Tuesday, December 20, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Day 6 - Cranberry Cocoa Muesli

It's hard to believe that it is only a few days until Christmas!! People are also starting to head away on vacation from work and it seems very odd saying to them that I will see them in the New Year.

I am definitely ready for my break! Aside from a couple of long weekends, I haven't had an extended break since April and with everything going on and the wedding coming up, I'm starting to feel a bit run down. I am definitely looking forward to some rest and relaxation and some great food!

Great food doesn't have to mean junk food (although there will definitely be some of that). Some of the best, most delicious food is actually food that is made from fresh produce and heading home to Otago, I know that there is a lot of that!

This muesli is something that I will try to take with me as a healthier option to go with with some of the fantastic Central Otago stonefruit for breakfasts and snacks. It is made without refined sugar, but is still full of flavour. The cocoa flavour, mixed with the dried cranberries is a perfect bittersweet combination, without being too overpowering, while Hazelnuts would be one of my favourite nuts, particularly when roasted!

Enjoy this with just milk, or sprinkled over yoghurt and fresh fruit!

Enjoy xx

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup puffed millet, puffed brown rice or similar
1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup rice malt syrup (or honey)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

In a large bowl combine oats, puffed millet, chopped hazelnuts, and chia seeds. Mix well.

In a small saucepan combine salt, rice malt syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract and cocoa powder. Heat over a low heat, stirring often, until melted and combined.

Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and mix well until all of the dry ingredients are coated (I used a bit of a smushing-movement with my spoon).

Press the mixture onto the baking trays so that there is a thin, even layer of mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, watching it closely. Remove from the oven, give it a really good mix around and then pop back in the oven for around 10 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes or so. The mixture should feel nice and dry.

Leave to cool and then store in an airtight container.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

12 Day of Christmas Day 5 - Caramel and Salted Walnut Tarts

As I have been posted some healthier recipes for the past few days of my 12 ays of Christmas recipe bonanza, I thought that it was about time for a treat!

For me Christmas really comes down to two things, breakfast and dessert! Yes I enjoy the ham and turkey and other items on the table for dinner, but what has always excited me is the sweet things (hence the name of this blog!).

For quite a few years my dessert staple was a good baked cheesecake and I still definitely love a good cheesecake, but it is definitely on the heavier side for a dessert and really why miss out on all of the other great desserts around.

These salted caramel and walnut tarts make a great bite-sized dessert, which is perfect to have around at this time of year. You are sure to impress if you bring these along to a gathering, or whip them out when someone comes to call. The caramel is delicious and creamy, while the salt and walnut help to make that tarts a little less sweet (because even I have a limit with sweet!).

Basically these tarts sell themselves, so I will move right along to the recipe!


400g sweet, shortcrust pastry (made with butter is best!)

300ml cream
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp cornflour

1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp coconut oil (butter will also work)
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and grease a 12 hole muffin tin (Depending on the size of your tin the recipe may make more or less than 12). Roll out the shortcrust pastry to around 5mm thick. Using a class cookie cutter (I used one the same size as the muffin tin hole to make them a small tart size), cut out circles. Gently press into the muffin tins and prick. Bake blind for 10 minutes or until cooked through.*Leave to cool.

*To bake blind, cover pastry in baking paper and use rice or beans to weight it down. These instructions may help.

While leaving bases to cool make the filling. Place the cream, brown sugar and vanilla in a saucepan. Over a low heat, gently heat together until the brown sugar has dissolved. Increase to a medium heat and continue to stir for 2-3 minutes. Whisk the eggs yolks and cornflour with a little milk together. Add to the cream mixture, stirring quickly so the egg doesn't scramble. Continue to cook over a medium heat until the mixture is thick.

For the walnuts toast them in a 180 degree C. oven for around 5 minutes (they should start to smell walnut-y). Place the hot walnuts in a bowl with the honey and coconut oil and mix to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt.

To assemble: Spoon the caramel mixture into the pastry cases and top with walnuts. Leave to cool before serving.

Friday, December 16, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Day 4 - Salad Jar

Possibly as motivation for myself, in the spirit of a balanced approach, today's 12 Days of Christmas Recipe bonanza recipe is also a healthy, nutrition-packed option. I know that over the next week I will be surrounded by a lot of Christmas baking, my own baking included, so when I am not stuffing my face with shortbread and mince pies, I need to remember to stuff it with vegetables.

Salad Jars are a fantastic way to transport salads without everything getting soggy and without taking up much room. They are also a fantastic option to take on a summer picnic (since we are technically in summer in NZ over Christmas, even if the weather doesn't always come to the party). 

There are a couple of key principles behind a salad jar:

  • Top Layers: Salad Leaves and Crispy bits. Basically all of the things that you don't want to go soggy, i.e. croutons.
  • Middle layers: Cheeses, nuts, tomatoes etc. In the middle layer go all of the things that can afford to get a little dressing on them if the jar tips over, but that you don't want to be drenched in dressing.
  • Second to bottom layer: Proteins and hard vegetables. These are the items that are going to absorb or be covered in dressing. Things like beans, chicken and carrots are great in this layer.
  • Bottom layer: In the bottom layer you put your dressing. 
Really the beauty of these is that you can throw anything that you have on hand into the jar and have a great, healthy lunch on hand.

To get you started, I thought that I would share one of my favourites with you. This salad makes the most of summer ingredients, such as blueberries and avocado. It is full of healthy fats and absolutely delicious!

  • Top Layer: Baby spinach and sprouts
  • Middle Layers: Cherry tomatoes, almonds and blueberries.
  • Bottom Layers: Avocado and feta (because I like it when it takes up some of the dressing), and of course in the very bottom was my dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, honey and a little sea salt.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Day 3 - Banoffee Porridge

Day 3 of the 12 Days of Christmas Recipe Bonanza brings you another breakfast.... because I could probably eat breakfast foods for all 3 meals a day!

This porridge is a great option for one of those colder mornings leading up to Christmas, because hey, even in NZ summer we have them. Banoffee flavours are some of my favourite, so I love that I can have these in a healthier way for my breakfast. Dates help give a great caramel flavour, while thickened coconut cream gives it a really luxurious feel.

Note: If you want the thickened coconut cream for the top, you will need to do some prep the night before. However, it's not hard! Simply open the can, do not shake it, and leave it open in the fridge overnight.

Serves 3-4

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
Pinch salt
1/4 cup dates
2 bananas, sliced
1 tin coconut cream (must be full fat- in New Zealand I find that Pams works fantastically)
1 Tbsp rice malt syrup (could also use honey or agave)
1 tsp vanilla extract

The night before you make the porridge, open the tin of coconut cream. Leave uncovered in the fridge overnight. (This separates the cream from the water and makes it reeeeeeeeally thick).

Place the rolled oats, milk, water, salt and dates in a pot over a medium heat. Bring the boil, stirring regularly and then reduce to a simmer. Continue to stir until porridge is thick.

Either place the porridge in a blender or food processor and give it a little whiz or use a stick blender to do the same.

Scoop the thick coconut cream out of the top of the can (make sure that you leave the water behind). In a bowl, whip the thick coconut cream with the rice malt syrup and vanilla.

Place the porridge in bowls, top with the sliced bananas and then the coconut cream. If you want an extra touch, grate a little dark chocolate over the top.

12 Days of Christmas - Day 2 Spiced Eggs

Welcome to Day 2 of the 12 Days of Christmas Recipe Bonanza! Not all Christmas recipes have to be indulgent (and usually in my case sweet!) Sometimes you're in need of a healthier snack or light lunch. In my case, I usually need something with a bit of nutritional value after eating lots of batter and offcuts.

These spiced eggs are perfect around this time of year, as you can make a bunch of them and keep them in your fridge, ready to use on some crackers with avocado, on toast or in a salad. I used my favourite spices, in particular smoked paprika, but you can easily adapt this recipe for the flavours you love or what you have on hand.

4 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Pinch Salt & Grind pepper

Fill a small saucepan with water and add a pinch of baking soda, then place the eggs in the water. Bring to the boil and boil for 6 minutes.

Remove the eggs from the heat and place into cold water. Once cooled, remove the shell, I like this method.

Mix the smoked paprika, sesame seeds, cumin seeds, salt & pepper and place on a flat plate. Roll the eggs in the spice mixture until well coated.

Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Monday, December 12, 2016

12 Days of Christmas - Day 1 Gingerbread Pancakes

I can't believe how close Christmas is! 12 Days away in fact. To make up for my lack of posting over October and November, I have decided to do a recipe bonanza for the 12 days leading up to Christmas.

For Day 1 I thought that I would start with a breakfast recipe. I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but sometime during my teenage years (maybe when I got more into cooking), Christmas breakfast became quite an important thing. I didn't always have to be a complicated recipe, but it had to be a treat and it had to be delicious! Years past it has been crepes with fruit compote, croissants and fruit salad, or cinnamon buns that we left to rise the night before. Another great option would be these Gingerbread Pancakes.

Made with wholemeal flour and low in refined sugar, they make a great option for those who want to save their sugar loading for dessert! The ginger and spice flavours in these pancakes are definitely reminiscent of Christmas. The other benefit is that these can be made by kids (under supervision). I used to love making pancakes with my Dad on a Sunday morning and what is Christmas for if not to create memories with family?

Enjoy xx

Serves 4

1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tbsp Rice Malt Syrup
3 eggs
2 cups milk (plus extra if you want to thin out the mix further)
1/4 cup butter, melted

Maple Syrup to serve

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the Rice Malt Syrup, eggs, milk and butter. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet. Gently fold together until just mixed, adding more milk if you want a thinner batter.

Heat a frypan over a medium high heat. If not using non-stick, coat with a little butter. Spoon a 1/4 cupful of mixture into the pan. Leave to cook until there are bubble forming in the centre (around 2-3 minutes), then flip. Cook for a further minute and then remove to plate to keep warm while the remainder cook.

Serve warm with Maple Syrup and if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, strawberries.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

What's been happening lately

Looking at my last blog post, it has almost been 2 months since I have last posted on the blog! Being a bit of a perfectionist, it annoys me not making the time to look after my blog, but it feels like October and November disappeared in a whirl!

October I got pre-occupied with making my wedding invites. In typical Libby fashion, I didn't chose a simple design, seeing as I was making it myself, but instead an invite that contained about 6 components. I love my invites, but they were a mission to make! 

Then came November and it seemed like every weekend was filled, as well as being quite busy with work trying to make sure that everything is organised for year-end.

So what have I actually been up to?

The first weekend of November was my birthday weekend. Technically the Monday was was my birthday, but because I couldn't do any proper activities for my birthday during the working week I wanted to do something nice during the weekend. A fantastic opportunity came up to take a helicopter over to Waiheke to visit a couple of vineyards, so that was the perfect Birthday treat!

The next day we went out for brunch to Takapuna Beach Cafe, a favourite of mine. I got a delicious vegetable hash with bacon and poached eggs and an amazing caramel milkshake. This wasn't your standard pre-mixed kind, but instead came as a glass with caramel gelato and caramel sauce in it and I got to pour the milk over myself. It was amazing!

 On the helicopter heading over to Waiheke Island

Our view from the deck at Stonyridge winery

My delicious food from the Beach Cafe

Also in November I had my Hen's party! I had my family and my bridesmaids come up from Dunedin and Christchurch to Auckland and they had planned a surprise day for me. We went to some vineyards up in Kumeu (are you noticing a common theme here?) to do some wine tasting, then came back to the city to play games and have dinner and cocktails. All in all it was a fantastic day nd so nice to have everyone together.
With my Mum & Sisters for my Hens

With two of my lovely bridesmaids

This may have been after a few wines ;)

There was a lot more that happened, but since this is a food blog, i will move on to some of the meals I have been making for myself over the past few weeks.
Breakfasts: Greek Yoghurt with Oranges, Strawberries and sugar-free muesli (left) and a Peach breakfast parfait (left)

Dinners: Cauliflower Crust Pizza with coleslaw (top-left), Sausage and vegetable tray bake (top-right), Gnocci and vegetable bake (bottom-left), Cottage Pie with grilled asparagus (bottom-right)