Category Archives: Product Reviews

Back to School with Smash Lunch Boxes + a Recipe for Easy Lunchbox Pasta Stir Fry

I think life has become a series of shopping lists, one after the other. Still getting over the effects of the Christmas list and it’s time already for the ‘back to school’ list. Sigh!

But in all fairness, life must go on and so does the shopping list. And one of the top spots in the back to school list is always reserved for a new lunch box.

Now we all agree that the lunch box is such an integral part of the school life. Apart from the fact that it is a source of nourishment and good health for our little ones, it is also an integral part of school memories. I can recollect so many fond memories when it comes to school lunches and so will all of you.

So presenting to you my favourite brand of lunch boxes from Smash. I discovered this brand two years back and haven’t looked back ever since. In fact, I even wrote a blog post about it last year; there is also another easy lunch box recipe so do check it out.

Back to school with Smash - thespiceadventuress.com

Smash is an Australian brand so that means they totally understand our needs and requirements better. All the products are BPA free and extremely durable and reliable. In fact, all the lunch boxes, drink bottles from last year are still in great condition and the only reason I would change is because I received these samples to test out. (The old ones will be donated to the local Red Cross, and I strongly urge you to do so too if your old ones are in reasonably good condition)

The new designs out this year are so bright and colourful making it real fun for the kids. Our favourite happens to be this one shown below…of course it has to be blue because Adi is in that phase where ‘pink is for girls’. I like how the compartments are divided in this model and also the fact that there is an outer insulated case (removable) which also has the new Blue IQ antibacterial lining. The wipe-clean formula helps to keep the case clean devoid of any sort of mould or mildew, smells fresh and also protects the life of the lunchbox.

Smash lunchbox and outercase with Blue IQ antibacterial lining - thespiceadventuress.com

Smash has an extensive collection so there are plenty of choices for all sorts of lunch requirements. I love the add-on containers in various sizes, shapes and colours which mean that the food can be kept divided. The yoghurt container is so cool; it keeps it chilled and my son absolutely loves his during summer. The tube shaped box for wraps and rolls are so cool too.

Back to school with Smash lunch boxes - thespiceadventuress.com

Back to school with Smash lunch boxes - thespiceadventuress.com

Back to school with Smash lunchboxes - thespiceadventuress.com

Smash has a good collection for the grownups too especially taking into account the male/female preferences. I remember my hubby cribbing about the lack of ‘male’ colours till we started using Smash. Now he has his favourite blue and brown case which I must admit is really cool.

I also love the ‘Soup, Salad, Smoothie’ containers that were launched this year. Extremely thoughtful designs; for eg: the salad container has a separate portion for the dressing which means goodbye to soggy salads for lunch. I have been using these containers a lot while travelling too. Sturdy and great for road trips.

Smash products are available easily at many department stores and leading supermarkets like Coles, Woolworths, Officeworks, Target, Kmart and David Jones.

Smash office lunchbox collection - thespiceadventuress.com

Now that we have chosen the perfect lunch box, let’s go ahead with the perfect lunch too – a delicious easy to make Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables.

For those who are new to Mortadella, it is basically an Italian sausage or luncheon meat that can be purchased from a deli. Often had as a cold cut like ham or salami in a sandwich, but I am going to lightly stir fry it for this recipe. If you do not have Mortadella, you can substitute it with ham, salami, sausages or any other kind of meat. Or even skip it all together if you want a vegetarian version. The only thing to remember while purchasing from a deli is to ask the staff to cut it into a thick chunk instead of thin slices.

Apart from the fact that this dish is ready in less than 30 minutes, I also like the fact that there is no sauce involved which makes it a great lunch box option; tastes great even when it has gone a bit cold. I usually prepare this pasta stir fry for dinner which doubles up for the next day’s lunch for all of us. One dish for everyone in the family…..

Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables - thespiceadventuress.com

Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 300 gms pasta curls
  2. 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  3. 200 gms Mortadella (cut into a single thick chunk); diced
  4. 2-3 garlic cloves; chopped
  5. 1 large red onion; diced
  6. 1 cup mushrooms; diced
  7. 1 red bell pepper; diced
  8. 1 zucchini; diced
  9. 1 ½ tsp chilli flakes (adjust to preference)
  10. 1 tbsp mixed dried Italian herbs (a mix of oregano, thyme, rosemary)
  11. Salt, to season
  12. Freshly milled black pepper; to season

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta as per packet instructions in salted boiling water and keep aside; reserve a little pasta water too.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan and add the chopped garlic; sauté on low heat for a few seconds and then add the diced Mortadella; stir fry on high for a minute.
  3. Next add the onions and mushrooms; continue to stir fry for another 30 seconds. Finally add the zucchini and bell peppers; mix well to combine and season with salt, pepper, chilli flakes and Italian herbs. Reduce heat and cook for a few seconds.
  4. Add the cooked pasta with ½ cup past water and mix well to combine.
  5. Remove from heat and enjoy; or ensure it’s cooled well before packing into lunch boxes.

Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables - thespiceadventuress.com

Disclaimer – This post has been brought to you in collaboration with Smash Enterprises but the opinions expressed and recipe are entirely mine.

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Jura Z6 and Impressa A9 (a Review) + a Recipe for Mocha Cake with Coffee Butter Icing

Jura….the coffee and the machine!

Jura Impressa A9 - a review - thespiceadventuress.com

Unlike what most people think, it is a very daunting task for a food blogger (the honest types!) to do a product review. Starting from the day the mail from the brand arrives in my inbox to the day the final post gets published, I am under a certain kind of pressure to ensure that the review is honest, frank and unbiased. And there are days of research and testing out that happen behind the scenes before I say that I liked and enjoyed a certain product.

It was the same with Jura, albeit a bit easier because I fell in love with their coffee machines right on day one when I got to attend the launch of their latest machine, the Z6. And of course the fact that coffee is indeed a passionate obsession of mine.

Unlike the usual glamorous media launches, I was lucky to attend a trade launch which gave me a lot of insight into the technology and superior craftsmanship that Jura employs across all their coffee machines. Armed with all this information (and plenty of coffee sampling at the venue), I gave my nod to review two Jura coffee machines – Z6 and Impressa A9. So read on to know my thoughts and experiences over the past two months with these beauties and there’s also a delicious Mocha Cake recipe waiting at the end for you.

Jura Z6 launch - thespiceadventuress.com

Let me rewind a bit and give you a brief intro of the company itself. Jura is a Swiss brand which began manufacturing coffee machines as early as 1937.  Over the years, they have launched several lines of premium automated coffee machines which clearly puts them as one of the top leaders of the coffee machine world.

Early this year, Jura unveiled its latest innovation in automated coffee technology – the Z6 which incorporates the Pulse extraction process which ensures that perfect shot of espresso right in the comfort of your home. The tagline ‘be your own barista’ is befitting to the Z6 (this one should totally be on your Christmas wish list guys).

Jura Z6 - a product review - thespiceadventuress.com

Picture courtesy – Jura Australia

Jura Z6

Looks – I know that I should be speaking of technology first but looks do matter, right? The glamorous black and stainless steel exterior (that combination is a weakness of mine when it comes to gadgets) of the Z6 ensures that it sits pretty on your table top; in fact this machine is truly a conversation starter.

Pulse Extraction Process (P.E.P) – This is the game changer which makes the Z6 stand apart from all the other automated coffee machines in the world. A process which optimizes the extraction time so that you can enjoy the perfect short speciality coffees like espresso and ristretto.

Latte Macchiato with Jura Z6 - thespiceadventuress.com

Functionality – At the touch of a button, literally! The Z6 has a rotary selection feature and a TFT display using which you can select the type of coffee you wish to have and also customize it to your specific needs like coffee strength, amount of milk foam, coffee etc….. You can even rename the customized versions and position it on the main screen. Like I said, the perfect coffee at the touch of a button.

Jura Z6 - a product review - thespiceadventuress.com

Taste – which is how most of us judge a cuppa. Intense and full bodied with a velvety soft and long lasting crema, each cup promises a café like experience every single time. I am more of a cappuccino girl and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the Z6 makes an absolutely stunning cappuccino at par with some of the best cafes of Melbourne. Apart from the Jura beans, I also used several different varieties of coffee beans and it was quite interesting to experience the different tastes and flavours.

Order your coffee through an app! You heard it right; an exclusive Jura app that can be downloaded on your phone and used to customize and order your coffee. My son had such a fun time playing the ‘virtual barista’ at home. (Don’t forget to keep a cup in place though!)

Jura app - a product review - thespiceadventuress.com

Cleaning this machine is a breeze. The machine will notify when the drip tray needs to be emptied or when the used ground coffee container needs to be emptied. The large rectangular water tank sits at the side and is easy to remove, clean and fill. The machine also self cleans 15 minutes after the last use and shuts down itself. A milk clean must be done everyday (if you use milk) and all that you need to do is add the cleaning liquid to a small container and hook it to the machine.

Disadvantages:

Well none really, except the price tag! But I am not sure if I can call this a disadvantage as you bring home a premium Swiss fully automated coffee machine, endorsed by none other than Roger Federer. Retailing at $3790, the Z6 does not come cheap. It must be seen as an investment and a replacement for all those expensive café style coffees that you usually indulge in.

And be prepared for friends to drop in more often once you have introduced them to the Z6!

Jura Impressa A9

Jura Impressa A9 - a product review - thespiceadventuress.com

When discussions regarding reviewing the Z6 were going on, I requested to the client that I would like to review another coffee machine too, one which might be a bit more affordable to coffee lovers like me. And that’s how I got to play around with the Impressa A9.

Smaller size – The A9 is a much smaller machine when compared to the Z6, perfect for those who live in apartments or do not have lots of bench space. The same black and stainless steel looks that I love with a simple yet distinct design.

Simplicity – While the Z6 speaks of sophistication, the A9 focuses on simplicity. I loved the fact that the machine is much simpler to use in spite of having 12 specialities of coffee to choose from. The cappuccino doppio was my favourite program in this one. The touchscreen is simple to use with clear and concise directions; you hardly need a catalogue to use the machine.

Taste – While the A9 does make a really good cup of cappuccino, it might not be the best if you are an espresso lover. And that’s where the difference lies; A9 is currently not equipped with the P.E.P technology which means that while the coffee is still good, it does not have the same full bodied taste that the Z6 will give you. But this difference is most noticeable with the short blacks and espressos.

Cost – Retailing at $1990, the Impressa A9 is definitely more affordable for the average household. While it may not bring the sophistication of the Z6, it still is a really good fully automated coffee machine to make your favourite brew.

Jura Impressa A9 - a product review - thespiceadventuress.com

So which one is going to be in your Christmas wish list? I definitely have my eyes on the Z6…..

And since all of you have been patient and with me on this Jura coffee journey, it wouldn’t be nice if I didn’t share a great recipe here – one that uses coffee ofcourse!

Mocha Cake with Coffee Butter Icing

Mocha Cake with Coffee Butter Icing - thespiceadventuress.com

While there were a zillion ideas buzzing through my mind, especially ones like this Grilled chicken with Coffee Spice Rub, I decided against all of it and instead went hunting for a simple and basic coffee infused cake.

That search ended when I found this super simple and easy Mocha Cake in Rachel Allen’s cookbook ‘Bake’. Now that’s a cookbook you need if you want to learn some baking fundamentals.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect; the school holidays had just started so this Mocha Cake became a fun project for me and my little champ. Adi was with me through every step of this, right from weighing, mixing, baking to decorating the cake and also photographing it. The cake looks messy, the frosting is sloppy and the photographs are inconsistent. I can vouch for the fact that the cake was delicious though and we had fun like we never had before and I guess that’s all that matters.

Mocha Cake with Coffee Butter Icing - thespiceadventuress.com

Mocha Cake with Coffee Butter Icing - thespiceadventuress.com

And at the end of it, Adi ordered me to say an official thanks to him on my blog post (in fact he insisted on it). So Adi, thanks a lot for helping me bake and photograph this beautiful Mocha Cake.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

(5 x 9 inch loaf tin used)

  1. 175gm self raising flour
  2. 40gm cocoa powder
  3. 220gm raw brown sugar
  4. 175gm unsalted butter, melted
  5. 4 medium eggs, separated
  6. 70ml strong coffee, cooled
  7. 3 tbsp water
  8. Coffee butter icing; to decorate
  9. Dark chocolate sprinkles; to decorate

For the coffee butter icing:

  1. 100gm butter, softened
  2. 200gm icing sugar, sifted
  3. 4 tbsp strong coffee, cooled

Method:

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Lightly butter and line the loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a bowl and add the sugar; stir to combine well.
  3. Add the melted butter, egg yolks, coffee and water into the dry mixture and beat using a hand held whisk or beater till smooth.
  4. Whisk the egg whites in another large clean bowl till fairly stiff peaks form and then gently fold this into the cake mixture in three batches. Be gentle but make sure no lumps of egg white remain.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin, smoothen the surface and tap to remove any air bubbles.
  6. Bake at 175°C for 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 160°C and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Allow the cake to cool in the loaf tin for at least 10 minutes before lifting it out. Then leave on a cooling rack to cool completely before decorating with the butter icing.
  8. Once cooled, cut the cake along the middle horizontally into two equal halves. Apply half of the icing on the lower half and then place the other half of the cake on top. Spread the remaining icing on top and decorate with the dark chocolate sprinkles.
  9. Allow the cake to settle for half an hour before cutting.

Note – I used a conventional oven; you may need to adjust the temperature and timings depending on the kind of oven you are using. To be on the safe side, check after the first 20 minutes and adjust temperatures accordingly.

To make the icing:

  1. Place the softened butter in a large clean bowl and beat till soft.
  2. Add the sifted icing sugar in batches and continue to beat.
  3. Add 3-4 tbsp cooled coffee and beat till smooth and creamy.

Enjoy! And if you do bake this, do send me a picture or tag me in your post using #thespiceadventuress

Mocha Cake with Coffee Butter Icing - thespiceadventuress.com

Mocha Cake with Coffee Butter Icing - thespiceadventuress.com

Disclaimer – This is a sponsored post and the coffee machines were given on loan to me by Jura Australia. But all the opinions expressed are truly mine. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WWFreshBox by Aussie Farmers Direct + a Recipe for Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms

‘So what do I cook tonight?’

How many times in a week do you ask yourself that question? I do…almost every single day. Friends often assume that meal planning is something I enjoy and ace at, being a food blogger. Definitely not, at least not most of the time because in addition to the everyday food, I have to plan ahead for the recipes that are to be created for the blog, clients etc…..

It takes me two days to get my meal plans and grocery shopping list in order and there are weeks when the whole exercise freaks me out. So you can imagine my excitement when I get a mail from Aussie Farmers Direct asking if I would like to review the new WWFresh Box that has been designed and created by Weight Watchers. Yes please….bring it on!

Aussie Farmers Direct and Weight Watchers – two brands that we are pretty familiar with and so I am not going into the details here. There’s plenty of information on their websites for the newcomers. Instead, I am going to talk about the WWFreshbox; this perfectly packed box full of absolutely gorgeous and fresh ingredients that has been sourced from local farms and food producers. And also, the printed recipes that got me really excited.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms - thespiceadventuress.com

So my choice was the Family Freshbox which includes ingredients and fresh produce to serve 5 meals for 4 people. I have been testing out and cooking from the WWFreshbox for the past couple of days using the Weightwatchers recipes that was included. And here is what I think;

(Aussie Farmers Direct has also offered a generous discount for all the subscribers of The Spice Adventuress. More details at the end of the post)

Pros:

  • No more meal planning – You don’t have to break your head wondering what you are going to cook each day and then shop around for ingredients. You get the ingredients delivered straight to your door with the recipes included. Definitely a time saver!
  • Choose from different types of WWFreshbox – there are plenty of choices when it comes to the size of the WWFreshBox designed to serve 2 or 4 people for 3 or 5 meals. Ensures zero wastage.
  • High Quality Fresh Ingredients – that are packed to perfection in a special temperature controlled box. Aussie Farmers Direct does a brilliant job at sourcing all the produce from local farmers which means that you not only eat healthy and fresh but also support the local community.
  • Free Delivery – Yup, you heard it right….free delivery to your door.
  • Excellent Packaging – Since all the ingredients are packed in a temperature controlled box, everything stays fresh till you reach home and put it away. The vegetables are packed neatly, in sealed containers where necessary and all the protein is in a special cover with gel packs. The gel packs inside can be reused and if you do not wish to keep it, you may leave it inside the box and place it outside on the day your next delivery happens.
  • Delicious and Healthy Recipes – I mean it guys, really delicious recipes. All the recipes are designed by the nutrition experts at Weight Watchers and includes the Smart Points so that you can keep track. And even if you are not watching your weight, you still can eat healthy. The recipes change every week so it doesn’t get boring at all. Every week’s recipes are updated on the website so you can check out that before placing your order.What I really loved about the recipes is that there is no compromise on flavour and taste as you can see from the dish I will be sharing with you guys shortly.

Cons:

  • Delivery can be an issue for those who live in apartments with unit numbers; the box will need to be delivered to a friend’s place or your business address. Also, delivery is currently not available in certain suburbs. Do check if your suburb is covered on the website.
  • No dry ingredients provided.
  • No exclusively vegetarian WWFreshbox.

Getting to my favourite part; the recipe that I tried out from the WW Freshbox and absolutely loved – Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms - thespiceadventuress.com

We are not big on kale in our house. I don’t mind it but the boys are not very enthusiastic about it and the only way I have been able to make them eat it is in a lentil curry. So with this recipe, I was both excited and apprehensive. But went ahead anyway, hoping the bacon will work its magic even if the kale fails.

And let me tell you peeps, we loved it!

This pasta dish was a winner on all counts – it was light, refreshing, healthy, low on calories and super packed with flavour. From prep to finish, on the table in 30 minutes. All thanks to Weight Watchers, we have found our favourite kale dish.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms - thespiceadventuress.com

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms

Serves: 4

7 SmartPoints® value per serve

Ingredients:

  1. 200gms dried pasta
  2. 5 tsp olive oil
  3. 125gms lean bacon (fat trimmed); chopped
  4. 1 red capsicum; chopped
  5. 200gms button mushrooms; sliced
  6. 2 medium garlic cloves; crushed
  7. 2 small fresh red chilli; finely chopped
  8. 200gms kale; chopped
  9. 2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
  10. 2 tbsp lemon juice
  11. Salt; to season

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as per packet instructions till al dente. Drain (reserve ½ cup liquid) and keep aside.
  2. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large pan and add the chopped bacon. Cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes till the bacon pieces have turned golden and crisp. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. In the same pan, add 2 tsp olive oil and add the garlic, chillies and capsicum. Cook for 30 seconds and then add the mushrooms. Cook over high heat for another 2-3 minutes till the mushrooms have softened. Transfer to the same bowl as the bacon.
  4. Heat the remaining olive oil and add the kale. Season with salt and cook covered for 2-3 minutes on low heat. Then add ¼ cup water to the kale, mix and continue to cook covered for another 2-3 minutes or till the kale has become tender.
  5. Increase heat and return the bacon and vegetables to the pan. Also add the lemon rind and juice; season with salt if necessary.
  6. Add the cooked pasta, half of the reserved liquid and toss on high flame for a few seconds.
  7. Serve warm

I served this pasta dish with a fresh salad made from cherry tomatoes, red onion, coriander leaves, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms - thespiceadventuress.com

And if you would like to make this delicious recipe or make several like these, all that you need to do is place an order with Aussie Farmers Direct for the all new WW Freshbox.

Thanks to Aussie Farmers Direct, a special discount code has been offered to all the subscribers of ‘The Spice Adventuress’ (make sure you subscribe to my blog). Enjoy $25 off* with your first WW Freshbox. Use promo code ‘FRESHSPICE’ on checkout – T&Cs below.  

(Offer open to new customers. Minimum spend $65. For full T&Cs visit AussieFarmers.com.au. Valid until 31/08/2016. Order must be placed by 12 noon 30/08/2016.)

So go ahead, place your order today and enjoy fresh ingredients with healthy recipes, delivered straight to your doorstep. And if you prepare the above recipe, make sure to tag me #thespiceadventuress so that I may see it too.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms - thespiceadventuress.com

Disclaimer – This post has been bought to you in collaboration with Aussie Farmers Direct. All the opinions stated in this review are mine; hope it helps you make an informed choice. 

 

Smash Box – a Product Review + a Recipe for Mushroom Bacon Wrap

Another two weeks to go for the school to re-open!

Little Adi is excited and so is his mom. I mean it was great spending time with each other, having play dates, workshops and a whole lot of fun but seriously, both of us need a break from each other.

Most of you would have begun the Back to School shopping. Luckily, no need for uniforms but have to get everything else, especially new shoes (they cost a bomb!). While thinking about a new lunchbox, I received a mail from SMASH asking if I would like to review their brand new lunchbox products launched for the season. Yay!

What got me even more excited is their new lunchbox range for the grown-ups. The hubby is forever complaining about the lack of choice for adults, especially men. So I decided to review both the products and read on to know what I think.

And yes, there is also a recipe – delicious mushroom bacon wraps. Easy and ready in a jiffy!

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A bit about the brand…Smash Enterprises is an Australian brand! And this speaks volumes to me as I am a great believer in promoting local brands and products. The products are not just reliable and durable but the brand also focuses on reducing wastage and is BPA free.

The coolest thing about the new ‘Smash Box’ is that it comes with an insulated jacket for the lunch box. For me, this is an extremely important feature. Adi loves his ham and cheese but it’s always a worry packing it for his lunch box especially during the hotter months. So this insulated jacket is great when I need that extra chill factor. The jacket can be removed easily so great while washing or for days when it is not required. Insulated bags are also available for the office range – a beautiful blue for the guys and a vibrant green for the ladies (it can easily pass off as a handbag).

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Made from durable plastic, the Smash box is sturdy and designed to be a great companion to your child’s school meal times. I loved the fact that the design is well thought of; the twin compartments make it easy to segregate the different food items. There is even a sandwich belt to hold those unruly ones in place (how much I need that!). A special yoghurt container which will definitely be used a lot and also plenty of room to hold other nibbles like cheese, biscuits, fruits etc… Individual containers of varying sizes and shapes are also available for multipurpose use.

A practical yet simple design, the lunch boxes are easy to clean and dishwasher safe.

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Smash products are sold at most of the big retailers like Coles, Woolworths, Officeworks, BigW, David Jones, Masters and Target. The new Smash Box is sold only at Coles and the adult range (pictured in this review) can be found at Officeworks; these are a limited release so make sure to get your hands on it before it is sold out.

There are also several other designs and styles, so make sure you take a look at the website for more details.

And to inaugurate the brand new Smash box, I decided to make a mushroom bacon wrap – a recipe I make quite often for Adi’s lunch. It’s easy, high on protein and delicious; the filling can be made ahead of time so assembling the wrap is the only job for the morning. The filling is so robust and delicious but I add that extra bit of nutrition in the form of baby spinach, cucumber and tomatoes. For the adult lunch boxes, I bulk up with a mixed salad on the side.

If you are a vegetarian, replace the bacon with paneer (Indian cottage cheese) or tofu.

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Ingredients:

  1. 150 gm bacon; diced
  2. 7 brown mushrooms; diced
  3. ½ onion; finely chopped
  4. 1 tbsp chives; finely chopped
  5. ½ tsp paprika
  6. Salt, to season
  7. Black pepper, to season
  8. To assemble:
  • Whole meal wraps
  • Baby spinach
  • Lebanese cucumber; sliced
  • Ripe red tomatoes; sliced
  • Aioli/tomato sauce

Method:

  1. Add the diced bacon to a pan; cook on low heat till the bacon pieces are beginning to brown. (No oil is added as the bacon fat gets rendered down).
  2. Once the bacon pieces start to brown, add the onion and sauté for another minute or two. Then add the mushrooms along with the spices. Season with salt and continue to sauté till the mushrooms get cooked. Remove from heat and mix in the chives.
  3. To assemble, place a few baby spinach leaves on the wrap followed by sliced cucumber and tomatoes. Then spoon the bacon mushroom mixture on top. Finish off with the aioli and tomato sauce. Wrap into a roll tightly with a foil.

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How are your ‘back to school’ preparations going? Would love to hear your stories…..

 

Disclaimer – This post was bought to you in association with Smash. All the products were sponsored but the opinions and remarks are entirely mine. 

 

 

 

 

Tandoori Paneer Skewers with Goat’s Yoghurt

My first taste of goat’s milk was when I was around 10, while living in the Middle East.

We had friends who used to work on dairy farms owned by the rich Arabs and they would bring us all sorts of delicious and exotic foods that were not so commonly available back then. Exotic varieties of dates, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, yoghurt…..the best kind which were exclusively farmed for the rich families and not for sale.

I had almost forgotten what goat’s milk or yoghurt tastes like until recently when I got the opportunity to sample the same from CapriLac.

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Remember this vegan, dairy free almond yoghurt green smoothie and coconut yoghurt zucchini dip using No Udder products? CapriLac belongs to the same group but specializes in goat’s milk, yoghurt and goat’s milk powder.

Now you would ask, why goat’s milk?

Goat’s milk is not necessarily healthier than cow’s milk on a strict comparison basis. But it definitely has its merits. It has less lactose, a tab bit less sugar and also more calcium, potassium and Vitamin A than cow’s milk. It is also more easily digestible as it has a chemical structure which is quite similar to breast milk and hence is a great dairy alternative for those who have sensitive tummies. It is also less allergenic. So in a nutshell, it can be a great alternative to cow’s milk.

Goat’s yoghurt does not taste much different to cow’s yoghurt. I felt it is creamy but less sour than the cow’s yoghurt which makes it perfect for today’s paneer skewers.

CapriLac Goat products are Australian made (the milk comes from their own farms). No preservatives, no flavours, no additives…..which makes it a really good product for your family’s use.

I wanted to use goat’s yoghurt for a traditional Indian dish that has become a global favourite – tandoori.

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Myths and misconceptions regarding tandoori are rife and rampant. To being with tandoori refers to a dish that has been cooked inside a tandoor, a specialized kind of clay oven. The tandoor arrived in India through the Persian traders and even today, you can find plenty of households in Iran use the tandoor on a daily basis.

So technically the ‘tandoori’ refers to any dish prepared inside a tandoor but these days, the name has also been extended to dishes which use the traditional spice marinade. Again, this marinade has quite a few variations and this one is my version perfected after a lot of trial and error. I do not like to use besan (chickpea flour) in the marinade but prefer to keep it light with just yoghurt, aromatics and spices.

Paneer, as all of us know is Indian cottage cheese and now so commonly available in mainstream supermarkets. Now this is made from cow’s milk so those of you who wish to avoid it can use the same recipe for preparing mixed vegetable skewers (mushroom, broccoli, cauliflower), tofu, chicken or prawn skewers.

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Tandoori Paneer Skewers are an excellent party starter. In fact, it is a hit every time I make it for guests.  It’s flavourful, delicious, pairs equally well with beer, cocktails or wine and just the right summer party food. Perfect for your meatless Mondays too; pair with a simple green peas pilaf and mint coriander dip like I did.

If you have a tandoor at home, that’s great but since most of us will not have it…grilling or pan fry is the best option.

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Note – I have seen many photographs with perfect looking paneer cubes with hardly any signs of charring. But remember, it is those brown charred bits that you actually need because that’s where the deliciousness is!

Ingredients:

  1. 400 gms paneer (Indian cottage cheese); cut into equal sized cubes
  2. 1 medium red onion; cubed
  3. 2 ripe, yet firm tomatoes; remove pulp and cut into cubes
  4. 1 green bell pepper; cubed
  5. 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
  6. 5-6 tbsp tandoori marinade
  • 4-5 tbsp Goat’s yoghurt
  • ½ tsp ginger paste
  • ½ tsp garlic paste
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp chaat masala
  • A pinch of black salt
  • 2 sprigs fresh coriander leaves; finely chopped
  1. Salt, to season
  2. Lemon wedges, to garnish
  3. Bamboo skewers

Note:

  • Kashmiri chilli powder is mainly for a deeper red colour. It is optional and the level of heat can be adjusted with regular red chilli powder.
  • Chaat masala and black salt (kala namak) are available at all Indian stores.

Method:

  1. To make the tandoori marinade, mix the goat’s yoghurt with all the aromatics, spices and coriander leaves in a non reactive bowl.
  2. Add the paneer and vegetable cubes into the marinade and mix well. Season with salt and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or as long as possible. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Soak the bamboo skewers in water for at least 15 minutes before using to prevent burning.
  4. Skewer the paneer cubes and vegetables alternately so that each skewer has paneer, tomato, onion and bell pepper.
  5. Oil a flat pan or grill well and heat to smoking point. Reduce heat and place the skewers. Increase heat to medium and grill till done on all sides. Paneer cooks really fast so a minute or two on each side would be enough.
  6. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with a mint coriander dip.

 

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Disclaimer – This is a sponsored post in association with CapriLac Foods. But the recipe and all the opinions expressed are entirely mine. 

Yumi’s Anytime Range – a Product Review

Let’s face it; all of us are constantly looking for convenience foods that make our lives just that bit easier.

As a food blogger, I cook at least 6-7 meals from scratch every week, some of them totally new ones. But there are also days when I just don’t want to enter the kitchen. Though I very rarely do product reviews, sometimes I get mails from really good brands with products that I really want to give a go. Such was the case with Yumi’s Quality Foods.

Yumi’s has recently launched its new ‘Anytime range – a series of classic dips and spreads in squeezable pouches. Though I am a person who generally prepares all kinds of dips from scratch, I wanted to try out Yumi’s especially during this season when most of us get super busy from parties, backyard barbecues and holidays.

There are two factors that immediately attracted me to try out Yumi’s. The first being that it is an Australian company with all their products manufactured locally. Secondly, the range is preservative free which speaks volumes to me. The Anytime range is also gluten free thereby making it more enjoyable for a larger section of society. The packaging also makes it easy to store in the refrigerator or take along on short holidays.

There are six classic products in the Anytime range. Here is a pictorial guide to each of these, how I put it to the test and my feedback on each.

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Yumi’s Anytime Tuna Mousse – I used it to make these cute sandwich bites decorated with a green olive on top. It was delicious; the mousse had a really good texture and the flavour of the salty tuna through it was just perfect. Great for your children’s lunch boxes or party platters.

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Yumi’s Classic Hommus – Another favourite of mine from the collection. Delicious…which is why my son has been demanding it every day with cucumber sticks for his lunch box.

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Yumi’s Anytime Curried Egg – Packing lunch boxes can be a stressful time on some days. With nothing much in the refrigerator, the curried egg came to the rescue to create a light summery sandwich with salad leaves, cucumber and tomatoes. I liked the flavour but it was more like a curried mayo than a curried egg; but still happy. Used it as a salad dressing too and it was delicious.

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Yumi’s Roasted Garlic Aioli and Spicy Tomato Salsa – Used it in combination for a quick working day lunch. A bacon and egg wrap with iceberg lettuce, vegetable salad and a generous squeeze of aioli and salsa. The aioli was really good; the flavour from the roasted garlic really came through. But not a big fan of the salsa; it lacked the punchy freshness of a good salsa.

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Yumi’s Seeded Mustard and Honey Aioli – We had it with our after-school chicken nuggets. It was creamy and delicious but I found it slightly salty. Now this was only my opinion because my son and husband loved it. But I did squeeze some of it over a hot dog and it was really yumm. So guess it’s all to do with what you pair the aioli with.

Overall, a really good product that I will buy again, especially the tuna mousse and hommus which are my absolute two favourites.

 

 

Disclaimer – This is a sponsored post but all the opinions expressed are entirely mine.

No Udder Dairy Free Yoghurt + Recipes for Green Smoothie and Coconut Yoghurt Zucchini Dip

Important: Please read this before you proceed. 

No Udder and NuLac Foods has bought to my notice that the coconut yoghurt has been recalled due to a cross-contamination issue. Those of you who are allergic to dairy products or vegan or do not include dairy products in your diet for any personal/medical reasons, kindly return  the products to your nearest supermarket for a full refund.

For anyone else, this product is not dangerous in any manner and poses a risk to only those mentioned above. The company assures me that the product will henceforth be released only after revised and strictly enforced quality checks. Please get in touch with the company if you need further clarification on this.

Here is the statement from the company;

‘A statement from the owners, John Gommans and Penny Gandar.

We are taking note of all your comments and we fully appreciate all your concerns.

Our first priority in the recall was to protect those at health risk from the dairy contamination. We have followed the Health Department guidelines in this recall. As well as following these proscribed procedures we also wish to convey that we are personally devastated that this need for a recall has occurred. We are acutely aware of the needs of our allergen free, dairy free and vegan customers and to provide a product people could trust.

We do also process dairy products, our procedures and staff training have always been committed to preventing contamination. Our staff are dedicated and care very much about the quality of our products. We have only sought and used ingredients certified to be allergen and dairy free and are shocked to find that a contamination has recently occurred. We are re-testing and investigating all aspects of the ingredients and manufacture but until this is completed we are unable to give a definitive reason for what has happened. We deeply regret what has occurred and that we have lost the trust of our dairy free and vegan customers.

We are truly sorry.’

 

My love for smoothies has become legendary on my Facebook page.

It all began when I started sharing pictures of my daily morning smoothie with my readers. And soon, there were so many people writing to me asking for more recipes, tips, blender brands, dairy-free options etc…. While I could answer most of the queries, I really did not have much information when it came to dairy-free or vegan friendly options.

So, I was quite thrilled when NuLac Foods wanted to partner with me to develop some recipes for their new range, No Udder Dairy Free Yoghurts. Just what my readers were asking me…..

NuLac Foods is an Australian company that develops both dairy and dairy-free products. All NuLac products are prepared from the highest quality ingredients which are sourced from their own and other farms across Australia. And above all, the products are free of preservatives, colours, additives or flavours – natural and pure. Love their philosophy of being a local business using local ingredients which always reflects on quality.

NuLac has several different brands and two of their highly popular ones are ‘No Udder’ and ‘Alpine’. And it’s No Udder that I will be speaking about today as it is the dairy free and vegan friendly one. The range includes No Udder Almond Yoghurt, Coconut Yoghurt and Coconut Probiotic Drink.

Available at most supermarkets and independent stores in Australia.

No Udder Almond Yoghurt Green Smoothie:

The dairy free almond yoghurt is a great substitute for milk in your daily smoothies. It is not only a good source of calcium but very low in saturated fats and contains a good amount of dietary fibre.

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I admit I was a little skeptical about how it would taste but I actually liked it very much. It was sweet and creamy with that hint of almond flavour; but somehow it also reminded me of this coconut milk pudding.

And since we are on the topic of good health and nourishment, I decided to use the No Udder almond yoghurt as the base for my green smoothie. There is a good amount of pre- and probiotics in this one and at the same time, it is super delish too.

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Ingredients:

Makes 3 glasses

1. 1 ripe avocado
2. 1 ripe green pear
3. ½ ripe red apple
4. ½ banana
5. 2 cup greens (I used chard, use any you wish to)
6. ½ cup parsley
7. 1 tbsp chia seeds
8. 200 ml No Udder almond yoghurt
9. Water/ice
10. ¼ tsp cinnamon powder

Method:

Blend all the ingredients with enough water or ice until smooth.

Note:

• The beauty of this recipe is that it is a basic guideline to making your favourite green smoothie. As mentioned, use any kind of greens you wish to.
• Rotate between chia, flax or hemp seeds and add nuts if you wish to.
• Use coconut yoghurt instead of almond for a sweeter and creamier smoothie.
• You can use regular milk or yoghurt too.

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OCT (1)

No Udder Coconut Yoghurt Zucchini Dip

With live probiotic cultures, the No Udder Coconut Yoghurt is an extremely healthy option and one that is dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian friendly. It is sweet and creamy, perfect for smoothies, desserts or as a snack but I am thinking savoury.

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Yoghurt dips are a common feature of most meals in Meditteranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. In India, it is often referred to as ‘raita’ in Hindi. And there are hundreds of raita varieties that exist depending on the cuisine of each region.
Today’s recipe is a savoury yoghurt dip, adapted from a common preparation of Kerala known as pachadi.

The coconut yoghurt is sweet and deliciously creamy which makes it the perfect base for finely chopped zucchini sautéed with shallots and a hint of spices. This is a delicious yoghurt dip that makes the perfect accompaniment to flatbreads for your mezze platter or to accompany your favourite lamb curry or to pair with that delicious pilaf/pulao.

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Ingredients:

1. 1 medium zucchini; finely chopped
2. 400ml No Udder coconut yoghurt
3. 2 shallots; finely chopped
4. 1 tbsp crushed cashewnuts (optional)
5. 1 tbsp vegetable oil
6. ½ tsp mustard seeds
7. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
8. ½ tsp red chilli powder
9. 2 sprigs coriander leaves; finely chopped
10. Salt, to season

Method:

• Whisk the coconut yoghurt till smooth and without any lumps.
• Heat oil in a pan and crackle mustard seeds.
• Then add the shallots and zucchini; sauté for about 2 minutes on medium to high heat stirring constantly.
• Next lower the heat and add the turmeric and chilli powder. Mix and also add the crushed cashews.
• Sauté for another few seconds, remove from heat and mix through half of the coriander leaves.
• Allow to cool.
• Once cooled, add most of the mixture to the beaten yoghurt and season with salt. Mix well to combine.
• Garnish with the remaining mixture and coriander leaves. Refrigerate till serving time.

Note:

• Again, a very flexible recipe; substitute zucchini with baby aubergines, squash, beets or just nuts.
• Use cow’s milk yoghurt if you wish to.

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Disclaimer – This post was brought to you in partnership with NuLac Foods but the recipes and opinions expressed remain my own.

Menulog – How to Order on this Online Food Delivery Service + a Giveaway

We lead such crazy, fast paced and busy schedules during the weekdays which have made online food delivery services much more important than the dine-in restaurants. Not too long ago, I was cribbing about the lack of such delivery services in Australia; but that was because I was ignorant of Menulog.

So, what is Menulog?

It is an online take-away and food delivery service operating across Australia. The website features 4200+ restaurants, extensive specials and deals along with 100,000+ restaurant reviews to enable you make the best choice when it comes to takeaway food.

Ever since I heard of Menulog, I have been thinking of putting it to the test. So, I got very excited when I was approached by Menulog to try out their service. I was provided with a voucher to order a meal of our choice which would be home-delivered from any of the local restaurants in my area, participating in the Menulog online community.

Menulog-logo-combined

There were two things that stood out immediately while going through the Menulog website. The first was that it was an extremely simple and easy to use site which is very important for me. I thoroughly dislike websites which have confusing layouts and information but Menulog is extremely simple to use and navigate.

The second was that I was spoilt for choice when it came to the number of restaurants I could choose from in my suburb. To find out the restaurants in my local area, all that I had to do was enter in my post code on the Menulog site. There were so many cuisines to choose from and it did take me and my family some time to reach a conclusion, which is a process that we actually enjoyed!

I live in Dandenong and was pleasantly surprised to see that there were close to 20 restaurants on the Menulog community in my local area; here are the options I had. Finally, we agreed to order from the Pakwan Indian Restaurant as it had quite a high rating and some great reviews.

Pakwan has an extensive menu with some of my family’s favourites but we decided to go for dishes that we usually do not make at home. Along with a selection of flat breads, saffron rice and condiments, we also got the Lamb chops and Chicken Chataniwala.

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I am usually a little disappointed when it comes to the quality of Indian food in Australia. There are some great restaurants but most often, you find tasteless curries being sold in the name of Indian food. But Pakwan was a totally different and exciting experience.

All the dishes were very delicious; I couldn’t find a fault with any. I would totally suggest this place to everybody, including those who want to try Indian cuisine for the first time. The flavours are perfect without being extra spicy or fiery.

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The whole process of ordering through Menulog was an extremely positive experience. In a gist;

• Visit the Menulog site.
• Enter in your post code and choose your suburb.
• Scroll through the list of restaurants in your local area that are part of the Menulog community.
• Make a selection of the place you want to order from. To make this task easier, against each restaurant, you can also find information regarding the cuisine type, speed of service, discounts and promotions, minimum purchase amount, ratings and reviews.
• Choose from the menu; additional options like spice levels, food allergies etc… can also be selected through the various pop-ups when you select a dish.
• Decide the time when you would like the order delivered. You can even order a few days in advance or opt for collecting the meal in-person instead of home delivery.
• A safe and secure checkout and pay.
• SMS confirmation with order details and time of delivery.
• Get ready to enjoy your meal!

And now let’s head to the giveaway!

Menulog has very generously offered a $75 voucher to giveaway to one lucky subscriber of The Spice Adventuress, to be redeemed for a special Menulog dining experience.

To be in the running for the giveaway, you need to do the following;

• Subscribe to The Spice Adventuress blog using your email id.
• Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest (at least one necessary).

(And if you have already done the above two, just drop me a comment below, so that I can record your participation.)
• Leave a comment below stating which cuisine you would like to order if you win the $75 Menulog voucher.

Terms and Conditions:

• Entry is open to only Australian residents.
• The giveaway will run for one week and the winner will be chosen on 12th November, 2014
• The winner will be notified via email and given 48 hours to respond. If no response, a new winner will be chosen.
• The winner’s details will be forwarded to Menulog and the voucher code will be emailed to the winner as supplied by Menulog.
• Judge’s decision will be final.

Good luck! And be generous; invite your friends over too for the giveaway.

This giveaway is now closed and the winner is Shruti J.

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