Monday, April 26, 2010

Homemade Muesli Bars

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Homemade Muesli Bars
Home Cooking

It's been a million years since I blogged (slight exaggeration of 2-3 weeks) and the reasons are as follows:
  • constant sleepiness
  • laziness
  • unwillingness to write about muesli bars that I made over a month ago while I was in a healthy food phase (lasted all of 3 days)
  • not in the mood

And the list goes on. Ah well, back in business.

So, I went through a health food phase. I bought 2 boxes of muesli (as mentioned previously in my muesli bread post), CSR low GI sugar, avocado spread, trail mix and dried fruit salad. I thought I'd be able to combine it all into an amazing super snack food: fruit and nut muesli bars.

Dry component of my muesli bars

After a brief internet trawl, I surmised that you basically have your 'dry' component which could be anything really: muesli, nuts, chopped dry fruit, seeds, chocolate chips... whatever... and you also have your 'wet' component which is butter and some kind of syrup.

When I made mine, I combined my muesli, trail mix, LSA and protein powder for dry and used the avocado spread, CSR low GI sugar, water and a bit of golden treacle syrup to make the wet.

Cooking the syrup

The syrup is ready when it forms a ball when you drop it into cold water

You sort of have to fiddle around with the quantities. I think I had too much dry for the amount of wet so it didn't hold together that well. How 'sticky' you make the wet component will also determine whether or not it sets hard or soft. Mine set a bit too soft for my liking.

My muesli mix - too dry

In the tray ready to set

After you mixed the wet and dry, press into a baking-paper lined tray, fridge-set and cut. I'm not going to include a specific recipe for the reasons that it's so open to your own preferences and besides, my formula/proportions didn't work out ideally.

I thought mine were too soft so I popped them in the oven to toast (that's supposed to make them more crunchy rather than chewy). It didn't help much so I put them in the fridge and that did actually set them though obviously they softened back up after returned to room temperature.

In summary, I was surprised at how relatively simple it is to make your own muesli bar at home but it seems impossible to do it without butter/sugar to hold all the good stuff together. You do have the option of altering what your muesli bar contains which is nice when you're trying to maintain or reduce intake of a specific ingredient.

At the end of the day I'm probably more inclined to just buy my own muesli bars but nonetheless, it's a fun option for you to play with.

Pane e Vino

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Pane e Vino

A lot of people seem to carry the idea that there are no worthwhile pasta restaurants. The attitude is 'I can make it myself' or 'it's just all tomato-based sauces'. I can see how that might seem logical when you're basing judgment on those really non-pasta dishes that generic non-Italian restaurants serve (if you don't know what I'm talking about, just think 'jarred pasta sauce flavor'). This also applies to pizza restaurants that attempt pasta dishes and end up serving food that tastes frozen and microwaved.

I've experienced all these pasta failings yet I maintain that out there exists pasta served at a restaurant that will blow my mind. I imagine an Italian mama painstakingly rolling out fresh sheets of pasta and the kitchen to be bustling but clean and only the freshest ingredients used.

Until the day that myself and this hypothetical restaurant happily unite, I will resort to a number of restaurants that I mentally catalogue as 'passable'. Beccofino is good. Roman Empire makes a nice pasta and outside of Brisbane, Fratelli Paradiso was as close to blowing my mind as has happened to date.

With regards to Pane e Vino, it has a reasonable online reputation and I recall going there once before. On that occasion, 2 pasta dishes were ordered and one was Very Good and one was OK. I decided it was worth re-investigating.

Pane e Vino is located quite centrally, just a stroll down Albert St. There are a few outdoor tables and a split level interior. The menu is Italian-themed and has a host of salads, pizza, pasta, mains etc. Normal; what you expect.


We ordered coffees to start with, a latte for me and cappuccino for my friend Josh. I actually thought the coffee was outstanding. It was something that way exceeded expectations. I don't normally order coffee at a restaurant. Is this usual??

As for food, we kept it simple to one pasta dish each.

Rigatoni con salsiccia - Pork & fennel sausage with fresh tomato, parsley, olive oil and chili

I chose the pork and fennel sausage rigatoni. It was a large serve. Nice flavors but a bit dry. I much prefer a saucier pasta. All the components were there and quite fresh/complimentary but it needed something to bind the lot together, as opposed to tasting like a pasta stir-fry. Does that make sense?

Rigatoni al ragu - slow cooked beef stew in a traditional rich tomato sugo

The beef ragu rigatoni was more flavorsome and the melty, shredded beef acted like a sauce and pulled together the dish in a way mine didn't. It's a simple, straight-forward pasta dish but tasty all the same.

Pane e Vino wasn't exceptional but the food is a reasonable pasta-fix, if you have the craving. The service wasn't totally friendly but they were quite efficient and the decor is quite nice.

Copenhagen 2 scoop... monstrous

On a completely different note, we got ice-cream after. Check out how huge my ice-cream is!

Pane E Vino on Urbanspoon

Sweet Chili Fresh Pasta

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Sweet Chili Fresh Pasta
Home Cooking

This is a short post about a meal quick fix I pulled together after I got my pasta machine. It was a birthday present from one of my closest friends and I pretty much couldn't wait to use it.

Having gone through the tedious process of hand-rolling pasta before, I couldn't wait to benefit from the wonderful qualities of home made pasta without the manual labor.

After looking through my hoard of cookbooks, I lost patience and basically just decided to throw something together. This is a really simple recipe but it was quite tasty too. I used my own fresh pasta (see recipe here) but you can substitute with whatever you have.

Sweet Chili Fresh Pasta
Serves 1

  • 100g fresh pasta (or equivalent in dried pasta)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 2 small tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 small handful of basil leaves, sliced
  • 1 tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • salt and pepper to season
  • fresh mozzarella cheese, to serve

1. Heat some olive oil on high in a small saucepan. Brown the onion. Add the garlic.
2. Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes. 3. Also throw in ~ 1/4 cup of water. Simmer until mushy and stew-like. You might need to add more water if it goes dry.4. Add in the basil leaves and sweet chili sauce. Season to taste.
5. Cook your pasta as per instructions.
6. Serve the sauce ladled over the pasta. Garnish with fresh mozzarella and a few basil leaves.

This is such an easy and basic recipe, just onion, tomato and basil. I livened things up a bit with some fresh sweet chili sauce. It's a nice sweet, tangy sauce that goes really well when soaked up around the fresh pasta.

I also like eating this kinda thing with spoonfuls of ripe avocado. Sure this is anything but traditional but nothing about my recipe is traditional anyway (bar the redness) so excuse me and try it for yourself.

Mixed together

Mount Tamborine - mosquitos, leaches and muddy river crossings (oh, good food too)

Mount Tamborine Winery Restaurant

I've been happily soaking up the long weekends. They are (along with the Easter break), perhaps, the best thing that's happened to me 1st half of 2010. Screw birthdays. I will pick free days of no uni and no work over partying any time.

On the Anzac day long weekend, my family decided to head South to Mount Tamborine. We go there relatively frequently and my parents are known to head down just for breakfast and then back again. I'm in the process of logging 100hrs of driving in order to be qualified for the practical driving test so it seemed like a good opportunity to clock up time.

I'll admit that dad took over for the actual mountain roads.


We went up the mountain and first thing mum decides is that she needed to use the bathroom. There marks the unexpected start of an 'interesting' adventure. There was a short trek through the bushes to get to the public outhouse. Afterwards, we were heading back to the car and spotted a sign indicating that a 2km waterfall walk was on the right. So... continue returning to the car or embark on the bushwalk? We opted for the later option.

... which turned out to be a mistake.

The waterfall itself wasn't too distant. It was quite small but we were lucky that it had been raining the past few days so there was a decent pour.

After the waterfall was observed, we continued down the track.
And, we somehow got lost.

It wasn't strictly LOST as per se because we were on a track. But then the track ended at the river bank. We were sort of thinking it was time to head back but then dad spotted some steps on the other side of the river. Ok, well, it's not a river. More a creek. He identified the steps as 'man-made' and indicated that the track was likely to continue on the other side. The way across the creek was a bunch of rocks and it seemed odd that this would be considered an official part of the track. We debated options for a while and then dad just bounded across.

I was born quite balance-impaired so I sort of crawled across the rocks clinging onto every surface, hoping my skin was grippy enough. Mum and dad were across at a discouragingly fast rate. We all made it.

At that point, mum decides she's too hungry to walk further (hypoglycaemic?) and starts making delirious calls about eating strange fruits that had fallen onto the ground. It gets to the point where she was so weak the color has drained from her face. We were still a fair bit from the end of the walk but our track was adjacent to the main road leading up Mount Tamborine. Dad makes the executive decision to climb up a mud cliff to where the main road was and run back to the car to get a bag of cookies.

Off he went and me and mum stayed back on the track.
Things were calm for maybe less than a minute. The thing about wet, muddy bushwalks is that as long as you're moving, nothing will get you. As soon as we were still, every type of creepy crawly emerged from the soil and started attacking. The air was dense with huge mosquitos and I got bitten no less than 16 times on the legs alone. I ended up hopping from foot to foot because leaches were found crawling on our skin.

We were just thinking about moving on and not waiting for dad (btw, everyone forgot their mobile phones this day) when finally he called down from above. Mum and I also crawled up the mud cliff, using branches and vines as grip (a la every jungle-themed action movie made by Hollywood). End adventure.

Start food part...

After this ordeal, we headed for civilization in the form of the Mount Tamborine Gallery Walk. For those who don't know, it's a strip of shops, galleries and cafes beginning and ending with 2 round-abouts. Even with cookies in their bellies, my parents were still hungry so we got lunch first. We've been to a number of the cafes on Gallery walk so decided to choose something new.

The Mount Tamborine Winery had a restaurant component and it looked very welcoming with an expansive outdoor dining area and tonnes of patrons.

Battered fish and chips with aioli

You sit down and peruse the menu before ordering at the counter. They had a '2 course' special with either fish and chips or... um... 'something' (sorry, I forgot) plus a glass of wine. Mum chose the fish and chips special with a glass of red. To this day, I cannot figure out why it was called '2 courses'. Is wine a course? Is the fish the main and the chips the entree?

Bite of fish

Regardless of this defect, the fish and chips were delicious. I tried a bit of the fish (unidentified species) and it was golden and crunchy and fresh inside the batter. The accompanying aioli sauce was the perfect match. I thought the chips were alright too but mum said they could stand to be crunchier.

Beef stroganoff pie

Dad and I had done the ordering and while we were at the counter, we saw the cabinet full of meat pies. I have a soft spot for home-made, chunky-looking meat pies so we chose the beef stroganoff-flavored one to try.

Inside of pie

It was a bit disappointing. Stroganoff to me is very creamy and rich. This pie was very dry on the inside and had none of the sour-cream element.

House salad

We also got the house salad to share. It was quite a simple salad but was successful for a number of reasons. The leafy veggies were really fresh and just tasted healthy. There were lots of nice 'details' like the pepita and pinenuts for crunch. It had a plain balsamic dressing but whatever they used was sweeter and more fragrant than most and did a nice job of bringing the salad together.

Grilled eggplant, zucchini, roasted capsicum, pesto & haloumi cheese on homemade focaccia

I ordered a roast vegetable focaccia for myself. It was filled with grilled eggplant, zucchini and capsicum. What sold me was the grilled haloumi cheese. The panini really packed a lot of flavor but it was communally agreed that it was a bit too salty.

Overall, Mount Tamborine Winery offers good quality food in a nice location. There wasn't a view but the atmosphere is open and relaxed and it's surrounded by interesting shops. If you haven't been to Mount Tamborine at all, I recommend it for the bushwalks which are less challenging than others (please don't let my story dishearten you, just remember to have breakfast beforehand) and it's an easy drive up the mountain too. I was talking to my uni friend Ellen and amazingly, she was there on the same day as we were and she liked it so much that she plans to revisit soon. I think that if you're a 'city person', it's just a nice place to wean yourself into enjoying the outdoors.

Apricot and Almond Muesli Bread

Apricot and Almond Muesli Bread
Home Cooking

I've been revisiting my health-food phase and my most recent grocery trip was filled with muesli (2 packets in fact, because I couldn't decide which packet was more enticing), nuts, organic this, wholegrain that and low GI everything.

One of my muesli purchases was a Coles brand product "Apricot, Almond and Date muesli". As if that doesn't sound good enough on its own, the packaging comprises of that matt, clear plastic that makes everything look posh. I was also hooked in by the recipe on the back for muesli bread.

I used the full recipe and thought the batter would be waaaay too much for one bread pan. I even had muffin patties lined up, ready to take any extra batter. Somehow, it all fitted level into my bread tin and the bread doesn't rise that much so it turned out perfect. In other words, if you're concerned about baking more than you can handle, I thought the same but it all worked out.

Apricot and Almond Muesli Bread
Makes 1 large loaf

  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 cup Coles Apricot, Date and Almond Muesli
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar (I used CSR low-GI sugar)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 medium apple, grated
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used 1 cup milk with 1 tsp lemon juice, left for 10min)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 75g butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup roasted almonds, chopped (optional)
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped (optional)
For the crumble
  • 1 tbsp self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup Coles Apricot, Date and Almond Muesli
  • 1 tbsp raw sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 30g butter

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Combine the flour, muesli, sugar, cinnamon and apple in a large bowl. If using, add the almonds and dried apricots and incorporate evenly.
3. Combine milk, eggs and butter in a separate bowl.4. Stir the milk and egg mixture into the dry ingredients.5. Spoon the batter into a large loaf pan.6. For the crumble topping, combine ingredients and rub through the butter.7. Pat the crumble topping on top of the loaf mixture.8. Bake for 40min or until cooked through. I baked for about an hour (turning the heat down when the top started browning) because I used the skewer method. Just be aware that the skewer method (wherein you insert a skewer and assume the bread/cake to be cooked if it comes out dry) doesn't really work because of the apple content so this is quite a moist loaf.

Initially, I thought muesli bread would just be one of those things that only I would find interesting... like most pumpkin baked goods (no one I know shares my pumpkin enthusiasm) but having now produced this bread, I sincerely think it's actually quite delicious!


Not just as a health food item but as a bread/cake/sweet thing on a whole, it does well. I admit that my parents tried it and didn't supply positive feedback but they were tipsy at the time so I shall accuse their taste buds of being sub-functional.


Anyway... I liked the bread and I think you should give it a go. It's my breakfast for the week and it's something that makes me excited to sleep so that I can wake up and eat it. I microwave a thick slice for 20 seconds and it's perfect as is. I tried with avocado spread and that was good too but in all honesty, the bread works as well plain.