Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Muffin Monday (Wednesday? Sunday?)

When I saw this event on Elena Ho's experiments blog, I knew I had to join in. Muffins are a big deal around here, mostly because they are the only snack food Ryan deems worthy to take to work. Biscuits and cookies just aren't filling enough. I showed Elena's post to Ryan, precipitating a huge storm of activity in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon. The results follow:

Pineapple Coconut Muffins
This was my contribution, working from a tried and true base recipe. These muffins were mostly of the bready, breakfast variety rather than something decadent and cake-like. They could have benefited from more sugar, but I thought the syrup from the pineapple was going to be sweet enough.

1 Cup plain self-raising flour
1 Cup Wholemeal self-raising flour
1/2 Cup dessicated coconut
2 Tablespoons raw sugar
1/2 Cup skim milk
1/2 Cup juice from tinned pineapple
1 egg
1/3 Cup vegetable oil
1 Cup tinned pineapple chunks

1. Preheat oven to 180 Degrees Celsius. Spray muffin tins with non-stick spray.
2. Mix flour, coconut and sugar in a large bowl. (I'm usually too lazy to sift)
3. In another bowl mix egg, oil, milk and juice.
4. Pour the egg mixture into the flour and mix as lightly and quickly as possible. Stir in the pineapple chunks as well.
5. Spoon mixture into muffin tins, and cook until golden and cooked through (around 20 minutes). Allow to cool in the tins before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Ryan's Cappucino Date Muffins
2 Cups flour
1/2 brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Cup strong percolated organic coffee
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup milk
1/2 Cup melted butter
1 egg beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/4 Cup diced dates

1. Grease muffin cups and preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
3. In another bowl, whisk together milk, coffee, butter, egg and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
4. Scoop batter into muffin cups, and bake for 20 minutes.

We couldn't decide whose muffins were better - they were just too different. Ryan's tasted nice and caramelised from the dates, but could have done with a stronger coffee flavour. Mine were ok, but needed more sugar. I'm sure the experimenting will continue next weekend, with all the inspiration from the Muffin Monday round up so far!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - February 26

This weeks menu is vegetarian - I've decided to give up meat (but keep eating seafood) for Lent. I made this decision after I posted last week's menu plan, but I'm making up for it this week.

Sunday: Chili con carne (with TVP mince)
Monday: Quesadillas
Tuesday: Risotto (maybe in the slow cooker - I haven't tried that yet)
Wednesday: Morrocan Vegetable Stew with Cous Cous
Thursday: Spaghetti
Friday: Vegetable Curry

Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pancake Day - a traditional Leftover Tuesday

Last Tuesday was Shrove Tuesday - otherwise known as Pancake Day or Fat Tuesday'. It has long been a great day for left overs - people made pancakes to use up all the rich ingredients they couldn't eat during Lent. Lent is the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter, where in many Christian traditions some form of fasting takes place. Any excuse for pancakes, I say.
In our house, it was a great excuse to use up some left overs in the freezer, and a good excuse to join Leftover Tuesday, hosted by Rachel at Rachel's Bite. The leftovers in question were some cooked chicken (from my last batch of stock) and some homemade cream of mushroom soup. I thought we were the only weirdo's in the world who would make such a thing. I don't think I'd ever eaten mushroom by itself before, though it featured often in my first cooking adventures (things like tuna casserole). And it only ever arrived in a can. But Ryan saw a recipe in Donna Hay one day, so we made it. And I've recently discovered we aren't the only ones - tiger fish at Teczcape has a great recipe too.
But back to Tuesday. I made up a generic crepe recipe (there's a couple on if you don't have one), and while it was sitting I threw an onion and some garlic in a pan. When it was all nicely translucent, I added the mushroom soup and the chicken, and let it simmer until it looked like dinner. I took it off the heat and stirred through some baby spinach.
Looked appetizing, didn't it? It smelt much better. Ryan made the crepes - he's much better at flipping things than me. I rolled the chicken mix up in the crepes, then heated them through in the oven, with some grated cheese on top. The final product looked pretty good.
Crepes are great like that, you can wrap up just about anything, and they make it so much more interesting. And they don't taste too bad either...

What's in your freezer?

I mentioned last week that I was cleaning out my freezer. It's not a huge freezer, just two shelves worth at the the top of our fridge. But I use it a lot. All meat I buy gets portioned and frozen, and all left overs get frozen in lunch-size containers. At any given time I have the food for 4 or 5 meals in my freezer - not the 'simply re-heat' kind, but easy enough for a week night. Ryan also likes buying the discount bread rolls when we do evening grocery shops, and they go straight in the freezer as well.
So here's the inventory from last week (which has already changed quite a bit):
Home-made chicken stock
Home-made vegetable stock
2 bags of marinaded chicken wings
Puff pastry
2 pieces of casserole steak
pork ribs
1 Chicken leg fillet, and 1 huge chicken breast
1C cooked chicken
1 bread roll
1 bag of Ryan's latest muffins
2 containers of bean soup
1 container of dhal
1 container of home-made mushroom soup
Home-made curry paste.

This week I'll let you know what sort of meals those ice-blocks became.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - February 19

I'm having a phase of cleaning out the freezer. So here goes:

Monday: Stirfry with tofu
Tuesday: Creamy chicken pancakes (made with home-made cream of mushroom soup from the freezer).
Wednesday: Pork ribs, mashed potato and veggies.
Thursday: Marinated chicken wings on the barbecue, with salad
Friday: Risotto with chorizo sausage.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Canberra MultiCultural Festival

I know that for most people in the English speaking world, culinary events in February revolve around heart-shaped meals and chocolate and all things red. However, here in Canberra, we get something very special. The Canberra Multicultural Festival Food and Dance Spectacular! I'm not kidding, that is it's full title, and it really lives up to it's name. There were 140 food stalls! I saw two Ethiopian, three Polish, two Argentinian, not to mention Hungarian, Croatian, the Islamic Women's Friendship Society, Swahili food, South African food, Sri Lankan, Indian, Chilean, Spanish, Belgian, Japanese, several Vietnamese, a heap of Thai...
It seemed like all of Canberra turned out, and if you don't believe me look here, here, here and even the good old ABC got into it. The dancing was equally prolific, if a bit baffling at times. There were four stages, and I made sure I got to see the belly dance extravaganza, which went from African dance, through Egyptian, gypsy, flamenco to khaleeji and some wild and wonderful pop interpretations. I loved every minute!
So, how do you eat your way around the world without breaking your budget?
- Take your play money in cash - and leave all forms of plastic currency at home.
- Eat a big breakfast at home
- Take a water bottle, and re-fill it up at the 'seniors rest point'
- minimize alcohol consumption. well, try, anyway. keep in mind that Polish beer is sold in 550 mL bottles : )
- look around, and opt for a number of small things, rather than a plate full.

I had Hungarian fried bread with sour cream and garlic, followed by Dutch pancakes for lunch. For dinner I had a triangular spinach pastry from the Islamic women's society (they really were friendly), followed by a masala dosai (which turned out to be flat bread wrapped around a potato curry, with an extremely spicy coconut chutney). I have to admit at this stage that I followed this with another batch of dutch pancakes. This cost me around $20. I also got to taste Ryan's Hungarian smoked sausage, and various other goodies bought by my friends. I really wanted to try the Chilean empanadas, but they sold out.
It really was a spectacular day out. It threatened to rain, and eventually did around 7pm, but that just meant a brief rest in the pub. We managed to continue eating and dancing well into the night.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Slow Cooker Chicken Stock

Really good stock is the beginning of a whole heap of really amazing meals. The favourites in this house are risotto, soups and some really simple pasta sauces. I do use stock cubes, but only in dishes where I know I'm going to be adding other strong flavours (a spicy spaghetti with a chilli tomato sauce is a good example). I use ready made stock more and find it works really well, but I despair at the price. So every so often I attempt my own stock.
My latest attempt was inspired by a slow cooker recipe in a new book. I had never tried stock in the slow cooker before, and it sounded like a brilliant idea. As it was I followed the recipe not at all, except for the heating/timing suggestions. Instead I used some gentle guidance from the Women's Weekly Basic Cookbook (is there anything those women don't know?).

Kazari's Best Ever Slow Cooker Chicken Stock
1 Carrot
2 Sticks of Celery, with leaves
1 Brown onion
6 Peppercorns
3 Bay leaves
2 Chicken carcasses

Heat the slow cooker on High. Chop all the vegetables in fairly small pieces, leaving the skin on. Wash the chicken carcasses and break into pieces as best you can (this was a bit tricky, and very gross - scissors help). Put everything in the slow cooker and cover with boiling water. Set the slow cooker to low, and leave for 10 hours. Strain the stock, and leave in the fridge to cool. When cold, skim the fat off the top.

This was seriously the best stock I ever made. After I skimmed the fat, it was slightly gelatinous, deep in colour and smelt really, really good. I've frozen almost all of it, so I get to decide later what to make.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Microwave Magic

I have just discovered two brilliant things I can do with my microwaved, that I never suspected were possible. I don't use my microwave all that often, except for making porridge in the morning, and defrosting the stuff from my freezer. I do use it to cook vegetables, but am a bit snobby about the meat and two veg thing, so that doesn't happen a lot. I don't think either of these actually count as recipes, but I'm going to share them anyway, as completely bizarre (and very yummy) uses for your microwave. Both are courtesy of the forum at Simple Savings, my favourite place for collective kitchen wisdom.

Microwave Meringues
Beat one egg white. Add a tablespoon of vanilla extract, or maybe raspberry essence and a drop of pink food colouring. Then start sifting in icing sugar (not icing mixture!) until the mix resembles marzipan. I didn't think this would make enough meringues, so I used two egg whites. This may have been a bad move, because I ended up using around 500g of sugar. Consider yourself warned.
Roll six marble-sized balls, and place them around the edge of a plate in the microwave. Zap for 2 minutes on high. That's all! They puff up, and cook! If they are still soft on top, go another 30 seconds. This was really fun to watch, and I think I got about 60 meringues. I should have thought about what 'enough meringues' was before I started.

Serving suggestions: Really good with double cream and stewed fruit (especially if the fruit is a bit sour, because these meringues are really, really sweet). Also good crushed on icecream for extra crunch. And last week Jamie Oliver crushed meringue and poured rice pudding and strawberries all over it.

Microwave (fat free!) potato crisps
Slice one potato as thinly as possible. Place around the edge of a piece of baking paper, on a plate in the microwave. Sprinkle with salt. Zap on High for 5 minutes, then watch closely as you zap for another 2. Somewhere in the last two the chips will start to crisp up and brown, and it's up to you to get them out. These are amazingly crispy, and full of potatoey goodness. The only problem is, doing them in small batches, you can eat them much quicker than you can cook...


Menu Plan Monday - February 12

It rained all day yesterday, so it was perfect cooking weather. My freezer now contains a couple litres each of chicken stock and vegetable stock, plus some left over soup and two sorts of marinated chicken wings. There was also brownies, corn bread and many mini-quiches for our friends' 30 birthday, which is next week! But on to the main attraction (and hopefully more about our all-day-cook-up later).

Sunday (yesterday, nevermind): Cornbread and spicy chorizo soup.
Monday: Home made pizza (with more of the chorizo sausage)
Tuesday: Creamy mushroom pasta bake. (No chorizo, no cream of mushroom soup either. I don't use tinned soup in anything)
Wednesday: Valentines day! I'm going to the wholesale seafood market and getting oysters and salmon. Oysters balsamic & sticky glazed salmon for dinner. Don't ruin the surprise!!
Thursday: Veggie stirfry
Friday: Sticky barbecue porkribs

Happy Monday Everybody!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Balck and White Bean Soup

A few weeks ago, the blog party hosted by Dispensing Happiness was all about black & white. I had meant to participate, I even found a recipe, but due to a lack of black beans, I didn't quite make the deadline. However, I'm just in time to take part in Veggie Ventures' February Focus: Soup's On.
It turns out that black beans are a bit hard to locate in Canberra. The didn't have them at Coles or Woolworths - not canned or dry. I eventually located dry turtle beans at the health food shop. And I'm so glad I did! This soup is funky to look at (even dinner party standard, if you like a gimmick), very frugal, very healthy and tastes great. I apologise for my rotten photographic skills, which don't do the soup justice. I am slack so I skipped the salsa in the recipe. But Ryan and I had fun trying to pour the soup into the bowl.

The stock I used was fairly dark in colour - I think the soup would have had more contrast if I'd used a lighter stock. As well as contrasting colours, the flavour of each soup was markedly different, making for a very engaging soup experience.
As an added bonus, the soup froze really well, so I got to have it for lunch all last week.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - February 5

Oh dear.
After heaps of visitors, and a dinner party over the weekend, I only seem to have half a menu plan. Never mind.

Sunday: Home-made pizza
Monday: Roast chicken and vegetables
Tuesday: Tex-Mex Pasta and assorted vegies
Wednesday: Spiced Mince Curry with poppadums and rice
Thursday: Fish parcels and cous cous
Friday: this is where inspiration fails me... I suspect omlettes.

Happy Monday everybody!