Miso Pumpkin Soup

It’s minus 4 outside as I type this post, with an expected top of 10 (which we will reach after midday, if we are lucky).  There is a heavy layer of frost on the grass, and ice on the cars in the street, although the sky is clear and there is no fog to be seen.

If I’m to be honest, the chilly winter is not all that surprising, really. We had a pretty awesome summer… and it always seems that the hotter the summer =  the colder the winter. In Canberra, at least.

So while I am 100% a summer girl, after 18 years in Canberra (???) I am slowly becoming acclimatised to the joys of the Canberra winter.  I’ve got a decent collection of beanies and gloves, along with some great warm jackets, and have even mastered the art of layering. Our hydronic in-slab heating goes a long way in helping me forget just how cold it is outside too.

But then there is the food. Winter inevitably means that my slow cooker comes out at least a few times a week, bringing with it hearty stews and casseroles. Homemade soups also make a frequent appearance – the aim being to warm oneself up from the inside out.

On this particular occasion I went with a pumpkin soup. But not just any pumpkin soup. This one was jazzed up with miso paste and ginger (inspired by a recipe I found in a recent Taste magazine edition). It also had a lovely creamy texture owing to the addition of coconut milk, and a little zing from fresh lime juice. 

We served the soup with some loaded toasties. From recollection – there was avocado and tomato on one, and a swiss cheese, mustard and ham combination on the other.

But the soup.

Oh the soup.

Delicious, easy, and definitely a winter warmer!! With the added bonus that we now have a few serves in the freezer too.

Miso Pumpkin Soup (serves 4 – 6)

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2tbs minced ginger
  • 1tbs  minced garlic
  • 1 butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 120g white miso paste
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper
  • coriander leaves to serve
  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic  and ginger and cook for a minute – stirring.
  2. Add the pumpkin, tomatoes and miso paste – stirring to coat well.
  3. Add the coconut milk / stock, and simmer – covered – for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft. Blend until smooth.
  4. Add the lime juice and zest, and season to taste.
  5. Serve in bowls, and top with 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.

Easy pearl couscous salad

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The tree is up, presents are wrapped, and the girls are well and truly in festive mode.

Yes, Christmas is coming, and I must say – I’m pretty excited.

Sure – our social schedule looks a little crazy (actually, the kids’ social schedule looks a lot crazy), and little J thinks its pretty fun to remove all the baubles from the lower half of the Christmas tree on a daily basis, but we are heading into the holiday break with gusto.

And while there has been a lot of eating out (and takeaway on the way home from various events), there have also been some home-cooked meals. One such meal featured this rather tasty salad – when I had a particular craving for this almost pearl couscous.

img_1404And boy was it simple and quick to throw together.

Pearl couscous, cooked for 8 minutes or so, to which I added cucumber, cherry tomatoes, olives, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil – to give the dish a little Mediterranean  vibe.

No recipe needed, lovely people. Just add the lemon juice and olive oil to taste, with a little cracked pepper for good measure. And feel free to throw in any other fresh herbs you might have on hand too.

img_1408 Stir, and serve (in a little Christmas bowl if you are feeling so inclined!).

We dished this salad up with some baby spinach and grilled chicken. And it made for a wonderful lunch the next day, when the flavours had developed even more.

A lovely little Summer salad indeed.

Roasted vegetable crustless quiche

This recent meal got me wondering…

“What is the difference between a frittata and a crust-less quiche?”

I guess it has something to do with the fact that a frittata is generally started off in a frypan then finished in the oven, while this ‘quiche’ was simply poured into a baking dish and cooked in the oven? Yes that might just be it….

But in any event, we had ourselves a winner of a weeknight meal when we turned to a favourite ingredient.

The humble egg!

Humble, yes, but so very versatile. Be it scrambled or poached for a quick breakfast, an omelette for a speedy lunch or perhaps a couple boiled eggs thrown atop a salad… yes our house is rarely without a carton of eggs.

On this occasion I roasted a selection of vegetables – zucchini, capsicum and sweet potato.

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Placed in a greased baking dish, and covered with some eggs, milk, fresh herbs and goats cheese. Baked for 40 minutes or so, or until set in the middle.

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We kept things simple, and served slices of the ‘quiche’ with a green salad and some sourdough – finished with a good dollop of chilli jam.  It made for a delicious dinner, and also an easy lunch to take to work the next day.

img_1060 Roasted vegetable crustless quiche (serves 4 to 6)

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 yellow capsicum, diced
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tbs milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano, basil…)
  • 100g goats cheese, crumbled
  • chilli jam, salad leaves and sourdough to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line a large baking tray with baking paper. Place vegetables onto tray, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
  2. Lightly grease a baking dish, and spread the roasted vegetables in the bottom.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and milk together. Stir through the fresh herbs.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, and scatter the goats cheese over the top.
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set in the middle and golden. Allow to cool slightly, then cut into slices to serve.
  6. Top with a dollop of chilli jam, and serve alongside the salad and sourdough.

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.

 

 

Warm honeyed sweet potato salad

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Yesterday there were hopeful signs of Spring in the air. I left my heavier jacket at home, and embraced the shining sun and blue skies when I went to collect Miss C from school.

Today? Well sadly I can’t say the same thing. The temperature has dropped, my heavy jacket was definitely required for the school drop off, and I can hear the rain falling steadily as I sit here typing.

But chilly days make for great ‘catch up on work’ days, so I’m doing just that. Starting with a long overdue post – on a recipe that has become quite a favourite in our household nonetheless!

Warm Honeyed Sweet Potato Salad.

A.k.a. a great compromise when you want salad for dinner, but the weather calls for something warm too.

I really love how quickly this salad comes together. It would be a lovely little side dish, although it easily extends to a main course.

IMG_8682 Simply – sweet potatoes – sliced and drizzled with spices and honey – then roasted. Piled atop a bed bed of lettuce and purple cabbage, and sprinkled with parsley, almonds and persian feta. Completed with a warm honey vinegar dressing.
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But now…where did I put my slippers??

Warm Honeyed Sweet Potato Salad (serves 2)

  • 1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and sliced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 2 cups mesculin lettuce
  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • 2 tbs flaked almonds
  • 2 tbs persian feta
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  1. Preheat oven to 200C, and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place sweet potato on tray, and spray with olive oil spray. Sprinkle with cumin and cinnamon, and drizzle with 1tbs honey. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, combine 1 tbs honey, vinegar and juice in a small dish, and microwave until warmed through.
  4. Place salad leaves and cabbage into two large serving bowls. Top with the cooked sweet potato, almonds, feta and parsley. Drizzle with warmed dressing.

Spicy peanut sauce

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I’m not sure how I was introduced to spicy food. Growing up I didn’t eat a lot of spicy food, nor was my family that adventurous when it came time to eat out.  Sure we visited the local Chinese restaurant from time to time, but I recall only ordering mild dishes – such as omelettes or sweet and sour chicken.

But over the years I’ve really come to love spicy food. Perhaps it was the time we spent in Thailand, or having a partner who is definitely adventurous when eating out? Needless to say, aside from a rather random aversion during my pregnancy with Charlotte, I now tend to lean in favour of ‘hotter’ rather than milder, so much so that I will sprinkle chilli flakes on just about anything.

So when I had a hankering for peanut sauce the other day, I couldn’t resist adding a good amount of chilli to the mixture.  Resulting in a rather spicy peanut sauce, that was hot and flavoursome but still a little sweet.  And not to mention being super easy to make and void of lots of the nasties that you tend to find in jarred sauces.

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On this particular occasion we used the sauce to jazz up a tofu / vegetable stir-fry – but you could use it in so many other ways. A dipping sauce for chicken skewers comes to mind…

And you could easily tweak the recipe to make it milder, if that’s your preference, or add more chilli If you wanted it even hotter! IMG_8743

Spicy Peanut Sauce

  • 3/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 2 tbs kejap manis
  • 2 tbs hot chilli sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • zest and juice of half a lime
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • Water
  1. Process all ingredients (except for the water) until almost smooth.
  2. Add water, a little at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.

 

 

 

Sweet Potato Buddha Bowl

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What a wet and wild weekend that just was!

We stayed mostly in the warmth and comfort of home, with some baking and lots of games being the name of the weekend. We did, however, sneak out for a little parents-only dinner which was rather lovely too – and we are officially converted to the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of Uber!

And while I finished the weekend with a belly-warming balsamic roast beef, with all the Sunday roast sides, I made a promise to myself that I would clear the archives first before posting “live”.

And this spectacular sweet potato buddha bowl has been lying dormant in the archives for too long, despite being quite the tasty mid-week meal.

And not to mention healthy.

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Inspired by a Taste Magazine recipe (you can find the recipe online here), it took less than half an hour to make. I used quinoa in place of freekeh, and built the salad with roasted sweet potato, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, kale (that had been ‘massaged with olive oil), and some crunchy salad seeds.

Made all the more special with a spicy roasted capsicum sauce on the side (simply roasted capsicum, blanched almonds, chilli flakes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar – processed until smooth).
IMG_6678 Yes, friends, this is now one of my favourite ‘go to’ salads. Great for lunch, and substantial enough for dinner too.

Roasted pumpkin, quinoa and feta salad

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It’s safe to say, I’m a salad girl.

Perhaps it was ingrained in me when I was young – when a big bowl of salad would make an appearance on the family dinner table every other night. Although, on reflection, those salads were pretty standard and definitely reflective of the time. No mesculin or interesting tomato varieties – just plain ol’ icerberg lettuce, white onion, carrot and cucumber, topped with sliced cheddar cheese and drizzled with, most probably,  French dressing. Out of a bottle.

Then came high school, when I would usually spend my lunch money on a freshly made salad roll (being sure to ask for ‘no beetroot’ as it made the roll soggy by lunchtime).

Flash-forward to uni, where my love of salad continued. In fact, with a ‘poor’ uni student budget meaning a lot of my meals consisted of hot chips and beer from the uni pub after class, I really looked forward to the treat of a warm chicken salad a few times a week from a  favourite local cafe.

Over the years, my salads have become a little fancier. The local greengrocer stocks a good range of interesting salad leaves, tomato varieties and I should probably take out shares in avocados given the amount I consume!  And while cheddar cheese doesn’t normally feature in my salads any more, other cheeses, such as feta, sure do!

I’ve heard that famous catch-cry  “you don’t win friends with salad”,  but l I beg to differ. For a salad that graced our dinner table over the weekend, when we had some dear friends around for a BBQ, did not disappoint. And I’m pretty sure that our friendship remains intact. Despite salad, a roasted pumpkin and feta salad in fact, being served.

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I could give you the recipe – but there really is not a lot to it. Simply slices of jap pumpkin and red onion, drizzled with olive oil and baked for 30 minutes at 180C. Then drizzled again – this time with balsamic vinegar – and roasted for a further 20 minutes until golden.

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Combined with a cup of cooked quinoa (I used white as that was what I had), a pile of mesculin and a cup of various mini tomatoes which I had halved. Finished with a liberal amount of crumbled feta and a squeeze of lemon juice.

IMG_7961 Yes I think this love affair will be a long one!

What about you? Are you a salad fan?

Spicy tofu bean burgers

IMG_4549I do feel a little sorry for tofu.

For all too often it is thrown into the “boring basket”.

The “bland bucket”.

Or simply overlooked by those seeking a flavoursome and hearty meal.

But it really doesn’t have to be that way. No, I think this versatile ingredient – whilst a tad ‘neutral’ on the flavour side when served plain, can be rather wonderful when combined with other ingredients. And it is certainly a wonderful base when looking to create a vegetarian meal.

In this instance a simple block of tofu was turned into a batch of tasty burgers, when combined with beans,  herbs, garlic and hot sauce.

My food processor did all the hard work to mix the ingredients, and all I had to do was shape them into patties and pan-fry (although I suspect you could save some washing up and quite easily bake them too!)

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The tofu added a great texture, and soaked up the garlic / spicy flavours just beautifully.  Not to mention keeping a crunch on the outside too.

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On this particular occasion I served the patties with a little cucumber salad on the side. However I think they would also work well  as burgers on the BBQ, or perhaps served atop a big garden salad with a dollop of natural yoghurt.

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The choice is yours really.

Just perhaps don’t forget that you added a fair bit of chilli sauce if you freeze some for later and then try to feed them to your kids*

Spicy tofu bean burgers (makes 8)

  • 400 g can cannellini beans drained, rinsed
  • 200 g firm tofu drained
  • 2 slices wholegrain bread, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  •  1/4 cup parsley
  •  2 tbs hot sauce (or more or less to taste)
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 2 tbsp self-raising flour
  1. Process all ingredients in a food processor until well combined and smooth.
  2. Either shape into 8 patties, or divide into 8 portions and use egg-rings to shape the mixture in the frypan.
  3. Cook the patties in two batches in a little olive oil in a frypan over a medium heat Allow 2 to 3 each side, or cook until golden brown. Drain on paper towel before serving.

What about you? Are you a fan of tofu?

*This may, or may not have happened. Sorry Charlotte. #Parentingfail