Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Stir fry chicken and vegetables

I haven't made this recipe for such a long time but a few days ago I rummaged through through my old recipes and found it again.   It is very versatile and you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand but I like this combination.  It is a fresh tasting stir fry that can be whipped up pretty quick at dinner time - my kind of meal!

Amanda x

Stir fry chicken & vegetables

  • 2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green capsicum or green beans, sliced
  • snow peas
  • 2 cups Chinese cabbage, shredded
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 Tbspn cornflour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 Tbspn oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbspn sherry
1. Stir fry chicken over high heat until cooked through.  Remove from pan & set aside. 

2. Add capsicum, snow peas, cabbage, shallots, garlic & ginger.  Mix together for a few minutes. 

3. Return chicken to the pan.

4. In a jug, add cornflour, oyster sauce & sherry.  Stir to combine & pour into the pan. Stir over medium heat for 1 minute or until sauce starts to chicken.

Serve with rice or noodles.

Monday, 24 November 2014

How to decorate a pirate ship cake

I have decorated a lot of kids cakes over the years but haven't attempted a pirate ship.  That is until my 3 year old decided that he would like one for his 4th birthday. I googled a few images and came up with one I loved and thought I could do.  I had neither the time or patience to replicate it exactly so I improvised and ended up with this:

My kids loved it as did all the kids who came to the party.  It was actually pretty easy to decorate and took approx 2 hrs.

I admit that I didn't actually bake the cake... I know, I know but I feel that if I am spending 2 hrs decorating it, that is enough time spent for me.   I cheat a little with my kids cakes and buy a half slab cake from the Woolworths bakery.  At the time of writing this, half a slab of sponge cake (with no icing) is $20.  You can get it in chocolate or vanilla sponge cake.  You can also get a mud cake with no ganache on it for just a little extra ($28).

What you need:

  • Half slab cake or equivalent home baked cakes (you might need approx 4 square cakes).
  • Lots of butter cream or icing that you prefer.  I used 200g butter, 4 cups icing sugar (sifted), 3 tsp vanilla & 2 Tbspn milk. Add enough cocoa to make the icing dark chocolate.  You will also need blue food colouring.
  • 4 x Curly wurley chocolate bars
  • Chocolate bullets
  • Licorice strap
  • 2 Oreo biscuits (or anything you have in your cupboard)
  • Chocolate coins
  • Black cardboard
  • Wooden skewers

Step 1 - Start by making a batch of icing.  Take a little out into a separate container (which you will tint with blue icing later) and add cocoa to the large batch to make chocolate icing.

Step 2 - Cut out a rectangle with a pointed end out of the cake. This will be the base of the ship. See picture below. Ensure you cut it from the edge of the cake to leave enough room to cut out another shape the same size. You can vary the size of the ship depending on the amount of people you have coming to your party.

Step 3 - Cut out another shape, identical to the one above and place it on top of the bottom shape - to make 2 layers.

Step 4 - Using the left over cake, cut out a rectangle and a triangle to make the 3rd layer as shown below.

Step 5 - Cover the entire cake with chocolate icing. I used a chocolate cake with chocolate icing so if pieces of cake get mixed through the icing, it wasn't too noticeable.

Step 6 - Decorate the cake.  I used the curly wurley bars as railings of the ship.  I trimmed the bottom off so they didn't stand up too high and fall over in the heat but you can do whatever you like.

I also used licorice strap cut into small slices and stuck to the side of the cake to look like some rope. The licorice is already curled because of the way it is stored in the package so cut off a thin slice and it is perfect on the side of the ship.

I used Oreo biscuits (halved) for the port holes and chocolate bullets to look like a ladder.

I rummaged through the cupboard and came up with a few marshmallows and some chocolate coins which I also added for decoration. You can use whatever you like but the chocolate coins fit perfectly with the theme.

My son had some pirate toys which I used on the cake such as a small chest & pirate figures. Use your imagination and whatever you have lying around. You do not need to spend lots of money, just try and use what you have.

Once you are happy with the cake, tint the white icing with blue colouring and pipe around the bottom of the cake.  To save time you can swipe it around the bottom of the cake with a knife to give a crashing wave effect.

Step 7 - Make the sails of the ship.  I searched Google Images for skull and crossbones and came up with the following image.  I copied it into Microsoft word and resized it a few times.  Then I printed it out and picked the one that was best sized for the pirate ship.

I cut out some black cardboard sails and taped them to some wooden skewers.  I then glued the skull picture to the front of the rectangle sail which will go in the middle of the ship.

Just prior to the party starting, poke the sails into the cake.  I made this cake the night before and covered it overnight without the sails.  I didn't want them to droop or fall over during the night.  

This cake was a big hit with all that came to the party, especially my kids who thought mum was a great cake maker. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Your summer salad guide - 30 recipes

30 summer salads

I love a fresh & healthy salad to accompany a meal but often I only think about cooking a meal and leave it to the last minute to decide what to serve with it.  It is then too late to whip up something fantastic and I usually go with the standard lettuce, tomato, carrot etc..

So, with the help of this list, my goal is to get a little more creative in the salad department at meal time.  Some of these are my recipes (found in my cookbook) and others were suggestions given to me on my facebook page a few weeks ago.  I have put them all together to make a comprehensive list that you can refer back to time and time again.  There were so many fantastic ideas & it makes me so happy that we can share and learn from each other.

Note: you can add caramalised red onion (which is red onion cooked in balsamic vinegar & brown sugar) to many of these recipes for extra wow.


Creamy potato salad
In my opinion, this is the yummiest potato salad that I have ever eaten.

·         1 kg chats potatoes
·         5 eggs
·         200g bacon, diced
·         2 shallots, finely sliced
·         Salt & pepper
·         1 cup whole egg mayonnaise

1.       Dice potatoes & boil until just tender.
2.       Boil eggs until hard.  Remove shells & cut into pieces.
3.       Fry bacon in a small frypan
4.       In a large bowl assemble the potato salad.  Add potato, eggs, bacon, shallots, salt, pepper & mayo.  Stir gently to combine.

Crunchy rice salad
Another family favourite and is a great accompaniment to a meal or BBQ.

·         1 onion, finely diced
·         1 cup sultanas
·         1 green capsicum, finely diced
·         1 red apple, diced
·         1 cup peanuts
·         3 cups cooked rice
·         Dressing - 2 Tbspn white vinegar, 2 Tbspn brown sugar,  2 Tbspn oil, 1 tsp curry powder

1.       In a large frypan, cook onion until soft.
2.       Add sultanas & capsicum & cook for 5 mins.
3.       Add apple & peanuts & cook for a further 2 mins.
4.       Add rice & stir through until warm.
5.       In a small jar make the dressing by combining vinegar, sugar, oil & curry.  Shake & pour over rice salad.  Stir to combine.

Greek salad with tuna
So simple to throw together to accompany any meal.

·         Gourmet lettuce
·         Cherry tomatoes, halved
·         Black olives
·         Red onion, finely sliced
·         Fetta cheese, cubed
·         Cucumber, sliced
·         Tuna in oil
·         Dressing – 2 Tbspn vinegar, 3 tsp olive oil. 1 tsp wholegrain mustard

1.       Add ingredients to a large bowl. 
2.       Mix together dressing ingredients & pour over salad.  Gently toss to combine.

A vibrant and fresh salad which is great with lamb.

·         1/3 cup cous cous
·         1/3 cup boiling water
·         ½ clove garlic, crushed
·         1 bunch flat leaf parsley
·         2 shallots, finely diced
·         2 tomatoes, finely diced
·         1 ½ Tbspn lemon juice
·         2 Tbspn olive oil
·         50g fetta cheese

1.       In a small bowl, add cous cous.  Boil water and pour over cous cous, cover & leave for a few minutes.
2.       Add remaining ingredients to a large bowl & toss gently.
3.       Scrape a fork along the cous cous to loosen it and then add it to the tabouli.  Stir through.

Green ranch salad
I love the sound of this one and it would go perfectly with so many meals.

·         Broccoli florrets
·         Bacon pieces
·         Spinach
·         Red onion, diced
·         Slivered almonds
·         Ranch dressing

1.       Steam broccoli florrets until just tender.  Set aside to cool.
2.       Fry bacon pieces.
3.       In a large bowl, add broccoli, bacon, spinach, red onion & almonds. 
4.       Drizzle over ranch dressing.

Roasted pumpkin salad
A delicious salad that is very versatile. 

·         600g pumpkin, peeled
·         Spray oil
·         ½ cup black olives
·         100g fetta
·         ½ tsp oregano
·         2 cups spinach leaves (or rocket)
·         Dressing - 1 Tbspn balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbspn olive oil

1.       Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Dice pumpkin into small cubes (1 ½ cm).  Bakes for 20 mins or until tender.  Do not overcook. Remove from oven & allow to cool.
2.       In a large bowl, combine olives, fetta, oregano & spinach.  Add pumpkin.
3.       In a jar, combine dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad.  Toss gently.

Crunchy silverbeet salad

·         1 bunch silverbeet, finely sliced
·         4 eggs
·         200g shortcut bacon, diced
·         Dressing – 2 Tbspn tomato sauce, 3 Tbspn vinegar, 1 Tbspn sugar, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce.

1.       Boil eggs, peel.  Set aside to cool.
2.       Fry bacon over high heat until very crispy. Set aside to cool.
3.       In a large bowl, add silverbeat & bacon.  Slice eggs and add to salad.
4.       In a jar, combine dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad.  Toss gently to combine.

Beetroot, fetta & rocket salad

·         Baby beetroot, sliced
·         Fetta, cubed
·         Walnuts, chopped
·         Balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients on a serving platter & drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Rocket, spinach, strawberry & walnut salad
I love the sound of this salad which is sweet with lots of different textures.

·         Strawberries
·         Red onion
·         Cream cheese cubes
·         Rocket, baby spinach or a mix of both
·         Walnuts
·         Honey
·         Balsamic vinegar

1.       In a large bowl, add strawberries, red onion, cream cheese cubes & rocket/spinach.
2.       In a separate cup, add some walnuts & honey.  Heat in microwave until honey is runny & mix into the salad.
3.       Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar

Pumpkin, spinach & pine nut salad

·         Pumpkin, peeled
·         Spinach leaves
·         Roasted pine nuts
·         Dressing – 1 Tbspn honey, 1 Tbspn wholegrain mustard, ¼ cup mayonnaise, 2 tsp lemon juice

1.       Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Dice pumpkin into small cubes (1 ½ cm).  Bakes for 20 mins or until tender.  Do not overcook. Remove from oven & allow to cool.
2.       On a salad platter, add spinach, pine nuts & pumpkin. 
3.       Combine dressing ingredients & pour over salad.

Roasted vegetable salad
I haven’t made this one but it sounds amazing.  It will certainly be on my list for summer!

·         Roasted pumpkin pieces
·         Roasted capsicum
·         Baby spinach leaves
·         Fetta
·         Pine nuts
·         Baby beetroots
·         Balsamic vinegar

On a platter, arrange spinach, pumpkin, capsicum, pinenuts, baby beets & fetta. Drizzle over balsamic vinegar.

Ambrosia salad
I can’t say that I have tried this one but I saw lots of good reviews for Ambrosia salad online.  This is just one variation.

·         1 tin mandarin or orange pieces
·         1 tin pineapple pieces
·         Shredded or desiccated coconut
·         Marshmallow, diced

Drain the tins of fruit.  In a large bowl, add fruit, coconut & marshmallows. Stir to combine.

Creamy broccoli and bacon salad

·         Bacon pieces
·         Raw broccoli florets
·         Red onion, finely sliced
·         Pine nuts
·         Grated cheese
·         Sultanas
·         Mayonnaise

Fry bacon pieces until crispy.  Add with remaining ingredients into a large bowl.  Stir to combine.

Summer Madness

·         2 pkts maggi noodles
·         1 cup bacon pieces
·         1 cup diced celery
·         2 shallots, sliced
·         1 cup diced capsicum
·         Dressing - 1 cup mayonnaise & 1 tsp curry powder

1.       Cook noodles (without flavour sachets), drain and let cool.
2.       Cook bacon pieces in a frypan.
3.       In a large bowl, add noodles, bacon, celery, shallots & capsicum. 
4.       Combine mayo & curry & add to salad.  Stir through.

‘What’s in your fridge’ salad
This one was posted by a lady who was searching her fridge for ingredients and came up with these.  They worked well together but I have included it to give you inspiration to do the same in your fridge.  Don’t be afraid to combine ingredients.

·         Iceberg lettuce, finely sliced
·         Spinach leaves,
·         Apple, diced
·         BBQ chicken, shredded
·         Cherry tomatoes
·         Shallots, finely sliced
·         Mayonnaise

Add all ingredients in to large bowl & toss to combine.

Tuna pasta salad
I love tuna & pasta so this combo is perfect for me.

·         Pasta
·         Tuna
·         Shallots, finely sliced
·         Corn kernels
·         Mayonnaise
·         Sour cream

1.       Cook pasta, drain & let cool slightly.
2.       Add remaining ingredients & toss together to combine. 
3.       Optional **  add a dollop of sweet chilli sauce on top prior to serving.

Spinach & blue cheese salad

·         Balsamic vinegar
·         Brown sugar
·         Spinach
·         Blue cheese
·         Toasted pine nuts
·         Crunchy bacon bits

1.       In a pan, cook together balsamic vinegar & sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Set aside to cool.
2.       On a platter, arrange spinach, blue cheese, pine nuts & bacon bits. 
3.       Pour over cooled dressing.

Potato & avocado salad

·         Chats potatoes, halved
·         1 avocado
·         ¾ cup sour cream
·         ½ cup French dressing
·         2 Tbspn lemon juice
·         2 shallots, finely sliced

Steam or boil potatoes until tender.  Drain & set aside to cool.

Process together avocado, sour cream, dressing & lemon juice until smooth. 
In a large  bowl, add potatoes & shallots.  Pour over avocado dressing and toss gently to combine.

Pear & spinach salad

·         Pear, sliced
·         Spinach leaves
·         Walnuts
·         Fetta
·         Dressing or balsamic vinegar

1.       Combine pear, spinach, walnuts & fetta in a bowl. 
2.       Drizzle over dressing or vinegar.

Pasta & vegetable salad

·         Pasta
·         Bacon pieces
·         Peas
·         Carrot
·         Corn
·         Pineapple
·         Your favourite dressing or dip (such as roasted capsicum)

1.       Cook pasta, drain & cool.
2.       Cook bacon pieces.
3.       Add peas, carrot, corn, pineapple & bacon.
4.       Pour over your favourite dressing or dip.  Stir to combine.

Beetroot & apple topper
This one is great served on top of cold meats in summer.

·         Fresh beetroot, peeled
·         Green apple, peeled
·         Fresh mint

Place beetroot, apple & mint into a food processor & process until finely diced. 

Curry pasta salad

·         Pasta
·         Mayonnaise
·         Curry powder
·         Red capsicum, finely diced
·         Corn kernels
·         Sultanas

1.       Cook pasta, drain & set aside to cool.
2.       Mix mayo with curry powder.
3.       In a large bowl combine pasta, curry mayo, capsicum, corn & sultanas.  Stir to combine.

Watermelon salad

·         Watermelon, diced
·         Red onion, finely sliced
·         Snow peas, diced

Combine ingredients together.

Fresh summer salad

·         Fresh beetroot,
·         Carrot
·         Green apple
·         Baby spinach
·         Fetta
·         Pepitas
·         Olive oil

1.       Grate beetroot, carrot & green apple.
2.       On a platter, arrange spinach leaves.  Top with beetroot, carrot & apple.
3.       Crumble over fetta & sprinkle over pepitas.
4.       Drizzle with olive oil.

Mango & macadamia salad

·         Baby spinach
·         Gourmet lettuce
·         Avocado, sliced
·         Mango, diced
·         Red onion, finely sliced
·         Macadamia nuts
·         1 orange

On a platter, add spinach & lettuce. 
Top with avocado, mango, red onion & nuts.
Squeeze orange over salad.


Cabbage, green & red for added colour
Shallots, finely sliced

Finely slice cabbage  & add to a large bowl.
Grate carrot & add to cabbage along with shallots.
Stir through mayonnaise.

Chilli cous cous salad

Cous cous
Shallots, finely sliced
Red & green capsicum, finely diced
Greek yoghurt

Cook cous cous.
Add all ingredients into a large bowl & stir to combine.

Caesar salad

·         Cos lettuce
·         Bacon
·         Crutons
·         Parmesan cheese, shaved
·         Caesar salad dressing

1.       Cook bacon.
2.       In a bowl, add lettuce, bacon, crutons & parmesan.
3.       Drizzle with Caesar dressing.

Cobb salad
A colourful salad great for the summer. Add whatever you like – mango, blue cheese, nuts etc.

Egg, boiled & sliced
Avocado, sliced
Tomato,, sliced
Corn kernels
Bacon pieces, cooked

On a plate, arrange lettuce.  In rows on top of lettuce, arrange all remaining ingredients.

Caprese salad

·         2 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
·         Bocconcini, thickly sliced
·         Basil leaves
·         Olive oil
·         Salt & pepper

1.       On a platter, overlap tomatoes & bocconcini. 
2.       Sprinkle with basil leave & drizzle with olive oil.

3.       Season with salt & pepper.