Monthly Mystery Munchies #31: Pasta Primavera

Credit: NordWood Themes

Haaaaapy New Year! May 2018 be delicious! In the spirit of New Year, Ann from Grubbs n Critters, who is my dedicated, loyal Best Blogging Friend, chose “new beginnings” as this month’s recipe challenge, and challenge is quite apt. I was initially stumped, as it’s not as easy as it sounds, but then I did some research and learned that Chinese dumplings are a traditional dish served for the Chinese New Year. Fantastic, I thought, let’s do that. I mean, how hard can it be? Quite, as it turned out. I Googled and YouTubed and realised that dumplings were, in fact, tricky, but that did not deter. I went to the grocery store and stocked up on pork mince, bamboo shoots, and the rest of the ingredients. However, when it came time to make said dumplings, well, it was a comedy of errors. The Husband informed me that rice wine vinegar is not the same as Chinese rice wine. Oops. Also, I left spring onions off the list, and my dumpling dough was horrendous and inedible. It was so hard, it could have been used as a weapon. Blunt force trauma for dinner, anyone? No? We bailed on the idea and went out for burgers instead. It was good for a laugh. The Sister from Another Mister was lured here with the promise of pork dumplings, but instead she was tasked with the idea of finding another recipe. I felt it only right that she contribute, as I stared into my chicken burger and uttered some choice words. She decided that I should make pasta primavera, or spring pasta, and I jumped on the opportunity.

Now, it’s not spring in South Africa. It is summer. Sweltering, blazing summer, but all of these veggies are available here and I do love spring, and the idea of using these veggies that represent a new season. Plan B worked out well. Hallelujah! I really loved the idea of roasting a wide array of delicious, colourful vegetables, mixing them with butter and cream, topping with parmesan. It’s a creamy dish, but because it also uses a variety of vegetables, it’s bursting with flavour too. Yes!! I am so keen to see Ann’s dish this month, and I mean wow, she really picked a fun one this month. So without further ado, here’s my pasta primavera recipe, and please take a gander at Ann’s recipe. I have no doubt it’s a delicious treat!

Pasta Primavera

Supplies:

500g bowtie pasta (or any other kind)
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 baby marrows/zucchini, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon Italian herbs
Freshly cracked black pepper
Pink salt (you can use normal salt, but Himalayan salt is my fave for health reasons)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Sauce:

4 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 sliced garlic cloves
½ cup chicken stock
1 cup cream
½ cup parmesan

Making it Happen:

Boil the pasta per package instructions until al dente.
Meanwhile, lay your vegetable in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle the dried herbs over the veggies and roast in a preheated oven at 200°C for 10 – 15 minutes.

For the sauce:
Heat the butter in a pan on medium, and add the onion and garlic. Fry until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic cloves and fry for another minute. Pour in the stock and cream, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, along with the cherry tomatoes, then add the roasted veggies and toss well. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve!

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Monthly Mystery Munchies #30: Almond Flour Banana Bread

Number 30? Whaaaaaa? Ann and I have been doing our super cool challenge, Monthly Mystery Munchies, for 30 months. I feel like this is when, in a relationship, people set a wedding date. It’s a commitment! And one I love so very much. Ann, I will never cheat on you. I swear it. And thank you, Ann, for always being up for the challenge, even when I get exhausted just thinking about everything you have going on in your life on any given day/week/month.

So, what happens when you have a gluten intolerant friend, spare bananas and a blog challenge that calls for anything almond-y? Banana bread, that’s what. Now, I am not one for the whole “gluten-is-terrible-and-if-you-eat-it-your-insides-will-shrivel-up-and-die” movement, unless you genuinely have an intolerance, which I don’t. TG. Nevertheless, I am super curious about using white flour substitutes, so I ventured off to the supermarket in search of almond flour. It is eye-wateringly expensive… I balked, hesitated for a moment, and then decided to commit. I mean, it’s banana bread, thank you Banana Food Gods for this invention (worthy of capitals), and almond flour – my favourite nut in the history of taste buds.

We’re doing renovations again. It feels like just the other day I nearly lost my mind with the last round. It was, in fact, almost two years ago, but the mind remembers and I feel that trauma in my soul. So, a good excuse to venture into the kitchen, get busy and put my music on full blast. Cue ACDC. Old school never sounded so sweet. I was very hesitant to bake with almond flour, sans butter. Hooooow does one bake banana bread without butter, pray tell? Add maple syrup, that’s how. Yet more “WTF”? Buuuuut it works. It really, really works. I loved it. It’s easy and the prep is ridiculously quick – throw everything into the blender, mix, transfer to pan, bake. Done. Okay, I’m sold. And it tastes soooo good! If almonds, or bananas, or both, are your vibe, do this. Try it, enjoy it and feel zero guilt! I’m pumped for Ann’s recipe this month: Dutch Bitterkoejes. “They are somewhat related to macarons, taste like marzipan, almost pepernoten-like and very much a typical Dutch classic. It’s chewy on the inside, NOT bitter and incredibly easy to make.” I’m so in. I’m booking my ticket as we speak. Have a look-see at her latest culinary creation on Grubbs n Critters, and while you’re there, check out the rest of her site. It’s awesome!

Almond Four Banana Bread

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Supplies:

3 ripe, mashed bananas
2 eggs
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon sea salt

Making it Happen:

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°CF).
Spray a bread tin with non-stick spray.
In a blender, blitz the first four wet ingredients until smooth.
Add the remaining four dry ingredients, blitz until mixed, about 5 – 10 seconds.
Pour into the prepared bread tin and bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clear.

Monthly Mystery Munchies #29: Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese and Buttermilk Glaze

Whoop whoop! Back in the land of the living! (Although I am often zombie-esque, so I’m not really sure how accurate that statement is, but it’s all relative.) To make a long story short, I had an accident which resulted in a few surgeries and bed-rest for six weeks. After two months, I rejoined society. This annoying and frustrating situation threw a spanner in the works of, well, everything. However, I was totally ready to go ahead with Ann’s Monthly Mystery Munchies theme: Cinnamon. Anything with cinnamon. Now, you might say “oh, that’s so easy”, but it was actually quite tricky. The very first idea that popped into my mind was cinnabuns. I mean, yassss.

Google was my trusty friend, but I was daunted by the recipes I found online, until I found Once Upon A Chef’s cinnamon bun recipe. “Let’s just try it and see what happens”, I thought. And so I made it, and it was amazing AF. Jenn Segal, food guru from Once Upon A chef, tried a few recipes before perfecting this one. And perfect it is! I’ve adjusted the frosting by increasing the portions and adding vanilla, which I am permanently ‘sessing over. I am also obsessed with cinnamon. I’ve had a love affair with it for years. I put it in everything. Like, everything. It goes into my smoothies, I sprinkle it over my All Bran and bananas every morning, I put it in curries and chilli dishes… Any opportunity and I’m down.

Baking is something I haven’t done for quite some time. The price of butter has skyrocked in South Africa. FML. No, seriously, it saddens me. Baking is something that’s an instant mood enhancer, and I’m not just talking about the finished product. In fact, I think I enjoy the actual process and preparation more than the reward that comes out of the oven! Okay, maybe not more, but definitely on par.

Cinnabuns. Cinnamon buns. Cinfully delicious. Crisp, not too sweet, and the icing melts, literally melts, in your mouth. It’s like little fairies moonwalking over your tongue. I am so amped to see Ann’s creation. She always pushes the boat out. She’s a serious foodie and her recipes are beyond impressive, inventive, imaginative and delicious. Please visit her site for the most amazing food, adventures, humour and more.

It’s important to note that these portions have to be measured precisely.

Cinnamon buns

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Supplies:

For the buns:
7 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
¾ cup packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon + ½teaspoon salt
3 cups spooned flour
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1¼ cups buttermilk

For the glaze:
3 tablespoons cream cheese, room temp
4 tablespoons buttermilk
1¼ cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Making it Happen:

In a 9-inch cake tin, place a piece of tin foil at the bottom, covering the sides too. Preheat your oven to 220°C (440°F).

In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, cinnamon, ⅛ teaspoon salt salt in a small bowl. Add one tablespoon melted butter and stir with a fork until the mixture resembles wet sand.

In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining dry ingredients together. Add 3 tablespoons melted butter and buttermilk and stir using a wooden spoon until the liquid is absorbed, 30 seconds – 1 minute.

Sprinkle flour over a work surface, transfer the dough and knead until it’s smooth, about 30 seconds – 1 minute.
Sprinkle more flour on your surface, lightly dusting it. Form a rectangle with the dough, then roll it into a 9 inch x 12 inch rectangle with your rolling pin. Dust the rolling pin lightly with flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.

Brush the dough with a tablespoon of butter and evenly spoon the brown sugar mixture over it, pressing it down firmly with your hands. Roll the dough into a tight log, pinching to seal it. (You might need to use a tiny bit of water to help seal the seam.)

Turn the log over so that the seam is at the bottom and slice into 9 pieces. Place the buns in the cake tin, flat side down, and brush with the remaining butter. Bake for 23 – 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Using the foil overhang, transfer the buns to a wire rack. Allow to rest for five minutes, then separate the buns (you might need to use a knife.)

Meanwhile, make the glaze. Mix the buttermilk, cream cheese, vanilla and icing sugar, and drizzle over the buns.

Serve warm, or refrigerate and reheat later. (15 – 20 seconds in your microwave.)  

 

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Monthly Mystery Munchies #27: Lamb Rogan Josh

Keep calm and curry on! I am a staunch proponent of curry – any curry, any time – I’m totally there! When Ann suggested July’s Monthly Mystery Munchies theme – Indian – I was too excited. Give me any excuse to throw it down in the kitchen and I will take it. I know a lot of people don’t like to fuss, but I was in my element in the kitchen, trying various dishes for hours at a time, and after a stressful couple of months, I was blissing out on cinnamon, cardamom, masala, cloves, you name it. What a joy this past month has been! Oh, and my house smelled amazing! I’m sure my neighbours thought I was setting up a spice factory. I would absolutely be Ginger Spice, because I had that in abundance. Aah yes, I do like abundance of a culinary nature.

So, now the question was “which dish should I choose?”. Enter the willing guinea pigs: The Husband (always game), the sister from another mister, and a dear friend who inspires me with her incredible cooking, especially her Indian cuisine. We settled on lamb rogan josh, because lamb. It’s such a treat, being an expensive meat and it’s so not difficult at all! No slaving for hours upon hours (although, by my own admission, I kinda dig that) but not for this recipe. It’s fragrant and spicy but not hot, so it’s suitable for everyone.

Ann, inspired by Pinterest (it’s addictive) made Indian Bengali-style spicy eggs. Yáll, head on over to Grubbs ‘n Critters, like soon-ish, to check it out.

Now, let’s get curried away with this lamb rogan josh. Enjoy it!

Lamb Rogan Josh

  • Difficulty: Not brain surgery
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Supplies:

1kg diced leg of lamb
1/4 cup canola/vegetable oil
10 black peppercorns
5 green cardamom pods, sliced
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons garam masala
4 large tomatoes, pureed
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup water
175g double cream yoghurt
Fresh coriander
Basmati rice

Making it Happen:

Paste: Blitz the ginger and garlic with 4 tablespoons of water in a food processor. Set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottom non-stick pot, heat two tablespoons of oil, fry the lamb on medium heat until it’s browned on all sides. Remove from the pot.

In the same pot, heat the rest of the oil on medium heat and fry the peppercorns, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon for 1 minute. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and ginger paste, and fry for another minute. Take a deep breath and enjoy the aromatics emanating from the pot!

Sprinkle the rest of the spices into the pot and fry for 30 seconds, then add the lamb back into the pot, stir in the tomatoes, fill with water and simmer for half an hour, or until the lamb is tender.

Stir in the yoghurt and garnish with coriander. Serve with basmati rice.
(You can also make this ahead of time, refrigerate and reheat slowly on low on your stove.) 

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Monthly Mystery Munchies #26: Herby Lime Chicken with Fresh Jasmine Rice

Flower power! (I feel like I should gesture the obligatory peace sign now.) Oh, what a month! Our May Monthly Mystery Munchies has been packed with flavour, challenges, and fun. And swearing. And lots of broken electronics plus a hurricane thrown in for good measure. Here’s how it went…

I chose the theme, edible flowers, without doing much research. Ann at Grubbs n Critters, ever-willing, ever-keen, and not one to back down from a challenge, any challenge, embraced it. See, I have a jasmine shrub in my garden which would make it easy, right? Not so much! I tried a variety of jasmine recipes, each interesting, having never cooked with fresh jasmine before, I enjoyed playing around. Cooking, after all, should be fun! I finally found one I lurved. Ready to go? Nope. My laptop crashed, along with the recipe, photos (which I had deleted from my phone upon upgrading a few days earlier), and everything was irretrievable. Everything. Frantic email to Ann, with an expletive four-letter word as the subject, explaining the story, and she kindly agreed to postpone. Not to worry, said The Husband, he’ll organise a spare work laptop. Awesomeness. Erm, yeah, it was great until that too decided to crash. Yet another frantic email, yet another postponement, and Ann, ever-so-sweet and understanding, was very relaxed about it.

The Husband managed to revive his work laptop, so, onwards and upwards. Yay for being betrothed to an IT geek! A couple of days later, a hurricane hit Cape Town, or, as it was colloquially called, the “Moerse Storm”. Fortunately we have a gas hob, so cooking in the storm, with the concern of the power dying at any moment, was not an issue for this recipe, as it’s all done in a pan on the hob.

Back to the jasmine. Ann said she struggled with this challenge too, which made me feel slightly better. Sorry, Ann! Having moved to the Netherlands a while back, and being surrounded by beautiful flowers (check out her Instagram page for beautiful photos of said scenery – https://www.instagram.com/grubbsncritters/) Ann was keen. As always. What an amazing blogging buddy I have! Speaking of uhhh-mazing, check out her mucking afazing pansy and calendula flowers custard cake. Have. You. Ever!!!

Before I kill this laptop again, here is my recipe. One-pot (pan) limey, herby chicken with jasmine rice, using actual jasmine flowers, all in one dish. Check out Ann’s take on this month’s challenge here.

Herby Lime Chicken with Fresh Jasmine Rice

  • Difficulty: Totally doable for anyone
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Supplies:

 

500g boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 small onion, chopped
1 green chilli, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice; slice the other lime
3 bulbs of garlic, bruised and sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1.5 cups good quality chicken stock
½ cup water
1 can drained black beans
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup rice
5 jasmine flowers
Fresh coriander/cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil

Making It Happen:

In a large pan on medium, heat the olive oil and fry the cubed chicken, onion, chilli and garlic for 5 minutes, stirring, and turning the chicken pieces once. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the lime juice, oregano, stock and jasmine flowers.

Bring to a boil, add the rice and after 30 seconds, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the drained black beans and garnish with fresh coriander and lime wedges.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eatplayclove/

Monthly Mystery Munchies #25: Baked Orange-Pomegranate Chicken

This month’s Monthly Mystery Munchies theme was difficult. I felt like a thief… A really confused thief, but I had theeee best time playing around with recipes. Ann from Grubbs n Critters, who is my sweet dear friend and my Monthly Mystery Munchies partner-slash-best-blogging-friend, suggested we do a recipe swap. How much fun!? Too much (there is no such thing!). The idea is to take a recipe the other has made over the last 24 months, and make it our own. I am easily confused, I openly admit, and I suck at making decisions, especially when all the options are fantastic. There were two I wanted to make, but I didn’t have the heart to change the first one in any way, so I decided to make Ann’s baked chicken cutlets in orange-plum sauce. It’s settled.

Or is it? No, apparently not. I made the recipe and I was like, really? How am I supposed to change this? How can I improve it? No pressure! I decided to try orange-pomegranate instead of orange-plum, and I was pretty happy with the results. I swapped Worcestershire sauce with balsamic vinegar, and baked the chicken breasts in the fruit and honey while frying the veggies. I was definitely apprehensive about this dish, because I genuinely didn’t want to change anything, but this is exactly why we do it – to challenge ourselves, and each other, and sometimes my husband, who has to put up with my to-ing and fro-ing and “but do you think it will taste as good?”, or “I’m definitely sticking with this recipe” until 5 minutes later “maybe I should try another one instead?”, the next day “what if I try granadillas instead?”. Bless. He deserves a medal, but since he got several of Ann’s delicious meals over the course of three weeks, I think he’ll be fine.

Ann has undoubtedly produced something amazing. She always does, every month, without fail. Please check it out here. Ann, thank you so much for your wonderful suggestion this month. Although this was the hardest one to date, I enjoyed it immensely!

Baked Orange-Pomegranate Chicken

  • Difficulty: Dude, it's easy
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Supplies:

For the chicken marinade:

4 boneless, skinned chicken breasts
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
80g pomegranate seeds
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
½ teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon turmeric

For the veggies and rice:

1 onion, chopped
1 green, yellow, and red pepper, sliced
150g baby tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Fresh coriander to garnish
Brown and wild rice to serve

Making It Happen:

First check how long your rice will take to cook. Time it so that it’s cooked as soon as the chicken comes out of the oven (30 minutes).

Mix the balsamic vinegar, pomegranate seeds, orange juice, zest, honey and turmeric. Marinade the chicken for an hour or longer. Remove from the fridge half an hour before cooking, and let it come to room temperature. Cook in a preheated oven on 180°C (350°F) for 30 minutes. At this stage, cook your rice.

While the chicken is cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the baby tomatoes, puree and sesame oil, season with salt and pepper, and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the peppers and fry for 5 minutes.

Add the cooked rice to the fried veggies, and serve with the baked chicken. Garnish with coriander and serve.

Couscous Salad with Chickpeas and Fresh Veggies

It’s our second anniversary! Yay, we’re toddlers! It’s been two years since Ann, the hardworking, dedicated, passionate chefsordinaire at Grubbs n Critters, and I, started our Monthly Mystery Munchies, and it’s been an awesome experience. It’s been challenging, exciting, interesting, but, most of all, it’s been a hugely rewarding and positive experience. Ann, thank you for your commitment, enthusiasm, patience and friendship! Here’s to another two years!

This month, the theme was simple: green, yellow and red. That was it. I loved the simplicity of it, but also the wide range. I mean, anything goes, as long as it’s those colours. That’s the fun thing – we could make a meat dish, veggie dish, side dish, main dish, dessert, baked dish, anything! Absolutely anything! And how fun when I made a cold couscous salad, and Ann made a swiss roll! It’s all open to interpretation, which makes it curious and fun!

I chose couscous salad with baby tomatoes, red onions, a trio of peppers, olives and chickpeas. I serve this salad as a main course, and when I say it’s ridiculously easy, I’m not joking. There’s no cooking involved, except for preparing the couscous. That’s it. The whole thing literally takes five minutes – wash and slice the veggies while the couscous is standing in hot water. Mix together. Top with chickpeas. Done.

Ann made a giraffe-inspired Swiss roll and it looks delicious AF. I basically produced a five-minute dish, and she totally pushed the boat out! She added peaches as her ‘yellow’, but the kids weren’t feeling the vibe. I personally think it’s a great addition! Aaand she used red velvet colouring as the base, and stuffed it with so much yesssness (that’s a word, I promise! (I’m looking at you, mascarpone cheese!) The result? Well, check it out for yourself. (It does not disappoint!)

So, if you’re into raw, fresh ingredients, and you don’t have much time to prepare dinner, this is your guy. You can serve this as a side dish, which works well too. No fuss, no missioning, just easy, quick food. YES! However, if you’re looking for a Swiss roll stuffed with all things cream, Ann’s recipe is the way to go.

Couscous salad with fresh veggies

  • Difficulty: My 5 year old niece could ace this
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Supplies:

2 cups cooked couscous (soaked in water and chicken stock)
500g halved baby tomatoes
1 sliced red, yellow and green pepper
1 sliced red onion
Kalamata olives
30g crumbled feta
1 drained tin chickpeas

Making it Happen:

Cook the couscous per package instructions but add chicken stock to the water.
While the chicken stock is soaking, slice the veggies.
Add the chicken stock to a large dish, then add veggies and the drained chickpeas.
Crumble with feta and season with freshly cracked black pepper.