Archive for March, 2011

Portuguese-style kebabs

Please stop me if I’ve told you this before, but I cannot sing. And, I cannot dance. (Unless you consider dancing like a cardboard cut-out/a parent from the 40’s good dancing). This second revelation may or may not have come as a surprise to my dancing teacher, who bravely attempted to teach me modern dancing until I was eighteen.

Despite the fact that I danced for most of my younger years, I am completely inflexible. When I was sixteen my physiotherapist told me his grandfather was more flexible than me. If I drop something in the morning when I’ve just gotten out of bed, I have to leave it for Frank to pick up.

After Frank told me that my inflexibility will only get worse as I get older (to which I responded “can it get any worse??”) I decided to take up yoga at the local gym. Not only does it help with flexibility, but it allows you to calm yourself for the hour you are doing it. But sadly, I am not calm! When I first started the yoga teacher looked at me in horror and pretended I wasn’t there, hoping I would give up and move on. But it has made me more eager to eventually touch my toes without bending my legs (I have never been able to. Ever.) so I’ve signed on to a smaller class at my work. It starts on Tuesday so I’ll let you know if the new teacher weeps at the sight of me!

My homework on this diet is to relax. Hence the added “benefit” of yoga. But the hobby that relaxes me the most is baking, which I haven’t been able to do. So, just to be in the kitchen doing something, I whipped up these diet-friendly chicken kebabs. You can make them as spicy (or not) as you like, and the marinade keeps them deliciously tender. They can be cooked in the oven, but we did them on the barbeque to give them some extra flavour. I hope you enjoy them!

Portuguese-style kebabs – adapted from AWW’s ‘Slow cooking’ recipe book
Makes 12 skewers

12 wooden skewers, soaked for 30 mins in water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp grated lemon rind
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 fresh small thai chillies (I used 1 big red chilli as I was making it for kids)
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp fresh thyme
1 red capsicum
4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks

Blend or process 2 tbsp of the oil, garlic, lemon rind, lemon juice, chillies, paprika and thyme until smooth.

Pour into a large bowl and mix with tomato paste and final tbsp of oil.

Add chicken chunks and toss into marinade. Leave in the fridge for a minimum of two hours, or overnight.

Cut red capsicum into similar sized chunks to chicken, and thread chicken and capsicum onto skewers.

Frank, mid-skewer..

BBQ until cooked, or bake in oven at 180C for 35-40 mins, turning once.
Serve with a salad, and some polenta fries if you can stop everyone from eating them first!

Healthy-ish lemon & poppy-seed muffins

As many a wise person said, music is the soundtrack to our souls. It’s funny how a piece of music, or a set of lyrics, just brings back a memory that you forgot was still there. For some people it could be a smell that brings back a memory, or incites a rush of feeling, but for me it is definitely music. (Although smells of baking are like giant hugs when you walk into the kitchen)

I sit typing this in our spare bedroom, with headphones on to mask the sound Frank’s virtual Grand Prix going wild on the xBox. (And of course it isn’t a real-virtual-Grand-Prix without deafening car revving!) I just grabbed our shared music player, and the first song to play is Bernard Fanning’s Thril is Gone from his Tea & Sympathy album. I didn’t know much about Bernard Fanning before I met Frank, having only heard one of his band Powderfinger’s songs back in South Africa. His voice is amazing, and his solo album just brings back the memories of Frank and I planning our move down-under. I can almost feel that excitement now, the idea of having a blank slate and being able to make the life we wanted out of the move.

Sitting in the Pig Palace over a year later (and after a weekend of family visits) I consider myself very lucky. I miss my family and friends terribly, but I have gained a second family here. I am also happy to say that friends are friends despite the distance or the busy-ness of our lives, and it is uplifting to know how many generous souls I have the fortune of knowing.

Anyway, enough of the soppy-ness for now. Since I’ve been on this (traumatising, torturous, cruel) diet I’ve been buying a lot more treats. I see delicious chocolates, and think “I really want them”, but since I can’t have them the next best thing is to buy them for Frank! I realise it isn’t the smartest thing to do, as one of these days I WILL actually get up in the middle of the night, eat all the chocolate in the fridge, eat all the sugar and sugar-containing products in the cupboard, and have Frank find me in the morning lying in a pool of ants. But alas I choose to torture myself this way.

As we had Frank’s family over for brunch today, I decided to whip up a batch of healthy-ish lemon & poppy-seed muffins. The recipe is really straight-forward, and is done in around 35 mins including cooking and prep. (But not dishes, that is Frank’s job…) If you feel like a nice quick snack for breakfast or tea, I would recommend them. Warm, with butter, and a delicious cup of coffee… ooh, coffee…*sob*

Lemon & poppy-seed muffins – from Australian Womens Weekly ‘Mix’ recipe book
(muffins can be stored in an airtight container for 2 days or frozen for 2 months)

1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 1/2 cup white self-raising flour
90g cold butter, chopped
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have it, use 1 1/4 cup milk and 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice)
1 egg, beaten lightly
2 tsp grated lemon rind
2 tbsp poppy seeds

Pre-heat oven to 180C, 160C fan-forced. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan, or insert baking cups.

Sift flours into a large bowl. Rub in butter with fingertips.

Stir in sugar, buttermilk and egg. (do not over-mix, mixture should be lumpy.

Gently stir in lemon rind and poppy seeds and spoon mixture into pan holes.

Bake muffins about 20 mins. Stand in the pan for 5 mins before popping onto a wire rack to cool.

Hello again! *she says sheepishly*

I am so sorry for my 3-month-long unannounced hiatus from blogging everyone! Christmas was jam-packed with family, and the New year was filled with resolutions. And on similar lines to a resolution, I have been put on a strict diet by my naturopath to control my long-term stomach issues. Lucky for me the diet isn’t long-term, but it IS the reason why I am been absent for the last three months.

As I’m sure you can imagine, life just lost a bit of its gloss being on a boring diet of vegetables and meat and little else. But  the end is nigh, and in three weeks I’ll be let loose on the myriad of chocolate bunnies and hot-cross buns out for Easter! (It’s been so bad that Frank caught me licking my lips while watching a McDonald’s advert. So bad that the biscuit tin at work whispers my name every time I walk past. So bad that I jammed a whole muffin into my mouth last week before anyone could see me and almost choked on it…)

I also haven’t been able to bring myself to read anyone else’s fabulous blog, as their pictures and recipes just make me want to weep from longing. So Lorraine, Anna, Honey & Soy and everyone else I follow; I’m sorry for being neglectful but it won’t be for any longer!

Tomorrow I will showcase the first of three weeks’ worth of healthy recipes. And after the diet is over (and I have eaten my bodyweight in chocolate and baked goods) I’ll be re-joining the Daring Challenges, and enjoying the freedom of eating sugar again!

So, for now, I wish you all a wonderful chocolate-filled (have I mentioned chocolate yet? I miss chocolate. Did you know that? I really do. Chocolate…) weekend.

Happy chocolate-eating!

x Chocolate Cook Piglet


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