Special Occasions

Christmas Recipes and Cooking

Many of these Christmas recipes are ones my mother cooked for our family at Christmas, that I learnt to cook as a child and that my kids cook now too. One of my favourite part of Christmas as a child was the huge collection of sweets, like White Christmas and Rum Balls, we made, so I have added many of these to the list. All of these recipes are in our submitted recipes section of Aussie Cooking.

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Puddings and Dessert Christmas Recipes

Pavlova: I don’t remember many Xmas dinners without a pavlova! The fruit you choose to decorate it can make it look very seasonal.

Small Date Pudding: Something to make a change from traditional Christmas pudding.

Traditional Christmas Pudding: If you want the full experience of a traditional Xmas you have to have a homemade pudding! This is boiled in a pudding basin but also works wrapped in calico.

Sweets for Christmas

Easy Coconut Ice: part of the every year Xmas sweets for my family.

Nuts and Bolts: These make a great nibbly for the table.

Marshmallows: A great addition to a plate of sweets.

Rum Balls: A family favourite for many Australians.

White Christmas: Yet another one not be missed, the whole family loves White Christmas and it’s a great recipe to involve the kids in.

Nutty Chocolate fudge: Great for the Christmas sweets plates but also a fantastic gift.

Christmas Cake Recipes

Boiled Fruit Cake: A simple and quite economical fruit cake for Christmas. This can be iced or decorated with nuts and fruit.

Fruit Cake with Pumpkin: An unusual fruit cake that is so moist and yummy.

Rum Ball Muffins: These deliciously moist muffins taste just like rum balls.

Finger food Christmas recipes

Hot Cheesie Triangles : Filo pastry triangles for a great finger food or entree.

Salads: For great salad ideas for Christmas bbq’s try our vegetable and salads section.


Nuts and Bolts

Nuts and Bolts
  • 250 grams butter
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 2 teaspoons worcestshire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 500 grams Nutrigrain cereal
  • 500 grams salted peanuts
  1. Melt the butter and oil together over a low heat. Mix the sauce, salt and spices together. Add to melted oils. Combine all ingredients together and mix well. Spread in a large baking dish and cook in a low oven (125 C) for approx 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes. Cool before serving and store in an airtight container.


Cooking Technique

Cooking substitutes

Cooking substitutes, foods to substitute in recipes due availability or dietary needs.

Low Fat substitutes:

Lard – Olive oil, Canola oil, sunflower oil

Salad Dressings – Oil and vinegar, lemon juice

Full fat cheese – low fat cheese; ricotta, cream cheese, Jarlsberg, cottage cheese

Full- fat ice cream – frozen yoghurt, sorbet

1 egg – two egg whites

Low Carbohydrates substitutes:

Balsamic Vinegar – Red wine vinegar

Brandy – Brandy essence and water

Fruit juice (when cooking) – brewed spicy herb tea

Everyday Food substitutes:

Allspice – cinnamon and ground cloves

Arrowroot – same amount of corn flour or double of plain flour

Baking powder- baking soda and cream of tartar

Buttermilk- 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Capers – chopped olives

Cheese – If wanting to substitute the dairy content you can try soy cheese or goats cheeses.

Chilli sauce – tomato sauce, brown Sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice (all mixed together)

Coconut Milk – milk (with a dash of coconut essence if you have it)

Corn syrup – For 1 cup mix 1 cup of sugar with 1/4 cup of water

Cream cheese – Part skim milk ricotta cheese or low fat cottage cheese beaten until smooth

Cream of tartar – lemon juice or vinegar

Croutons- Squares of crust less white Bread fried

Curry powder – Turmeric, cardamom, ginger power, and cumin

Egg – one egg can be substituted by any of these depending on the use: 2 tbsp cornflour, 2 tbsp arrowroot flour; 2 tbsp potato starch; 1 tbsp soy powder + 2 tbsp water; 1 tbsp soy milk powder + 1 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp water; 1 banana (in cakes.)

Jam – There are a number of no or low sugar jam substitutes available such as compotes, sauces such as cranberry can be used in place of jams.

Mayonnaise – yoghurt and salad dressing, salad dressing, sour cream, yoghurt, cottage cheese pureed in a blender

Milk – Rice milk and soy milk are good non-dairy substitutes for cows milk

Oregano – marjoram

Plain Yoghurt – buttermilk, cottage cheese blended until smooth, sour cream

Rum – rum extract and water

Sesame Seeds – finely chopped blanched almonds

Sour cream – non-fat dry milk powder, warm water, and vinegar (mixture will thicken in refrigerator in a few hours), plain yoghurt, milk and lemon juice and butter or margarine, cottage cheese and lemon juice, pureed in blender

Tomato sauce – tomato paste and water

Tomato soup – tomato sauce and water

Vanilla Extract – Grated lemon rind, orange rind, cinnamon or nutmeg combined with a small amount of water to make up the amount of vanilla needed.

Wine- water, lemon juice and sugar mixed

Cooking Technique

Cooking terminology

Cooking terminology that differs between Australia and other countries

The US or international term is on the left and Australian cooking term is on the right.

All-purpose flour – Plain flour. Flour that has no rising agent in it.
Argula – Rocket
Aubergine – Eggplant. A large, purple-colored fruit related to tomatoes.
Baking soda – Bicarb Soda (bicarbonate of soda).
Bell Pepper – Capsicum
Boullion Cubes – Stock cubes
Broil – Grill. Cooking food on a rack either under or over heat.
Burghul – Cracked Wheat
Candied – glace
Cantaloupe – Rockmelon
Cilantro – Coriander. A spice that can be used as fresh leaves, dried and / or ground seeds.
Cookie Sheet – Baking tray
Confectioners Sugar – Icing sugar, white powdered sugar for making icing
Cornstarch – In Aussie cooking this is cornflour. It is the starch extracted for corn and is used for thickening.
Courgette – Zucchini. A long green squash.
Double cream – Thick cream
Extract – Essence, as in vanilla essence, peppermint essence etc
Fava bean – broad bean
Frosting – Icing
Garbanzo – Chickpea. A legume that is large white and roundish.
Grill – BBQ
Kumera – Sweet Potato. Orange-fleshed root vegetable.
Mange tout – Snow Peas. Legume eaten as a whole pod. Also snow pea sprouts, which are the seeds sprouted.
Marichino Cherries – Glace Cherries
Papaya – Paw Paw
Scallions – Shallots
Skillet – Frying pan
Sweet Pepper – Capsicum
Superfine Sugar – Caster sugar, if you are caught without it you can make it by putting normal white suger in the blender.
Treacle – Golden Syrup
White Vegetable Shortening – Copha. A solid white fat found in the cold section of the supermarket near butters. Used in chocolate crackles or white christmas for example.


Baking Articles

Beer Bread Recipes

When I was a child my father used to make what he called Bikies Bread. It is simple bread made from using beer as the rising ingredient, much like soda bread. While living in remote Tasmania for a while, I found I often run out of fresh bread but rarely beer. So I started making beer bread. We eat it with dinner, toast it for breakfast, make sandwiches for lunch and best of all love it straight out of the oven. The basic recipe is here: Beer Bread Recipe and this page will be used to show some of the variations I try.


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Sunflower and Chive Beer Bread

Generally now I use half wholemeal and half white flour and did in this recipe. I added a handful of sunflower seeds and a tablespoon or so of dried chives to half the bread mixture. This bread is delicious with just butter hot out the oven, just sliced cold or even toasted.


Vegemite and Cheese Beer Bread

I mixed up 3 teaspoons of vegemite with some grated tasty cheese. I put half the mixture for one small loaf (a quarter of the total mix) in the pan and then spread the vegemite mix through the centre. Then I put the rest of the bread dough on top and did the same. Then I grated some more cheese over before baking.


Bacon and Cheese Beer Bread

Added 2 rashers of baoon cut up small to the dough, saving some for the top. Also a handful of grated tasty cheese and a tablespoon of chives. Then I grated some more cheese over the top and a sprinkle of bacon pieces before baking.


Fruity Beer Bread

Added 3/4 a cup of chopped cranberries and sultanas, 1/4 cup of chopped nuts. A tablespoon of honey. Quarter cup of flax seed. When the dough was too dry I added orange juice to get it to the right consistency. This is lovely toasted with butter for breakfast!

Other Versions of Beer Bread

Cheese and Corn: add a handful of cheese and a small tin of corn kernels to a half mixture.
Tomato and Cheese: 2 teaspoons of tomato paste, a handful of cheese and a teaspoon of paprika in a half mix.

Multicultural Food

Japanese Home Cooking – Beyond Sushi

Chili King PrawnsIn general, the Japanese people are very healthy and live longer than any other culture in the world. Why is this? Many people attribute it to the way they eat. But if you think that all Japanese people eat is sushi you couldn’t be more wrong. Japanese home cooking is simple, healthy, and delicious. While some of the ingredients may seem exotic and intimidating, rest assured that anyone can cook wonderful delicious Japanese meals with ease.

Sushi is the most popular type of Japanese food, enjoyed throughout the world. You may notice that sushi is quite filling, and you typically eat much less than you would a more Western style meal, such as a hamburger. What is it about sushi that makes it so filling and satisfying? The answer could be rice.

Rice is definitely a staple of any Japanese meal. Whether it is served as a side dish or along with a saucier entrée, you’re going to need plenty of rice on hand. While white long grain rice is most popular, you can always opt for more healthy brown rice. Either way, you may also want to consider purchasing a rice cooker. Rice cookers can cost anywhere from $30 to hundreds of dollars, depending on the make and quality. If you plan on eating plenty of rice this is worth the investment. You’re pretty much guaranteed perfect rice every time.

Have you ever had miso soup at your favorite sushi restaurant? Miso soup is made from several ingredients, one of which is miso paste, made from fermented soybeans. Miso comes as either red or yellow, both having distinct and rich flavors. Not just for soup, you can add miso to just about anything from a veggie stir fry to a marinade for beef. And miso isn’t just for Japanese cooking either. Once you experience the delightful flavors of miso you’ll be adding it to all your meals!

If you dislike fish, you probably think Japanese cooking isn’t for you. While fish is definitely a huge part of the Japanese diet, it doesn’t mean that’s all they eat. Chicken, beef, and pork are all popular choices, as well as tofu and eggs. Simmering meats in sauces such as teriyaki, in a wok or deep skillet is a favorite. You can serve these dishes over rice or noodles such as soba. This is a tasty and healthy alternative to fried foods that many of us eat so often.

If you’re interested in Japanese home cooking there are plenty of great recipes on the Internet that can help guide you through the different types of ingredients and cooking methods. If you’re looking for a healthy and flavorful change to your diet, consider trying a few Japanese meals. Before you know it you’ll be enjoying a variety of delicious foods that nurture the body and the soul.

About the Author:
Cynthia Bates is an Internet specialist, and periodically writesrecipe and cooking is dedicated to proving quality cooking and recipe discussions on the Internet.


Cooking Equipment

How to Choose a Barbecue

Kangaroo Chilli BurgersChoosing a barbecue means spending money on something that you are going to be using on a fairly regular basis with high expectations for the end result. So it’s important to make the right decisions early on in order to avoid disappointments later.

Not All Barbecues are the Same

In fact, if you are relatively new to them, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is a bewildering array of all shapes and sizes, each with its own particular features and, in some cases, eccentricities. But the truth is that, when you get right down to it, there are really only two basic designs; the flat, grill type, which cooks food by the application of direct, and the round kettle as designed by Weber that cooks food by utilizing both direct and indirect heat sources.

The hybrid version of the barbecue grill that also has a hood is still only a flatbed with a hood. It is the positioning of the heat source that makes the true difference between the two types. Let’s look at them separately.

Barbecue Grills

These range from small single burners to massive ranges designed to cater for parties of a hundred or more. They may be square, round, oval or any other shape. Their distinguishing feature is that, without exception, food is cooked by being placed directly over the heat source, whether that be charcoal, gas or (more rarely) electricity.

This makes them ideal for cooking large quantities of steak, sausage, hamburger, chicken wings or anything else that you would normally grill. Ideally the food is cooked on a hot plate placed over the heat to avoid flare-ups. This is particularly important when cooking with the hood closed, where one is fitted, since the oily smoke produced from burning grease can often taint the food, making it unpleasant to eat.

Charcoal burning versions are relatively high maintenance, and you may find, if you buy one, that you use it less and less simply because of the work involved in preparing it and cleaning it after use. They can also become expensive since cheaper versions are prone to rust and grill bars, in particular, may need to be replaced on a regular basis.

Using them as an oven is not always satisfactory. Inexpensive models tend to have hoods made of thin metal that fail to hold the steady temperature necessary for good results. Also the direct heat tends to give very uneven results, although in the more expensive models this is often overcome with the addition of a fan, as in conventional ovens.

Round Kettles

The kettle barbecue is almost synonymous with the brand name Weber, the company that designed and introduced them to s skeptical public some time in the 1950s. They were not an instant success, largely due to the radical design, but quickly gained popularity once the results being produced by them became more widely known.

The key to a kettle barbecue is its roundness, which assists in the circulation of hot air that in turn ensures even cooking of any food placed in it. Coupled with an indirect heat source (the charcoal or burners are placed at the edge of the kettle) this convection causes meat to cook in its own fats and flavors, greatly enriching the end result. And it is this combination of shape and indirect heat that gives the meat its authentic barbecue flavor, regardless of whether charcoal or gas is used.

As an outdoor oven for roasting meat the kettle barbecue has no serious rivals. It does not fare quite so well as a grill, mainly because of its size and shape. Put six medium sized steaks on the grill of a normal, family-sized kettle and it is full to capacity. Direct heat will be needed and this can only really be applied to the center of the grill, owing to the design of the fire baskets or gas burners. In any case a grill plate will be necessary, as in the case of a flatbed barbecue, in order to avoid flare-ups and that, too, will limit how much food can be cooked at one time.


For a family barbecue, the kettle wins hands down for both economy of purchase and satisfaction in use. What is important is to buy one that is fitted with a stainless steel grill, fitments for indirect heating (these can often be bought separately) and some form of ash catcher. You would be wise, also, to ensure that your barbecue is coated with porcelain or vitreous enamel and that the kettle itself is made from heavy gauge metal.

If you intend to do a lot of entertaining, on the other hand, then the flatbed grill is for you, providing you are willing to accept a certain loss of cooking quality as far as roasting meat goes. Even the hybrids will not give you the same results as a good quality kettle.

In terms of quality, the similar comments apply as for the kettle. A thin hood is worse than useless and should be either of heavy gauge steel, or at least coated with vitreous enamel or porcelain. The grill bars need to be of stainless steel, unless you are content to change them each year for new or spend considerable time in maintenance.

Of course, if you don’t suffer from either space or budget constraints, the ideal setup would be to have both in much the same way as you already have in your kitchen. In fact, that is a very good way of looking at your outdoor cooking arrangements. If you use a flatbed grill in much the same way as you do your stove, and the kettle as you would an oven, you will have the best of both worlds, and many happy years of barbecuing ahead of you

Michael Sheridan – The Cool Cook – is a former head chef and an acknowledged authority and published writer on cooking matters. His website at All About Cooking (, contains a wealth of information, hints, tips and recipes for busy home cooks, including video based how-to guides.

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Cooking Meat

Mutton Dressed As Lamb

Lamb ChopsOne of the more shady practices of unscrupulous butchers, including those to be found in many supermarkets, is to label young mutton, also known as hoggett, as ‘prime lamb’.

It’s not just that there is a difference in flavor, succulence and tenderness, there is also a considerable price difference at market as any struggling sheep farmer will tell you. In other words, we are being ripped off by paying too much for what should be cheaper cuts of meat. As a class of meat, hoggett sits uncomfortably between true lamb and older mutton. I say ‘uncomfortably’ because its classification is not helped by the fact that there are different interpretations of the term, depending on where you live.

In Australia, ‘lamb’ is only lamb until the animal cuts its first two incisor teeth at the age of about 8 to 12 months. After that it becomes hoggett, and as the meat darkens and becomes tougher it is reclassified as mutton – or not, as the case may be. It is not unusual for the meat to be sold as either lamb or mutton, with the intermediate classification being ignored altogether.

This would be fine, if it didn’t tempt some butchers to continue calling the meat lamb, regardless of age, until it reaches the mutton stage.

In New Zealand, where much of the world’s best lamb comes from, the animal remains a lamb until about 18 months old, when it becomes mutton. Which means that there is a certain amount of pot luck as to the age of the meat you buy. Since the quality of the meat is likely to be high anyway, especially where it comes from the salt-soaked coastal plains, this may not be of great concern to most cooks. Certainly the flavor is second to none and rivals that of Australian ‘true’ lamb.

In the UK shoppers have another marketing ploy to contend with. There the meat is often referred to as ‘new season’s lamb’ and the word ‘hoggett’ is practically unknown, except among producers. But since the lambs there are born in the winter and will mature for slaughter the following spring, the expression is really no indication of either age or quality. If it indicates anything, it is that the animal was born any time in the preceding 20 months.

The way round this problem for the canny cook is to ignore any classification by the vendor and look instead at the meat itself. True lamb is light pink in color with white fat and marbling. It also feels ‘springy’ to the touch. If the fat is at all yellow, or the meat a darker shade of pink going on red, it may still be good to eat, but check the price per kilo or pound. You should not be paying a premium for it.

Equally, if a bargain price is being offered – as supermarkets tend to do with older cuts – check the quality of the meat carefully. You may well find that what appears at first sight to be irresistible is simply hoggett dressed up as lamb.

Michael Sheridan – The Cool Cook – is a former head chef and an acknowledged authority and published writer on cooking matters. His website atAll About Cooking, contains a wealth of information, hints, tips and recipes for busy home cooks, including video based how-to guides.

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Special Occasions

Creating a Healthy Easter Basket

With the rate of childhood obesity on the rise, try something new. This year, buy healthy snacks instead of lollies and chocolate. You don’t have to sacrifice flavour, either. Low-calorie or low-fat doesn’t mean it has to taste bad.

This is one time that toys are okay. All kids would agree you can never have too many toys. An Easter basket is about getting a special treat. No one said those treats had to be edible. Small hand-held electronic games are available at stores like KMart, Target, and Toys ‘R Us for less than fifteen dollars. Card games like Yugioh and Dungeon Dice Monsters are winners with kids these days. For the younger set, try dolls or action figures.

Jelly beans versus dried fruit. Jelly beans would be great if it wasn’t for all of the sugar. You can never eat just one or five for that matter. Dried fruit offers nutrition and taste in the same bite-sized portion as jelly beans. Ocean Spray® makes a snack called Craisins®. They are dried sweet cranberry snacks in different flavors. Also, Sunbeam®, best known for their sultanas, make dried fruit treats including yogurt- and chocolate-covered raisins. My favourite is chopped dates. Kids won’t believe they’re eating something that’s good for them.

Snack size versus regular size. If you add lollies or chocolate to your basket, smaller is better. Choose snack-sized morsels like Milky Way® or Peppermint Patties®. These candy treats are lower in calories than other choices. Just add three or four for a sweet treat instead of chocolate bunnies or cream eggs.

Store bought versus homemade treats. We all enjoy going to the store and getting bubble gum and cupcakes, but do you really know what’s in what you are eating? Most if not all marketable treats started in someone’s kitchen. That means they were homemade at one time. Let’s take Rice Krispy treats® for example. The recipe was on the cereal box before they became a pre-packaged item in the store. At home, low-fat ingredients can be substituted to create delicious treats for the Easter basket. When you know what’s inside your food, you feel better about serving it to your kids.

Easter baskets don’t have to be chock full of junk to be fun. Healthy additions make you a better parent without sacrificing taste. Teach children to eat right while they are young so that they develop a lifetime of good habits.

Miscellaneous Food Articles Special Occasions

Cooking with Love in the Kitchen

Valentines cooking special

Even though you may not spend much time cooking in the kitchen, wouldn’t you like to treat your love to an easy, delectable and romantic dinner? A special meal is not just about food- it is about the effort and meaning that goes into it. These ideas will make it easy for you to create a memorable meal for Valentine’s Day, or any other time when you want to show someone your love.

Remember when you made a homemade card for your first girlfriend or boy friend and they were so happy they couldn’t stop smiling? You couldn’t figure out what you did that was so great but as you got older you began to realize that giving is best when we give not just ‘things’, but when we give of ourselves. Valentine’s Day is a perfect holiday to give to others by doing something special.

Make it Easy on Yourself

What kind of meal you want- brunch or dinner? Write down your menu and all ingredients from your recipes you’ll need in an organized way. List the stores you need to shop at.

What do you want to serve? Keep it simple – have 3 or 4 items, and not everything has to be homemade. Cook an easy recipe. Get a great dessert -go out and buy the most decadent chocolate cake you can find, or find fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate from your local candy store.

Choose food that your partner likes, not just what you like. This shows that you have put a lot of thought in to this and care, which is the point, right?

Be sure to start several days in advance. If you save everything for the day of the celebration, you’ll be frazzled and in not much of a mood to enjoy this time together.

Remember that this is about Love, not Technique

As with other activities associated with love, cooking does not have to be totally perfect. If something does not come out in time, or if it doesn’t look exactly like the picture in the cookbook, relax. Stay in the mood you set out to create- being grumpy or upset defeats the purpose. Laugh and have fun!

It’s the Total Feeling – Ambiance Counts

Setting your table is important in creating the mood you want to set, which is romance. Use your nicest dishes, silverware and the best, sparkling glasses or crystal you can get.

Choose a color scheme. You may want to use a white tablecloth and add color with the napkins and candles, or two beautiful place mats with matching or contrasting colors. For example, red or soft pink on a white background, with a small container of white flowers and lots of red votive candles looks beautiful.

Turn off the cell phone. Keep music soft and tender, but not so slow that it makes you want to fall asleep.

Just Show That You Care

Show your genuine love in what you say and do. That is what will come across as caring. The fact that you took the time to make this event happen, that you cooked a few things, mostly from scratch, will help this to be a beautiful memory for both of you!


This holiday is really geared to couples – and I want to suggest that you also included others- reach out for someone who may be alone. An elderly neighbor, or someone who has been recently widowed or divorced, someone who is ill and can surely use a lift. It is amazing how a call, a card, a little plant such as a yellow primrose , a pink or red cyclamen, or forced-bulb lavender hyacinth or tulip, will make everyone feel a little better! Most of these treats are under $5.00, but think of the joy that someone will get by this unexpected gesture of love.


Not just with candy but also with a hand-written card, a lunch out together, making a Valentine’s craft such as construction paper and doily hearts to put in the windows, making cupcakes and decorating with all those yummy red candies and icing. Make some time to do this now because they are out on their own all too quickly.

Enjoy your day of love

Marybeth Gregg has been cooking, entertaining and giving cooking advice for almost 20 years. She is well-known for her wonderful cuisine, great parties and started her successful cooking school several years ago. She has been featured in many newspapers, and is currently working on publishing a cookbook and a series of video tapes and dvd’s of cooking lessons. Marybeth has a monthly newsletter full of seasonal cooking tips, recipes and entertaining advice. You can visit her at

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