Cookbook Review: Chop Chop

Chop Chop – Brett McGregor

Chop Chop
Asian food is my nemesis so I am glad for all the help I can get when it comes to preparing delicious meals with an oriental flair.  Curries and Thai food I have a handle on but anything else bewilders me.  I can’t tell if the recipe is Malaysian, Vietnamese, Chinese or otherwise.  Not so for Brett McGregor, New Zealand’s first MasterChef winner.  This is his third cookbook, and as with his first (Taste of a traveller) and second (A Taste of home), Brett shares a whole heap of tasty recipes suitable for family cooking. Continue reading

Bushwalker Cookies with Apple (Dairy-free)

Bushwalker Cookies with Apple

When I originally began this blog it was my intention to take regular recipes and see how I could ramp them up with flavours of apple.  I have done a fair bit of adding apple to recipes but have failed to add them to my blog before the bottomless-pit-teenagers manage to remove all trace of such baking experiments. Continue reading

Limited Edition: Granny Smith Apple Juice

Granny Smith Apple Juice

I love love love single variety apple juice.  I imagine (pretend) as I am drinking it that I can taste the individual nuances of apple flavours. Well, there is no pretending with this Granny Smith apple juice.  The inside of my cheeks water and pucker just like they do when I eat a Granny Smith apple.
Granny Smith Apple Juice

I had a photo bomber today – he was very interested in what I was up to.  Especially when there was cake and biscuits at his eye (nose and tongue) level.

This is the second bottle of juice we’ve bought.  The first I bought for the purposes of this blog but the bottle appeared in the recycling bin before I realized it was even open proving it is appreciated by someone in our house.
Granny Smith Apple Juice

Berry Berry Muesli

Berry Berry Muesli
This berry muesli is inspired by a particular brand of muesli that my teenagers inhale at the rate of (almost) a box per day.  As I make home-made muesli regularly, I checked out the ingredients to figure out why they liked this muesli more than my other muesli mixes.  I believe it is the absence of nuts and coconut and the abundance of berries that make this muesli a hit.  I have recreated the berry muesli using the ingredients on the box as a guide.
Berry Berry Muesli
Each time I make the muesli it turns out a little bit different depending on my muesli ingredient stocks.  Cereal flakes can be a mix of Special K Original, Mesa Sunrise Flakes, Ancient Grain Flakes and Heritage Flakes which include flakes of rice, whole wheat, whole grain oats, corn, flake, quinoa, amaranth, barley & spelt. I buy whatever is on special.  The muesli can be made with all Special K Original but I like the layering of flavours when the other flakes are included in the cereal.  You could also use brown rice flakes and coconut flakes (although I purposely leave coconut out of this particular muesli mix as that is how the teens prefer it).  By using some regular grains (wheat and oats) along with the more expensive grains (quinoa, amaranth etc) it balances out the cost.  If budget is of less concern than health, use all organic, ancient, or heritage flakes.
Berry Berry Muesli
The natural bran flakes (these are similar to corn flakes but made from bran as opposed to these) can be substituted for bran sticks, or oat bran. I have used wheat bran flakes such as you would use in bran muffins but prefer the other type of bran flakes (like you find in Sultana Bran Cereal).  I have linked through to the particular products I use, but you can use any brand you wish.  The natural bran flakes I have been using (Sanitarium Fibre Life Bran Flakes) don’t appear to be available any longer (I am waiting on confirmation from Sanitarium on that) but I have found that our local Bulk Bins also sells bran flakes.  These appear to be the same sort of bran flakes as used in Sultana Bran – they are much larger than the Fibre Life ones.
Berry Berry Muesli
As for the berry syrup – I use Giffard strawberry syrup as I could by it locally.  That is no longer the case so I will probably swap to a NZ made strawberry syrup such as this or a raspberry one such as this. However any berry flavoured syrup or cordial will work, blackcurrant is nice as is raspberry & rhubarb.  If you haven’t any flavoured syrup, it is very easy to make (see here) or use honey or golden syrup.  For the jam I use any berry flavoured jam, either mixed berry or a plain raspberry or boysenberry.  I have also used plum jam and a grape jam I made that wasn’t appreciated as a toast topping. I increase this recipe by half again and it fills a 5 litre cereal container.

Berry Berry Muesli

Ingredients

  • 270 g cereal flakes
  • 270 g traditional wholegrain (jumbo) rolled oats
  • 40 g cornflakes
  • 40 g natural bran flakes
  • 60 g berry syrup (such as strawberry syrup)
  • 60 g berry jam
  • 45 g neutral flavoured oil eg rice bran oil
  • 60 g dried cranberries
  • 40 g dried strawberries
  • 20 g dried blueberries
  • 1 tsp freeze-dried raspberry powder (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 125ºC.
  • Combine flakes & oats in a large roasting dish.
  • Heat syrup, jam and oil until runny. Whisk to combine the ingredients then pour over the flakes. Mix thoroughly to make sure the syrup mixture coats all the dry ingredients.
  • Bake, stirring several times, 20-30 minutes until the muesli is golden and smelling fragrant.
  • Allow to cool, stirring several times to break up any clumps.
  • Roughly chop the dried fruit.
  • Stir in fruit and freeze-dried powder if using.
  • Store in air-tight container.
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http://sevengreenapples.com/breakfast/berry-berry-muesli/

NB: I have received no free product or compensation for any of the products mentioned in this post.

Strawberry Syrup

Strawberry Syrup
While preparing my regular recipe for our local paper The Gisborne Herald, I went into the local shops I frequent to make sure all the ingredients were still available.  A while ago I had purchased a large bottle of Giffard Strawberry Syrup and had plans to add the Peach Syrup to my pantry.  However, as it often goes, products come and products go.  And the Giffard range of syrups has disappeared from our local stockist which upset my muesli plans.
Strawberry Syrup
So what to do….. I had a search all around our fair city for another Strawberry syrup that would suffice.  Other than the Barkers Fruit Syrups (in particular the Squeezed Rhubarb with Raspberry & Rosehip, which isn’t Strawberry but is a red berry fruit so was a good option in my mind), or Baker Halls & Co Fruit Syrups (I have used the Apple & Pomegranate in my homemade muesli), the next best option was the Raspberry & Boysenberry Compote from The Dollop Kitchen.  It must be fairly popular compote as the shelf was empty.
Strawberry Syrup
Other ideas were to buy strawberry jam and heat it until liquid (I often use jam in my muesli as it is a great way to use up jam flavours that the kids haven’t appreciated); use a icecream topping such as Delmaine Strawberry Topping or try to track down some Milkshake Syrup (such as Supreme or Six Barrel Soda Co. – the later requiring a trip to Napier or Havelock North).  I could order online but I needed it, like, yesterday and I also wanted something available locally.  On another note, the Raspberry & Lemon or Cherry & Pomegranate from Six Barrel Soda Co. both sound really good, maybe I’ll order some anyway).
Strawberry Syrup
The only other option was to make some strawberry syrup.  I make fruit syrups regularly as they are easy and use three ingredients: fruit, sugar, water.  So here is my strawberry syrup recipe (the muesli recipe is coming in the next few posts).  I have used frozen strawberries as NZ-grown frozen strawberries were preferable to tasteless imported fresh strawberries.  This coming summer I will make sure I freeze plenty of strawberries so I can whip up this syrup.  I thought about adding a vanilla pod, or some black pepper.  Both are well suited to strawberries but I decided in this instance to stay with simple strawberry.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Strawberry Syrup

Ingredients

  • 250 ml water
  • 225 g (1 cup) white sugar
  • 250 g frozen strawberries

Instructions

  • Place all the ingredients into a medium-sized saucepan.
  • Bring the ingredients to a boil then turn down and simmer until the fruit is soft and pulpy (about 25-30 minutes).
  • Strain the mixture through a sieve or jelly bag.
  • Pour the syrup into a bottle and store in the fridge once cooled.
  • Makes about 325 ml.
  • Use to make muesli or add to cold milk for a strawberry milkshake. It is also delicious poured over ice-cream.
  • Mash the leftover strawberry pulp and add to 2 cups of unsweetened natural yoghurt or add them to a smoothie.
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http://sevengreenapples.com/dessert/strawberry-syrup/

The syrup can be used in many ways – not just in muesli.  Put a tablespoon in a glass and top up with cold milk for a strawberry milk drink, or add some vanilla icecream and use the blender to make a strawberry milk shake.  We use it to flavour our natural unsweetened yoghurt and serve with muesli for breakfast.  It is also nice with vanilla ice-cream.

Apple Crumble Chocolate

Apple Crumble Chocolate
We are firmly in the Whittakers camp when it comes to chocolate, not only because it tastes better but also because it is New Zealand made.  However occasionally Cadbury brings out a limited edition flavour that makes me jump ship for a short time. Continue reading

Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-Free)

Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
Homemade cookies or biscuits as we call them here in New Zealand (not to be confused with American biscuits which we call scones) are a welcome sight in our baking “tins”.  I say “tins” as baking containers doesn’t conjure up the same image but, although I have three or four actual tins, I store baking in airtight plastic (yes, BPA-free) containers.  I prefer clear transparent containers so the kids don’t lift a corner of each to see what is inside.  Invariably they don’t reseal the container leaving the contents to soften unless I come along behind them pushing down the corners and clasps.  I think that is my life long task along with closing kitchen drawers (and The Anster’s is to turn off the lights in all the empty rooms).
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
So back to the biscuits – many biscuit (cookie) recipes begin with cream the butter & sugar which is absolutely fine if you don’t have an aversion to dairy products.  I like baking with butter but I don’t like the reaction I get from Miss M and she doesn’t like to reaction she gets from consuming butter.  I could substitute the butter with margarine but margarine is a swear word in our house.  I do buy dairy-free spread made with olive oil for Miss M so she can enjoy toast with “butter” and jam but I try not to use that too much in baking unless I absolutely cannot get around it.
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
The next best thing is to find recipes that require the butter to be melted so I can swap out the butter for oil & non-dairy milk.  I have found I get the best results when I use 75% neutral-tasting oil (I use rice bran oil) and 25% non-dairy milk (which is what ever milk is in the fridge at the time: almond, coconut, rice, oat or soy).
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
When deciding to bake biscuits the first thing I look at is, if there is butter, what method is required: creaming (discard that recipe) or melting (worth a second look).  I have been experimenting with using my 75/25 butter substitute in recipes traditionally requiring the creaming method but that is another post for another day.
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
On one of my second-hand/charity shop scouring trips I came across Cookie Magic: Cholesterol Free & High Fibre Recipes by Diana Linfoot for the huge price of $1.00.  A quick look through the book and I found a number of recipes requiring the sugar and margarine (the author says never use butter and margarine gives a better result than oil but I am ignoring that little piece of advice as this book was produced 26 years ago and butter had an undeserved bad reputation way back then).  I have never used margarine in baking and always substitute it with butter – such a rebel!  But back to the blending of sugar and fats – this method will work perfectly well with sugar and my 75/25 butter substitute mix which opens up a whole lot of interesting recipes to play around with.  Just over half the recipes are either blend or melt or completely dairy-free however some of the recipes have five or six variations so that leaves plenty of scope for some delicious cookie creations/adaptations.  The only one I have discarded completely is the Savoury Cheese Nibbles.  They do sound and look very good but cheese is kind of tricky to substitute.  Maybe I’ll make them anyway and put my sunglasses on to shield me from the black looks Miss M sends my way.
Cookie Magic
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)
Here is the first cookie recipe I converted to dairy-free and is a resounding success with all four of the bottomless-pits commonly known as teenagers that reside in our house. My changes were to swap out the margarine for oil & non-dairy milk, substitute the dates for chocolate chips, substitute self-raising flour for standard flour & baking powder (I have nothing against self-raising flour but I already have large containers of high-grade, standard and wholemeal flour as well as numerous smaller jars of coconut, oat, sorghum, quinoa, and rice flours etc etc and my-bursting-at-the-seems-pantry has the draw the line somewhere) and I used Weetbix crumbs as I have a large jar that I top up each time a box of Weetbix is consumed (which sometimes seems like every second day).  None of the BLP (bottom-less pits) like Weetbix crumbs (dust) for breakfast but are quite happy to eat it when incorporated into cookies & cake which is great for the zero waste movement.  On that note how do they measure how much food each household throws away each year?  Do they dig through our rubbish?  And what about the food I discard from our fridge to donate to our chickens – is that considered “thrown away”?
Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-free)

Bushwalker Cookies (Dairy-Free)

Yield: 20-25 cookies

Ingredients

  • 95 g oil
  • 30 g non-dairy milk
  • 200 g raw sugar
  • 1 (53-62 g) egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 15 ml (1 T) water
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 170 g (1 cup) dark chocolate chips (dairy-free)
  • 150 g (1 cup) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 90 g (1 cup) rolled oats
  • 30 g (1 cup) Weetbix crumbs (approximately 2 Weetbix biscuits)
  • 45 g (½ cup) desiccated coconut

Instructions

  • Preheat oven 140ºC and grease & line 2-3 baking trays.
  • Place the oil, milk and sugar together in a large bowl and beat until combined. Add egg, essence, water and baking soda, and beat again until combined.
  • Mix in the remaining ingredients.
  • Roll into balls and flatten onto baking tray (I scoop out a teaspoonful of mixture then push it off the spoon with another spoon, then shape them slightly with the second spoon, saves getting my hands all biscuity and works just as well as rolling out the mixture).
  • Bake until crisp on the edges and golden in colour (about 18-20 minutes).
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http://sevengreenapples.com/baking/biscuits-cookies/bushwalker-cookies-dairy-free/

Cookie Magic | Bushwalker Cookies

Apples we are eating: Rockit

Rockit

Snooping around the crates of apples in the Supermarket to find something inspiring my eye passed over a stack of tubes with teeny-tiny apples in them.  I have seen these apple tubes in the past but never really paid much attention.  I assumed they were little apples of some sort – perhaps gala’s or something similar. Continue reading

Cookbook Review: Melie’s Kitchen

Melie’s Kitchen by Amelia Ferrier (Penguin Random House New Zealand)

Melie's Kitchen

I have a fair collection of cook books both new and old.  My favourite cook books are anything with baking or preserving (jams and jellies and such like).  Some books I have never made anything from, although I want to try three or four of the recipes.  Other books I have get me extremely inspired to get into the kitchen and try stuff out.  Melie’s Kitchen falls into the second group – there is so much in there that is just ‘wow’ and ‘oh-my-goodness’ and ‘I’d never have thought of that’.  It’s so exciting (and no, it is not sad that I find a cookbook exciting). Continue reading

Fusilli with Tomato & Chorizo Sauce

Fusilli with Tomato & Chorizo Sauce
Adding Spanish Chorizo & Mexican Jalapenos to a tomato base is definitely not authentic Italian but it does make a quick, easy and super tasty week night meal.  Chorizo is a great addition as only a little is required to pack a huge flavour punch.  I have used cured chorizo here, as opposed to fresh chorizo sausages.  Chorizo come in a variety of sizes: if using the larger chorizo, two will be enough; or use 5-6 of the small cheerio size. Continue reading