ANZAC mango cheesecake

In what can only be described as a momentary lapse in judgment, I decided to do our weekly grocery shop with three kids in tow today. You see, I normally do my weekly shop online. Items are ordered from the comfort of home, they arrive the following day and are delivered literally to my kitchen bench. How easy it that!?

I’m not really sure why I decided to ignore my weekly ritual today.  I did tell myself that it might be nice to do a little aisle wander, see what was on special and what new items had arrived on the shelves. How naïve was I!

For what actually ensued was 3 bored kids who argued and moaned the moment we selected a trolley,  and were well and truly over the whole experience before we even got through aisle 1. It also meant that way too many treats snuck their way into the trolley – and the bill at the end was much more than I would ordinarily spend.

One saving grace was the lovely mangoes we picked up – at a price indicative that the warmer months are coming. And they quickly reminded me of this lovely little cheesecake we made a while back for our Father’s Day linner.

With ANZAC biscuits as the base, this no-bake cheesecake was jazzed up with a jelly layer and topped with fresh mango and passionfruit. I followed this recipe , substituting the lime jelly for mango jelly, and foregoing the mint leaves (only because I didn’t have any on hand).

The result was a beautifully tropical dessert that was pretty easy to pull together – and that could be made a day in advance.

But yes, in case there is any doubt, I will be going back to my regular online grocery order from next week…

Easy Pineapple and Ginger Salsa

So now that Spring has, at least officially, “sprung” – I am already dreaming of all the gatherings that will soon appear on our calendar. Morning lake walks and bike rides, followed by milkshakes and ice-cream treats. Lunches with friends, while the kids play on the trampoline and splash around the wading pool. Afternoon teas, that more often than not turn into impromptu dinners, as we chat and laugh our way into the evening.

Our BBQ is inevitably a star of the warmer months – allowing for dinners to be thrown together easily and with minimal fuss (not to mention avoiding a hot kitchen with the oven turned on).  But what BBQ dinner would be complete without a few tasty side dishes to serve alongside.  These too ought to be fuss-free and quick to prepare – for who wants to be trapped in the kitchen when all the fun is happening outside.

One of my favourite side dishes would have to be this easy pineapple and ginger salsa. I often serve it alongside grilled pork, but it would easily work with chicken or fish too.

Packed with fresh pineapple and herbs, balanced with lime juice and given a hit of heat with some red chilli – it really is a  versatile addition to the dinner table.  The added bonus being that you can make it in advance before guests arrive – leaving more time for fun!

 


Print Recipe
Easy Pineapple and Ginger Salsa
Course Side dish
Servings
people as a side dish
Ingredients
Course Side dish
Servings
people as a side dish
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste.
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Tropical Rice Salad

As luck would have it, we have been blessed with some gorgeous Spring weather this week. I’m ignoring the fact that the forecast suggests the temperature is set to dip again this weekend though, instead focusing on the hope that the warmer weather will arrive for good soon.

And in celebration of Spring, let me share with you a tasty salad that featured at our recent Father’s Day linner. On that occasion we served the salad as a side dish, but I think it would easily make for a yummy lunch on its own too.

Packed with wombok, brown rice, tomatoes, pineapple and fresh herbs, and jazzed up with toasted coconut and sweet chilli cashews, this salad sure packed a punch.

I used this recipe as a base – swapping in brown rice instead of basmati – and it was super easy to throw together. I loved the crunch of the wombok and cashews, and the sweetness of the pineapple definitely gave the salad a tropical feel. Definitely a salad that will be making further appearances as we head into the warmer months!

Slow Cooker Pea and Ham Soup

There are some dishes that, despite their humble appearance and ease to make, are really something special.

The ones that make your belly full, and heart warm, and undoubtedly earn a star place on the regular meal plan.

Well, friends, I think I’ve found another of these dishes – as this Pea and Ham soup was rather delicious indeed. It is one of those dishes that I’ve always enjoyed eating, but never actually made, and I had to laugh at my ignorance when I realised that it contains split peas, not green peas!

With simple ingredients, and created easily in the slow cooker, the result was a hearty dinner soup (with lots of leftovers for lunch and for the freezer too). We served ours topped with natural yoghurt, shredded ham from the hock and a sprinkle of parsley. Even the kids loved it – particularly Miss Maggie – who ate bowl after bowl with gusto!

Inspired by this recipe.

Print Recipe
Slow Cooker Pea and Ham Soup
Course Soup
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Soup
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a small frypan over a medium heat. Add the onions, spices and garlic and cook for a few minutes - until the onion softens.
  2. Transfer the onion mixture to a slow cooker. Add the ham hock, parsnips, apples, split peas and 8 cups of water. Stir well, cover, and cook on medium for 8 hours.
  3. Remove the ham hock and shred the meat (discard the bone and fat). Blend the soup using a stick blende until smooth. Stir through the lemon zest and juice, and season to taste.
  4. Divide the soup among serving bowls, and top with some of the shredded meat, natural yoghurt and parsley.
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Thai style pumpkin and cauliflower soup

Yes, friends, Summer is feeling like a long time ago (and a long time to come around again).

Our hats have been replaced with beanies, shorts with warm pants and I am well and truly wearing layers and gloves on my morning walk. My car’s windscreen is already icy in the morning (having given up my spot in the garage to a cubby house that has been under construction for far too long), and the kids have been asking for hot chocolates instead of their usual smoothies.

So I guess it is no surprise that hearty, comfort food has returned to our weekly meal plans. The slow cooker is generally on my kitchen bench, or a stew slowly bubbling away in the oven.  And, when I am feeling particularly needy of a cosy meal, a soup will almost certainly be on the stove top.

This Thai-style pumpkin and cauliflower soup made a welcomed appearance a little while ago. The vegetables were roasted, then combined with red curry paste, onion, chicken stock and a little coconut milk. Cooked and blended to perfection, then topped with fresh coriander, a drizzle of coconut milk and some fried wonton wrappers.

Hearty and delicious! With a great yield too so we had lots leftover for lunch and dinner the following days.

Print Recipe
Thai style pumpkin and cauliflower soup
Course Soup
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1.5 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Soup
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1.5 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line 2 trays with baking paper.
  2. Place the pumpkin and cauliflower on the trays and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 40 minutes or until soft and golden. Remove from oven and set-aside.
  3. Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan, and sauté the onion until starting to soften. Add the curry paste, and cook - stirring - for one minute.
  4. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the pumpkin and cauliflower and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Use a stick blender to blend the soup until smooth. Stir in half of the coconut milk and season as necessary.
  6. Divide the soup amongst serving bowls. Tope with an extra drizzle of coconut milk, the wonton strips and fresh coriander.
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Cooking with Kids: Healthier Fried Rice

Today’s post comes courtesy of Miss C – who started Grade 1 this year, and has been delivering her first ever school projects.  The focus last term was on healthy eating and lifestyles (something we are only too happy to embrace!) and saw the students do 3 presentations on various topics.

The first project required the students to cook a healthy meal and present it to the class. When tasked with the project, Miss C had no hesitation in suggesting that she make her healthier fried rice – aka something that my kids request quite often for lunch or dinner. Sure it has a little bacon, but the remaining ingredients are healthy, and the method is simple, making it a rather perfect meal for kids to help create and share!

Miss C had so much fun measuring out the ingredients, and setting up her cooking equipment. She then created a poster, outlining the various steps – as follows…

  1. Get your ingredients. On this occasion it was brown rice, peas, corn, bacon and a little soy sauce. We’ve also used carrots, zucchini and eggs on previous occasions. 2. Grab a pan and heat a little oil over a medium heat (with the help of a grown up of course!).3. Add your ingredients, heat and stir.

4. Serve and Enjoy!My little budding chef and her grand creation. And I’m told she did beautifully in presenting her project to the class also (proud parent moment right there!!)

Easter Weekend 2018

Our Easter, this year, was filled with family, food and fun. A perfect combination of time spent with our nearest and dearest, long lazy food-filled days and games for young and old. Yes it ended up being quite celebratory weekend indeed.

 My family arrived from Melbourne the day before good Friday, and our house was immediately transformed into the wonderful chaos that having 6 adults, 3 kids and 2 babies under one roof would inevitably bring. The kids, in particular, wasted no time in re-acquainting themselves, spending hours on end jumping on the trampoline and playing ‘cooks’ with our toy kitchen. Our real kitchen, too, got a decent workout – catering for no less than 11 people over the weekend.

Celebrations ‘officially’ began on Good Friday, with our annual seafood lunch at my in-laws. All the usual suspects were on offer – prawns, oysters, calamari and the like. Served alongside a roasted sweet potato salad, and finished with a platter of sweet treats. Canberra turned on beautiful weather for the day (actually for the whole weekend), so we lazed outside in between courses, watching the kids make Easter bonnets and play on the tennis court.

Easter Saturday was spent at Questacon with most of the Canberra population who had not fled to the coast for the weekend, it seems. Then it was back home for the afternoon to enjoy the sunshine outside.  More trampolining, water-play, a picnic dinner for the kids, with a little quiet time thrown in too (to recharge the batteries).

Easter Sunday turned out to be quite a day! The kids were up early (like “it’s still well and truly dark outside early”) and patiently waited for the sun to rise before heading outside and exploring the garden to discover what the Easter Bunny had (generously) left.  A breakfast comprising  mainly chocolate for the kids ensued, along with hot cross buns and several coffees for the adults.

Then it was on to the main celebration of the day. We held an inaugural “Easter Olympics” at our place – consisting of two teams (the chicks and the rabbits – lead  by the team captains – C & J ) and 6 games. Everyone got into the spirit of the games, and a lot of laughs were had. The rabbits came out victorious in the end – and enjoyed receiving their medals and the hamper prize.

After the games, we sat down to a late lunch (linner) – feasting on slow-cooked balsamic beef, roasted carrots, maple sweet potato, roasted potatoes and a broccoli and chickpea salad. Served with cocktails and a local Pankhurst Pinot Noir.  Dessert was a selection of chocolate mousse, lemon meringue tarts and, of course, Easter chocolates!

As the day turned into evening, we made our way to bed with full bellies and fond memories of the day. By Tuesday all our house guests had made their way home, and I must say the house felt eerily quiet (or as quiet as it can feel with 3 kids at home).

And so another wonderful Easter weekend came to pass. Just like in previous years, a lot of fun and frivolity was had!

 

Oven-baked edamame felafels

We tend to have at least one meat-free day a week. It isn’t necessarily ‘planned’,  as such, it just tends to work out that way when we are deciding what our dinners will be for the week. Be it tofu, or perhaps beans, the choices seem to be relatively endless.

One vegetarian product that I always make sure we have in the freezer is edamame. For not only are they great as a snack, or tossed through a salad, but I love using them as ‘base’ in recipes that call for beans. On this particular occasion (which in the interests of full disclosure, was a month or so ago now) edamame starred alongside chickpeas to create some tasty felafels.

And not only were they tasty, they were oven-baked – meaning that they were a healthy version too.

Simply – edamame (defrosted and podded), combined with chickpeas, pistachios, lemon zest and juice, garlic and some spices. Shaped into balls and baked for 30 minutes or so – or until golden brown and lightly crispy.

We served the felafels with wholemeal pita pockets and salad, with a good amount of natural yogurt and hummus on the side- resulting in a rather tasty vegetarian dinner. 

You can find the recipe I used here. 

What about you? What is your favourite vegetarian meal?

Poached chicken and coleslaw salad

I’ve been back at work for around 6 weeks now, working 3 days per week in the office. Slowly but surely we are working out what is to be the new ‘normal’ – with the 3 days I’m in the office being referred to by the little members in our house as the “rush days”.

For these particular days, bags are packed and clothes are set out the night before, and I spend time preparing as much as I can for lunches over the weekend. I’m generally up at 4.30am to fit in a walk before the household wakes, then it is home to shower, make breakfast, feed the baby, throw smoothies at the biggest kids,   wrangle everyone into clothes and into the car – so that we can leave the house by 7.30am to get to the various daycare / school drop offs and (finally) head into work.

Yes “rush” would be an understatement.

So I’m sure that you can understand that by the third rush day everyone’s energy levels are starting to wane and tempers are running a little high. The kids (and I!) start to get a bit more cranky, and getting out of the house takes a little more gentle persuasion than on the first rush day.

Constant throughout this new ‘normal’, however, is our preference for easy and speedy midweek meals. Actually, not just a preference – a must. Something healthy and that is full of flavour, to keep our batteries recharged.

Take this poached chicken and coleslaw salad for instance. Pulled together with relative ease in no time at all.

I poached chicken breasts in chicken stock, with some peppercorns, ginger and garlic. Shredded then added to a coleslaw salad, made with mesculin, shredded purple cabbage, carrots, spring onions and a little corn I had leftover in the fridge. Dressed simply with sesame oil, soy and lemon juice, and finished with sliced red chilli and a good amount of coriander.

Easy, fuss-free and healthy. Not to mention SPEEDY – giving us more time to prepare for the rush day ahead.

Tim Tam Slice

I wanted to try a new slice creation when asked to ‘bring a plate’ to a friend’s BBQ the other week. Normally I take my rocky road, or lemon slice, but with a packet of Tim Tams sitting in the cupboard – well I had my inspiration to try something new.

On the subject of Tim Tams – they really are quite iconically Australian, aren’t they. So much so that when we had Japanese exchange students stay with us when I was younger, they took back packets of Tim Tams by the suitcase-load.  They weren’t all that fussed about Vegemite, but they couldn’t get enough when it came to Tim Tams!

But I digress.

This ‘no bake’ Tim Tam slice was made simply with biscuits, Tim Tams (of course), condensed milk, butter, coconut and cocoa powder.

Combined, pressed into a pan, then topped with white chocolate and more biscuit pieces. Then it was into the fridge to set – no baking required.

Then, after a few hours, the slice was ready to slice and serve.

I’m pleased to report that the slice had all the hallmarks of their biscuit inspiration. Full of chocolate and crunch.

A word of warning though….you may find it difficult to stop at just once piece…

Print Recipe
Tim Tam Slice
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 20 minutes + cooling time
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 20 minutes + cooling time
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Line a slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the sweetened condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder in a small saucepan, and heat over a low heat - stirring until the butter has melted and the mixture is combined. Remove from the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the Marie biscuits, half of the chopped Tim Tams and coconut in a large bowl. Add the butter mixture and stir until well combined. Press into the prepared slice tin.
  4. Melt the white chocolate, and pour over the slice. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped Tim Tams and place into the fridge for a few hours to set. Slice and serve.
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