Warm potato and tuna salad with pesto dressing

close1_adj_sml

Hello sunshine! We’ve had so much rain this past week, that as soon as the sun came out this weekend, it felt like spring… which may explain why I felt the need to post this spring-like salad in mid-autumn. I’ll probably regret not having a pot of hot soup at the ready when the drizzle resumes! {Every time I talk about rain, I really, really want to say ‘minging’, because that’s what my British friend would say, and it makes me laugh}. But seriously, this is a warm salad, it’s a hearty salad, most of all it’s an anytime kind of salad; one that uses a handful of ingredients… and my least favourite vegetable.

ingred1_adj_smlcooked1_adj_sml

Potatoes: they only really got back on the menu once the boy discovered mashed potatoes. If you, like me, grew up eating boiled potatoes every other night for dinner, you probably don’t jump at the chance to eat them now, either. There are few things that I would rather eat less. BUT if those potatoes were smothered in pesto, well then I might just reconsider. Because basil pesto is one of my favourite things – if it’s written into the title of any recipe, I’m in! It already features in another salad recipe here on this blog, and is likely to appear again very soon, with absolutely no apologies for repetition!

dressing1_adj_smlperfect1_adj_sml

I admire people who make their own pesto from scratch; I don’t (mostly because we’ve not had much luck growing our own basil). For now, I’m content using the good stuff out of the jar, and it certainly means that this dish is super-quick and on the table in under 30 minutes (note to self: check this before posting recipe to the blog)! It’s more a date-night-in kind of recipe, as the toddler won’t touch it, but it certainly goes down a treat with the adult members of this little household. Hubby raves about it every time it comes around on the menu rotation; because it’s simple, it’s fresh and well frankly, delicious!

down1_adj_sml

Warm potato and tuna salad with pesto dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients
650g new potatoes, halved lengthwise if large
2 tablespoons pesto
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 cherry tomatoes (I usually double this number)
185g can tuna, in springwater
200g green beans, trimmed and halved
A couple handfuls spinach, preferably baby leaves, torn if larger

Method
Mix pesto and oil to make dressing. Set aside.

Halve tomatoes, drain and flake tuna.

Boil potatoes for 8-10 minutes until tender. Add beans for the final 3 minutes. Drain potatoes and beans and tip into salad bowl. Stir in spinach so that it wilts. Season with salt and pepper.

Scatter tomatoes and tuna on top, drizzle over pesto and then toss together.

Adapted a little from BBC Good Food

Corn Fritters {gluten-free + dairy-free}

serve2_adj_sml

Often on a Monday, the toddler and I do the grocery shopping, visiting the library on the way. He charms the socks off all the elderly ladies we see, and holds the list for me while I browse. We have a bunch of local shops, including post office, fruit and vegetable shop, pharmacy, butcher and supermarket. It’s nice being able to do all one’s business in one trip and chat with the shop owners as we go. The fruit and veg shop is owned and run by an Afghani family, and we’ve been buying there ever since Theo was a baby. The produce is so much cheaper, and we like to support local small business.

zucchini1_adj_smlzandc1_adj_sml

The young man who serves us has always been smitten by Theo and tries to engage him in conversation. Last week, while Theo was reaching up on his tiptoes to place bags of fresh produce on the checkout, the man was smiling encouragement and then turned to me to ask, “How old is he?” I told him, “Two years old now; I remember coming here when he was a tiny baby”. “Are you his mother?” he asked. “Yes” I replied. “Oh, I thought you were his grandmother” he said. “Oh…” I was lost for words… and too busy controlling my expression so that he didn’t see how offended I was!!

stir1_adj_smlfry2_adj_sml

We bought our zucchinis from the supermarket that day. Not as a response to our Afghani friend’s faux pas, of course, but because they were cheap. Zucchinis are a summer fruit, but these were as cheap as they ever are so I’m assuming they’d come out of cold storage. Not that it matters; I have so many favourite zucchini recipes that I’d be happy if they were in season all year round! This fritter recipe is one that I make especially for Theo; he loves any food he can pick up and eat with his hands. It’s a phenomenon I never knew of before having kids – finger food is always a winner!

serve1_adj_sml

Corn Fritters {gluten-free + dairy-free}

Makes about 10 large fritters

Ingredients
3 eggs, beaten
425g can corn kernels (drained – about 1 1/3 cups)
Approx 2 cups grated vegetables (zucchini, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot or a combination)
1 finely chopped onion (I use crushed garlic instead)
50g chopped ham (optional)
¼ cup polenta
¼ cup brown rice flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for shallow frying

Method
Sift flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Whisk eggs and add to flour, stir until smooth. Add in corn, grated vegetables and onion, and stir until well combined. Season to taste.

Add enough oil to cover base of a large, non-stick frying pan. Heat over medium heat until hot. Using ¼ cup of mixture per fritter, spoon mixture, 3 fritters at a time, into pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes each side or until golden and firm to touch in the centre.

Serve plain or with a dollop of sour cream.

Fruit and yoghurt slice {with gluten-free and dairy-free options}

tower1_adj_sml
Okay, we’re going super-healthy this time, and it’s ugly but oh, so good! It’s a slice that could be co-opted as breakfast food, or packed into the lunchbox as a healthy snack. Rules surrounding what one can consume at school are getting so rigid these days, but never fear! This baby is nut-free. It is also egg-free. There are options for gluten and dairy free, too, but let’s not define this slice by what it’s not; let’s talk about what is! There is fruit (dried), wholegrain flour, yoghurt and coconut, and just a teensy-weensy bit of brown sugar. There could be muesli, there could even be chocolate – but that’s entirely up to you – it’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ type of slice!

ingred2_adj_smlbowl1_adj_smlbowl2_adj_sml

Like many of my favourite recipes, this one was typed up using my mother’s electric typewriter during a slow school holiday break several decades ago, and remained untouched (or untried) in one of my old scrapbooks for many years. More recently when I was looking for inspiration, it caught my eye. I tried it once just to see what it was like, and decided it was worth making again – absolutely superb fresh out of the oven. You may notice it doesn’t have any type of fat, healthy or otherwise, listed in the ingredients (apart from the yoghurt). This makes it a perfect candidate for either eating warm or freezing immediately in lunchbox portions, as it will quickly become stale.

cover2_adj_smlhands1_adj_smlfun1adj_sml

There is also very little added sugar. The dried fruit provides the bulk of the sweetness here, so there is very little need for added sugar. You could even sweeten it with honey or maple syrup instead; it’s a very forgiving recipe. Although it uses an Australian dried fruit product – fruit medley – I have interpreted this as a chance to throw in whatever dried fruit you prefer, and choc chips instead of sultanas. There are so many ways you could play with this recipe – it’s pretty basic as is. I’m thinking of adding spices next time, and even some eggs or oil so that it stays fresher for longer. If you wanted to, try using nut-free muesli as an alternative to coconut, as per Taste.com.au

slice1_adj_smlclose1_adj_sml

Fruit and yoghurt slice {with gluten-free and dairy-free options}

Makes 24 squares

Ingredients
1 cup wholemeal flour (I used a mix of plain GF flour and brown rice flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup desiccated coconut
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup fruit medley (i.e. your favourite mix of dried fruit, chopped)
½ cup sultanas (I used choc chips)
1 cup (250g) natural Greek-style yoghurt (I used coconut yoghurt + 1 tablespoon oil)
4 tablespoons shredded coconut

Method
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (320F). Grease a shallow slice tin (base measures 18 x 27cm). Line with baking paper, allowing 2cm overhang at long ends.

Sift flours, baking powder and baking soda into a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients, except for the shredded coconut, and stir to combine. Spoon mixture into prepared tin and spread out evenly. Sprinkle with shredded coconut and press down. Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Allow to cool before cutting.

Slice is best eaten on the day it is cooked.

Adapted from Food.com and Taste.com.au

*If you make this and post a photo of it, be sure to use the hash tag #redhotcentre when sharing on Instagram.

Butterscotch Brownies {aka Blondies}

Butterscotch Brownies... so easy, so good! Chewy with the addition of oat bran, a slight crunch from the pecans, and deeply, madly butterscotch, these rich cakey squares will not disappoint! Find the recipe @www.red (7)

Isn’t it funny how food goes in and out of fashion? (I mean certain ingredients of course, not food in general!) Ingredients that were once commonplace – such as suet, copha or even glace cherries – are rarely seen or eaten anymore. New or recently discovered foods are in vogue; health-conscious foodies eat kale and quinoa, gluten is in the bad books, and now it seems any type of grain is bad. I haven’t yet been tempted to try kale, but we did enjoy quinoa the other night with dinner. As for gluten, I like to bake gluten-free from time to time, but bread and pasta are still regular staples in this household.

Butterscotch Brownies... so easy, so good! Chewy with the addition of oat bran, a slight crunch from the pecans, and deeply, madly butterscotch, these rich cakey squares will not disappoint! Find the recipe @www.red (4)Butterscotch Brownies... so easy, so good! Chewy with the addition of oat bran, a slight crunch from the pecans, and deeply, madly butterscotch, these rich cakey squares will not disappoint! Find the recipe @www.red (2)

It turns out that suet isn’t the only food to become unpopular. Wheat germ, which apparently used to be all the rage in healthy cooking, is almost impossible to find these days. I know, because these brownies (we can call them blondies if you prefer), being flourless, nevertheless had as a main ingredient, something called wheat germ. . I had an idea what the stuff was, because my late grandmother used to use it in her favourite biscuit recipe. The germ of the wheat kernel, the heart of the grain, is the reproductive part that germinates to grow into a plant. (thanks, Wiki!)

Butterscotch Brownies... so easy, so good! Chewy with the addition of oat bran, a slight crunch from the pecans, and deeply, madly butterscotch, these rich cakey squares will not disappoint! Find the recipe @www.redButterscotch Brownies... so easy, so good! Chewy with the addition of oat bran, a slight crunch from the pecans, and deeply, madly butterscotch, these rich cakey squares will not disappoint! Find the recipe @www.red (3)

I went searching the aisles of my local supermarket, and could not find it anywhere! I even asked the staff to help me, which was when I learned that it just isn’t stocked anymore. What to do? Turn to the ever-informative internet, of course! A quick Google search uncovered a few “easy substitutions for wheat germ” in baking. I learned that oat bran is a suitable alternative and possibly almond meal as well. I was curious to learn how oat bran worked, so that’s what I’ve used here. It provides a welcome chewiness to the texture of these rich, butterscotch flavoured brownies (okay, blondies).

Butterscotch Brownies... so easy, so good! Chewy with the addition of oat bran, a slight crunch from the pecans, and deeply, madly butterscotch, these rich cakey squares will not disappoint! Find the recipe @www.redhotcentrButterscotch Brownies... so easy, so good! Chewy with the addition of oat bran, a slight crunch from the pecans, and deeply, madly butterscotch, these rich cakey squares will not disappoint! Find the recipe @www.red (6)

Butterscotch Brownies
Oat bran provides the chewy texture, brown sugar and molasses that deep, butterscotch flavour and pecans provide a satisfying crunch… these butterscotch brownies won’t disappoint!

Makes 16 squares

Ingredients
50g (¼ cup) butter
1 tablespoon molasses or golden syrup
¾ cup soft brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons dry milk powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup wheat germ or oat bran
65g (½ cup) chopped pecans

Method
Preheat oven to 170 deg C. Grease and line a 20 x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) pan with baking paper, creating an overhang on two of the four sides, for ease of removal later.

Melt butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan over low heat. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in molasses (golden syrup), brown sugar, beaten eggs and vanilla extract. Stir well. In a separate bowl, sift together milk powder, salt and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to wet, and then add wheat germ (oat bran) and chopped nuts.

Stir only enough to blend, using no more than 20 strokes. Spread into prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until cake is deeply golden brown and begins to pull away from sides of pan.

Cool entirely in pan on wire rack. When cool, remove from pan using paper overhang for handles, and on a chopping board cut into squares. Sift icing sugar over them before serving, if desired.

Adapted from the More with Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre

Butterscotch Brownies... so easy, so good! Chewy with the addition of oat bran, a slight crunch from the pecans, and deeply, madly butterscotch, these rich cakey squares will not disappoint! Find the recipe @www.red (5)

Essie’s Cobbler

bowl2_adj_sml

It’s official; summer’s over (cue sad face). And with the cold stretch of wintry weather we’ve had this past week, all I’ve wanted to do is to hibernate: stay inside where it’s warm, beside the heater. No, make that the oven.

1best1_adj_sml

Because what better way to use one’s hibernation than to make a warming dessert?

plums1_adj_sml

Gather ripe blood plums, leftovers from summer’s bounty…

fruit3_adj_sml

Add some of new season’s apples and pears, some sugar and spice…

3fruit1_adj_sml

And cook them up together to create a slightly tart, not overly sweet fruit base for our cobbler.

4dish2_adj_sml

Cream butter and sugar; adding flour and milk to the mix.

5fruit2_adj_sml

Spread cake dough into greased baking dish and cover with fruit.

sugar1_adj_sml

Sprinkle with sugar, or better yet, ask your eager helper to do it for you!

down5_adj-sml

Bake until fruit is magenta and bubbly and cake is risen and brown.

7bowl1_adj_smldown_bowl2_best_adj_sml

Devour with glee (after first having taken copious photos of the beautiful mess)!

down_bowl2_adj_sml

Essie’s Cobbler
Crust begins on the bottom, and ends on top. Consistency of cobbler varies depending on variety of fruit and amount of juice, but still tastes delicious.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients
¼ cup butter or margarine, softened
½ cup golden caster sugar
1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
½ cup milk
1-2 tablespoons golden caster sugar, extra
½ cup fruit juice*

Method
Prepare fruit first by washing and removing core/stones/pit. I used 450g (1 lb) blood plums, an apple, a pear and some frozen raspberries. Stew with one tablespoon of sugar, a splash of water, 3 bruised cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick. Simmer until softened (5-10 minutes) and then remove from heat. Discard spices. You will need 2 cups of stewed fruit.

Preheat oven to 180degC/350degF. Grease a 10×5 inch or 9×9 inch (2-litre capacity) baking pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl. Sift together in a separate bowl the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon (if using). Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Mix until smooth.

Pour batter into greased baking pan. Spoon over two cups of stewed fruit. Sprinkle with extra sugar and then pour over fruit juice*. Bake 45-50 minutes. Serve warm with yoghurt, cream or ice cream.

*The original recipe called for 1 cup of fruit juice, but I baulked at that and added less. It still turned out fine!

Adapted from the More with Less cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre

Great Spaghetti and Meatballs

bowl3_adj_msl

What would your first thought be if you were asked to baby-sit your friend’s kids? Would you reply, “Yes, but only if they’re asleep”? Would you pause if it involved the changing of dirty nappies? Would you scan your bookshelves to see what DVDs you could take to keep them entertained? Would you check the forecast before deciding that a trip to the park was in order? Or would you go straight to your well-laden pantry and dog-eared cookbooks to find a recipe you could all make together?

garlic1adj_smlsalt1_adj_sml

Yep. That’s totally what I did. What I do, when asked to baby-sit (during daytime hours). Last time, the kids and I made chocolate crinkles while their mother slept. And yes, I would understand if you interpreted my plan as somewhat self-serving, but the truth is, kids love to help in the kitchen, and this time it was completely practical; we were making dinner. The family was flying out on an overseas holiday the next day, so this was my way of making their last evening just that little bit less stressful.

J&T1_adj_smltmeatballs1_adj_msl

Not having any real idea of where the equipment was located, we winged it, and several pairs of little hands eagerly tore bread into breadcrumbs in the absense of a food processor. They happily mixed and shaped meatballs, though my original suggestion of making the balls large was over-ruled and we ended up with double the number of meatballs as a result! While the meatballs cooked, my helpers went outside to eat fruit and play, while I continued with crushing the garlic and making the sauce.

cooked2_adj_smlready2_adj_sml

Once the meatballs were out of the oven, it was simply a matter of adding them to the sauce in a large pot, and leaving them to simmer for (at least) thirty minutes, until we were ready to eat. Meanwhile, a large pot of water was put on to boil, and the spaghetti cooked while my helpers set the table for dinner. Once their parents got home, dinner was ready and it was time to eat!

bowl1_adj_sml

Great Spaghetti and Meatballs
I suspect any type of minced meat would work here. Apparently, pork mince is traditional. If you like, throw a teaspoon of fennel seeds into the pan with the onion and garlic – it adds a nice touch!

Rather than frying the meatballs, I prefer to bake them at high heat. This involves less oil and less mess. It also frees the cook up to get on with preparing the sauce.

Serves 6

Ingredients
700g (1 ½ lb) beef mince
1 ½ cups fresh bread crumbs (3 slices bread)
1 large egg
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 x 800g tin crushed or diced tomatoes
1 x 150g tin tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
500g dried spaghetti
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve (optional)

Method
(Begin about 1 ½ hours before serving)

Preheat oven to 220deg C (200deg fan)/440degF.

You can use bought breadcrumbs, but if you have a food processor it’s easy to make your own. Remove the crusts from day-old white bread slices and cut into cubes. Transfer the cubes to the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. (We used our fingers to break the slices up, but the end result was rather chunky, and I wouldn’t recommend it!)

In a large bowl, mix beef mince, bread crumbs, egg, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, and ¼ cup water or milk. Shape meat mixture into 18 meatballs (or more if you like them smaller).

Place meatballs on a lightly greased baking tray and cook for 10 – 15 minutes (10 minutes for small meatballs, 15 for large) or until well-browned.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a heavy-based pan and fry onion and garlic until tender, stirring often. Stir in tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, basil leaves, salt and pepper to taste and ¼ cup water.

Add meatballs, and over high heat, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 minutes, turning meatballs occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, prepare spaghetti as label directs, and then drain.

Serve spaghetti with meatballs and sauce. Top with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Banana, Berry and Chia Seed Muffins {gluten-free + dairy-free options}

cooked1_adj_sml

The first time ever that I came across chia seeds was while teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) to adult migrants and refugees. A relative newcomer, Tuoy (pronounced ‘Twee’) had lived in Australia for many years, but had next to no knowledge of the English language. The first day she entered the class I did my best to communicate with her, asking her the basic questions (e.g. Where are you from?) that most migrants would know how to answer… but not her! There was absolutely no comprehension in her expression, though she smiled sweetly. Only two months later, thanks to much repetition and the persistence of her new-found friends, Tuoy was able to hear, understand and respond in limited English.

ingred1_adj_smlmix1_adj_sml

It was she who came to class each day with a clear, plastic water bottle recycled to hold a solution of chia seeds suspended in water. This gloop is what she would drink throughout class and it piqued everyone’s curiosity. One of the other students enquired, and once they knew of the seed’s potent health-inducing properties, they all wanted some, too! Orders came in thick and fast! Ever the sceptic, I wasn’t convinced. It’s taken me several years before giving in to the hype and buying myself a packet of the ‘super-food’ seeds. And there is no way they’re going into my drinking water! But I will consider adding them to muffins.

helper2_adj_smlready_best1_adj_sml

Lately, I’ve been on an Instagram bender. Following foodie hash tags down the ‘rabbit-hole’, I’ve been discovering loads of lovely photos and other foodie bloggers along the way. This recipe was inspired by an Instagram post, with the recipe conveniently included in the comments below. I’d never really thought of adding chia seeds to muffins, though I had seen it done before. But one day when my gorgeous child was struggling with his emotions (hey, he’s 2!) and refused not one, but two perfectly good bananas, I decided it was time for another batch of muffins.

cooked_best1_adj_smlhand1_adj_sml

This time I wanted a recipe using oil, so that I could make them dairy-free, so I turned to my all-time favourite banana cake recipe: Lauren Zembron’s Strawberry Banana Bread. It already features on this blog, but these banana, raspberry and chia seed muffins are my new take on it, with raspberries subbed in because summer is over and strawberries are no longer on special. With ripe bananas and a little brown sugar for sweetness, raspberries for that pop of colour, and chia seeds for extra nutrition and crunch, these muffins are a strong contender for breakfast food, don’t you think?!

down_best1_adj_sml

Banana, Berry and Chia Seed Muffins
I like these best made with wheat flour, but if you’re baking gluten-free, replace the wheat flour with your favourite mix of gluten-free flours, starches and/or nut meal {see below for gf recipe}.

Makes 16 muffins

Ingredients
1 cup self-raising flour
½ cup wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
2/3 cup soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil (olive oil or coconut oil could work here)
3 ½ over-ripe medium-sized bananas, peeled and mashed (about 1 ¼ cups mashed)
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 cup (approx 100g) frozen raspberries or fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
3 tablespoons chia seeds

Method
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C/375 degrees F. Grease or line 16 regular (½ cup) muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a medium bowl using a handheld electric mixer) beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

On low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Add in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract; mix on low speed just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture, fresh or frozen berries and chia seeds just until dry ingredients are fully moistened (no flour streaks should be visible).

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. If you’re feeling fancy, slice some strawberries into 3 lengthways and place a slice on the top of each muffin. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top and dry to touch. Let cool in the tins for 5 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe adapted from Healthy Food for Living

best1_adj_sml

Banana, Berry and Chia Seed Muffins {gluten-free + dairy-free}

Makes 10 muffins

Ingredients
1 cup plain (all-purpose) gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 medium over-ripe bananas, mashed (a heaped ½ cup)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup frozen berries
2 tablespoons chia seeds
Banana chips (optional) for decoration

Method
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C/375 degrees F. Grease or line 10 regular (½ cup) muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a medium bowl using a handheld electric mixer) beat together the sugar and egg on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

On low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Add in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract; mix on low speed just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture, fresh or frozen berries and chia seeds just until dry ingredients are fully moistened (no flour streaks should be visible).

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. If you have them, place one banana chip on the top of each muffin. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top and dry to touch. Let cool in the tins for 5 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

gf+down1_adjsml