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Emigrated from America to New Zealand and never looked back. Couldn't have asked for a better husband, family & life!

CREME DE MENTHE
DARK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
Makes about 30 truffles


I suppose I was feeling a bit adventurous this year, so I decided to try my hand at truffles. Not just any truffles, mind you, but my favourites with lots of peppermint! I used my own homemade creme de menthe (one for me, two for the pot) and a bit of extra peppermint extract to make them more aromatic and to allow the mint to penetrate the very rich dark chocolate.

They turned out wonderfully and they just melted in your mouth. I ended up giving most of them away as gifts (self-preservation) but did enjoy just a couple myself. They are really quite simple to make (although messy as all heck) so, perhaps I'll experiment with other flavours...I still have plenty homemade kahlua in the pantry alongside the creme de menthe, hmmmmm....

INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Cream
½ Cup Creme De Menthe
(and/or optional peppermint extract - depending on how strong you like them)
250 Gm Dark Chocolate (at least 72% Cocoa), broken into small pieces.
¼ Cup Unsalted Butter
*Cocoa Powder for rolling truffles at the end
* Amount will vary with each batch.


DIRECTIONS:

First, break or cut the chocolate into small peices and put them into a medium heat resistant bowl and set aside.

Next, heat the cream and creme de menthe (and/or peppermint extract) and bring to a boil.

Remove the mixture from the heat and immediately pour the hot liquid over the chocolate and stir carefully until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture becomes a creamy and smooth ganache.

Now, add the butter and mix again until well combined before pouring the entire contents into a glass dish to cool in the refrigerator.

Refrigerate for 2 hours minimum – overnight preferred.

When the compound is hard but malleable, use a melon-baller or two teaspoons to form a small quinelle of ganache, roll them between (gloved) hands into a small ball, and then roll them in the cocoa powder.

The ganache will tend to melt as soon as you touch it, so don't roll them too long. Laytex gloves work well to assist in rolling truffles as they keep the mess localized and you don't need to keep rinsing hands in between balls. Adding some cocoa powder to your palms before rolling the quinelles into balls also helps, somewhat, to keep the chocolate from sticking to everything.
Set the truffles aside to chill in a sealed container when all of the truffles are done.

Sprinkle with cocoa powder and/or icing sugar (powdered/confectioners' sugar) then chill until 1 hour prior to serving.

To fully appreciate the flavour and consistency, they are best served at room temperature.

ENJOY!



FRESH NZ CRAYFISH SALAD
(aka Spiny Rock Lobster to those in North America)


First, I need to share a little story.

Just after arriving in NZ over 3 years ago now, my husband took me over to meet one of his many sisters and her hubby. We arrived just before her husband and his boat, as he had just returned from a dive with several huge creatures nearly as big as our daughter! I was then asked if I liked crayfish or scallops, to which I promptly replied, “uhm, not crayfish, but scallops are nice…I do like lobster though.”

I didn’t understand at the time why they might ask me about crayfish when we were looking at enormous lobsters (sans front claws though) here and, where I grew up, crayfish were smallish muddy horrible things that weren’t worth all of the effort to catch, soak in clear water overnight, clean and cook just to get one bite of meat from each of the little beasts.

So, we carried on with our visit and I think we even went home with some lovely NZ scallops (also quite huge and attached to some funny orange bit – more on that later). It wasn’t until later that evening at home when I realized in talking to my husband, that we could have probably taken one of those huge lobsters home if I hadn’t said I didn’t eat crayfish! What – you actually call those gigantic granddaddy lobsters crayfish???

Well, it’s been an ongoing joke ever since…Tiff “blew her chips” (meaning lost her chances) to get any fresh crayfish from now on.

Now, fast-forward to this weekend and my brother & sister-in-laws were on their way to visit another sibling nearby and popped by on their way to drop off a crayster – or lobsfish…you know what I mean… It was a great surprise and just in time for lunch – YUM!
(THANK YOU VERY MUCH!)


I basically borrowed a slightly modified version of a friend’s cauliflower recipe over at
Cooking Dunkin Style and topped the creamy, cheesy cauliflower with the diced up crayfish meat. What a treat! I usually eat lobster with the traditional clarified butter, but I have learned to do things a bit differently here.

So, in a nutshell, here is one more nice way to have lobster/crayfish!



INGREDIENTS:

Cauliflower
Mayonnaise (Best Foods/Hellmans)
Milk
Diced Onion
Grated Tasty/Cheddar Cheese
Crayfish
Salt & Pepper

All of the amounts are really up to the individual, so just go with what works for you.

DIRECTIONS:

The crayfish was boiled and chilled in advance, so all I really needed to do was crack that baby open and carefully pull out all of the meat, then dice it up and set it aside.

I cut up the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces next and put them all into a microwave-safe glass dish.

Next, I put a couple of good dollops of mayo into a jug and added just enough milk to make it easy to pour over the cauliflower.

After that, I sprinkled diced onions evenly over the top and covered the whole thing with grated cheese.

To cook it, I placed baking paper over the top and nuked it in the microwave until the cauliflower was tender and the cheese was melted and beginning to brown (about 5-7 minutes).

To serve it, I just mixed up the cauliflower and scooped some into a bowl then topped it off with the crayfish meat and a bit of salt & pepper.
Couldn’t be easier, really…or more tasty.

Thank goodness that our daughter has not yet developed a fondness for crayfish, as it is currently about $100 NZD per kilo (2.2 Lbs)…that is approximately $50 per pound…or, $25-30 per pound in US dollars! :o) Doesn’t sound so bad that way, does it? LOL

DR. PEPPER vs ROOT BEER
FUN KIWI 'TASTE TEST' EXPERIMENT

Just a couple of months ago, I discovered another new treasure trove of goodies down under. The place is called Davis Trading Company in Petone, just north of Wellington City, and I discovered that they stock a good amount of items I like to have on hand, most of which can be a challenge to find down here. This is where I buy most of the things I use to make my Asian dishes but it is also a great place to stock up on spices and/or some bulk items such as, nuts, seeds, potato/tapioca flour, rice, etc..

Not too long ago, I was preparing to make my Pancit Canton and needed some Chinese sausages, so I trecked off to Petone…when right next to the meat fridge, there they were and I couldn’t believe my eyes! I hadn’t seen Dr. Pepper in a couple of years and it had been even longer since I had seen or tasted Root Beer. I was quite understandably excited…I couldn’t wait to have my Kiwi mates try a Root Beer Float or taste Dr. Pepper.

I have tried many times to explain what it tastes like, but find myself at a loss for the right words. I even ended up buying a few cans of Diet Dr. Pepper and Cream Soda on that trip as well. I don’t often drink sodas (or "pop" as it is referred to in Oregon) anymore – perhaps once a month or so… I usually have to settle for Sprite (aka lemonade here), Coke or Pepsi because those plentiful here, so I was happy to have a little favourite treat or two. My Dad and I love the Dr and Mom and I always enjoyed an occasional Root Beer.

So…a few weeks later, I decide to surprise my friends with a can of each for a taste test. It was one of the funniest things I had seen in some time. My friend and neighbour, Linda, poured a bit in several glasses starting with the Dr. Pepper. She stops the glass halfway to take in the aroma as you would do with a fine wine. Next, with a look of trepidation on her face, she takes a small sip and tries to hide the disappointment of her face as the others look on as if to see whether Linda would swallow or not. Linda makes an attempt at a smile and says, “Now that’s interesting…”, as the others suspiciously taste theirs.

The overall consensus on the Dr. Pepper was that it wasn’t all that bad and that the taste reminded them of almond essence (or Christmas cake marzipan) and a hint of cherry. Most of my mates didn’t mind the flavour and I think that one of them (Nadine’s family has ties to North America via Canada) actually liked the stuff! Linda never liked almond flavouring in sweets, so she said that is what turned her off the Dr. Pepper.

It was a whole different ball game with the Root Beer though. Again, I think Linda’s face was priceless and was a bit of advanced warning (not to mention comedic expression) for everyone when the glass was once again raised halfway for a good sniff first. “Aw, geez, this stuff smells just like liniment!”, she says…”I don’t know if I can drink this stuff, yuck!” Once the laughter died down, the group all pretty much concurred, that, yes, this one does smell funnily like medicine but the few brave souls courageous enough to take the first sips encouraged the rest to just try it because it wasn’t really that bad if you can get past the smell. I think it took Linda at least ten full minutes to work up the willpower to sip it, but I am pretty sure they all gave up on the Root Beer quick enough. The idea of combining it with any sort of ice cream probably sounded sacrilegious since Kiwis do truly cherish their ice cream! (Even in the winter!)

Anyway, the taste tests did make for a fun afternoon and even though I had to finish the Root Beer alone, I had a much better idea of how to explain these flavours to a Kiwi, or an Aussie, who perhaps had never tasted the stuff before.

More recipes coming soon, so stay tuned.

Cheers!

EASY PEASY – BANOFFI PIE


This is one of those desserts that sets mouths to watering just at the mere mention of it’s name. For anyone yet unfamiliar, banoffi is condensed from banana-toffee and, banoffi pie is like a banana split without the ice cream…well, sort of anyway.

Well, I saw this can of Highlander Caramel in the shop a while back and thought, “ooh, I wonder if it’s like the caramel sauce back home?”…well, short answer, no, it’s not…but, on the can was a really easy recipe for banoffi pie, so I just had to see if it was any good. Well, it is very nice – not quite what I had remembered from the good ole’ US of A, but lovely nevertheless.

Now, because this is a genuine Kiwified recipe, my North American friends will need to substitute a couple of things. The base (or crust) is made from Vanilla Wine biscuits (use Nilla Wafers in America/Canada) and the caramel bit is the Highlander tinned stuff (this is where it gets interesting). I don’t know if there is really an American equivalent, but what you can do is boil a deep pot of water and drop in an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk (label off) and let it boil away steadily for 4 hours. Make sure there is at least 4 inches of water above the can whilst it boils and cover the pot to keep as much water from evaporating as possible. Check on it regularly to make sure the water level NEVER gets down to the top of the can – it can cause the can to explode – so keep adding hot water if needed. Once the time is up, carefully place the can/s on a wire rack to cool and it’s ready for use!

I think those are the only things needing substitution for this one, so here we go…


INGREDIENTS:

1 Pkt (250 Gm/8 Oz) Vanilla Wine Biscuits (Nilla Wafers), crumbled
100 Gm Softened Butter
1 Can Caramelized Sweetened Condensed Milk
2-3 Large Bananas
*Grated Dark Chocolate
*Whipped Cream

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.


DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, blend the cookie crumbs and soft/melted butter until well combined.

Next, press the mixture into a pie dish or into individual mini pie dishes or ramekins then refrigerate at least an hour to firm up the crust.

Once the crust is ready, open a can of caramelized milk and mix well before pouring into crust/s. The caramel is to be about a centimetre or so thick.

Now, refrigerate again for at least 2 hours for the caramel to set.

When you are ready to serve the dessert, mash the bananas in a small bowl and spread over the top of the caramel, then sprinkle with chocolate.

Top it off with whipped cream (I cheated and used the spray cream in a can this time) then sprinkle again with chocolate.

Voila! A gorgeous little gem that goes great with coffee or tea! Enjoy!



CARROT, APPLE AND WALNUT SALAD


Yesterday afternoon was nice. I had a few friends over and we had a lovely lunch. I prepared this salad with ham & tomato sandwich wedges…then we indulged a bit on banoffi pie (next post, I promise). The weather outside was delightful and, as usual, we shared stories, photos and lots of laughter.

Anyway, I really suggest giving this salad a try as it is fresh and tasty with a bit of crunch from the nuts. You can adjust any of the measurements really, to suit your own tastes, but it is one that should be given a try.

This salad was inspired by a lunch out with another American friend recently. We had lunch at a place called “One Red Dog” at Queen’s Wharf after riding the ferry out to Days Bay and back that morning. Funny story there, but in the interest of keeping it brief, I will just say that in the end we had to RUN for the ferry back to town and we certainly earned our lunch that day! LOL

The guys on the boat said they have become pretty astute at picking out the people late for the ferry as they often allow an additional 5 minutes or so for the last passengers running around the bays. Yes, they laughed at us, but so did we…we could laugh because at least we knew at that stage that we had a ride back home!

So, without further adieu…


INGREDIENTS:

¼ Cup Walnut Oil
¼ Cup Riesling Verjuice
*1 Tbsp Honey
*1½ Tbsp Wholegrain or Mild Dijon-style Mustard
* 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
*Salt & Pepper
3-4 Med-Lg Carrots, grated or julienned
1-2 Braeburn or Fuji Apples, grated or julienned
¼ Cup Currants
¼ Cup Walnut Pieces
2-3 Cups Baby Spinach Leaves

*Amounts vary to individual Tastes


DIRECTIONS:

In a small measuring jug or large mug, combine the oil, verjuice, honey, mustard, lemon juice and salt & pepper. Some of the measurements will vary, but the measurements given are approximately what I tend to use in my own.

Now whisk the dressing to emulsify the ingredients.

Next, in a medium-large salad bowl, combine the carrots, apples, currants, walnuts, and spinach. I suggest grating or julienning the apples just before serving and having the salad dressed and tossed prior to serving to protect the apples from going brown too quickly. If you do it in this fashion, the apples will stay crunchy and will not tend to discolour much at all.

Now, enjoy this light & fresh salad on it’s own or with a sandwich or pasta as I do!

SUMMER BROCCOLI SALAD
(No actual cooking involved!)

Well, ballet and swimming are finally over for this year and the recital was just lovely. I have been working and playing hard since Thanksgiving, but I have not forgotten about my little pages here.

It has been pretty warm here these last few nights and, wouldn't you know it, my oven element blew the other day, so it's been BBQ for several evenings (which is really lovely in this weather) but I wanted something more substantial than just the average sausages and rolls, etc..

Here is a yummy recipe to try if you are hankerin for something other than a green salad or cole slaw to accompany any main dish.

This is one of my most favourite summer salads and I have even been known to eat it on it's own as my lunch for the day.

INGREDIENTS:

1 Head Broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
¼ Red Onion, finely diced
1-2 Carrots, grated
1 Cup Bacon, finely diced & fried crispy
¼ Cup Currants (or raisins)
¼ Cup Pumpkin Seeds (or sunflower seeds, pine nuts, cashews, etc.)
½ Cup Mayonnaise (Best Foods or Hellmans type)
1 Tbsp Wholegrain Mustard
¼ Cup Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tsp Sugar
*Salt & Pepper

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, mix all of the vegetables and then add the bacon, currants (or raisins) and nuts (or seeds).

Next, prepare the dressing in a measuring jug or large mug. I rarely measure anything when making dressings for salads, so adjust the amounts to suit your own taste and to get the consistency that you prefer.

For maximum flavour, dress and chill the salad for at least 2 hours before serving.

That’s it – simple as anything and VERY tasty. One of my favourite summer salads and it’s brilliant with any BBQ and/or pot-luck style dinner.

THANKSGIVING TURKEY w/DRESSING & GRAVY

NOT-SO-SECRET FAMILY RECIPE
HOLIDAY TURKEY, DRESSING, AND GRAVY


Thanksgiving 2008 was the first year since we moved down under that I really prepared a Thanksgiving feast. I refer to my recipe as the "Holiday" recipe, because it is often repeated for Christmas, unless we opt for a Christmas ham, leg of lamb, or prime rib dinner instead. More often than not though, for us it was turkey.

This particular fowl is not altogether popular here in New Zealand...it is actually difficult to buy a turkey unless it's close to Christmas and we won't even discuss the price of the bird!!! I have been told though, by many of my Kiwi mates here, that they think of turkey as a very dry and tasteless poultry and it's not worth the price...well, until they taste this one, that is!

This basic recipe had been passed down through the generations in my family and is also quite good when applied to chicken rather than turkey, but for today's blog, it's a Tom.

I have yet to come across a turkey here that is not free-range (which may account for part of the financial blow), and they are generally MUCH smaller than their steroid enhanced cousins in North America. Nevertheless, I was able to get my hands on a 10 kilo bird through our local butcher (I love buying meat at a butcher shop rather than the supermarket anyway)...that's 22 pounds to you Yankee Doodles out there!

So, I invited 35-40 of our closest friends and family (more or less), hired the local church hall, and set out to show these Kiwis what a traditional Thanksgiving is all about. Okay, so we had it a couple days late (on Saturday) due to the fact that Thursday wasn't a holiday here, but it was wonderful! I spent a couple of days making pumpkin, pecan, and cherry pies ahead of time, and everyone brought something to share so it was truly a feast among friends!!! Everything was SOOO good!

Well, I have to thank Dad first, for sharing his expertise and advice on the recipe. Now I understand just how much time, effort, and sacrifice went into making these huge family gatherings so successful (I love you HEAPS Dad). Yes, Mom helped out on Thanksgiving, and I love her HEAPS too, but the turkey was always his job and he was the one chopping all the veggies to make the stuffing and getting up every hour or so to baste the turkey the night before, then whipping up a gravy "to-die-for" after pulling the bird out of the oven the next day. (Good on ya!)

Next, I need to thank my hubby for all of his assistance, without which I may have come up short at the finish. And, finally, I thank all of our great friends and family for sharing their amazingly beautiful, tasty dishes and, for helping us eat all of that turkey so that my family didn't have turkey stew for the next 6 weeks!!!

So, without further adieu...here is how to manage a very moist and delicious turkey.

PREPARE THE BIRD: (9 kilo (20 lb) minimum)

Remove the yellow dead skin and any pinfeathers.
Clean out any loose material and set aside the liver, gizzard, heart & neck from the inside.
Dry off the exterior of the body.
Tie up the legs and wings (just to keep them manageable)

Keep a turkey lacing kit or large needle and cooking string handy for later…


DRESSING ~ INGREDIENTS:

¼ lb. Beef Mince (hamburger meat)
¼ lb. Pork Sausage with sage (homemade is fine)
½ Celery Bunch (or more)
2 Med Yellow Onions (do not use white onions)
2 to 3 Med Potatoes
All Giblets (heart, liver, gizzard) from the turkey
1-2 Bags of Breadcrumbs or Croutons  (seasoned if possible, if not add sage and just a little thyme)
*Milk
*Salt & Pepper

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.


DIRECTIONS:

First, chop up the vegetables as fine as you like and set aside (1 cm pieces work well).

Then, chop up the liver, gizzard and heart and lightly-brown with just a little oil to keep from sticking. Season mixture with a little salt & pepper.

Next, add pork sausage and continue to brown, add the hamburger last and turn down the heat so as not to over cook.

Bring up the heat to the meat mixture and add the vegetables a little at a time to heat through but not cook. Add a little stock or water if needed, to steam the veggies.

Now, set the mixture aside to cool.

Once the meat mixture has cooled sufficiently, preheat the oven 106° C (250° F)

Next, put the breadcrumbs into a large bowl and add milk, a little at a time, mixing by hand until the bread is just a little moist but not mushy, then fold in the dressing mix and combine well.

Just before it’s time to place the bird into the oven, salt & pepper the inside of the turkey well (body and neck cavities).

If you have one handy, you can place cheesecloth inside the turkey to hold the dressing and make it much easier to remove later.

Pack the dressing into the body and lace up with a turkey lacing kit or whatever method you have handy.

Next, if you like a sweeter German-style dressing, you can modify a small portion by adding some raisins in just the neck portion (or just leave it the same as the rest, if you don’t like sweet stuffing).

Pack the dressing well into the neck area and lace up as well as possible.

Get your roaster ready and then rub the entire turkey with butter and liberally salt & pepper.

Place in the pan Breast up – this is only if you plan to slow cook at 106° C (250° F).

Now, add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of dry white wine in the pan and begin cooking.

After the first 3 hours, add 1 additional cup of wine over the bird, and then continue to baste it with the pan juices every 1½ - 2 hours. If the pan juices evaporate too quickly, add a bit more diluted wine (don’t use more than 600 ml of wine total, as it will ruin the gravy later).

The bird should be covered until the last two hours and basted often especially at the end. It should cook until the internal temperature reaches 77° C (170°F) or about 30-35 minutes per 500 gms (per pound), or shorter if the dressing is still warm when put into the bird.

You can also cook it quicker at 180° C (350°F) for 25 minutes per 500 gms (per pound), but if you do, you will need to start the bird breast down and turn it over when you remove the cover for the last two hours.


GRAVY ~ INGREDIENTS:

Pan Juices
2-3 Cans Unsweetened Condensed/Evaporated Milk
1 Cup Cold Water
½ Cup Corn Flour/Corn Starch
*Salt & Pepper

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.


DIRECTIONS:

Take pan dripping and add 2 to 3 cans of evaporated milk and enough water to make the desired amount (I added the water from the boiled potatoes for mashing) and heat to a boil.

Mix about half a cup or so of corn starch with cold water.

Slowly add the dissolved corn starch mixture to the slow boiling drippings until you reach your desired gravy consistency.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!


It is said every year
Voices young and old
Happy Thanksgiving, y'all
Then stories are told

At the dining table
Forks & knives in hand
And who could forget
The elastic waistbands

Turkey served first
White meat or dark?
And who gets the wishbone
To later rip apart?

Next spuds and stuffing
Under gravy so rich
Just pass on the veggies
Rolls are caught on the pitch

Save your forks ev'rybody
Cuz dessert is now near
Pumpkin pie, and whipped cream
Pecans too, never fear

Waitsbands are taxed
To their maximum limit
Don't forget leftovers
Everything's in it

Dishes are cleaned
And stacked by the dozen
Oh wait, that's more food
stored inside the oven?

Sure glad you could join us
Hope you visit again soon
Now a nap on the couch
Waking up tomorrow noon

Hope you enjoyed
My Thanksgiving story
Now go and enjoy
All your holiday glory

Cheers to all, and save some for me! ;o)

SPEAROLE
(GREEN TEA WITH SPEARMINT, OLIVE LEAF, AND GRAPE SEED)
CAN HELP FIGHT OBESITY


I saw this in the news yesterday and thought it was particularly interesting. Keep an eye out for this product in your health food shops.


Courtesy of:
BRISBANE POST / THE INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Monday, November 24, 2008

Three cups of green tea a day could keep obesity at bay. Research shows the tea helps the pounds melt away, even while still eating junk food.

Spearole Tea, a blend of green tea, spearmint, grape seed and olive leaf, also cuts blood pressure and makes it easier for the body to process sugar.

Researcher Dr. Lindsay Brown said: “If someone had told me you could do all these things with something as simple as green tea with olive extract I would said they’d been out in the sun too long. It is simply amazing.”

Dr. Brown, a pharmacologist at Brisbane’s Queensland University, studied the effect of the tea on the health of a group of rats. The creatures were fed a fat and sugar-laden diet caused the amount of fat around their bellies to double in eight weeks and their blood pressure to soar.

When Spearole Tea was added to their diet, their waistlines and their blood pressure quickly returned to normal.

This was despite the continuing to eat junk food, the Australian Health and Medical Research Congress will hear.

Dr. Brown said it was likely three cups of the tea a day could also help people stay trim, improving overall health.

Warning that the obesity epidemic threatened to wipe out the gains achieved by improvements to heart health, he said: “The UK, the US and Australia all have something like 60 per cent of the adult population overweight or obese. The decrease in cardiovascular mortality in the last 40 years has added on average six years to life expectancy. That is the biggest increase in life expectancy in one generation in the history of the species. The control of cardiovascular disease has had an amazing effect on survival and that is at risk from obesity.”

WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
(Courtesy of the Easy Way Café and Foodtown Magazine Jun/Jul’07)

Today's post is a celebration post!!! It was one year ago this week that my amazing husband adopted my lovely daughter and we made everything official. She was the apple of his eye the day he met her for the first time, but it was all settled and we were finally able to share his surname, and all that entails, with him as a family one year ago.
I am extremely proud of my husband and daughter and never could have asked for more. Hubby is such a kind and loving man and I feel he makes me want to be the best person that I can be. Our baby girl (who is seven going on seventeen already) is very honoured and very happy about having such a great daddy too. I suppose there were a few long and lonely years when I was a solo mum, where she and I probably both thought we would only ever have or need each other, but Hubby came into our lives like a ray of sunshine and showed us both how good life really could be.
I had decided long ago NEVER again to settle for something mediocre, or comfortable. I decided that IF the day was to come that I would look for love again, my daughter would be grown and I would not ever accept anyone even slightly dishonest, "needy" or "clingy"...no "work in progress" for me ever again - I deserve better; someone honest and kind, and someone I could trust entirely and truly, deeply love. I wanted a man who was extremely confident and successful in life, not someone who blamed life for his shortcomings. I can tell you with 100% confidence now, that one should never "look for love"...trust me, let it find you when it's ready!
Now, this recipe came to my attention through my friend and neighbour, Linda (thank you ever so much). She made this for a special dinner she was having and it sounded sooo good, I had to ask for the recipe! Now that I have an extremely important and incredibly happy reason to make it, we are going to indulge a bit tonight.
Cheers to my family - may we always enjoy health, happiness, and each other!


MOUSSE – INGREDIENTS:


200 GMs Good Quality White Chocolate (must contain Cocoa Butter)
¼ Cup Coconut Cream
¼ Cup Bacardi White Rum
1 Egg Yolk
1 Tsp Caster Sugar (ultrafine sugar – smaller granules than normal sugar)
200 ML Cream
2 Egg Whites


DIRECTIONS:
First heat the white chocolate, coconut cream and rum in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over a pot over simmering water, until it is all melted together.

In a separate bowl, whisk the yolk and sugar together and then whisk it into the melted chocolate mixture.

Remove the mixture from the heat and cool. I fill my sink with cold water and immerse the bottom and sides of the bowl in the water whilst stirring to cool the mixture efficiently and evenly.

Now, whip the cream just until it begins to hold it’s shape and then carefully fold it into the cooled chocolate mixture.

Next, in a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and carefully fold that into the mix as well.

Now, pour the mousse into your serving vessels (wine glasses, martini glasses, ramekins, whatever…), and chill well for at least an hour before adding the topping. A transparent glass or bowl will highlight the light and dark contrast between the mousse and its topping to give you a very polished presentation.


TOPPING – INGREDIENTS:

60 GM Good Quality Dark Chocolate (minimum of 72% cocoa)
100 ML Cream


DIRECTIONS:
First, break the chocolate into small bits and place them into a heatproof bowl.

Next, in a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil and immediately pour it over the chocolate bits in the bowl, whisking until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Cool the topping thoroughly.

Next, you carefully pour the well cooled topping over the mousse and tilt the glass/bowl until you have an even layer over the top of the mousse about ¼ of an inch thick.

Now, chill the glasses/bowls until fully set – about 30-60 minutes.

Finally, INDULGE!!!



LUMPIA


Lumpia is the Filipino version of a spring roll or egg roll. I learned to make lumpia when I was still in middle school. My home economics instructor back then was a lady from Hawaii and she taught us about many different, weird and wonderful (or, some not so wonderful) foods from places all over the world.

This teacher even brought in Poi one day for us to taste (eeyuk). For anyone unfamiliar, from what I remember Poi is a gooey paste made from mashed Taro root and, if not eaten immediately, the paste is left to sour/ferment for up to a week. It is supposed to be very nutritious for babies with dairy allergies, but once it begins to ferment, it is rarely eaten without adding milk & sugar.

Anyway, I digress, Lumpia and sweet & sour sauce was one of our first cooking lessons (I think I was 12 or 13 at the time) and they turned out lovely, so I have continued to make them ever since. This is my own version, although I am sure there are heaps of recipes out there. I made pork lumpia on this occasion, but I think I like beef the best, but I have added shrimp on occasion and those were nice as well.



INGREDIENTS:

2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1 Lg Yellow Onion, finely diced
3 Cloves Crushed Garlic
500 Gm (approx 1 Lb) Lean Minced Pork (or chicken, or beef)
2 Med Carrots, peeled & grated or julienned
¼ Head Cabbage, sliced finely
½ Cup Mung Bean Sprouts (more or less)
4 Cups Stock (whatever kind you prefer, I used chicken)
1 Pkg Rice Vermicelli Noodles (adjust to suit depending on how many rolls you are making)
¼ Cup (packed) Coriander or Parsley, finely chopped
3 Lg Scallions (spring onions)
*Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Pkg (approx 20 ea) Spring Roll Wrappers or Lumpia wrappers (if you can get them)
*Peanut Oil for frying rolls

*Amounts vary to individual tastes


DIRECTIONS:

Heat your sesame oil and begin to cook onions over medium heat.

As the onions begin to go clear, add garlic and cook for an additional 30-60 seconds before adding in the meat of your choice.

Brown the meat and be sure to cook thoroughly, as the frying of the rolls at the end will not be long enough to get the rolls to a temperature high enough for a long enough time to cook the meat at that stage.

As the meat is browning, in a separate pot, bring your stock to a boil.

Once meat looks cooked, add in the carrots, cabbage, and bean sprouts.

Once the stock boils, remove it from the heat and add your rice vermicelli noodles and allow them to soften about 2 minutes.

Once the noodles are soft, drain them and add them to the meat mixture.

Remove the meat mixture from the heat and add the coriander/parsley, the scallions, and the black pepper and make sure to combine everything well and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Now you need to remove the wrappers from the package and lay them onto a damp tea towel. You will remove one wrapper at a time and fold the damp towel over the top of the remaining wrappers while rolling each lumpia roll.

Depending on who you talk to, traditional lumpia rolls are fairly small with very little filling however…I tend to make them bigger and more the size of a spring roll, but it’s up to you how much filling to roll up in each wrapper.

To fill and roll lumpia, as with most spring roll/egg roll items, you begin with the wrapper angled with corners on both sides and placing the filling across the bottom corner.


Next roll the bottom corner up and the sides in toward the center. Continue rolling up from the bottom and with clear water, moisten the top corner to “glue” it to the roll.

Once you have all of your rolls made, you can heat up the peanut oil and fry them 2-3 at a time to cook the wrapper until it’s golden brown and crispy.

Lumpia is best served with a sweet and sour sauce. You can find a simple recipe for my sauce with my post for Coconut Prawns.

Enjoy!!!



BACON & PORCINI RISOTTO


This is one of my all time favourites. It's a smooth and creamy comfort food with loads of flavour. Here in New Zealand it can be challenging to find certain items (such as porcini mushrooms), so I get my special ingredients at the
Mediterranean Food Warehouse in Newtown.

I buy the dried porcinis and soak them prior to use. In this case, the obvious option for me, was to dice the dried mushrooms and then add them to the stock before bringing it to a boil. This way, the gorgeous procini flavour was able to develop in the risotto from the start. Otherwise, if you have access to fresh porcinis, you also have the option of adding them with the bacon as I have indicated below. Either way, this dish is "to die for"!

This recipe makes quite a large pan full, so you may opt to cut in in half...personally, I like leftover risotto for lunch the next day, so I don't mind.

INGREDIENTS:

1.5 Litres (6-6.5 Cups) Stock of your choice (I used Chicken)
2 Large Onions (finely chopped)
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
75 Gms Butter (approx 2.5 oz)
¼ Cup Verjuice (or ½ Water-½ Lemon Juice Mixture)
500 Gms (about 1 Lb) Diced Bacon
½ Cup Diced Porcini Mushrooms
300 Gms (5 oz dry/uncooked) Arborio Rice
3 Cloves Crushed Garlic
1 Tbsp Oregano
¼ Cup Packed Freshly Chopped Parsley/Cilantro
150 Gms (~5 oz) Parmiggiano Reggiano Cheese (finely grated & FRESH)
*Fresh Parsley Garnish
*Freshly Ground Pepper

*Amounts vary to individual tastes

DIRECTIONS:

Firstly, fry off the bacon until the bits begin to go crispy, then set aside.

In a large chef's pan or other wide-bottom pan that can hold 8 cups or so of cooked risotto...heat the oil & butter and start to cook the onions. Do not brown the onions, just cook until they start to soften.

Whilst the onions are cooking, you will need to boil the stock and keep it hot in a smaller saucepan until it's used up.

When the onion starts to go clear, add the rice and stir to coat well. It will almost look "glassy" and transparent on the grain ends when well mixed. Cook for about 2-3 minutes.

Now increase the heat and add the verjuice (or substitute) and stir until the liquid soaks completely into the rice.

Reduce the heat again and begin adding the hot stock to the rice pan one-cup at a time. Stir constantly and only add the next cup after the previous one has been absorbed into the rice. Repeat this until 2/3 of the stock is gone. This takes about 20 minutes - stirring constantly.

Now add in the bacon, mushrooms, garlic, and oregano then increase the heat once again.

Add the last 2 cups or so of the stock one cup at a time, as before and stirring constantly (about 10 minutes) until the risotto is smooth & creamy.

Taste for seasoning and check that the rice is cooked through.

Finally, remove from heat and stir in the Parmiggiano and parsley/cilantro and that’s it!


You may also wish to serve this with an extra drizzle of EVOO, additional parsley and cracked pepper. Even my picky daughter (who claims to hate rice) loved this one!




COCONUT PRAWNS
WITH SPICY SWEET & SOUR SAUCE

So, I've been quite busy these last couple of weeks. With the school festival and trying to plan Thanksgiving, and somewhere in all this the excitement of our precious daughter getting her first job! That's right, only 7 years old and we make her earn her keep! Actually, she has always been quite a little drama queen and she was recently given the opportunity to be on television in a commercial for a bank. (pretty cool, eh?!) Technically, it's her second job though...her first gig was a photo shoot for a government brochure about 2 weeks after we arrived here in New Zealand. A photographer had asked me if she could photograph my lovely little nymph as she chased pigeons around the parliament courtyard...several weeks later we received, a package with a check and several photos in it along with a copy of the Auditor General's Annual Report and guess who graced the cover?! Well, that was a couple of years ago now, and I don't push my little one into anything, so there are no acting lessons on the horizon as we will stick to ballet and piano for now. She wants to do everything (guitar and singing/dancing are the flavours of the week because she wants to be like Hannah Montana). LOL

Anyway, my point...so much to do and so little time!

I had practically forgotten about coconut prawns as I haven't had or made them since we moved down under. This was a favourite appetizer at a local restaurant that a former director used to take my department to whenever we celebrated anything. In any case, it was always something I liked to make, but my daughter has never been fond of coconut or prawns...aha, but put them together and as long as it's fried, it now passes inspection...just barely!

These were just fantastic last night though. Not too heavy, and the ever-so-slight coconut aroma was heavenly. This was paired perfectly with the slightly spicy sweet and sour sauce I managed to whip up successfully (one of the first things I had learned to make way back in home economics class when I was about 13 or so).

My only regret here, is that I apparently didn't make enough for lunch today, so it's back to leftover chicken from my hubby's weekend cooking spree (he won a size 20 chook in the quick-fire raffle at the school gala - just a bit too big for our little family I think).

Here is the easy-to-follow recipe for my coconut prawns and sauce. Sauce first...


SAUCE ~ INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Crushed Pineapple, with juice
3 Cloves Crushed Garlic
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Corn Starch
2 Tbsp Red Chilli Sauce (or minced red chillies without seeds)
2 Tbsp Chinese Black Vinegar (lemon juice will do in a pinch)


DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the sauce by combining pineapple (with juice from can) in a pot with garlic, soy sauce, and cornstarch, then stir together until well combined

Now, add chilli sauce or minced peppers (jalapeno works as well, but use half as much if you don't want the sauce to be too spicy).

Mix together until peppers are well incorporated.

Next, simmer over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to desired consistency.

Lastly, stir in vinegar.

The sauce is best prepared up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve (serve room temp or cold). Also, any leftover sauce is great with leftover rice the following day. Mmmm…sweet and slightly spicy!


PRAWNS ~ INGREDIENTS:

½ Cup Flour
½ Tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Smoked Paprika
½ Tsp Garlic Salt
½ Cup Cold Water (more or less)
¾ Cup Breadcrumbs
1½ -2 Cups Shredded Coconut (I prefer the finer texture over the coarsely shredded version)
500 Gm (approx 1 lb) Prawns, de-veined and tails off
2 Cups (more or less) Peanut Oil or Rice Bran Oil


DIRECTIONS:

Stir together the flour, salt, baking powder and paprika in a medium size bowl with a fork or using chop sticks.

Once well combined, add water and whisk until batter is smooth, then set it aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs and coconut to make the coating.

Drop the prawns, one by one, into the batter, and then roll in the coconut mixture, pressing down on the prawns to coat them well. I used chop sticks to keep from making a big mess.

Now heat approximately 1 inch of peanut or rice bran oil in a large frying pan to 185° C (approx 365° F).

When the
oil has reached temperature, fry the prawns in batches of about 6 at a time until they are golden brown on both sides, turning over once.

Remove the prawns from the oil using a slotted spoon or tongs and drain the excess oil on paper towels.

Finally, you sprinkle the hot prawns with a pinch of salt to enhance the flavour before serving with steamed rice and a veg. I added a hint of coconut essence and a few drops of sesame oil to my rice and it was addictive!!! YUM!!!

SPICY TWIST:

Add ¼ Tsp Cayenne Pepper to bread crumbs and follow basic process as above.


FOODIEVIEW POST BUTTON



PALAK PANEER

Sorry, it's been a few days...just been so very busy sorting out Thanksgiving plans for 30 people or so, and trying to assist with the school's upcoming "Lamb & Calf Day Gala", which coincidentally means I'll be baking again today for the cake stall on Saturday!

Anyway, this is a new recipe I had seen one version of and decided to give it a go and see if we liked it. Our daughter wasn't crazy about it, but she did well. I think I might put it into a pita bread next time.

Okay, Palak Paneer is an Indian spinach curry with homemade fried cheese. Palak means spinach and Paneer is cheese. This was my first time attempting to make palak paneer and it was quite fun (and tasty). I had no idea how easy it would be to make cheese at home – how REALLY easy!!! I love spinach and feta, Mediterranean style salads and things, so I thought this would be a good challenge for me.

This dish would ideally be served wrapped in a flatbread like naan or a pappadum. I quite liked the sort of "squeaky" texture of the fresh cheese and might opt to make some herbed cheese with some of my favourite flavours thrown in for future gatherings!


INGREDIENTS ~ PANEER:

2 Litres (8 Cups) Whole Milk
6 Tbsp Plain Unflavoured Yogurt
4 Tbsp Fresh Lime/Lemon Juice


DIRECTIONS:

First, whisk the yogurt and citrus juice together and set aside.

In a large stockpot, slowly and carefully bring the milk to a boil, stirring constantly.

Once boiling, immediately remove the milk from the heat and stir in the citrus/yogurt mixture.

You will immediately see the milk begin to form curds.

Now, return the pot to the heat and continue to boil until the curds stop developing, about 2 minutes.

Line a colander or sieve with cheesecloth and carefully pour the contents of the pot over the cheesecloth and allow it to drain away all of the clear liquid.

Allow the curds to drain until the cheesecloth is cool enough to handle and then twist the cloth as tightly as possible to remove any excess moisture that remains in the curds.

Put the wrapped curds in the refrigerator between two plates and weight it down with heavy cans (or other heavy items) to smash it into a flat disk about a centimetre or two thick for at least three hours to allow it solidify.

When you are ready to fix supper, unwrap the cheese, cube it, and brown it in a preheated pan that has been coated with cooking spray over medium high heat.


The paneer takes a bit of planning, but the results are so very worth it. I feel like a genuine Kiwi milkmaid or something and I didn’t have to pinch a teat or anything! Ha!

Now, for the curry dish…


INGREDIENTS ~PALAK PANEER:

500 Gms (about 1 Lb) Frozen Spinach, thawed
2 Cloves Crushed Garlic
1 Tsp Ginger, finely minced
1 Small Onion, diced
100 Gms Small Mushrooms, washed
(sliced and/or canned shrooms are okay)
1 Green Chilli, finely minced
1 Tsp Garam Masala
*Flaky Sea Salt
*Canola Oil Cooking Spray, or comparable substitute
1 Batch Paneer, cubed and browned (recipe above)

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.

DIRECTIONS:

First, combine thawed spinach, garlic, and ginger in a blender and puree then set it aside.

Now spray a large pan with a generous amount of canola spray and place over medium heat.

Add the onion and chilli and cook it until it begins to brown.

Now that the onion is beginning to brown, add the mushrooms and get them heating through.

Next, add the spinach puree and garam masala and continue to cook until all of the ingredients are heated through and well combined.

Lastly, add the cubed and browned paneer then salt to taste.

Serve with a flatbread such as naan, or with pappadums.

Enjoy.

CARROT, KUMARA & LENTIL SOUP

Last night was one of those where I had been so busy during the day that I had forgotten to properly plan a meal for the evening. I remembered a clever recipe that a new American friend had recently shared with me and I was ready to give it a go.

This was a very healthy option for us and, as it was a tad bit chilly, it turned out to be the perfect solution...but OOOPS!!! Looking at the recipe, I scanned through to make sure I had all of the necessary ingredients and something about "crock-pot" and "6-8 hours" cought my eye!! Oh, crap - what am I going to do now?!?! Well, bugger it - I decided to try it on the stovetop as I have done with my other lentil recipes and WHEW!!! I made the right decision!

So, I have Heather's original method and my stovetop method here for you and I can tell you they are both solid! She has made this for her friends and relatives in the slow cooker and I can fully attest to the stovetop method as we all enjoyed this soup immensely last night!

I have to say that my daughter doesn't normally eat kumara, but disguised in this soup she really enjoyed it (YEA!!). I have to admit that sweet potatoes were always something I hated growing up, but I do enjoy the occasional roasted kumara now. I guess our tastes do change as we get older - so long as that doesn't mean outgrowing chocolate covered cherries, I'm down with that! ;o)

So, without further adieu...here we go...

INGREDIENTS:

1 Tbsp Rice Bran Oil
1 Lg Onion (red or brown)
2-3 Lg Carrots, peeled and grated
1-2 Stalks of Celery (or 1 Lg Celeriac Bulb), chopped
1 Tsp Coriander
1 Tsp Ground Cumin (adjust for taste)
1 3/4 Cups Lentils (I used red lentils)
2 Lg Kumara (or sweet potato), diced
6-7 Cups Stock (beef, chicken, or veggie)
1 Cup Cream
*Salt and Pepper

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.


INSTRUCTIONS:

First, in a large stockpot, lightly sauté the onion and celery/celeriac until the onions begin to soften and go clear.

Next, add cumin and coriander and cook just long enough to bring out the aromas of the spices (about 1-2 minutes).

Now, add the stock, grated carrot, diced kumara and lentils to the sautéed mixture to your stockpot on the stovetop, or combine it all in a crock-pot.

For the stovetop method, bring the contents of your pot to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and leave covered to cook for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep lentils from sticking to the bottom.

For the crock-pot method, cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

Now, approximately 30 minutes before ready to serve, puree the soup carefully using an immersion/stick blender.

And lastly, add the cream, salt & pepper to taste.

Thank you Heather for your contribution to NuKiwiKitchen! Much appreciated – this will become a regular in our house now as well. Also, this is a great vegan/vegetarian meal if you use veggie stock.

Cheers.





BONY FINGERS & TOES

COOKIES or SPOOKIES???

(adapted from recipe found at CanaryGirl.com)




DISCLAIMER: I usually do not embrace or celebrate anything about Halloween.


Even as a kid it was not a holiday that I really enjoyed. Yes, it was fun to dress up (if you had a cool costume like the 6 kids at school dressed as a 6-pack of Coke) and it was great to get loads of candy (provided your Dad didn't sneak all of your chocolate bars out "for inspection").

No, it was scary, embarrassing, and downright humiliating and confusing to be taught not to EVER take candy from a stranger...oh, except at night...in the dark...on all hallows eve...at houses that played ceepy music and had skeletons on their porch...from people with fake blood on their faces (do you see where I'm going with this?).


Needless to say, I am happy it has never really taken root here in New Zealand. There are a few stragglers here and there, but they don't even dress up, they don't know the "rules" (for example - never trick-or-treat a house unless they left the porch light on for trick-or-treaters) and, in my opinion, Kiwi kids already eat far too much rubbish from the friendly neighbourhood dairy (convenience stores akin to the American 7-eleven or Plaid Pantry) in the form of chewy, gummy lollies and 'chocky bars'.


Anyway, I was talking to a friend recently, and it got me thinking (scary in itself, I know), and reading some of the other cool blogs out there in foodie-blog-land. I eventually happened to stumble across CanaryGirl which had lots of gory and goulish ideas and it reminded me of a friend in Oregon who usually dresses up with the hubby (and the pooch) every year, so my lovely daughter and I felt obliged to make these little gems in their honour. This was a great kitchen bonding time for us too. (Cheryl, the boo chips were cool, but what do you reckon about these, creepy eh? LOL)


In any case, I spent the later afternoon yesterday with the family out back, planting the veggie crop for this year. We planted a good variety, so let's hope we get to eat more of it than those pesky white butterflies do this year!


INGREDIENTS:
½ Cup Butter, softened
¾ Cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 Tbsp Vanilla
½ Tsp Green Food Colouring
1½ Cups Flour
½ Tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Salt
½ Cup (approx) Blanched Almonds (skin off)

DIRECTIONS:
First, cream the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and food colouring together in a medium bowl.

Next, slowly add in the dry ingredients and stir the mixture until well combined.
Now you will need to refrigerate the dough for at least 45 minutes, wrapped in plastic wrap.

When the dough has set firmly, preheat your oven to 150º C (325º F).

Divide dough in half and reserve one half in the refrigerator whilst working on the other.

Line baking sheets with parchment or, as I like to use, a silicone baking mat.

Now roll pieces of dough with your hands into thin fingers, making sure to keep them quite thin, as the dough tends to spread quite a bit.

Once you are happy with the shape, press an almond onto the end of each finger and, using a butter knife or skewer, make indentations for knuckles (I also squeezed the dough a bit where the knuckles were, to make them more prominent).

To make toes, roll small balls of dough, and then roll one side to make the length of the toe, leaving the part for the “nail” a little bigger. Press almonds onto the “toes.”

Finally, bake the “spookies” in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until done, but NOT browned.

Cool on wire racks for 2-3 minutes, then move them onto a plate.


They are not oversweet, but just right for a creepy after-school snack!





BLOG AWARD - THANK YOU!


Firstly today, a BIG thank you hug to Cheryl at Cooking Dunkin Style for this award on my 5-Minute Mug Cake.

I believe I am supposed to pass it on to another whose blog I have enjoyed and who had a recent chocoholic vision of excellence, so.... I am choosing to pass it on to another Kiwi transplant north of me - Arfi at Homemades for her Churros con Chocolat. Not only does she come up with beautiful creations, but she is also an excellent photographer as well.

Well done, Arfi!