Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Super Easy Chocolate Brownies

Don't you love it when there are only two directions in a recipe and it still comes out tasting great?

I found this chocolate brownie recipe and "Nan's Brownies" has now become one of my go to recipes - not only is it easy to make but I'm likely to have all the ingredients on hand - especially as it uses cocoa instead of cooking chocolate. These are great straight from the oven or if they're cold, reheating for a few seconds in the microwave to make them fudgy in the middle again. And if you're feeling like pudding, I'm sure you could serve with cream or ice cream too ;)

Super Easy Chocolate Brownies

4 oz butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 eggs
2/3 cup self raising flour
1 TBSP vanilla essence
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

1. Melt the butter and add the rest of ingredients in the order listed.
2. Pour into a greased pan and bake in a moderate oven (180C) for 25-30 mins.

Quinoa Crusted Chicken Bites

Two of my biggest downfalls when it comes to food is 1) anything with pastry and 2) anything fried - chips, crisps, croquettes, spring rolls, schnitzels, fried chicken - the list goes on. It's not only the amount of fat in these foods that make them amazing, it's also the texture of having something crunch when you bite down on it.

So if you take a healthy ingredient such as quinoa, use it like breadcrumbs on some chicken pieces and then shallow fry it in oil, does that make it healthy or not? Hmm... well I found this recipe for quinoa crusted chicken fingers on a site called "Skinny Chef - Healthier Living, One Step at a Time" so decided it couldn't be that bad for you!
These come out incredibly crunchy which I love! Kinda like a healthier version of my favourite, fried chicken. I didn't flavour them up with garlic powder like the original recipe but might have to buy some just to try it, although I wish I could add the Colonel's 11 secret herbs and spices and I might never have to eat fried chicken again....
Qunioa Crusted Chicken Bites

2 pound chicken tenders or skinless boneless breasts, sliced into 3-inch long tenders
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 cups cooked red or white quinoa
1/2 cup whole wheat or seasoned breadcrumbs
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Spread out the quinoa on a piece of wax paper or aluminum foil.
2. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the quinoa.
3. With your fingers tips, squeeze the quinoa and breadcrumbs together until the moisture of the quinoa is absorbed
4. Place the egg whites in a shallow bowl.
5. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, garlic powder, pepper, and paprika.
6. Place the egg whites in a shallow bowl.
Dip the chicken in the egg and then into the quinoa mixture. Place onto a plate.
7. Warm the oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and reduce the heat to medium. Cook each side 4-5 minutes, turning once, until the crust begins to brown, and the chicken is not longer translucent.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Oaty, Nutty, Fruity, Seedy Cookies (aka Trail Mix Cookies)

I’m going to blog about a recipe that I won’t give you. “Hmm, cryptic”, you think. You’ll find out why, shortly.

I’m on a pseudo health kick so try to have semi-healthy items such as oaty biscuits instead of molten chocolate puddings with a side of cream. Yes, sometimes you just can’t put aside the craving for sugar or carbs so I hoped that this recipe I found for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (on page 9) would act as breakfast (I kid you not!), snack and dessert. (And isn’t the Home Economics booklet cute? Just like from my school days. I’ll probably make some of the other recipes as they use wholemeal flour instead of white).

So I took the base recipe and made a bunch of changes to it, some by mistake, some intentional, some successful, some not. These are the changes I made to the original recipe (listed below) and the outcome:

Change Number 1: Swapped out raisins for a trail mix – this one had pepita seeds, sunflower kernels, cranberries, raisins, hazelnuts and almonds. I chopped up the nuts and also threw in a bit of coconut.
Success Factor: Excellent.

Change Number 2: Doubling the original recipe.
Success Factor: Excellent.

Change Number 3: Using self raising wholemeal flour instead of plain wholemeal flour.
Success Factor: Undetermined - it probably didn’t affect the taste, but probably the texture.

Change Number 4: Using canola spread instead of margarine.
Success Factor: Low. The mix came out much wetter than a normal biscuit mix and I had to refrigerate it after the initial mix cooked like a brandy snap with trail mix and oats in it. Canola spread, however, does have 65% less saturated fat in it than butter and is cholesterol free so Health Factor: Excellent. The initial biscuit was really crumbly but the refrigerated batch wasn’t too bad – still cakey and a bit crumbly but didn’t break apart. I probably could have added more wholemeal flour but banned myself from doing any more experimenting.

I’d like to make these again one day, following the original recipe (though still using trail mix) just to see what they should turn out like, however, I still liked this healthy option. Good luck if you try this out!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
From an English School’s Home Economics Programme

75g margarine
40g brown sugar
25g granulated sugar
2.5ml cinnamon (½ tsp)
75g oat flakes
½ egg
40g wholemeal flour
75g raisins
5ml vanilla essence (1 tsp)
15ml water (3 tsp)
1.25ml bicarbonate of soda (¼ tsp)

1. Preheat oven to 180ÂșC.
2. Cream the margarine with the sugars.
3. Beat egg in small bowl and half with partner, add vanilla and water.
4. Sift flour, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda onto a plate.
5. Add egg and flour alternately to the creamed mixture.
6. Finally add raisins and oats.
7. Make walnut sized balls, and lightly flatten them with fork.
8. Bake for 15 minutes, the edges will be crisp and centre will be soft.
9. Gently lift onto cooling tray.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dutch Beef Croquettes

Lately I’ve been looking for and making recipes from my childhood in New Zealand. One of the things we used to get from our local bakery were delicious, crunchy croquettes filled with a mystery meat (I didn’t have a very sophisticated palate back then). We’d polish off a couple of those then move onto simple puff pastry cookies topped with a shiny glaze of sugar and cinnamon. When I moved to Sydney, I found a stall called Dutchies Delight in Darling Harbour which sold those delicious meat croquettes! They were exactly like the ones from NZ and it turns out the mystery meat was beef. Sadly, on a recent visit, I found the stall had shut down due to reconstruction of the area - my only option was to now find the recipe and make them for myself.

I had bookmarked this page for ages and by chance found this recipe just last week when researching the food of New Orleans – it was a sign it was time to make these treats! Both recipes use a roux that is refrigerated then shaped into croquettes which sounds a bit daunting but it’s relatively easy if you’ve made white sauce or choux pastry before. Impressively, these turned out very close to what I remember. The other ingredient that gives these the flavour from my childhood memory is nutmeg – they give a nice lemony taste to the beef, so if you want authentic Dutch croquettes, don’t miss that out.

Dutch Beef Croquettes
Adapted from Recipes Wiki and Nola Cuisine

200 g inexpensive cut of beef (or veal shoulder, I used the cheap option)
400 ml beef stock
Bay leaf (or a bouquet garni)
30 g butter
30 g flour
Salt and pepper
2 eggs
100 g breadcrumbs
Canola oil
French mustard

1. In a pan, put meat, bay leaf and beef stock and slowly to the boil and simmer for about 1 hour until meat is tender. (Note - make sure the stock simmers slowly – mine was on a fast simmer and I ended up not having enough stock and was very salty as well - I topped up with water, which helped both problems!)
2. Shred the beef using two forks.
3. Strain off 200 ml stock into a measuring jug.
4. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour.
5. Add the stock, while stirring, and continue stirring until the sauce is thick and smooth.
6. Leave the sauce to cook gently for about 2 minutes.
7. Stir in the meat and add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
8. Pour the ragout onto a flat plate and refrigerate until firm – either 3 hours or overnight.
9. In a deep plate beat the eggs with one tablespoon of water.
10. Shape the ragout into croquettes and roll in the breadcrumbs.
11. Then roll in the beaten eggs and breadcrumbs again.
12. Repeat until well coated.
13. Shallow fry in med-hot oiled until golden brown and crisp.
14. Drain on paper towel.
15. Serve warm with a serving of mustard next to it.