Saturday, May 21, 2016

Chicken Corn and Cheese Quesadila

The kids had a really nice sleep in this morning and I must admit we did too.  Then I remembered I had to pick up my car from a friend's house as we left it there overnight (yes we were being very responsible adults after enjoying a few drinks last night).
Needless to say that breakfast was missed so I treated the kids to a very tasty brunch.  One I knew that they would enjoy as it was different to toasted cheese or baked bean sandwiches - which are a staple go to food in the Murray household.
Tortillas filled shredded chicken, corn kernels and red onion enveloped in melted cheeses laced with Mexican seasoning - who could wish for more today?  I used a mixture of cream cheese and tasty cheese which gave it a nice mixed cheese flavour and texture.  The Mexican seasoning was just a sprinkle of Homemade Taco Seasoning but you could use packet mix.
The kids enjoyed them so much that Noel and I didn't even get a look in as there were none left.....
Chicken Corn and Cheese Quesadila
Serves: 2
SmartPoints per Serve: 9
cooking spray
4 extra light tortillas
50 grams Philladelphia Extra Light Spreadable Cream Cheeses
100 grams shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, defrosted and drained
1/2 red onion, finely dice
50 grams grated light tasty cheese
1 teaspoon homemade taco seasoning or packet mix
Preheat a flat sandwich press.  Spray with cooking spray.
Spread cream cheese over two tortillas.  Equally divide chicken and sprinkle over cream cheese.  Top with both the corn and the onions.
Sprinkle each with half of the grated tasty cheese and then the taco seasoning.
Top each stack with remaining tortilla.
Transfer to sandwich press and cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until cooked through.
Cut and serve. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Herb Crusted Lamb Backstraps

I really fancied lamb (and I have been for a while now) but with football every weekend it's hard to do a roast especially mid week when we work full time. 
Then I remembered that we had some backstraps in the freezer... After mulling around with how these were going to be cooked I decided that I would make a crust and bake them.  Voila - my wish came true with a baked lamb dinner served up tonight.
This dish was a lot quicker than cooking a full roast dinner but it really was flavoursome.  I really enjoyed the crust on the juicy tender lamb.  A subtle hint of mustard with the combination of crispiness and fresh herbs in the crust made my mouth water with each mouthful.  It is actually amazing how something so basic and easy can taste so good.
These will definitely be on the menu again....

Herb Crusted Lamb Backstraps

Serves: 4
SmartPoints per serve: 10

cooking spray
4 x 250 grams lean lamb backstraps
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
100 grams fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh continental parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Spray a lined baking tray with cooking spray.

Place backstraps on baking tray and spread mustard evenly over lamb backstraps.

Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, rosemary, oregano, lemon rind, garlic and olive oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Press the breadcrumb mixture firmly onto the lamb.

Bake for 20-30 minutes for medium or until lamb is cooked to your liking.
Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Spicy Vegetarian Pizza

Since we purchased our pizza oven we have had fun experimenting with pizza dough and pizza toppings.  It's always been a laugh and most times, even though we have had some disappointments, we have enjoyed what we have cooked.
Tonight I made a vegetarian special which is my go to pizza if I am unsure on what I want (most of the time) but this time I decided to jazz it up with some spiciness of jalapeños.  I adore jalapeños and I am often caught eating them straight from the jar. 
These lovely pickled treats along with the fresh tasting vegetables was so comforting..... who needs to order a pizza when you can make fresh goodness like this in your own home?

Spicy Vegetarian Pizza

Serves: 2

cooking spray
1 serve pizza dough or a large pita bread
2 tablespoons tomato paste
100 grams baby spinach leaves
1/2 brown onion, sliced
100 grams button mushrooms, sliced
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 - 10 slices of pickled jalapeños
8 baby Bocconcini, stretched

Preheat pizza oven or oven to 220 degrees C.

Spray pizza tray with cooking spray.

Stretch pizza dough on to the pizza tray or place pita bread on the pizza tray.

Spread tomato paste all over the base.

Top with spinach, onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and jalapeños. Stretch Bocconcini and place evenly over pizza.

Cook in oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and vegetables are cooked through.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Balti Chicken Curry

We all love curries and I especially love a curry that is cooked from scratch.  Before I give you the recipe for this quite unique dish I'm going to let you in on some interesting facts about one of the world's most enjoyed foods - curry!

Birmingham is well known as the birthplace of the Balti.  The Birmingham Balti originated in the city during the late 70s, when Bengali curry chefs started to make their dishes lighter, healthier and served faster to suit Western tastes, according to the Birmingham Balti Association (BBA).

Here’s 10 things you probably didn’t know about the Balti, courtesy of Andy Munro, author of the book Going For A Balti.

1. The balti was the invention of a Pakistani restaurateur in the late 70s and the idea was to fuse Pakistani cooking with western tastes.
2. His restaurant, Adil, is still open in the Balti Triangle.

3. The original balti bowls were commissioned specially and made by a Smethwick firm

4. The oldest remaining balti bowl still in use is estimated to have been used to serve up more than 5,000 baltis - British craftsmanship at its best!
5. A genuine Birmingham balti is fast-cooked over a high flame and has to be served up in the dish in which it has been cooked.

6. A scientific study purported to prove that eating a Birmingham balti was equivalent to drinking half a pint of Guinness in its health benefits because of the iron traces from the bowl.
7. It’s got nothing to do with Baltistan and gets its name from the Urdu word balti meaning bucket.

8. However, in Pakistan, there is a tribe called the Baltis but it’s unlikely they eat the dish.

9. Birmingham’s balti has even been featured in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

10. The name of the now-famous Balti Triangle (in Birmingham) was originally invented with the strapline ‘lost in a sea of spices’ (obviously a nod towards the similarly-titled Bermuda Triangle in which ships and planes have disappeared).
So there you go..... a history lesson for us all.  This is actually classed as a British curry.
For me I enjoyed making this dish as it was quite easy and like all curries full of flavour.  There was no making of a curry paste or using store purchased paste - only a few ingredients are used to make this very tasting curry.  I actually enjoyed it better the next day mind you.  This very basic curry could easily be jazzed up by adding extra vegetables such as carrots or capsicums to bulk out the meal.

Balti Chicken Curry
Serves: 4 - 6
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 kilogram chicken thigh fillets, skin removed and chopped
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons tomato past
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons mild paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
400 gram can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock
freshly ground black pepper
freshly chopped coriander, to garnish

Heat half the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.  Add chicken, cooking in batches, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes or until chicken is browned. Remove from heat.
Heat remaining oil in same pan.  Add onions, garlic and ginger.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onions are soft.  Add paste, cumin, paprika, coriander and turmeric.  Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant.
Return chicken to the pan with tomatoes and stock.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil and then reduce heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, over a low heat for around 40 minutes or until thickened.
Serve curry with steamed rice and garnished with coriander, if desired.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Along with the Moroccan Lamb we cooked for our family Mother's Day feast we decided to make side dishes to suit.  I have actually been wanting eggplant (aubergine) for a while now so it was a perfect time to cook it.

I came across this recipe and just fell in love with the sound of it and could actually taste the flavours while I was reading.... a perfect mix of spices paired with the nuttiness of the eggplant and the sweetness of the tomatoes.
Not only was this dish devoured I have to say I was surprised with how quickly it was made and ready for eating.  The actual techniques were quite basic and easy to execute - I think it took me longer to work out how to pronounce it's name.

(recipe adapted from

Serves: 4
WW SmartPoints Per Serve: 3

1 large (700g) eggplant, cut into 1.5cm-thick slices
cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon harissa
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, finely chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
freshly ground black pepper 

Preheat grill to medium. Spray eggplant with cooking spray and grill for 16 minutes, turning halfway, until soft and golden. Cool slightly, then chop roughly.

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Stir garlic, spices and harissa in frying pan 2 minutes or until fragrant.

Add eggplant and tomatoes, and cook for 10 minutes or until thick and well combined. Stir in lemon juice. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Moroccan Roast Lamb

Mother's Day saw many of the family get together... well Noel's family as my mam lives in Queensland.  It was great to catch up with everyone again and enjoy not only each other's company but a feast (as we all love food). We decided to break away from the traditional roast dinner that we have most times and have a Moroccan taste adventure.  I was actually quite worried how this would be received as it was outside the norm for the Murray family. 
To my surprise it was enjoyed by everyone and there were lots of comments about the flavour on the lamb.  I have to say there is nothing more enjoyable than making your own marinade - knowing what is in it and especially as I picked some of these herbs from my own herb pots.  Moroccan flavours are just magical - they just make your tastebuds dance with every mouthful.  The fresh herb flavour envelope with heat from the chilli and spices mixed with the sourness of lemons combined to make perfect tastebud harmony.
My only disappointment was the actual way the lamb looked when it came out of the weber.  To be honest I think this dish would have been better cooked in the oven as the marinade may not of charred as much.  (So apologies about the finished product picture).
Moroccan Roast Lamb
(Recipe adapted from

Serves: 8
SmartPoints per Serve: 7

1/3 cup chopped fresh coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh continental parsley
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 long fresh red chilli, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
juice of 1 lemon
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 kilogram leg of lamb, trimmed
Process the fresh coriander, chopped parsley, garlic, chilli, cumin, ground coriander, paprika, lemon, salt, pepper and oil in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

Score the lamb crossways. Rub the coriander mixture over the lamb and into the cuts. Cover and place in fridge for 2 hours or overnight to marinate.

Bring to room temperature before cooking.
Light coals in Weber and when coals are ready cook lamb for 1 1/2 hours or until cooked to your liking.
Alternatively, heat oven to 220 Celsius.
Place lamb in a roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes. Drain fat.
Reduce oven to 180 Celsius. Add the water. Roast for 1 hour, adding more water if necessary, or until cooked to your liking.
Transfer the lamb to a platter, reserving the juices in the pan. Cover with foil. Set aside to rest.
Slice and serve.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins

Well I am still on my mission of catching up with blogging... At times I really wish there was 48 hours to every day because I seriously need more than 24. I cannot understand sometimes why I don't get my planned activities done daily but my husband is quick to point out that maybe I am too much of an over achiever and that I try to do to much!! He may actually be on to something... LOL!

Lately I have been baking - I have always enjoyed baking even though I am not a huge fan of sweet foods.  Thankfully I have many people who are happily willing to be taste testers for me.
Once again after reading so many different recipes, my recipe is one born from morphing many together.  The outcome was a pleasant surprise - a super easy recipe that was moist, light and full of flavour.  Raspberry and white chocolate are perfect partners in baking but with the added hint of vanilla and lemon these muffins were perfect.
They must of been somewhat ok.  Why you ask? 
Four dozen were gone by 10am the next morning!!!!!!

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins

Serves: 12
SmartPoints per serve: 12

2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
50 grams butter, melted
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
200 grams white chocolate buds (roughly chopped if using large buds)

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.

Place 12 large patty cases into a muffin pan.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, milk, vanilla and butter.

Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients along with the lemon zest, raspberries and chocolate. Using a large spoon, gently mix until just combined.

Divide the batter between patty cases and bake for 20-25 min, or until a skewer comes out clean and muffins are golden.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Mee Goreng with Chicken (Spicy Fried Noodles with Chicken)

Any noodle dish really hits the spot in the Murray household....  I am not kidding either.  There is always a serious shortage of leftovers (which we take for lunches) when noodles are on the dinner menu.  No complaints I am so glad that everyone enjoys.

We often visit a restaurant, Petling Street (I've probably talked about it before) which is located in Clayton and is definitely our favourite Malaysian restaurants.  Oliver always orders one of two noodle dishes - it's either Mee Goreng or Char Kwai Teow.   Mee Goreng are a spicy fried noodles normally with seafood and a selection of vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, mung beans, etc., and are delicious.
This is an easy version of Mee Goreng, however I did need to switch some components of the recipe due to the ingredients I had at home but believe that the flavour, which was magnificent, remained true.  This sweet, salty and spicy sauce enveloped the thick noodles (yes we didn't have the thin egg noodles either), chicken and vegetables bringing the dish together as a flavour explosion in your mouth.
Served straight from the wok this dish was definitely a winner tonight.

Mee Goreng with Chicken (Spicy Fried Noodles with Chicken)
(recipe adapted from Rasa Malaysia)

Serves: 4

2 220 gram packets hokkein noodles
2 tablespoon Sriracha chilli sauce, or more to taste
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
600 grams chicken breast, fat removed, thinly sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
3 carrots, slice on diagonal
1 brown onion, sliced
1 red capsicum, sliced
1 cup water
2 Tbsp shao hsing wine
2 spring onions, sliced
2 teaspoons fried shallots

Put noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Follow packet directions.  Drain.

In a small bowl combine chili sauce, dark soy, sugar, salt, oyster sauce and ketchup. Stir to combine, and set aside.

Heat a large wok over high heat, add the oil. Add the chicken in small batches and stir fry until browning and just cooked. Remove from pan. Repeat with remaining chicken.

To the same wok add the garlic, onion and carrots and cook for 5 minutes, tossing constantly, or until carrots are softened. Add capsicum and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Return chicken to the pan with the noodles and water. Stir-fry continuously until noodles are cooked, 3-5 minutes (depending on the heat of your wok), making sure to cook the chicken through. Add chili sauce mixture, and keep stirring until well combined. The noodles should begin to get a bit drier (no liquid left in the bottom of the wok). Add shao hsing wine and spring onions, stir to combine, and remove from heat. Garnish with fried shallots.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Banana Crumble Muffins

Noel has annual leave this week and it was so nice to come home to dinner already cooked for us (Noel cooked Shepherds Pie - a family favourite) .... so with nothing else to do I had a "Stepford Wife" moment and decided to do some baking.  I really enjoy baking but find myself so time poor at times that it is impossible to squeeze the extra enjoyable activity in unless I have nothing to do or I get bored.
So with the urge to bake then came the huge decision of what to bake??  Looking across to the fruit bowl I spotted a few bananas left from last weeks' shop (so they were nice and ripe).  Banana muffins came to mind but I didn't want to make just the normal banana muffins - you know the boring ones with no character or define flavour.  Searching through recipe books and googling I remember that I had recently come a different recipe on the Rachael Ray website.
Ok armed with all the ingredients I went ahead and made Banana Crumble Muffins... Perfect Banana Crumble Muffins.  Oh and WOW they were perfect...
Moist on the inside, crunchy crumble topping... so nice especially while still a little warm.  Definitely a flavour explosion in your mouth.  The crumble topping will be used again on other fruit muffins but this recipe is a keeper.

Banana Crumble Muffins
(recipe adapted from Rachael Ray)

Makes 12 muffins
Smart Points Per Serve: SP Warning

Crumble topping
3/4 cup plain flour
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons cold reduced fat butter (cut into small pieces)

1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 medium, ripe bananas
1 egg
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, light brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt. Then with your hands, work in the butter until large clumps form. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.

In another bowl, mash the bananas. Add egg, oil and vanilla and mix well.

Combine the dry and wet ingredients and stir until it just comes together

Fill prepared muffin tins halfway then evenly distribute crumble topping over the muffins.

Bake muffins for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mexican Beef and Bean Pasta Bake

Once again it's been a long time between blogs.... I am finding myself with more and more excuses keeping me away from something that I really enjoy doing.  Life has been so busy with March and April it actually quite embarrassing.  With a daughter turning 15 and a son turning 18, both having parties and family get togethers to help celebrate all while the footy season has started once again.  There should really be no major time issues as it's not its the first year that this has ever happened - it just seems to get harder and harder each year even though these things happen year in year out?  Maybe when I'm old and grey sitting at home bored I will get to answer my own questions....  until then I must soldier on and enjoy what I can which as you all know is cooking and blogging.
I've decided being so time poor I do need to focus on weeknight wonder dishes - ones that take minimal preparation and more importantly minimal time while still satisfying the tastebuds.  Saying this, at the moment some nights I would more that happily eat beans on toast with a fried egg on top - one of my favourite meals of all time, believe it or not!
One of my favourite flavours of all times is Mexican and both the kids love pasta so this dinner was a no-brainer when it came to knowing that it would be a hit in the Murray household.  Not only was the flavour perfect but this Mexican Beef and Bean Pasta Bake fit perfectly into the requirements of easy, quick and tasty.  Surprisingly it was bursting with flavour considering the minimum effort required.
I used my homemade taco seasoning rather than the packaged version but that was by my choice.  It has none of the preservatives or additives and while it adds a more authentic taste to the dish it's also bursting with flavour.  We like it a little more spicy so I did actually add extra by doubling the quantity required. 
Even though this was a simple recipe the bake is jam-packed with vegetables making it a perfect serving but it could easily be served with a nice green salad. 

Mexican Beef and Bean Pasta Bake
(recipe adapted from Weight Watchers Australia)

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per serve: 11

500 grams lean beef mince
cooking spray spray
200 grams pasta of your choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
1 medium red capsicum, coarsely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
30 grams homemade taco seasoning or packet taco seasoning 
400grams canned diced tomatoes
2 medium zucchini, chopped
240 grams canned red kidney beans, rinsed, drained
180 grams canned corn kernels, drained
60 grams 50% Less Fat Tasty Cheddar Cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced. Lightly spray a 2L (8-cup) capacity ovenproof dish with oil. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, following packet instructions, or until just tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and capsicum and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened. Add mince and cook, breaking up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until browned. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant.

Stir in taco spice mix and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, zucchini and ½ cup (125ml) water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until zucchini is just tender and mixture has thickened. Add pasta, beans and corn and mix to combine.

Spoon mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden. Serve.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Slow Cooked Barbecue Beef Brisket

Well I have admit when we purchased some beef brisket on special I wasn't quite sure what to do with it.  It's not a common cut here in Australia however I did know that it is widely cooked in America therefore finding a recipe or some ideas on cooking it wouldn't be to had thanks to my good friend Google.

After much learning,  many recipes and then some more, I decided to wing it and cook something very loosely based on a combination of recipes.  So after putting it all together, putting the slow cooker on I crossed my fingers and went to work.  The outcome would be a surprise, whether good or bad, when I walk back in the door tonight.

And a surprise it was... a beautiful aroma had encompassed the house.  Great I knew that I had nailed the sauce element but what about the meat?  What about this brisket -  that cut of meat that I have never cooked with before?

The brisket itself, is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest and is normally tough cut of meat. There seems to be two very popular methods to cooking this interesting cut.  Firstly the meat is rubbed with a spice rub or marinated, then cooked slowly over indirect heat from charcoal or wood, hence somewhat smoking the meat. Brisket is also cooked in a slow cooker on a low setting for usually 8 hours per 2 kgs of meat.  This also tenderizes the meat due to the slow cooking method and the fact it is normally enveloped in a sauce to keep it tender.

Now of course I ended up using a mixture of both methods - I rubbed it in a spice mix, then put it in the slow cooker covering it with a sauce and set the timer for 8 hours on low.  Once cooked I gave the family the choice of sliced meat with mash and vegetables or burritos and looking at the picture you can automatically tell what they chose..... burritos!!  So I actually shredded the cooked beef and then mixed through the sauce rather than slicing it.

However way you plan to eat this I am sure you will enjoy.  It had a wonderful depth of tomatoes with the right amount of flavour and heat from the spices.  The liquid smoke lightly laced the sauce with gave it quite an authentic American/Mexican style that we are delivered here in Australia.

Slow Cooked Barbecue Beef Brisket

Serves: 8
SmartPoints per Serve: 8

3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black  pepper
2 kilograms beef brisket, all visible fat trimmed
2 red onions, small dice
1 440 gram tin diced tomatoes
3/4 cups tomato ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup beef stock
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoon water 

In small bowl, mix brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Place brisket in slow cooker and rub mixture all over brisket.  Cover with diced onion.

In another small bowl, mix the tomatoes, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, stock and liquid smoke. Pour over brisket along with broth.

Cover and cook on the low heat for 8 hours or until meat is tender.

Transfer brisket to cutting board and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place all the sauce in a small saucepan.  Combine the cornflour and water.  Add to sauce and stir to combine.  Heat over medium heat, until boiling and slightly thickened.

Thinly slice brisket or shred; transfer to serving plate. Spoon sauce over top or if shredded mix through.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Florentine Pasta

Tonight we wanted some good ol' comfort food but it needed to be quick and easy for a mid week wonder.  At the moment there never seems to be enough hours in each day.  Even our well planned days are not being executed like we would wish but then again we are making the most out of each day so that is the most important thing, right?

So many times I have mentioned having a craving for comfort food.  I understand that everyone's comfort food is different.  For us I do believe it is pasta (of any description).  What's your comfort food?

Speaking of pasta that's what was served up tonight.  This creamy pasta dish was a perfect fit with minimal ingredients and fuss to put a well received meal on the table.  A cheesy sauce laced with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and chicken pieces was filling and while very yummy satisfied even my fussiest eater!  I have one child that does not like the texture of cooked baby spinach nor does she like sun-dried tomatoes but her plate was pretty much licked clean.

Creamy Sun-dried Tomato and Chicken Florentine Pasta

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per serve: 12

250 grams pasta of your choice
2 tablespoons butter
500 grams chicken fillet, all visible fat removed, diced
1 brown onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/2 cup No Oil sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
4 cups Baby Spinach leaves, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup low fat cream
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Heat butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add chicken and onions. Cook for 5 - 7 minutes or until chicken is slightly browned and cooked through. Add garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add cream and stock; stir to incorporate. Toss in chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in spinach and cook until wilted.

Pour over pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, toss and serve.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Slow Cooked Asian Beef Ribs

When you are time poor nothing is more rewarding than working in the front door to the smell of dinner already cooked (or cooking). Thank God for Slow Cookers, right?

This recipe had very minimal effort required first thing this morning but had maximum flavour when it came to sitting down and eating after a very busy day indeed.  Beside work there was also football training and picking up my car from the mechanics after having the brakes down, along with a very fitting funeral service for my Uncle Ted.  My uncle passed peacefully last Wednesday and his final farewell was today.

Needless to say walking in the door was bliss to know I only had to boil rice!

These ribs were melt in your mouth!  The tender juicy meat falling of the bone enveloped with a slightly sweet sauce with the undertones of chilli and star anise - it's a flavour combination that I love. 

I guess you could quite easily use pork rashers or ribs and achieve the same outcome or even perhaps chicken cutlets or lamb shanks as this sauce would definitely compliment any meat.

Slow Cooked Asian Beef Ribs
(Recipe adapted from
Serves: 8
SmartPoints per Serve: 11

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, crushed
1⁄4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 whole star anise
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons sake
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to suit your taste)
2 kilograms short beef ribs
1 brown onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped

Mix together soy sauce, ginger, garlic, hoisin sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, orange juice, star anise, oyster sauce, sake, five spice and cayenne pepper in the slow cooker vessel.

Add beef ribs, onion and carrots.  Toss to ensure all beef ribs are coated in the sauce mix.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius.  Remove ribs and vegetables to an oven proof dish and place in oven to keep warm.

Pour sauce into a separate jug. Allow fat to separate and skim as much off the top.

Place sauce in a small saucepan.  Bring to the boil and reduce to medium heat.  Combine water and cornflour together.  Mix combined cornflour into sauce, continually stirring, until slightly thickened.

Pour sauce over ribs, sprinkle with coriander and serve with steamed rice (add 4 SP per 1/2 cup, if desired).

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hunan Beef with Cumin


Hooray for me - I have done it.  I've sat down, eaten and enjoyed our dinner and then amazingly found time to share it with you.  Sorry for the long delay but the new job which I started on the 18th of January has had my head in a spin along with all the multitude of things we have been doing recently.  I actually thought I would of had a smooth transition to the new job and I did.  In fact I now have more time due to less work hours but yet I seem to be struggling to cope with finding "ME" time.  

To be totally honest I cannot believe that we are more than half way through February... YIKES!!
Anyways I have to say since the beginning of the year our eating has been out of control (definitely no dieting happening in our house) so its been a food fest which, of course, means lots of comfort foods, lots of quick dinners, and the odd takeaway here and there!!  We definitely need to get back on track.
Tonight I wanted something full of flavour, easy, quick and of course, healthy.  Well at least healthier than I have been eating.

As well know by everyone, we love cooking Asian style dishes so this one from the Hunan Region excited our tastebuds by just reading about it.  The Hunan Region is located in South Central China, south of the middle course of the Yangtze River, and south of Lake Dongting.
Hunan cuisine, known for it's abundant use of chillies, garlic and shallots, is also known as Xiang cuisine. It is one of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese cuisine and is well known for its hot spicy flavour, fresh aroma and deep colour.  Hunan cuisine is often spicier than most other Chinese dishes because or the pure chili content.  The meals also contain a larger variety of fresh ingredients, and generally tends to be oilier.

After modifying parts of the recipe to reduce the oil content without compromising on the flavour we were happy with the outcome... tender beef strips, crispy vegetables with a sauce bursting with flavours.  Combinations of chilli, garlic, ginger and cumin!!  Magnificent even if a little on the hot side.... but not to the point of breathing fire!

Hunan Beef with Cumin
(Recipe adapted from Serious Eats)

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per Serve: 9

2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or medium-dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornflour
500 grams skirt steak or steak of your choice, cut into thin strips against the grain
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh red chilies, stems and seeds discarded, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried chili flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 brown onion, sliced
1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
100 grams snow peas
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Whisk together wine, soy sauce, cornflour, and one tablespoon water in medium-sized bowl. Add beef to marinade, mix with hands, and let sit for at least 15 minutes at room temperature.

Pour oil into large wok. Heat oil in wok over high heat.  Add beef and cook for two minutes, tossing gently. Remove beef with tongs, and drain on paper towel.

Pour out all but three tablespoons of oil.
Turn heat to high again, and once lightly smoking, add ginger, garlic, chilies, chili flakes, and cumin. Stir constantly with wooden spoon for about 15 seconds.

Add onions and capsicum, stir fry for a further 3 minutes, continually tossing.  Once starting to soften return the beef back to wok.  Add snow peas and coriander.  Cook until beef starts to sizzle, about 1 minute. Stir well and transfer beef to a large plate.

Drizzle sesame oil on top. Serve beef with white rice, if desired.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Italian Sausage and Beef Lasagne

Nothing beats a full plate of Lasagne no matter what language you speak...... 

And I like nothing better than exploring different flavours for Lasagne.  Traditional thick beef sauce with lots of Bechamel sauce is wonderful but sometimes one just needs to look outside the square when it comes to this wonderfully comforting dish.  

I decided, especially after the somewhat recent success of my Italian Sausage and Beef Bolognaise that trying this as the base sauce in a Lasagne would be only the right thing to do!! And trust me it was. 

The flavours were magnificent ... from the underlying flavours of the Italian sausage full of fennel, garlic and chilli, the thick tomato sauce and right through to the thick creamy Bechamel sauce this was definitely a winner.

Italian Sausage and Beef Lasagne

Serves: 8

500 grams Italian sausage, skins removed and cut into small chunks
500 grams lean ground beef
1 brown onions, finely diced
1 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 425 grams tinned diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
700 gram bottle passata (tomato puree)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, grated
1 large zucchini, grated
30 grams butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
500 ml skim milk
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
ground white pepper
8 fresh Lasagne sheets
150 grams grated tasty cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large frying pan cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. 

Transfer to a large saucepan and stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, passata, and water. 

Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, oregano, parsley, salt, and season with freshly ground black pepper. 

Add carrot and zucchini.  Stir well until well combined.  Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile make the Bechamel by adding the butter to a large saucepan.  Cook over medium heat and until completely melted.  Remove from heat.  Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until flour is mixed through and you have a nice soft roux.  Return to the heat and gradually add in the milk, using a whisk mix continually, ensuring it's completely mixed through and that you have no lumps.  Continue with remaining milk.  Leave to simmer over low heat, stirring, until thickened slightly.  Add the mustard and season with salt and pepper.  Stir well. Remove from heat.

Spoon 1/4 beef mixture over base of a lasagne dish. Top with 2 lasagne sheets. Cover with another 1/4 of the beef mixture and then cover with 1/3 of the Bechamel sauce.  Top with another 2 lasagne sheets.  Spread again with 1/4 of the beef mixture and cover with 2 lasagne sheets.  Finally put the remaining beef mixture in the dish and cover with the remaining lasagne sheets. Top with remaining Bechamel sauce over the lasagne sheets and sprinkle with the combined grated cheese.

Cover with foil (spray foil with cooking spray to stop cheese sticking to the foil) and bake in oven for 40 - 45 minutes. Remove foil and cook for a further 5 - 10 minutes until cheese is golden brown.

Serve immediately.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing

Chicken wings are one of the most versatile ingredients and I have to be very truthful I don't use them enough.  They are the ultimate finger food... one little package of their very own ready to cook and dish without much fuss really...... so simple and so underrated.

This is one of our favourite dishes... Hot Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing.  Now there are many versions of this recipe.. so ours is not gospel or from the original recipe it's just one that we have stumbled across from many attempts - you know good old trial and error!!

Firstly lets get the definition right: From the United States origin a Buffalo wing or Buffalo chicken wing is a chicken wing section that is generally deep-fried, unbreaded, and coated in vinegar-based cayenne pepper hot sauce and butter.

Until you start googling..... then some recipes claim that deep frying the wings is the only way to go. Some spruke that one Hot Sauce is better than the other. Unbreaded or breaded both are delish.... Remove the tip or keep the tip and it simply just goes on and on...

We do not crumb our version however we do give the chicken pieces a light coating of seasoned flour.  We do not deep fry either we bake them in the oven.  We also cook them with the Hot Sauce on and not just pour it over when it's cooked.... 

Bottom line as I said that's how we like them... others may argue.....

Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing

Serves: 4

90 grams blue cheese
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 kilogram chicken wings or drumettes and wingettes
1/3 cup plain flour
ground white pepper
cooking spray
1/4 cup Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce or hot sauce of your choice
20 grams butter, chopped

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Process the blue cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in a food processor until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and set aside.

Place the chicken, flour, salt and pepper in a snap lock bag and seal.  Shake until chicken is completely covered.

Cover a baking tray with baking paper and spray with cooking spray.  Line the chicken in a single layer, shaking off excess flour as you remove from the snap lock bag.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes, turning once, until browned and cooked through.

Place hot sauce and butter in a bowl.  Microwave for one minute or until butter has melted.  Stir well.

Remove chicken from oven and drizzle with hot sauce.  Toss the chicken in tray to coat.  Ensure they are still in one single layer when done.

Return to the oven and cook for a further 5 - 10 minutes or until crispy.

Serve with Blue Cheese Dressing and any left over hot sauce.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Creamy Loaded Herb Potato Bake

So here we are a New Year - another year to see what adventures 2016 will bring for me, my family, my friends and of course, all the foodie bloggers and readers of the world!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to each and all,
Each day during Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall,
Whether you are following a recipe and making it up,
Serving it on a plate, in a bowl or in a cup,
With all your successes and even the duds,
May every mouthful excite your tastebuds!!!

As for the House of Murray - well 2016 has already started with a bang!!  Surrounded over the Festive Season with our family and friends was the perfect way to welcome in the New Year.  All the food and the drinks saw many of us with full (and some sore) bellies for days but more importantly the feeling of love and friendship was, and always is, priceless and something that I cherish.

Food wise our house has been filled with everything from Roast Turkey and Stuffing, Roast Pork and Crackle, Rich Gravy, Vegetables, Steamed Christmas Puddings (we made a lot this year), Mince Pies, a Gingerbread House (made by Alexandria), candy canes, chocolates to champagne, wine, beer and spirits.  Oh my it's been a food-fest!!!!

One thing however that I do get sick of is all the Christmas food... it's rich and filling but after a week or so I just want comfort food or as my kids said one morning "Mam can we please have some normal food?".... made me laugh but also I couldn't agree more.

So today, New Year's Day, needless to say that we did have left overs from last nights celebrations and we were having more family down for a late lunch.  It was decided to use the leftovers consisting of ham, chicken souvlaki, salads and roast potatoes.  Even though I whinge about leftovers I do not like wasting food!!

Roast potatoes... hhhmmmm what's something I could do with them rather than reheating them only for them to go hard and dry out???  I decided I would adapt a few recipes for Loaded Potato Bakes and make my own without using mayonnaise or sour cream.  What did I use instead?  Béchamel Sauce of course.. why not?  Outcome AMAZING.... everyone had seconds although to point the finger my sister in law Clare had 3 serves!!!

Now this was easy to make although a little time consuming it was definitely worth it!!  I would have to say it may now be on the favourite potato bake recipe list!!  Full of a lush creamy herb sauce, bacon, garlic, spring onion and cheese, with a hint of chilli, smothering soft potatoes what more could anyone ask for??  In our case maybe two casserole dishes full of this wonderful creation??  I could have easily just sat there and ate that instead of everything else that was presented for lunch today.

Creamy Loaded Herb Potato Bake

Serves: 8

1 kilogram leftover roasted jacket potatoes
(OR 1 kilogram jacket potatoes, roasted)
500 grams bacon, diced
6 spring onions, sliced
50 grams butter
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 litre skim milk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Franks Hot Sauce
2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
ground white pepper
150 grams grated tasty cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Spray a casserole dish or baking pan with cooking spray and cover the base with the roast potatoes (it doesn't matter if they overlap).

Place in oven for 10 - 15 minutes to warm through.

Meanwhile cook the bacon and 2/3rds of the spring onion in a frying pan over medium heat until bacon starts to brown and onion soften.  Remove from heat.

In a large saucepan add butter.  Cook over medium heat and until completely melted.  Remove from heat.  Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until flour is mixed through and you have a nice soft roux.  Return to the heat and gradually add in the milk, using a whisk mix continually, ensuring it's completely mixed through and that you have no lumps.  Continue with remaining milk.  Leave to simmer over low heat, stirring, until thickened slightly.  Add the mustard, hot sauce, oregano, tarragon and season with salt and pepper.

Remove potatoes from oven.  Sprinkle with the bacon mixture, pour over the béchamel sauce mix and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Bake in oven for 30 - 40 minutes or until cheese has melted and sauce bubbling.

Sprinkle with remaining spring onions before serving.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bobotie ~ aka South African Curried Mince Pie

The name of this dish is definitely an intriguing one... which of course made me want to make it without even reading the ingredients.

It's the national dish of South Africa Bobotie, pronounced ba-boor-tea,  is a pastry free pie made with a filling of curried meat and fruit topped with an egg based custard!

It's very similar, I guess, to a Shepherd's Pie but without the mashed potato topping.  The topping made with eggs and sour cream was creamy and although I was sceptical about it, surprised me with both texture and flavour.

What can I say - overall it was delish and very easy to make something I love on a week night.  I used half mild curry powder and half hot curry powder but the choice is yours depending on your tastes.  The mixture of curry flavours combined with the sweetness of the apple and raisins makes you instantly understand why this is a much loved dish.

Bobotie ~ aka South African Curried Mince Pie
(Recipe sourced from Weight Watchers Double Up Dinners Cookbook)

Serves 8
ProPoints per serve: 8

1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 brown onions, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 kilogram extra lean beef mince
2 teaspoons tumeric
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 green apples, grated
2 carrots, grated
1/2 cup raisins
4 cups passata
2/3 cup low fat sour cream
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 160 degrees Celsius fan forced.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Cook onion and celery, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened.  Add mince and cook, stirring to break up lumps, for 5 minutes or until browned.

Add tumeric and curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant.  

Add carrot, raisins and passata and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.  

Place beef mixture in a large ovenproof dish (or divide between two 1.25L oven proof dishes if you wish to freeze).  Smooth the surface.

Combine sour cream and eggs in a bowl.  Pour sour cream mixture over the mince mixture.  Place bay leaves in the center of each dish.  Bake for 40 minutes or until topping is set.  Serve.

Should you wish to freeze - cool and wrap dish in a double layer of plastic wrap.  Wrap in foil.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  Defrost in fridge overnight.  Reheat in oven preheated to 180 degrees Celsius or 160 degrees Celsius fan forced for 30 minutes or until hot.