traditional sense. They were all well and truly worth the effort though, and made me a lot more comfortable with both yeast, and also with the idea of starting the dough the night before. So this recent effort, which required an actual "starter" didn't really seem all that daunting.

The most difficult parts of this recipe were the sheer length of each rise, and also the whole braiding thing. The braiding turned out to be fairly straightforward, and the rising times were long, but I had factored that in so it didn't turn out to be a big deal. I think part of the reason this came together so well was due to the fantastic efforts of the people at King Arthur Flour. Their blog sets out the whole recipe with a step-by-step photo tutorial.

The loaf turned out beautifully, although I would (naturally!) make a few small changes next time. It was a bit browner than I prefer, so I would tent it with foil for the last 10 minutes or so. I would also make sure I used the window pane test when mixing the dough. I forgot to do it this time and I think maybe it was a bit under-mixed. I would also leave a portion of the loaf without seeds (sorry Mum!). All in all though, it was great! At least 8/10, maybe even 9 !!! Woohooo!! Maybe I can break the 6 & 7 hoodooo!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Maple Granola Bars

So what were my other 6 & 7 recipes? Well this one definitely qualifies as a 7, not a 6 so that's a good start! This one is a granola bar from my new favourite cookbook The New Wholegrain Cookbook. I am trying to incorporate some slightly healthier foods in our diet, particularly some wholegrains, and this book got good reviews on amazon, so of course I had to get it! So far I have tried two recipes, and they have both been good. The reason they are not excellent, fabulous, fantastic, is because they use wholegrains! I like my food full of processed flour, sugar and butter, and these are not!

As far as healthier, wholegrainier food goes, these bars are pretty good. They still have a good whack of sugar in them with brown sugar and maple syrup, and the fat is just the canola and the peanut butter. They come together quickly and easily which is always a bonus. The recipe in the book is pretty basic, so I added some dried blueberries and dried apple. I think I probably would make these again, with whatever dried fruit was on hand, and also maybe with some nuts and /or seeds. I could also try swapping some or all of the maple syrup for honey - seeing as maple syrup is so ridiculously expensive.

Ooh look. I've done it again. I've said I'll make these again, but with lots of changes. I think though that with this recipe (as opposed to the soup recipe in my previous post), the changes improve what is already a pretty good recipe. It's just adding extra bits in to make it better. I think with the soup recipe, the changes were trying to hide some fundamental imbalances in the texture. That's my excuse anyway, and I'm sticking with it.

Maple Cinnamon Granola Bars
Adapted from "The New Wholegrains Cookbook" by Robin Asbell
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup rice flakes or rice bubbles
1/4 cup whole wheat plain flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup finely chopped dried apple
1/4 cup skim milk powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbs canola
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease a 20cm square cake tin. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, rice bubbles, flour, sugar, milk powder, cinnamon and salt. In a small bowl whisk together the peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla and canola until smooth.
Stir mixtures together, along with the dried fruit, and mix until well combined, using your hands if necessary.
Scrape mixture into the pan and press out flat. Bake for 20 minutes. Using knife or bench scraper, cut into squares or bars. Return to oven for 5 minutes.
Let cool completely in pan before removing.

White Sweet Potato Soup

I hate 6 and 7 recipes. Today has been a real 6 and 7 day. I tried 3 new recipes today, and each of them would only rate 6 or 7 out of 10. I hate that. They're the kind of recipes where you think .."it's good...maybe I would make it again...but I would have to change this...and that...." and then you think, maybe if I need to make that many changes, I probably should take the hint and not bother again at all. It's a bit frustrating when all 3 of today's recipes ended up that way.

The first was a soup recipe I have been eyeing off for a while. It sounded really interesting, with lots of ingredients I like. It was the winner in some kraft recipe competition I think. Anyway, I went with purple sweet potato - which is really just white sweet potato in disguise - and left out the chili. It all came together quite nicely, and I was pretty excited, until I tasted it! The combination of sweet potato and peanut butter resulted in this extra-sweet, extra smooth, quite un-savoury soup, which had a real fatty mouthfeel. Not really what I am looking for in a soup. So after a bit of stuffing around, I decided it needed ACID! So out came the white wine vinegar. That really helped, so a few more tablespoons went in, along with a really good dash of salt and pepper. It seemed quite good then, and I left it to cool while I went about my other cooking business.

I came back a little while later and the whole thing had, like, set or something. It was very strange. When I ran the spoon through it, it resembled the texture of jelly-like peanut butter. Again, not quite what I am looking for in a soup! So I reheated it, and added some extra water. Then I added some extra water. Then I added some extra water! I like my soups thick, but this was ridiculous! Eventually it seemed like a reasonable consistency, so I served it up for the photo. Originally the chives were just a decorative touch, but when I went to eat it, it really needed the chives. The oniony-ness of the chives helped cut through the smooth fatty texture.

So would I make it again? Really not sure. I would definitely use less peanut butter, - even after I changed the amount of sweet potato from 300g to 900g (without changing the peanut butter) it was definitely too peanut butter-ish. It is soup after all. I think it probably missed the chilli too, so maybe I would add some tabasco or something. I would also definitely include the white wine vinegar. Too many changes to make again? Probably. Let's just see if I get through the leftovers in the freezer and we'll go from there!

Do you like the photo though? I am trying to actually learn some stuff about food photography so I need to know if my photos are improving!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Ricotta Hotcakes

How is it that I can't even flip a pikelet? I love pikelets. I make them quite a bit. But when it comes to the flipping, I am just so massively unco.

Look at this mess.....

See how in the middle of the three of them is just a big smodge of uncooked mixture? (this photo actually makes it look much less dodgy than it looks in real life) How on earth does this happen?

WELL, today I have an excuse. A fabulous tasty excuse! For a while I have been eyeing off a recipe for ricotta hotcakes. Not just any recipe mind you, BILL'S recipe!! My plan is to cook up a big batch, then freeze them in smaller batches so I can have them ready for quick snacks for the boys. I haven't made them before, but the whole ricotta thing made me think that maybe they were a bit healthier than the basic pikelet.

So I dutifully went out and got my ricotta, and then got all ready this morning to do the cooking, and then realized the recipe required me to separate 4 eggs and whip the whites until firm peaks formed. What a pain in the butt! I didn't bother reading the recipe the whole way through before I got the ricotta - serves me right! I probably wouldn't have made them if I realised they were so much more work than my tried and true pikelets! But then I would have missed out!!!

They are SO. MUCH. better than standard pikelets! They are light and fluffy and soft and tender and light years ahead of my now-second-best pikelet recipe!! And that is my excuse for the mess in my frypan! Because they are so soft and tender, they are extremely difficult to flip. Or maybe it's just because I'm unco! Who cares!!!!!! These are well worth the effort and the mess!

Ricotta Hotcakes
(adapted from Bill Granger)
1 1/3 cups ricotta
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs, separated
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
2 tbs caster sugar
butter, for frying
Place ricotta, milk and egg yolks in a bowl. Stir to combine.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add to the ricotta mixture and mix until just combined.
Place egg whites in a clean dry bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites through batter in two batches.
Heat a large frypan over low-medium heat. Add a small dob of butter and swirl around. Drop in 3 tbs mixture per hotcake into the pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until undersides are golden. Turn and cook until other side is golden and hotcakes are cooked through.
Bill doesn't have sugar in his recipe, and suggests you serve these with bananas and honeycomb butter. Honeycomb butter - sure, but bananas? Come on Bill. That's just gross!
I like mine perfectly plain, and that's how the kiddies will get them - which is why I added some sugar into the recipe. Although I daresay a SLATHER of maple syrup would be more than satisfactory!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Penne with Prosciutto, Tuna and Mushrooms

I finally got off my butt and decided it was time to organise my big box of printed recipes. These are a wide and varied collection of recipes I have picked up over time but have never actually cooked. Once I have cooked a recipe, and if it is a keeper, I type it up and keep it electronically. I then cook it a few more times, and give it a few good tweaks. If, after all of that, it is STILL a keeper, it then gets printed out and added to THE BOOK.

THE BOOK is actually 3 display books - one for sweet stuff, one for mains, and one for everything else. I am seriously considering getting all the recipes that are good enough to make it to the book printed out in a real book - but that's for another day! For the moment, I thought it was a sufficient achievement to sort out the stacks of paper.

One of the recipes I came across in my sorting was something I must have printed out from the recipe of the day email. I don't usually print them out - just tag them for later, so I must have been inspired to cook this, but for some reason didn't, and then it just got lost in the big blue recipe box. It's actually from 2006, so you can see how often the recipe box gets sorted!

Of course, being a main, I tweaked it as I went along. GKGK has issues with too much lemon flavour, so I replaced the lemon juice with balsamic vinegar. I also used prosciutto instead of pancetta, but this is only because I bought the wrong thing at the deli! I love prosciutto, so the substitution isn't really a problem. It's just prosciutto itself. The first line of the recipe says to fry the prosciutto til crisp, then leave aside until the rest of the dish cooked. How much crispy salty LUSCIOUS prosciutto do you think I had left at the end of the cooking? Hmmmmmm. I should have locked it up so I couldn't get to it!

We all liked this one. GKGK said he would definitely eat it again, so next time, I will just get more prosciutto!

Penne with Prosciutto, Tuna and Mushrooms
Olive oil
6 slices prosciutto, sliced into strips
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup frozen green peas
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 big handfuls baby spinach
180g tin tuna, drained
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
Freshly grated parmesan
Penne (or whatever pasta works for you!)

Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions
While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tbs olive oil in a frypan over medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook until crispy. Set aside on paper towel. Try not to eat it all.
Return pan to medium heat. Add 2 tbs olive oil. Add onion and cook until soft. Add garlic, cook for one minute. Add mushrooms. Cook until they begin to give off juices.
Add wine. Turn heat up to high. Cook until wine has reduced by half.
Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in peas, tomatoes, vinegar and flake in lemon. Mix well.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add spinach and cook until wilted.
Add parmesan and prosciutto and stir through.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and mix with the tuna mixture.
Serve with extra parmesan on top, if desired.

Friday, 29 February 2008

That pork dinner

The in-laws came over for dinner a few weeks ago, and about an hour before they were due to arrive, I still hadn't decided what to cook for dinner. FIL is gluten-intolerant, and that was my excuse for being indecisive. It doesn't really make much difference with a main meal - it's easy enough to use rice or potato instead of pasta, but it's not so easy to get the flour out of cake or pudding!

Anyway, GKGK came up with the idea of "that pork dinner". I don't often serve pork to visitors because some people can be a bit thingy about pork. I think for the most part, it's probably all in their head, or they've only ever had the pork that Aunty Flo used to serve at Christmas that had been in the oven for forty days and forty nights. People forgive a dried out steak - "he forgot to turn it, just give me some sauce", but poorly cooked pork? "I don't like pork, it's dry". And they never eat it again.

Anyway, GKGK had to decide what his parents would eat, and pork it was. And they loved it! It's actually one of our standard dinners - albeit one that's fairly high up the everyday dinner tree! It's really different, it's fairly healthy and its easy and tasty. I originally got the recipe from delicious magazine, but of course I felt compelled to tweak it! The trick is not to overcook the pork. A tiny bit of pink is GOOD. If you can't cope with that, fine, but don't cook it til it's leather, or a pigskin handbag or something!

Pork Cutlets with Roasted Fennel and Apple
Adapted from Delicious June 2006

2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and thickly sliced
2 small red onions, cut into wedges
1 red apple, skin on, cored, cut into wedges
1 tbs white wine vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs roughly chopped rosemary
4 x 200g French-trimmed pork cutlets
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1-2 tbs brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 200ºC
Toss the fennel, onion and apple with the vinegars and 1 tbs of the olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary and season with salt and pepper.
Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until the fennel and onion are tender.
Meanwhile, rub the pork cutlets all over with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Heat the remaining oil in an ovenproof frypan over high heat. When very hot, cook the pork for 2 minutes each side or until brown. During the last 5 minutes of vegetable cooking time, transfer pork to oven to finish cooking.
Remove the vegetables from the oven, add the spinach and brown sugar and toss gently to combine and wilt spinach.
Serve vegetables topped with pork cutlets and drizzled with pan juices.

I like to serve this with roast potatoes and/or pumpkin.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Cheese and garlic monkey bread

After the wild success of the cinnamon monkey bread, I thought it would be good to try a savoury version. How hard could it be? Actually, not hard at all! I started off with the same base recipe, just with a few small changes. I intended to reduce the amount of sugar, but actually forgot! (The whole thing ended up a little bit sweet, but it wasn't really a problem, although I would definitely reduce the sugar next time). I also added about 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan into the dough. I made the dough the night before and whacked it in the fridge.

The above photo is the dough before it went in the fridge. The below photo is the next morning, after it had been sitting on the bench for about 1 1/2 hours. Lovely and puffy!

I then made up a mixture of finely grated parmesan, finely grated cheddar, oregano, powdered garlic (very dodgy, I know, but this was just a "concept trial"!) salt and pepper. I cut up the dough the same as the previous batch, but instead of rolling the balls in milk, I rolled them in olive oil, then dipped them in the cheese mix. Here they are, sitting on the bench for their second rising.

Here they are, all puffy and excited about being baked!

Here they are after being baked, and getting stuck in the pan, and being pulled out in bits and pieces!

It didn't affect the taste - they were absolutely beautiful! But I think next time, I might roll the balls in olive oil, then put them in the tins, then sprinkle the cheese mixture in and around them, because it was the cheese that stuck to the pans (even though I greased them). I also think it would be SO MUCH better if I used roasted garlic. mmmmmm! Friends and family all loved them - just as much as the cinnamon ones. So I am very excited about having 2 brand new recipes to add to my repertoire!

Friday, 22 February 2008

Monkey Bread

One of my favourites blogs is from the bakers at King Arthur Flour. As much as I love all the other food blogs I read, this one really shows the advantage of being written by people who bake for a living!

One of their recent posts was for something called monkey bread. I have never heard of this before, but after reading through and looking at the photos (they always have heaps of very helpful ones throughout the recipe), I decided it would definitely be a good thing to cook for the girls today. It's a bit like those pull-aparts you used to be able to get from Bakers Delight, except it's sweet.

I made the dough last night and put it in the fridge. GKGK kindly took it out for me at 6am this morning, so by the time I had got up and had breakfast, it was beautiful and puffy and ready for the next step. Making the dough is not difficult - but I did find it hard to know when it was kneaded enough. I also needed a fair bit more flour than the recipe said - which is something I often find with KA recipes. This might be due to different environmental factors, such as humidity, or it might be something to do with the flour itself. Or it might be because I don't know what I am doing and just keep adding flour when I really don't need to!

Anyway, aside from those little problems the rest of it all came together very easily, and by the time it had done its second rising and been baked, my friends were here, and were all very happy to eat it straight out of the oven!

Everyone loved it and demanded the recipe! So here it is... Monkey Bread from King Arthur Flour

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Lovin' Bill

I have a confession to make. I'm having a secret affair with a man named Bill. Well, at least with his books. Is that weird?!!!? Of course not!

We had our next recipe from Bill Granger "Holiday" the other night. YUM again!!! I really expected to like this one because I like all the ingredients, but I was a bit surprised because GKGK really like it too, and even Boof scoffed it all down!

We had veal with balsamic vinegar, pine nut and currant sauce, and parmesan baked potato chips. I fully expected the potatoes would be good. Who wouldn't love crispy fried squares of potato covered in cheese? So that wasn't a big deal really. I may find myself making them every day from now, but still, it's not like its heart-stoppingly new and surprising.

The veal however, was quite a surprise. It was very easy to do, and the pine nuts and currants made it quite different, and very tasty. This recipe I didn't change at all, so I won't publish it here, but I will say this: GET THE BOOK!!! It's definitely worth the money.

Onion Gravy

What kind of idiot manages to cut their finger like that? How did I achieve that shape? I have no idea. I was testing out my new knife, and apparently I have not quite worked out the feel and balance of it yet. I was very lucky that my super-fast sporty reflexes allowed me to stop in time to avoid slicing right through my finger. Freaky. Or freak, more like it.

And now onto further dodginess on my part, I did not make my self imposed cookbook purchase ban! I caved, and got Bill Granger's "Holiday" on the 30th of December. I held out and didn't look at it until the 31st, but I guess you either make it or you don't. And I didn't!! But I was on holidays, and it was worth it, so I don't feel even the remotest bit bad about it!

I tried my first two recipes from it tonight. We had roast chicken with torn bread stuffing and onion gravy, and tomato and zucchini gratin. I am really not a big fan of stuffing. In the past, I have found it to be either dry and dull, or moist and eerily reminiscent of under-cooked chicken. So I just avoid it now. However, all my Christmas magazine reading is perhaps starting to pick away at my stuffing prejudice. There are so many recipes for exceptionally tasty-sounding stuffings, with all sorts of combinations of ingredients, so I'm thinking maybe I need to open my mind and give stuffing another chance! Bill to the rescue!

The stuffing in this one has onions, mushrooms and sage (such an underrated herb - I love it). It was OK - not fabulous though. It certainly hasn't made me a stuffing convert, but it hasn't turned me off either. The gratin was pretty good. It's not really GKGK's thing (it has vegetables in it) so it's hard to get a reasonable opinion from him, but I quite liked it. He said he thought it was great when it was smothered in the onion gravy! We all agreed that the onion gravy was excellent. Boof kept asking for more and more. GKGK said that the whole meal was the best new recipe I have made in ages, which is actually quite an achievement! Of course, I changed the gravy recipe slightly! I really like Bill, but there's always room for improvement!

Onion Gravy
Good with roast chicken.

1 tbs butter
1 large onion, finely diced
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 tbs plain flour
500ml hot chicken stock
2 tbs cream

Heat a frying pan over medium low heat. Add butter and onion and cook for 10 minutes until golden brown and caramelized. Add flour. Stir until any liquid is absorbed. Add wine. Turn heat up and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add stock. Bring to the boil. Simmer until sauce thickens. Stir in the cream. Add any pan juices from the chicken, or extra stock or water if the gravy is too thick.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Italian Pistachio Cookies

Well, I tried. I went all out and ground the pistachios myself, but the cookies did not even come close to the ones from Dolci Dolci. They did not even come close to my inital batch of almond ones. Oh well. It's just $4000 worth of pistachios.

Not really! But still, it was disappointing. I think there were a couple of problems. Firstly, I used my little mini blender thingy to grind the pistachios and I don't think it ground them fine enough. IF (and that's a very tentative if) I was to try the cookies again, I would have to lug out the big food processor or the blender to get a much finer pistachio meal. You could really see, taste and feel little bits of nut, which wasn't the case in the almond ones, and it's definitely not the texture I was aiming for.

Also, I was going to use half almond meal and half pistachio meal, but I forgot about that plan until I had made the mixture! As it turned out, I had to add some almond meal anyway, because the mixture was a lot moister than the almond one, but that was only about 25% of the pistachio meal.

Considering the signficance of these problems (these are nut-based biscuits, and I stuffed up the nuts!), I probaby should have known these wouldn't work out how I had hoped, so maybe I should try them again and actually apply enough effort and thought! There's also a similar recipe in the same book, so maybe I'll try that instead. If I get my act together, I'll let you know!

The very exciting thing about these cookies though is that they were the model for testing my new image software. Hope you like the picture! It looked nothing like that when I took it! Oh the joys of technology!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Macadamia and Raspberry Blondies

I often feel a bit disillusioned with the whole cooking-new-things thing. I like to try a lot of new recipes, but very few of them overwhelm me with the urge to make them again. Sometimes I think that there must be no new recipes out there that are any good at all, and I should just stick with my tried and true favourites. As much as GKGK likes my baking expeditions, this probably wouldn’t bother him much, being the change-phobe that he is. I recently made one of our old favourites – raspberry and macadamia blondies. He was so excited I was surprised he didn’t inhale the whole batch in one big gulp! These blondies are the perfect poster-child for staying with the old-but-good. They are dense and moist, and the sweetness is almost too much, except for the perfect balance of the tart raspberries. You could probably serve these for dessert with a nice big scoop of vanilla ice-cream (home made of course!), but don’t make them too far in advance, because there won’t be any left!

Macadamia and Raspberry Blondies

125g butter, chopped
200g white chocolate, chopped
165g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten lightly
110g plain flour
75g self raising flour
100g white chocolate, chopped, extra
75g macadamias, toasted (optional), coarsely chopped
150g fresh or frozen raspberries

Pre-heat the oven to 180Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.
In a large bowl in the microwave, melt together the butter and the 200g white chocolate.
Add the caster sugar, eggs, and flours and mix well.
Add the extra chocolate and macadamias and mix.
Add the raspberries and mix very gently until just combined.
Spread into prepared tin. Bake for 50 minutes or until firm.
Leave in the tin to cool. Cut into squares or triangles.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Italian Almond Cookies (Amaretti)

It's the height of rudeness, I tell you. Taylor's Patisserie (they of the 500m drive down the road to the nienish tart) have shut down over Christmas. Fair enough. Have a break. You have served me well so far. But 3 weeks? 3 weeks? Did someone forget to tell you that you are running a business??

Taylors have forced my hand. Because they have been shut for so long, I was forced to get some sweet temptations from Dolci Dolci. I have a soft spot for all Italian food, and Dolci Dolci just make the fabulous sweet stuff. And oh my! It is very very good! The other day I was doing some quiet child-free shopping, and I decided a milkshake would be a nice little addition to my shopping experience. I happened to be near Dolci Dolci so I thought I would just get one from there. Of course, whilst I was standing at the counter waiting for my milkshake, all their irresistable cannoli, cakes and cookies were softly calling me, begging me to eat them. Their cannoli are to die for. I would love to be able to replicate them at home, but my one and only attempt resulted in some very unappetising deep-fried cardboard. On this particular day though, I felt drawn to something a little different. I am on a bit of a pistachio thing at the moment, so I went with the pistachio and almond cookie. I was well and truly happy with my selection!

It had a golden crunchy crust, coated in flaked almonds. The inside, which was green (!) was moist and chewy and pistachio-y. There was just the right amount of almond flavour (sometimes I think chefs get a bit over excited with the almond extract), and the whole thing came together just perfectly.

So of course, when I got home, I thought, I can do that! But I might need a new Italian cookbook!!! So I jumped on amazon to see what I could find, but I seemed to be struggling. Every cookbook has ricotta cheesecake, most have cannoli, but finding the right recipe for these little cookies was proving a challenge. Then I remembered that I actually already have some Italian cookbooks, so maybe I should start with those rather than more compulsive shopping! "The Silver Spoon" was a disappointment, it focuses more on savoury stuff, but "The Italian Baker" came to the rescue! In hindsight, I should probably have just gone straight to this book with a title like that, but I like to take any opportunity to consider more cookbooks!

I found that the Italian name for these cookies is Amaretti. The traditional recipe is from the Lombard region of Italy and is for a crisp macaroon-ish type cookie. The chewy ones (which are the ones I was looking for) are from Piedmont. I thought I would start with a plain almond one first, just to make sure it gave me the right texture. Once I had that right, then I would move on to using pistachios. Pistachios are significantly more expensive than almonds, and unlike almonds, you can't easily get ground pistachios, so I would actually have to grind them myself. And that is just way too much effort and way too much washing up! Naturally, I changed the recipe slightly (once again, they were way over excited with the almond essence), and I was extremely happy with the outcome!!! Crisp and lightly golden on the outside; chewy, dense and moist on the inside, and just enough almond flavour without that overpowering alcoholic-type flavour you sometimes get with these type of things. GKGK thought they were excellent, although he did suggest maybe they should have chocolate in them!!! Foolish boy! I'll let you know how I go with the pistachio ones!

Italian Almond Cookies
Adapted from "The Italian Baker" by Carol Field

200g almond meal
200g caster sugar
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp almond essence
Icing sugar

Mix the almonds with the sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the egg whites and essence and mix thoroughly. Roll into balls approximately 3cm in diameter. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper leaving some room for spreading. Flatten slightly and sprinkle with icing sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF. Bake until very light golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Cool on racks. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Christmas Party

AAaaah! Our Christmas party is finally over. As much as I love putting on the whole thing, by the time all has been said and done, I need a good rest. I don’t have to do much for our family events on Christmas Day itself – we are only responsible for taking juice to GKGK’s family breakfast, and I made ice-cream in advance for my family’s dinner. Both events are at the Grandparents’ houses, so there is very little work for me. So our Christmas party we have with our friends every year is the big effort for me. I start planning it months in advance, and I work like a madman in the preceding days, fitting in lots of cooking and other preparations with cleaning and looking after two little tackers!

It was strange on Christmas Eve. We had our party the night before. I ducked down the road to the shops, and I wondered why on earth there were all these people running around, stressing out and buying all this food. After all, my Christmas responsibilities were over! Aah, but the rest of the people were going hard, their efforts only just beginning!

Normally, we try to offload all the kiddies, and have a proper sit-down dinner, with roast turkey and ham and all the bits and pieces. I decided this year that it was too hard for everyone to get babysitting at this time of the year, so we went with a late afternoon/early evening dinner with 11 adults and 12 kids!

We started off with all the usual suspects, chips, dips, lollies, and lots of carrot sticks for our freaky children. We then moved on to some parmesan chicken schnitzel bites, (recipe below) and some famous sausage rolls.

For the main course we had leg ham off the bone, chicken legs marinated in BBQ sauce, prawns, bread, potatoes, my favourite Jamie Oliver pumpkin prosciutto and rocket salad, and my new favourite vegetables – served with an apple cider vinegar dressing, topped with goats cheese and chopped up pistachios. Exceptionally tasty and a good way to get GKGK to eat a few more vegetables. It’s from one of my newest cookbooks – Lighten Up by Jill Dupleix. (Don’t worry, I was given it for my birthday - before my self-imposed cookbook ban). It’s the only thing I have made from it so far, but on looking through, I can see so many good recipes, it will be a good candidate for Cookbook of the Year for 2008!

Dessert was a very tasty frozen mars bar mousse. It came from delicious magazine. I made it when my family came over for dinner a few weeks ago, and because it was so easy and could be made in advance, it was the perfect choice for the Christmas party. (We went to the Wiggles concert that morning, so time was somewhat limited!) (The recipe is not on the delicious website yet, I will post the link once it's there)

All in all, it was a great party. Everything went smoothly, the kids all had a great time, and of course, my darling children woke us up about 40 times that night because they were way too overexcited and over tired. Oh well. We will still probably do it all again next year!