Setting the scene for a romantic dinner is important. The must haves include candlelight, heart shaped decorations and flowers.
I have some easy, cheap but big impact DIY's and meal suggestions for making your Valentine's day romantic and memorable.
First start with your best lace table cloth then add a statement centerpiece. I DIY'd this one using faux flowers from Kmart. A frame from the Reject shop fitted with a draw liner serves as a tray.
Starting with the taller stems I made a fan shape and then filled in the sides with the large rose blooms. I sat the vase in a pink sparkly wreath.
I shopped my home for decor pieces that add romantic touches.
At the base I added two mirror heart boxes and two love birds. A white rose and a gorgeous sparkle votive holder from Dusk. It was a Christmas gift from a very sweet girlfriend.
I placed candle sticks, that I found on FB market place for $20, at each end of the centerpiece.
I hung heart bunting on the mirror over the sideboard. I made this from paper heart doilies last year. A single romantic rose adds splash of pink.
I'm serving Sam's favorite, gluten free lasagna from the freezer section of my supermarket, topped with Parmesan cheese and garnished with lettuce and tomato. Desert is Connoisseur Ice-cream and fruit drizzled with Kahlua.
These basic ingredients save me time and considerable effort.
I've resisted the temptation to overthink this meal. I'm keeping it easy to prepare because it's my Valentine's day too. I don't have to impress anyone just ensure we enjoy each others company.
When it's the end of the shopping week and I'm wanting to use up the vegetables that haven't yet been eaten, vegetables fritters is an easy and tasty meal to put those leftover pieces to good use. I served them with what was left of my salad vegetables tossed in a ranch dressing.
There's a bonus recipe for my GF ranch style dressing at the end of this post.
I have often enjoyed zucchini fritters when out for breakfast, if they are a gluten free version. This recipe is inspired by them. I add some curry to give them a little bit of something extra but other than that it's just the vegetables that shine. Cooking them until the fritters are deep golden to almost burnt adds a lovely caramelized flavor to this easy to knock together recipe.
It makes enough for two hungry people for lunch or six if being served with eggs and bacon at breakfast, which I think would be great with chutney. Mmmm love chutney.
The above picture shows all the ingredients which I'll also list below with the exception of garlic. I added that after I took the photo. I cut up the onion and capsicum, but grated the other vegetables. I had a zucchini that had seen better days, but it was fine. I just cut off the brown bits on the skin. I had a small piece of pumpkin and half a sweet potato floating around the veggie crisper so they were added too.
Normal recipes for zucchini fritters get you to drain the liquid out. I decided to leave it in and use that as the water for binding with buckwheat flour and the egg. I put in a teaspoon of baking powder also to give it some lightness.
1/4 onion, diced
1/2 red capsicum, diced
1 med zucchini grated (about a cup)
1 cup grated pumpkin
1 cup grated sweet potato
1 clove garlic finely chopped
one tsp curry paste of choice ( Coeliac sufferers should not use the brand in the picture it may contain traces of gluten. I don't know how I missed that when making them, but I was okay so dodged a bullet. )
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
olive oil for frying (About two to three tablespoons for a crispy fritter)
Preheat the pan over medium heat and add the oil. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. At first it will seem too dry but keep mixing the liquid will come out of the vegetables and make a nice batter.
Drop large serving spoon size dollops onto hot oil and spread out with the edge of the spoon, as I show above. Fry over medium-low heat until brown and set on the bottom. Turn and repeat. Keep hot in a low oven while you cook the rest.
I served our fritters with a simple ranch salad that I put together from iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion and ranch dressing that I mix for myself.
Bonus recipe GF Ranch Dressing
My ranch dressing is made from store bought GF mayonnaise (about quarter of a cup), a squeeze of lemon juice, a dessertspoon of Parmesan cheese and a teaspoon of gluten free Worcestershire sauce. I mix it all in a small glass bowl
Comment below if you have a favorite veggie fritter recipe to share. I'd love to be inspired. Do you have a secret ingredient that you like to add? Before you go, don't for get to share this link with anyone you think might like to read it.
I always like to made something special for dinner on Saturday nights. So I made my favorite foods for dinner last Saturday. With the addition of a glass of your favorite beverage, for me and Sam that's red wine, some flowers and a candle you have a tasty, romantic dinner for two.
Not just a romantic meal, it's healthy, easy to cook and beats going out in the cold to pick up takeaway. A budget friendly meal but more importantly, I can guarantee that I won't be glutened if I make it myself.
The ingredients are staples in my fridge and food cupboard except one. I only need to remember to add a cabbage to my shopping list.
Chop Suey (as my family always called it) is a favorite of mine since childhood. Mum used to make it with a packet of chicken noodle soup but I've needed to alter the recipe a little bit because I have Coeliac disease. I use gluten free, chicken stock power made up into a cup of stock. I have used rice successfully in the past and also gluten free pasta, broken into short lengths but I think this recipe which uses quinoa is my favorite. It's so good I think it's nicer than the original made with the soup mix.
The list of ingredients are:
2 tblspns oil (I use olive oil)
Half a red onion sliced into small strips
Two carrots halved lengthways and sliced
A small stick of celery, sliced
Small floret of broccoli chopped
250gms beef mince
2 tspns of curry powder
1 cup of frozen beans
1/4 of a smallish cabbage
1/4 cup quinoa
1 cup chicken stock
Heat a deep saucepan like the one shown in my picture. Add the oil and stir fry the onion, carrot and celery, when the onion is transparent add the mince and continue to stir fry until the meat is browned.
Make a clear space in the bottom of the pan and fry the curry powder for a few seconds then stir through. Add the beans, broccoli, cabbage, quinoa, chicken stock and stir to combine.
Bring to a boil and cover. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit on the stove without removing the lid for another 10 minutes and it will be ready.
All the liquid will be absorbed by the quinoa which is how I like it. Give it a stir to fluff it up and serve. I like to drizzle some soy sauce over it before eating. It's lovely on it's own or you can serve it like I did with some crumbed chicken tenderloins.
There's enough chop suey left for a third serve or leftovers. Yum for lunch the next day. If you wanted to make this meal stretch to four people add an extra 1/4 of a cabbage and an extra carrot to the recipe.
I have a blog on my regular shopping haul if you're interested. It makes going to the supermarket easy. This recipe and and many other meals can be put together in less than half an hour from my weekly staples. I also have been posting other recipes on my blog you can find them under the cooking series category.
For those of us who can no longer enjoy the scones our grandmother's baked because of Gluten intolerance or Ceoliac disease, I have created an alternative that, I think, is similar enough to satisfy a winter scones craving. But this post is also people who need a recipe for visiting friends and relatives who can't have the normal ones. You'll give them a lovely surprise. GF scones are a rarity and make a much nicer treat that the bought GF biscuts .
Making them is a different process and the mix looks nothing like something you can kneed. I tried to make GF scones the traditional way, rubbing the butter into the self raising flour and then adding milk. When this failed I did the cheat and added an egg. I also tried the Country Women's Association mix of cream and lemonade mixed into self raising flour. Each attempt ended up with a squeaky, deathly-dry scone that failed to rise.
I decided to throw out the scone rule book and try something closer to a cake batter, but just a bit thicker. The flour combination above created the cheapest and best bodied version I've had to date. I used one cup of GF self raising flour to a half cup of besan flour which comes from chickpeas. I feel the besan adds much needed protein to the mix. I add one and a half teaspoons of GF baking powder to the dry ingredients and give a good mix with a fork. All that is left to add is an egg, a desert spoon of olive oil and enough water to make a stiff batter. It shouldn't run off the spoon but mound when scooped up. leave to rest for a minute or two and then stir lightly break up big bubbles. Spoon into a greased silicone muffin pan so that about one and a half to two centimeters (half an inch) of mix fill the bottom of each cup. There should be enough mix for about six scones.
Put in a preheated 200C oven for a couple of minutes then turn down to 180C and cook for another ten minutes or until the tops are starting to brown.
Remove from the oven and let sit for a minute before turning out carefully. They are fragile when very hot. leave to cool down to luke warm and then they will have obtained the texture enabling them to be cut like a normal scone.
They are best eaten on the day they are made but they can be stored in the fridge. However, they shouldn't be served cold. They will be tough and crumbly. Warmed for five minutes in a 180C oven should be perfect.
I didn't have any cream in the fridge to make the next picture into what we in Australia call a Devonshire tea. This is, warm scones, split and topped with jam and whipped cream and served with a cup of tea. When in the UK I was served a version of this called cream tea, the same except the scones had dried fruit in them. I guess you could add some raisins, currents and spice to this mix for a UK type scone.
If you have a blog, Youtube channel, or Instagram account with GF recipes, It would be great if you could post the links in the comments below so we can all visit.
Chicken and Mushroom Caserole
As promised here is the second recipe for the weekend. I decided to share a casserole that has lots of flavor and only takes about half an hour to cook. It’s main ingredient is one of the staples on my shopping list as per my blog on doing the weekly shopping.
You’ll notice that my recipes are gluten free, that’s just because I’m a coeliac. You don’t have to use the gluten free options in the recipes.
As a home cook, no chef training at all, I’m very happy to share what works for me and hopefully it inspires you to enjoy cooking, and do it in a way that works for you.
Chicken and Mushroom Casserole
300 – 400 grams of chicken thigh fillets cut into one inch pieced
half an onion
1 small punnet of sliced mushrooms
1 clove of garlic
2 short rashers of bacon (less fat on those)
1 tablespoon of all purpose flour (I use gluten free self raising. I know it’s weird but it works)
1 teaspoon chicken stock powder (I use GF Massell)
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat a heavy based saucepan over a medium flame or temperature setting while chopping the onion garlic. Put the oil in the pan and let it get hot before adding the onion garlic and mushrooms. Stir occasionally while you dice the chicken thighs. When done add them to the pan and keep stirring until the chicken has browned or lost most of the pink colour.
In a cup mix together the water, chicken stock and flour then pour into the saucepan and keep stirring while bringing it to the boil. It should thicken a bit. Cover and simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes. Serve with steamed sweet potato and broccoli.
If you want you can take the onion, mushroom mixture out before browning the chicken and add it back later. I think this is the proper way to do it but I find it works fine just leaving it in.
Add a tin of crushed tomatoes when putting in the water to make this a great sauce to serve over pasta or polenta.
For a special occasion you can add a quarter of a cup of cream to this casserole near the end of cooking for a richer sauce. Serve with steamed green beans and potatoes that have been boiled then mashed with butter and cream. Oh my goodness.
I find this dish goes very nicely with a glass of wine on a Saturday night. I don’t bother lighting a candle it’s romantic enough sharing a meal with the man I love. It always makes me feel like smiling.
Enjoy your cooking and thanks for dropping by,
Lasagna with extra bolognaise sauce spooned over the top and sprinkled liberally with Parmesan Cheese.
Hi, I took a break from the Cooking Series for a Mother’s Day post and got caught up with a busy weekend last week so I missed blogging. To make up for it, I’m posting two recipes this weekend. Today as you can tell from the title is spaghetti bolognaise. Tomorrow there’ll be my chicken and mushroom casserole recipe.
Once a week, Mum served up an Aussie version of spaghetti bolognaise. It was based on a tin of Campbell’s tomato soup. Italians the world over would despair at this, but I thought it was delicious. However in an effort to include more vegetables in the meal, I started using the more traditional method of making a bolognaise sauce. I began with Dolmio bottled pasta sauce and when Aldi came to Australia, I sampled their Romano bolognaise sauce. I really like that one too.
Carrying on Mum’s tradition, we have some kind of pasta with this sauce once a week. My partner, Sam (born here but with Italian parents) starts getting pasta withdrawal if I miss a week, so that's rare. Pasta is such comforting food and, for me, it’s easy to cook. Once I have all the ingredients combined in the saucepan I can relax with a romance novel while it simmers away.
Most people have their own family recipe for pasta sauce, I wonder if it's the same or similar to mine. If you are looking for a recipe, this is an easy one and you can adapt it to suit your individual tastes. Either way I hope you enjoy reading my favorite recipe for pasta sauce.
Ingredients list for my bolognaise sauce
250gms of minced beef. ( I use 90 – 95% fat free)
500ml tomato pasta sauce of your choice. (I use Dolmio or Romano brand)
1 cup of water
half a finely diced red onion
one medium carrot, diced or grated
one medium zucchini, diced or grated
clove of garlic grated or finely chopped
I bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 500gm bag of dried pasta of choice
To begin, put a heavy based saucepan on medium heat to preheat while preparing the vegetables. I dice the onion, grate or dice the carrot and zucchini, using a fine grater, grate the garlic. Pour around two tablespoons of oil into the hot saucepan then tip in all the vegetables stirring them over the heat until the onion is transparent and the carrots have softened. If they brown a little it’s not a problem the caramelized vegetables will add flavor to the sauce. Next in, goes the mince. Stir this until it’s no longer pink and has broken down into a crumbled texture.
Tip in the jar of tomato sauce. I put the cup of water into the sauce jar and swish around collecting every last bit of tomato, then tip that into the saucepan too. Add the bay leaf (if small 2 or even 3) and stir everything together. When it begins to boil turn the temp down to low and put on the lid.
if I’m cooking pasta I’ll put on the pot of water to heat now. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until it’s soft or to how you like it.
All up the sauce has 20 minutes on simmer. That’s the minimum it needs to really be nice but it can be left a lot longer, it just gets better.
Keep reading for tips and variations to this basic recipe.
I add all the vegetables together so that they have time to soften before putting in the liquid. If they don’t soften first they tend to stay hard in the tomato sauce. No idea why, that’s just what I’ve found.
I stir the sauce every so often, about every 10 minutes, to prevent the meat from forming a crust on the base.
If simmering for longer than half an hour, check to see if it needs more water. Use the pasta water, if available, to thin it out.
For a Mexican style dish, add shopped capsicum to the vegetables and spice it with half a teaspoon of cumin and a teaspoon of paprika. Add dried chili to your taste. I can only have a quarter of a teaspoon max.
You can make this sauce using chicken or turkey mince, I add a rasher of diced bacon when I do this.
If I want something super quick to prepare, I omit the onion, carrot and zucchini and instead tip in a small punnet of sliced mushrooms.
If I’m using this sauce to make lasagna, I use one box of GF sheets. If it’s for a crowd I’ll double the recipe and use 2 boxes. This will make a baking dish size lasagna.
For an easy lasagna, I put a layer of tasty cheese slices on top and skip the white sauce.
In my soon to be released novel, 'The Australian Billionaire's Secret Proposal' the housekeeper leaves this lasagna in the fridge for Jarrod's dinner, which he shares with Ruby.' I chose this dish because, nearly everyone loves lasagna and it keeps so well, I think it tastes better the next day, don't you?
Enjoy reading and cooking.
Hi, This week I’m starting a series on how I manage the cooking (in my romantic life). Sam doesn’t cook - other than toast in the morning which I don't think actually counts. But we moved in together in our 50’s which means we’re both pretty set in our ways, so I choose to make that work for us. I enjoy cooking ( and eating what I cook) so it’s my department.
Dinner time with Sam is when we catch up on our day and focus on each other. I want us to enjoy the experience. I believe that serving up delicious meals, we both like, supports our happy relationship. Shopping for ingredients can be overwhelming but over the years I’ve developed a routine that works for me.
I am a great advocate for online shopping and creating a list that you can auto load each week. But I need the exercise, so I usually shop at the local Woolworth's supermarket. Take a walk with me as I shop and you’ll see how I stay out of the lolly and chip isle and keep focused.
Shopping each week for a set number of staples takes the stress out of visiting the supermarket. My regular staples form the basis of a week's worth of breakfasts lunches and dinners. Because I’ve been using this method for years, I can forget the shopping list as long as my arm. My list contains only the pantry cupboard ingredients that I occasionally run out of.
Closest to where we pick up the trolley is the fruit and vegetables, first on my mental list. We choose to have fruit with for our desert, our favorites include mango, strawberries, cantaloupe, pears and kiwi fruit. This week I’ve got a half a cantaloupe and a punnet of strawberries.
We eat a lot of vegetables so they’re next in my trolley.
We need to pick up, 2 avocados, a lettuce, 3 tomatoes, a green capsicum, 2 zucchinis, a punnet of sliced mushrooms, a kilo of carrots, 1/8th of Queensland blue pumpkin, a head of broccoli, 2 red onions, I fairly large sweet potato, and 2kg medium size white potatoes. Okay, done. Now we are near the back of the store where the meat is kept.
A slight detour to the frozen fish bin. Here we pick up a 1 kilo bag of whiting fillets. One kilo does us for two weeks. (2 fish meal per week). So this is an every other week purchase.
Next is the meat that jumpstarts my meal planning. First in the trolley goes 500 grams of 90% fat free mince (2 meals), followed by 500gms of chicken thigh fillets (2 meals). I used to buy sausages but we’re watching cholesterol so they’re off the every week list. Last stop in the meat department is for a roast of some kind (2 meals). We want one of the following: a whole chicken; leg of lamb; cut of beef or pork. Usually the cheapest roast per kilo makes the decision easy. But I try not to have the same roast two weeks in a row.
After the meat cases is the general fridge section. Here I choose 250 grams of tasty cheese, 200 grams of Swiss cheese. I pack of Parmesan. 250gms of ham or turkey lunch meat, a dozen eggs (every other week), a tub of dip and 500ml tub of plain Greek Yogurt.
Tea and coffee is next and we have to do a u turn to get back to that isle. Beside tea and coffee we also pick up 2 packets of Gluten Free (GF) nut,bars, 3 litres of long-life, low-fat, lactose free milk.
Turning into the next isle we’ll grab 2 x 1 litre boxes of pine coconut drink then on to the health food section. I’ll grab a 500gm packet of GF pasta, a box of GF cake mix, a loaf of GF bread and a loaf of regular loaf of wholemeal for Sam.
In the canned fish isle I put in a tin of salmon or tuna and 4 tins of sardines in tomato sauce. Store cupboard items, sauces, flour, sugar, herbs and spices are next, I have a short list with what I need in the store cupboard if necessary.
In the pasta isle we stop for a bottle of tomato pasta sauce. If necessary a small bottle of olive oil or spray oil. I also buy a cup of GF instant noodles, occasionally, a bag of Doongara rice.
The next isles are for bathroom and cleaning supplies if needed. I buy the same earth friendly brands so it’s easy to keep focused and not get distracted the vast array on offer.
The last isles at my supermarket contain the frozen food. I’ll get 500 grams each of peas and beans and a kilo bag of GF oven fry chips.
This provides us with enough food for two adults for a week, a dinner for seven on Sunday night plus a couple of small meals for my Dad to take home with him.
Some of the meals I make from the above basics include:
There are many more and variations on the above recipes. Next week I’ll share my meal planning process and pantry cupboard supplies list, the ones I buy occasionally to give the basics a twist of flavor. I’ll also post my recipes for Bolognaise sauce and chicken casserole.
Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, recusing roses and planting new ones.