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Recipe: Tasty Pumpkin Salad

Pumpkin Salad

Pumpkin Salad

Ingredients

· pumpkin, diced in bite-size cubes

· cumin seeds

· cooking oil

· feta cheese

· chopped red onion

· olives, black or green

· can of cooked chickpeas

· green beans, sliced

· vinaigrette dressing [balsamic is really good]

Directions

1. Sprinkle the cumin seeds and oil on the pumpkin and roast in the oven until browned and cooked. Place cooked pumpkin in a large bowl.

2. Slice the onion and add to the pumpkin.

3. Add the drained chickpeas and olives to the pumpkin.

4. Boil the green beans until cooked and add to the pumpkin.

5. Cube feta and add.

6. Dress with vinaigrette, toss lightly and serve either hot or cold.

7. Vary the quantities of each ingredient above to suit the number of diners. Use lemon juice as an alternative to vinaigrette. Balsamic vinaigrette works nicely with this salad. Serve as either a salad or a side dish.

Shelley’s notes:

1. Substitute some of the pumpkin for potato or kumara (sweet potato). Sometimes I also bake small onions and cloves of garlic as well, which is very tasty.

2. This is a great dish for vegetarians or it can be used as a salad or side dish for meat-eaters.

Slow Cooker: Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding

The other night I tried this new recipe for a chocolate pudding. It is from Allyson Gofton’s Slow, a book of recipes for a slow cooker or crockpot. I’ve adapted it slightly for my own purposes.

Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding

Self Sauce Choc Pudding

Ingredients:

3 cups of self-raising flour (I only had plain flour, so I added 3 teaspoons of baking powder)

1/4 cup cocoa

100 grams/7 tablespoons/3.5 ounces butter

1 cup sugar

2 cups milk

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Chocolate sauce:

3 1/2 cups boiling water

1/2 cup dark rum or coffee liqueur (I used Kahlua)

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

Method:

1. Pre-heat your slow cooker on low.

2. Sift the flour and cocoa into the bowl and rub in the butter. (I always grate my butter instead of rubbing it in).

3. Add the sugar and combine.

4. Make a well in the center. Beat the milk, eggs and vanilla and mix into the dry ingredients.

5. Pour the boiling water, the rum/liqueur, sugar and cocoa into the slow cooker. Mix together until incorporated.

6. Spoon the batter into the liquid and cover with lid.

7. Cook on high for one hour then switch to low and cook for another hour.

Shelley’s Notes:

1. This pudding is large and serves eight. There are only two of us so we supplied pudding for the neighbors and everything worked out nicely.

2. We served ours with yoghurt, but cream or ice cream would work just as well.

3. This is excellent comfort food on a cold winter’s night.

4. It was yummy!

5. I’m sorry the photos didn’t turn out as well as I hoped. It was quite late and there was no natural light left.

Choc Pudding in Slow Cooker

 

What is your favorite dessert to have during winter?

Homemade Granola

Granola

I saw this recipe to make granola and thought I’d try it out. The end result was delicious, and I will definitely make it again.

Homemade Granola

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)

1/4 cup wheatgerm

1 cup of your favorite nuts, roughly chopped (I used walnuts, pecan and almonds)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large egg whites

1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

Method:

1. Preheat the oven 150C/300F

2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl (apart from the cranberries)

3. Add the maple syrup and the olive oil and mix thoroughly

4. Whisk the egg whites until frothy

5. Stir the egg whites into the granola and combine well

6. Place the granola on a lined tray and spread it evenly

7. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes until the granola is golden brown and it’s dry to the touch

8. Cool then break the granola into clusters

9. Add the cranberries and combine carefully

Shelley’s comments

1. Don’t chop the nuts too small because they might burn.

2. I didn’t add as much salt as the recipe said.

3. If you don’t like cranberries, replace with the dried fruit of your choice.

4. Watch your granola carefully because you want it golden brown, not burnt!

5. I like my granola with yoghurt and sometimes make a yoghurt parfait, which is delicious.

Yoghurt Parfait

In this parfait, I’ve layered thick Greek yoghurt with raspberry coulis and topped with a sprinkling of granola. Perfect for a weekend breakfast or brunch.

What is your favorite thing to eat for a lazy weekend breakfast?

Recipe Review: Fix-It and Forget-It Vegetable Soups, Stews and Chilis by Phyllis Pellman Good

Fix It and Forget It Vegetarian Soups, Stews and Chilis

Today I’m reviewing a vegetarian cook book.

Blurb:

Fifty scrumptious and savory soup recipes for any season

These time-tested, easy-to-manage recipes for soups of all flavors have one thing in common: loads of healthy vegetables. Whether you’re looking for a hearty supper or a light weekday lunch, Fix-It and Forget-It Vegetarian Soups offers delicious choices to make in your slow cooker or on your stovetop, such as:

Vegan Chili·      Corn Chowder·      Homemade Vegetable Soup·      Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup

And much more!

Review:

As the title suggests, this book contains a collection of vegetarian recipes for soups, stews and chilis. The recipes are from home cooks and most of them are perfect to cook in a crockpot/slow cooker.

What I liked about this book:

1. The recipes give an indication of preparation and cooking times.

2. The ingredients were all things I’d find in my fridge or pantry.

3. As a New Zealander I often find American recipes use measurements that I need to convert. This book is easy to follow with no maths required. Measurements used are cups and spoons.

4. The recipes were appealing. I’d be happy to try most of them, and they weren’t overly complicated.

5. They’re mostly recipes that can be made ahead and are perfect for busy cooks.

6. It’s a vegetarian cook book!

What I didn’t like about this book:

1. The title suggests that there are soups, stews and chilli recipes. While this is true, the majority of the recipes are for soup with only about four chilli recipes and one or two stews.

2. Not every recipe has a photo to go with it. I think that most cooks like a photo so that they can compare their final dish with the one in the recipe book. At least that’s what I do when I’m cooking. I like to think that my dish turns out just like the one in the book.

Conclusion:

This is a handy and inexpensive book to have in your cooking library. It would be a great gift for a busy parent or maybe a student who flats and doesn’t have much time to make nutritious dishes. It would also be excellent for a beginner cook since the instructions are clear and concise.

Received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Fix-It and Forget-it Vegetable Soups, Stews and Chilis

Easy Vegetable Stock

In the past I used to buy my vegetable stock from the supermarket, but this month I happened upon a blog post about making vegetable stock. It looked so easy, I was astounded. Much cheaper than purchased stock too. Right, I thought. Time to try this stock thing.

Ingredients:

I used ingredients from the garden and fridge.

3 Carrots (they were from the garden and quite small)

2 stalks of celery (I used the leaves as well as the stalks)

1 onion – sliced

1 clove garlic – sliced

6 mushrooms

4 tomatoes from the garden – chopped into smaller pieces (a mixture of sizes, cherry to regular)

6 cups of water

8 spinach leaves – chopped (from garden)

1 bay leaf

10 peppercorns

Method:

1. Dice the vegetables.

2. Heat some olive oil (2 tablespoons) into a good sized pot.

3. Add the onions, garlic, carrot, celery to the oil. Cook until the vegetables start to caramelize.

4. Add the remaining ingredients plus the water to the pot.

5. Bring to a simmer and cook for around 45 minutes.

6. Strain the stock and discard the vegetables.

7. Once stock is cool, refrigerate or you can freeze.

Shelley’s tips:

1. I read quite a few different recipes before I started and soaked up several tips.

2. Chop the vegetables small because you’ll get maximum flavor this way.

3. Brown veges at the start. This will add more flavor.

4. Use cold water rather than warm. The gradual heating of the water allows maximum flavor.

5. Simmer rather than boil your stock.

6. As you can see, everything with stock is about flavor. Follow these guidelines and you should end up with a great stock.

Vegetable Stock

Vegetable Stock

Have you tried making your own stock? If so, how do you use your stock in cooking?

Recipe: Ginger Slice

This is a recipe I discovered in an Australian cookbook titled Country Women’s Association, Biscuits and Slices. I’m such a fan of ginger and simply had to try making the slice. The results were excellent, and it’s one that I’ll make again in the future. The scent of the different spices as the slice cooks is gorgeous.

Ginger Slice

Ginger Slice

1 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons golden syrup

125 g butter/half cup butter

pinch of salt

1 dessertspoon ground cinnamon

1 dessertspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 egg, well-beaten

1 cup sour milk (make this by adding a squeeze of lemon juice to a cup of fresh milk)

2 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup chopped raisins

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

2. Combine the sugar, golden syrup, butter, salt and all spices into a large saucepan and heat until the ingredients are melted and combined together.

3. Add the beaten egg and the sour mix. Combine well.

4. Sift the flour and soda and stir into mixture.

5. Add the raisins.

6. Place in a paper lined slice tin.

7. Bake for 30 minutes.

Ginger Slice

Shelley’s notes:

1. My oven cooks quickly, and I cooked my slice for 25 minutes.

2. The combination of raisins didn’t work for me, so I left them out.

3. Slice into squares and serve for afternoon tea or serve warm for dessert with whipped cream, creme fraiche, or custard.

Making the Perfect Scone

When I was a child my mother made a lot of scones. Since we lived in the country, it wasn’t easy to run out to buy a loaf of bread. Whenever we ran out of bread, mostly during the weekends when we were eating her out of house and home, she’d whip up a batch of scones. I remember cheese scones, warm from the oven, slathered with butter and date or sultana scones heaped with jam and whipped cream. My mum made excellent scones.

In the past I’ve tried making scones, with mixed results. Although the ingredients are basic, they’re tricky to make.

Here are some tips I’ve discovered along the way:

1. Work quickly and don’t over handle your scone dough.

2. Pre-heat the oven. Scones should be cooked in a super hot oven.

3. Most scone recipes tell you to rub in the butter. I find it easier and quicker to grate the butter into the dry ingredients.

4. The dough should be on the moist side rather than dry.

5. New Zealand cook, Alison Holst suggests that if you have problems with your scones, don’t make plain ones where every imperfection is evident. Try pinwheel scones or twist-type scones.

Cranberry Scones

Cranberry Scones

Ingredients:

3 cups plain flour

4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

50g butter/ .44 stick butter

1 + 1/2 cups of milk

Method:

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Grate in the butter. Add the milk and mix quickly without overmixing (most important!). Place on a floured board and roll lightly until about 15mm (3/4 inch) thick. Cut into squares or use a cutter to cut out rounds.

Bake in a hot oven pre-heated to 230C (450F) for 10 minutes.

Makes around 16 scones

Cranberry Scones

Shelley’s Notes

1. I added cranberries to my scones – around 1/2 cup. You can add sultanas, chopped dates or add cheese to make savory scones.

2. I cut my scones a little bigger and ended up with 14.

3. I served my scones with cherry jam and thick Greek yoghurt I’d made. Normally, I’d go for jam and whipped cream.

4. If you have trouble with scones try this recipe-Date and Orange scones-with cream and Sprite. It’s pretty fail proof.

Cranberry Scones

Are you a scone fan? Is there a recipe from your childhood that you like to make?

A Lesson in Cheese Making

I stepped out of routine last weekend. After packing my handbag with necessities, including my camera, I went off to be a Cheesemaker for a day at the New Zealand Cheese School.

There were about ten of us on the Dairy course, and we learned how to make milk ricotta, sour cream, cultured butter, yoghurt, quark and mascarpone.

We listened and learned. We made our own cultured butter and milk ricotta. We tasted samples of every type of dairy product.

It was so much fun.

One of the people who ran the course owns her own cheese company. She took a course much like this one back in 2000 and loved it so much, she started her own cheese company. We tasted several of her cheeses (ranging from cow and goat brie to a tasty blue) for morning tea.

Since the course, hubby and I have made our own yoghurt and some mascarpone. I like making things from scratch. They don’t necessarily turn out cheaper, but I can control what goes into my products, they taste good and I get satisfaction from making something myself.

As a side benefit, I have the perfect occupation for my next book—a cheesemaker!

Here are a few photos from my cheesemaking adventure.

Greek Yoghurt

Here we’re straining yoghurt to make it thicker – the consistency of Greek Yoghurt. When this is done commercially, milk solids (i.e. milk powder) are added back into the yoghurt to thicken it. This is why most thick Greek yoghurts purchased in the supermarket are higher in calories.

Cultured Butter

This is cultured butter that we made from sour cream. When I was a kid, we used to separate the cream from the cow’s milk in a machine called a separator. (Funnily enough!) The milk would come out one tube and the milk out another. When we had a lot of cream, we’d make butter in the butter churn. Both the separator and the churn were of the manual variety and used a lot of energy. I remember churning the butter—not an easy chore! The butter above was made using a kitchen mixer. So much easier.

Shelley_Milk Ricotta

This is me in my cheesemaking outfit – an apron and hairnet. I’m in charge of the milk ricotta. The curds have lifted to the top of the liquid, and I’m placing it in molds. The milk ricotta reminded me of scrambled eggs when I tasted it.

I enjoyed this course so much, I think I might go back at a later date and learn how to make feta and some of the molded cheeses like brie and blue cheese.

Are there any cheesemakers out there? Cheese fans?

Recipe: Delicious Strawberry Shortcake Muffins

I mentioned yesterday that Strawberry Shortcake Muffins rank among one of my favorites. The recipe came from the Baking Makes Things Better blog, which I highly recommend if you enjoy baking.

Strawbery Shortcake Muffins

 

Ingredients:

2 cups flour 
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup sugar
½ cup butter, (113 grams) cold from fridge and cut into cubes
1 egg
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 – 1 ½ cups strawberries, diced

 

Method:

1. Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2. Mix the beaten egg, cream and vanilla together in another bowl. Add these wet ingredients to the dry. Combine until just incorporated.

3. Mix in the diced strawberries, combining carefully.

4. Spoon into 12 muffin cases.

5. Bake in a 180C oven for around 20 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Shelley’s notes:

The original recipe called for a topping of diced strawberries and whipped cream or a dusting of icing sugar. I ate the muffins plain, still warm from the oven, and they were delicious. I also froze some and that worked well too. As mentioned, they were delicious. A real taste of summer in a muffin.

Tsatsiki in Athens

One great thing about traveling is trying the local food. During our visit to Athens in Greece last year we were wandering through the Plaka area and came across Scholarhio Ouzeri Kouklis, a small traditional family restaurant. While perusing the menu we saw that chef Rick Stein recommended the restaurant and that sealed it for me. Rick Stein is one of my favorite celebrity chefs, and we decided to follow in his footsteps.

Athens Outside Plaka Restaurant

Athens_Restaurant

This is one of the restaurant owners. He brought out a tray of all their offerings, and we were able to choose five different dishes. Our meal also came with a glass of wine or beer, bread, mineral water and a dessert.

Kitchen and the cook

Hubby went into the kitchen and took a close up of all the dishes.

Shell_Athens

I loved the food. If I concentrate I can recall the intense flavors and textures. It was one of the most memorable meals we’ve had recently. See my frown of concentration? My brain is saying, Yummy food! Yummy food!

One of the dishes we selected was Tsatsiki, a yoghurt dip that some of you have probably eaten. We’ve made it before at home, but it never tasted like this—thick and creamy and full of flavor.

When we arrived home we decided we’d try again to make some in the hope of duplicating the dish we had in the Plaka. After discussion we decided we’d amend our recipe to make our Tsatsiki thicker.

Recipe for Tsatsiki

Ingredients

1 cucumber

salt

ground black pepper

one large tub of natural yoghurt, preferably Greek

4 Tablespoons chopped mint

1 garlic clove, crushed.

Method

1. Our Greek yoghurt isn’t as thick as it is in Greece, so the first thing we do is to drain some of the liquid out of the yoghurt. We use a coffee filter and a funnel and sit it in a beer mug until some of the liquid drains out. About 1 – 2 hours should do it.

Yoghurt

2. Deseed the cucumber and discard the seeds. Cube the cucumber flesh.

3. Mix the cucumber with the drained yoghurt. Add chopped mint leaves and crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Place in a shallow dish and serve with chunks of fresh bread. Perfect with drinks on a hot day.

Tzaziki

Do you have memories of a particularly delicious meal?