Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Hawaiian Pizza Cups

I have cooked these a few times now. They are so easy to make and really tasty too.  The kids can easily make them without your help and they get a real kick out of making something for the family on their own.  They take minutes to put together (longer if your kids are doing it) and only 15 mins in the oven. You can also add whatever ingredients you like - spinach, ricotta, fetta, olives etc..


Hawaiian Pizza Cups


  •           Spray oil
  •           Wonton wrappers (these can be found in the refrigerator section of your supermarket. Perhaps next to the fresh pasta)
  •           Pasta sauce
  •           Ham
  •           Pineapple chunks
  •           Grated cheese

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Lightly spray a 12 hole cupcake pan with oil. Gently push a wonton wrapper into each hole.

Add a teaspoon of pasta sauce, a few chunks of ham and a few pieces of pineapple into each cup. 
Top with grated cheese. 

Bake in preheated oven for 15 mins or until golden & crunchy.  Let cool for a few minutes then eat!!  YUM.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014 in review

It is hard to believe that another year is over but I am excited about next year and what is in store. 

For me, 2014 was a year of highs and lows.  Our family started the year by spending 8 weeks in our caravan travelling the NSW coast.  Nothing beats quality family time away from home – spending time with the kids with no chores to occupy your time.  

Kids with their pile of dead fish they found on the beach - eeew!!

While I was in a beachside town in NSW, I visited a small bookstore to ask if they were interested in stocking my book. I met with the owner and it turns out he owns a small publishing house and was interested in publishing my next cookbook!!  This is perfect for me as it is a lot of hard work when trying to do it all myself and I can only reach a small percentage of the population under my own steam so hopefully they can help me reach a wider audience.

On the personal front, I have had a few friends go through some really tough times this year which is difficult because we don’t live close and I feel totally helpless.   Life just isn’t fair and sometimes a hug can make a small difference.  I know they have other people standing in line support them but that doesn’t make it any easier.  Look out when we see each other – hugs all round!!!

After a whole lot of cooking and photographing, I also finished my 2nd cookbook which is with the publisher but we all know that when  a 3rd party is involved, things take A WHOLE LOT LONGER!! If it was up to me, the book would be in your hands by now but I can only ask that you be patient and stick with me.  I am a little bit of a control freak (surprise, surprise!) and like things done quickly and NOW and everytime I speak with the publisher he hoses me down and keeps me in check – LOL!!  I need this sometimes.

Another big thing this year was the change of name from ‘Food before 5’ to ‘Simple home cook’.  I am happy to admit that I think I got it wrong when coming up with the original name because I was going for the angle of ‘make ahead meals to prepare ahead of time so you don’t have to cook at 5pm’ but in hindsight it probably didn’t hit the nail on the head.  ‘Simple home cook’ is very self-explanatory and if anyone asks me what ‘Simple home cook’ is about – I think I’ll cry (or laugh..).

I often email websites & blogs and ask if they would like a guest post from me (as a way of advertising without costing me my house) and  to be honest, responses are hard to come by. Kelly from ‘Be a Fun Mum’ manages a huge Facebook page and website and was kind enough to extend me her hand and asked me to be a regular contributor on her page.  This is really awesome for me as my page is very small and trying to grow it can be a struggle at times.   I am extremely grateful  to Kelly for this opportunity to reach more people.

I’ve been working on an app which is due for release in January 2015.  It has 80 recipes that you will have access to which will be great when food shopping and you can’t remember what is in that recipe – happens to me all the time and I can’t wait to share it.  I am a little scared about it but fingers crossed you will download it and find it useful xx

The best part of my cookbook journey is interacting with all of you.  I am lucky to have some really awesome people on my page and have never  had any issues with negativity or trolling.  I read every comment and appreciate every like that my posts receive so please keep them coming! It is what keeps me going.

2015 will be a year of big decisions for me and my future. My littlest man goes to Kindy and I have to start thinking about a sustainable career.  By the end of 2015, I am hoping it will all fall into place.

Thanks for reading and I wish you and your families all the best for 2015.  Thanks for all your support!!

From my family to yours - HAPPY NEW YEAR!



Hot Cobb Loaf

WARNING, WARNING... this dip is seriously addictive.   Just make sure you cook this when you have guests or you will probably end up eating the whole thing on your own (and feel guilty about it....).  I am speaking from experience here!!

Make the filling ahead of time and keep it in the fridge to save time when your guests arrive.

My New Year's eve gift to you - Hot Cobb Loaf.


  • 150g bacon, diced
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 300g sour cream
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 cup creamed corn
  • 1 cobb/sourdough loaf

In a large microwave safe bowl, add bacon. Cover & microwave on high for 4 mins.

Add cream cheese, sour cream, grated cheese, shallots & creamed corn.  Mix well.  If making ahead, cover & refrigerate until required.


Preheat oven to 200oC.

Microwave the cheese mixture, covered, on high for 8 mins or until the mixture is hot.

In the meantime, cut the top off the cob & hollow out the inside.  Place the hollow cobb with the left over pieces of bread on a baking tray.

Pour the cheese mixture into the cob & bake, uncovered for 15 mins or until the bread is crunchy & the mixture is browning on top.

Serve whilst hot.


Monday, 29 December 2014

Gingerbread cheesecake

I love gingerbread and I love cheesecake even more so why not combine them to make one hell of a dessert.  This was an experiment but thankfully it turned out well and everyone who tried it, loved it!

Gingerbread cheesecake

The first step is to line a 22cm round springform tin.  Line the base and sides as shown in the picture.


You have 2 options for the base:

1. Making gingerbread and processing it into crumbs to form the base.

You can use any gingerbread recipe you like and mine is here if you need it >>Gingerbread recipe. Instead of turning the dough into small biscuits, I just rolled it flat and plonked it in pieces onto a tray before baking.  You will need 200g biscuits to crush up to make the base which is approx half of the mixture. You can use the rest of the mixture to make biscuits to serve with the cake. '

Using a food processor, process 200g gingerbread into crumbs. You can also do this by hand by placing the biscuits into a zip lock bag and crushing them with a rolling pin. Add crumbs into a large bowl and mix with 100g melted butter.  Stir to combine and pour into a 22cm round springform tin.  Press down firmly to form an even base.

2. Using pre-made gingernut biscuits and melted butter.

In a food processor, place 200g biscuits and process into crumbs. You can also do this by hand by placing the biscuits in a zip lock bag and crushing them with a rolling pin.  Add biscuits into a large bowl and add 100g melted butter.  Stir to combine and press into a 22cm round springform tin. Press down firmly to form an even base.

  • 2 x 250g cream cheese
  • 2 x 400g tins condensed milk
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 3 Tbspn golden/maple syrup
  • 1 Tbspn edible gelatine powder

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Gradually add condensed milk and beat continuously until smooth.

Add ginger, mixed spice and golden syrup and beat to combine. 

In a separate cup, mix gelatine and boiling water.  Stir until gelatine is dissolved. Add to the cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.  

Pour into springform tin over the biscuit base.  Refrigerate until set which is usually 5 hours but overnight is best.  Slice and serve and would be great served with fresh cream.

I made this for a friends birthday and used the leftover gingerbread to make a 40 biscuit to place on top of the cake.  

Saturday, 20 December 2014

My Christmas menu

For me, Christmas is all about family, food & fun times.  It is my favourite time of the year when I get to crank up the Christmas carols, act goofy and enjoy seeing my children's excited little faces when they wake up in the morning. 

I am from an Italian family and grew up having a hot Christmas lunch but lately we have moved to a cold lunch with lots of meats and salads.  This year I aim to have most things prepared ahead of time so I can sit back, relax and hang with my kids instead of spending all morning in the kitchen. 

You probably have your Christmas menu planned by now but I still thought I would share mine with you in case you needed some ideas. We keep it very simple and tasty.

  • Leg of ham.  This can be sliced up the day before and wrapped in a damp tea towel and kept in the fridge.
  • Roast chickens with stuffing. I cook them on Christmas eve and carve them up and stored in airtight container.  Of course, you can buy them already cooked and make it even easier but you might want to order them in case they sell out. 

  • Roast turkey. Cook the day before too & slice & keep in airtight container.
  • A tray of lasagne.  I have to stay true to my heritage and my folks are visiting so it just feels right to have lasagne on Christmas day. I will make this earlier in the week and pop into the oven on Christmas day. 
  • Garlic bread.  Make ahead (with baguette and garlic butter) and wrap in foil & keep in the fridge.  I will cook this with the lasagne on Christmas day. 
  • Roast pumpkin salad. I'll roast the pumpkin the day before and keep in the fridge so on Christmas day, I can just throw the salad ingredients together. 
  • Warm potato salad.  I will make this the day before and warm up in the microwave on Christmas day. 
  • Salad stick platter (for the kids).  I'll chop up carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes etc and wrap them in a damp paper towel and place them in an airtight container to keep them crunchy.

  • Warm Christmas pudding with ice cream & custard. I have already made the pudding and it is sitting in my fridge just waiting to be devoured.
  • Chocolate balls.  I have already made these and kept them in the freezer.
  • Fruit cake. Make ahead and although it won't be eaten for dessert, we can nibble on it all day long.

So all I have to do on Christmas day is pop the lasagne & garlic bread into the oven, make the roast pumpkin salad & put the food on platters - DONE!!  I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas day and don't spend too much time in the kitchen. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Step by step guide to making a Christmas pudding

For me, Christmas pudding is the most important food item on my table on Christmas day.  Since enjoying a homemade pudding many years ago, there is no going back and even though they take a bit of effort and a whole lot of time to boil away on the stove, when you smell and taste it -  it is worth every minute!

You can make them months in advance or days in advance and I made our Christmas pudding today.  It is actually really easy but does involve a few steps so I have tried to list them in detail below with photos to make it easy to follow.

I am not sure if many of you can be bothered going to this effort when you can pick one up from the shops but if you are thinking about it, I would definitely urge you to give it a go for Christmas this year and I promise you won't be disappointed.  It feeds a large group (approx 12) and served with brandy sauce, custard or icecream (or all 3) it will be the hit of the day.

Extra things you will need - some calico cloth (approx 70cm x 70cm).  You can buy this from Spotlight, Lincraft or other haberdashery store.  You will also need some string to tie up the pudding.

Let me know how you go,

Christmas pudding

  • 250g butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 Tbspn golden syrup
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup brandy or sherry
  • 250g sultanas
  • 250g currants
  • 250g raisins
  • Pudding cloth 70cm x 70cm
  • string

1. In a large bowl, add sultanas, currants & raisins. Pour brandy over fruit. Cover & leave

2. In a large bowl, beat butter & sugar for 5 mins or until creamy. Gradually add eggs & beat
well. Add golden syrup & beat to combine. Don't be alarmed if the mixture is very sloppy.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, spices &bicarb of soda. Add this to the butter mixture
& beat to combine.

4. Add breadcrumbs & beat well.

5. Add fruit & brandy mixture & beat well.

6. Dip pudding cloth into boiling water & spread out into the inside of a large empty bowl.
Sprinkle the cloth with sifted flour to prevent the pudding sticking to the cloth.

7. Tip mixture into cloth. Pull each side of the cloth up to fully enclose the mixture. Approx
3cm above the top of the pudding, tie up the cloth as tightly as possible with string.

8. Fill a large pot, half way with water & bring to the boil. Place wrapped pudding into pot.
Reduce to medium heat & gently boil for 4 hrs. *Optional - pop half an orange into boiling
water & leave during cooking time. Check water level during cooking time & top up
water if required.

9. Remove the pudding from the water & hang on a coat hanger hook until the cloth dries
(usually overnight).

10. Refrigerate or freeze until required.

11. Just prior to eating, boil the pudding for an additional 1 hr.  Serve warm or cold with custard or ice cream.


• For the pudding cloth I used calico which can be purchased from haberdashery stores such as Lincraft, Spotlight etc.

• In step 7, ensure you leave 3cm between the top of the pudding & the
string as the pudding expands during cooking.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Funny faces

This is a great recipe to make with your kids these school holidays. You can use anything you like to decorate them, just raid your pantry and let your creative juices flow.

Kids love making them, adults love eating them  

These are some that I made - 

These are some my son made (LOL!) - 


  • ¾ cup melted butter
  • ¾ cup caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 ½ cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbspn icing sugar - for decorating
  • lollies, teeth & sprinkles to decorate 

1. In a large bowl, mix melted butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.

2. Stir in flour & baking powder until a soft dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 mins or until firm. 


3. Preheat oven to 200°C. Line 2 trays with baking paper.

4. Roll out dough on floured surface aprox ½ cm thick. Cut out circles using the rim of a glass. Place on baking trays. Repeat with remaining dough. 

5. Bake for 6 - 8 mins or until golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool completely.

6. Mix icing sugar with a few drops of water to make a thick paste. Use this to stick the lollies & sprinkles onto the biscuits to make your funny faces.