We’re preparing for the silly season by making some homemade gifts for loved ones this Christmas.
I have teamed up with Countdown to use their own-brand products to make share my legendary walnut tarts. We crack these out every year, and they go down a treat!
They are so easy to make, I’ve used walnuts but you can use any nuts you like walnuts, pecans, cashews oh the options are endless.
The best thing about these is they aren’t just a crowd favourite, they make a perfect gift. Get creative with cellophane, pop them in a fancy festive dish and if you’re running short of time (which let’s face it who’s not?) you can make ‘em ahead of time and freeze them #xmashack
This recipe make roughly 24 mini tarts.
I always double the recipe and make them till I’m out of filling 60+ tarts. A big ol’ bag of walnuts also means you won’t run out!!
60 gm butter
1 free range egg
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups of walnuts (or nuts of choice)
2 packets of sweet shortcrust pastry (you can also use the sheets – I find rolling them out makes them go further!)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Melt butter in a saucepan.
Cool slightly and add egg, sugar and vanilla.
Roll out pastry and cut to the size of your tart pan.
Lightly grease pan.
Fill pan with pastry and add a walnut.
Add filling until ¾ full – don’t overfill.
Bake for 10-12 mins or until golden.
Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar.
Countdown are rolling out the carpet so to speak. You will be pleased to know that Countdown are making the switch so their Pork is 100% free farmed.
What exactly does this mean to us as consumers?
Patoa farms have been independently assessed by the SPCA to certify them to be free farmed.
It means no crates, no stalls and the piggies are bred outdoors in the North Canterbury air. Local farms and NZ pigs. Countdown is committed to supporting and sustaining local produce here in Aotearoa.
100% free farmed pork is now available to all kiwis at no extra cost.
Higher welfare is ALWAYS the best option and Countdown is the only supermarket retailer in NZ that is 100% free farmed pork.
Now pork for me has always been one of those meats that gives me the heebee jeebees. Not because I don’t like it it’s because I am always terrified I am going to undercook or overcook it.
Countdown has given me the challenge to create a delicious and easy family friendly meal cooking with their 100% free farmed pork loin.
Moroccan pork loin with spring vegetable couscous salad.
600 gm Pork loin
2 tbsp Moroccan paste ( I used me ol’ fav Pepper & Me )
Salt and Pepper
Coat pork loin in moroccan paste.
Leave to marinate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 220 degrees.
Score the pork fat.
Massage in a little oil and salt and pepper.
Reduce oven temp to 180 degrees or 160 degrees if using fan bake.
Cook for 50-60 mins.
Pork should be tender and slightly pink in the middle.
At 60 minutes remove the fat and crank the over up to max.
Cover the pork loin with tinfoil and rest for 15 mins.
On the tray lay out the cracking and cook for 10 mins or until it’s crispy and golden.
Slice the pork and the crackling.
Reserve the pork juices.
1 x Bunch of asparagus
1 x Eggplant
2 x Courgettes
1 cup Couscous
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and Pepper
Slice and grill the courgette and eggplant.
Half and grill the asparagus.
Roast the tomatoes in a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper for 10-15 mins.
“Cook” couscous as per packet instructions.
Combine the veges and couscous.
In a separate bowl add pork juices, vinegar, mustard and sugar.
Season with salt and pepper if required.
Dress salad with the dressing.
Serve the pork loin slices with the salad.
A wise person once said “humanity runs on coffee”.
They were not wrong.
Sunbeam sent our family the new Sunbeam Barista Max Espresso Machine with Integrated Grinder to try.
Oh and did we try!!
This bad boy is the newest kid on the coffee block for Sunbeam.
This coffee machine retails for $699.00.
This machine is really a one stop coffee shop. It’s got a built in grinder which can be tailored to your very own grinding needs. Pop the cafe head into the tap and go cradle, push down and your grinds fall directly into the head. Tamp down and select from single or double shot. It really doesn’t much easier than that. Head to the right and get your foam on. The powerful steam wand heats milk in a jiffy.
Now all this is easy once you get the hang of it.
Luke took it upon himself to watch a few YouTube videos on the techniques of the barista. So we all know now that he is an expert!!
I will put it out there …… he makes coffee 100% better than me now!!
We had a few teething problems – but only because we were too scared we would burn the milk. So after a few lukewarm lattes we nailed the milk shenanigans and now we have a perfect cuppa joe.
This is a good looking machine that deserves a place on the kitchen counter. It’s not big and bulky so it doesn’t dominate the bench. Easy to wipe down and clean.
This really is a great machine. Easy to use and easy to clean. Oh and most importantly is makes a bloody good coffee.
Because we don’t get enough of a coffee hit with a morning mocha I tried to make a delicious breakfast alternative to boring ol’ french toast.
I give you my friends …….
Tiramisu French Toast
½ cup milk
1/3 cup espresso
1.5 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Large sourdough loaf – cut into thick slices
1 tsp Pepper & Me Baker’s Grind
Add milk, eggs, espresso, vanilla, cocoa powder, Baker’s Grind and half the mascarpone in a food processor until well combined.
Add the sliced bread in a large dish. Pour over milk mixture. Set aside, turning halfway, for 20 minutes to soak.
In a fry pan add a knob of butter and a dash of oil melt over medium heat. Cook bread, in 3 batches, turning, for 2-3 minutes each side or until golden. Repeat with the remaining butter and bread, wiping the pan clean with paper towel between batches.
Serve layered bread on a plate with the leftover mascarpone between the slices. Drizzle with maple syrup and top with berries if wanted.
If your looking for a coffee machine that is easy to use, easy to clean and looks great in your kitchen checkout the Sunbeam Barista Max Espresso Machine with Integrated Grinder.
You shan’t be disappointed.
Now team you all know we have been making small changes as a family in our plastic bag use.
It’s not been hard but it definitely makes you reassess your plastic.
For us by getting our online groceries packed in boxes our plastic bag use has decreased to almost zero!
BUT we were still getting some of our fruit and veges packed in plastic fruit and vege bags.
So it got me thinking …. What can we do to stop this?
Here is where Munch Reusable Produce Bags come in.
Munch have packs of produce bags which firstly are very deceptive. These stretchy, colourful and New Zealand made bags can hold up to 2kg of produce (perfect for the potatoes). The airflow can circulate around your fruit and veges because of the perforated fabric. Perfect for stopping the potatoes and onions sweating and getting stinky!!
Each bag comes with a bungee like drawstring which once pulled keeps your bits in and not rolling around the bottom of your trolley or fridge.
In the Munch pack you get a set of 3 bags (2 small and 1 large).
The large is perfect for the large veges like potatoes, kumara or onions.
The smaller bags were perfect for literally EVERYTHING else!!
This set retails for $19.99.
They are easy to use at the self service checkouts too and don’t cause the virtual shop assistant to have a moment with your oranges!!
Munch Reusable Produce Bags will be well used in this whare and I am so happy that I can keep reducing our plastic use as a whanau.
By having 2 sets of these we can drop our produce bags and shopping bags off at our local supermarket and when the online shopping is done we can have our shopping packed almost plastic free!!
Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi Cooker
Let’s face it we are all time poor.
If we want to maximise our time away from the kitchen I am all for that. We just need to think smart. But let’s not be martyrs we need a little help.
We are all about maximum family time.
A time for being together.
For our whanau sitting down at the end of each day and having dinner is probably the only time during our hectic schedule where we all stop and see how everyone is doing.
By having less time in the kitchen and more time together as a family we are winning right?
Here is where Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi Cooker comes to the party.
The new Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi Cooker is a one stop shop.
Don’t have 8 hours to cook that stew?
Use the pressure cooker function.
Done in 1 hour.
At work for the day but need dinner done when you get home?
Use the slow cooker function.
Need to brown off your meat before slow cooking?
Use the brown/saute function.
What’s even better is you do it all in the one pan.
We all hate extra pots and pans to wash.
There is literally nothing this bad boy can’t do.
We… I say we it’s actually Miss Teddie who is into naming all household equipment and furniture has christened our Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi Cooker ….. Carl.
Carl can do many things other standard crock pots can’t do.
He can steam (perfect for steamed puds), he can keep things warm (for when kids are home at different times), he is a rice cooker AND he is a yoghurt maker!!
Crockpot gave me the challenge to come up with a great winter warmer recipe using their new Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi Cooker or as we call him Carl.
Mexican Beef with Creamy Polenta.
Serves 4 (or 3 adults and 2 small people)
1kg beef (chuck or stewing steak)
4 tablespoons Pepper & Me Mexellent paste (or any other mexican recipe base paste)
2 tsp crushed garlic
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can water
Salt and Pepper to taste.
1 cup of polenta (quick cook)
3 cups cold water
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup parmesan grated.
Cut beef into 2 cm cubes and season with salt and pepper. Using the BROWN/SAUTE feature brown the meat in batches. Once all the meat is browned add onion and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the Mexellent (or what you are using) paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes and water.
If you are wanting to add other vegetables you can add them here.
Switch to the SLOW COOK function and slow cook for 6-8 hours OR
Switch to the PRESSURE COOK function and cook for 1.5 hours.
Bring the water to the boil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Use a wire balloon whisk to stir the water. Gradually add the polenta in a thin steady stream, whisking constantly until all the polenta is incorporated into the water (whisking ensures the polenta is dispersed through the liquid as quickly as possible). Don’t add the polenta too quickly or it will turn lumpy.
Reduce heat to low. BE CAREFUL IT CAN SPIT AT YOU AND BURN!! Simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture thickens and the polenta is soft.
Add cream, butter and parmesan mix with a wooden spoon until melted and season to taste.
Chinese style Glazed Pork Belly with Fry Bread BaoThis is a fun kiwi twist on the traditional Chinese dish.Prep Time 20 minutesCook Time 1 hour 30 minutesTotal Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Chinese Glazed Pork Belly
- 1kg pork belly chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves whole
- 2 spring onions chopped in half
- 1 chilli whole
- 1 litre water
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- 6 tbsp light soy sauce
- 6 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 6 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
- 1 star annise
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 500 ml water
Fry Bread Bao
- 1 tbsp yeast I use the granules
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 cups warm water
- 4 cups plain flour you will need extra for dusting bench
- 2 tbsp oil
- oil for frying
Chinese glazed Pork Belly
Chop your pork belly into 1 inch pieces.
Bring the 1 litre of water to the boil with garlic, chilli and spring onion.
Add pork and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Remove and drain on a paper towel lined bowl.
In another pan (or use the same one - without the water!) add oil and brown pork on high until golden brown. Be warned it will spit and splatter. Be careful.
Once the pork is brown add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar is melted and coating the pork - reduce to low.
Add the soy sauces, rice wine and spices cook until the sauce is reduced by about half.
Add the 250ml water cover with a lid and cook for at least 45mins. Check every 10 minutes if it's looking dry add a little more water.
When the 45 mins is up check the sauce. If it is still runny (you want a thick glossy sauce) remove the lid and cook further until sauce is where you want it.
Fry Bread Bao
Add sugar, yeast and warm water together stir and set aside for 5-10 mins to bubble.
In a bowl add flour, oil and yeast mixture.
Set aside for 30-40 mins to rise.
Once risen the texture should be too wet to handle.
Dust bench with flour and flatten out.
Cut into squares or circles (however big you want them and whatever shape floats your boat)
In a shallow pan or electric fry pan add 4-5 inches of canola or rice bran oil.
You don't want the oil too hot or your fry bread will burn on the outside and still be raw in the middle. Test a piece.
Dust off flour and fry on each side until golden.
Drain on a paper towel.
Serve with mung bean sprouts and kewpie mayonaise.
If you don't have star annise or cinnamon just leave it out.
It's REALLY important to use both the dark and light soy for flavour and colour of the dish.
Can also be served with steamed rice and green onions.
Over the past few years, it has definitely become more apparent that the amount of sugar we consume is greater than what we put into our teas and coffees. Sauces, bread, baking and many other things have secret sugar hidden within the ingredients.
Being aware and reducing the amount of sugar in our diets can keep us and our whanau healthy.
WHOLE EARTH Sweetener Co. uses stevia a natural leaf found in South America used for hundreds of years to sweeten herbal tea.
Their Baking Blend uses a mix of stevia and raw cane sugar to allow the look and baking ability of sugar but with 50% fewer calories than regular sugar.
WHOLE EARTH Sweetener Co. gave me the challenge of finding a recipe and using their products.
These Apple Crumble Cookies are easy to make and perfect lunchbox additions for little people and in our case, not so little people.
I double the recipe for our baking loving family of 5, otherwise they would last 2 days if I’m lucky!
You could also substitute the dried apple with any dried fruit e.g. apricot, figs or dates.
Apple Crumble Cookies
100g dried apple
200g plain flour
1.5tsp baking powder
100g butter (cold)
100g WHOLE EARTH Sweetener Co. Baking Blend
1 large free-range egg
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius
Line 2 trays with baking paper.
In a food processor put apple and blitz until finely chopped.
Add flour, butter, Whole Earth Baking Blend and a pinch of salt.
Blitz till fine breadcrumbs.
Remove 3-4 tbsp of mix and set aside.
Add egg and combine.
Divide into large teaspoon sized balls, roll and flatten lightly.
Sprinkle over reserved mix.
Bake for 8-10 mins until lightly golden.
Cool on tray for 10 mins then transfer to a wire rack.
This little gem of a condiment is probably one of the easiest things to come from my kitchen.
It’s so easy even Archie helps to make it – also it’s his favourite thing at the moment so he’s keen to have a stash in the fridge.
This pickle can be teamed with anything. Perfect for adding to burgers, pimping up a curry or stir-fry by adding a freshness. Basically it can make friends with any kind of dish and it will make it taste good.
QUICK CUCUMBER PICKLE
1 cup of white vinegar
1 cup of water
3/4 cup of white sugar
1 pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
1 telegraph cucumber (sliced)
Add vinegar, water, sugar and chilli (if using) to a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Slice your cucumber – not too thin and not too thick.
Once the pickle liquid has boiled take off the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Add the cucumber.
Cover with a lid and leave to cool.
It’s ready to eat.
You can keep it stored in the fridge for 1 week. Just put the cucumber and liquid into a sterilised* jar.
*To sterlise a jar – Make sure it is clean and fill it with boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Empty and add your contents. Don’t forget the lid. Place the lid in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove and place on the jar. Remember once you have sterlised the jar don’t touch the inside of the jar or lid.
I’ve been tutu-ing with my cinnamon rolls AGAIN.
Who doesn’t like Ferrero Rocher?
Well actually my mum doesn’t. She digs chocolate and she loves nuts but it is a cardinal sin to combine the two.
If your like me and love them take the original brioche dough and change up the the filling.
Gooey and rich but not too sweet you will be in heaven.
Ferrero Rocher Filling
150gm Whittakers 65% cocoa chocolate (chopped)
3/4 cup hazelnut spread (any kind) – I’ve used Nutino. Made in Italy and nowhere near as sweet as Nutella.
In a dry pan toast your hazelnuts until brown and toasty smelling. Eyeball them the entire time they burn QUICKLY! Take the hot nuts and place in a tea towel. Rub to remove the bitter skins and roughly chop the nuts.
Roll out the brioche dough and spread out the hazelnut spread. Sprinkle over the nuts and chocolate.
Roll and follow the original recipe.
There is nothing better that hot, sweet and cinnamonny (that’s a word right!?!) buns.
I have been experimenting with a traditional cinnamon roll recipe and this is my version of Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Glaze.
The great thing with the second prove overnight, you look like a baking legend when you rock up at the kindy shared lunch or work morning tea with warm buns!!
1 1/4 teaspoon dried yeast
160ml luke warm milk
3 cups plain flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 free-range eggs
125g butter (melted)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste OR 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100gm butter (softened)
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 cup of dried fruit or chocolate (optional)
1 1/3 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste OR 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
In a bowl mix together the warm milk and yeast. Leave for five minutes. Make sure your milk is not too hot otherwise you will kill the yeast and your dough will be a dud.
In a large mixing bowl add the flour, sugar and salt. Melt butter and add to the flour mixture. Lightly whisk the eggs and add the vanilla paste/essence then add to mixing bowl. Lastly add the milk yeast mixture. Place a dough hook on your stand mixer and knead until a thick combined dough is made (roughly 8 minutes). Place in a lightly greased bowl and stand covered in a warm place for 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
After it has risen roll out the dough on a lightly floured bench so it’s roughly rectangle shaped and 1cm thick.
For the filling switch from your dough hook to the whisk on your mixer. Add the softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and beat until light and fluffy. Spread over the rolled out dough leaving a 0.5cm edge. Here is where you add any fruit or chocolate. Sprinkle evenly over the filling.
Starting from the longest edge roll into a large sausage. Cut the roll in half then half again. You should then cut those halves into 3. Making 12 rolls.
So there are 2 ways you can go from here. If baking immediately you can grease a baking dish and place the rolls in all comfy and let them proof again for 45 minutes OR you can place the rolls into a greased dish and place in the fridge covered overnight. Don’t put the refrigerated rolls straight in the oven. Pull them out of the fridge 15 mins before hand to warm up a bit!
From here both of these need to be cooked in a preheated oven at 180 degrees (160 degrees if your using fan forced) for 20 minutes. Then loosely cover with foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes until cooked. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
In a bowl mix all the glaze ingredients. Spoon the glaze over the warm cinnamon rolls.