Oven Baked Pumpkin, Leek and Millet Risotto

oven baked risotto

As a working mumma, my favourite part of my working day is coming home. And not because I’m getting to leave work (which some days I can’t wait to get out of there!), but because as soon as I step through our front door I hear… “Mummy’s home!!! It’s Mummy!! Hello Mummy!!” and have a little bundle of curls come running with her arms wide ready for a big cuddle. Not much can beat that. I have friends with bubs much younger who can’t crawl or talk or who are literally one week old and it’s like knowing that the awesome scene in a movie is coming up in a room of first time watchers. Smiling on the inside and the outside knowing that so much awesomeness is ahead for them.

How that relates to tonight’s recipe I have no idea. But to all you mums who may be having a hard time at the moment, the craziness will pass. The feeling overwhelmed isn’t forever. One day that little face is going to say “I love you Mummy” or you’ll be dancing together in the kitchen, shaking maraccas and trying hard not to cry at how freaking awesome being the mum to YOUR child is.

Now the feels are out… here is some warming autumn food to fill your belly with love.

Oven Baked Pumpkin, Leek and Millet Risotto – Serves 4

1/2 cup arborio rice

3/4 cup millet

500g piece of pumpkin peeled, deseeded and chopped into 1cm pieces

2 tsp dried mixed herbs

olive oil

salt and pepper

1 leek sliced into 1/2 rings and well rinsed

1 Tbsp butter

Zest 1/2 lemon

3/4 cup grated parmesan + extra for serving if desired

1L vegetable stock (I used 1.5 stock cubes to make this up)

Preheat oven to 200°C fan forced or 220°C conventional.

Place pumpkin, dried herbs, salt and pepper with a good glug of olive oil in a baking dish (you will use this dish to hold the whole risotto, I used a large pyrex baking dish). Stir to combine. Place in the oven to roast for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add leek, cook stirring until soft and golden ~ 5-8 minutes. Add rice and millet, stir to coat grains. Add hot stock. Bring to a simmer. Take off heat and stir in parmesan.

Add rice mixture to the roasting pumpkin. Stir to combine. Cover with foil and return to oven. Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes, then remove foil. Continue to bake for another 15 minutes, the excess liquid will soak up and the top will get just a little crunchy. Enjoy!

My little bundle of awesomeness xxxx

My little bundle of awesomeness xxxx

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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!

Bending the spine

I have a lot of cookbooks. Not enough. But a lot. I have cooked something out of 80% of them. But that still leaves a fair few that have been looked at, drooled over and then placed back on the shelf. Part of this whole meal planning thing was to help me get those books off the shelf, and put a crease or two in their spines. This week’s selection was “Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant“. It’s a vegetarian cookbook (from the vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant) which has a number of whole meal suggestions organised in cuisines. For example there is a Mexican menu, a Caribbean menu etc. It’s a no photo book, so you need to go by title and ingredients lists to get your belly rumbling. The benefit is, that it doesn’t age the same way food photos do. So you can’t tell how long the book has been sitting on my shelf for, phew!

My pick for our dinner was a Mexican Kettle Stew. A simple one dish wonder full of veggies and I added an extra 400g tin of 4 bean mix to plump it up a bit. Oh, and some capsicum.

Possum liked it and even ate some of the legumes. Legoman loved it and would eat it again. I loved how easy and tasty it was. Our vegetarian dinner guests gobbled it up too. As my Dad says… “it looks like everyone’s kicked a goal!”.

Kettle Stew with Rice

Affordability : Excellent. Loads of cheap veg and tinned staples.

Time Factor : MODERATE. Prep is super quick and easy but the potatoes do take a bit of time to cook thoroughly.

Complexity : LOW. I love a one dish meal like this. And very few steps.

Deliciousness : MODERATE. Anything with sour cream AND cheese must be delicious.

Mess : MINIMAL. One pot for the stew and one for the rice.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Everyone was very full afterwards, though I did go back for seconds.

Possum Friendly? YES. Especially good once bub has developed a pincer grasp as all the beans, chickpeas and corn provide plenty of practice!

Would I make it again? Yes, and will do before the cold months are over.

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.



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

Let the meat free games begin!

Day one of meat free week! Oh the buzz! The excitement! The anticipation! I must say, I had a lot of fun finding recipes for this week (thankyou Blue Mountains Natural Parents for your bevy of wonderful ideas, I really need to figure out how to print that thread!). I’m not sure which night I’m looking forward to the most… which one would you choose?

We have started on a good note. Hurray! Tonight’s Baked Cheese Ravioli with Broccoli and Spinach was a success. Lots of good noises from Legoman and he even thinks I should make it again (normally I just get a shrug of the shoulders when I ask). Personally I would’ve liked a bit more flavour in there, maybe in the form of anchovies. This was Possum’s first experience of ravioli and she loved it. She even started clapping after her first one! Was pretty darn cute. Wasn’t so cute when she wouldn’t eat any broccoli unless I tore it up into tiny little pieces. Poor thing is still sick though, so I’m just happy she ate.

Possum's Dinner

Possum’s Dinner

The fudgy choc-orange bars I made yesterday are super amazingly yum. Will be making those again for certain! Legoman ate his at work but didn’t want to tell anyone else about them in case they wanted some. A good sign 🙂 It was great being able to eat one of these instead of chocolate when the afternoon came around today. Much more satisfying too, and no yucky feeling like I sometimes get after eating sweets.

Leaning tower of choc fudgy goodness

Leaning tower of choc fudgy goodness

May the good food vibes continue!

Baked Cheese Ravioli with Broccoli and Spinach

Affordability : MODERATE – EXCELLENT. The ravioli cost $5 from the local fruit and veg. You could use any ravioli for this dish, a nice pumpkin one would be a winner (though would probably set you back around $10). Half a kilo of broccoli and some frozen spinach are nice and cheap and super healthy.

Time Factor : MODERATE. I thought this sounded quick, but took a bit longer than expected.

Complexity : MODERATE. I really should read a recipe right through before choosing to make it on a weeknight when I have a sick baby at home. This recipe has 22 steps. Yes, 22. After a while I just started staring blankly at my printed page. Thankfully Legoman came home and we finished cooking together. As they say on Sesame Street, things turn out better when we work together.

Deliciousness : MODERATE. Legoman’s comment… “You know what this needs? Bacon!”. And he’s right. Some kind of meaty saltiness would really boost this dish. I think anchovies would work better personally. We both really liked the browned cheesy bits on the top. Super tasty.

Mess : MODERATE – HIGH. I felt like this used many pans and bits and pieces. While it was in the oven, we got to work on the dishes. A frypan, a saucepan, a steamer insert, a baking tray, two graters, a whisk. Plus lots of renegade bits of broccoli and spinach sticking to everything.

Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Full as a tick.

Possum Friendly? YES. I didn’t bother trying to make the white sauce for Possum, instead I just stirred through a teaspoon of cream cheese with two pieces of ravioli (they are big ones) and some broccoli. Pretty tasty combo! You could save time and effort and do the same for the whole dish. Was hoping she would eat some more of the garlicky greens to help make her better, but she thought it was more fun dropping her broccoli over the side of the high chair.

Would I make it again? Yes, but would jazz it up a little bit.

Cheesy Baked Ravioli with Broccoli and Spinach

Cheesy Baked Ravioli with Broccoli and Spinach

And I just wanted to share with you this terrible photo of a stick insect. They are bloody hard to take a photo of on your phone!! Kind of looks like he photo bombed the picture!

Stick Man!

Stick Man!

Meal Plan 22/3 – 28/3 a Meat Free Week Special!!

This week I am attempting a meat free week for my little family, to raise awareness to how much we over consume meat and how easy and delicious it can be to cut down (or out). When I told Legoman what I was doing with our meals this week his first reaction was “I think I’m working late all week….”. Doubt he will be saying that after he sees what we are actually eating. Check out this for a delicious menu!! I’m hungry already!

MONDAY / shower or two 16

Baked Cheese Ravioli with Broccoli and Spinach

TUESDAY / a few showers 16

Space Curry

WEDNESDAY / shower or two 17

Veggie Fajitas

THURSDAY / shower or two 18

Cashew Curry

FRIDAY / shower or two 19

Frittata with toast and salad

SATURDAY / no weather forecast available

Pumpkin, Tomato and Lemon Baked Risotto

Tomorrow is my first alone shopping day in a couple of weeks and boy am I looking forward to it! Who would’ve thought grocery shopping could bring so much joy. I might even go and have a coffee. On. My. Own.

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!