Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I'm Back & Ready to Cook Some More

Sorry for the 1 month+ long blogging hiatus but after having spent 5 weeks in Europe, I seemed to have lost my inspiration to cook and bake BUT I think I'm getting my inspiration back. Maybe you feel like this sometimes but I just haven't had the urge to cook/bake for the last couple of weeks. Maybe it's because I got lazy during my trip (but then I did cook 2 wicked pasta dishes in Cinque Terre), or maybe there's so much more to think about since getting back from Europe (work, life etc), other thoughts have taken over. It's been 3 weeks since I've been back and after having 3 weeks of simple homemade mediocre food of soups, salads and simple stir-fries, I have decided to get my act together and get back into it again. Food, afterall, is something I enjoy - whether it be eating it, making it or blogging about it. We should all count our lucky stars that we are able to enjoy even the simplest of foods because there's a food crisis going on out there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Away in Europe

I'm currently on holidays at the moment and writing from an internet cafe in Austria.

So far I've been to Prague, Vienna, Salzburg and am currently in Innsbruck. I've got lots of photos from these countries to share when I come back. So far, I've quite enjoyed Austrian food. Czech food however, I have not taken a fancy to.

Austria is beautiful and their warm apple strudel with vanilla sauce is something worth trying. We've been to so many restaurants here...I'll have to blog the ones worth mentioning when I get back!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hot Apple Strudel

I'm a big fan of apple strudels, apple crumbles and apple pies. Well, anything that has to do with baked apples. I don't like apples as is, in its raw state, let alone a Granny Smith apple. So the only way I will ever eat this fruit is if you cook it or bake it, one way or the other.

This is one of my all time favourite desserts - hot apple strudel. Served hot with rich vanilla ice-cream...yum...yum...o yum! Everyone needs to try and make this at home. It only took me 15 mins to prepare and 35 mins to bake. The smell of this freshly baked dessert after 25 mins of baking will make you want to take it out from the oven right away and dig in.

I've made this dessert twice already this week. Once when a friend came over for dinner and another just for hubby & I to indulge in whilst watching a dvd on a lazy Sunday night. It seriously is worth the effort. You will not regret making this!

Hot Apple Strudel
(serves 4)

1 sheet of low fat puff pastry, thawed
1 egg
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp raisins

- Preheat oven to 180C
- Line a baking tray with foil and top with baking paper
- Thaw the puff pastry at room temperature on the baking tray until it is easy to handle
- Make egg wash by stirring the egg and water in a small bowl
- Mix the caster sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add in the apples and raisins and toss to coat
- Spoon the apple mixture onto the middle of the puff pastry. Leave 1 cm from the side edges. Then fold the top and bottom parts of the puff pastry together to seal. Then tuck the ends under to seal the sides.
- Brush the pastry with egg wash
- Cut slits that are 2 inches apart on top of the pastry
- Bake for 35 mins or until golden
- Cool on the baking sheet for 10 mins
- Slice and serve this warm with rich vanilla icecream

Pumpkin, Spinach & Haloumi Salad

I tried this Pumpkin, Spinach & Haloumi salad at a local cafe a few weeks ago and thought it was totally delicious. The sweetness of the pumpkin mixes well with the saltiness coming from the haloumi cheese. This is not a quick salad to put together but one that is well worth the effort.

For those you who are not familiar with Haloumi cheese - it is a cheese made from a combination of goat's and sheep's milk, it's white, salty, its texture is semi-soft and because of its high melting point, the cheese is often grilled or fried before serving with salad or vegetables.

Pumpkin, Spinach & Haloumi Salad
(serves 2)

2 handfuls of spinach leaves
1/2 butternut pumpkin, sliced
100g Haloumi cheese, sliced to 0.5cm-1cm thick
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper

- Grill the butternut pumpkin slices until soft
- Grill the Haloumi cheese until golden
- To make the dressing, whisk the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a small bowl until well combined
- Combine spinach, grilled pumpkin and dressing in a bowl. Divide between plates. Top with grilled Haloumi.

Dark Chocolate & Blueberry Muffins

I varied the ingredients I used in making my White Chocolate & Blueberry Muffins to come up with this dark chocolate version.

Follow this recipe but add in 1/2 cup of cocoa and replace your white chocolate pieces with dark chocolate chips.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Turkey, Spinach & Zucchini Quiche

If you're not hungry after work and have an hour to spare, try and make a quiche for dinner.

You can basically put anything as part of your fillings, be it ham, spinach & fetta cheese, mushrooms, my fridge, I had turkey slices, a bag of spinach and half a zucchini leftover from the night I used these ingredients for my fillings tonight.

One thing that's different about this recipe is that instead of using the traditional milk/cream/half & half, I used a 99% fat free buttermilk that was already sitting in my fridge. I didn't know if it would work but experimenting with food is a typical foodie behaviour and so I gave it a try. The quiche turned out perfectly and was extremely tasty. My hubby ate 3 pieces of it and I had to tell him to stop stuffing himself!

Turkey, Spinach & Zucchini Quiche

6 pieces of Turkey slices, diced
1 handful of spinach leaves, sliced
1 zucchini, diced (I used 1/2 as I only had this much left after the other night)
3 stalks of parsley, chopped finely
2 eggs
250ml buttercream
1 tsp salt
dash of black pepper
1 handful of low fat shredded chedder
1 piece of shortcrust pastry

- Preheat oven to 180C
- Lay out a piece of shortcrust pastry and let it thaw
- If you are not using silicone, lightly grease your pie pan (I used a 25cm pie pan)
- Once the pastry has thawed, mould the pastry into the pan, smoothing the edges and the rim carefully. Use a fork to poke holes on the pastry. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add in buttercream, salt & pepper. Combine well.
- Add in turkey, spinach, zucchini and parsley into the buttercream & egg mixture. Combine well.
- Add cheese into the mixture, leaving some to sprinkle on top of the quiche later when the filling is in the pan. Stir in.
- Pour the filling into the pie pan.
- Sprinkle the top with more cheese.
- Bake this in the oven for 45-50mins. When baked, take the quiche out of the oven and let it rest for 10 mins before serving.
- Serve this with salad.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Honey Mustard Chicken Pasta Salad

When you come home from work wanting something tasty, healthy and takes only 30mins or less to prepare, this Warm Honey Mustard Chicken Pasta salad is for you.

As soon as you get home, just do 2 things:
(1) take the chicken out of the fridge and marinate it
(2) boil water in a pan for your pasta
When you've finished getting changed and cleaned up, the water should be boiling. Start preparing your pasta and pan frying the chicken pieces. Toss your salad leaves and pasta together with your desired dressing then placed the cooked chicken on top. Voila!

Here's my Warm Honey Mustard Chicken Pasta Salad recipe:
(serves 2)

2 small chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 tsp English mustard
2 tsp honey
1 tsp minced garlic
1.5 cups of pasta spirals
6 button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 zucchini, sliced
1 handful of rocket leaves
1 handful of parsley, chopped
99% fat free Caesar dressing
black pepper

- Place the chicken pieces in a bowl and marinade them with mustard, honey and minced garlic.
- Boil water; add in pasta and cook for 10 mins until al dente.
- Place button mushrooms and zucchini slices in a frying pan, let this cook through then set aside.
- Place the marinated chicken pieces on the pan and let it cook until brown on both sides.
- Toss rocket leaves, mushrooms, zucchini and parsley in a large bowl; add in cooked pasta. Add in your desired amount of dressing; toss well together.
- Serve salad on plates; topped with chicken.
- Add in black pepper if desired.