Broccoli Salad with Tahini Dressing

It’s all too easy to turn to the ol’ green salad or Greek salad when guests are due. Well for me anyway.

With this in mind, I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting salads. Something that is fresh, healthy and full with flavour – and well this one definitely hit the mark.

For rather than just relying on the  usual salad base of mesculin, this salad was also filled with another favourite green of mine – broccoli!

Jazzed up with some snowpeas and flaked almonds for crunch and lightly coated in a little sesame oil. Then finished with a creamy tahini dressing on the side.

On this occasion we served the salad alongside some chicken burgers, but it would easily work as a tasty meal  on its own. Definitely a keeper!

Broccoli Salad with Tahini Dressing 

  • Mesculin leaves
  • 1 head broccoli, broken into small florets (and slice the stem thinly)
  • Handful of snowpeas, sliced
  • Handful of chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley and mint)
  • 1/3 cup flaked almonds
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 tbs natural yoghurt
  • 2 tbs white vine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  1. TO make the dressing, combine the tahini, yoghurt, vinegar and garlic. Add a few tablespoons of water, or until the desired consistency is reached. Set aside.
  2. Steam the broccoli for a few minutes or until slightly softened. Place in a bowl with the lettuce, snowpeas, herbs, and sesame oil and toss to combine.
  3. Arrange the salad on a plate, and sprinkle with the almonds. Serve with the tahini dressing.

A Very Peppa 2nd Birthday Party

And just like that our snuggly little Jo-Jo went from this…

Then to this…

And now to this!

Yes Little J turned TWO on the weekend and we are left wondering just where the time went (a sentiment that we find ourselves repeating over and over again these days…)

While last year we had a big backyard party to celebrate J’s first birthday, this year was, intentionally, a lot more low key. We are going to alternate ‘big’ parties each year for the girls, and this year it was J’s turn to have a modest party with family only.

But that didn’t mean we couldn’t make it a special day. No sir. It was still filled with pressies, balloons, family, food and all things Peppa Pig.  Not to mention morning games, a scooter race and, of course, lots of birthday cuddles!

And come dinner time, there was no shortage of food. We laid out lots of party favourites – including homemade sausage rolls, homemade chicken nuggets and mini pizzas – plus a spinach & ricotta fritatta and grilled eggplant salad for the grown-ups.

As for the birthday cake – well that was an easy decision. For my Peppa-pig-obsessed girl would want nothing else.

(Vanilla cake, decorated with chocolate biscuits and green icing piped to look like grass. Not forgetting the chocolate ganache ‘muddy puddle’ and a few figurines and flowers to top it all off!!)

The party girl seemed to be a big fan – even if she wasn’t quite sure how to blow out her candles. She did, however, love being sung to – and has requested we sing “Happy Birthday” to her on a daily basis since!

“Two” really has proven, again, to be such a fun age.  Little J is full of personality, and more words are coming every day. She is beyond independent, which both endears me and drives me wild (usually depending on how much of a rush we are in). And even when her tantrums are loud and insistent, it is generally not too long  before she breaks out in a big dimply smile that is simply contagious.

Current loves: yoghurt, milk, her evening routine, Peppa Pig, dogs, gymnastics, bananas and her big sister (and / or anything her big sister is doing, eating, playing with…)

Current dislikes: being told no, veggies as a general rule (!!!), not being able to do things herself.

A very happy birthday to our beautiful, bright, bubbly Little J indeed.

Buffalo Chicken Salad with Healthy Ranch Dressing

There have been a lot of salads for dinner in the MCP kitchen of late, but the warmer weather brings with it my general craving for salads. Something cool and crunchy, with an added protein, and a nice homemade dressing – yes nice healthy end to the day when I don’t feel like turning the oven on.

This recipe for a Buffalo Chicken Salad that I came across here caught my attention. A spicy chicken, served on a bed of lettuce, carrots, celery and crunchy gala apples.But instead of going with a store-bought ranch dressing, I decided to make my own – with a couple healthy tweaks.

Greek yoghurt in place of mayonnaise, spiced up with garlic powder, mustard powder and a bunch of fresh herbs. And after playing around with the ingredients for a while, I soon had a blend that I will be sure to make again.

Tangy from the yoghurt, and packed with flavour owing to the fresh herbs, this is one versatile dressing! I think you could quite easily use it as a dip too – just add a little less water…

Healthy Ranch Dressing

  • 1 cup natural yogurt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • a handful of chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, chopped dill and basil)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs water*
  1. Combine all ingredients with 1 tbs water. Add more water if you would like a thinner dressing (or keep it thicker if you are using it as a dip).
  2. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Australia Day 2017

You might recall that last year we indulged in a full tasting menu for Australia Day. Yes, 8 courses that took us on a culinary tour around the Country – celebrating fresh, local and seasonal produce.

And while this year was much more ‘low key’, we still filled the day with family and food, and a favourite pastime – a morning hike!

Needless to say after the morning’s outdoor adventures, we were quite hungry when the afternoon rolled around. Our family joined us for an early dinner – and with the temperature exceeding 30 degrees outside, a BBQ seemed to be the most logical, if not sanest, choice.

On the menu?

Some homemade sausages by our local butcher. Served with a few “Aussie-themed” sides.

Starting with a mango macadamia salad – comprising of salad leaves, fresh mango, avocado and macadamias. Dressed simply with a mixture of lime juice, seeded mustard, oil and sliced red chilli.

I also turned on the oven for 20 minutes or so, in order to make another iconic Australian side…damper! Flavoured with camembert and cracked pepper (and these turned out very moreish indeed).

For dessert we kept things pretty simple. Instead of a large pavlova, I went with mini versions instead. Topped with cream, lemon curd and a fresh raspberry.


And to keep us hydrated, we served a fresh fruit cocktail.

Akin to a punch – I guess you’d say – made with vodka, coconut rum, cooled tea, pineapple juice and ginger ale – finished with some frozen honeydew balls, mint and raspberry.

And so another Australia Day came to pass  – and we retired to bed with full bellies and fond memories of the day.

What about you? What did you get up to this Australia Day?

Cauliflower and Sausage Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of those dishes that I love, but just don’t order all that often. Instead, I tend to opt for white rice when we are out at an Asian restaurant (or, even better, brown rice if it is available).

Recently, though, we rediscovered the magic that is a good fried rice, particularly when we worked out just how much the kids love it. However I remain mindful of the fact that it can be a little calorific and not something we should order all the time.

That was, until I came across a cauliflower version I could make at home.

Yes – instead of white rice – the base is cauliflower – processed until it resembles grains and stir-fried with a number of yummy additions. On this occasion it was eggs, sausages (we used a flavoured pork variety), coriander and variety of vegetables – corn, shallots, capsicum and onions.  Brought together with a little oil, ginger, garlic and soy sauce.

And after a quick flash fry in the wok – we had ourselves quite the tasty fried rice. Served with a small bowl of chilli sauce for the adults, yet keeping the main dish chilli-free for the kids.

The kids even went back for seconds, so I’m definitely keeping this dish in rotation. It makes for a great meal by itself, and would definitely work as side dish too!

Cauliflower and Sausage Fried Rice (serves 4) – Adapted from Taste magazine

  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into florets and processed until it resembles rice
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 4 sausages (we used pork), cooked and then sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 corn cobs, kernels removed
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 3 green shallots, sliced
  • Handful chopped coriander
  • Chilli sauce to serve
  1. Heat oil in a wok. Pour in the whisked egg, and swirl until it covers the base. Cook for a few minutes, then remove once cooked through and slice.
  2. Heat a little more oil in the wok and add the vegetables, garlic, ginger and soy. Stir-fry for 4 or so minutes, until the vegetables are starting to soften.
  3. Add the cooked sausages and cauliflower, and cook for a few minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and the sausage slices are heated through.
  4. Add the sliced egg, soy sauce and coriander, and stir. Cook until everything is well combined and heated through.
  5. Spoon into bowls, and serve with chilli sauce (if using).

Wholemeal pasta with broccoli, chilli and kale pesto

Growing up – my exposure to pasta was primarily in the form of spaghetti bolognaise. It was the age of convenience, and with two parents working long hours, the sauce generally came from a jar. Or a can.

But over the years, my exposure to pasta has grown. I recall with fondness the sundried tomato and mushroom fusili that I would order with regularity from a favourite little Italian restaurant. And the spicy arrabiata penne that we would often make at home. Washed down with a glass or two of red wine, of course.

And while pasta doesn’t tend to feature on our weekly menu that often any more (not because we don’t enjoy it, but generally because it can be quite heavy if we are eating later at night) I do get a particular craving for it from time to time. And a recipe for a wholemeal pasta with broccoli, chilli and kale pesto in a recent taste magazine edition, well it sounded just lovely.

The pesto was made with steamed broccoli, kale, chilli, garlic, lemon rind and juice – along with a little olive oil. The end result was a little chunkier than your usual pesto – but I loved how many nutrients were packed within.

As for the pasta dish itself, I still used wholemeal spirals but made a few changes to the original recipe (which you can find here). I opted to roast my own tomatoes, drizzled in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, rather than using a store-bought variety.  I also skipped the goats cheese, and sprinkled some feta over the top instead (it’s what I had on hand).

The result?

A bowl of pasta that was packed with flavour. I loved the sweetness of the tomatoes, against the spiciness of the pesto – and not to mention the kick of the lemon juice. A simple pasta, yes, but one that had me raiding the pan for seconds when I devoured the first bowl.

Delish!

Spiced fish with quinoa salsa salad

If I was to name one ingredient that I’m a little hesitant to cook, at least with any regularity, it would have to be fish. It’s not that I don’t enjoy eating fish, because I certainly do, I think it just takes me out of my comfort zone. It’s the choosing the right type, then storing it the right way, then working out the best cooking method – yes I find it a tad overwhelming.

Silly really.

For dishes like this spiced fish with quinoa salsa salad are are actually pretty simple to throw together. Particularly when I send the husband to the fishmonger (ie. tasking him with choosing a good variety) and then get him to cook it on the BBQ!  My main role was mixing together the spices to coat the fish, then throwing together the rest of the meal – the salsa salad.

For the fish – we used ling fillets. Sprayed lightly with oil, then coated with a spice mixture of garlic salt, paprika, cayenne and a little lime rind. Onto the BBQ for around 4 minutes each side, until cooked through.

As for the salad, well that came together in the kitchen. Starting with corn kernels – removed from the cob and pan-fried until charred slightly- combined with tomatoes, lettuce, sliced sugar snap peas and cooked quinoa. Finished with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of coriander.

Yes, friends, this is one fish dish that I must make again!

Spiced fish with quinoa salsa salad (serves 2)

  • 2 fish fillets (we used ling – but you could use any firm white fish)
  • olive oil spray
  • Juice and rind of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • corn kernels from 2 cobs, charred slightly
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 125g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100g sugar snap peas, sliced
  • lettuce leaves
  • coriander leaves to serve
  1. Lightly spray the fish fillets  with olive oil.
  2. Combine the lime rind and spices in a small bowl. Coat the fish on both sides with the spice mixture.
  3. Preheat a BBQ hot plate – then cook the fish for 3 to 4 minutes each side, or until cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the corn, quinoa, tomatoes, sugar snap peas and lettuce in a bowl. Divide the salad between 2 serving plates.
  5. Top the salad with the cooked fish. Drizzle over lime juice and sprinkle with coriander leaves.

What about you? Are you a fan of cooking fish at home?

My words for 2017

I’m not one for resolutions, but I do appreciate the freshness of a new year. The chance to sit back and reflect on the year that was – what worked and what didn’t – and make some goals for the year to come.

We’ve worked hard over the last few years to get more balance back in our family life. And while it still remains a work in progress, it’s something that we think about, and talk about, often. Time always seems in short supply, and with two littlies in the house I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But making the most of the time we do have, filling it with fun and adventures, well that seems like a pretty good goal to me.

This year I sense that we are again going to be busy. Our calendar is already filling up – and the first half of the year is on its way to being pretty full. Miss C starts big school shortly, and Little J moves into an extra day at daycare, and I’m a bit unsure as to how we are going to fit in all the drop offs and pick ups, the other activities, fitness, family…..

And while I don’t have any resolutions for the year, per se, and I’m reluctant to commit to any firm “plan” (at least until I work out what the new normal is going to be) I do have a few words that I am going to give a little more attention to this year…

  • Create – I’ve missed writing, and creating in the kitchen, and its about time I got back into it. Starting with a more regular blogging schedule and perhaps a few other creative outlets. More recipe experiments, and expanding my knowledge of international cuisine too.
  • Capture –  I love photography, and want to make the conscious effort to grab my ‘good’ camera more. For the memories captured are always so special to me.
  • Focus – On the present, and the small. More moments spent cherishing the little things. Reading more books and writing more letters.
  • Adventure –  Continuing to embrace my love for the outdoors, and sharing this with our girls.

So, just a few words to get me started -on what I am sure is going to be a magical year!

What about you? What are your ‘words’ for 2017?

2016 – A Year in Review

I’ve heard a lot of people lamenting 2016 – and bidding it a quick and eager farewell. For us, though, 2016 was a good year. Sure, there were some less than stellar moments dotted throughout (but that’s generally the case isn’t it?) but for the most part, we finally managed to strike an ok work / life balance. We also made it through the year with good health and in good spirits, such that we enter 2017 with a sense of anticipation for what the new year might bring.

But before I turn to our hopes and aims for the year to come, it seems only fair to recap the year that was. 

January 

Summer holidays continued in full swing. We celebrated a late Christmas linner, devoured a 8-course Australia Day ‘tasting menu‘, and spent time playing tourist in our home town.

February

Josie turned ONE(!), Charlotte started Pre-School(!) and we took a week-long cruise around New Caledonia (see here, here, here and here).

March

Charlotte turned FOUR, we celebrated Easter and took lots of family hikes.

April

We took more family hikes, cheered on the Brumbies, went camping and got all dressed up for a costume party!

May

We celebrated Mother’s Day, took more hikes,  and had lots of little adventures – both indoors and out.

June

With the Canberra Winter having arrived, we had lots of fun indoors. We also took a girl’s road trip down to Melbourne to catch up with family and visit the zoo!

July

We had dance classes, visitors in town and lots of good food.

August

We celebrated Book Week, took a quick trip to Melbourne and then a family holiday to Fiji!

September

We celebrated Father’s Day – Italian Style, painted, created a fairy garden and flew a kite.

October

We took another trip to Melbourne, the girls dressed up for Halloween and the husband and I went on a “Bloody Long Walk” for charity.

November

We baked, we went to the Circus, we visited the Show and we celebrated our dear friends’ wedding in Thredbo (where we played in snow!).  

December

We ate, we drank, we partied.  We took a quick trip to Melbourne to celebrate my nephew’s 1st birthday. Then we had lots of family arrive into town, and celebrated Christmas accordingly.

And so our 2016 came to a close. Filled to the brim with new memories, time spent with family and a seemingly better balance between work and play (well better than in previous years, that’s for sure!!).

Here’s to an even bigger and better 2017!

Christmas 2016

I’ve always loved Christmas, but it feels even more special now that we have children in the house. For they bring a whole new level of excitement to the season – from school concerts and daycare parties, to tree redecorating and endless requests for carols when we are in the car.

While this year was to be a “Canberra” Christmas with my in-laws,  it ended up being a combined Christmas when my (Melbourne) family made the trip up the Hume to celebrate with us also.  This meant we had 5 extra people under our roof, including my gorgeous 1 year old nephew who the girls just adore, and needless to say a lot of fun was had by all!

Christmas Eve

Blessed with warm weather and sunny skies, Christmas Eve ‘day’ was all about fun. We put the finishing touches on the tree, decorated biscuits, played in the paddle pool and visited the local playground.

Our evening was spent watching the carols, feasting on homemade nibbles (think cheeses, antipasto, homemade sausage rolls, wonton cups…) and sipping on baileys eggnog made by our resident bartender for the evening – my little brother!  Oh and the kids made sure to leave out some treats for Santa and his Reindeers too – before finally falling into bed for the evening.

Christmas Day 

As is usually the case with young children, the whole house was up bright and early on Christmas morning. The girls were delighted to find their requested presents under the tree – namely a bike for C and a scooter for J. So much so that they wasted no time in racing to find their shoes and head outside for a spin.

With the kids well and truly occupied with their Santa presents, we got to work on brunch.  Croissants, french toast casserole,  eggs benedict, ham and a fruit platter – washed down with peach sangria. Perfect fuel for the upcoming adventures of the day (or perhaps it was more of a ‘head start’ as much of the day’s adventures involved more eating!!).

That’s right, after the littlest members of the family had taken their lunchtime naps, we put on our party dresses and headed over to my sister in-law’s house for part 2 of the day – namely a late lunch (or perhaps better described as an ‘early dinner’) – which included all the Christmas trimmings. Prawns, turkey, pork, ham, vegetables, salads….yes my plate (and belly) was full to the brim. Although I did find some space for dessert – particularly when not one, but four were on offer. My favourite being the locally made plum pudding!

And just like that, the sun began to set and another Christmas Day came to pass. I returned home with my belt buckle loosened, and feeling very grateful for the day’s wonderful food, great company and lots of laughs (not to mention being able to spend the day with all of my nearest and dearest!).

And I can only imagine how much mischief the little cousins are going to get up to together in the years to come….