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All things zucchini

Everything is bigger in America.  Including zucchinis.  A guy at work was telling me about the zucchinis he had grown in his veggie garden and talked about bringing some in for me.  I didn’t really expect him to (a) remember to bring any in for me or (b) the size of them.  So one day I turned up at work and found these on my desk:

Zucchini prelim


So, thus beginneth my zucchini baking and cooking challenge.  What to do with 3 zucchinis the size of baseball bats?  And then another one from our neighbor … and another one just as I was getting through them all!  See below for what I’ve used over the last 2 weeks or so:

Some of these were successes:

  • Zucchini burger – grated zucchini and carrot, together with an egg, nutritional yeast and gluten-free bread crumbs;
  • Zucchini brownies – based off a recipe from Henry’s school teacher (thanks Janet!), and made a little more healthy with no refined sugar or oil, with my famous pecan/date frosting (recipe here)
  • Zucchini cake – my never-fail carrot cake recipe (here) with the only substitution of zucchini for the carrot – one of the guys at work said it tasted so good, he was sure there was pot in it … I just looked at him and shook my head!
  • Thai almond curry with veggies – I love this recipe (sauce recipe here) and it works absolutely fantastically with any veggies you have lying around the house.  This time I did it with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, red peppers, zucchini (obviously) and spinach
  • Roast veggie salad – (recipe here) I actually had the salad with some gluten-free bread and wraps for a healthy lunch at work over a number of days
  • Veggie quiche – (recipe adapted from here) – with mushrooms, red peppers, zucchini and spinach, along with some dairy-free cheese and nutritional yeast, this was a winner in my book!

Some of these were ok experiments, but not worth doing them again:

  • Zucchini choc chip muffins – nice and moist, but didn’t have that ‘zing’ I was looking for
  • Chocolate zucchini cookies – as above
  • Zucchini peanut butter cookies – as above

And then there were the disasters:

  • Zucchini fries – trying to be too clever and ‘healthy’ by not coating them in breadcrumbs, just roasting them alongside potato wedges.  The zucchini fries were soggy and yucky.  The wedges were awesome.
  • Zucchini and veggie sandwich – really didn’t give me much satisfaction for lunch that day, just very bland
  • Zucchini donut cookies (not shown) – I did the recipe according to what was written, but they just weren’t that great.  I ended up throwing these in the bin …

So I’ve learnt a lot about zucchini over the past few weeks (and I still have another zucchini to use up).  I would love to hear from you guys with your tried and true zucchini recipes – so I can use up the last bit of zucchini until I get given some more!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my cooking adventures – feel free to share with your friends and family and I would love to hear any and all comments you have!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!


The oatmeal raisin cookie challenge

I love cookies … and cookie dough.  Which is better, I wonder?  Anyway, I was in a baking mode last week and decided to make some oatmeal raisin cookies … as you do!

I received one of my regular e-mails with a recipe for ‘healthy’ oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and thought it was my duty to try them out.  And as I was mixing up the dough (and taste-testing along the way, you know you have to do this!), I made a number of adjustments.  And then I thought it would be fun to see if people could tell the difference between ‘healthy’ oatmeal raisin cookies i.e. no refined sugar and those with refined sugar.  So I whipped up a batch of Sally’s peanut butter oatmeal cookies (recipe adapted from her Flourless Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies – see here).  Oh yeah, the no-refined sugar ones also had peanut butter in them, so they were basically the same but different proportions, and obviously different sweeteners.

I took the two types of cookies to two meetings at work … and got people to vote.

Oatmeal raisin challenge


I also wanted to know whether people liked the one with no-refined sugar (or the one they thought had no-refined sugar) better than the other one.  You can see I only made small cookies, so there was no excuse for people not to try both.

And the results were …

In the vote for the cookie with no-refined sugar, 55% of people got it correct.  Which meant that it was pretty evenly split between the two.  Which means, it wasn’t that easy to tell the difference.  Interesting …

In the vote for which they preferred – 55% of people voted for the one with no-refined sugar.  Which meant that healthy can mean tasty!

I found these results really interesting that people couldn’t tell the difference and didn’t really prefer one over the other!

I’m still working on tweaking the recipe for the no-refined sugar one and I’ll post that when I get the chance.  Let me know what you think – any suggestions are always welcome!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!


The gluten-free snickerdoodle challenge

Ok, so for those of you following along, you will know that I love cookies (and the dough).  And I love making cookie crusts for cheesecakes, pies, etc.  Well, I got it into my head that I needed to find a go-to recipe for a cookie crumb crust that didn’t involve peanut butter.  I know, how strange!!  But I want to make some cheesecakes and pies that just won’t go well with anything peanut butter, like a banana custard pie, blueberry lemon cheesecake, etc.  I’m getting hungry already!

I put on my thinking cap, and thought that snickerdoodles (you know, sugar cookies rolled in sugar and cinnamon) would be a good place to start.  My mum had a snickerdoodle recipe that I absolutely loved.  Ok, truth be told, I loved the dough while it was chilling more than the finished product, but you get the picture!  But I didn’t necessarily want to have a cookie that used flour, since then I would have to substitute for gluten-free flour and that sometimes doesn’t work very well.  So I found three recipes that were gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies and one day after work, I tried all of them out and asked the family for their opinion.  A bonus was that all of these recipes contained no refined sugar, so my tendency to eat the dough while baking wasn’t too bad on my overall health (and weight!).

Snickerdoodles - Elana's 

This was a recipe that I found from Elana’s Pantry (see here) and used almond flour, palm shortening, and honey all mixed in a food processor.  Because I didn’t have any palm shortening, I used coconut oil instead, but the rest of the recipe I followed pretty much to plan. 



Snickerdoodles - Slimpalate


This recipe was from Slim Palate (see here) and again used almond flour, but also had a little bit of coconut flour, coconut oil and honey, but could be all mixed in a bowl.  I actually followed this recipe right to the letter, except for rolling the cookies in the cinnamon-sugar mixture – I got lazy and just sprinkled cinnamon on top!


Snickerdoodles - Life Made Full


This recipe was from Life Made Full (see here) and called for coconut oil, coconut sugar, almond flour (again) and cream of tartar, as well as chilling the dough before baking.  From the picture you can obviously tell that I put way too many on the tray at once, and they spread A LOT!



And the verdict?  Well for taste, it was the Life Made Full recipe as the winner.  This was hands down the best tasting snickerdoodle, although it was quite chewy and crumbly and difficult to hold while eating.  That could be due to the fact that I just didn’t bake it for long enough, but it’s a learning process.

For texture, it was the Slim Palate recipe, but maybe it was because I just sprinkled on the cinnamon rather than rolling the cookies in a cinnamon-sugar mixture, but all in the family agreed these were a little bland.  However, all is not lost because these are the cookies that I’ve now taken to the freezer and will use as the base of a cheesecake in the near future (and add some more cinnamon etc to it!)

So a great big thank-you to the three recipe originators – I might try tweaking some of their recipes at a later date, but at this stage, I’m done with snickerdoodles for a while!

I’d love to hear any comments you may have, or any suggestions about other challenges I can conduct for you as well – just let me know in the comments below, or send me an e-mail!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!



4th July weekend

Happy 4th July to all the Americans out there!  I decided to embrace the fact that we now live in the US and went all out with what we considered to be stereotypical American food.  Lots of cooking, lots of eating, but it was worth every minute of it!

I actually had the Friday off in lieu of the 4th this year, so it was a long weekend, which was very greatly appreciated – I’ve been working some long hours recently, even a couple of night shifts, so I enjoyed the time the day off gave me to spend on my favorite hobby – cooking!

2015-07-03 Chicken fried chicken steak Chicken fried steak and gravy – When Grant and I drove along Route 66 a few years ago, we had some chicken fried steak that was absolutely smothered with gravy and it wasn’t all that nice.  And when I tried to make it a few weeks ago, the cut of beef I had, and the gravy, just wasn’t right.  We’d seen that you could have chicken fried chicken steak as well, so I thought I’d give it one more try.  And it was awesome.  With Glutino gluten-free bread crumbs, potato flour and an egg helping with the batter on the chicken, with the gravy made from shortening, potato flour, coconut milk and a packet mix of gravy powder, all the family enjoyed it.  Add in the stereotypical veggies of mashed potatoes, sweet corn and green beans, and this was an All-American meal!
Pecan Pie – The last time I made pecan pie was a bit of a disaster – the pastry wasn’t thin enough and the filling was basically soup.  I have been hanging out to make pecan pie again for ages, so used this as an excuse.  I also had some corn syrup from the Anzac Biscuit challenge (see here) that I’ve been wanting to use up (any ideas for any other recipes that uses corn syrup?).  And this worked really well.  With my neverfail ugly crust recipe (see here) and a recipe from the cafe that brought me the ugly crust recipe, it was good.  It was more than good, it was great!  I’ll post the recipe for pecan pie shortly so you can all share the love! 2015-07-03 Pecan pie

So that was Friday’s meals.  But there’s more … 

2015-07-03 Angel Food Cake Gluten-free Angel Food Cake – this one Abby actually made pretty much all by herself.  We found a packet mix for gluten-free Angel Food Cake and have been waiting for an opportunity to try it.  I was procrastinating because it called for 12, that’s right, 12 egg whites.  And what would I do with 12 egg yolks?  Considering my recent successes (read failures) with trying to make custard from scratch … anyway, Independence Day was a good excuse for biting the bullet and making the cake.  With whipped cream (non-dairy for me), strawberries and blueberries, it was a great red, white and blue success.  We made this on Friday and it was supposed to be for lunch on Saturday, but we decided to try it on Friday night … and ate most of it over the course of the evening!


2015-07-04 Turkey sloppy joes Sloppy Joes – OK, so we could have done a burger, but we had burgers last weekend for the FISH meal (using this recipe here) and I wanted to try sloppy joes again.  I found a recipe on the Food Network from The Pioneer Woman that I adapted, used turkey instead of beef and it was an instant success with the family.  So much that Henry wants it for his birthday lunch this year!  So, ground turkey, a few spices such as chili powder, onion, garlic, mustard, tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce and it was great.  I had it over a salad, but the rest of the family had their hamburger buns toasted to perfection (thanks Grant) and I served them with some veggies, couldn’t help myself!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie – OK, this was a late addition to the menu for the weekend, but how could we have All-American food and not have the delightful combination of chocolate and peanut butter?  And this also used up 3 of the egg yolks from the Angel Food Cake which was the real reason (cough) that I made this.  The cream filling was the normal one I use (recipe here) but the rest of it was pretty much made up.  I made the crust from some peanut butter mystery cookies (recipe here) and added a peanut butter swirl on top.  Grant said it was the BEST chocolate peanut butter pie I’ve ever made, which is pretty good praise coming from him! 2015-07-04 Chocolate peanut butter cream pie

We were going to have pizza for Sunday lunch and hot dogs for Sunday dinner, but plans kind of changed when we ended up going out to a BBQ place for a friend’s farewell lunch and then we didn’t feel like cooking anything for dinner so we just had leftovers.  But, all in all, I think it was a successful All-American food weekend!

Hope you enjoyed reading about the adventures in the kitchen – remember you can subscribe to get the latest recipes, and tell your friends, family, enemies about this website and the awesome recipes on it!  And you can also follow me on Twitter (@sarahcookathome)

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!


Banana custard pie and another FISH lunch

This weekend we hosted another FISH lunch (Fellowship in Someone’s Home).  We had an awesome family of four join us for lunch where we served turkey burgers (recipe here) and chicken sausages (bought from Costco), followed by lemon polenta cake (recipe here) and a banana custard pie.  Grant has been asking me to make a banana custard pie for ages, and I tried a few weeks ago and failed (read here) so was reluctant to try it again, but this pie was our Mummy-Abby time for the weekend, and we had great fun making it, which is all that matters really!  

2015-06-28 Banana custard pie

Nothing really exciting or difficult about the recipe, so I can’t direct you to a website or a page here so you can make it yourselves – sorry!  

I used leftover graham crackers from our adventurous camping trip (originally designed for s’mores), cut up a banana and then added a custard made from a packet mix we found at a local Latino market … not keen to try to make custard from scratch again after my last disastrous effort!  And I made it full of stuff I couldn’t eat – ‘normal’ graham crackers containing gluten and ‘normal’ milk in the custard containing lactose.  Just meant that I couldn’t eat it, but I have had quite enough of eating my baked goods recently … I made some sugar cookies (recipe here) and some peanut butter s’more cookies (recipe here) to take into work this week … and ate a lot of the dough while making them.  I did have some of the lemon polenta cake and that was very yummy, so all works out well in the end.

Our guests went home with full tummies, which was great, and we had some awesome conversations getting to know each other, which was even better – thanks Andrew and Cara!

Oh, and last weekend for Father’s Day, we did have Worms in the Mud (recipe here), but learnt a little about instant pudding mixes and non-dairy milk … we ended up making it with a Hershey’s white chocolate pudding and soy milk combination, with some non-dairy cool whip equivalent and non-dairy cream cheese equivalent.  Along with my yummy chocolate peanut butter cookies (recipe here) and it was one of the most awesome Worms in the Mud we’ve had.  Unfortunately I made it all by myself as Abby was having a baking-free weekend … but Grant enjoyed it and that’s what mattered most.

So, until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!


Chocolate orange cake (Jaffa cake)

First of all, the reason why I didn’t post anything last week was because our Mummy-Abby time was spent on a camping trip, rather than baking.  Abby and I climbed up some mountains and had some good chats while trying to figure out how to get down again!  This is a picture of us at the top in the middle of nowhere, but lov2015-06-09 Sarah & Abby at MoabAnd now, for our cooking adventures this weekend – we went with a chocolate orange cake.  For those of you in Australia, you will remember the Jaffa chocolate balls, that we used to roll down the aisles in the movie theaters … or was I the only one that seemed to have that happen to them?  Grant can definitely remember doing that,  being around those who did that when he was a kid!  This is a really easy cake – the hardest thing is worrying that you’ve put on the oranges in the saucepan and either forgotten about them and the pan’s boiled dry, or put too much water in the saucepan and it’s boiled over.

Simply put, take 2 oranges and place in a saucepan of water.  Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for about 2 hours.  After cooling, put the oranges in a food processor and blend until just a few chunks remain.  Add the rest of the ingredients (almond meal, cocoa powder, eggs and a few other things) and blend further.  Then pour into a cake pan and bake.  Simple!  I topped ours with some powdered/icing/confectioner’s sugar and then some orange zest for decoration.

2015-06-14 Chocolate orange cakeWe had some friends over for lunch – one was an Australian (hi Graham!) and he remembered the whole Jaffa thing.  The other friends (hi Leslie and Mark!) are American, but they loved the cake as well.  And you too can make this cake – just let me know if you want me to put the recipe on the website in the comments below and I will!

I also made a dairy-free gluten-free lemon cheesecake with the ginger cookies as a base (recipe here) using a few packets of tofu and all natural, no-refined-sugar as an experiment and it worked ok.  Not good enough yet for the website, but definitely something to continue trying out!

Next weekend is Father’s Day, so Grant has requested Worms in the mud (recipe here).  Again, I’ll be trying to make it yummy but still gluten and dairy-free.  If this one works out – I’ll post a separate recipe for you all to try!

Remember you can subscribe to get my latest recipes (like oat balls, banana bread and soft-baked oatmeal bars to name a few), you can comment on anything on this website – basically I’d love to hear anything from you guys!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!




Chocolate peanut butter pie – take 2

For those of you keeping up to date with my adventures in the kitchen with Abby, you will remember that we made a chocolate peanut butter pie for Mother’s Day (read more here).  And that it wasn’t the greatest because I played around with the recipe a lot to try to get it a little more healthy.  Don’t get me wrong, I still liked it – it just wasn’t the same as other chocolate peanut butter pies I’ve made before and eaten, and enjoyed more.  So this week, Abby suggested (!) that we follow the recipe a little more closely, and make it like I used to.

However, when I have made this recipe before, that was before all the gluten and lactose intolerance discoveries, so I did have to change it … slightly!

For the crust: Chocolate peanut butter cookies (see recipe here) – we baked the cookies as per the recipe, than Abby had great fun squishing them in a ziploc bag to make the crumbs.  We then pushed the crumbs into a greased pie tin (with our fingers of course) and tried to get it as even as possible.  And the fact that there were some cookies left over?  Well, they didn’t stay left over for long, if you get my drift!

For the peanut butter layer: Creamy peanut butter mixed with icing/powdered/confectioner’s sugar (depending on which country you are in).  Mixed together very well with Abby’s fingers, until it resembled coarse cornmeal, or breadcrumbs.  Oh yeah, that was also yummy when we taste-tested, just to make sure it was worth using!

For the chocolate layer: Basic cream pie filling (see recipe here) with an additional 3 tablespoons of cocoa to make it nice and chocolate-y.  Substitutions so I could eat the finished product: almond milk, my gluten-free flour mix (see conversion table here), and dairy-free shortening.

And the end result?

2015-05-31 Chocolate peanut butter pieLooks pretty good, if I do say so myself!  And the cream on the side was from a chilled tin of coconut milk, then the solid parts whipped in an electric mixer with a bit of vanilla. 

Overall, if you didn’t know it was gluten and dairy free, it was pretty good.  Grant could tell the difference based on previous times I’ve made it with all the gluten and lactose-containing ingredients, but it was still not a bad effort to make it so I could enjoy it!

And Abby and I had lots of fun making it, eating during making it and eating after it was made.  And that’s all that really matters!

Hope you had fun reading about my adventures in the kitchen with Abby.  Remember you can comment on anything you see here on the website, you can subscribe to get updated recipes (watch out for a few new ones coming your way in the next few weeks) and follow me via Twitter (@sarahcookathome) – I love hearing from you!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!



Leftover chocolate muffins

In a similar manner to when we used up the cinnamon rolls that I didn’t really like the taste of. this week we used up some bought chocolate chip muffins.  I really should learn from previous experiences, but maybe I need to stop experimenting in the kitchen for a while.  Maybe I should just follow the recipes without adapting for a while.  Nah!

This week’s recipe was based on our famous cookies and cream cheesecake slice (recipe here), but here are all the changes we made:

  • instead of a full recipe, we only made a half recipe (so we didn’t have leftovers)
  • instead of Oreo cookies, we used the leftover chocolate chip muffins
  • instead of cream, we used chilled coconut milk/cream
  • instead of white chocolate, we used dark chocolate

Unfortunately, since we were only making a half cheesecake, I put in a whole amount of gelatin, so it was very gelatinous … that was my mistake, not Abby’s calculations!  But this is how it turned out:

2015-05-22 Chocolate cheesecake

It looks ok.  It tasted … ok.  Not great, not terrible enough to throw in the bin, but ok.  I think if we had put in a chocolate fudge swirl or something like that, it may have tasted a little more interesting.

Oh yeah, and for those of you curious as to how my current dairy-free diet took the milk contained in this recipe into account?  Well, I tried having some Lactaid – but since I had the cheesecake I’ve been rather toxic at both ends of my body (sorry if that’s too much information!), so I’m not sure whether the medicine worked or not.

I asked Abby what she wanted to make next week – she said chocolate peanut butter pie …  the way I used to make it … without trying to be healthy or experimenting with other ingredients.  I think I’ll take her advice … just this once!

Let me know what you think!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!


Pumpkin pie

This week, we finally got to make the pumpkin pie that Abby wanted to make a few weekends ago.  But the last time I had made pumpkin pie, it wasn’t very tasty and I wasn’t impressed.  Mind you, that was also when I had bought some gluten-free graham crackers to make into a crust, and they burnt in the oven, so it wasn’t a great product even without the filling.  I managed to get the recipe from a colleague, who I won the ‘no refined-sugar’ challenge against back in January – he gave me a piece of his pumpkin pie as my winnings and, while the crust wasn’t that great, the filling was really nice. So we decided to give it a go.

And, me being me, decided to change it up a bit anyway.  Instead of my never-fail ugly crust recipe (see here), I thought I could use some granola and crush that up fine with some dairy-free shortening.  You know when you get to the bottom of a granola container and it’s just crumbs, that doesn’t taste that good?  Well, we were there with some of my granola that I’d made (based on my 5P’s granola, see here for recipe) and I didn’t feel like forcing myself to eat this granola for the rest of the week.  So we got out the trusty Ninja, and ‘wazzed’ it into crumbs, melted some shortening and then mixed it all together.  Abby and I had a great time pushing the mixture into the pie tin with our hands, a spoon, a cup, anything we could think of since I had read that this had to be really compacted.

And then we made the filling – pumpkin puree, almond milk, maple syrup, raw sugar (see, no refined sugar in this!), corn starch, and of course pumpkin pie spice.  And the result:

2015-05-16 Pumpkin pieLooks pretty good, doesn’t it?  We couldn’t wait for it to cool completely, so we all had a piece while it was still relatively luke-warm.  Grant’s comment was that he tasted too much pumpkin in it (sigh!), Abby said it rocked.  I’m going with Abby’s reaction!  Anyway, I thought it tasted really good by itself but the rest of the family had some ice cream with it as well.

And then Abby and I got to go clothes shopping together – ah, the life of a teenager!  We had a good time and profitable too with no arguments and three items of clothing purchased all within about 10 mins of entering the store.  That’s my type of shopping!

Anyway, back to the cooking bit – if you’d like me to post the recipe for this no refined-sugar, gluten and dairy-free pumpkin pie, please let me know in the comments below … or I may just have to keep the secret all to myself!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!



Mother’s Day weekend

Happy Mother’s Day!  Especially to my mum …

I got thoroughly spoiled this weekend, with lots of kids in the kitchen time.  Let me take you through a run-down of how it all went:

Saturday breakfast (in bed):

2015-05-09 Pancakes

The kids found some gluten-free pancake mix on special at the local grocery store while they were out shopping for other presents and decided to make some for me.  I wanted it slightly healthy so requested some blueberries and strawberries with some 100% maple syrup.  So both kids were involved in the cooking of these …  And Henry made it into a smiley-face – how sweet!  Unfortunately, with the fruit cooked into the pancakes, they didn’t cook all the way through so I ended up eating some dough … things we do for our kids!

Saturday lunch: we went out to an Indian buffet restaurant where I knew I could get some really good gluten-free stuff.  And the kids and Grant could eat to their hearts content.  I’ve learned to stay away from the buffets due to the possibility of contamination with gluten-containing foods, but the food I got off the menu was great!  And Abby and I had made a chocolate peanut butter pie for dessert, adapted from this recipe (here).

2015-05-09 Chocolate peanut butter pie

Looked impressive, and no refined sugar as well!  Unfortunately the peanut butter layer was a little bland and there was too much of it in proportion to the rest of the ingredients, so it wasn’t really a winner.  I’m still learning about all this stuff, so I guess I should expect some failures!

Sunday lunch:

Abby wanted to cook lunch for me, so she chose my favorite creamy broccoli and bacon pasta (recipe here), with all the substitutes to make it gluten and dairy-free.

2015-05-10 Bacon & broccoli pasta

I liked the pasta – Grant was concerned that there wasn’t enough sauce since we had to use the coconut milk ‘cream’ instead of actual cream, but I thought it was great.  Abby did a great job mostly cooking it all by herself, with a little help from Grant of course!

And Henry REALLY wanted to make a cake for me – so when they were out shopping he found a gluten-free chocolate cake mix that he made with Grant.  

2015-05-10 Henry's chocolate cakeThis actually didn’t taste too bad.  And we found some 99% lactose free ice cream on special, so that just topped it off nicely!

I am so spoiled by my awesome children – and they had fun cooking in the kitchen this weekend too, so everyone wins.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home … with kids!



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