Saturday, August 19, 2017

Chicken and Bacon Ranch Casserole

Now once I saw this recipe I knew my kids would love it... of course they would considering it was pasta - cheesy pasta with chicken and bacon.  Little did they know that it would also contain salad dressing, Ranch Dressing, when they were enjoying every mouthful.
Yes you read correctly - Ranch Dressing.  One of the most loved salad dressing can actually be used in cooking and it compliments this pasta dish amazingly.  The smooth combination of the garlic, the herbs and the creaminess of the mayonnaise and sour cream added noticeable flavours to the marinated chicken and of course the goodness of bacon. 
It was so good the kids pretty much ate the whole casserole dish full in one sitting.

Chicken and Bacon Ranch Casserole
(Adapted from Top Quick Recipes)
Serves - 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of chilli sauce of your choice
1 teaspoon pepper
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon of fresh parsley
500 grams boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
500 grams bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
500 grams pasta of your choice
1 cup Homemade Ranch Dressing or store brought Ranch Dressing
1/2 cup light thickened cream
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In a large bowl place olive oil, chilli sauce, pepper, salt and parsley.  Mix until well combined.  Add chicken and toss to evenly coat.  Cover and set aside.

In a large frying pan, over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp.  Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel.
To the same frying pan add the marinated chicken and diced onion and cook until no longer pink in the center. Set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and cook pasta as per the packet directions.  When al dente drain well.
Add the chicken, bacon, ranch dressing and cream to the cooked pasta and toss until well coated.

Spray a large casserole dish with cooked spray Add ranch covered pasta to the greased baking dish

Sprinkle both cheeses and bake until cooked through and the cheese is completely melted, about 20 - 25 minutes.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Another preservative and additive free salad dressing!  I have made this several times for a special occasion but this time I actually made it to put in a pasta dish, Chicken and Bacon Ranch Casserole, that I had decided to make for dinner.  But to be perfectly honest it was a welcomed opportunity to make it again.

One jar, a few measuring spoons and this salad dressing is done.  Simple measure and shake.  Put in the fridge until required.  However it does not last as long as store brought Ranch Dressing so only make it when you need it.

You will be amazed with the taste of this Ranch Dressing - the texture, the fresh herbs and the clean flavours.

Homemade Ranch Dressing
(Recipe Adapted from Foodiecrush)

Makes: 1 cup approximately

6 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
4 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoon champagne or white wine vinegar
2 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tablespoon chopped chives
2 tablespoon Italian parsley, minced
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Add more milk for desired consistency.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe).

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Homemade Ricotta

Nothing beats being self sufficient and making your own food. It's quite therapeutic if you are into that sort of thing. I love it. To me experimenting with food to make other food is quite like a hobby. One follows a recipe and other times one doesn't. I honestly believe that if you are enjoying yourself and the outcome is good well it's a win-win situation.

Recently Noel and I participated in a cheese and bread making course. It was an all day event hosted by Tamara from Boatshed Cheese down in Dromana, on our beautiful Mornington Peninsula.  Tamara runs a variety of cooking classes which are homely, comfortable and as there are only a small amount of participants per class they are very easy to follow and you have a opportunity to be hands-on during the classes.  If you can get in you should do yourself a favour and book a class.
Fresh ricotta is a magnificently easy and quick cheese to make as far as cheeses go - the longest part of the process is actually boiling the milk.  You will require to have a food grade thermometer to ensure temperature accuracy. Once the milk starts to reach heat the temperature moves fast.
What ever you do please do not buy fancy vinegar.  This recipe requires good old plain white vinegar so don't go all out there flavoured or imported vinegar. Cheap white vinegar is best because it has a high acidity level.  It's not added for flavor - it's added to simply acidify the milk and will do nothing to the actual taste of your cheese.

Homemade Ricotta

Makes: 1.5 kilograms approx.
10 litres cows milk (full cream or low fat) or goats milk
1 - 2 tablespoons salt
200 - 250 millilitres plain white vinegar

Heat the milk to 60 degrees Celsius over high heat, stirring constantly

When milk has reached 60 degrees Celsius add salt and stir well.

Continue stirring while heating until the milk reaches 90 degrees Celsius or 85 degrees Celsius is you are using goat milk.

As the milk edges past 9 degrees Celsius (or 85 degrees Celsius if using goats milk) add the vinegar and stir until flecks begin to appear on the surface.

Remove from the heat and continue stirring for a few seconds until the liquid turns a clear almost greenish tinge and the coagulated curds are clearly visible.

Allow to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes so that curds can rise to the surface.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop curds into ricotta baskets or cheese moulds or even a colander and drain over the sink for 30 minutes then transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Store in an airtight container for up to 7 days in the refrigerator.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Thai Style Chicken Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce

I have been cooking the same Satay Sauce since I was a kid... it's the same one my mam cooks.  It comes from a old Women's Weekly Cookbook titled Chinese Cooking Class Cookbook.  Many of you would have seen this cookbook whether it was when it was first published, then republished or more likely on the shelf at an Opportunity Shop.  However saying this I thought it was time to try a different Satay Sauce to accompany some chicken skewers. 
Have you ever google a recipe and been amazed by how many different results you get?  Makes me wonder how big Google is or then again how big the world really is! I think I could have read about Satay Sauce for days.  Instead of the Chinese style sauce this time I thought I would be adventurous and try a recipe from another style of cooking, Thai.  While both hubby and I enjoy eating Thai foods we rarely cook it at home for a reason I can not produce.  I guess it's a style that we just haven't really experimented with - yet!

The marinade should taste sweet, spicy, and salty. It doesn't have to be the spiciest but the stronger more vibrant flavours should be sweet and salty. If you need to adjust the taste add more sugar or more fish sauce to adjust the taste. However if you would want it to be spicier you also can add more chilli.

Now for the sauce.  No peanut butter in sight as this authentic recipe for Thai peanut sauce is made with real peanuts! This part of the meal was quick and easy to make.  While this sauce is meant to have be smooth, but if you prefer it with a bit of crunch when processing the nuts leave some smaller pieces to the side. Adding more fish sauce (or soy sauce) if not salty enough, or more cayenne if not spicy enough. If too salty, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice. If you'd prefer it sweeter, add a little more sugar.

Overall this wasn't one of the easiest recipes to make but well worth the effort.

Thai Style Chicken Satay Skewers with Satay Sauce
(Recipe adapted from The Spruce)
Serves: 6
1/4 cup minced lemongrass, fresh or frozen
2 shallots
4 cloves garlic
1 to 2 fresh red chillies, sliced
1 thumb-size piece galangal or ginger, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce (available at Asian food stores)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons brown sugar (you need all of this)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
18 chicken tenderloins or 1 kilogram chicken breast fillets, sliced thinly
1 cup fresh-tasting dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
1/3 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 - 2 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste
2 - 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup coconut milk
18 wooden skewers

Make the marinade by placing the lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chiles, galangal or ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, and oil in a food processor or chopper. Process well.

Place chicken in a bowl and pour the marinade over. Stir well to combine. Cover and allow to marinating for at least 2 hours but overnight if time permits.

Soak skewers in hot water for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile place remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend or process until sauce is smooth. If you prefer a runnier peanut sauce, add a little more water or coconut milk.  Place in a bowl.
Thread chicken onto the skewers leaving a quarter of the skewer empty to act as a handle when grilling or frying.

Grill or fry the satay, basting the first time you turn it with a little of the leftover marinade from the bowl. Depending on how thin your meat is, the satay should be done in 10 to 20 minutes.

Place satay sauce in the microwave on high for 1 - 2 minutes or until warmed through.

Serve with Thai jasmine rice and Thai peanut sauce for dipping.
Note:  This sauce tends to thicken as it sits so just add a little water or coconut milk to thin it out, as needed. Otherwise, it stores well if kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or you can place in the freezer.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Tatws A Chig yn y Popty (Meat and Potatoes in the Oven)

Many of you know that I was actually born in Wales many moons ago.  Our journey to Australia was born from a dream my parents had for a better life for them and their family.  And like other family members before us they embarked on the epic long journey across the waters to start a new life long adventure.

While I have grown most of my life in Australia, I am very passionate with my cooking especially when cooking recipes from my heritage and my childhood.  Tatws A Chig yn y Popty, translated to Meat and Potatoes in the oven, is one of my naughty all time favourites. I say naughty as there really isn't a low calorie version of this recipe and nor should there be as it would really take away the tradition from this dish.

Unlike most roast meat dishes there is not a gravy as such to accompany this meal - more like a rich broth that has envelope all the flavours into a juice that tantalizes the mouth and comforts the belly.  As this roast is cooked low and slow the meat is very tender and practically falls away from the bone.  Traditionally this dish uses lamb shoulder or the lamb flaps (ribs) but I guess it would be just as nice with any cut of meat.

With the vegetables placed under the meat while cooking they too take on the flavour of the meat juices and are a combination of tender and crispy depending on their placement within the roasting dish.

Tatws A Chig yn y Popty (Meat and Potatoes in the Oven)

Serves: 6 - 8
2kg shoulder lamb
1/4 cup oil
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
1 kilogram potatoes, peeled and halved
1 kilogram carrots, peeled and cut in to large chunks
brown onions, peeled and quartered

Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius.

Season lamb with oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper ensuring that the lamb is completely covered. 

Place the lamb in a roasting tin and add the water.

Cover with foil and roast for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and place the meat on a plate. Add the potatoes, carrots and onions to the baking dish, mixing to ensure all are covered with remaining juices.  Place the lamb on top of vegetables, cover with foil and cook for a further 1½ - 2 hours, or until meat is tender.

Remove foil and cook for a further 30 minutes at 200 degress Celsius to crisp up the lamb and the top of the vegetables.

Serve the lamb sliced, with the potatoes, carrots and onions accompanied with steamed vegetables and crusty bread to mop up the juices.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Zucchini and Bacon Muffins

Well I baked something sweet this morning and thought I may as well keep it going while the oven was on and flour was all throughout the kitchen... so I thought I would bake something savoury.  I had some zucchini that needed using so that was going to be the star ingredient.

I often make a Zucchini, Bacon and Thyme Slice but this time I thought I would make muffins, just for something different, with the idea that the family may just eat them for breakfast or take them to work or school for lunch.

Jam packed with the goodness of vegetables, lots of zucchini, carrots and onions, along with cheese and a delicate hint of sweet chilli sauce along with everyone's favourite bacon I cannot believe how light these muffins are. Not to mention an easy muffin to make.

Sitting here, watching these fluffy light yet flavoursome muffins cool I am actually not quite sure if there will be any left for tomorrow??  Maybe I had better get dinner cooked....

Zucchini and Bacon Muffins
(Recipe adapted from Best Recipes)
Makes: 12

1 tablespoon low-fat butter
1 onion diced
4 short-cut bacon rashers
2 carrot medium grated
1 zucchini large grated
3 large egg
1/4 cup light thickened cream
1/3 cup parmesan cheese grated
2/3 cup tasty cheese grated
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
2/3 cup self-raising flour sifted
ground white pepper 

Melt butter and cook onion and bacon until soft. Add zucchini and carrot and cook until soft. Allow to cool.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Mix in cream, both cheeses, sweet chilli sauce and salt and pepper.

Add cooled bacon and vegetable mixture and stir.

Add sifted flour and stir.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Pour into a greased muffin pan and bake for 25 minutes until brown and cooked through.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe).

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

While I have always and will always maintain that I am not the "housewife" type but since being made redundant I have actually been enjoying my time at home.  It has given me some time to actually relax and I am really feeling better for it.  I have also been able to do some blogging and sharing of recipes with you all which gives me great pleasure.  Not to mention I have had time to catch up on other websites/blogs I follow and also find some new ones to read.
Today while looking for inspiration for some old bananas (I hate wasting food) I came across a website that I really like.  Averie Cooks is a vibrant and fresh site full of quick and easy recipes that are uncomplicated and easy to follow.  And that is exactly where I found this recipe for Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.
While I adapted the recipe the results was perfect.  Crispy yet soft cookies with a bold banana flavor married with scrumptious milk chocolate laced with a hint of cinnamon.  The rolled oats complimented the cookies giving them a homemade texture and that old fashioned appeal.  Do not use instant or quick-cook as they will not give the same outcome.
Don't overbake even if they don't look cooked.  The cookies firm up as they cool.  These will keep for about 1 week in a sealed container if they last that long! 
Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Recipe adapted from Averie Cooks)
Makes: approx. 20
1 large egg
2 small/medium or 1 extra-large ripe bananas
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
60 grams unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 cinnamon, added to taste
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
200 grams milk chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric mixer) combine the egg, bananas, sugars, butter, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well combined. 
Add the oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.  Add 3/4 of the chocolate chips, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and spray with cooking spray. 
Using a spoon or your hands form equal-sized mounds of dough approximately 1/4 cup in size.  Place on the baking tray spaced apart.  Strategically place a few chocolate chips on top of each cookie.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Bake for about 13 minutes (for very soft cookies, longer for more well-done cookies), or until edges have set and tops are just set. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheet.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cheesy Potato and Vegetable Medallions

I would have to say that I buy Grönsakskaka from the shop at Ikea every single time that we go there - in fact I get more joy from the grocery shop at the end of the giant furniture store than actually looking at all the furniture. Don't get me wrong the furniture is beautiful and I dream of owning an Ikea house but that little shop at the end is like my reward for going shopping there.
For those that have not experienced these Swedish Potato and Vegetable Medallions they are simply a cheesy mashed potato and vegetable ball that are oven cooked.  They are literally the perfect side dish.  Found in the frozen section of the little grocery store at Ikea.
So why I am telling you about these tasty treats?  Because I have made a copy cat version using left over vegetables from the night before.  Having left over boiled potatoes and mixed vegetables, which I did not want to waste, I sat down and started thinking about things we could use them for.  Obviously we could have mashed them for a Shepherd's Pie topping or similar but there was way too much for even a quick fry up.  Then, while talking about mashed potatoes, I remembered the Swedish Grönsakskaka.
Of course as the vegetables we had were already cooked we could not claim that these were cooked traditionally. However I will be doing that soon - well once we have eaten all the medallions that are in our freezer!
Cheesy Potato and Vegetable Medallions
Serves: 12
1 kilogram potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 kilogram frozen mixed Winter Vegetables (or vegetables of your choice)
3 spring onions, chopped
1/2 cup grated tasty cheese
2 eggs
150 ml thickened cream
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, if required
ground white pepper
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add potatoes. Boil until just cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.  Drain and allow to cool.  When potatoes are cool, mash coarsely (you don't want smooth at this point).

Bring a second saucepan of water to boil and add vegetables.  Boil until cooked through, approximately 5 - 8 minutes or cook as per directions on packet.  Drain and allow to cool.  Mash the vegetables, also coarsely (you want vegetable pieces not puree).
Put the potatoes and the vegetables in the same saucepan. 
Add spring onions and cheese.

Put the eggs in a medium bowl and lightly whisk them.  Add and garlic powder, onion powder and thyme.  Whisk them together with the eggs.  Season with salt and pepper.
Add egg mixture to the potatoes and stir gently until all ingredients are completely mixed through.  If mixture is too moist, add breadcrumbs to assist mixture to firm up.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
Line a baking tray with cooking paper and spray with cooking spray.  Using a round cutter for it's shape and place on tray.  Fill to the top with mixture.  Using the back of a spoon gently push down on mixture while lifting cutter up.  Repeat until all mixture is used.
Or you can spray a standard muffin pan with cooking spray and put 1/2 of a cup of the mixture into each cup.  Use a spoon to push the mix into the cup so that there are no air pockets.

Spray tops of medallions with cooking spray.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Turn medallions over and bake for a further 10 minutes or until brown and crispy.

Serve warm as a side dish or these are perfect for breakfast also.

This recipe can be doubled or quadrupled as they freeze very well. If you are planning to freeze do so after cooking for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, allow to cool and then place on an uncovered tray in the freezer. After they have completely frozen place them in a sealed plastic bag or container for storage.  To reheat the frozen medallions defrost completely and cook, as above, for 10 minutes or you can microwave them for one minute and then cook as above.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Chorizo and Thyme Carbonara

While we are on the subject of pasta - here is another filling and delicious pasta dish.

This upbeat version of traditional Carbonara has a bit of a spicy kick from the Spanish Chorizo while still having the comforting taste of a creamy pasta sauce. 

As with everyone's favourite Pasta Carbonara the recipe is still simple - the basic ingredients of eggs, parmesan and cream.  Replacing the bacon with Chorizo which caramelized until crunchy and this coupled with fresh thyme leaves makes a delicious change..

Chorizo and Thyme Carbonara
(Recipe sourced from Super Food Ideas Magazine)

Serves: 4

375g dried pappardelle pasta
2 chorizo, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup light thickened cream for cooking
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Cook pasta following packet directions until just tender. Drain, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pan over low heat.

Meanwhile, heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook chorizo, stirring, for 5 minutes or until browned. Stir in thyme. Remove from heat.

Whisk egg, cream and parmesan in a jug. Add egg mixture, reserved cooking liquid, 1/2 the parsley and 1/2 the chorizo to pasta. Toss to combine and heat through. Season with pepper.

Serve pasta topped with remaining chorizo and parsley, and extra parmesan.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Slow Cooked Beef and Pancetta Ragu

Italian food - food for the soul.  Let's face it everyone loves pasta even those low-carb diet followers secretly love pasta.  I honestly have never met anyone that does not like pasta.  Have you?
This wonderful Italian number shines at the top of the comfort food list... slow cooked tender beef with pancetta in a thick tomato and herb sauce is perfect especially on a cold winter's night. 
Now this recipe does take quite a few hours on the stove top but I am sure that it would work perfectly well in a slow cooker.  I was home all day so it was easy for me to keep an eye on the pot on the stove top.  A slow cooker would definitely be easier though.
Fresh thyme and rosemary are perfectly placed in this sauce - please ensure you do try and use fresh herbs anytime you can the chance.  The flavour is much fresher and bolder than dried herbs in packets.
This ragu can be made ahead of time.  Allow to cool and it will last in the fridge for up to 3 days in a sealed container.  It's perfectly good to freeze also. 

Slow Cooked Beef and Pancetta Ragu
(recipe adapted from

Serves: 8
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1.25kilograms gravy beef, trimmed, cut into 3cm pieces
1 large brown onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
100 gram pancetta, finely chopped
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons plain flour
3/4 cup red wine
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
410 gram can crushed tomatoes
750 grams dried pappardelle pasta
50 grams  butter, chopped
Grated parmesan to serve
Chilli flakes to serve (optional)

Heat half the oil in a large heavy-based flameproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Cook the beef, in batches, until browned all over. Transfer to a bowl.

Reduce heat to medium. Heat remaining oil in same dish. Add onion, carrot, capsicum, pancetta, rosemary and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until vegetables just begin to soften.

Add garlic. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until vegetables are coated. Stir in wine. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 minute or until reduced slightly. Add tomato paste, stock and tomatoes. Stir to combine.

Return beef to dish. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Cover. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 hours, or until meat is very tender and sauce thickens. Use the back of a spoon or a potato masher to break up meat.

Cook pasta following packet directions. Drain well. Return to pan. Add butter. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve ragu on pasta, sprinkled with parmesan and chilli, if desired.

Homemade White Bread

A couple of weekends ago Noel and I attended a Cheese and Bread Making Course at Boatshed Cheese on the Mornington Peninsula.  It was a full day course and it was a fantastic day.  Not only to make some wonderful cheese and bread, but to eat our produce and to spend the day with people who also share our passion for good food and cooking especially Tamara, our host.
Yesterday, I decided to put my new found knowledge to the test and make bread.  I made a white loaf and 2 large focaccias to accompany our dinner of Slow Cooked Beef and Pancetta Ragu with Pappardelle.
To be honest I actually thought making bread was hard - all that kneading, rising, proving and then more kneading.  But I have to tell you it's not!!  Yes your read correctly it is not.  Thanks to Tamara.  Tamara shared with us secrets, advice and techniques that make bread making easy, interesting and inviting to undertake.
This recipe is a fantastic mix and leave recipe.  Not to mention the bread itself is light and airy.  Oh and the taste is so different than the preservative filled shop bread... do yourself a favour and make yourself some bread you will definitely fall in love with your own home baked produce.

Now I definitely have the bread bug I am off to experiment with this recipe and all the different flavours and fillings I can dabble with.
Basic White or Wholemeal Bread
(Recipe adapted from Tamara @ Boatshed Cheese)

5 cups unbleached bread flour
(or any combination of white or wholemeal flour to equal 5 cups)
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
2 cups warm water

Add all dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and stir.

Add oil, water and mix to a sticky dough. Turn out onto a well floured work surface and begin to knead. Continue kneading until the dough is soft and elastic. Shape bread into a round form and place in an oiled bowl, to rise until doubled in size. This should take about one hour.

Knock down and shape for a freestanding loaf on an oven tray, or shape to bake in a bread tin. The tin or tray should be oiled and lightly sprinkled with polenta or lined with baking paper to avoid sticking.

Allow the dough to rise until doubled, and then glaze with milk, water or beaten egg. Bake at 190c. for 40 minutes (less for smaller breads or rolls).

Remove from tin or tray immediately and check that the loaf is cooked. If not, return to the oven for about 5 minutes more cooking.

Allow the bread to cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Oregano and Chilli Crispy Potatoes

To accompany the Chicken Parmesan Bake I decided that as I had already broken the mould of the traditional Chicken Parmigiana I may as well go all out and not serve it with hot chips.  

Instead I decide that I would take some baby chat potatoes and toss them in some herbs, bake them in the oven and voila a really nice and tasty side dish.  Everyone loves oregano and crispy potatoes - who doesn't love potatoes anyway?  I decided to add some chilli sprinkles to give them a little lift.

Oregano and Chilli Crispy Potatoes

Serves: 6

1 kilogram baby Chat potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt

Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Line a baking tray with baking paper.

In a large bowl combine potatoes, oil, oregano, chilli and salt.  Mix well.

Lay in single layer on baking tray.

Bake in oven for 30 - 45 minutes, turning several times, or until crispy and golden.

Serve immediately.

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

It's no secret in our circle of family and friends that both my kids (and even my son's girlfriend) are massive fans of Chicken Parmigiana - every time that we go out for dinner to a bistro it's almost instant when I ask have you decided what you want for dinner the instant reply (unless something really catches their eye) is Chicken Parmigiana, Chips and Salad.  

I am going to be totally honest here - I am not a fan of Chicken Parmigiana!  Yep!  I find the deep fried crumbed chicken fillet at times greasy along with the generally rather large amount of melted cheese on top too much for me.. too much grease on some occasions.  Sadly I just don't get the phenomena!! And I sasy phenomena as it seems to be people's most go to dish when they are out for dinner.

So with this in mind, I came across an American recipe for Chicken Parmesan Casserole.  After a little more reading I actually found many different versions of the same casserole (as we do with most American recipes depending on with US State you live in).  Many different versions from whether the tomato sauce is on the top or the bottom, whether you crumb the chicken and fry it beforehand or whether you use croutons in the topping..... so in my quest to please the family I morphed a few recipes together and came up with "my" version (like Jo has never done that before - I can see my family rolling their eyes in the back of their heads LOL).

I have to say that this dish is absolutely amazing.  For a start it was very easy to prepare not to mention cook.  I am not overly fussed with plain tomato passata so I add the element of making a quick tomato sauce to top the chicken fillets with.  If you want to use a jar or two of plain or herbed passata or pasta sauce please go right ahead. That will only make this recipe even easier.

Yes it was cheesy - the gooey mozzeralla layer laced with fresh basil was soft and comforting.  I know the cheese is a major component to the parmigiana.  And for those who do like the crumbs, they are not omitted completely.  Panko breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese and parsley make a beautiful crunchy topping - completing the dish perfectly.  

Even though I did not serve with the traditional hot chips - I served it with Oregano and Chilli Crispy Potatoes and salad, I do have to say this dish was a hit at the House of Murray and I am sure that it will be when served at yours also.  You may just want to double the recipe - just like I did!

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Serves 4

cooking spray
1 onion, finely diced
1 bottle tomato passata 660 gram
1 can diced tomatoes 440 gram
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
4 skinless chicken breast fillets, visible fat removed
ground white pepper
1 cup grated mozzarella
20 grams fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheeses
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

Spray a small saucepan with cooking spray and heat over low heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened.  Add passata and tomatoes.  Season with black pepper.  Simmer until thickened and liquid has slightly reduced, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.  Place olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes in casserole dish and stir to combine.  Ensure this is spread around the surface of the dish.  Place chicken breast fillets in a single layer in the dish.  Season with salt and pepper.

Evenly spread the tomato mixture over the chicken fillets.

Top with mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle basil over mozzarella.

In a bowl combine the panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and parsley.  Spread evenly over the mozzarella.

Bake in oven for 1 hour or until chicken is cooked through.

Serve immediately.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Beef and Mushroom Casserole with Parmesan Dumplings

Another winter warmer to make an appearance on this blog is Beef and Mushroom Casserole with Parmesan Dumplings.  

Who could want more on a colder evening that fills you to your toes? A nice thick rich beef casserole with mushrooms and thyme as the main stars with secretly hidden carrots and zucchini complimented with nice soft dumplings laced with Parmesan cheese.  

This recipe was slow cooked in the oven but could easily be cooked in a slow cooker for those that need to be prepared (normally I have the slow cooker on at least 3 times a week in our house).

Beef and Mushroom Casserole with Parmesan Dumplings
(recipe adapted from

Serves: 8

1.5 kilograms gravy beef, cut into 2cm chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onion, chopped
10 bacon rashes, chopped
500 grams button mushrooms, halved
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine
2 cans 400 grams chopped tomatoes
1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs
4 carrots, peeled and grated
2 zucchini, grated
freshly ground black pepper
75 grams butter
3 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup fresh parmesan grated
1 1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius.

Brown diced beef in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Transfer to plate.

To the same pan add onion, bacon, mushrooms, garlic and cook until soft. Stir in flour.

Add beef stock, red wine, tomatoes, thyme and smoked paprika. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, add carrots and zucchini.  Return beef to the mixture and simmer covered for 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon into a large ovenproof dish.

Cook covered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally or until beef is tender.

Increase oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

In a large bowl rub butter into self-raising flour. Stir in Parmesan and milk. Bring together. Roll into 24 balls. Place on casserole mixture.

Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Alternatively slow cooker directions:

Place in beef mixture in a slow cooker vessel and cook on low for 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Transfer mixture into a large oven proof dish.

Make dumplings as above and place on casserole mixture.

Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Serve with steamed vegetables.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Sticky Asian Chicken Wings

Well it's definitely been a long time between posts for me and to be honest I have so many recipes backed up it's kind of embarrassing.  We at the House of Murray have been ridiculously busy with life in it's entirety.... work, school, junior and senior football, etc., that by the time we sit down we fall asleep.  Oh well, I guess a busy life is still so much better than no life, correct?

I have been eyeing off carious recipes for sometime as we have been experimenting quite a bit with Chicken Wings over the last few months with one of our favourite recipes being Heston's Barbecue Chicken Wings and of course, the recipe that started our wing obsession off Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing.

This recipe not only lives up to it's name with the stickiness of the sauce but the wings are also mega crunchy.   Baked in the oven makes them a win win in the fat stakes also but they could easily be deep fried if preferred.  I liked the fact that the wings are quickly tossed in the sauce just before serving and that the wings were not cooked in the sauce as then they would not have that crispy crunch.  The sprinkle of crushed peanuts and spring onions over the top added to the texture and the flavour which only made the dish even yummier.

We were lucky enough to buy nice sized wingettes (no wing tip or drumstick) but you could use the full chicken wing if you prefer - that's totally up to you and wouldn't change this recipe at all.

Sticky Asian Chicken Wings

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per serve: ?

2 kilograms chicken wingettes
1/4 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
cooking spray
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
2 teaspoons crushed ginger
1 tablespoon chilli sauce (such as Maggi)
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
4 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons chopped roasted peanut
2 spring onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Rinse and pat dry chicken wings with paper towel.

In a large snap lock bag combine flour, salt and pepper.  Add chicken, seal and toss until chicken is covered with the flour mixture.

Line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.  Spray with cooking spray.  Line the chicken wings on the tray in a single layer and spray with cooking spray.  Cook in oven for 20 minutes, turn over and increase oven heat to 220 degrees Celsius.  Continue to cook for a further 20 minutes or until crispy.

In a small sauce pan, combine the garlic, ginger, chilli sauce, tomato sauce, honey, and soy sauce together. Simmer on lower heat until thickened and slightly sticky.

Toss the chicken wings and coat well with the sauce.

Transfer the chicken wings onto a serving platter, top with peanut and spring onions.

Serve immediately.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spicy Pork Meatballs with Spaghetti

Pasta is one of those dishes that even the fussiest of eaters will enjoy... ultimately pasta is a comfort food for many.  In our house it is definitely held in high regard when you just want to eat something for the soul and to make you feel better about everything.

Today, with having a full day of football ahead, I knew that we need a quick easy dinner that when we got home from football.  Knowing all I had to do was to make the tomato sauce and cooked pasta, this ensured that we had an hearty Sunday night dinner but I wasn't spending all evening in the kitchen.  While I made this recipe today in halves - in total it would take less than 45 minutes to take this dish from kitchen to table so it would be a perfect weeknight wonder also.

I quickly made some yummy bite size meatballs, pork laced with thyme, chilli and as usual, hidden vegetables.  These were baked in the other rather than fried in an effort to reduce the fat content of adding extra oil.    The meatballs themselves, can be cooked at an earlier date, cooled and frozen in preparation for this dish or another.

The tomato sauce, in this instance, was a very easy mix very similar to a Marinara Sauce.  Tomatoes, simmered with onions until thickened laced with a little sweetness to compliment the herbs and spices in the meatballs.

Serve with a pasta of your choice.  In our house it's Meatballs with Spaghetti - just like in that memorable Disney movie Lady and the Tramp.  Whichever pasta you choose I am sure this will become a favourite on your menu.

Spicy Pork Meatballs with Spaghetti

Serves: 8

cooking spray
1 kilogram lean minced pork
2 onions, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 zucchini, grated
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 teaspoon crushed chilli or sambal oelek
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 brown onion, finely diced, additional
2 cans diced tomatoes 
2 cup water
1 tablespoon white sugar
freshly ground black pepper
spaghetti or pasta of your choice
grated Parmesan Cheese, for serving
dried chilli flakes, optional

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  

Line a large baking tray with baking paper.  Spray with cooking spray.

Place pork, onions, carrots, zucchini, garlic, chilli paste, tomato paste, pepper, thyme, parsley and paprika in a very large bowl.  Mix, using your hands, until well combined.  Shape pork mixture into 48 evenly sized meatballs.  

Place meatballs on a baking tray in a single layer.  Bake in oven for 30 or until browned, turning several times during cooking.

Meanwhile spray a large saucepan with cooking spray and heat over low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened. Add tomatoes, water and sugar. Season with salt black pepper. Bring to the boil, stirring, reduce heat to a simmer.

Remove meatballs from oven and add to the tomato mixture carefully.  Stir gently to mix through and simmer until thickened and liquid has slightly reduced, stirring occasionally.

While sauce is simmering, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook spaghetti or pasta as per the directions on the packet.  Drain.

Serve spaghetti or pasta topped with the meatballs and sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese and additional chilli flakes, if desired.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Barbecued Cheesy Capsicums

Well now I have started I am going to keep going... yes these will be dishes that we have cooked over the last month or so but I need to do this and I am trying to catch up.  It's very interesting the life that we are all dealt.  Mine changes direction every now and then!  Different situations present themselves with different options and it takes ones focus to complete, fix or defeat.  It's just the journey of life.  I've decided, that while my life often seems full, I need to make the most out of every day from here on in.

Blogging is something that I do really enjoy doing.  It's like being a teacher and sharing your knowledge. We enjoy cooking and eating lots of variety in food - while many of you think that what we cook is way over the top we need you to understand it's all about the flavour not the recipe. Don't get me wrong one of our favourite family dishes is Eggs Beans and Chips, trust me there is pure excitement when that's on the weekly menu planner.  However the majority of our recipes are easy - however some have some interesting elements.  Our aim with this blog is just to share ideas, especially low fat healthy recipes (as we are human - not all are), with you all.  If any of you try the recipes and enjoy the food we do - well that's fantastic.  Let us know -  we would love to hear your thoughts.

Anyhow enough said.....

This dish was something out of left field for my kids.... I will be honest I think there were mixed feelings once I put the platter on the table. My husband and I thought they were great, son enjoyed it but daughter didn't enjoy the texture of the capsicum!! LOL she is 15 and at the moment anything we cooked has the potential of having issues!

The capsicums filled with a cheesy egg mix incorporating corn, cheese and bacon were a much lighter dinner than meat and 3 veg but it made such a refreshing change.  Once prepared, cooked on the barbecue, these served with some rocket and sundried tomatoes made a refreshing change.

Barbecued Cheesy Capsicums
(recipe adapted from Weight Watchers Make It Fresh)

Serves; 4
SmartPoints per serve: 10

100 grams short cut bacon, fat trimmed, chopped
4 medium red capsicum (about 200 grams each)
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/3 cup low fat grated tasty cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives, plus extra to garnish
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
80 grams rocket leaves
100 grams sun dried tomatoes not in oil

Preheat a hooded barbecue over medium heat.  (If you don't have a hooded barbecue, you can bake capsicums in an oven preheated to 200 degrees Celsius or 180 degrees Celsius fan forced.)  

Lightly spray a small non-stick frying pan with oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Cook bacon, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until browned and crisp.  Transfer to a large bowl, cool.

Cut each capsicum in half length ways.  Remove and discard core and seeds.  Place on a tray - cut a small sliver off the base of each capsicum if they don't sit flat.

Add corn, cheese and chives to the bacon and mix well.  Divide bacon mixture among capsicum halves.

Pour egg into capsicum halves.  Sprinkle with paprika.

Turn off burners under barbecue flat plate, leaving grill side on.  Place capsicum halves on flat plate and cook, with hood down, for 25 - 30 minutes or until egg has set. 

Remove from barbecue to a platter.  Sprinkle with extra chives and serve with rocket and sun dried tomatoes.

French Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

I might get this blogging caper happening as a regular happening at some stage in 2017 but I cannot believe that 57 days into the New Year and we still haven't stopped being very busy. Oh well I guess this is just life and how fast it goes by. So much has happened since my last blog (in all honesty without looking I couldn't say when that was). Work has been busy, footy training has started and we have already been on a holiday with the Murray side of the family and a road trip to NSW to visit family and friends in a whirlwind 5 day trip that was a MUST to do. We went to visit my Aunty Maureen and Uncle Dave. In just 10 short weeks we have lost someone very special to me and my family to terminal cancer - Aunty Maureen passed late Thursday evening after such a dignified and amazing journey. Both Mam and I will be attending the service on Friday in Sydney.

I first met my Aunty Maureen, Uncle Dave and my 3 cousins, Steven, Michelle and Alison (the Jones) at the age of 18 months. Strangely the first time I met them was on a Greek Ocean Liner called the Elinis. We were all on our way to start our new lives in Australia - this was in 1973. The Jones were coming from Liverpool. It was then that I also met more family - Lars, Pip, Marica and Annette who were from Finland and Rolf, Anchristin, Ingela and Anna from Sweden. Who would have thought 44 years ago that we would have all still remained so close. Distance may be an issue at times but to me growing up with all of these important people infiltrating my life at some stage, and still today, my life has been truly blessed. While we are not related by blood we are still very much family.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because of my Aunty Maureen. Even while she was sick every time we spoke she told me how she follows our cooking adventures on Facebook all the time and that she was always in awe of our food. She often would encourage me to take up a career in food because she knows that I have the passion for it. It's actually because of her that I am making the effort to post this today.

Today we had close friends Leigh and Lauren over for lunch with their two gorgeous daughters, Harlow and Lenni. Funnily they seem more like family to me than just friends. Knowing that they both love cheesecake, I decided to make my signature French Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Berries (to be honest have no idea why I haven't posted about this cheesecake before?) Harlow helped me to decorate the cheesecake just before serving which was a very special moment for me today.

This French Vanilla Cheesecake is so easy to make, is no bake and the vanilla flavour is to die for. It's not an overly sweet cheesecake and I think that the fresh berries are a perfect compliment to the creamy vanilla center. 

For the base today I used Marie Biscuits however you could actually use any biscuit flavour of your choice.  Depending on your pan and the thickness you press the crumb you may have some left over and that is perfectly fine.  Don't make it too thick or it will be hard to cut.  

The recipe calls for it to set overnight but to be perfectly honest 6 hours is long enough.  If you wanted to make a smaller one in a flan tin just half the recipe.

Do yourself a flavour and give it a go.....

French Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Berries
(recipe adapted from

Serves: 8

500g packet plain sweet biscuits (such as Marie)
400g butter, melted
600ml thickened cream, whipped
6 teaspoons powdered gelatine
3 tablespoons boiling water
1000g cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 cup caster sugar
300ml thickened cream, extra
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
Fresh berries of your choice, to decorate

Grease a 20 cm round (base) spring-form pan. Using a food processor, process biscuits until fine crumbs. Add butter. Process until combined. Press the biscuit mixture over base and side of prepared pan. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream until thickened. Set aside.

Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatine over boiling water in a heatproof jug. Whisk with a fork until gelatine has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Gradually beat in gelatine mixture until combined. Fold in whipped cream. Pour mixture into prepared pan, leveling top with a spatula. Cover.

Refrigerate overnight or until set.

When ready to decorate, place cream and icing sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until thickened and forming peaks.

Remove the cheesecake from pan. Decorate top of cheesecake with whipped cream and fresh berries of your choice. Serve.