Spiced pork, pineapple and bean salad bowl

I think I need to start a salad bowl series. For with the warmer weather lingering on, salad bowls continue to make a regular appearance at dinner time.

The basis is generally the same – a protein, some sort of carbohydrate or other filler and, of course, lots of salad.

On this occasion, a spice-rubbed pork was the star of the show. A protein that I turn to quite often not only because it is quick to cook but its also nice and lean.

Beans added some filler, grilled pineapple gave the whole bowl a certain ‘zing’ and the rest of the bowl was filled with lots of salad and other goodies.

Another tasty addition to what’s fast becoming my salad bowl addiction!

Spiced pork, pineapple and bean salad bowl (serves 2)

  • 250g pork fillet
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 6 pineapple slices
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 small can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1tsp lime juice

To serve: coriander, avocado (diced), mesculin and shredded coleslaw (I bought a plain pre-cut bag, and added my own dressing of a little natural yoghurt and dijon mustard).

  1. Preheat oven to 200C and line a baking tray with paper.
  2. Combine oil and spices in a shallow bowl, then add pork – turning to coat. Allow to marinate for an hour or so if you have time.
  3. Place the pork fillet on teh tray and bake for 20 minutes or so or until cooked through. . Remove from oven. Transfer to a heatproof plate and cover with foil. Set aside for 5 minutes to rest.
  4. Meanwhile, sprinkle the pineapple slices with the brown sugar and grill until golden.
  5. To make the bean salad: combine the beans, tomato, onion, garlic and lime juice and coriander. Season to taste.
  6. Divide greens, coleslaw, bean salad, pineapple and avocado among serving bowls. Top with sliced pork and coriander.

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.

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?

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?

Mushroom quinoa “risotto” with roasted tomatoes

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While I love risotto, sometimes it feels a little heavy for dinner (particularly if I am eating close to bedtime). A solution? Use another of my favourite ingredients in place of rice..

Quinoa!

The added bonus being that it is quicker to prepare and packed with protein (especially if you are opting to otherwise keep the dish vegetarian).

On this occasion, I packed out the ‘risotto’ with mushrooms, zucchini and a good helping of spinach. The overall result was full of flavour, but not too heavy, and it turned out to be quite the tasty midweek meal.

img_1130 Finished with some cherry tomatoes that I had roasted in the oven until soft and starting to caramelise – which added nice little sweet bursts to the dish.
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I’ll have to remember this dish for next time I have vegetarian friends in town!

Mushroom quinoa “risotto” with roasted tomatoes (serves 2)

  • 100g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 0.5 cups water
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 brown onion, diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 cup tri-colour quinoa
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Place tomatoes on a lined backing tray and spray lightly with oil. Roast for 10 minutes or until starting to soften.
  2. Bring stock and water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Lower heat.
  3. Heat oil in a separate fry-pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion and cook for a few minutes, or until starting to colour.
  4. Add the garlic and zucchini, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add the quinoa and stir for 1 minute, coating the grains in oil.
  6. Add the warm stock mixture, one ladle at a time. Stir until the liquid has been absorbed before adding the next. Repeat until all the stock is used and the quinoa is cooked.
  7. Stir through the parmesan and spinach, and stir until the spinach has wilted.
  8. Divide the risotto amongst two serving bowls, and top with the roasted tomatoes.

 

 

Chilli Beef and Eggplant Lettuce Cups

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Eggplant is a vegetable that  I don’t eat nearly enough. I seem to overlook it when I’m at the greengrocer, which is unfortunate as I always enjoy it when it makes an appearance in a recipe that I’ve come across.

Once such recipe was for these chilli beef and eggplant lettuce cups that I discovered in a recent Healthy Food Guide edition (you can also find the recipe online here).

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I loved how the eggplant effectively ‘bulked’ out the meat component of the dish, while adding lots of flavour and texture.

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And while I normally tend to roast eggplant, this turned out to be a nice alternative cooking method. I was a tad sceptical at first that the eggplant would be cooked, but after 10 minutes or so in the pan it had softened beautifully.

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The chilli beef and eggplant filling was served in crunchy lettuce cups – resulting in a nice new take on an old favourite – san choy bau (another favourite of mine!). The added bonus being that aside from chopping the vegetables (and their modest cooking time), the whole meal came together quickly and easily – which is always perfect for a mid-week meal.

What about you? Are you a fan of eggplant?

Chilli lime pulled pork quinoa bowl

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Whenever I make a batch of pulled pork (and thanks to my slow cooker it happens quite often), I always make sure to portion some out to freeze. It was a tip I picked up from Jamie Oliver, I think, who confirmed that it could be frozen then defrosted down the track to make for a speedy dinner.

And recently, I did just that.

I found a portion of pulled pork in the freezer which I reheated slowly in a frypan, adding a good dash of chilli sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime at the last moment to really make the flavours sing!

Then, what to serve it with?

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On this occasion I went with cooked quinoa, lettuce, cucumber, and a little tomato / onion / coriander salad. Not to mention the rest of a roasted corn and chorizo salad that we had leftover from the night before, along with a dollop of natural yoghurt and harissa hummus.

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At the last minute I came across some tortillas in the freezer too, which came back to life in no time at all with a short burst in the microwave.

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And so this chilli lime pulled pork quinoa bowl came to life. A combination of fresh, frozen and leftover ingredients – packed to the brim with flavour.

Another dinner bowl that I will no doubt attempt to recreate at some point in the future!

Honey miso chicken meatballs

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Meatballs are one of those dishes that I really enjoy, but rarely make.  This is, until, a recipe captures my eye, or a particular craving strikes.

Both happened recently, when I saw a recipe for honey miso meatballs in Taste magazine . I knew I had half a container of miso paste in the fridge, and the flavour combination really appealed to me, so needless to say the dish was added to our weekly meal plan without hesitation.

img_8399 I relied on this recipe, but made a few changes along the way. I used chicken mince in place of turkey mince, and added  baby spinach leaves for some extra green.  I had a bag of frozen edamame in the freezer so there was no problem there (although I can never seem to stop myself from snacking on edamame before it is added to a meal…yum!)

The result? Delish!

I really enjoyed the new spin on an old favourite, and was left wondering why I had not gone with an ‘Asian’ style meatball before. The miso shone through, and I loved the sticky honey and ginger glaze.

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Even the kids jumped on board, and were more than happy to gobble up the leftovers the next day.

Well the meatballs and noodles, at least. The greens….yeah not so much.