Craisin & White Choc Oatmeal Cookies

I’ve had an urge to bake cookies this week – I think it’s the cold, rainy weather – far more than I’ve actually had an urge to eat cookies. Surely I’m not the only person that craves the cook more than the result sometimes? However, the result of this urge wasn’t exactly a hardship: chewy, soft cookies that are tart and just sweet enough. Better yet, the result was just that little bit different to a standard chocolate chip cookie (not that I would ever badmouth such a classic!), without being as indulgent as my Reeces snickerdoodles or blackforest cookies (neither of which have made it to my blog, but surely I won’t hold on you forever!), and therefore the perfect compromise.

At 130 calories per cookie, these are pretty standard in terms of your chocolate chip biscuit, which was reassuring, because some cookies hit double this without much increase in size or flavour, and really, you want your treats to be worth it. To me, I haven’t met a cookie worth nearly 300 calories, but I find 130 calories is easy to build into a reasonable day. And really, we’re all entitled to a little treat now and then. The more time I spend in this healthier lifestyle, the less I worry about numbers. It’s a liberating feeling, but I still like knowing what I’m eating, so I keep tabs on caloric values, even if I no longer count them like I used to.

Yield: 24 cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 egg

1tsp vanilla extract

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup self raising flour

pinch of salt

3/4 cup craisins

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 175C and line 3 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Beat sugars and butter for 5 minutes, until pale and creamy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat to incorporate.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add to butter mixture a little at a time, mixing until completely combined.
  4. Roll tablespoonfuls into balls and place 8 on each tray, leaving a few centimetres for slight spreading.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes until firm and golden. Cool on tray for a few minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

NB from Master 12, Miss 9 and The Husband: apparently, they make a fantastic ice cream sandwich.

NB from Mac the dog:


“I am the goodest boy and didn’t eat the cookies, even though Mama left us together unsupervised. She should reward me. With cookies.”

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Okonomiyaki

I’ve made a few savoury Japanese pancakes in my time, but this is the closest I’ve come to the okonomiyaki I’ve eaten that were actually made by Japanese people. Other attempts have generally tasted more frittata-esque, lacking the body I craved, and being just a little too eggy (not a complaint that this egg-lover often makes). I do like this one, though. And so did everyone else. A true indicator of how good a dish I make is, is whether or not the leftovers are left over the next day. Both boys in my house eradicated every last crumb of the bit I stashed away for tomorrow morning before I’d even finished my first round.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that most of my blog posts have some iteration of “it’s so quick and easy, it’s low calorie, and uses simple, wholesome ingredients”. What can I say, I have a type! And this is no different. A very generous serve of this is 450 calories, and when I say “generous”, I mean it. It’s a big slice, and it’s very filling, as it’s jam packed full of veggies. I say it serves 4, but 5 at 340 calories isn’t a stretch whatsoever.

Ingredients

200g streaky bacon

1 zucchini, coarsely grated

1 carrot, coarsely grated

1 onion, coarsely grated

1/4 green cabbage, shredded

500g cooked prawns, shelled

1 cup self raising flour

1 cup water

4 eggs

Salt and pepper, to taste

Barbecue sauce, to serve

Mayonnaise (Kewpie, preferably), to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. In a large oven-proof skillet, cook bacon, removing from heat before it gets crispy (it will crisp up in the oven, and nobody wants burnt bacon!). Set aside on a plate, leaving the grease in the pan.
  3. Place all the vegetables and prawns in the hot skillet, and cook over medium heat, tossing gently, for 5 minutes, until cabbage has wilted, but not coloured.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, flour and water into a smooth batter. Season well. Pour over the vegetables in the skillet, and mix very gently to distribute the veggies evenly. Cook over the medium heat for 2-3 minutes , until the base is starting to firm up.
  5. Place the bacon rashers over the top and gently press into the batter. You’re not looking to fully submerge the bacon, here.
  6. Transfer skillet to oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until set and golden. Remove from oven, drizzle with sauces and serve warm. (I’m really light on the mayo because it’s a total calorie bomb, but feel free not to be so stingy!)

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Tropicana rolls

OK, this one’s more for the kids. That’s not to say that they’re not delicious – they are – but I prefer a less dense, carby lunch option most of the time. At over 300 calories per roll, they’re not the most calorie-efficient option in my repertoire. However, the kids and their friends gobble them up, and they’re such a cheap and easy fun alternative to fast food or boring old sandwiches. I make them every now and then during term for the kids to take to school, and more often again during the holidays to throw in a bag with some fruit and snacks for days out, or afternoons at baseball (go the Blue Sox!). They freeze really well, too, so it’s super handy to make a double batch and stash a few for whenever you need them. Oh! And you can definitely fry up some diced bacon instead of the pepperoni with no decrease in deliciousness, but the pepperoni is much easier and my kids prefer the little spicy kick that it provides.

With an almost-teenaged-boy-who-is-growing-like-a-weed in the house, I make them pretty big to try and keep his stomach quiet for more than a few minutes, and find that they’re not too big for the also-won’t-stop-growing 9 year old daughter. You can stretch these out to yield 12 rolls, but we make 8 with no complaints from anyone, ever.

Ingredients

4 cups self raising flour

1 cup grated cheese

180g pepperoni, diced

1/3 cup diced pineapple, drained

500ml butter milk (or whole milk with 2tbs lemon juice, left to sit for about 5 minutes to curdle, which is how I normally do it), plus just a little more for brushing.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cheese, pepperoni and pineapple. Stir to combine.
  3. Make a well in the centre and add milk. Stir until dough comes together in a craggy ball.
  4. With damp hands (because the dough is STICKY), shape dough into 8 balls and place on prepared trays.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden on top, and hollow-sounding when tapped.

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Baked Polenta Chips (Scagliozzi)

Polenta is not something I really grew up eating, and because I was unfamiliar with it, it took a fair bit of time to work out exactly how to cook it. I remember trying to cook it for my son when he was a baby, and was left confused by the resulting gluggy weirdness and how the hell I was supposed to cut it into fingers.

Clearly, I was still learning, and managed to find some really vagueless recipes that offered little guidance to the still-learning-how-to-cook new mother desperate to raise a good eater (I did manage to succeed in that, despite my complete ignorance of cooking cornmeal). Thankfully, over the past 12 years, I’ve learned how to find and evaluate good recipes, and combine them into something that works for me.

Which brings me to my spin on baked polenta chips. I’m thrilled to report that my son DOES in fact love them (sorry for the delay, dude!)… as did my daughter and husband. I did too. I know that traditionally, scagliozzi is fried, but on top of preferring a lower calorie side dish, I’ve never really been a big fan of deep fried food (except for really good chips). However, when baked, these are a cheesy, tasty treat that the whole family will gobble up. Prepared this way, 1/5 of the recipe is only 250 calories, and considering how filling it is, that’s pretty good! Some lean meat and steamed veggies, and you’ve got yourself and amazing meal.

Do keep in mind that you need to make the polenta the night before (or up to two days ahead), but even though it’s a 2 part recipe, neither part takes very much time or effort.

ingredients

250g instant polenta

1 litre chicken stock

1tbs butter

Spray oil (or 1.5 tbs olive oil, but the spray oil makes it easier)

Salt and pepper to taste

4tbs grated parmesan

Method

The night before

  1. Line a large, shallow baking dish with baking paper and spray lightly, or brush with half a tablespoon of the oil.
  2. Bring stock to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. In a very slow stream, and whisking vigorously all the while, pour the polenta into the stock.
  3. Continue whisking for about 5 minutes, or until the polenta easily moves from the side of the pan when stirring.
  4. Remove from heat and stir the butter in until completely melted.
  5. Pour into prepared dish and spread until about 1cm thick. Allow to cool, then refrigerate (uncovered) overnight or up to two days.

45 minutes before serving

  1. Preheat oven to 210C. Remove dish from fridge and cut polenta into fingers. Allow the dish to come to room temperature for about 10 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle polenta with salt, pepper and parmesan, then spray/drizzle with oil.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. You may wish to check after 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

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Apple, Spinach and Chorizo Frittata

Ahhh, frittatas. So easy, so delicious, so good at making a meal out of the most basic ingredients.

This particular frittata, for example, is so stupidly easy, yet the flavour is almost undeservingly wonderful. Such marvelous results for such little effort or need for cooking expertise. I mean, isn’t that the best kind of cooking? All the results for little effort? In my busy, lazy world it is.

This frittata is so versatile, too. You can make it the night before, which is perfect for Thursday nights when the daughter and I both have netball training, the son has baseball, and the husband has a killer commute. It’s a meal in itself, but light enough for those nights when you don’t want a full dinner. And, best of all, while doesn’t last long in my house as everyone loves it, if I can keep it away from snacky, sneaky hands, it lasts two or three days for a great work lunch. A larger serving (1/4) is only 360 calories, and a smaller serving (1/6) is 240. Add some veggies or a salad, and you’re absolutely good to go – and it’s more filling than just the larger serve.

Ingredients

2tsp olive oil

180g chorizo sausage, sliced into coins

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 red apple, thinly sliced

100g baby spinach

9 eggs

60g milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Heat oil in an ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Cook chorizo for five minutes, or until golden. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes, until softened. Transfer both to a bowl, but keep oil in the pan.
  3. Place apple slices in pan and cook for 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden and starting to soften. Remove to a separate plate or bowl.
  4. Add spinach and stir briefly until just wilted. Return onion and 3/4 of the chorizo to the pan, and distribute evenly in the pan.
  5. In a clean bowl, whisk eggs and milk until combined. Pour into pan, over the spinach mixture.
  6. Arrange remaining chorizo and apple slices over the egg. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes, shaking occasionally, until eggs just start to set. Transfer to oven, and bake for 12-15 minutes until egg is golden and cooked though.

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Pork and Mushroom Udon Soup

Silly me, I called out a dangerous sentence in my household this morning. I should have known better, or stopped myself when I felt it coming on, but nonetheless, “I’m doing a shopping list, what do we want for dinner?” fell out of my mouth. Such a question will result in one of two responses: a shrug of the shoulders and non-committal grunt of “I don’t know”, or a very excited, specific request.

Today, I got the latter. The 12 year old Japanophile piped upped almost instantly, “Ramen!” and of course, he didn’t mean the cheap, quick 2 minute noodle style (thankfully, because I really don’t care for those). I tried to point out that even in Japan, people don’t make ramen at home, they go to a noodle house. He saw right through that, and I found myself at the huge Asian supermarket not too far from my house.

As grumpy as I sound, I am of course, quite pleased with the outcome. I cook a lot of soup, even a lot of Asian style soups, but I think this might have been the best yet. I got a little inspiration from Nigella Lawson, a little from the Japan cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, and a little from years of eating ramen and never coming across one I didn’t love. I won’t claim pure authenticity, but I will claim deliciousness. And healthfulness – it’s pretty wholesome at only 450 calories a serve.

Ingredients

20g dried, sliced shiitake mushrooms

5 cups dashi or chicken stock

2tsp minced ginger

2tsp white miso paste

2 radishes, thinly sliced

1tbs soy sauce

2tsp olive oil

300g pork loin, thinly sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper

4 eggs

400g udon noodles

2 bok choy, shredded, or 100g baby spinach

8 slices narutomaki

scallions, sliced thinly, to serve

1 small chilli, sliced thinly, to serve.

Methods

  1. Place mushrooms, stock, miso and ginger in a large saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. In the last 3 minutes, add radishes and soy sauce. Meanwhile, continue with the following steps.
  2. Saute the pork in the oil over high heat until just cooked through, Set aside.
  3. Boil eggs for 6.5-9 minutes, until set to your preference. We like a 6.5 minute egg, where it’s hard around the outside of the yolk and still slightly soft toward the middle. When done, remove with a slotted spoon, reserving the water, and run under cold water, peel and set aside.
  4. Place udon in the water from the eggs and cook for 4 minutes, or to package instructions. Drain and rinse.
  5. To assemble, place noodles in bowls. Add spinach/bok choy and pork, then ladle in soup. Top with narotmaki, scallions and chilli.
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Cherry Tomato and Zucchini Rice Bake

I wish I knew where – if anywhere – I’d seen this recipe, but I have no idea. I vaguely remember making something similar years and years ago with tuna, and feeling like the tuna ruined it, but I can’t even remember if anything other than rice was common to this dish. All I know is that I’ve been wanting a rice side dish that wasn’t fried rice all week, and kind of just threw it together and hoped for the best.

It worked. The husband ate the leftovers (AKA tomorrow’s lunch) as seconds, much to my horror. It was tasty yet simple (absolute perfect for a Wednesday night where I have a night of lesson planning ahead of me) but I fear that if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget what I did and then never make it again. And that would be tragic.

To add to the happiness surrounding this side dish, it was far fewer calories than I’d anticipated – just 235 per serve, making it an awesome dinner with some lean meat and more veggies – we added grilled pork loin and broccoli, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This calorie count is for a yield of 5 serves; For almost exactly 300 calories, you can have it serve 4, but with the meat and veg, one fifth was perfect. And would have been a perfect amount and calorie count for lunch, too. Not that I’m bitter or anything…

Ingredients

1 cup (200g) raw basmati rice

2 cups chicken stock

1 tsp olive oil

1 brown onion, finely diced

1 medium zucchini, finely diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1tsp minced ginger

200g cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or quartered, if they’re a bit larger)

1/4 cup grated parmesan

2 eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. In an oven proof skillet, add rice and stock and bring to the boil on stove. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until just tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Turn off the burner, place a tea towel over the skillet and firmly cover with a lid. Rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in another pan, heat oil over medium low heat. Add onions and cook for five minutes, until translucent. Add ginger and garlic and cook for a minute or so. Add zucchini and tomatoes, and cook until softened but not coloured. Set aside until rice is ready.
  4. Stir vegetables through the rice. Mix in the parmesan and egg
    until fully incorporated, and smooth down with a spoon or spatula.
  5. Season well and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until golden and firm.

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Pumpkin and Fruit Protein Cookies

It’s always great looking for fresh, new snacks that get me happy to be cooking and ready for the week ahead. Bliss balls, veggie muffins, any little thing I can munch on mid-morning to get me through the work day, that not just satisfies my hunger, but also my desire for yummy, interesting food. I’m a creature of habit, but don’t like eating the same thing over and over again.

Which brings me to these cookies whose deliciousness belies the nutritional punch that they pack in every bite. Crunchy, sweet, seedy, oaty, and just salty, they’re a fantastic work snack for only 90 calories apiece (for a yield of 30 cookies). Granted, they’re not very large, but one of these and a piece of fruit or veg, and you’ll be good to go for ages. You could also make them 1.5 times larger and cook them a few minutes longer, because 135 calories for a substantial snack is nothing too terrible, either. I just like them little and cute, I guess! I used Kodiak power cake mix, and highly recommend it for both flavour and added protein, but wholemeal flour works well, too.

Ingredients

225g raw pumpkin, chopped roughly

1tbs butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup sultanas

1/3 cup pepitas

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup rolled oats

2 cup Kodiak Power Cake mix or wholemeal flour

Method

  1. Steam pumpkin for 10 minutes, until very tender. Drain, and mash with butter until very smooth. Allow to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 180C and line baking trays with non stick baking paper.
  3. Add sugar, butter, egg and vanilla to pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.
  4. Stir in pepitas and sultanas.
  5. Combine Kodiak with rolled oats and fold into mixture to combine.
  6. Allow to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.
  7. Roll mixture into 30 balls and bake for 12 minutes or until firm.

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Sweet Chilli Dumpling Stir Fry

Why did I never think to do this?! Why did I inhabit this planet for 33 years without this?!

I LOVE stir fry, we eat some version of it weekly. I LOVE dumplings. My whole family would subsist on nothing but pot stickers, xiao long bao and wontons, given half the chance. Combining the two was so obvious. So perfect. So… not something I’d ever considered until I came across a recipe from taste.com.au. I’ve made it a couple of times, and never the same way twice: different dumplings, different veggies, different ratios. The sauce is amazing, and that always stays the same, but the beauty of stir fry is that you use what you have. So this recipe is a guideline, a serving suggestion at best. But a truly delicious suggestion that I urge everyone to make their own. I’ve made these with various flavours, shapes and styles of dumplings with success, but find pot stickers are the hardiest, and therefore, best to toss around. But substitute away… it’s all good. One day I’ll be super smug and use homemade dumplings (I went to a funky class months ago, and so far have done nothing with that experience), but I’m absolutely not above throwing in some good quality frozen pieces.

This meal serves 4, and is about 350 calories per serve. Of course, that’s hard to gauge when you change everything each time, but if you stick to the spirit of the recipe, it’s a safe bet.

Ingredients

1.5 tbs peanut oil

400g dumplings of your choice – I’m partial to prawn or pork

100ml water

1 onion, thinly sliced

200g mushrooms, sliced

1 small handful of baby capsicum, sliced (or 1 regular pepper)

4 heirloom carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks

1 small head broccoli or 3 bunches broccolini, cut florets and stalks thinly sliced

100g beans or snow peas, trimmed

400g can baby corn, drained

3 cloves garlic, minced

1tsp minced ginger

1/4 cup oyster sauce

2tbs sweet chilli sauce

1/4 cup Shaoxing wine

Large handful baby spinach

Method

  1. You’ll want everything ready to go before you start. Chop all vegetables and place in one large bowl. Combine oyster sauce, sweet chilli sauce and Shaoxing wine in a jug and set aside.
  2. In a large frypan with a lid, heat 1tbs oil over medium heat. Add dumplings and cook one side without turning or stirring. Carefully pour water into pan (it will sizzle like mad… I often turn the heat down to low because it freaks me out a little), cover with lid and steam for 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate with slotted spoon and keep warm (this is a quick method – throwing a clean teatowel over it should do the trick).
  3. Heat remaining oil in a hot wok (you can use a frypan, in fact I have most of the times I’ve cooked this, but since getting one recently, I cannot recommend a wok highly enough!) and add all the vegetables, ginger and garlic. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes, until veggies are tender but not mushy.
  4. Pour the sauce over the veggies and give a good stir.
  5. Add the spinach and dumplings and turn gently until the dumplings are coated with sauce and the spinach is wilted.

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Sweet Chilli Chicken and Corn Soup with Pumpkin Scones

Oh, look! Another soup! It’s cooling down here now, and I’m swapping my salads for soups as my seasonal staples. I’ve been making this soup for years, and it’s an absolute winner. I mean, chicken and corn soup isn’t anything overly special, but the sweet chilli sauce – such a simple addition to such a simple dish – makes such a difference to the versions I ate growing up. Adding a pumpkin lemonade scone for dipping makes this a delightfully delicious light meal that will leave you feeling like you’ve partaken in something special. Yet, it’s a cinch to make, and so very budget friendly. A serve of each sits right at 400 calories, making it the perfect winter warmer.

Sweet Chilli Chicken and Corn Soup

Serves 4 at 300 calories per serve

Ingredients

1.25 litres chicken stock

2 garlic cloves, minced

1tsp minced ginger

1 onion, finely diced

420g can creamed corn

200g sweetcorn kernels

300g chicken thigh fillets, skin removed

2tsp soy sauce

1tbs sweet chilli sauce

2 eggs whites, beaten

Salt and pepper, to serve

Method

  1. Bring stock to the boil. Add garlic, ginger, corn, onions and chicken to the stock, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until chicken is mostly cooked through.
  2. Remove chicken from the stock, and using two forks, shred meat. Return to stock and resume simmering (uncovered) for five minutes or until cooked through.
  3. Stir through the soy and sweet chilli sauces. In a thin stream, slowly pour in the egg whites, whisking the soup to incorporate evenly. Cook for another minute, then serve with a generous crack of black pepper and salt to taste

Pumpkin Scones

makes 16 at 100 calories each (they freeze really well)

Ingredients

300g pumpkin (weight without skin and seeds)

2 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon maldon salt flakes

1/2 cup lemonade (Schweppes works well as it’s not too sweet)

1/2 cup thickened cream

1tbs milk

Method

  1. Steam pumpkin until very tender, drain and cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 220C and prepare a tray with non-stick baking paper (I give it a little spray with oil anyway, because I have trust issues).
  3. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.
  4. Combine cream and lemonade. Pour into flour, and using a flat blade knife, mix to combine. Don’t overmix, but do ensure the flour is incorporated. The dough will be rather wet and sticky.
  5. Using a tablespoon or, better yet, a soup spoon, dollop spoonfuls of mixture on the prepared trays, shaping them into neat rounds with only a few millimetres of space between them.
  6. Brush with milk and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly on the tray. Serve with soup as they are, or spread with just a little butter or (as I tend to do) cottage cheese.

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