Thursday, June 30, 2011


I recently had dinner at a lovely Greek restaurant in Tennessee with my fabulous American family. We had quite a spread... avgolemono soup, gyros, moussaka and delightfully refreshing tzatziki. It inspired me to make  my own version of the refreshing cucumber dip. Tzatziki - tricky to say but so easy to eat!


1 cup thick Greek yogurt*
1/2 cup English/Continental cucumber (the long skinny type that usually comes wrapped), grated
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tspn lemon juice
sea salt and cracked pepper
  1. Strain the liquid out of the grated cucumber by placing it between a few layers of paper towel and squeezing. It is important to do this step otherwise the tzatziki will be watery.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, cucumber, garlic and lemon juice.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Add more salt/pepper/lemon juice/garlic to make it perfect for your tastebuds.
  4. Serve with warm pita bread and crudites.
* To make your own thick Greek yogurt (and save a few bucks), check out my previous post for some tips.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Date and Banana Muffins

This recipe for the truly health conscious. It is made with whole wheat, sweetened with dates and bananas (that's right - no sugar at all!) and contains no oil or butter. You'd think these muffins would be bland and dry, wouldn't you? The good news is, however, that they come out surprisingly fluffy and moist, and full of flavour thanks to the spices.

When I started using this recipe about four years ago, I made it as a cake in a silicon ring mold (bundt pan). I decided to start making the recipe into muffins instead so that I could freeze them easily. They are perfect to pull out of the freezer in the morning and will be defrosted and ready to eat by mid-morning. I like to zap them for 20 seconds in the microwave because they are even better warm. The cake version would be lovely drizzled with a light lemon or vanilla icing and served with tea for health conscious friends.

Date and Banana Muffins

3 bananas
1 cup dates, chopped
½ cup yoghurt
4 egg whites
1 tspn vanilla essence
1 ½ cups wholemeal SR flour
1 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1 tspn mixed spices (or your own combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves)
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (360°F). Grease muffin pans or line with paper liners. Alternatively, to make a cake, grease a ring mold or loaf tin.
  2. Mash bananas.
  3. Blend dates and yoghurt in a blender.
  4. Beat in one egg at a time.
  5. Add bananas and essence.
  6. Sift though flour, bicarb and spices. Fold through gently.
  7. Bake for 20 mins for muffins or 35-40 mins for a cake.
Be sure to eat these all up within a couple of days as they tend to dry out quickly. Alternatively, wrap them in Glad wrap and throw them in the freezer.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Strawberry Yogurt Parfait

I love yogurt. No really - I LOVE yogurt. I could probably live on the stuff. I love it so much that I used to go to the effort of making my own when I lived in China where it was hard to get my hands on an inexpensive natural yogurt. Occasionally I would strain my yogurt to make it thick and creamy in the Greek style.  And it only occurred to me recently that rather than paying the high prices for Greek yogurt here in the US, I could just strain store bought natural yogurt. I'm not sure why it took me so long to figure that out, but better late than never. 

So if you are also a Greek yogurt lover and fancy saving a few bucks, grab yourself a coffee filter or a piece of muslin (cheese) cloth to line a sieve. Let the sieve rest over a bowl (make sure the bottom of the sieve doesn't touch the bowl). Scoop as much regular yogurt, such as Dannon natural yogurt, as will fit in the coffee filter. All you have to do now is pop it in the fridge for a couple of hours. The longer you leave it, the thicker the yogurt will become. In a short while you will see a yellowy liquid gathering in the bowl - that's the whey. Apparently it's best not to remove too much of this whey because it contains loads of protein and amino acids, as well as much of the good bacteria that makes yogurt so healthy (read more). The whey also gives yogurt it's delightfully tangy flavour. A couple of hours in the fridge removes enough that the yogurt is nice and thick and ready to be used for all sorts of things. Just the other day I saw TV chef, Chuck Hughes, use yogurt that had been strained overnight (suuuper thick!) for frosting on a carrot cake. Genius! At the moment we can't get enough of Greek yogurt parfaits piled with granola...

Strawberry Yogurt Parfait

2 cups strained (or Greek) plain yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1 tbsp strawberry jam
6 tablespoons granola or muesli

1. In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, honey and vanilla until evenly combined.
2. In another small bowl, stir the jam through the strawberries so that they are well coated. If you have a sweet tooth you may like to add more jam at this stage.
3. In small glasses, layer the yogurt and strawberry mix. I like to put some yogurt in first, followed by the strawberries and then another layer of yogurt. 
4. Right before you dig into your parfait, sprinkle the top with the granola. Enjoy!

Makes 2-3 parfaits

The combinations for these parfaits are endless. What is your favourite way to use yogurt?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sesame Chicken without the Guilt

I tried this recipe out in the hope of finding something that would satisfy a Chinese food craving without loading up on calories. The chicken is pan-fried rather than deep-fried, but just as tasty. We both loved it and I know it will become a regular on our dinner table.

The original recipe from Martha Stewart calls for broccoli, but I had green beans in my fridge to be used up. They worked really well. I think snow peas or capsicum (bell pepper) would also be really tasty. See what you think!

Sesame Chicken
Adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe

3/4 cup rice
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup cornstarch
600g (1 1/2 lbs) skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch chunks
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as canola or safflower
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Couple of handfuls of green beans, ends removed
  1. Cook rice according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small bowl, combine honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic. Set aside.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the green beans until they start to turn a little brown, about 8 minutes. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and cornstarch. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  5. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken; cook, turning occasionally, until golden and opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and chicken.
  6. Return all the chicken and beans to skillet; add reserved sauce and scallions, and toss to coat.
  7. Serve on a bed of rice.
Warning: It really is important to use a non-stick pan for this recipe. The first time I tried it I used a regular frying pan and the chicken ended up sticking to it and the kitchen was very smoky! Works beautifully with the non-stick though.