Friday, May 29, 2015

French Onion Soup

Now that the cold weather is starting to kick in, I am craving lovely flavourful soups.

I bought myself a new cookbook the other day, Bill's Basics by Bill Granger. It had in it a recipe for French Onion Soup that just looked too tasty not to try.

All I can say is THANK GOODNESS for my nifty mandolin. It sure makes chopping over a kilo of onions far less than tedious. If you don't have one, get one! Stat! The stirring of the onions to make them all lovely, soft and golden can take over an hour, so its a great Sunday afternoon option with a glass of wine in hand.

I have to say that the finished product looked exactly like the picture (alas, I gobbled mine up too fast so used the one straight from the cookbook).

Do give it a try, its so warm and comforting and TASTY. Not at all like an onion!

Recipe below, thanks Bill!

80g butter
1.25kg brown onions, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon plain flour
125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
1 litre (4 cups) beef stock 
2 egg yokls (optional)
80ml (1/3 cup) brandy (or port or sweet sherry if you don't have brandy)
250g gruyere cheese, grated
1cm thick slices of baguette, lightly toasted

Melt the butter in a large heavy based pan over a medium heat and add the onions, bay leaf and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, or until the onions are soft, golden brown and caramelised.

Add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the wine and simmer, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the stock and 375ml (1 ½ cups) extra water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Preheat the oven to 200degreesC

Whisk the egg yolks (if using) and brandy into the soup and ladle into individual ovenproof bowls. Put the bowls on a large baking tray. Sprinkle half the cheese over the top of the soup. Float one or two baguettes slices in each bowl and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Onion proof?

I was making French onion soup the other day (recipe to come) and of course, as I had to chop several onions, had the usual dilemma of how many tears I was going to shed and how much makeup was going to end up in black streams down my face.

I have heard of various methods to stopping the onion vapours getting into your eyes and making me look like Alice Cooper. So I thought Id give a few a try.

Firstly - the goggle method. I searched around outside and found several pairs of the boys goggles in various places around the pool and back yard, so I chucked on a pair. They were very tight and I couldn't be bothered loosening them as its just too hard. Apart from looking ridiculous, they probably would have worked if they weren't so dark!

Secondly - the sunglasses method. You do end up looking mighty stylish whist chopping the onions but other than that they aren't really very effective as vapour stoppers.
 Thirdly - chewing on something. Such as gum or a piece of bread. Now I have NO idea what this could possibly do to stop the mass of tears as you chop a shed load of onions, and it didn't. Work that is. 
 The last option I tried was to burn a smelly candle. It kinda worked - but not really. I just ended up with a lovely smelling kitchen.

I have also tried sitting the onion in water for a bit and also cutting it under the extractor fan of the stove - but that only works when you are not using the stove! These two methods do seem to be more effective than some of those above.

So, the long and the short of it, goggles, ventilation and water are the tried and tested methods to save your eyes.

Do you have any tips?


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

More kids cooking...

I mentioned the other week here about getting your kids cooking early.

It as well and truly paid off for me. Through the week my lovely JR wanted to cook dessert. Our came a Donna Hay Modern Classics.

He really wanted to make the creme brûlée so he could "brûlée' the sugar on top with our little blow torch but unfortunately we didn't have the cream. We did have plenty of lemons though so he whipped up a Lemon Delicious pudding.

Oh my it was delicious! The tartness of the lemons with some vanilla ice cream on the side. I did not have to help a bit.

40g softened butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
2 eggs, separated
2 table spoons plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 180degreesC. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale. Add the lemon rind and egg yoke and beat until smooth. Sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture and beat to combine. Add lemon juice and milk and beat until smooth.
Place egg whites into a bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. Fold into lemon mixture. Grease 4 large ovenproof ramekins. Pour in the mixture and place in a baking tray. Pour enough hot water into the tray to come halfway up the sides of the ramekin. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.
Makes 4

Monday, May 25, 2015

Meal Planning time

Just about every Saturday I do the meal plan for the week (just before grocery shop time!). Sometimes I ask the boys for input. Special requests usually include favourites such as tacos, pizza and fried rice. 

The plan for this week is:

Sunday: Chinese Banquet our way
Monday: Thai Pumpkin Soup
Tuesday: Giant meatballs in a tomato sauce with salad
Wednesday: Steak and salad
Thursday: Honey soy chicken wings with rice and veg
Friday: Freezer surprise

Thai pumpkin soup is the easiest thing in the world to make. Just add a tablespoon of red curry paste to the onions when cooking (you can find loads of decent pumpkin soup recipes on google!) Son #2 HATES pumpkin, but I try him out on it every now and then. This week we had success!! I just called it Thai soup (and added a few vermicelli noodles for effect) and he gave it the thumbs up. Phew!

Do your kids absolutely refuse to eat certain foods? How do you get them to eat it?!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pantry Hero's Week - Edition Two

Pantry Hero Week / Edition Two - The Packet

These humble little guys can get a bit of bad name ever now & again - packets can be associated with all sorts of added nasties and scary lists of numbers in the ingredients run down. But when well chosen, a packet can be a provide the back-bone of a meal, as well as being a time saver in a flat-stick schedule.

Our favourite Hero packets are:

Rice: goes with our saying really. Super super useful

Pasta: see above comment

Muffin Mix: These little gems fall into to the "life saver" category. While usually I will try to make Banana Bread or a slice over the weekend for the approaching school week, having one of these little beauties in the back of the cupboard is a cracking back-up-plan.

Corn Chips: For a quick afternoon tea of Salsa and Corn Chips, or to form part of a meal (hello Nachos!) can't go past have a pack or two stashed.

San Choy Bao Recipe Mix: Great as an easy, mid-week super quick dinner - just grab some pork mince and lettuce leave, dice up whatever veg is in the fridge and boom, dinner sorted!

Jelly: well, because, everyone needs a treat every now and again, right?

and exciting news, the next edition of Pantry Heros is going International, featuring all our favourite picks from your local Asian supermarket! xE

Monday, May 18, 2015

Pantry Hero's Week - Edition One

Welcome to Pantry Hero Week!

This is the week when we sing the praises of those hard working staples - those little life savers who hang about in the pantry, just waiting to jump up and say "pick me, you can make dinner out of me!"

Edition One sees us meeting The Cans.

Love a good Can - who doesn't!
Basic Can must-haves are as follows:

Tomatoes: Diced, Whole and Cherry - these little beauties are the basis of Pasta sauce, soup, salsa, stews and braises.

Beans:  Baked Beans, Kidney beans, Black beans and White  - Beans can be a meal in these selves (hello there Baked Beans!) or add interest to an Mexican dish, salad or pattie

Chick Peas:  Hummus and salad

Lentils:  Salads and soups

Fruit:  a snappy dessert option - done. Only got yogurt in the fridge? Add some tinned fruit and bam, there's breakfast. Fruit Crumble - easy!

Having a basic stock of can staples is a total sanity saver and an inexpensive way to provide some fast, simple love love a good Can!

Next Pantry Hero - Packets! xE

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Brain Food

This week my boys, as well as those of some of my friends, have had Naplan (The National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy.

This post below is from my lovely Interior Designer Friend at AlixHelpsInteriors (check out her Instagram!)

Naplan schmaplan I say, but did need to conjure up dinner that was:
a) Quick
b) full of brain fortifying qualities
c) healthy

Wheel out the salmon - a versatile beast and always a hit with the kiddos.

Place your salmon fillets on a baking tray while your oven gets up to temp (200deg)
Drizzle with a little oil, a good pinch of salt and a crunch of pepper
Whack it in the oven - maybe 16 mins depending on the size of your fillets. Ideally, the middle should still be pink and undercooked when you pull it out.
Throw a punnet of cherry toms into a small dish, drizzle with oil. Whack in oven next to fish.
Next up, grab a good store bought whole egg mayo from the fridge. Zest a lime, stir in zest with half the lime juice. Mixy mix.
During the last 5 mins of cooking, bung beans in a pan with enough boiling water to cover. Al dente is best here. 

When your fish is cooked to your liking let it sit for a couple mins while you plate your beans and toms in a suitably attractive manor. Pop a piece of fish on each plate and drizzle with the yummy sauce.

Tuck in.

Hoorah! Usually I serve with steamed potatoes, or roasted kipflers but tonight I just served it alone for a lighter option. The kids had a bread roll to boost those carbs baby, so everyone's happy.

Bon appetit! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Beginnings part 2

I have always loved cooking, as you can see by the post by my mum here. Once I had children of my own, I wanted to pass on my enjoyment of cooking to them. I have cooked with them from when they were very young. Even simple things like decorating cookies. They have always wanted to get involved, so I sucked up the control freak in me and let them at it.

One of my favourite cooking memories from when J was little was when he was at pre-school. I baked a stack of large angel and Christmas tree plain biscuits and took them in with a bunch of decorating stuff and helped all the kids decorate them. They had such a blast and he still talks about that 8 years later.

I've had his friends over help make pizza when he was little, we've made sushi, and Boo has licked many a cake mix spoon!

Both boys have always been quite keen to help with dinner, or get involved in the cooking regardless of whether its cakes or spag bol and I have encouraged that as much as I can. I find this can help with them understanding and enjoying a variety of foods.

So do it. Embrace the little people in the kitchen. The mess might be a little more, and the biscuits might not be quite as even as you'd like, but it is so worth it.


Monday, May 11, 2015


I was thinking about cooking the other day (just for a change) and was pondering about my first memories of cooking. I do remember mum taking out her moussaka out of the oven, and also the steamed veg in the metal colander thingy that opened up like a flower. I couldn't remember specifically the first time I cooked something. 

So I did what many people do and I asked my mum. Here is a guest post from her:

"Sal has always had an interest in cooking and good food.  As a toddler she preferred the deli to the sweet shop and her weekly treat was a rollmop. 

Her first attempt at cooking was as a toddler; she ‘baked’ a cake on the floor of the pantry - flour, sugar and milk from her cup - and was most annoyed that I destroyed her masterpiece.  She has always been a hands-on cook; she loved to help me cook and getting her fingers sticky with the bread dough or the passionfruit butter or the cake batter.

I think Sal was around 7 when she started baking,  - I remember teaching her my favourite sultana cake recipe and her first attempt was great, better than mine.  From that day onwards, Sal was in charge of the baking in our house.

As her confidence increased, Sal started cooking more and as a single parent working full-time and at one stage also studying full-time, it was great to have another cook in the house, especially one with a great sense of taste and a creative flair. 

The children had regular chores and I sometimes think that Sal cooked because she didn’t want to wash the dishes.  Whatever the reason we thoroughly enjoyed the results.

I have so many wonderful memories - sitting around the dinner table for just a simple family meal, dinner parties, long lunches under the jacaranda tree that stretched into evening and family celebrations all made more memorable because of the fabulous food cooked by my talented daughter.

Thanks mum x

Remember this? The old metal steamer...

And the rollmops?

Ta lovely mum

Friday, May 8, 2015

Things on Toast - Finale!

Yes - welcome to Friday.

Being the end of the week, why don't you treat yourself?

Add some delicious, crispy bacon to your avocado and tomato and boom, end-of-the week breakfast goodness!

Have a great weekend everyone xxE

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Things on Toast - Part 4

Part Four.

Short and sweet.

Seeded Toast, avo, tomato, a sprinkle of pecorino and a grind of black pepper.



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Things on Toast - Part Three

Day Three - welcome to it!

And yes, it's a combo of our three all time fav ingredients.

Seeded toast, topped with marinaded feta, avocado and tomato. Quick pinch of salt, a little grind of black pepper - and pow, breakfast magic!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Things on Toast - Part Two

So simple and yet so, so very tasty!

Seeded toast with Feta and Avocado. Finish off with a quick drizzle of olive oil and season to taste.

So speedy, so good!


Monday, May 4, 2015

A week about Things-on-Toast - Part One

Welcome to a week in celebration of Things-on-Toast.

I l.o.v.e. a good piece of toast, and am particularly fond of a piece of fancied up toast.

Fancied up toast has featured heavily on my breakfast menu over the last few weeks - busy adults and busy kids has meant mornings have had to be stream-lined. Stream-lined has meant getting the boys sorted and out the door, then quickly pulling together something to have with a quick coffee, and then it's out the door!

(A small disclaimer: the following ingredients may well feature, um, *cough* alot this week...Marinaded Feta, Avocado, Tomato. Please busy yourself else where if you are not a fan).

Things-on-Toast - Part One

Seeded-bread toast with marinaded feta and topped with tomato, onion, bacon & chilli and fresh parsley


Friday, May 1, 2015

Stoopid food

In times of lack of inspiration, not to mention just when I have spare moment to myself I will sometimes head over to Pinterest. I lave it. So many things to look at. Funny pictures, inspirational quotes, styled outfit ideas....etc etc etc.

Today I looked up food. Ridiculous food. I had to share some of these.....truly awful looking things, some I had to wonder if they were just made especially to make people gag. Some were really cute looking..but really? Who is going to make that? In real life? Some I would truly love to try for myself but just can't find the energy.

Here are a few that I found...

The Macaroni & cheese bread cone (thanks Buzzfeed)

Mousey Bento box anyone? Courtesy Flickr

Penguin Bananas - I wish my boys would get back on the Banana train
thanks Reading Confetti

Fruit and vegetable animals - oh yeah!
Here it is -

Interesting hot dogs - kinda cute

Another goodie from Buzzfeed...some interesting tinned food there!

Mince baby anyone?

Thank you Em for NOT making one of these for my baby shower oh so many years ago!

Honestly, the things you find on the interwebs!!!