Monthly Archives: May 2012

Cheese & Bacon Muffin Bites

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I really can’t tell you how much I love this cheap, versatile and easy recipe. These cheese and bacon savoury muffins are flavoursome, light and fluffy and quick as can be to make. I have used this recipe for a variety of purposes, including: a sugar-free and filling morning tea for the kids’ lunch boxes, mini-muffin sized ones for church morning teas and regular muffin sized numbers to pull out of the freezer to eat with soup (they freshen up beautifully after a few minutes in the oven). Unlike lots of savoury muffins these aren’t heavy and scone-like, they’re puffy and light. If you’d like to add other things such as grated carrot and zucchini, this recipe can certainly handle it if you add a little more milk to your mixture (the mixture should be quite a wet mixture that’s not over-mixed). When I made the ones pictured, I had little bits of un-eaten cheese in the fridge (cast-offs of swiss cheese, parmesan etc…) and so I used them all up to total the cheese component. The end result was a yummy mix of cheese flavours that would have otherwise ended up in the bin. These work really well as plain cheese muffins too, just leave out the bacon.

  • 1 1/2 cups grated tasty cheese
  • 200g bacon, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 4 teasp baking powder
  • 1/4 teasp salt
  • 1/4 teasp dry mustard (if you don’t have dry, just use dijon or whatever you’ve got in the fridge)
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)
  • chopped herbs such as spring onion, dill or parsley (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and grease a 12 hole muffin pan using cooking spray
  2. Place grated cheese and bacon in a large bowl. Sift in flour (or not, if you couldn’t be bothered), baking powder, salt, mustard and pepper. Add herbs and sesame seeds if desired (or save the seeds to sprinkle on top).
  3. Lightly beat eggs and milk together in a jug. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add the eggs and milk. Mix together gently using a knife with a cutting action so as not to over-mix.
  4. Place one heaped dessert spoon of mixture in each muffin hole and bake for 12-15 mins until muffins spring back when lightly touched. Makes 12.

Hearty Chicken and Vegetable Soup

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Katrina put me onto this soup recipe a few weeks back and I thought I’d give it a go today. I tried it today because we’ve got a big week ahead (one of our kids is having their tonsils and adenoids out tomorrow), I wanted a meal to give away and I wanted to put the rest in the fridge for the number of lunches and dinners we’ll need quickly in the days to come. For all these reasons, I doubled the quantities and I really enjoyed the ease of this recipe – it only took around 20 minutes of peeling and chopping before sticking it on the stove to simmer. The ingredients list tells you to use chicken lovely legs, but today at my butcher, drumsticks were on special and lovely legs were not. I decided the saving in cost was worth the 5 extra minutes to remove the skin from each drumstick, and seeing as the recipe requires the removal of bones, I figured it didn’t matter that each leg was not shortened. The end result was yummy, full of good meat and healthy vegetables. Total cost, less than $8 and feeds 6-8. Thanks for the link, Katrina and thanks taste.com for the recipe and photo.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek, halved, washed, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 swede or turnip, peeled, diced
  • 1 1/4 cups dry soup mix, rinsed
  • 8 cups chicken stock (I use powder cause it’s cheaper)
  • 1kg skinless chicken lovely legs (or drumsticks)
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until soft but not coloured. Add carrot, celery, zucchini and swede. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in soup mix, stock, chicken and 1 cup cold water. Increase heat to high. Bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour or until soup mix and vegetables are tender.
  3. Remove chicken legs from soup. Allow to cool slightly. Remove meat from bones. Roughly chop chicken meat and add to soup. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into warmed bowls. Serve with bread if desired.
  • Packet dry soup mix is a combination of split peas and lentils. You can find it near the chickpeas in the supermarket.

Donna Hay’s Spiced Fish with Sesame Ginger Noodles

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Another recipe from Donna Hay’s No Time to Cook, my friend Sonja made this for us for dinner last year – in my kitchen, so I just got to sit back and watch! I couldn’t believe how fast and yummy the whole dish was and so was keen to give it a go myself. When left to my own devices with no recipe, I normally really struggle to cook asian food that doesn’t all taste the same, but this simple recipe gets the balance of these readily available flavours just right without any stress. This recipe feeds 4 and calls for 4 firm white fish fillets, and I couldn’t believe that the 4 HUGE Basa fillets I picked up from the deli at Coles cost $4.80. The whole meal cost less than $8 and no more than 20 mins to make. I keep coming back to this recipe for all these reasons of simplicity and affordability, but also because I always think our family should be eating more fish and my brain struggles to think of anything but tuna (which not everyone loves). If you use gluten free rice stick noodles (such as Chang’s), this recipe is gluten and dairy free. And finally, if you don’t like much spiciness in asian food, go easy on the thai curry paste – and if you do like it spicy, go ahead and knock yourself out.

  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tabs sesame seeds
  • 2 tabs fresh ginger, grated
  • 6 shallots or green onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 tabs fish sauce
  • 200g dried rice stick noodles
  • 4 tsp red curry paste (if you’ve only got green in the fridge, that’s fine too)
  • 2 tabs olive oil
  • 4 firm white fish fillets
  • 2/3 cup fresh coriander (if you have it and if you like it)
  • 2/3 cup fresh mint leaves (if you have it and if you like it)
  1. Place a medium non-stick frypan over low heat, add sesame oil, seeds, ginger, shallots and fish sauce and cook for 2-3 mins. Remove sesame mixture from pan and set aside. Wipe pan clean.
  2. Place noodles in a heat-proof bowl, cover with boiling water for 10 mins until separated and tender. 
  3. Combine curry paste and oil in a bowl and brush over both sides of the fish. Return the pan to low heat, add the fish and cook for 5 mins each side or until the fish is cooked through. 
  4. Drain noodles, stir through sesame mixture and divide between plates. Top with fish and herbs to serve as well as steamed boy-choy if you’re keen. 

Donna Hay’s Balsamic Chicken Stack

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I spotted this recipe a few days ago in Donna Hay’s No time to Cook. The recipe looked so yummy and easy that I had to give it a go and we all devoured it. Seriously, it took no longer that 20 minutes to cook the whole dinner and I was amazed at how moist the chicken turned out. This recipe allocates 1 small chicken breast per person, but ours were bigger, so we only used half a breast each (and with veggies underneath that was more than enough for each of us). So I’m thrilled that this ticks the affordable box as well as those of taste and ease. As well as all these things, this recipe is gluten, diary and egg free! The recipe that follows serves 4 and will cost no more than $10. Hope you enjoy it.

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon oregano leaves (dried is fine, fresh is better)
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 4 x small chicken breast fillets, halved lengthways
  • 4 x spring onion, finely sliced or 1/2 cup basil leaves (roughly torn)

1. Decide what veggies you want to serve this with (I suggest steamed carrots, beans, broccoli and mashed potato) and get them going. Meanwhile, place vinegar, oregano, sugar and pepper in a medium non-stick frying pan over medium heat and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened slightly.

2. Add chicken and cook for 3-5 minutes each side, or until cooked through.

3. Stack up your chosen veggies on each plate (mashed potato works best on the bottom). Place pieces of chicken across the top. Drizzle the dish with the remaining vinegar mixture from the pan. Top with spring onions or bits of torn basil.

Hospitality Starts in the Heart

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God was teaching me a lesson the other day. It’s one I keep having to learn over and over again: My house is not my own, it’s his.

The day started with a 7.15am breakfast meeting, followed by another meeting, followed by another meeting – all at my house. In the afternoon God interrupted my idolatrous plans for some peace and quiet with a number of out of the blue requests from people needing my help and the dinner – bath – bedtime routine became my sole task as Steve needed to attend to something important. On the macro scale, I don’t mind. I’m committed to ministry and family life being used by God for his purposes. But on the micro scale, I find myself feeling pride and self-righteousness for all my ‘sacrifices’. People who know me well know that I love having my home open to others, but they also know that I’m someone who needs time away from stimulation to re-charge. The problem is, though, I find it so easy to feel entitled to some time and space that’s just mine. In the end, I pursue this goal above the goal of pouring out my life the way Paul talks of in Philippians 2:17. I am forced to admit that my plans for getting a bit of down time, really do come ahead of my plans to show hospitality to others, though I deeply desire to do so.

God is showing me that I don’t need to pursue my own needs being met at all costs. He knows what I need and He is actually more committed to my well-being than I am. When I don’t feel like I’ve got anything left to give, he gives more grace. When I’m feeling like giving up serving because my felt needs are screaming within me, he is asking me to seek him first. On the handful of occasions that I have understood this and given up my idols of comfort and quiet, he has shown me his faithfulness and given me what I need most – grace to serve in his strength. Recently, I’ve been reading Paul Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, and this quote stood out to me:

“When God says in Leviticus 19:18, “I am the LORD”, this reminds us that we have been chosen by him, and our lives are no longer our own. Everything we are and have belongs to him…” p201.

So God owns all the things I call mine: house, kitchen, time, energy, life, children and ministry. I have to keep asking God to help me get rid of my selfish idols so that my life can truly be hospitable for the cause of his gospel, flowing from the strength his grace provides. It turns out, my heart is the place hospitality starts.

Pie Makers – an unlikely but helpful appliance

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A good friend put me onto the wonders of these things a few years ago, but it was only last year that I bought the one pictured above from K-mart for only $10. While it’s not the sort of appliance I use every day, it’s been such a handy thing for hospitality and family meals. With one of these you can turn left-over amounts of casserole, stroganoff and bolognese into yet another dinner, for only the cost of the ready-rolled puff pastry. If I’m trying to be a good mummy I will then serve each family member a pie with three steamed veg on the side – so it’s not too unhealthy. Pies that come out of these machines can be frozen and reheated later and if you keep a can of apples in your pantry, it’s really not too hard to whip up a dessert of hot apple pie for whoever you’re eating with. If you’re making pies for a crowd they can be kept warm in a low oven while the next ones are cooking in the pie maker, but you will find this process faster if you buy the Sunbeam machine that allows you to cook four at once (I couldn’t be bothered because the K-mart one was so cheap!). Finally, I like these machines for stretching meals out – one family size casserole all of a sudden feeds two families easily for not much extra cost, making homemade pies a great meal to give away.

Bill Granger’s Blueberry Tea Cake

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We’ve had another birthday in our neck of the woods lately – that of a wonderful servant hearted sister in Christ – so I wanted to make her a birthday cake, and thought this one looked as if it would be something she’d like. I was really thrilled with the taste, the sheer size of it (makes enough to fill a 23 x 33cm baking tin) and the beautiful look of the finished product. I’m a bit of sucker for cream cheese icing and this recipe coped beautifully with my using the homebrand punnet of it for just $2. If you’re more pressed for time, or would like to further reduce the cost of this already affordable cake, Smiley Bill suggests an optional icing made simply from icing sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Total cost $8, serves 18.

  • 210ml sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 180g butter, at room temperature
  • 330g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g blueberries (frozen is fine)
  • 375g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease a baking tin and line with baking paper
2. Mix the soured cream and bicarbonate of soda and leave to sit for 5 minutes
3. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and creamy. Add the lemon zest and vanilla and beat
4. One at a time, beat in the eggs, then mix in the soured cream mixture until evenly combined
4. Put the blueberries into another bowl and toss with a little of the flour. Sift the rest of the flour and baking powder over the cake mixture and fold in, until just combined. Gently fold through the blueberries
5. Spoon the mixture into the prepaed tin and bake for 45-50 mintues, until a skewer inserted into the entre comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly in the tine for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 250g cream cheese
  • 100g butter at room temp.
  • 1tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g icing sugar, sifted

  1. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese, butter, lemon zest, and vanilla in a bowl until light and fluffy, then mix in the sugar until smooth. Top the cooled cake with the frosting.