Summer Loving and Healthy Lunches

Summer is just about here! And to celebrate the warmer weather, I like to take full advantage of the beautiful surrounds of St Francis Bay.  The Cape St Francis beach is one of my favourite places to spend time, the sand always forms magical patterns and creates a fairytale atmosphere.

sand patternsshadows

lighthouse from the beach

To celebrate the summer, I thought I would share one of my favourite easy and healthy lunch time dishes.

Spinach, Feta & Mushroom Quesadilla

1 whole wheat tortilla wrap
¼ cup mozzarella cheese
1 cup fresh spinach which has been blanched in boiling water
4 button mushrooms, sliced and cooked in a little olive oil and garlic.
30g Danish feta, crumbled
seasoning
¼ tsp nutmeg
chopped dill

Mix the spinach, feta, mushrooms, nutmeg and dill together.  Season to your liking.

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat.
Place 1 tortilla onto the pan.
When warm, flip it over.
Sprinkle about half the Cheddar cheese evenly over the one side of the tortilla.
Top with the spinach mixture.
Add a little more cheese, fold over in half and press down lightly.
Cook until the bottom gets a little colour, flip over and let the other side also colour.
Slide onto a cutting board, using a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife, cut into 4.
Serve with a little side salad of your choice.

spinach feta and mushroom

Cinnamon Pancake Happiness

Nothing comforts me more on a cold rainy day than pancakes.  Typical South African Pancakes with cinnamon sugar and a splash of fresh lemon juice.

With this weekend that just went by, the wind was howling, the rain was pouring so it was the perfect excuse to whip up a batch of cinnamon pancakes.

cinnamon pancakes

South African Pancakes

2 ¼  cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
50g melted butter
5 eggs
600ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
30ml ginger liqueur (use Old Brown Sherry if you want)
oil for frying

1 tsp Cinnamon
3 tbsp Sugar (I used white, but can use brown)
½ tsp ground ginger

Mix the cinnamon, sugar and ginger together in a clean shaker.

Place all the pancake ingredients in a mixer and mix until you have a smooth batter.

Add a little of the batter at a time to a frying pan which has been wiped with oil, just cover the bottom of the pan.  Cook until tiny air bubbles start to appear, flip over for a little colour and place onto a plate.  If I am making cinnamon pancakes, I like to sprinkle the cinnamon mixture over the pancake and cover so it sweats and the sugar almost “melts” into the pancake.

Now this is me completely happy, however, pancakes are more versatile than this, I have used pancakes in catering jobs, filled with chicken mayo or bacon & jalapeno, and of course the more classic banana and caramel. So I wanted to make a breakfast pancake for Justin, he is a bacon & egg kind of guy.

I used cream cheese, bacon & scrambled eggs, with rocket and fresh peppadews, grown in my moms garden, and wow it was delicious.

bacon and egg pancakes

Wintery Butternut & Mushroom Salad

With the cooler weather settling in we are all heading towards comfort food…I can hear you say “but salad is not comfort food???” Well, this one is filled with comfort goodies, and perfect as a side for a cool evening braai. This is also a great vegetarian meal with substance.

This is very versatile, you can add or take out flavours you do not like, just remember to balance the flavours.  I used my Froggit salad dressing, but you could use any light dressing. Or make your own, I would love to know what works for you!

Wintery Butternut & Mushroom Salad
served 15 – 20

2kg cubed butternut
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
honey
seasoning
olive oil
1 tbsp garlic butter
250g sliced white mushrooms
Seeds from 2 pomegranates
100g crumbed feta
200g baby spinach
1 packet rocket & watercress salad mix (from Woolworths)
100g cherry tomatoes
100g sugar snap peas
3 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds
Froggit Pomegranate dressing

Pomegranate Dressing

Preheat the oven to 200°C

In a large roasting pan, place the butternut, garlic, olive oil, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, seasoning and honey.  Mix until the butternut is well coated and roast for 45 minutes.
Remove and set aside to cool down completely.
Fry the sliced mushrooms in garlic butter, season and set aside to cool

Once the butternut & mushrooms are cooled down completely, mix together, you can now build the salad.

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and mix with the butternut & mushrooms.
Layer the salad now, at the bottom of the bowl put some baby spinach, rocket & watercress, a few pomegranate seeds a few sugar snap peas, the feta, pumpkin seeds, repeat layering.

Wintery Butternut & Mushroom Salad

 

Beetroot, Bacon & Goat’s Cheese Tarte Tatin

I have had a *slight* obsession with beetroot (again) these last few weeks. My poor husband has gone from not touching beetroot to tasting here and there, to thoroughly enjoying THIS dish to “enough with the beetroot…PLEASE!!!”

I have baked, roasted, pickled and juiced beetroot in all weird and wonderful ways, with all types of combinations.  Out of all my experiments with beetroot, I have to say that, apart from beetroot juice, this Beetroot, Bacon & Goat’s Cheese Tarte Tatin was my favorite and will definitely make a reappearances on my dinner table.

Now…before we get right into the recipe, let’s examine why these little balls of red (sometimes yellow, sometimes white, sometimes stripped) happiness is so good for you.

The beetroot taste is described as sweet, earthy and tender to eat. It is grown in the ground and is related to turnips, swedes and sugar beet.

If you’re considering beetroot as one of your 5-a-day, it contains potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A, B6 and C, folic acid, carbohydrates, protein, antioxidants and soluble fiber.

Researchers have known for some time that juice may help lower blood pressure, but in 2010 UK researchers revealed that nitrate is the special ingredient in beetroot which lowers blood pressure and may help to fight heart disease.

People with very high blood pressure can end up being on multiple tablets, so a more natural approach could prove popular if the initial research results are confirmed.

Drinking beetroot juice increases blood flow to the brain in older people, which may be able to fight the progression of dementia, a 2010 study suggested.

Beetroot contains high concentrations of nitrates, which are converted into nitrites by bacteria in the mouth. Nitrites help open blood vessels in the body, increasing blood flow and oxygen to places lacking in oxygen.

 Beetroot, Bacon & Goats Cheese Tarte Tatin
serves 2 – 3

beetroot & goats cheese tart tatin

½ Roll Today’s Puff Pastry
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp butter
4 medium sized beetroots, cooked and thickly sliced into rounds
4 pieces streaky bacon, cut into quarters
¼  packet Goats Cheese
Balsamic reduction
Fresh Thyme, roughly chopped
salt
black pepper
egg wash

Preheat oven to 180°C

Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface, cut slightly bigger than the pan you using to bake the tarte tatin in.

Add sugar and butter to a small, non stick pan, place over medium, heat and let caramelize. Swirl around the pan to ensure the entire bottom of the pan is coated in caramelized sugar
Remove from heat, place beetroot rings over the bottom of the pan, creating a nice even layer.
Place the pieces of bacon over the beetroot, season with black pepper and sprinkle with thyme.
Cover with puff pastry, tucking in the sides so the puff pastry fits snug in the pan.
Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until pastry is golden brown.
While still hot, carefully flip the pastry onto a plate, top with goat’s cheese that is just roughly broken up and season with salt and black pepper.

Serve hot or cold.

I added a little onion marmalade, you can find the recipe here, and drizzled with balsamic reduction.

Onion Marmalade

I have been away, traveling around KZN, a part of South Africa I have never experienced, so my blog posts have been few and far in-between, however, I am back now. Watch out for the fun adventures I had in KZN, namely, I experienced the traditional bunny chow which I will definitely post about.  But that’s for another day, today I am going to get right into a recipe I have been asked to post a few times. Onion Marmalade, now this recipe I don’t really follow any kind of measurements, I just cook with a feel, knowing when, how much and how long to cook it for, so I am going to guide you as best I can.

Cutting and slicing onions is all a personal thing, we all have our special way of doing so.  With this recipe, I cut the onions pole to pole, onion slices cut pole to pole will break down more completely as they cook, producing a more uniform texture and flavor in the finished dish.

Onion Marmalade

1kg red onions, cut pole to pole
1 bottle red wine
1 cup brown sugar – you can use white, but I find brown gives it a nice caramel flavour
2 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
5 – 8 whole cardamom pods
1 whole cinnamon stick
pinch of salt

Place all the above ingredients, expect the red wine into a large enough deep pot.

Pour in red wine, enough to just cover the onions, turn heat up to high and bring the liquid to a rolling boil.  Drop your heat and let gently simmer, this will take some time. Stir sporadically.

When the liquid has reduced and formed a sticky like consistency, this will be close to the end.  Watch while reducing further until thick and really sticky.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Remove the whole spices.  Use on sandwiches, salads, as extra topping on a pie…this is so versatile.  You can keep onion marmalade for a fair amount of time in the fridge, just ensure that it is stored in an airtight container

onion marmalade

Roasted Butternut, Caramelized Onion, Danish Feta & Mixed Herbs Quiche

Quiche and myself have a love hate relationship.  I love the idea of quiche, but I hate that eggy flavour of quiche.  So I am always sceptical at ordering quiche at restaurants, but am all for making quiche at home.

This was a meatless Monday dinner, so feel free to adapt the ingredients if you insist on using meat.  I would add a little crispy bacon bits to satisfy the carnivore in you, but otherwise just as it is pretty delicious.

Roasted Butternut, Caramelized Onion, Danish Feta & Mixed Herbs Quiche
serves 8 – 10

Enough shortcrust pastry to suit the size of the dish you are using to make your quiche in
1kg butternut roasted (I roasted it the same was I always do when making my butternut soup)
2 large onions, chopped pole to pole
200g Danish feta, roughly crumbled
chopped mixed fresh herbs of choice
200ml milk
100ml cream
3 eggs
seasoning
1 tsp sugar
1 clove of garlic, diced
200g grated cheddar
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C

I made my quiche in a large spring form tin, you don’t need to grease the tin as the pastry won’t stick.

Roll out the pastry and cut to desired size. You want to ensure that you have a pie like crust for the quiche, so ensure your pastry comes up the sides of the tin.  Remember your pastry shrinks when baked so leave a little room for shrinking.
Blind bake for 25 – 30 minutes.

While the butternut is roasting, fry off the onions in a drizzled of olive oil, sprinkle the sugar over the onions and let caramelize, add the garlic and sauté gentle.  Do not burn the garlic as this will make your quiche bitter.
Mix the butternut, onions and feta, with the herbs in a bowl, season to taste.

Mix the milk and cream together and add the eggs.  Ensure that the mixture is well incorporated.

Place your butternut mixture evenly in the pastry base, pour the milk mixture over, tap the tin once or twice to get the mixture to seep through the butternut, sprinkle cheese over the top and bake for 45 minutes.

Turn your oven up to grill for 2 – 3 minutes just long enough for the cheese to form a nice crust over the top.

Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, release spring form clasp.  Let sit for another 5 minutes.

Cut and serve with a beautiful garden salad.
IMG_20130312_115911

Oven Baked Biltong, Citrus & Thyme Chicken Schnitzel

I saw a post on Facebook a few weeks ago which asked…what is healthy eating…there were so many different answers, and all great ones…then I stood back and thought to myself, what is healthy to me…and I remind myself of my motto for healthy eating…choose right

I chose right when I made this healthy alternative to a deep-fried chicken schnitzel.  This is an easy, healthy and quick light dinner for the beautiful summer evenings we have been experiencing…let’s hope it lasts (touch wood)

Oven Baked Biltong, Citrus & Thyme Chicken Schnitzel
Makes 2

2 chicken breasts, about 130g each
135g bread crumbs
3 tbsp biltong powder
zest of one orange
2 tbsp thyme, chopped
seasoning
2 eggs
1/8 cup water
1 cup flour
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Butterfly the chicken breasts.  See end of post for tips

In a bowl mix the bread crumbs, biltong powder, orange zest, thyme and seasoning

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and water together (this is the egg wash)

Place the chicken breast in the flour, then into the egg wash, then into the bread crumb mixture.  Make sure the chicken breast is well coated in the flour and egg to ensure the bread crumbs stick to the chicken breast.

Place on an oiled baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, place in the oven for 15 – 25 minutes, until cooked and has a good gold colour to it.

Serve with sides of choice, I enjoyed this with rosemary and garlic baby potatoes and a Greek salad.

** Store the left over bread crumbs in an air tight container for next time.

How to Butterfly a Chicken Breast
Lay the boneless & skinless chicken breast on the surface of your cutting board.  You can remove the tenderloin or work around it.  With the edge of your knife parallel to the cutting board, begin cutting down the length of the side of the breast. Carefully slice the breast in half, almost to the other edge. Open the chicken breast like a book.  If you have ticker parts of the breast, repeat the process until you have a nice thin chicken breast.