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Green Bean and Corn Succotash

During the Easter weekend, I spent time with family which, of course, means the over-consumption of food.  Not wanting to contribute to the fat-fest that is Easter (and thus contribute to the size of my thighs) I decided to make some slightly healthier (but also tasty) options for our family gathering.  I quickly made a Tuna Loaf , which everyone always enjoys and, if there’s leftovers, can be eaten the next day and freezes well too.

I then thought about making a salad.  Now, I eat salad pretty much every single day.  Which can get a little bit dull, to be honest.  I didn’t want to make the usual lettuce-cucumber-tomato scenario, so I went with this yummy Green Bean and Corn Succotash.  My ex Mother-in-Law used to make this for me whenever we got together for a family event.  It is fresh and vibrant and so colourful.  This isn’t her exact recipe – I haven’t been able to find her original one (which I put somewhere very safe and now, well, you can guess the rest) but it is pretty close and I reckon, with some tweaking, one day I might replicate hers exactly.  In the meantime, I will enjoy some delicious trial and error 🙂

This recipe, below, is adapted from Celebratemag.com

Ingredients

350g green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 small red onion, diced

3 cups corn kernels (fresh, or frozen, drained and cooled)

1/2 red capsicum, diced

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs: parsley, basil, or cilantro

2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar (start with 1/2 tsp, then add other half if you think it needs it!)

1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan, cook green beans in boiling, salted water until bright green and barely tender, 2 minutes. Plunge beans into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain well on paper towels.
  2. Sauté diced onions until softened, 3 to 4 minutes, in the 2 tbs olive oil. Transfer to a large bowl, and let cool.
  3. Add corn, beans, capsicum and herbs to onions, tossing to combine;
  4. In a small jar, combine remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard, and pepper; cover and shake to blend. Dressing can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored at room temperature.
  5. Just before serving, cover, and shake dressing jars to blend; drizzle on salads.

Voila!  Yummy, healthy and a bit of a change from a boring green salad.

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Thank you for popping in 🙂

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Super Simple Banana Bread

My workplace has a “health and wellness” program, that includes providing the staff with a box of fruit each week (to encourage us to eat healthily and not rely on the coffee van for cakes, muffins and sweets).  Inevitably, there is some fruit left at the end of each week, especially now that we have a lot less staff to eat it all.  So, I have been taking the leftovers home and making various baked goods with it.  I can’t stand the waste otherwise.  It might as well get eaten and not just thrown in the bin, right?

This week I had a few bananas that were overripe and needed using, so I made banana bread for my brother to take to his workplace for morning tea.  From one workplace to another – I don’t care who eats it, as long as someone does!

Here is my very easy-to-make, simple banana bread recipe.  It takes no time at all to whip up and is very flavourful, even if you only have a couple of small bananas to put in to it.  It slices nicely and is equally good served at room temperature, or toasted up and spread with a little butter.  Keeps well and can be frozen.

Super Simple Banana Bread

2-3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten lightly

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mashed banana, sugar, vanilla essence and melted butter.  Add the beaten egg and mix well.  Add the sifted flour and salt.  Stir until combined.  The mixture will be quite thick.

Put the batter in a loaf tin, lined with baking paper (or sprayed with non-stick spray, depending on the non-stick-ness of your tin!) and bake at 180 C for approx 30-50 minutes.
(NB : I have found that this cake takes very different amounts of time to bake depending on the amount of banana in it and whether or not you have a decent oven!
Check it after 30 mins, but be prepared that it may take longer).

Have a look every now and then to make sure it is not burning – it has a fairly high sugar content – cake is ready when it is just firm to the touch.  Allow to cool slightly in tin and turn out onto a rack.  Serve sliced, warm, with butter if you like.

That’s it – told you it was simple 🙂  It’s kind of a no-fail recipe and a good one to have in your arsenal of “what can I bake for afternoon tea/unannounced guests/school bake sale?” ideas.  Everybody likes banana bread, right?

Thanks for stopping by x

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Bandwagon Salad

Happy New Year, everyone.  Apologies for not posting sooner.  Lots of drama happening and I have had neither the time nor emotional energy to blog anything at all.  I won’t go into it, but life is so tricky sometimes.

Anyway, moving on…  This week, I decided to jump on the whole “salad-in-a-jar” bandwagon.  I have seen them everywhere on Pinterest and Instagram, in magazines and on blogs and they always look so pretty.  You do, after all, eat with your eyes (supposedly) and it’s nice to have something so appetising waiting for you in the fridge (as opposed to standing in front of it with the door open thinking “what the heck can I make for lunch?”). This is a fad I can get behind.  It makes sense and it is a good way to make sure I am eating healthily as much as possible, with minimum fuss.

So, I’m not going to re-invent the wheel here for you.  There are literally thousands of jar recipes on the internet and in cook books.  It’s not really brain science, and the only thing you need to remember is to have the dressing at the bottom of the jar followed by “hard” vegetables, ie those that won’t wilt or go weird when in contact with the dressing.  For this, think carrots, capsicum, cucumber, snowpeas, celery etc.  Then you layer the ingredients towards the top, usually ending with the “soft” vegetables, such as lettuce, rocket, herbs etc.

You can include grains, pasta, rice and beans, as well as some other protein foods like canned fish, chicken, nuts, tofu or cheese.  They can be prepared up to 5 days in advance, depending on the ingredients you’ve chosen, and should stay nice and fresh.  Makes lunches for the week simple and easy – you just grab and go.

I have used quite large jars ( I couldn’t find medium-sized ones) and so my first salads were a tad enormous, but you can really use any size that suits you, as long as the mouth of the jar is reasonably wide to enable filling and then emptying.  When you’re ready to eat, just give the jar a good shake and tip the contents into a bowl, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute the dressing.  I know some people eat straight out of the jar but that would be very messy I think (especially if I was the one doing the eating) – but it’s your call.

For a few “recipe” ideas, and more detailed instructions, try these websites :

Organise Yourself Skinny HERE

Eat This HERE

Wholefully HERE

 Let me know if you have any favourite jar salads of your own – I’d love to hear read your ideas.  Do you make your own dressing or buy ready-made ones?  I’m also going to make a few “treat” jars for some lunches – like, yoghurt with muesli crumbles and fruit.  Geez, I’m already off the salad and thinking about my sweet tooth.  Typical!

Thanks for popping in – have a lovely day 🙂

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Strawberry Muffins

We’re having a little lunch at work this week to sort-of-farewell my library volunteer who is taking some time off to manage some family issues for the next couple of months.  She’s the loveliest person ever and always spoils me with home-cooked meals (which make me feel very guilty but not so guilty that I don’t go home and gobble them up, ha ha) and helps me out in the library and basically supports me more than she knows.  I didn’t know what to bring and didn’t have a lot of ingredients in my pantry to make anything very exciting so I did a quick panicked look through my cookbooks to find something I could bake.  I had some strawberries in the fridge that were a bit past it but still fine to eat so I wanted to incorporate them.

I ended up finding this recipe at Food.com and it worked a treat.  I adapted it slightly, but it was so easy and the muffins are very tasty.  I’m not actually a huge muffin fan, but I wolfed down a few of these – purely as a taste-testing exercise, you understand.  They were delicious.  And they’re a one-bowl wonder which is always good.  No butter to beat or anything fiddly or fussy.  A good standby recipe to have when you’ve got people coming over and have nothing to serve them.  This recipe took less than 30 minutes – from making to baking and then eating.  So quick!  This would be a good recipe for kids (and first-time cooks) to have a  go at.  You could substitute any fruit in the recipe so give them a try with raspberries or blueberries, apple or even pineapple.

Strawberry Muffins

Ingredients

1 2/3 cup strawberries, chopped
2 eggs
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
1 1/2 cup plain flour
2 tbs milk
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch salt

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180 c
  2. Put a paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups, or grease just the bottoms of 12 muffin cups.
  3. Slightly smash strawberries in large bowl, using fork.
  4. Stir in sugar, oil and eggs and milk until mixed.
  5. Stir in other ingredients just until moistened.
  6. Spoon batter into muffin cups.
  7. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown or toothpick poked in center comes out clean.
  8. Sprinkle with a little bit of sugar, if desired
  9. Cool 5 minutes.
  10. Makes 12 muffins.

Enjoy! (Best eaten the day you make them)

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Easy Chocolate Truffles

Tomorrow is my Mum’s 70th Birthday.  I decided to make her birthday cake, as you do, so she would have something to offer guests when they came to visit her (she’s having several little soirees to stretch her special day out).  Cue much culinary disaster and chaos. Everything I tried to do tonight ended in failure.  To start with, I couldn’t find my kitchen scales so couldn’t make the cake I had wanted to create, then I spilled sugar all over my bench, then the cupcakes I made were horrible and inedible.  Finally I decided to make truffles because I only had a few ingredients left and couldn’t bear having to bake anything else.  I had seen truffles made with only a couple of ingredients, and not needing butter or cream, so I looked for a recipe that would suit and – hey presto! – Slice of Kitchen Life  came to the rescue with this easy-peasy truffle mix.  I have adapted it slightly but it is still the basic recipe and principle of the original.  They’re made with water, which goes against everything we all know about cooking with chocolate but, trust me, it works!

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INGREDIENTS
  • 200g dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate
  • 6 tablespoons espresso coffee (cooled to room temperature)
  • 2 and ½ tablespoons maple syrup (at room temperature)
  • Two Tablespoons Crunchy Peanut Butter (the 100% peanut kind -not the kind made with added oil, sugar etc)
  • To serve:
  • Sifted cocoa powder and / or dessicated coconut for rolling truffles in
 
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a medium bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, gently melt the dark chocolate.  I usually take it off the heat well before it is full melted and then just keep stirring until it’s all melted down.  The residual heat in the bowl will do the work for you, and then you don’t end up with burnt choccy!
  2. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Add the liquid coffee and begin gently stirring with a silicone spatula. As the liquid is incorporated, the chocolate will seize and thicken.
  3. Add the maple syrup, a spoonful at a time and again, gently stir until the mixture is smooth, glossy and thick.  Stir in peanut butter.
  4. Chill the truffle mixture for at least 45 mins – 1 hour. It will continue to thicken as it chills which will make handling a lot easier.  Be patient – it seems like it isn’t working at first but then – voila! – it suddenly hardens and you’re good to go.
  5. Measure out a generous teaspoonful of truffle mixture at a time, and roll into a smooth ball in the palms of your hands.
  6. Roll the balls in sifted cocoa powder or coconut until well coated, pop into mini-cupcake papers, and store in the refrigerator until serving.

This recipe makes about 15-18 truffles, depending on how large you like ’em!  They are very rich so smaller is better.

I’m so relieved something worked out tonight.  My kitchen looks like something exploded and I have melted chocolate all over me, the benches and the floor, but hey, your Mum only turns 70 once, right?  I wish I could have made her something a bit more spectacular but hopefully she will appreciate these anyway.

Happy Birthday Mum – I love you very much xxx

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Tuna Loaf

As I have stated before, I am a bad vegetarian.  For 90% of the time, I eat a vegetarian diet.  But then for the other 10%, all hell breaks loose and I eat fish. I don’t feel good about it and I don’t make any excuses for it, other than the fact I have a really restrictive renal diet and so can’t eat all the proteins a vego would normally have in large quantities eg chickpeas, lentils, baked beans, nuts etc.

So I eat fish sometimes.  Which makes me a pescatarian I suppose.  Sorry, fishies.

Which brings us to today’s recipe, Tuna Loaf.  Not the most appetising of titles, I agree, but the proof is in the pudding, right?  Or, in this case, the loaf.  Tuna Pudding sounds even more gross, so let’s stick with loaf.  It’s an easy-to-make, cheap and delicious dish that tastes just as nice cold the next day.  It’s got a lovely, slightly crispy outer edge and it’s soft and moist in the centre.  The little pieces of gherkin add extra crunch and sweetness.  You can also make it with tinned salmon, which is really yummy (but I can’t have salmon so I have to stick to it’s poorer cousin, the humble tuna).  Try and always buy the sustainably fished tuna if you can.  Make up for some of that pesky pescatarian guilt!

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Tuna Loaf 

Ingredients

425g tin of tuna in springwater, drained
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
5 spring onions, chopped fairly finely
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons tomato sauce plus extra for glazing
1/2 cup chopped gherkins
Salt and Pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C.

Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Mix all ingredients together.

Press into the tin and press down with a fork.  Squirt or brush some tomato sauce over the top – in a fancy pattern or just haphazardly, I won’t judge.

Bake for approx 35- 40 minutes until top is golden and loaf feels firm.

Cut in to slices to serve.

Voila!

If you’re smart, you will argue for the end piece because it is crunchier and tastier and just the best bit.  You made it, you get first dibs.  It’s like a law or something.

Enjoy with a side salad or whatever vegies you like.  As I said, it’s nice cold too, and perfect for lunchboxes as it holds its shape quite well.

Hope you enjoy 🙂

PS  Yes, that is a ‘Moby Dick” plate in the photo.

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Cauliflower and Feta Fritters

Everyone is so into cauliflower right now.  It seems everywhere I look there’s cauliflower rice, pizza bases made with cauliflower, and cauliflower mash to replace the good old potato variety.  I have a slight issue with this humble brassica – it gives me tummy ache – and I have to be very careful about eating it.  Sometimes I can have it and it causes no problems but, other times, it KILLS ME and leaves me writhing about in agony wishing for death.  It’s not pretty.
That said, I have been craving some cauliflower action for the last few weeks and thought I would give it a gentle try.  My renal diet is so restrictive and I am always looking for fruit and veg alternatives to give me some variety.  So, I made these fritters.  I was bad and fried them (I never fry anything) because the batter was fairly wet, but I used only a spray of oil.  They cooked super quickly and were easy to flip etc.  Very tasty indeed.  And only a slight tummy ache afterwards (note to self : give up on cauliflower!) which was totally worth it, and may not have even been related…  Try them for yourself – you could substitute any vegies into the basic batter mix, which is what I’m going to do next time for a more
pain-free meal! 🙂

Cauliflower & Feta Fritters

Ingredients

salt & pepper
olive oil
1 head cauliflower, trimmed into small florets

2 eggs
½ cup wholemeal flour
¼ cup milk
1/2 cup crumbed feta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
½ garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp dried parsley

Method

Spread the florets of cauliflower out on a baking tray.  Drizzle with a little oil and season with salt and pepper (don’t go overboard with the salt – the feta has plenty in it). Bake in oven at 200 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes, until cauliflower is starting to char and become soft.  Remove from oven and allow to cool down.  Tip onto a chopping board and roughly chop.

Combine other ingredients in a large bowl and add cauliflower to form a batter. Mix well.

Heat a fry pan and spray with a little cooking oil.  Drop  spoonfuls of mixture onto fry pan and fry on both sides until firm and golden brown (this takes only a few minutes).  Place on kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil and repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with wedges of lime or some salsa or anything you like!  This recipe makes about 12 small-medium fritters.

Enjoy!

PS If you happen to be photographing your culinary efforts, I strongly recommend paying close attention to what you’re doing.  This way, you don’t trip over and throw the entire plate of fritters all over your freshly-mopped floor, like I did.  You wouldn’t know it from the photo, but my fritters were thrown far and wide across my lounge room in a spectacular display of clumsiness.  See?  It’s the cauliflower…it hates me 🙂

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