Pearl Couscous Salad with Chunky Tomato Sauce

The daily dilemma…figuring out what to have for lunch. I was fortunate to be off work when I thought up this recipe so conveniently had an open pantry to work with. Even so, many find themselves swamped with ingredients and not a clue how they fit together.

Lucky for you, one of my favourite pastimes is picking an assortment of ingredients, throwing them together and hoping they will taste amazing.

Pearl couscous is such an interesting grain. It works as a really good filler for salads and an accompaniment to a stew and the like. My original intention for this was to pair it with leftover roast lamb but there was a miscommunication in the kitchen and so my father took it with him to work instead. Alas, crisis management kicked in and I worked with what I had to still make something tasty.

My favourite part of this dish is the crispy fried capers! I’ve seen chefs on cooking shows use this technique numerous times and have always been keen to try it out myself! Super easy and result is definitely worth the minimal effort required.

Pearl Couscous Salad with Chunky Tomato Sauce

What you’re going to need

1/4 cup pearl couscous

a generous handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (I used Perino tomatoes for this recipe)

one slice shortcut bacon, sliced into small pieces

6 kalamata olives, sliced in half

teaspoon baby capers

fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

salt and pepper to season

olive oil

Method

  1. Cook pearl couscous to packet instructions.
  2. Whilst the couscous is cooking, fry up the bacon in a small pan until crispy. Set aside.
  3. In the same pan, add a splash of olive oil and heat the oil to a medium heat. Place capers in the pan and fry until aromatic and the colour has darkened (max 30 seconds). Remove from pan and set aside on paper towel to drain.
  4. In a saucepan, add the cherry tomatoes with salt and pepper. Mash up the tomatoes until a relish like texture forms.
  5. Add in the couscous, bacon and fresh basil and mix until well combined. Take off the heat and mix in the olives. Place in a bowl and top with the capers!

pearl-couscous-salad

 

 

 

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

So it’s the day that you’re due to do the weekly grocery shop, you open the fridge to what looks like a measly bunch of ingredients which will not pair up together. Wrong. Well let’s just say 85% of the time, I reckon you can still whip up something delicious even if it seems like all you have is the stuff that gets forgotten about in the fridge until the end of the week.

Of course, the dream would be plan meals so efficiently for the week that you end up with nothing left on grocery day. However, as most people work and have other activities planned for their days, there often isn’t much planning around this.

So instead of forcing yourself into planning your meals a week in advance which may not stick, try introducing yourself to the creative opportunity of leftover ingredients. (In saying that, if you are finding every week that you are throwing out the same unused ingredient, then cross that item right off your shopping list please).

Today, I was going in blind. I really hadn’t looked in the fridge properly for a few days and so it was very much a mystery as to what to create for lunch today. I had just arrived home from martial arts training so was craving something fresh and filling. I didn’t want to wait around all day for my food so I saw the cauliflower and used that as a base for the dish. The rest was just odd bits and pieces. Slowly, a dish was coming together.

Cauliflower. Check. Fundamental salad ingredients. Check. Dressing? It is always a satisfying feeling to make your own dressings from scratch. You know everything that goes into it, it will be fresh and most importantly, it will taste fabulous. With dressings I find measurements a little bit redundant at times, it’s a bit of a taste as you go experiment until the flavours match your palette.

Okay so let’s have a look at what I created today from a bits and pieces collection of ingredients.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad (serves 2) Cook + Prep time: 20 minutes

What you’re going to need

Salad 

1/4 floret cauliflower, cut into small pieces

generous handful mixed leaves/salad mix/lettuce

handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half longways

1 medium cucumber, grated

2 teaspoons pine nuts

Dressing

1 tablespoon tahini

1 teaspoon honey

extra virgin olive oil, to taste

salt, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
  2. Place the cauliflower on a lined baking tray with a small drizzle of olive oil and salt to season.
  3. Place in the oven and bake until golden.
  4. While the cauliflower is baking, prepare all the other ingredients and make the dressing. I decided to season my tomatoes with cracked pepper just for an added level of flavour.
  5. In a bowl, throw in the mixed leaves, tomatoes and cucumber. Place the baked cauliflower on top with the pine nuts and then drizzle the dressing over the top.

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Dark Chocolate Bark

For probably one of the first times ever, we had pistachios in our house. Oh so many ideas were coming to mind for what to do with them! Desserts, crusts, breakfast toppers or just on their own because they’re glorious. I had a bunch of 85% dark chocolate which I wanted to muck around with and make something tasty. So that’s what I did on this quiet and relaxing Sunday afternoon.

In addition, I have recently been introduced to a new blogging community “Our Growing Edge”. The concept is to bring together fellow foodies and to share our creations and inspire us to create something new. This month’s theme is “Allergy Friendly Recipes” and is hosted by Joana from My Gut Feeling.

So some fast facts, my recipe is dairy free because 85% chocolate. Enough said. Also conveniently gluten and egg free for anyone worried about those too!

This recipe is oh so easy. The longest part of it is melting the chocolate! Honestly, quick, convenient and you will be able to consume it within half an hour of you making it (just to make extra sure that the chocolate has completely set!) Okay let’s get to it.

Dark Chocolate Bark

What you’re going to need

50 grams > 70% dark chocolate (if 85% is too bitter for you, feel free to use 70% instead to still get it dairy free)

small handful pistachios, shells removed and ready to go

small handful raspberries

pinch, cracked sea salt

Method

  1. Melt your chocolate using your preferred method. (Just please for your sake, do not get any water/moisture near the chocolate!!! Seized chocolate is the worst and just ruins your day so be careful.)
  2. In a lined shallow baking tin, pour melted chocolate and spread evenly. Once even, sprinkle and mix of the pistachios and raspberries ensuring they are embedded enough in the chocolate so that they won’t roll off!)
  3. Sprinkle with desired amount of sea salt.
  4. Freeze for up to 30 minutes or until chocolate has re set. Break pieces off and devour!

Dark Chocolate Bark

For more info about the “Our Growing Edge” community: Our Growing Edge

And to take a look at the host of this month’s Growing Edge theme: My Gut Feeling

our-growing-edge-badge

White Bean Dip

I did once say that if I had to eat one dip for the rest of my life it would be hummus. Rest assured, that is still the case. However, it is time to expand out of the range and play around with other ingredients to make some tasty, healthy meals for work lunch. I’m a big fan of meal prep and dip provides a perfect means for this as it can be made ahead and stored for a longer period of time in the fridge compared to other products. It also has the element of versatility where you can serve it with crackers, veggie sticks or as part of a salad or as an accompanying spread on sandwich. The options are endless.

To give this dip a bit  more body, I decided to add some fresh breadcrumbs. I have kept things simple, as always, but never compromising on flavour. If you want to give it a go, follow the recipe below!

White Bean Dip

What you’re going to need

1 can Cannellini beans, strained well

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup freshly made breadcrumbs (the staler the bread, the better)

1/2-1 clove garlic (to taste)

salt, to season

3-5 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed

Method

  1. In a food processor/pulse blender, add all of the ingredients.
  2. Blend until a smooth consistency is established. Too easy!

Too easy!

White Bean Dip

 

Banana and Cinnamon Muffins

Easy Sunday mornings call for baked goods. 3 perfectly overripe bananas which were just calling me to bake them. It’s starting to get colder now and so these are great to warm up and eat for breakfast or afternoon tea (or anytime really, let’s be real). I thought about making a banana bread but since I’m the only one at home who really eats it, figured I would reduce waste by making something smaller.

This is one of those chuck everything into one bowl recipes which saves time and washing up! I kept these dairy free because of bod.

Banana and Cinnamon Muffins (yields 6 – 12 depending on how much mixture you put in each tray)

What you’re going to need

2 cups self raising flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 overripe bananas

1/3 cup soy milk (or any non dairy milk of your choosing)

1/3 cup Nutellex (or any dairy free spread)

1 egg

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
  2. In a large bowl, add the bananas and egg. Using a stick blender, blend up the mixture is well combined and bananas are at your desired consistency.
  3. Sift in the flour, add all the other ingredients and mix until well combined .
  4. In a greased muffin tray, add even amounts of the mixture. (I like my muffins really big so I fill each one until it is full)
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Remove tray from the oven and leave to cool slightly. Remove muffins and place on a wire rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Banana and Cinnamon Muffins

 

Salted Caramel Bliss Balls

As much as I adore PB choc bliss balls, thought it was time to try something else! Whoever thought of bringing sweet and savoury flavours into one dish is a genius. I have taken that concept and put it into my bliss balls as they are fast becoming one of my favourite work snacks.

Bliss balls are super easy, jam packed full of deliciousness and will keep you full for your afternoon! These are dairy, gluten and refined sugar free!

Salted Caramel Bliss Balls (yielded 8 for me but will depend how big you roll them)

What you’re going to need

1 cup dates, chopped (soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes if not moist)

3/4 cup walnuts (soak in cold water for 30 minutes – optional)***

1/2 tablespoon rice malt syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

sprinkle cinnamon

cracked sea salt (to taste)

desiccated coconut for rolling

Method

  1. In a food processor, add of the ingredients except the coconut.
  2. Process until ingredients are well combined.
  3. On a plate, add a few spoons of desiccated coconut. Using gloves, a spoon or bare hands, roll the mixture into evenly sized bliss balls.
  4. Roll each ball through the coconut. Repeat until all the bliss ball mixture has been used.
  5. Store in the fridge/freezer and enjoy!

Salted Caramel Bliss Balls

*** The bliss balls will still turn out wonderfully without soaking the nuts prior to blending, but soaking them makes them so so creamy and perfect for these sweet treats!

Chocolate Muffins

I always get cravings for baked goods but I tend to avoid buying them from cafes and other places because I have no clue what’s in them. I also just love baking so baking something myself is much more satisfying. There was a bit of experimentation with these in getting the wet to dry ingredient ratio right. I feel pretty good about how they turned out!

So here we go, my chocolate muffins which I made dairy free because of bod and there’s no eggs either because we hadn’t done the groceries yet! Alas, subbed in apple sauce (random but great) to fill in for the eggs. Also mixed a bunch of dark chocolate through these for an extra chocolatey hit!

Chocolate Muffins (yields 6)

What you’re going to need

1 1/2 cups self raising flour

1/4 cup cacao powder

1/4 cup apple sauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup Nutellex (or any dairy free spread), melted

1/4 cup rice milk (or any other non dairy milk)

1/4 cup maple syrup

50 grams dairy free dark chocolate (70% and above), roughly chopped

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Grease a muffin tray with cooking spray.
  2. Sift the flour and cacao powder into a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients except the dark chocolate and mix well.
  3. Add in the chocolate and make sure it is evenly distributed through the mixture.
  4. Place even amounts in each muffin tin until all batter is used.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a wire rack and then store in a container until they all disappear!

 

Chocolate Muffins