Archive for March, 2007

Betty Crocker’s Low fat Apple and Cinammon muffins

Crocker’s apple muffins

I rarely bake, but when I do, its usually from a packet. Baking is a science, and I think I get enough science at work! So the ease of packet mix cakes is just too much for me to resist, even though I do feel like I’m cheating when I do.

Last night I had the urge to bake, so picked up this mix, which claims to make 12 large muffins, with only an egg and 3/4 cup of water being needed to complete the recipe. I am pleased to say that it was every bit as easy as it sounded, and that the finished product is tasty. The recipe made 12 *medium* sized muffins, which I suppose is all that should be expected. And the calorie count (which I am taking from the packet and assuming to be accurate) is around 120 per muffin, which is reasonable.

Of course these muffins are better with a bit of butter, which pushes the calories up to closer to 150, but regardless, these are satisfying, tasty muffins with a reasonable calorie count. I have now frozen my 10 remaining muffins and defrosted one today for lunch and it retained its freshness beautifully. I will definitely repurchase.

March 31, 2007 at 9:34 am Leave a comment

Current favourite quaffers: Lindemans Bin 50/95

Bin 50

bin 95

I love quaffers – ie wines which taste perfectly acceptable, but are Cheap with a capital C.

Currently I am drinking two wines from the Lindemans Bin range: the 2006 Shiraz, and the 2006 Sauvingon Blanc. These wines retail for around $10 per bottle, although at present are on special at Liquorland for 3 for $20!

The shiraz is fairly typical of a low-end Australian shiraz – nice fruit flavour balanced with a dry finish. What it lacks is what a lot of cheap shiraz suffer as a result of – overly tannic body and acid finish. This wine shows remarkable depth for a cheapie, and there is nothing offensive about it. An excellent red quaffer, which could command a much higher price and still be saleable – 7.5/10

The sauvignon blanc is a lovely easy-drinking white. Nice sweetness, but not too much. Lovely dry finish with no real lingering flavour other than a satisfying alcohol bite. The wine lacks depth, but that is to be expected given the price-point, and unlike some cheaper SBs, the winemaker hasn’t tried to compensate for poor fruit flavour by blending the grapes with seminon. 7/10.

March 30, 2007 at 12:58 pm Leave a comment

Fettuccini with prawns in a lemon, basil cream sauce

Fettuccini with prawns

A delicious original concoction which took about 12 mins to prepare, from start to finish! Prawns could be omitted to make this dish vegetarian, or chicken would also substitute beautifully.

Ingredients
~approximately 1 cup cooked fettuccini
~5 raw king prawns, peeled and deviened
~1 clove garlic, finely diced
~zest of 1/2 a lemon, finely grated
~1/4 red capsicum, very finely sliced
~1 cup fresh basil leaves
~1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
~5 kalamata olives, halved
~1/4 cup light cream
~white wine
~parmesan cheese, to serve

Method
Gently fry the garlic in a litle olive oil for 1-2 mins or until soft. Add capsicum and saute for 1 minute. Add the cream, and a splash of white wine. Season with salt and pepper. Add the prawns and stir well for 30 seconds. Add the lemon rind, basil, spinach, olives and pasta and stir rigourously for 1 min to allow the prawns to finish cooking. The spinach should be just wilted at the time when the dish is ready to serve. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl to serve. Shave some parmesan cheese on top, and enjoy!

Serves 1 as a main, or 2 as an entree. Calories: approximately 360. This could be reduced by decreasing the serving size, which is quite generous, or by using less cream. Increase the calories by using full-fat cream and doubling the number of prawns.

This dish is just crying out for a white wine. One with solid fruit notes such as a Viognier would be perfect. Millbrook winery make a number of outstanding wines, and their Viognier is no exception.

March 29, 2007 at 12:35 pm Leave a comment

Caramalised chilli salmon with asian sesame salad

salmon.jpg

This is a Bill Granger recipe which he featured on his show “Bills Food”. I believe that it also features in the cookbook of the same name. Just for once I followed the recipe to the letter, and the results were outstanding. It was simple, fresh and absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:

~200g atlantic salmon, chopped into 2cmx2cm chunks
~1/4 finely sliced red onion
~2 cloves of garlic
~1/3 cup of brown sugar
~1/4 cup soy sauce
~1/4 cup fish sauce
~1/2 a fresh lime (or bottled lime juice)
~handful of fresh coriander leaves
~1 chopped fresh red chilli (seeds removed)

for the salad:
~1 small chopped red capsicum, sliced on an angle
~1 cup bean shoots
~200g sugar snap peas


Method:

Sear the salmon chunks in a hot skillet for approximately 1 minute. Salmon should still be pink on the inside. Remove from pan and set to one side.

Stir fry the capsicum and sugar snap peas in a teaspoon of sesame oil, 1-2 mins or until the colour just turns on the peas. Add the bean shoots and continue cooking a further 30 seconds. Remove to a bowl at room temperature.

Gently fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil for a few mins or until the onion has softened. Add the sugar, soy and fish sauces and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer gently for 1 min to reduce the sauce slightly. Return the salmon to the pan and turn off the heat. Stir the salmon through to coat the pieces, and add the coriander, chilli and a squeeze of lime.

Serve immediately with the salad and white rice.

Serves 2 as a main course. Calories in this dish are approximately 350 per serve (not including the rice). To reduce the calories, lower the portion of salmon and substitute half of the brown sugar with granulated Splenda. To increase the calories, serve with steamed white rice. For this dish, I like a medium-grain rice such as Sunwhite brand Calrose

This dish is SO flavoursome that it is a hard one to match a wine too. Even the most powerful wine will be overshadowed by the strong flavours of this dish, so I recommend keeping it light and going with a dry white, such as a Riesling. Howard Park winery make an outstanding Riesling which would be a perfect match.

March 28, 2007 at 2:25 am Leave a comment

Book review: Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy

Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy

For my first book review, I have chosen the book I have most recently finished. An Australian novel, of universal appeal (I feel), but which still gives enough credit to the backdrop of the Australian climate and countryside to be especially poignant to local readers. The book is set in the Australian capital of Darwin, prior to and following the devastation of cyclone Tracy. And on occasion, in Adelaide where the family whom the book revolves around originate from.

The story revolves around the character of Paul, who starts the story as a teenager, typically bored with life and full of little more than contempt for things that surround him. He is introduced to Herr Keller, also known as “the maestro”, his new piano teacher, whom we learn little about initially, other than he is Viennese and considered to be the best piano teacher in all of Darwin (something that is presumably not that difficult, given the size of Darwin at the time of the novel’s setting). Herr Keller is immediately established as a difficult man, almost arrogant in his opinions of his own piano skills, and bitingly harsh when dealing with Paul, who’s parents believe to be an oustanding pianist for his age but whom Herr Keller is quick to dismiss as nothing of the sort. Somewhat predictably we quickly learn that Keller has a softer side, and a vulnerability which engages both us, and his student.

Through the journey they take together, the maestro and his student learn from each other, in subtle as well as obvious ways. The novel succeeds in building two interesting and engaging characters in student and teacher, and the story leaves just enough to the imagination to keep the us reading. The writing is absolutely beautiful, rich and descriptive without getting bogged down in unnecessary superlatives. However for all the plusses, Maestro left me feeling a bit disatisfied in the latter half. In particular, the character of Paul seems to be lost as he gets older. In the early portion of the novel there is a real sense of presence of Paul’s character, almost akin to that of Holden Caulfield, however unfortunately we lose sight of this somewhere along the way, and with the depth of character waning, so does the intrigue of the novel.

However, fortunately the first half more than makes up for the novel’s lackluster ending, and this book is still worthy of both high praise and vehement recommendation.

Seven out of Ten.

March 20, 2007 at 1:43 am 1 comment

Sweet and sour pumpkin with cannelini bean salad

sweet-and-sour-pumpkin.jpg

This is a modification of a recipe by Jaime Oliver which appears in Jaime’s “Cook” cookbook. Overall I haven’t been impressed with this cookbook, but this recipe is a shining star.

I cook this as the mainstay of the meal, as it so flavoursome, but it could act as a side dish.

You can really serve this with anything, as the balance of sweet and sour and the beautiful textures of this dish make it very versatile, but tonight I made a cannelini and green bean salad to accompany it.

Ingredients:

For the pumpkin
~japanese or butternut pumpkin, cut into finger sizes pieces. Approximately 1 cup thereof
~1 large clove of garlic, finely diced
~1 teaspoon ground coriander
~1 teaspoon ground cumin
~1 chopped fresh green chilli (optional)
~1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
~1 teaspoon brown sugar
~lemon juice, to taste
~plenty of chopped fresh coriander
~2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, lightly toasted

For the salad:
~100g cannelini beans (tinned, rinsed and drained)
~1 diced fresh tomato (seeds removed)
~1 small lebanese cucumber, diced
~6 green beans, blanched, and cut into 3cm lengths
~few salad leaves (I uses snowpea spouts but could use any)
~olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper

Method:

Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl and toss. Let sit while you prepare the pumpkin. In a deep frying pan, heat the oil and gently fry the garlic until transparent. Add the pumpkin and spices and stir to combine. Add enough water to just cover the pumpkin and maintain temp at a gentle simmer. Add the sugar and vinegar. Allow to cook with occasional stirring until pumpkin is tender and the water has evaporated. If necessary, add more water and continue cooking. Taste a piece of pumpkin for spice balance, and if desired, add more ground coriander/cumin. Season with salt if desired. Adjust the sweet/sour balance with more lemon if needed.

To serve, stir through the sunflower seeds and the fresh coriander. Serve equal proportions of the pumpkin and salad.

Serves 1 hungry girl, or 2 as sides

Approx cals per main course serve: pumpkin – 150; salad – 150.

This is such a versatile meal, it would go beautifully with either red or white wine, or with beer.

(photo to come soon!)

March 19, 2007 at 11:38 am Leave a comment

Seared atlantic salmon with mixed salad and tapenade dressing

salmon-march2.jpg

This was a fabulous Saturday night dinner for one. I used a small piece of salmon – approximately 80g, and it was plenty for me. But of course you could increase the portion.

The foundation of the dressing is black olive tapenade – I used the Always Fresh brand, which is available in most supermarkets, but you could substitute any other that you might have.

The saltiness and sourness of the tapenade is balanced in this dish with the sweetness of the nectarine in the salad, and the result is a very indulgent but yet still comparably healthy meal. Enjoy

Ingredients:

~1 fillet of atlantic salmon

for the salad:
~10 cherry tomatos, halved
~1 small lebanese cucumber, diced
~1 cup baby spinach leaves
~2 artichoke hearts, quartered
~1 yellow flesh nectarine, diced

for the dressing:
~2 teaspoons black olive tapenade
~1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
~squeeze of fresh lemon
~coarsely ground black pepper

Method:

Sear the salmon in a very hot frying pan. I like to cook my salmon rare-medium rare, but if you prefer it well done, it will still work out.

In a salad bowl, combine all ingredients and toss. Combine salad dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well, Dress the salad with 3/4 of the dressing and toss to combine. Reserve a little of the dressing for the salmon.

To serve, place a portion of the salad on a plate. Place the salmon on top and using a teaspoon, drizzle a little of the salad dressing on the salmon. Serve immediately.

I served this dish with a beautiful white wine from the Margaret River wine region – a Stella Bella SSB.

March 12, 2007 at 11:29 am 1 comment

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