Mac ‘N Cheese

Mac ‘N Cheese

If you mention you had Mac ‘n’ cheese for dinner amongst my work colleagues there would be gasps of horror! “oh my goodness, so much cheese”,” so many carbs”….”I just could not indulge like that”.  Any of those comments sound familiar?

So if you want to avoid those types of comments, just don’t mention it, or call it something else!

It was my birthday last month, and as we were not able to eat out, I figured I could treat myself to this family favourite – and somewhat classic dish!

Ingredients:

  • 250grams macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 3 cups Tasty or Colby cheese, grated
  • 4 slices streaky bacon, chopped roughly
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs, Japanese breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot to the boil with a dash of salt, and add dry pasta. Cook until al dente – or cooked ‘firm to the bite’. Drain and add a little olive oil to the cooked pasta to ensure it does not stick to each other.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat then add the flour and cook for three minutes. Add the milk, stirring constantly until thick and smooth – I use a whisk for this. Add two cups of grated cheese, and your seasoning. Remove from the heat, and set to the side.

Add a little cooking oil and over a medium heat sauté the bacon and onions for 10 minutes or until they’re starting to colour. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for two more minutes.

At this stage, I combine the bacon and onion mix with the cheese sauce in the pot with the cooked pasta. Mix it well.

Transfer to an oven-proof dish. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and bake for 15 minutes – or until the cheese and breadcrumbs are golden.

Serves 4

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You can whip up a big dish of Mac ‘N Cheese very economically, which is also a great benefit for those of you with a tribe of teenagers to feed. A packet of dry pasta is less than $2, and this will go a long distance. Leave out the bacon, and add extra vegetables – you can chop up a broccoli, or grate a carrot and zucchini into this, and get away with it!

Don’t wait for a special occasion to treat yourself and the family to a delicious Mac ‘N Cheese dinner; add it to a family menu for a quick and easy week night meal the teenagers will devour in a flash. One word of warning however; make plenty as they will be back for seconds!

Happy teen – happy mum xx

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Cheesy Cauliflower Waffles

Cheesy Cauliflower Waffles

Last weekend I ventured into the exciting new world of waffles after purchasing my very first waffle maker. Blueberry Waffles were my first attempt and they were a big success with the chief tester.

These airy, delicate and crisp-edged waffles were so fabulous, yet so simple to throw together, that they are destined to become part of our weekend breakfast routine. You can freeze leftovers, if you have any, and serve them during the week. You can pop them in the toaster to reheat (use a light setting) and they come out nearly as well as freshly made, maybe even slightly crunchier.

During the week I had considered what other ingredients I could use to make a different type of waffle. I had mentioned sweet potato, or Kumara, as we know it in New Zealand, and cauliflower as a couple of thoughts.

Late last year the cauliflower rice ‘fad’ hit the news and I climbed onboard that train with many others. It’s light and fluffy, like couscous, but totally healthy – and very simple to make.

There are two the techniques for making cauliflower rice. You can either use a grater traditionally used for cheese, or a food processor with the grate blade to blitz it into small pieces.  With both techniques you’re aiming for little pieces.

One you have your cauliflower rice, it’s super easy to cook! Simply sauté in a large pan over a medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. Use the lid to cover so the cauliflower steams and becomes tender.  Cook for 5-8 minutes stirring occasionally, then season to your taste.

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Anyway, I made a recipe that used cauliflower rice and ended up with leftover blitzed cauliflower so I popped it into a ziplock bag and out it in the freezer.  When I got up on Saturday morning thinking about my next great waffle, I grabbed the frozen cauliflower rice rom the freezer and this became my base for my first savoury waffle.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cauliflower rice
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (or grated colby if you don’t have mozzarella cheese)
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
  • fresh parsley

Heat the waffle maker until ready. Mix all of the ingredients together well in a large bowl. Add approx. 1 1/4 cups of the batter to the griddle. Set your timer to 4-6 minutes, and check at about the 4 minute mark. If the waffle maker sticks, let cook slightly longer. Remove once cooked, and allow to cool on plate.

These crispy waffles with a side of bacon and an egg made the most delicious brunch and got the thumbs up from the chief tester!

*I did find the mix got a little wet as the cauliflower rice defrosted waiting to be the second batch so I add 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. This did not have a negative impact on the flavour profile but does add gluten to what is otherwise a gluten-free recipe)

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If you have only gone sweet with your waffles, do give this savoury version an opportunity.  Without the flour it is gluten-free; and only the cook will know it is made with the cauliflower rice.

I’m thinking I will add spinach to this next time, and perhaps sundered tomatoes to really jazz up my Cheesy Cauliflower Waffles.  The options are really limitless and I’m looking forward to next weekend and something different again. Watch this space :

Happy waffling xx


‘Quark?’ I hear you say – what on earth is that? Quark means ‘curd’ in German and is thought to have originated in Central Europe–in fact it has been made since the Iron Age!

Quark is a fresh, white cheese, very similar to Ricotta. It can be used in baking for both savoury and sweet pies, mousse and cheesecakes. It is also a good low-fat replacement for butter in scrambled eggs. The flavour is mild and milky; not surprising when you learn that it is made from pasteurised milk which has a starter culture added to it then some rennet to form the curd. It is then hung in cheesecloth to drain some of the whey off.

I discovered Quark last weekend at my favourite food store Farro Fresh on the North Shore here in Auckland. I love Farro because the store showcases the very best and finest of New Zealand food, which means you can always find something new and delicious to try. IMG_0203.png

I chatted to the maker of this Quark who was in the store demonstrating the product.

The Cheese Barn can be found on the Hauraki Plains of New Zealand in a little town called Matatoki. They specialise in certified organic cheeses and yoghurt’s that are gluten-free, have no artificial additives, antibiotics, growth hormones and no chemical sprays.

The ‘chief tester’ and I tried a little piece of this No-Bake Lemon Quark Cheesecake in the store and we loved it! I bought several tubs of the Quark and could not wait for the long weekend to make one for dessert 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 80-100g plain biscuits
  • 50g melted butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 200g soft cream cheese
  • 500g quark
  • Zest of 2 lemons & juice of 3 lemons
  • 3-3 1/2 tsp gelatin
  1. Crush the biscuits, mix in the butter and the press not a 20cm spring form tin.
  2. Whisk the cream cheese, quark and icing sugar in a large bowl, and then fold in  the zest.
  3. Soak the gelatine in the lemon juice, then melt on a low heat.
  4. Beat into the cheese mix – until smooth. Spoon in to the biscuit base.
  5. Chill until set (approximately 3-4 hours) in the refrigerator.
  6. Serve with chopped pistachio’s, and a dollop of cream

Now if you can’t source Quark, you can use Ricotta for this recipe however I do recommend that you hunt the stuff down – it  has a smoother texture and a brighter flavour than ricotta.

I’m sold and will be restocking to ensure I can whip this cheesecake up again, and feel slightly guilt-free for eating dessert 🙂

Happy ‘Quark’ day xx

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No-Bake Lemon Quark Cheesecake


Pesto & Asparagus Tart

Looking for something easy to make for a Sunday lunch? This little tasty tart is so simple it is embarassing!

Take one sheet of ready rolled flaky pastry and place it on a lined baking tray. Dollop 3 tablespoons of pesto on to the pastry spreading it out to within 1 1/2 cm of the edge.

Trim a bunch of asparagus and lay out on the pesto.

Top with 3/4 c of grated Colby cheese. Season with salt & pepper.

Pop into a hot oven (190 C) – and fan bake for 20 minutes.

Oh my gosh – so tasty, so easy! So happy it is asparagus season – while it is in season make sure you enjoy the asparagus this way. If you are like me and LOVE asaparagus you will be eating it steamed with poached eggs or on the BBQ drizzled with olive oil…yum yum yum!

Happy eating xx


Creamy Bacon & Kumara Pasta Bake

Creamy Bacon & Kumara Pasta Bake

An early lesson in my life as a young married mum with 3 children and a mortgage was learning to cook a nutritious meal on a budget.

This is a recipe I have used and adapted over the years – especially great after football practice in the winter months when the teenage boy came home wet, dirty and very hungry! I either had this prepared to heat up and eat straight away – or could have it ready to tuck into as quick as a teenage boy can shower after practice! Well okay maybe that’s an exaggeration. Dinner is usually ready before the teenager is out of the bathroom 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 500g pasta shells
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 rashers rindless bacon, finely sliced
  • 1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
  • 600g kumara, peel and cubed
  • 150g baby spinach (or a handful)
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 c tasty cheese, grated

Sauce

Pasta Bake

Quick to prepare, and easy on the budget.

  • 60g butter
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup tasty cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to a hot 200°c.

In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until soft. Rinse under cold water and drain well.

In a large frying pan, heat oil and cook bacon for 2-3 minutes until golden. Add the leek and pumara and cook for abut 3-4 minutes

In a saucepan, melt the butter and add flour & thyme and cook, stirring for around 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Gradually whisk in the  milk until smooth. Pop back onto the heat and cook, stirring constantly until them mixture thickens.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes and then stir in the cheese and mustard. Season with salt & pepper. (You just made a white sauce!)

At this point I usually put all of the ingredients into a large bowl to mix together well. So pasta first, then vegetables and sauce. Add the spinach in last – (this does not need to be pre-cooked). Mix all the ingredients well.

Tip the lot into a large baking dish and sprinkle with combined breadcrumbs and grated cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top turns golden and crunchy!

Freezing this pasta dish is another great option for the busy mum – cool it down and then wrap well in glad wrap and foil. It can be in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Now you can make this dish with store bought fresh pasta which is very good, and a jar of ready made pasta sauce. Both of these items are handy and whilst they may save you a few minutes, the cost is not worth it.

I have used pumpkin instead of the kumara (and at the moment that’s a great option – I bought a whole pumpkin for $2.00 last week), and instead of bacon, a couple of pork sausages cooked up and sliced. The younger kids liked this option 🙂

So if you are watching your budget, and have a family to feed, give this recipe a go. Either way it’s a good dish to have up your sleeve with most of the ingredients ‘pantry staples’ making it easy to put together for those last minute dinner guests.

Happy cooking xx