Vanilla Overnight Oats

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We’ve all heard that. However, very often, its one of the most rushed through or even ignored meal of the day. A lot of times, this happens because of our crazy busy schedules or we fall into a rut and breakfast gets boring. I mean, as much as I like toast, I really can’t eat it every single day. Moreover, I don’t think toast by itself is doing me any good.

In our house, we tend to eat oats for breakfast very often. Sometimes, this can prove difficult, because we’re running late or its summertime and I can’t bear the thought of turning the gas on to make us porridge. Not to mention, eating hot porridge on a hot day, only makes things hotter. So once I tried refrigerated overnight oats, I was really happy. If you’ve never tried overnight oats, you really should. Oats are healthy and when combined with some chia seeds, fresh fruit and nuts, it is a really healthy breakfast. The best part is, this is a make ahead recipe and requires no cooking. Which can be a blessing during hot summers. This is a versatile recipe and you can add your favorite fruit and nuts to top it off. So I hope you try this out as a breakfast option and let me know what you think.

Vanilla Overnight Oats
(Makes 1 portion)

1/3 cup rolled oats
1 tsp chia seeds
1/4 – 1/2 vanilla extract
Maple syrup, to taste
2/3 cup almond milk (you can use soy milk or any other milk of your choice)
Fresh fruit and nuts of your choice (I used some strawberries, grapes and slivered almonds)

In a mason jar, add all the ingredients except the fresh fruit and nuts that you’re using to top off the oatmeal with.

Cover the jar and refrigerate overnight. (You can make a larger batch and use it through the week)

In the morning, add the fresh fruit and nuts of your choice. Serve up.

Enjoy!

Lemon, Sun-dried Tomato and Almond Quinoa Salad

We’re in for another scorching week ahead. I think the hot days are my least favorite things about summer. I love the beach days, all the frozen treats and grilling, the amazing fruit and veg that summer brings, but I cannot deal with the heat. And we seem to get a fair bit of it. One of the main reasons is I cannot cook or bake as much as I’d like to when its this hot.

It is especially at times like this that I love big salads. While I’m quite happy to put together a tossed garden salad a few times a week, I think I need to add a few new salads to my repertoire. We’re trying to cut down our meat intake and substitute it with as much vegetarian food as possible. So salads like this Lemon, Sun-dried Tomato & Almond Quinoa Salad are perfect. Its all vegetarian yet hearty, involves minimal cooking and so very tasty. And its not just my opinion, my husband had a second helping of this salad for dinner.

I have tried cooking with quinoa before, but it was a total fail. So I was very skeptical about trying it out again. But I decided that trying something once and never trying it again, wasn’t giving it a fair chance. So on my last trip to Costco, I just picked up a bag of quinoa. Now that I have this great big bag of quinoa, I was going to have to use it. So recently when I was looking for a salad recipe with Italian influences to pair up with my eggplant patties, I decided to look for one with quinoa in it. And when I stumbled upon this recipe, it sounded perfect. There was just one problem. I didn’t have any parsley at home. So I just used the next best thing, coriander leaves. Personally I love the flavor that coriander leaves add to any dish and I thought it worked very well with this salad. But I also know there are folks out there that cant stand it. If you are one of them, feel free to use parsley instead. I can’t wait to try it out with parsley the next time. I’m very happy to have another wonderful salad to include in my meal rotation now.

Lemon, Sun-dried Tomato and Almond Quinoa Salad
Adapted from: Averie Cooks

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cups of water
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly cracked lack pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced (I used the ones bottled in oil and drained them before slicing)
2 tbsp coriander leaves and stems, finely chopped
1/2 cup roughly sliced almonds
1 tsp red chilly flakes (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.

Add the onions and cook till the onions have softened and have just started browning.

Add the quinoa and stir. Let it toast for about 30 seconds.

Now add the water, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 12-15 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

While the quinoa is cooking, chop up the rest of the ingredients.

Place the quinoa in a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and toss well.

Taste and add more salt or pepper or lime if needed. If, at this stage, you find the salad too sour, add a tiny bit of sugar to balance it out. I just stuck with the quantities listed above and I didn’t need to add anything at this stage.

It stores well in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. This can be served either as a warm or cold salad.

Serve up this salad either as an accompaniment at a meal or a slightly larger portion as a meal in itself.

Enjoy!!!


Avocado Pasta Salad

Its hard to believe that its only the first month of Spring right now. We’ve had a few scorchers already and its starting to feel like Summer is long to be a long and hot one. While I enjoy the extra daylight and the bounty of fruit, veg and flowers and beautiful beach days that summer brings, I cannot cope with HOT days. Last weekend was one such scorcher, thanks to the second heatwave of the season. I don’t know about you, but on such days, I cannot even think of putting the stove or the oven on, much less standing near it. I think I see a lot of salads and sandwiches for lunch this Summer.

I tried out this amazing Avocado Pasta Salad over the weekend and it was a big hit. There is a little stove time involved to boil the pasta and to fry the bacon, but the end result is so good, I’d say it was well worth it. I can’t wait for the next potluck or picnic, because I know that this salad will make an appearance.

The dressing is an avocado based one and is super easy to make. If you have an immersion blender, you life will be even easier. If not, just use your regular blender and you’ll be sorted. Basically all the ingredients for the dressing get blitzed together and ta-da …. you have yourself a salad dressing. I love recipes that are as easy as this. The ingredient list for the salad is just an approximation of what I used. Feel free to adjust as needed.

Avocado Pasta Salad
Serves 4 (as Main Course)
Adapted from: Spend with Pennies

2 cups uncooked Macaroni
1/4 onion, finely chopped (use a sweeter onion if you can’t stand the heat from a raw onion. You can also use a couple of spring onions, finely sliced)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup boiled / roast chicken, shredded
1/2 cup corn kernels
1 avocado, diced
4 rashers of bacon, fried till crisp and chopped / crumbled
1/4-1/3 capsicum (I used green because thats all I had. You can use red or yellow too, or even a combination of them.)
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

For the dressing – 
1 ripe avocado
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander (use the leaves and the stalks)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Boil the pasta till al dente, following the package instructions. Run under cold water to stop the cooking process and to cool the pasta down. Drain and set aside.

Blanch the broccoli florets in boiling, salted water till it is a vibrant green, about 30 seconds to a minute, depending on how crunchy you like your broccoli. Immediately drain and immerse the broccoli in ice cold water for a few seconds to stop the cooking process. Drain and keep aside.

In the same pot of boiling water, boil your sweet corn kernels till done. Drain and set aside.

Get your salad ingredients ready.

For the dressing, simply blitz all the ingredients together.

Toss the salad in the dressing and refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving.

Enjoy!!!

Pin now and try later!!!

French Strawberry Cake

** This post contains affiliate links.

One of the best things about the onset of spring and the weather warming up, is the abundance of fresh fruit and veg in my part of the world. This year we’ve already seen an abundance of beautiful strawberries in the market. And the blueberries are close behind. I’ve only just come to realize that I haven’t baked much with fresh fruit in a very long time. So during the last grocery run, I picked up a few punnets of strawberries. Though I think the best way to enjoy them is eating them straightaway, I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to try baking with them.

After a bit of searching, I found just the sort of recipe I was looking for – a French Strawberry Cake. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the strawberries after baking and I’ve often found cake recipes either bland or just sweet with very little going for it in terms of flavor. Not this cake though. It was really easy to make, full of flavor and really delicious. I’d fo as far as saying it had a personality of its own. This recipe sure is a keeper. I made a few minor modifications to the recipe and was really happy with how it turned out. This would be perfect for morning or afternoon tea. It makes quite an impression in a simple, elegant way just in case you’re expecting people over. I love having such recipes on hand. 

French Strawberry Cake
Yields: A 9 inch cake
Adapted from: Foodtastic Mom
350-400 gms fresh strawberries
115g butter, at room temperature / softened 
1 cup sugar + 1 tbsp extra
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup plain, unflavored Greek Yogurt
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Line and grease a 9 inch round cake tin and set aside.
Hull and slice the strawberries.
Whisk the butter and 1 cup sugar till pale and fluffy.
Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the vanilla and beat till incorporated.
In another bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder to mix well and set aside. 
Now alternating between the two, add the flour and Greek yogurt to the mixing bowl, beating till just incorporated before adding the next. (I divide the flour into 3 parts and the Greek yogurt in 2 parts. Start with one part of the flour, next one part of the yogurt and continue till it is all added to the batter.)
Fold in the sliced strawberries, setting aside a few of the outer side slices.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. 
Now place some of the reserved side slices of strawberry on the top of the cake and lightly press into the cake batter. (This step is optional and you could just add all the strawberries in at one time and fold into the batter. But I think this makes the cake look prettier.)
Sprinkle 1 tbsp of sugar over the top of the cake evenly.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes till a skewer pierced through the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan itself.
When completely cool, slice and serve.
If you need any more strawberry-licious inspiration, here are some of my previous posts featuring strawberries –
Strawberry Lassi

Sweet Lassi

Have you had a glass of chilled sweet lassi before? If you have, you know how unbelievably yummy it is. If you haven’t, you should try it. Its sweet, creamy, cold and have I mentioned yummy. And the best part is, you don’t even have to plan a trip to an Indian restaurant to have a glass. If you have some plain, unflavored, unsweetened yogurt you can whip up a glass in minutes.

I fancied this glass up with some strands of saffron and some chopped pistachio. But even without it, this sweet lassi is just as good. Its a perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day. A glass of it is quite filling too, so it makes a nice snack by itself.
Sweet Lassi
Makes 2 glasses
 
1 3/4 cup of plain, unflavored, unsweetened yogurt
1/4 cup chilled water
2-3 tsp sugar (or to taste)
4-5 pistachios, sliced (optional)
A few strands of saffron (optional)
Put the yogurt, water and sugar in a blender and blitz till smooth and slightly frothy.
Pour into glasses.
If desired, sprinkle the saffron strands and sliced pistachio on top to garnish.
Serve chilled.
Here are some other lassi versions –
Strawberry Lassi

Blueberry Smoothie Bowl

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on the blog and I feel really bad about it. I’ve just not been able to find my cooking / baking mojo. See, we’ve had a long, hot summer; really long and really hot. I’m more of a winter person than a summer so I’m all ready for winter now. Unfortunately for us, we haven’t had functional aircon for about four weeks now. So you can see why I haven’t really been too active on here. I’ve had to figure out ways to deal with the insane heat levels that heat wave after heat wave brings to Sydney this year.

I was glad to have tried out smoothie bowls recently. They were my saving grace. Healthy, full of flavor and their amazing ‘cool you down from the inside out’ quality made them a regular occurrence in my kitchen. The first one I tried was this Mango Smoothie Bowl and this blueberry version was really delicious too. I had some blueberries that I should have finished sooner, but I didn’t want to waste them so they went right in the bowl for some color. If you love blueberries, this treat is a must try if you are looking for a healthy summer cooler.

A few ingredients and a minute in the blender and a bowl is all you need to whip up this bowl of deliciousness, so I do hope you try it out.

Blueberry Smoothie Bowl


1 ripe banana, frozen
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup milk
4 tbsp Greek yogurt

For the topping –
Sweetened coconut chips
Fresh blueberries
Almonds

Place the banana, blueberries, milk and yogurt in a blender and blitz on slow at first.

Scrape down the sides and blitz till you are left with a soft serve sort of consistency.

Pour this mix into a bowl.

Top with some sweetened coconut chips, fresh blueberries and almonds.

Serve chilled.

Christmas Broken Glass Jello

What do you do for dessert if you’re from the southern hemisphere and Christmas happens to be in the middle of the summer? I have been trying to find a few options that can be used for your next Christmas / Holiday party. Something that can be made ahead, is easy to make and can feed a crowd. This is one of those types of recipes. I have been a big fan of Mary’s blog “The Food Librarian” for years now. She is a big fan of Jello and has made some amazing creations with it. I first wanted to make some Broken Glass Jello back when we were in Mumbai. However, it was close to impossible to find a range of Jelly flavors easily. So I gave up on the idea after a lot of searching.

Then last week, I was trying to come up with some easy summer dessert options that I could make more Christmassy, and I thought of Jello. This is my first attempt at making Broken Glass Jello. I am very happy with the outcome given all that happened. Well into the process of making this, my flavorless gelatine powder ended up being a big hard rock of a block and I couldn’t cut into it or shatter it with a meat mallet either. I ended up getting just a spoonful or so of the powder. So I had to add some gelatine leaves as well. This caused my condensed milk portion of the jello to not set as firm as I’d have liked. I’m hoping to have better luck next time around. That being said, this recipe was so easy to make. It just takes a little planning ahead, because it needs time to set in the fridge. It was so much fun working with the Jello. I felt a very childlike amusement and eagerness while I was chopping it up. The end result was really tasty. You don’t even have to switch the stovetop or the oven on, if you have an electric kettle. If not, you’ll need to boil some water and that’s all the cooking this recipe calls for. That makes me very happy, because we seem to be having some very hot days at the moment. I can’t wait to try some more versions of Jello out soon. You can switch out flavors and colors to suit the occasion. I used Aeroplane Jelly from Coles for this recipe. Feel free to use whatever you have at hand. I hope you enjoy this treat. 
Christmas Broken Glass Jello

1 box Strawberry flavored Jelly (I used Aeroplane Jelly – 85g box)
1 box Lime flavored Jelly (This too is Aeroplane Jelly – 85g box)
3 gelatin leaves (This is unflavored. If you are using unflavored Jelly crystals, use 1 tbsp)
1/2 tin condensed milk (I used a Nestle 395g tin.)
First we’re going to make the red and green portion of the Jelly because that has to set firm, so that we can cut it up into cubes. Please note, we are going to use just one cup of water for each packet. We’re not following the recipe on the box, because it has to set firm enough to be able to cut into tiny cubes. 
Mix the Strawberry flavored Jelly with 1 cup of boiling water and stir till it has all dissolved. Let this cool down to room temperature. Line a small container with cling film / Glad wrap. You need to keep some overhang so that you can pick the set Jelly out of the container using this as handles. This helps to unmould the Jelly later. I used a Sistema sandwich box for this and it was perfect. Try and use a square container, if possible, that way you can cut all of it into cubes. A round container will leave you with some off cuts at the edges. Ofcourse, if you don’t have square containers, use whatever you have at hand. Trim off the edges of the Jelly later. Cover and place the container in the fridge to set. It will need a few hours to set firm. I made this the previous day and left it overnight to set.
Repeat the entire process for the Lime flavored Jelly.
The next morning, make the last bit of the recipe.
Dissolve the unflavored gelatin (crystals or leaves) in 1 cup boiling water. Add the condensed milk and stir till everything has dissolved and mixed well. Let this come to room temperature. 
While the condensed milk Jelly is cooling, line an 8 inch square cake pan with cling film. Again keep some extra on the edges as overhand to help you unmould the Jelly, just like you did before.
Pick the Strawberry and Lime Jelly out of the containers, using the extra cling film on the sides.
Peel back all the cling film and chop them up into small cubes. 
Gently mix the cubes and place them in the lined cake tray. 
At this stage, if your condensed milk Jelly hasn’t cooled completely, put the tray with the cubes back in the fridge. If you use the condensed milk Jelly while it is still warm, you will end up melting the red and green jelly cubes. 
Once, the condensed milk jelly has cooled completely, pour it into the lined cake tray over the cubed jelly. 

Leave to set in the refrigerator till firm. I left mine about 8 hours. You may be able to cut into this sooner, but make sure that the Jelly has set firm before you cut it up. This dish can be made ahead of time. So plan for about 8 hours to set at this stage.

Carefully, pick the set jelly out of the cake pan when it has set firm and cut into cubes. 
Serve up and watch everyone enjoy this with childlike glee.
*Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post. I have simply shared the brands I used for this recipe. 

Mango Smoothie Bowl

A couple of days ago, I came across something I instantly new was going to be a wonderful find. Now I am guilty of constantly looking for and saving interesting recipes that I want to try out. I have a list of bookmarks that grows every minute and a pinterest account that will prove my point. But this little treat flew straight to the top of that list. Turns out that smoothie bowls have been very popular for a while now. I was probably stuck under a rock for a really, really long time given that I hadn’t seen these beauties before. But when I saw the first one, I had to look them up. There are so many combinations possible that it blew my mind. A smoothie bowl is bowlful of refreshing goodness with a choice of flavors and toppings only limited by your imagination. These smoothie bowls are like a cross between an ice cream, a soft serve, a frozen yogurt and a smoothie without the bad stuff. It is great for summer. And seeing how hot a summer it is turning out to be, these are going to be perfect for breakfast, Or once you see how good these are, a smaller portion as a snack.

Since this is my first smoothie bowl, I kept it simple. It is so easy to make and so refreshingly delicious, I know I’m going to be making more than a few more of these All you need is the fruit of your choice, milk and a little yogurt. Onto the toppings. You could use your choice of cereal, granola, nuts, seeds, chocolate chips pretty much whatever you feel like.

So go ahead and give these bowls a try. They will be a hard summer option to beat. You know you’ll be seeing a few more of these. Oh, have I mentioned these just take a couple of minutes to make. Its a winner all the way.

Also, I have news. I have finally been bitten by the Instagram bug. I hope you can join me there. My Instagram username is @TheAspiringHomeCook. You can find the recipes from this blog making an appearance there at #theaspiringhomecook. Have you tried a recipe from this site. Post a picture on Instagram with  #theaspiringhomecook and tag me in the picture to be featured in my feed.

Mango Smoothie Bowl
Serves 1-2

1 cup frozen mango cubes
1 banana, frozen
1 cup milk
4 tbsp Greek yogurt

For the toppings –
A few fresh blueberries
Peanut butter granola

Place the mango, banana, milk and yogurt in a blender and blitz on slow at first.

Scrape down the sides and blitz till you are left with a soft serve consistency.

Pour the smoothie into a bowl.

Top off with fresh blueberries and some granola.

Serve chilled.

SRC Themed Reveal: Pineapple Kiwi Smoothie

Oh yes, here’s a second SRC reveal for the month of August. This is not my usual reveal with Group A. That still happens on the first Monday of every month. This month the Club has decided to have a little extra fun. The entire club comes together across all Groups for a Themed Reveal Day. The theme this month was Back to School. In this reveal, you can expect to see quick breakfast or dinner recipes, after school snacks and even creative lunchbox ideas.

For this reveal, I was assigned Michaela’s blog – An Affair from the Heart. Michaela is a girl after my own heart. She doesn’t just cook up some amazing food, she used to have an online scrapbooking business. She enjoys family time and loves having extended family around. Her latest creative outlet is in the form of entertaining. You will find loads of ideas on her blog. I was tossing between these Pizza monster sandwiches, Double Chocolate Banana Muffins, S’mores Yogurt and a Pineapple Kiwi Smoothie. I went with the smoothie. It will be perfect as a quick, delicious and nutritious breakfast or an after school snack. When its hot outside, nothings better than a nice tropical smoothie. Or if you are like me and live in the Southern Hemisphere and are waiting eagerly for Spring to get here, this smoothie is bound to take you straight to summer atleast for a few minutes.

This smoothie is easy to make and is full of fruity goodness and only used natural honey as a sweetener. That’s a win in my book. It was a glassful of deliciousness and I was truly amazed at how thick it turned out. I must admit, in my house it is usually my husband who whips up smoothies for us. Irrespective of what he puts in them, he always manages to make a perfect smoothie and I usually dont have results as good as he does, so I just leave it to him. But after making this smoothie all by my lonesome, I am eager to try out new combinations now. Thank you Michaela for my new found smoothie mojo. I couldn’t wait to use my new milkshake glasses and though I know this is a smoothie and not technically a milkshake, I still wanted to use them.

Pineapple Kiwi Smoothie
Serves 3

2 cups frozen pineapple chunks
2 kiwis
1/2 – 1 cup of pineapple juice (depending on how thick you want the smoothie)
2 tbsp raw honey

Blitz everything in a blender.

Use the pineapple juice to get everything started. Start with about half a cup and add more depending on how thick you want the smoothie.

If you are using fresh pineapple pineapple, add some ice to the blender.

Serve up in some pretty glasses.

Enjoy!

Mango Chia Pudding

For quite sometime now I’ve seen so many variants of the Chia pudding pop up all over the place. I’ve been tempted to try it out and see if we’d like it for a while. But I’m pleased to report that I’m finally part of the Chia pudding lover’s clan. I’ve tried a couple of flavours so far and we’ve loved them. These are pudding options that are perfect either for breakfast, a snack or dessert. The first one was an Almond Joy inspired one, which we gobbled up before we could get any pictures. But going by how much we enjoyed that one, I wanted to try out a few more options. And that’s when I came across this one. I love mangoes. I’ve been missing the good old Alphonso mangoes that are really popular in Goa and Mumbai. I have not had another mango that can match the Alphonso in taste and texture. As luck would have it, a while ago, when I was picking up a few things from my local Aldi store, I saw these…

This pulp is sweetened. But it is so good, I could eat it with a spoon and call it dessert. I picked up a couple of cans. One was used for milkshakes and smoothies and one was in the pantry. I ended up using this pulp for the chia pudding. And since this was sweetened, I didn’t add any sweetener to the milk. However, if you aren’t using a sweetened pulp, you will need to add either honey or dates or sugar; basically any sweetener of your choice. Also, please note that the quantities mentioned below can be adjusted to suit your preference. 
These are perfect for make ahead options. You can make them the previous day and have them ready to go in the morning. You could also set these in travel containers to take your breakfast to work. All you need to make now is the chia pudding, which is as simple as stirring the chia seeds into the milk. That’s it. I stuck with the whole Goa inspired flavours and topping the puddings with some toasted cashew nuts. It was pretty spectacular – perfect for summer. I can wait to find some more of these cans of mango pulp now.

Have you tried chia puddings before? What’s your favourite combination? Leave me a comment and let me know, I’m eager to try out different variations.
Mango Chia Pudding
Adapted from: Ashley Neese
Serves 2
2/3 cup Mango pulp, sweetened
1 cup milk
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
A handful of cashew nuts, toasted
In 2 glasses, pour the mango pulp. I filled about 1/3 of the glass with the mango pulp, careful to not let the mango drip down the sides of the glass.
Set aside in the refrigerator.
In a seperate bowl, combine the chia seeds, milk and vanilla and stir for about 3-4 minutes constantly, till it becomes a thick pudding. Let it stand for about 5 minutes to set.
Pour the chia pudding over the mango pulp carefully, in a steady stream.

Cover the glasses with cling film and refrigerate for atleast 4 hours or overnight.
When you’re ready to serve, top with some chopped up toasted cashewnuts.

Sit back and enjoy!!!