Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Zucchini and Bacon Muffins

Well I baked something sweet this morning and thought I may as well keep it going while the oven was on and flour was all throughout the kitchen... so I thought I would bake something savoury.  I had some zucchini that needed using so that was going to be the star ingredient.

I often make a Zucchini, Bacon and Thyme Slice but this time I thought I would make muffins, just for something different, with the idea that the family may just eat them for breakfast or take them to work or school for lunch.

Jam packed with the goodness of vegetables, lots of zucchini, carrots and onions, along with cheese and a delicate hint of sweet chilli sauce along with everyone's favourite bacon I cannot believe how light these muffins are. Not to mention an easy muffin to make.

Sitting here, watching these fluffy light yet flavoursome muffins cool I am actually not quite sure if there will be any left for tomorrow??  Maybe I had better get dinner cooked....

Zucchini and Bacon Muffins
(Recipe adapted from Best Recipes)
Makes: 12

1 tablespoon low-fat butter
1 onion diced
4 short-cut bacon rashers
2 carrot medium grated
1 zucchini large grated
3 large egg
1/4 cup light thickened cream
1/3 cup parmesan cheese grated
2/3 cup tasty cheese grated
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
2/3 cup self-raising flour sifted
ground white pepper 

Melt butter and cook onion and bacon until soft. Add zucchini and carrot and cook until soft. Allow to cool.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Mix in cream, both cheeses, sweet chilli sauce and salt and pepper.

Add cooled bacon and vegetable mixture and stir.

Add sifted flour and stir.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Pour into a greased muffin pan and bake for 25 minutes until brown and cooked through.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe).

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

While I have always and will always maintain that I am not the "housewife" type but since being made redundant I have actually been enjoying my time at home.  It has given me some time to actually relax and I am really feeling better for it.  I have also been able to do some blogging and sharing of recipes with you all which gives me great pleasure.  Not to mention I have had time to catch up on other websites/blogs I follow and also find some new ones to read.
Today while looking for inspiration for some old bananas (I hate wasting food) I came across a website that I really like.  Averie Cooks is a vibrant and fresh site full of quick and easy recipes that are uncomplicated and easy to follow.  And that is exactly where I found this recipe for Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.
While I adapted the recipe the results was perfect.  Crispy yet soft cookies with a bold banana flavor married with scrumptious milk chocolate laced with a hint of cinnamon.  The rolled oats complimented the cookies giving them a homemade texture and that old fashioned appeal.  Do not use instant or quick-cook as they will not give the same outcome.
Don't overbake even if they don't look cooked.  The cookies firm up as they cool.  These will keep for about 1 week in a sealed container if they last that long! 
Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Recipe adapted from Averie Cooks)
Makes: approx. 20
1 large egg
2 small/medium or 1 extra-large ripe bananas
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
60 grams unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 cinnamon, added to taste
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
200 grams milk chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric mixer) combine the egg, bananas, sugars, butter, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well combined. 
Add the oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.  Add 3/4 of the chocolate chips, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and spray with cooking spray. 
Using a spoon or your hands form equal-sized mounds of dough approximately 1/4 cup in size.  Place on the baking tray spaced apart.  Strategically place a few chocolate chips on top of each cookie.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Bake for about 13 minutes (for very soft cookies, longer for more well-done cookies), or until edges have set and tops are just set. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheet.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cheesy Potato and Vegetable Medallions

I would have to say that I buy Grönsakskaka from the shop at Ikea every single time that we go there - in fact I get more joy from the grocery shop at the end of the giant furniture store than actually looking at all the furniture. Don't get me wrong the furniture is beautiful and I dream of owning an Ikea house but that little shop at the end is like my reward for going shopping there.
For those that have not experienced these Swedish Potato and Vegetable Medallions they are simply a cheesy mashed potato and vegetable ball that are oven cooked.  They are literally the perfect side dish.  Found in the frozen section of the little grocery store at Ikea.
So why I am telling you about these tasty treats?  Because I have made a copy cat version using left over vegetables from the night before.  Having left over boiled potatoes and mixed vegetables, which I did not want to waste, I sat down and started thinking about things we could use them for.  Obviously we could have mashed them for a Shepherd's Pie topping or similar but there was way too much for even a quick fry up.  Then, while talking about mashed potatoes, I remembered the Swedish Grönsakskaka.
Of course as the vegetables we had were already cooked we could not claim that these were cooked traditionally. However I will be doing that soon - well once we have eaten all the medallions that are in our freezer!
Cheesy Potato and Vegetable Medallions
Serves: 12
1 kilogram potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 kilogram frozen mixed Winter Vegetables (or vegetables of your choice)
3 spring onions, chopped
1/2 cup grated tasty cheese
2 eggs
150 ml thickened cream
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, if required
ground white pepper
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add potatoes. Boil until just cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.  Drain and allow to cool.  When potatoes are cool, mash coarsely (you don't want smooth at this point).

Bring a second saucepan of water to boil and add vegetables.  Boil until cooked through, approximately 5 - 8 minutes or cook as per directions on packet.  Drain and allow to cool.  Mash the vegetables, also coarsely (you want vegetable pieces not puree).
Put the potatoes and the vegetables in the same saucepan. 
Add spring onions and cheese.

Put the eggs in a medium bowl and lightly whisk them.  Add and garlic powder, onion powder and thyme.  Whisk them together with the eggs.  Season with salt and pepper.
Add egg mixture to the potatoes and stir gently until all ingredients are completely mixed through.  If mixture is too moist, add breadcrumbs to assist mixture to firm up.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
Line a baking tray with cooking paper and spray with cooking spray.  Using a round cutter for it's shape and place on tray.  Fill to the top with mixture.  Using the back of a spoon gently push down on mixture while lifting cutter up.  Repeat until all mixture is used.
Or you can spray a standard muffin pan with cooking spray and put 1/2 of a cup of the mixture into each cup.  Use a spoon to push the mix into the cup so that there are no air pockets.

Spray tops of medallions with cooking spray.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Turn medallions over and bake for a further 10 minutes or until brown and crispy.

Serve warm as a side dish or these are perfect for breakfast also.

This recipe can be doubled or quadrupled as they freeze very well. If you are planning to freeze do so after cooking for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, allow to cool and then place on an uncovered tray in the freezer. After they have completely frozen place them in a sealed plastic bag or container for storage.  To reheat the frozen medallions defrost completely and cook, as above, for 10 minutes or you can microwave them for one minute and then cook as above.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Chorizo and Thyme Carbonara

While we are on the subject of pasta - here is another filling and delicious pasta dish.

This upbeat version of traditional Carbonara has a bit of a spicy kick from the Spanish Chorizo while still having the comforting taste of a creamy pasta sauce. 

As with everyone's favourite Pasta Carbonara the recipe is still simple - the basic ingredients of eggs, parmesan and cream.  Replacing the bacon with Chorizo which caramelized until crunchy and this coupled with fresh thyme leaves makes a delicious change..

Chorizo and Thyme Carbonara
(Recipe sourced from Super Food Ideas Magazine)

Serves: 4

375g dried pappardelle pasta
2 chorizo, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup light thickened cream for cooking
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Cook pasta following packet directions until just tender. Drain, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pan over low heat.

Meanwhile, heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook chorizo, stirring, for 5 minutes or until browned. Stir in thyme. Remove from heat.

Whisk egg, cream and parmesan in a jug. Add egg mixture, reserved cooking liquid, 1/2 the parsley and 1/2 the chorizo to pasta. Toss to combine and heat through. Season with pepper.

Serve pasta topped with remaining chorizo and parsley, and extra parmesan.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Slow Cooked Beef and Pancetta Ragu

Italian food - food for the soul.  Let's face it everyone loves pasta even those low-carb diet followers secretly love pasta.  I honestly have never met anyone that does not like pasta.  Have you?
This wonderful Italian number shines at the top of the comfort food list... slow cooked tender beef with pancetta in a thick tomato and herb sauce is perfect especially on a cold winter's night. 
Now this recipe does take quite a few hours on the stove top but I am sure that it would work perfectly well in a slow cooker.  I was home all day so it was easy for me to keep an eye on the pot on the stove top.  A slow cooker would definitely be easier though.
Fresh thyme and rosemary are perfectly placed in this sauce - please ensure you do try and use fresh herbs anytime you can the chance.  The flavour is much fresher and bolder than dried herbs in packets.
This ragu can be made ahead of time.  Allow to cool and it will last in the fridge for up to 3 days in a sealed container.  It's perfectly good to freeze also. 

Slow Cooked Beef and Pancetta Ragu
(recipe adapted from Taste.com)

Serves: 8
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1.25kilograms gravy beef, trimmed, cut into 3cm pieces
1 large brown onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
100 gram pancetta, finely chopped
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons plain flour
3/4 cup red wine
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
410 gram can crushed tomatoes
750 grams dried pappardelle pasta
50 grams  butter, chopped
Grated parmesan to serve
Chilli flakes to serve (optional)

Heat half the oil in a large heavy-based flameproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Cook the beef, in batches, until browned all over. Transfer to a bowl.

Reduce heat to medium. Heat remaining oil in same dish. Add onion, carrot, capsicum, pancetta, rosemary and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until vegetables just begin to soften.

Add garlic. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until vegetables are coated. Stir in wine. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 minute or until reduced slightly. Add tomato paste, stock and tomatoes. Stir to combine.

Return beef to dish. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Cover. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 hours, or until meat is very tender and sauce thickens. Use the back of a spoon or a potato masher to break up meat.

Cook pasta following packet directions. Drain well. Return to pan. Add butter. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve ragu on pasta, sprinkled with parmesan and chilli, if desired.

Homemade White Bread

A couple of weekends ago Noel and I attended a Cheese and Bread Making Course at Boatshed Cheese on the Mornington Peninsula.  It was a full day course and it was a fantastic day.  Not only to make some wonderful cheese and bread, but to eat our produce and to spend the day with people who also share our passion for good food and cooking especially Tamara, our host.
Yesterday, I decided to put my new found knowledge to the test and make bread.  I made a white loaf and 2 large focaccias to accompany our dinner of Slow Cooked Beef and Pancetta Ragu with Pappardelle.
To be honest I actually thought making bread was hard - all that kneading, rising, proving and then more kneading.  But I have to tell you it's not!!  Yes your read correctly it is not.  Thanks to Tamara.  Tamara shared with us secrets, advice and techniques that make bread making easy, interesting and inviting to undertake.
This recipe is a fantastic mix and leave recipe.  Not to mention the bread itself is light and airy.  Oh and the taste is so different than the preservative filled shop bread... do yourself a favour and make yourself some bread you will definitely fall in love with your own home baked produce.

Now I definitely have the bread bug I am off to experiment with this recipe and all the different flavours and fillings I can dabble with.
Basic White or Wholemeal Bread
(Recipe adapted from Tamara @ Boatshed Cheese)

5 cups unbleached bread flour
(or any combination of white or wholemeal flour to equal 5 cups)
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
2 cups warm water

Add all dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and stir.

Add oil, water and mix to a sticky dough. Turn out onto a well floured work surface and begin to knead. Continue kneading until the dough is soft and elastic. Shape bread into a round form and place in an oiled bowl, to rise until doubled in size. This should take about one hour.

Knock down and shape for a freestanding loaf on an oven tray, or shape to bake in a bread tin. The tin or tray should be oiled and lightly sprinkled with polenta or lined with baking paper to avoid sticking.

Allow the dough to rise until doubled, and then glaze with milk, water or beaten egg. Bake at 190c. for 40 minutes (less for smaller breads or rolls).

Remove from tin or tray immediately and check that the loaf is cooked. If not, return to the oven for about 5 minutes more cooking.

Allow the bread to cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)