Monday, 20 January 2014

Healthy Chocolate Banana Muffins

Todays recipe has been an ever evolving process and usually consists of what I have in my pantry.  Healthy Chocolate Banana Muffins.  Now, I know the words healthy and chocolate don't tend to go in the same sentence, but these guys are!  With chia seeds and quinoa flakes, agave nectar and almond milk these muffins are super healthy - gluten free and essentially dairy free (you can substitute the butter with Nutellex).

1 1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup gluten free self raising flour
1tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
2tbs chia seeds
3tbs quinoa flakes
2 organic eggs, lightly beaten
50g butter, melted
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup agave nectar
1tsp vanilla bean paste
100ml almond milk
125g dairy-free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.  Grease a 12- hole muffin tray with melted butter or line the holes with paper cases.  Sift the almond meal, flour and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the sugar, chia seeds and quinoa flakes and make a well in the centre.  In a small mixing bowl combine the eggs, butter, banana, agave nectar and vanilla.  Add to flour with the almond milk to the flour mixtures, stir until just combined.  Add the chocolate chips and stir until fully combined.  Divide the mixture into the prepared muffin holes.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted to the centre comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before allowing to cool completely on a wire rack.

These muffins are best eaten on the day, but will keep for 4 days in an airtight container.  They can also be frozen.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Jambalaya: A taste of the South

So I'm back and I promise to get my extra bake on this week to make up for those few missed days!

On the menu tonight was a taste from the South (and my Man's specialty).. his take on the Jambalaya!  Chorizo and prawn jambalaya is a no-fuss dinner recipe that takes your tastebuds to New Orleans.  It's full of all the spices and strong flavours that you would expect from any deep South meal.  He claims that "Jambalaya is a lazy meal, you can throw everything and just let it do it's thing.  This means you get little burnt bits, but they're my favourite part!"

2 tbs olive oil
2 chorizos, chopped into large chunks
2 tbs paprika
1 tbs ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tomatos, largely chopped
1 large capsicum, largely chopped
4 sticks celery, roughly chopped
1 1/2 arborio rice (or brown rice)
3 cups chicken stock
12-24 prawns

Pour oil, spices and chorizo into a large saucepan and cook on a high heat until fragrant or all the spices have been absorbed, about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes until they have broken down.  Add capsicum and celery and cook for another 5 minutes until it begins to tender.  Add rice and stir to combine.  Add chicken stock and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally until the rice absorbs all the liquid, about 20 minutes (depending on your rice, we have definitely waited an hour for brown rice before).  Prepare prawns and add at the end, allowing a few minutes for them to cook and turn pink.

So there you have it!  As easy as just throwing in ingredient after ingredient and leaving it to do it's thing!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Coconut Mango Sorbet

Summer is definitely here.  This week is expected to cross into the 40s and hang there for a few days, so here is a recipe to help you get through until this heatwave breaks.

If Summer hails the memory of sandy toes, the smell of sunscreen and insect repellant than I know this recipe will hit the spot!  Coconut Mango Sorbet.

This recipe doesn't require you to have a food processor or blender, however to have a smoother texture sorbet using one is recommended.  This recipe is also great for vegans!

3 medium mangoes
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbs cointreau
1 tbs agave nectar * (or more if a sweeter taste is desired)

Chill a metal bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Remove flesh from the mango and turn into a puree (I used a fork but you could use a processor).  Stir through the coconut milk and cointreau until thoroughly combined.  Add the agave nectar a tablespoon at a time until desired sweetness is reached.  Pour into chilled bowl and place in the freezer for 2-5 hours, stirring with a fork occasionally until set.

Just to let you guys know (and I'm sure you can sympathise)... it's way too hot to be in the kitchen at the moment!  I am still interstate but will be home on Friday, so I'm going to take a little break with recipes until I am home.  Next week I promise to give more recipes and sink my teeth into some baking goodness!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Cafe Review: Penny University, Kingston Canberra

So today I let someone else do the cooking for me and ventured out to where everyone in Canberra seems to be talking about.. Penny University - a new coffee roast house, brunch spot in Canberra's inner south.  With an in-house coffee roaster, a terrific range of succulent sweets and a modern breakfast and lunch menu Penny University has something for everyone!

We timed our arrival for the cross over between the breakfast and lunch menu so as to satisfy the brunch and more traditional lunch lovers of the group.  But our timing seemed to be the same as half of Canberra.  The 25 minute wait was expected though and we walked around the growing Kingston precinct sticking our noses into the old favourites and the booming hip new places (that seem to be popping up all over Canberra).

After receiving the phone call that the table was ready, we took a seat and began perusing the menu.  For a coffee lover, like myself, it's always a simple drinks order.. not at Penny University.  With salted caramel milkshakes, homemade cordial, house-roasted coffee and a large variety of smoothies and juices the choice was a little harder.  And that was only the beginning!  The menu was a totally different mission!

Avo Dish - yum!
With so many great options on the menu we spent about 15 minutes looking at the menu, asking the waitress three times to give us "two more minutes" to finalise our order.  In the end, none of us were disappointed.  I chose the Avo Dish; avocado on toasted rye, charred corn and quinoa tabouleh , chevre, chilli oil and poached egg.  Others chose the McPenny; a breakfast burger of fluffy cheddar scrambles, streaky "Pialligo" smoked bacon, spinach and Pennys tomato salsa, the Low GI Breakfast Pudding with black sticky rice, char-grilled mango and coconut and the Steak Sanga on gluten-free bread featuring a grain-fed sirloin steak, egg and all the trimmings you could imagine!

Mc Penny
Then to top today's brunch/lunch feast we tried some of Elliane's dessert cabinet.  And these bad boys were off the CHAIN!  There were homemade croissants, tarts, muffins, cronuts, friands.. there were options for the gluten-free, dairy-free.  Really, the options seemed pretty endless and they all looked amazing!

So to give each of these reviews a little context I thought I would make specific comments on a few aspects of each of the places, rating them on decor, service, menu, desserts, coffee and price.  So lets start with:
Decor: With mismatched chairs, tables, re-loved cabinetry and brick and timber finishings Penny University ticks all the boxes at nailing that hipster eclectic look.  My favourite aspect are the quirky artworks stickered on the walls.

Wall Decor
Service: Other than the wait (which on a Sunday in Canberra is now something to expect), the service was great.  Our orders were taken promptly (or as quickly as we could decide) and our food was the same.

Menu: Penny University really does offer something for everyone.  They were flexible to cater to the intolerances and requests made at our table and had something for the savoury and sweet tooth diners.

Desserts (this is my favourite category): The desserts offered at 
Penny's were great!  We only tried two, but the two we did try were mouth-wateringly good.

Blueberry and Orange Frangipani
Coffee: Now as mentioned in previous posts.. I like my coffee strong and I take it with soy - which is usually pretty hard to pull off and a baristas worst nightmare (as the soy milk tends to get lumpy when the coffee is stronger).  With this in mind, Penny's didn't do a bad job at all!  I think that if it was a little bit less busy it would have been off the charts (as the coffee had a wonderful flavour) but they were really busy and the barista was busy pouring out endless coffees from when we got there to when we left.  Today they were pouring from either a Guatemalan or Papua New Guinean blend.  Which ever it was that I had, was rich and nutty!

Price:  Their prices are on the slightly higher side of your standard coffee shop - where depending on your order you might be close to hitting the $5 mark for a cup of coffee.  But with that in mind their quality is higher than that of a standard coffee shop and so you are paying for what you get.

Overall guys -- you need to check this place out!!! It's an adorable, delicious gem in the inner South of Canberra, I know it won't disappoint!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Molten Chocolate Cupcakes - Gluten and Dairy free!!

So as some of you know.. my Man is baked-food-intolerant.  And by that I mean he has intolerances to both gluten and dairy making almost every traditional baked good off-limits (not that he doesn't enjoy eating them).  So every now and then I try something new with those restrictions so he can join in with dessert or other tea-events.  Now working with substitutes can be a little hit and miss, particularly when you are new to the science that is working with intolerances and food allergies, but this recipe nailed it! The almond meal gives these sunken little chocolate cakes a beautifully moist texture and the warm melting centre makes it perfect when teamed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a handful of fresh berries!

1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup agave nectar
2 eggs
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips (check for milk solids)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.  Grease a 12 hole muffin pan using nutellex or cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl sift together the almond meal, cocoa, baking soda and salt until combined.  In a separate bowl whisk together the agave nectar, eggs and vanilla using an electric beater on a low speed.  Once combined gradually add the wet ingredients to the almond mixture on a medium speed until just combined.  Finally, add the dark chocolate chips, stirring by hand.

Pour approximately 1/4 of a cup of mixture into each prepared muffin tin mould.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out just clean.  If you want a gooey-er cupcake bake for less time as the longer you bake it, the drier it becomes.  Cool for 5 minutes in the tray before serving.  Best served warm.  Will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Healthy in a Hurry

So for dinner tonight I was cooking for one.  And to be honest, I would have loved to just curl up in bed once I got home from work and eaten my next meal tomorrow morning after a long nights sleep.  But I didn't.  I made something that shouldn't take more than 20 minutes to prepare and cook and really doesn't have any nasties in it!  It's healthy in a hurry!!

3 shallots, finely chopped
3 birdseye chillies, finely chopped 
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
300g beef rump steak, diced
1 red capsicum, finely sliced lengthways
15 snow peas, cut in two
2 tbs soy sauce
1tbs olive oil

On a high heat, heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan, making sure you coat the sides of the pan.  Throw in your shallots, chilli and garlic and saute for a minute or until fragrant.  Add half the soy sauce and meat and toss until the meat is browned, approximately 4 minutes.  Throw in the capsicum and snow peas and the remaining soy sauce and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, serve with rice.

Seriously guys, it's that simple.  Next time I would use less chillies, as these ones were quite hot and have killed off about half of my taste buds.

Good news: on Saturday I will have access to an oven, so expect some sweets! Until tomorrow..

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Zucchini and Feta Fritters

This recipe comes from the 80th Anniversary Australian Women's Weekly 'Best Ever Collection Cookbook' on page 108.  I think that you would find in some shape or form an Australian Women's Weekly cookbook in almost every kitchen in Australia.  Their recipes are easy to follow and triple tested to insure they are successful every time, made of easy to source ingredients in Australia and their food photography is absolutely divine.  Flicking through this recipe book it is one great looking recipe after another.  Every page makes me salivate - the photography is so good you could almost smell it through the page.

These fritters are just what I felt like this evening.  I wanted something light, easy, healthy and filling and these fritters tick all the boxes.  The only thing I would change?  Maybe a squeeze of lemon juice - though I don't know if it would make it too wet so maybe just a little drizzled over the top after cooking...  Next time!

So here it is; straight out of the book!

3 large zucchinis (450g)
200g feta, crumbled finely
5 green onions (scallions), sliced thinly
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup (50g) plain flour
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees.  Line an oven tray with baking paper.
2. Coarsely grate zucchini, squeeze firmly to remove excess liquid with paper towel.  Place zucchini in a large bowl with feta, green onion, egg, herbs and flour, season; stir to combine.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat; cook level tablespoons of zucchini mixture, in batches, for 2 1/2 minutes each side or until brown and cooked through.  Drain on paper towel.  Place fritters on oven tray; keep warm in oven between batches.

The cookbook suggests for it to be served with a tomato salad - for dinner this evening I had mine with some freshly cut up tomato and it complimented the fritters perfectly!