Healthy veggie bites and back to school lunch ideas

The Reject Shop asked me to come up with some back to school ideas for them recently. It really got me thinking.

 

About how my eating habits have changed since I was at school. And to be honest, they’ve pretty much stayed the same. I still LOVE food, I don’t think I’ve ever been a fussy eater.

 

It helped that my mum always made the best lunches. I was the girl at school with lunches that other people envied – leftover schnitzel wraps, salad sandwiches piled high with delicious fresh vegetables, spag bol… she set such a high precedent that I worry that I’ll disappoint my future children! My own mother set the lunch bar so high that it makes me evaluate my work lunch choices much more harshly than most.

Apple and rhubarb pie and produce

previewOver the weekend the boy and I went to Orange Grove Markets. I got what I needed and we grabbed a delicious bacon and egg roll for brekkie. It was a regular Sunday morning.

It wasn’t until we made our way to leave that I found this amazingly oversized rhubarb. it was so ridiculously enormous that I made The Boy pose with it in several locations until I got a photo that did it justice. (If you don’t follow me on instagram and wish to see important updates such as my giant rhubarb, click here.)

Omelette waffle and new toys

aboveI bought a waffle iron. I could not be more excited. The minute I got home from buying it I made this recipe. Things just taste better waffle-shaped! I got it from Wheel and Barrow, on the recommendation of Alice from Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind. (Thanks Alice!)

So even though I had intended on posting this tart today, I can’t. This waffle omelette (wamelette? Omelaffle?) needs to be introduced to the world. I’m too excited about it.

This all started because of my trip to Mooberry, where I had delicious plain waffles drizzled in melted milk chocolate – so simple, but SO good. But now that I’ve got my own waffle maker, there is no end to what I can make!

Date and cashew fudge and adventures

icingOne of my friends lives about an hour out of Sydney, so every now and then I go on an adventure to Elderslie. It’s really not that far away from where I live, but it’s so different. There are farms and horses and farm fresh veggies at ridiculously reasonable prices. There are some pretty cute cafes, and I’m slowly working my way through each of them.

It’s beautiful as well – because of the slight climate difference, the cherry blossoms in Sally’s area start earlier than they do in mine.

And around Christmas the jacaranda blooms come out with such vibrancy that it takes your breath away; they carpet the streets with their purple, silken flowers. The reason I’m telling you about her is because she’s a little bit of a health-nut, and I made this dessert to take to her. She runs an Instagram account dedicated to raw/vegan/healthy food…her page is pretty much the antithesis of Baking with Gab!

Blueberry baked oat bowls and breakfast obsession

aboveI ADORE BREAKFAST.

It’s no secret. On days where I’m at work, it pains me slightly to have a measly slice of toast, or a pathetic bowl of rice bubbles. I start work at 7, and I’m not that much of a morning person, so I literally don’t have the time to make myself something epic for brekkie every morning. It’s not that I don’t appreciate toast and rice bubbles…they just don’t knock my socks off.

So on days where I’m not working, I prioritise breakfast. I debate whether I want to make baked eggs or chocolate pear bread.

Or if I want to go to a café and get poached eggs (a personal favourite.) Or grilled peaches on muesli. Or scrambled eggs. Or avocado on on toast…. you get the point.

Cream buns with mock cream and indulgence

bunsIt’s Valentine’s day today and I thought cream buns would be a cute things to post. I’m not really one for pet names, but I think that “my little cream bun” would be a rather adorable term of endearment.

Just me?

Anywho, I recently made these buns for a dear friend of mine (at his request!) and they were such a lovely treat to be able to share. They’re old school indulgence, the kind of thing I can picture my grandparents serving to friends at social events. They’re not showy, but they’re delicious and pretty enough to impress.

Vegetarian baked eggs and perfect breakfast

paprikaEver since I went to Fairford Street Social for breakfast a few weekends ago I have been craving baked eggs. I didn’t re-create them exactly (I chose to opt out the eggplant and I toned down the spice because I’m chili-sensitive), but they were still delicious.

There is nothing more comforting than a good pot of baked eggs. I know that it’s the height of Summer in Australia at the moment, but it’s been pretty windy and overcast recently, so these baked eggs were perfect; served with toast, they are the ultimate stay-indoors food.

They’re also a really delicious Valentine’s day brekkie if you’re spoiling your better half on February 14th. The Boy was sceptical of the concept of baked eggs at first, but from the minute I started cooking up the peppers, onion and garlic, he was super keen on the idea.

Vegetarian baked eggs

Serves 4

  • 2 banana peppersabove
  • ½ brown onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp chili flakes
  • 6 roma tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • ¼ cup basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 zucchini
  • 4-8 eggs

ingredientsDe-seed your peppers and roughly chop your onion. Put them in a heavy based pan with a slosh of oil, and heat over a low-medium flame for 8 minutes until they soften and brown. Mix intermittently.

peppersChop up your garlic roughly (trying not to leave big clumps of it) and add that in the pan, allowing the flavours to develop for two minutes, stirring as you go.

coloursAdd in all the remaining ingredients – the paprika, chili flakes, tomatoes,  basil and oregano – and give it a good mix. Turn the heat down to low and let the mixture reduce away for 15 minutes.

ribbonsWhile the tomato mixture bubbles away, use a vegetable peeler to create ribbons of zucchini. Peel right over your ramekins so that the ribbons fall unevenly into the ramekins.

Preheat your oven to 200°C.

spoonPour the hot tomato mixture straight over the zucchini in the ribbons, distributing it evenly amongst the ramekins. Give the ramekins a shake to spread the mixture out evenly. Crack your eggs straight into the ramekins and pop them into oven for 20-23 minutes.

eggsThe number of eggs you use will depend on whether your baked-egg-eaters want one or two eggs – I opted for one, but my fellow diners opted for two. Ramekins with one egg in them should be done 2-3 minutes before the others; keep an eye on this, as you want the yolk to remain runny!

cookingServe with a freshly toasted slice of bread, for dipping.

serve

Quick set Peanut Butter fudge

biteIt wasn’t until last year that I came to realise how fantastic Peanut Butter was. I spent years hating the consistency of it, the way it stuck in my mouth even after I’d finished eating it. All those years, wasted!

I don’t know what made me change my mind, I can’t pinpoint it, I just know that I have seen the error of my ways, and plan to eat my weight in these Peanut Butter fudge squares to make up for years of lost Peanut Butter eating.

Pesto mushrooms and rainy days

birdieThe rain in Sydney at the moment is ridiculous. It’s perseverant, constant, irritating. Patches of blue sky are hard to come by and you can’t help but be a little more sedentary than usual.

Yesterday, out of the blue came a little visitor. He was wet and most perturbed by the rain and sought shelter on our balcony. He was a shock of colour in great contrast to the dreary, rainy weather and had such character that it made me smile. Mother darling and I cooed and found some grain bread for him to munch on, so he stuck around for an hour before flying off.

nom

Lo and behold, today he has returned! I hope this little Rosella continues to visit during this rainy weather, it does you good to be reminded of the brighter things in life when the weather seems hell-bent on making you mopey. Obviously the promise of good food has brought him back (what a clever little birdie), which is quite human of him!

In honour of the little birdie friend, here is a simple but stunning dish. There’s lots of colour, lashings of flavour and a great deal of character. Chase away those rainy blues with some pesto-stuffed mushrooms.

Pesto stuffed mushroomsclose cooked

  • 180g sourdough bread
  • 6 large mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup basil pesto
  • Sprig of basil (optional)
  • 250g cherry truss tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 180°C and spray a large baking tray with oil.

tomatoesCut your truss tomatoes into three or four sections, place on the tray and spray with some oil. Pop them in the oven for 10 minutes while you start on the mushrooms.

mushrooms

Give your mushrooms a quick wash to remove excess dirt and remove their stalks. Set them aside to make the pesto filling.

Cut the crusts off your sourdough and discard them. Chop the crust-less pieces into thirds and blitz them in a food processor for about four minutes (or until they resemble bread crumbs.) Season breadcrumbs with salt and pepper, then add in thepesto and mix to combine. If you’re using jarred pesto (like I did), try to get good quality, as this is one of the main flavours! Throw in some chopped basil and give it one final mix before putting it into your mushrooms.

stuffed mushroomsYour mushrooms should be mostly dry now – stuff a generous amount of pesto filling into the mushroom’s hollow and season with salt and pepper. Arrange them in the tray amongst the tomatoes and bake for another 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and drizzle the tomatoes with balsamic vinegar. To serve, top the mushrooms with parmesan shavings or pine nuts and top the tomatoes with the excess liquid left in the pan.cooked

As well as using up leftover bread from Saturday morning, these mushies are vegan as well…as long as you don’t serve them with parmesan shavings like I did!

Almost-Vegetarian Lasagne and savoury ventures

Tonight is Baking With Gab’s first ever savoury dish! While I find sweet things much easier to make photograph, I can’t continue to bake only sweet things. I come from a family of five and we have an open door policy – which means we often have seven or more for dinner. So really, I should help out with dinner instead of just cooking cupcakes all the time.

But where’s the fun in that??

I will try to post a few savoury dishes in amongst my sweet-tooth-driven adventures – I’ll start with a deliciously simple eggplant lasagne.

It’s almost-vegetarian because I had intended to use no meat in this recipe. Intentions are all very well, but in a male-dominated household, non-meat-intentions don’t win you any friends. I compromised and put leftover bolognaise mince in. This can be substituted for tomato sauce and it will be wholly vegetarian!

Almost-vegetarian lasagneplate

  • 2 eggplant
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups dried breadcrumbs
  • Leftover bolognaise mince (I had about six cups worth)
  • 6-8 lasagne sheets
  • 1/2 cup grated tasty cheese

Béchamel sauce

  • 80g butter
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup grated tasty cheese

slicesSlice your eggplant as thinly as you can. My dexterity with a knife meant that my eggplant slices ranged from 2-5mm. It honestly doesn’t matter how uniform they are.
flouring

Get out three plates and a bowl. Put the flour on one plate, breadcrumbs on another and crack the eggs into a bowl, then whisk them. Organise your bowls so that the flour is followed by the egg, then the breadcrumbs, then the empty plate. This is your crumbing station.

I have great memories of my brothers, mum and I crumbing chicken for schnitzel. It takes a bit of extra time, but it’s actually really fun. You have to be prepared to get messy – if you can rope others into helping you it’s good entertainment! Coat your eggplant slice in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs and place them on the empty plate. If you’re doing this alone, try to flour all your eggplant in one go, then do the egg and crumbs once they’re all floured. This saves slightly on the mess.

floured eggplantmessy fingers

Only slightly though! I ended up with very crumby fingers, despite my best attempts to stay clean…

Pour about 1cm of oil into a pan over a medium heat and allow it to warm up briefly before you put the eggplant in. Toss in as many of your eggplants will fit and shallow fry them for two minutes on both sides. You’ll have to do this in about five batches. Remove them when they’re golden and transfer them to a plate lined with kitchen paper to soak up excess oil.

Meanwhile, make the béchamel sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir constantly for two minutes until the mixture is smooth. Add your milk, one cup at a time and your cheese. Keep mixing as it bubbles away for about five minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat just when it starts to bubble. Leave to one side.layer 1pasta sheets

Preheat the oven to 220°C and grease a lasagne dish. Mine is 30cm x 22cm x 4cm and this recipe fits perfectly in it. Line the base of the dish with half of the eggplant slices, overlapping slightly and top with half of the lasagne sheets. Spoon over half of your leftover bolognaise mince, then repeat once more. Top with béchamel sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, then serve to the hungry masses. This recipe will easily serve 12.
lasagne