Simple Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Dipping Sauce

Simple caprese skewers recipe, perfect for summer parties!

A few weekends ago, while on bridesmaid duty for my pal Tessa, I arrived at the rehearsal dinner with a growling stomach. I grabbed a glass of wine and promptly accepted an appetizer offered by a college-age waitress. I was so glad to see this stranger that I almost hugged her.

She had a whole plate of cute caprese skewers in her arms, complete with a bowl of balsamic dipping sauce that was thick enough not to drip all over my new silk dress. It’s the little things.

tomato, peach and basil

I grabbed a skewer, then another, and marveled at how simple and perfect these appetizers were. Tomato, basil and mozzarella on a stick. They’re easy to make, easy to hold and easy to eat. You can’t say that for most appetizers, which make mingling and eating at the same time a less-than-pleasant affair. (Like, why do we serve big hunks of broccoli on veggie trays? So we can all walk around with broccoli bits between our teeth? Am I the only person who experiences party broccoli paranoia? Please say no.)

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Maureen’s Avocado Tabbouleh

Avocado tabbouleh recipe, so simple and fresh! cookieandkate.com

If you had to pick one cuisine to eat for the rest of your life, which would it be? Tough question, I know. I would have to pick Mediterranean food. Fresh herbs, ripe produce, lemons, feta and olive oil? Yes, please. More, please. Pass that salad, please. Mediterranean cooking features all of my favorite ingredients.

parsley

Given my predilection for Mediterranean food, I was excited to come across Maureen Abood‘s new (and first!) cookbook, Rose Water and Orange Blossoms. It’s full of fresh and classic recipes from Maureen’s Lebanese-American kitchen. Think hummus, labneh, kibbeh and the more gorgeous tomato salads. It offers quite a few traditional desserts, breads, pickles and teas, too. The book wasn’t designed for vegetarians, so I only skimmed through the meaty entrée section, but that’s just me.

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How I Get Out of My (Cooking) Rut

Yoghurt & Kofta Curry

Ever had that feeling where you’re bored with cooking?

Well it may surprise you but even though I’m completely obsessed with food, there are times when I do feel a little ‘meh’.

Bored even.

This doesn’t happen often. But it does happen.

Like last week when Fergal was sick and I was running on less than 3 hours sleep a night.

What do I do when I’m uninspired?

1. Open the fridge.
Usually I’ll see something which inspires me enough to get cooking. It could be leftovers or an ingredient I’d forgotten about.

But when this doesn’t work, I try one of the following.

2. Consult an expert.
This could be flipping through a food mag like Australian Gourmet Traveller or picking up a cookbook from my shelf.

Current go-tos are ‘Four Kitchens’ by Sydney chef Colin Fassnidge, ‘Kitchen by Mike’ by another Syd chef Mike McEnearney and ‘Mr Hong’ by Dan Hong (to complete my trifecta of Sydney chef books).

And there’s always ‘A Platter of Figs’ by David Tanis OR ‘The Kitchen Diaries’ by Nigel Slater when I’m in the mood for some smooth food prose.

Or I open up my Instagram feed or check out the blogs I follow via email.

3. Visit the markets.
An early Saturday morning pilgrimage to my local farmers at EPIC in Canberra never fails to inspire.

Even on these frosty morning when we are rugged up with scarves, hats and gloves. There’s something about seeing all that fresh produce and fellow food lovers…

What do you do when you’re in a rut?

I’d love to know!
Share your tips in the comments below…
_____

Yoghurt & Kofta Curry

Inspired by an Emma Knowles recipe in a recent edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. I’m always a little nervous about youhurt splitting in cooked dishes but in this case the results were just so tasty! And I loved the tangy flavour and chunky texture of the curry sauce.

My Irishman even said it was the tastiest thing he’d eaten in ages. And he doesn’t say such things lightly…

enough for: 2
takes: 30 minutes
2 onions, peeled and sliced
450g (1lb) lamb mince (ground lamb), or beef
3 teaspoons garam masala
250g (9oz) natural (unsweetened) yoghurt
1 bunch coriander (cilantro)
cauliflower ‘rice’ or steamed rice, to serve

1. Place onion and a little oil in a medium saucepan. Cover and cook on a medium heat until the onion is soft. Stir every now and then to make sure it doesn’t brown too much.

2. While the onion is cooking, season the meat well and roll into little bite sized balls.

3. When the onion is soft, add the garam masala and cook for a minute or so. Add yoghurt. Stir then add the meatballs.

4. Pick a few of the coriander leaves to serve and reserve them. Chop the remaining coriander leaves and stems and add to the pot.

5. Bring the meatballs to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until just cooked through.

6. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper. Serve meatballs and sauce on a bed of cauli ‘rice’ or steamed rice with the reserved coriander leaves on top.

Variations

extra flavour – drizzle over a curry oil to serve (to make the oil warm 2 teaspoons curry powder and 1 chopped green chilli in 1/4 cup olive oil in a small saucepan until hot to touch).

curry leaves – if you have access to fresh curry leaves, add a handful to simmer in the sauce.

dairy-free – replace yoghurt with coconut milk.

vegetarian / vegan – replace meat with canned or home cooked chickpeas. You’ll need about 450g (1lb) cooked chickpeas. OR try these lentil balls.

paleo – replace yoghurt with coconut milk and serve with the cauli ‘rice’ (raw grated cauliflower).

different meat – feel free to use chicken, turkey or even pork mince.

different herbs / spices – you could use mint instead of coriander (cilantro) and your favourite curry powder if you don’t have any garam masala. Hot heads might like to add some chilli.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. Wish you cooked at home more?

Then I need YOUR help!

I’m putting the finishing touches on the ‘Soupstones Dinner Challenge’ and want to check I’ve got everything covered.

So I’ve created a short survey to get your input:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/33X2ZFX

It will only take a minute, if that, and would mean so much for me to find out more about you!

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Freekeh with Basil-Cilantro Pesto and Grilled Pineapple Skewers

Grilled pineapple and bell pepper with herbed whole grains! This simple meal is packed with flavor. cookieandkate.com

This post is brought to you by Bob’s Red Mill.

Do you still have bad dreams about forgetting your locker combination on the first day of school? Or your class schedule? I do. Sometimes, in my dreams, the campus turns into a giant maze and I can’t get from one place to another without encountering obstacles everywhere along the way.

I have similarly bad dreams about waiting tables. I can’t make it to the computer to input my orders and wake up shouting, “SALAD!”

freekeh and pineapple

Such was the case with this recipe. After two semi-successful recipe tests, I made one more trip to the store to stock up for the finale. I ambitiously filled my basket with produce for future photo shoots and headed home to take Cookie on a walk.

Shortly thereafter, my back started aching. An hour later, chills. I dragged myself to bed with an extra blanket and woke up the next morning in a feverish, mummified state. Recipe testing was put on hold for a day while I slept on the couch with my four-legged nurse.

Continue to the recipe…

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Summertime Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Fresh tomato sauce spaghetti recipe - cookieandkate.com

“What do you do for a living?” they ask. I never know how my response will go over or which questions will follow. Most often, the questions are, “How did you get into that?” and, “where do you get your recipes?” On a recent flight, I got a bold, “How do you make money doing that?!” from my seat mate. All fine questions, mind you.

fresh tomato sauce ingredients

I never have a good answer to the recipe source question. Typically, the recipes are a composite of ideas from restaurant meals, magazines, other blogs, cookbooks and suggestions from friends and readers. Sometimes I wake up with ideas; sometimes they pop into my head when I open my refrigerator; sometimes they come to me when I’m deep in conversation during happy hour. I always try my best to give credit where credit is due.

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The Secret to Learning to Love Peas(or any vegetable)

Irresistable Mashy Peas

I hate peas.

Actually, I should rephrase that. I used to hate peas. Ever since my mother forced me to eat them, I’ve had a few pea ‘issues’.

I’ve always known my pea phobia was totally irrational. And I often wished I loved peas like my Irishman does.

I’d gotten to the stage where I did’t ‘freak out’ whenever they were served. And I thought this was as good as things were going to get.

But recently I came across a recipe for Mashy Peas which rocked my world.

And turned me into a pea fan.

Never. Say. Never…

3 Steps to Learning to Love Any Veg

1. Find the right way to prepare them.
I’m convinved that 90% of our food dislikes come from never having the particular ingredient prepared in a way that best suits it (and us). So if you don’t like boiled peas, maybe my Irresistible Mushy Peas (below) will do the trick like it did for me.

This isn’t fool proof. I keep ordering tripe in fancy restaurants where you’d think they’d make it taste amazing. Still yet to find tripe I enjoy… but I’m working on it (at a very slow pace).

2. Keep trying.
I’ve read it can take 8-10 exposures to new flavours before we ‘acquire’ the taste. So if something doesn’t work for you, just try again in a few weeks or months. And be prepared to try again. And again.

3. Be kind.
There are no prizes for loving all vegetables (as far as I know). So there’s no need to beat yourself (or any stubborn toddlers in your care) up if you can’t bring yourself (or them) to love [insert vegetable nemesis here].

As I’m only too aware, forcing yourself (or others) to eat vegetables you don’t enjoy tends to cause more harm than good.

____

Irresistible Mushy Peas


The first time I made these peas it was more something that I thought my Irishman would enjoy. But he wasn’t alone! I couldn’t get enough of this verdant green mash. So good.

Inspired by Sydney based chef, Colin Fassnidge from his brilliant book Four Kitchens.

enough for 2 as a side
takes: 20 minutes
1 small onion, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 bag baby spinach
250g (9oz) frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 teaspoon stock powder (optional)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1. Pop onion and butter in a medium saucepan and cook, covered on a medium heat until the onion is soft but not browned. It will take about 10 minutes and best to stir a few times.

2. When the onion is soft, add the baby spinach and peas and cook, stirring for the few minutes it takes for the spinach to just wilt and the peas to warm through.

3. Remove from the heat and puree to a rough mash using a stick blender (or transfer to your food processor).

4. Add stock powder (if using) and vinegar. Stir well. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper.

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Variations

dairy-free / vegan – replace butter with olive oil.

less ingredients – skip the spinach and add extra peas.

no vinegar – use a splash of lemon juice instead.

less butter – by all means use less but I find butter makes most veg so much more tasty. Which means you’ll be more likely to eat more veg… surely more healthy than skimping on the butter!

fresh peas – by all means use freshly podded peas but they’re much more work and unless you’re growing your own, unlikely to taste better than frozen.

Video Version of the Recipe.

What about you?

Got any vegetable ‘pet peeves’? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below…

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. Wish you cooked at home more?

Then keep an eye out for the ‘Soupstones Dinner Challenge’! More details next week :)

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15 Cold Summer Treats

15 cold summer treats, from popsicles to cocktails to ice cream! Get the recipes at cookieandkate.com

First things first! Cookie and Kate is hiring a local kitchen assistant. We’re in Kansas City. After five years of doing it all myself, I’m so excited to bring on some help. Details here! Also on that front, if you’ve noticed the site loading slowly lately, it should be fixed now. Growing pains. :)

As the temperatures near 100, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite cold treats. Cocktails, ice cream, frozen yogurt and popsicles galore! Most are fresh, fruity and naturally sweetened, too. What are you craving?

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Cucumber Mojito

Super refreshing cucumber mojitos! Learn how to make them at cookieandkate.com

Long summer days are the best, aren’t they? Ninety-plus temperatures can be draining, but I never stop riding the summer wavelength. I love it. I love the buzz I feel inside and the echo of the creatures buzzing outside. I love the summer thunderstorms that rattle my little house with thunder. One is rolling through right now, flexing its muscles in distant booms and waves of rain.

cucumber mojito ingredients

When the sun is shining down, I love to sit on a patio and sip on an ice cold and clinking, fizzy drink. This cocktail is perfect for that. I thought minty mojitos couldn’t get more refreshing… until I added cucumber, that is. It lends some marvelously complimentary, fresh flavor without fighting the mint. Break out that muddler, because mojito season is officially here!

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5 Ways to Eat More Veg (especially when you don’t feel like it)

Spiced Chickpeas with Cauli Mash-3

I‘m not a fan of ‘hiding’ vegetables. Even with a toddler in the house who is becoming more and more a fan of the word ‘No’.

Basically I believe that vegetables taste delicious when prepared properly and ‘sneaking’ them into things sends the wrong message.

But recently I was talking to my best mate in Melbourne and she made me reconsider my stance on stealth veg…

About 4 months pregnant, my friend was really worried because she had completely lost her taste for eating vegetables. She knew she should be eating loads of fresh produce but the thought of broccoli, kale or salad was leaving her cold.

Which got me thinking about my favourite ways to eat veg that don’t feel particularly ‘healthy’. I hope you find this helpful next time you have a fussy pregnant lady (or 2 year old) in the house…

5 Stealthy Ways to Eat More Veg

1. Add an onion
There are few nicer smells than an onion sweating down with a generous dose of butter. Apart from adding beautiful flavour, they’re a great source of inulin, a type of fiber that’s brilliant for feeding the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut.

2. Use tomato puree or canned tomatoes
Tomato based sauces can be really comforting. If the acidity is a bit too much for you it’s easy to balance it out with a generous glug of olive oil or butter before serving.

3. Cauliflower mash.
Cauliflower is a wonderful veg to have up your sleeve because even though it looks all white and tastes fairly mild, it packs just as much of a nutritional punch as broccoli. One of my all time fave ‘comfort food’ ways to eat my cauli is pureed into a creamy mash. To be honest I prefer it to potato mash but I may just be the only one in my household who does!

4. Cauliflower ‘rice’ or ‘couscous’.
My other fave ways to use cauli. Cauliflower ‘rice’ is just raw cauliflower grated in the food processor. So easy and so good! For a healthier alternative to couscous see this recipe.

If the thought of using cauliflower straight up is too much for you, you can always substitute half / half with steamed rice or couscous.

5. Include legumes.
Chickpeas, lentils and dried beans all count as a serve of veg. Another reason I choose them over grains (which don’t count as a serve of veg, even whole grains).

What about you?

Got any stealthy ways to include vegetables in your cooking? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Spiced Chickpeas with Cauli Mash

This is pure comfort food for me… A creamy rich mash with spicy chickpeas. But the best bit is there are 4 serves of vegetables! And you wouldn’t know it to taste.

If you’re not familiar with Baharat, don’t worry, I’ve got alternative spices listed in the variations below.

enough for: 2
takes: 30 minutes
1/2 medium cauliflower, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon baharat (see below for alternative spices)
1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz), drained
4 tablespoons tomato paste

1. Bring 2cm (1in) water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add cauli and simmer covered for 10-15 minutes or until cauli is really tender. (Be careful not to let it dry out and burn – add more water as needed).

2. Meanwhile, melt half the butter in a small frying pan. Add onion and cook over a medium heat until soft but not browned, about 10 minutes.

3. When the onion is soft add the spice, chickpeas and tomato. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, taste and season with salt and pepper.

4. When the cauli is cooked, drain and return to the pan you cooked it in with the remaining butter. Puree with a stick blender or mash well with a fork.

5. Serve spiced chickpeas on a bed of cauli mash.

Variations

different spice / no baharat – Baharat is a lebanese blend of 7 spices and a favourite of mine. The best substitute is to use equal parts ground cumin, ground coriander and smoked paprika. Or try curry powder or garam masala for a more Indian vibe. I also like to use the Moroccan spice blend, ras el hanout

carnivore / paleo – Replace chickpeas with ground (minced) beef of lamb. Brown well before adding the spice and tomato.

more veg – add a chopped carrot and celery stick to the onion. Serve with loads of fresh herbs such as mint, coriander (cilantro) or parsley. Add a handful of frozen peas with the chickpeas. Serve everything on a bed of baby spinach.

vegan / dairy-free – replace butter with olive oil or coconut oil.

different legumes – replace chickpeas with white beans, black beans or cooked lentils (you need about 250g / 9oz cooked legumes).

extra protein
– add a handful of cashews to simmer with the cauli.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. Is cooking at home something you wished you did more?

Then keep an eye out for the ‘Soupstones Dinner Challenge’ which will be coming in a few weeks.

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Berry Spinach Salad with Spicy Maple Sunflower Seeds

Simple summertime berry spinach salad - cookieandkate.com

I don’t have enough simple salad recipes on this blog. That’s the verdict I came to while flipping through my own salad archives looking for inspiration. Meal-in-a-bowl salad situations are plentiful, but simple side salads are lacking. Sometimes you’re tasked with making the green salad for a summer potluck and you want to make something special, you know?

berry spinach salad ingredients

Here’s my summer side salad solution. Chopped spinach, plenty of fresh berries (I used raspberries and blueberries, but chopped strawberries would be another great option), tangy goat cheese and a zippy balsamic dressing.

Combine all that with some skillet-toasted, candied maple sunflower seeds and you have a fantastic summer side. Just be sure to wait until you’re ready to eat before you toss the dressing with the rest of the salad, since the spinach wilts relatively quickly on contact.

Good! I’m glad we cleared that salad void for this season. I have some exciting projects in the works (stay tuned!) and a to-do list a mile long, but a side salad is no longer one of them. As always, please let me know how you like it and be sure to tag your Instagram photos #cookieandkate so I can hunt them down! I love to see what you’re cooking!

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