Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ham & Cream Cheese "grissini style" Potato Sticks

My kids love the range of snacks from Healtheries, so much so, that one packet is never usually enough. I pop a pack of these Potato Stix, for example, in their lunch box which keeps them satisfied until they get home from school and then they're starving again! For something a little more substantial for an After School Bite, I've come up with these Ham & Cream Cheese "grissini style" Potato Sticks. It keeps them going until dinner time.

I'm taking part in the Healtheries #snacksophere challenge currently being run over at Kidspot. 

Potato Stix are a crunchy, chicken flavoured potato and rice snack. (They also come in a Roast Potato flavour.) These are just one of the great products in the Healtheries range. They have 50% less fat than normal potato chips, are dairy free, contain no preservatives or artificial flavours or colours and no added msg.

You can go crazy with what you add to the cream cheese or just leave it on it's own. Any kind of flavoured cream cheese spread, dip, hummus or chutney would work wonderfully with or without the cream cheese.

I added a small amount of sweet gherkin relish to some cream cheese.

To assemble, spread a small amount of cream cheese on a thin slice of ham and place the potato stick on the edge and roll up.

Serve immediately as the Potato Stix will go a bit soggy if left too long but if your kids are anything like mine, they won't last that long. And why should the kids have all the fun? For a grown up version to serve as a snack with drinks why not wrap with thinly sliced prosciutto spread with a little vintage cheese spread, quince paste or olive tapenade. You'll love them just as much as I did.

Disclaimer: This blog post forms one of three entries into the Kidspot Voices of 2014 Healtheries #snackosphere challenge. I was given a selection of Healtheries snack foods to try. All opinions and photos are my own.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Casarecce with Basil Pesto, Salami, Tomatoes & Silverbeet

I don't know why I get sucked in to buying my fruit and vegetables from the supermarket. Out of convenience I guess. I've returned to my local fresh produce market to buying them from now on and there is definitely a difference in flavour, quality AND price.

I bought what seemed like a 'freshly picked that morning' bunch of silverbeet, Roma grape tomatoes plus various other vegetables for the week. I decided to team them with the lovely range of pasta and pesto from Barilla

I chose the casarecce pasta for this dish because it is a large pasta shape and would be well covered in the basil pesto plus be a nice sized bite with the large chunks of fresh tomato, salami and silverbeet.  Casarecce originates from Sicily, but is also typical of other regions in the centre-south of Italy. This tasty shape, whose name means ‘homemade’, is an interpretation of the Arabic "pasta busiata" obtained with the "bus", the thin reed of a plant that in the past was used to wrap up the pieces of dough.

The Barilla Pesto Alla Genovese is made in the traditional method from the freshest basil leaves in Liguria and are combined with the delicious taste of Pecorino Romano and Grana Padano cheese. Prepared without preservatives, this is the most natural pesto, with the unmistakeable fragrance of summer. I've used this on top of bruschetta (and straight out of the jar). It's just beautiful.

Basically any fresh vegetables could be used in this dish or any of the other pastas from the Barilla range. It's great experimenting with flavours and textures and using whatever you have on hand. 

Disclaimer: I was given a range of Barilla pasta and sauces. All photos and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Iced Mandarin Yoghurt Cakes

Winter in Australia means an abundance of citrus fruit and my fridge has been full of mandarins for a week or so now. They are so delicious and sweet at the moment but the kids are starting to get a bit over them. I know they would eat them made up into something else so based my recipe on this Greek Yoghurt Cupcake recipe by Natasha's Kitchen.

I had Greek yoghurt to use up and, in the past, I've used yoghurt in cakes and it made a very moist cake with a lovely creamy taste.

The house smelt amazing as they came out of the oven and my 'chief taste tester' was keen to grab one as soon as they landed on the kitchen counter.  They were perfect un-iced or just right with an icing made with the juice of half a mandarin. This is a great recipe and one that I'll try again with orange or lemon.

Iced Mandarin Yoghurt Cakes
(Adapted from "Natasha's Kitchen" Greek Yoghurt Cupcakes with Blackberry Frosting)
  • 1 2/3 cups SR flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, room temp
  • 1 large egg white, room temp
  • 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt 
  • juice and rind of 1 medium (or 2 small) mandarins

  1. Preheat oven to 150 deg C (fan forced oven).
  2. Prepare cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  3. Mix first five ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Melt butter. Add whole egg and egg white plus remaining ingredients.
  5. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.
  6. Scoop cake mixture into cupcake liners and bake for 20 mins (approximately) or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Ice with a mixture made from 1 cup of icing sugar, the juice of 1/2 a mandarin and a tablespoon of butter (melted). 
  8. Can be eaten un-iced.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake with Five Brothers

If you know me I don't really like using bottled jars and sauces or any kind of ready made meals. I always prefer to cook from scratch but when asked to try the new Five Brothers range of pasta bake sauces, I'd thought I'd give them a try. I'd actually heard people say how much they taste like homemade and I'm all about the taste.

The new Five Brothers pasta bake range is proudly made in Australia and remains true to the Cucina Rustica traditions of only using the finest ingredients to make extraordinary meals. The heritage of the Five Brothers brand can be traced to a small village in Tuscany, Italy. Five brothers (Vittorio, Raphael, Marcello, Dante and Christophe) who were experts of Cucina Rustica (rustic Tuscan cooking) were renowned for using fresh quality ingredients to make extraordinary dishes. Each brother had a special talent he brought to making the pasta sauces and together they became the inspiration for the Five Brothers brand.

The meal couldn't have been any easier to put together. It was a matter of pouring the jar of sauce into a casserole dish and topping with a little water. Mix in the tuna (and any vegetables you wanted), two cups of uncooked pasta and top with grated cheese. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes and the meal is on the table.

I was pleasantly surprised at how authentic the flavours really were without having that 'fake' taste typical with sauces in jars. The best part was how quickly it was to prepare and cook in the oven, cooking the pasta in the sauce. I'll definitely be keeping a couple of jars of these in the pantry for quick, easy dinners.

The new range of sauces also include Dante’s Creamy bacon with Parmesan Cheese and Christophe’s Creamy Tomato, Garlic & Basil. I can't wait to give them a try.

Disclaimer: I was given a free jar of each of the above sauces to try. All photos and opinions are my own. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Caramel Mudcake with Caramel Ganache

Every year, for the last 10 years at least, I make my '40 something' sister a birthday cake. It's only been since my kids were born that I've done it and it's usually been a quick, throw together cake with a bit of plain icing, just for the sake of putting a candle in to blow for the amusement of the kids. This year I thought I'd do something a little more and opted for this Caramel Mudcake.

It's based on this really easy recipe by Weekend Mummy and it was just what I needed to get in the oven before I picked the kids up from school. Trouble was, I didn't read the whole recipe and it required over 2 hours cooking in a slow oven. Normally, I wouldn't have minded but I had a million things on this particular day. Crisis averted. It eventually got baked but it was a little overcooked on the ends but still nice and moist inside like a mudcake should be. Its such an easy cake to mix together and very delicious.

I wasn't sure what to top it with but I thought a caramel ganache would suit it best so found the best recipe here which consisted of white chocolate, cream and half a tin of caramel Top'N'Fill. It was easy to make and absolutely delicious and could be used for a million other uses. (Stay tuned for what I did with the other half of the tin of caramel and no, I didn't eat it from the can although I was tempted!) I drizzled the top with a 'little' melted dark chocolate to finish.

The cake was received well, the kids got to blow out the birthday candle and my sister turned another year older with a few extra calories added on for good measure.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Top 17 winter warmer recipes

I live in a pretty fantastic climate here in Brisbane. The summers are hot and the winter is mild. I really thought we might've missed out on winter this year with the weather still pretty warm half way through June but its arrived, with a vengeance, so the slow cooker has been pulled out of hiding and it's been getting a good workout. Time to share my top 10 winter warmer recipes which are also easy, frugal and use seasonal ingredients. It may not be cold in your part of the world but some of these are still good to put on for summer so you don't heat the kitchen up and you can serve with some crusty bread and a side salad.

Remember to look for cheaper cuts of meat, for example instead of buying over-priced lamb shanks, look for a boneless lamb shoulder or lamb chops. Same with ham hocks for pea and ham soup. They are so over-priced during the cooler months. A much cheaper option is to flavour a Pea and Ham Soup with bacon bones and add some chopped, cooked bacon for more flavour and texture. Use seasonal vegetables and adapt the above recipes to suit what you have on hand.

Check out the "Recipes" tab above for more winter warmer soup recipes and plenty of winter pudding recipes which will complete your family meal.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Explaining my absence

To all of my gorgeous friends out there in the blogosphere, I'm finally getting around to letting you all know what I've been up to and where I've been. To say that things have been busy around here is an understatement. To all of you who are parents, I don't need to tell you how crazy things can get let alone if you're working, studying or trying a whole new life changing experience.

As most of you would know, my marriage ended in January 2012. Just 2 months later my mother passed away unexpectedly. The following 2 years were the hardest I ever had to endure. BUT and it is a big but, I got there in the end and have transformed my life. My life couldn't be better.

I live in a very lucky country and since my marital status changed to 'separated' I've been fortunate enough to receive a helping hand from our government in the way of financial support. Unfortunately this doesn't last forever and towards the end of last year, I had to either find a job or study or lose this financial support. Trying to think of something to study in your late 40's or find a job that fits around your children's school life was proving difficult. After some deep soul searching I realised that I'd follow my lifelong passion of working in the sports/fitness industry and complete studies in Fitness, which would enable me to work as a Personal Trainer or in the sports industry.

One problem though. I wasn't as fit or in fact healthy as I was before I had my children and was carrying an awful amount of extra weight due to emotional eating and depression. My brain switched into gear and I hit the pavement and joined a gym, two things I always loved doing but never had time for, or more to the point, always made excuses for. (I've since lost more weight but am not really into taking selfies or weighing myself.)

Some 40 kilos (88 pounds) later, I haven't been this fit in the last 10 years nor as healthy. I'm nearly finished studying my Certificate III and IV in Fitness and will begin to look for a job either as a sports coach or work with the elderly in a rehabilitative capacity.

Needless to say the blog has been neglected. I was trying my hardest to continue with the Thriving on Thursday linky party but before I knew it, it would be Saturday and I'd say "what happened to Thursday?" I've received some lovely emails from followers checking up on me and I really appreciate your concerns and apologise profusely for not letting you know sooner.

The biggest thing I've learnt from my experience is that sometimes it takes getting to rock bottom to build a new foundation. My body, mind and spirit is thanking me for my life change and so are my children. I have so much more energy and a great new outlook on life. I haven't been creating too many new recipes, rather eating clean, healthy, natural food but stay tuned for more recipes to come.

I've also met a wonderful man who seems to tick all the boxes that I've been looking for all my life. We've been seeing each other for a couple months now and everything is going smoothly.

I can't wait to get back to blogging on a more regular basis and to keep in touch with all you wonderful people who I've made friends with over the last few years. You've all been such wonderful support to me through both the hard times and the good.

Thanks again for all your concerns. You're all just great!

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