Holy Hail Balls!

To people that say there’s no such thing as global warming, I yell a massive “BULLSHIT!”. These people must clearly live inside 24/7 in perfectly climate controlled surrounds, without windows. Because you cannot deny the crazy weather that is going on everywhere. Today in our cozy little mountains town, we had a glorious autumn morning, perfect for everyone to get out and remember the service men and women who have laid their lives on the line for our country (ANZAC day for those unfamiliar).

And then come early afternoon the heavens opened and dropped a truck load of hail! And I’m not talking a few minutes of tiny little ice blobs. I’m talking 30 minutes of 1cm-2cm sized chunks being pelted down from the heavens! Possum loves getting a bowl of hail to play with, so I popped a little tupperwear container out when it first started. Within a minute or two it was covered, literally in hail! I tried popping outside to go collect it for her and got pumelled so hard I ran back inside, grabbing a fist full of hail stones on the way. Possum very happily had a snow cone for afternoon tea (that tasted like gum leaves!).

The whole thing was mesmerizing, beautiful and a little off putting. The associated thunder and lightning was dramatic to say the least.

Amidst all of this I met with a doula today who amazingly braved the hail and crazy drivers to make it safely to my house to talk babies and birth. That is dedication!

Check out the pics of this crazy hail!

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To warm us up I concocted a delicious Pumpkin and Leek Oven Baked Millet Risotto…. but that is a post for another day 😉

Stay warm and safe everyone, and thank goodness for roofs over our heads and the peace we are given daily.

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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.

Fishy Friday #1

My lordy I am so over our weather at the moment. All I want is one whole day of sunshine. The reason? To dry our nappies! We have had rain for what feels like a hundred days in a row. I am over having 4 clothes drying racks up inside all day every day. I am over not being able to tell if Possum’s nappies are 100% dry. I miss the smells and crisp feeling of bringing towels inside after they have had a day of good Australian sun. I don’t like having to use a dryer so much. I was so hopeful this morning when we woke up to blue skies outside and beams of sunshine. After we gobbled breakfast the racks went outside. But after looking at the forecast for the day, back inside they came about an hour later when we had to leave the house. Bah! By the time we got home this afternoon it was raining, thundering and with mist so thick I had to slow down on the highway. Thankfully in the window of sunshine offered to us today, Possum and I headed to a Mums and Bubs exercise class held at a local park. I am going to be in a world of pain tomorrow!

But back to the food. We were planning fish and ratatouille tonight. But my day just didn’t have room for making something as time consuming as the recipe I had planned. So roast veg and leafy greens it was. I keep a bag of leafy greens in the fridge each week and try to add a handful to meals where there might be a bit of colour or veg lacking. Easy and I have found one which I like the taste of, not too many bitter greens.

The fish was flathead fillets cooked the way my mum does them. Simply shake the fish with some seasoned flour (I used spelt tonight, just because it was at the front of the cupboard). For seasoning I used turmeric, cumin salt and pepper (Possum’s version didn’t have salt). Fry the fillets in some oil (I used ghee) for a couple of minutes each side.

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I pulled some roast friendly veg out of the fridge and chucked them in the oven before Possum’s bath/bed routine so they were nicely done by the time we were ready to eat. I learnt the bottom of my oven is much hotter than the top (where the grill section is). Meant the carrots and pumpkin could cook at the same time without burning the carrots to a crisp.

Spiced Fish with Simple Roast Veg and Brown Rice/Barley

Affordability : MODERATE. Fresh fish will always be a little more pricey, but I think it’s worth it. It was still under $10 for enough for the 3 of us.
Time Factor : MODERATE. This was a dinner I could do in parts. Part 1 roast the veg. Part 2 put on the rice/barley. Part 3 cook the fish. Meals like this I find easiest to manage with a little one.
Complexity : LOW. Plenty of room for personal flair. To keep it even more simple you could just cook the fish as is, no seasoning. My roast veg were literally veg and oil. And I didn’t dress the greens.
Deliciousness : MODERATE. I found it tasty but learnt that Lego Man isn’t a fan of fish in general. The things you learn of the one you married!
Mess : MODERATE. Fry pan, saucepan and a couple of roasting trays. Instead of using a plastic bag to shake the fish (as my mum does) I used a large bowl and some tongs (didn’t feel like getting stinky fish hands two nights in a row).
Tummy Filling Factor : EXCELLENT. Pleasantly full and not feeling heavy.
Possum Friendly? YES. Possum really enjoyed the fish tonight. I roasted her some zucchini too which she tried. Will offer her some of the roast veg tomorrow.

Would I make it again? Probably at some point. Might try and find some simple and fast other ways of doing fish. Suggestions?

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A plan is a plan is a plan, Stan

Right, we are back on track….ish. We are in a new place, with piles of boxes to unpack, a kitchen for tall people and a bub who’s commando speed is similar to a slug. So with the few cookbooks I could find, I sat down and wrote my plan for this week.

SUNDAY/ cloudy, showers 19 

Roast Lamb and Veg with Bean Salad (Leon, Naturally Fast Food p.113)

MONDAY/ possible shower 19

Chicken Fajitas

TUESDAY/ partly cloudy 21

Chops, Sweet Potato Wedges and Spicy Moroccan Carrot Salad (Plenty p.14)

WEDNESDAY/ partly cloudy 24

Freezer Surprise or Leftover Challenge

THURSDAY/ shower or two 21

Paleo Salmon Cakes with salad

FRIDAY/ shower or two 20

Fish with Tamara’s Rataouille (Plenty pg 74)

SATURDAY / weather forecast not available yet…

Coconut Chicken and Petit Pois Curry (Leon, Naturally Fast Food p.97)

You probably noticed that I am using two cookbooks mainly this week. I love both of these books dearly. Looking through Plenty for the first time since having Possum, it might be a while before I can make alot of the stuff in it. It is a vegetable (not vegetarian) cookbook. And vegetables need good timing, something not always possible with a bubba. The Leon book is actually their second cookbook. The first is much better than the second in my opinion, but I love their styling and the recipes are no fuss real food, as is their store’s philosophy. If ever you make it to London, search out a Leon store, and pack me in your suitcase!

A moment to be a proud mummy. Tonight Possum had spag bol sauce for dinner. Not with a spoon. But with her own two hands. She ate a small bowl of the stuff. And the mess was so much less than expected! Hurray! My baby girl is growing up. Sigh. Smile.

With my own two hands

With my own two hands

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