Friday, August 31, 2012

Honey Roasted Carrot Salad with Hommus Dressing and Moroccan Pita Chips

I have been lucky enough to have today off work. I usually get one Friday a month off, but from next week I'm working an extra half hour every day and I'll get every second Friday off! Yay! These days off are really useful to get all the little bits and pieces done that you normally don't have time for. Like today, for instance, I brought some cushions for our new dining table, brought a new little lamp table for the lounge and managed to sand it and get a coat of stain on it as well, made a batch of cupcakes ready for delivery tomorrow, made lunch for Dad and Mr B who were busy building our pergola in the cold, did some shopping, called into see Mum at work, got my hair dyed, did some housework, fed the lambies went for a trip with Dad and Mr B to deliver bath tubs to Mum and Dad's block, had a cup of tea with Mum, had dinner and now I'm writing to you! I think I'm going to have to go back to work for a break!

Sometimes when cooking dinner I get so caught up in the main component that I forget about the you do that? I will spend hours deciding on which lasagne to cook for dinner or whether to do the grilled chicken with peach jam I've been drooling over or maybe it would be nicer with lemon sauce and pocketed with ricotta and spinach....and then just automatically default to serving it up with salad or vegies....BORING!

So this week I decided to throw myself a curve ball (which isn't easy, have you ever tried to throw yourself a curve really really fast...and catch it?? Me either...) and plan a few of our weekly meals based on the side dish component rather than the 'main' component.

I found this recipe in my latest issue of Super Food Ideas and knew it was spot on for Tuesday night dinner with Mum and Dad!

Honey Roasted Carrot Salad with Hommus Dressing and Moroccan Pita Chips

You will need:

4 small wholemeal pita rounds
2 tspns moroccan seasoning
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm thick slices
1 tbspn honey
1/2 cup couscous
100g baby spinach
3 tbspns currants
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tbspn crushed garlic (or 1 clove of garlic crushed)
1 tbspn olive oil (or 1 heaved tspn tahini )
1/4 cup lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to season

Ok let's start by making the hommus dressing....

Combine the chickpeas, garlic, oil / tahini and lemon juice in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper and process until smooth. Place in the fridge until you're ready to use.

Now moving onto the salad....

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a small baking dish. Place carrots in a single layer in dish and drizzle with honey. Roast for around 30 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Place couscous in a small bowl and add just enough boiling water to cover it. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let it stand for 5 minutes. Use a fork to fluff the couscous up. Add the carrots, spinach and currants. Stir to combine.

Serve the salad drizzled with the hommus dressing. Place any leftover dressing in a small bowl in the middle of the table for people to dip their pita chips into!

Speaking of the pita chips...

When the carrots have been roasting for 15 minutes, you can start preparing the chips. Cut the pita pockets into 6 or 8 even triangles. Place the pita triangles onto a baking tray and sprinkle with moroccan seasoning. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until crisp.

And there you have it! Now we served all of this with some crumbed fish fillets and it was delicious!

Today's lesson....never take the humble side dish for granted!

And before I head off, here are some gluten-free vanilla cupcakes I made today, all packaged up and ready for delivery tomorrow. I am really pleased with them - a field of purple butterflys!

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

Mrs B xx

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bits n Bobs.....

After several weeks and many long nights of painting, Mr B and I finally got to bring our new dining suite inside on Sunday afternoon, I may have busted a boiler carrying it into the house but doesn't it look gorgeous!!

The house is really looking beautiful with all the new furniture in it. Inside done - now to finish off the outside!! 

And here is a look at some of the cupcakes I have done for the RSPCA Cupcake Day this year......

I know Mondays are never pleasant, but I hope you all have a great week!!

Mrs B xx

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chocolate Coated Cookies and Cream Fudge

Last night Mr B went to the local RSL with a few of his new work mates for some man-time so this meant I got kitchen time! Yay! So yesterday when I left work I had my huge big list of things to do including cooking, pampering, some shopping, tidying up, fixing up my recipe folders and finishing off with sitting down reading a book with a nice hot cup of coffee.....I'm not sure exactly how long I thought Mr B was going to be gone for but let me put it this way, I dropped him off, went to the supermarket, came home, iced a cake, made some fudge and he was ready to be picked up.....never mind, I got a few things ticked off my list, including making this Cookies and Cream Fudge which is very more-ish and very nearly didn't even make it to 'setting in the fridge' stage because I was too busy scoffing it out of the pan!

You will need:

1 cup sugar
175g butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
375g white chocolate melts
200g (or one container) of marshmallow cream / creme / fluff
3 cups coarsely chopped Oreos (about 25 cookies)
pinch of salt

Line a 9" slice tin with baking paper and set aside.

Combine the sugar, butter and evaporated milk in a bowl and microwave for 2-3 minutes or until butter is melted and everything is combined. Cook for a further 2 minutes.

Add the white chocolate melts and marshmallow cream along with 2 cups of crushed cookies and salt. Stir until chocolate is melted and everything is combined.

Pour fudge into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining cookies. Gently press them into the fudge using the back of a spoon. Cover and refrigerate until firm. 

Now with mine, I refrigerated it over night and the top was firm but when I sliced it up, the insides and base were a little sticky so I would suggest slicing with a hot knife and placing upside down in a container in the fridge - this will allow the rest of it to firm up nicely!

UPDATE - 48 hours after making, I found this fudge had firmed up in some spots and some were still abit sticky. I was worried if I put it in Mr B's lunch box he would end up with cookies n cream everywhere and whilst I'm all good with licking cookies n cream fudge off my fingers and out of the lunch box, I don't imagine Mr B would I put it all back into the slice tin which was kind of like doing a cookies n cream fudge jigsaw puzzle! Then I combined 375g of milk chocolate with 80g of butter in a bowl and microwaved on medium high heat in 30 second bursts until smooth and combined. Pour the chocolate mix over the fudge and place in the fridge to firm up. Give it 4-5 hours and it will be chocolatey delicious and lunch box friendly!!

And here is a sneak peak at something I put together for my friend's birthday tonight! A group of us are going out for dinner and it was a last minute thing, so as a surprise Mr B and I dropped the dessert (mini cheesecake squares all stacked up with white chocolate lettering!) into the restaurant earlier today and they were kind enough to let us decorate the table with banners and party hats and a bunch of flowers - it's amazing how just a few little things can really brighten a table up and make it feel like a celebration! And it will be a double celebration because not only are we celebrating Alana's birthday, but her partner Glenn proposed this morning so we also have an engagement to celebrate which is so exciting!!! But on that note I need to drag my bum out of bed and get ready or I won't be there in time to celebrate anything!! 

Hope you are all having an amazing weekend and celebrating something, even if it's just making a damn good cup of coffee or hearing your favourite song on the radio - sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest difference!!

Mrs B xx

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beef and Beer Casserole

Whilst Mr B and I were on our mini-moon we came across a sign that said Happy Wife Happy Life.....but what about Happy Husband?

You see all this week....and all last week for that matter, Mr B and I have been hauled up in our garage every night staining our new furniture. Getting new furniture is very exciting, spending 2 hours painting and sanding each night is not. And to top it all off painting is the one thing that Mr B really detests. So needless to say even though we only have one more night of painting to go, it may as well be 3 more months and Mr B is tired, miserable, seemingly allergic to paint fumes and generally over it. In an effort to 'turn that frown upside down' (you do not want to see the look Mr B gave me when I said that....I decided to put my rendition of Happy Little Vegemites on hold until further notice....) I decided to make this Beef and Beer Casserole with fresh bread for dinner tonight because let's be honest, anything involving beef, beer and in Mr B's case, fresh bread is bound to be a winner with the boys!

Beef and Beer Casserole

You will need:

2 tbspns oil
750g topside beef cut into 3cm cubes (you can use gravy beef or any other casserole beef if you wish)
1 leek, trimmed, halved, washed and sliced
1 tbspn crushed garlic
4 short cut bacon rasher trimmed and diced
250g sliced mushrooms
2 tbspns plain flour
2 large potatoes, chopped into 2cm cubes
2 dried bay leaves
1 tbspn crushed thyme (I use Gourmet Garden thyme - comes in a tube, like a crushed herb paste) or you could use 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
375ml beer
1.5 cups beef stock
Fresh crusty bread to serve

Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced and heat half the oil in a heavy-based, flameproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Cook the beef, in batches, for 5 minutes or until browned and transfer to a bowl / plate.

Heat remaining oil in the same dish and add leek, garlic, bacon and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until onion has softened. Return beef to dish and add the flour, potato, bay leaves and thyme. Stir well.

Stir in the beer and stock. Cover dish and bring to the boil. Transfer to oven and bake for 2 hours or until beef is tender. Check regularly and stir. Remove the bay leaves (does anyone else have trouble finding them!?) and serve with warm, crusty, buttery bread!

Enjoy your  dinner and enjoy the benefits of a happy husband! Mine is so deliriously happy and full right now, he has agreed to dye my hair for me!!

And on a side note, look at our little babies! They are no longer needing us to go out and feed them bottles of milk at all hours of the day and night, they simply have a bottle of water when we get home from work and spend the evening munching their way around the front yard before they go to bed....but the best thing? No matter where they are, as soon as they see us they come flying toward us at full speed as if to say 'Oh wow we have missed you!' and it just makes me melt every time....especially when they forget to brake and skid across the gravel or the grass trying to stop!! From the below picture, can you guess which one has been playing underneath the car and sticking his head in the grease!?

Mrs B xx

Friday, August 17, 2012

Crazy Bar Slice

Today has been a lovely lovely day - believe me it deserves 2 x lovely's....if not 3!
To start with Mr B and I had an RDO today, absolutely everything about having a 3 day weekend kicked off with a sleep in is good! Secondly, we finally got Mr B's taxes done and it was good news so he shouted me out to a beautiful lunch at a local pub called The Ocean Child. Neither of us had been there before, but we will definitely be returning - it had so much character and the meals were incredible!

And last, but certainly not least, we got to meet Bubba Chopper and have a bit of a snuggle, he is a gorgeous little man! Plus it was nice to catch up with the new parents - we are so proud and happy for them!

So verdict, today has been a 3 x lovely day....and if Mr B makes me a cup of tea and feeds me hot apple and strawberry crumble with cream while I sit in a toasty warm bed reading a book it might even stretch to 4 x lovelys!!!

And do you know what a day of 3 or even 4 x lovely day potential deserves? Some Crazy Bar Slice!!!
This slice, oozing with caramel, studded with mini M&M's and topped with a chewy ANZAC like layer will have you lost for words and it will become a 5 x Mmmmmmmmm day!!!

For the crust you will need:

300g butter
1.5 cups oats
1.25 cups brown sugar
1.5 cups flour
1.5 teaspoon baking soda

For the topping you will need:

1 1/2 - 2 cups thick caramel topping / caramel sauce
6 tbspns plain flour
1 pkt (roughly 1 1/2 - 2 cups) of mini M&Ms

Preheat oven to 160C

Melt butter in the microwave. Stir through the oats, brown sugar, flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

Grease and line a slice pan. I use a square cake pan. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 - 15 mins.

In the mean time, combine the caramel sauce / topping and the remaining flour.

When the crust is done, scatter with 1 cup of the mini M&M's. Pour over the caramel mix.

Combine the remaining crust mix with the remaining mini M&M's. Scatter over the top of the caramel.

Bake again for 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting.


Mrs B xx

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Babies and Cheese Puffs!

I have to start by saying that you may have seen me mention my gorgeous friend who is pregnant?? Well yesterday, smack on her due date, she gave birth to a beautiful, sweet, little boy and I tell you what it just makes my heart swell to bursting point, I am so very very happy and excited for her and her partner and their lil bubba Chopper!! Not only has she been a picture of radiance and calm and health throughout the whole pregnancy, but she goes into labour right on the day she is due...I mean what are the odds?? No seriously...what are they?! To be honest, it seems like she has only been pregnant for a week or two it has gone so fast and Mr B and I literally did a happy jig around the lounge room last night when we heard the news. It really is taking all my might to stay put and not head down to the hospital and scale the walls mission impossible style to see them..... now where is my black beanie!?!?

Ok moving on because now I am humming the mission impossible theme song and I think Mr B is onto me....

Have you ever found yourself in a position where it's late Sunday afternoon and not only do you have 72 cupcakes to make, but you also have to write in your blog, feed your lambs, straighten your hair, make lunches for tomorrow AND cook something for your husband's lunch box too!?!?! And somewhere in there you probably need to do several loads of washing and hang them out as well....


Just me?

Well I'm here to tell you it's totally do-able....if you pick your recipes right and your palm the lunch making and the washing hanging out onto your husband...after all, you are making delicious cheese puffs for his lunches!

Cheese Puffs

For this super duper easy tasty and all round fantastic recipe you will need:

4 cups grated cheese
2 cups self raising flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
Paprika or some sort of seasoning

Pre-heat oven to 150C and line and grease 3 baking trays with baking paper.

Whisk the eggs and milk together in a large bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.

Drop heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto the trays and bake for 20 mins or until golden.

Wait until they have cooled down before you remove them from the baking paper...when they are hot they stick to it and the bottoms fall out and it's all bad.

These are so easy and tasty and versatile - lunch boxes, morning teas, high teas, friday night drinks nibbles, served on the side of a casserole....anything at all!!

Oh and ah just for the record, I ended up hanging the washing out myself and I think Mr B took a banana for lunch.....

Mrs B xx

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Creme Brulee

So a few weeks ago, Mum, Dad, Mr B and I are all sitting around the table after dinner, and Dad starts talking about a show he had seen on tv where they made a 'really easy and delicious' looking creme brulee.....and he kept talking about it....and dropping 'creme brulee' into every conversation there after. Eventually I got the point and looked up the show and the recipe (do you have any idea how hard it is trying to make a recipe from a video! Pause and Play and Pause and Play....) and next time Mum and Dad came for tea, we had creme brulee for dessert!

It wasn't all sugar and rainbows though...the night before when Mr B and I started getting the creme brulee ready, we managed to turn our first lot of custard into scrambled eggs.....2nd time lucky (and 12 eggs later!) we got it right! Here's how it went down.....

You will need:

375ml milk
200ml cream
1 tspn vanilla bean paste
6 egg yolks
100g caster sugar + extra

Combine the milk and cream in a large saucepan over medium heat with vanilla bean paste. Simmer for 10 mins or until fragrant. Remove from heat.

Whisk egg yolks and caster sugar - you want to get plenty of air in there so whisk well. Strain the cooled milk mixture into the egg mixture and pour back into the saucepan.

Prepare your ice bath - 3/4 fill a large bowl with ice cubes and sit a small bowl in the top of it.

Place the custard mixture back on the stove top, cooking gently and stirring constantly - remember to scrape the bottom as you go. When the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, it's done. Pour into the bowl over the ice bath and leave until it's cool to touch.

Stir in 150g of double thick cream and pour into 4 ramekins. Leave over night to set.

Sprinkle the tops of your brulees with a thin layer of caster sugar. Use a brulee torch to caramelise the sugar. Top with another thin layer of caster sugar and use the torch to finish it off! Serve topped with a few berries!

Mr B getting his brulee torch on! 

Mmmmm caramelised goodness!!

The finished product!

The happy customer!

Dad ate his so fast...I think he forgot to share with Mum! 

The sign of a good dessert!! 

And I will point out that Dad is forever more banned from watching home improvement / cooking shows! At least until he makes me one of his famous Mocha Self Saucing Puddings!!!

Mrs B xx

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

You don't need a kitchen to cook a great meal!

As most of you know, at the moment my parents are in the middle of building their dream home. Whilst the building process takes place they are living on site in a caravan, which is lovely for a holiday, but a bit rough in the long term. All things considered they are coping surprisingly well. Goodness knows how Mr B and I would survive living in such close quarters for such a long time. One thing I know I definitely could not cope with is the kitchen, or lack thereof. Obviously in summer, the bbq was a huge saviour, but now that winter is upon us, Dad is not so keen on standing outside at the bbq, and Mum is not so keen on Dad bringing the bbq into the caravan! Mum has a gas stove and microwave that is shoved up in an akward spot above head height and that's about it, don't even think about asking where the bench space is because there is not even room to store your electric mixer, let alone use it. It's giving me a slight twitch just thinking about it! The moral of the story is that despite being in the caravan with the non-existent kitchen and the seemingly limited menu options, Mum is persevering / powering ahead with the cooking, whereas many would have pulled into the McDonalds drive-thru or picked up the phone and called for pizza long ago!

Last night when we rocked up at Mum and Dad's for tea and I think it's safe to say that everyone, even Mum, were surprised with what was dished up.

Mum made Veggie Burgers with Avocado Tzatziki, Haloumi and Brown Rice Salad and holy moses, did it blow the room away! There were earlier concerns that maybe this meal was slightly (read as waaayyy) too adventurous for the little caravan kitchen, but I think it's fair to say that not only did Mum show just how little you need in the way of kitchen space / appliances to put up a delicious and good looking meal, but she knocked it out of the ball park!

So let's get down to business...this is roughly how she did it....

Veggie Burgers with Avocado Tzatziki, Haloumi and Brown Rice Salad

You will need:

4 x veggie burgers
200g haloumi
200g european style yoghurt
1 cucumber peeled and chopped
1 avocado chopped
10ml lemon juice
3 cups of cooked brown rice (we used 2 pkts of the 90 second brown rice you find in the rice section of the supermarket)
1 capsicum diced
1 red onion diced
10 medium sized sun dried tomatoes finely sliced
1 cup diced celery
3 tbspn red wine vinegar
200g baby spinach
1 tbspn basil paste
1 tspn crushed garlic

For the Avocado Tzatziki

Combine the yoghurt, lemon juice, avocado and cucumber together in a bowl. Mix well and set aside.

For the Brown Rice Salad

Cook rice according to packet directions.

Meanwhile in a fry pan over medium heat, cook the onion, capsicum and celery for 5-7 mins or until softened.

Add the sun dried tomatoes, rice, red wine vinegar, spinach, garlic and basil. Mix well and cook for a further 5-7 mins or until spinach is wilted.

For the Haloumi and Veggie Burgers

Cook burgers as per packet directions - either oven bake or cook in a fry pan.

Once the burgers are cooked, cut them into 3.

Slice the haloumi into 8 pieces and cook in a lightly greased fry pan, turning frequently until golden.

To Assemble

Start by dividing your brown rice salad between four plates.

Top with a generous dollop of the avocado tzatziki.

Follow with the veggie burger and finish with the strips of fried haloumi and drizzle with lemon juice.

Now sit down, relax and enjoy your master piece!

Mrs B xx

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sharing a meal....

Is there anything better then sitting around a table with a group of people you love, eating good food and talking about anything and everything? I don't think so.

Is there anything that helps old friends re-connect like devouring hot party pies and sausage rolls, buckets of tea and fresh from the oven apple and blueberry muffins? Nope.

To me, there is just something about having a table full of fresh hot food, a group of loved ones and the digging in and story telling and laughter and understanding that follows. It just can't be beaten.

Last Tuesday when Mum and Dad came for dinner, I decided to put my thinking hat on, and came up with Tapas...Balmer style....(which roughly translates to Tapas....with lots of cheese!)

Our 'humble' platter was made up of

- a loaf of thick white vienna bread which I sliced, fried and topped with mozarella cheese
- mushrooms stuffed with a mix of fetta, spinach and lemon juice;
- baked haloumi
- peppers stuffed with cream cheese
- risotto balls stuffed with mozarella
- polenta coated fried tomatoes
- roasted rosemary and sea salt potato bites

Now the surprise of the evening was the polenta coated fried tomatoes for me. I was a bit worried about how they would turn out, but when paired with a piece of fried bread and some gooey mozarella, they were the stand out of the night for me. And they were so easy....slice a tomato, dip the slices into egg and then coat in polenta, fry in hot oil and season with salt and pepper...couldn't be easier!

And you know, you could make all of this, park yourself on the couch with something alcoholic and the latest season of Game of Thrones or True Blood or whatever floats your boat, but to be honest, the secret ingredient in this dish, is sharing it with people who make you laugh, people who make you happy, people who will listen to the stories of your crappy day and make you forget all about it! And if those people are extra super duper might make them a creme brulee too!

Hope you are all having a fantastic weekend!

Mrs B xx

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sausages with Roasted Onion, Tomato and Polenta

Do you ever go through those periods where ingredients just seem to stock pile in your cupboard and you can't for the life of you come up with a use for them? And then all of a sudden you have a real rush on them and basically use your whole supply over the course of a few days?? That happened to me this week.

I have a bag of polenta sitting in the cupboard that has been mocking me for weeks now and to be honest, I had hidden it right up the back so I could no longer see it. All of a sudden this week I needed it to go with these sausages for dinner Monday night and I needed it for dinner Tuesday night - is it international polenta week and no one told me?! Never mind, with this dish we showed that bag of polenta who's boss!

Sausages with roasted onion, tomato and polenta
Serves 2

You will need:
1 tbspn oil
1 onion (diced)
2 tspns crushed garlic
200g tomatoes (diced)
4 thick beef sausages (or you could use any type of sausages - vegetarian, pork, veal etc)
Salt and Pepper
2 cups beef stock
100g polenta
1/2 cup grated cheese or 50g parmesan (whichever you prefer)
1 tbspn butter

Pre-heat oven to 190C.

Add oil, onion and garlic to a roasting pan and place in the oven for 3-5 minutes.

Add the tomato and season with salt and pepper. Roast for a further 10-12 minutes until the tomato starts to break down.

Add the sausages and nestle them down into the tomato sauce. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until the sausages are cooked.

When you add the sausages to the roasting pan, get started on your polenta - throw the stock and polenta into a medium saucepan over medium heat, bringing to the boil. You will need to stir the polenta continuously with a wooden spoon, it will get an attitude and start to spit if you don't keep stirring it! Once the liquid is all absorbed and the polenta is smoother and creamy, stir through the cheese and butter and set aside.

Serve sausages on a bed of polenta with a generous amount of the roasted onion and tomato sauce.

This is a really nice easy, modern and tasty take on your average 'bangers and mash' dinner and perfect for those cold winters nights!

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Mrs B xx


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