Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Menu 2014


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Writing this post has become an annual thing for me now and it's really helpful to have all my ideas in one place, and to be able to look back on what worked and what didn't for the following year.

This year we are hosting dinner on Christmas Eve and then heading down to my mother-in-law's place for lunch on Christmas Day.

For the first time we are doing a predominantly cold Christmas lunch. It makes a lot of sense given the climate here and I love seafood, but I will miss the roast turkey (and all the leftovers that go along with it). I'm already thinking though that we will buy a turkey after Chistmas when everything is on sale and do a roast for New Years Day instead.

Christmas Eve

Nibbles
Crackers, fruit, cheese, pate and chocolates

Main
Slow cooked lamb shanks with rosemary and redcurrants
Roast vegetable mash
Steamed seasonal greens

Dessert
Christmas Pudding
Dairy free custard


Christmas Day


Breakfast
Coconut and mango parfaits

Entree
Seafood platter with smoked salmon, tiger prawns and accompaniments

Main
Lemon myrtle chicken
Roast potatoes
Barbecued side of salmon
Quinoa salad
Beans with cherry vinagrette

Dessert
Lemon curd and raspberry jelly trifle
Fruit salad

This is my last post for 2014. I am going to unplug and have as little screen time as possible for the next few weeks (although I still have lots of study to cram in!).

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy holiday. See you in 2015! xx

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Coconut Oil Dark Chocolate and Nut Cookies

Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip and Nut Cookies © www.foodbabylife.com

Regular readers will know just how much I love being part of Secret Recipe Club. It's not just about the fun of revealing the blog you've been secretly perusing all month, it's also checking out what everyone else has made and let me tell you, I've found some absolute gems!

This cookie recipe was revealed last month by Kim at Feed Me Seymour and she tweaked the original recipe found on Life on Food. I love how recipes evolve like this!

I've been doing lots of baking with coconut oil over the past few months but never cookies. It's also brilliant to fry with and I always add a teaspoonful to Noah's porridge every morning (he needs extra good fats because he is dairy free).

I used dark chocolate chips which are naturally dairy free in this recipe, along with a nut and seed mixture rather than the original pistachios simply because that's what I had on hand. You can see a pumpkin seed front and centre in the photo below.

It's been really hot here lately which means my coconut oil was completely liquid at room temperature. The recipe said to chill the dough after it was rolled into balls but I decided to chill it before rolling as well. Unfortunately I then forgot to chill them after rolling and stuck them straight in the oven and they spread a lot.

No matter, they were absolutely sensational! Sweet, nutty and chewy and really more-ish. It's actually lucky there were any cookies left to photograph because I could not stop eating the dough. Seriously!

These cookies were a real winner in our house and we will definitely be making them again as soon as I stock up on chocolate chips :)


Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip and Nut Cookies
Slightly adapted from Feed Me Seymour

½ cup solid coconut oil
½ cup dextrose
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1⅓ cups white spelt flour flour
2 tbs corn flour
1 tsp bicarb soda
½ cup chopped nuts
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 160 degrees fan-forced / 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.

Place the sugars and coconut oil in a large bowl and cream together using an electric mixer.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.

Add the flours and bicarb soda and mix until fully combined and then fold through the nuts and chocolate.

Roll the dough into balls and place in the fridge to chill for at least one hour.

Once chilled, place the dough onto the prepared trays leaving about 5cm of space between them. Bake for approx 17 minutes or until golden.

Allow to cool on the trays for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes about 22

Monday, December 15, 2014

Long Winter Molasses Cookies (SRC Cookie Carnival)

Long Winter Molasses Cookies © www.foodbabylife.com

It's December so there is no Secret Recipe Club post for Group D but instead it's Cookie Carnival time! Members from all 4 groups have volunteered to do a cookie post today. I think this is the first time we have done this (certainly it's the first time I have participated) and I was so excited to find a new cookie recipe.

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without cookies. Over the years I've made dozens of different types to give as gifts, to share when friends and family drop around and just to have something special in the cookie jar.

I was assigned Cheese Curd in Paradise by Ashley. Ashley lives in Green Bay, has a 2 year old son and is a serious Packers fan (and yes even here in Australia I have heard of the Green Bay Packers!). I actually did the final semester of my law degree at Marquette University in Milwaukee so am quite familiar with that part of the world.

Ashley has some amazing looking recipes including a Crispy Parmesan Chicken with Lemon Hollandaise which had my mouth watering and she even won a prize for her Brat and Beer Mac and Cheese in a tailgating recipe contest! - although it does always make me giggle because here tailgating is when you drive too close behind the car in front of you and they don't give prizes for that :)

BUT this is all about the cookies and when I saw her Long Winter Molasses Cookies I was sold. Even though it is stinking hot here at Christmas time these cookies are so Christmassy it doesn't matter whether it is summer or winter! They are packed with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves (I added a few extra to the original recipe) and flavoured with rich, dark molasses. My boys went nuts for these and kept asking for 'more gingerbread!' I made 2 batches and each disappeared in record time.

'Santa' has already put in a request for a plateful of these to be left out with a glass of milk on Christmas Eve and I am more than happy to oblige.

Thanks for a great recipe Ashley, and Merry Christmas to all my fellow SRC members!

Long Winter Molasses Cookies
Adapted from Cheese Curd in Paradise

2 cups plain flour
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 ts cinnamon
1 ts ground ginger
1/8 ts ground cloves
1/4 ts nutmeg
1/4 ts ground white pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp bicarb soda
170 grams melted butter

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour,spices, baking soda and salt and then set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugar, egg and molasses until well combined. Add the prepared dry ingredients to wet and stir to form a sticky dough.

Wrap the dough in greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius / 170 degrees fan-forced / 375 Fahrenheit and line 2 trays with baking paper.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut into cookies of whatever shape you like.

Bake for 8 minutes and leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Try not to eat them all at once.




Saturday, December 6, 2014

My Favourite Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake © www.foodbabylife.com

I know not everyone is a fan of fruitcake but in this house we love it! I think it depends on what you have grown up with. I vividly remember my mum making a Christmas cake every year - the ritual of lining the tin with layers of brown paper, the special big bowl that was only ever used at Christmas time and licking the sweet and spicy leftovers from the spatula.  

If you've spent any time here you will know that we eat low sugar these and this cake definitely does NOT fall into that category. But this is one of our special Christmas traditions and I hope my boys have similar fond memories to me.

I have been making my Christmas cake from the same recipe for at least the past 8 years and it is tried and true. I make one for my Dad every year and have been asked to make one for friends of his as well which is a good indication just how good this cake is!

It is a traditional boiled fruitcake laced with brandy and beautiful fragrant spices. I usually try to put the fruit on to steep with brandy in November but I was a few weeks late this year. The fruit soaked for only 3 days and will have only 3 weeks to mature before Christmas. Like most fruitcakes it gets better with age so the earlier you can make it the better, although it would still be absolutely fantastic straight from the oven.

If you've never made your own Christmas cake before I encourage you to give this one a go.

My Favourite Christmas Cake
Adapted from Lyndey's Boiled Fruit Cake

975g mixed dried fruit
125ml (1/2 cup) brandy
250g butter
250ml (1 cup) water
100g (1/2 cup) packed dark brown sugar
110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
1/2 ts bicarb soda
4 eggs, lightly beaten
185g (1 1/4 cups) self raising flour
185g ( 1 1/4 cups) plain flour
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs mixed spice
125g (1 cup) pecans
100g (3/4 cup) macadamias
60ml (1/4 cup) brandy, extra

Combine the dried fruit and brandy in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to soak overnight or for a week or more.

Line the base and sides of a deep 23cm round or 19cm square baking tin with 2 layers of brown paper and 2 layers of baking paper, bringing the paper 5cm above the edge of the tin.

In a large saucepan, place the soaked fruit, butter, water, sugars and bicarb soda and bring to the boil over medium heat. Once boiling, give it a good stir, remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius / 120 degrees fan-forced.

Stir the eggs into the fruit mixture the fold through the sifted flours and spices. Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Decorate the top with the pecans and macadamias. Bake for 3 hours.

Brush the hot cake with extra brandy. Cover the cake with a layer of baking paper then a layer of foil. Wrap the whole tin in a towel and leave to cool completely (overnight is good).

Once cool, remove all the wrappings, brush the cake with extra brandy and re-wrap with fresh baking paper and foil and leave in a cool, dark place for at least a few weeks if you can before serving.

Suitable to freeze.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Carrot Cake Slice


Well, here we are in December already. How did that happen??  Luckily Christmas is my favourite time of the year so I have no problem being on a count down to Christmas (23 days). School and kindy are winding down, there are cards to write, presents to buy and lots of functions to attend.

A few weekends ago we took the kids into Southbank to the Queensland Symphony Orchestra's Symphonic Santa concert. It was hosted by Jay from Play School and featured lots of children's songs, Christmas carols and of course Santa. We got into early and took a picnic lunch, the boys had a play and the show itself was great.

In addition to the sandwiches and fruit for our picnic I wanted to take something special for morning tea. The kids all have swimming on a Saturday morning and even with an early lunch I knew they would be starving. I had some carrots to use up but I was after something more portable and quicker to cook than a cake. A quick search on Natural New Age Mum and I found this Carrot Cake Slice. All the best bits of a carrot cake but quicker, easier and healthier.

This slice is perfect for all those take-a-plate occasions that pop up in the holidays. It is sweet, moist, lightly spiced and completely delicious. The entire tray disappeared in 24 hours.

This is a Thermomix recipe but you could easily make it a food processor, it will just take a little longer to process in each step. Or simply grate the carrots and mix with the other ingredients.

With the rice malt syrup and sultanas we found it sweet enough but if you are new to a low-sugar way of eating you might want to experiment with the sweetness.

Carrot Cake Slice
Slightly Adapted from Natural New Age Mum

150g (1 cup) carrot
5 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup tapioca/arrowroot flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 ts mixed spice
1/4 cup rice malt syrup (or honey, maple syrup etc)
1/4 cup dried fruit (I used sultanas and craisins)

Preheat the oven to 180Âșc. Lightly grease a slice tray with baking paper and set aside.

Peel and roughly chop the carrots, add them to the Thermomix bowl and process for 4 secs/speed 5.

Scrape down the sides and add in all the other ingredients except the dried fruit. Process for 5 secs/speed 5.  Scrape down again, add the sultanas and mix for 5 sec/speed 4/reverse.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tray and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through and golden.

Cool in the tray for 10 minutes before turning out oton a wire rack. Slice into squares to serve.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Sweet Potato Pancakes


While I am a very keen meal-planner, I tend not to plan anything much for Friday and Saturday nights. Sometimes we have leftovers and sometimes I just try to use up whatever odds and ends are left in the fridge before we do the grocery shopping on the weekend. We also often have breakfast for dinner (aka dinner) with pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs and the like.

When we happened to have a large sweet potato that was fast approaching it's use-by, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to try out these sweet potato pancakes that I found on Weelicious a few months ago.

They are a little more time consuming than regular pancakes in that you need to steam and puree the sweet potato first but if you happened to have leftover vegetables from dinner that would make it really easy.

I was amazed at how much my kids loved these. Even my notoriously picky Mr 4 devoured them - in fact he ate 7! The recipe made 16 and I was expecting my husband and I to be able to have some but nope, my 3 boys gobbled up all 16 in record time.

If you don't have sweet potato then pumpkin, carrot or swede would also work brilliantly.

The pancakes have a very soft texture, to the point  you might be wondering if they are actually cooked. They are! Check out the original post and all the comments for more info on that.

Easy Sweet Potato Pancakes
Adapted from Weelicious

1 cup spelt flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup rice milk
1 tablespoon rice malt syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup sweet potato puree

Place the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until smooth

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Don’t overmix.

Heat a large pan over medium heat and add a little butter or coconut oil.

Pour large spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, making as many pancakes as will fit, and cook for 2-3 minutes before flipping and cooking for a further minute or so until cooked through and golden brown.

Makes 16 pancakes. Serve with butter and rice malt syrup.






Monday, November 24, 2014

Spiced Apple French Toast (SRC)

Spiced Apple French Toast © www.foodbabylife.com

This month for Secret Recipe Club I was lucky enough to be assigned Couscous and Consciousness by Sue. I've long admired Sue's gorgeous blog and it is packed with clean, beautiful food. Sue practises and teaches yoga, eats a mainly vegetarian diet and cooks from scratch using local and sustainable ingredients. I was really spoilt for choice this month and in fact I had a really hard time choosing what to make!

We're not quite in stone fruit season yet so her Crisp Pork Belly with Sweet Peach Salsa will have to wait until closer to Christmas. The Felafel with Tahini Flatbread looked like a great twist on something we make pretty often. And next time I'm baking for a crowd I will definitely be trying out her Chocolate Beetroot Cake.

In the end though I couldn't go past this simple but amazing Spiced Apple French Toast. I mean, what could be better for a lazy Sunday morning breakfast than that? In her post Sue says her ideal morning involves getting up at 10 and then heading back to bed with a cup of tea and a stack of cookbooks. Sounds like bliss! On the Sunday morning that I made this I was up at 5.15am to study before the kids got up and cooked to the sounds of cartoons on TV. Still bliss but a little less relaxing than Sue's morning!

Spiced Apple French Toast 
Slightly adapted from Couscous and Consciousness

2 slices day old bread
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk (I used rice milk)
1/2 ts vanilla extract
butter for frying
2 red apples, cored and sliced thickly
50g butter
2 tbs rice malt syrup (or brown sugar, honey etc)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a handful of raisins

In a wide shallow dish, place the eggs, milk and vanilla extract and beat together with a fork until combined. Add the sliced bread and leave to soak, turning halfway through while you prepare the apples.

In a shallow frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter, and as soon as it starts to sizzle add the syrup and cinnamon and allow to bubble away for a minute or so. Add the apples and raisins and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, until the apples are tender but not collapsing. Remove from pan and set aside.

Return the pan to the heat, add some extra butter and once sizzling, add the bread to the pan. Cook until golden on one side, then flip over and cook the other side.

Remove the French toast to a serving platter, and spoon the warm, caramelised apples and raisins over the top. Serve immediately.

Serves 2
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