One Pot Meals

I am all about quick and easy meals at the moment. With a five month old things need to be fast so I can spend my time with her and meeting her needs. So for me the best kind of cooking is the one pot meal. Less dishes, less mess, and so delicious!

A couple of examples. The stir fry – what an amazing meal – jam packed with heaps of vegetables and protein and lots of flavour. And the best thing about it is you can change it up so easily depending on the meat you use or the veggies. Add udon noodles for something different (or use another pot -I know so bad of me to make rice). And the sauce options – well it’s endless, teriyaki, pad thai, peanut sauce, sweet and sour the list goes on and on. One of my favourite things to do as well is add nuts to give it a bit of crunch and different texture.

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Teriyaki Beef Stir Fry with broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum and corn
Easiest way to make a good stir fry, is to get a good pan, and heat it up so it’s nice and hot add a tablespoon of whichever oil you are choosing to use (I like to use Olive Oil or Avocado oil) and brown off your meat. Once you have sealed your meat, add the vegetables to cook in the juices, and they can start to soak up some of the flavour from your meat. Once everything is mostly cooked add your sauce choice and let the meal simmer for a bit on the stove so everything blends nicely together. Finally add your noddles and once they are cooked (which doesn’t take long -maybe five minutes) you are ready to serve up and eat. Delicious!

Another one pot meal I love is a ‘Broccoli, Bacon, and Kumara Salad’. So delicious. Take one kumara and cute it up into cubes. Put this in a pan with the tiniest bit of olive oil and into the oven for 10 minutes (at 180). While this is started to cook, chop up your broccoli and pull out some bacon (5-6 rashers depending on how many you are cooking for and how much you love bacon!) Once the kumara has been in for about 10 minutes pull out the pan and add your broccoli and then cover with the bacon rashers. Back into the oven for 15-20 minutes until everything is roasted up. I like to throw it on grill at the end to crisp up the bacon a bit more. Serve with fresh tomatoes and feta. No need for a dressing it is chock full of flavour already! You can vary this recipe by using different vegetables try it with some roasted capsicum or add spinach for a more leafy green experience. Roasted kale is also a great addition. Stick with what’s in season if you can and even better if you can pull it from your garden. NYFG0055Enjoy your meals and see if you can come up with any other one pot meals that are quick and easy and chock full of flavour that the whole family will love!

The unexpected lunch guest

I love having people come by for a couple of reasons, a) I’m a really social person and looooove to talk, and b) being a stay at home mum it’s really nice to have some adult company once in awhile and have a conversation that isn’t just jibberish (I love baby gagas but I still need to talk). So I’m posing this question to you my readers – what do you make for your unexpected or late-notice lunch guests?

I was lucky enough to know last night when our stock agent invited himself over for lunch today. I still had enough time to think of something easy but delicious to make which included crumbed chicken, a green salad, and a sweet chili rice salad with roasted cashews. But even then I didn’t have all the ingredients and sent the other half out to the grocery store this morning to grab a few things (a luxury at the moment because he has the week off of work -but that will not always be the case). It was delicious and everyone loved it, even Pop enjoyed his lunch and he is a pretty simple eater.

So that got me thinking – I need to have some go to meals that are quick and easy on hand for the unexpected lunch guest. Rice salads are always easy – we always have rice in the house and even just a little bit of sweet chili sauce will spice things up quite nicely. Bacon and egg pie is also usually a big hit around here – although I need to make sure my eggs are stocked up and running down to the neighbours to get some from her chooks does not always work out. May need to invest in some of my own chooks in the near future. But I am honestly at a loss of some quick, easy and delicious lunches? Help me out people -hit me with what you would serve up at your country kitchen…

 

Coffee or Tea? Both, in the Garden Please

I love coffee! Let’s just get that out of the way – I love that morning hit and pick me up…and to make things even better my lovely partner bought me an espresso machine for Christmas! Yay! Now I can make an amazing latte, for breakfast! No better way to start the morning. IMG_8899.JPGBUT, the environmentalist in me cringes a bit every time I make one. I think of all of those little capsules, not being recycled and ending up straight into the landfills. Not good at all for anyone. But I have figured a few things out, and make my morning habit a little less harmful. First of all, the machine I have is a Nespresso. Amazing coffee and company for a number of reasons. By 2020, Nespresso will sustainably source 100% of its permanent Grand Cru range (the range I use), so you know your coffee is coming from a healthy and well looked after source and work force. It’s important to know that it is sustainably managed right from the beginning. Secondly, Nespresso also recycles their capsules, making them into new capsules again, thereby reducing the impact of continually producing aluminum. You just simply have to drop them off at the closest center. In other words, the company is making steps forward to make a difference for the environment.

However, talking about the company is not the reason for my post. Shocking I know. Rather I want to share how amazing coffee grounds and tea leaves are for your garden and how you can start making small changes at home to help out with your garden. Composting with coffee and tea is a great way to make use of something that would otherwise fill up landfills. Coffee and tea add nitrogen to your compost pile. There are a number of ways you can use it, one by adding to your pile, or it can be added directly to soil as fertilizer for your plants. Coffee grounds add organic material to your soil, which improves drainage, water retention and aeration in the soil, just add it in around your plants.  I like to add it to the compost pile as I find it helps to break down the other organic materials and the worms love it! Moist tea leaves added to the compost bin increase the speed with which your pile decomposes as well. Most tea bags are compostable, but 20-30% may be made of polyproplene, which will not decompose. These will feel slippery to the touch and have a heated sealed edge. Still fine to use in the compost bin, just know that you will be pulling out tea bags later on.

So what does this have to do with the espresso capsules. Well it’s actually quite easy to get the grounds out of the capsules and make use of them in your own garden. I maybe spend 10 minutes a week on this and provide my garden and compost heap with the extra boost it needs. Simply cut the top open in a cross with a knife and scrape out the grounds into a bowl or your bin. And then of course store your emptied capsules until you are able to drop them off at a recycling center which accepts them. Easy peesy and you’ll probably feel pretty good about lessening your ecological footprint as well. And obviously espresso capsules are not the only coffee people drink – so any grounds are great to be used in the garden or compost bin. Your plants will love it!

Coffee grounds can also be used for:

  • Mulch for plants
  • Keep slugs and snails away
  • Some say it is a cat repellent (I use lemon balm herb for this planted among the vegetables)
  • Worm food for vermicomposting

Just remember that if we all do these little things, it will make a huge difference in the end. So enjoy your morning coffee or tea without the guilt, and keep your garden ticking away happily.

A little kitchen DIY

So to be honest…I HATE my kitchen. I know hate is a strong word, but I have never liked it since we bought the house, but there is not much we can do about it short of spending thousands of dollars to renovate, and considering we would like to re-build one day, it just does not make sense. So until we win the lottery I am stuck with my very small gully kitchen. I mean it does the job, it’s just small, narrow and is difficult with more than one person in it. But enough about me venting about my kitchen…here’s what I did to give it a bit more character and make me like it a little bit more.

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Before we shifted in

The kitchen is grey – everything is grey, cupboards and shelves…it was just very blah.  So I decided to paint out three of our cupboards using chalkboard paint. This stuff is awesome. Turn any surface into a chalkboard, not only very cool, but practical in a kitchen for recipes, lists, inspiration, reminders…it goes on and on. And I know the kids will love it one day.

So easy to use and for less than $30NZD I gave my kitchen the face lift it needed, for now. Be sure when you are using chalkboard paint to follow all instructions and paint in a well-ventilated area. I chose to be outside due to the gorgeous weather and had no problems with smell or fumes. Make sure the surface you are painting is clean and free from dirt – it is best to use a primer, especially if the material is a porous type. As the cupboard doors were already painted I did not need to prime and just ensured they were clean from kitchen grease and grime. FullSizeRender-5FullSizeRender-4

 

 

 
I grabbed a small roller and tray and covered the surface evenly with the paint. It will need two coats, but allow at least 2 hours of drying time in between. IMG_8876This makes sure you have a nice clean surface in the end. The actual painting took me no time at all, 15 minutes maybe. Super easy. It’s the drying time that takes forever, or so it seems. The paint goes on really smoothly and did not leave sticky air bubbles as some other paint sometimes does. Be sure to use a roller though so you do not get brush marks on your finished product. Once the doors were painted with two coats, I left them over night to cure and be completely dry before putting them back up. The final step is prepping them as chalkboards. You need to wait 48 hours for this step to ensure the paint is completely cured. When ready to use take a piece of chalk and completely cover the boards with it – just use the flat side and shade it on. Then take a damp cloth and wipe to remove. This will help to ensure that your first chalk writings do not stay permanently on the paint – a very important step! Now you are good to go and make use of your amazing creation.

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A much needed make over gives the whole kitchen a lift with chalkboard paint.

This paint is water based and safe for kids to use as well, so get your crafty thinking caps on and think of some amazing DIY projects you can do with the kids at home. Have fun!

 

Licking the Spoon…

One of the best things about baking all day in the kitchen is getting to lick the spoon! Or at least I think so. Unfortunately that has been put on hold for the last nine months, due to the use of raw egg in baking – a big bad no no for little bubs. But believe you me once I do my first round of baking after bubs is born I will be indulging in the necessary act of licking the spoon.

But for the real reason of this post – more baking and another great recipe. At the moment I am loving the combination of pumpkin and chocolate! Divine! Honestly I know some of my friends will cringe at the thought of pumpkin (especially since I cannot get enough of the ‘fake’ pumpkin spice latte -although not available in NZ). But honestly from biscuits to muffins, nothing beats a combination like pumpkin, chocolate and spices, and the beautiful aroma it creates in your house when baking. Mmmmm. So good.

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So out of my beloved and trusted recipe book came this beauty of a recipe for Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Muffins.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 50g melted butter
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (do the real stuff don’t cheap out and use the can – not as good)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of golden syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • Pumpkin seeds for topping

Method

Preheat oven to 200 C. Grease muffin tins.
Mix flour with baking powder and pumpkin spice. Add brown sugar and chocolate chips.
Beat together butter, pumpkin, egg and golden syrup. Mix baking soda with milk and add to wet ingredients. Fold the wet mix into the dry mix and spoon into muffin tins. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on the top.
Bake for about 15min

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*If making your own pumpkin puree the easiest way I find is as follows. Halve your pumpkin and take out the seeds and ‘guts’ (add that to your compost heap). Wrap the pumpkin in tin foil and put on a try and bake in the oven at 165C for about an hour or until soft and your can easily put a fork through. Scrape away the flesh of the pumpkin from the shell and puree in food processor. Easy as. And way healthier without all the added preservatives.  Half a pumpkin makes about 2cups of pumpkin puree depending on the size

Enjoy!

Curried Kumara Soup

It was a relatively chilly day here in Central Otago, especially for it being the middle of summer. And nothing warms the soul better on a chilly and cloudy day then a nice warm bowl of soup. And for me this particular recipe is a bit of comfort food and having had an emotional day yesterday I was in need of a pick me up. It also helped that I needed to use up some cream in the fridge before it expired, so Curried Kumara Soup it was! (For those of you who do not know what a kumara is, it is a form of sweet potato)

This is thick, rich creamy and delicious soup that everyone will love, and you can adjust the ‘heat’ according to your liking. If you like it spicier, add more curry, if you prefer it on the mild side add less. You choose. It’s your taste buds after all. This is also probably one of the easiest soups you will ever make and it does not take hours of simmering and festering away. You can brew it up and serve easily for tea (takes about 1 hour).

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Curried Kumara Soup

Curried Kumara Soup

  • 75g buter
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 1 tsp curry powder (I like to use more to give it a good kick)
  • 500 g Kumara – peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken stock (can use vegetable stock if you want to make it completely vegetarian -both work equally well)
  • About 3 cups of milk
  • 1/4 cup of cream

Method

  • Melt butter in a large saucepan, add crushed garlic and curry powder
  • Add Kumara (peeled and sliced) and cook in butter for 1-2min
  • Add stock, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes
  • Puree in sauce pan, thinning with milk. Add the cream and reheat without boiling. Try to remove all the lumps.
  • Serve with bread (naan is good if you want to stick with Indian theme, I made foccacia today – but any bread is good – so choose your favourite and go with it)

*I tripled the recipe today so I could put some in the freezer for later when bubs arrives.

Enjoy!

Fresh From the Garden

There is nothing better than walking out to the garden and picking up everything you need for tea that night. A beautiful cauliflower, some potatoes, lettuce, peas, carrots and the list goes on and on. Most backyard gardeners probably do not use pesticides or herbicides, but if you do you for sure need to be washing your fruit prior to eating. If not I would still suggest rinsing and ensuring you are free and clear of all bugs. Nothing worse than diving into dinner and having a bite of cauliflower with a side of earwig…yummy! (Earwigs have got to be the most disgusting insects…I’m sorry I just can’t handle them and they thrive in floral vegetables as there are so many nooks and crannies they can hide in).

So the ‘lovely’ earwig is actually what inspired my post. I pulled a IMG_8699stunning cauliflower from the garden today to roast up for dinner tonight and once I got cutting it up out come the ear wigs – not heaps just a few but enough to make me cringe. So how do you ensure you are free of the little pests before cooking? Not all vegetables follow the same cleaning process…so I thought I would share some of my tricks and hacks for this.

Cleaning your garden vegetables naturally

Before cleaning your vegetables, make sure your hands are clean -using soap and water and washing for about 20 seconds. Also make sure your work space that you will be using is cleaning to avoid cross-contamination with meat and other fruit/vegetables for example, leafy greens, berries and root vegetables should not be prepared together. Clean cutting boards and knives are best to use. Really the point of washing is to make sure all visible dirt is removed and any pesky insects have disappeared.

Floral Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke) – soak in a clean bowl with cool water and lemon juice for 2 minutes. Rinse after soaking with cool water.

Root Vegetables (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot etc) -you can use a scrub brush or just your hands cleaning off all visible dirt from the vegetable.

Leafy Vegetables (lettuce, spinach, kale etc) -remove the outside layer and rinse under cool water – again removing all visible dirt (no more than 2 minutes) -you will want to dry these before eating as well. I use the ‘tea towel whip’ method. Grab a clean tea towel – put lettuce on it for example – head outside and ‘whip it, whip it real good’, back and forth so majority of the water is removed from the leaves.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peas and peppers just need a quick rinse under cool water.

IMG_8740If you are ever in doubt with your fruits or vegetables and are unsure or just want the extra clean – a little lemon juice and distilled vinegar with water is a great natural cleaner. (Although I would not suggest on using on berries)

Now back to my roasted cauliflower which is working away in the oven – yum, yum…a little bit of olive oil, Parmesan cheese and garlic scapes. Delicious!

 

 

Mmmmm Muffins

So probably one of my favourite things to bake is muffins. I have no idea why – I just love them and of course the variety. You could pretty much make anything you ever wanted. One of my old trusted and true recipes is Carrot Pineapple Muffins. So delicious and fresh and even better when my partner loves them too.

Carrot Pineapple Muffins

  • 1 cup white sugar (I use raw sugar)
  • 2/3 cup cooking oil
  • 2 eggs, beate
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (I use wholewheat)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking sodea
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (I like a bit more)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup carrot, finely grated
  • 1 cup, pineapple, drianed
  • Add chopped nuts if desired

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Preheat oven to 375F (180-190C)
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In beater bowl, combine sugar, oil and beaten eggs. Don’t forget to drain your pineapple at this stage so you can use it later on. In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, and mix well.

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Add dry ingredients to the sugar and oil mixture and stir to moisten. Add grated carrots, pineapple and vanilla. Mix in – but be sure not to over mix.Fill greased muffin cups to the top and bake for 20 min (or until brown).

This makes more than a dozen muffins. I like to double the recipe and put in the freezer as they are great reheated and used for lunches or snacks.

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Happy Baking!

Freezer Meals

I am not usually one who will spend a whole day in the kitchen and cook and bake heaps of meals to throw in the freezer for another day. But on Monday this past week that is exactly what I did! I am 35 weeks pregnant with my first child, and anyone who knows me knows I like to be organised and prepared for things (well in this case, as much as I can be prepared for this life changing step). And no I’m not ‘nesting’ – as some of my friends say – I don’t consider carefully planned and thought through cooking as nesting – at least not yet anyways. So after spending hours on Pinterest and reading all the books – one of the big things that popped out at me was make meals for the freezer to make life just a little bit easier when the time comes.

Off to the grocery store I went – purchased some of my ingredients, the rest I picked out of my own garden (more to come on that later) and spent a long day in the kitchen.

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Organised chaos in the kitchen

My best advice for getting this done – is have a plan! And make it organised chaos -what meals does your partner and family like? What meals can be in the oven cooking away while you are cooking others on the stove top? Do you have your favourite recipes which you know will freeze well? Once you have an idea of what you are going to cook and in what order it makes life so much easier. The other thing I cannot stress enough is have all your recipes readily available (if you need them) saves so much time looking on the Internet or your phone, or back in the recipe book you thought you tagged with a sticky note. And of course make sure you have all of the ingredients you will need in order to make each meal. There is nothing worse than getting half way through a recipe and realising you are missing a key element. Have more than you need on hand to ensure this doesn’t happen to you, especially milk and eggs. I had 3 dozen on the go for that day and went through 2 1/2 dozen.

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35 weeks pregnant and cooking up a storm in the kitchen

Now I won’t take credit for all of these recipes as they are not mine – but they are amazing!!! I have listed them below and included links to ones I found on the Internet. If you would like any of the other recipes please feel free to contact me and I will get them to you ASAP.

  1. Creamy Chicken and Quinoa Casserole -I used brown rice and quinoa, and mine has a bit more liquid at the moment but after being frozen and recooked this should turn into a nice thick casserole. (See Pinch of Yum Blog for more recipes)
  2. Spinach Lasagna -I used fresh spinach from my garden and added corn to give more veggie and colour to it. (See Pinch of Yum Blog for more recipes)
  3. Bacon and Egg Pies  -super easy to make – need a savoury pastry base – you can buy or make your own -I like making individual ones as it is easy for lunches and only need to take one out at time. Tomato relish or a relish of your liking on the base, line with bacon, add to whole eggs, sliced tomatoes and cracked pepper. All done! Now into the oven, about 35 minutes (less if you have the luxury of a fan bake oven – oh to dream)Be sure to grease the pans well so they pop out easily.
  4. Corn Fritters – take a lot of time to make especially when using a cafe sized recipe! Haha. Made 40 fritters but so yummy served with bacon and sour cream and a side salad.
  5. Pasta Bakes – also super easy – always pre-cook your meat – no need to pre-cook pasta as it will cook in the sauce just make sure they are completely covered, add a vege if you choose, and your favourite sauce and into the oven for about 35 minutes or until pasta is cooked. Top with cheese and I like to add bread crumbs for a bit of crispiness on the top.
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    The finished products (Starting in top left corner chicken pasta bake, mince and tomato pasta bake, spinach lasagna, bacon and egg pies, corn fritters, and chicken and rice/quinoa casserole)

    Be sure to let everything cool completely before wrapping up and putting it in the freezer. Might I also suggest labeling your meals as well just in case ‘hubby’ decides he is cooking one night. Adding instructions as to defrosting and re-heating might also be helpful. Enjoy!