You gotta know when to hold ’em

If you’ve got any style or class, I’d like to think the title of this post was sung in your head. And just kept going with the rest of the song! I have fond memories of playing poker as a teenager with my then boyfriend and his mates. They all tended to drink a lot of beer, at that age I hardly drank at all. This was my secret weapon. Play safe until they all get totally drunk then take them all to the cleaners! Booya! Unfortunately we were all so poor (we were only 18) that we never bet with real money, just their parents shrapnel bowl (coin collection, not actual shrapnel. That would be deeply disturbing.). Otherwise I could be driving something a bit more swanky than a Honda Jazz….

And what does poker have to do with baby led weaning and meal planning??

Well tonight’s delicious meal is Leon’s Poker Night Chilli. Taken from the 4th book in the Leon Restaurant cookbook collection (I am missing only one, hint hint Legoman). If you are a new here, I love Leon. If you’re a more frequent reader, nothing new.

Leon: Family and Friends, Book 4

Leon: Family and Friends, Book 4

Legoman has told me which meals don’t really tickle his fancy… minestrone soup, chilli con carne, most meals without meat. I am pleased to report that when I made this for the second time in a week Legoman was delightfully happy and stated “Is that what you made the other night? I really like that one. Like, a lot.”.

So do click on the link for the recipe and have an equally happy husband in your house too!

Leon’s Poker Night Chilli

Affordability : EXCELLENT. For a meal super high in protein, this can be made very cheaply. Beef mince comes in differing quality/cost levels and is often in the clearance section at my local Woolies. You could easily make a double batch for under $15.

Time Factor : MODERATE. Prep takes about 10 minutes and cooking takes about 50 minutes from start to finish. My one gripe about the printed recipe is that up the top where it states number of serves, prep time and cook time, it states the cooking time is 10 minutes. But then the recipe says “simmer on low for 30-40 minutes”. Fail. I think it’s the Virgo in me that gets really irked by mistakes like that.

Complexity : LOW. Lovely and straight forward. The second time I made this, I hardly looked at the recipe. That, is a good recipe.

Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. Lacks vegetables, but that is half the joy. The other half is the Mt Everest pile of cheese on top. Mmmmmmmmmmm. One little hint would be to brown off your mince well. And don’t scrimp on the simmer time, let it thicken up nicely.

Mess : LOW. One pot wonder. First night I used a saucepan, second night I used a large frypan. Both worked very well.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Try and not be full after a big bowl of meat, beans, rice and cheese. I dare you. Double dare even.

Possum Friendly? YES. An excellent meal for a bub with a pincer grasp. It’s a shame that Possum has totally shunned mince meat. She did put some in her mouth the second night. I held my breath. 5 seconds later it was spat out. Baby steps. She did eat about 6 red kidney beans out of the tin while we were cooking. But then refused to eat any in the actual meal.

Would I make it again? Yes, this is saved in the go to list in my head as it uses easily accessible ingredients, most of which are in my cupboard as a state of permanency.

Leon's Poker Night Chilli

Leon’s Poker Night Chilli

And I just want to make a little shout out for The Australian Climbing Festival which is going to be held in the Blue Mountains next weekend. Another great reason to come visit the Blue Mountains!!

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Gotta Love That Leon

I have been MIA as of late. Just a few things going on. Like getting a skin cancer cut out of my head (8 stitches… wear suncream people), parenting a wonderful toddler (who has a sign for yabby, so so proud), family holidays and buying a house!!!!! Eeeeeeep!! Every now and then I have a little sticky beak at my stats and am amazed to see one blog post keep getting visited every day nearly. And that is my Leon’s Not Too Spicy Chicken Cous Cous Recipe. Turns out I’m not the only Leon nut out there. There’s more of you!! Hello! 🙂

Not too long ago the Leon brand celebrated it’s 10th birthday. Happy Birthday delicious Leon! To celebrate they were giving away free food… Sigh. If only they shipped to Australia. It made me drool to read their giveaways but it also made me pull out my Leon cookbooks and have a nice stroll through the wonderful recipes on offer.

I decided to make Coconut Chicken and Petit Pois Curry from Leon: Naturally Fast Food. I got home from the supermarket and had the car unpacked by 4:30. Dinner was cooked and ready to go by 4:52. Booya! And it has minimal ingredients! Huzzah! I was so impressed with the speed, ease and deliciousness I just had to share with y’all. So here you go…

Leon’s Coconut Chicken and Petit Pois Curry

6 chicken breasts (i think i only used 4… not as cheap as I remember)

25g butter (any recipe that specifies butter not oil is a winner already)

2 teaspoons of nigella seeds (black onion seeds, worth looking for)

2 tablespoons tikka paste

300ml coconut milk (my tin was 270ml)

200g frozen peas

salt and pepper

coriander to serve (not essential)

1. Slice the chicken into strips.

2. Melt the butter in a heavy frying pan. Add the chicken and nigella seeds and cook for between 8-10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

3. Stir in the tikka paste, coconut milk and peas. Bring gently to the boil, stirring all the time, and simmer for a minute or two.

4. Season to taste, add the coriander if you have it. Serve and enjoy with some yummy rice!

Leon’s Coconut Chicken and Petit Pois Curry

Affordability : MODERATE. Chicken breasts aren’t that cheap but it makes enough for leftovers.

Time Factor : EXCELLENT. Full prep and cooking in under 30 minutes!

Complexity : LOW. Very easy, would be one big kids could make or tired frazzled mummies.

Deliciousness : MODERATE. Tasty warming curry. Perfect for a cold wintery night.

Mess : LOW. Curry pot and rice pot. Save yourself dealing with a raw chicken chopping board and buy the presliced chicken.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Protein, carbs and some veg on the side.

Possum Friendly? YES. She ate all of it!!!!!! A rarity at the moment. Turns out she really enjoys green peas.

Would I make it again? Yes, probably after a busy day.

***no photo tonight, technology doesn’t want to cooperate***

Cooking for an invisible crowd

I come from a long line of “feeders”. Come to my house and I will feed you. Feeling down? Let me feed you. Having a baby? Let me feed you! A bit bored? Pick me! I will feed you!

Sometimes though my need to feed turns into cooking a heck of alot of food and then searching for someone to feed. Doesn’t always work. Turns out most of our friends can feed themselves…

Yesterday I cooked two chickens and enough potato bake to feed a football team. Why two chickens? Because one looked so lonely in the slow cooker. And why the massive potato bake? I had a litre of cream that was in need of using up before turning to sour cream. I was hopeful that Possum would eat some chicken as it’s the only meat she’s eating at the moment. And I figured she should love potato bake, I mean, who doesn’t? Turns out she hardly ate any chicken. But she did eat a piece of carrot and a piece of potato out of the potato bake! Woo! Small wins for this fussy little fuss pot. Serve her the same thing today though and wouldn’t touch it. Go figure.

The potato bake is a stupidly easy and delicious combination. The recipe is thanks to one of my mothers group lovely mummies, thankyou Kirsty!! To make it simply combine 4 potatoes, a sweet potato and an onion chopped with some dried mixed herbs, 1 litre of cream and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Chuck it all in the oven for 1 hour. Put some grated cheese on top and then back in the oven for another 30 minutes. Voila!

The chickens were also crazy easy. But it did involve skinning them….. ewww. I nearly dropped some chicken skin on Possum’s head. Mega ewwwww. To make the chicken simply place a large chook or two small ones in the slow cooker. Mix together some garlic, ginger, soy sauce, BBQ sauce, worstechire sauce, apple sider vinegar and honey. Pour over the chooks and then cook on low for 6 hours. When they are done the whole bird will literally fall apart. I tried lifting them out with tongs only to be left holding a single bone.

Slow Cooked Chicken and Potato Bake

Affordability : Moderate. Two small free range chooks cost me about $15. The cream was the other semi costly item. But the number of serves you get is hefty!

Time Factor : MODERATE. Took a few minutes to skin the chooks (shudder…) but once everything and prepped then it’s just a matter of time to wait til it’s all done.

Complexity : LOW. Super easy.

Deliciousness : MODERATE. Good simple comfort food for winter. The chicken is tasty but nothing amazing. The potato bake on the other hand is mmm mmm mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Mess : LOW. Just your slow cooker and a bit pot for the bake. We also microwaved a few green veg to have on the side too.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Complex carbs, protein, veg and fat. Yum!

Possum Friendly? YES. Lovely soft meat which is easy for bubs to chew, plus the bonus of leg bones to gnaw on. The potato bake has easy to hold pieces and you can picke and choose which veg to throw in. I added a carrot and a parsnip.

Would I make it again? Potato bake, certainly. The chicken, will probably not cook a whole chook in the cooker in a hurry. Legoman wasn’t too keen about picking out all the tiny bones.

Potato Bake

Potato Bake

A Table For One

After putting Possum to bed tonight I did a quick weather check, you know, to see if it might snow. No snow forecast but it did say that the apparent temperature was -7!!! If that’s not deserving of a good dump of snow I don’t know what is! It is definitely deserving of a toasty wood fire. Living up here in the Blue Mountains has meant I am pretty nifty with the ol’ fire building. No firestarters here! I’m also very fortunate to be living across from bush where there is no shortage of kindling and fallen branches to get the fire started. Legoman has introduced me to a very cool little flick saw, which means I don’t have to risk breaking a leg trying to jump on branches to break them either! Huzzah!
Alas, the amazing fire couldn’t be shared for dinner. Legoman needed to work late and I had used up all my enthusiasm making a cranking fire. So instead of serving myself up some salmon as was planned tonight, I grabbed a couple of lentil burgers out of the freezer and dished them up with mango chutney, yoghurt and a few lettuce leaves. Simple but pretty darn tasty!

Lazy Lentil Burgers

Lazy Lentil Burgers

Lazy Lentil Burger For One

Affordability : Moderate. No more than $5 for the serve. I did buy the frozen Lentil Burgers (from the Frozen Vegan/Vegetarian section at the supermarket) when they were on special.

Time Factor : EXCELLENT. Dinner ready to eat in 10 minutes.

Complexity : LOW. Take patties out of freezer box, put in oven. Tricky.

Deliciousness : MODERATE – EXCELLENT. Maybe I was just super hungry but this really hit the spot!

Mess : LOW. All I used was a roasting tray in the oven and a plate to eat off. Oh and a fork and knife…

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Comfortably full.

Possum Friendly? YES. If she wasn’t being so fussy at the moment I would offer her something like this for dinner. She had her usual pile of mushrooms with some pasta and green peas instead. But burgers and patties make for a perfect baby led weaning meal or snack. This particular brand (Syndian) contains no scarey ingredients so I would feel quite comfortable serving these for the whole family.

Would I make it again? Indeedy!

Giant Snowflakes!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love snow 🙂

I really truly do. Ask Legoman and he will tell you I turn into a crazy lady as soon as it starts to snow. And it’s snowed twice this week!!!! TWICE!!! 😀

Today started with beautiful wintery bright blue skies and by the afternoon big fat juicy snowflakes were coming down all around!! Possum and I sat by the back door to watch them for however long it was that they fell for. Bliss 🙂

I’m hoping this is a good sign of even more snow to come this winter. Fingers and toes are crossed.

I love snow 🙂

Anyhoo, food… Tonight I made a pasta dish with an actual recipe. Highly unusual behaviour. Normally it is grab whatever is going funky in the fridge, combine with tinned tomatoes and loads of garlic. And if it tastes… interesting, then you can smother it in cheese. But tonight I thought I would challenge my pasta making abilities with Lamb, Bean and Pea pasta from Cuisine Magazine. It seemed like a good way to hide little bite size pieces of meat, legume and vegetable so that our newly fussy toddler actually gets some nutrients into her apart from grapes and mushrooms (her two food obsessions at the moment).

Turns out her vegetable seeking abilities are better than an over enthusiastic sniffer dog and her oral dexterity means she can eat the pasta whilst spitting out any meat, veg or legume you’ve tried to hide in said pasta. Quite amazing really. Leaves tying a jelly snake in a knot for dead if you ask me. Though the win for tonight were the green peas. After a bit of coaxing and being force fed green peas by Possum, she finally thought she would try one for herself. The usual face squirm was the initial response followed by about 20 peas being individually shovelled (can you shovel a single green pea??) into her mouth. Hurray!! She ate multiple green things!!!

She also ate two mouthfuls of some Chicken (and cannellini bean and sweet potato) nuggets I also made today. All that effort for two bites. She has to be the only person who can walk away from Panko breadcrumbs. Seriously.

In other news, I have managed to get Possum up on my back using our woven wrap twice today! And she stayed put, no sliding out the bottom!! I honestly don’t know what I would do without baby wearing. You can get so much more done and bub is happy to be part of whatever it is you need to do. Win Win. If you want to have a look at some great wraps, check out this local business… Frangipani Baby.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry

Affordability : EXCELLENT. Makes use of pantry and freezer staples with the help of a handful of homegrown mint (one of the few things I can successfully grow).

Time Factor : EXCELLENT. Dinner ready in 20 minutes. The only chopping you have to do is one garlic clove and a handful of mint leaves. Super easy!

Complexity : LOW. Even easier than spag bol!

Deliciousness : LOW-MODERATE. I wasn’t a huge fan but Legoman liked it. Possum liked the peas, which made me happy. The pine nuts are a must (I left them off of Possum’s serve).

Mess : LOW. Two saucepans. Done.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Carbs, meat and legumes. Makes for a full belly.

Possum Friendly? YES. The ingredients for this pasta dish makes it perfect for Baby Led Weaning, particularly once they have established or want to practice their pincer grasp.

Would I make it again? Probably not. Green peas can go in many other dishes.

And to sign off, here is a little cuteness to brighten your day. My little garden gnome.

Photo: My little garden gnome :-)

Brrrrrrrrrr

Winter has well and truly settled into our beautiful Blue Mountains. The mornings are crisp and frosty. My drive to work has to be one of the most beautiful in the world! I meander down Mt Vic pass with amazing cliff lines pushing up from a blanket of mist. The days are bright and sunny, perfect for getting out and about, with the air leaving cheeks rosy and noses runny.

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It’s also the kind of weather to really get into comfort food! Every magazine cover seems to boast “Winter Warmers! Slow Cooked Wonders!”. I know they make me stop and have a flick through. One absolute dinner win has been a Vietnamese Chicken Curry done in my nifty slow cooker using chicken drumsticks (scored for $2.08 in the Quick Sale section at Woolies! Booya!).

The recipe is from the I Quit Sugar For Life cookbook (a great book with heaps of yummy recipes even if you keep eating sugar!). For a slow cooker recipe it took me a while to make. I mean days. First the chicken had to defrost out of the freezer. That took two days. Then I made the marinade and let the chook sit overnight. Then a slow afternoon of cooking. But boy was the flavour worth it! Absolutely my favourite slow cooker recipe so far! It’s the lemongrass in it that’s the real winner so don’t try to cut corners and leave it out. Served over a bed of yummy rice, it’s a belly warming winter wonder.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry

Affordability : Moderate. Once you buy your meat, curry paste, coconut milk and lemongrass the cost starts to climb but you do get heaps of leftovers. Look out for chicken on quick sale and keep in the freezer until it’s needed. Drumsticks or lovely legs are both ideal for this!

Time Factor : MODERATE. Took a little while to make the marinade, plus I let it marinate overnight though you could marinate in the morning and get it all cooking at lunch time ready for 5pm dinner.

Complexity : LOW. As long as you can mix things together in a slow cooker you’ll be fine.

Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. Yummy yum yum yum. Mmmmmmmmmmmm mmm.

Mess : MODERATE. A bowl to marinate the chicken, plus a chopping board and your slow cooker. Oh and a rice pot.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Sweet potato, carrot, meat and rice make me a happy and full.

Possum Friendly? YES. Possum loves eating meat off the bone, especially chicken. So this was a clear winner for her! She wasn’t crash hot on the vegetables though, but i served her a side of her favourite thing… mushrooms.

Would I make it again? Yup! You betcha!

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An Effort to Flavour Ratio Dilemma

After spending a fair bit of time and nearly all my saucepans to make tonight’s dinner, the resulting meal was lacking in the flavour department. Which led me hypothesise an Effort to Flavour Ratio. For example, a bowl of cornflakes. Low in effort, relatively high in flavour. Women’s Weekly Pastitsio, high in effort, unexpectedly low in flavour. Who thought that a big casserole dish full of pasta, meat and cheese could be so boring! It smelt deceptively delicious too! The salt and pepper shakes were called to perform tonight. The raw pieces of zucchini on my plate seemed exciting in comparison.

On the upside, whilst making this fairly flavourless meal, I got to use a nifty kitchen gadget; a silicon sauce whisk. This was a Christmas present. At the time I wasn’t quite sure how I’d use it, but the few times I have needed to whisk a hot sauce, it has been amazing. The recipe tonight called for a white sauce. Quintessential Australian fare. Not something I remember having much of growing up. Very easy to get lumps, but not with my trusty whisk! Not need to smooth the top of the sauce before baking, it smoothed itself!

No photo sorry (I keep forgetting!) plus I can’t find the actual recipe I used on the internet. It was from the big Women’s Weekly cookbook called “Cook”. There are a few other recipes online that look like they’d promise way more flavour, with things like garlic and herbs in them. My Pastitsio turned out like something you’d find at grandma’s house for a special occasion. Except it wouldn’t be at my grandma’s, she can’t have onion.

Pastitsio

Affordability : Moderate. Has a lot of meat, milk, eggs and cheese. The anti-vegan meal to balance out the vegan chocolate mousse from the other day.

Time Factor : MODERATE. Allow close to an hour to get the meal in the oven. Then another hour in the oven.

Complexity : MODERATE. Lots of dishes, lots of bits to bring together. Not much return for effort investment.

Deliciousness : LOW MODERATE. Not bad. But not good either.

Mess : HIGH. Very glad I started with a clean kitchen before making this dinner. 3 saucepans plus a large frypan plus a baking dish plus a pasta strainer plus a chopping board plus utensils.

Tummy Filling Factor : MODERATE. Was full for a fair chunk of time.

Possum Friendly? YES. But the white sauce will be super messy! I offered her some plain pasta while I was cooking but it just ended up being flung over the side of the high chair.

Would I make it again? No. There are other meals to be made.