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no matter what the road block in life, a great recipe can get you back to the bright side

Sunday, 21 February 2010

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all”

For the last 4 years I've expanded my love for cooking and my love of food (with detrimental effects on my waistline I might add), and I had a wee slump at the end of last year where I just couldn't be bothered to cook proper meals any more, nor to experiment with food. I think this was due largely in part by stress in other areas of my life.

But I had a complete turn around after this weekend, I've got the cooking buzz again. Yesterday I got together with two lovely friends, Sarah and Bernadet and we partook in what could only be described as a Cooking Extravaganza! Each of us chose one baking recipe and one cooking recipe each and we got together in the kitchen and had an absolute blast! You would think that 6 recipes was a bit ambitious, and we thought that as well since we didn't finish and feast until 10:30pm. But when I look back on it I have no regrets because we had such a great time! We could have started a little bit earlier, and maybe not taken such a long mojito break (which I also don't regret AT ALL!) but even still the food we turned out was to die for and I think all of it could be considered restaurant standard. In fact I think we could open a small cafe as a side job and do quite well for ourselves! Alongside Sarah's geeky t-shirt business of course (Jug of Science)!

Our menu consisted of:
Fresh Scones with Strawberry Jam
Maple Syrup Granola with Dried Fruit
Breakfast Muffins with Pumpkin Seeds

Apple Mojitos

Baked Polenta with Greens
Loaded with Veg Pizza
Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sauce Verde

And because the food we prepared together was so great I thought I would share it on here! I don't have all the recipes yet, but once I get the rest I will post them on here also!

Please take advantage and enjoy, and I would thoroughly suggest getting a group of great people together because it makes the food taste all that much better when you make it with love and laughter! Enjoy! :)

Baked Polenta & Greens
makes about 8 good size slices


* 1/4 cup butter
* 1/8 cup olive oil (w. the 1/8 cups - i just guessed)
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
* good pepper
* 1 1/2 cup organic chicken stock (if you have homemade - use that)
* 3/4 cup cream
* 1 1/4 cup milk
* 1 cup cornmeal
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1. Heat butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, salt and pepper and saute for about 1 minute.
2. Add chicken stock, half-and-half, and milk and bring to a boil.
3. Remove from heat and slowly sprinkle the cornmeal into the hot milk while stirring constantly with a whisk (this is important, otherwise your polenta get chunky and you don't want that).
4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until thick and bubbly. It will bubble a lot, its like hot lava releasing air every two seconds, so be weary of the pops, you can get burned. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan. Pour into a round cake pan (8 or 9 inches OR you can use a 9 by 13 pan, smooth the top, and refrigerate until firm and cold.
5. Turn the broiler on rack about 5" from the heat.

6. Once polenta has cooled and set, invert your dish to remove and pat the polenta dry. Cut the chilled polenta like you would a pizza or cake and brush each slice with olive oil.
7. Broil until the polenta is golden brown (6-10 minutes...)


* 1 small red onion, diced
* 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
* 1 bunch of spinach or collard greens sliced and dices (or, really, whatever you want to use!)
* salt & pepper
* juice of 1/2 of a fresh lemon

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and red pepper flakes and cook until soft (3-5 minutes).
2. Add the greens and cook until wilted. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice; toss.
3. Serve underneath the polenta wedges.

Granola Recipe:
* 3 cups (300 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
* 3/4 cup (75 grams) sliced or slivered almonds
* 1/2 cup (45 grams) raw sunflower seeds
* 1/2 cup (45 grams) raw pumpkin seeds
* 1/2 tablespoon (5 grams) wheat germ (optional)
* 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons canola oil or 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, melted
* 1/2 cup (120 ml) pure maple syrup (preferably Grade A Dark Amber)
* 1 cup dried fruits (cranberries, cherries, apricots, dates, figs, and/or raisins) (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Either butter or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the rolled oats, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, ground cinnamon, and salt.

In a small bowl, stir together the oil (or melted butter), and maple syrup
. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and toss together, making sure all the dry ingredients are coated with the liquid. Spread onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 30 - 45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally so the mixture browns evenly. (The browner the granola gets (without burning) the crunchier the granola will be.) Place on a wire rack to cool. You will notice that the granola may still be sticky when it is removed from the oven but it will become crisp and dry as it cools. Make sure to break up any large clumps of granola while the mixture is still warm. Once the granola has completely cooled, store in an airtight container or plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will keep for several weeks.

Makes about 5 cups.

Note: Once the granola has cooled completely you can add a variety of dried fruits; cherries, cranberries, raisins, and apricots are popular choices.

Breakfast Muffins with Pumpkin Seeds
Makes 6 large or 12 small muffins

* wholemeal flour 125g sifted
* plain flour 125g sifted
* baking powder 2 tsp
* molasses sugar/muscavado sugar 100g
* pumpkin skins a handful for the mix and extra to  
* sprinkle on top
* sultanas/raisins a handful
* oil 100ml – e.g. sunflower
* bananas 4 very ripe and mashed
* eggs 2 lightly beaten
*milk 2 tbsp

*NOTE* I also added about a tsp of each cloves and cinnamon!!

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Line the non-stick muffin tray with muffin cases or baking paper.

Mix the flours together, baking powder, sugar, seeds and sultanas in a bowl, (this is where I added the cloves and cinnamon), then add the oil, banana, eggs, and milk. Fold quickly with a large metal spoon and don't worry if the mix is still lumpy – mixing for too long makes the muffins tough.

Divide the mixture between muffin tins. Fill them to the top sprinkle on a few extra seeds and bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins are cooked through.

Cool briefly and put on a wire rack.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

NOTE – This recipe calls for the use of wonton wrappers but we opted to instead make our own ravioli and mixed together 6 large eggs (or 12 yolks) with 600g of tipi 00 (pasta) flour. Wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge for about 30 mins, then roll it out, fill it and seal with water.

1 Butternut squash
Olive oil
2 tbsp Butter
1/2 cup Finely diced yellow onion
5 Garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Fresh basil leaves, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 package Wonton wrappers -, (50 count)
3 tbsp Cornstarch, mixed with
3 tbsp Cold water
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp Chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup Diced tomato

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut butternut squash in half, remove seeds
and brush cut sides with olive oil. Place cut-sides down on lightly
greased baking sheet and bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes or until
tender. Cool. Melt butter in skillet and saute onion and garlic.
Transfer to a large bowl. Scoop out squash and place in the bowl with
ricotta cheese, basil, salt and pepper. Mash to a coarse paste. For each
ravioli, place a wonton wrapper on a lightly floured surface. Spoon
filling, about the diameter of a 50-cent piece and about 1/4-inch thick,
onto the center of the wrapper. Lightly wet the edges of the wonton with
the cornstarch mixture. Lay a second wrapper over the filling and press
the edges onto the bottom piece. Trim edges with ravioli cutter.
Carefully place filled ravioli in a large pot of boiling water, one at a
time and stirring very gently. Cook for about four to five minutes.
Remove cooked ravioli with slotted spoon and place on plate. Add Lemon
Cream Sauce (see recipe) or other sauce and top with Parmesan cheese,
tomato and parsley. Serves 4.

NOTE - We used a full 1 cup of ricotta cheese!

Comments: Uncooked ravioli can be lightly floured, laid flat until frozen,
and then stored in plastic zipper bags. For a tasty treat, rinse the
squash seeds, season them with salt and roast in a 350 degree oven until
golden brown

Sauce Verde
1 cup Packed fresh parsley
1 cup Packed fresh spinach
1/4 cup Butter or margarine
- softened
1/4 cup Olive or vegetable oil
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Grated Romano cheese
2 tbsp Chopped walnuts
1 Garlic clove
3/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Dried basil leaves
Walnut halves

1. Cook pasta according to directions; drain.

2. Meanwhile, wash parsley and spinach; shake to remove excess water,
allowing moisture to cling to leaves. In blender or food processor,
process greens with remaining ingredients except walnut halves until
mixture is a thick puree with some specks still visible. If sauce
seems too thick, add small amount of water. (Sauce thins out on hot

3. Toss hot pasta with sauce. Serve immediately. Garnish with walnut
halves. 4 servings.

NOTE – We didn't garnish with walnut halves, we also used mixed chopped nuts because I couldn't find just walnuts. And couldn't find romano cheese and used Jarlsberg instead!

Homemade Scones with 
Strawberry Jam 
(awaiting recipe)

Loaded with Veggies Pizza
(awaiting recipe) 

Apple Mojitos
(awaiting recipe) 

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