Sweet Chilli Chicken Soba Salad

Lately, I’ve really mixing things up when it comes to the ‘carb’ part of our meals. Brown rice and quinoa are undoubtedly the regulars, or polenta if I’ve made a stew, but when it comes to salads I often go with noodles!

On this particular occasion it was soba noodles that added some carbohydrate to our dinner. And given they only require a couple minutes cooking time, it’s no surprise that I find them handy to have in the pantry.

The salad itself was pretty easy to prepare too. I used some leftover shredded chicken – warmed up with a splash of soy sauce and a good amount of sweet chilli sauce. The salad was then built with crunchy lettuce, shredded carrot and cabbage, cucumber, snowpeas, coriander and some extra red chilli for a little heat. Basically whatever I had leftover in the fridge!

From thought to plate in under 15 minutes = winning!

What about you? Are you a fan of noodles in salad?

Grilled eggplant and lentil salad

I’m going through a bit of a phase.

An eggplant phase.

Yes not the normal sort of phase you might find yourself going through, but its a recent craving that I’ve been more than happy to satisfy.

I suspect it has something do with eggplant’s heartiness. It feels like it adds a bit of bulk to dishes – particularly when you are using it in place of meat, for example.

Take this salad, for instance. So simple to prepare, but quite easily a stand-alone meal (although it would almost certainly work as a tasty side dish too).

I thinly sliced the eggplant, and grilled the slices for 5 minutes or so until soft and golden. Then it was simply a matter of combining the eggplant slices with baby spinach, lentils, capsicum, cucumber and feta – and finishing the dish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

I’d give you a recipe – but there really is no more to it. Just lots of simple, fresh flavours – that come together to make a tasty meal.  Not to mention colourful!

Peach and balsamic honey pork salad

Winter continues, as does our preference for hearty meals at dinnertime to warm us from the inside out. But I came across photos of this salad we made a while back, presumably when the temperatures were a little kinder, and I couldn’t resist sharing it.

A peach and balsamic honey pork salad.

And while I’m conscious that stone fruit is not readily available at the moment, I figure that by adding it to my recipe page it will serve as a good reminder to make the salad  again when peaches and nectarines come into season.

I must say, I’m quite the fan of using fruit in salads. The sweetness of the peaches worked beautifully on this particular occasion – with the slight tartness of the balsamic dressing. It turned out to be a lovely dinner, and would also make a delicious lunch if you had the time.

Peach and balsamic honey pork salad (serves 2)

  • 2 slices sourdough, torn
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 200g pork fillet
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • mixed lettuce leaves (I used baby spinach and rocket)
  • 100g mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 peach, cut into wedges
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Place sourdough on lined baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Set aside.
  2. Combine honey and vinegar, and set aside.
  3. Season pork and spray with a little oil. Pan-fry for 6 minutes or so, turning, until browned. Transfer to an oven-proof dish, and roast for 8 minutes then pour over the honey and balsamic vinegar and cook for a further few minutes. Remove from oven, and rest in foil for 5 minutes. Slice.
  4. Arrange the salad leaves, tomatoes and peach on two serving plates. Add the sliced pork and toasted sourdough, and drizzle with the pan juices.

Our “Eat the Freezer” Week

Over the last weeks months year, our freezer has become a receptacle for quite the manner of things. A bit of this, and a bit of that, hidden within the icy depths.  And while the additions are always placed there with good intention, generally when we have leftovers or something that is about to shortly expire, I don’t tend to keep an eye on what we have placed inside. Meaning a lot inevitably gets thrown out in a year’s time.

But not this time. For I was determined to use up what we could from the freezer before adding anything new. I did have to throw some items away (apparently I am an expired puff pastry hoarder from way back??), but I was pleased to be able to pull together a weekly meal plan recently that used up some of the bigger items just nicely.

Day 1 – Leftover Calzone

We made batch of spinach and feta calzone a month or so ago, and I forgot to halve the recipe.

So I froze the (cooked) leftover pastries, and after 30 minutes or so in the oven they reheated beautifully. Topped with some passata and grated mozzarella – and baked for an extra few minutes, then served with a side salad.

Day 2 – Teriyaki Chicken Bowls

Not only did this dinner use up some leftover chicken thighs I had in the freezer, it also used up a little portion of ramen noodles that I had in the pantry.

And while I know that ramen noodles are traditionally used in soups, I went with a noodle / salad bowl instead.

Chicken, grilled with a little teriyaki marinade, served with  the pre-cooked ramen noodles, carrot, grilled zucchini, greens, coriander and sesame seeds.

Day two….done!

Day 3 – Potato and Leek Soup

Yes, this nondescript tuppaware container held a quick and easy soup dinner for one when my husband was out for the evening.

Just reheat and eat. Served with a toasted English muffin (also from the freezer!!), one half topped with cheese and tomato, the other topped with ham and avocado.

Day 4 – Veal with Marsala Sauce

I was so pleased to find a use for these veal schnitzels that I were tucked away in the freezer.

Last time we crumbed them, but this time I went with something even simpler. Just defrosted and pan-fried, and topped with a marsala sauce (made simply with a good splash of marsala and cream, seasoned). Served alongside potato mash and steamed beans / zucchini.

Day 5 – Savoury Mince with roasted sweet potatoes

I found some portions of savoury mince hiding at the back of the freezer too, that were the perfect base for dinner on day 5. For the kids I used the mince in tacos, which were a big hit, as always.

While for the adults I added some extra spinach to the mince and used it as a topping for a roasted sweet potato. Drizzled with chilli sauce and served with a side salad.

Easy dinners all round!

Day 6 – Beef Massaman Curry

Since discovering that you could freeze roast meats, and that they reheat quite wonderfully, I’ve never looked back. It’s not unusual for us to have portions of roast beef or lamb in the freezer, or even some pulled pork after I’ve made a batch. Tonight’s inspiration came courtesy of one such portion – a portion of frozen roast beef.

I  defrosted the beef overnight, then reheated it gently in a frypan, before adding some store bought massaman curry sauce, zucchini and beans. Simmered until cooked through and the meat was back to its tender self. Served with brown rice, spinach and fresh coriander – and you’d never have guessed that the beef had been in the freezer only the day before!!.   

Day 7 – Chorizo Pizzas

We love these pizza bases, but they come in a packet of 4 (and we don’t always get around to finishing them all). They do, however, freeze wonderfully – and offer a quick and easy dinner at a later time. So day 7 saw us cooking up a couple pizzas – with the added bonus that we could also use  some chorizo that was tucked away in the freezer also.

 These pizzas ended up being a great way to finish off leftover veggies we had in the fridge too – zucchini, spinach, tomatoes and pineapple. All topped and ready to bake!

Day 8 – Souvlaki Bowls

I couldn’t resist adding an extra freezer-inspired meal to our meal plan, when I discovered half a packet of Lebanese bread in the freezer.

 On the menu? Souvlaki bowls! Filled with grilled lamb (that I had marinated in lemon, garlic and oregano), pearl couscous and roasted vegetable salad and greens.  Topped with some natural yoghurt and hummus and, of course, the Lebanese bread – which was perfect for dipping!

And so – our “Eat the Freezer” week came to a close – with our freezer looking  emptier (but happier!) after our efforts. While I’m determined to keep a better eye on things so we don’t get quite the stockpile in the future, I suspect there is also a very real likelihood that I will be doing a Part 2 to this series in 6 months’ time….

What about you? Do you have a favourite ‘freezer’ meal?

Spiced pork, pineapple and bean salad bowl

I think I need to start a salad bowl series. For with the warmer weather lingering on, salad bowls continue to make a regular appearance at dinner time.

The basis is generally the same – a protein, some sort of carbohydrate or other filler and, of course, lots of salad.

On this occasion, a spice-rubbed pork was the star of the show. A protein that I turn to quite often not only because it is quick to cook but its also nice and lean.

Beans added some filler, grilled pineapple gave the whole bowl a certain ‘zing’ and the rest of the bowl was filled with lots of salad and other goodies.

Another tasty addition to what’s fast becoming my salad bowl addiction!

Spiced pork, pineapple and bean salad bowl (serves 2)

  • 250g pork fillet
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 6 pineapple slices
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 small can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1tsp lime juice

To serve: coriander, avocado (diced), mesculin and shredded coleslaw (I bought a plain pre-cut bag, and added my own dressing of a little natural yoghurt and dijon mustard).

  1. Preheat oven to 200C and line a baking tray with paper.
  2. Combine oil and spices in a shallow bowl, then add pork – turning to coat. Allow to marinate for an hour or so if you have time.
  3. Place the pork fillet on teh tray and bake for 20 minutes or so or until cooked through. . Remove from oven. Transfer to a heatproof plate and cover with foil. Set aside for 5 minutes to rest.
  4. Meanwhile, sprinkle the pineapple slices with the brown sugar and grill until golden.
  5. To make the bean salad: combine the beans, tomato, onion, garlic and lime juice and coriander. Season to taste.
  6. Divide greens, coleslaw, bean salad, pineapple and avocado among serving bowls. Top with sliced pork and coriander.

Buffalo Chicken Salad with Healthy Ranch Dressing

There have been a lot of salads for dinner in the MCP kitchen of late, but the warmer weather brings with it my general craving for salads. Something cool and crunchy, with an added protein, and a nice homemade dressing – yes nice healthy end to the day when I don’t feel like turning the oven on.

This recipe for a Buffalo Chicken Salad that I came across here caught my attention. A spicy chicken, served on a bed of lettuce, carrots, celery and crunchy gala apples.But instead of going with a store-bought ranch dressing, I decided to make my own – with a couple healthy tweaks.

Greek yoghurt in place of mayonnaise, spiced up with garlic powder, mustard powder and a bunch of fresh herbs. And after playing around with the ingredients for a while, I soon had a blend that I will be sure to make again.

Tangy from the yoghurt, and packed with flavour owing to the fresh herbs, this is one versatile dressing! I think you could quite easily use it as a dip too – just add a little less water…

Healthy Ranch Dressing

  • 1 cup natural yogurt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • a handful of chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, chopped dill and basil)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs water*
  1. Combine all ingredients with 1 tbs water. Add more water if you would like a thinner dressing (or keep it thicker if you are using it as a dip).
  2. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Chilli lime pulled pork quinoa bowl

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Whenever I make a batch of pulled pork (and thanks to my slow cooker it happens quite often), I always make sure to portion some out to freeze. It was a tip I picked up from Jamie Oliver, I think, who confirmed that it could be frozen then defrosted down the track to make for a speedy dinner.

And recently, I did just that.

I found a portion of pulled pork in the freezer which I reheated slowly in a frypan, adding a good dash of chilli sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime at the last moment to really make the flavours sing!

Then, what to serve it with?

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On this occasion I went with cooked quinoa, lettuce, cucumber, and a little tomato / onion / coriander salad. Not to mention the rest of a roasted corn and chorizo salad that we had leftover from the night before, along with a dollop of natural yoghurt and harissa hummus.

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At the last minute I came across some tortillas in the freezer too, which came back to life in no time at all with a short burst in the microwave.

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And so this chilli lime pulled pork quinoa bowl came to life. A combination of fresh, frozen and leftover ingredients – packed to the brim with flavour.

Another dinner bowl that I will no doubt attempt to recreate at some point in the future!

Herbed Yoghurt Potato Salad

img_0521As the warmer weather approaches, so does our tendency to put “BBQs” on the menu for dinner. Mr BBB is usually in charge of the meat, while I take care of the sides – the ‘regulars’ being a green salad or oven baked potatoes.

But recently I went for another potato option…potato salad!

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An Aussie favourite – that is usually loaded with mayonnaise and bacon. But on this occasion, I created a ‘lighter’ version. Still packed with flavour, yes, however in place of mayonnaise I went with natural yoghurt – and left out the bacon all together. Instead, the salad was given a flavour kick with lots of fresh herbs and another one of my favourite – dill pickles!

It didn’t take too long to prepare, and was far from difficult. With the added bonus  that I could make it in the morning and let the flavours develop throughout the day.

img_0517A nice take on an old classic indeed!

Herbed Yoghurt Potato Salad

  • 1.5kg potatoes (desiree or something similar) I left the skins on, but you could peel them if you prefer.
  • 3/4 cup natural yoghurt
  • 2 tbs whole egg mayonnaise
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 100g dill pickles, chopped
  • 3 green shallots, sliced thinly
  • Handful chopped herbs (I used dill and mint, but parsley would work nicely too)
  1. Boil the potatoes until tender, then set aside to cool slightly. Dice.
  2. Combine the yoghurt, mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard, and season to taste.
  3. Add the dressing to the potatoes (while they are still slightly warm), along with the remaining ingredients. Stir gently until combined.
  4. Cover and place in the fridge until required.

Turkey Avocado Cobb Salad (and how I cook perfectly boiled eggs)

img_0468It’s no secret that I am a fan of loaded salad bowls for dinner. Not only do they generally hit the ‘health’ target – they are a great way to use up leftover ingredients in the fridge (particularly at the end of the week when I find myself with lots of bits and pieces in the crisper drawer).

And so this Turkey and Avocado Cobb Salad came to be!

img_0460Lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, capsicum, avocado and tasty cheese. With some chopped turkey breast, a little bacon and a boiled egg for protein. A long ingredient list, yes, but so very easy to throw together at the end of a long work day. With the only things requiring any real attention are the boiled eggs and bacon!

As for a dressing – well this was pretty simple too. A little mayonnaise, jazzed up with some lime juice and chilli sauce.

img_0467And just like that – dinner was served.   I’d give you a recipe – but there really is no need. Just go with what you have, and enjoy!

Although I can share my method for boiling eggs with you – as I think I’ve now mastered it…

Place the eggs in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, turn off the heat and leave your eggs in the water for 4 minutes (covered). After 4 minutes, place the eggs in a bowl of iced water and leave for 5 minutes or so. Peel and enjoy!

Warm Chicken and Quinoa Salad

If I needed any reassurance that we are a long way from Summer, the fact it was minus 4 on my morning walk was proof enough. Crunchy white grass met me as I stepped outside, and the neighbourhood cars were covered with a thick layer of frost.

I was pretty warm with my 4 layers of clothing on (plus gloves and beanie), admittedly, although my nose wouldn’t stop running and I returned home with a nice ‘red cheek’ glow.  And my cravings throughout the day were a long way from the salads I normally have for lunch. Instead I opted for a big plate of comforting pasta, without a moment’s hesitation.

Although salads do tend to lose their appeal in Winter, this one was still a winner. The fact it was warm probably helped, and the quinoa added a nice feeling of ‘bulk’ to what was, in all reality, a rather light dinner.

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I opted to oven-bake the chicken (free house heating!), although you could quite easily pan-fry the chicken too – if that is your preference.  And feel free to play around with the ingredients – depending what you have on hand!

IMG_8147 Warm Chicken and Quinoa Salad (serves 2)

  • 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked per packet directions
  • 2 x small chicken breasts (or one large)
  • Juice and zest of half a lemon + extra
  • 1 tbs olive oil  + extra
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1tsp minced lemon grass
  • chopped sundried tomatoes and pitted kalamata olives (as many as you like)
  • A few handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • The kernels from one corn-cob
  • 1/2 avocado (or more if you like), sliced
  • a handful of chopped parsley and coriander + extra to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Combine the lemon juice, zest, oil, ginger and lemon grass in a small bowl.
  3. Place chicken and  in a baking dish, and pour over the oil mixture. Turn to coat well. Bake for 40 minutes or until cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients, and divide among serving bowls. Top with the sliced chicken and remaining herbs. Drizzle with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

What about you? Do you crave salads in Winter?