Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bacon wrapped Jalapenos

I just want to start off by saying - SO delicious! and so more-ish. I could have eaten a dozen of these babies to myself.

I didn't think I would like a stuffed jalapeno. I don't know why, I don't like spicy foods that cause pain. I like spice in foods with a little heat, but have you ever eaten something so hot and spicy that it makes you feel ill. That's what I don't like.

A friend handed me a recipe card she had found in a grocery store and said I should try to make these. My husband loves spicy foods, so I thought, why not. I would give them a try. The recipe card said to halve the jalapenos, stuff with cream cheese, wrap in bacon (only 1/2 a slice) and cook them on the BBQ. Nice, but I wanted better. My jalapenos were wrapped in a full slice of bacon and baked until crisp on the outside, and gooey in the middles.

One word of caution - make sure you remove ALL the seeds. One seed left inside will make you wish you did a better job. And, if you don't wear gloves while cleaning out the insides of the peppers - don't touch any sensitive areas, and I mean your mouth, lips or eyes, before scrubbing your hands well.

Stuffed Jalapenos
Makes 6 (perfect appetizer for 2)

6 large green jalapeno peppers
100g cream cheese, at room temperature
30g cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon red hot sauce (like Frank's)
6 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 400F.
In a medium sized bowl, combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Mix well. Set aside.
Halve jalapeno peppers, remove stems, membranes and all seeds. Divide cream cheese mixture between jalapeno halves, then match and stick jalapeno halves back together. Wrap in one piece of bacon to keep secure.
Place jalapenos onto a baking sheet and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until bacon is crisp and filling is hot.
Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Chocolate Muffins

I have a confession to make...a client ordered a dozen chocolate muffins the other day and I didn't have time to test a recipe, so I had to send out something I wasn't happy with. I never send out anything unless I am 100% satisfied with the product, but the other day, I was in such a rush to get a breakfast order out the door, that my little heavy lumps of muffin had to do. 

They were edible, and tasty. Just not something I was proud of. I want people to be talking about my food for months, and how it was the best they had ever had. That's what keeps people coming back, right. 

After my embarrassing delivery, I sat down and vowed to find / create the perfect recipe. I need a recipe that is quick to put together, always works, and is chocolatey rich and delicious. DELICIOUS, I say. 

Chocolate Muffins
Makes 12 regular sized muffins
Recipe from King Arthur Flour

2/3 cup dutch-process cocoa
1 & 3/4 cups flour
1 & 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400F.
In a large bowl, mix together the sifted cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips.
In a large measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla and vinegar. Add wet ingredients, along with the butter, to the dry ingredients, stirring to blend. Just make sure everything is combined well.
Scoop into 12 muffin cups, bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of  the muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and leave for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.


PS - the muffins I sell are based on this recipe, just a bit more decadent!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Potato Leek Soup with Sweet Corn & Basil

I was shopping the other day, and came across leeks. I love leek. There is something to be said for the sweet mild onion flavour that comes from a leek. I like them roasted, I love them braised, I like them in soup, I even like them fried. I guess I am a leek fan.

So, what started out as simple potato and leek, turned into a silky fragrant corn soup. When I got home and started putting the soup together, I found corn in my fridge and thought I would make a kind of chowder. And, when I looked over at my windowsill and saw my basil plant leaning dangerously close to death, I picked off the leaves and added them too. I am a habitual plant killer. I buy plants like cut flowers because in the back of my mind, I know I am going to have to throw them into the compost.

Back to the soup. My thought process was that potatoes and leek go well together, corn and potatoes are delicious together and I really like corn and basil together. So, with corn tying all ingredients together, what could go wrong? And I was right - it works to create a warming and hearty soup. It warmed and filled up our bellies last night.

Potato Leek Soup with Sweet Corn & Basil
Makes 6-8 serves

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
3 leeks, tough green part removed, white parts rinsed well and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon flour
2lbs potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup corn kernels (from about 2 cobs of corn)
2 liters chicken stock
1 cup cream
1 cup corn kernels, extra (from about 2 cobs of corn)
2 tablespoons (about 8 large leaves) chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt, extra
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat butter in large saucepan. Add onion, leek, garlic and salt, and cook gently until leek is softened, but not browned. Add thyme and flour and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes.
Add potatoes, 1 cup corn kernels and stock. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are softened and cooked through. Remove from heat and puree. Stir in cream, remaining 1 cup corn kernels and season well with salt and pepper.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Back to School Cookies

It's "Off to School" in my house. That's right, it's my 4 year old son's first year in JK. We have spent an hour at the school with him, and he has been for one morning session with a few kids from his class. On Tuesday, he is fully immersed with the whole class of 22 other 4 year olds. I wish him luck.

I am really looking forward to him being in school full time (well, full time mornings), I hope he will love it too.

In celebration of him going to school, we baked up a batch of cookies for him to take as his snack. No ordinary chocolate chip cookies here, these are chocolate chip smartie cookies - and he got to pick what went into the dough. Super simple, nut free, and on the healthy side of a chocolate chip cookie - at least I know that everything that went into them is good wholesome food (well, aside form the smarties).

The original recipe contains only chocolate chips, and that was out only adaption.

Back to School Cookies
Makes 2.5 dozen
Adapted from a recipe by King Arthur Flour

180g butter, at room temperature
150g brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
2 & 1/4 cups flour
1 cup smarties
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F.

Beat the butter, brown sugar and corn syrup together until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, baking powder, salt and baking soda, and then mix in the egg. Beat well.

Beat in the flour, then stir in the smarties and chocolate chips.

Scoop (I used a 3/4 oz ice cream scoop) cookie dough onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes, just until lightly browned at the edges. Do not overbake.

Cool cookies for 5 minutes on baking sheets before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Zucchini Slice

This is one of my mum's recipes, from her hand written cookbook that I now have. I have no idea where this recipe originally came from, but even so, I adapted it a little. Her recipe added 1/3 cup oil, but I think it's fine without it. There is enough fat from the bacon, cheese and eggs. If you feel the need, add it.

It's quite surprising how simple this recipe is, yet so tasty - you can taste everything. Bacon. Onion. Egg. Cheese. You can kind of taste the zucchini, but it's not too much. Zucchini barely tastes of anything on it's own anyway, it's one of those vegetables that loves to absorb the flavours of everything around it.

Maybe this is one of those dishes I can feed to my kids, and sneak in some vegetables...

I love to eat this (yes, almost the whole pan) for breakfast, then some for brunch, a slice for lunch and then whatever is left warmed up for dinner. It is super simple and quick to put together, yet you will have everyone raving. Serve it with a crisp salad, some crusty fresh bread and you have a meal.

Zucchini Slice
Makes one 8 x 8 pan

4 green zucchini, shredded
1 onion, minced
3 slices bacon, rind removed, sliced and cooked
1 & 1/2 cups cheddar cheese (I used 2 YO cheddar)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
5 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease and line an 8x8 pan.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Pour / spread into prepared pan, bake for 45 - 50 minutes, until top is golden and middle has set.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing

A fabulous recipe for a salad the first day, and then warmed up as leftovers the next day. You could actually eat this salad hot anytime. I am surprised at how delicious and more-ish this dish is. I was a little sceptical because of the maple syrup in the dressing, but it actually worked out quite nicely. You couldn't taste maple at all, so you could sub in honey if you didn't have maple syrup on hand.

It's super quick to put together - the longest task is boiling the noodles, and yes, before anyone says anything, I used spaghetti....shock, I know, but I like spaghetti or spaghettini in place of Asian-style noodles. I prefer the texture, and I definitely prefer the way they hold overnight. It means I can make this dish for my family today to enjoy tomorrow, and no one would know.

Of course, you could use any Asian noodle you like, just follow the cooking directions. I personally prefer the fatter chewier styles to the rice sticks. Just as in Italian cooking, every Asian noodle has it's specialty dish. I use the ones I like.

I also used matchstick carrots, you know those pre-shredded ones near the baby carrots in the produce section at the grocery store? I buy them because I like the shape and texture. You can add them to dishes and they don't break down, as shredded carrots do. They stay crunchy for a long time.

To add to this salad, I sliced up some chicken breast and gave it about 15 minutes in a combo of soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and canola oil. I stirred in about 1/2 clove minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, and then quickly stir fried. Okay, I sauteed it until the sugars had caramelized and the outsides of the chicken were dark and sticky. Yum, yum, yum!

Noodle Salad
Recipe adapted from here
Makes 6 serves

1/2 lb dry spaghetti noodles, cooked in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

1 cup matchstick carrots (you could shred your own)
2 stalks celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1/2 red pepper, sliced thinly on the diagonal
3 green onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds, toasted (optional)

3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Basically, after the noodles are cooked, rinse them under cold water, until they are no  longer warm. Drain well and mix with the vegetables.
Combine all ingredients for dressing in a small bowl. Mix well - keep mixing even though the peanut butter looks horrible, it will smooth itself out as you keep mixing. Pour dressing over noodles and vegetables and mix well. Season with salt, if necessary.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Homemade Hamburger Helper

OK, I admit it. I used to really like Hamburger Helper. Kind of gross now, when I really think about it. But, back in the day, I loved it. Just like Kraft Dinner and 2 minute noodles, it had it's place in my pantry. But, I have grown up and moved on from the processed box dinner, and crafted my own hamburger helper recipe.

I remember I loved it so much, that I bought a box of every variety Betty Crocker made and took it home to my sister in Australia. We laughed so much, we also ate so much of it too.

It was cool the other night, and I needed comfort. I needed pasta in a meaty sauce and something that would fill me right up. Without a box of HH in my pantry, I devised this ingenious recipe. It's a one pot recipe - so not much cleaning, and it freezes well, perfect for lunches or quick dinners over the next little while.

All you need is some garlic bread and a big glass of wine. Well, maybe the wine after the kids are in bed.

Homemade Hamburger Helper
Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb lean ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
750ml passata (pureed tomatoes in a bottle)
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup beef stock
2.5 cups dry pasta
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup whipping cream

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic, ground beef and salt, and cook until ground beef is browned. Stir in passata, ketchup, basil, oregano, pepper, beef stock and pasta. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently until pasta is cooked through, 15-20 minutes depending on the type of pasta you use. The pasta should absorb most of the liquid and leave you with a rich and thick sauce.

When pasta is cooked, remove from heat, mix in frozen peas, cheddar and whipping cream. Check seasoning and serve!