Cinnamon Granola…Healthy and Delicious

Recently I discovered the wondrous powers on cinnamon which has inevitably resulted in my including it in absolutely everything that I possibly can! Aside from tasting and smelling delicious, cinnamon has been linked to lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar levels and reducing arthritic pain. It’s also been suggested that including cinnamon in your diet can increase your metabolism and aid weight loss, so it’s an ingredient thats worthwhile using. Personally, I like the boost of flavour it provides to any dish, savoury or sweet, that can often replace sugar. Porridge or oats that would normally be topped with honey or golden syrup could instead be served with a nice sprinkling of cinnamon and fresh banana! So tasty and much lower in sugar then the former. If your after a warm drink try hot soy or almond milk with cinnamon instead of a sugary hot chocolate. Better still, a chai tea is the perfect option before bed.

One of the best new things that I’ve discovered to include cinnamon in though is my homemade granola. Besides the fact that I love to cook, I like to make my own granola as opposed to buying a pre-made one as I know exactly whats in it (often the store-made ones are full of hidden nasties and loads of sugar which I like to avoid wherever possible). It’s also super easy and tends to follow a “throw whatever’s in the pantry rule” which is perfect when your pressed fro time. There are no real measurements and you can include whatever flavour combinations that you’d like. I like to make up a big batch at the beginning of the week and store it in jars to have for breakfast or snacks throughout the week. It goes really nicely with Greek Yogurt and fresh fruit too! I’ve played around with a few combinations and so far my favourite flavour is cinnamon, cranberry and pistachio.

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What I used:

Ground Cinnamon

Honey

Almonds

Pistachio nuts

Oats

Seeds (chia seeds, pepitas, sunflower)

Coconut (shredded or desiccated) 

Dried Cranberries

Dried Dates

What I did:

In a bowl mix together about a handful of almonds, pistachio nuts, seeds (of your choosing) and oats and top with a liberal amount of cinnamon. Mix through so evenly coated and then add a squeeze of honey. Mix through and lay it all on a baking tray. Put it into the oven (200 degrees Celsius) and KEEP AN EYE ON IT!! This stuff burns really quickly so keep checking it every 10mins or so. Cooking time will depend on how much you’ve made and how crispy you like your oats but mine usually takes around 20mins. The oats should just start to go golden (remember it keeps cooking after your done). Once it’s looking sunkissed remove from oven, turn it off and mix through a handful of dried cranberries, sliced dates and coconut. Finally, drizzle over a little more honey and then pop it back into the oven (which is no longer on). This will help to make some delicious clusters of sweet cinnamony goodness that are hard to resist! Leave here for about 10mins before removing and allowing to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

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And there you have it! A perfect option for breakfasts or snacks. Like I said, I think it goes especially well served with Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and even some banana chips. Trust me, it will be hard to resist, but hey … who cares when it tastes this good!

Enjoy!!

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Christmas Baking

Christmas is fast approaching and what better way to start off by baking a Christmas Fruit Cake! I think there’s a bit of a misconception that Fruit Cake is one for the oldies (and I must say that on any usual day I would also be in agreement) but at Christmas there is nothing that I enjoy more then making a Christmas Cake. You could say that it has become somewhat of a tradition in my family, one that was first started by my mum and handed down to me. My recipe is one that differs slightly from the traditional Fruit Cake but i’m sure you’ll agree it’s just as delicious (if not more!)

Preferably you’ll need to start around 3 weeks before you want to eat it (if you can resist the temptation) so what better time then now! I usually make two cakes because my dad really struggles with the concept of not being allowed to cut it open until Christmas Day but its completely up to you as to what you’d like to do. For a more kid-friendly version substitute the alcohol with orange juice. 

What I used:

4 cups of mixed dried fruit

1 cup of glace cherries

1/3 cup of rum or quantro (or any other orange flavoured liquor you’d like)

250g butter (unsalted)

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2tsp vanilla essence

4 eggs

100g Dark chocolate

2tbsp apricot jam

2 cups plain flour

2tsp ground cinnamon

1tsp mixed spice

125g slivered almonds

Round spring-form cake tin (23cm deep)

What I did:

The day before: Cut the glace cherries in half and combine with the dried fruit. Add your alcohol (or orange juice) and stir well. Cover and soak your mixed fruit overnight for best results (min. 1 hour if you forget to do this part).

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line your baking tin with baking paper so that it doesn’t stick. I cut out two circles to cover the base and longer strips to go around the edges. Make short cuts along the edge pieces so that it sits in snuggly and spray the tin with canola oil spray to get it to stay in place. It should look like this

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Cream butter, sugar and vanilla using an electric mixer until its light and creamy looking and then add your eggs, one at a time. Make sure you beat well in between each one. Meanwhile, melt your chocolate and jam together until its smooth and silky. Beat this into the butter/sugar mixture on a low speed.

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Sift into this your flour, cinnamon and mixed spice. Add the almonds and stir to combine. Finally, add your dried fruit mix and stir well. Ensure that everything is mixed really well together.

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Spoon your mixture into the prepared pan like so

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Bake for 95mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out cleanly. This can take a while as the cake is very deep. Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing. And now you wait….ok kidding! Before you do that, wrap the cake tightly in foil and store in an airtight container in a cool place in your house (not the fridge). Keep it here until your ready to cut it open and trust me you won’t be dissapointed. The flavours will all have had a good amount of time to combine and intensify beautifully.

When serving, I like to cut star shapes out of melted white chocolate (melt the chocolate and spread thinly on baking paper. Leave to set. Use a cookie cutter to pop out the shapes and place over the top of the cake) and or wrap some nice ribbon around the edge. But again, it’s completely up to you!

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This is the one that I made last year for Christmas and trust me, it was well worth waiting for!!

Hope you enjoy! What Christmas treats do you like to bake for family and friends during the festive season??

Pasticceria Papa & Pizzeria Locale Reviewed

ImageEarlier this week was my Dad’s birthday so I made a little trip over to his (and incidentally my) favourite Italian bakery, Haberfield’s Pasticceria Papa!! I’m going to make a fairly big call here and say that this place makes what has got to be the best baked ricotta cheesecake and Cannoli in all of Sydney (see told you it was big). I love everything about Papa’s so it’s pretty lucky I live far enough away to not make regular visits! Buyers beware, it doesn’t matter what day you go, or what time, there will always be a line out the door. But never fear, aside from this being a fantastic sign of good food that the locals love, the line moves fairly quickly and gives you an opportunity to peruse the delicious assortment of cakes, biscuits, gelato and pastries that are available. 

So before I went I made a promise to myself that no matter what I would only purchase what I came for, Cannoli, not matter what temptations there were and trust me, there were plenty. One of the best things about this place (apart from the food) is the warm chocolate smell that greets you as you walk in the front door. Never in my life have I smelt something as good as this! As I mentioned before, I was on a Cannoli mission and because I’m the most indecisive person in the history of the planet I opted for the mini cannoli in both chocolate and ricotta (they also come in vanilla).

ImagePersonally, I would recommend….getting both! because who wants to miss out on anything and at around  $1.60 each who cares! Secretly and in hindsight I could easily have eaten two large ones. Nothing beats the crisp, fried pastry which encases the rich, creamy centre of the cannoli! Whilst I was waiting in line I discovered that they also now sell their traditional baked ricotta cheesecakes (in small individual  serves or larger cakes) with a nutella stuffed centre!!! I promise you it took every part of my self control not to buy a few extras!
For dinner we headed to another of my Dad’s favourite places Pizzeria Locale at Meadowbank (sensing an Italian food trend here!). Even though I’ve only been here a couple of times I love the food, which is very traditional, fresh and most of all is great value. The restaurant itself is family owned and run and so has a really great family friendly vibe. For a Wednesday night it was also very busy which goes to show that I’m not the only one who enjoys it.

ImageFor an entre we all shared the proscuitto pizza ($19) which would have to be my favourite flavour and I was not disappointed. The base was slight and thinly rolled with a crisp outside and soft centre, topped with thin slices of fresh proscuitto, crisp green rocket and shaved parmesan cheese. Absolute perfection!

ImageFor my main I had the Spaghetti Locale (about $25) which had a rich tomato sauce, pippies and prawns. I opted to get fettucini because thats my favourite but my sister had the spaghetti and both looked equally as good. My serve was huge!! I actually couldn’t finish it so I had to give it to mum. The sauce was really lovely though and had a little hint of chilli that gave a great kick!

My parents both got the snapper special ($27) which they both really enjoyed, although I think they were still a little hungry afterwards. That being said, the fish was cooked perfectly, with moist flakes accompanied by a date, rocket and pear salad!

ImageBecause Dad didn’t know about the cannoli surprise at home he also had the Cassata Gelato which is basically three flavours (chocolate, nougat and zabaglione) of gelato together. This was on the specials board and normally i don’t like Cassata but the gelato was lovely and creamy and I liked that the three flavours were separate (i’m not sure if thats the usual way to serve it). If your after a great dessert though I’d very much recommend the locale mess which has honeycomb, meringue, macadamia and salted caramel and vanilla gelato! ($13) mmmm yum!!

Overall, I’d highly recommend a visit to either of this fine venues if your after a great family night out or good quality Italian produce at a decent price! You can’t go wrong!

Check out their websites for more details:

http://www.pizzerialocale.com.au/

ppapa.com.au/

Buon appatoto!! 

Pronto Paella

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Hi out there! So this is my first time to this whole world of blogging which is pretty exciting stuff. My name is Mia and I’m a bit of a foodie. To say my life mantra is “eat to live” is a bit of an understatement I feel, but if I’m being perfectly honest I love to eat and I love to cook! I’m a huge fan of baking because, well let’s face it, who isn’t a fan of cooking delicious looking sweets and then getting to eat them afterwards! But I also love the savoury stuff. Recently I discovered the whole “clean eating” thing which I try to do as often as possible but a sneaky treat or two never hurt anyone!!

I’m not really a recipe follower as such, but I do like to take inspiration from wherever I can get it and then add my own little spin. Jamie Oliver is one of my absolute all-time favourite chefs and I’ve got about a million of his cookbooks crowding up my room because a girl can never have too much Jamie Oliver. 

I’m hoping to post some of my own recipes on here as well as review the tasty work of the places I eat around Sydney (my hometown) but most of all I’d love to get some new ideas and feedback from anyone else out there who shares a passion for good food.

So now that I’ve introduced myself I thought I’d share one of my favourite dishes, Chicken & Prawn Paella!! I made this for dinner last night and it was an absolute hit with my family. I was so surprised though, as I’ve made this dish a couple of times using different recipes that were way to fiddly or just not tasty enough! But this one (which was a bit of a mush of a few!) turned out great! I’m a huge fan of Spanish food, but it’s not something I get to cook a lot so when i get the chance i jump at it (I also happened to find some chorizo in the fridge which I’m fairly certain was a sign from the food gods that it was Paella time!). I used a Paella pan but you could do it in a regular non-stick pan. Again, I’m not really a measurer of quantities so you’ll have to bear with me but here’s what I used:

1 Onion (diced)

1/2 Red Capsicum (sliced thinly)

Paprika

Dried chilli flakes (to your tastes)

2 cups Arborio Rice

White Wine

1 tin diced tomato

Chicken Stock

500g Chicken tenderloins

500g peeled green prawns

2 sticks of chorizo

pinch of Saffron (optional)

Frozen Peas

What I did:

So first brown off your onions, capsicum, chilli and paprika in a little bit of olive oil (make sure they don’t burn just get a nice caramel colour on them). Add your rice and “toast” this for about 2mins (this step helps the rice absorb the liquid later. You should just look for the grains to go a bit translucent) then give a good splash of white wine and add your chorizo. Keep stirring it and add the tin of tomatoes, chicken stock (I used 1L which I added progressively), your chicken tenderloins and half the prawns. You can also add a pinch of saffron now if you’d like. Stir and add more stock for about 20mins or until the rice is nearly cooked. At the end, at the rest of your prawns (I like to scatter them all over the top) and frozen peas and leave the Paella (don’t stir it no matter how much you want to). This is really important as it forms a kind of “crust” on the bottom. Traditionally, I don’t think your supposed to stir it at all but I’ve done that before and it got too burnt on the bottom so I like this way much better. Leaving it at the end seems to get the right balance without it burning. I gave mine 10 mins but just check that your prawns and peas are cooked and voila!! Serve it with a really good squeeze of lemon on top!

As I said my family loved it, so for normal sized eaters I’d say this would feed 6-8 but my hungry family of 4 nearly finished it off! I’m eating the leftovers for lunch today!! Lucky me!

Anyway enough of my ramblings! Hope you enjoy this one as much as I did !