Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Family Mince and Veggie Pie

Mince is one of those ingredients that most families will cook with at least once a week. We certainly do! Think spaghetti bolognese, meatloaf, hamburgers. You can also use mince to make a pie with great results and for less money than using even the cheapest cut of steak. Add a healthy serve of veges and some yummy herbs and you have a complete meal that even the kids will like!

Mince and Veggie Pie

2 1/2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
2 tbs rice bran oil
1 large brown onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
1 large zucchini, finely diced
3 ts Gourmet Garden Chunky Garlic Paste
2 ts Gourmet Garden Thyme Paste
1 ts Gourmet Garden Basil Paste
600g beef mince
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tbs beef gravy powder
2 ts Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan-forced).  Grease a 24cm round glass pie dish. Line the base and sides with 1 1/2 sheets of of pastry. Trim the excess. Line the pastry shell with with baking paper then fill with pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges of the pastry are light golden brown. Carefully remove the rice and paper then return the pastry to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes.

While the pastry is baking, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry off the onion, carrot and zucchini for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Add the mince and herbs and cook, stirring to break up the meat, for 5 minutes or until browned. Add the stock, gravy powder and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for approx 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. You should be left with a moist, but not runny, mixture.

Allow mince to cool for 10 minutes before spooning into the pastry base. Top with the remaining pastry, pressing the edges to seal. Brush the top with beaten egg. Cut a cross in the centre of the pastry to allow the steam to vent and bake for approx 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Stand for 10 minutes before serving with plenty of tomato sauce and a green salad.

** This recipe was intended to be part of my entry into the Gourmet Garden Blog-Off/Cook-Off but we had a shocker of a week and I just didn't get around to it.**

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Baking - Homemade Soft Pretzels

Soft pretzels aren't at all common in Australia. Here when someone says pretzels you immediately think of the the hard and crunchy kind you can buy in bags like chips. 

Hubby had soft pretzels recently at a work morning tea and was so keen for me to make some he found a recipe, printed it out and then wouldn't shut up about them!  So late Sunday afternoon we decided to bake them together.

They were surprisingly easy to make. A simple dough made with butter is rested then shaped, boiled and baked. We definitely don't have the shaping technique down but that will improve with practice. We will be making these again!

Homemade Soft Pretzels
Recipe converted from the Food Network

1 1/2 cups water, heated to 44 degrees Celsius (I realise you don't need to activate instant dry yeast as you do with active dry yeast but we used warm water just to keep the same process as the original recipe)
1 tbs sugar
1 ts salt
2 ts instant dry yeast
4 1/2 cups plain flour
60g butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup bicarb soda
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbs water
vegetable oil for greasing pan

Into the bowl of a stand mixer place the flour, butter, warm water, sugar, salt and yeast. Using the dough hook attachment mix on low speed until well combined. Increase speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic and pulling cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl so you can grease the bowl with vegetable oil then return the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in a warm place for approx 1hr or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 230 degrees Celsius. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and brush them lightly with oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the bicarb soda to a boil in a large saucepan.

Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a greased surface and cut into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 60cm long rope. Male a U-shape with the dough, then cross them over each other and press the ends onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel (?). Place onto the greased and lined baking tray and repeat.

Place the pretzels one by one into the boiling water mixture, for 30 seconds only. Remove with a large flat spatula and return to the baking tray. Brush each one with the egg wash mixture then sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake until dark golden brown, approx 12-14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. 

Makes 8

Friday, May 25, 2012

Super Toasted Muesli

I have a love-hate relationship with breakfast. If I have toast/pancakes/waffles etc by mid-morning I feel light-headed and stuffed from a carb overload. I know I need protein but I don't have time for a cooked breakfast and I am trying to stay away from just cereal and milk which I am heartily sick of. What to do?

Lately my breakfast of choice is a freshly made fruit and veggie juice, using some combination of apple, carrot, celery, beetroot, ginger, lemon, pineapple and spinach. Absolutely delicious and packed full of nutrients. Then an hour or so later I will have either porridge with LSA or toasted muesli with yoghurt.

I found this muesli recipe on Scandi Foodie and it ticks all the boxes for me in terms of what I want to be eating at the moment. I made a few changes based on what I had in the pantry and also made a double batch so I don't have to make it so often.

Super Toasted Muesli
Recipe slightly adapted from Scandi Foodie

200g rolled oats
200g rolled quinoa
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
100g raw buckwheat
200g seed and nut mix (mine had pepitas, sunflowers, sesame and pine nuts)
200g raw almonds
2 tbs cinnamon
100ml rice bran oil
2 tbs rice syrup
Yoghurt and dried fruit of your choice to serve

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 degrees fan-forced). Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the oil and rice syrup and mix until well combined. Pour into a large baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until the muesli is well toasted and golden brown. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack before storing in an air-tight container. Serve with yoghurt and whatever dried fruit you like. I use sultanas and dried apricots. Yum!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Minestrone Soup

We've been having gorgeous Autumn weather lately with cool nights and lovely warm sunny days. This is the perfect time of year for soup and really is there anything more comforting than a big bowl of steaming hot soup served with crusty bread on a cold night? Unfortunately hubby does not share my enthusiasm. Oh well, more for me and the kids!

This is my version of a minestrone soup. You can use absolutely any vegetables you like or happen to have on hand. The more the better. Add some beef stock, kidney beans and tomatoes and you have a hearty and warming winter meal. You can of course easily use vegetable stock for a vegetarian version that is just as yummy.

My Minestrone Soup

2 onions
2 medium carrots
2 stalks celery
2 medium potatoes
2 corn cobs, kernels removed
1 large zucchini
1 parsnip
1 swede
1 large wedge of pumpkin
1 bunch asparagus
1 tin diced tomatoes
1 tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbs Gourmet Garden Chunky Garlic Paste
1 tbs Gourmet Garden Basil Paste
2 ts Gourmet Garden Thyme Paste
2 bay leaves
1 - 1/2 litres beef stock
2 tbs oil

Dice all the fresh vegetables to roughly the same size and set aside. Heat the oil in a very large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add all your vegetables at once and stir to coat in the oil. Cook for about 5 minutes. 

Add the tomatoes, beans, herbs and enough stock to cover the veges. Cover the pot and bring to the boil. Spoon off the froth/scum that has risen to the surface then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for an hour or so, or until the vegetables are cooked through. 

Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaves. Serve with crusty bread and some grated Parmesan cheese.

To make it more kid friendly, simply puree the soup and serve with grated cheese and lots of hot buttered toast.

Enjoy! This makes enough to feed an army so be prepared to freeze it in smaller batches to pull out later for an easy dinner.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Baking - Apple Streusel Slice

This slice combines all the best parts of an apple teacake, a coffee cake and apple crumble. Could it get any better??

I took this to an Easter morning tea while it was still warm and it was fabulous. Luckily it also freezes and thaws really well and a quick zap in the microwave brings back some of that fresh apple taste. A real treat for morning tea or a lovely dessert served warm from the oven with a big scoop of vanilla icecream and some caramel sauce.

Apple Streusel Slice
Recipe very slightly adapted from

180g softened butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 ts baking powder
1 ts ground cinnamon
2 large granny smith apples (peeled, cored and diced)

Streusel topping
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup plain flour
1 ts ground cinnamon
30g softened butter

Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a deep 18cm x 28cm slab pan and line with baking paper.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter and caster sugar until pale and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Sift flour, baking powder and cinnamon over butter mixture and fold together using a large metal spoon. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan. Top with apple.

To make the streusel topping, combine brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl. Rub the butter into flour mixture with your fingertips until it clumps together. Crumble the streusel mixture evenly over the apple.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. It will also start to pull away from the edge of the pan. Allow to cool in pan. Cut slice into squares and serve.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TWD BWJ - Pecan Sticky Buns

You can probably tell from the photo that my sticky buns aren't quite as 'sticky' as they should be. That's because I could feel my arteries clogging just reading this week's recipes and decided to cut the butter somewhat.

I made the brioche but didn't laminate it and I used just a tablespoon of butter in the topping for each tray of buns. The results were absolutely delicious so I can only imagine how amazing the original version would have been!

I've never made brioche before and was really pleased with how it turned out. I'm already planning on making more and turning it into french toast one weekend. Yum!

Overall these were wonderful. I don't regret cutting the butter out because now I don't feel so guilty sneaking one for afternoon tea :)

Our hosts this week are Lynn of Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat and Nicole of Cookies on Friday. They'll have the recipes up and you can decide whether I made the right decision to go low(er) fat with these!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mothers' Day Dinner

It's become a tradition in our house that hubby will cook something spectacular for Mothers' Day. Considering he doesn't usually cook much at all this could have potentially disastrous consequences! This year he decided to make Beef Wellington and Creme Caramel. Yum!

We may have ended up eating a little later than planned but he did a really great job and we had a delicious dinner. Thank you sweetie! xx

Creamy Mushrooms with Rice {Gourmet Garden Blog Off/Cook Off}

This is such an easy weeknight dinner and a great vegetarian option if you are a usually meat-eating family. Mushrooms are meaty and filling and when combined with cream, herbs and Parmesan, they are simply divine!

Creamy Mushrooms with Rice
Serves 4

2 tbs rice bran oil
500g mushrooms, sliced
1/2 brown onion, finely sliced
3 ts Gourmet Garden Chunky Garlic Paste
2 ts Gourmet Garden Thyme Paste
2 ts Dijon mustard
150ml cream
30g Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful fresh parsley
1/2 cup rice per person, cooked in your usual way

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Cook the onions until they start to soften then add the mushrooms. Toss the mushrooms in the onions and oil and cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms collapse and all the liquid has evaporated.

Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the cream, mustard, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer and about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper, cheese and half the parsley and stir through. Serve on top of fluffy cooked rice and sprinkle with extra parsley. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mothers' Day Baking - Basic Scones

Happy Mothers' Day to all the mums out there! Hope you are all having a lovely day with your special people.

Scones always remind me of my mum. Partly because neither of us really had the knack for making them! And partly because we would always order scones with jam and cream at every cafe we went to.

I've tried dozens of different recipes and although I've come close to great scones, they were mostly just good. This recipe may not be 100% perfect but they were seriously the best scones I've ever made. Light and fluffy and beautifully risen. And they were made with the help of my 3 yo son who absolutely loved rubbing the butter and flour together and making as much mess as possible!

Basic Scones
Recipe from

3 cups self-raising flour, sifted
80g butter, cubed
1 to 1 1/4 cups milk
plain flour for dusting
Milk for brushing

Preheat oven to 200°C and lightly dust a baking tray with plain flour.

Sift self-raising flour into a large bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add 1 cup of milk and then mix gently with a flat-bladed knife until mixture forms a soft dough, adding a little more milk if required.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently just until the dough comes together. Pat dough into a 2cm-thick round. Using a 6cm round cutter, cut out 9 rounds. Press remaining dough back together and cut out another 3 rounds.

Place scones onto the baking tray, leaving about 1cm between them. Brush the tops with milk. Bake for approx 20 minutes or until golden and well risen. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes 12.

While jam and cream is traditional, I like mine hot from the oven with butter and golden syrup. Delicious! And a perfect treat for mothers' day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gourmet Garden Blog Off/Cook Off!

After nearly missing the deadline (that'll teach me for not checking my email more often) I have registered for the Gourmet Garden Blog Off/Cook Off! A fantastic competition for bloggers/cooks with great prizes including the chance to cook off at Food and Wine Shows around the country, a bloggers' week in Noosa and a major cash prize. 

All of that sounds very exciting but I was actually most excited about getting some wonderful free Gourmet Garden products to cook with! I assume everyone got the same pack of herbs, but here's what I received:

Chunky Garlic
Hot Chilli

Keep an eye on the blog from next week as I will be posting my recipes using these herbs between the 14th and 20th May. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

Apple crumble is one of the easiest and tastiest things you can make for a quick dessert. And of course the bonus is that it makes a great breakfast the next day! 

Rather than make a standard apple crumble or crisp, I was inspired by Dorie Greenspan's version as we just happened to have one last lonely pack of frozen cranberries leftover from Christmas.

Cranberry-Apple Crisp
Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours, p422

3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 ts cinnamon
1 ts ground ginger
125g butter, chopped into small pieces

4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into a fine dice
1 cup frozen cranberries
1/2 cup sultanas
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbs plain flour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Spray a 1.8 litre baking dish with oil and set aside.

To make the topping, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs and is clumping together.

To prepare the filling, combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into prepared baking dish.

Spread the topping evenly over the fruit filling and bake for approx 1 hour or until the top is a deep golden brown and the fruit is bubbling up around the edges. Allow to cool slightly before serving with ice-cream or custard. Enjoy the leftovers (if there are any!) for breakfast the next morning.

Serves 6-8.

This was really, really good! Such a shame we can only buy frozen cranberries for a few weeks a year because they add such a special quality to things like this. Definitely a winner.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Meatless Monday - 'Vegiladas'

Yes I could have just said vegetarian enchiladas but vegiladas really rolls off the tongue!

We love Mexican food around here and have the standard nachos, tacos and chicken enchiladas quite regularly. These vegetarian enchiladas are filled with onion, capsicum, tomatoes and beans and have a lovely warmth (rather than heat) to them. To make them kid-friendly I didn't add any chilli but you could definitely add a whole fresh red chilli or some chilli flakes to up the heat. Topped off with salsa, melted cheese and a little low-fat sour cream they are the perfect dinner.

Vegetarian Enchiladas
Recipe adapted from Sanitarium
Serves 4

1 tablespoon rice bran oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium green capsicum, finely chopped
2 ts ground cumin
1 ts ground coriander
1 can Mexe-Beans, drained
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 can water
2 tablespoons lime juice (1-2 limes)
8 tortillas
1 jar mild salsa
50g low-fat cheddar cheese, grated
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Low fat sour cream and salad to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat the oil in a fry pan and cook the onion, garlic and capsicum until soft. Add the cumin and coriander and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the beans and chickpeas. Add the tomatoes, water and lime juice and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken, stirring occasionally.

Place spoonfuls of the bean mixture in the centre of each tortilla. Roll to enclose the filling, then place fold-side-down on a greased baking tray. Spoon any remaining filling around the edges of the filled tortillas.

Top with salsa, sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake for around 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Serve with sour cream and a green salad.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday Baking - Hummingbird Slice

I've had Hummingbird Cake and Hummingbird Muffins but I've never had Hummingbird Slice. That's reason enough to get baking!

This is a Donna Hay recipe and I have to admit in the past I've found her food to be really hit and miss. Always visually stunning but often lacking in flavour or with wildly inaccurate cooking times or techniques. No complaints about this one though, it was easy to bake and really tasty.

Normally I like cream cheese icing with these but in the interest of saving a few calories and making them freezer-friendly I've left them plain. Perfect for morning tea, or just anytime really!

Hummingbird Slice
Recipe slightly adapted from Donna Hay

140g brown sugar
125ml oil (I used extra light olive oil)
2 eggs
1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple, drained
1 banana, mashed
1 cup grated carrot (about 2 carrots)
115g self-raising flour
1/2 ts bicarbonate of soda
1/3 cup sultanas
2 ts cinnamon
20g dessicated coconut
30g chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 160°C.

Sift together the flour and bicarb soda and then add the cinnamon, coconut and pecans.

Place the sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl and whisk well. Add the pineapple, banana and carrot and stir together. Add the dry ingredients and mix well to combine.

Spoon into a greased and lined 20cm x 30cm tin. Bake for approx 40-45 minutes or until it springs back when touched in the centre and starting to pull away from the sides of the tin. Allow to cool in the tin before slicing.

Donna suggest serving this slice with honey but with brown sugar and all that fruit no extra sweetness is needed. They are moist and packed with flavour and just as good, if not better, the next day.

A great treat for the kids' (or husband's) lunchboxes so get baking!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TWD BWJ - Hungarian Shortbread

Is anyone else amazed that it's May already?? Can't believe how fast this year is going by. 

I also can't believe how much butter was in this Hungarian Shortbread so I made just 1/4 of the recipe! Luckily for me it was easy to do with full cups of ingredients and 4 egg yolks to start with so no messy calculations. My 1/4 batch fit perfectly into an 6" square pan and baked in 30 minutes.

Given that I forgot what day it was there was no way I could make rhubarb jam though it sounds fantastic and is now on my 'to-do' list. I used about 1/3 cup of my favourite English breakfast marmalade and was really happy with how it turned out.

The taste test ...

 I absolutely loved this one! The shortbread was crisp around the edges, moist and chewy in the middle and offset perfectly by the tartness in the marmalade, so I think it was a great substitute for the rhubarb jam. I cut 16 little squares and froze most of them, but not before having a few with a cup of tea. Just wonderful!

While it tasted amazing I think my favourite part of this recipe was freezing and then grating the dough into the pan. It worked brilliantly and gave a fantastic result.

I will definitely be making this again and playing with different flavours. 

Lynette of 1 Small Kitchen and Cher from The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler will have the recipe up for Hungarian Shortbread on their blogs under today's date. Enjoy!

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