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.
Share this Recipe

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.
Share this Recipe

Fancy Fruit Platter

With the festivities of the Christmas season now in full swing, I wanted to share with you one of my favourite additions to the family breakfast table.  For when the sun is shining, and day ahead is filled with family and celebrations, we like to keep things light and simple at breakfast time (no doubt saving all important calories for later in the day).

Namely – a Fancy Fruit Platter.

Put a bowl of whole fruit in front of me, and I will look at it with relative ambivalence. But slice the fruit and make it into a salad or a fruit platter? Well you won’t keep me (or the kids!) away from it.

On this occasion we filled the platter with all the wonderful seasonal fruits the market had on offer.  Mango, melon, pineapple, pear, passionfruit, kiwi fruit, apricots, nectarines, strawberries, grapes and blueberries.

Served with some lovely vanilla bean yoghurt and honey granola, and we had ourselves quite the delicious start to the day.

Nutty Date & Chocolate Slice

My two eldest girls can be quite challenging when it comes to food. Miss C will happily eat avocado, mangoes and prawn dumplings by the bucket load, but is generally not all that food focused at meal times (preferring instead to snack and graze throughout the day). Little J would happily have yoghurt for breakfast lunch and dinner, and has no interest in more ‘traditional’ meals such as sandwiches.

Needless to say that if I was to present them with a bowl filled with dates, they would be looked at with suspicion and remain uneaten.

Put dates in a chocolate covered slice however? Well that proved to be a winner!

This slice contains no flour, no eggs, but it does contain nuts so is not allergy-friendly for school lunchboxes.

The texture of this slice is almost fudge-like, and we all loved the little pops of crunchiness throughout. Covering the slice in dark chocolate took the whole slice to the next level too – and worked perfectly to fool my suspicious eaters!

Print Recipe
Nutty Date & Chocolate Slice
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Line a loaf tin with baking paper, leaving a little overhanging the edges.
  2. Process the dates and nut butter in a food processor for a few minutes, until the mixture is well combined and forms a paste. Transfer to a large bowl, and stir through the puffed rice and chopped nuts.
  3. Press the mixture firmly into the lined tin (it will be quite sticky so you may want to use wet hands to do this). Pour the melted chocolate over the top of the slice, and place in the fridge to set for 1 hour. Cut the slice into squares and serve.
Recipe Notes

Keep the slice in the fridge until ready to eat as it will soften at room temperature.

Share this Recipe

Eggplant Tapenade Tuna Nicoise Salad

Following on from my recent “Eat the Freezer” post, I should probably pull together an “Eat the Pantry” series. For similar to my freezer, my pantry is starting to fill up with lots of bits and pieces.  Half packets of pasta, noodles, vinegars and sauces….

You get the idea.

A little while ago I came across this lovely little eggplant tapenade hiding up the back that, from memory, arrived in a gift box of edible goodies for my birthday. And while I would normally save tapenade for pasta, I had a lighter meal in mind, and so this eggplant tapenade nicoise salad came to be.

I steamed baby chat potatoes then, while they were still warm, stirred through a few generous spoonfuls of the tapenade. The remainder of the salad was built using steamed asparagus and beans, chargrilled corn, mesculin, tinned tuna and, of course, a soft boiled egg.

Despite the abundance of other ingredients, the tapenade really shined! It added lots of flavour to the salad, with no additional dressing required. And while on this occasion I used eggplant tapenade,  I think an olive or pepper tapenade would also work really well.

Print Recipe
Eggplant Tapenade Tuna Nicoise Salad
Course Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Course Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Chargrill corn in a pan until golden brown. Remove kernels and set aside.
  2. Steam chat potatoes for 8 minutes, or until cooked. Place in a large bowl, and while warm, stir through the tapenade.
  3. Steam the asaparagus and beans for 3 to 4 minutes, then refresh by running under cold water.
  4. Add the corn, asparagus, beans, lettuce and tuna to the potatoes, stirring gently to combine.
  5. Place lettuce in serving bowls, and top with the tuna / potato salad mixture, along with two egg halves. Season and serve.
Share this Recipe

Cherry Ripe Power Balls

Growing up, our family had a regular Sunday night ritual. After dinner, Dad would present four chocolates of different varieties to the family, with instructions that we could each choose one. We’d then sit down to some TV time as a family, and noting the era, we probably watched an episode of The Wonder Years, Xena Warrior Princess or, perhaps, Home Improvement.

Generally Dad presented a mars bar, a crunchie bar, a picnic and a cherry ripe. Or, if he was feeling particularly creative, maybe a curly wurly or a kit kat.  And generally there were no arguments when it came time to choose, with each family member having their preferred variety of sugar hit.

Dad would take the picnic bar, Mum would take the cherry ripe, and my brother and I would negotiate over whatever was left.

Although, if we were to have that ritual these days, I would almost certainly opt for the cherry ripe.

For dark chocolate + cherries = yes please!

These tasty little cherry ripe power balls use dates, dried cherries, coconut and cocoa to create a flavour combination that is not all that dissimilar to the ol’ cherry ripe bar.  They are rich, but not overly sweet.

They are, however, a lot healthier and definitely lunchbox friendly – as well as a tasty snack to reach for throughout the day.

What about you? What is your favourite chocolate bar?

Print Recipe
Cherry Ripe Power Balls
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
balls
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
balls
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor, and process until well combined.
  2. Shape and roll into balls, and place on a paper-lined plate. Store in the fridge.
Share this Recipe