Recipes


Zsa Zsa has a particular fondness for some dog biscuits that I often prepare. Zeph adores them too but they’re known in this household as Zsa Zsa’s cookies. I’ve told you’ve many times that I firmly believe processed dog food is not good for your beloved canine.

Zeph and Zsa Zsa are on a raw food diet, meaning they get lots of raw beef, chicken, rabbit, venison and fish. They also get organic coconut oil, turmeric, cinnamon and flaxseed oil mixed into their food, along with organic yoghurt, brown rice, raw oats, vegetables and quinoa. And shock, horror: they chomp on meaty bones and chicken necks. Vets will often tell you No Bones but what on earth did the domestic dog’s ancestors, the wolves, eat? I don’t think they dropped into their local pet food store to stock up on dry kibble (which is usually grain-based). Nope. They chowed down on the flesh and bones of animals they hunted.

If you want to catch up on recipes that you can prepare for your dog or food ideas, go here, here and here. But today, I prepared some of Zsa Zsa’s cookies and thought I’d share the recipe with you. You’ll need:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup organic rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup organic peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cups of hot water

Get out a whisk and make sure you thoroughly blend the flour and oats in a bowl. Add the peanut butter, then gently pour in the hot water. Mix well and knead in the bowl with your hands. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead some more. Take a rolling pin and roll out the dough so it’s uniformly flat. Get out your favourite cookie cutter (must get a dog-shaped one for Zsa Zsa) and cut out the cookies. This recipe makes around 20 yummy cookies.

Place cookies onto a non-stick baking tray and bake until golden at 180°C (or 350F). Should take about 30 minutes but watch they don’t burn. Leave to cool and notice how your canine friend or friends have been lurking around the kitchen whilst you’ve been preparing this easy-to-do recipe!

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Preparing the dough.

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Zeph and Zsa Zsa realise that I’m making their favourite dog biscuits!

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Zsa Zsa makes sure I have the correct oven temperature.

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Zeph patiently waits for the cookies to cool.

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There were 20 cookies in this batch.

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I’m somewhat obsessed these days with lemon balm (well, cinnamon too). I have a personal stash of lemon balm (or Melissa officinalis) growing just outside the kitchen window. It’s a member of the Lamiaceae or mint family and it has a very subtle lemon mint taste.

Despite my lack of a green thumb, I have not killed off my hardy lemon balm. The leaves turned a bit brownish at the edges during Winter but this was most likely due to the cold and wind. I pruned the plant to within an inch of its life a couple of months ago and it’s bounced back.

The medicinal properties of lemon balm were known over 2000 years ago by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Lemon balm has anti-viral properties so it makes a comforting tea if you’re suffering from a cold or flu. I chuck a few leaves into a teapot and drink lemon balm tea every morning. I read somewhere that it can relieve shingles and help sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Like cinnamon, lemon balm can help lower blood pressure.

I chop up some leaves and chuck lemon balm in our salads and dressings. The dog’s water bowl contains a bunch of leaves because it’s a dog-friendly plant that can neutralize gas in the stomach and intestines. And Zeph and Zsa Zsa’s dinner bowl often contains shredded lemon balm (and a dash of cinnamon).

It’s such a versatile herb. I’ve added fresh, chopped leaves to my baked bread and I made some fantastic buttermilk scones with lemon balm. I also whipped up a lemon balm custard with rhubarb sauce. Woohoo! Next up, I’m going to try making a sleep pillow. I remember my mother mixing together a lot of dried herbs and placing them in a pretty pouch that she attached to the pillow. I might try lemon balm with cinnamon and lavender.

And speaking of lavender, I decided to grow some so I could try making lavender-infused water to use as a facial toner. I was worried that the cold and snow here in the South Island would knock off any lavender bush but gave it a go. So far; so good. I have a hardy lavender bush growing in a pot outside the back door.

Next week, I’ll be harvesting about 10 or 12 springs and get rid of all the stalky bits. I’ll pop the lavender flowers in a Mason jar and cover the lavender with a light oil – I’m thinking jojoba or sweet almond oil. Maybe even grapeseed oil if I can find it in Christchurch. Leave the jar on the sunny kitchen windowsill for around six weeks and shake the jar daily. Then strain through a sieve covered in cheesecloth (or even a pair of pantyhose) and you have lavender-infused oil (not an essential oil note).

I remember how my mother used to dry lavender stalks on newspaper and then make potpourri. I’d find soft little pouches of dried lavender in my dressing table draws, my closet, on my pillow. I used to roll my eyes at the whole lavender thing but now…yep, turning into my mother.

If you have any recipes or ideas for using lemon balm or lavender, please leave a comment.

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My hardy lemon balm grows in a blue pot we lugged across from Australia.

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I think this is English lavender.

No, I haven’t turned Zeph and Zsa Zsa into muffins but I have made them special dog muffins. I think it’s very important to give your dog the best food possible – no tinned dog food crap or processed kibble. Zeph and Zsa Zsa are on a raw food diet so that means raw meat or fish with vegetables and brown rice; organic yoghurt; goat milk; and homemade biscuits and muffins.

I whip up a huge batch of muffins once a week and then freeze them individually. Basically, I get about 3 kilos of beef mince, shredded carrots and potatoes, celery, rolled oats, free range eggs and olive oil. Mix it all up with about three cups of water, then fill up some muffin trays and bake for around 30 minutes at 200C/392F. You need to keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. You can give your dog a muffin as a treat or a couple for breakfast.

At least you know what ingredients are going into your dog’s food.

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I offered up my New Year’s Resolutions recently and one of them is to try a vegetarian diet. So far so good. But only because I bought two fabulous cookbooks from Revive Cafe in Auckland. I haven’t been to Revive, which is described as a health haven, but I read the cookbooks have easy to follow and delicious recipes.

Each cookbook is normally NZ$39.99 but were on special for $29.99 so I pounced. I’ve never seen such idiot proof recipes. Minimal ingredients; maximum taste.

So far, I’ve whipped up Indian potato and chickpea wraps; honey and soy tofu steaks; Bircher muesli for breakfast; and blueberry and cashew cheesecake. And you know what? I don’t really miss the taste of meat or fat or sugar. I’m sleeping a bit better and seem to have a lot of energy. Mind you, I always have a lot of energy so I’m not sure if I need more.

El Hubs is struggling a bit because he has a super-sweet tooth. Especially after dinner, he likes to scoff something sweet whether it be ice-cream, chocolate or cake. Don’t get me wrong, we’re both not bad eaters. We don’t do Maccas or KFC or much in the way of processed foods. But we both have a sweet tooth and I could exist on ice-cream, chocolate and crisps. But I know better and really limit myself. I don’t eat red meat, I don’t smoke or drink – so these are my redeeming qualities.

But I’ve become uncomfortable with humans eating animals and I don’t like all the anti-biotics and other nasties being pumped into cows and chickens these days. I doubt a diet of veges, fruits, nuts and pulses will do me any harm. I need to look into Free Trade chocolate and see if that’s allowed on a vegetarian eating regime. I do like my chocolate!

Actually, what I should be doing is moving to the Island of (Almost) Eternal Life. This is the island of Ikaria, Greece where it’s the norm for people to live to 100 years or over. The typical diet is breakfast of tea made with wild herbs and bread with local honey, plus olives and cheese. The main meal of the day is lunch, which is vegetables with pulses or beans, plus wine and bread, followed by a siesta. The light evening meal is similar to breakfast. Apparently, horta is a key feature of the Ikarian diet. Horta is the generic name for wild plants such as dandelion, wild sorrel, chicory and fennel picked from the hillsides and tossed into salads or boiled and dressed with olive oil and lemon.

Another key factor in the Ikarian regime is the steep hillsides on the island. To get anywhere, people have to walk up steep slopes. One woman, who will turn 100 years old in March this year, says “‘Every year I do more, not less“.  I think this is really key. Western society likes to pigeon-hole you – retire at 65 years and think about entering a rest home pretty soon thereafter. And if you’re over 45 years? Well, you’re no longer young, hip, groovy, funky – whatever the word is these days – and organisations start to target you in any restructure.

I think this ageism is all rubbish and try to ignore it as much as possible. You are old when you give up. Until then, you should keep up with movement and exercise, learn new things, laugh and eat as naturally as you can.

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Indian potato and chickpea wraps.

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Bircher muesli.

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Honey and soy tofu steaks – with roasted potato and pumpkin. Garnished with shallots, white and black sesame seeds.

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Blueberry and cashew cheesecake. No sugar; no dairy.

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Growing up in Australia with Kiwi parents and grandparents, I was well-used to some Kiwi classics – chocolate fish (which I still scoff regularly); pineapple lumps; hokey pokey (which my mother used to make); and Q-Tol antiseptic lotion. Chocolate fish and pineapple lumps weren’t available in Oz, so aunts and uncles travelling across The Ditch to visit the Oz-based family would bring much-needed supplies.

Q-Tol is a vivid memory from my childhood. It’s a pink lotion with a very distinctive, pleasant smell. I well remember the bull ant incident. I reckon I was about 9 or 10 years old and I was at my grandparent’s place in Avalon. My parents were there too – for the Sunday family roast – and I wanted to go out into the garden. Can’t remember why but I remember it was summer and I was wearing no shoes. My father said: you should put your shoes on and me (being occasionally stubborn) said no.

This was typical of Dad. He’d tell me not to do something and, if I didn’t listen, he’d let me go ahead and do it. It was his way of teaching me to take responsibility for my actions. So out I went into the garden and within minutes was stung on the big toe by a huge bull ant. These little bastards are endemic to Australia and can be very aggressive.

I clearly remember the bull ant hanging off my toe, me howling and Dad calmly making his way towards me with a bottle of Q-Tol. The pink lotion is very soothing and I’ve always had a bottle in my bathroom. Whilst living in Australia, any time I went to NZ to speak at conferences, I’d pick up several bottles. Now, I can buy Q-Tol here in the supermarket and, every time I use Q-Tol lotion, it reminds me of my childhood (and that bastard of a bull ant).

But one thing I never tried was Choco-ade. My parents never mentioned it and I’d never heard of it until this year. And this whole story of the Choco-ade comeback just shows you the power of social media. For whatever reason, Griffins stopped producing Choco-ade biscuits in the 1980s. It seems to have been a very popular biscuit, so what the?

A Kiwi mother started a Facebook page urging Griffins to bring back Choco-ade (not really keen on the name I must say). I read that her husband craved the biscuit he used to love in the 80s, so she decided to start a campaign for its return. Griffins conducted a Facebook poll and found that over 14,000 New Zealanders were calling for the return of the quirky biscuit. I say quirky because, like with Aussie Tim Tams, there’s a special way to eat one.

The biscuit is a round choc-orange flavoured thing and looks a bit like it has a fluted, short crust pastry base. It has a jam filling (not sure of the flavour) and a circle of chocolate. Apparently, Kiwi kids would bite off the pastry base, lick the jam off, then nibble the chocolate. Someone told me they used to love eating the biscuit carefully, so that the chocolate didn’t break.

TV ads started appearing and I think Griffins relaunched Choco-ade in July this year. I was intrigued but couldn’t find any packets of the biscuit in my local supermarket. I was told they’d sold out and it seems that Choco-ade was New Zealand’s biggest selling biscuit during the first week of its relaunch.

Oh well. I forgot about it but this week spotted a packet of Choco-ade in a supermarket in Rangiora. There was only this one packet left so I snapped it up.

Mmmmm…..not sure what the fuss is about. Does this relaunched biscuit taste the same as it used to? Because if it does, it’s not THAT great. The jam layer could be thicker if you ask me. In fact, the whole biscuit is a bit on the thin side. Certainly, the pastry base is too thin. They did remind me though of Arnott’s Jaffa biscuits, which I grew up with in Australia. Yeah, I know, they are different biscuits but still a choc-orange flavour.

This caused me to look up Arnott’s (I have not bought a single Arnott’s biscuit since the Yanks acquired this Aussie icon in 1997. Boycott anyone?). OMG. There is NO Arnott’s Jaffa biscuit any longer! At least I can’t find them on the Arnott’s Australian website. I’m not talking jaffa cakes; I’m talking the chocolate-coated biscuit that was my mother’s favourite.

This image is from a 1982 TV commercial for the biscuit, which is referred to as a jaffa cake biscuit. I don’t remember them being called jaffa cake; I thought it was just plain old jaffa biscuit. Anyway. What the? Are they no longer available? Have the Yanks messed around with an Aussie icon?

Suddenly, the Choco-ade biscuit is looking very tempting. Indeed, I had a second biscuit and ate it the way the Kiwis scoff it. I’m now a fan and see what the fuss is about.

I’m considering launching my own social media campaign to bring back an Aussie classic – Cahills Caramel Sauce. I’ve blogged about the decadent sauce before and even recreated it after a few months of experimentation back in 2007. Well, not quite but near enough.

I was lucky to have tasted the original Cahills Caramel Sauce. You could buy it in waxed tubs in Aussie supermarkets and I’d eat it straight out of the waxed tub or drench it over vanilla ice cream. Then it disappeared and was relaunched in either the 1980s or 1990s. But it was a very sad shadow of the former gloriously thick, rich sauce. The relaunched version didn’t seem to be around for long.

I know a lot of readers land on this blog looking for Cahills Caramel Sauce, so I’m thinking about setting up a Facebook page. But not sure who owns the rights to the sauce. It was created by Teresa Cahill as far as I know and she died in the late 70s, which probably explains why the product disappeared.

I have since found that the Sydney Morning Herald published the original Cahills Caramel Sauce recipe in Column 8, May 29 2010. Is this REALLY the original recipe though? Column 8 said it came from a 1964 notebook of some grandmother. Well, I plan to try it out soon but meanwhile here’s the recipe:

‘‘2 ozs butter, 3/4 cup Carnation milk,  cup white sugar, 1 cups brown sugar. Put all into a saucepan and stir until boiling and the sugars have dissolved. Simmer for about four minutes.’

The newly relaunched Kiwi classic biscuit.

Well, I’ve moved on from the gelato (sort of). I have a new obsession and it’s called Occhi di Bue (or Bull’s Eye). I mentioned, in a recent post, that this Italian biscuit had caught my eye and vowed to road test it for you dear reader. The sacrifices I make for my readership of two people!

What I didn’t realise was that when you order the large Occhi di Bue (which has apricot, marmalade or Nutella filling) you must say Occhi di Bue grande. Otherwise, you end up with the tiny little morsel that was my first Occhi di Bue. I guess it’s called Occhi di Bue piccolo.

Basically, Occhi di Bue is two large butter cookies slapped together with filling and dusted with icing sugar. Or one end is dipped in chocolate.

My first taste was the piccolo version and the filling was apricot jam (or albicocca). Yummo! It’s kind of like shortbread but fluffier and lighter. I feared the jam might make things sickly sweet but nope, everything was in perfect balance. I suspect you can fill the two cookies with whatever you want – strawberry jam would be lovely. And using a cookie cutter, you could have them in heart-shapes, animal shapes and so on.

In fact, I searched for a recipe in English because I am so obsessed with Occhi di Bue that I want to master making them on my return to NZ. I found a great recipe here and plan to enjoy them with a wonderful coffee from my lime green Pixie Nespresso machine. Despite the wonderful cappuccinos here in Rome, I really miss my Nespresso!

Occhi di Bue grande.

Hubs and I have had a massive attack of hayfever this season. Before moving to New Zealand, I never had any allergies or hayfever. Our first year here, 2010, I didn’t get hayfever but this year….well, two major attacks. Thanks so much New Zealand!

Hayfever tends to strike in Spring and Autumn (or Fall for my American readers). And it has nothing to do with hay and you don’t actually get a fever. Hayfever is allergic rhinitis and occurs when you breathe in an allergen, such as dust or pollen. I read that if you move locations, you can suddenly get hit with hayfever despite never having suffered from it before because there is different flora. The main enemies appear to be birch trees, ash, oak, horse chestnut, willow (all of which we have on our property) and ryegrass. This year is a bumper season for grass too. There’s so much grass around and grass pollen flitting through the air. I heard that bales of hay will be going for around NZ$4.50 because of the abundance of grass – last year they went for anywhere between $6.00-8.00 per bale.

The height of the grass pollen season in New Zealand occurs between October and Christmas and thanks to lush grass this year, everyone I meet says they have hayfever. The major amount of pollen in the air occurs between 6.00am and midday, so I’ve learnt to try and stay inside between these hours. But with horses and energetic dogs, that doesn’t always happen. I also try to wear sunglasses to stop the pollen from getting in the eyes and I slap Vaseline inside the nostrils to block the pollen from getting up the schnoz.

Everyone has been discussing why hayfever is rife this year. People are saying that there’s a lot of dust swirling around because of the reconstruction going on in Christchurch. I’ve also been told that liquefaction in Christchurch has contributed but not sure why liquefaction would be a culprit.

My first attack was in May this year and I seemed to meet with success by taking tissue salts. But it hasn’t worked this time. Since arriving back from Rome in October, I’ve been plagued with a runny nose and itchy eyes. So I tried another natural remedy – Allermed – which everyone in Oxford seems to know about. Nope, doesn’t work for me.

Unfortunately, our attacks have been so bad, hubs and I now have chest infections. I’m trying to avoid taking antibiotics. The doctor prescribed them for hubs but I’m relying on natural remedies. Here’s what I’m doing:

  • I chew slowly on some fresh ginger. Ginger contains natural decongestants and is a powerful anti-inflammatory;
  • Honey – a couple of teaspoons per day to soothe the throat and chest. I’m using clover honey straight from the bees down the road, courtesy of a local farmer. By eating honey produced by local bees, you can desensitize your immune system to local pollens;
  • My father’s remedy for any infection – take two Panadol, wrap yourself up in warm clothes, go to bed and sweat it out (this never seems to fail me). The pores open up and whatever toxins are in the body are excreted;
  • Organic apple cider vinegar – put some in water and swig on it. I take a glass of water (250ml) and about 2 tablespoons of ACV. Sip all at once or swig throughout the day. If you can’t stand the strength of the ACV, sip on some honey or add honey to the ACV and water mixture. ACV is a purifier and can break down the phlegm. It’s also acidic so rinse your mouth out with water or brush your teeth after taking this remedy.

I now know that I need to start the honey and ACV remedies well before the onset of the next hayfever season. I’ll be taking a tablespoon of honey per day and the ACV remedy once a day.

We both felt so lousy last weekend, I decided to brew up a pot of chicken soup for the soul. The steam from the soup can clear blocked nasal passages and the chook broth can reduce inflammation and ease sore throats. We hadn’t been able to get out for our weekly shopping, so I had to make do with what was in the pantry.

Here’s my recipe:

  • 4 or 5 chicken thighs
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thinnish slices
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 7-8 cups chicken broth – I had no chicken wings or carcass to make a broth out of – so made it from chicken stock cubes
  • 2 cups egg noodles

This was all I had on hand but you could also throw in 2 celery stalks, trimmed and cut; leeks and 200grams of barley (instead of the egg noodles).

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil and cook the sliced onion until transparent. Add 7 cups of chicken broth, along with the carrots (and whatever other veges you use) and egg noodles. Chuck the chicken into the water and make sure it’s fully covered. If not, use the remaining 1 cup of broth.

Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Take the chicken thighs out and allow the soup to simmer for another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, shred the chicken and after the 5 minutes is up, return to the soup. You can then add some tarragon or dill if you like. Stir, season to taste and serve up. The day before, I baked some Italian-style bread so we enjoyed the chook soup with a slice of bread.

This homeopathic remedy didn't work for me but some people swear by it.

Chicken soup for the soul.

Homemade Italian-style bread.

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