Meal Plan 30/3 – 5/4

SUNDAY / showers 18

Grilled Lemony Herb Chicken with Leftover Risotto and Vegetables

MONDAY / possible shower 21

Ants Climbing A Tree

TUESDAY / partly cloudy 22

Rissoles and Vegetables

WEDNESDAY / shower or two 23

Fish with Pumpkin and Silverbeet Tian

THURSDAY / shower and chance of a storm 21

Chicken Pesto Pasta

FRIDAY / shower or two 16

Spinachy Bean Burger Tacos

SATURDAY / a few showers 19

Leftover Pies

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Ants Climbing A Tree… Where??

Legoman came home… “Mmmmm something smells good!”…

Me…”Ants climbing a tree.”

Legoman… “Where??” whilst looking out the window.

teehee

That is the oh so cute name of tonight’s dinner. A Chinese dish of mung bean noodles, shitake mushrooms, pork mince, tofu and yumminess. These are a few of a my favourite things! Legoman is out at an end of work season party tonight so I had no qualms about making something with mushrooms in it (he is allergic).

Possum seems to be a bit of a tofu fiend and devoured quite a few pieces. Plus two roasted field mushrooms, a few sweet potato wedges and some pork mince. Must’ve been hungry!

The recipe includes some fresh chilli, which I switched for red capsicum to make it more Possum Friendly. On my own bowl though, I topped with chilli sauce. A win.

Possum's Dinner

Possum’s Dinner

I did roast an eggplant for Possum after she gobbled up so much of it in the Space Curry last week. I have a great way to roast eggplant so it turns out both meaty and delicately silky. Beautiful. Possum picked it up, put it to her tongue, then flung it on the floor and screwed up her face like she’d just licked a slug. Not so successful. So my 5pm dinner was supplemented with some delicious roast eggplant. Here’s how I made it…

Silky Roast Eggplant

Cut an eggplant in half lengthways. Using a sharp knife, cut a criss cross pattern in the flesh, making sure not to pierce the skin. Brush the flesh liberally with olive oil (you will be surprised how much these lovelies will soak up!). Top with fresh thyme and a little salt and pepper.

Roast in a preheated oven at 180 C for up to an hour, depending on the size of the eggplant. Just keep an eye on them. When done, they will look a bit like this…

In other news, I continue to reap what others have sowed in our little garden. Today’s bounty was a few kilos of potatoes! Here’s just some of them. Now to figure out what to do with the garden where they were. Any wisdom to share with an absolute learner?

Ants Climbing a Tree

Affordability : MODERATE. Noodles are super cheap but having a combo of tofu and pork does bump the cost up a bit. Having said that this recipe makes a huge pile of noodles. I will be having this out of the freezer for a while!

Time Factor : EXCELLENT. A super quick one pan dish. It’s a bit light on vegetables though so you’d need to cook some in addition.

Complexity : LOW. A lovely simple stir fry.

Deliciousness : MODERATE. The chilli sauce made this more delicious but still a yummy dinner, just not mind blowing.

Mess : MODERATE. I like to get a bit cooking show organised when doing stir fries, this means having lots of bowls of stuff out and ready. You also need to bowls for soaking plus a wok or fry pan.

Tummy Filling Factor : MODERATE. I needed a second bowl (though that was about 2 hours later at my 7pm dinner). Glad I had the eggplant as a vegetable, you could probably even add an eggplant into the dish itself and would be quite yummy!

Possum Friendly? YES. You can modify the level of seasoning as needed. This just uses soy sauce and hoisin. We didn’t have hoisin but had an asian BBQ sauce which I just used one spoon of. Otherwise the flavourings are the mushrooms, spring onions, fresh ginger and garlic.

Would I make it again? Yes. Though I don’t need to for a while with the amount of leftovers I have!

Ants Climbing A Tree

Ants Climbing A Tree

And the meat is back!

Oy, I just watched the second Hunger Games movie and need to unwind… Those films really get to me. Hopefully blogging will help.

Meat Free Week was a great success in our household! New recipes were tried and thoroughly enjoyed, and the meat wasn’t missed (that much). But I am glad to have some meat back on the menu this week. It’s good to know the huge variety of meat free recipes out there that are easy, quick and delicious. So if you’re on a budget or your conscience is getting the better of you, maybe try a meet free week for yourself and see how you go.

To finish off the week, we had roast vegetable frittata with oven baked risotto. First time I’ve made frittata and I had a bit of a frittata fail. It was delicious, don’t get me wrong. I just didn’t prepare my pan enough and it ended up sticking. And then I scraped the crap out of the pan trying to get it out. Here’s the photographic proof.

Frittata Fail

Frittata Fail

The risotto is a recipe I tried a few weeks ago and is now firmly placed in my Pink Folder of Wonder (where all my fav print out recipes go). This time I thought I would try a combination of arborio rice and millet. What is millet? Apart from being one of the main ingredients in bird food (sounds so tempting right?), it is a low allergenic grain which is a good source of many nutrients including magnesium, copper, phosphorous and iron. I’ve used it before to make some tasty millet, ricotta and mint patties. First time in a risotto. Super happy with the result. It offered a great mix of textures with the rice. I used 1 cup rice to around 3/4 cup of millet (I over poured and couldn’t get it back in the container…). I would recommend you add some variety to your grain cupboard with some millet and give it a go.

Tonight’s meal was a leftover of the risotto, some steamed veg and a quick bit of chicken. Here’s how I did the chicken…

Herby Lemon Chicken, Serves 2

Take one chicken breast. Cut a criss cross pattern on the underside.  Season with salt and pepper, a good helping of fresh lemon zest and some fresh thyme (or whatever herb takes your fancy). Lay it between two pieces of baking paper then pummel with either the bottom of a heavy pan or a heavy rolling pin (I have a solid marble rolling pin which is perfect for tasks like this. It’s also my home security system). Heat some olive oil in a pan (I used the hot plate on our stove top, but a BBQ would be perfect). Cook for a few minutes either side then let rest before slicing and dividing into two serves.

Herby Lemon Chicken

Herby Lemon Chicken

Herby Lemon Chicken with Vegetables and Risotto

Affordability : MODERATE. Splitting one chicken breast between two offered plenty of meat while cutting down cost. The risotto makes a large amount and can be frozen for another day. A good variety of veg on the side and you have yourself quite an affordable but delicious meal.

Time Factor : MODERATE. Thankfully the risotto was leftovers tonight and only took 2 minutes in the microwave, but originally take about an hour from go to gob. I cook my corn in the microwave, little trick I learnt at work. Using a leftover bag you use from your fruit and veg shopping (the clear super light ones), pop your corn and a spoon of water in the bag. Tie a knot in the top then microwave for 1.5 minutes. Ta Dah! Easy work snack and super easy dinner side.

Complexity : MODERATE. I choose to make my own tomato sauce for the risotto (recipe is at the foot of the main recipe). But you could make this more simple by using a store bought sauce (though I doubt it would be a delish).

Deliciousness : MODERATE. To be honest, the chicken let the team down a bit tonight. Breast meat has a tendency to get dry. Next time I would stick to using thigh meat like I normally do. But the risotto is delicious and I love fresh corn on the cob.

Mess : MODERATE. An oven pan, two saucepans, a grill pan and some microwave container for the veg.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Great mix of veg, carbs and protein means I am nicely full and stayed full.

Possum Friendly? YES. I didn’t make enough chicken to give to her tomorrow, but would be an excellent way to offer some simple meat. Possum loves this risotto recipe. She isn’t too happy with plain steamed veg. Tonight I gave her some ocean trout (which she gobbled up at lightning speed) and some fried capsicum, with grapes and yoghurt for after.

Would I make it again? Yes. I think I’d try some other things before doing the chicken breast again, but it was a great quick way to flavour and cook the meat. It made me want to make schnitzel though.

Herby Lemon Chicken and Vegetables with RIsotto

Herby Lemon Chicken and Vegetables with RIsotto

In other news, Possum is on the mend. And crawling!! Very proud mummy 🙂

Will post my meal plan for the week tomorrow.

Meat Free Week #4: Cashew! Gesundheit…

Mmmmmmm toasted cashews. I love me some nutty curry. Apologies for the lame joke, this 2 weeks at home with a snotty 10 month old for company means my conversational skills are plummeting. We did manage to get out of the house to take my bestie some coffee and cake for her birthday! Happy Birthday Sweetpea!

Tonight’s Cashew Curry was so simple and tasty. A no brainer, thankfully! And a Possum success! The recipe only has cauliflower, beans and tofu as the curry fillers so I added red capsicum, zucchini and carrot. Possum ate two pieces of tofu and plenty of veg (except for the cauliflower and beans).

Legoman liked this straight away, and thought it was one of the Spice Tailor packets. I take that as a compliment as they are super tasty. The crazy thing is, I used Keen’s Curry Powder. That wonderful flavour mix that is normally reserved for curry egg sandwiches (one of my favourites, on fresh white bread with crispy lettuce). No fancy curry powders or mixing or grinding needed. I would highly recommend this as a family meal.

Cashew Curry

Affordability : EXCELLENT. Expensive items were a handful of cashew and some organic tofu. But still works out cheaper than eating meat.

Time Factor : EXCELLENT.One pot wonder. Quick prep. Then let it simmer in the pot until veg is cooked to your liking. I cooked it a bit longer than the recipe suggests to get the veg nice and soft for Possum.

Complexity : LOW. Super easy. Use whatever veg you have available or is cheap.

Deliciousness : MODERATE. A lovely mild curry that everyone will enjoy. The cashews give the curry some lovely buttery sweetness.

Mess : LOW.One curry pot, one rice pot and a chopping board. Hurray!

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. I was nice and full after a bowl but was hungry again an hour later, but a little piece of my fudgy choc-orange slice filled the gap well.

Possum Friendly? YES. Not too spicy for bubs, loaded with good fats from the coconut milk. Just don’t give whole nuts until a few years old. Possum enjoyed the variety of veg in tonight’s meal, you can tailor to suit your family’s likes and dislikes.

Would I make it again? Yes. A great midweek simple meal. If you were having meat and time was tight, you could pick up a BBQ chook and chuck that in (obviously not whole, that would just be ridiculous. I kind of wish someone would do that now).

***BONUS QUESTION! Did you miss the meat?Nope. Legoman did though. Personally, I quite like tofu in meals. It tends to just soak up sauces and flavours nicely without over powering. Seems that Possum quite likes it too.

Cashew Curry

Cashew Curry

And a little touch of cuteness…. Here is Possum gazing lovingly at a photo of her playdate pal from yesterday. Awwwwww.

Friends

Friends

My Meal Planning Hot Tips (from a novice)

Meal Planning Hot Tips (from a novice)

After nearly 2 weeks of being house bound with a sick bub, we had actual human contact today!! Hurray for unexpected play dates!!

And even more hurray was that they stayed for 5pm dinner with Possum and I, wonderful company that was greatly appreciated. Legoman ended up having another late night at work, so like all good planners, I had a Plan B to fall back on. Leftovers. Our fridge was full to the brim of leftover mushroom mix from last night and curry from two nights ago. No point in making something new when there was so much food ready for the eating.

I gave roasting the mushroom mix a go. Not an improvement. But I was wondering if you could roast whole mushrooms and still fry up the capscium and onions… to try next time…

Nothing too exciting to report back about dinner. So I thought I might just give you a few hot tips I’ve learnt so far about meal planning. Please keep in mind we have a little family; me, Legoman and Possum (10 months old and doing baby led weaning). I’m also super new to this whole meal planning thing. There are people out there that have been doing it for years and would have some amazing knowledge to share (please do if you happen to be one of these wise people!).

  • Always Have a Plan B: You can plan and plan until the cows come home. But sometimes life doesn’t give a hoot about your plans. This is where a well stocked pantry and freezer absolutely come in handy. In my pantry I ALWAYS have:
    • Tinned tuna, tinned salmon, anchovies. These can be added to virtually anything (except milkshakes. Ew) and add some great protein and good fats to a meal. Anchovies add a great punch of flavour and most people won’t even notice that they’re in something.
    • Stock. Either in liquid or powder form. Can give rice, pasta, couscous and other grains some extra flavour. Can also be used to make soups, curries and sauces. Just do not use a commercial stock to try and make a jus or reduction. Legoman will have to tell you a story about that one day. It involves him proposing and me catching a yabby.
    • A variety of grains and pulses. A staple with which to build any meal.
    • Frozen vegetables. Much can be said for frozen peas and corn! Add to lentils, tinned tomato and some onion and garlic and you have vegetarian bolognese sauce. Make pea fritters! Or corn fritters! Or just to be the only vegetable on your plate.
    • Condiments. Mayo, mustard, balsamic vinegar, capers, olives, tomato relish.
    • Good quality store bought pesto.
    • Curry paste. I have about 4 different ones, but just have one as a back up. I have a killer curry recipe that uses masaman curry paste, red lentils and frozen peas. Delish!
    • Coconut milk. To go with your curry paste 🙂
    • Tinned tomatoes. With pasta, capers, garlic, anchovies and olives and you have a tasty pasta puttanesca!
    • An excellent spice selection. Great to make curries, spice up roast vegetables, add to salads. The ones I use the most are cumin, coriander, cinnamon, garam masala, turmeric, cardamom, paprika.
    • Frozen dinners. If you can, make a batch of something like spaghetti bolognese to have in the freezer as a back up. It’s very rare that I don’t want to eat a big bowl of homemade spag bol.
    • Eggs. I nearly forgot to add them! Essential! Keep some bacon in the freezer and you will never be sad again.
    • Cheese. Everything is better with cheese. Need I say more.
  • Check the weather. The day that you sit down to write out your plan, make sure you do a 7 day forecast at the same time. I find it helpful to write it down on my actual plan template. I have made the mistake before of planning to make risotto on a 30 degree day, or salad on a 15 degree day. I use www.bom.gov.au for my weather updates.
  • Know what is in season. This will save you a lot of money, plus your food will be more nutritious and taste better. It will also give your food life a nice rhythm that follows the seasons. For example, don’t plan a mango and avocado salad in winter. It will cost a bomb and be flavourless compared to if you made the same in the peak of summer. 
  • Synchronise diaries. Sit down with your family and figure out what is happening that week. You don’t want to be cooking something fancy if you’re home alone for dinner. I like to write down major events on the meal plan that gets stuck to the fridge.
  • Always have a tried and tested recipe in there somewhere. This way if you’re trying out new things the rest of the week and they turn out to be as delicious as a hospital dinner, then you will still have something to look forward to and potentially make a double batch of later in the week.
  • Use a printable template. I use this one.
  • Take advantage of online food blogs and website for inspiration and suggestions. I also know there is a great selection of cookbooks at my local library, great for a cookbook junky like myself! Some of my favourites are 101 cookbooks and taste.com.au
  • Have one day dedicated to do your shopping. This will save you time and money.
  • Consider having your final meal in your plan something that uses up any leftover fruit and veg in the fridge eg casserole, curry, frittata, pasta sauce.

I hope that is vaguely helpful to someone out there who is thinking about meal planning but not sure where to start. Personally I’m not a Monday is pasta, Tuesday is stirfry, Wednesday is steak… kind of person. I love trying new recipes and learning new skills in the kitchen and meal planning has been a fantastic way of achieving that whilst saving time and money for my little family.

Would love to hear what your experiences of meal planning has been and what are your pantry must haves.

Meat Free Week #3: Would you say your tortilla is half full, or half empty?

I would say my tortilla is over full! Always always, when I try to fold my tortilla, it is bursting everywhere! I should remind myself, start small, you can always add more… Growing up, my parents had a cookbook (one of many, I wonder where I got the addiction from?) called “The Well Filled Tortilla“. It might be time to do a bit of study.

Legoman is working late tonight, which means MUSHROOMS! Possum and I are both big fans of mushrooms, and sadly, my husband is allergic. We once travelled to France for a holiday and the one phrase he was super confident to say each time we ate out was “Je suis allergic de champignons”. Anyway. When he isn’t home or I’m eating out with friends, I search out mushrooms. I forage you could say through menus and blackboards to find some fungi goodness.

Why did the carrot invite the mushroom to the party?

Because he was a fun-gi. 🙂

Sorry, had to be said.

Unless you haven’t already guessed, our meal tonight was mushroom fajitas. Some of Possum’s favourite things piled onto a yummy tortilla. Once served, she taught me that she prefers mushrooms just as mushrooms and not as spiced meat replacement. She loved the capsicum though.

This was a very easy, fast, low mess, cheap, baby led weaning friendly meal. It just didn’t have the same wow factor as last night’s dinner. The winner was making a quesadilla for my 7pm dinner (I ate fajitas with Possum at 5pm) out of some of the leftover curry from last night (was only chickpeas left after Possum ate all the good vegetables at lunch) with some cream cheese and grated tasty cheese. That left me satisfied! And a nice way to use up leftover tortillas and leftover curry (must remember for future reference).

Marinating Mushroom Mix

Marinating Mushroom Mix

Mushroom Fajitas

Affordability : EXCELLENT. The most expensive item would’ve been the tortillas, but buy them when they’re half price at the supermarket and you’re sorted!

Time Factor : EXCELLENT.Quick chopping/slicing, marinating if time permits and then a quick flash in the pan to cook. An excellent meal if you’re tight on time one evening a week (say you have work or after school commitments).

Complexity : LOW. Super easy. And a nice meal to do the “make your own” at the table with avocado, yoghurt/sour cream and any other fixings you fancy.

Deliciousness : MODERATE. It was good, just not that good. I think next time I would try roasting the mushrooms while the capsicum and onion got the char grill effect. Mushrooms work better with slower cooking. They just seemed to burn a bit on the outside without having the time to get that lovely meatiness about them.

Mess : LOW. A bowl for marinating, a hot pan and a chopping board. How messy they are to eat are up to you and your tortilla skills!

Tummy Filling Factor : MODERATE. I had two well filled tortillas (no reference to the book intended) and was full immediately after but got hungry pretty quickly again. The quesadilla certainly helped fill the hole.

Possum Friendly? YES. Lovely baby led weaning shapes (long sticks) making it easy for bub to hold onto. A variety of flavours and textures; yoghurt, avocado, onion, capsicum and mushroom. Very healthy. A great way to introduce spices and herbs (if you include fresh coriander in the meal). I personally choose to give Possum no tortilla with her meal, but that is just personal preference.

Would I make it again? Maybe.

***BONUS QUESTION! Did you miss the meat? Tonight I did. I really prefer chicken fajitas. They seem to fill me up more and I prefer the flavour. Legoman didn’t miss out tonight.

Mushroom Fajitas

Mushroom Fajitas

Seeing as we had Mexican tonight, I can’t resist the urge to add a Three Amigos clip for you all… Goodnight!

Meat Free Week #2: I’d pay money for that

We are certainly off to a good start this week! Tonight’s Space Curry is a real winner! I knew we were onto something good when Possum wanted seconds, and thirds. Legoman said “I don’t even care there’s no meat!” and “I’d pay money for this!” as well as “I’d serve this to guests, especially *insert vegetarian friend’s name*!”. The way to a woman’s heart? Multiple compliments on her cooking. I sat there, my shirt covered in Possum’s snot, my hair half pulled out (thanks Possum), my teeth not brushed, I can’t remember if I showered today. But I was smiling.

Thankyou Meat Free Week!

The snot fest that is my daughter continues. And with it comes horrendous cabin fever. I had had enough today and so we ventured out to soak up the wonderful sunshine and for me to soak up some human contact (even if it is just with the lady that makes my coffee). Made the world of difference and Possum slept on my back on the way home. Added bonus was running into two mummy friends, a lovely benefit of living in a village.

I will apologise for the lack of food piccies tonight. Just as I had served dinner and was about to take the photo, my phone battery died. And I wasn’t going to wait for it to charge enough to take a piccie before eating. But picture this… A bowl of golden rice gently spiced with cardamom, coriander, cumin and turmeric. The rice cradling a rich curry with warm autumnal colours of garnet, terracotta and deep aubergine. A burst of freshness on top with a few leaves of fresh coriander. Contrasted with a tangy dollop of fresh yoghurt.

Or I could show you a picture of Possum’s dinner (whoops!).

Space Curry

Space Curry

Space Curry

Affordability : EXCELLENT. Cheap vegetables, canned chickpeas and some store bought curry paste and chutney. Made up a large batch and will absolutely be making this again and making use of the curry paste (I used Tikka Masala) and mango chutney.

Time Factor : MODERATE. Chopping and prep was pretty quick today (hurray!). I chose to cook this a bit longer than it said to in the recipe (I like curries the longer they’ve cooked for generally).

Complexity : LOW. A nice simple curry to make. I realised though that the recipe asks for spices and lemon rind but then doesn’t say what to do with them. So I googled the original recipe and found the answer. It goes in the rice! Here is the original recipe for your reference.

Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. This is a winner, a keeper, a recipe to share. Legoman was super impressed. He normally makes his views against chickpeas well known whenever I make something with them in it. Tonight, not a peep.

Mess : MINIMAL. One pot wonder and a rice pot.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. I guarantee you will either go back for seconds despite bursting at the seams or be sensible but happily satiated.

Possum Friendly? YES. She loved it! Especially the eggplant and the chickpeas, which surprised me. She also had a bit of yoghurt with her curry too (an essential addition I think).

Would I make it again? Yes, will have to invite some vegetarians over to show off this winner of a recipe.

***BONUS QUESTION! Did you miss the meat? Not at all.

To make up for the lack of food piccies today, here is possum attempting her escape… to get the magpie in the garden. She worked out she can slide the screen door open (not that hard really, might need to lock it soon…).

The Great Escape

The Great Escape