Vegetable and Bean Chilli

I spoke a little while ago about make ahead meals. Ones that I can prepare in advance, then reheat when dinnertime arrives. Well the other advantage of these meals is that you often have leftovers too – which can be portioned and frozen for future meals.

And so with the husband making his way back from Sydney the other day – I dove into the freezer and pulled out two portions of this vegetable and bean chilli. Reheated on the stove top, and kept warm until he walked in the door. Served with quinoa, and finished with some fresh parsley.

 This vegetarian chilli is packed with beans, spices and vegetables. In fact, it is so filled with flavour that you don’t miss the meat component at all. And while on this occasion I served the chilli with quinoa, you could easily substitute the quinoa for rice or even tortillas. The addition of fresh avocado or some  natural yoghurt or sour cream would also work beautifully if you had any on hand.

Print Recipe
Vegetable and Bean Chilli
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes.
  3. Add the spices, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring.
  4. Add the vegetables, and stir to coat with the spices.
  5. Add the tomatoes, beans and water, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Stir through the spinach, cacao powder and parsley, and heat for a few minutes, Season to taste.
  7. Divide and among serving bowls, and serve with quinoa or rice and extra parsley.
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Mango and Lime Salsa

While I am 100% on board the ‘fresh is best’ wagon, sometimes ingredients may not be in season, or may be too expensive.

Such was the case when I had a craving for mango recently, and wanted to create a fruity salsa to serve alongside some spicy chicken and beans. With not a fresh mango in sight, however, I turned to tinned mango instead – which meant that we could have a summery dish even though the temperatures were still in single digits outside.

Combined with cucumber, spring onions, lime, red chilli and fresh mint – we soon had ourselves a lovely sweet and spicy salsa.  I think avocado would also be a nice addition…next time perhaps?

Although this was a relatively simple dish, it was definitely a hit, and will almost certainly be making further appearances when mangoes come back into season!

Print Recipe
Mango and Lime Salsa
Course Side dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Side dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients and season to taste.
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Brussels Sprout and Bacon Pasta

I can’t help but feel rather sorry for brussels sprouts. For unlike some of their more revered vegetable counterparts, they seem to be misjudged. Sure, when boiled to extinction they may be a tad tasteless, but when they feature in a flavoursome bacon-laden pasta, well they are rather delicious indeed!

Pasta doesn’t feature too often in our household, but when it does I like to make it special. And this brussels sprout and bacon pasta ended up being just that. Special.

Brussels sprouts, bacon, garlic and lemon, stirred through fusilli, resulting in a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Fresh, light and full of flavour!

Print Recipe
Brussels Sprout and Bacon Pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
To serve
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
To serve
Instructions
  1. Preheat fry pan over a medium heat. Cook the bacon until golden brown, then set aside in a bowl lined with paper towel.
  2. Heat oil in the same frypan. Add the brussels, garlic and chilli, and cook - stirring - for 5 minutes or until the sprouts have softened.
  3. Return the bacon to the pan, along with the cooked pasta and reserved cooking liquid. Add the lemon juice and zest, and stir until heated through.
  4. Season, and serve with parmesan cheese.
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Healthy Lamington Balls

This week’s healthy lunchbox treat was named by Miss C. For she is a big fan of lamingtons, and declared these little balls to be rather similar to lamingtons when I packed some in her lunchbox.

But, unlike their cake counterparts, these little balls have no butter, sugar or flour. Rather, they are sweetened with medjool dates, and given their chocolate flavour with some cacao powder.

Some I rolled in coconut….

Others I kept ‘plain’…

But both came together beautifully, and we now have a big bowl of these lamington balls in the fridge to ‘grab and go’ when the afternoon slump hits.

Kid approved!

Print Recipe
Healthy Lamington Balls
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
balls
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
balls
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Process the oats and sunflower seeds in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Add the dates, coconut, honey, chia seeds, coconut oil and cacao powder- and process until combined. Add a little water if you think the mixture needs more liquid.
  3. Roll into balls (and coat with extra coconut if you like). I wet my hands a little to help with this step.
Recipe Notes

These balls are best stored in the fridge.

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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!

Snickers Rocky Road

I’m interrupting my ‘healthy snack’ series this week, to bring you an extra special treat. I say “interrupting”, as this treat far from healthy, and its nut and sugar content would probably entice a sternly worded letter from your child’s teacher if you sent a piece along in their lunchbox.

But it is delicious.

And sometimes, particularly when one’s sleep is being interrupted by the overnight feeding demands of a newborn, we need to treat ourselves with a little deliciousness.

This rocky road still has the all chocolate and marshmallow hallmarks of the traditional version , but is jazzed up with snickers bars – creating a rather tasty chocolate / nut / caramel combination. The added bonus being that a batch can be made in a matter of moments.

So friends, I suggest you go and make a batch of this snickers rocky road and treat yourself today. Bearing in mind that because it is not school lunch-box friendly, there will be plenty for the grownups to indulge in at home!

You’re welcome!

Snickers Rocky Road

  • 280g marshmallows
  • 280g chopped snickers bars
  • 1 cup rice bubbles / puffed rice
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 350g milk chocolate, melted
  1. Line a slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the marshmallows, snickers bars, rice bubbles and peanuts in a large bowl. Pour over melted chocolate, and stir to combine well.
  3. Spoon into the prepare tray, and place in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) to set.
  4. Slice and serve.

 

Indian Style Salad

My parents-in-law are now home from their grand overseas adventure – so we wasted no time in scheduling a family dinner over the weekend. For there were lots of baby cuddles to catch up on (and two bigger sisters who had missed their grandparents dearly!)

And, as is proving to be the norm for our family dinners, there was no shortage of food.  We decided to pull together an Indian-style dinner – with spicy lamb shoulder (slow coked for 6 hours) and a tomato / potato curry being the stars. The usual sides – raita, kachumber, rice, naan and pappadums also made an appearance – but I couldn’t resist trying a new dish to throw some green into the mix.

Enter: an Indian-style salad. Inspired by this Jamie Oliver recipe.

Crunchy lettuce, radishes, carrots, spring onions and tomatoes, mixed with a good amount of fresh herbs (coriander and mint). Dressed with toasted spices (fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and mustard seeds), mango chutney and lemon juice.

The salad was finished with crumbled pappadums – adding some extra crunch and a little saltiness.

A lovely little addition to our Indian dinner indeed.  Oh and it made for a pretty good lunch the next day too!

Spicy Chicken Tacos with Avocado Dressing

I’m sure it will come as no surprise when I tell you that our evening routine is a little “unpredictable” at the moment. Nothing too dramatic, just a bit more on the relaxed side as we settle into life as a family of 5. Miss Maggie tends to want to nurse, pretty much non-stop, from around 5pm – which coincides with the other girls’ dinner and bath time, and the time I’d usually be spending working on dinner for the ‘grownups’ too.

But we all need to eat, and I am trying to avoid takeout where I can, so I’m pleased to report meal planning is still in full force. Actually, if anything, meal planning is probably a tad stricter than ever at the moment as ducking to the supermarket with three kids in tow is not all that appealing. I’m doing the bulk of our grocery shopping online, and loving being able to sit down and order groceries from the comfort of the couch after the bigger kids have gone to bed. Not to mention having a weeks worth of fresh ingredients literally delivered to my kitchen at a time that suits us!

The meals themselves, however, have generally been quick and easy to prepare. Leftovers are then tucked away for a quick lunch the following day, or frozen for future dinners when cooking one-handed is inevitable.

One of our favourite meals, lately, has been tacos. The kids prefer the crunchy shelled tacos, generally filled with some sort of savoury mince and vegetables. While I tend to go with soft tortillas, filled with whatever we have on hand.

On this occasion, I found inspiration in a Healthy Food Guide magazine – in the form of spicy chicken tacos. The added bonus being that they came together in no time at all.

Chicken – spiced and grilled in the sandwich press – piled high onto wholemeal tortillas and topped with pre-cut coleslaw. Actually the only real effort, if you could even call it ‘effort’, was blending up the avocado/ yoghurt dressing to serve alongside.

Definitely a winner all round!

Spicy chicken tacos with avocado dressing (serves 4)

  • 500g chicken tenderloins
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3 tbs lime juice
  • Bag of pre-cut coleslaw
  • 1 avocado, mashed
  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
  • Warmed wholemeal tortillas, to serve
  1. Combine the spices, oil and 2 tbs of the lime juice. Add the chicken and toss to coat well.
  2. Pre-heat chargrill pan or frypan over a medium heat. Grill chicken until cooked through. Place on a plate, cover with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes or so.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the avocado, yoghurt and remaining lime juice in a small bowl, and stir until smooth. Season.
  4. Fill the warmed tortillas with the chicken, coleslaw and avocado dressing.

 

Miso Pumpkin Soup

It’s minus 4 outside as I type this post, with an expected top of 10 (which we will reach after midday, if we are lucky).  There is a heavy layer of frost on the grass, and ice on the cars in the street, although the sky is clear and there is no fog to be seen.

If I’m to be honest, the chilly winter is not all that surprising, really. We had a pretty awesome summer… and it always seems that the hotter the summer =  the colder the winter. In Canberra, at least.

So while I am 100% a summer girl, after 18 years in Canberra (???) I am slowly becoming acclimatised to the joys of the Canberra winter.  I’ve got a decent collection of beanies and gloves, along with some great warm jackets, and have even mastered the art of layering. Our hydronic in-slab heating goes a long way in helping me forget just how cold it is outside too.

But then there is the food. Winter inevitably means that my slow cooker comes out at least a few times a week, bringing with it hearty stews and casseroles. Homemade soups also make a frequent appearance – the aim being to warm oneself up from the inside out.

On this particular occasion I went with a pumpkin soup. But not just any pumpkin soup. This one was jazzed up with miso paste and ginger (inspired by a recipe I found in a recent Taste magazine edition). It also had a lovely creamy texture owing to the addition of coconut milk, and a little zing from fresh lime juice. 

We served the soup with some loaded toasties. From recollection – there was avocado and tomato on one, and a swiss cheese, mustard and ham combination on the other.

But the soup.

Oh the soup.

Delicious, easy, and definitely a winter warmer!! With the added bonus that we now have a few serves in the freezer too.

Miso Pumpkin Soup (serves 4 – 6)

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2tbs minced ginger
  • 1tbs  minced garlic
  • 1 butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 120g white miso paste
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper
  • coriander leaves to serve
  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic  and ginger and cook for a minute – stirring.
  2. Add the pumpkin, tomatoes and miso paste – stirring to coat well.
  3. Add the coconut milk / stock, and simmer – covered – for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft. Blend until smooth.
  4. Add the lime juice and zest, and season to taste.
  5. Serve in bowls, and top with coriander.

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?