I’m baaaaaack

Apologies for the unexplained silence, we have been without internet for the past week. Crazy! Have also been without a meal plan, so the freezer has come into the limelight. Normal broadcasting will resume on the weekend, when hopefully the cookbooks will be out, the coloured pens with be ready and lists will be written. Would love to hear any meal suggestions for the week ahead.

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Trumped by a drain hole

There I was sitting on the floor willing my happy little vegemite to “come to mummy!”. She scooted closer and closer then at the last minute took a turn into the bathroom, sped up and went straight to the drain hole in the middle of the floor. Trumped by the drain hole. What?!?! Hello!!! I’m over here!! The only joy was seeing that the drain hole got trumped by a wooden stool. Ha.

Anyways, tonight was a leftovers kind of dinner, so I won’t bore you with that. I did bake though. Managed to pump out some Brown Butter Spice Loaf. The house smells amazing!

Roast Pumpkin

Roast Pumpkin

This is  a lovely spiced loaf using pumpkin as part of your moisture and sweetness. I first made this a few years ago and it has been in the Pink Folder of Wonder ever since. I didn’t have any leftover roast pumpkin but did have some pumpkin sitting in the fridge. Just enough to make one big loaf and two little stars.

Pumpkin Mash

Pumpkin Mash

It uses common household spices of cinnamon and garam masala as well as your standard mix of baking ingredients. The recipe calls for wholemeal flour, which we were running low on, so I substituted some spelt flour.

Spice Mix

Spice Mix

The best bit is cooking off the butter. In certain techniques in cooking there is a magical turning point eg when stock turns to jus. You can hear when the butter changes. It going from bubbling enthusiastically to a sleepy kind of sound. That’s when it will start to brown slightly. Smells like fudge. Delicious.

Bubbling butter

Bubbling butter

Affordability : EXCELLENT. Take advantage of a lot of ingredients you’d already have plus leftovers (if you’ve got some).
Time Factor : MODERATE. Not the fastest baking recipe. I needed to roast some pumpkin to make it (but Possum got the eat some for dinner too). I used a fork to mash the pumpkin but you could use a hand blender (Possum is petrified of blenders and food processors so I tend not to use them). Takes about 50-60 minutes to bake.
Complexity : MODERATE. Baking isn’t for everyone, particularly if there are a few “extra” steps to do, or precision moments.
Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. Moist, sweet, spiced yumminess. We have a bit of a crazy week ahead of us so hopefully a piece of this will help. At least for the first day.
Mess : MODERATE. Baking makes mess. Have a sink ready.
Tummy Filling Factor : LOW. I’m sure if you ate the whole loaf you’d be full. But you’d also have diabetes.
Possum Friendly? NO. Pieces of nuts plus way too much sugar to give to a bub. But the roast pumpkin was a win. She had it with some salmon, also a win.

Would I make it again? Yes, I just need to remember to roast extra pumpkin!!

Brown Butter Spice Loaf

Brown Butter Spice Loaf

And a bonus Possum photo. She somehow managed to get her half chewed cucumber stick to stand upright like a totem pole! I tried to take a photo before she could grab my phone with her grotty little hands!

Attack of the Possum

Attack of the Possum

A change is as good as a holiday

Chicken salad was swapped to Apricot Chicken tonight. A good decision. What a wonderful day of steady rain. We have corrugated perspex outside and the sound of the rain on it is just lovely. Possum and I had a fun day together at swimming, plus she is mobile enough now to follow me (very slowly) when I go to another room. This new found mobility (in the form of a semi commando crawl) also means she sees me at the stove and wants to hang out at my feet. Not so great when you’re browning off chicken legs and there’s hot fat spitting everywhere. Thankfully tonight’s dinner was a slow and steady concoction which allowed play time, reading the same book 10 times in a row, singing songs, and cuddles in between chopping 6 onions (yuck!), slicing and deseeding 4 chillies and handling raw chicken. Needless to say I have washed my hands more times today than I would working in an intensive care unit.

Apricot Chicken

Apricot Chicken

Affordability : EXCELLENT. Feed meat to 5 people for $10? Done! Thankfully apricots were on special this week, which I why I did the old swaperoo with the chicken salad.
Time Factor : LOW. Probably quicker if you don’t have a 9 month old baby/shadow. I reckon you could make this a “chuck it all in the one pot in the oven” wonder though. I always drastically under estimate the length of time it takes to brown meat and soften onions.
Complexity : LOW. Not much more to say on this one.
Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. This was delicious!! I am a big fan of the meat and fruit combo though (think Persian). Tweaked the original recipe a little, they said to take out the meat, olives and apricots to thicken the sauce. I thought “but that’s all the best bits!”, so only took out some of the apricots and let the rest turn to jammy mush. Win.
Mess : MODERATE. One pot. Lots of onions, lots of chilli seeds, lots of oil splatter.
Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. After having “lighter” meals the past few nights this was a nice hit of protein and carbs. Very full!
Possum Friendly? MODERATE. I would be happy to peel the meat off the bones for her to try. But no good veg options tonight.

Would I make it again? Yes, but would try just throwing it all in the pot together.

Possum ate way more curry and salmon than i expected today. Must remember to err on the side of ravenous…

Apricot Chicken Serves 6 (from Cuisine Magazine January 2014 pg 54)

12 chicken drumsticks (I used 10)

1 tsp ground cumin

3 Tablespoons olive oil

6 onions sliced

6 mild red chillies, deseeded, sliced (I used 4)

3 stalk of oregano

1/2 teaspoon of salt (does anyone actually measure??)

9 apricots, halved, stones removed (I used 10)

100g pitted green olives (guesstimated)

2 cups chicken stock

  • Heat a large, heavy-based pan over medium heat and brown the chicken pieces. Set aside.
  • Heat the oil in the same pan then add the onions, chillies, oregano, cumin and salt. Turn the heat down to low, cover and fry gently for 5 mintues, then uncovered and continue frying, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes or until very soft.
  • Nestle the chicken, apricots and olives into the onion mixture then pour in the stock. Bring to a simmer, cover and gently simmer for 20 minutes, then uncover and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  • At this point, remove the chicken, apricots and olives and keep warm in a low oven then bring the sauce to a boil and reduce to thicken. Pour the thickened sauce over the chicken and remove the oregano stalks before serving.

One of those days

There’s a famous quote… “Even the best laid plans something something something something”. That was today. The plan was for salmon (I was going to cook it in the oven in foil parcels with maple syrup, soy sauce, sesame oil, shallots and ginger) with Brocolli Crunch. But by the time it was dinner, inspiration and energy were running low. It took me 1.5 hours to get Possum to sleep 30 minutes this afternoon. That’s not fair on either of us!

So tonight Lego Man and I combined forces. Me at the grill pan with the salmon (just salmon, nothing else) and Lego Man at the microwave with left over risotto and some green veg. With our powers combined we created, an edible dinner. I undercooked the salmon as per usual, but some extra minutes in the pan created the best crunchy crust. The risotto was still super delicious and the vegetables were cooked to microwave perfection (and no I’m not being sarcastic, there’s a knack).

Crunchy Salmon

Crunchy Salmon

Salmon with Risotto and Vegetables

Affordability : MODERATE. Salmon ain’t cheap! But it’s tasty and I’m looking forward to offering some to Possum.
Time Factor : EXCELLENT. Dinner in 10 minutes. I filled the 10 minutes with eating chips and drinking wine.
Complexity : LOW. The key to good veg in the microwave is not much water and in the right container. And once again, better to undercook them than over cook.
Deliciousness : MODERATE. Not fancy but still pretty tasty.
Mess : LOW. Apart from the oil splatter
Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. I couldn’t finish my dinner again tonight. But that might have something to do with the 5pm dinner, the chips and then the 8pm dinner…
Possum Friendly? MODERATE. Will offer the salmon, she loved tinned salmon so fingers crossed.

Would I make it again? Probably, on another day like today. But it probably won’t be salmon, instead it’s probably going to be “fish in a box” from the freezer.

Salmon with RIsotto and Veg

Salmon with RIsotto and Veg

Possum Update: Korma curry HUGE success. She scoffed it down at lunch and dinner. I like that it offers her a variety of vegetables. She seemed to like that too and her little hands hovered over her high chair tray like an eagle hunting for food, diving down when she laid eyes on the bit that she wanted most.

It’s the nuts that make it

Something I love about cooking is the entertainment of my senses. Generally you get to eat something yummy at the end, but it’s the unexpected delights along the way which make it. Tonight, it was the smell of onions cooking in ghee (totally expected to smell delish, but every time I find myself saying it out loud to no one in particular), the smell of sliced almonds toasting in a pan, the sizzle as the almonds got added to the curry. Only the cook will get these added bonuses to the meal. It’s like a nifty little secret between the dish and the creator.

Onions in ghee

Onions in ghee

The dish tonight was Winter Vegetable Tofu Korma from 101 cookbooks. This site is a treasure trove of vegetarian deliciousness. I often will print out recipes from the internet. After cooking they will either end up in the recycling bin or in my Pink Folder of Wonder (PFW). All recipes from here are in the PFW.

Winter Vegetable Tofu Korma

Winter Vegetable Tofu Korma

I made a double batch tonight full of pumpkin, sweet potato, potato, zucchinni and carrot. I had the luxury of having my beautiful (and pregnant!!) best friend over this afternoon to entertain Possum while I chopped 2kg of vegetables. Thankyou!! I used my cast iron casserole pot and once the veg and water was in, baked it covered in the oven for just over an hour at 200C. This worked a treat. I was worried the bottom would cook (or burn) before the veg on top was done properly, as the pot was so full.

Winter Vegetable Tofu Korma

Affordability : EXCELLENT. A massive pot full of delicious spiced goodness for a bargain. the almonds would’ve cost about $4 and same for the organic firm tofu. Would guess at about $1/serve.
Time Factor : MODERATE. ~30 minutes prep plus 60 minutes oven time. Thankyou to my best friend for baby entertainment. Life saver! Worth the investment in time for the number of serves you get at the end. Freezer is full after tonight and last night making a big batch of spag bol sauce.
Complexity : LOW. A lovely one pot wonder.
Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. Quotes from Lego Man tonight: “Is this vegetarian?”, “It’s the nuts that make it”, “You always pick out good recipes” (which I had the remind him about the stuffed vegetable incidents), “this is really tasty”, “did I say that this is really tasty?”.
Mess : MODERATE. Few pots but lots of garlic skins, ginger skin, onion skin… smelly fingers…
Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Yes it’s vegetarian but you have 3 sources of protein with tonight’s meal. Quinoa (optional extra), almonds and tofu. I couldn’t finish my bowl (that hasn’t happened in a while!).
Possum Friendly? EXCELLENT. She loves curry and this has lots of nice soft veggies for her to munch on. She has had almond milk and almond meal already with no reaction but be wary if this is the first time your baby will be exposed to nuts.

Would I make it again? Certainly, but with the volume I made I won’t need to make this again until 2016.

I'm full

I’m full

On a side note… Possum went a bit crazy for the risotto from last night. Another Baby Led Weaning win!

Misty Mountain Goodness

Today was a perfect Blue Mountains Sunday. Terrible for the tourists who’ve come for the view. Perfect for a lunch of hot pies from the bakery and spending the day at home with my little family.

The view from my driveway today.

The view from my driveway today.

Tonight’s dinner suited the weather perfectly. The baked risotto was delicious, with super tasty crunchy bits around the edge and a zing of lemon zest and fresh oregano on the top. The lamb loin chops grilled to yumminess. The asparagus crunchy with a slight tang of balsamic. I don’t think I came up for air until my plate was empty. Then I stood over the baking dish of rice eating more. That’s when I realised one important question was missing from my nightly rating. “Would I make this again?” Tonight, absolutely!

Baked Risotto

Baked Risotto

Asparagus

Asparagus

Oven Baked Risotto with Lamb Chops and Vegetables:

Affordability : EXCELLENT. Chops are a tasty and affordable cut of meat. Buy seasonal veg which will be tasty and cheap. And rice, a little goes a long way. I love rice!
Time Factor : MODERATE. ~30 minutes prep plus 45 minutes oven time. Thankyou Lego Man for continuing cooking while I put Possum to bed. The risotto was baked in a square cake/slice tin. Worked perfectly.
Complexity : LOW – MODERATE. I managed to time everything well tonight, but it would be the kind of meal where the risotto could sit in the oven a little longer, the chops could grill a little longer. You just don’t want over cooked veg.
Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. Simple tasty goodness. Lego Man brought chops back into my culinary life after we got engaged. Sure the first time he cooked them for me they may have caught on fire. But you can’t kill a chop with a bit of flame. It actually makes them taste better!
Mess : MODERATE. A few pots but dishes didn’t take too long after dinner.
Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. I piled Lego Man’s plate a little too much for him, but was not quite enough for my bottomless pit of a stomach.
Possum Friendly? MODERATE. She loves chops, and has already had risotto before. Will see if she likes asparagus tomorrow.

Would I make it again? Absolutely. This recipe is a keeper! I couldn’t find any farro today when I was shopping so I just used arborio rice. Next time I will try farro though (if I can find it!).

Baked Risotto with Chops and Veg

Baked Risotto with Chops and Veg

Freezer Surprise

Ah sweet freezer surprise. You are always welcome in my home. As I sat with my baby and patted her to sleep, my mind wandered to my stomach. And to the silence coming from the kitchen meant Lego Man wasn’t cooking up a solution to my quandry. The kitchen is not the natural habitat of Lego Man. Outdoors, yes. Man Cave, yes. Office, yes. But this week was a week of no plans. No recipes on the counter. No plan on the fridge. Back to old ways. Back to eating somewhere between 8 and 9pm. Thank goodness for freezer surprise.

And behind Door Number 1………..!

Stuffed Eggplant Mousaka and Tuna Pesto Pasta. Not often freezer surprise is a two course feast. In order for the eggplant to be defrosted we did need to press “Auto cook” on the microwave about 15 times. I remembered they weren’t fab first time round so added some things that would hopefully help. Salt, pepper and cheese. It helped enough to make it much easier to eat. I thought I had a photo of the meal for you but one was really out of focus and the other my finger is taking up half the photo… this is what happends when you’re a hungry mummy!

Thank goodness tonight is planning night.

The plan and weather is looking a bit like this:

MONDAY/ rain 21 

Baked Farro Risotto with Lamb Chops and Vegetables

TUESDAY/ early shower 22

Winter Veg and Tofu Korma with brown rice and quinoa

WEDNESDAY/ partly cloudy 26

Broccoli Crunch and Salmon with brown rice and quinoa

THURSDAY/ sunny 20

Grilled Chicken Salad with pineapple, macadamias and chilli (taste Magazine Jan 2014)

FRIDAY/ partly cloudy 17

Take away, freezer surprise or BBQ

SATURDAY/ weather forecast not available yet…

Take away, freezer surprise or BBQ

Thankyou to my facebook page (just search for pea fritters) for the baked risotto idea. I was trawling one of my favourite sites, 101 cookbooks, when I saw she had a baked farro risotto. Perfect! Thursday’s chicken salad is a dish I made a couple of weeks ago and it was amazing. Will write out the recipe for you later in the week.  I’m also hoping to make a Brown Butter Spice Loaf to get us through the move. It’s spicy buttery goodness.

No scale for tonight’s dinner sorry.

Though here is a cute photo of Possum’s happy feet while she ate her dinner of Possum Love Puffs, avocado and apple. She and I had a lovely time at baby wearing yoga today.

Happy Possum Feet

Happy Possum Feet