With the weather slowly warming up, my desire at dinner is turning more to meat + salad, than the hearty stews I craved during the cooler months. But the challenge is keeping them interesting, particularly when you have a husband that does not generally get all that excited when I mention that we are having salad for dinner. One of my recent favourites, would have to be this cobb salad. Filled to the brim with tasty ingredients… including lettuce, bacon, avocado, smoked chicken, tomatoes and boiled egg. As for the dressing – I experimented a little. Garlic infused olive oil, red wine vinegar, basil pesto and natural yoghurt – and we soon had ourselves a rather moreish creamy pesto dressing. And yes – even the salad-shy members of our household were happy with this one! What about you? Tried any tasty salad combinations lately?
On of my all time favourite salads is the caprese salad. For with just a few fresh ingredients, a truly delicious salad is born. So this salad has appeared the last few times we have had friends around for a BBQ. The formula is generally the same – tomatoes, mozzarella, basil – but sometimes with a little variation or two. The first time – the original. Gorgeous, sweet tomatoes… Layered between slices of mozzarella and basil leaves. Finished with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar (not pictured). Not only delicious but also vibrant and visually appealing. But on the second occasion – I did something a little different…. Kumatoes in place of regular tomatoes, mini marinated boccocini, basil and rocket. Again, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Perhaps not as colourful as the original, but still oh so delicious. What about you? Do you have a favourite salad that you like to serve?
Happy Friday lovely people! I must admit, I am feeling a little tired today. Miss C was unsettled most of the night, then decided that 5.00am was as good a time as any to start the day. And, although she fit in a few naps throughout the day, this silly Mama didn’t, so it will (hopefully) be an early night for me tonight. Fingers crossed. When it came to thinking of what to put together for dinner this evening, I was rather grateful to at least have a little flavour inspiration owing to the Gourmet Garden Blog Off / Cook Off. And with a box of GF pasta and a tin of salmon in the cupboard.. And some produce slowly dying in the fridge… I declared it a pasta bake kinda night. A salmon & broccoli pasta bake kinda night to be precise. No recipe today – for there really wasn’t that much to it. Just milk, cream and a couple eggs… Flavoured with the help of these garlic and basil pastes. Tossed through some broccoli (that I had steamed), mushrooms, baby spinach and the tinned salmon…. Along with the GF pasta and a good handful of grated cheese… And the base of the pasta bake was done. Then, instead of the standard breadcrumbs, I sprinkled brown rice crumbs over the top of the bake for a little crunch after it has baked. A GF dish? YES. A dairy-free dish? Most certainly NOT lol! And voila. All ready and waiting for a little oven time when Mr BBB gets home from work and Miss C goes to bed. Although I suspect that I too will be heading to bed not long after dinner. What about you? Any plans for the weekend? Mine is looking fairly low key, although I do hope to get out on the mountain bike at some point for a short ride.
I think that it will come as no surprise when I tell you that I am a big fan of healthy, yet easy, meals. And, although my preference has been for “make ahead” meals recently, ie ones that I can put on the stove and ‘forget about"’ throughout the afternoon, stir-fries usually also feature heavily in the BBB household. So, for my third Gourmet-Garden inspired meal, I decided to return to an old favourite. On the menu… A Thai inspired tofu stir-fry. Flavoured with two more of the herb pastes sent to me by Gourmet Garden. Basil paste and Thai Seasoning. The first thing that I noticed when I opened the Thai Seasoning, in particular, was its wonderful aroma. You could definitely detect all the included herbs – lemongrass, ginger, coriander and chilli. Flavours I used to marinate a block of organic tofu (drained and cut into cubes). Then, after Charlotte went to bed for the evening, we set about bringing the rest of the dish together. Vegetables, sliced…. Rice vermicelli prepared… Thrown into a wok, with the marinated tofu and a couple eggs. Piled into bowls, pretty ones of course And our super speedy mid-week meal was done. While I normally tend to rely on fresh herbs when it comes to cooking, I cannot fault how tasty these herb pastes are (not to mention being convenient). The chilli had quite a kick to it too – which my spice-lovin’ husband was pleased to find out! While I used tofu, I have no doubt that you could use any protein of your choosing. Delish! What about you? Are you a fan of spicy food? I used to be, but while pregnant I found that I had no tolerance to spicy food at all. Slowly but surely I think it is starting to come back though! Bring on the vindaloo……
My next Gourmet Garden inspired meal would actually have to be one of my favourite meals we have had recently. For what is better than a big bowl of pasta with a rich sauce when Winter make its appearance? And knowing that it was minus 4 in Canberra this morning, well I would say that old man Frost is well and truly here! But back to the pasta… GF spaghetti with a slow cooked ragu to be precise! Flavoured, amongst other things, by Gourmet Garden’s chunky garlic and basil pastes. Vegetables and bacon… Mince and herbs.. Wine, tomatoes and milk…yes milk! Simmered ever so gently for 3 hours… Resulting in a rich, aromatic meat sauce. With the added bonus that our house smelled like an Italian restaurant. We served the sauce rather simply – just stirred through GF spaghetti.. And topped with the other pasta essential – shaved parmesan! A rather tasty mid-week meal, with lots of leftovers to freeze for future dinners also! Slow-cooked ragu (serves 4 to 6)
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 100g bacon, diced
- 1 tbs Gourmet Garden garlic paste
- 1 tbs Gourmet Garden basil paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only
- pinch ground nutmeg
- 300g minced beef
- 300g minced pork
- 125ml white wine
- 125ml milk
- 800g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup beef stock
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and bacon, and cook for 5 minutes – stirring.
- Add herbs and mince, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the mince has browned.
- Add the wine, increase the heat, and cook until the wine has has been absorbed.
- Add the milk, tomatoes and stock, and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer slowly over a low heat for 3 hours.
- Serve stirred through your favourite pasta.
I. am. busy. And this crazy whirlwind of life doesn’t appear to be easing up any time soon. Work is crazy, my ‘social’ calendar is filling up, we have a nursery and study to finish, and a tonne of planting to do once our landscaping basics are completed. Throw in a couple work trips to Sydney and one to Perth….all in the next 7 days…and well you get the idea. So needless to say, quick and easy meals are the only ones making it onto our menu in the next few weeks. And tonight’s dinner was no exception. Helped, nay made, by my latest purchase… A programmable rice cooker that has been on my wish for way too long! Into the rice cooker went oil and butter… Followed by rice, diced pumpkin and stock. Then I hit start. And I walked away. And I returned 45 minutes later to find that I had a big batch of pumpkin risotto without ever having lifted a wooden spoon. Finished with a few extras… sundried tomatoes, basil and parmesan cheese. And our rice cooker risotto was complete. Aka. Risotto for the busy girl! While the texture may not have been as luscious as its stove-top counterpart, the convenience of a ‘throw-in-walk-away" meal was too much to refuse. I was able to get a few things done around the house, without being chained to the stove top as I normally am when making risotto. And besides, although the texture may have been a little different, the flavours themselves were fool proof. Pumpkin, sundried tomato and basil – how can you go wrong??. Delish! What about you? Do you use your rice cooker to make anything apart from rice? My new one can make porridge too – which I am rather excited to try out! ———— PS – Thankyou for all your lovely comments about the recent Soon Maternity fashion challenge – you guys are too kind. Voting is still open on the photos over at their Facebook page if you have the time And, don’t forget that one lucky voter will win a $100 voucher of their own! Wouldn’t it be great if it was a BBB reader!
We started our recent Russian-inspired lunch with a rather easy starter. One that was relatively simple to put together (once the blini themselves were made that is!) Blini with prosciutto & basil crème fraiche. And they were gluten free! Originally from Russia, blini are small leavened buckwheat pancakes that are traditionally served with sour cream and caviar. To make the (GF) blini, I made a batter using:
- 1/2 cup buckwheat flour, sifted
- 1/4 cup GF plain flour, sifted
- 2 tsp baking powder, sifted
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup milk + 1 tsp lemon juice (combined and left aside for 5 minutes to form a ‘buttermilk’)
- 30g melted butter
Then pan-fried small amounts in a little butter like mini pikelets (a few at a time), until golden brown. My blini were by no means perfect or uniform in shape, although I think that gives them a little character 😉 Although, next time, I would probably rest the batter for half an hour or so prior to cooking, to see if my blini come out a little thicker. The topping for the blini could not have been simpler. Starting with basil pesto, that I stirred through a tub of crème fraiche. Followed by some sliced prosciutto… And finished with chopped chives. Simple yet tasty… And served straight from the chopping board for all to enjoy! A versatile starter, for which the topping possibilities are endless! What about you? Ever tried blini and have a favourite topping? Another favourite of mine is sour cream, smoked salmon and dill – YUM!
It is hard to believe that only a week ago I was celebrating what seemed to be the start of Spring. For, in some cruel weather joke, the warm temperatures and sunny skies have been replaced with grey clouds and lots of rain. Luckily there was a break in the weather this evening so Mr BBB and I could head out for our evening walk. We missed out on our walk last night due to rain, and I actually really missed it. The star of last night’s dinner (and tonight’s…owing to leftovers!) was this eggplant that I picked up at the market on the weekend. It was starting to look a little worse for wear, so I knew it had to be used asap. But what to make? I remember seeking eggplant parmigiana on a blog sometime ago, and knowing we had tomato passata and mozzarella in the fridge, well I had my inspiration. I started by slicing the eggplant and sprinkling it with a little salt. They say that salting the eggplant will help draw out any bitterness, but to be honest, I don’t find the eggplants we buy here to be all that bitter. After half an hour, I patted the eggplant slices to remove any moisture, and had a think about how to prepare the parmigiana itself. I wanted the eggplant to be crispy, so I put together a mixture of chestnut flour (having had crispy success with it here), and also GF corn crummies. I then dipped each eggplant slice into a mixture of egg + milk (whisked) and into the flour mixture, until I had myself a plate of ‘crumbed’ eggplant slices. Mr BBB took charge of the oil, and each slice was fried in vegetable oil for a couple minutes each side. Drained well on paper towel, then it was time to top. Tomato passata… A fresh basil leaf…. And mozzarella. Into the oven, cooked until the cheese was brown and bubbly….. Then onto a plate. I served the eggplant with a simple salad of mixed greens, cucumber and walnuts. Drizzled with this ‘Greek salad dressing’ that I was given as a gift a while ago. As far as tasty meals go, this is certainly one that I will be making again. The eggplant slices were packed with flavour, yet not too heavy, and I really enjoyed the overall flavours of the meal. While there was a little preparation work involved, I wouldn’t call it a difficult dish to make. And the bonus? Enough leftover for a quick reheat dinner tonight as well! Eggplant Parmigiana (makes 12 slices)
- 1 large eggplant, cut into 12 slices (sprinkled with salt, left for half an hour then patted dry)
- 1 egg
- splash milk
- 1/2 cup corn crummies
- 1/2 cup chestnut flour
- vegetable oil
- 1 cup tomato passata
- 12 basil leaves
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
- Preheat oven to 180C. Line a tray with baking paper.
- Combine egg and milk in a small bowl, and whisk until well combined.
- Mix crummies and chestnut flour, and pour onto a flat plate.
- Dip eggplant slices, one at a time, into the egg mix, and then into the flour. Cover well, shake off excess, then set aside. Repeat until you have crumbed all eggplant slices.
- Heat a decent amount of vegetable oil in a shallow frypan. Cook eggplant slices (in batches) for 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel.
- Line up all eggplant slices on the prepared baking tray. Top each with a spoonful of passata, a basil leaf and a sprinkled of grated mozzarella.
- Bake in oven for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.
What about you? Do you have a favourite eggplant dish?
Wow – what a day. I felt like I barely stopped from the moment I got up, with a busy work schedule keeping me on my toes all day. Thankfully, we had a quick and easy dinner planned for this evening. Sun-dried tomato and chicken burgers! The burgers themselves were super easy to make, thanks to the not so secret ingredient… Semi-dried cherry tomatoes (oops I just realised these should have been sun-dried tomatoes!) I picked up this variety a little while ago from our local supermarket, more out of curiosity than anything else. And, I figured they would be the perfect flavour enhancer for our burgers this evening. Combined with chicken mince, garlic, flaxmeal and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, shaped into 4 patties and set aside in the fridge for half an hour or so to firm slightly. As to cooking the burgers, my trusty George Foreman grill was the perfect solution (given it is a bit chilly to stand outside cooking them on the BBQ), with a slice of mozzarella added to each patty during the last few minutes of cooking. I served the burgers on a couple slices of GF bread that I had toasted lightly… And finished them with some other delicious burger ingredients including avocado, tomato and cos lettuce. And my favourite? Fresh basil. As far as mid week meals go, this one was a winner – fast, easy and healthier than their chain store counterparts. And not to mention being packed with flavour. But then again – the chicken + semi-dried + basil combination rarely fails to disappoint lol. Sundried tomato and chicken burgers (makes 4)
- 400g chicken mince
- 60g sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 tbs flaxmeal
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place all ingredients in a bowl, and stir until just combined.
- Shape into 4 patties, and place on a plate lined with baking paper. Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge for 1/2 hour to firm slightly.
- Heat non-stick pan or grill, and spray lightly with oil. Cook patties for 4-5 minutes each side, or until cooked through.
What about you? Do you have a favourite burger variety?
Thankyou all for your kind words about the ‘day at the races’ party we threw for my parents in law last weekend. As may of you guessed, it was a combined party for my mother and father in law as they both turn 70 within a few months of each other. One of the salads that disappeared quickly was the pesto pasta salad. Made, of course, with fresh basil pesto. Which is a convenient addition to any party given that it can be made in advance. Stored away until needed…. Then stirred through a bowlful of pasta resulting in a super easy, super tasty, party salad! A vibrant accompaniment to any BBQ lunch… With the wonderful abundance of fresh basil. Pesto pasta salad
- 1 pkt penne (GF or regular) , cooked to al dente then drained and rinsed under cold water
- 1 cup well packed basil leaves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 tbs pinenuts
- 50g grated parmesan
- 1 zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
- frozen peas, refreshed under running water
- extra pine nuts to garnish
- To make the pesto, process the basil, olive oil, garlic, pinenuts until almost smooth. Stir through the parmesan.
- Place the pasta, zucchini and peas into a bowl. Pour over the pesto, and stir well to combine.
- Garnish with extra pinenuts before serving.
____ And in other news, a couple of you have asked about my upcoming race schedule. While the season has largely finished in Canberra – I did come across the Batemans Bay Triathlon Festival scheduled to take place this weekend. And, seeing as I was going to be ‘down the Bay’ at the weekend for a wedding anyway, it seemed to good to be true. A little Enticer race to start my Sunday morning?? Sounds like fun to me! Happy Baking 🙂