Sunday, 28 December 2014

Zucchini, Mint and Goat Cheese Salad

Hello! How was your Christmas? I hope it was wonderful and filled with peace, love and joy through the presence of family, friends and good food.

My Christmas was enjoyable and did involve a few days with my family and friends, for which I am most grateful. We certainly enjoyed a feast for Christmas lunch, and subsequently Christmas dinner, Boxing Day lunch and Boxing Day dinner as we worked our way through all the leftovers! This seemingly endless supply of food was nothing to feel guilty about, as it was a most nutritious and delicious feast. Our menu included ham, smoked salmon, smoked trout, prawns and my five-spiced barbequed pork served alongside roast pumpkin, roast potato and roast capsicum, potato salad, zucchini salad and seasoned carrots and corn. For the highly anticipated dessert, I made Teresa Cutter's Baked Christmas Pudding and my oh my was it deeeeelightful, I would highly recommend!! I also made a Mango and Raspberry Trifle and of course there was a fruit platter which is ubiquitous at all my events! We ate our fill, but everyone commented on how tasty everything was, acknowledging the flavours and textures of the meal rather than simply mindlessly stuffing ourselves silly.

One dish (apart from the pudding!) which was a real hit was my zucchini, mint and goat's cheese salad. Everyone thought it was a most refreshing salad and a versatile way to utilise the often overlooked zucchini. I encourage you to try this salad as it serves as a reminder that a 'salad' is not simply just the old lettuce, tomato, cucumber combination; even your traditional 'cooked' vegetables can be incorporated into salads  to diversify your vegetable and nutrient intake over the warmer months.

Zucchini, Mint and Goat's Cheese Salad 

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 3 minutes
Serves: 4-6 as a side salad
2 large zucchini
1 bunch asparagus
20 snow peas
1/4 cup frozen baby peas
150g baby spinach leaves (or Mesclun salad mix)
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped 
2 tablespoons marinated goat's cheese
Half a red onion, diced
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Cracked black pepper, to taste

1. Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Slice the zucchini into pieces roughly 1cm wide, then cut in half lengthways.
2. Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the woody ends.
3, Prepare the snow peas by topping and tailing and removing any outer string.
4. Using the boiling water, steam or blanch the zucchini, asparagus, snow peas and baby peas for 3 minutes, then rinse under cold water.
5. Toast the slivered almonds until golden brown, using an oven grill or alternatively in a frypan over a medium heat.
6. Combine the spinach leaves, chopped mint leaves and onion in a large bowl. Add the cooked green vegetables.
7. Add to the greens the lemon juice, crumbled goat's cheese, nuts and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine ans enjoy! 
Minty zucchini salad, a great way to use the abundant greens from the garden!
Nutrition Information per serve (4): Energy 570kj, Protein 8g, Fat 7g, Saturated fat 1.1g, Carbohydrate 6.8g, Fibre 5.3g, Sodium 44g. 
- Em x

Friday, 19 December 2014

Easy 3 Ingredient Christmas Cake

In case you had not yet noticed, I like to cook. I also like to share. Coming together with friends, family, colleagues, anyone, over food is always a most pleasing experience. This week at work, we held our last team meeting for the year. We organised an afternoon tea to celebrate the end of another year and of course, Christmas. We were all to 'bring a plate," which naturally got me racking my brain for something delectable to bring along. I wanted my contribution to be homemade, festive and of course delicious, but as usual it had to be relatively quick and easy to make. When I stumbled across this recipe, I knew right away that I had to make it and share it with my colleagues.

Easy 3 Ingredient Christmas Cake
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 2-2.5 hours

1kg dried fruit (I used a combination of sultanas, currants, apricots, dates, cranberries and glace cherries)
750ml black tea
2 cups (300g) self raising flour

1. Place dried fruit in a large glass bowl and pour over black tea. Cover with glad wrap and leave to soak overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 180 C (or 160C fan forced) and line a large baking tin with baking paper.
3. Sift the flour over the combined fruit and tea. Stir well to combine.
4. Transfer the mixture into the lined baking tin. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 2-2.5 hours, or until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.
5. When cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire rack.
6. Cut into pieces and enjoy with a cuppa for a festive treat!

The dried fruit soaking in the black tea 
 The finished product, studded with pecan halves and decorated with Christmas decorations.

- You could make this recipe with any 1kg combination of fruit
- I think this would be nice with the addition of some chopped walnuts or pecans into the mixture
- Adding cinnamon, mixed spice, vanilla essence or cocoa powder would also add another flavour dimension..... I'm sure a dash of brandy or sherry would also do the trick!
- You can apparently also make this cake using 750ml black coffee, iced coffee or chocolate milk instead of the black tea 
 - I'm sure you could experiment with various flours including wholemeal, coconut or spelt flour for an added nutrient boost.

I really like that this cake was so easy to prepare but certainly made a statement when presented! It has an incredibly moist texture too. Even better is that there is no added fats or sugar in this recipe - a real rarity!  

This cake certainly proved to be a hit both at home and at work. It's so easy and I'm sure I'll be making it again for that very reason! Let me know if you make this cake yourself, and please share any interesting variations that you come up with! I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very safe, happy and healthy Christmas. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, reading my recipes and hopefully trying them out as well. Happy Christmas,

- Em x

Acknowledgement: I would like to acknowledge kidspot for the original recipe for this cake. It's too good not to share!!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Cranberry, Seed and Dark Chocolate Cookies.

It's been a really long time since I've posted a blog. Like a really long time. I'm sorry. A lot has happened between posts; I've attended a paediatric feeding conference, a health coaching course, a non-dieting seminar (yes, you read right, a seminar on how to NOT diet!), a holiday to Bali, and a concert. Of course there have also been innumerable sessions in the gym, walks in both the sunshine and rain, afternoons in the garden and evenings in the kitchen.

A most noteworthy evening in the kitchen recently sought to produce some baked goods for a meeting at work the following day. Everyone expects a dietitian to bring something delicious to liven up a work meeting. I didn't really know what I wanted to make - I just wanted it to be ready rather quickly, consist entirely of ingredients already in my possession, be nutritious, and of course, taste delicious. And so these cranberry, seed and dark chocolate cookies came into fruition.

Cranberry, Seed and Dark Chocolate Cookies 
Makes 24
Cooking time: about 15 minutes (17 minutes in my oven to be exact; individual ovens may vary).

1/2 cup self-raising flour 
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
2 tablespoons hulled tahini
2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg
60g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 85% cocoa)

1. Pre heat oven to 180C (170 C for fan forced). Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
2. Sift flour into a mixing bowl. Mix in the oats, sugar, seeds, sultanas, cranberries, cinnamon and vanilla and stir until combined.
3. Add the tahini, coconut oil, honey and egg and stir well.
4. Take teaspoon-fuls of the mixture and roll into balls. Place onto trays roughly 3cm apart to allow for spreading.
5. Using the back of a fork, slightly flatten the balls. Top with small pieces of the dark chocolate.
6. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until biscuits are golden and dark chocolate is melted. Enjoy!!

Notes - you could also add dark chocolate into the biscuit mixture rather than only on top - I think this would be very delicious! You can also vary the fruit included in this recipe; dried goji berries, blueberries, figs, dates and apricots would surely be just as tasty. And finally, you could also vary the seeds or add some nuts; I imagine chopped pecans, walnuts, or macadamias would be a scrumptious addition here.

 Cranberry, seed and dark chocolate cookies warm and fresh from the oven.... I couldn't resist!! 

- Em xx