May 12, 2011 § 17 Comments
Last week I started a Cheap&Cheerful category on Blushing Strawberries’ with these fritters, and thank you to everyone who gave me tips on making a more ‘attractive’ fritter. I’m looking forward to trying again tomorrow, once I buy corn at the farmer’s market.
Lately NB and I have been looking into the Paleo Diet and the Primal Blueprint diet. In the coming weeks I will share one or two in depth posts on the subject, but for now let’s just summarise them as eating the way a caveman would eat – if it does not run, fly or swim, or if it isn’t green, then don’t eat it. Of course that is a wild generalisation and there are many nuances to the theory, which that statement has denied. But basically it is about eliminating all carbohydrates, grains and legumes, all processed foods, most sugars and dairy (a little bit of fruit is ok).
Before NB and I make any grand statements about how ‘We soo, totally eat Paleo now’, I thought I should recap on my history of sticking to a diet:
B/S on Detoxing - “Remember that this diet is not meant to impinge on my sociability”
B/S on Vegetarianism - “I remember once when I was a teenager, maybe 13 or 14, I decided to become a vegetarian. The memory is sadly clear. At breakfast I declare myself vegetarian. Five hours later I smell my dad cooking bacon. I renounce my newfound diet.”
Not that NB can claim to be high and mighty: Do you think Cheerios or Cheetos are more Paleo?
But we are slowly trying to include meals that fall in line with this way of eating, at maybe a 60/40 or 70/30 ratio. Which brings me to last nights Cheap&Cheerful dinner – a primal blueprint salad.
Now while Paleo may seem a little extreme for beginners, the Primal Blueprint diet offers a little more leniency, and Mark’s Daily Apple is a great starting point if you are interested in more information. One of the ‘sensible vices‘ allowed under PB is cheese. Here is what Mark has to say:
“While we aren’t diehard fans of all dairy, “the power of the cheese” is right on. However, we do believe in skipping the weirdo processed stuff reminiscent of school lunches. Play it snooty and go for the good, aged stuff. Not only is aged cheese a fermented food, it contains little to no lactose. It’s also got good fat, essential nutrients, and a wallop of protein. But this will all be mere peripheral chatter once you’re actually enjoying. The satisfaction surpasses all of the above.”
Truer words were never spoken! The satisfied look on NB’s face when he bit in to a sesame-chilli goats cheese balls, and his following proclamation that this is the BEST healthy meal I have ever made, is enough to keep this chef satisfied all summer long. Because after all, why would we want to eat healthily if it doesn’t taste delicious?
Goats cheese salad with spinach stuffed chicken breast
The money-saver aspect in this dish comes from using whatever you have on hand in your crisper or your garden. By using up leftover spinach and tomatoes from the previous nights dinner, I was able to stuff the chicken and wrap them in bacon from the freezer. You might have some sundried tomatoes or mushrooms lying around, which would work a treat. Choose whatever herbs are in your pots, garden or fridge and buy the goats cheese from a deli, not the supermarket, to save money on packaging.
2 medium sized chicken breasts, halved crossways
2 tablespoon of pesto (optional)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
large handful of english spinach, washed and roughly chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, thickly sliced
4 slices bacon or prosciutto
1/2 butternut pumpkin or acorn squash, diced into 3cm cubes and tossed with olive oil, thyme and salt
2 large handfuls of baby spinach or mixed mesclun
1/2 red apple, finely sliced into fans
Herb goats cheese balls
50g goats cheese
1/4 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsely, finely chopped
zest of one lemon
Sesame Goats cheese balls
50g goats cheese
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons chilli flakes
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seeds (optional) or poppyseeds
Preheat oven to 160C, 350F and roast pumpkin on a large baking tray.
Meanwhile, to stuff chicken, make a wide insertion into each half, making sure that the knife does not puncture through the breast. Rub 1/2 tablespoon of pesto inside each cavity. Heat 1tbl oil a large based frypan over medium heat and begin to saute garlic. Add in spinach and cook until just wilted. Allow to cool before stuffing each chicken cavity with 1/4 of the tomatoes, and spinach mixture. Wrap to enclose with bacon and secure with a toothpick.
For goats cheese balls, take a tablespoon of cheese and shape into a round using the palm of your hands. Coat half the balls in the herb mix and half in the sesame mix. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Serve chicken, pumpkin and goats cheese atop baby spinach, tossed with a dressing of equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as a squeeze of lemon and a teaspoon of dijon mustard. Garnish with extra herbs and apple slices.
April 28, 2011 § 5 Comments
As with many people, NB and I are trying to cut back on spending and put something aside for a rainy day. Fortunately for NB I’ve never felt the desire to spend my Saturdays clothes shopping or my Friday evenings getting facials and acupuncture (but that could be nice!!). Instead, the money I earn generally goes straight to my local grocer. Now I don’t think that this is a bad thing at all, I’m investing in my body, health and soul after all, but perhaps I could stretch the dollar a little further every now and again (I still argue that we needed the 6 bags of vacuum-packed umeboshi…)
Last night was ‘Cheap and Cheerful’, a new once a week section that will feature at the Strawberry Patch. For less than $8 I served up chicken legs that had been baked with lemon, white wine, chicken stock, garlic, chorizo, fennel, thyme and a few dollops of pesto ($5), wilted garlic spinach (50c) and zucchini, corn and fetta fritters ($2). Simple and delicious.
Unfortunately, even though the fritters tasted terrific, they certainly weren’t photogenic like Bills.
Tell me Blushers, does anyone have a secret to making their fritters service sexy??!
Zucchini, Corn and Fetta fritters
(Serves 2 -3)
In a large bowl grate 2 large zucchini (summer squash), shuck 2 cobs corn, and crumble in a good chunk of fetta. Season with pepper and a little paprika. In a separate bowl whisk together 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup flour and 3 eggs with a pinch of salt and some fresh parsley. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir to combine. Cook fritters in a frypan over medium heat until cooked through, turning once. Keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining fritters.
March 28, 2011 § 4 Comments
We’re sitting on the cusp of changing seasons, which is messing with my wardrobe and messing with my menu plans. One day I will be dining on goats cheese salad and felafel on the outside terrace of 300 East with friends, and the next I am snuggled up in trackpants stirring pots of soup on the stove. In times like this you have to be prepared to change dinner plans, incase the morning sun belies a much cooler evening to come.
Last Thursday the temperature dropped from up in the 80s to 49 Fahrenheit, which made the poached egg and watercress salad I had been planning on suddenly seem wildly inappropriate. With a deadline looming for the magazine, dinner had to be thrown together with half a brain.
NB went out for lemons while I fried some chicken legs in a pan with onion, garlic, sundried tomatoes and mushrooms. I’m a fan of any meal that gives the excuse to open a bottle of pinot grigio, which I liberally splashed over the chicken with a few tablespoons of pesto and covered it on a low simmer for 10 minutes.
Served with mashed potatoes and crusty bread, this is cold night cooking at its best.
March 17, 2011 § 7 Comments
You may have thought that Blushing Strawberries went walkabout and found herself lost in the desert, with no internet access, photography or good food. Well, that would make a pretty fun story but truth be told I’ve just been rather lazy of late. Woops! Do you ever feel that you have a lot of time but nothing gets done? I feel it has something to do with the change of season, my mind has bounced forward to Spring while my body and actions are still waiting to leave winter. I’m perfectly content to ride this wave and snuggle up on the couch after dinner with a good book and a cup of hot milk, even if it makes me feel more like Trixie Belden or one of the Famous Five than a city-living-22-year-old! But we covered that embarrassing reality a while ago!
Fortunately, my inclination towards doing-very-little has not left NB starving and begging for scraps on the street corner. Actually, Bojangles is on our street corner so it really depends on what you consider ‘begging’! With all this free time and not a spare minute, dinner recently has had to be quick, no fuss kind of stuff. Last night I tried my hand at some Asian baby-back ribs, which were such a hit that I must reproduce them for The Patch, and it took very little effort indeed.
But when I’m really in need of a healthy quick meal I reach for the pesto jar. Sauteed mushrooms, pesto and mozzarella for breakfast. Sourdough with pesto and fresh tomato for lunch. Or salad with pesto for dinner.
I have not been able to make my own pesto since arriving in the States because all the grocery stores only sell small packets of basil, the type you would normally expect for rosemary or thyme, and (sadly) there is nothing here like Norton St Grocer. I’ve never been a huge fan of store-bought pesto, finding the taste to be too thick and salty, so I was excited when Trader Joe’s began to stock full bunches of basil last week.
Tell me Blushers, what’s your standby lazy meal??
March 1, 2011 § 8 Comments
Rotisserie chicken is taking the flogosphere by storm with February seeing the resurgence of the ‘BBQ Chook’. The more I read here and here and here, the more guilty I felt for shunning the challenge. My hesitancy was linked to experience that it is always the simplest things in the kitchen that make the biggest disasters, like poaching an egg, frying a steak or grilling pita bread (don’t ask!)
Yet despite my guilt I still hadn’t cooked roast chicken. Enter intervention of the food Gods, who had been watching my dilly-dallying with great frustration.
The moment of truth came during the second mile of a 6 mile run that I was doing with my gal pal over at Foodie Fresh. She mentioned that she had turned Susie Homemaker and roasted her first chicken. If that wasn’t a giant sign from up above then I don’t know what is.
This is how I became pumped to roast a bird.
BUT NB was suddenly called away on a Top-Secret work mission to some distant land (where they served *ahem* cafeteria food…) and it really seemed rather gluttonous for me to roast an entire hen for myself. I mean we all know I can eat, but that would be in the league of these crazy people .
Even though my plans had been thwarted it wasn’t enough to deter me. NB had been home from his travels less than 48 hours and begged me for beef cooked with The Duck’s famous stirfry marinade (stay tuned folks), but being the hard ass I’ve had to become to get a chicken roasted, I said no. We were going to have a baked dinner.
With a borrowed recipe and a little help from Handicap 5 we were in business for beer can stuffed chicken. Yes! And wouldn’t you know it, the procrastination was the hardest part. Roasting a chicken with a beer up its tush is as simple as stuffing, sprinkling and sitting back to wait.
Tell me Blushers, what’s your procrastination recipe?
(I still made NB his Asian stirfry sides!)
Beer Can Chicken
Preheat oven to 375F (190C) Take a 4.8 pound chicken (c.2kg) and remove it’s innards before rinsing and patting dry. Rub the skin with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and any other seasoning of choice (we used a nice poultry rub based on cumin, coriander and paprika).
Open a can of beer and take a couple of large gulps. Insert the can into the chicken cavity, with the can mouth facing to the top.
Sit chicken in a roasting tray, bottoms up so the beer won’t spill (you might need to cradle it with ramekins either side).
Roast for 1hr 30 minutes or until the juices run clear from the thigh and breast. Remove from oven, cover with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
February 15, 2011 § 12 Comments
For Valentine’s Day I would like a man who helps me make the salad and washes up the dishes.
Ok, so maybe my request doesn’t sound as romantic as twelve-dozen roses or french toast in bed, but back in ’09 this was all I was looking for. And wouldn’t you know it, Cupid found me NB, who will wash AND dry, as well as chop AND saute.
So this year I thought I should put a little something ‘sweet’ back into February Fourteenth.
The weather today was the warmest we’ve had since arriving in America, 71˚F for a couple of hours, which was perfect for creating a light little treat to sit alongside good quality ice cream.
For these tarts I was able to make the most of late season corella pears, as well as a tin of peach slices that I had in the pantry …thriftiness on the day of love?? Shhh, don’t tell NB!
With a little grating of dark chocolate, a sprinkle of icing sugar and a pinch of rose petals I was able to pretend that hours were spent slaving in the kitchen instead of 15 minutes (again, discretion would be appreciated!!)
I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine’s Day and Cupid was able to answer your call
Individual Fruit Tarts
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 small corella pears*
1 tin, 200g, peach slices, drained
1 cup caster sugar
3 squares dark chocolate
4 tablespoons apricot or berry jam**
1/3 cup icing sugar
Preheat oven to 160C, 300F.
Wash and peel pears, rubbing the outside of each with a cut lemon half.
Place caster sugar in medium saucepan with 2 cups water and simmer, stirring, until sugar dissolves.
Poach pears in sugar syrup over medium-low heat for 6 minutes or until just cooked. Remove and set aside to cool, then halve, removing core but leaving stems intact. Slice lengthways, nearly to the top, and press down lightly with palm to flatten.
Meanwhile, drain and rinse peaches.
Cut circles from the puff pastry, slightly larger than the pear half.
Score a circular border in the pastry and top centre with 1/2 tbl jam and a grating of chocolate. Place the halved pear or 3-5 slices of peach on top.
Brush outside edges of pastry with lightly beaten egg and bake tarts for 10-12 minutes, until puffed.
Remove tarts from oven and preheat grill to high. Sprinkle tarts with icing sugar and grill 1-2 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve with thick cream and ice cream.
*Any fruit of your choice would work well in these tarts. Poach apple slices, quarter strawberries or thickly slice bananas and sprinkle with brown sugar or maple syrup.
**You could also replace the chocolate and jam base for a slice of marzipan.
February 11, 2011 § 6 Comments
I still haven’t mastered hummus, I think it’s just one of those things that you need to be taught by a Lebanese mother. However, considering my lack of Lebanese-mother-friends at the moment I thought I would just have another crack at it myself, and I’m certain that we’ve made progress since the first attempt.
Yesterday was play day with the food processor, whenever I pull it out I tend to have a good blitz in one go. After breadcrumbing, ice cream making (stay tuned for that), health ball buzzing and mashed potato whipping I looked at the chickpeas in the fridge and decided – it’s you and me kid.
My rough helpings of ingredients might guide you, but don’t quote me on them! For about 2 cups of chickpeas (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed) I added 2 big tablespoons of unhulled tahini, the juice of 1 large lemon, 2 cloves crushed garlic and maybe 1/4 cup olive oil. Then it wasn’t pureeing as much as I would like but I think this had more to do with the wattage of my food processor than the quantity of ingredients, so I just kept feeding it homemade chicken stock (which I finally have down to an art form!) until it smoothed out a bit. Then I poured in the balsamic vinegar and oil from my deli olives and buzzed along a bit more.
In the end it was still quite grainy, and this is where we need the work, but the taste was nice and not too chickpea-ish.
I served the hummus with dinner last night, as an alternative to butter for nice chewy bread, and while I don’t think anyone else tried it I made a terrific discovery! When I was clearing the table I stirred the remaining pesto into the hummus bowl and wouldn’t you know it, the taste was awesome! I had hummus on toast for breakfast and can’t walk past the fridge without dipping in with my teaspoon.
Now to just work on the texture and I may declare hummus victory (but if you know a Lebanese mother please send her my way!)
February 1, 2011 § 11 Comments
Don’t you love a change of scene?! The new sights, the new sounds, the new tastes! Today marks my sixth day in America and I’m settling in to my new home splendidly! Today I spent over an hour browsing through the supermarket where I bought apple sauce, Southern marinades and the ‘O’ (Oprah) magazine – how American am I dearests?! And you’ll find that most of the fresh produce at the supermarket is organic, no price quirks, it just is. Speaking of organic, yesterday NB took me to Earth Fare, a delightful organic superstore where I nearly emptied the ‘bulk buy’ section of its nuts, oats, seeds, grains and licorice – give me a scoop and it seems I can’t stop…There are also a large number of farmers markets in my neighbourhood alone and a giant Asian warehouse further out. WOW! For some reason I thought I was moving into a fresh food drought – perhaps I was blindsided by all the grits, pies, ribs and cajun fare that I tasted at Thanksgiving??!
Oh, and did you know that Target in America has a Starbucks and other takeaway counters instore?? Shopping to the smell of popcorn is a bit of a change, but after being in there for 2 hours this afternoon buying laundry goods and stationary I almost needed some.
Which brings me to today’s recipe! Make these little round bites of pureed dried fruits, nuts and seeds, for a great high-energy snack on the run, or after dinner with a cup of coffee or cocoa on a cold winter’s night.
You have probably seen similar morsels for sale at organic stores for $$$, but why buy when you can make your own? I made a big batch with the food processor I bought today and froze half for next week to keep them super fresh. And don’t feel for a minute that you need to stick to these ingredients! Try goji berries, brazil nuts, grated licorice, spirulina, peppermint essence, or dried Syrian blueberries. Next time I’ll dust the outside with coconut but I could only find sweetened today in the supermarket so I’ll wait until I get my hands on some of the natural stuff!
I can see myself loving these next week when I get back in to the gym, or when I go hiking up the mountains in search of squirrels and moose!!
Date and Nut Balls
~makes about 15~
1 cup walnuts
2/3 cup cashews
100g blanched almonds
1/2 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
150g pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped
2 tbs sesame seeds
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbs honey
Lightly toast the nuts in a dry frypan over medium-low heat. Place in a food processor and whiz until finely chopped.
Add oats, apricots, dates, prunes, sesame seeds, cocoa, cinnamon and honey and process for 2-3 minutes or until mixture forms a paste.
Divide mixture into golf-ball-sized portions and roll between lightly moistened hands to make about 15 balls.
Roll the balls in extra cocoa, pulsed pepitas or coconut to coat. They will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks but stay super fresh in the freezer, remove 10 minutes before serving.
As they say down here in the South, hope y’all come back now
*blush. eat. sigh. dream. travel*
January 6, 2011 § 11 Comments
I’ve just left a 90 minute massage and am floating on a cloud of orange oil and rosemary essence bliss. Obviously I can’t be expected to do anything productive this afternoon, so instead I have opened a coconut and am going to tell you about Govinda’s (112 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst NSW 2010).
If you read my last post you would know that NB and I are on a mission. A mission to finally visit the little locals we’ve talked about for months. Govinda’s has long been on the mission list, which is somewhat silly as NB lives right across the road, and now I’ll put on my Tom Cruise sunglasses when I say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
If you’re not familiar with Govinda’s it is a movie theatre and vegetarian Indian restaurant in one. For $30 you go and enjoy the all you can eat buffet and then head upstairs to catch either the 7:30 or 9:30 movie session, where you lie down on cushions and lengthen yourself out like a resting cat.
It was a cold Tuesday night when we booked in and we shook our heads in astonishment that we had to wear jumpers in the last week of December. Oh well, the weather made it a perfect night for an aromatic curry and a snuggley movie-seat.
We were greeted by a pretty Norwegian girl in a field green sari and shown to our seat around the back corner of the room where the lights were dim enough for ambience but light enough for a good view of the food. She explained to us that you may return to the buffet as many times as you want, but take a new plate each time. All the food is vegetarian and some is vegan.
We started with bowls of yellow split-lentil dhal, a warming mix with a smooth flavour and not too much chilli. Then back to the buffet for plates of curry – a cheesy tasting cauliflower and potato, tomato based beans and fried tofu and some sort of tempeh meat balls (which I think could have fooled even the hardest carnivore). There was white rice, brown rice, and a couscous, chickpea and vegetable pilaf, as well as chutneys and raitas, pappadams, seeds and kernals and even pasta bake, potato wedges and iceberg lettuce leaves for those less adventurous.
We spied the table next to us as they received their desserts. Less Indian than Dairy Queen I think, chocolate mousse with canned- whip cream, banana splits and cake hidden with ice cream and topping. Mmmmm maybe not! Instead NB ordered a delicious mango lassi while I sipped on a big pot of steaming hot English Breakfast tea.
Very full, we struggled upstairs, happy to lie down on one of the day beds and watch the 9:30 screening of Winter’s Bone. The only problem now is trying to keep yourself awake, full, comfortable and oh so content!
November 9, 2010 § 3 Comments
I’ve been wanting to make a duck salad since The Duck (oh dear!) and I visited Chinatown last month but the weather turned and the time hasn’t felt right. Fortunately last week saw a few sunny days before the rain set back in and I spent a lovely hour one afternoon creating a little thai-inspired banquet.
I always feel a bit sad when I see them hanging there…
Bargains at Paddys Markets
I love cooking Thai because the flavours are so clean and fresh, even NB commented on the super-healthy-factor! I also love that I can make a delicious dinner in under an hour that didn’t break the student budget! You know what this means Blushers?! There’s change to buy a crisp Margaret River semillon viognier and time to sit down and enjoy it!
The following meals evolved from one of those make-up as you go along kind of feelings, so take them as guidelines and feel free to makes changes at the whim of your belly and your crisper!
Shredded Duck Salad
Julienne 1 large carrot (I’m sticking with my carrot diet, I promise! This is just like a nicotine patch), 1 red capsicum and 1 large cucumber. Finely slice 1/4 chinese red cabbage, a large handful of snow peas and a bunch of asparagus. Toss in a large bowl with half a packet of bean sprouts, 1 bunch chopped coriander and 1/2 bunch chopped mint.
Shred 1/2 a BBQ’d chinese duck and add to salad (if you’ve been keeping the duck in the fridge, take it out at least 40 minutes before to come to room temperature. Optionally you can toss the meat in a wok over very high heat to warm through).
Make a dressing of equal parts lime juice (plus one extra lime to serve) and fish sauce, a dash of sesame oil and a spoonful of brown sugar. Add 1 long red chilli, sliced (deseeded for less heat) and 1 clove garlic, crushed.
Toss salad with dressing and serve with lime wedges.
Peel and devein 6 large green prawns, keeping the tail. In 3 separate bowls prepare:
1. 1/3 cup plain flour
2. 1 egg, lightly beaten
3. 1/2 cup shredded coconut
Dip prawns in flour, then egg, then coconut and thread onto skewers and place on a baking paper lined tray. Preheat oven to 180°C and cook prawns for 8 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with a dipping sauce of sweet-chilli and lime.
Thai chicken drumsticks
In a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons curry paste (red, green or yellow to your preference), 100ml coconut milk, 1/2 bunch coriander chopped , 1 clove garlic crushed and 1 small thumb of ginger grated. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime. Add 6 chicken drumsticks or lovely legs and marinate in the fridge for an hour. Remove chicken from marinade. Heat a chargrill pan over medium-high heat and fry chicken skin side down until it begins to crisp. Turn heat to low, cover the pan with foil and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until cooked through.