Stacked Eggplant with Roast Tomato Feta and Pesto

stacked eggplant with roast tomato feta and pesto

We headed down to Ohariu Valley in Wellington over Easter to have a long (and very overdue) with our extended family. The good news for me is that the majority of the whanau are foodies, and they have a dream kitchen, with views of the countryside that are to bloody die for. One of the first questions I’m usually  hit with when I arrive is “what shall we cook?” Oh yes: That’s one of my favourite questions…!  For Easter Sunday dinner I made these stacked eggplant with roast tomato, feta and pesto. They were supposed to be the accompaniment to a huge leg of roast lamb, but the positive feedback received would suggest that this eggplant concoction was the hero of the meal and the lamb should step aside!

I’ve made these stacked towers of goodness in the past for as a main course (with a side salad), suffice to say they always go down a treat and it’s a good dish to have up your sleeve if you are feeding vegetarians.  This is the first time time I’ve coated the eggplant with panko breadcrumbs and fried ’em, but it was a total winner and I’ll be doing it again – when I’m off Weight Watchers though! A lighter version, and how I usually do them is to simply brush the eggplant with olive oil and grill them on the BBQ. They are delicious done this lighter way, but the fried panko version was next level because of the nutty crunchy dimension!  Besides, everything tastes good fried in olive oil, eh?  Sigh…. No wonder the clothes in my wardrobe are pulling me the birdie!

Note, it looks like a long winded (read, labour intensive recipe) but I did this in stages throughout the day. Made the pesto the day before. Roasted the tomatoes – set these aside. Went for a quad bike ride. Cooked the eggplant, prettied my face up before visitors arrived. Assembled the eggplant stacks when the lamb came out of the oven and was quietly resting on the bench.  Seemed like no trouble at all…

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Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

cookies and cream cheesecake

Right.  This isn’t my recipe, let’s get that out of the way. Nope, this mega morsel of delicious-ness was the brainchild of my nine year old son (albeit with a little bit of help from his Mumma). He’s been on a cheesecake creation bender for the last month and he’s been churning out all sorts of cheesecake concoctions. This Cookies and Cream Cheesecake is the best cheesecake yet!  Being a child that was raised well (ha),  he’s happy to share his recipe.  Enjoy. 

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Muhammara Dip (Red Capsicum and Walnut Dip)

 

Muhammara Dip RecipeOriginally a Syrian recipe, this Muhammara Dip (red capsicum and walnut) is often found as part of a meze platter.  My friend Marie introduced me to this heavenly concoction and I instantly begged her for the recipe. I’ve played around with the recipe a bit (I can’t bloody help myself) and the result is this creamy red capsicum dip, with a hint of tartness and sweetness from the pomegranate molasses. If you like hummus, get cracking and make this, it is, if I do say so myself, phenomenal, and it’s wayyyyyy nicer than any hummus I’ve tried.  It’s so good, I’ve made three batches of this in just over a week (!) and we are having it with everything:   It goes beautifully with my morning poached eggs on toast, mixed in with yogurt as a creamy salad dressing, as a side sauce with roast veges, it’s also amazeballs with BBQ chicken. Oh, and it’s shit-hot in sandwiches in the place of mayo or sugar-laden relishes and chutneys.   

I’ve made my Muhammara dip in my Nutribullet, and it works perfectly. You can, of course, use a food processor (I try to avoid using mine as much as possible because I’m lazy: I detest washing it up and putting it away in the cupboard!).  Having looked at some other versions of the recipe online, I’ve noted the more traditional methods of making this dip is actually in a mortar and pestle, so the result is a dip that’s got a coarse, pesto-like, consistency. Yum, I’ll give this more authentic method a bash at some stage.

Note, If you don’t have pomegranate molasses – don’t fret, just leave it out, it’s not a deal breaker. In fact, I only just included pomegranate molasses in my latest batch as I only just made a trip to Vetro to get some more.  Up until then I’d added a couple of dates for sweetness and a half teaspoon of balsamic vinegar in an attempt to get the sweet/tart hit (it worked well and I high-fived myself on my Kiwi cooking ingenuity).  Similarly if you don’t have any smoked paprika, or cumin (etc), just leave it out.  Feel free to add in a handful of fresh mint (I tried that – thumbs up). If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll know I’m a big fan of ‘making do’ in the kitchen, it’s such fun and some of my best recipes have come as a result of improvising. Get your creative on! (more…)

Essano Rosehip Cleanser and Body Lotion Review

Rosehip Essano reviewI’m a sucker for a new beauty range, noting that NZ made Essano’s Rosehip range isn’t that new, I’m just slow to the bandwagon! On a recent trip to Napier I did my usual: Visit the local supermarket and, damn: It was New World Beauty Week. Sigh. Clearly I was destined to purchase some beauty products. Deciding this was destiny, I puchased Essano Rosehip Cleanser and Body Lotion to see what all the fuss was about.

Fuss, you ask? I’ve read a lot of rave reviews, but I’m a sceptic: Beauty editors in magazines get sent freebies and subsequently rarely post anything less than rave reviews. Also, I’d read a lot of ravings from beauty bloggers and, upon closer investigation, I’d noted many of them had received a sample PR pack… This makes me a little suss and thus, I was a little reluctant to try Essano.

Having given Essano’s body lotion and facial cleanser a good ‘going over’ in the last three weeks, here’s the punchline:

I should have tried Essano sooner.

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Lou Loves – Faves February

That monthly blog post where I witter on about beauty and foodie goodness, i.e. Lou’s faves – for the month of February. On that note: HOLY CRAP! Where did February go?  I can’t decide if I’m rapt that with 1 March NZ has landed upon the start of autumn (rapt because I’m sick of hot and sticky sleepless nights) or sad that summer BBQs and wines on the deck with my friends will soon be coming to an end… Might as well roll with it I guess… There’s nothing I can do about it!

Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara (waterproof)

Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara review

You might recall I bought this Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara at the start of summer. I took a pic of me ‘wearing it’ (you know what I mean), whacked it on Facebook, used it a couple of times and decided it was, frankly, alright,  but nothing worth waxing lyrical about. I wasn’t enamored with the brush, it seemed to be designed so it wasn’t conducive to combing the lashes, mine ended up clumpy, in part because the product was so wet when first applied.  I detest a ‘super wet’ mascara.  So, with a sigh, I biffed the tube to the back of the third drawer down in my makeup trolley (LOL).  Later I read a few negative reviews about the product and was comforted that I wasn’t alone in deciding that this mascara didn’t stack up (for me, especially so, compared to my beloved, albeit pricey, Lancome Hypnose Doll Eyes Mascara). Or so I thought.

Fast forward to early February and, dammit, my Doll Eyes mascara ran out.  I decided I couldn’t justify parting with $60 at the Lancome counter when there was a full brand new tube of Lash Sensational right under my nose. So, in a way, I was forced into giving it a decent test run. This is bloody fortunate as I’ve done a U-turn on my initial thoughts – I really like it! However, this comes with a caution: I’ve had a play around to make it work for me…

lash sensational mascara review

Remember I said the mascara applies wet on the lashes?  Well, I’ve helped the tube dry out slightly by wiping the excess product off on some tissue prior to use (wasteful, I know!). Good news: This has been the trick to not having the wand too wet and, consequently, the tube has slightly dried out. Why is this good? Now that it’s dried out a tad, Maybelline Lash Sensational delivers long spidery and thick looking lashes (at a sharp price).  No flaking, no smudging. Whoop.  Here’s a pic of it on my mug:

Maybelline Lash Sensational (and if you are wondering on my lips is a mix of two MAC lippies: Heroine and Up the Amp).
Maybelline Lash Sensational (and if you are wondering on my lips is a mix of two MAC lippies: Heroine and Up the Amp)

If, like me, you are an eyelash curling junkie, you’ll be pleased to hear that the waterproof formula keeps the curl in place (for this reason I only ever use waterproof mascara:  I know it’s a bastard to get off, but this job is EASY PEASY with coconut oil or Clinique Take the Day Off Balm!) .  

Executive Summary: I stand by previous declarations that Maybelline is the queen of inexpensive mascaras. Watch this space to see if I head back to the Lancome counter…  

Where to buy: Farmers, Kmart, pharmacies stocking Maybelline. Price: NZ$26.99.

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Lipidol Cleansing Face Oil Review

 If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know I’m obsessed with my nightly pre-cleansing routine. Pre-cleansing that is, to get rid of all ‘my face’, before embarking up on my regular skincare routine. I use either coconut oil or Clinique’s Take the Day Off Balm as my pre-cleanser before I launch into regular face cleansing (usually double cleansing!).

Well, in the interests of market research I’ve branched out to try some new  products.  On a trip to Farmers a wee while back, I stumbled across a rather modest looking stand from Lipidol.   I paused, intrigued, largely at the lack of prominent in-your-face signage and promptly discovered, thanks to some research on my phone, uncovered that the range is from Union Swisse, the makers of Bio-oil. Everything on the stand was $9.95: You know what a bargain hunter I am!   

lipidol cleansing face oil stand

There were six products to choose from:  Sunscreen Oil; Overnight Facial Oil, Cleansing Body Oil, Cleansing Facial Oil, After Shave Oil and After Shower Oil. $9.95? I wanted a piece of the action!

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Colourpop Cosmetics Review – Yay or nay?

colourpop reviewI’m a bit late joining the Colourpop Cosmetics bandwagon:  Beauty bloggers gave this affordable cosmetics range from the US a huge thumbs up throughout 2015. Sometimes I’m slow to embrace hype.  Anyway, executive summary:  The hype is deserved –  I’ve given all the products a bloomin’ good road test since I got them for my birthday in December (forty, cough). I’m now cheerfully reporting back to say “Colourpop is definitely hype worthy!”  Here’s a speedy review of my Colourpop Cosmetics purchases:  Two blushes, one eyeshadow (that required phenomenal willpower, the range of shades is the bomb), one lipstick and a matte liquid lipstick.

Good news too: Colourpop ships internationally (including to NZ). Bonus! (more…)

Lou Loves – January Favourites

January 2016.  It’s been and GONE people!  Here’s a round up of good stuff that lit my internal happy fire last month. Not one to depart from my usual random style, here’s a scrummy squeaky cheese, a swoon inducing lipstick, a crash hot chick-lit read, a recipe that I’m super proud of (with a mini review chucked in) and a Facebook page that nearly causes me to wet my undies with the giggles (my bladder ain’t what it used to be after childbirth, sniff).

Waimata Haloumi cheese

Waimata Haloumi review nz

I can’t get enough of haloumi, aka ‘squeaky cheese’ and I’m careful to make sure there’s always a block in the fridge. I reckon it’s a transformational ingredient that can take something stock standard, like a leafy green salad, or an otherwise bland couscous salad, to a whole new culinary stratosphere.

Now simple, original haloumi is already the schizzle, so imagine my delight when I discovered Waimata had flavoured haloumi – three different kinds! There’s their usual traditional flavour, along with mint, chilli and cracked pepper. I’ve scoffed loads of all of them, except the cracked pepper, that’s potentially too gourmet for Rotorua, I can’t find it anywhere! My favourite is the chilli, or maybe the mint. Or maybe the chilli. Hell, they are both to die for.

Haloumi is great for frying or grilling, I adore the contrast of the squeaky crust and the smooth, creamy deliciousness inside. Haloumi is outstanding on any kind of salad (check out this beetroot quinoa dish with haloumi), however we are enjoying it best currently in this recipe.  I also used Waimata mint haloumi at our neighbourhood degustation in November as the first course (there were eight courses, I had a food coma for 48 hours afterwards and a hangover that lasted until Wednesday). Here I fried off the haloumi and piled it high with a olive/herb/sun-dried tomato concoction (yell out if you want the recipe, I’ll blog it). Heavenly delish and it looks flash – and it’s easy to chuck together, which is my kind of entertaining food.  Best of all, Waimata haloumi is affordable foodie fare, NZ$7 for 190g block.  I get mine at Countdown.

haloumi with herbs and olives
Waimata mint haloumi with a sun-dried tomato, cherry tomato, olive and herb topping. AMAZING!

That Day in June – By Martina Reilly

That day in June Martina Reilly reviewAh holidays. Here, I turn into an introvert, bury my nose in a book and it’s hard to get much dialogue out of me. Of all the great reads I devoured over my Christmas and New Year holiday, That Day in June, by Martina Reilly, is my standout top read. The plot centres around Max, a high-flying PR exec and Sandy, a runaway who lives on the streets. Every day Max brings Sandy a coffee, an act she looks forward to. Then one morning Max doesn’t show up, so Sandy sets out to find out what has happened to him. When she finds him, she discovers that he’s a broken man who has lost everything and, suddenly, the two of them have a lot more in common than they could ever have imagined.

This heart-warming and unusual love tale reeled me in right from the start and, being the nosey bugger that I am, I was hanging on the edge of my seat with curiousity to find out exactly what drove Sandy to leave home as a teenager, resulting in a life on the streets.  This read is best described as a slightly quirky chick lit. I enjoyed the alternating narrative: The story is told from both Max and Sandy’s point of view. Five stars. Get your tissues at the ready: I got the eye sweats (again, a newish development since I became a Mum!). (more…)