Roast Sweet Potato, Cranberry, Rice & Quinoa Salad

This salad is jam-packed full of flavour! It has definitely become my go-to in terms of a quick and easy work lunch lately. I’ve seriously probably made this over 5 or 6 times in the last month. It is incredibly light, full of flavour and very filling! There is just something about the mix of the roasted kumara, and the crunch of the quinoa. The dried cranberries add a little hint of sweetness too, without being too overpowering.

The first time I made this salad, I’m pretty sure I devoured a substantial portion in one sitting. The original recipe has quite a bit of watercress in it but feel free to omit like I did. It is very simple to make and can be served as a main dish or side dish. It is good warm and straight from the fridge – bonus!

Roast Sweet Potato, Cranberry, Rice & Quinoa Salad

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds..
  • 800g sweet potato, peeled, diced into 2cm-ish cubes
  • 2 x 250g pouches SunRice Steamed Rice & Quinoa
  • 55g sweetened dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Put nuts on baking tray and roast for about 10 minutes – keep a close eye on these as they burn easily! Set aside.

Put sweet potato and 2 tablespoons of water in a large microwave dish. Cover and microwave on high for 4 minutes, or until tender. Drain well, then set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, microwave each SunRice packet for approximately 90 seconds each. Transfer to a both, and separate grains with a fork. Add sweet potato, cranberries, nuts, and the chives.

Whisk together orange juice, vinegar, and olive oil. Add liquid to the salad and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

The salad will last in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days (I think). Mine didn’t quite last that long! Yours probably won’t either…

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Baked Eggplant Rolls with a Tomato Basil Sauce

This meal was BEAUTIFUL! The sauce, the filling and everything about it was delicious.

I made this dish last week as an entree and I have to say, it was a delight to eat. I even  went back for seconds and that was after I’d consumed a slow-cooked chicken dish and a ramekin of rhubarb and apple crumble! Greedy, much?! 🙂

The dish takes a little bit of time to prepare but it really is worth it. I added a small amount of crumbled cow’s feta into the ricotta mixture and bit more on top with some basil as a garnish. Enjoy!

Egg-plant

Baked Eggplant Rolls with a Tomato Basil Sauce
Serves 4

  • 2 fresh eggplant, trimmed, sliced lengthwise into 6
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 800 g whole tomato canned in tomato juice, chopped
  • 2 tbs fresh basil, torn
  • 1 zucchini, finely diced
  • 150 g reduced-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbs fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 tbs grated parmesan cheese, chopped
  • 1 small egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • Oil spray

Preheat oven to 230 degrees. Spray a baking tray with oil and set aside.

Lay eggplant in a single layer on prepared baking tray and spray with oil. Bake for 20 minutes, turning once or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

To make filling, spray a large non-stick frying pan with oil and place over medium-high heat. Add onion and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes, or until onion starts to soften. Add 1 clove garlic and cook for a further minute. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile combine ricotta, parsley, basil and 2 tablespoons parmesan in a seperate bowl. Stir to combine. Add the cooled onion mixture to ricotta mixture, then add egg and season well with salt and pepper.

To make sauce, place the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic and saute for 2 minutes, or until light brown. Add crushed tomatoes and stir to combine then reduce heat to low. Add basil and season well with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes then remove from heat and set aside.

To make eggplant rolls, reduce oven temperature to 210 degrees. Spoon 3 tablespoons of tomato sauce into the base of a 20 cm square ceramic baking dish. On a clean chopping board place a slice of eggplant. Spoon 2 tablespoons of ricotta filling at narrow end and roll up. Place in prepared baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices.

Arrange rolls in a single layer in dish. Spoon over remaining 1/2 cup tomato sauce and sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and cheese has melted. Garnish with chopped basil and a sprinkling of feta. Enjoy.

These can be made a day ahead of time and stored in an airtight continer in the fridge. They are best reheated in a moderate oven for 15 – 20 minutes, though I didn’t have any left for the next day to reheat!

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Slow Cooker Spicy Carrot and Pumpkin Soup

There’s something comforting about a bowl of hot soup in the middle of Winter. Even more so, knowing it is a bowl of homemade soup.

Last weekend was a typical ‘four seasons in one day’ kind of weekend. New Zealand’s weather can be a little unpredictable sometimes. Saturday was brilliant – sunny, and even pretty warm! For the people that aren’t local, everybody in Wellington has a little smile on their face and a little extra spring in their step when Wellington is given a stunner of a day.  Trust me, we don’t get them often! There’s a saying here: ‘You can’t beat Wellington on a good day!’

But………..Sunday, like after every not-a-cloud-in-the-sky day, we got a little payback. Sunday was rotten, the air was bitterly cold and it actually consistently rained alllllllll day. Not long into the day, I decided it was going to be a soup day! Despite not being able to exit the house in the event I returned a drowned rat, I got the slow cooker out and a whole lot of vegetables and made a delicious, spicy soup. It warms your insides and makes you feel a little bit happier about being tucked up inside while it rains cats and dogs, outside.

Here it is, enjoy.

Slow Cooker Spicy Carrot and Pumpkin Soup
Serves 6

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
  • 4 cups pumpkin, cut into chunks
  • 3 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 pinch ground chilli
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pepper, ground
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup additional water
  • fresh mint, chopped (optional)

In a large pan heat the oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened. Add the prepared vegetables and the flour and mix as well as you can, allowing the flour to absorb the oil.

Put the whole lot into the slow cooker. Add the spices, salt, pepper, stock and water and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. When the vegetables are tender, purée or process the soup until smooth and return to the slow cooker to keep warm.

Adjust the consistency to suit your personal taste and add some chopped mint. Served with a slice of hot toast and butter on a rainy, cold evening! Thanks to Healthy Food Guide for the recipe!

Pumpkin, Spinach & Feta Muffins

These muffins are fantastic!

One, they are pretty versatile and two, they are often the result of the great-big-fridge-clear-out. And to honest, they also make for a damn good, healthy lunch.

Okay, so my latest addiction, the Ministry of Food Cheese Scone gives these muffins a more than decent run for their money in terms of lunch material. But give this recipe a go anyway, you will not be disappointed!

Pumpkin, Spinach & Feta Muffins
Makes 12

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 50g butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsps sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 packet feta cheese, cubed
  • 2 cups pumpkin, cubed and roasted
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cups spinach

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. It is best to prepare your choice of vegetables before you start, like roasting the pumpkin cubes and chopping the onion and mushrooms – set aside in a bowl.

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and feta. Add vegetables to dry ingredients. Melt butter and combine with milk, egg and sweet chilli sauce. Add to dry ingredients. Mix to combine, but remember to not over mix. Spoon the mixture into a greased muffin tray.

Bake at 180 degrees for at least 15 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

Mum’s Cheese Ball

It’s been a while, but I’m back. Sometimes life just gets in the way of blogging. Especially food blogging!

If you were to think of one food that your family absolutely loves and devours almost the instant it hits the table – what would it be? For me, it’d be this dish. A simple but sophisticated bowl of cheese ball.

How long has this recipe been around? God only knows. There is no arguing this recipe is decades old. It is from my Mum’s collection of dishes she usually makes for a dinner guests, probably more so in the nineties. It is the ultimate crowd pleaser recipe. The recipe I remember, as a child, dinner guests not leaving without.

It is rather an odd mix of ingredients that make it what it is. Unlike traditional cheese ball recipes, this one doesn’t end up in a ball, rolled in sesame seeds or nuts. I personally think this makes it even easier to eat and tastes great with crackers, crostini or carrot sticks.

Mum’s Cheese Ball

  • 250 grams cream cheese
  • 1 cup cheese, grated
  • 2-3 gherkins
  • 2 tbsps tomato sauce
  • 1 onion
  • 1/4 cup parsley (optional)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds or chopped walnuts

In a food processor, mix together the gherkins and the onion and blend until very small. Add the cream cheese, cheese, and tomato sauce. Add some parsley if you wish. Pour mixture into a bowl and sprinkle some sesame seeds or chopped nuts over the top. Cover with gladwrap and refrigerate until required. I find if this dish is left overnight the flavours really develop! Enjoy.

Roasted Vegetable and Pesto Pasta

Carbs: I  love ’em and I bet you do too.

Pasta, rice and potatoes seem to be a regular staple in our diets. Too much of them of course isn’t necessarily a good thing but eaten in moderation, they are sooooo good. I am  such a fan of a good pasta dish because pasta is a great ingredient for putting together quick and delicious meals.

The following recipe comes from the dynamic duo, Alison and Simon Holst. Although it includes a few pricier ingredients (hello, pesto!), I found overall it was quite good value for money and the flavours were pretty incredible! Of course you can mix it up a bit and add all sorts of different  roasted vegetables to the mix.

I found it was wonderful hot for dinner, and equally as delicious cold for lunch the next day. The roasted vegetables add so much flavour, you don’t really need to use too much cheese. Enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable and Pesto Pasta
4 servings 

  • 400 grams pumpkin
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 large portobello mushrooms
  • 300 grams short pasta
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk or cream
  • 5 tsp basil pesto
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g feta, crumbled
  • Pepper to taste

Heat oven to 225 degrees. While the oven heats, peel the pumpkin then cut into small pieces. Cut the red onion into about 12 thin wedges. Halve the yellow pepper, remove the seeds and then cut into 1cm strips.

Place the prepared vegetables into a large bowl. Add the garlic and two tablespoons of oil and toss gently until the vegetables are coated with oil. Spread the vegetables in a single layer over a baking paper-lined roasting dish, then place in the oven. After 10 minutes gently turn the vegetables, add the mushrooms and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Depending on your oven, the vegetables may need a little more time roasting so they don’t go mushy when added to the pasta.

While the vegetables roast, cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted, rapidly boiling water. Drain the cooked pasta, return it to the cooking pot and toss with the remaining oil. Add the evaporated milk or cream, pesto and salt and stir to combine.

Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and cut the mushrooms into strips about 1cm wide. Gently stir the vegetables and the feta into the pasta. Season to taste with pepper and garnish with the remaining feta.

Serve with a simple mescalin salad.

Spinach and Feta Tartlets

I actually can’t recall when I first saw this recipe. No doubt in some women’s magazine I picked up briefly at the supermarket or in a waiting room. I truly believe one of the best fillings for pretty much *anything* is the spinach and feta combo. Spanakopita, quiche, tarts, omelettes, bread…you just can’t beat it. In fact, I’m pretty sure any time I cook with either it is always a success.

This recipe is a gorgeous combination of spinach and feta cheese in a nice pie crust. I could seriously eat one of these almost every day, well I wish! The filling is so quick and easy to throw together, too.…what’s not to love?

Go on…enjoy this lunchtime delight.

Spinach and Feta Tartlets
Serves 12 

  • 200 grams baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 200 grams creamy feta
  • 200 grams puff pastry
  • 2 medium-sized eggs
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 100 grams sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

Turn the oven on to 180 degrees. Spray a 12-hole muffin tin. Roll out pastry into a large rectangle and using a pizza cutter, slice into approximately 8 x 8 cm squares. Next carefully mould each piece into the muffin pan.

Pop the spinach, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, nutmeg and eggs into a bowl and combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon mixture evenly amongst the pastry cases. Place into the oven to bake for approximately 20-25 minutes.

Put one of these into the lunchbox along with a side salad!