Easy Puff Pastry Ham and Egg Pie for Mother’s Day


 “Motherhood is a choice you make every day, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”
~ Donna Ball

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday, May 12.

This simple ham and egg pie (or quiche if you’d rather) is simple enough for kids and non-cooks to attempt. It’s easy to modify the recipe too, to incorporate other ingredients or to make it bigger or smaller.

It makes a delicious breakfast or brunch dish, and can be eaten warm or prepared in advance and eaten cold. Warning, if you use a lot of cheese the pie might be a bit gooey straight out of the oven. Letting it sit for fifteen minutes before you cut into it will help it firm up. Or, just enjoy it cheesy-gooey if that’s your thing. I certainly like it like that!

Serve it on its own or with a side salad, some crusty fresh bread and a good chutney or relish. Any leftovers will keep, refrigerated, for three days.

Don’t have a mum or a grandmother to bake for? How about preparing it for an elderly neighbour, an overworked mum you know, or someone who is mourning the loss of a parent or child.

It’s also perfectly fine to bake it for yourself!

Hugs and love, Nicole ❤ xx

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet of pre-prepared puff pastry (use gluten-free if that’s an issue for you) *Hint, have an extra sheet on hand just in case 1 isn’t quite enough for your dish
  • 1 medium onion, diced and softened in a frypan over medium heat with a small amount of olive oil to grease the pan (don’t let it brown, just colour it up slightly)
  • 1 cup cooked ham, chopped
  • 1 cup cubed or grated cheese (I love using Swiss or Jarlsberg cheese but use whatever you have to hand)
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup of milk or cream
  • optional but good – some fresh green shallots or chives finely chopped
  • butter to grease the dish
  • one pie or casserole dish at least 22cm in diameter, with sides at least 4 cm high

Want to make this vegetarian? Omit the ham and use a cup of other vegetables of your choice. Capsicum (bell pepper), mushrooms and broccoli are favourites of mine. Once you’ve made this quiche a few times you’ll be confident to change out the ingredients to make all kinds of flavour combinations.

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius.
  2. Rub a little oil or butter around the inside of your pie dish and then line it with the pastry making sure that you go all the way to the top of the dish. It’s okay to cut pieces to fit. Just overlap them a little and then press them together well. It’s even okay if the pastry sticks over the top a little. Rustic is good too.
  3. Layer the cheese, ham and onion or whatever ingredients you have chosen onto the pastry crust.
  4. Break the eggs into a bowl, add the cream and beat together with a fork. Add salt and pepper and fresh herbs if you are using them and mix again.
  5. Pour egg mixture gently into pie shell.
  6. Bake for thirty to forty minutes or until quiche is lightly coloured and firm to touch. How can you tell if it’s cooked? When you give the pie a nudge the centre of the pie shouldn’t move. If there is movement or a wobble it’s not cooked through. Put it back in the oven and give it a bit more time if it’s still wobbly.

Five Dishes to Cook for a Fabulous Easter Feast

Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love. ” 
~
Craig Claiborne

If you’re looking for inspiration for a tasty and easy meal to share with your family this Easter I have some simple suggestions for you.

There’s a creamy Celery Soup for starters, followed by Slow Cooked Leg of Lamb with a Ruby Grapefruit and Asparagus Salad and Hasselback Potatoes, and Hot Cross Bun Bread and Butter Pudding for dessert.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan I’ve added some tips and twists in for you too.

Then all you need are a few drinks, some family or friends, some music and some relaxation time. Easy!

Just click on the link to access each recipe.

Soup: Cream of Celery Soup Recipe This is a super-healthy and totally delicious soup that is also useful for boosting your immune system and warding off colds and flu bugs. It makes a lovely first course and is gluten-free and can easily be made as a vegan dish.

Note: If you couldn’t be bothered with a big meal or you’ve eaten too many Easter Eggs why not have some cheese, crackers and fruit as your first or last course and pair that with this soup. Make sure you have some good bread to go with the soup – you’ll find it tasty and satisfying.

Salad: Ruby Grapefruit and Asparagus Salad

This is a scrumptious and very pretty salad and the acidity of the grapefruit goes well with the richness of the lamb roast.

Vegetarian? Throw in some extra avocado and feta cheese, double the size of the salad and forget about the lamb roast. Make sure you have some yummy bread as an accompaniment. A good rye bread or grainy sourdough is a great choice for this salad.

Vegan? See tips for vegetarians and omit the feta cheese.

Carb:Hasselback Potatoes? Opera House Potatoes? Best Ever Baked Potato Recipe!

This potato recipe is a favourite in our household and I will often make them for special occasions or when friends come to visit (which is often for us because we are blessed with good friends and good neighbours). They are crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, and you won’t be able to stop at just one!

Main: Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb with Garlic, Herbs and Red Wine

Easter and Lamb Roasts go hand in hand. This is a simple recipe – it takes little effort and the results are always a show-stopper. It’s a moist, flavour-filled, melt-in-your-mouth dish that is easy for beginner cooks. It’s almost impossible to stuff up. But you do need five hours of cooking time, and fifteen minutes prep, as well as fifteen minutes to rest the roast after it has cooked. Totally worth the wait though!!!

Note: Sorry, vegetarians and vegans. If meat is not your thing I have no substitute for this one.

Dessert: Hot Cross Bun Bread And Butter Pudding

This pudding is made several times over the Easter period in our house, as it’s so simple and easy for feeding guests and we don’t seem to tire of it either! It’s a silky smooth bread pudding with a lightly spiced sweet custard – heavenly!

If you manage to have any as left-overs it is great eating cold as well. (We have been known to eat the leftovers with a big mug of tea or freshly brewed coffee as breakfast when we have had a late night at Bluesfest.)

Note: Choose gluten-free buns or bread it needed. You can also use your favourite type of non-dairy milk, a butter substitute, and if you need to be egg-free replace the eggs with one cup of applesauce.

I encourage you to give these recipes a try.  Hopefully some of them will become an Easter Tradition in your household too.

Much love to you, ♥ Nicole xx

Hot Cross Bun Bread And Butter Pudding – SO Easy and Yum!


“You don’t win friends with salad.”
~ Homer Simpson

Easter is nearly here. I love this time of year in Australia as the days get shorter, the nights cooler, and we begin our slow descent toward winter. Today’s recipe is a seasonal twist on one of my favourite easy-to-whip-up crowd-pleasing desserts. It uses Hot Cross Buns – a spiced and fruited yeast bun with a white flour paste cross on top which is made for Easter. (Note, these were in the shops in Australia on Boxing Day this year – the day after Christmas, which was very controversial!) If you don’t have Hot Cross Buns in your part of the world use a good fruit bread instead.

This pudding is delicious served warm with a drizzle of cream or custard or a dollop of your favourite yoghurt or ice-cream. Or go crazy and put it all on top of your pudding. Why not?

If you manage to have any as left-overs it is great eating cold as well.

I served this pudding with a Woolworths brand Hot Cross Bun flavoured ice-cream which was seriously good.

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2.5 cups of milk (625ml or close enough)
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 flat teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 flat teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 Hot Cross Buns
  • butter
  • a large handful of dried fruit – sultanas, raisins, dried apricots or whatever is in the pantry and chop larger fruit into small pieces – I used dried dates
  • jam or marmalade of your choice – I used Apricot

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180C (moderate or 355F) or slightly less if it is fan forced.

Using butter grease a baking dish large enough to hold your buns and the custard mixture (a six to eight cup capacity should do it).  Slice your Hot Cross Buns vertically into three or four slices, butter each slice and spread with jam. Add a few pieces of your dried fruit between the slices. Reassemble Bun slices and place the buns into bowl. Don’t put any dried fruit on the top of the pudding as it may burn.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, spices and vanilla, ensuring that sugar has dissolved.  Pour gently over bread.  Wiggle the slices a little to ensure that the egg mixture has gone right to the bottom of the dish.  Then let it stand for 30 minutes so that the bread absorbs the liquid.  This will give your pudding a nice lift.

Put the pudding into a large baking tray with high sides and pour room-temperature water into the tray until it comes halfway up the side of your pudding dish. This will stop the custard cooking too fast and give your pudding a deliciously silky texture.

Bake for one hour or until the top has risen and is golden and nicely firm. (If it feels really wobbly in the centre give it another five to ten minutes.) Don’t panic if it sinks again after it’s been out of the oven for a bit – it shall still taste delicious.  Carefully lift the pudding bowl out of the water bath. Serve with ice-cream, custard or cream.  Heavenly.

Five Yummy Easter Treats to Try at Home


“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” 
~
Mother Theresa

I thought I’d share some of the recipes I’m making for Easter. Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced cook – these recipes are EASY, tasty and lots of fun, and there are plenty of ways to get the kids involved too. Giving home-made treats at Easter is a lovely heart-felt gift.

Or, of course, you could just eat them all yourself! Just click on the link to go directly to the recipe.

1.Green Goji Bliss Balls

I often whip up a batch of these healthy, yummy snacks. Green Goji Bliss Balls are packed full of nutrition, and the lemon gives them a lovely fresh tang. They are vegan and gluten, dairy and refined sugar free.

They are incredibly easy to make, especially if you have a good food processor or blender. If you’re looking for a super-healthy Easter Treat this one works well.

2. Healthy Bounty Bar Easter Eggs!

Bounty Bars are one of my favourite chocolates. Ben’s too. They have a creamy coconut centre covered in chocolate. Who can resist that kind of flavour combo? But they are full of sugar, so I decided to have a play around in the kitchen and see what else I could come up with that might be a bit healthier.

This version is refined sugar-free, and can be made gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free or vegan depending on what kind of chocolate you use.

3. Walnut and Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites – Fit for a Prince!

In our household we call these little treasures yummy ‘uglies’.  They may not be the prettiest treats, but the taste more than makes up for it. Walnut and dark chocolate is a heavenly combination, made even better with coconut, and they are quick to whip up.

A variation of a macaroon, these Bites are gluten-free and can also be sugar-free, so they are great for diabetics and people with food intolerances or following a paleo diet.

4.Five-Minute Fudge Recipe

A few years ago a friend gave me a recipe she uses to make commercial quantities of fudge for a fudge house.  I couldn’t believe how simple it was, or how great it turned out. And it only takes five minutes.

I make this often for street stalls, gifts and bribes. It may be a cheater’s kind of fudge but it is every kind of delicious. It will be one of the things in my Easter Basket presents for loved ones this year. Sorry, this one is FULL of dairy and sugar. But as an occasional treat it’s just grand!

5. Marshmallow Recipe – Perfect for Easter

Homemade marshmallow is the yummiest, fluffiest thing. Easy and inexpensive too. The recipe will make the sort of standard coconut-covered marshmallows most people know, but it can also be used in moulds to make cool shapes. At Easter, marshmallow eggs or bunnies are very appropriate, and make delicious gifts.

This Easter I’m making quite a lot of marhsmallow eggs for my loved ones – they’ll be nestled in a basket with my home-made fudge, and some rich, moist fruit cake.

I encourage you to give these recipes a try.  Hopefully some of them will become an Easter Tradition in your household too.

Much love to you, ♥ Nicole xx

Easy Sour Cream Baked Cheesecake with White Chocolate Ganache and Fresh Raspberries

“If there’s cheesecake in the house, I’ll have some.” ~ Kelly Ripa

Every year a dear friend comes to our farm to hang out, write and celebrate her birthday. And, of course, birthdays need good cake.

Our cake of choice this year was a simple sour cream cheesecake which we then fancied up with a white chocolate ganache and some fresh raspberries and a drizzle of dark chocolate for the prettiness factor.

Result? A creamy, tangy melt-in-your-mouth cheesecake with that lovely fresh contrast of berry and a hint of lemon. So, so good!

Ingredients and method:

Base

  • 250g plain sweet biscuits (I used Butternut Snaps)
  • 125g melted butter

Method

  1. Prepare a 22cm springform pan by greasing lightly and then lining base with baking paper.
  2. Crush biscuits in food processor until in fine crumbs. Add melted butter.
  3. Press firmly into base of pan. You can take the mixture up the sides of the pan if desired. Chill until needed.

Cheesecake Filling

  • 500g cream cheese
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • finely grated rind of one lemon

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celcius/ 338 Fahrenheit
  2. Cream cheese and sugar together until smooth.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions.
  4. Add vanilla, lemon zest and sour cream and lightly fold in.
  5. Pour into tin and bake one hour.
  6. Cool in pan on bench and then chill.

White Chocolate Ganache

  • 250g white chocolate
  • 250ml (one cup) sour cream

Method

  1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or use a microwave in 10 second increments on medium to low heat, stirring after each session until chocolate is completely melted. Allow to cool until almost starting to set.
  2. Stir in sour cream.
  3. Spread over top of cheesecake and then place fresh raspberries on top. Drizzle with a little melted dark chocolate for a pretty effect.

Holiday At the Farm!


“There is more to life than making a living. Do not work more than you live.” ~ Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Hello, Lovelies!

Right now we have a friend and her little girls vacationing with us here at the farm. Each day the girls have farm chores to do – watering the gardens and fruit trees (it is very dry here right now), feeding the goldfish in the big ceramic pot that sits by the front door, and feeding some hay to the cows and all the new little calves. It’s a late calving season this year, and we’ve had three new calves in the past week and another few will probably arrive soon too!

Amidst all the farm work there has also been time for breakfasts at our favourite Byron Bay cafe, swims in the pool, outings to the bookshop, cooking lessons in my little farmhouse kitchen, time for reading and for colouring in our January Mandalas.

I’ve still been working, sneaking off into my office to write blogs, work on our retreats and courses and to do readings for clients. But work has that relaxed holiday feel to it, and it has been a pleasure to sit down at my desk every day to write and craft our projects for the year ahead.

Yesterday was particularly exciting. We decided that dinner would be a cocktail party on the verandah. No special reason – just because we could.

It was compulsory to wear a flower in our hair, and we all put on some party clothes. Ben chose a great selection of music, and then we sat outside and snacked and talked and laughed the night away. We also had a great box of cards that we took turns choosing, that prompted us to share something we were proud of, grateful for, favourite songs, achievements. That part was probably the highlight of my day!

I made non-alcoholic mango cocktails for the girls, and we adults shared glasses of Prosecco with preserved hibiscus flowers in the bottom of each glass for a fancy party effect.

Our food included fresh local oysters and prawns (shrimp), and a selection of cheeses and dips, crackers, olives, cold meats, fruits and snacks. Delicious. And of course a few morsels seemed to slip off those platters and into our dogs’ tummies. Although I can’t see how that happened!

What can be better in life than creating new shared memories with friends?

Today? More Planner time for me, a little writing time and cooking lessons: foundation biscuit mixture and variations, and later we’ll make tacos for dinner.

I’m wishing you a year of balance, connection, fun and meaningful work too.

Much love, Nicole ❤ xx

Nana’s Easy Pavlova Recipe


“Like all magnificent things, it’s very simple.” 
~
 Natalie Babbitt

We have a friend and her young daughters staying with us right now. The girls love to help me in the kitchen, and for their mum’s birthday I helped them to bake and decorate their first pavolava, which is a favourite dessert of their mum.

This recipe was given to me by my Nana, but it was actually her own mother’s recipe. It’s a very simple pavlova – a fluffy marshmallow-centred pav with a thin crisp meringue crust.

It’s almost impossible to stuff up, and the whole thing is prepped and in the oven in around ten minutes. An hour and a half to bake, some time to cool and then it’s ready to eat.

If a six and eight year old can master this recipe you can too! (Can you see the princess in the pavlova? Hint – her eyes are blueberries and her nose is a raspberry!)

Enjoy,

Much love, Nicole ❤ xx

Ingredients

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1.5 cups castor sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour, sifted
  • extra cornflour for dusting baking paper

Method

Preheat oven to 130 degrees Celsius or 120 degrees if fan forced (That’s 260 degrees Fahrenheit or 250 degrees)

Line a large tray with baking paper and then use a plate and a pen to draw a large circle. Take the baking paper, crumple it and then lay it out flat again with the circle face down so no pen gets on your pavlova. Lightly with cornflour, which will prevent the pavlova from sticking.

Whip the egg whites with a whisk or electric mixer on high speed until they reach soft peaks. Dump in all other ingredients and then keep beating for ten minutes or until the mixture is thick and glossy.

Spoon the mixture out onto the baking paper using the circle as a guide. Build from the edge in. Then use a spoon to smooth it a little and the centre a little lower – this will form the nest when you fill the pavlova later.

Bake for 1.5 hours. Turn off oven and allow to cool in over for another hour. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Fill with whipped cream (you can sweeten it slightly if you prefer. We used 300ml of cream and a tablespoon of castor sugar). Arrange sliced fresh fruit of your choice on top. Good toppings include berries, kiwifruit, mango, banana, stonefruit and passionfruit.

Best eaten soon after compiling as the meringue will soften over time from the cream.

A Snack Platter Dinner Is A Legitimate Thing!


“I believe in a benevolent God not because He created the Grand Canyon or Michelangelo, but because He gave us snacks.” 
~
 Paul Rudnick

Our neighbours came over for dinner last night.

We get together quite often, and many times our dinner is not a proper meal. Instead it is a dinner of snacks.

Our friends will bring some. I will rustle some up. Fresh harvest from the vege garden – maybe some little tomatoes, green beans or a nice crunchy capsicum (bell pepper), crackers and dips and cheeses and relish and nuts. Maybe some leftover salad or roast meat or vegetables. Whatever else we can find that is snacky.

Then we add wine, or bubbles, or tea. Throw in some good conversation and a few laughs. Music, of course.

Perhaps something sweet to finish. Fresh fruit or whatever biscuits, cake or chocolate is hiding in the pantry.

Maybe, after a while, some kind of game. Cards Against Humanity is a favourite.

Quite often I’ll make us all a Golden Milk latte or a mug of chai to round out the night.

It’s an easy thing to do, to throw together an assortment of snacks. It’s low key, and if you’re tired or unwell it makes having company a pleasure rather than a chore, which is as it should be!

The energies of 2019 suit relaxed get-togethers and shared company. Maybe you could try a snacks platter night some time soon, and ask all your guests to contribute.

Hugs and love, Nicole❤ xx

Simple Christmas Baking and Treat Recipes

“Christmas is a tonic for our souls. It moves us to think of others rather than of ourselves. It directs our thoughts to giving.” B.C. Forbes

 

It’s less than a month until Christmas, but there is still plenty of time to whip up a tasty treat or two to share with friends, to gift, or to make your own Christmas a little more yummy.

One of the things I love about food as a gift at Christmas is that it is something almost everyone appreciates, and it is a consumable so it won’t add to the growing mountain of plastic waste, pointless gag gifts and credit card debt.

When you share your gifts think about using wrapping and packaging that won’t cost the earth. Go find an old tin or some pretty old china at the Thrift Store, or wash and reuse glass jars with a circle of bright fabric or paper tied over the lid to make it festive. Cardboard, paper, ribbon, string, fabirc, waxed cotton and flowers from the garden all make great packaging and decoration too.

Here are some of my favorourite Christmas cooking ideas. All of them are easy, quick and well-tested by at least one of my Christmas Elves (Ben, Rufous, Cafe Dog, the neighbours or the staff of the Bangalow Post Office!) and me. Just click on the link to go to the recipe.

Macadamia Shortbread Recipe

 

Easy Fruit Cake Rum Balls

 

Festive Fudge Recipe

 

Heavenly Chocolate Brownies

 

Gluten-Free No Bake Yummy Slice

 

Last-Minute Christmas Cake Recipe

Five Minute Fudge

 

Easy Peach and Vanilla Jam Recipe

 

Prize-Winning Coconut Ice

 

Green Goji Bliss Balls (Healthy but AMAZINGLY GOOD!)

Much love, Nicole  xx

 

 

Easy Fruitcake Rum Ball Recipe for Christmas

“You little beauty! I wait all year for these Rum Balls!” ~ Michael the Tractor Man

 

We live on a farm, as members of a small regional community here in the Byron Bay Shire. Each year we use the same services, eat at the same cafes, shop at the same markets. Over time the people who staff these places have become friends – people whose names we know and whose lives have become intertwined with our own.

So at Christmas time we love to share gifts with the people who have served and supported us throughout the year.

I’m planning to make my Festive Fudge, shortbread and Christmas cakes to give as gifts. But I’ve been in bed for most of the past month so my preparation is behind and today Ben will be seeing the man who services our mowers and chainsaws, and the man who repairs and services our tractors. So we need rumballs, stat! With Bundaberg Rum, of course, because that’s how we roll in this household. It’s tradition!

These rumballs are one of the fastest and easiest recipes I know. And oh my goodness, they are DELICIOUS!!! Fudgey and flavoursome, great texture, and not too sweet. I whipped up these Easy Fruitcake Rum Balls last night, in about twenty minutes from start to finish.

If you don’t like the taste of rum try brandy, Frangelico, Kahlua, Tia Maria or even Grand Marnier. Need it alcohol-free? Substitute rum flavoured essence, vanilla or hazelnut syrup or even a coffee essence.

And if you live somewhere hot at Christmas time make sure to keep the finished rum balls in the fridge. In fact if it’s meltingly hot where you are you may need to chill the mixture first before rolling it.

Happy making, lots of love, Nicole xx

Ingredients:

  • 1.2kg of fruitcake (Buy two x 800 gram dark fruitcakes and use one and one half cakes)
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) of dark rum
  • 3 x 200g blocks of dark chocolate
  • 3 to 4 cups of unsweetened desiccated coconut (Note – you could substitute chocolate sprinkles for some or all of the coconut if you prefer)

Method:

  1. Choose a large bowl. Break the cake into tiny crumbs in the bowl and then sprinkle the rum over the cake. Mix well and leave to stand for five minutes.
  2. If you have a  microwave melt the chocolate by breaking the first 200g block of chocolate into pieces in a heatproof bowl. Melt on medium for one minute. Stir and then melt on medium for another 30 seconds. Stir and if all melted add chocolate to cake mixture. Stir well.
  3. Repeat process for remaining two blocks of chocolate, melting and mixing one block at a time.
  4. If you don’t have a microwave use a double boiler  – break all of the chocolate into a large bowl and place the bowl over simmering water. Stir until melted. Add the chocolate to the fruitcake mix in thirds, stirring well after each addition.
  5. Take heaped teaspoons of mixture and roll into balls using your hands. If it’s boiling hot in your kitchen chill the mixture a little first to make it easier to roll. Toss the balls in coconut to cover. You should get upwards of 80 balls. (Results vary depending on how much you eat while making!)
  6. Place on a tray or in a container in one layer and refrigerate until firm. After the balls are hard you can stack them on top of each other, but wait until they are set or they will lose their shape.

Here is the recipe and the taste test in pictures for you (and you’ll notice that Rufous Dog has managed to sneak into yet another food pic) 🙂