Breakfast muffins

Can you believe there are 9 fruits and vegetables stuffed into these little muffins? Let me tell you, that fact makes it soooo easy to justify cake for breakfast! But they’re amazingly delicious, pretty filling, and only 191 calories each – so not a terrible option for something sweet and decadent, or breakfast on the run. A big shout out to Smitten Kitchen for the recipe – mine is an adaptation of an adaptation, which is pretty much the joy of cooking: no one does things exactly the same, and that diversity is beautiful. 

This recipe yields 16 small muffins, which is perfect for me because I have one with coffee an hour or so after a bowl of Weetbix and berries, but making 8 larger muffins to have as a full breakfast is a viable option, as well. Just adjust the cooking time, and start checking on them afyer about 30 minutes. They’re a super moist muffin, but a skewer should still come out clean.

Ingredients

1.5 Granny Smith apples, grated 

1 large carrot, grated 

225g can crushed pineapple, drained well

1/3 cup dessicated coconut

1/4 cup dried fruit (I used a mix of dried apple, beetroot, craisins, blueberries and sultanas)

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2/3 cup raw sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups self raising flour

2 tablespoons  pepitas

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
  2. Place apple, carrot, pineapple, coconut, dried fruit, lemon zest, sugar, spices and oil in large bowl. Add eggs, and stir to combine.
  3. Add flour, and mix very gently.
  4. Fill paper cases to about 3/4 capacity, and sprinkle with pepitas, making sure to save some for the next batch.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, and transfer to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter and pepitas, remembering that cooking time will be slightly less due to a smaller amount of muffins being cooked in the pan the second time around
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Warm Potato Salad with Roasted Cream Cheese

Hands up who knew you could roast Philadelphia cream cheese into crispy little chunks? Me either! But you can, and they add a novel saltiness to a warm potato salad, making any meal a little different. Shout out to the Simply Heaven Philly cookbook that I stole from my sister for the idea!

Ingredients

3 medium potatoes, diced

2tbs white wine vinegar

2tbs olive oil

1tsp wholegrain mustard

1/2 tsp sugar

125g block cream cheese, broken into 2cm pieces

1 bunch asparagus, sliced

200g green beans, trimmed

250g cherry tomatoes, halved

100g baby capsicum, sliced

1 bunch broccolini, trimmed

Salt and pepper, to serve

Method

  1. Combine oil, vinegar, mustard and sugar and mix well.
  2. Preheat oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with foil, spread out potatoes and drizzle with half of the oil mixture. Roast for 20 minutes on top rack.
  3. Arrange remaining ingredients on another prepared tray and drizzle with the remaining oil. Roast for a further 20 minutes.
  4. Remove vegetables from oven and carefully combine in a large bowl. Season well and serve.

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Smoked Salmon and Veggie Rice Bake

As you can see, I’m a big fan of the rice bake – it’s a great way to get dinner ready quickly, and boy, is that the name of the game lately! We’re up to four days of sports practice for the kids, and of course, they all start at 6pm. So anything I can make quickly… or better yet, the night before, after I’ve run around all evening, is relatively cheap AND is healthy, holds a special place in my heart. Taste.com is a little hit or miss sometimes, but this is definitely a hit!

This bake is a prime example. It’s full of kale, broccoli and capsicum, as well as eggs and salmon for a nice protein hit. And because it’s so flavourful, having used marinated capsicum and Australian mustard to up the ante, you only need a small amount of salmon, keeping it so much more budget friendly than most seafood dishes. Personally, I’d love to swap the kale out and use baby spinach, but after 3 years of me living off the stuff, the husband is begging for something a bit different!

Taste has this recipe yielding six serves, but for once, I go a bit bigger, and have it feed four. It’s still only 485 calories, which is absolutely reasonable, and you can bask in the knowledge that if you don’t need quite so much, you can enjoy a dinner just under 400 cals. Which is handy when you’re eating on the run… and these days, that’s pretty much the only way we eat dinner anymore.

Ingredients

1 tbs olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

Zest of 1 lemon

1 small bunch kale, chopped roughly

300g broccoli, cut into small florets.

8 eggs

2-3 tsp Australian mustard

1/2 cup Greek yoghurt

290g jar marinated grilled capsicum, drained and diced

250g microwavable brown rice (no need to microwave it)

150g hot smoked salmon, flaked

2tsp dried dill

Salt and Pepper, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Steam broccoli in the microwave for 2 minutes until tender, but not mushy. Drain and allow to cool while completing next steps.
  3. Heat oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add garlic and lemon and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Stir in kale, cooking until just wilted. Add broccoli and break up larger pieces. Stir to combine, then remove from heat.
  5. In a clean bowl, whisk eggs, mustard, yoghurt, capsicum, rice and salmon until fully combined. Season with salt, pepper and dill, and pour over kale mixture. Combine well and smooth the top.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes, and serve.

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Warm Turkey and Rice Salad

I found a stuffed turkey roast for $2.83 today. The cheapskate in me was beyond thrilled, and suffice to say, tonight was destined to be a winner winner turkey dinner.

The beauty of this recipe – which I’ve had in my back pocket for many years now – is that it is so hands off and easy. Sure, the turkey takes over an hour to roast, but you cook it in the container it’s sold in, and while it does its thing, you’re free to do as you please. Then, with all of 5 minutes of active cooking time, which you can do any time within the next 24 hours (although if your bird cost you less than 3 dollars, I recommend cooking and eating it immediately!), the most simple ingredients become something truly wonderful. It’s a 500 calorie dinner that fills you up and feels like it should be a whole lot naughtier, and still yields leftovers for the next day (or to be fought over by the husband and nearly-teenager, as is so often the case in my house now).

Of course, you can cook the rice from scratch… but you do lose a little of that lazy-dinner feel in doing so. And sometimes, we all need a lazy dinner!

Ingredients

900-1.1kg stuffed turkey roast (my favourite one to use is the Ingham Turkey Thigh roast with apple stuffing)

450g microwavable brown rice

200g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 medium zucchini, diced

60g baby spinach

1/3 cup craisins

Method

  1. Cook turkey to package instructions – expect about an hour and a half. Rest for 30 minutes, and either refrigerate until required or continue to step 2.
  2. Microwave rice to package instructions. Allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, roughly chop turkey and stuffing into bite sized pieces, and set aside in the pan juices.
  4. Heat a frypan over high heat, spray lightly with oil. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, add turkey to pan and cook to heat through.
  5. Add zucchini and tomatoes, and cook for 2-3 minutes until starting to soften.
  6. Add the rice, and mix to combine and heat through.
  7. Remove from heat and stir through craisins and spinach. Allow spinach to wilt, then serve.

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Grilled Capsicum and Barley Salad

It’s a cruel trick that the universe likes to play; one week, I’m bored and feel I have nothing to do in my life, the next, I’m run off my feet working, studying, mumming, wifeing and existing. I never seem to hit a happy medium. Of course, on those busy weeks, meal planning becomes all the more important (once you work out where to squeeze it in, that is), otherwise it’s the perfect storm for falling back into some reaaaaalllllly bad habits that are best left back in 2017.

As such, Sunday afternoons are for meal prep. I long ago worked out that the best antidote for a case of The Mondays is a killer work lunch, and this salad, adapted just a little from my current cuisine-crush Ottolenghi, is just that. If you’re after something to look forward to, take your pick from the nuttiness of the barley, the sweetness of the onions and capsicum, the tartness of the lemony dressing, the saltiness of the feta, the sharpness of the olives… the list goes on. Every mouthful is just a little bit different, and while it’s 6.30 on a Sunday night, and I won’t be eating it for another 18 hours (and 2 meals!) from now, I’m already looking forward to it.

At 355 calories a serve, this is slightly higher than my usual lunches (but much less than Ottolenghi’s, as he uses 5(!) tablespoons of oil) , however it’s so wholesome and real, that it won’t leave you reaching for the cookie jar at 3pm. It’s very much worth the extra 50-80 calories to me. It’s just disappointing that I didn’t double the recipe – it only yields 2 serves, and I fear my husband will steal my Tuesday lunch!

Ingredients

100g raw pearl barley

2 cups vegetable stock

200g capsicum (I like to use yellow and orange baby capsicum), sliced into strips about 2cm thick.

3tbs black olive slices, drained (or 10 black olives, sliced)

1 onion, thinly sliced

Spray oil

Dressing

1tbs olive oil

1tbs honey

1tbs lemon juice

1tsp oregano

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp paprika

1 small clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

20g feta, to serve

Method

  1. Add stock and barley to a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the barley is tender but still has some bite.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the grill/broiler on high. Line the rack of the grill/broiler with aluminium foil, spray lightly with oil, and spread capsicum in a single layer over the top. Grill for about 15 minutes, until softened and charred to your liking (a little smokiness is wonderful, here).
  3. While the capsicum are grilling, spray a small frypan with oil, and cook onions over a low heat until soft – it should take about the same time as the peppers.
  4. When everything is done, combine in a bowl. Stir in the olives.
  5. To make the dressing, combine remaining ingredients (except for the feta) in a jug. Slowly pour over the barley, and mix well to combine.
  6. Top with feta and season with lots of black pepper.

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Lamb Biryani

There are so many lamb biryani recipes out there, so I feel a bit lame adding my own spin on it, especially as it’s not the most authentic, doesn’t come with an awesome story about my mother and grandmother cooking it all through my childhood, and probably isn’t the best out there. But I’ve tried many biryani recipes, and this is by far my favourite to cook at home, so I’m adding it here for ease of access. Also, Master12 just declared it his favourite meal, and that’s pretty big coming from such a little foodie.

Then again, this IS the kid whose rating scale for the past 10 years has been thumbs up/thumbs down, and almost nothing gets a thumbs down, so…

Either way, it IS a crowd pleaser. The rice is fluffy, the lamb is melt-in-your-mouth tender, the spices are warm, and the craisins are a sweet, tart contrast. There were no leftovers, even though it serves 5 people, and only 4 people live here. Miss9 doesn’t eat as quickly as her brother and dad, and missed out, much to her chagrin. There was pouting. It was that good. It’s also relatively cheap (as far as lamb dishes go, and assuming you have a well stocked spice rack), very quick and super easy, and pretty low calorie at 480 calories per (not small) serve.

Ingredients

1/2 cup Greek yoghurt (plus 5tsp greek yoghurt, to serve )

500g lamb steaks, cut into small dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste, this isn’t super spicy but does have a kick)

1 tsp cumin

1tsp garam masala

2tsp cumin

1/2tsp cloves

2tsp ground coriander

white pepper

Salt, to taste

1tbs olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

1 cinnamon stick

1 1/2 cups basmati rice

2 3/4 cups beef stock

1/3 cup craisins

50g baby spinach

1/3 cup flaked almonds

5tsp mango chutney, to serve

Method

  1. In a large glass or ceramic bowl, combine lamb, yoghurt and spices (except for cinnamon stick). Reserve.
  2. In a large fry pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cinnamon stick, and cook for 5 minutes until onion is soft and translucent.
  3. Add rice, and cook, stirring, for one minute.
  4. Stir in lamb mixture. Add stock and craisins, stirring to combine well. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until water has been absorbed and lamb is cooked through.
  5. Turn off the heat and remove the lid. Cover the pan with a clean, dry tea towel and replace lid. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  6. Fluff the rice by mixing well. Add spinach and almonds, and stir until spinach has wilted.
  7. Transfer to bowls and serve, topped with extra yoghurt, mango chutney and black pepper.

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Beef and Bean Chilli pie with Cornbread Dumplings

I so often wonder what – if anything – my kids will think about the food they ate growing up. I grew up with solid, nutritious meals that were pretty typical of Australian households in the ’80s and 90’s: meat and 3 veg, sausages, and my very favourite, spaghetti bolognese. How I eat as an adult is SO different to how I ate as a child, and because I wasn’t a particularly adventurous eater growing up, I still feel I have a hell of a lot of learning to do. It pleases me that my kids already love trying new things and exploring the cultural elements of cooking, eating, and learning about food. I hope that this continues into their adult years, and that when they think back on it (do people other than me do this? Maybe not.), they recognise that a big part of the reason I’m always trying new recipes is because it’s important to me that they try new things and appreciate the origins and contexts of the food they eat.

Anyway, all that actually has little to do with this recipe, which isn’t particularly difficult or exotic. It’s just an insight into the things that run through my head when I’m cooking. Tonight went from “I hope my daughter likes this… I wonder if I’d have liked this when I was 9?” to something more existentially wanky.

It’s clearly a bit carby and cheesy, but still, it just hits 500 calories, which is reasonable. It’s a big recipe, in that it serves 6, but nobody will complain at lunchtime tomorrow! The original recipe from Womens Weekly Veg Night at Home was (obviously) vegetarian, but I swapped out two cans of beans for 500g lean mince, and honestly, I’m not at all sorry.

Ingredients

1tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium yellow capsicum (any colour is fine, but yellow is my favourite), diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

500g lean beef mince

400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed.

2tsp cayenne powder (adjust for taste – this is spicy but bearable)

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp paprika

1tsp ground coriander

800g tinned diced tomatoes

1.5 cups beef stock

Cornbread dumplings

1.5 cups self raising flour

1.5 cups polenta

90g butter, chopped

1 egg

50g grated cheddar

100g corn kernels (frozen is fine, and don’t worry about defrosting them)

2tbs milk.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Heat oil over medium-low heat in an oven proof skillet. Add onion, capsicum and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until softened.
  3. Add mince, and cook on high heat for 5 minutes, until browned. Add beans, tomatoes, stock and spices, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes until thickened slightly.
  4. Meanwhile, combine flour and polenta and rub in butter until it resembled very damp sand. Stir in egg, corn, cheddar and milk, to combine into a sticky dough.
  5. Remove the chilli from heat. Form 6 balls of dough and gently drop onto the chilli. Bake for 20 minutes, or until dumplings have cooked through and turned golden.

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Cauliflower and Apple Soup with Charred Brussels Sprouts

When I told the kids we were having cauliflower soup with brussels sprouts for dinner, they laughed. Often, they’ll ask what’s for dinner, and I’ll respond along the lines of “poop on toast” or “banana and fish casserole” , and I suspect they thought I was joking tonight, too. Even my brussels sprouts loving 9 year old looked a little crestfallen when I actually did pull out the head of cauliflower and started making soup.

I’ll admit, it doesn’t quite scream ‘kids will go crazy over this’, but they did clean their plates, because this creamy yet light soup from the Australian Women’s Weekly is nothing short of delicious. The apple provides a child-quietening sweetness to the dish, while the cream and parmesan adds depth and complexity. The sprouts are certainly not to be skipped – they’re the star, and that slightly charred, nutty flavour elevates a humble soup into something absolutely wonderful. Copious amounts of pepper is also highly, highly recommended here, for the same reason.

The recipe yields 5 serves at 350 calories a serve, and is somewhat accidentally vegetarian: the stock I usually have in the cupboard happens to be vegetarian “chicken style” stock by Massel, and the parmesan I buy also just happens to be vegetarian (yep, I am aware that renders it not truly Parmesan. I am cool with this). These are actually budget decisions, not dietary, but don’t you just love happy accidents?

Ingredients

Spray oil

1 medium cauliflower, roughly chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped

2 cloves garlic, diced or minced

5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1tsb lemon juice

1/3 cup parmesan (style) cheese

1/3 cup thickened cream

1tbs olive oil

5 brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered

1tbs almond meal.

Salt and pepper, to serve

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, cauliflower, apple and cook for 10 minutes, until starting to soften and colour.
  2. Add stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 25 minutes until everything is very soft.
  3. Remove from heat to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small fry pan and saute sprouts until just starting to char – around 3 minutes. Sprinkle almond meal over the sprouts, toss to combine, and remove from heat.
  5. Use a stick or regular blender to process until smooth (I don’t mind a few little pieces of cauliflower). Stir in lemon juice, cheese and cream.
  6. Ladle soup into bowls and top with sprouts. Season well, and serve with ciabatta or other crusty bread (not included in a calorie count).

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Baked Beans with Pumpkin

As a kid, I always hated the little tins of baked beans that sat in our pantry at all times, and for the longest time I just assumed I hated beans. It didn’t really take up much mental real estate, as we didn’t really eat beans, and there was never a situation where tinned baked beans were the only acceptable option. They were never forced down my throat, as Mum doesn’t like any beans, so I didn’t, either.

Or at least, that’s what I thought for the first 30 or so years of my life. As it turns out, I LOVE beans of all shapes and sized, I just don’t like the weirdly sweet sauce that smothers tinned baked beans (or tinned spaghetti, for that matter). I eat beans weekly, in some form or another, and haven’t found one I don’t like yet.

I’ve still been a little gun shy to make my own baked beans. 6 hours? Overnight soaking, just so I can forget they’re there? Nah. I survived 30 years without them, I can go a little longer, right? But then, I found a recipe in a Women’s Weekly vegetarian cookbook that used tinned beans and took maybe 5 minutes of hands-on time, and 30 minutes total. That, I would try. And, boy, was I rewarded handsomely for my investment. For 30 minutes of work and maybe 5 bucks in ingredients, this recipe yielded a thick, spicy, stew-like dish held together with just enough cheese to feel special, that fills you up for 410 calories per serveand makes you rethink everything you ever thought about baked beans.

In case you can’t tell, I’m a total convert.

Serves 5

Ingredients

500g kent pumpkin, cut into wedges

Spray oil

1 onion, diced

3 x 400g cans 4 bean mix, drained and rinsed

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2tbs barbecue sauce

1tbs honey

1tsp dijon mustard

2tbs tomato paste

700g passata

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste



130g grated cheddar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Spray a roasting tray lightly.
  2. Cut pumpkin into large-ish chunks, place on tray and spray lightly again. Roast for 15 minutes, until softened and starting to colour.
  3. Meanwhile, in an ovenproof skillet, cook onion over medium heat for five minutes, until softened. Add beans and chickpeas.
  4. Stir in barbecue sauce, honey, mustard, and tomato paste. Stir to combine and coat the beans and onion.
  5. Add the passata and cayenne, and season well. Boil for five minutes, until thickened slightly.
  6. Add pumpkin to the sauce, and gently stir to cover with sauce. Sprinkle cheese over the top, and bake for 15 minutes until thick and golden.

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Veggie Mac and Cheese

I REFUSE to believe that healthy is a synonym for yummy-food-deprivation. I’ve been at this game for 3 years now, and never would have stuck with it if the food had to be boring, bland or minimal. No cutting out whole food groups for this gal! I want to have my cake and eat it too!

So I’m having mac and cheese for dinner tonight. With real pasta and three types of cheese. Just, a little less of those, and a whole heap of six different veggies (broccoli, brussels sprouts, onion, yellow capsicum, baby spinach, mushrooms, carrots). Balance. It’s all one big balancing act. I’m sure of it.

Now, this isn’t an everyday kind of dinner for me – In fact, I rarely eat pasta dishes where the pasta is the star anymore; I will almost always swap it for zoodles, because they’re much tastier and give me room for things like garlic bread or extra meat or sauce, which I much, much prefer. But I am only human, carbs aren’t the enemy, and sometimes, you just need a good bowl of macaroni to warm you up like a big old hug.

A bowlful (full!) of this works out to be 460 calories… not at all awful considering it’s a cheesy pasta dish! That’s with a yield of five servings, and that’s a pretty decent serve. Stretching it to six serves isn’t really a stretch at all.

Ingredients

225g macaroni

1 spray oil

1 onion, diced

500g mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 yellow capsicum, diced

2 smallish carrots, diced

6 brussels sprouts, thinly sliced

800g tomatoes, diced (canned is fine)

1 small head of broccoli, cut into tiny florets

1tsp dried rosemary

60g baby spinach

220g tub bocconcini

30g dried breadcrumbs

90g grated cheddar

1tbs parmesan

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Cook macaroni, removing from boiling water 2 minutes before packet instructions indicate. Add carrots to boiling water in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and reserve.
  3. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet (otherwise in a large skillet and you can transfer to an oven safe dish after you cook the veggies), and add onion, garlic and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes until softened.
  4. Add remaining veggies (the carrot can stay with the pasta), and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add pasta/carrots and rosemary, and toss to combine. Remove from heat.
  5. Tear the bocconcini and stir into the pasta.
  6. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and remaining cheeses over the pasta and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until golden.

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