I don't claim to be an expert cook. Or a fancy cook. In fact, I never used to really enjoy cooking. So this is mostly about low fuss, filling and tasty meals, and really just anything I have a go at and decide to share along the way!! My top priority is avoiding additives and preservatives wherever possible closely followed by using whole/less processed/healthier ingredients. But for those who would like conventional options that are quick tasty and cost effective, I would like to share tips on all of these as well!!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A Healthy Chocolate Alternative

This is a super easy recipe based on the Chocolate Alternative recipe in the Taste of Vegetarian Cookbook.  It is fantastic because it allows you to have a treat that has nothing bad in it.  And as usual, because you make it yourself, you can choose high quality ingredients - organic, preservative free etc.  And it's yummy!

I use almonds but you can use any combination of nuts.

200g almonds
250g pitted dried dates
65g desiccated coconut (mine is sulphur free - no preservatives)
20g Cacao powder or organic cocoa.
1/4 tsp Celtic sea salt or quality salt
20g raw honey (find in Health food shops or buy through co-op)
70g coconut oil (cold pressed, unrefined, again Health food shops or co-op)

Grind nuts for 8 seconds on speed 7. Set aside
Chop dates, coconut, cacao, salt and honey for 30 seconds Speed 7.
Add nuts, add coconut oil and mix for 20 seconds on speed 5, or until completely mixed. 
Press mixture into slice tin and set in refrigerator.  
Chop into squares for your chocolate fix!

This is also a dairy free chocolate option (as long as your cocoa doesn't have milk solids - check label).

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Breakfast - Spelt Pancakes and juice!

For easy breakfasts with the Thermomix, we do lots of porridge, lots of steamed eggs (either sunny side up in the Varoma on baking paper, or in little cups/ moulds in Varoma) or eggs in the rice basket (instructions in Everyday Cookbook), or we do green chocolate smoothies with ground sesame seeds and linseeds, banana, baby spinach, cacao powder and ice.  Another easy option is a quick pancake mix.  And I LOVE the fact that the Thermomix has scales built in.  Really.  It makes so much difference to your food prep time, and your washing up!!!  Cooking takes a lot less effort somehow!

I have found a basic spelt, dairy free pancake recipe that I use, but I would still like to tweak it a little before posting the recipe.  But I served these with a fresh breakfast juice of orange, pineapple and carrot which was blended with ice for 2 minutes.  This breaks down the fruit and makes it more readily absorbable (is that a real word??!!!!) and all the fibre is incorporated.  Yummy, fresh and full of nutrients and vitamins for you.  Juicing in the Thermomix is all about experimenting and finding what you like.  There is some information in the Everyday Cookbook on how to go about some different options.  For our orange and spinach juice (or just orange juice) I just peel a few oranges, throw in some baby spinach, add some water, some ice and blend for about 10 seconds, leaving some "bits" in it as usually I don't like a thick blended juice as much.  Or if you would like more of a boost juice style juice, or need some sweetener in it, then follow the first part of the sorbet recipe (but lessen the sugar), but don't add the eggwhite or the second batch of ice, just add a little extra water.  You can throw in the citrus fruits peeled and whole (or a large orange I would break in half before adding it in), but if you would like to avoid the "tart" or bitter taste later after juicing, then try removing all the pips and make sure all the pith is removed.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Extreme Brownies

Ok.  I admit.  This is not the real healthy me coming out.  But in the interests of still using the best of ingredients, I have done these using Rapadura, Cacao and Spelt flour (this makes them quite expensive to make!).  But you can use normal sugar/brown sugar, normal cocoa, and normal plain flour if you like.  But there is still dark chocolate and a decent serving of butter, so yeah, not really ticking any healthy boxes around here.  I am just trying to cover all bases for people searching for recipes ;)  Recipe found here.

So if you need to "bring a plate" or give a little thank you gift, you absolutely cannot go past these!!!  They are absolutely divine, and bring the words "these can NOT be good for me" with every bite that you take.  But you will take more.  I guarantee it.

It's a no fail recipe.  I don't do step 3 (chopping the chocolate in the bowl), too many "setting asides" for my liking!  So while you do step 4, which is melting the butter for 2-3 minutes, I just break the chocolate into squares.  Then continue on your merry way.  Quickest, easiest, yummiest brownies ever.  I don't know whether it's just my oven (ever so unreliable), but these have the best crisp top and dense moist filling.  Yum!

Yes, I had cut it while it was still warm so it broke apart (best time to eat).
Yes, I only put 4 little odd pieces on the plate.
Yes, the rest may have been eaten.
But do only make these to give away.  Or maybe as a once a year VERY special treat.  Because you can't stop at one piece....  But you will get compliments from your recipients!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Shepherd's pie

I am really really enjoying the Travelling with Thermomix cookbook.   So far I have tried the Caesar Salad, Lemon Chicken and Shepherd's pie out of that cookbook and we have liked all of them.  The Lemon chicken was really nice and even cooked chicken legs in the bowl of the Thermomix, so a cost effective meat dish!

But back to Shepherd's pie!  I bought 500g of diced lamb for $8 (reduced because it was about to go past use by date!) so I didn't even need to dice it to make the mince.  Sliced mushrooms, onion, carrot, garlic, tomatoes.. then of course the mashed potato topping.  The potatoes steam in the Varoma while the mince filling is cooking in the bowl for 35 minutes after tomatoes have cooked down for 5 minutes, then you put the potatoes into the bowl and "mash".  All into the oven for 25-30 and all done.  A filling and delicious meal.  I probably spent about 15-20 minutes during that time where I was peeling and cutting potatoes, tomatoes etc, so a good one to do if you have some time early in the afternoon then leave the Thermomix to do it's role, and the oven then to finish off while you clean the kitchen/talk a walk/have a sleep!! I wish....

Thursday, 15 March 2012


In the interest of providing a healthy balance of mains and desserts ;) here is a Thermomix pavlova.

After making ice cream etc, you may end up with leftover eggwhites.  This pavlova used about 5 smallish eggwhites.

I used a recipe from www.recipecommunity.com.au and I thought it was a lovely tasting pavlova.  I know some people like their pavlovas with varying consistencies/crunches/sponginess!!!  But we all liked this one just as it was.

You warm the eggwhites to 50C too which is fantastic if they are straight from the fridge.

The trick to using the Thermomix for eggwhites, is that your bowl, lid and lid seal, and butterfly must be very clean.  Any grease will not go down well!  And because we use the thermomix for lots of main meals with oil etc, you really need to clean it well.  You can also do a vinegar rinse which will help as well.  Doing this for the lid seal and butterfly is a very good idea!

So, with butterfly in, you beat the eggwhites.  As you gradually add the sugar, you can sit it on the lid and just slowly "push" more through hole where the MC would usually be.

Here is a picture just after I have removed the butterfly (you can see the line where it was sitting).

Then pile how you like, ready to pop in the oven

And decorate with cream (whipped in Thermomix) and fruit as desired.  You really have to watch cream in the Thermomix!  Depending how fresh the cream is, it may only take 45 seconds, so I always take the MC off after I start whipping so that I can watch the cream on the side of the bowl thicken up.

We just did this one quickly as it was part of dessert for Friday night family dinner - and it was already cut and a dodgy photo was taken with the iPhone!

A Delicious twist you can do if you only have frozen strawberries is to add other fresh fruit and make a batch of Berry Coulis from the Everyday Cookbook to be added in.  Absolutely DIVINE!!!!  Another idea is fresh berries and the Lemon Butter to drizzle over also!  Yum!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Caesar Salad - Thermomix style!!!

To celebrate what I am sure is the last of our warm days, and the fact that this month incentive for purchasing a Thermomix is a free "Travelling with Thermomix" cookbook, I chose a recipe to try out of the cookbook.  This cookbook is not usually available for sale, so I didn't have a copy until the other night.  Flicking through, there are quite a few I would like to try and it is a really nice looking cookbook!  It features recipes from all over the world, some standard favourites.

I did make a few adjustments to the recipe as I was making it for the whole family as our dinner, so I added the chicken and bacon and cooked more eggs than the recipe asked for.

So here is the run down:

Place some eggs in the rice basket, put 500g water in the Thermomix bowl.  Steam for 13 minutes at Varoma temperature.

As soon as I put the eggs on, I started chopping my chicken.  If I had thought bit more, I would have chopped the bacon in the Thermomix for a few seconds before I started the eggs, but hence I did not.  So I quickly chopped the chicken (630g) and spread it evenly on the Varoma tray.  I then just put a few rashers in the Varoma bowl to steam.

So I probably took about 4 minutes to cut the chicken get it into the Varoma, so for the remaining time of the of the time, I started assembling the rest of my ingredients for the dressing.  Oil, anchovies, fresh lime juice, egg yolks etc etc.  I got out a salad bowl and broke up the cos lettuce to arrange in the bottom.  I also chopped some slices of bread into crouton cubes and put them under the grill for a minute or so each side (watch carefully!!!! They burn quickly)

Once the timer went off, I took the eggs out, ran them under cold water then put the chicken on for another 3-4 minutes - I actually think it was cooked already, but I am paranoid about chicken so always give it longer incase!!!  So while the chicken had another few minutes, I peeled the eggs (I did 4) and cleaned up some mess!

So once the chicken was finished, I took it off to cool for a couple of minutes while I cleaned out the bowl, then made the dressing - this took about 2 minutes, maybe a few seconds more ;)  I then sliced the eggs, pulled apart the bacon and added all of the ingredients to the salad bowl.  A drizzle of dressing and all done!

All in all, that is about what I did (I may have gotten some of the steps mismatched, but it is all about you and the Thermomix multi-tasking!!!)  But I did actually put the timer on and it took 38 minutes from getting out the first ingredients from the fridge (starting with eggs into the basket) to photographing the salad.  How great to serve a filling yummy dinner salad with freshly made dressing from scratch, including homemade bread croutons!!!

The kids and hubby all loved it, much tastier than our old bought dressing version, and usually I wouldn't have bothered with the eggs because I always lost track of time doing things on the stove, resulting in mismatched finishing times.  Hate that.  And using one appliance to cook all of the food at once (energy saving), then the dressing!  I would have usually spent the same amount of time, but nearly always burnt the bacon due to some distraction along the way (I know, I really don't sell myself as a great cook....)  I could have added a bit more bacon, another egg and more lettuce to make it go a bit further, but as it was, it was perfectly polished off with everyone satisfied!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Non-fried "Fried Rice"

I love to do this quick and easy dinner when there is just absolute bare minimum food left, at the end of the fortnight and you are in a hurry to get dinner on!  This recipe comes again from Quirky Cooking so visit for a more detailed explanation!!! (thank you again!).

It's great because you can usually really on the fact that you will at least have some rice, some eggs and then whatever fresh/frozen veggies you have left and whatever meat/prawns you have (or just have it vegetarian!)

I had 1 carrot, half a broccoli, frozen peas and 3 cobs of fresh corn!!!  And some frozen green prawns that needed to be defrosted and peeled before cooking.  See, really scraping the bottom of the barrel there!

So I started the rice cooking, a large batch for 20 minutes at Varoma temp, then chopped the carrot and broccoli and threw them in the bottom of the Varoma (they were going to take the longest, so get them in first).  Then I cut the corn off the cob and added that, then the frozen peas when there was just under 10 minutes left on the timer.  I then started peeling the prawns which had been sitting in some water to defrost - this is what took the most amount of time!!

you can add more veggies than I had
- time for the grocery shopping!

When there was about 5 minutes left on the timer, I gave the veggies a quick stir around so they cooked evenly, then I lined the top tray of the Varoma with wet baking paper, whisked 4 eggs together quickly, then poured the eggs onto the paper for a steamed omelette.  When the timer was finished, I tipped the rice in with the veggies, rinsed out the bowl, added 1 glove of garlic, chopped for 3 seconds, added some oil and the prawns and sautéed on 100 degree, Reverse + Speed soft for about 4 minutes (depending on how fresh or frozen the prawns are will depend on time - just make sure the garlic has enough time to cook out a bit!)

While the prawns are cooking, just slice up the omelette with your spatula and add that to the rest!  If I hadn't spent so long peeling the prawns, I could have just added them in the Varoma also!!  Prawns are super quick to cook, even from frozen.

I just "chopped" the omelette
so it looks messy, that is my time saving!!
Add the garlic prawns and sprinkle a good dose of soy sauce over the mixture!!  Can even add some honey too, if desired.  But we just have soy and it is very nice.  Easy, very healthy and a great use of the leftover bits and pieces you have!!!  You can add as many veggies as you have - as I was down to the very last, this isn't as big a serving as you could make - it easily feed a crowd!!! Even serve with some marinated chicken pieces etc.

There you go, easy Monday night dinner on the run, and very cheap!!! And we still have leftovers, so can serve as a side dish tomorrow night!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Thermomix Portugese Cream Tartlets

Yummmmmm.... has anyone tried the Portugese Cream Tartlets from the "My Way of Cooking" cookbook?  Or have you downloaded the app for iPhone or iPad?  It's only $8.49 and you get all of the recipes in the cookbook (which is worth $60) plus some extras, and a shopping list, menu planner, some videos... and there are some great recipes in there as well as lots of tips and variations.

Well, I was super excited today as I wanted to see if I could convert these to a dairy free version.  And guess what - delicious!!  And you would never know!

I do struggle with some things being dairy free, especially custard bases etc, as you really have to do the coconut cream option, and I get tired of everything tasting like coconut!!!  But this one, you absolutely wouldn't know if I didn't tell you.

I substituted the 250g of cream for 250 g coconut cream, and the milk I just made some rice milk before I made the custard.  I use Jo from Quirky Cooking's recipe for Rice-almond milk, but if I am just using it for baking, I just make it all on rice - even cheaper!!

So next I just need to try her spelt dairy free rough puff pastry to go with it (http://quirkycooking.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/spicy-chicken-vege-sausage-rolls-with.html).  I would have tried it today, except our house is on the market at the moment and I am really trying to limit being in the house as I can get calls for inspections any time (and I always get them when the house is looking its absolute worst!!), so less mess is best!!!

So here is a picture of the tartlets - I made some normal size and some mini... I know they don't look that great, but that is how they are supposed to look!!! Have a look at the app or cookbook!!  I promise!  But what a tasty morsel just sprinkled with cinnamon over the top!!

I will also substitute organic raw sugar and try Rapadura next time for a more non-refined sugar option and see how it goes.

EDITED to add whole recipe for those that don't have MWOC.

250g Milk (dairy free alternative)
250g coconut cream (use a good quality one - the taste of cheaper options aren't great in anything!)
170g sugar
50g flour (I used spelt)
5 egg yolks
1 cinnamon stick
lemon peel of half an organic lemon
500g puff pastry, made
Sprinkling of ground cinnamon top

Insert Butterfly.

Place milk, coconut cream, sugar, flour and egg yolks into bowl, mix 10 seconds, Speed 4.

Add cinnamon stick and lemon peel, cook 18 minutes, 90c, Speed 2 + Reverse. (although I did find the cinnamon stick was in a few pieces at the end, but maybe just me!)

Preheat oven to 200c.  Roll out pastry and cut 12 circles (approx 10cm diameter) and put into greased muffin trays.

Once custard is cooked, remove and discard cinnamon stick and lemon peel.

Pour filling into pastry cups, but don't fill to the top!  Bake in preheated oven for 25 -30 minutes until custard is set and browned a little.  Cool in muffin tray for 15 minutes, add a sprinkling of ground cinnamon.
Delicious warm or cold!!!

Monday, 5 March 2012


Firstly, you are not to be afraid of making bread!!  It really is soooo easy and saves a lot of money and trips to the shops for bread when you have run out!!!

For those that would like a preservative free option for a white loaf, then here it is!  I use the Basic Bread recipe in the Everyday Cookbook, but it you don't want it to be a wholegrain loaf by grinding grains to start, then simply substitute that 100g of wholegrains for 100g of Bakers Flour.  So you use 500-520g of Bakers Flour for each loaf.

Bakers Flour is not just plain flour.  It is a strong plain flour, so you won't get the same results with plain flour!  For those around the Newcastle area, Bibina sells 12.5kg bags so it is extremely cost effective, when you use it for your pizza bases, cinnamon scrolls, croissants, pull aparts, all of the different doughs you can make.  For others, it is cheaper to buy it in the 5kg bags at Coles etc.  It costs me approx 70 cents per loaf / 12 dinner rolls/ 2 large pizza bases/ etc for the flour.  Then you just add the cost of yeast and 20g olive oil and some salt!!

After speaking to a Baker, I got a lot of tips, although because I don't use a bread improver, the results are never going to be quite as good without a little bit of sugar, and bread improver - mainly for loaves.  But that's fine with me as I don't want to include those extra ingredients and I think the results are good enough.  Rolls and pullaparts you don't need to worry about that anyway as they are much more forgiving!!

Back to the basic bread.  If you want a really no fuss option, here is what to do.  If you haven't boiled the jug previously for your lukewarm water, then just weigh in you 300g of cold water or tap water, then set to heat on 37 degrees for 2 minutes Speed 2.  Then you have your warm water!  Then add your yeast and other ingredients, mix for 5 seconds on speed 6, then knead for 2 minutes.  If you want to, you can bump that time to 5 minutes and you will get a little fluffier result in the end.  

Once finished kneading, if you don't need your bowl for anything else, you can then just let rise for at least 20 minutes in the bowl, up to 30 minutes.  If you need your bowl, you can take out the dough, knead about 4 times by hand and wrap up in Thermomat, or place in oiled bowl and cover and leave for at least 20 - 30 minutes.  If you are doing rolls, they are a lot more forgiving with rising times etc than bread is.

After proving, if it is in the Thermomix bowl, knead for 30 seconds.  If it is in a bowl or Thermomat, then punch out the air, knead about 5 times by hand again.


If doing loaf:  Tip your dough straight into your loaf tin, then let rise in tin for another 30 minutes, or longer if desire, until the dough rises to the top of the tin.  Then put into the oven, set oven to 180C, letting the bread continue to rise while the oven heats up.  Then bake the bread at reached temp for time stated.  I set my oven for 45 minutes which allows it to heat up and cook, but my oven is definitely not average, so you may need to experiment with your own to know how long to cook for.  Some people let it rise fairly high then bake at a hot preheated oven up to 200C- spray with water if you want a nice browned soft crust on top.

If doing rolls:  Stretch out and break into desired amount of rolls and roll into balls - you can do about 12 small rolls or 7 large rolls.

Arrange on baking tray fairly close so they will rise and touch together.  If you have time, then let rise again for about 25 minutes covered, or keep spraying with water so the top doesn't dry out.  If you don't have time, then just place in a cold oven, set to 180C and bake for around 25 minutes, until browned on top - they will have a second rise as the oven heats up/You can put it straight into the cold oven without having the second rise, but your crust will break apart more.

These could have been placed a little closer together -
we were experimenting with different kneading times
and water temperatures, but they turned out beautifully!
If you would like a mixed grain loaf, you can just pour your seeds through the top during the last 30 seconds of kneading.

I make 2 loaves at a time, slice one and freeze it ready to use for toast or kids lunches, and use the other fresh.  I also try to mix up a batch of muffins or cake that I bake all at the same time so I am being very energy efficient!!

If you have a bit more time and would like a lighter, bakery style bread that stays fresher for longer, then try the Tang Zhong style bread here: http://www.forumthermomix.com/index.php?topic=6409.0  Read through the responses for different tips, but if you are kneading for 15 minutes, put your thermomix on the floor so you don't have to be worried about it falling off the bench, or watching like a hawk!!

Of course there are lots of other options with breads and grains, using gluten free options, or spelt flours  etc.  Pop over to www.quirkycooking.blogspot.com for all of these alternatives, she has some fantastic recipes and photos!!  Otherwise, I hope this inspires you to experiment a bit more with your breads!!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Thermomix Chilli Con Carne

We used to like chilli con carne as an easy tasty meal.  We used to use a packet flavouring and fry up some supermarket bought mince.  Hmmmmm... I really don't think I could bear to eat it like that again!

Have you tried the chilli con carne in the Everyday Cookbook?  It is versatile also - add corn chips (find a colour free variety!!), cheese and sour cream for nachos or just serve with pasta or make some tortillas and serve with tomato, lettuce, cheese etc, or even on top of jacket potatoes etc... you get the idea!  It's really tasty, but you do need to use your homemade vege stock and you need to mince your own meat - this is what gives it a lot more flavour.  When mincing your own meat, it is very simple.  You just need to have the meat cut into managable chunks and press the turbo button a few times until you have the desired consistency.  Don't "over mince"!!!  The chilli con carne uses fresh chilli, onion, garlic and herbs (if you like them), chops it all first, then add meat, mince it all together, saute for 2 minutes, then add tomatoes (can use fresh or canned - if fresh, then chop those earlier in thermomix), kidney beans, cook for 15 minutes and there you have it!!  A delicious base that can be used lots of different ways!

As always with cooking, do feel free to add or detract from recipes depending on your taste - don't be afraid to experiment!!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Brunch with friends...

Well, I must say I struggle with "brunch"!  I wasn't really sure what to serve up for some lovely friends coming to visit, so I decided to try something new and followed the croissants recipe from the 2012 Food Lovers Calendar.  They look lovely and so I thought I would give them a go.  In the name of continually experimenting of course!

I did serve them up with some savoury options also, but put on some lemon butter to finish.  Well, the croissants were polished off and the lemon butter was eaten from the spoon... by the guests.  I take that as a win.

Making the croissants, this is WRONG way to do it!!!  That's why I shouldn't experiment with guests... but luckily the end result was still tasty and I realised my mistake and tried to compensate!!!! (and I'm not a neat cook)...

The lemon butter is so easy and only takes 8 minutes, so I actually made it while we were eating.

I find the lemon butter versatile and have even put it into mini biscuit bases as a sweet treat.

I also made a fresh jug of pineapple and orange juice which was delicious, and ended with a fresh fruit sorbet (as by that time we had talked so much it was well after lunch!!).

And, of course, I forgot to take a photo of the croissants before they were all eaten, so I had one remaining piece that I had set aside as it was more cooked than the others (my oven drives me batty!!), so I took a pic of me about to polish it off!!

So neither of these options are really the healthiest in terms of fat and sugar.  But freshly made out of the kitchen, what a pleasure to serve them to guests!!

Thursday, 1 March 2012


What I love about the Thermomix is that even simple things you used to cook become even simpler.  And when you used to use 2 bowls or cooking apparatus, now you use one.  Take for example the humble quiche.  This is my mum’s simple and yummy quiche.  I used to actually pull out the frying pan and the mixmaster for this.  And cry with the onions for a few minutes.  And stand at the stove, stirring the onion and bacon… Because you know it’s the one second that you get distracted cleaning up is the second it turns from nicely browned to… well, charcoally.  Then wash the beaters, bowl, frying pan and spoon.  And pack it back into the cupboard.

But, distant memories!  No pulling out anything from anywhere.  Throw in a peeled, halved onion, chop 3 seconds, bacon, chop, add oil, sautee for 3 minutes.  Add cream and eggs (and tomatoes if you like, or baby spinach, but I was serving with tomatoes etc so didn’t bother!), mix on reverse for about 10 seconds and there you have it!  Pour into pastry lined dish (pastry premade by you if you were so inclined).  Bake!

And as it goes in the oven, you rest in the knowledge that the kitchen is already cleaned because the only other thing you used was a knife and chopping mat and you used the 3 sauteeing minutes to wash, wipe and put away!!!

I was trialling a dairy free version substituting the cream, so it isn’t as light and “creamy” looking as it normally would be…. But tasty nonetheless.  And disappeared promptly.