Monday, April 29, 2013

Meal Plan Monday

It's been quite a social week this week. We have been out with friends and family, been visiting friends with "cheer-you-up" cupcakes for afternoon tea and camping on the family farm. It has been fabulous!


Dinner out with Nana & Grandad



Bring & share with friends



Dinner with friends


I say camping, but we have a cottage with hot running water, a fridge, comfortable beds. We like to build a fire and cook on it. This time I went a step up from toasting marshmallows, but not as far as purchasing any special cooking kit . . . yet! We cooked all the food totally in foil. The menu included:
  • Damper on Sticks
  • Stuffed Baked Potatoes
  • Banana Canoes
  • Toasted Marshmallows
No recipes or photos today, as I haven't quite got the timings right yet. Need to have another practice :)


 Curried Sausages, creamy mash and steamed vegetables


It was the first week of School Holidays here in WA, so baking is just for fun (and for whole family eating!) Firstly it seemed appropriate to make ANZAC biscuits on Thursday for ANZAC Day (which is also a National holiday, so a great time to get into the kitchen).

Australian Good Taste Magazine are running their first "Cutest Cupcake Competition" so I am getting into the spirit and baking up a storm whenever I have a few moments. Here are my first offerings.
Cupcakes - White Choc Mud with White Chocolate Buttercream

Cupcakes - Choc Mud with Mocha Buttercream

Banoffee Cupcakes with Vanilla Rum Buttercream

Junior Masterchef Bacon & Egg Pie

Recipe By: Junior Masterchef
Serving Size: 6

6 rashers bacon, rind removed
6 spring onion, chopped
8 eggs
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tbs of water, for egg wash
tomato chutney, to serve
250 g plain (all-purpose) flour, (1 2/3 cups)
150 g unsalted butter, cold, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons iced water

1. To make the pastry, blitz the butter, flour and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. add the egg and iced water and pulse until the mixture just comes together. transfer sough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Divide into two discs, one slightly larger than the other, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Place an oven tray in the oven an preheat oven to 190℃. Roll larger pastry disc between two sheets of baking paper until large enough to to line a 23cm pie pan. Drape pastry over the rolling pin, lift pastry into pan, gently press into the shape of the pan, then trim the edge.

3. Place three bacon rashers over pastry base and sprinkle over half of the spring onions. Break four eggs, one at a time, into a cup, then place on the bacon. Pierce each yolk with a knife and season with pepper. Repeat with remaining bacon, spring onion and eggs. Season and brush pastry edge with egg wash.

4. Roll out remaining pastry disc until large enough to cover the pie, then, using the rolling pin to lift the pastry, place it over the filling, pressing the pastry edges to seal. Trim excess pastry then crimp edges. Brush top with egg wash.

5. Place pie on preheated oven tray and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and eggs are cooked. Cool pie for 10 minutes before serving with tomato chutney.

Placing the pie on a preheated oven tray will help the base of the pastry to cook through (no soggy bottoms!)

Working Mum's Time Saver Tip:
Use shop bought short crust pastry

Junior Masterchef Macaroni Cheese

Recipe By: Junior Masterchef
Serving Size: 6

225 g macaroni pasta, (1 1/4 cups)
4 rashers bacon, rind removed, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
green salad, to serve
Cheese Sauce
40 g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
500 ml milk, (2 cups)
180 g cheddar cheese, (1 1/2 cups), grated
50 g parmesan, (2/3 cup), grated
mustard powder

1. Preheat oven to 200℃. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water according to packet directions or until al dente. Drain in a colander and toss with a little olive oil and transfer to a bowl.

2. Heat a non-stick frypan over a medium heat and cook bacon, stirring occasionally until crisp. Add bacon and any pan drippings to the pasta and toss to combine.

3. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, add onion and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add flour and stir continuously for 1 minute or until mixture is bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in milk a few tablespoons at a time (the flour mixture will absorb the milk and clump together). Continue adding milk, stirring after each addition until combined (after the third addition, it should start to become smooth). Stir in remaining milk, return to a low-medium heat and cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture comes to the boil and thickens.

4. Add ¾ cup cheddar, the parmesan and mustard powder to the sauce and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over pasta mixture and stir to combine. Spoon mixture into a 1.5 litre (6 cup) ovenproof dish, smooth  top and scatter over breadcrumbs and remaining cheddar.

5. Bake for 40 minutes or until browned on top and bubbling. Stand for 5 minutes before serving with salad.

Mix & Match: Stir in 165g (1 cup) fresh corn kernels to macaroni mixture before cooking.

For a sweeter flavour and a little colour, substitute the brown onion for 4-6 finely sliced spring onions

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

ANZAC Biscuits

Recipe By: Grandma Smith

1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sugar
1 cup shredded coconut
115 g unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp. golden syrup
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp. boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 180℃. Combine flour, oats, sugar and coconut in the bowl of an electric mixer.

2. Combine butter, golden syrup, bicarb soda and hot water in a small bowl and mix until butter is melted (microwave for 30 seconds if needed).

3. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix on low speed until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Drop in ⅓ cup balls onto a non-stick biscuit tray. Flatten slightly before baking for 10-12 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Meal Plan Monday

This week we were on a bit of a budget, having had a little shopping spree in the city last Friday. So I had a scratch around in the pantry, fridge & freezer and this is what I came up with.


Nigella Salmon Fish Cakes & Simple Salad
Great way to use up the leftover mashed potato from last Thursday night's steak & mash.


Quick Pasta Bake
A snatch & grab because I forgot to take the pasta dough & chicken out of the freezer for chicken fettuccine *gasps in horror!* So this was a mix of spring onion, bacon, mushroom, char-grilled peppers, tomato paste, pizza cheese and some dried pasta from the pantry. Not particularly glamorous, but it filled the tummies :)


Spice Journey
I know, I know, I said we were on a budget, but for around $35 this feeds our family of four for dinner and provides one adult with lunch the next day. This fabulous local Indian takeaway is mobile. They are located quite conveniently for us after piano lessons on a Wednesday night. I am trying really hard to not visit EVERY week, but it is just so dang authentic and delicious!



Night out with friends
Take my advice here and HALVE the quantities of this recipe (unless, of course, you intend to feed 12 people). I would also halve the cayenne pepper again to 1/4 of a teaspoon as this was a little hot for our kids. This is what I chose to do with the chicken I forgot to take out of the freezer on Tuesday. I just topped up with a couple of fresh ingredients from the supermarket.


Slow cooked Beef Stroganoff with Creamy Mashed Potato
Slow cooking is a great way to save money, as cheaper cuts of meat require a longer cooking time, but produce so much flavour.


{recipe & image credit} 
Donna Hay Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins
This is a great standby recipe as all the ingredients are generally on hand in a keen baker's pantry. Frozen berries are great to keep in the freezer too for just such an emergency bake. I just used regular muffin cases and white choc chips rather than chopped white chocolate, as this is what I already had in the pantry.

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Recipe By: Pippa
Serving Size: 6

My twist on an old favourite

1 tbsp. butter
1 onion, sliced into thin wedges
2 rashers bacon, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500 g chuck steak, cut into 1cm slices
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 pot beef stock concentrate
1 tbsp. cornflour
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper
250 g mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
fresh chopped parsley to garnish

1. Melt butter in a frypan over a medium high heat. Add onion and bacon and sauté until soft and lightly golden. Add garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds until fragrant but be careful not to burn the garlic. With a slotted spoon, remove the mixture to the bowl of the slow cooker.

2. Turn the heat up under the pan to high and brown the steak in batches. Season each batch with a little salt and pepper. We are not looking to cook it through at this stage, only to give it good colour on both sides. Remove to the bowl of the slow cooker.

3. Add the wine to the hot frypan to "deglaze" (get all the brown bits up off the bottom. These will add great flavour to the finished dish). In a jug, combine the tomato paste, stock concentrate, cornflour, dijon, Worcestershire sauce, paprika and cayenne pepper and mix well. Add to the bowl of the slow cooker.

4. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or until meat is meltingly tender. Add mushrooms about 1 hour before serving. Stir in Sour cream just before serving. Serve topped with chopped parsley, creamy mashed potato and steamed greens.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bangers Pepperonata

Recipe By: Australian Good Taste Magazine
Serving Size: 4

I don't know about your kids, but mine absolutely LOVE sausages. This bright, colourful dish is a kiddie favourite.

2 tbsp. Welly Boot Extra Virgin Olive Oil
500 g chipolata sausages
1 red onion, halved, thinly sliced
1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
1 yellow capsicum, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp. capers, drained
4 rosemary sprigs, halved
125 ml beef stock, salt reduced
250 g cherry tomatoes, halved
11/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
crusty bread, to serve

1. Heat half the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Cook the chipolatas for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate. Cover to keep warm.

2. Reduce heat to medium. Cook the onion for 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in the combined capsicum, garlic, capers, rosemary and remaining oil. Cook stirring for 10 minutes or until capsicum is soft.

3. Increase heat to high. Stir in stock, tomato, vinegar and sugar for 2 minutes or until the tomato is soft. Add chipolatas and cook for 1-2 minutes or until heated through. Season to taste.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meal Plan Monday


Chicken Parmegana, Welly Boot Home Fries & Simple Salad



Junior Masterchef Yakitori Chicken & Vegetables


Steak Bearnaise, creamy mashed potato and steamed vegetables




Takeaway Night
Takeaway nights don't happen that often these days (most of the time I would prefer beans on toast than the mass produced, preservative filled offerings around us), but we were making Dukka all day for our family's Olive Grove, so we grabbed a pizza from our local.


Slow Cooked Madras Curry Lamb


{image & recipe credit}
"Glad" Zucchini Slice

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Junior Masterchef Chicken Enchiladas

 {image from Junior Masterchef Series 2 Cookbook}

Recipe By: Junior Masterchef
Serving Size: 4
Yield: 8 Enchiladas


Seriously delicious! I am not buying those enchilada kits from the supermarket ever again.

500 g chicken breast
1 onion, halved
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 sprigs flat leaf parsley
1 red capsicum, quartered
200 g feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
8 corn tortillas, 15cm
8 toothpicks
60 g cheddar cheese, shredded
coriander, leaves, to serve
Roasted Tomato Sauce
1 long red chilli
1 kg vine ripened tomatoes
1 tablespoon Welly Boot Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 onion, small, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1. Place chicken, onion, garlic and parsley in a saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover chicken. Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1o minutes. Remove pan from heat and stand for 5 minutes. Remove chicken from stock and reserve. Cool chicken for 10 minutes then roughly chop and place in a bowl.

2. To make the sauce, heat a barbecue or char grill pan to a high heat. Pierce chilli with a knife to prevent it bursting. Chargrill whole tomatoes and chilli, turning frequently, or until skins are charred. Transfer to a chopping board and cool for 5 minutes. When cool, peel skins from tomatoes and chilli. Discard stem from chilli, cut in half lengthways and remove seeds. Process chilli and tomatoes in a blender or food processor to a puree.

3. Heat oil in a large frying pan over a low-medium heat add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add tomato mixture and 180ml (¾ cup) of reserved chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until thickened.

4. Meanwhile, preheat a grill to high. Place capsicum, skin side up, on a foil lined tray and grill for 8 minutes or until skin blackens. Wrap in foil and stand for 10 minutes. Peel and roughly chop. Add to chicken with 125g feta and cumin. Season and toss to combine

5. Preheat oven to 180℃. Dip a tortilla in sauce, tun over and dip other side. Place on a clean work surface an place ⅓ cup chicken mixture along centre of tortilla. Roll up tortilla and secure with a toothpick. Place, seam side up, in a shallow, 3 litre (12 cup) capacity ovenproof dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas, sauce and chicken mixture. Spoon remaining sauce over tortillas and sprinkle with remaining feta and grated cheddar. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbling.

Meal Plan Monday


Curry Night
One of my favourite ways to share food with friends. Everyone brings a dish to share. On the menu tonight:
  • Lamb Samosas
  • Yoghurt & Mint Raita
  • Cashew Butter Chicken
  • Paul's Lamb Kofta in Spicy Tomato Sauce
  • Simple Pilau Rice
  • Gulab Jamon


 Perfect Pasta




Coconut Curry Fish with Steamed Jasmine Rice


Casual (store bought!) Hamburgers on the BBQ


Garlic Roast Lamb with mixed roast vegetables
This recipe is from the Donna Hay Autumn 2013 Magazine


Get Ahead Sunday

  1.  Lunchbox baking. Allow to cool, cut into individual servings and freeze in a large airtight container.
  2. Make the tomato sauce for the Chicken enchiladas on Sunday. When cooled, store in an artight plastic container (or even a large zip-lock bag!). Store for 2-3 days in the fridge or, if you need longer, freeze. Just don't forget to take it out of the freezer the morning you want to have it for dinner!
  3. If you want to make your own pasta, do this on Sunday too. Pasta dough does not keep very well though (the fresh eggs start to turn green! Eeewww!). So allow your noodles to dry a little then freeze in a zip-lock bag or airtight container.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Breadmaker Pizza Bases

By far the easiest way to make pizza bases (if you are into making your own). Literally set and forget. Use a little olive oil and a dusting of flour on the pizza tray to give the base a nice crispy finish.

Recipe By: Sunbeam
Serving Size: 6-8
Yield: 2 Pizzas


290 milliliters water
3 tablespoons Welly Boot Extra Virgin Olive Oil, (60ml)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
500 grams baker’s flour, 3 1/4 cups)
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast


1. Pour water and oil into bread pan. Add sugar, salt and flour. Make a small pocket in the top and place the yeast in the pocket. Wipe any spills from around the outside of the pan.

2. Place the bread pan into the bread maker and close the lid. Set to "dough" program and press start. Dough will be kneaded in the time as indicated on the breadmaker.

3. Remove the completed dough from the bread pan. Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to fit two pizza trays. Spread with favourite toppings and bake for 20 minutes at 180℃ or until cooked.

{Working Mum's Time Saver Tip}
I have prepared this pizza dough up to step 2 in the time between getting home from school pick up and racing out again to sports, piano lessons etc. When I get home, all I need to do is divide, roll and top. If I am running late from whatever commitment I have dashed off to, it doesn't matter if the dough is left in the breadmaker a little after the dough setting has completed.

Do You Meal Plan?

In the past I only really used to meal plan sporadically, so supermarket trips were waayyy too frequent, stressful, ineffective and expensive. I would ALWAYS forget to take meat out of the freezer and then meals became a snatch and grab affair, and not particularly nutritionally balanced.

So last year, while taking part in The Organised Housewife's 20 Day Challenge to Clean & Organise Your (my!) Home, I got totally bitten by the meal plannning bug.

Here's why it makes sense to me:
  • One weekly visit to the supermarket
  • Less impulse buying. I have a list and I generally do stick to it
  • Much more time on my hands because I am not at the shops every other day
  • I only need to think about meals once, instead of constantly stressing, every day, about what we are going to have that night.
  • I am far more likely to be adventurous in the kitchen when I have time to think and plan. This makes cooking much more exciting for me.
  • But the biggest reason really is no more flying from work to the supermarket, or worse from school pick up to the supermarket with TIRED HUNGRY kids. Arrrgghh!
Here are the steps that I have found work for me. 

Step 1 - Relax

Take your time. I like to do my meal planning at breakfast time on a Saturday or Sunday. I sit with my coffee and toast and paw through recipe books, magazines, apps or wherever the inspiration hits me.

Step 2 - Get Input

Ask the family what they would like to see on the menu. Why should I have to come up with all the ideas, right?
The kids have also taken an interest in cooking recently. My 9yo son bought himself the Australian Junior Masterchef Series 2 Cookbook. Since then, the kids have been choosing one meal per week from this book to cook themselves. I say "themselves" but I think we all know that means me, and they watch! Not really, I feel I am doing the world (and their future partners) a favour by teaching them some skills in the kitchen.
Be warned though, these particular recipes are not quick and easy, so if you decide to try them, be sure to do it on a day when you have an hour or two to spend in the kitchen with the kids.

Step 3 - Shop the Specials

I do my regular shop at Woolworths (because the store is less than 1km from our house). They also happen to have a pretty fab App that shows me what foods are on special that week. I can browse the aisles for the best deals in my pyjamas at the kitchen table. Pretty neat right? I'm sure other major supermarkets I base the core of the weeks' menu on what MEATS are affordable that week.

Step 4 - Check the Supplies

I like to have a look in the fridge, freezer and pantry to see what is leftover and still fresh enough to use. I might have some leftover rice and a few veges I can turn into Nasi Goreng with a few fresh ingredients. Leftover mashed potato can become Salmon Fish Cakes. You get the idea.

It's also a good opportunity at this point to purge any manky old stuff, to make room for the fresh goods I am about to purchase.

Step 5 - Being Kind to Myself

I like to plan our meals around our family schedule. Our family was particularly busy this past summer, being our first cricket season, for example:

MONDAY: Princess 7 - Tennis 4:00-5:00pm
TUESDAY: Mr 9 - Cricket Training 5:00-6:00, Mummy - Choir Practice 7:00pm-9:00pm
WEDNESDAY: 5:00-6:00 Piano Lessons
THURSDAY: Breathe!
FRIDAY: Yay it's Friday!
SATURDAY: 8:30-12:00 Cricket
SUNDAY: Grocery Shopping

Bearing in mind, I drop the kids at school and head straight into work. I leave work in time to collect the kids from school and we are getting in the door at around 3:15. That leaves a pretty tight window for snacks, homework, chores (theirs and mine), getting changed into sports gear etc.

So, Monday to Wednesday needed to be super quick and easy meals, and not a childrens' cooking day.Later in the week I can think about more creatively satisfying meals.

Step 6 - Decision Time

So now I make the decision on the 7 meals for the week. I like to have at least one fish/seafood, and a variety of chicken, beef and even vegetarian dishes. I try to make sure that the meals are not ALL indulgent and that we have a good serving of vegetables, salad etc with each.

Step 7 - Lists, Lists, Lists

I am a list person, and a computer person. I usually have the laptop at the table while I am meal planning and I like to type up my shopping list as I go. So just reading through the recipes and adding what ingredients I need.

The picture above is my little template I devised. It lists the items in departments within the supermarket. I find this helps to streamline the process once actually in the store with less risk of things being forgotten.

I like to write down how much of an item is required for a particular recipe, this way I don't over buy and in so doing it reduces waste.

I know the Woolies App organises the shopping list very well too, but it is difficult enter specific amounts of items (in particular fresh produce). So for now I take a paper list.

And now the Meal Plan List. If I am using a few different recipe books or sources, I will note down the book and page number on the meal planner. This just saves a bit of time and brain power come dinner time. I keep this inside the pantry door, and it helps to remind me that I may need to take something out of the freezer that morning while I am scratching around for breakfast.

This is also where I keep my running shopping list. You know, for things we run low on, or out of during the week (toothpaste, sugar, cleaning products etc). These items get added to the typed list that I take to the supermarket.

{Please note: The fonts I have used for these templates are specialty downloaded fonts from Kevin & Amanda. These fonts are not recognised by my Google Drive so they have been converted to a plain font. Feel free to personalise these templates by adding your own fonts.}

Step 8 - Don't Forget the Lunchbox

I often have to remind myself to include items on the shopping list for lunchboxes. These include fruit, sandwich fillings, fresh bread and any ingredients for the baking that I plan to do.I try to get ahead by making sandwiches and baking on the weekend and freezing for the week to come.

Step 9 - Hit The Shops

Right, so now I have a meal plan for the week and a comprehensive shopping list. Time to hit the supermarket. We (I say we, I mean hubby!) have come up with a family plan to HALVE the shopping time. We go to the supermarket as a family. Madness you might say but the kids are 9 & 7 now, so old enough to help, and we literally tear the list down the middle. Hubby takes one half and one child, and I take the other. We call it Divide & Conquer. It becomes a bit of a competition to see who can get to the checkout first. Done and dusted in half the time. Clever hubby <3


So there we have it. Planned prepped and ready for the week ahead. If you are a busy mum (or dad, or wife or single person for that matter) and you don't meal plan, I highly would recommend it. It has reduced my stress levels and made cooking and meal times far more enjoyable for the whole family.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Mini Easter Egg Blondies

Recipe By: Pippa
Yield: 16 bars

Here's an idea to use up those last few little Easter eggs. You could do something similar with a basic cookie dough, but probably roughly chop the chocolate eggs first. 
300 g unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup mini easter eggs, aprrox, assorted varieties, unwrapped

1. Preheat oven to 175℃. Butter 23cm x 33cm cake tin; line with parchment paper, allowing 5 cm overhang. Butter parchment.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Put butter and brown sugar into mixer bowl; mix on medium-high until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Add most of the mini chocolate eggs and mix to combine.

3. Spread batter into prepared tin; smooth top. Press the remaining mini eggs into the top in a random pattern. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.  Let cool in tin 40 minutes. Lift out, and let cool completely on wire rack.