Sunday, 7 September 2014

Zucchini Lasagna / Normal Lasagna Combo

I have been trying to eat healthier and lose some weight to get in shape for summer and MrBehomeforT is quite happy to join me, but he refuses to cut the carbs. Us girls often find it easier to lose weight when we eat less carbs but MrBehomeforT is a massive carb fan and he needs the energy as he has quite an active job. 

After finding this Zucchini Lasagna recipe from Skinny Taste, I decided to make a man friendly version of it (without the zucchini but with lasagna sheets). Easy, effective and cheap. No need to cook two different versions of the lasagna, but just replace the zucchini with pasta sheets on one half of the dish. Easy! 


  • 1 lb 93% lean beef
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8" thick
  • 15 oz part-skim ricotta
  • 16 oz part-skin mozzarella cheese, shredded (Sargento)
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 large egg

The Recipe

In a medium sauce pan, brown meat and season with salt. When cooked drain in colander to remove any fat. Add olive oil to the pan and saute garlic and onion about 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan, add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Simmeron low for at least 30-40minutes, covered. Do not add extra water, the sauce should be thick.

Meanwhile, slice zucchini into 1/8" thick slices, add lightly salt and set aside or 10 minutes. Zucchini has a lot of water when cooked, salting it takes out a lot of moisture. After 10 minutes, blot excess moisture with a paper towel.

On a gas grill or grill pan, grill zucchini on each side, until cooked, about 1-2 minutes per side. Place on paper towels to soak any excess moisture. You can also skip this step if you are lazy or do not have enough time. However, by grilling the zucchini you do get more taste.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

In a medium bowl mix ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and egg. Stir well. 

In a 9x12 casserole spread some sauce on the bottom and layer the zucchini to cover. Then place some of the ricotta cheese mixture, then top with the mozzarella cheese and repeat the process until all your ingredients are used up. Top with sauce and mozzarella and cover with foil

Bake 45 minutes covered at 190 degrees, then uncovered 15 minutes. Let stand about 5 - 10 minutes before serving.

I hope you will enjoy this lasagna and remember, if you make a big batch of it you have your lunch for the next two days sorted! 

Long Sunday Lunch at Bitton

One of my favourite things to do is to explore new areas and try out new cafe's and restaurants. Sometimes it works out and we find a new gem, and sometimes it is a bit of a disappointment. In any event, it's always new and exciting.

When Sydney Trains is having trackwork on and we take the railbus we always drive past Bitton. I discovered this bistro because my inlaws gave me a Bitton cookbook. Full with French style recipes and cooking tips, this book is written by the owner of the cafe, David Bitton.

I have been to France a few times and the way the French eat is quite interesting. For brekkie, they often have a pastry or some baguette with butter and a coffee. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, with multiple courses (including dessert), some cheese and baguette. Dinner is often super simple. A soup with some bread or a very light salad with some bread. Although I really enjoy my fitbit and exercising more I have also downloaded 'French Women Don't get Fat' because I want to be able to eat like the French and enjoy my food.

Bitton was really busy. It was father's day today so extra busy, but I have the feeling that this place is usually quite crowded. We were seated fairly quickly and handed over the menu. One quick look and I knew what I wanted. The brie salad! I was after a light French style lunch with some bread so I could still have some dessert. MrBehomeforT ordered the beef pie with spicy relish. We both had a nice wine - a NZ Sav Blanc for me and an Ozzie Shiraz for MrBehomeforT.

The service was OK. It was super busy but the staff was really friendly. A lovely French accent is always charming! Our food arrived after a while and I can image many people would be quite underwhelmed by the brie salad. It consisted of some lettuce, slow roasted cherry tomatoes and some grilled brie. That's it. I thought it would be a light lunch if I would order some bread with it, so I did. But the bread did not arrive with the salad and I had to ask for it. 

The bread was not very French. I was expecting to see a piece of torn baguette but I received (for $7!!) four tiny slices of bread with some butter (which looked like it had already been opened by someone else!) and balsamic vinegar/olive oil (which I did not order). Bit of a disappointment. The salad itself was very simple but the brie was good quality brie and the dressing was nice and fresh.

MrBehomeforT's beef pie was nice (he said) but not spectacular. We decided to order dessert and I ordered a muscat to go with it. The dessert was a chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream. Oh wow! It was so good! The cake was gooey on the inside and the salted caramel ice cream was the bomb. There were also some berries to go with it. I thought that we were given a botrytis semillon instead of the muscat, but it was a white muscat. Our neighbours thought the same and asked whether they were given the proper drink. A waiter came out and brought both the botrytis and the muscat for them to taste. It was indeed a muscat and it was nice. 

When I went to pay the bill I was a bit shocked - $120 is quite pricy. I was given a coriander pesto because I paid with a MasterCard which was a nice touch. All in all, Bitton was nice and we did enjoy our food there, however, we will save this one for special occasions due to the price point. 

Bitton Gourmet Cafe on Urbanspoon


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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Easy Traditional Greek Gyros

Last Sunday was the last day of winter and before I retire my slowcooker I decided to make one last slow cooker dinner.

I have been eating a lot healthier lately since I bought my fitbit and usually the food you make in the slowcooker isn't the healthiest leanest food to eat. A massive advantage of the slowcooker is that you can use cheap cuts of meat and the longer you cook them, the more tender and juicier they are. However, you do need to have meat with some fat on it, because otherwise it will get dry and chewy.

After many slowcooker experiments I found that the best way to make the slowcooker work is to cut off some of the fat of the meat (also depends on what type of meat you are using) - cook it slow for 8 hours and then take out most of the juices, cool them down, scoop of the fat, return to the pan, add fresh seasoning and reduce the liquid before you bring it back to the slowcooker. For me this is a winning method to get fresh flavours in your meal. 

This Easy Traditional Greek Gyros recipe is from Half Baked Harvest. I have slightly amended the recipe and have prepared the meat (pork in this instance) as per the method outlined above. Winner winner pork dinner! The salad with cucumber, tomatoes and fetta brings some freshness to the dish. Working in a busy full-time job, I prefer to buy packaged bread and tzatziki instead of making them from scratch, but if you have the time I would highly recommend doing so!


4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 - (2-3) pound boneless pork shoulder roast (or butt)
a few tablespoons of Greek herbs
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 lemons, juiced
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons greek yogurt
4-8 store bought pitas
1/2 cup fresh cherry tomatoes, halved, for serving
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced, for serving
some crumbled feta cheese, for serving

The Recipe

1. Spray a crockpot with cooking spray. Add the onions and garlic.

2. In a small bowl combine the Greek herbs, paprika and salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pork with half of the spice mixture.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Once hot, add the pork and sear on all sides until golden brown (about 2 minutes per side). Try and get a really good caramelization on the meat.

4. Add pork to the prepared crockpot and sprinkle with the remaining seasonings and any drippings from the pan. To the crockpot add the, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, greek yogurt. Cover and cook on low, 8 hours. or high for 4-6 hours. If possible check the pork a few times during cooking. If needed add some water to keep the meat moist.

5. After 8 hours (or 4-6 on high) remove the pork and set aside to cool slightly. Once cool enough to touch shred the pork with two forks, it should fall apart easily.

6. Take the liquid out of the crockpot and put in a pan to cool down. After a few minutes, scoop off the fat. Heat liquid and add some more of the greek herbs, salt and pepper. Cool down and add some yoghurt. Return to the crockpot and stir through the pork.

7. Heat pitas (I just popped them in the microwave for a few seconds). Top with tzatziki sauce, sliced tomatoes, cucumber and feta cheese. Serve immediately.


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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Sydney Tea Festival

You all know I love tea. I love tea so much! I have a whole tea cupboard at work with at least 20 different types of tea. Then I also have a whole tea cupboard at home. I love all kinds of tea! Black tea (flavoured especially), green, white, rooibos, jasmin. ALL kinds of tea! 

It's such an addiction. I cannot stop buying tea! One of the main reasons why I drink a lot of tea is because I do not like water. Water is boring and plain and cold. Back home I drank a lot of tea because I was cold (all the time...) and tea warms you up. Here in Sydney it can get chilly in winter, but in spring, summer and autumn it's usually warm, hot, or boiling (I hate it!!). I still drink tea when it's hot (especially at the office where the air conditioning is fully switched on during summer).

So when I heard that Sydney was putting on its first tea festival I was super excited. Tea, tea and more tea. And some cakes. And cookies. And teapots. And teacups. I was in heaven!! It wasn't surprising that I came home with a big bag of all different kids of tea. I also purchased a 3 month tea membership from Mr Earl. I was able to take one sample home and now I am writing this I have received my first Tea delivery! This month's teas are McIver's Miners Tea, Immunit-T from Evergreen Tea and Impala & Peacock Turkish Delight tea. I am drinking the Turkish Delight now as I am writing this, but I made the mistake of using a massive teapot with just a little bit of tea, so the tea doesn't have a very strong flavour. Hardly any flavour at all actually. Next time I will make a cup of tea and see how that goes. In any event, I am looking forward to trying these teas. The delivery included tasting notes and some more information about the tea makers. 

Mr Earl gave me a very special Genmaicha (popcorn tea). Read more about this tea here. I had no idea what to expect here. I mean... popcorn tea?! It's not what you think. This tea is a savoury, nutty and mild tea. It smells and tastes a bit like peanuts, and is quite creamy. It is difficult to describe so give it a go for yourself. No sugar, no milk. Just the tea. This one is definitely on my favourite tea list now. 

From the Berry Tea Shop I bought a Madame Grey and a Rooibos Chai. The Madame Grey has pieces of orange in it and is very fruity. A bit too tart for me. I like my earl grey teas strong but not too fruity. Too bad. The rooibos chai is super nice. If you like to have a tea after dinner but you don't want to have caffeine, then a rooibos tea is what you need. The chai flavour made it a nice sweeter tea to drink. Almost a dessert!

From Heilala I bought some beautiful vanilla sugar. It was meant to go in my cakes and slices, but I am now using it in my tea. It makes tea nice and sweet and gives vanilla flavoured tea an extra vanilla kick! Once Sydney is heating up again I will be using this for my homemade iced coffees.

My favourite tea is tea drop tea. You may have seen this brand in a few cafe's in Australia. Their supreme earl grey tea is my favourite tea of all times. The tea is strong, has a lovely bergamot flavour and is not too sweet. The flavour has a beautiful depth to it. I got to take a few super cute samples, including a honeydew green which was amazing (I will be buying more of that - beautiful sweet melon flavour). 

A brand that I had never seen before is Harney & Sons Fine Tea . By the time I arrived at their stand almost all of their teas had sold out. Such beautiful tea tins! I bought a pomegranate oolong tea (green) which turned out to be super refreshing and not too sour. I may use this to make some ice tea in the summer. I also bought some vanilla tea and some chocolate mint tea (after lunch/dinner treat)

I cannot wait for the next tea festival and I'm sure that I will finish these teas long before next year's tea festival.


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Monday, 1 September 2014

My take on Nigella's Nutella Cheesecake

Everyone loves nutella. Back home we used to have nutella sandwiches for lunch. Sometimes I add it to some hot milk for a hot nutella chocolate. Now and then I have some strawberries with nutella. Or I just eat it straight out of the jar (so bad!)

I made this Nutella Cheesecake for my colleagues. It was very popular. The whole cake was gone within 5 minutes. Some people went back for seconds. Some ate so much they felt sick after. 

This cake is super easy to make. No fuss, no hassle. It doesn't have many ingredients either. So if you are pressed for time but you want to impress your colleagues (or family, or friends), then give this cake a go. You won't regret it (well.. you will regret eating it. Can you imagine how many calories one slice has? I don't even want to think about it!)

This recipe has been adapted from Nigella Lawson


  • 250 grams butternut snap cookies
  • 75 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 1 x 400 grams jar nutella (at room temperature)
  • 100 grams chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • 500 grams cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 60 grams icing sugar (sifted)
  • some frangelico (just taste and see how much you like to use)

The recipe
  1. Break the cookies into the bowl of a processor, add the butter and a 15ml tablespoon of Nutella, and blitz until it starts to clump. Add 25g/3 tablespoons of the hazelnuts and continue to pulse until you have a damp, sandy mixture. You may need to use a bit more butter for it to work.
  2. Tip into a 23cm/9inch round springform and press into the base either using your hands or the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to chill.
  3. Beat the cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth and then add the remaining Nutella to the cream cheese mixture, and continue beating until combined. Also add the frangelico. Taste the mixture now and then to see if you'd like to add more nutella or frangelico. I added a lot more nutella!
  4. Take the springform out of the fridge and carefully smooth the Nutella mixture over the base. Scatter the remaining chopped hazelnuts on top to cover and place the tin in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Serve straight from the fridge for best results.


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