Quinoa, Sweet Potato and Beetroot Salad

It’s probably too late to be saying “Happy New Year” since it’s past the Australia Day long weekend but will say it anyway. Happy New Year! Hope you are all feeling refreshed and ready to give your best in 2019. As January seems to be a time when people decide to form a list of resolutions that they will keep for two weeks, I figured there was no better time than now to share a wonderful healthy recipe for you all.

I am not a dietitian or a nutritionist but there is definitely a good balance of flavours and food groups here – protein, carbs and the good types of fat.

It is also good enough that you can eat it for lunch multiple days in a row! (where normally I strongly dislike doing this in order to avoid having FOMO when someone has a better lunch than me in the office)

The challenge I’ve had in the past with eating salad for lunch is the lack of feeling full afterwards. Turns out if you put enough grain and carby vegetables in, this issue is alleviated.

Alright, enough blabbing. For those who are feeling the whole “new year, new you” mentality or even the “new year, same you” mentality, this salad is for you.

Quinoa, Sweet Potato and Beetroot Salad (makes 3 lunches or 4 side dishes)

What you’re going to need

1/2 cup dried quinoa

1 medium sweet potato chopped into small, even pieces

3 baby beetroots (sold in a pack at the supermarket), roughly chopped

50g feta cheese, chopped into small cubes

handful walnuts, roughly chopped

6 basil leaves, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius. On a lined baking tray, add the sweet potato, 1 tablespoon of EVOO and salt. Bake until soft and slightly more golden in colour
  2. For the quinoa, I cooked it in the microwave as per the packet instructions. Simply rinse the quinoa in a strainer, then place in a heatproof bowl that fits in the microwave with 1 cup of water (1:2 quinoa water ratio). Cover the bowl with a lid or a plate and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Stir and then pop it back in for 2 minutes. Leave to stand with the lid/plate still on until most of the water has absorbed. Strain remaining water and set aside.
  3. Once the quinoa had cooled down a bit and the sweet potato is ready, place these plus all the other ingredients into a bowl. Mix well until all flavours are combined. Add seasoning where appropriate. Note: if you’re storing this for work lunches, keep the beetroot separated so the colour doesn’t run through the whole salad. 
  4. Serve immediately at a warm temperature or eat cold later on.

quinoa sweet potato salad

 

 

 

Japan Eats

It has been a frantic scramble to get to Christmas this year and I’m glad it’s finally here! Time to wind down, relax and spend time with family and friends. Also means time to finally write up my Japan Eats post from my trip in September!

Japan was my first real visit to Asia (besides a 13 hour lay over in Singapore a few years back). For me, it was an absolute culture shock but I loved every bit of it. The crowds, the lights, the sounds. The big cities were just a complete buzz. Then of course there were the traditional elements that keep Japan true to their ancestry – the temples, the gardens, the years of practiced respect that has been carried on from generation to generation.

During my trip I visited four cities – Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. All of these places had their own unique style both aesthetically and culturally. This included an array of different foods to try – both weird and wonderful.

Unfortunately as most places had their signage in Japanese, I was unable to capture names of most places I ate at. However, I will try my best to give a ballpark location (but rest assured, pretty much every place you go in Japan you will have a great feed). Instead of categorising by restaurant, I will categorise by food type.

Ramen

I feel like even if you visited Japan and hated noodles, you would leave loving them because ramen in Japan is as as far as the eye can see. The set up of a ramen is pretty standard but depending on what area you go and what place you choose, the toppings will vary. I’m definitely a pork fan, softish noodles, loads of toppings and that soft yolked egg. However the best part of a ramen and ultimately the deal breaker of the dish is the broth. Also known colloquially (by me) as “the elixir of life”. A good broth is a chef’s staple so I can appreciate when one is made well and is a flavour bomb. My preferred broth is a pork bone or salt based broth but you can also have miso or soy as well.

Gyoza (dumplings)

I must admit I ordered a plate of gyoza with almost every meal I had in Japan. No regrets. Crispy outside and soft flavoursome filling on the inside, how could you resist. They are cheap as too with most places serving a plate of 6-8 for less than $6. What I did want to call out was a gyoza place in Kyoto which i LOVED. There was a queue out the door of this place every night, they had awesome music playing and really chilled out staff. Felt a bit like a backpackers bar but with dumplings. They also had Asahi beer on tap. Win! The name of this place is “Gyoza Chaochao”. The signage is majority Japanese but I believe they had a romanised Japanese sign as well.

Okonomiyaki (omelette pancake)

Okonomiyaki is a layered pancake style dish filled with meat, cabbage, sprouts and an assortment of other bits and pieces of delish and served like an omelette. You can find them all around Japan but they are most prominent in Hiroshima. Just a heads up, they are quite big so would share one between two if you can. They are made fresh to order and it’s quite fascinating to watch them being made because you realise just how much cabbage shrinks when you cook it!

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Takoyaki (octopus filled balls)

Takoyaki is a dough ball filled with octopus that is cooked in a purpose built pan and is absolutely everywhere in Osaka! For those heading to Osaka and wanting a foodie slice of heaven, head to Dotonburi Arcade which is the main strip of quirky street food, music and where you will find pretty much all the tourists. Pretty much anywhere along this strip is a safe bet so make sure you’re hungry when you visit so you can try as many things as possible.

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Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu is the Japanese equivalent of fried crumbed meat. Most times when you come across tonkatsu, it’s pork meat. It is usually served with rice. It’s a good safe meal if you’re getting sick of noodles and want something filling for lunch or dinner. I took a leap of faith with the place I visited by heading up some stairs to a restaurant with a closed door where you couldn’t see in. It ended up being delicious, cheap and the staff were very friendly.

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Tempura

It’s 2018 and let’s just say you can pretty much tempura anything. My favourite tempura dish was the eggplant with miso sauce. Absolutely delicious. There isn’t really much else to say about tempura, it’s relatively easy to make, it tastes good and it’s a real satisfying comfort food.

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Dessert

What would a foodie adventure be without dessert? Pretty much my two main sources of sugar in Japan were matcha ice creams and cream filled crepes. What’s not to love! Most places will sell matcha ice cream and a fair few also sell the matcha swirled with vanilla (if you’d rather a subtle matcha hit, i’d suggest this option). For the crepes, they have about 50 options which are all variations of a few staple ingredients – cream, chocolate, bananas, strawberries and other summery fruit. Take a sweet trip down Takeshita Dori when you’re in Tokyo.

Other food items to mention

As I said earlier in the piece, Japan was filled with weird and wonderful food options. I’m sure you’ve noticed that sushi is missing from the above list. That’s not to say it’s not worth eating in Japan but I didn’t eat a lot of it unfortunately so can’t provide any recommendations. Instead, I opted for sashimi and ordered from a menu instead of taking from the sushi train.

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And that just about sums up my foodie experience in Japan. That’s not to say that there isn’t more to try, there most certainly is. I hope this inspires you to start planning your trip to Japan because it is 100% worth it in every way, shape or form.

 

Swallowable Gum

A post title that sounds a bit contradictory I know but I only speak the truth.

To be honest, the only time I really bought gum in the past was when I needed to get cash out at the petrol station. It would end up sitting in my bag for about a week before I opened it and then I’d get through the entire packet quicker than I’d like to admit. This doesn’t happen so much now but back at school, I’ll never forget how if one person showed that they had a pack of gum, the rest of the girls automatically turned into seagulls and bam there goes your pack of gum. There was also that brief phase during childhood where bubblegum was all the rage and it would be always be those sickly sweet flavours like grape and raspberry.

Alas, fast forward to my 20’s and my handbag always feature a staple “breath freshener”. Sometimes mints or more recently I have switched over to gum so I was more than happy to give a healthy alternative a go.

Introducing Mast Chew, a 100% organic gum that has no sugars or additives! I liked that the product came in both a blister pack and a pop open bottle. The product is a mixture of minty fresh and mastic flavour. The natural based extract from trees used to make the gum has been used historically for maintaining gut health and stomach related issues. I was delighted to hear this as I am impacted by stomach related issues.

After tasting this for myself, I can say that the texture is slightly heavier than your run of the mill gum however it doesn’t feel like the gum just disintegrates into nothing whilst you’re still chewing it. It felt weird at first to be swallowing it when I was done but I went for it anyway and it wasn’t that scary!

Overall, I found that Mast Chew was an intriguing new option for fresh breath. It is a relief to have the ability to freshen your breath during the day without feeling like you’re ingesting excess sugar.

If you’re interested, Mast Chew can be purchased via online retailers including Australian Organic Products.

Disclaimer:  The Mast Chew Organic Chewing Gum was provided as a gift. I only support and endorse products that I have tried or cooked with myself. 

Tagliatelle with Napoletana Sauce

I just love the versatility of using a tomato based sauce. It works beautifully on its own as simple passata with seasoning or you can amp it up and throw a heap of veggies in, or pretty much any kind of meat and maybe even some cheese!

So the Sunday night ritual continues and the dilemma of how can I make an amped up sauce that suits one who doesn’t like cheese, one who won’t eat a non meat dish and the other who wants more than “just” bolognese.

I’ve over killed it with mince at the moment so decided not to use it and went with chorizo instead as the meat option. I love the flavour it gives the dish and it’s a bit more substantial than bacon or pancetta. I also used Barilla Napoletana Sauce as my tomato base and added in a heap of veg to make it an even more nutritious meal.

To make this a complete dish, I used Barilla Egg Tagliatelle as the base and to mix through the chunky sauce! I love the texture it has and it holds the sauce really well. It also cooks really quick (5 minutes in boiling water).

So if you’re salivating and to want to give this dish a go, keep on reading for the recipe!

Tagliatelle with Napoletana Sauce (serves 4-5)

What you’re going to need

250g pack Barilla Egg Tagliatelle

1 jar Barilla Napoletana Sauce

125 g chorizo, sliced evenly (1 sausage)

3 medium cup mushrooms, sliced thinly

generous handful baby spinach

1/3 medium zucchini, finely grated

1/3 medium carrot, finely grated

handful pitted kalamata olives

6 basil leaves, roughly chopped

salt and pepper to season

1 tablespoon olive oil for frying

Method

  1. Prepare a large saucepan with salted water and place on a low heat.
  2. In a large frypan, add the olive oil and bring up to a medium heat. Once hot, add the carrot and zucchini and fry for 2-3 minutes. Once softened, add the napoletana sauce. Before discarding the jar, half fill with water and shake with the lid on to get the extra sauce stuck to the sides of the jar. Add the water from the jar to the sauce. Stir well and bring to a simmer.
  3. Once simmering, add the sliced mushrooms and spinach and reduce to a low heat.
  4. In a small frypan, fry the chorizo until cooked. Drain on some paper towel and set aside.
  5. Once water is boiling, cook the pasta as per packet instructions. Whilst the pasta is cooking, add the chorizo and olives to the sauce. With 1 minute to go, add the basil.
  6. Serve immediately on warmed plates. (your choice if you want to mix the pasta through the sauce or serve the sauce on top)

Disclaimer: The Barilla Pasta and Napoletana Sauce were provided as a gift. I only support and endorse products that I have used or cooked with myself. 

 

 

 

Raspberry White Choc Cookie Dough

Hands up if you’re guilty of eating raw cookie dough. Yep, my hands are very much in the air. Who can resist?

However… these recipes 99% of the time contain raw egg which you need to be careful consuming depending on how it has been stored/handled.

So what if there was a way to get the satisfying feeling of eating raw cookie dough which removes the whole egg factor and comes in a convenient tub with a resealable lid.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Cookie Doh Co. An Aussie born company making your cookie dough dreams come true. I was lucky enough to sample the raspberry white chocolate flavour, one of a range of the five flavours currently available (gluten free also available for those wondering).

The rendition of this flavour that I got to try was quite special. It was created as an ode to all those singletons out there going through the winter alone but with a desire for new beginnings as we come into the springtime (sounds like me to a tee). The raspberry flavour was embedded throughout in the shape of red hearts, a sign for us to enjoy a bit of self love while we devour this delicious treat.

I was already a lover of food and all sorts of dessert so this was right up my alley. Every bite was indulgent, sweet with the perfect amount of tartness from the raspberry hearts. I displayed a “strong” sense of self control and ate the 250g tub over two sittings approximately four hours apart. Needless to say, my sugar cravings for the day were truly satisfied and I had made the right decision in what I chose as my sweet treat for the day.

If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself. The Heartberry & White Choc Cookie Dough can be purchased through the Cookie Doh website.

Disclaimer:  The Cookie Doh Co Heartberry & White Choc Cookie Dough was provided as a gift. I only support and endorse products that I have tried or cooked with myself. 

 

 

Herb Crusted Lamb Rack

I love a good Sunday roast and since I cook dinner at home every Sunday, guess what was on the menu tonight. Lamb! Served up with roasted veggies, it is a treat. It is a all round crowd pleaser at my house and it is easier to cook than you think!

I’m just providing the recipe for the lamb rack. Feel free to serve this with any sides that you like but simple roast veggies always do the trick if you get stuck!

Herb Crusted Lamb Rack

What you’re going to need

1 frenched lamb rack roast (~400g)

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1/2 loaf bread, crust removed (I used pane di casa)

zest of 1 lemon

handful fresh parsley

handful fresh thyme

salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
  2. Remove lamb rack from packaging and trim any thick excess sinew. (a bit of fat is good so don’t cut it all off, just the harder bits that won’t render down in the oven)
  3.  On a lined baking tray, place the lamb in the centre and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Whilst the lamb is browning, prepare the crumb. In a pulse blender/food processor, place the crust-less bread, herbs, lemon and seasoning and blitz until well combined and a creates a chunky crumb.
  5. Once the 15 minutes have elapsed, remove the lamb from the oven and spread the dijon mustard over the top and sides. Add the crumbs evenly and cover as much of the lamb as possible leaving the bones exposed.
  6. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Pull out of the oven and leave to rest on the tray for 8-10 minutes before slicing.

Herb Crusted Lamb Rack

Chicken Sausage Casserole

It’s the long weekend, it’s cold and I am being especially lazy. Alas, I still wanted to cook something delicious and healthy for dinner tonight. I went with an adaptation of my mum’s sausage casserole.

Let’s get straight into it

Chicken Sausage Casserole (serves 4-5)

What you’re going to need

8 medium chicken sausages (mine were parsley flavoured)

1/2 cauliflower, roughly chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped evenly

1 potato, chopped evenly

1 potato, sliced thinly using a mandolin

50 grams fresh green beans, chopped evenly

500 mls/2 cups reduced salt chicken stock

2-3 tablespoons cornflour

1 tablespoon cream

salt and pepper to season

olive oil for frying

Method

  1. Place mandolin sliced potatoes in water and bring to a boil. Once boiling for 30 seconds, remove from heat and strain. Set aside.
  2. In a large cooking pot that can be used on the stove top, add some olive oil and bring to a medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until lightly brown. Remove from pan, slice into even pieces (~1cm each) and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
  4. In the same cooking pot, add an extra drizzle of oil and add all the vegetables. Fry the veggies for 2-3 minutes. Add in the chicken stock, cream and cornflour. Leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes until sauce begins to thickens. Add the sausages back in. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
  5. In a large baking dish, add the casserole mix and top with the mandolin potato slices. Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes and spread with a pastry brush. Season with salt and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until potatoes on the top are golden brown. Serve hot*.

*Recipe is freezer friendly, save your leftovers!