I love pies, as the pastry is essentially a jacket for whatever filling or leftovers you have to put in them. They are so versatile and can be sweet or savoury. They can be individual or family sized. And you can make the filling one day and then place it in the pastry the next day if you are short on time.
Pies are a favourite in our house, yet we don’t seem to have them as often as we should seeing how easy they are. Usually, when I make pies, I will make a double batch of at least 6-8 so I can freeze half and have a second meal at a later date. Having said that, this time I made one batch, which gave me four pies.
For Mother’s Day last year, I was given a pie maker, which is essentially just a toasted sandwich maker with pie shaped holes in it – one of the best additions to my kitchen ever! And the best part about it is to reheat the pies, you simply microwave for a few minutes to ensure the filling is warm, then pop the pie back in the pie maker to crisp up the pastry, cos let’s be honest, a pie isn’t the same without crispy pastry.
I like to use the reduced fat puff pastry, but you can use the full fat variety if you wish. I personally don’t think there is too much difference in the taste between the two. If you are opting for a lower fat approach to this meal, rather than making individual pies, make a family pie, this will result in a great filling to pastry ratio, or even better, a family pie with pastry only on top. Serve with a nice garden salad and you have a tasty balanced meal.
Makes 4 individual or 1 family pie:
- 400g chicken thighs, chopped
- 3 leeks, white part only, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin, cut into 1-2cm cubes
- 1 cup broccoli, cut into small florets
- 1 1/2 tbs plain flour
- 3/4 cup reduced fat milk
- 1 tbs Dijon mustard
- 1 tbs olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 4 sheets of reduced fat puff pastry
- If not using a pie maker: Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a 24-26cm pie dish with baking paper.
- Heat large frypan over medium heat. Add oil, and when hot add the leeks and fry, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes or until translucent.
- Add pumpkin and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
- Add chicken and broccoli and cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is browned.
- Add flour and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
- Add the milk and the mustard and stir to combine. If the mixture is a bit dry add some more milk or water.
- Turn off the heat, add some salt and pepper to taste and mix.
- If making individual pies, cut the appropriate sized top and bottom, place the bottom in a prepared pie tin or pie maker, add 1/4 of the filling and add the top piece of pastry (If not using a pie maker: prick fork holes in the top to allow air to escape). Repeat with remaining pies.
- If making a family pie, place bottom piece of pastry into dish, add the filling and place the top piece on top. Prick some fork holes in the top to allow air to escape.
- Cook family pie for 30 minutes or until pastry has browned. Smaller pies will only need ~20 minutes.
- If cooking in a pie maker, cook until pastry is browned and crispy.
- Serve with a side salad.
Risotto is one of my favourite things to make and although it is time consuming, I quite enjoy the process of stirring it and it’s often a challenge making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Although, when I’m time poor, I will make risotto in my pressure cooker, which takes 6 minutes of cooking, yes, 6 MINUTES!
Our garden is currently full of pumpkins, we are down to 15 out of 20, so pumpkin is in most meal these days, which is fine by me as it’s delicious and SO versatile.
When making risotto, I like to make sure it is full of veggies, as one of the big downsides of risotto is it’s often difficult to keep the portion control right – 1/2 plate veggies or salad, 1/4 plate protein and 1/4 plate carbohydrates. So, if you have more veggies in your risotto, you can have more of the risotto as the veggies help to ‘dilute’ the portion of carbs. Or, if you choose not to fill it with veggies then keep the risotto portion to ~ 1-1.5 cups and have a side salad as well.
If you are making risotto for adults and kids and want to have your dish hot and the kids’ less hot, try adding some frozen peas to the kids bowls when dishing up. It not only adds some extra veggies to their bowl, it also cools down the risotto while cooking the peas! Genius!
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 2 -3 cups butternut pumpkin, diced into 1-2cm cubes
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 leeks, white part, sliced
- 2 cups broccoli, cut into small florets (optional)
- 1/2 cup sage leaves
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1/2 cup white wine – Sauvignon blanc or chardonnay
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- Zest of 1/2 a lemon
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tbs pinenuts
- 1 tbs butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 200°C and line tray with baking paper.
- Place butternut pumpkin into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and mix gently to coat. Place in oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Add leek and 1/4 cup of sage leaves, finely chopped, and cook, stirring until translucent.
- Add garlic, lemon zest and arborio rice and stir for 2-3 minutes.
- Add white wine and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes.
- Add roasted pumpkin and stock, one cup at a time, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When the stock is almost absorbed, add the next cup.
- Continue this process until the rice is cooked to taste, using more stock if needed.
- When down to the last cup of stock, add the broccoli.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter and add remaining sage leaves and cook until butter starts to brown. The sage leaves should be crispy – remove from heat.
- In a small frypan, add pine nuts and cook over medium heat, stirring for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat.
- Once rice is cooked, turn off the heat and stir through lemon juice, parmesan and salt and pepper.
- Serve ~ 1.5 cups per person and top with pine nuts and crispy sage.
Over the weekend, the kids and I made these delicious muffins! They LOVE to help me in the kitchen and they obviously love muffins, so I like to be able to put together muffins that are tasty for all but aren’t laden in sugar or the size of a side plate.
This recipe is great – the chunks of apple give that familiar sweetness that kids love in fruit and the pumpkin can be ‘hidden’ or left in chunks. The dates soaked in boiling water add some natural sweetness, allowing the refined sugar to be minimised, but it is definitely the spice that makes these muffins!
The icing is a great addition, although it is completely optional and as you can see, I haven’t added it on this batch, instead I combined the reserved spice mix with 1 tsp of castor sugar and sprinkled that over prior to baking.
Makes 15 muffins
- 1 2/3 cup wholemeal plain flour
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 3/4 tsp nutmeg
- 3/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup dates, pitted and chopped
- 1 cup butternut pumpkin
- 60g butter, melted
- 1/3 cup natural yoghurt
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 apple (preferably Granny Smith), finely chopped
- 3/4 cup reduced fat cream cheese
- 1 tbs lemon juice
- 1 tbs icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare muffin tin or patty pans (1/2 cup capacity).
- Combine cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in a small bowl and set aside 1 tsp of this for the icing.
- Peel and chop the pumpkin and steam until soft. Roughly mash once soft and allow to cool slightly.
- Place chopped dates in a small bowl and add boiling water to just cover dates. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Combine the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix.
- Add the eggs, butter, yoghurt and pumpkin and mix well to combine.
- Fold in the apple and dates (including the water) and spoon into prepared muffin pans, filling until 2/3 full and cook for 20 minutes.
- Remove from pans and allow to cool.
- To make the icing, beat the cream cheese with an electric beater until smooth (or by hand if it is at room temperature). Add the lemon juice, icing sugar and reserved spice mix and stir well.
- The icing is designed to be more like a thin glaze, so can be added if the muffins aren’t completely cooled.
- Store in an airtight container for 4-5 days.
Since our trip to Mexico for our honeymoon nearly 5 years ago, we have redefined the way Mexican is cooked and eaten in our house. Tacos are at least a fortnightly occurrence at our place and the kids love them (they have them pizza style – see photo below) – Mark is always asking for them!
With the use of the slow cooker, they are really very easy, tasty and much nicer than the old school mince and taco mix. They take about 5-10 minutes of preparation before they go in the slow cooker, 6-8 hours of cooking (with no attendance needed) and then about 15 minutes to make the accompaniments.
I also love how simply they can be changed around – replacing red cabbage with white cabbage; varying the contents of the coleslaw – cabbage, capsicum, corn, onion, chilli, lettuce, coriander – different combinations give different tacos. Also, if have leftovers and can’t be bothered heating up tortillas, you could try a completely different take on a Mexican classic, you could omit the actual tortillas and have a pulled pork salad using just the filling, making a lighter lunch alternative.
The rub for this pork can be applied the day night before to allow the flavour to seep into the meat, but not required as the 6-8 hours gives plenty of time for flavour dispersion.
A key step when slow cooking is to brown the meat with spices wherever possible. This gives a fuller flavour to any slow cooked meal.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 500g pork shoulder
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 long red or green chilli (more if you like it hot!)
- 1.5 cups grated cheese
- 8 small corn tortillas
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tbs dried oregano
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 small red cabbage, grated
- 1/3 cup coriander roughly chopped
- 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
- kernels of 1 corn cob
- 2 tbs natural yoghurt
- Juice of 1/2 a lime
- 1 avocado
- 2 tbs natural yoghurt
- 6 cherry tomatoes, diced (optional)
- squeeze of lime juice
- Combine spice rub ingredients and rub into pork. This can be left overnight to marinade.
- If your slow cooker has a brown function, heat oil in slow cooker and brown all sides of the pork in slow cooker or heat a non stick fry pan over medium heat with olive oil and brown all sides of the pork.
- Remove from the heat/turn to slow cook mode, and add the tomato paste and chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Place into slow cooker.
- Top with red onion, garlic and chilli.
- Set to low on slow cooker and cook for 6-8 hours. If you don’t have a slow cooker, this can be cooked in a crockpot in the oven at 120°C for 4-6 hours.
- The coleslaw and guacamole can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, if needed.
- For the coleslaw, combine all ingredients and mix well. If making ahead of time, leave the yoghurt and juice until just before serving.
- For the guacamole, place avocado in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add yoghurt, lime juice and tomatoes.
- Grate cheese into a bowl.
- Heat the tortillas as per the packet – I use the toasted sandwich maker and it takes about 5 seconds per tortilla.
- Place all of the components into a tortilla and enjoy!
- I would recommend 2-3 small tortillas per person.
For years I would get to the muesli bar aisle of the supermarket and spend way too much time reading labels trying to decide which muesli bars were the best for our family, with the conclusion being – very few.
Muesli bars are one of those awesome snacks that are so handy to take with you wherever you go, without getting squashed like bananas. They are (when made well) nutritious, tasty, filling, convenient and something that I like to recommend to my clients, as they can satisfy that sweet craving without having to be a block of chocolate or ridiculously energy dense.
So, I decided to do some googling myself, but all I came across was predominantly muesli bar slices, which contained flour, too much sugar and wouldn’t have the delicious crunch that I love in a muesli bar. I then went through a long process of trial and error until I finally came up with these tasty, nutritious muesli bars that will keep the whole family happy. The best thing about them is you can tweak the ingredients slightly, such as different types of nuts, seeds or dried fruit, and you end up with a completely different tasting bar. I have a few different versions of this recipe, which I will share in time.
They will keep at room temperature for at least 2 weeks.
- 3 cups traditional rolled oats
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/3 cup pepitas
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 1/2 cup sultanas
- 1/2 cup cranberries or craisins
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 75g white chocolate, chopped
- 135g butter
- 1/3 cup honey
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 24cm x 32cm slice tin with baking paper.
- Place oats and dried fruit into a large bowl
- Using a non stick frypan, over medium heat, toast the almonds, pepitas and sunflower seeds until golden. Place into bowl with other ingredients.
- Toast coconut until golden brown and add to bowl with other ingredients.
- Add chopped chocolate and mix all ingredients together.
- Place butter and honey into a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until butter melts and mixture starts to bubble.
- Add butter and honey to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
- Press into prepared slice tin and cook for ~15 minutes or until it starts to brown.
- Allow to cool completely in tin, then slice into muesli bar sized slices. For a tin this size, you should get ~24-26 muesli bars.
- Store at room temperature in an air tight container.