Buttery Chicken Stew with Dumplings

dishh

Hearty Chicken Stew with Dumplings

You may have guessed by now, but I’m a big stew fan. Why? Because you essentially throw all your meat, veggies, and herbs in a pot and cook. Honestly, they’re so easy! The only time consuming part is cutting up the meat and veggies. And, well, if you want to eat healthily, you want to eat vegetables, and so, of course, this is going to mean you have to chop them up. No way around that.

stewwI’ve already shared a couple of stews, AKA casseroles, with you, but this is my favourite chicken stew. Not many people cook chicken stews. I don’t know why. Perhaps because the white meat cooks quickly, unlike red meat, so there’s an assumption that you can’t cook it over a longer period of time? Not true…in this case, anyway.

Basically, make your stew. When it’s been in the oven for 55 minutes, begin making your dumplings (see below recipe). Add these into your stew and cook for a further 20 minutes. So, without further adieu, here’s the recipe:

What you’ll need: pot

  • 1 brown onion
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 5 medium potatoes
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 bok choy
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • Fresh or 1tsp dried tarragon
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 3 tablespoons of cornflour or flour
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese

Magic Method

  • Note: Ideally, you will need a pot that can be used both on the stove and in the oven. If you don’t already have one, check this one out:

Lodge EC6D43 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6-Quart, Island Spice Red

  1. Fry your onion, garlic and celery in some butter and olive oil until soft.
  2. Add your chopped-up chicken and brown.
  3. Coat the chicken with the cornflour and stir in pot.
  4. Add all your chopped-up veggies, herbs, salt and pepper.
  5. Add your stock, milk and parmesan. Stir.
  6. Transfer pot into the oven and cook for approximately 55 minutes.
  7. Add you dumplings and cook for a further 20 minutes.
  8. Enjoy!
  • Note: Check that you have some liquid still in the pot before putting in your dumplings.

To make the dumplings

Put 1 1/2 cups of self-raising flour in a bowl. Add 50g of soft butter. Rub butter into flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Like this:

crumbs

Next, add a few tablespoons of milk, until it forms a dough. Roll into little balls and drop into stew. They should look like this:

dumplings

  • Note: This stew can be popped in the freezer. It can also be kept in the fridge for one day. It does not contain preservatives, so must be eaten no later than the day after it is made.

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Banana Cupcakes with a hint of Cinnamon

Banana Muffins

I love baking so that my kids have home-baked items in their school lunches each day. The problem with being a busy, working mum is that I simply don’t have time to bake on school nights. So, I make these cupcakes whenever I get a chance, then freeze them. Make sure cakes are totally cool before freezing. Then, each night before school, as I’m preparing school lunches, I take one of these little lovelies out of the freezer and pop in a lunch box. Too easy!

These cupcakes are light, fluffy and sweet. They are best made with bananas that are very ripe. I usually pop the ripe bananas that the kids haven’t eaten in the fridge, this way they last a few more days, until I have time to bake with them. The skins may turn dark in the fridge, but when you peel, they’re still white and fresh inside.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 160g butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4-5 ripe bananas
  • 3 cups of self-raising flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp bi-carb soda
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Magic Method

  1. Pop your butter and sugar in a bowl and beat.
  2. Add your eggs.
  3. Mash your bananas and add these too. Mix.
  4. Take bowl out of beater.
  5. Add your flour, salt, soda, milk and cinnamon. Mix with wooden spoon.
  6. Pop your mixture into muffin cup trays.BANANA MIXTURE
  7. Bake in moderate oven for around 22 minutes.

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Make pancakes/pikelets for lunches!

pancake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aside from baking and freezing muffins for school lunches – see my Banana, Choc Chip, Oat Muffins post – I also love making pancakes on the weekend and freezing leftovers for school lunches. They freeze really well and I can’t taste the difference. Take them out of the freezer the night before school and move into the fridge. In the morning, pop in lunchboxex and they’re perfect by lunch time.

I call them pancakes on the weekend when we eat them fresh, then pikelets when I pop them in school lunches. Just a bit of fun.

This is my staple pancake recipe. When I feel like I need a bit of a change, I mix it up by using some buckwheat flour in with the self-raising flour. I also throw in different types of fruits, whatever I have on hand that’s ripe in the fruit bowl, especially bananas and berries: blueberries are our favourite. I love this recipe because it uses ingredients that I have in my household and don’t need to especially buy, so I can make pancakes whenever I feel like it. It also doesn’t use a lot of sugar. If you love almond meal, you could throw a little of this in too.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsps caster sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten with fork
  • 11/2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

My Method

All you need to do is mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl – the flour and sugar. In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients – the milk, vanilla and egg. Then combine wet and dry together and whip with a whisk until a smooth batter. Add in your fruits if you wish. Pan fry in some butter. Add whipped cream if you wish. Enjoy!

Note: None of my cooking has artificial preservatives, so these need to be eaten within 24 hours from the fridge.

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Chocolate Cupcakes with a Twist

choc cupcakes 4

Honestly, is there anything better than chocolate? Every working mum and dad needs a little indulgence at the end of a busy working day. You’ve finally put the kids to bed, you pour a glass of wine, you sit down to finally enjoy a little me-time. Come on, you know you do! Well, these ripper, little cupcakes may be just the thing!

In addition to my own indulgences, my kids love these cupcakes. They freeze really well for school lunches, and I admit, I have one in my own lunch at work too. Yep, I make all my colleagues jealous of my morning tea! If you’re really nice, you might like to bring these into work to share around. Me? Nah, I’d rather keep them all for me and the kids! [insert surprised emoji] I may or may not be kidding here!

And what’s the twist, I hear you ask? Well, check out the recipe and look for the unusual ingredient. Hint: it’s a little something I can’t do without in the mornings to get my mind into gear!

Note: Big ‘Hello’ to my Singapore neighbours who are following! I love your  city. I love Sentosa. Take me back!

Choc Cup CakesIngredients

  • 175g butter
  • 11/2 cups caster sugar
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • 2 tsps. instant coffee
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water

Magic Method

  1. So, to make, you beat your softened butter and sugar, then add the eggs. Remove bowl from mixer.
  2. Next, mix the coffee in with a tsp warm water to dissolve.
  3. Pour the flour, bi-carb soda and cocoa in with the butter mixture.
  4. Pour in the coffee.
  5. Mix all together.
  6. Put in muffin cup trays
  7. Bake at around 175 degrees celsius for around 17 minutes.Choc cup cakes 3

Is there any icing, I hear you say?

Icing is easy. Mix a cup of icing sugar with a few tablespoons of butter and cocoa. Add a bit of milk if needed. Stir until the right consistency. ENJOY!

 

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Pasta Salad with Anchovies & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

IMG_9425

My signature pasta salad!

Whenever my friend Amanda invites me over to one of her soirees, I always make this pasta salad to bring along. It’s always a hit! And today when I was at my hairdressers, I shared this with Stacey, as she has a BBQ on tonight. Now, let me share it also with you all!

It’s divine when  it’s warm and just been put together. It also tastes amazing the next day after having been in the fridge, when all the flavours have had time to blend together and sink into the pasta.

It’s a great dish to make as a busy mum because it makes quite a lot, so there should be plenty of leftovers for the next day. The colours are really pretty and appealing, so the kids love it too. Don’t mention the anchovies in it and they probably won’t even know about them!

Without further ado, here’s how to make it.

spaghetti

Ingredients:

  • A Spanish onion (the purple ones)
  • Spring onions (I have a feeling these have a different name in the US too?) – about 6 or one bunch
  • A can/jar of anchovies in olive oil
  • A jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • 2 Red capsicum (I think you call them peppers in America, but I might be wrong)
  • 2 Carrots
  • Tri-coloured pasta – as in my photo
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Now, I use Fettuccine, but you can also use Linguine – see here:
Antico Pastificio Toscano MORELLI – Italian linguine (250 gr)

The Magic Method

First of all, cook the pasta, so that it is soft but still a bit firm – hope this makes sense! You don’t want it to be too cooked and gushy. Drain and set aside.

Put the chopped up Spanish onion, 3 chopped spring onions, half the jar of sun-dried tomatoes and all the oil from the jar, all the anchovies and oil, the 1/4 olive oil, and vinegar in a blender and … yep, what it’s for… blend it!

Toss this yummy sauce through the warm pasta, along with the half remaining jar of sun-dried tomatoes.

Next, cut up your carrots and red capsicums, along with the remaining 3 spring onions and toss into salad. You could add salt and pepper if you like, but I don’t do this. Pasta salad! There you have it. The best pasta salad you’ve ever eaten! Add it to your family favourites!

Don’t forget that Food Ideas for Busy Working People has just been released on Amazon! See here: http://a.co/2yDxoCf

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Make and Freeze Soups! Spicy Moroccan Meatball Soup

Moroccan Soup

I can’t pretend this soup is mine. It is one of the most delicious and nutritious soups I’ve ever made. I love it because it’s a balanced, complete meal in itself, with meat (beef), veggies and carbs (pasta). I took this recipe from an Australian magazine years ago called Delicious. I can’t find the issue – oops, not citing properly – but it was on page 90. Forever grateful for this one, which I’ve made over and over again.

Remember, as a busy mum, I don’t have time to make foods that don’t taste amazing and that my kids won’t eat. If I’m going to use my precious time on preparing foods, I need my kids to enjoy it. This one is a must for any busy, working mum’s repertoire of meals! The spices in this work so well together, giving it a sweet, yet slightly spicy flavour. It also freezes well, so you can store leftovers for another day when you get home from work too tired to cook.

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsps of cinnamon and cumin each
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 bunch coriander (I think you friends in the US call it cilantro? – help me on this!)
  • 1 fresh red chilli chopped into wincy pieces
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 egg, whipped in a mug
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup of pearl couscous (it’s a pasta)
  • Optional almond flakes to sprinkle on top at end

couscous

Here’s what pearl couscous looks like and you can buy it here:

Near East Pearled Couscous, Original, Non-GMO Project Verified, 20 Ounce Resealable Bags, 2 Bags

 

 

Method

Add half the onion, garlic and cook until soft. Stir in 1tsp cinnamon, ginger, and cumin. Cook briefly together then pour into a bowl and set aside to cool.

Using the same pan, add the coriander stems, remaining onion and garlic, cumin and cinnamon, and the chilli. Add the carrot,  zucchini, stock and 1 cup water. Slowly bring to boil.

While that’s cooking, make your meatballs. Mix the onion mixture with the beef, egg and breadcrumbs. Drop these into the soup.

When you think the meatballs are nearly cooked, add the pearl couscous. Cook until tender.

Serve with almond flakes on top if you wish. Most important of all, enjoy!

Don’t forget that Food Ideas for Busy Working People is now available on Amazon! See here: http://a.co/2yDxoCf

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Home-Made Pizza! Go on, you can do it!

Is there anything better than the smell of pizza wafting through the home?

pizza

If more people knew how surprisingly easy it is to make your own pizza dough, I’m sure more people would do so. You can’t beat home-made. Honestly, once you’ve tasted a home-made pizza, you’ll never want to buy a store bought base ever again.

My kids love making the dough with me. Kids can help measure the ingredients, stir, knead, roll dough, and then top pizzas – all with a little help from mum, or dad. In this post, I’ll try to step you through how to make your pizza, so anyone can do it.

What makes this a busy, working mum’s favourite? My recipe makes two pizzas, so leftovers for the following night! It also freezes well.

First, you’ll need to buy a few ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsps. olive oil
  • 11/4 cups of lukewarm water
  • 1 sachet of dried yeast
  • 11/2 tsps. sugar
  • tomato paste
  • mozzarella cheese
  • topping

How to make it (i.e. Method):

  1. First up, put your flour and salt is a big bowl and mix.
  2. Next, fill a jug with the water. It needs to be a bit warm for the yeast to activate. Add your yeast, sugar and olive oil and gently stir.
  3. Make a well in flour and pour in water mixture. Gently mix.
  4. Turn onto a floured surface and knead a bit. If it’s too dry, add a little bit more water. Not too much water, or it won’t rise properly. You want it to be just perfectly combined.
  5. Wrap your fingers in some glad wrap, pour a little oil into another big, clean bowl, rub oil over inside of bowl. Now’s a good time to quickly oil your pizza trays too. Place dough into this bowl, cover with cling wrap, and put somewhere warm in the house. My upstairs is always warmer than downstairs, so I put it on a table upstairs. It’s going to take a few hours to rise. You’ll  know it’s rising nicely when it looks like this:

Dough in bowl risen

It spreads to fill the bowl, then continues rising higher and higher.

6. When it’s risen, tip it onto a floured surface in the kitchen. Like this:

tipped dough

7. Now the fun part! Flour your rolling pin and coat the dough with some more flour too. Knead it a bit with your hands. This means mix it a bit. Roll it. Mush it together. Some traditionalists knead their dough for ages. My family like to lightly roll the dough, as we like it light and fluffy out of the oven. It’s a personal preference.

8. Next, cut your dough in half and roll each into a pizza base size, like this:

Dough rolled on bench

9. Put the two rolled pizzas on your pizza trays. If you need pizza trays like mine, with holes at the bottom to allow for a crusty base, see here:

Cuisinart AMB-14PP Chef’s Classic Nonstick Bakeware 14-Inch Pizza Pan

10. Open your tubs of tomato paste. Spread one on each base. I use the back of a tablespoon to spread it. It will then look like this:

dough with sauce

11. Next, sprinkle your mozzarella cheese on top and then your toppings. My kids like pineapple pieces and fresh ham. I like antipasto: artichokes, olives, capsicums. Here’s another ready to bake one:

topped pizza

12. Bake on 180 celcius for around 20 minutes. Ah, the smell. Oh my goodness!

ENJOY!!!

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Stir Fry Sundays – Freeze leftovers

veggies

Stir Fry Sundays!

You’ve heard me mention Casserole Sundays, and well now, you can introduce Stir Fry Sundays too!

You know I love steaming vegetables and eating with rice. Another way to mix up your vegetable intake is by stir frying them instead. Again, it’s quick, easy, low-fat, healthy, nutritious and they can be easily put in the freezer for dinners through the working week.

Don’t you just love the colours of vegetables! Choosing lots of different colours is the key to keeping your food engaging for the kids. Get them involved in selecting the vegetables at the shops. I say to my kids, ‘Okay, we have red capsicum, now we need something orange. How about carrots?’ etc. This way, they learn to appreciate the beauty their food.

You can see from the photo above that I love the following vegetables to stir fry: carrots, snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum, spinach, zucchini and mushrooms. Just throw them into a hot frypan with a little olive oil.

stir fry

Fancy cooking blogs will have you adding all sorts of sauces and spices. I’ll be honest, my kids like me to keep it simple. Sauces turn the veggies soft and they like them to be firm and dry (not gooey and sloppy). Once I’ve popped the stir fry on the rice, the kids usually add soy sauce. They go crazy for this.

To make this a balanced meal, you need to add a protein. After you’ve cooked the veggies, drop a few eggs in the frypan, and within seconds, you’ll have fried eggs to pop on top of your dish. So, you’ll have rice, veggies, and egg. A perfectly balanced meal! By the way, I use a Calphalon fry pan. They aren’t cheap, but I find them really durable. You can get the same here:

Calphalon Classic Nonstick 3 Pc 10″ Fry Pan and 1.5 Qt Sauce Pan & Cover Cookware Set

Here’s my stir fry, served with brown rice: Honestly, you can’t get healthier than this!

fry egg

Don’t forget to freeze leftover portions of the rice and veggies. I wouldn’t freeze the egg. Enjoy!

 

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Hearty Medieval Beef & Veg Stew with Dumplings!

stew 1

I’m going to let you in on another best kept secret: Stew! I’m talking Medieval cooking where you throw the meat into a pot with vegetables and cook it for ages until all the flavours blend together in one big, hearty pot of goodness. I mean, if we want to be truthful, this is caveman cooking!

Again, I’ve told you about the beauty of casseroles, soups, steamed rice & veggies, as meals for busy working mums. Well, add stews to that list! Basically, a stew and casserole is the same thing – that I know of – but I mix it up by using both terms, so that the kids don’t get bored of hearing the same thing for dinner! Shh, don’t tell them they’re the same thing!

To make this a balanced meal in itself, add barley or a bit of soup mixture (barley and lentils). This way, you have meat, veggies AND a carb.

To begin, you’ll need to buy lots of root veggies and other types of veggies to put in your pot. Root veggies are best as they retain their shape. Others go all gooey and gushy after so long in the oven.

I’ve just popped this dish in the oven for tonight’s dinner, and before that, I took this pic to show you what I’ve put in today’s stew:

veggies

As you can see, I have used the following: carrots, zucchini, asparagus, potatoes, corn (which I’ll cut off the cob), garlic, onion, potatoes, sweet potatoes (I think Americans call them something different, I’m thinking Kumara?), broccoli, parsley and bay leaves from my own garden (I love that!).

bay

On that note, buying a bay tree is the best. I have two in pots and, whenever I need to use their leaves, I simply pop outside and pick them freshly off my trees. Here’s a pic of my beautiful bay leaf tree…

 

 

Aside from the ingredients that I’ve mentioned, you’ll also need beef stock and diced beef.

 

 

I use a big cast iron pot that can cook on the stove and then be moved into the oven. I suggest you invest in one, if you haven’t got one. It makes life easier. If you don’t have one, it means you’re using two different pots, which means more washing up, which in my book means too much hard work!

This is what my pot looks like:

pot

If you don’t already have one, check this out:

Lodge EC6D43 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6-Quart, Island Spice Red

Now for theMethod’

  1. So, begin by cutting up all the veggies and set aside.
  2. Next, you’re going to throw a big chunk of butter into the bottom of your pot and fry your onions and garlic.
  3. Quickly coat your diced beef in plain flour. Once the onions and garlic are soft, add your floured meat and brown.
  4. Throw in all your veggies.
  5. Pour some hot water from the tap into your pot but only fill a quarter of the pot. Your veggies and meat should nearly be to the top. See the photo right at the top to see what this stage should look like.
  6. Add your bay leaves, stock, salt and pepper.
  7. Pop in the oven and cook on about 170 (that’s Celsius, not Fahrenheit) for a good hour and a half. You’ll know when it’s ready as the meat will fall apart easily with a fork.

Did I say ‘DUMPLINGS’?

Now for the piece de resistance! Just when you thought the stew was sounding good enough, it gets even better! Yep, I’m going to tell you how to add dumplings – your own, hand-made dumplings – into this pot. Now dumplings need about 20-25 minutes to cook. So, check your stew, and when you think it has around this amount of time to go, add your dumplings. If all the water has been absorbed, add a little more with stock. By the end, the dumplings take on the flavour and transform into buttery, doughy balls of deliciousness.

butter and flourYou basically rub butter into flour, as you would when you make scones (again, I think Americans call scones something else. Sorry, I can’t remember what). Anyways, use approximately 2 cups of flour (I love plain flour as I like my scones to be thick and chewy, but you can use SR Flour for fluffy ones. It really doesn’t matter which flour you use) and 5 tablespoons of butter. This is not an exact measurement. I appreciate that some people might find making a dough difficult, so here is a picture of my flour and butter to the right of this paragraph.

butter crumbs

 

Next, rub the butter into the flour with your fingers, until they resemble breadcrumbs – see left.

 

 

 

Dumplings.jpg

Now, you need to add a few tablespoons of milk at a time until this forms a dough. You can add a fresh herb at this point if you like. I love thyme. Then, roll into little balls. Don’t be precious about the appearance of the balls. They’re going to be thrown into your stew now, so don’t waste time making them look pretty!

Drop them in, and that’s it, you’re done. Wait 20 mins or so, then enjoy!

Note, I normally serve this with buttered toast. Here’s picture of the finished stew.

stew 2

 

 

And, what makes this a Busy Working Mums’ favourite? 

Freezing leftovers, of course!

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Hope you enjoy this as much as my family does! Post me a comment and let me know.

ood Ideas For Busy Working People by Busy Mum (i.e. me!) is now available on Amazon. The book contains all your favourite blog posts and recipes so far from my website. I hope you all love it! Click link below:

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