Sunday, 28 August 2011

Parlez-vous Français?

Failsafers are masters of adaptation and substitution. Some cuisines are really easy to adapt, some are not. For example, tomato based dishes are impossible and as much as you can add pear and salt and citric acid, as Ms Frillypants once said - A pear is not a tomato. It's just not. But french food is great for it. They do have some traditionally tomato based dishes, but a lot of them are based on stock or wine which is adaptable. I've had some really good successes just doing straight substitution of ingredients in recipes from a French cookbook I bought a few years back.

These are meals that you can serve up to non failsafe guests. No, really. Provincial french food is based on really basic ingredients and it tastes and looks awesome!

My in-laws came for lunch today. My son was going to baseball open day and they came to watch and hang around for the day. Baseball was supposed to finish at 12:30, so I assumed that I still had plenty of time when I went shopping at eleven o'clock. Baseball finished at 11:30 and so everyone was back home before me! My mad organisational skills meant we were in for a late lunch and even later dessert. Chicken crêpes and pear tart were on the belated menu

Basic Crêpe Recipe
250g plain gluten free flour
pinch of salt
1tsp sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
410ml (1 2/3cup) milk of choice - I used rice milk
125ml (1/2cup) water
1tbsp melted nuttelex
Failsafe oil for frying.

Sift flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
Mix the eggs milk and water together and pour slowly into the well.
Whisk until everything is incorporated and you have a reasonably smooth batter.
Stir in melted nuttelex.
Cover and stand for 20mins.

Heat a crêpe pan or medium sized non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Wipe or spray with a little oil.
Pour in enough batter to thinly coat the base of the pan (a soup ladle was pretty spot on for my pan). tipping it around to get it to the edges.
When the crêpe starts to lift away at the edges give it a gentle shake so it comes loose and turn and cook on the other side for a minute of two. They should be slightly golden.
Stack on a plate (you could put baking paper between them to make sure they don't stick - mine didn't stick together though) and cover with foil until they are all done.
They can be frozen with paper between them.

Crêpe Filling
failsafe oil or nuttelex
1 large leek - quartered and sliced
1/2 stick of celery finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 chicken breast fillets cut into smallish pieces
rice milk
2 tbsp corn starch
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1tbsp chopped parsley
1tbsp chopped chives

Heat oil and sauté leeks, garlic and celery.
When soft, add chicken and stir until mostly cooked.
Add enough rice milk to just cover chicken mix and bring to the boil.
Simmer until the chicken is cooked through.
Mix cornflour with some cold water, add some of the hot sauce from the pan, then stir into chicken mixture.
Bring to the back to the boil and simmer for another couple of minutes until thickened.
Add salt and herbs.
Spoon down the centre of each crêpe and fold the sides over the mix.

This is enough to make and fill about 8 medium sized crêpes. You could serve them with a salad, I didn't have time and who ever eats the side salad on a crêpe?

Et voilà!

Some variations
Dairy - use normal milk and butter and add ricotta to the chicken sauce.
Amines - add some grated cheese inside and on top of the crêpe and serve with a generous dollop of sour cream (you may choose to do this for guests as it is done after cooking and can be done selectively).
Veg - most vegetables can be hidden in a white sauce as long as you don't go overboard.

We sat down to lunch at two o'clock and then I had to (wanted to) make this dessert, which was eaten at 4:30. It should have been later, but I couldn't wait to let the tart cool.

Pear Tart
Sweet pastry
340g gluten free plain flour
a small pinch of salt
150g nuttelex
90g icing sugar
2 eggs beaten

Preheat oven to 180℃
The easiest way to make pastry is in a food processor (otherwise there is rubbing and pecking and, if you're like me, flour everywhere).
Sift flour, salt and sugar into the bowl of a food processor add the nuttelex and pulse until the nuttelex is incorporated and you have something resembling bread crumbs.
Add the eggs with the motor running and process until a dough starts to form.
Tip out onto some cling wrap, knead into a ball, wrap and put in the fridge for about an hour.

Roll the pastry between sheets of baking paper and line a 23cm loose based tart tin, trimming the edges.
Line with baking paper and fill with baking weights or dried beans or rice.
Bake for 10 minutes, then remove beads and paper and bake for a further 4 minutes or until the pastry is just cooked, but still pale.

Crème Pâtissière
6 egg yolks
125g caster sugar
40g cornstarch
560ml (2 1/4 cups) milk of choice (I used rice milk)
1/2 vanilla pod (or vanilla essence)
15g nuttelex

Whisk together egg yolks and half of sugar until pale and creamy.
Sift in the cornflour and mix well.
Heat milk, remaining sugar and vanilla pod, bringing just to the boil. (If using vanilla essence, add at end of cooking.)
Strain hot milk over egg mixture, stirring continuously.
Pour back into clean saucepan and bring to boil while constantly stirring. Boil for two minutes (add essence now).
Stir in nuttelex and leave to cool.

Spoon crème pâtissière into pastry shell and top with 2 - 3 peeled and sliced pears.
Bake for 25 - 30mins or until pears are golden
Leave to cool completely (If you don't, the filling will be hot and sloppy and will ooze out everywhere)
Melt a few tablespoons of pear jam with a tablespoon of water, sieve out any lumps and brush over pears to make them glossy.

Fresh out of the oven and coated in jam

If I'd have waited another hour to cut it, it would have looked like this.

Dairy - use butter and milk
Salicylates - use sweet apples.

Bon apetit et au revoir!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Muesli Bars

There has been a request for this recipe (Woohoo!) . We've had a huge day at a birthday party and I'm quite tired, so I'll skip the witty banter and just jump straight to the recipe. It's based on the Pear Muesli Bars from the Failsafe Cookbook. It can be fiddled with a bit to make it how you like it.

Muesli Bars
(Well, they're really cereal bars, but we can let that slide)

6 cups of cereal - I use 2 cups puffed rice
                                     2 cups millet rings
                                     1 cup puffed millet
                                     1/2 cup puffed amaranth
                                     1/2 cup quinoa flakes (or sometimes a bit of millet meal too)

1/3 cup (140g) glucose syrup
2tsp failsafe oil
1tbsp white sugar (or you could use brown)
2tbsp pear jam (or a bit more if you like it peary)

Combine syrup, oil, sugar and jam in a saucepan. Heat gently while stirring until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil to drive off sulphites. Boil gently for a few minutes.
Put cereal in a large mixing bowl. Pour hot syrup over and stir it through.
Press firmly into a slice tin lined with baking paper and bake at 180∘C for about 10 mins. Less if you like it chewy, but chewy also means crumbly with these.
Once cool cut into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Optional extras - Add extra dried pears (sulphite free) for more peariness.
                            Add white chocolate or carob chips or drizzle melted over the top of cooked bars
                            Add some maple or golden syrup to the the sugar mix (not too much or it's too moist)

You can really use whatever cereal you have (even the gluten type if that is your thing) as long as it is about 6 cups. Don't overdo the quinoa or amaranth unless you really like the flavour (I will keep likening them to grass). They keep really well in a container for around four weeks. That is the longest I've had some left (my son didn't want them for a while), so they may keep for longer.

Goodnight friends

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Chicken and Quinoa Risotto

Like most of us on a limited diet, I get "cooks block". You know when you get sick of eating the same thing and just want to make something different... that's been me lately. I think you could say I am uninspired. Add to this my general disorganisation, and dinners lately have been a bit boring and we have been overdoing the chips.

Tonight was no different, except that on a whim I said to my husband "How about risotto?" Since it was five o'clock and he didn't have a better idea I ran with it. Risotto is really quite versatile and you can add almost anything to it. The quinoa was a last minute idea, it adds a bit of flavour and lots of goodness. If was to make this again I would add more. I didn't want to over do it though as it can taste like grass. If you don't have quinoa, just leave it out. You wont need as much liquid.

Chicken and Quinoa Risotto
(Makes enough to feed a small army - or the four of us three times over)

Hmmm... Not exactly appetising, but even non-failsafe risotto looks like that.

3 tbsp FS oil or nuttelex (or a combination)
1 large leek (finely chopped)
4 cloves of garlic
3 cups Aborio rice
1/2 cup Quinoa (rinsed)
8 cups homemade stock (or water or a combination; more stock = more flavour)
2 chicken breast fillets cut into smallish pieces (if you don't have stock using thighs would boost flavour)
1 cup chopped green beans
1/2 cup finely chopped cabbage
can of cannelini beans (drained and rinsed)
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tbsp chopped parsley

Place oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and saute leek and garlic until soft.
Add rice and quinoa and stir until it is coated in oil and the rice starts to get translucent on the edges.
Add enough stock to cover, lower the temperature to a bare simmer and stir until it is all absorbed.
Add another few cups of stock and the chicken. Keep stirring as this is what gives it its creamy consistency.
As the stock is absorbed add more until the rice is cooked.
When the rice is done add the remaining vegetables and salt and cook for a few more minutes.
If the rice looks too dry add a little more liquid. Risotto should be saucy.
Stir through the parsley and serve.

Optional extras - dairy - use butter and add a few tablespoons of cream cheese at the end.
                          - glutamates - use peas instead of beans.
                          - salicylates - add chopped zucchini.

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Main Meal and Cake

So there was some food that got devoured at the party and some that did not. The only thing that didn't really get eaten by the kids was dinner. Not because it wasn't good, but because they were having too much fun to sit down. No matter how appealing the red clothed tables were and the little boxes of food, there were games to be played and anything that couldn't be eaten while playing didn't get eaten.

The main meal was chicken nuggets and chips. The nuggets can be made in advance and kept in the freezer until you need them. I made a lot as I made sure that there was food for the grown ups to eat too. So I didn't spend a day crumbing chicken, a couple of times over the two weeks leading up to the party, I bought some chicken then cut, crumbed and froze it. Put it in an air tight container with baking paper in between layers so they are easy to separate.

Chicken Nuggets
Cut enough chicken in to strips or chunks
Toss in corn starch
Dip in egg lightly beaten with a few teaspoons of water (If you don't want to use egg, blend the cornflour with water and dip the chicken into that then the crumbs)
Coat in rice crumbs (I like Casalare white rice crumbs)
Freeze until needed.
Then bake at 180℃ for approx 20 mins or panfry on medium heat until golden and cooked through or deep fry at 180℃ for approx 5 mins (depending on thickness).
The frying methods make it nice and golden, the oven does not. It depends on how much you are trying to cook which method you can use.

If you can't find those crumbs use your usual ones, or if you like get some gluten free puffed rice and blitz it in a food processor or put it in a bag and crush them with a rolling pin. 

If you like you can chop up potatoes, stop them going black and then double fry them to yummy crispness... Or you can be like me and take the easy route with something and buy frozen ones. I used homebrand (Woolworths) crinkle cut chips. They are pretty good for a frozen chip and they are failsafe. The adults marveled over the crinkle cut which they had forgotten existed, it was like a flashback.
They can be cooked in the oven or a deep fryer.

Doesn't everyone deep fry in a tutu?

I did the nuggets in the oven and the chips in the deep fryer. I borrowed another fryer so that I could cook more at the one time. I had bought little cardboard take away boxes to put it in. I had grander plans of red and white striped hot dog trays, but I couldn't quite justify the expense on top of everything else.

The cake was devoured. Completely. Four dozen patty cakes, gone. Not bad for a gluten free, dairy free cake. The recipe is brilliant, I've since made it egg and soy free too and a friend used the recipe with normal flour and milk and still had great results. It's so very versatile and I found it on a great little blog.

This is my adaptation of it

  • 200g nuttelex
  • 1 1/4 Cups caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 Cup golden syrup (you can make your own syrup, there is a recipe on the above link)
  • 2 each eggs, at room temperature (or equivalent egg replacer)
  • splash vanilla essence
  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour (I used Orgran - it's convenient)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 1 cup milk of choice, at room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 160℃ 
  2. Place patty papers into tins (it makes approx 4 doz so you may need to do batches)
  3. In the bowl of a mixer, cream nuttelex until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
  4. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
  5. Sift flour and baking powder.
  6. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients.
  7. Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Fill patties approximately 2/3 full.
  8. Bake for about 12 mins or until golden and a skewer test comes up clean.
My frosting varies from the original because I wasn't sure that kids would care for caramelised butter frosting and I wasn't sure nuttelex would caramelise, then there is the cream. So I just made a basic butter cream with golden syrup added.
  • 125g nuttelex
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • pinch of salt
  1. Beat the nuttelex in a mixer a gradually add sifted icing sugar
  2. add other ingredients while beating
It comes down to personal taste how heavy you like your icing or how much you want on your cakes, if you want to spread it or pipe it. I made mine reasonably thick and piped it. If you want it softer add more nuttelex or a dash of milk or water until you get the consistency you want. If you like mountains of it on cakes you might need to make more.

Delicious caramel cup cakes

Once I had the icing on them, I very lightly sprinkled them with natural sprinkles. This is totally optional and not at all necessary. The other thing I put on them, which really seemed to excite the kids, was mini pinwheels bought from the same packaging and party wholesaler that I bought a tonne of other stuff from.

Thus ends the party saga. There are sure to be more party related posts at a later date, but I'm going to try to post about some normal food next.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Now You've Made All This Food, Go and Give Them Something Better to Do

I suppose one way around food issues at a party is to take the emphasis away from the food. A great way of doing this is by playing games. They don't have to be involved or tricky to play, in fact I've now discovered that the simple games are the best.

We stuck with the circus/carnival theme with the games and set up a 'can toss',  'clowns' and old fashioned 'pin the tail on the donkey'. We also had a face painter. Not exactly failsafe, but it was fun for the kids. My son doesn't have sensitive skin, but he didn't end up having it on for very long. We also made a photo booth for everyone to play in and a piñata to smash.

Can Toss

The can toss was the easiest to organise. Collect your old cans, set them up on a table, find some tennis balls and let them go for it. Noisiest, craziest fun. By the end of the party the cans were rather squashed. I really thought the kids would have one turn at each game, but it was all they wanted to do. It helped that they won tickets for playing and those tickets were redeemable for prizes after the cake. I had allowed for two prizes per kid and had to let them know that no matter how many tickets they won there would be no extra prizes. They just didn't care!

Pin the tail on the donkey cost about sixty cents at the local packaging and party supplies wholesaler. I'm still amazed how at how much kids today still love the games we played as kids.

Still a winning game!

What is a side show without laughing clowns? Well my version involved an image found on google cropped, enlarged and printed on A3 paper at my husbands office, then stuck on a flattened nappy box, the mouths cut out and then propped onto a backyard toy. The kids had to try to throw juggling balls that we had made through the holes to get tickets.

The littlies liked to do this one up close.

So, what do you put in a failsafe piñata? Lots of cheap little toys. Noise makers, spinning tops, clown noses, little pinball games etc, and lots of lollies. Lollipops, werthers, milky bars. I kept buying things thinking that I would not have enough to fill the piñata, but it turned out that I had way too much and stood nearby with a bag full of stuff to throw on the ground when they broke the thing.

What do you hit the weirdo clown with? Why, a cricket bat of course.

The photo booth was a massive cardboard box that one of the kids christmas presents came in. We opened it up so that it was wider and didn't have a front, stuck it all together with packing tape and then covered the inside with black wrapping paper and some red crushed velvet that I bought on sale. We sat the box up on two kiddy chairs and had some accessories on the side. Clown noses, plastic bowler hats and moustaches on sticks. This was both fun for the kids and the grown ups.

I found the templates for the moustaches on Martha Stewart, cut them from thick black cardboard and used thick wire for the handles.

The prizes were a load of toys that I found at Big W for a dollar each. There were water pistols, bubble wands, light up yo-yos, frisbees, skipping ropes and binoculars. The kids could not wait to redeem their tickets at the prize booth!

Checking out what was on offer.

Working the booth under threat of rain

With a little planning you can really make the party not about food. Less food, more fun!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

What is a party without sugar?

So, we've had a gap between my first post and this one. I guess the excitement wore off a bit when I thought no one would ever read this little blog and I'm not sure how well this reads when I am typing after I've finally got the kids to sleep and my brain has gone to automatic shut down.

New found inspiration has come from a little group on facebook, who are constantly looking for new ideas for food for their little failsafe kids. I found myself typing out recipes and ideas in little threads and suddenly thinking it would be so much easier if I put them all in one place and just had to post a link. So there you have it and I'm back.

Other treats on the birthday menu were fairy floss, doughnuts and sherbet

The kids went crazy for the sherbet... I mean super crazy. They thought it was hilarious. It was probably the easiest thing to make ever.

1 cup pure icing sugar
3 tsp citric acid
3 tsp bicarb soda

Sift the icing sugar, then stir in the acid and soda. Pop scoops into little cellophane bags (I used the extra ones from the lollipops) and tie it tightly as any moisture that may get into it will start the fizzing. I put them all into a plastic top hat with a cup full of plastic tea spoons.

The fairy floss is also easy, if you have someone to work the machine for you. We got a $20 machine and it was kind of lucky that there was so much else to eat and do as it only made quite tiny serves. If you needed a lot of it and reasonable sized serves, it would probably be worth hiring a machine.

Grandparents working the treats stand

The doughnuts were also quite easy and I enlisted grandparent help for that too. I have a doughnut maker which takes minimal effort to use. The recipes that come with it are not yeast ones, they just use baking powder which is a bonus with gluten free.

The basic Gluten and dairy free batter
1 1/2 cups GF plain flour (I use Orgran)
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp GF baking powder
125g Nuttelex, melted
3/4 cup milk of choice
1 egg lightly beaten (I am positive egg replacer would also work)

Preheat doughnut machine.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a well and whisk in nuttelex milk and egg until a smooth batter is formed. Transfer to a jug.
Spray machine with failsafe cooking oil. Fill the bases of doughnut rings with batter. Close the lid and cook for 6mins or until golden and cooked through.
Use a non-stick spatula to remove the doughnut and either cool on racks or toss straight into a dish of caster sugar. They can also be iced when cold.

The goodies table. Lollies, chips, sherbet and 'lemon'ade and labeled cups

To drink there was an esky full of bottled water and a dispenser full of failsafe 'lemon'ade.

1 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp citric acid

Dissolve sugar in boiling water, stir in citric acid.
Dilute 1 part cordial with 4 parts soda water.

To save time during the party, have it already made up in bottles or a dispenser.

The kids loved the snacks and played loads of party games before they had dinner.