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!

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Pop chop on top and a rare raw treat

Ah sweet Sunday. How I love you. Family day, time to myself day, cooking day. Why must there be only one of you in the week! It has been 2 weeks since I’ve got to do the grocery shopping on my own, so today was savoured. I went to a cafe and drank my coffee while it was still hot! And read some of the newspaper (which was so depressing I had to stop). I had the lovely man at the fruit and veg shop carry my shopping to my car. I ran into friends and could chat without getting distracted. Trust me, I love my daughter beyond words. But to have a few hours just to myself is something rare and wonderful. The best bit? Coming home and having Possum give me a huge smile and a big sloppy open mouth heavy breathing 10 month old kind of kiss.

The second best bit? Having Legoman home so the two of them can hang out while I plonk myself in the kitchen to make stuff! Hurray!

Our meat free week starts tomorrow, so I thought we could have a lamb stew as a final meat farewell. I even made the recipe up myself. And we lived to tell the tale! Double rainbow!

I also finally got around to using the medjool dates I bought 2 weeks ago to make my first “raw” sweet treat. I have seen so many recipes for sweets and snacks using fresh dates and a food processor lately. My poor little Possum is absolutely terrified by our food processor though (can’t blame her really, it sounds like you’ve got your head stuck in a jet engine). So my opportunity to use the darn thing is reserved to her awake time when Legoman is home to take out for a walk outside. Basically Sunday afternoons between 3 and 5pm. I didn’t get round to taking a picture before putting the yummies in the fridge, but i did get to have a taste test. Delicious! Will have to make something again next Sunday between the hours of 3 and 5pm!

Medjool Dates

Medjool Dates

I will take the time to write out the two recipes from today for you. I’m really happy with how the lamb turned out and would love for someone else to give it a go and see if it worked out well for you too! The sweet recipe is super tasty and worth sharing! Enjoy!

Lamb and Quince Stew, Serves 4

8 forequarter lamb chops, torn or cut into 3 pieces each

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 brown onions cut roughly

4 cloves of garlic chopped

3 carrots roughly diced

2 potatoes roughly chopped

1/2 sweet potato roughly chopped

1 quince, peeled and chopped

3 cups of stock and 2 cups of water (I used 1 cup of beef stock and 2 cups of vegetable stock)

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

ground pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees (celsius).
  2. In a large cast iron casserole pot, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium – high heat. Brown the meat in batches. Set aside.
  3. Turn down the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook for a minute until starting to soften. Then add carrot and garlic. Stir for another couple of minutes.
  4. Add your chopped vegetables and quince. Stir to mix.
  5. Add your meat, spices and stock. Stir to combine (as best as you can stir chops…). Put on the lid and place into the oven.
  6. Cook for 2 hours.
  7. Serve with rice, couscous or quinoa. I suggest steaming some vegetables for on the side.

Fudgy Choc-Orange Pistachio Bars, makes 16 squares (taken from Taste Magazine March 2014, p77)

500g fresh medjool dates, pitted, halved

35g (1/3 cup) raw cacao powder

60ml (1/4 cup) cocnut oil

2 Tbsp LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond meal)

1 1/2 Tbsp fresh orange juice

3 tsp finely grated orange rind (I used my microplane)

75g (1/2 cup) dried cranberries

80g packet pistachios, toasted, chopped

Raw cacao powder, extra, to dust

  1. Grease and line the base and sides of a 11 x 21 cm loaf pan, allowing the sides to overhang.
  2. Place the dates, cacao powder, coconut oil, LSA, orange juice and orange rind in a food processor and process until smooth and well combined (mine turned into a giant ball).
  3. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the cranberries and pistachio.
  4. Dust a little extra cacao powder over the base of the prepared pan. Spoon in date mixture and use a greased spatula (I found just my hands worked best) to smooth the surface.
  5. Place in fridge for 8 hours or overnight until firm. Remove from pan. Use a hot, dry knife to cut into squares (mixture will be sticky).

And now for the scale…

Lamb and Quince Stew

Affordability : MODERATE – EXCELLENT. In terms of meat dishes, stews are one of the most economical. They take advantage of lovely slow cooking cuts on the bone as well as combining with cheap veg like potatoes and sweet potato. Easy to feed a lot of people for not much. I picked up my chops on quick sale (I swear I have a special eye that can spot sale stickers from the car park). The 8 of them cost me $6.50. 

Time Factor : MODERATE. It does take a bit of time to chop everything and brown the meat. But once in the oven you can forget about it for 2 hours!

Complexity : LOW. Easy peasy. This would also work in a slow cooker if you have one. I’m not sure how to convert a recipe over to slow cooker use though.

Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. Not an overpowering flavour, but not dull or boring either. Just lovely.

Mess : MODERATE. Browning the meat does send off a fair bit of fat splatter. But that’s easy to clean up. Otherwise this is a lovely one dish wonder.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Some steamed veg and carbs on the side complete this dish nicely.

Possum Friendly? YES. Low in salt (none added apart from whatever is in the stock I used). Slow cooked meats and veg are perfect to offer bubs as they as soft and easy for them to digest. The veg also would’ve soaked up all the goodness that comes from cooking with bones. Highly nutritious. Just pull some meat off the bones as the chop bones are quite sharp.

Would I make it again? Yes, I think I will. Maybe even for guests!

Lamb and Quince Stew

Lamb and Quince Stew

Gluten Free Cauliflower Pizza

Gluten free is a label that doesn’t instil alot of confidence in what I’m about to eat. Especially when it’s a baked product, like a pizza base. But making the whole thing grain free, well there’s a novel concept which just makes me curious. I recently bought the I Quit Sugar For Life cookbook, it’s filled with some pretty awesome looking food. But this “pizza” caught my eye, which used cauliflower to make the pizza base. A friend had given this idea a test run a few months back but wasn’t impressed with the outcome. But I just had to try for myself.

The base is made by grating cauliflower (using a food processor or by hand) into “rice” which you then cook. This is then mixed with cheese and an egg then shaped and baked. The grating alone was a pretty satisfying experience. The texture of the cauliflower afterwards was quite unique. The smell of the base cooking was like cauliflower cheese.

Grated Cauliflower

Grated Cauliflower

The recipe in the book makes the pizza a Nicoise like pizza, with toppings of anchovies, tuna, egg, olives, capers, red onion and broccoli. The sauce is a mix of yoghurt and curry powder. It was a bit of a salt overload, and I thought it a bit OTT to see they suggest finishing off the pizza with a bit of salt and pepper. Either way, this is going in the mental bank of cool things to do with cauliflower (that list seems to get longer and longer!).

Voila!

Voila!

I also made a capsicum tabouleh to have on the side which was some fresh lemony relief from the salt of the “pizza”. I was way too full though to appreciate it. One to make another day. We have a great big lot of parsley growing in our garden, so an easy thing to make at the last minute. The recipe uses quinoa instead of cracked wheat. The one thing missing was some kind of onion, thankfully I always have spring onions in the fridge so I chopped one up and chucked it in. Just the right amount.

Capsicum Tabouleh

Capsicum Tabouleh

Gluten Free Cauliflower Pizza and Capsicum Tabouleh

Affordability : MODERATE. Cauliflower ain’t cheap at the moment! And thankfully I have a well stocked pantry/fridge with plenty of salty condiments.  To make this tonight I only had to buy the cauliflower and broccoli for the pizza and the capsicum for the salad.

Time Factor : MODERATE. If you didn’t have a baby this would be alot faster as you could just plonk yourself in the kitchen for the evening. I took my time and spread out the tasks through the afternoon. The base is a little time consuming with the grating, then cooking the cauliflower, shaping the base then baking the base for 30 minutes. Once baked and topped the pizza is then in the oven for around 10 minutes.

Complexity : MODERATE. Just a bit fiddly and a few steps initially. If you had bigger kids they could help with making the base or topping the pizza.

Deliciousness : EXCELLENT. Was really impressed with how this turned out. Just don’t expect normal pizza. It doesn’t really taste like pizza but it seriously is delicious. The edges of the crust especially. Lego man suggested we make them donut shaped next time to get maximum crust value. I will be suggesting this to my gluten free friends.

Mess : HIGH. As soon as a food processor is involved I just think mess as all of a sudden your sink is full of plastic bits and bobs. The cauliflower managed to wedge itself into the crevices on my food processor too, will need a blade to get it out…

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Oy, I’m so very very full. Afterwards I double checked the recipe and it said 4 small serves… but we ate it all…

Possum Friendly? YES. The base yes, the toppings tonight no. Way too much salt for anyone really! To make it Possum friendly a topping of broccoli, tuna and onion would suffice.

Would I make it again? Yes, gone into the mental bank.

Not So Nicoise Cauliflower Pizza

Not So Nicoise Cauliflower Pizza

Leftover Challenge #1

I am going to set a challenge for myself every now and again. To use up the leftovers in the fridge in a creative kind of way. Tonight is night one! I had high hopes and big plans. There was going to be the carrots from last night, with the roast lamb, and cous cous and currants, and tomato and garlic. And it was going to be magnificent! And Lego Man would rejoice at what a wonderful wife he had married who could do such amazing things with leftovers.

And then Possum’s bed time came. And took nearly an hour. And Lego Man was going to be stuck at work until really late.

So leftover challenge #1 for one. It had to be quick as my stomach was rumbling while sitting in with Possum. Once out of her room I started to think, but all I could think with was my tastebuds and my very hungry tummy.

The decision was made not to order every deep fried entree off the thai take away menu (as much as I would have gobbled it all up). Instead I would actually do the challenge. So I made an omelette. Not very original or exciting use for leftovers. I remember reading in Anthony Bourdain’s books “Kitchen Confidential” that you should never order the “omelette special” on a Monday, it is just the restaurant doing their own Leftover Challenge.

Omelettes always make me giggle after watching the TV series “Gavin and Stacey“. Apparently there is a drinking game where you have to take a shot every time you hear the word omelette.

My omelette had onion, roast lamb and potato in it. A bit heavy, so i had a big serve of leafy greens next to it. It was pretty tasty and tummy filling. Not a bad start. Though it did end up taking alot longer than I expected. Once again, I underestimated the time it takes to cook onions. Thankfully our fridge and cupboard have a variety of snack options that kept me going.

Roast Lamb and Potato Omelette

Affordability : EXCELLENT. A couple of eggs and some leftovers. Too easy.
Time Factor : MODERATE. Using spring onions instead of brown onions would’ve made this a heck of a lot faster.
Complexity : LOW. Everyone should know how to make an omelette. I use a cheap little fry pan from Ikea which works a treat. I cook the eggs on low until you notice the edges starting to cook. Then sprinkle with grated cheese and place under a hot grill for a few minutes. The top will puff up and brown nicely. Light fluffy omelette, ta dah!
Deliciousness : MODERATE. Filled a hungry belly and was tasty but nothing to make me go wow.
Mess : LOW. Chopping board, knife, frypan and cheese grater.
Tummy Filling Factor : MODERATE – EXCELLENT. Feeling nicely full but not entirely satisfied.
Possum Friendly? NO. Bubs apparently find digesting egg whites difficult, but egg yolk is a great baby food. Possum had an egg yolk and spinach pancake today at dinner (I used the remaining egg white in my omelette). I also am avoiding serving Possum dairy, so no cheese for Possum.

Would I make it again? Maybe. I will most certainly end up making an omelette again.Image

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.

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!