Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Faux Mexican Lentil Soup

Firstly, apologies to all Mexican people for this meal. It's certainly not authentic in any way!!!  However, it is delicious, easy and super duper healthy, so hopefully I can be forgiven it's name!!!

I like to cook soup in bulk so I can freeze it in portions for my husband's lunches or for dinner when I don't have time to cook (or can't be bothered!).  You can easily halve this recipe for a more reasonable serving quantity.  It's a thick soup, but feel free to add more stock if you prefer it thinner.

You could definitely make this in a slow cooker if you have one - I have before and it turned out great.  I'm not usually organised enough for this though, so a chuck it in and ready in 40 minutes is more my way. ;-)

Serves 12-16 depending on your portion sizes. (I use the little yellow bowl which is about 1 cup and my husband uses the blue striped bowl which is a standard size so we got about 16 serves, but if you all use standard size bowls, it would be more like 12 serves.)

- 3-4 carrots
- 2 zucchinis
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 3 cups of red lentils, rinsed well
- 1 cup of french lentils (or green lentils or whichever other type of lentil you like really - just check cooking time), rinsed well
- 2.5-3 cups of stock (veg or chicken)
- 1.5-3 teaspoons of ground cumin (depending on your spice/flavour preference and if your kids might be eating it.)
- 2 teaspoons of oregano
- 2 teaspoons of paprika
- 1-3 teaspoons of cayenne pepper (depending on your heat preference)
- 2 cans of tomatoes (if using whole ones, which I prefer, chop/mash them up)
- a bag of baby spinach or a bunch of silverbeet

- finely chop the carrots and zucchini
- roughly chop the spinach or silverbeet
- saute the carrots in some olive oil for a minute or two (in the photo below you can see that I added the zucchini at the same time, but I prefer to add the zucchini a bit later.)
- add the spices and cook for another couple of minutes

- add the red lentils, hot stock and tomatoes

- cook, covered, on low/medium heat for 15 minutes - stir once or twice
- add the zucchini, spinach and French lentils and cook, covered, for 25-30 minutes - stir occasionally and add extra stock or water if it's getting too thick

- add salt and pepper to taste

Serving suggestions:
- on it's own
- with a dollop of light sour cream
- with a dollop of natural yoghurt
- with some chopped avocado and a squeeze of lemon or lime (and coriander if you are that way inclined - I'm not!!!)
- with some natural corn chips on top or on the side - my husband uses a bowl of corn chips as a spoon to eat the whole bowl of soup - his metabolism allows this, mine does not!!!
- or any combination of the above!  My fave is light sour cream and natural corn chips - yummo!!!!

Happy cooking!

Love Amy xoxo

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Home Made Easter Gifts

Here are some of the Easter treats we made for gifts this year.  I made these in a few batches - once on my own, once with Mr 3 and once with my friend Claire and her little Miss 3.  The two 3 year olds had a messy ball as you will be able to see in their handiwork!!!!

~ Chocolate eggs filled with salted caramel

Continuing with my salted caramel obsession, I had to try putting this delicious filling inside Easter eggs!  I made the caramel as per the Salted Dulce de Leche that I have referenced twice already - here and here! David Lebovitz's method is my favourite and you can find here.

While the caramel is cooking, prepare the hollow part of the eggs with melted chocolate. I like to use a combination of milk and dark and use the best chocolate I can afford/what is on special...I'm not sure it makes a difference to using chocolate melts, but I personally prefer the taste so use a nice chocolate where possible.

Once the caramel is cold, fill the hollow chocolate eggs with a drop of caramel and then covered it with more melted chocolate.

Once the chocolate has set, join the 2 halves together with some more melted chocolate.  On my first try, I had too much mixture, so the egg didn't join as nicely, so keep the mixture nice and flat for an even join.

First attempt at joining:

Second attempt at joining:

A delicious cross section of chocolate and salted caramel....yum!!!!

~ Freckle eggs

We first made solid eggs by making two solid halves, setting them, then joining them together with more melted chocolate. Then you can either paint or dip the whole egg in melted chocolate and then toss it in 100s and 1000s.  The kids used their hands (of course!!!) and liked to dip the whole egg in - you can see their deliciously messy results below. The paint brush technique was more my style! ;-)

Now, for the kids turn - let the fun and mess begin!!!!

As you can see, the kids enjoyed getting their hands dirty!!! Thank goodness for Claire tidying up along the way all day otherwise my house would have been even more of a barnyard at the end of this cooking adventure!  Of course, the kids enjoyed licking the spoons and their hands most of all. It was surprising that although they were surrounded by so much chocolate all day, they didn't really eat that much...luckily!

I also made some versions of these eggs that were hollow in the middle which were slightly more fragile, but delicious!!!

We made some dark varieties for gift recipients who are dark chocolate lovers and later this week I am making a special batch of white chocolate eggs for my husband.

~ Chocolate & Peanut Butter Easter Birds Nests.  Filled with mini birds eggs and mini chicks from Big W.  This was the most fun and easy for the kids to do.  I made these last year with my then 2 year old and he loved it and it was so simple and cute so thought we'd do it again.  I got the idea and directions from the fabulous Planning Queen Nicole - you can see her post and recipe/directions here.   It was actually after I'd made these and emailed photos to Nic that I first "chatted" with her.  She is one lovely lady and provides me with endless inspiration!  Being a bit more slap dash, I don't mold the nests in a bowl, but dollop large spoonfuls on to baking paper and then arrange in to a nest shape.

~ Maple Muesli - recipe on my blog here packaged up in recylced jars with material scraps and twine on top.

~ Cards & tags made at home on publisher, one zig at a time ;-) and bagged in to cheap but sturdy brown paper bags. I think you should be able to use the picture below as a little Easter gift tag of your own - punch a little hole in it and thread through some twine and you are set.

Happy Easter!  I hope it's a safe and happy and healthy and fun weekend with your loved ones.

Love Amy xoxo