Chicken, Veg & Herb Soup

Chicken, Veg & Herb Soup

Veggies

Seriously, how divine do these vegetables and herbs look! I love to cook with lots of colours. I couldn’t go past these yellow squash, onions, and herbs. Aside from basil and thyme, tarragon is my other favourite herb to cook with. In Australia, it is seasonal and not available all year round, so I buy it whenever I see it. I love the aniseed flavour! The smell of this soup is sweet and inviting. This is simple, healthy, home-cooking at its best: ideal for busy, working mums!

IngredientsVeggies in bowl

  • 4 organic chicken thighs, chopped
  • 4 shallot onions – see above photo
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of white wine
  • 5 potatoes
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 100g pancetta
  • 1/4 cup of soup mix: lentils and barley
  • At least 11/2 litres of chicken stock
  • A handful of tarragon
  • 6 stalks of thyme
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper

To makeSoup

  1. Fry your onion, garlic and pancetta in some olive oil until translucent
  2. Add your chicken and brown
  3. Throw in your chicken stock, wine, herbs, soup mix and vegetables
  4. Season with salt and pepper
  5. Simmer until vegetables are soft – at least half an hour. Add lemon juice.
  6. Enjoy!

 

 

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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. It’s actually a pasta.

 

 

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!

 

 

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

 

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!

 

 

 

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

 

 

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Scrumptious Salads

 

 

Salads really are a working mum’s best friend! I know so many mums whose kids won’t eat fresh vegetables, but I’ve been giving my kids this kind of dinner since they were little, and they love the different colours on the plate, and I’ve never had a problem with them not eating their veggies.

The key is to always offer kids a variety of fresh vegetables. Don’t pester them about eating it all. Instead, talk about all the pretty colours. Eat together and say how yummy the avocado is etc. They many not eat it all immediately, but over time, you’ll be surprised how they develop a taste for fresh foods. If you don’t offer it, they can’t eat it. If you offer it, they have the choice to eat healthy. Simple.

I always consider that I need to offer a carb of some sort, protein of some sort, and vegetables. The photos above are an example of the types of salads I throw together.

Let’s start by talking about carbs. I have wholemeal pasta in one, soba noodles in the other, and my favourite barley in another. Others to consider include beans and brown rice. I like to mix it up, so we don’t get bored.

Protein. I know that I feel sluggish if I don’t eat enough protein. Growing bodies need protein, as do… um… aging mums! Basically, think meats. Eggs are my favourite as you can boil a whole lot, use some on the day, then pop them in the fridge for the next few days to use in lunches etc. I love salmon too because this can be easily baked in the oven with no fuss and no washing up!

Veggies. Veggies are great because you can buy up big at the grocers and then leave them in the fridge to use through the week. If you’re really keen to time-save, you can cut them up on the weekend and have them ready to use through the week. My favourites include: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrot, broccoli (raw), mushrooms and avocado.

Yummy extras. My kids and I are totally in love with pomegranates. They are the prettiest dark pink colour and they taste sweet. I throw them over salads. I like telling the kids that they have been eaten since the beginning of time – since the garden of Eden. We aren’t religious, but I’m sure I read somewhere that they were eaten way back when… The other thing we love in salads is bocconcini: soft, cheesy, creamy balls of deliciousness. You can throw in any other cheese really. Persian feta is another one you should try.

Salad dressing: My kids aren’t fans of salad dressing. I usually pour a little Apple Cider Vinegar over mine as I find it refreshing, it has health benefits, and can help you lose weight, apparently!

School lunches. You’ll notice the image in the top right is a salad in a lunch box. I make these ahead of time and bring them to work. They have two sections, one with  the salad you can see, and another smaller one sits on top, where I put barley. At work, I add them together. So delicious and healthy!

 

 

 

 

 

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Use a Steamer! Rice, Veggies & Meat

Veggies

Buying a steamer is the best thing I ever did to save time in the kitchen. Honestly, it couldn’t be any easier. You place the rice and veggies in the steamer and turn it on. Hey, presto!

If you haven’t used a steamer before, here’s my advice:

For rice: for rice, I put double the quantity of water in with the rice. So, for example, let’s say I put 1 cup of rice in my steamer’s rice dish. I would then add 2 cups of water. You want your rice to be nice and fluffy and soft.

For the veggies: cut away and pop in the tray. It’s really that easy. Aim to include lots of different coloured vegetables. My favourites are: carrots, broccoli, red and yellow capsicums, bok choy or silverbeat and zucchini.

Note: the rice takes longer to cook than the veggies. I usually place both rice and veggies on the steamer to begin, turn it on, then keep an eye on the veggies. When they are soft enough, take off the steamer and run under cold water quickly to retain colour and arrest cooking. Then, cover with a tea towel or foil to keep warm until the rice is done.

Add meat: Steaming rice and veggies, and adding a meat of some sort, is my staple mid-week dinner. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big red meat eater. In fact, I was a vegetarian for much of my life. I started eating meat after the birth of my first child – I’ll leave this story for another time! You’ll notice there is only a little bit of cut-up lamb chops in this image. That’s enough for me.

Quick meat tip: For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to include fish as a meat. The easiest way to add a protein/meat to steamed rice and veggies is to throw a piece of fish on some tin foil and put in the oven to bake for 7-10 minutes. My favourites are salmon and flathead. Drizzle with lemon if you wish. Add to your rice and veggies. There, you have a balanced, low fat, nutritious meal!

* All I did for the meal in the photo is fry some lamb chops in the frypan

Time-saving tip: I make way more rice and veggies than is needed for dinner. I freeze it in portions. Some of these will become re-heatable dinners for me on nights when I’m too tired to cook; other, smaller, frozen portions are used by my daughter at dancing on nights when she needs to heat her dinner there.

Here’s a similar steamer to the one I use. You should be able to click on the link to check it out. It comes with a rice bowl too. Yay!http://amzn.to/2FOcq8k

BELLA 7.4 Quart Healthy Food Steamer, Dual Basket

 

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Book Cover Good Copy

 

 

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