Zucchini and Bacon Fritters

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I found that the healthier I ate and the more I focused on excercising and such, the more I was craving things like zucchini! So naturally I did some research, and when I found a zucchini recipe I liked – I went for it! This particular recipe for zucchini and bacon fritters is just amazing. Not only is it very quick, it’s also very delicious and healthy! It’s a great way to use up old zucchini, and as it uses bacon we know it’s bound to be delicious! These fritters are so popular in our house now I have added them to the recipe box, which is where I store all the recipes which we consider to be the best and tastiest I have made. What’s great about this recipe is that it’s easy to make it in larger batches, in smaller batches, and you only require a few things to get it all together. Moreover it’s not like store bought fritters, which are so full of flour that it’s impossible to get the flavour punch from the rest of the ingredients!

We have experimented with toppings for these fritters, as well as sides. The original recipe comes with onion relish, which I decided against. I happen to love general sauces, so I use a little gluten-free barbecue sauce on mine. Yummo! Our last batch was served with a side of coleslaw as well, because mum loves her coleslaw, and dad even finished it off with some delicious vegetable curry which he had been making beside us! It was a very vegetable heavy luncheon, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. It seems like my body knows what it needs, and it’s persuading me to eat more vegetables!

Happy FF!

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Shepherd’s Pie (GF)

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I have been making great strides in terms of learning to eat healthier snacks. I think it’s incredible to see a much wider range of these sorts of recipes available online. I can remember when I first started looking for healthier snack recipes a long time ago and almost none existed. But now the whole world seems to know paleo, sugar-free, low-carb or even plain old gluten-free recipes. So while I was thinking of what to do for dinner I was also thinking of what sort of snacks I could make to eat throughout the rest of the weekend. All of a sudden I had a bizarre craving for zucchini and smoothies.

There is a cafe below where I work which specialises in raw treats, and healthier eats. Most of their wares are not gluten-free, however, so I tend to avoid their food and stick to their smoothies. I have been attempting to improve the smoothies I use at home and so far have had no success. But I was inspired to look for some paleo smoothie recipes are realising how much I liked the ones at the cafe, and how their ingredients were more or less paleo too!

But I am a carnivore at heart, and so when I was flipping through a growing collection of Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks to look for dinner recipes I couldn’t go past this one for Shepherd’s Pie. Most people will know this is a classic dinner dish which is inexpensive to make and which can be made to feed a large gathering. But what a lot of people might not know is how old this dish is, and where it comes from. To understand that we have to start with the dish which is almost interchangeable with Shepherd’s Pie, and that is of course Cottage Pie.

Cottage Pie precedes Shepherd’s Pie, and was referenced in cookbooks and the like from even the late seventeen hundreds! It was considered the poor man’s meal because it made use of leftover meat and a mashed potato topping, and potato was the poorer citizen’s crop. It is said to have originated in either Ireland, Scotland or North Britain – but sources seemed to argue about who made it first and where. All I know is that this dish has been around for quite some time. But what first distinguished the two dishes, you might ask! Cottage Pie was traditionally made on beef whereas Shepherd’s Pie was traditionally made on lamb. Nowadays we’re not all that fussed about what meat we use, and we use either name to refer to more or less the same dish. I know I grew up eating a lot of Shepherd’s Pie, and I think of it as being a traditional and old-fashioned sort of meal. It’s got the feel and flavours of home for me.

There are also similar versions of this dish in other parts of the world, ranging from Spain and France right through to India! What’s more not all of these dishes were made using mashed potato as a topping. In fact the Oxford Companion to Food even claims that Scotland used to make their Shepherd’s Pie with pastry rather than mash. So what might seem like a rather common dish can turn out to be one with a rather interesting story!

Happy FF!

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Lamb Tagine with Harissa and Green Olives (GF, DF)

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Tagine is an iconic dish, able to made with all sorts of meat and vegetables. But where does it come from! Most people who like Moroccan cooking know what tagine is. It’s a special clay pot which is used to make exquisite slow cooker meals. But then there is also the tagine dish, the history of which is still a topic of debate. Moroccan cuisine has had quite a few influences over the centuries, ranging from the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans, right through to the Arabic nations, the French and the Spanish! So sources still seem to be uncertain about who to give the credit to when it comes to the origin of the famous tagine dish.

However, through some research I have discovered that there is no such thing as a “standard tagine”. Tagine is quite different in each region of Morocco, and one particular source insists that for the best tagine all visitors have to go to the Imazighen regions of Morocco – where the cooks stick to the traditional roasting over hot charcoal method and slow cook their tagines for hours. Phew! Until I became curious about tagine and decided to do some research I never would have known what an interesting and diversified dish it could be! It makes me want to travel to taste all the unique flavours of it, and to savour each particular regional influence on the dish! It goes to show that what we might think of as simple or common can have the most fascinating of stories. If someone happen to know more about this particular cuisine or this particular dish, I would love to hear it. I want to be more educated about all sorts of foods!

This particular tagine was not made in the traditional method, but was made using our old slow cooker. It still turned out to be superb. It also introduced me to the spice blend called harissa, which includes things like chilli, paprika, mint and garlic, cumin, and more. It seems to differ depending on the spice blend, but the blend I have packs a flavour punch! Delicious! I wish I had the chance to marinate the meat overnight in the spices, because I think that would have made it even more delicious. But it was still lovely after a couple of hours in the slow cooker. I could only imagine how fantastic it would be when cooked in a proper tagine pot! You could also do this dish with beef, as I think it would work quite well like that.

I made sure not to get a lot of olives in the serving above, if only because I was then going to be eating it and I’m not the biggest olive fan! But if you are then you could even add a bit more, as it’s only a stir-through at the end ingredient. Feel free to change it up a bit and see how you like it for this Fiesta Friday!

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Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award

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I want to give a big shout out to Mutsumi of Sakura Junction for nominating me for the Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award! Mutsumi is a relatively new blogger, but she writes fantastic posts and her passion for what she does shows very clearly! Thank you Mutsumi!

Mutsumi has also asked me these questions!

1. What do you do to keep fit?

At the moment I go to the gym before, during or after work – depending what I have time for. I try to exercise on the weekend through doing some uncoordinated dancing around the living room, or going for light walks.

2. Which do you prefer living by the sea or in a mountain?

I think I would prefer to live by the sea. I don’t often get to go to the beach, and I think it would be much more temperate than where I live currently!

3. What is your guilty pleasure?

Gluten-free shortbread biscuits. Dad has discovered a brand which does the most delicious buttery shortbread. Not too sweet, not too plain. Just right.

4. If you can be a character in a film which character/film you want to be?

Hm, I have a few I like. Zatoichi – the character, Peter Quill – the character, I would like to be in most of the Marvel films, as well as the Neil Gaiman film MirrorMask, and the independent film Ink (the concept was fantastic).

5. What is the craziest thing you have ever done in your life?

I tend to be the one that rescues people after crazy things have happened to them, so I live vicariously that way! But who knows, one day perhaps…

And now for the nominees….

Cooking for the Time Challenged – Reading their introduction it isn’t hard to see that this particular blogger has overcome a lot of adversity, and in doing so has created all sorts of delicious and healthy dishes that are now being shared with us. Be sure to check them out!

Spice in the City – Naina has been an avid fan of cooking and trying new recipes since she was young, she now shares that passion with us through her blog. Her photography is delicious!

Simply Vegetarian 777 – a blogger who cooks healthy, vegetarian recipes from all sorts of cuisines, Simply Vegetarian is not to be missed! None of her dishes are lacking in flavour or appeal!

Now in terms of those questions…I rather like Mutsumi’s questions, as they were quite different from the usual ones I see being asked. So I’m going to repeat those questions to the nominees!

1. What do you do to keep fit?

2. Which do you prefer living by the sea or in a mountain?

3. What is your guilty pleasure?

4. If you can be a character in a film which character/film you want to be?

5. What is the craziest thing you have ever done in your life?

Murgh Makhani, Butter Chicken (G/F)

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So begins our exploration of mains and savouries! But it should start with a bang, I think, not to mention a time-honoured classic! I picked this butter chicken recipe out of a fantastic cookbook by the Australian Women’s Weekly because it seemed so perfect for the starting main. It was simple, cheap to make, and flavoursome! Given it’s also a slow cooker recipe it seemed so suited to the sharp winter weather. At the moment it’s either raining, or pelting us with wicked bitter winds. To be honest I prefer the rain because it makes me glad to be indoors, and it’s so soothing to listen to. But when it’s cold outside it’s the perfect time to make a slow cooker recipe.

The virtue of slow cooker recipes is their set and leave nature. You have to do a few minor things to set them up, but then the slow cooker/oven will take care of the rest. You can go on and do more chores or go have fun, and after a couple of hours a delicious meal will be there – waiting to be eaten. But butter chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, is such a classic it would be hard to pass up. It seems to have a rather interesting tale behind it as well. Although it’s invention is rather recent, able to be traced back to a man called Kundan Lal Gujral, who operated a restaurant in Dehli, India in the 1950’s, a few sources pointed out that it was ancient influences on Punjabi cuisine that allowed this sort of dish to come about. I think it’s so fascinating to know that all modern cuisines have such different sources that influenced them at one time or another, and to think of how different things would be without those influences. I also have to give a nod of great respect to Kundan Lal Gujral, if not for his skill we might not have this delicious dish in our kitchens now! If someone happens to know a bit more about this topic, please drop me a comment below. I’m eager to know more about the various cuisines in India!

And although it might not be considered authentic, I think this Women’s Weekly version is absolutely delicious. It’s rich, it’s flavoursome, but it’s not too overpowering. It’s also not too expensive to make given how far it stretches when served with rice and your preferred Indian bread. I wanted to serve mine with gluten-free garlic naan, but I was told I had created too much mess in the kitchen as it is and to stick with rice! But feel free to serve yours with whatever sides you like, and have a happy FF!

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Pistachio Cookies (G/F, D/F)

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Out of trouble comes good fortune! It seems like ever since the car accident happened I have been having a lot more good luck when it comes to health and well being. The doctor who treated me at the hospital after the car accident ended up recommending I start taking regular pain medication, and this was the best possible advice he could have given me. For a long time now a base level of pain and discomfort has prevented me from doing a lot of different activities. It ended up being that doctors would tell me what not to do, and recommending I swim for fitness. But each time I did go swimming I experienced excruciating knee and ankle pain, and couldn’t swim more than two hundred or so meters. It also gave me quite bad headaches. But I was becoming weaker and more fragile, and it was getting to the point that I was worried  I wouldn’t be able to keep doing the things I loved because of this. But since I have started taking pain medication I have found things so much easier. It’s made a huge difference in how I move and how much more energetic I am. I was so used to a certain level of pain that I didn’t even notice it was making me so fatigued until it stopped. I now do a little workout before and after work, and I am focusing on small and achievable goals. It’s been great! I have been at it for a couple of weeks now and I feel like I’m improving. So I owe a big thanks to the doctor at Calvary Hospital. Thanks to him I am back on track to a healthier life!

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But flowing on from that, I have made an executive decision to cut back on the sweets for awhile. I love baking to death. It’s no doubt that I love to make up sweet treats and that I will never tire of it. But I am also finding I am liking cooking main meals more and more as I get that little bit stronger. I think it’s a sign, my body knows what it needs and it’s trying to tell me. So although I will still be cooking sweets for special occasions – such as when I go to a friend’s house for a dinner or meal, I’ll be focusing on making some savouries for awhile. I’m looking forward to it! I found not one or two, but three women’s weekly cookbooks at the nearby salvation army store! For a dollar each no less! I picked up a weeknight meals cookbook, a four ingredients or less cookbook, and a slow cooker cookbook. Fantastic! I have bookmarked some main meals that when I first saw them, I knew would be delicious. I’m looking forward to it a lot!

But these pistachio cookies are the perfect last treat to post before I get cooking on some delicious main meals. These were crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and an absolute breeze to make. The first taste testers to have a bite of these couldn’t stop moaning and saying how amazing they were, and insisted I add them to my recipe box. I keep a recipe box of my absolute favourite go-to recipes, and this is now in there. So I thought it would be perfect to take along to Fiesta Friday!

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Chocolate Chip Cookies (GF)

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As much as it is one of the more common cookies out there, there is still something to be said for the humble chocolate chip. It’s homely and familiar, and with a few twists you can make it quite different – be that making it chewy or crunch or small and round or large and flat. I never get bored of making chocolate chip cookies because there are so many variations out there, and one of the things I decided to do when getting back into baking after the accident, was to make something for those I know with nut allergies. A few of the last things I’ve made have had tree nuts in them, and I know a few people who can’t eat that at all. So I decided to make these chocolate chip cookies from a recipe in a fantastic little cookbook called Gluten Free Classic Snacks. I absolutely loved the pecan shortbread cookies from this book, and although the chocolate chip cookie recipe in Gluten Free Girl Everyday was also tempting it required it’s own flour blend and would be more wasteful.

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Making this recipe also made me quite glad that I decided to bite the bullet and get a silicon mat for rolling out dough and pastry. I have a slippery bench top, and I always ended up having to either chase dough around it or use less flour and risk sticking. This mat made rolling this cookie dough into a log quite a breeze. I then popped it into the freezer as per the instructions and used the time while it was freezing to go have a shower and get ready for the day, as I was going to go dog-sitting for a friend. Marvel the dachshund is as cute as can be, and I am fortunate that I get to look after her. I’m kind of smitten with her. I also feel extremely privileged that my friends trust in me enough to come around and help look after her while they’re away. It goes to show I have a great friendship there.

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