Cocktail Hour: Santorini Sunrise

 In a previous life, many moons ago now, I worked almost every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night as a bartender. This basically meant that I operated on little weekend sleep for the 4 years I was at university, pulled my fair share of beers and made countless bourbon and cokes (which seemed to be the popular drink of choice amongst the younger clientele at the time).

A highlight of these years was being rostered on in the cocktail bar from time to time, as opposed to the nightclub, where I could have  fun creating cocktails.

And while these days my weekends are far more laid back (with sleep deprivation coming in the form of a newborn rather than an 8-hour bartending shift), I still do love creating cocktails when the opportunity arises.

Take this Santorini Sunrise, for instance – which we served at our recent Father’s Day lunch. It was a simple cocktail, and far from the ‘unique’ cocktails popping up on drink menus today, but it was fresh and fruity – and just the sort of cocktail I was wanting to serve.

A tasty little addition to the MCP cocktail list come Summer time!

What about you? What is you favourite cocktail?

Print Recipe
Cocktail Hour: Santorini Sunrise
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
cocktail
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
cocktail
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine vodka, peach schnapps and juices in a shaker, and shake with ice. Pour into a glass (also with ice).
  2. Drizzle grenadine down the side of the glass to create a sunrise effect. Garnish with pineapple slices.
Share this Recipe

Vegetable and Bean Chilli

I spoke a little while ago about make ahead meals. Ones that I can prepare in advance, then reheat when dinnertime arrives. Well the other advantage of these meals is that you often have leftovers too – which can be portioned and frozen for future meals.

And so with the husband making his way back from Sydney the other day – I dove into the freezer and pulled out two portions of this vegetable and bean chilli. Reheated on the stove top, and kept warm until he walked in the door. Served with quinoa, and finished with some fresh parsley.

 This vegetarian chilli is packed with beans, spices and vegetables. In fact, it is so filled with flavour that you don’t miss the meat component at all. And while on this occasion I served the chilli with quinoa, you could easily substitute the quinoa for rice or even tortillas. The addition of fresh avocado or some  natural yoghurt or sour cream would also work beautifully if you had any on hand.

Print Recipe
Vegetable and Bean Chilli
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes.
  3. Add the spices, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring.
  4. Add the vegetables, and stir to coat with the spices.
  5. Add the tomatoes, beans and water, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Stir through the spinach, cacao powder and parsley, and heat for a few minutes, Season to taste.
  7. Divide and among serving bowls, and serve with quinoa or rice and extra parsley.
Share this Recipe

Fig and Olive Relish

Unassuming.

The word I can’t help but return to when I am thinking of the fig and olive relish we served at our recent Father’s Day lunch.

For it is modest, unpretentious, and certainly exhibiting no ostentation in its appearance.

But, friends, being unassuming does not mean it lacks interest. In fact, if some of the most unassuming people can turn out to be the most interesting, I don’t see why a lovely little relish cannot deliver the same!

Simply – dried figs, kalamata olives, sugar, vinegar, fennel and cinnamon. Coming together to create the perfect blend of sweet and salty – and a wonderful accompaniment to the meat dishes we had on offer at lunch.

And, as we later discovered, also rather tasty when served with some crumbly cheddar and crackers.

Unassuming..yes…but also very tasty!

Print Recipe
Fig and Olive Relish
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan, with the reserved fig water, and bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce heat, and simmer gently (covered) for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Process in a food processor until smooth.
  4. Chill and serve.
Share this Recipe

Mango and Lime Salsa

While I am 100% on board the ‘fresh is best’ wagon, sometimes ingredients may not be in season, or may be too expensive.

Such was the case when I had a craving for mango recently, and wanted to create a fruity salsa to serve alongside some spicy chicken and beans. With not a fresh mango in sight, however, I turned to tinned mango instead – which meant that we could have a summery dish even though the temperatures were still in single digits outside.

Combined with cucumber, spring onions, lime, red chilli and fresh mint – we soon had ourselves a lovely sweet and spicy salsa.  I think avocado would also be a nice addition…next time perhaps?

Although this was a relatively simple dish, it was definitely a hit, and will almost certainly be making further appearances when mangoes come back into season!

Print Recipe
Mango and Lime Salsa
Course Side dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Side dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients and season to taste.
Share this Recipe

Sweet Chilli Chicken Soba Salad

Lately, I’ve really mixing things up when it comes to the ‘carb’ part of our meals. Brown rice and quinoa are undoubtedly the regulars, or polenta if I’ve made a stew, but when it comes to salads I often go with noodles!

On this particular occasion it was soba noodles that added some carbohydrate to our dinner. And given they only require a couple minutes cooking time, it’s no surprise that I find them handy to have in the pantry.

The salad itself was pretty easy to prepare too. I used some leftover shredded chicken – warmed up with a splash of soy sauce and a good amount of sweet chilli sauce. The salad was then built with crunchy lettuce, shredded carrot and cabbage, cucumber, snowpeas, coriander and some extra red chilli for a little heat. Basically whatever I had leftover in the fridge!

From thought to plate in under 15 minutes = winning!

What about you? Are you a fan of noodles in salad?

Father’s Day 2017

Father’s Day is becoming quite the event as our girls grow. Homemade presents are in abundance (thanks to School and Daycare), and the girls seem to be at that perfect age and have a wonderful time spoiling their Dad on his special day.

After a relaxing morning filled with presents and cuddles, our annual Father’s Day tradition continued with a family lunch. And, as is the case each year, we selected an international theme for the meal.

This year – it was all things Greek! Starring freshly picked lemons and rosemary from our garden to give the table a Mediterranean feel.

We actually opted for a late lunch (linner), as it works well with the girls’ nap times and means that they can join us for the meal. Although as is the case each year, linner soon turns into dinner, as we chat and eat our way through the afternoon and into the evening.

On the menu this year?

Spinach and feta pinwheels to start – that I made the day before and reheated just before serving. Washed down with a pre-lunch cocktail – of course – a Santorini Sunrise.

Made with vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine.

For the main course – we served chicken souvlaki skewers, keftedes, roasted lemon potatoes, a burghul salad and a green salad. With homemade tzatziki and a fig and olive relish on the side, along with some flatbread.

And for dessert? This rather impressive-looking baklava cheesecake (recipe here).

A lovely baked vanilla cheesecake, with a honey / nut crumble and enclosed in filo pastry. Served with a honey cinnamon syrup. YUM!

And so another Father’s Day celebration came to an end, with full bellies and lots of laughs.

Adding another country to our list of Father’s Day lunch destinations too!

2013 – China

2014 – Turkey

2015 – Mexico

2016 – Italy

 

Vegetable and Lentil Soup with Spiced Eggplant

One of my favourite meals to make in the cooler months is soup. For it is both easy, and versatile, and almost certainly guarantees that those last few veggies in your crisper drawer are used up at the end of the week.

I find that soup is also a particularly good option on the days when I know that the husband will be home late from work. I make a batch during the day and eat early with the kids. Then his serve can easily be re-heated when he arrives home – without the worry of it being mis-timed or overcooked.

On this occasion, I found inspiration in Taste Magazine – in the form of a tomato based vegetable and lentil soup – that was topped with spicy eggplant. And we all know how much I like my eggplant! 

The addition of lentils resulted in a hearty soup, that warmed us up from the inside out. The eggplant was quite the star too – and definitely not short on spice!

From memory we served the soup with some toasted sourdough with lashings of butter (of course).  The perfect soup ‘dipper’.

What about you? Do you have a favourite soup?

(ps. I hope you are enjoying the new ‘printer’ friendly versions of my recipes, which I think you can also adjust to suit what serving size you are after. Let me know what you think!)

Print Recipe
Vegetable and Lentil Soup with Spiced Eggplant
Course Soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the leek, carrots and zucchini, and cook for a few minutes (or starting to soften). Add the garlic and spices, and stir until fragrant.
  3. Add the lentils, tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Season the soup, and divide among serving bowls. Top with fresh parsley and the spiced eggplant.
For the Spiced Eggplant:
  1. Preheat oven to 200C, and line a tray with baking paper. Dice an eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Combine 1tsp garam masala, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp chilli flakes and 1/4 tsp turmeric in a bowl. Add the eggplant and toss to coat. Spread onto the lined tray and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown.
Share this Recipe

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Pasta

I can’t help but feel rather sorry for brussels sprouts. For unlike some of their more revered vegetable counterparts, they seem to be misjudged. Sure, when boiled to extinction they may be a tad tasteless, but when they feature in a flavoursome bacon-laden pasta, well they are rather delicious indeed!

Pasta doesn’t feature too often in our household, but when it does I like to make it special. And this brussels sprout and bacon pasta ended up being just that. Special.

Brussels sprouts, bacon, garlic and lemon, stirred through fusilli, resulting in a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Fresh, light and full of flavour!

Print Recipe
Brussels Sprout and Bacon Pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
To serve
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
To serve
Instructions
  1. Preheat fry pan over a medium heat. Cook the bacon until golden brown, then set aside in a bowl lined with paper towel.
  2. Heat oil in the same frypan. Add the brussels, garlic and chilli, and cook - stirring - for 5 minutes or until the sprouts have softened.
  3. Return the bacon to the pan, along with the cooked pasta and reserved cooking liquid. Add the lemon juice and zest, and stir until heated through.
  4. Season, and serve with parmesan cheese.
Share this Recipe

School Lunchbox Ideas – The Kindergarten Version

When Miss C started school this year, so did the school lunch box requirements.  Her previous day-care supplied meals, and pre-school only required limited packed food, but starting kindergarten meant that she had to take a full packed lunch everyday. Actually –  it is more like morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea – with pretty strict school requirements on what can and cannot be sent. Anything with nuts is banned, (although I think that is pretty usual these days), pre-packaged food should be avoided and there must be a piece of fresh fruit for the appropriately named ‘fruit break’ in the morning.*

Needless to say I am slowly but surely figuring our what works, and what doesn’t, and am always on the lookout for ideas to keep her lunchbox selections varied. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of days when a vegemite sandwich and whatever fruit I can find lurking in the bottom of the fridge make an appearance, but for the most part I’m lucky that Miss C will generally eat most of what I pack – whatever that might be.

For example, here are Miss C’s lunches from last week:

Day 1: Apple for morning tea, ham and cheese sandwich, cucumber, carrots and sultanas for lunch, and some homemade muesli bars for afternoon tea.

Day 2: Grapes for morning tea, rice crackers with jam, berries and lamington balls for lunch, banana for afternoon tea.

Day 3:  Sliced oranges for morning tea, pasta (leftover from dinner the night before), grapes, dried apricots and a few pretzels for lunch, popcorn for afternoon tea.

Day 4: Banana for morning tea, ham, cheese and lettuce roll ups, cucumber, homemade muesli bar and blueberries for lunch, cheese and crackers for afternoon tea.

Day 5:  Sliced apple for morning tea, a “monster” cheese sandwich, carrots, cucumber and lamington balls for lunch, and popcorn for afternoon tea.

So there you have it – a week of school lunches!

So what generally works for us?

  • Fresh fruit – generally apples, grapes, pears, bananas, oranges, mandarins, berries, watermelon and stone fruit (when in season).
  • Vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers (cherry tomatoes will be sent home uneaten)
  • Plain popcorn, dried fruit, pretzels, muesli bars, home-baked goods for snacks
  • Leftover pasta
  • Cheese and crackers and homemade biscuits

What I try to send but comes back uneaten (accompanied with a look of disgust from Miss C)?

  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Snowpeas
  • Dips

(ps. While I’m all for healthy foods for all, I must say, the ‘rules’ and ‘restrictions’ were quite confronting when we first started packing lunches**, particularly as we are a household that tries to practice the ‘everything in moderation’ mantra. I can only imagine what would be said if I sent Miss C with the sort of lunch that I took to school as a kid. For I suspect that a squashed vegemite sandwich (flattened by the apple that was put in the same brown paper bag), an OJ prima and a mini bag of crisps would probably not cut it.  And let’s not even mention the sneaky Big M and chocolate jam donut from the canteen….)

* I had the ‘audacity’ to send tinned fruit for morning tea a while back – and received a ‘friendly reminder’ of this fact. Yes the school lunch mafia is reaI, people!

** ie. the tinned fruit school lunch mafia….

What about you? Got any lunchbox tips?

Healthy Lamington Balls

This week’s healthy lunchbox treat was named by Miss C. For she is a big fan of lamingtons, and declared these little balls to be rather similar to lamingtons when I packed some in her lunchbox.

But, unlike their cake counterparts, these little balls have no butter, sugar or flour. Rather, they are sweetened with medjool dates, and given their chocolate flavour with some cacao powder.

Some I rolled in coconut….

Others I kept ‘plain’…

But both came together beautifully, and we now have a big bowl of these lamington balls in the fridge to ‘grab and go’ when the afternoon slump hits.

Kid approved!

Print Recipe
Healthy Lamington Balls
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
balls
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
balls
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Process the oats and sunflower seeds in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Add the dates, coconut, honey, chia seeds, coconut oil and cacao powder- and process until combined. Add a little water if you think the mixture needs more liquid.
  3. Roll into balls (and coat with extra coconut if you like). I wet my hands a little to help with this step.
Recipe Notes

These balls are best stored in the fridge.

Share this Recipe