Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Chicken & Leek Pie

Winter warmers.  This one's right up there.  I've been playing with the terrific Simply Wize Gluten Free Puff Pastry sheets A LOT of late.  They make THE BEST sausage rolls - see my Facebook page - and countless other pastry delights.  My next conquest.. Chicken & Leek Pie.  I used to make it years ago when I was part of the gluten crowd *sniff* and I remember vaguely that it had wholegrain mustard in it and it was the bomb. 

I couldn't find my old recipe so I drew inspiration from a recipe I found online from The Australian Women's Weekly (for the filling) which you can find HERE and adapted to make gluten free. So without banging on too much - I share with you this pie of mine.  It is by no means a masterpiece but it tasted bloody fantastic and there was none left after one sitting.. I guess they liked it.

I made my own shortcrust for the pie base and sealed it with a Simply Wize puff pastry top.
The base was a bit crumbly so I will have to work on it but the big boys in my house said it was terrific so I don't know.. you be the judge.  It tasted fab and was buttery so glass half full right?  It's all about how you look at things I guess.  I'm my worst critic but I figure there's ALWAYS room for improvement.  Otherwise everything would just be a tad boring yes?

225g plain gluten free flour (I used White Wings)
1 tsp xanthan gum
110g cold butter cut into cubes (I used unsalted but on reflection I think this base needs SALTED)
1 egg lightly beaten
1 Tbs chilled water

Blitz the dry ingredients together in a food processor.
Add your cold butter a little at a time until a crumb-like consistency is achieved
Add the egg and a little chilled water - you don't have to use the whole tablespoon - just go slowly until the right dough consistency is achieved.
Shape into a ball, flatten into a disc & wrap in Glad (plastic wrap).
Chill for an hour in the fridge.

After an hour, preheat oven to 180° C.  Remove dough from the fridge and roll out between 2 pieces of Glad or baking paper being careful not to roll too thin as it is not as robust as it's gluten filled counterpart. Use the Glad or paper to assist you in lifting the pastry into your pie dish. Trim edges but try to trim slightly above the edge of dish.  You don't have to be too precious. If your pastry tears or is too thin in parts, use the off-cuts to patch your base ~ gently pressing the pastry until you are happy with your shell. Line with baking paper and fill with pie weights, rice or baking beans and bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce temp to 160° C and bake for another 10 minutes.  Remove paper, brush pastry shell with beaten egg and return to the oven for a final 5 minutes. Set aside.

500mls chicken stock (I use Massel)
600g chicken breast
1 Tablespoon olive oil
40g butter
1 leek sliced (I used a V slicer - Quick! and can slice super thin)
2 Tablespoons gluten free plain flour or you could use GF Cornflour
2 teaspoons mixed or Italian dried herbs
175mls milk
200mls cream (I use Devondale Long Life thickened cream - 200mL packs are perfect and great to keep in the cupboard!)
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
1 egg yolk lightly beaten (to brush pastry top) 

Bring stock to boil in a medium saucepan, add chicken breast and return to boil. Reduce heat, simmer covered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand in stock for a further 10 minutes.
Remove chicken and roughly chop.  Keep 1/3 cup of stock that chicken has cooked in.

Heat oil and butter in a large heavy based frying pan, add leek and cook until it softens.  Add GF flour and dried herbs and stir over heat for 1 minute. Add the reserved 1/3 cup of stock, milk and cream. Continue stirring until mix thickens. Add chicken and wholegrain mustard.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Once cooled, add chicken mixture to your prepared pastry shell and top with Simply Wize GF puff pastry sheets.  I used 2 sheets ~ overlapping and cutting sections to patch around the pie dish as necessary.  Brush liberally with beaten egg.  Cut a couple of slits in the top of the pie and bake at 200° C for approx 20 minutes or until lovely & golden brown . 

Monday, 30 June 2014

A Little Liebster Love

On the weekend I had a lovely surprise. The endearing CJ from 30 Days of Smiles tweeted out to the universe that my little blog had been placed on a list of AMAZING bloggers.  Yes you read correctly. Her words not mine.  Her list not mine.  Naturally I am totally willing to go along with it.  Apparently my blog is worthy of a read.  It appears the stuff I write and cook and share is not just for my own amusement after all. People actually read this stuff. Who knew?

So here's a big thank-you to CJ   Thank-you CJ Smiley  

The Liebster Award is a great way of recognising bloggers with a growing audience and this is what it requires me to do:

  • Link back and recognize the blogger who nominated them
  • Answer ten questions given to me by the nominator
  • Nominate ten other bloggers for the award
  • Create ten questions for nominees to answer
  • Notify my nominees
  • Get an award button and display it proudly

I was asked the following questions by CJ and so here's your chance to find out a little bit more about me. Ooooooh ahhhhhhhhhh bet you can't wait to read..

  • If you could get on a plane today and go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
The Bermuda Triangle.  Ideally it would be a return trip.
  • Cookies or Cake?
Please. For me this a torturous question.  I liken it to being asked to choose between my children. Ugh.
  • Favourite childhood memory
Seriously loved my childhood.  Kissing a boy I had a huge crush on when I was 13.. is right up there.
  • If you could change your name what would you change it to?
Princess Consuela Bananahammock. Wait..What!!  It's been taken.. Dammit!

  • Do you have a life motto? If so what is it?

Not really but I am fond of the following..
C'est la vie
  • What skill would you like to learn?
I've always imagined myself playing the guitar.  Me and everyone else right?  I sadly lack the discipline to conquer such a beast.  And so..I do not foresee this musical mastery manifesting itself anytime soon.  Australian Idol will have to wait.
  • IPhone or Android?
IPhone. ICook. IEat. IBlog.
  • Who would you love to meet? Alive or dead?
Bruce Springsteen (I know..so predictable) preferably alive 
  • Deserted Island you can take 2 people and 4 objects what would you take?
Jim Carrey (for there must always be humour - even on a deserted island).
Morgan Freeman (for there must always be someone you won't get tired of listening to - especially on a deserted island).
Coffee Machine.
A Power Point.
Telecommunications Tower.  
  • You've just won $500,000 dollars what do you buy first?
An around the world ticket travelling first class including guaranteed 100% gluten free deliciousness at every stop.

Ten Talented Bloggers

Here are ten awesome bloggers I'm nominating for a Liebster Award:

Carla from My Yellow Heart
Renee from Mummy, Wife, Me
Tash from Little Bit of Thyme
Melissa from Honey Bee Books
Emily from You learn something new every day
Jodie from Fresh Home Cook
Emma from Five Degrees of Chaos
Alicia from One Mother Hen
Kylie from Kylie Purtell - A Study in Contradictions
"Robo" from RoboMum

and so.. in turn, here are my 10 questions for the listed bloggers (but only if you wish to play along.. go on)

  • Coffee with Oprah Winfrey or Ellen DeGeneres?
  • Most embarrassing moment?
  • Your epitaph..
  • White or Red or are you a spirits kinda gal? (and I'm not talking ghosts)
  • Share something that always makes you laugh?
  • Chocolate or lollies and name your fav?
  • Opportunity to sit next to anyone in the world (famous or otherwise) on a plane and why him/her/it?
  • Best movie eva! Go!
  • Forced to do Karaoke - song choice?
  • Last meal. Go!

Thanks for playing xx

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Pumpkin Scones

We had roast the other night and had some leftover roast pumpkin pieces.  Too good to throw away I thought but not enough to make anything substantial. Then I had a brainwave.. Pumpkin Scones.

So here's a bit of experimentation that paid off.  Rustic and delicious.

Can't get your kids to eat pumpkin? I guarantee they'll eat these :)

55 g butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 - 3/4 cup mashed pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
3 cups GF self-raising flour

Pre-heat oven to 200° C
Line a cookie tray with baking paper
Beat softened butter until creamy then add honey, pumpkin and eggs and continue mixing on a low speed.
Add coconut milk and xanthan gum then gradually add the flour.  The mixture will become less sticky, start to form a dough and come away from the side of the bowl.
Transfer dough from the mixing bowl to a floured surface and using a flattened hand, form a disk to a thickness of  about 2 - 2.5cm. I used a cutter with a diameter of  approximately 6cm but a slender glass will work just as well. Flour the cutter or glass to prevent sticking and assist with ease of transfer to baking sheet

Bake for 12 minutes

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

No Flour Chocolate BROWNIES

Quite often I find that pre-packaged/commercial food, although marked GLUTEN FREE, contains a lot of things we generally try to steer clear of - high sugar, additives, preservatives, salt - especially for children.  It's no secret that I have a sweet tooth so I am the first to put up my hand and admit to being a little heavy-handed with the sugar in my baking but I wanted to see if there were great tasting alternatives out there, especially for my kids.  So I set about finding something yum that focused on the natural but still tasted amazing..  Lets face it, if it doesn't taste amazing, no-one is going to eat it so what's the point.

Well I think I'm off to a flying start here.. see what you think! 

The recipe below is an adaptation of one found here ->  Healthy Chocolate Brownies which in turn, is an adaptation of one found in the book The Healthiest Meals On Earth by Jonny Bowden

These brownies are high in fibre and contain no refined sugar 

12 Medjool Dates soaked in 1 Cup of hot water for 10 minutes (pits removed)
*this is an amendment to the original measurement of 1 & 1/2 cups as I feel less water makes a better end product.  Still pouring off 1/4 cup of the liquid later.
1 can (400g) of chickpeas rinsed well and drained
4 eggs
1/2 cup GF cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
50g of GF dark chocolate (optional)  ~ I used what I had available (40g) and still worked well
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon GF baking powder

Pre-heat oven to 180° Celsius
I used a 9x9x2in square Wilton brownie tin and lined with baking paper

Soak the dates in the hot water for 10 minutes.  After this time, pour off 1/4 cup of the liquid and process the dates and remaining water in a food processor.

Combine the date mixture, cocoa powder, coconut oil, chocolate and honey in a separate bowl.

Process the chickpeas and eggs together in the processor until a smooth consistency is achieved
(this will collect any remnants of the date mixture as well) and then stir into chocolate mixture.
Add baking powder and stir to mix in well.

Pour into lined baking tin and cook for 45 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes before cutting

You could always add nuts if you wanted to but these are a great addition to lunchboxes 'as they are' (school friendly). I love this recipe and will definitely be making it again and again.  All of the ingredients can be sourced easily from your regular supermarket - you may find that you already have about 90% of the ingredients in your pantry anyway.

You may also choose to try different sweeteners - eg; Rice Malt Syrup, Agave Nectar, Stevia
I have used honey here as I find this preferable to an artificial sweetener - but that's not to say I would never use one. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Pumpkin Soup

I love winter.  Aside from the nasty bugs that float about of course.  I love the rain. I love snuggling up inside a warm house with a cup of coffee & a mag.  
I love donning the flannies & watching a flick.  I love pulling the covers right up to your chin.  I love filling the house with delicious smells from the kitchen.

Winter is soup season.
Perhaps the grandmother of all is PUMPKIN soup.
I had a hankering for a big bowl of orange so I set out to deliver the goods to my peeps.  You may feel the need to share the love in your house..  ENJOY!

1.5 kg Pumpkin cut into chunks - I like to use JAP (try and cut roughly the same size so that they roast evenly)
1 large onion chopped fine
1 litre of GF chicken stock - I use Massel
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cumin
4 garlic cloves - I like the convenience of Gourmet Garden Chunky Garlic Stir-In Paste
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 190°C 
Place pumpkin pieces on an oven tray, drizzle with half the olive oil and bake for 30 minutes ensuring pumpkin is cooked through but doesn't burn.
Heat remaining oil in a large heavy based saucepan and gently fry the onion until translucent.
Add the Nutmeg, Cumin and Garlic.
Add pumpkin and stock and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat and  simmer until stock has reduced.
Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Using a stick blender, carefully blitz until desired consistency is achieved.  Make sure your stick blender is completely submerged in hot soup so as to avoid splashes.  

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of chopped chives and perhaps some GF garlic bread.  I found a great product recently in the supermarket from Jase's Kitchen which is yum and a perfect accompaniment here.

So there you have it.  The perfect comfort food.
It's another wintery day here in Perth today.  Guess what's for lunch?  Gotta love leftovers!

Friday, 9 May 2014

International Blog Swap Day 2014

Good Morning

Today I would like to introduce you to Mary.  Mary is my partner for International Blog Swap Day 2014 and she is from Oxfordshire in England.  Mary loves to get out and about discovering new places and wonderful things with her husband & gorgeous son.  She has had some wonderful adventures and met some lovely people.  Without giving too much away, I'll hand you over to her and she can fill you in.. 

I'm Mary, an older Mum of a 4 year old Monkey son and I blog over at  Over 40 and a Mum to One about our adventures.  We love nature and getting out and about, visiting family in Spain and reviewing anything from books to bug hotels for the garden.  I started my blog last February and am loving every minute of it. We've been given some great opportunities and have met some wonderful people. Monkey's highlight was probably meeting Postman Pat earlier this year, but I think mine was getting to meet a great group of blogging friends for the first time last year.

We love exploring new places and seeing my son's reaction to different things. Living in Oxfordshire we are well placed in England, to explore a number of counties within a few hours drive. 

I thought I'd share our recent trip to Snowshill Manor we made in April.  We've recently rejoined the National Trust, which gives us access to some wonderful old properties and gardens across the country.  Snowshill Manor is a lovely old Manor House set in the Gloucestershire countryside.  The house itself is crammed full of the previous owner's eclectic collections.  You can't use flash photography and most of the rooms were quite dark, so I didn't get to take many photographs inside.  The grounds though were a different thing all together.  Lots to keep a snappy photographer happy!

What I love about the National Trust these days is that they involve the children so much more than when I was a kid.  I remember being dragged around countless properties as a child with my brother.  Bored, bored, bored.  But nowadays everything is so much more interactive.  Snowshill Manor had a Paws and Poo trail for the children with a fact sheet.  You can imagine how much a 4 year old Monkey enjoyed looking for poo (not real I hasten to add)!!  But it kept him entertained.  There was lots to discuss; we talked about which animal had which paw mark and the difference in sizes of paws and poo relative to the size of the animal.  Where did the animals live? What did they eat?  It was actually very educational.

We marveled at the Dovecote and it's many residents.  Although we all agree that we wouldn't fancy the job of cleaning the inside out!  The gardens were brimming with flowers and Monkey and his Dad really enjoyed looking at the great wooden Soldiers Windmill.

We spent a lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon at Snowshill Manor, if you ever plan a visit to the UK, it's well worth checking out the National Trust website as there are some stunning places to visit.

You will also find Mary here:

Tweeting at   @minnowmep
Google+       Over 40 and a Mum to One
Facebook     over40andamumtoone
Pinterest      http://pinterest.com/minnowmep
Instagram     over40andamumtoone


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Upside? of being Coeliac

So often I write about how easy it is to transform ingredients into delicious gluten free yummies and that it is not a difficult process. And indeed it's not.  It requires some adjustment and some imagination and for me, it involves a lot of love.  Love for my daughter who is Coeliac. Love for my daughter that was terribly sick as a young child because of Coeliac Disease.

But I'm not going to sit here and lie and tell you that being Coeliac is a breeze.  It's not.  I am an upbeat person 95% of the time.  I am. But today.. today I am going to shed some light on the downside of being Coeliac and be brutally honest.  Lets get down to brass tacks.  Coeliac Disease blows.

It has taken away spontaneity of going out.
It has taken away vast menu options.
It is often ostracizing.
Planning and research and continual questioning has become the norm.
The fact that gluten free has become trendy irritates me at times when people assume you're eating gluten free as a lifestyle choice rather than a medical necessity.  Just how Coeliac are you??  Kind of like being a little bit pregnant I suspect.

We often take our own food to friends and family because it's easier and to be honest I feel safer.  If they insist on making gluten free, I worry about the understanding of gluten free ingredients and cross contamination.  I have the added stress about the risk of offending by querying ingredients and food preparation.  I worry about banging on about it.  I do it anyway.  

I put together a birthday party box including cake & a take-home lolly bag for all birthday parties Abbey attends.  We don't go on overseas holidays.  Actually holidays anywhere are a rarity.
The stress of seeking out GF options for Abbey in a different country, disguised in a different cuisine gives me heart palpitations.  We'll wait till she's older and a little more enthusiastic to try different countries fare.  Imagine if she was glutened overseas.  That is my worst nightmare.  I prefer the safety of our own surrounds for the time being. 

But this impacts on not just Abb & I but our whole family.  The other 3 in our house are not Coeliac yet they are feeling the impact of these restrictions.. and this weighs heavily on me.

I have even had comments in the past from my own family who know I am Coeliac (asymptomatic) which are completely frustrating.  Comments like "oh but you can have just a little with no problems Tara - you're not like Abbey"  Aarrgghh.  "Sure.. I like to live on the edge - I guess if I can't SEE the damage being done to my insides.. it's not really happening right.."

Whilst both of us have biopsy-proven Coeliac Disease, Abbey reacts much differently to I.
Within a short time of  ingesting gluten, Abbey is extremely unwell.

The last time this happened, it was an innocent transaction of a cupcake between friends.
The cupcake was gluten free, it was just that it was innocently placed in a friend's lunchbox containing crumbs.. then handed back.  A lunchbox that contained crumbs of the gluten variety. Enough said.  There was no evil agenda or malice.
This was a regular school day that suddenly turned into a very bad and a very frightening situation. 

No-one knew the extent of what was about to happen including myself.
Those around Abbey soon realised that she had become suddenly unwell.
She was sitting in the corner of the classroom with her head in a bucket and looking pretty dreadful when I arrived.  She had already vomited so much that she had depleted her body of all energy.
I guess most would have assumed that once I left the schoolyard, I had just taken her home and comforted her until her body rid itself of the offender but sadly that was not the case.  She collapsed a couple of times before I even reached the car.  Panicking, I quickly had to make a decision - to drive to hospital or go home & call an ambulance? (home being only 10 minutes away).  I chose to go home.  My husband was away for work,  Abbey's younger brother was with us and her older brother was on his way home from school totally oblivious to what was going on.  She was becoming non-responsive and I was getting a little frantic.

I could not fault the response time for the ambulance - thank God for the Ambo's.  An assessment was done and the decision to take her to hospital was made.  The officers told me they had never really seen a reaction to gluten quite like Abbey's before.

I could breathe a little easier in the ambulance.  Although there's no quick fix, no EpiPen for a gluten episode, I was with the right people and if she got to the point of severe dehydration, they would know what to do with drips etc so until then, we just had to ride it out.  By the time we reached the children's hospital she was over the worst of it but the ambulance ride saw her being sick a few more times en route.  She managed to strip her oesophageal lining which was a little disconcerting but the ambulance officer explained it was from the severity of vomiting episodes and would settle.

The emergency department was operating at full capacity at that time of the evening, especially for a Friday so, by the time a doctor got around to us and Abbey had slept a while, she had all but recovered.  And that's the way it goes you know.  When the doctor finally got to her and she was looking pretty OK again you can't help but think that they are thinking "um..why are you here.."

And then we were sent on our way like nothing had even happened.  That's the way it goes with Coeliac Disease.  Within 24 hours she was back to her rosy cheeked, chatty self again.  What a ride.

So whilst it's not ideal, Abbey & I have the support of our immediate family and countless others who find themselves on the same Coeliac scenic cruise.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - there are far worse things it's true but it's cathartic to vent.

It pays to have a healthy sense of humour and an endless supply of laundry to keep me otherwise occupied.  I'd rather have an overseas holiday of course.. but 'til then I'll keep cooking up a storm  Smiley

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