Wholemeal oat and chia pancakes with caramelised maple bananas

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Over the past few weeks I’ve had a real craving for pancakes and often make them on a Sunday morning for breakfast. I usually make traditional white sugar and flour type pancakes, but this morning I decided to try and make a healthy version. There are heaps of healthy pancake recipes out there but I decided to go it alone and fudge a recipe. These turned out absolutely amazing and it’s hard to believe that they are actually good for you! I also included chia seeds in the mix…it was my first time using chia and it was a success! Anyway, I’m sure anyone would eat these and find them delicious. They aren’t at all heavy and dense, which I thought might be the case with the wholemeal flour and oats…but are light and airy and yum! Give them a go…for something with no processed flour, sugar or oil they are honestly too delicious to believe they are healthy!!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
4 tbsp chia gel*
Coconut oil for frying
2 bananas
4 tbsp maple syrup + extra for serving
Greek yoghurt

Method:

1. Put flour, oats and bicarb soda in a bowl and stir to combine.
2. Add eggs, 2 tbsp maple syrup, milk and chia seeds and whisk until all ingredients are combined. Let rest for 10 minutes.
3. In a large frying pan heat 1/2 tsp coconut oil. Fry pancakes in batches until cooked, adding more oil for each batch. (I made mini pancakes, so got 3 in the pan at a time.)
4. Peel and slice bananas into 1cm slices. Add 1/2 tsp coconut oil to pan and add bananas. Fry until browned and then turn. Add 2 tbsp maple syrup to pan to glaze bananas.
5. To serve – stack pancakes and bananas and serve with extra maple syrup and Greek yoghurt.

* Add 1 tsp of chia seeds to 1/2 cup of water. Let sit for 10 minutes and then stir with fork. Let sit for further 10 minutes before using.

You could also serve these with caramelised apples, berries, stewed fruit etc. You can also add blueberries, coconut, sultanas, craisins or choc chips to the batter before cooking.

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Chicken cacciatore and quinoa

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I’m a pro when it comes to cooking in bulk and eating leftovers for a week. It’s not that I don’t like cooking regularly…but I find it really difficult to cook small portions (as in a meal for 1 person). Anyway, not really a problem as I always have lunch or dinner in the fridge/freezer when needed…and I make sure I cook something that tastes amazing that I can cope eating for several days straight.

This week I got organised and decided to make my Thursday dinner on Wednesday night, meaning that when I got home from work on Thursday my dinner was cooked and ready to go – all I had to do was whip up some quinoa and I had an instant healthy and delicious dinner. For added goodness you can add grated carrot or zucchini, diced capsicum or eggplant or peas or beans with the mushrooms to boost/hide the veggie content!!

Chicken cacciatore is one of my favourite one-pot meals and is super easy to cook. It freezes really well (for any leftovers) and tastes even better a couple of days after you’ve cooked it. I serve this with quinoa because of it’s nutritional benefits, but you could serve with pasta, potatoes, rice, polenta, steamed or roasted vegetables or a big piece of crusty bread to soak up all the delicious sauce. Cooking this long and slow means that the chicken just falls apart and doesn’t dry out and the flavours intensify and make the sauce delicious and rich.

Ingredients:

Chicken cacciatore:

– 1 kg chicken thighs (Marylands or drumsticks also work well. Chicken breast works, just reduce the cooking time otherwise they’ll dry out too much)

– 15 button mushrooms, halved

– 2 medium brown onions

– 4 cloves garlic

– 2 tbsp tomato paste

– 1/2 cup white wine

– 1/2 cup chicken stock

– 1 tsp dried oregano

– 1 tsp dried Italian herbs (or use basil, parsley, thyme mix)

– 2 x 400g tins crushed tomatoes

– 1 tbsp olive oil

– Salt and pepper to taste

Quinoa:

– 1 cup quinoa – rinsed and drained

– 2 cups chicken stock

– 1 large spring onion

– Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Chicken:

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius.

2. Add olive oil to stove top/ovenproof dish and seal chicken in batches until browned. Remove chicken from pan and add onions and garlic; cook until soft.

3. Add mushrooms and cook for 1-2 minutes until they start to colour. Add tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add wine to pot and simmer until halved in quantity.

4. Add stock, herbs, tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste, then add chicken to the pot.

5. Cover pot with lid and cook in oven for 1 hour. Take lid off and cook for a further 1 hour.

Quinoa:

1. Put stock in pot and bring to the boil. Add quinoa and simmer for 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Add finely sliced spring onion and salt and pepper to taste.

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Roasted pumpkin and potato chickpea curry

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I wanted something quick and easy to cook, that was full of flavour and easy to take to work for lunch. Something that was going to keep me full, but was also nutritious and delicious and preferably vegetarian. I’m not a vegetarian, but try to only eat meat once a day, and try to have a few meat-free days a week. So most days I have a meatless lunch and have meat at dinner. I decided to attempt a chickpea and pumpkin curry.

I’ve made curries before, but they’ve never turned out very well. I’m not even sure what went wrong. Perhaps it’s that I’m not really that crash hot on curries to start with and that they didn’t taste the way I had envisioned. Majorly disappointing! Anyhow, I decided to give one a go…again. I didn’t follow a recipe, just kind of knew what I wanted it to taste like and just went with my taste buds. Lucky for me, this time it worked out and was super delicious! It was creamy and thick and full of flavour. It’s better on the second and third day, the flavours seem to intensify and get better with age.

It’s a quick and easy recipe to make and is a great way to use up leftover roasted veggies. You can substitute lentils for the chickpeas if you prefer. You can also use either regular potatoes or sweet potato, either works and is yum! Even though it’s a vegetarian recipe I think meat lovers would find this a satisfying and hearty lunch or dinner meal. If you’re a vegan use a vegan stock and leave out the yoghurt.

Ingredients:

1/4 Jap or kent pumpkin
3 medium potatoes/1 medium sweet potato
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 x 400g tin coconut milk
1 large brown onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 thumb size piece of ginger, finely chopped
2 heaped tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 cup chicken/vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
Salt and pepper
Coriander and Greek yoghurt to serve

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Cut pumpkin and potato into 1 cm diced pieces and toss in 1 tbsp of olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake in oven for 30 mins or until golden and tender.
2. Heat a large saucepan and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add onions and cook on low for 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic, ginger, spices and curry powder and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add tomato paste and cook for another minute.
3. Add chickpeas and stir to combine. Stir in the coconut milk, stock and roasted vegetables and simmer on a low heat for 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve over rice, quinoa, couscous or steamed greens, or by itself with a big scoop of yoghurt and a heap of chopped fresh coriander. This is also delicious with flat bread or pappadums.

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Rich, chewy wholemeal dark chocolate brownies

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Brownies usually aren’t my thing, but I had to make morning tea for work tomorrow and decided that chocolate decadence was going to be the only suitable option to get us all through the day. I searched for a while to find the right recipe that had some good ingredients in it, and not just copious amounts of white sugar, flour and butter. I found a recipe (original here: http://www.passionateaboutbaking.com/2012/12/baking-wholewheat-dark-chocolate-brownies-one-bowl-whole-grain-and-delicious.html) and decided to base my brownies on that, adding a few of my own twists to make it slightly healthier still. The end result was blissful chocolatey goodness. The outside crust is crunchy and light, while the inside is soft and chewy. I’ve eaten four already, so needless to say I’m now a brownie convert! I’ll definitely be baking these again and will no doubt divert from the recipe slightly. Some awesome additions would be macadamia nuts or slivered almonds, toasted coconut, sour cherries, fresh raspberries, blueberries, mashed banana, glacĂ© ginger or chopped dates.

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Ingredients:
100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more)
3 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
6 tbsp dark brown sugar (raw sugar or normal brown sugar is also fine)
8 tbsp wholemeal plain flour
100g dark chocolate chips

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Grease and line a 20cm square tin.
2. Put dark chocolate and oils in a bowl and microwave for a minute or so until melted.
3. Whisk sugar into chocolate mix. Add baking powder, salt and eggs and whisk.
4. Add flour to mix and whisk until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
5. Spoon mixture into tin and cook for 18-22 minutes or until middle is set.
6. Let brownie completely cool in tin before removing and cutting into 16 squares.

Thick, hot chocolate custard (gluten free, vegan option)

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Chocolate – need I say more?!

This recipe came about one evening when I was craving something hot and chocolatey…but not cake or biscuits. I decided to experiment and came up with this recipe. It’s amazing, even if I do say so myself. I love custard and love chocolate – so what better than chocolate custard. It actually reminds me of an Italian Hot Chocolate I had when on a trip to Brisbane. I’ve never found a hot chocolate since that comes close – this recipe is the closest I’ve got!

As this recipe has no eggs so can easily be adapted to become a vegan recipe – just substitute the cow milk with soy, rice, almond or coconut milk.

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Ingredients:

– 100g bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa or more)

– 2 tsp cornflour

– 2 tbsp cocoa powder

– 2 tbsp sugar (or substitute maple or agave syrup or stevia)

– 2 cups milk of choice (I used 2% fat milk)

Method:

– Add chocolate to saucepan with 4 tbsp of milk. Heat until chocolate has melted. Whisk in remaining ingredients and cook over low heat until thick and creamy.

Best served in a teacup topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Enjoy!

The perfect roast chicken – every time

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I love cooking a roast chicken – or any roast for that matter – especially with homemade gravy. I get a little perplexed that a lot of people my age are completely ignorant when it comes to proper gravy. Gravox or powdered gravy isn’t gravy. It’s gross. Plus, after you’ve put in hours of care to make the perfect roast why wouldn’t you put all those delicious pan juices to good use?! I think a roast chicken is one of the easiest things in the world to make, and this method ensures that the meat stays super tender and juicy every single time. Yes, I’ve cooked probably close to a hundred chickens like this (or so it feels) and I’ve never had one turn out anything but perfect. So all you young people who can’t make gravy – here is your chance. It’s easy. It’s delicious. You’ll never eat any other kind of gravy other than home made again. Promise!

I often cook this recipe on a weekend and can get about 8 portions from a whole chicken. I usually freeze the leftover shredded meat in single-serve portions in zip-lock bags…this way I have shredded roast chicken on hand for other recipes or leftovers.

Ingredients:

Roast chicken:

– 1 large raw chicken (about 2kg)

– 1 cup chicken stock

– 2 medium brown onions

– Olive oil

– Salt & pepper to taste

– 8 sprigs of rosemary

– 4 – 5 cloves garlic

– vegetables to serve

Gravy:

2 tbsp plain flour

2 tbsp butter or fat skimmed off top of roasting juices

Roasting juices

Hot water

Method:

Chicken:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.

2. Wash chicken in cold water (to remove any juices/bits that stick in package). Make sure you thoroughly wash the inside cavity.

3. Pat down with paper towel to dry and stuff the inside cavity with rosemary and garlic.

4. Chop onions into 1cm thick slabs and lay in a roasting dish.

5. Rub whole bird with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

6. Lay chicken BREAST SIDE DOWN on the layer of onions and pour in the chicken stock.

7. Place roasting dish in oven and cook for required time, turning the chicken over halfway through – so the chicken is now the right way up. (Cooking time – I allow 30 mins/500g – seems to work out every time as long as you allow enough resting time once cooked).

8. Once chicken is cooked remove from tray and rest BREAST SIDE DOWN – this allows all the juices to run into the breast, making it super moist and juicy – and covered in foil. Rest for approximately half an hour prior to serving.

Gravy

9. Tip all roasting tray juices into a tall mug/bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. You’ll be able to see all the fat sitting on top of the juices. Skim fat off top and discard (I usually place some paper towel into a bowl and tip the fat in there and then put in bin – much better than tipping it down the sink!).

10. Heat pan on stove top and add butter/roasting fat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute.

11. Add remaining roasting juices to flour mix and whisk until smooth. Cook on low for 5-8 minutes, adding water until you get the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve – serve roasted chicken with preferred vegetables and top with gravy.

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Roasted pumpkin and sweet potato soup

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I never really used to think much of soup…don’t get me wrong, it’s nice and all, but I’d much prefer to eat something else – like pasta or potatoes. My parents have always made delicious soups over the years…Dad’s Ham Hock, Chorizo & White Bean soup is still a favourite, or Mum’s Mulligatawny! In the last few years I’ve learned to appreciate a good soup, probably because one of the only ways to survive winter in this place is to load up on as much hearty food as possible. Plus you generally don’t use much kitchen equipment or time to prep/cook soup…and leftovers are the best for lunch! Soup also freezes really well, so you can always have a stockpile for an instant hot meal.

Soup is one of those things that you can make with pretty much whatever you have in your fridge/pantry. I love throwing a heap of veggies into a roasting tray to caramelise and turn golden brown before tossing the whole lot into a pot with some stock and herbs/spices. Cook for 10-15 minutes and then blitz until smooth. How easy is that, right?!

Ingredients:

– 500g Jap/Kent pumpkin

-1 medium sweet potato

– 2 brown onions

– 5 cloves garlic

– 1/4 head of cauliflower

– 2 tsp curry powder

– 1 tsp cumin powder

– 1 tsp ground coriander seeds

– 4 tbsp olive oil

– 1 litre stock (chicken or vegetable)

– Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Preheat oven 180 degrees Celcius.

2. Peel and cut in to cubes the pumpkin, sweet potato and onion. Place in roasting dish/tray, drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and salt & pepper and roast until golden brown and caramelised (about 40-60 minutes)

veg for roasting

3. Heat large pot on stove top. Add remaining oil and fry cauliflower until soft. Add garlic, curry powder and spices and cook until aromatic. Add roasted vegetables and stock and cook for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables go mushy.

4. Use a stick blender (or regular blender – you’ll have to do it in batches this way) to blitz soup until smooth.

5. Serve with a large dollop of sour cream or Greek yoghurt and a sprinkle of fresh coriander.

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