Dessert, Kids, Vegetarian

Banana Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

Makes: 12

I made these muffins a while ago and they prove once again that a good muffin – like these – are a no brainer when it comes to little boys and their lunchboxes.

Tom of course ate three off the bat and by the next day, they were all gone; only two making it to school.

No doubt there is a revolution in muffin technology I am missing out on because they are pretty simple.

Keep it to the basics however and you’ll have a hit on your hands.

Ingredients

1 cup wholemeal self raising flour
1 cup self raising flour
3 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp bicarb soda
3 apples, peeled and grated
1 banana
¼ cup honey (or brown sugar)
2 tbs maple syrup
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
Extra apple slices to top

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180c and grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
  2. Sift flours, cinnamon and bicarb soda into a bowl. Stir in the grated apple, banana and honey.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the oil, eggs, maple syrup and vanilla essence. Add into the flour mixture and mix until combined.
  4. Spoon into the muffin pan, top with apple slices and bake for 20 – 25 minutes.
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Salad, Vegetarian

Parmesan Dressing

Serves: 4

Salad is one of our favourite fall-back meals.

And the boys love nothing more than homemade sausages, some chargrilled eye fillet and a green salad… with one of the rotating salad dressings we like to make.

The rotation gets a little bigger with this one from Curtis Stone and its simplicity – and the parmesan – are what make it such a no-brainer for a throw-together grilled chicken salad.

I recommend adding this little number to your repertoire.

Ingredients

2 tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 eschalot, finely chopped
2 tsp finely chopped thyme
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Season and drizzled over your next salad.
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Asian, Mince, Poultry

Chinese Ground Chicken Bowl

Serves: 4

Name aside, this is a wonderful mid-week dish I found on a blog, Ominvore’s Cookbook.

I have adjusted it slightly and it really is a set-and-forget sort of dinner.

Get your chicken simmering, cook your rice, prepare your bok choy and heat up the pan to cook the eggs.

Which means more time for a wine on the couch discussing the progress of your new baby. Or puppy. Or whatever is progressing in your life.

We have done a few minced pork and chicken recipes lately and could there be anything better after a long day?

This dish is no exception.

Ingredients

4 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine (or Japanese sake which we used)
2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp Chinese five spice powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
500gm ground chicken breast (chicken mince)
50gm shiitake mushrooms
1 cup frozen baby peas
4 eggs
2 cups of steamed rice
Baby bok choy, sauteed quickly in a hot pan with a splash of vegetable oil, sesame oil, light soy sauce, black bean sauce and chilli sauce

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the light soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, five spice powder and salt.
  2. Place the shiitake mushrooms in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Leave for 5 minutes, drain well and chop.
  3. Heat a wok over a medium heat and add the oil; when warm, add the ginger and garlic and stir, cooking for a minute until fragrant. Add the chicken mince, breaking up and stir until the chicken is slightly browned.
  4. Add the shiitake mushrooms, the light soy sauce mixture and 1 cup of hot water. Partially cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the sauce is mostly absorbed. Add the peas, stir for a minute and take off the heat, stirring until the peas are warmed through.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the rice and prepare the bok choy.
  6. When the chicken is close to done, add some oil to a pan, heat to medium and cook the eggs, crisping the edges though keeping the yolk runny.
  7. Cook the bok choy.
  8. Serve the chicken mince on the rice with the egg on top and the bok choy at the side.
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Healthy, Poultry

Spinach and Ricotta Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

Serves: 4

So you have a new baby and cooking lobster tet-a-tet on a Monday night is no longer the priority.

Or possible.

And so you have this dish.

A dish which is simple, healthy and newborn-in-the-house friendly.

We speak from experience!

It isn’t going to set the world on fire though conversely, season well and serve with some steamed green beans and you have a really respectable Monday night dinner on your hands.

And lunch the next day for when the new baby is still at it and lobster tet-a-tet is remains off the menu.

Ingredients

250gm baby spinach
4 tbsp (light) ricotta
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Three pinches of nutmeg
4 chicken breasts
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
50gm fresh breadcrumbs, seasoned
3 zucchini, cut into batons
2 red peppers, seeded and sliced
2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
250gm vine cherry tomatoes
4 garlic cloves (left in skin)
Steamed green beans to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200c.
  2. Put the spinach in a large colander and pour over a kettle of boiling water to wilt. Allow to drain for a few minutes and then squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop, put in a bowl and beat in the ricotta, lemon zest, nutmeg and plenty of seasoning.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut a slit into the side of each chicken breast and use your fingers to make a pocket. Spoon the spinach mixture into the 4 breasts. Rub with some of the olive oil and press the seasoned breadcrumbs on top. Arrange the chicken in a roasting tin.
  4. Put the vegetables in another tray baking tin and drizzle with oil and season well.
  5. Back the chicken and vegetables for 30 – 35 minutes, stirring the vegetables occasionally. Remove once the chicken is cooked through and the breadcrumbs are golden.
  6. Remove the softened garlic from the vegetables and remove the flesh; mash the flesh with the lemon juice, mix through the roasted vegetables and serve with the chicken and steamed beans.
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Dessert, French

Grand Marnier Soufflés

Serves: 6

And now for a little something fancy…

Nat whipped up these delicate, Gabriel Gaté (remember him?) soufflés as part of a dinner party we had a few weeks back and they were a triumph.

It had been a while since I had had a soufflé and they did not disappoint.

Soft, airy, a wonderful flavour served with a dollop of cream.

I guess there are some people that don’t like quiches or avocado. For the rest of us, assume that soufflés are a big wow and two steps up from your usual dinner-party dessert.

Plenty of reason why you should serve these at your next dinner-party.

Ingredients

60ml Grand Marnier
310ml Crème pâtissière, chilled (below)
6 large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 tbsp caster sugar, plus extra for preparing moulds
Icing sugar for dusting
Double cream

Crème pâtissière

500ml milk
½ vanilla pod, split lengthways
4 egg yolks
100gm caster sugar
50gm plain flour, sifted

Method

  1. For the Crème pâtissière: place milk and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and whisk well.
  2. Whisk egg yolks and sugar into a heatproof bowl for 2 minutes. Whisk in sifted flour. Remove vanilla pod from milk and pour hot milk into the egg-yolk mixture, whisking well.
  3. Return to the saucepan and bring to the boil over medium-heat, whisking constantly. When mixture is just boiling and has thickened, transfer to a heatproof bowl. Whisk for a few seconds more and set aside to cool in the refrigerator. Stores up-to 4-days.
  4. For the soufflés: Preheat the oven to 150c. Butter 6 185ml ramekins and dust with caster sugar.
  5. Whisk Grand Marnier into crème pâtissière. Using electric beater, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until almost stiff. Add caster sugar and beat until firm.
  6. Using a spatula, mix a little of the egg white mixture into crème pâtissière; gently fold in the rest. Spon the mixture into the prepared ramekins, making sure it doesn’t touch the rim. Smooth the tops with the spatula.
  7. Back for 5 minutes then increase the temperature to 205c. Bake for a further 5 minutes then increase the temperature to 230c and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven, dust with the icing sugar and serve immediately with a dollop of cream (or ice cream).
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French, Side, Vegetarian

Braised Peas with Cos Lettuce and Mint

Serves: 4 – 6

This classic French dish is from Karen Martini and swaps out iceberg lettuce for cos.

It makes the lettuce a bit more a feature and the result is just awesome.

It is rich and warm and a wonderful accompaniment: roast chicken or lamb or some chargrilled steaks we served with a herb butter and a onion rings.

It just shows how well peas and lettuce and work.

If you can make the effort, make the effort. It will dial up any meal into a memorable one.

Ingredients

80gm unsalted butter
1 large garlic clove< sliced
2 ½ cups frozen peas
2 baby cos lettuces, trimmed and cut into 1cm pieces
5 sprigs mint, leaves torn
1 tbsp sea salt (or to taste)
2 tbsp castor sugar

Method

  1. Melt half the butter in a very large frying pan over and medium heat and cook the garlic for 2 minutes. Add the peas, lettuce and ¼ cup hot water, simmer and stir for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the mint, salt, sugar and remaining butter and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the sauce is glossy and syrupy.
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Asian, Mince, Pork

Ken Hom’s Spicy Sichuan Noodles

Serves: 2 – 4

Ken Hom is a pretty impressive guy and everything of his I have ever cooked has been just as impressive.

This is a man that doesn’t put his name to anything that isn’t but awesome.

We don’t hear a lot about Ken Hom in  Australia and he is fairly retired now I gather; though growing up with an American mother, I heard plenty about him and know his style well.

This particular recipe is as wonderful as it is quick to prepare.

It is that wonderful, spicy dish you get in a Taiwanese restaurant that you wish you had the time and knowledge to recreate. Part of this is achieved by keep the dice of your spring onions as small as you can; delicate ingredients, wonderful taste.

The only caveat is around the use of the chilli oil, which – if you have used chilli oil before – you will know can be quite a thumper of an ingredient. I haven’ adjusted the original recipe though we halved the chilli oil and were happy for doing so.

Blow your socks off however you will.

Oh, there is a second caveat.

We didn’t deep-fry the pork mince and frankly, I don’t think you should either. I don’t doubt Mr Hom’s recipe, though if you aren’t a kitchen used to splashing around liters of oil and deep frying meat, I wouldn’t start here. Pan fry your mince in a bit of oil like we did and enjoy.

And so I have adjusted the recipe to reflect this.

This is a cracker of a mid-week dinner and you should get onto cooking it as soon as you can.

Ingredients

250gm pork mince
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
5 tbsp finely chopped spring onions
2 tbsp sesame paste or peanut butter
2 tbsp (light) soy sauce
2 tbsp chilli oil (we used 1)
1 tsp salt
250ml chicken stock
350gm fresh Chinese thin egg noodles or dry Chinese thin egg noodles
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, roasted and ground
1 red hot chili, seeds removed and finely chopped for garnish

Method

  1. Combine the pork, soy sauce and salt and mix well. Heat a wok until it is hot, add 1 tbsp of oil and fry the pork mixture until browned, working to break it up. Set aside.
  2. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil to the wok, reheat and add the garlic, ginger and spring onions and stir fry for 30-seconds. Add the sesame paste (or peanut butter), soy sauce, chilli oil, salt and chicken stock and simmer for 4 minutes,
  3. Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and divide into individual bowls. Ladle on the sauce, garnish with fried pork, Sichuan peppercorns and chopped chilli.
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