Cook this: popovers (or, Mother’s Day treat breakfast)

Here in Australia, this weekend we’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day. And being a mum to two little fur babies who aren’t capable of making me breakfast in bed, I’ll be making my own.

I saw this recipe aaaaages ago on Namiko’s blog, JUST ONE COOKBOOK, and saved it with every intention of making it ASAP. And then, of course, I promptly forgot about it. Because, life. I actually haven’t been baking much lately, but I’d to try and get back into it a little, and Nami’s recipe looked like the perfect place to start. I adapted it to make it a sweet bread rather than a savoury, because treat yoself.

Realllly easy, super delicious, and a bit more special than regular bread, so it feels like a proper treat. They come out with a nice crust, but are super light inside. Namiko recommends slathering them in strawberry butter, but I have a jar of apricot jam that my auntie made for me, and that went just perfectly with my popovers! Here’s my adapted version…

Ingredients (makes 8):
• 1¾ cups milk
• 2 cups plain flour
• pinch of salt
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 1 tbsp caster sugar
• 3 large eggs, at room temperature

 

Method:
1. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and warm over very low heat – more than lukewarm, but not so hot it burns your finger when you test it.

2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl, and set aside.

3. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed for a few minutes, until paler and frothy/foamy.

4. Then turn the speed to low and slowly add the warm milk as you continue to mix.

5. Next, add the flour mixture, a spoonful at a time, and beat on medium speed for another few minutes, until well combined. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl down if the flour starts the build up.

6. Now the easy part – set the batter aside to rest at room temperature for an hour.

7. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 230°C and place 8 extra large silicon cupcake cases on an oven tray. You can purchase popover pans online or use large muffin trays, but this mixture is sticky and the silicon cases are WAYYY easier to clean up!

8. Fill the cases almost to the top, and bake at 230°C for 15 minutes. Then, turn the temperature down to 190°C and bake for a further 30 minutes. Pop them out of the cases, smother them in butter or jam or cream or whatever else you’re feeling, and enjoy!

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Cook this: CWA’s lemon cake. As made by the husband…

Little known fact: my husband can actually cook. He likes to say he can’t, but that’s crap. He does great Mexican (not Tex Mex, actual Mexican), can throw together an amazing bowl of olive oil and roast veggie pasta, and can do steak and mashed potato better than any pub I’ve ever been to. Baking, however, has never really been his thing. Until last year, when he was looking for something to do, and decided to try baking a cake. We’re really not lacking in options when it comes to cookbooks, but we needed something basic and easy for the first attempt, to up the odds of a successful bake, and therefore the odds of it happening again!

The good old Country Women’s Association Classics came to the rescue; if you’ve never cooked from one of their recipes, you’re missing out. They’re all tried and tested, super simple, and rarely require ingredients that you probably don’t already have handy. But it’s a bloody enormous book, around 850 pages, so there are a LOT of options. Husband settled on a lime cake, with only 8 ingredients and a few short steps, it seemed pretty do-able. And, it was – the first attempt turned our perfectly! Somehow both dense and light at the same time, I hate the word, but it was moist and fresh, and the lime hit was fantastic. It was eaten pretty quickly, and a few days later, I arrived home from work to find another one on the table – buoyed by the success of the first attempt he went again, to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Nope, perfect again!

Now, it’s his cake, and he made a lemon version of it the other night for mum’s birthday (because she loves lemon cakes), and it was every bit as good as the lime. He wasn’t real keen on the idea of writing a guest blog post on the recipe because “I just did exactly what the book told me,” but if this recipe was good enough for mum to ask for, I figured it was good enough to share here, too 🙂

 

Ingredients:
– 180g butter, softened
– 1 cup caster sugar
– finely grated zest of one lime (or lemon)
– 2 eggs, lightly beaten
– 1¼ cups self-raising flour
– ⅓ cup almond meal
– ¾ cup sour cream
– 2 tbsp lime (or lemon) juice

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and grease an 18cm square cake tin (though husband prefers to line it with baking paper so as not to risk it sticking to the tin).

2. Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the zest and eggs.

3. Into that mixture, fold in the sifted flour, almond meal, sour cream and juice.

4. Pour into the tin, smoothing over the surface with a spatula, and bake for 1 hour or until cooked through (check with a toothpick or skewer).

5. Cool in the tin until it’s cool enough to handle, then remove, slice and serve! A bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream goes really well with it, too.

 

* Keeps for around 2 – 3 days in an air-tight container. If you can make it last that long. Good luck with that, though, because it’s a damn good cake!

 

 

Cook this (in bulk to stock the freezer): Mississippi Roast

I’ve developed a new habit to make life easier for myself; on weekends, I bulk cook a meal, so I end up with dinner for us both on Sunday night plus 3 or 4 meals each extra, which I freeze. Then, mid week, if I’ve had a stressy few days and the thought of cooking gets me anxious, I just pluck out a zip-lock baggy from the freezer in the morning and dinner is ready for when I get home!


I’ve got a few favourite recipes for my frozen meals, but I wanted to find some new ideas, and in my recent lunch break Googling I came across this recipe from founding editor of New York Times Cooking, Sam Sifton. I love using chuck steak – cooking it low and slow, ending up with soft, tender chunk of beef, it’s perfect cold weather food. And winter is coming. I whipped it up for dinner on Sunday with some changes to Sam’s recipe and my own touches, and it came out surprisingly well – juicy, tender, fall-apart meat with an amazing flavour from the DIY ranch sauce. And SO cheap – the 1.7kg of chuck steak I used to make 12 meals only cost $20! Here’s how to do it…

Ingredients:
– ¼ cup plain flour
– salt & pepper
– 1.5 – 2kg chuck steak, any particularly large chunks of fat removed
– 30g butter
– 4 tbsp mayonnaise (I use low fat)
– 2 tbsp apple cider or white wine vinegar
– 1½ tsp dried dill
– ½ tsp sweet paprika
– 5 large potatoes, diced
– 3 large zucchinis, diced
– 4 large green capsicums, de-seeded and diced
– 500g button mushrooms, quartered
– pasta to serve
Method:
1. Sift the flour into a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Add the steak and rub the flour in well to coat.

2. Heat a non-stick frypan over high heat and spray with cooking oil. Add the steak and cook for 5 minutes or so on each side, to form a brown crust. Then, take the piece/s of steak off the pan and place in the bottom of your slow cooker. Add the butter, in chunks, on top of the steak, replace the lid and set to low heat.

3. As the slow cooker heats up, make the dressing by whisking together the mayo, vinegar, dill and paprika in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the steak and pour in a cup of water around the bottom of the steak. Replace the lid, and cook on low heat for 6 – 8 hours – it should easily shred once it’s done!


4. While the meat is cooking, prepare the veggies by placing on 2 large roasting trays, drizzling with a little olive oil, sprinkling with salt, and roasting in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes on high heat.

 

I decided to serve mine with pasta, so I cooked up a few cups and then divided it up between 12 zip-lock bags. I did the same with the veggies and meat (once I’d shredded it), and poured the ranch gravy from the slow cooker over each serve. Easy!

Cook this: one pot veggie pasta + one pot slow cooker chicken = easy 2 pot meal!

Reading the “I hate being a broke student” intro to Consuelo’s One Pot Zucchini Pasta recipe last week really resonated with me; I may not be a uni student anymore (that boat sailed almost a decade ago, actually), but I am still paying off my student debts. I may not be entirely broke, but I do try to live on a budget day to day, so that I can afford my travels. Being a food-lover, this gets hard. Sometimes I just want the Italian prosciutto and the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese instead of crappy shredded deli ham and homebrand cheese. My choice, I know. But, it is really nice to come across some quick, easy recipes I can bulk cook for a low price for the weeks I either can’t be bothered cooking every night, or don’t have a heap of cash to spare on groceries.


The bulk cooking thing has been something I’ve been doing a lot more lately – I mentioned it in this post, but once a week, I make HEAPS of one dish (fried rice, soup, pasta) and freeze the extras. As soon as I saw this recipe, I thought it’d be perfect. Some veggies, some cheap, plain pasta sauce, a bag of cheap pasta, and 2 chicken breasts made 10 meals – so much more cost effective than cooking one or two meals at a time!

 

I played around with Consuelo’s recipe a little; here’s how mine worked out.

Ingredients:
– 2 large skinless chicken breast fillets
– 3 cups chicken stock
– 4 medium zucchinis, halved lengthways and thickly sliced
– 500g large mushrooms, quartered
– 500g dry pasta (something like penne or spirals works well)
– 400ml vegetable stock
– 700ml bottle of plain pasta sauce
– salt, pepper and dried herbs – I like oregano and basil
– 2 punnets cherry tomatoes, halved

img_7194

Method:
1. Pot one – the chicken. Follow these instructions for your slow cooked chicken, using just chicken stock to cook the chicken in (no ginger, soy, etc). Give it around 3 – 4 hours on low in your slow cooked, then take it out, get rid of the liquid, and shred the meat.

2. For the second (pasta) pot, add a little oil to a large pot over medium heat – I used garlic infused olive oil due to fructose issues, otherwise you can use normal olive oil and throw some minced garlic cloves in.

3. Add the zucchini and mushrooms, and cook for 5 minutes or so, until they start to colour a little.

4. Pour the pasta into the pot, along with the stock, pasta sauce, salt, pepper and herbs. Stir to combine, bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, until the pasta is cooked through – cooking time will vary depending on the type of pasta you use, so keep checking it! Remember, you want your pasta a little al dente (still a bit hard), particularly if you’re planning on freezing it.

5. Stir through the cherry tomatoes and the shredded chicken, and serve with a little grated parmesan cheese on top.

 

That easy! I let it all cool down, divided it up into plastic zip-lock bags, labelled and froze them – that’s a whole lot of dinner looked after in advance! Thanks for the idea, Consuelo 🙂

Cook this: cranberry gingerbread granola

Because I’m kinda getting into Christmas more than usual this year, and wanted to find a way to extend the gingerbread man into a legitimate breakfast option.

You know what’s funny? I used to HATE gingerbread men as a kid. Absolutely hated them. I think it was because I was always given ones that had cinnamon as well as ginger in them, and cinnamon just makes me sick. So for the longest time I’ve gone without. Until last year; I gave this recipe a crack and just didn’t put cinnamon in (duh). Now, these gingerbread gentlemen are year-round favourites in our house!

I’ve made a few batches leading up to Christmas this year, too, and added dried cranberries in the last batch, which made them even better )didn’t actually think that was possible), so I based this granola recipe on that successful and quickly devoured batch…

Ingredients (makes 4 serves):
– 2 cups rolled oats
– 1-2 tsp ground ginger (depending on how strong you want it)
– 1 tsp brown sugar
– 2 tbsp nuts or seeds of choice
– 3 tbsp maple syrup
– 2 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– small handful dried cranberries

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a baking tray with paper.
2. Combine 1½ cups of the oats, the ground ginger, brown sugar and your nuts or seeds in a large mixing bowl, and set aside.
3. In a smaller bowl, combine the maple syrup, oil and vanilla; pour that into the oat mixture and stir through to coat the oats well.
4. Pour the oats onto the oven tray and bake for 15 – 20  minutes (depending on how crunchy you want them), checking every 5 minutes or so to toss the oats around, ensuring they bake evenly.
5. Let them cool on the tray, then mix in the rest of the oats and the cranberries, and enjoy! If you have a lovely friend like I do, you may even get a cutie pie gingerbread man to thrown in with your breakfast 😉

Cook this: mini microwave matcha pudding cakes

Monday morning. You’re meant to be rested and ready to go on Monday mornings. As I begin to type this on Sunday night, I get the feeling that’s not going to be the case for me. A lifelong insomniac, I’m also struggling with depression and anxiety and disordered eating. Throw all that into the cauldron along with how busy things are getting in the lead up to Christmas (not very compatible with a textbook introvert who gets her energy from being along rather than in big social situations), a particularly frustrating work situation that I’m stuck with at the moment, and my body struggling to adjust to some new medication, and it’s just, well…. yeah. So at this point, every Monday I can get through in one piece is a massive win right now!

I know a lot of people like to reward themselves for getting through another Monday unscathed; for some, it’s a beer or a nice glass of wine. For others, it’s a spot of online shopping. Or maybe watching their favourite guilty pleasure trashy TV show. Personally, I like a cup of tea on the couch in my PJs with a little something sweet to eat. So if I get through today, this is what I’m gonna be treating myself with.

This is a magical little cup of happiness, based on the recipe I used for the chocolate mug cake. Other than the matcha powder, it uses staple pantry ingredients that you should always have handy, and it only takes about 5 minutes start to finish, so it’s the perfect end-of-the-day treat 🙂 I also like to use pandan kaya on top of mine, because it tastes fantastic with the matcha – this is the stuff I use, which I get from ARC Asian Grocers at Preston Market. It’s SO GOOD!!!

 

To make one big pudding cup or two small ones:
– ¼ cup plain flour or almond meal (if I have almond meal, I like a 50/50 mix)
– ½ tsp matcha powder
– ¼ tsp baking powder
– ½ tbsp caster sugar
– ½ tbsp shredded coconut
– ¼ cup milk (I like almond milk for this)
– 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
– optional – a few strawberries or raspberries, pandan kaya

And then:
1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a coffee mug or tea cup.
2. Add in the wet ingredients and stir to combine completely.
3. If you want to add in berries, stir them in now.

4. Microwave for 1 – 2 minutes, depending on how strong your microwave is.
5. Take it out, let it cool for a minute, top with pandan kaya and a little more shredded coconut if you want, and enjoy!

I hope everyone has a good Monday; make sure you make time to do a little something for yourself, and if you need a little treat tonight, I hope you can enjoy a matcha pudding cup, too!

Cook this: super simple 6 ingredient cookies (gluten, lactose, egg free)

I used to hate Fridays. Back when I was working in gyms and in retail travel. I bloody hated Fridays. Because when everyone else was winding down from the week and ready to enjoy their weekend, I was just gearing up. Friday was like a Tuesday or Wednesday for me. For the first decade of my working life, I worked almost every weekend. And it sucked.

But now that I’m doing the corporate thing for work, and not stressing about whether or not I’ll actually get paid because I no longer get paid per personal training session or on commission per holiday sold, weekends are a thing of beauty. Friday is a happy day. I get to wear my jeans to work and be all “casual.” I get to visit my beloved Preston Market after work and do my groceries with the Euro-nannas. I get to take said groceries home and bake something! That’s where it can get a little tricky – Friday nights are when you want something nice to nibble on, but can’t actually be bothered putting in much of an effort, because, ya know, it’s Friday.

Enter these guys. Cookies from the heavens.
6 ingredients.
1 bowl.
1 spoon.
Highly customizable.
Gluten free.
Lactose free.
Egg free.

This is Friday night baking at its best. Now, throw these together when you get home this afternoon and prepare a glass of wine to go with that shitty movie you’re planning to unwind with after another long week at work.

Unless you work in the gym or retail sector, in which case prepare a double batch and a bottle of wine, and good luck for the weekend!!

(Based loosely on the cookie layer recipe from Eating Bird Food’s Twix Bars)

Ingredients:
– 1 cup almond meal
– ⅛ tsp sea salt
– ⅛ tsp baking soda
– 2 tbsp maple syrup
– 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

That’s the base 6 ingredients you need, but then you can top the cookies with whatever you want. I used chocolate chips, but anything goes!

1. Throw everything into a bowl and mix it together – when it becomes too crumbly, use your hands to smoosh it all together.

2. Line an oven tray with baking paper, and take tablespoon (or teaspoon, depending on what you’re after) sized chunks of dough, roll into balls and flatten slightly, placing them on the baking tray as you go. If you want to add a little something on top, like my chocolate chips, do that now.

3. Sit the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes, and while they’re resting, preheat the oven to 160°C.

4. Take the cookies out of the freezer and into the oven for 15 minutes; once they’re baked (they won’t brown up much, and that’s ok – they’re not meant to!), take them out of the oven and let them cool on the tray to room temperature.

5. Eat all of the cookies while watching the latest episodes of The Vampire Diaries and America’s Next Top Model. Yes they are my guilty pleasures, judge away, I don’t even care. Except that tonight I won’t be in my PJs by 7pm, because I’ll be out at the first Christmas party of the season… I hope they have cookies…