Monday, June 30, 2008

Penne with Broccoli

Monday night = fast meal. In the past I have opted for trashy fast food for my Monday night meal, but after a few years of doing that I now crave something home-cooked and with nutrition - but, it has to be ready in under 30mins. Pasta is one of those dishes that is almost always a quick meal.

Some Facts About BROCCOLI:
EASE: 5/5. Minimal prep and active cooking time.
Prep time: 5mins. Just have to wash and cut the broccoli and slice the garlic. Then get the pasta on and fry the garlic at the same time.
Cooking time: 15mins. Pasta takes 12mins. Then you drain and toss the pasta through the garlic oil for around 3mins.
TOTAL: 20mins.
TASTE: 4/5.
I forgot to add the bacon, so I'm sure Ryan would have enjoyed it more with the bacon. I liked it - broccoli, chilli, garlic and freshly grated parmesan. Simple but tasty. I used 400g of pasta which feeds 4 people. I used 5 cloves of garlic as I want more crispy golden pieces.

Would I make again: Yes.


Supermoist Banana & Almond cake

I love bananas; they are one of my favourite fruits. Although I love them raw, I love them even more baked into yummy treats. Throughout the years I have baked many, many banana cakes and banana muffins (much to Ryan's chagrin as he isn't the 'baked banana goods lover' that I am). When it comes to recipes, the moister, the better. So when I saw this recipe with the word 'supermoist' in the title, I HAD to try it out.

Some Facts About BANANAS:
  • The banana fruit grow in hanging clusters, with up to 20 fruit to a tier (called a hand), and 3-20 tiers to a bunch.
  • Western cultures generally eat the inside raw and throw away the skin while some Asian cultures generally eat both the skin and inside cooked.
  • Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colours when ripe, including yellow, purple and red.
  • Bananas are among the most widely consumed foods in the world.
EASE: 3.5/5. Although there are fairly few ingredients, most have to be processed or pureed which uses up more appliances to wash, so I have lowered the score.
Prep time: 20mins. 5mins to gather inrgedients and get the almonds into the oven. Beating the eggs/roasting almonds takes 10mins - then pureeing (I just used the processor again) the bananas and then combining everything to pour into the pan takes around 5mins.
Cooking time: 45mins. All subject to individual ovens - mine generally takes longer...cos it's a piece of shit.
TOTAL: 1 hour & 5mins.

TASTE: 4/5.
The cake is as moist it claims to be. I am not sure what difference roasting and processing the almonds, instead of just using almond meal has made to the taste, but it has made the cake a little grainier than using almond meal would have - which I will probably use next time. The cake is so most beneath the firm top that it actually makes a sound, similar to squeezing a wet sponge. I didn't have flaked almonds so I used a small amount of slivered almonds - I will definately use the flaked next time as I believe it would make the cake look better as well as taste better. I used 2 week old bananas which have made the cake very sweet, along with the vanilla it does become almost alcholic in its sweetness. I served mine with greek yoghurt to cut the sweetness, whilst Ryan had double cream with his - both were dusted with icing sugar.

Would I make again: Yes.
I actually prefer my denser banana cakes baked with flour, but Ryan actually liked this one, so I will probably make it again in the future.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuscan Bean Soup with Crunchy Croutons

Winter is the season for soups. And croutons are the best part of soups. After a long, nerve wracking day I wanted to cook something super duper quick and easy with minimal mess. This is the recipe for that.

Some Facts About BEANS:

  • Beans were an important alternative source of protein throughout old and new world history, and still are today.
  • Some kinds of raw beans and especially red and kidney beans, contain a harmful toxin (the lectin Phytohaemagglutinin) that must be destroyed by cooking.

EASE: 5/5.This is the quickest recipe I have come across, with the Chicken Pasta Bake a close second.
Prep Time: 5mins.
Cooking Time: 10mins.
TOTAL: 15mins. Minimal prep, and you boil the soup and bake the croutons at the same time.

TASTE: 4/5.
I used dried thyme, which was a little strong, would use less next time. I used. Vegeta Stock which is a little too salty for this dish. Otherwise it has a great texture. I ripped up turkish pide for the croutons and I grated some Grana Padano on top.

Would I make again: Yes.
So quick and easy - will be used on those nights you want something filling but want it fast.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Semolina Halva

Searching through my pantry for forgotten ingredients, I stumbled across a container with semolina. Trying to think of what to do with it, I journeyed back through my childhood to my yia yias kitchen. One of my favourite desserts would have to be her semolina halva. She would use these cute little moulds with bumps and it would be the perfect solution to my sweet tooth. As I do not have her recipe I did a search and found one that seemed similar (although yia yia only uses sultanas in hers). I had to ommit a lot of the ingredients as I did not have them on hand, so this is not an entirely accurate review of the recipe.

Some Facts About SEMOLINA:
  • is the inner, granular, starchy endosperm of wheat (not yet ground into flour).
  • There are two main types of semolina. Durum semolina, made from hard wheat, is used to make pasta and couscous. Soft wheat semolina, also known as farina or by the trade name Cream of Wheat, is used as a hot breakfast cereal and for desserts such as semolina milk pudding.
Ease: 4.5/5. If you have everything out it takes no time at all. Grating and juicing the lemon and orange is the most time consuming.
Prep time: 7mins. 5 mins to do the fruits, and around 2 mins to get all the ingredients out.
Cooking Time: 11mins. 4 mins for the syrup, and 7 minutes for the semolina. I waited 5mins for the semolina to 'brown' - which it didn't do so I just added all of the syrup at once instead of a little at a time, so it did not take 10mins for it to congeal, only 2mins.
Total: 18mins. Really quick.

Taste: 4.5/5. It tasted a lot like yia yia's halva, but it was a lot more jelly-like, which may have been because I added the syrup all at once. I only had sultanas and pistachios on hand, next time I will add the pine nuts, but not the candied peel (don't like it). I didn't have cinnamon sticks so I sprinkled 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. I only used 1/2 teaspoon of rose water essence, as the one I have is strong. It still turned out lovely with the Orange and lemon flavour's being the most dominant; I served it with some double cream and Ryan gulped it down while it was still steaming. It made enough for around 6 decent servings.

Would I make again: Yes. If I still don't have yia yia's recipe then I will continue to use this one minus the candied peel. It's just so quick and easy.

Recipe here:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chicken Celeriac Salad

Ryan hates celery - however I thought I'd give celeriac a try.
Add amounts to suit the number of people you are serving. 1 apple is enough for 2 people.

sliced grilled chicken breast
1 apple
grated celeriac
cos lettuce
toasted walnuts
salt and pepper

Grill chicken and then toss all ingredients together.

Some Facts About CELERIAC:
  • is also known as 'celery root,' 'turnip-rooted celery' or 'knob celery'.
  • Celeriac may be used raw or cooked.
  • Unlike other root vegetables, which store a large amount of starch, celery root is only about 5-6% starch by weight.

Ease: 5/5. I fried the chicken in some oil as I didn't have a grill.
Prep Time: 5mins. You only have to slice the apple and wash the lettuce.
Cooking Time: 15mins. The chicken takes 15mins to cook. Whilst that was on I toasted the walnuts for 1min and assembled the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.
Total: 20mins.

Taste: 4/5.
The flavours worked really well together. The celeriac tasted like celery with a nutty flavour that worked well with the chicken. The apple added a juicy, tartness which balanced out the sweetness of the walnuts and mayonnaise. The Cos lettuce also worked well. The dish was light but still filling.

Would I make again: Yes. Ryan loved it as much as I did. It is a really healthy, quick meal.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Spinach Macaroni Cheese

Mmm - mac & cheese is one of my favourite dishes - however it is not all that great nutrition-wise; which is why Donna Hay's addition of spinach appealed to me because of the added nutritional value.

Some Facts About SPINACH:
  • In popular folklore, spinach is a rich source of iron. In reality, a 60 gram serving of boiled spinach contains around 1.9 mg of iron (slightly more when eaten raw).
  • Boiling spinach for four minutes can halve the level of folate.
  • Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B6. It is a very good source of dietary fiber, copper, protein, phosphorous, zinc and vitamin E. In addition, it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, niacin and selenium
  • 400g macaroni
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup pouring cream
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
  • 1 1/2 tbl Dijon mustard
  • sea salt & pepper
  • 150g baby spinach
  • 1 cup grated cheddar (for sprinkling on the top)
Preheat oven to 200C. Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain and return to the pan.
Add milk, cream, cheddar, mustard, salt & pepper, and spinach - mix to combine.
Spoon into large baking dish and top with extra cheddar. Bake for 10-15mins or until cheese browns. Serves 4.

Ease: 4.5/5. Pretty much no prep involved and very little active cooking.
Prep Time: 5mins. Just washing the spinach and getting all the ingredients out.
Cooking Time: 25mins. Pasta takes around 15. Oven browning takes around 10mins.
Total: 30mins.
Taste: 3/5.
Ok - but VERY watery, not what I am used to in a Mac & Cheese. The Spinach was a strong flavour, whilst the cheese barely came through. I think the 2cups of low fat milk may have caused the wateriness. I would suggest 1 1/2cups of full fat milk at most.

Would I make again: No.
Not a very good Mac & Cheese due to its consistency. Ryan hated the spinach in it, but I didn't mind it. Would be a good way to get kids to eat spinach.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chicken Breasts with Parmesan & Cream Sauce

SAD: Seasonal affective disorder, also known as winter depression, is a mood disorder whose sufferers experience normal mental health throughout most of the year, but experience depressive symptoms in t
he winter.
Who else felt slightly more upbeat and happy today with all of the sunshine we had; I know I did. And although I don't really think I have SAD, too many gloomy, cold days in a row does get my mood and energy levels down, which is why I loved today's sunny, not-that-cold weather. Really helped me get through a lot of chores, which is why I wanted to cook something easy for dinner.

The most appealing aspect of this dish is that it uses only 5 ingredients, and is completely ready to eat in 30mins. I used Bulla Thick Cream which had a 35% fat content. It had a buttermilk consistency.

Some Facts About PARMESAN:
  • is a hard, fat granular cheese, cooked but not pressed.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from raw cow's milk.
  • In the European Union, "Parmesan" is a protected designation of origin; legally, it refers exclusively to the Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP cheese manufactured in a limited area in Northern Italy.
Ease: 5/5. Easiest dish I have cooked so far. I like to put the flour and pepper into a glad bag and toss the chicken in, then I zip it up and shake it around. It coats everything evenly and I don't get plates or fingers messy. I had to cook it for 40mins - have a feeling my oven's temperature may be off.
Prep: 5mins
Cooking Time: 25mins
Total: 30mins.

Taste: 5/5.
Very tender chicken, in a rich parmesan cream sauce. I used packet shaved parmesan, and grated parmesan. Would be great over mash or pasta with a salad.
Would I make it again: Yes.
Easy and tasty - will make sure I make a salad next time though - need something to cut through all the cream and cheese.
Recipe here:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pumpkin Soup

Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater,
Had a wife and couldn't keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well.

Pumpkin Soup is a classic really - but something I have never cooked before. Whilst I love my mum's pumpkin soup I wanted to try something different; I chose Gourmet Traveler's Pumpkin Soup, as it was different to other soups with the addition of tomatoes and rice - I am assuming the rice is a thickening agent. I can already foretell it may not turn out great as I have halved the recipe - which I don't think will benefit this particular recipe, but we will see how it goes.

Some Facts About PUMPKIN:
  • The word pumpkin originates from the word “pepon” which is Greek for “large melon.”
  • In America, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween.
  • Pumpkin growers often compete to see whose pumpkins are the most massive. Festivals are often dedicated to the pumpkin and these competitions.
Ease: 3.5/5. Cutting the vegetables is the only real time consuming part - other than that you leave it simmering on the stove before hand-blending in the pot and then stirring through some cream. At the 30min mark I was unimpressed to find the rice had burnt on the bottom - had to switch pots which means more cleaning - not happy Jan.
Prep: 20mins.
Cooking Time: 30-40mins.
Total: Around 1hour.

Taste: 2/5.
The texture was very gelatinous, more like a pumpkin mash rather than a soup. It was very sweet and I could not taste the herbs at all. The texture was also very grainy and sticky. I didn't mind the flavour but it was not the best pumpkin soup I have had. Ryan absolutely hated it, which is why I have scored it a 2, rather than 2.5.

Would I make it again: No.
Will probably just make mum's pumpkin soup in the future. In future if the Gourmet Traveler recipe is worth repeating I will type it out so you can try it as well.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

Today was an absolutely glorious day; the sun was streaming through every window of the house. It has been the first time in a long time that I haven't needed to turn the heater on until 5pm. Although I had planned on going to Chaddy to pick up some bargains at the sale, it was simply too nice a day to waste inside shopping. Doggie also agreed with this; so off we went for a nice stroll. After getting back to my clean, clutter-free kitchen (which only happens once a month) I felt the desire to bake some afternoon treats. Luckily I had the ingredients for Ina Garten's (Barefoot Contessa on Foxtel) Peanut Butter & Jelly (Jam) Bars. At around 800cals per slice (12 slices), these are not for people watching their weight. Side Note: 800cals is half of the daily recommended energy intake for someone my height, age and weight to maintain their weight.

Some Facts About PEANUTS:
  • is a species in the legume family.
  • Peanuts can also be used like other legumes and grains to make a lactose-free milk-like beverage, Peanut milk.
  • Peanuts are a rich source of protein (roughly 30 grams per cup after roasting).
  • Peanuts are a source of Coenzyme Q10 along with oily fish, beef, soybeans and spinach
Ease: 3.5/5. You must take the eggs and butter out at least 1hour before baking so they are at room temperature. Same prep as a cake - just lots of mixing. It does get quite messy. My slices were starting to burn at the 30min mark so make sure you keep checking.
Prep: 15mins
Cooking Time: 30mins.
Total: 45mins + 15mins cooling time.

3/5. Nice but MUCH too rich. Could barely finish the slice without water. The modifications I made were that I used 295g of Dalfour's Red Raspberry Jam, 1 tsp salt, 2 3/4cup of flour and 3/4 of a tub of Kraft Smooth peanut butter. I would recommend more jam, and only 1/3cup of peanuts.

Would I make again: No. Too rich and peanut buttery for me.

Recipe here:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Chicken, Fennel & Parsnip Pie

My favourite thing about Winter - Big, Warm Pies. Parsnip is one of the few vegetables that I have never eaten. So I decided to give it a go.
Tonight there was actually a 5 minute wait to get a lottery ticket for tonight - even my partner, who can't stand people who buy lottery tickets, bought a ticket tonight. $50million is just too enticing to pass up the chance to win it. Goodluck to everyone who bought a ticket.

Some Facts About PARSNIP:

  • is a root vegetable related to the carrot.
  • In Roman times parsnips were believed to be an aphrodisiac.
  • The parsnip is richer in vitamins and minerals than its close relative the carrot
Ease: 3/5. Prep: 10mins. Cutting up vegetables and dusting chicken.
Cooking Time: 40mins. 20mins for cooking vegeatble and chicken and 20mins to cook in oven.
Total Time: 1hr 20mins (includes cooling time for vegetables). Takes a long time all up, but probably only around 30mins of actual active cooking.

Taste: 3.5/5.
Not bad, the overall dish didn't have a lot of flavour, probably tasted the pastry the most as I seasoned it before baking. I only used two chicken thighs and3/4 of the amount of liquid, but I kept the other amounts the same. Made enough for 3. Parsnip wasn't very strong in flavour, quite sweet.

Would I make it again: No.
I prefer the Chicken Tarragon Pie, which was tastier and easier to make.

Recipe here:

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Black Pepper Scotch Fillet with Nutmeg Butter Spinach & Mash

At 4pm today I had to turn on the lights just to see my hands - it is getting much too dark much too early. The combination of dark rooms and muggy weather drains all of my energy. Sitting on the couch with a good book and cup of hot chocolate is pretty much all I want to do for the next 3 months. But my tummy is rumbling and I feel like some heavy, warm, carbo-loaded food. So naturally I'm making mashed potato (Sebago & Spunta are best) - with Nutmeg Butter Spinach for nutrition, and a big fat juicy steak for my meat loving fiance.

Some Facts About NUTMEG:
  • Ground nutmeg is smoked in India.
  • In amounts of 10-40 g (~4-8 teaspoons) it is a mild to medium hallucinogen, producing visual distortions and a mild euphoria.
  • Nutmeg oil is used for rhuematic pain and, like clove oil, can be applied as an emergency treatment to dull toothache.
  • At one time, nutmeg was one of the most valuable spices. It has been said that in England, several hundred years ago, a few nutmeg nuts could be sold for enough money to enable financial independence for life.
Ease: 4/5. (I am only scoring the spinach). Prep took all of 5 mins to wash and get the nutmeg and butter. Prep: 5mins. Cooking Time: 10mins all up. TOTAL: 15mins.

Taste: 2/5.
I didn't hate it - but the partnership of nutmeg and spinach just didn't do anything for me, wasn't palatable at all and after frying in the butter the spinach was quite watery.. First time I haven't eaten all of my spinach - I MUCH prefer to put the spinach in a pan with some olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Would I make again: NO.
What I prefer is not only tastier, but I only cook the spinach once.

Recipe here:

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Pomegranate & Balsamic Glazed Chicken with Oak Lettuce, Pear and Pomegranate Vinegarette Salad

Tuesday nights are my most 2nd hellish day of the week (Mondays are so bad we always end up getting fast food for dinner). After slaving the day away in Hades and dishing up dinner for all three heads of Cerberus I want something quick and with minimal 'hands on' cooking. Tonight the main star of my dish is the good looking fruit, the regal Pomegranate (those are some of the reasons why I chose it as the 'symbol' of my blog).

Side note: how full on is this fog?? Took the doggie for a walk last night, and looking down the side streets with the skeletal trees, I just kept thinking 'any second now the Headless Horseman is gonna come galloping towards me'. Fog is just really creepy at night.

Some facts about POMEGRANATE:

  • The name "pomegranate" derives from Latin pomum ("apple") and granatus ("seeded").
  • The pomegranate ('rimmôn') is mentioned in the Bible as one of the seven fruits/plants that Israel was blessed with.
  • The pomegranate originated from Persia and has been cultivated in Georgia, Armenia and the Mediterranean region for several millennia (it's one of the most ancient fruits).
  • Grenadine syrup is thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice used in cocktail mixing.
  • Pomegranate aril juice provides about 16% of an adult's daily vitamin C requirement per 100 ml serving, and is a good source of vitamin B5, potassium and antioxidant polyphenols.
  • Persephone (Greek Mythology) was condemned to spend 4 months each year in hades as a consequence for eating 4 pomegranate seeds.
  • Pomegranates are also prominent at Greek weddings and funerals.
Ease: 4/5. I fried the chicken in a small frypan and then placed it in a small baking dish. Not much prep. Prep: 10mins. Cooking Time: 45mins. Total: 55mins.

Taste: 3.5/5.
I couldn't find a pomegranate so I used Pomegranate syrup that Helen bought for me from a Turkish deli. Because the syrup was a little sour so the end result was tangy.

Would I make it again: No.
Didn't really make me go yum.

Recipe here:

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Leek & Zucchini Risotto with Sundried Tomatoes

I haven't put up a post in a while, simply because I have forgot to take pictures and also because I couldn't be arsed. After sleeping for most the day, I woke myself up to cook dinner. As my last leek dish of the season (Ryan's had at least one leek dish a week for 3 months now) I picked a risotto because I wanted to cook something that didn't involve frying and 3rd degree burns.
Side Note: In case you were thinking, well that serving is small, I only dish up a tiny amount to take the photo. Once that's done I pile kilos onto each plate - we're really not into the 'fist size portion' theory.

Some facts about LEEKS:

  • is a vegetable which belongs, along with the onion and garlic to the Alliaceae family (lethal to dogs).
  • The leek was the favorite vegetable of the Emperor Nero, who consumed it most often in soup.
  • Dried specimens from archaeological sites in ancient Egypt, as well as wall carvings and drawings, led Zohary and Hopf to conclude that the leek was a part of the Egyptian diet "from at least the 2nd millennium B.C. onwards
Ease: 3.5/5. The most time consuming part of this dish is having to stir it whilst adding hot stock for around 15-20mins. Prep: 10mins. Cooking time: 20mins. 30mins total.

Taste: 3.5/5.
Not bad, had to make quite a few adjustments. I halved the recipe for two people, however I did still use around 1.5litres of stock, as arborio rice is one thirsty biatch. I also used 50g of Parmesan - still not cheesy enough for me. Doubled the semi-dried tomatoes as well - they added a nice sharpness to a creamy dish. Stirred through some pine nuts at the end to add some crunch.

Would I make again: No. Only because I prefer my triple Parmesan risotto better.

Recipe here: