Monthly Archives: January 2013

Bowties with chicken sausage, yoghurt and zucchini

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I don’t like saving. I haven’t even really started saving yet but I already hate it. That’s right, Allie is officially on a budget. This may suck. But it’s for a good reason, as saving usually tends to be. Ciaran and I are planning a trip to Europe later this year, we will both be recent university graduates and we are both currently jobless so it seemed like a good time. Things may change, we know that, but for now we will prepare as if we are both still free in September and will whisk away to sing showtunes in the hills in Austria and lounge on the beaches in Greece and eat nothing but carbs in Italy and see new places and faces and explore. Sounds pretty ideal. I think I just have to keep repeating that to myself when I’m about to order another drink at the bar or step into Dotti or Sportsgirl ‘just to check’ what they have in store.

Luckily, food is generally an easy area to save a few bucks. I’ve been doing much better at eating on the cheap this year but I think I can push it even further. But don’t fear, there will be no beans and rice posts on this blog! Ick. I’ll just have to find ways to use cheap ingredients and stretch my food further. So far this year it has been going very well. The other day I made corn, pea and haloumi fritters with a tomato salad using only ingredients that I already had! Such a win. Another lucky thing in this whole saving my pennies plan is that pasta is cheap. And man do I love pasta. So I will use that excuse to eat those pillowly carby little bites but only topped with healthy ingredients. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Enjoy,

Allie

Bowties with chicken sausage, yoghurt and zucchini
Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 4-6

500g bowties
4 medium zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds), coarsely shredded
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
300g chicken sausage (we used kid’s chicken sausages since they were cheap 🙂 )
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the farfalle until al dente; about 1 minute before the farfalle is done, add the shredded zucchini to the pot. Drain the farfalle and zucchini, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a medium frying pan over medium high heat and cook the sausage until browned and cooked all the way through. We took off the casing and separated the sausage into small chunks or you can cook it whole and chop it up after.
  3. After the sausage is done, place it on a paper towel to drain and use the same frying pan to melt the butter. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Greek yogurt and the 1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and season the yogurt sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  4. Add the bowtie, chicken sausage, zucchini and reserved pasta water to the saucepan and cook over low heat, tossing, until the sauce coats the pasta; transfer to warmed bowls and serve with the extra cheese.

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Double-chocolate lamingtons

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Happy belated Australia day!!!! It was really great to be able to celebrate Australia Day in Australia once again. Last year I was melting in the sun at Big Day Out and unfortunately didn’t really get up to very much ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi’ chanting. So this year I made sure to have a few Aussie beers, listen to Triple J’s Hottest 100 and of course buy a pack of the mandatory Australian flag temporary tattoos to plaster on my arms. Unfortunately I did have to work last night, which got in the way of my drinking celebrations, but only for a few hours. And since I work in hospitality we were open on Australia Day but we have Monday, the public holiday, off and I’ve planned to continue the celebrations then.

When there’s celebrations, there must always be cake, as Kahina mentioned just yesterday. So I decided to make lamingtons, something I believe to be classically Australian. Many people are unsure of Australia’s cuisine. Maybe unsure is the wrong word, but many people seem to lament the lack of purely Australian dishes. I always associated meat pies with Australia but turns out Britain seems to have claim to them. Pavlova is supposedly Australian but if there’s a Kiwi in the room when you mention it there might be a bit of a scuffle. I don’t think it matters if you have a dish that’s pure ‘Strayan. The main thing I love about Australian cuisine is just how diverse it is. We have dishes with Malaysian influences, Irish, British, Greek, Italian, you name it. Salt and pepper squid is found all over Australia, in Thai restaurants, Italian cafes, Belgian restaurants. They all do it differently and that’s what makes it great. Some might even say that these double-chocolate lamingtons aren’t pure Australian because of the extra cocoa added to make the sponge chocolatey. Some have even called it ‘sacrilegious.’ I think that’s going a little far seeing as the essence is still the same and it’s just giving it another influence, another twist. Australian cuisine is unique in the influences that have come from all over the world. In last week’s Good Food David Chang of Momofuku pretty much summed it up, “If any country can get away from asking, “What’s our tradition?” and say, “Let’s just eat good food,” it’s definitely Australia.”

Enjoy,

Allie

Double-chocolate lamingtons
Recipe from Dan Lepard

Ingredients

300g castor sugar
50g cocoa
75ml milk
50g unsalted butter
50g dark chocolate
50ml sunflower oil
4 medium eggs
100ml low-fat natural yoghurt
3 tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder

For the coating (makes 750ml)

15g cocoa
50ml cold milk
175ml boiling water
200g dark chocolate, finely chopped
450g icing sugar
1-2 250g bags coconut (that is, much more than you would think)

Method

1. Line the base of a deep, 20cm square cake tin with non-stick paper and heat the oven to 170C (150C fan-forced). Put the sugar and cocoa in a bowl and beat in the milk. Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan, and add to the sugar mix along with the oil. Beat in the eggs until smooth, stir in the yoghurt and vanilla, and mix in the flour and baking powder. Pour into the tin, cover with a slightly domed sheet of foil and bake for an hour. Lift off the foil for the last 15 minutes. Remove, cool in the tin and, while warm, cover with cling film to keep them moist.

2. For the coating, mix the cocoa and milk until smooth, whisk in the boiling water, then stir in the chocolate until melted. Whisk in the icing sugar until dissolved and pour into a deep, wide jug. Cut the cake into nine, dunk each piece in the coating and fish out with two forks. Roll in coconut and leave to set.

Note: Lepard advises putting foil over the cake because it helps the cake rise more evenly. You’ll have about 250 millilitres of coating left over – just the stuff, he says, for lamington milkshakes with ice-cream and coconut.

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Lighter sesame chicken

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There’s only a handful of food items that I really miss from the States.

Crispy bacon, good bagels with cream cheese, Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee and greasy Chinese food.

You can still get Chinese food here, obviously, but it’s not quite the same. Somehow they don’t really overload it with oil and grease and MSG and all other gross things like in America. Which is probably a good thing. No, definitely a good thing.

There were always certain occasions when I would get Chinese takeout back home. On lazy afternoons at boarding school we used to order delivery and eat our paper cartons of shrimp lo mein while sitting out on the grass. In New York City we used to order delivery when we were too lazy to leave the apartment and really didn’t want to have to brave the four floors of stairs in order to eat food. For $10 I usually got a big container of crispy fried rice accompanied by beef and broccoli. Then we’d also get egg rolls, sometimes they’d throw in some steamed dumplings. And at home with my parents Chinese takeout was usually called in when we were too lazy to cook. It would usually be a Sunday night and we’d all move into the television room and unpack all the savoury goodness onto the table, shrimp fried rice, Szechuan dumplings in spicy peanut sauce, steamed pork dumplings, spring rolls, golden nuggets, shrimp lo mein, sesame chicken, shrimp and chicken Thailand style (whatever that was), chow fun. There wasn’t really anything on that menu that I didn’t like, except the hot and sour soup. I was never fan of that one. I definitely miss those nights and more than anything I miss coming home the next day to see the leftovers still in the fridge ready to be made in to the ultimate afternoon snack.

The only real problem with that food is the awful way you feel as soon as you finish. While you’re eating and mopping up the sauce with your extra rice, dipping the spring rolls in that delicious sweet duck sauce, scraping for the last dumpling, you feel divine. And as soon as you’re done you feel the need to lie down and usually down a gallon of water from the sodium overload. That’s probably why we usually ate on the couch at home. But this isn’t the part I think about when I’m missing this breed of strange Chinese-American food, I miss the flavours, the convenience and the excuses we used to order it. Instead of going all out and trying to put myself in a sodium induced coma, I decided to satisfy my cravings with a healthier version. The chicken is lightly sauteed in oil instead of  being deep fried and the sauce isn’t quite as sweet as usual leaving you with a filling, healthy meal. And I was still very excited to see the leftovers in the fridge the next day.

Lighter sesame chicken
From MarthaStewart.com

Serves 4

  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed with a garlic press
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into large florets, stems peeled and thinly sliced
  1. Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, and fill with 1 inch water; set aside for broccoli. Cook rice according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small bowl, combine honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and cornstarch. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken; cook, turning occasionally, until golden and opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and chicken. Return all the chicken to skillet; add reserved sauce and scallions, and toss to coat.
  4. Meanwhile, place saucepan with steamer basket over high heat; bring water to a boil. Add broccoli, and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve sesame chicken with broccoli and rice.

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Mix together the sesame sauce in a medium bowl.

IMG_5444Whisk together the egg whites and cornstarch.

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Red velvet cheesecake brownies

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For my dad’s 50th birthday last year I made a giant red velvet cheesecake. It was amazing, delicious, huge and difficult. I promised Ciaran I would make him one as well seeing as he missed out during the birthday celebrations. But still, that cake is so daunting and time-consuming that I still haven’t made good on my offer. I will still do it one day, I did promise. But for now, I figured some red velvet cheesecake brownies would tide him over. They’re done in under an hour and are super tasty. I brought them with me to a weeknight barbecue and the entire batch was gone by the end of the night, so I’d say they’re pretty popular.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
From Baking Bites

1/2 cup butter
2-oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp red food coloring
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F/ 180C. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
In a small, heatproof bowl, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir with a fork until very smooth. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and red food coloring. Add in the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Batter should be red. If a brighter red is desired, add an additional 1/2 tsp food coloring. Add flour and salt into the bowl and stir until everything is just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain.
Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
Prepare cheesecake mixture. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Drop in dollops onto prepared brownie batter. Gently swirl two batters with a butter knife.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until brownies and cheesecake are set. A knife inserted into the cheesecake mixture should come out clean and the edges will be lightly browned.
Cool in the pan completely before slicing and serving, either at room temperature or chilled.
Brownies can be refrigerated, covered, for several days.

Makes 16 large brownies or 24 smaller brownies

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Lighter coconut red curry shrimp

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My relationship with spicy foods has been a bit of a roller coaster. And just as I used to hate giant roller coasters with all of my being, my feelings were pretty similar towards spicy food.

Anything with chilli, jalapeno, wasabi…it was out of the question. I think there was a time when I was in New Mexico with my family and we went out to dinner to this nice authentic Mexican restaurant and I remember uncontrollably crying and sweating as I tried to eat my meal. I remember being offered quesadillas with honey to try and ease the pain though it did little against the mighty wrath of that dish. That was about the time I swore off anything spicy for a while.

However, nowadays my palate has been craving spicy foods and I don’t know what is going on. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been introduced to it in more ways and perhaps better ways. My boyfriend’s mother cooks quite a few Malaysian and Singaporean dishes which at first made me want to drink a whole gallon of milk to get me through but now I really quite enjoy. Last summer I also went out to have sushi with my family and my father mistakenly ordered one roll, I believe it was called the Volcano roll, which was basically a huge mound of wasabi with one or two tiny flecks of fish rolled in seaweed and rice. Not knowing what it was I simply popped it in my mouth and got my first wasabi head rush. It’s actually kind of cool the way it rushes through your nose and makes your head want to explode but then subsides quite quickly. It’s strangely addictive.

So now I’ve been adding more wasabi to my sushi, putting more chilli in my pho, I even made a little pilgrimage to find Sriracha sauce which isn’t commonly available here. And apparently spicy food is very good for your metabolism so that’s a win as well.

And after that whole rant about how I love spicy food, I will admit I didn’t even put all the red curry paste that is called for in this recipe since I was afraid it would be too much. What can I say, I may love spicy food now, but I’m still a bit of a chicken when it comes down to it.

Whether you make it spicy or mild this dish is actually very delicious and I highly recommend it.

Lighter coconut red curry shrimp
From Can you stay for dinner?

1 can (13.66 ounces) coconut milk

2 tablespoons Thai Kitchen® Red Curry Paste

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup fresh Thai basil, chopped roughly (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce

Your choice of vegetables, I added 1 head of broccoli, 1 cup of sugar snap peas and about half a bag of shelled edamame

Directions:

Simmer coconut milk in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in curry paste and sugar until well blended; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes.

Stir in shrimp and vegetables. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Stir in basil and fish sauce.

Serve over either brown or jasmine rice.

Serves 4

Nutrition Information Per Serving (not including rice): 295 Calories, Fat 19g, Protein 21g, Carbohydrates 10g, Cholesterol 168mg, Sodium 1095mg, Fiber 1g

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Scrambled egg muffins

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Some people are morning people. I am not one of them.

My morning routine takes about an hour and if it starts before 10am, I’m usually not in a good mood during it. And that long routine doesn’t even include making breakfast.

Another one of my resolutions is to start eating breakfast. I’m one of those people who will just grab the $5 coffee and croissant deal from the cafe downstairs while running to work, one of those people who eats some Cheez-its out of the box for breakfast because pouring cereal and milk is way too much work, one of those people that thinks cold pizza in the morning can most times be better than hot pizza (but not in Australia, sorry guys but pizza here kind of sucks), one of those people who constantly seems to have expired milk in the fridge…you get what I mean.

So breakfast is always a struggle. Though I still think Cheez-its or Goldfish make a great breakfast. Alas, I have tried to stop eating cheese flavoured crackers for brekkie and make sure I eat a suitable breakfast food at a suitable breakfast hour instead. And since I’m constantly running out the door in the morning, I wanted something I could make in advance and eat for a few days. Enter the scrambled egg muffin, a genius of good ingredients, portable size and awesome-ness! I realize making scrambled eggs takes all of fifteen minutes but then you have to wash and sit down and use a fork and it’s all just a massive process in my world. So I decided to take all of that and put it in the shape of a muffin and make lots so I could eat them ALL WEEK. Genius? Why, yes I think so.

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Scrambled egg muffins
Makes 10
6 eggs
1/2 onion, diced
2 pieces streaky bacon, diced
1 cup spinach, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup reduced-fat tasty cheese
Salt, pepper and olive oil

Preheat your oven to about 170C. Chop the onion, bacon, spinach and mushrooms to have them ready. Saute the bacon and onion in a frying pan with a teaspoon of oil on medium high heat. After two minutes add the mushrooms. Saute until the bacon is a bit crispy and the onion and mushrooms are soft. Turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes so it doesn’t cook the egg right away. In a big bowl scramble the eggs together. Throw in the onion, bacon, spinach, mushrooms and cheese. In a muffin tin coated with cooking spray or with little muffin cups (like the ones in the picture). Spoon the mixture evenly between the muffin cups. Put them in the oven for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Enjoy!

These are quite small so I usually had two per morning but I think Ciaran could have had three per morning so it’s up to you. This is adapted from a recipe where the muffins were 133 calories each and this version just has more vegetables so the calorie count shouldn’t be too far off that.

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And that’s how I enjoy my morning.

Enjoy!

Allie

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Asian noodles with shrimp and edamame

As a self-professed pasta lover, I’ve found it hard to find a suitable replacement now that I’m toning down my carb intake. Rice is definitely not the same, and if you’re eating a bunch of white rice it’s still not very good for you either. I’ve tried hokkien noodles and udon noodles for stir-fries and they’re okay. Now I’ve been experimenting with soba noodles and they seem to be doing the trick.

In some cultures soba just means noodles but usually soba refers to buckwheat noodles. Buckwheat noodles are naturally gluten-free and usually about 98 per cent fat free. Buckwheat is deceptively named, it is related to the rhubarb and doesn’t contain any wheat. As opposed to udon which is a thick wheat noodle. At many shops that sell Asian noodles you will often get the choice between udon and soba, I’m surprised I never previously knew that one contained wheat and the other didn’t. I’ve experimented with soba noodles in the past, once with a peanut sauce and another time with a lime, soy and honey sauce. However, this dish has proved to be the best so far. It is a bit involved so I recommend making a bit more so it will last you for a few meals.

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Asian noodles with shrimp and edamame
From the Food Network
Takes 25 minutes
Serves 4

  • 10 ounces soba (buckwheat) noodles
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha (Asian chile sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Juice of 1 lime or lemon
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, plus more for drizzling (optional)
  • 1/2 pound medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro and/or scallions

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook as the label directs, adding the edamame during the last 3 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the noodles and edamame.

Meanwhile, puree the garlic, ginger, Sriracha, 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons water in a blender. Mix the lime juice, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the shrimp dry and season with salt; add to the pan and cook, turning, until just pink, 2 minutes. Add the Sriracha mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 2 more minutes. Add the soy sauce mixture, noodles and edamame, herbs and the reserved cooking water and toss. Divide among bowls and drizzle with more sesame oil.

Per serving: Calories 485; Fat 14 g (Saturated 1 g); Cholesterol 86 mg; Sodium 483 mg; Carbohydrate 64 g; Fiber 8 g; Protein 27 g

Enjoy!

Allie

 

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