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Stuck for Stuffing?

Stuck for Stuffing?

I know we’re late in the game on this one, but what’s Christmas without a little bit of chaos, right? Don’t panic if you’ve already got your stuffing or dressing sorted. Stuffing is not merely a side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but a delicious addition to the stick-to-your-ribs dinners that the cold, short winter days invite. This is such an easy dish to make, and this recipe will add a special warmth to any dinner you pair with it. Whether made into a loaf or as loose stuffing, I hope you will enjoy this as much as I do!

Sweet & Savoury Stuffing
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Rapeseed Oil, or any other oil for cooking, plus a few pats of butter
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely diced
  • 2 cooked beets, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 persimmons, cut into medium slices, and then halved
  • 8 ounces cooked and peeled chestnuts, halved (or find a pack of pre-cooked, vacuum packed chestnuts)
  • 1 pound pork sausage meat
  • 8 – 10 ounces dry bread crumbs or cubes
  • ¼ – ½ dried cranberries, depending on your preference
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 ounce fresh sage, chopped finely
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 375f/190c/gas mark 5.
  2. In a large roasting tray, coat the beets and persimmons in oil, seasoning lightly with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan. You will use this pan to eventually combine most of the ingredients, so ensure it has a high enough wall to hold it all. Brown the sausage meat, being careful to break up the meat well.
  4. Once browned, add the onions and saute until becoming translucent. Tip in the carrots and celery and saute for another 5-6 minutes.
  5. Stir in the chestnuts, sage, nutmeg, orange zest, butter, and cranberries. After mixing well, fold in the breadcrumbs. For a moister stuffing, or to make a stuffing loaf or balls, many people add a pint of stock to the stuffing at this stage.
  6. Once combined, add the stuffing mixture to the roasted beets and persimmons and stir gently until combined. Taste the stuffing mixture to ensure the seasoning is to your liking and then place the tray back into the oven, finishing off for another 25-30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are just toasted nicely. If roasting as a loaf, bake in a loaf pan for 45 minutes or until heated thoroughly and crisped on top. Stuffing balls should take 30 minutes.

 

V/V Keto: The Night Before…

V/V Keto: The Night Before…

Tonight starts the prep for my one week vegan/vegetarian keto diet experiment. As some of you know, I follow a moderate ketogenic diet along with my husband, as it has been helpful at managing his epilepsy [Here is a journal article about the benefits of the keto diet on not only epilepsy, but many other heath conditions as well]. Although I completely love meat, I also love vegetables, beans, and grains, and could easily enjoy meat-free recipes many days of the week. Also, I think varying any diet’s intake is healthy for the body and fun for the tastebuds.

Herein lies my difficulty.

After seeing so many delicious vegan/vegetarian recipes, I’ve had to bypass them for fat-filled and [animal] protein-filled meals to fit in with our keto diet. But. I. Love. A. Challenge. So, for dinners only, I decided to try out a vegan/vegetarian keto diet for a week to see how practical it is to follow under keto specifications, and to encourage others if they are interested in keeping up a high fat-low carb lifestyle without meat. And I’m starting tomorrow…!

We’ll be making fajitas with a base of mushrooms, aubergines, paneer, and walnuts. Recipe and ingredients will be provided tomorrow — please check back in! I’m away now to eat my weight in meat!

 

 

DIY Easter Bark

DIY Easter Bark

We are now well into three years of our 10-year whole-living health and wellness plan. Part of this plan includes cutting out processed foods, eradicating synthetic chemicals and dangerous cleaning solutions from our home, making food from scratch, incorporating healthy routines in food & exercise, AND….. No. More. Sugar.
I had a great moment with my five year-old daughter a few days ago after explaining to her the dangers of bleached foods and of sugar, specifically, as diabetes runs strong in my family. She then, by her own volition, binned the caramel square and diluted orange juice drink someone had bought for her on an afternoon out together. I was so proud! My three year-old followed suit and then wallowed in self pity and grieved over the sweet treats in the bin. Hopefully it will be a step in the right direction for him someday. It’s tough to break away from those feel-good sweet treats, especially when you’re three, let alone 33!

Sugar is so deliciously addictive! In light of the new sugar tax on drinks, and especially because it’s Easter weekend, I thought I’d share my husband’s favourite recipe: Dark Chocolate Bark. Hopefully this recipe can curb your sugar cravings and put down that [insert brand name here]’s sugar-laden, preservative-filled egg!
Now, unless you are a master chocolatier and have molds etc. lying around to makes eggs, chicks, and bunnies, a small baking sheet will suffice. [Spoiler alert: It’s called Bark because I break it up once it’s set. That’s about as creative as I can get with this stuff.] On with the recipe!

You’ll need a few things before you start:

  • A pot 1/3 filled of freshly boiled water & a glass bowl to sit snugly over the top of the pot [This is called a Bain Marie or a water bath.]
  • A whisk
  • A small baking tray. Mine is 8×10 inches.
  • Room in your refrigerator to set your tray!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cacao butter
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup coconut oil [Optional. I found this a superfluous ingredient to the outcome of the chocolate.]
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup honey
  • Any dried fruit, nuts, or other toppings you like to dress the chocolate

Method

  • In the Bain Marie, melt the cacao butter, whisking occasionally until completely melted.
  • This would be the time to add coconut oil, if you choose to use it. Melt into the cacao butter until incorporated and completely melted.
  • Add in the cocoa powder and stir until smooth.
  • Stir in the honey to taste. I prefer it sweeter, so I like 1/4 cup. My husband prefers the taste quite bitter and dark, so he only takes two tablespoons. Be careful not to add any more than 1/4 cup of honey – the consistency of the chocolate will change, making it harder to set.
  • Pour the melted chocolate into a baking tray and decorate with dried fruits and nuts. We do everything from salted peanuts and raisins to pistachios, dried strawberries, figs, seeds, mixed nuts, and goji berries.
  • Set the baking tray on an even surface in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes, or until set.
  • Once hardened, use a butter knife to gently break the chocolate into shards. The chocolate will begin to melt if left out of the refrigerator for too long, so either eat it up quickly or put it back in the fridge!
  • Enjoy!

You can choose to add flavours to the chocolate by adding a few drops of flavoured oils or the zest of an orange.

I’ve used a baster to divide the chocolate into a mini-muffin tin to make little chocolate buttons with fruit, nuts, and seeds. This is a bit more time consuming, but looks beautiful as a gift or for a party. Let the chocolate stand at room temperature for 3-4 minutes before popping out of the molds, bag them up, then store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Similarly, you can dip fruits into the chocolate and set on baking paper in the fridge until set. The bitterness and smoothness of the chocolate contrasts the sweetness of the fruits perfectly!

Happy [healthy] Easter!

Lime & Coconut Curry with Mixed Seafood

Lime & Coconut Curry with Mixed Seafood

This is a great dish to enjoy in the dead of winter or in the cool breeze of lazy summer nights. It is a hearty, warming recipe that is sure to fill your belly on a cool night, but is still light and fresh enough to invite dreams of the approaching springtime. My husband and I are not big fans of most curries, but this one was so fresh and citrus-y that it has easily become a favourite and a great go-to dinner when we need a quick option to pull together. And our three-year-old son loves it! Our five-year-old daughter? Not so much, but only because she thinks mussels look weird. It’s a ¾ family favourite then. We give her some cod with the curry sauce and she likes that. More on that below.

*Warning!*   I like to blend my own spice mixes… But without “traditional” forms of measuring. To be totally honest, I’m not good at following instructions or measuring accurately. I call it creative license. I make my own curry powder mix that my family likes. In the recipe below, you can use the pre-mixed spices and seasonings, or at the bottom of the recipe, find my spice ingredient list and try that. Whatever mix you choose to use, this is a delicious, healthy dinner that can be pulled together in 45 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp oil [rapeseed, coconut, ghee…any good fat you desire!]
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce*
  • 2 tsp curry powder*
  • 2 limes, diced
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 400g coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp coconut butter [some supermarkets sell it as Block Coconut if you can’t find coconut butter or don’t make it yourself]
  • 150g mangetout
  • 150g broccoli florets
  • 150g cauliflower florets
  • 250g raw, peeled king prawns
  • 250g mixed seafood [we use squid, mussels, & mini prawns]
  • 400g dry green lentils
  • coriander leaves to garnish [optional]

Method

  1. Rinse and drain 400g green lentils. Cover with water [water should be 5cm above the surface of the lentils] and cook for 45 minutes or until tender. Skim off any foam that might rise to the surface and top up the water as needed. When cooked, drain, rinse, and set aside.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, heat oil in a large pan. Sauté onion until soft; add garlic, chilli, coconut butter, and curry seasoning. Stir to blend and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Blend the lime, coconut oil, and coconut milk in a blender until as smooth as possible. Add to the pan and stir.
  4. Add the seafood and cauliflower; stir, cover, and simmer for 7 minutes or until prawns are pink and cooked through.
  5. Add mangetout and broccoli. Cook to desired crispness – I prefer very crisp, so I cook anywhere between 45 seconds and 1:30, depending on the size of the florets.
  6. Spoon lentils onto a serving dish and top with the curry and garnish with fresh coriander.
  7. Enjoy!

Additional Notes|Substitutions

  • A Mojito is lovely with this!
  • The last time we made this, we bulked up the curry with two fillets of cod thrown into the pan 10 minutes before serving. It broke up nicely in the milky sauce, while still being firm enough to retain its shape and texture. If you don’t like mixed seafood, you can easily substitute with nice, firm fish fillets.
  • Rice with a bit of desiccated coconut and coriander is delicious with this! We don’t make rice often, as we are doing low-carb eating.
  • Sweet chilli sauce substitute: 1 small chilli, deseeded and finely sliced + 1 tbsp honey
  • Curry powder substitute: mix these ingredients in decreasing quantities. I estimate every time, based on how much I like the spices and what the other flavours in the recipe are. It’s not very exact, but then again, I’m not a very exact person. Remember, more of the first ingredient and decreasing to the smallest amount of the last ingredient.
    • Coriander seed
    • Smoked paprika
    • Cumin
    • Salt
    • Coriander leaf
    • Fenugreek
    • Cinnamon
    • Ground ginger
    • Chilli powder
    • Black pepper
    • Ground cardamom
    • Ground clove

Enjoy!

Some like it hot! …And others don’t.

Some like it hot! …And others don’t.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and it’s a great idea to start looking up recipes to cook for your date. But in the throes of [cooking] passion, it’s easy to over-season a new dish with a bit too much spice.
But, there is a way of ensuring there isn’t too much heat in the kitchen so you can get hot and heavy outside of the kitchen.

If you have over-spiced your dish and your love life is depending upon the success of this one meal, don’t panic! Stop and think. If you can identify the heated culprit, you can easily tone down the spice to a palatable taste and save Valentine’s Day! I mean, your dinner. You have three main options to help tone down the heat: water, fats/oils, and alcohol. Sugar and other ingredients can help to distract from the heat, but won’t necessarily lessen the heat. Find your overindulging ingredient below and get fixing!

  • Black Pepper: This is one of the mildest and most common spice ingredients. Water and fat won’t do much to touch the heat here. Try a splash of alcohol and you will save the pepper flavour, but lose the burning heat.
  • Ginger, Onions & Garlic: These foods produce a spicy “bite” that is less heat-hot and more stingingly hot. The best way to soften the burn of too much ginger is to cook it down. Water will help but will also dilute any other flavours already in your dish, so be prepared to season again, but do so carefully and very slowly! Cook down the ginger until your desired taste then build up your flavours again.
    Onion & garlic break down the best in a combination of both alcohol and fats. Add a splash of alcohol and a drizzle of oil, and that roaring bite will soften to become a complex, delicate blend of flavours that will compliment your dish well.
  • HOT Peppers! These are the big mambas! Their heat is quick and strong. If you’ve ever had a momentary lapse in judgement, being egged on by ego and friends, and have eaten a hot chilli on a dare, you’ll attest that the jug of water you gulped down after did absolutely not a thing to touch the unrelenting venom coursing through your digestive tract. It’s the same in cooking. Water will dilute your sauce, but preserve the spicy fire. Oil fats are best for lessening this heat, either in whole pepper form or the dried, powdered version. Sugar can also help to distract from the ear-burning heat, but fat will actually take a bit of the heat away. These peppers are make or break for your Valentine’s dinner! The right amount of heat is exhilarating and satisfying; too much and the date is over for both of you to spend the rest of the night on the toilet with a bottle of Rennie’s.

 

So that’s it! The fate of your future love life lies in your kitchen… And if it’s beyond repair, bin it all and order in a Chinese!

 

 

What’s for Lunch?

What’s for Lunch?

With busy schedules and cheap, convenient food, lunchtime can quickly become less of a meal and more of filling a need. If you aren’t able to carve out a bit of time to stop and enjoy a bite to eat, then, at the very least, I can help with inspiring some healthy, quick, and easy lunchtime options.

All of these ideas can be adapted to meat-free by substituting with legumes, pulses, and/or seeds and nuts to up your proteins to keep you energised and active until dinner time!

  1. Salad Topper
    This is the usual lunch menu Monday through Friday at our house. We sandwich a spoonful or two of this mix between fresh kale or spinach and some fresh fish and dress with cracked pepper, extra virgin olive oil [EVOO], and lemon juice.
    Twice per week, chop, grate, and shred carrots, cucumber, cooked beetroot, scallion, avocado, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, pickles, mushroom, broccoli, radish……You get the idea. Any and all veg you have on hand can be tossed into a large bowl. The key to this salad is the variety of taste, colour, and texture. Get a good mix in there, add some seeds, nuts, and even some dried or fresh fruit like oranges, apple slices, grapes, or berries. Because of the variance of what’s in the fridge, this salad is anything but monotonous. Be adventurous and treat your taste buds to a wonderful variety!
    And if you have a little extra time, try slow roasting some mushrooms, carrot batons, broccoli, red onion, garlic cloves, and pepper and add a few of those in to your salad for some complexity of flavour and texture. The onion and garlic especially become sweet and delicious – not at all sharp and pungent like when eaten raw! Roast the garlic it in its paper drizzled in oil and pop it out once cooked. It won’t stink you up like raw garlic does!
  2. Raw Bento Box
    This lunch is perfect for busy workdays, commuting, lazy weekends, lunch with friends, picnics, kids lunches….It’s pretty much perfect all the time and every where!
    Take your favourite fruit and veg and slice, dice, and chop. Compartmentalising the box looks neat and beautiful and satisfies those of us with OCD helps keep the food pieces separate so you can grab and go, or makes it perfect for sharing. Bring some boiled eggs, nuts, cheese, or charcuterie to spice things up a bit. We sometimes add in some pittas or crispbread and mash an avocado to use as a creamy spread and then top with various veggies and cheeses.
  3. Tuna Salad
    Mash an avocado with lemon juice and pepper. Chop and add in cooked beets, carrots, bell pepper, onion, celery, tomato, broccoli, edamame, coriander, chilli pepper, and mix. Top with baby sprouts and enjoy!
    Drizzle with rapeseed oil or EVOO to loosen the mixture, or add a dollop of mayonnaise if you prefer it more creamy. Substitute in a plethora of mixed beans, quinoa, and legumes for tuna to make this a meat-free lunchtime option.

These are just three of the raw lunches we rotate here. We like these because they can be made in advance, are low prep time, and are so tasty and healthy! So, even if you can’t stop and nurture your soul during the day with a time of rest while you eat, now you can eat least nourish your body in a short amount of time!

Book Review: The Geometry of Pasta

Book Review: The Geometry of Pasta

I got this book as a Christmas gift from my brother in law and it was one of the best gifts I got this year! It is a treasure trove of interesting foodie information and beautiful design. And one of the ramifications of growing up as the daughter of a writer and all-around creative is that any book I would even consider picking up must be beautiful in both content and aesthetics.

This book is just that.

The perfect shape + the perfect sauce = the geometry of pasta
The perfect shape + the perfect sauce = the geometry of pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy & published by Boxtree in 2010, I couldn’t help but wonder where has this book been for the past six years??  The Geometry of Pasta has the visually aesthetic appearance of a monochromatic cover that evokes a great expectancy of beautiful and simple content… and it does not disappoint!

The book hits all the basics that you’d expect in a food book – recipes for pasta dough, sauce recipes, and how much salt to add to boiling water. Hildebrand and Kenedy then proceed to take the reader on an exploration of various pasta forms, where they originated from, how to make the pasta, and accompanying sauces that not only dress the pasta suitably, but make the dish exceptional. The information is punctuated beautifully with simple, yet beautiful black and white graphic illustrations with just the right amount of detail and simplification of form.

The Geometry of Pasta is the perfect fusion of functionality and the art of both food and design.

 

All that is left to do is make some pasta…!

 


**I have not been asked to review this book. All opinions are my own.