Feb 12, 2014

Date & orange blitz balls

These blitz balls are a treat that leans to the healthier side.  It contains no added sugar or bad saturated or trans fats.  It does contain healthy nuts and dried fruit and with the addition of a little cocoa you'd be forgiven for thinking this is a chocolaty treat.

As for the preparation, you simply gather all your ingredients and blitz them in the food processer to form a fine but sticky texture that can be rolled into small ball shapes.  The addition of the orange zest really adds the aroma and citrusy flavour that makes these treats a standout, so it isn't an ingredient I would be inclined to omit.

These little treats are fantastic for morning or afternoon tea or a treat for any time as a healthier alternative to other not so good snacks.

Date & orange blitz balls


13/4 cups pitted dates
3/4 cups pecans
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup macadamia oil (or use coconut oil)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Zest of 1 orange
Extra coconut and cocoa powder to dust

1.  Place pitted dates into a food processer and process until fine texture forms
2.  Add the remaining ingredients and process until the texture resembles breadcrumbs.  When pressed together the mixture should stick.
3.  Take tablespoons of mixture and form into ball shapes.
4.  Dust blitz balls in the extra coconut or cocoa powder.

Feb 6, 2014

Chicken & vegetable pot pie


Amongst the recent summer heat, last week we were surprised with a bit of a cool snap for a couple of days.  It was actually a welcome relief from some of the heat and nice to get into the kitchen to cook something warming and take a break from all the summer salads of late.

I had some chicken breast and puff pastry in the freezer and together with a few vegies emerged this pot pie.  I've got to say that it looked impressive coming out of the oven all puffed up and perfectly golden.   The pastry was cooked to a perfect crispiness and the sauce inside was oozy and creamy,; neither too runny or too thick.

The only thing I would normally do differently is to use chicken thighs instead of breast but it's what I had on hand.  I also change around the vegetables depending on what's in season or what is left lurking in the vegetable crisper by the end of the week. 

The written recipe is below and you can also watch the embedded video to see how I make this recipe.

Chicken & vegetable pot pie

Serves 4-6

2 Tbs olive oil
1 diced onion
2 tsp garlic, minced
500gm chicken, diced
1 large zucchini, diced
1 large carrot, diced
200gm green beans, sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup hot water
1/3 cup light cream
1/4 cup plain flour
2 tsp mustard powder or Dijon mustard
2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg, lightly beaten

1.  Preheat oven to 200C
2.  In a hot pan add the oil.  Add onion and sauté for a few minutes. 
3.  Add the chicken and fry for a couple of minutes until the chicken pieces are sealed.
4.  Add the vegetables and fry for a few minutes.
5.  Add the mustard powder and flour and fry for a few minutes to ensure the flour is fried off.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
6.  Add the stock, water and cream.  Stir to combine and allow to come to a simmer.  Simmer for a few minutes until the sauce is thickened.
7.  Pour the chicken mixture into a family sized casserole dish.
8.  Lay the pastry over the top and tuck the edges along the inner side of the casserole dish.  Make a slit in the centre with a knife to allow steam to escape.
9.  Brush the pastry with egg.
10.  Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the pastry is perfectly golden.
11.  Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Jan 15, 2014

Singapore noodles

Singapore noodles are one of my favourite dinners to eat at home.  The dish is easy to prepare and you can stick to a more traditional recipe or change it up by varying the meat and vegetables.  It is also really good using tofu instead of meat or fish.

In this recipe I used egg noodles that I had on hand but I also make this dish with rice vermicelli noodles.  In my opinion, the fine rice noodles work better and really soak up all the flavours.

If you like a bit of heat in your noodles, then I suggest using a hot curry powder instead of the mild one I used or alternatively add some chilli flakes for that extra kick of spice.
Like all stir fry dishes, this is a speedy dish so it pays to have all your ingredients prepared and ready to go so you can just throw them into the wok.

Below the recipe you will find a video of me making this dish so go ahead and take a look at it if you would like to see how I made it.

Singapore noodles

Serves 4

1 sliced red capsicum
4 Tbs vegetable, peanut or canola oil
400-450g noodles - prepared according to packet instructions
400 g raw prawns
1/2 cup frozen peas
6 spring onions, finely sliced
1/4 cup coriander, chopped
2 tsp ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs curry powder
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3 Tbs soy sauce

1.  Heat the oil in a pan or wok.  Add the spring onions and fry for about 5 minutes until soft.
2.  Add the garlic and ginger and curry powder and fry for about 1 minute until fragrant.
3.  Add prawns and peas and cook until the prawns are almost cooked (the prawns will turn opaque when cooked).
4.  To the pan, add the noodles, soy sauce, lemon juice and coriander.  Stir well to incorporate all the ingredients and fry for a couple minutes until the noodles are fully heated through and the prawns cooked.
5.  Serve with wedge of lemon if desired.

Jan 10, 2014

Healthy homemade muesli

This homemade muesli is a popular breakfast at our place.  It's toasted in the oven so it's golden and crispy and crunchy and it is just perfect with a dollop of your favourite yoghurt.  At the moment we are using the Forme French Vanilla which has no added fat or sugar.

I make this muesli without adding any sugar or syrup, but it would also be delicious with the addition of maple syrup, honey, agave or something similar if that's what takes your fancy.

The other thing I like to do to keep it interesting is to mix up the fruit and nuts I use.  Macadamia nuts for example are just delicious as a substitute for the pecans but you can add any type of nuts you like.  Changing up the dried fruit is also good so feel free to try any of these dried fruits; apples, apricots, blueberries, strawberries, sultanas or any other fruit you prefer.


Healthy homemade muesli

5 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup currants
3/4 cup dried cranberries

1.  Preheat oven to 180C
2.  Line a baking tray with baking parchment paper
3.  To the tray add; rolled oats, pecans, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.  Mix these ingredients until combined.
4.  Bake the muesli for 8 minutes.  Take out of the over and stir.  Return to the oven and bake for another 5-7 minutes or until golden.
5.  To the warm muesli, add the currants and cranberries and mix well.
6.  Leave the muesli to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Dec 27, 2013

Banana & cranberry bread

Lately it seems that bananas just don't seem to be eaten at The Shady Pine before they start to turn brown.  So with a couple of overripe bananas needing to be used I thought I would bake a quick and easy banana bread.  Occasionally, I like to add dried fruits or nuts (or chocolate!) to the banana bread for an extra flavour boost.  Since I had a heap of dried cranberries leftover from Christmas baking, I thought this would be a nice addition.

The loaf turned out beautifully!  A really moist and delicious but not too sweet treat.  Perfect for an afternoon snack or for a packed lunch.

Banana & Cranberry Bread


1 3/4 cups of self raising flour
1/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp cinnamon
50ml macadamia oil (or use another oil or melted butter instead)
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1.  Preheat oven to 180C
2.  In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients
3.  In another bowl combine the milk, eggs, oil and bananas
4.  With a wooden spoon mix together the dry and wet ingredients
5.  Pour the batter into a lightly greased loaf tin
6.  Bake for 45-50 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out cleanly
7.  Allow to rest in the pan for 5 minutes
8.  Turn out the bread onto a wire rack and allow to cool

Jun 18, 2012

Jerk spiced chicken

I must declare my love for the ever enduring slow cooker!  Apart from some browning of meat (which I've been known to forgo many a time), you simply throw your ingredients in, whack it on and leave it alone for hours to simmer away ever so slowly.  In fact, even lifting the lid to give said dish a stir is not recommended as this breaks the seal of the lid and cooking time needs to be increased.

I knew that anything requiring such little effort, that could produce such succulent and delicious results after a bit of neglect would be a staple in my kitchen.  And indeed the slow cooker comes out at The Shady Pine as soon as the cold weather announces itself.

I've had fun experimenting with slow cooker recipes for a while now.  However this recipe for Jerk spiced chicken drumsticks in a newly purchased slow cooker book won me over initially because of the name.  It continued to win me over because even though there is a long list of ingredients, everything except the chicken , is whizzed up into a paste in the processor so there is no lengthy prep.

You simply pour the paste over the chicken and let it cook away.  Ultimately, what really won me over was the fantastic taste.  The flavour from the paste is perfectly balanced.  The initial recipe called for 2 chillies, hower after tasting the chilli I had bought I decided to only use one.  This proved to be a good decision as one chilli was more than enough to impart some heat without taking over.  So I'd recommend checking the heat of the chilli to be used and adjust according to your heat tolerance.

I also decided to add the juice of a whole orange instead of the two tablespoons the recipe called for to make a larger quantity of sauce.  This also worked and I poured extra sauce over the steamed rice that I served with the chicken.  In fact, this sauce is so delicious, I'd be happy to eat it with steamed rice in its own right!

Jerk spiced chicken drumsticks
Adapted from recipe in Women’s Weekly Slow Cooker 2, pg54
Serves 4
Olive oil spray
8 chicken drumsticks
4 spring onions, roughly chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, finely sliced
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 fresh green chilli, chopped
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt flakes
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp mixed herbs (I used Italian brand, Ariosto mixed herbs for chicken.  This is a really lovely mixture of herbs including basil, marjoram, sage and more)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 orange
A slow cooker and food processor are required for this recipe; I used a 4.5L capacity slow cooker.

1.       Heat a pan over high heat.  Spray pan with oil and brown the chicken drumstick in batches.
2.       Place chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker.
3.       In a food processor place spring onions, ginger, garlic, spices, herbs, pepper, salt, sugar, vinegar and orange juice.  Process this to a fine paste.
4.       Pour the paste over the chicken in the slow cooker and mix well.  Place on the lid and cook on slow setting for 2.5 hours.  After this time, increase the heat setting to high and cook for another 1 hour.
5.       Serve chicken with rice and steamed vegetables with extra sauce if desired.

Jun 12, 2012

Date crumble slice

When my Scottish friend told me she'd be travelling back to Scotlant while her husband remained in Australia and his 60th birthday happened to be during her time away, a whole bunch of family and friends decided to plan a surprise 60th birthday party.  Our friend Gordon is always lending us a hand with various bits of landscaping or odd jobs and we were really looking forward to planning his party to celebrate this milestone.

A few of us got together one Friday night to plan the party then divided the work between us.  The idea was that everyone invited would bring along a dish which would be put towards the meal.  I decided to make a massive lasagne.  This is always popular and convenient for feeding a crowd.  I also made a batch of  delicious date crumble slice.  I followed the recipe found here as it always turns out perfectly.  I figured the oats were a very distant nod to Gordon's Scottish heritage while the slice itself could be conveniently held in one hand while balancing a cup of tea in the other. 

Besides the party being a surprise, we also hired a bag piper to come along and play a few Scottish tunes so this was something everyone was waiting to see.  Our friend was genuinely surprised by the party and was speechless as the bag piper entered playing a familiar tune.  Our job was done! The evening was a real success and everyone bringing a dish worked really well.  There was such a range of different food to be enjoyed and all of it was simply delicious.  The slice was a perfect addition to the dessert table and it was nice to see it being enjoyed!