Tag Archives: light meals

Recipe: Cucumber Noodles with Gazpacho Sauce and Guacamole

I am the worst hostess ever for Pasta Please. No sooner do I set the Make Your Own Pasta challenge, but I acquire a Herman starter and become obsessed with him, and then disappear into my politics blog for a round of intensive pre-election blog-writing, pausing only to run out and sing in what feels like every church in Melbourne.  It’s a shocker.

But I am not a total failure, because here I am, a day before the end of the challenge, and I have made pasta! Or a kind of pasta anyway.  What with not being in my kitchen long enough to cook much of anything for the last couple of weeks, getting out the pasta machine was never going to be an option.  But my vegetable spiraliser is another story, and I had this random idea one one of the hot days recently about cucumber noodles, which would surely be an incredibly cooling thing to eat.  But what do you put with cucumber?  Well, I’m fairly sure cucumber gets used in Gazpacho, which is also lovely and cooling… at least until the lid falls off your bottle of hot sauce at the crucial moment and you accidentally add a tablespoon rather than a teaspoon.  My face is still tingling hours later…

Anyway, cucumber noodles with Gazpacho sauce it was, and very cooling and delicious it was too.  Alas, the weather was also quite cold, and not so auspicious for my purposes, so I’m calling this a trial run for the summer.  This is more of a light meal than a main, by the way – sort of a fancy salad, really.  But it’s very fast to make, and would be a beautiful starter for a long summer meal.

Your Shopping List

3 roasted capsicums (from a jar is fine, you’re adding vinegar anyway)
6 roma tomatoes + 1 for the guacamole
2 tsp red wine vinegar (see?)
1 tsp hot sauce, or to taste, or however much you drop into the blender by accident
3 celery sticks
1 red onion
a handful of coriander, plus another handful for the guacamole
2 small avocados
1 clove garlic
1 tsp guacamole spice mix (sorry, I’m lazy today)
juice of 1 lime
6 lebanese cucumbers Continue reading

Recipe: Winter Tuna Salad with Fennel, Orange and Hazelnuts

I love salads, but it feels weird to buy tomatoes and capsicums and cucumbers and other summer vegetables when it’s freezing cold outside and probably pouring with rain, too.  So as the year changes, I start swapping out my summer greens and vegetables for more wintry fare – red cabbage, apples, celery, citrus fruits, fennel, kale, and lots of nuts and legumes.

This is a recent lunchbox favourite of mine, making the most of the cooler weather and the beautiful things that are in season even now, when the idea of getting out into the garden isn’t terribly inviting.  I think I even prefer this to my summer tuna salad – I like the acidity of the orange and the earthy flavour of the hazelnuts and chickpeas, and even fennel has started to grow on me.

But mostly I’m posting this recipe because it made my office-mate envious last time I brought it in for lunch, which is a good indicator in my book!


Your Shopping List (serves 1)

1/4 red onion
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 x 125 g tin chickpeas
1 small or half large fennel bulb
1 orange
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
2 handfuls baby spinach, rocket or parsley, or a combination of both (or any other likely winter greens that aren’t too bitter)
1 x 90g tin tuna packed in olive oil

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Recipe: Cheesy Broccoli Tomato Rolls

Or, Cheesy Cheesy Cheese With Cheese on Top in a Cheesy Roll with some Token Vegetables.  I may have got a bit carried away with the cheese here…

When I was in primary school, our Tuck Shop had some pretty great stuff on the menu.  One favourite of mine was Frozen Oranges, which was basically a quarter of an orange, frozen.  You could buy one for 5 cents, which meant that I could quite often manage to find the money for it on non-lunch-order days, and it was cold and sweet and sour and essentially a treat from the Tuck Shop, which was all that mattered.

On days when I did manage to talk my mother into letting us have lunch orders, however, it was a different matter.  Not being restricted to 5 cent coins, I could set my sights on much grander, and far more exciting horizons.  For a mere 25 cents – I think it went up to 30 cents in my final year of primary school – I could buy a Cheesy Burger.  This little work of genius was a cheese-topped bread roll, split in half, with a slice of cheese put in the middle, and the whole lot grilled (or, on reflection, quite possibly microwaved?  Surely it was a toaster oven, at least?) until the cheese was gooey and melty. 

It was glorious.  The cheese, in retrospect, was almost certainly orange.  Or maybe Kraft plastic cheese.  But that didn’t matter.  What mattered was its sublime cheesiness.  And the fact that I could afford an apricot delight for afterwards…

This recipe is basically a Cheesy Burger for grown-ups.  Which is to say, it is definitely inspired by the Cheesy Burgers of my youth, but it actually does have vegetables.  And proper cheese.  It is still a crime against nutrition, at least if one uses the quantities of cheese I used this evening – and I’m not even going to tell you how much cheese that was, because I am regretting it already – but it does contain some of the elements of a balanced diet.  If one balanced said diet upside down on the pointy, cheesy end.


What can I say?  Sometimes, I just really want melty cheese.  Everything else is just an excuse…

(Astute readers will have noticed that this is not the vegan meal I was planning yesterday.  The weather changed, you see.  Also, I really, really wanted melty cheese…)

Your Shopping List

2 small heads of broccoli, stalks set aside for later soupy use, because you really just want the florets.  My, I’m chatty today, aren’t I?
olive oil, salt, pepper
1 tsp butter

1 small red onion3 cheesy rolls.  Or plain rolls, if you are less silly than me.  Do you want to be less silly than me?  Really?

150 g cheese, glorious cheese!  This is less than I used, but it’s still probably too much.  I used Milawa white cheese, and it was fabulous
about half a batch of slow-roasted tomatoes

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Recipe: Funghi Alla Pizza! (With bonus Cheat’s Pesto)

I am so very amused by this recipe title, but really, what else could I call it?  If I called it ‘Mushroom Pizza’, that would sound as though I was talking about pizza with mushrooms on it.  Whereas this, my friends, is mushrooms with pizza on it, which I think you will agree is far more exciting!

It started like this:


That’s more than 300g of mushroom in one fine, fungal package there.  I think we can all agree that this is a mushroom that has made an effort.  A mushroom that knows what it wants.  A mushroom that deserves respect.

It is certainly not a mushroom that should be chopped or sliced and braised in a stew or sauté with other vegetables.  That, I am sure, would be wasteful.  No, this sort of mushroom deserves to be served whole, in all its fungal fabulousness.

Thus the advent of the mushroom as pizza base.  I’ve made mushrooms stuffed with pesto before, so that seemed like the place to start with my pizza, but I also couldn’t resist making one in the configuration of the pita bread pizzas I used to make under the grill as a child.

They didn’t look quite as pretty as I’d hoped once they were done, but they tasted *amazing*.  Oddly, I’m not the biggest mushroom fan (just a fan of the biggest mushrooms), but these had just the right amount of mushroominess – they were meaty and satisfying and not even a little bit slimy.  (Where does the sliminess come from, I wonder?  I had slimy mushrooms when I ate out recently, but I’ve never produced them myself – there is clearly a technique to it.  One I wish to avoid.) 

These pizzas – pizzettas?  funghizzettas? – still fall into the ‘light meal’ category, but they would certainly work for lunch, or for dinner with a reasonably substantial dessert.  Which reminds me that I do have a recipe for risotto with strawberries and champagne somewhere…

Your Shopping List

2 enormous mushrooms, or 4-6 portobello mushrooms of more moderate size.  You want about 650 g mushrooms overall.
olive oil spray
salt, pepper
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
250 g bocconcini, or a small ball of mozzarella
tomato paste
1 roasted pepper
For the Cheat’s Pesto
50 g pinenuts
1 tube of Gourmet Garden fresh basil in a tube
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
salt, pepper


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Recipe: Sydney Road-Inspired Breakfast Granola

pomI was going to call this ‘Middle Eastern-inspired Breakfast Granola’, but let’s face it, the closest I’ve been to the Middle East is in fact the local Turkish shops (of which, admittedly, there are quite a few).  On the other hand, I live in an area where the supermarkets routinely stock pomegranates and rosewater and Persian feta, so there’s certainly something in the idea…

Anyway, this is my Sydney Rd breakfast.  The yoghurt is Greek, the pomegranates, while in this instance from the Farmers’ Market, are Mediterranean or maybe even Iranian, the Pistachios are from the Middle-Eastern grocer, the cinnamon is from one of the Indian-owned spice shops, the sunflower seeds acknowledge the granola-vegan-hippysville that Brunswick is rapidly becoming and the honey?  Well, the honey is from one of the labs at work, which is technically on Sydney Rd, too.  I am reliably informed that it is not radioactive or bioengineered, though I think I saw it fluorescing quietly in the kitchen last night…

All in all, a proper breakfast for my side of town, with the advantages of being quick to make, moderately healthy, very tasty, and, quite accidentally, exactly the right size for two people.  Even if one of them doesn’t eat nuts.  Which is just fine, because I have no problem eating this for breakfast two days running…

Your Shopping List

15 g sunflower seeds (about 30 ml)
25 g pistachios (about 50 ml)
30 g rolled oats (about 70 ml)
25 g honey (about 20 ml)
a big pinch of cinnamon
seeds from half a pomegranate
Greek yoghurt to serve – about 300-350 g for two people.

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Recipe: Inside-out salad

stuffedAt last!  An entry for the Vegetarian Lunchbox Challenge!  And it’s only taken me three weeks since I thought of this recipe to actually make it and write it up…

This recipe is inspired by all the beautiful tomatoes I’m getting from my garden at present.  Not big ones, alas – those I had to buy – but very colourful, sweet baby tomatoes in a lot of colours.  I thought it would be fun to do Tomato On Tomato – a whole festival of tomatoes inside a bigger tomato, but with a bit of extra protein.  Hence the quinoa.  And it was.  These are not, I fear, perfect – I think they really wanted a few toasted nuts or seeds in them for crunch, and I totally forgot that there’s this thing called seasoning – but they are lovely and cool and fresh in this endlessly hot weather.  I’d use this recipe as a template and then add your favourite salad goodies to it at the end.

(I will try to make some more sweet recipes soon, but the combination of very hot weather that makes baking undesirable, a broken food processor that makes a lot of my favourite un-baked sweets impossible, and the usual work-related exhaustion is not really conducive to inventing sweet delights…)

Your Shopping List

1 cup quinoa
265 g assorted small tomatoes
1 bunch mint
1 bunch coriander
1 orange capsicum
1 roasted pepper
100 g feta cheese
juice of half a lime
8 large tomatoes
3 -4 large lebanese cucumbers

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Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food: A Lunchbox Challenge!

Now that most of us are heading back to work, we are back in the land of packed lunches.  Or buying lunch, which I try not to do, but which is still occasionally irresistible.


The February 2013 theme is The vegetarian Lunchbox

(because sandwiches get very boring, very fast)


This month I’m looking for vegan and vegetarian recipes suitable for packing and taking to work or school.  I would, on the whole, prefer savoury recipes because I for one have absolutely no trouble thinking of nice little cakes and biscuits to bake and take to work, and every single one of them is vegetarian.  Possibilities might include…

  • Frittatas
  • Savoury muffins or slices
  • Soups
  • Wraps
  • Honestly, anything that looks like lunch to you.  If I had lots of ideas, I wouldn’t be running this challenge!  (Well, I might be, because I’m kindly like that, but I probably wouldn’t be running it as the second challenge ever…)
  • Sandwiches.  If you must.  But interesting sandwiches, please!
  • Salads again!  Because salads can be lunch too!

Be creative and delicious and wonderful, as you always are.

Rules of play can be found at the main challenge page.

ETA: And the most important rule (after ‘make it tasty and awesome’)  is, please link back to this post!  Reciprocity is everyone’s friend, and I’ll hold off on approving linkies until I see a link back here. 

I noticed a few of you had trouble with the linky list last time (I think perhaps some people didn’t see it?).  Please remember to click on the blue link that says ‘Click here to enter’ – this allows you to add your page to the blog hop, and to get the code so that you can add the blog hop to your own site.  If you don’t do this, but follow the rest of the rules, I’ll still get a notification that you’ve joined in, and can add your page manually, but you can only add the blog hop to your own page by entering the code yourself.

I can’t wait to see what you’re having for lunch!

Recipe: Half-baked Fruity Muesli

closeupI just couldn’t resist the pun in that title.  Sorry.  But it really is half baked, because I did toast about half of what went into this muesli while leaving the rest untoasted.  The reason for this is that we are about to have a houseguest who has expressed a preference for cereal for breakfast, and has diabetes.  I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable about diabetes as I should be, but to me this sounds like something low-GI is called for, and oats are pretty much the definition of low-GI.

Except that if I’m making muesli, I’d like to make a kind that I’ll eat myself, and I do rather like my muesli toasted.  But toasted means you have to toast it with something, generally either fat of some kind or sugar of some kind, neither of which are particularly diabetes-friendly. 

So I’ve compromised.  I haven’t used any fat, and have used a small amount of apple juice and agave nectar to crisp things up.  And then I’ve added extra, un-cooked and un-sweetened oats at the end, along with the dried fruit, to dilute any inappropriate sweetness.  I know I’ve created something delicious; the question will be whether it is both delicious and something my guest can eat…

Your shopping list

250 g rolled oats, plus 100 g rolled oats for later (proper oats, not the quick kind, please)
100 g flaked or chopped almonds
80 g raw unsweetened pistachios
85 g sunflower seeds
1/4 tsp cinnamon
30 ml agave nectar (or honey, of course)
60 ml unsweetened apple juice (which, lets face it, is plenty sweet already)
60 g dried cherries
60 g dried cranberries
60 g dried apples
60 g dried apricots

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Recipe: Eggplant with Tomatoes and Yoghurt

yogurtThis recipe is inspired by our local Turkish restaurants, which we don’t go to nearly often enough, actually.  They all have some variation of eggplant ‘yogurtlu’, eggplant that has been fried in oil until it is sweet and caramelised, and then cooked into a yoghurt sauce.  Or something like that – I can deduce the ingredients, but I’m not 100% sure of the method.  It’s amazing stuff – juicy and tangy and sweet and addictive – possibly the best ever use for eggplants.

Anyway, there were really beautiful eggplants at the shops yesterday, and we had guests round to dinner, so I thought I’d try giving it a shot.  My version of eggplant yogurtlu was a great hit, with the one problem being that I have hardly any leftovers.  We had it with youvetsi, a Greek lamb and tomato stew, because one of our guests doesn’t really eat vegetables unless you disguise them really well, or unless they are potatoes.  But it would also be fabulous as a meal in its own right, just served with really good Turkish or Lebanese bread, or, of course, as part of a mezze platter.

Your Shopping List

2 large eggplants (about 750 g)
quite a lot more olive oil than most people would recommend, but really, it’s wonderful and you need it.
6 roma tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed

400 g tinned tomatoes

salt, pepper, fennel, chilli, lavender
250 ml Greek yoghurt (incidentally, if you have access to Black Swan low fat Greek Yoghurt, I recommend it with enthusiasm)
small bunch mint leaves


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Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food: The Substantial Salads Challenge

Vegetarian food can be awesome.  I mean, for one thing, most cakes are vegetarian – not to mention chocolate! – and I don’t think anyone is going to seriously claim that cakes and chocolate are not awesome.  And savoury vegetarian food can be fantastic, making the most of all the gorgeous vegetables, grains and legumes out there, as well as pasta, rice, polenta, and, if you are lacto-ovo vegetarian, eggs and dairy products such as yoghurt or cheese.  Who doesn’t love eating these things?

And yet, a lot of people are intimidated by vegetarian cooking (and let’s not even get started on the terror that cooking vegan can inspire!).  In all honesty, I’m one of those people.

I’m an omnivore with vegetarian tendencies.  I like cooking and eating vegetarian and vegan food, and I usually go vegetarian for a couple of months each year, during Lent.  I do this because I think it’s a good idea both ethically and health-wise to reduce reliance on animal sources of protein.

Despite this, I find vegetarian cooking really hard when I have to do it every day.  All my easiest, no-brainer meals all tend to have meat in them.  Which means the busier and more stressed I am, the less likely I am to cook vegetarian, despite my best intentions.

I want to do better than this.

My plan is, therefore, to start a monthly Everyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food festival over here on my blog.  Every month, I will pick a theme – which will probably be seasonal for those of us Southern Hemisphere types, so I hope you are all ready for Vegan Christmas In July – and provide a linky where you can add your dish.


Here are the rules:

To join in, simply post a vegetarian (or vegan) dish on your blog by the last day of the month and:
  • Link to the challenge page at Cate’s Cates (or link to both the challenge page and Cate’s Cates, if someone else is hosting)
  • Use the Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian logo in your post
  • If you use twitter, tweet your post with @catescates and #easyvegetarian and I will re-tweet it to my followers.
  • If you don’t have a blog, email me your recipe (17catherines at gmail dot com), along with a picture of the finished product, and I’ll post it for you and add it to the list.


  • Follow the current theme when creating your recipe
  • Entries can be vegetarian or vegan.  If your recipe happens to be suitable for any other dietary requirements so much the better – and please say so!
  • Entries don’t have to be new blog posts!  I’m hoping these challenges will hang around as an index of handy recipes (so that people in the Northern Hemisphere can come looking for salads when it’s seasonal for them).  Just edit your existing blog post with the link and icon for this one, and add your post to the linky.
  • Recipes must be added to the linky by the first day of the following month (ie, February 1 for this challenge).

The January 2013 theme is substantial Salads.

(because in this weather, who really wants to cook at dinner time?)

I look forward to seeing (and tasting) some amazing salads! Add them to the linky below.  If you’d like to make this into a blog hop from your blog, click on the link below after you’ve entered your contribution to get the code, and everyone else’s salads will appear on your blog as if by magic!

NB: It seems that links are taking a while to turn up below.  Please be patient, but if your link hasn’t shown up in 24 hours, let me know and I’ll follow it up for you.