Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Teena's Vegie Bake

David had a rare night off cooking last night, so I whipped this up! I'm not as good a cook as Dave, but this one was an unusual success. So now I just have to write down what I did so I remember for next time he wants a night off!
Teena's version of a veggie bake

I used to make veggie bakes a fair bit in my early 20s, when I attempted to be a vegetarian. I managed to refrain from eating red meat for 3 months, but I still ate chicken and fish, so I wasn't really a vegetarian! But after 1 month off not eating red meat, the aroma of red meat cooking became an unpleasant smell. I found the original idea for this veggie bake in the Australia the Beautiful Cookbook, which someone gave to me many, many years ago.

You will need -
your choice of veggies, enough to fill 2/3 of your casserole dish
your choice of a base, like rice or couscous, your choice of beans (optional), and olive oil
mushrooms, garlic, butter and flour for the mushroom sauce
grated cheese for on top, a couple of handfuls

For my adaptation last night, I began by preparing the vegetables. You can use any veggies for the bulk of the bake. Last night I used a bunch that needed to be used up, some home-grown potatoes and a squash from David's father's garden, a zucchini, a sweet potato, a red onion and some pumpkin. In my younger days, I would use celery and carrot as well, they are very cheap! There were enough vegetables to fill our small steamer.

Next I made a garlic mushroom sauce. That's a white sauce using butter, flour and liquid from the bottom of the steamed veggies. Then I fried up some butter, garlic and mushrooms in a small pan, and added that to the sauce.

I also prepared some couscous, which is too easy and convenient not to use. All you have to do is add boiling water to the same amount of couscous, I used half a cup which made plenty for us. Let it sit while you prepare other things, then fluff it up with a fork. To the couscous I added some olive oil and strained butter beans.

To put it all together you put the couscous mixture in the base of the casserole dish, you could also use rice or pasta for this. Next you pile in all the strained steamed veggies. Then you pour the mushroom sauce over them. Lastly, you put a couple of handfuls of grated cheese on top. I also put the last few dobbles of left over garlic herb butter on top to melt. Then it all goes in a 220 oven for 15 minutes until the cheese is golden brown, yum!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gingerbread Hearts

We made these biscuits for Christmas in 2010.  Thomas was still in the Special Care Nursery at that stage so we were passing time before we went to visit him.  We travelled in to see him every day during the 7 weeks he was in the nursery, except for two days when it was flooding and we weren't able to get in.  We ended up giving the biscuits to friends and family as a nice home-made gift for Christmas.

An assortment of Gingerbread Hearts.

125g butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 tbs golden syrup
2 cups plain flour
Pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp bicarb soda
2 tsp ground ginger

Cutting out the hearts.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and golden syrup, beat thoroughly.  Sift dry ingredients together and work into butter mixture to form a soft dough.
Knead lightly on a floured surface and roll out to about 3mm thickness.  Cut into heart shapes and arrange on a greased backing tray.  Bake in a preheated oven (180°C/350°F) for 15 minutes.

Teena was in charge of decorating the hearts.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Heart Shaped Steak Pie with Vegies

This year for Valentines day dinner, we had Heart Shaped Steak Pie, Crunchy Baked Potatoes with Rosemary, Baked Pumpkin, Honey and Soy Roast Carrots and Minted Mushy Peas.  The pies are adapted from a recipe at

They turned out great and were very tasty.  We will probably use this recipe again, but make normal shaped pies as it should be a bit easier.  To save having to cook too much on the actual night, I made the pies the night before (right up until the point where you put them in the oven), wrapped them in cling wrap and popped them in the freezer.  Then it's just a matter of cooking them on the night, though they did take a little longer as they were still frozen.

A hearty meal!

Ingredients - Heart Shaped Steak and Gravy Pie
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 500g beef chuck steak, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 2 tbs instant gravy powder
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry

These mini heart shaped cake tins were perfect for the job

Heat oil in a saucepan over high heat.  Cook beef for 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned.
Add onion and garlic.  Cook, stirring, until onion is softened.
Add flour.  Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add gravy powder and water.
Cover and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Stir in rosemary.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until beef is tender.  Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 180°C fan-forced. Grease two heart shaped cake tins.
Line prepared tins with pastry. Trim excess. Spoon filling into cases. Brush edges with egg. Cut puff pastry into 2 squares. Place over filling. Press edges to seal. Trim excess. Brush with egg.
Bake for 40 minutes or until golden.

The steak is chunky yet so tender

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Spicy Broccolini and Bacon Spaghetti

Sometimes you don't have much time to cook or you just don't feel like standing in the kitchen for hours.  That is when a simple and quick meal like this one is great.  All up it should take well under 30 minutes to make and tastes delicious.

Quick, easy and tasty!

  • 250g Spaghetti
  • 100g Bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 Onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove Garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • 1 bunch Broccolini
  • 400g can chopped Tomatoes
  • 2 tsp Hot Chilli Sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Shredded Cheese (we used mozzarella as we were out of parmesan)

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water.
In a large frypan, cook bacon for 3 minutes.  Add Onion and garlic and fry for another 3 minutes.
Roughly chop the stems of the broccolini and add to the pan.  Continue frying for 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes,chilli sauce, broccolini heads and water.  Bring to the boil then reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes.  To serve, put spaghetti into bowls, then add sauce and top with cheese.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chilli Mayonnaise

I tried making my own mayonnaise before I bought a food processor without much luck.  Using just a whisk I was never able to get the right consistency (it was always very runny).  Now that I have a food processor though, it's really easy to make mayonnaise and it comes out thick and creamy!

This is the chilli version that Teena and I both like, but we also make plain one with Dijon mustard and a garlic mayonnaise that I like.  I hear people talking about ranch dressing all the time but have yet to attempt that ( I don't think it's as popular in Australia as it is in America).

Chilli Mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
150ml canola oil
1 tbs hot chilli sauce

Place egg yolk and 1 tsp oil in food processor.
Blend for 20 seconds.  With processor turned on, slowly drizzle oil into the top funnel.
Start with a very thin stream and increase as the mixture thickens.
After half the oil has been added, add a pinch of salt (to taste).  Add remaining oil slowly.
Once all the oil has been added, add the chilli and continue mixing until it is mixed through.

A jar of Chilli Mayonnaise

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Beef Casserole with Rosemary Dumplings

Lots of vegies!
 There's nothing like a nice casserole or stew to warm you up in winter.  But it's not winter in Australia at the moment, it's actually quite hot.  That didn't stop us from making this delicious dish the other night.  We love the dumplings, they really make the dish in our opinion.  The best thing about a dish like this is that you can add just about anything you have on hand.

  • 500g casserole steak, cut into small chunks
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large Clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 red capsicum, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • 1 sweet potato, roughly chopped
  • 1 potato, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup pumpkin, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbs plain flour
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (or beef stock)
  • 1/4 cup wine
 Rosemary Dumplings
  • (2/3 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 25g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbs rosemary leaves
  • 2 tbs milk
Sponsered by... ???

Heat oil in pan.  Add steak and stir until browned.  Remove from pan and set aside.
Heat some more oil.  Add onion, capsicum and garlic.  Cook for 3 minutes on high.
Add carrots, kidney beans, green beans, potato, sweet potato and pumpkin.  Cook for 5 minutes stirring often.
Stir in flour and cook for a few more minutes.  Add stock and wine.  Bring to the boil.
Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

The dumplings soak up the delicious stew.
To make the dumplings, sift flour and baking powder into a bowl.  Add butter  and rub until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Stir in rosemary, salt and pepper.  Add milk and mix until you have a soft dough.  Add the dumplings into the casserole and cook a further 20-30 minutes until dumplings are cooked through (test with a skewer).

Ready to eat!
The Rosemary was dried from the plants in our potted garden.  You can read more about our rosemary on my wife Teena's blog, flushedwithrosycolour.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hot chilli sauce

I love chillies.  I've grown them for years and often make my own chilli relish with fresh chillies Straight from the garden.  Sometimes I dry them as well and make my own dried chilli flakes.

A bowl of chillies fresh from the garden.

Today I noticed there was a nice crop of chillies on my plants when I looked out the window, but I already have a jar of chilli relish in the fridge. So I decided to make some hot chilli sauce instead.
I found a simple recipe that popped up a couple of times when I was searching for recipes and added some extra ingredients to add to the flavour.

Chopped chillies, ready to go.

200g chilli peppers, ends removed and roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tsp lime juice

Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly for 8 minutes.
Transfer the sauce to a blender and blitz it for a minute or so until you have a nice consistency.
Pour into clean sterilised jars.

A jar of chilli sauce ready for tasting.

It turned out really good.  It's very hot but that's how I like it.  You can always blend it together with some tomato sauce or something if it turns out to be too hot, or replace some of the chillies with capsicums.  I think I might use some of this to make some chilli mayonaise tomorrow...

Hint:  If you get chilli on your hands while chopping them and it starts to burn, rub your hands on something made from stainless steel (like your kitchen sink or a large spoon).  Sounds weird but it works!

I think these are jalapeƱo peppers

Visit Teena's blog for more about our chilli garden.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon

There are some foods that Thomas seems to like more then others.    Macaroni is one of his favourites as it's easy for him to pick up and eat.  Last night we decided to make a simple Macaroni and Cheese and it was a hit!  The recipe is adapted from the Classic Macaroni and Cheese receipe at, the only variation being that I added bacon.

  • 400g macaroni
  • 50g butter 
  • 2 tbs plain flour 
  • 2 cups milk 
  • 2 cups grated cheese (I used Tasty Cheese)
Cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling water until al dente.
Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add bacon and fry for a few minutes until the bacon is cooked.
Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute on a medium heat.
Gradually add the milk, stirring until smooth and the mixture comes to the boil.
Remove from heat and add the cheese, stirring until melted and smooth.
Drain pasta and add to sauce mixture, stir until well mixed and pasta is coated with the cheese mixture.

Best eaten with your fingers.

Thomas prefers foods that he can pick up and eat himself as he doesn't like to be spoon fed (unless it's home made custard).  The Macaroni and Cheese was easy for him to eat as it sticks together nicely.

That was yummy!

As always, it's not a proper meal unless you get it everywhere.  Luckily he got most of it in his mouth this time and not too much in his hair or on the floor.  I think that means he really likes it!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


It's hard to believe that it has been over a year since I have posted to this blog.  How time flies when you're having... fun?  Well mostly fun anyway.  Our son Thomas was born in December 2010, two months premature due to a condition called HELLP syndrome

Thomas in his humidicrib.
Thomas spent 7 weeks in the special care nursery at the hospital before he could come home.  He weighed only 1.25 kg's when he was born and spent most of his time sleeping.  To begin with he had to be fed through the nose with a tube and syringe.  If only we could do that now...  it would make feeding time so much easier (and cleaner!).

So small...

Home at last... and still sleepy.
Eventually he was allowed to come home.  It was difficult at first and a huge adjustment to our peaceful lives.  It's been great watching him grow and develop though.  Every week there was something new he was doing.

Starting to lift his head.

Wearing his beanie.
Feeding time...

Feeding him has been a challenge sometimes.  He started out on milk of course, but when he started on solids we made our own puree vegetables and froze them in ice cube trays for convenience.  Then we started giving him meats and other dishes.  Some of his favourites were roast chicken dinner puree, sausage and vegie mash and vegie bake puree.  All home made of course.  Thomas did not like the store bought puree's at all, except for the pure fruit puree's.

 Toe sucking.  An important milestone?
And now he's 1 year old.  He only has two teeth and he's not quite walking yet but that doesn't stop him from getting into everything he shouldn't be touching.  He mostly eats what we eat now and we've taken him to Yum Cha several times and he loves it!  His favourite food at Yum Cha is Coconut Ice, he can't get enough of it.  Which reminds me... I need to find a recipe and try making some for him.

He's not usually so happy to be in his cot...

Asleep on a rug his mum made him.

Playing with a toy on his birthday.

Eating an ice block for the first time.  Home made of course...

1st Birthday cake.
So that's where I've been and hopefully I can find some time here and there to make a few more blog posts.  Who knew a baby would be so time consuming? :)
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