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Chicken and veg bake, yum!

This dish is soooo good. Just saying, it truly is. It has all the food groups needed and somehow the combination is ridiculously tasty. Not even toddlers can deny it.

Ingredients:

Chicken breast or thighs cut into cubesWhole milk
1 onion dicedPlain flour
Sundries tomatoes roughly cutRosemary sprigs
Butternut, courgette, aubergine cubedGarlic
½ stock cube diluted in a cup ½ boiling water/ ½ milkMixed herbs
Cheddar cheese, gratedButter
Mushrooms thinly sliced to top the dishPepper & salt

Method:

As always cut up your vegetables of choice, toss with olive oil and herbs that you like or have in the house. Roast it off and then when it is done put your sundried tomatoes in with the veg.

While the vegetables are roasting start with the chicken part of the dish. Fry your onions in a bit of olive oil, add a small pinch of salt, garlic and some butter, onions love that! Add a tablespoon of roughly chopped rosemary and let them mingle. Remove everything and add some oil to the pan, now get your chicken in there and sear on all sides. When the chicken has good colour add the onion back and take a heaped tablespoon of flour and sprinkle it all over the chicken and onions and stir for 1-2 minutes.

Now remove from the heat and add the whole milk & stock slowly while stirring now return to the heat and add the last while stirring. It should thicken up to nice saucy mixture now add the vegetables, pour a little boiling water in the vegetable bake tray to loosen all the oil and herbs and add to the chicken mixture.

Empty it into a baking tray (make sure the chicken is distributed evenly) and top with the grated cheese and lay the mushrooms on top and bake for 20 minutes. If the top is not nice and brown get the grill on and watch it bubble! Served with couscous, bulgur wheat, potatoes or wraps whatever you got in the cupboard.

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Pork, turkey & courgetti meatballs/ patties

I have done a post before about the versatility of meatballs, but these were different again and we just so good enjoyed by the children too, that I had to share. We had an over stock of courgette so que grating that and in it goes.

Ingredients:

500g turkey and pork mince eachGarlic powder, you can use fresh
LinguinePaprika
½ onion, we used red finely choppedMixed Herbs
1 medium courgette, you can add carrot tooCoriander seeds toasted and ground
1 heaped tsp dried parsley or freshGround cumin
Passata or chopped tomatoesOil for cooking and coating hands when rolling balls
1 garlic clove, minced Olive oil
 1 milk-soaked slice of bread 2-3 tbs Balsamic vinegar

Method:

Grated your courgette into a bowl and put a pinch of salt over, let is stand and get on with your day. Come back to it and squeeze out all the water, I managed fine with just my hands. Add your onion, garlic and any herbs and spices you want to use. Pan fry some slices of courgette to add on top at the end and set aside till needed.

Mash the slice of bread and they goes in too, now add the mince and for the fun, combine thoroughly with your hands. You can cover the mixture and leave in the fridge till needed or form the balls immediately. I had to work quickly as I needed to get the meal prep done. Lay out some clingwrap on a flat surface this just means I can use the chopping board after without washing it immediately. Coat your hands with some oil and with a spoon get some of the mixture out and form a ball, through the meat from one hand to the other to compact it, place on the board. You can freeze them raw and put in a zip lock ounce frozen but we going to cook all of them.

Heat some vegetable oil in a heavy based pan, put the balls in a circle from 12:00 and again in a smaller circle and so on until the pan is full. I cooked them from 5 minutes turning halfway. Heat your oven to 108 degrees.

Line a baking tray with foil and get the balls out the pan into the tray. We also made some burger patties for a separate meal later in the week. Once your have seared all your balls/patties pop them in the oven for 20 minutes, again you can freeze them at this point but I used meat that had already been frozen so I needed to cook it all the way.

Once the meat is cooked remove the balls and let them cool on a rack. You can now freeze or put them in the fridge for later or use them immediately. To the same pan that you seared the meatballs in add some balsamic vinegar and let it sizzle then tip any cooking liquid from the baking tray into the hot pan with a teaspoon of brown sugar and reduce. Once it is bubbling add mixed herbs, paprika and pepper then your passata. Add any salt you want at the end so you can remove some for the babies first.

Not cook your pasta and reserve some of the cooking liquid, bring your sauce back up to heat and put the drained, cooked pasta into the hot pan using a pasta ladle and spoon toss it together. It should be bubbling so the sauce reduces if needed add some of your cooking liquid now and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. We heated our balls in the microwave a little and then added them to the pan once the sauce had thickened. Now serve, with your pasta ladle and spoon scoop up and plate and then dived the meat balls evenly at the end. We used about 5 small meatballs each and the rest are saved for baby’s meals or frozen for another time. Now top with your fried courgette, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Food prep the Mom2Squared way

It has been a while since I managed to do a post as I have been tweaking my schedule at home to be more mindful and spend not only time on exercise but also fit in meditation and other positive influences in my day. I have shared a few recipes with you on here now and I am not sure if you have noticed a pattern, but I have definitely found a method that works for my and the family.

We don’t do large batch cooking, yes, we do freeze extra portions but we make fresh and then freeze a few portions for when we need a meal quickly. What I do is use the entire day to prepare the meal in stages and it comes together at night for the dinner. We generally feed Austin and Aria at 5pm and then pull ours together after bedtime, but we are not starting from scratch. I would at the very least have fried the onions and vegetables in advance depending on what meal we are having.

I would say that roasting vegetables has become a huge part of my cooking because the vegetables love it, they morph into something delicious. They sizzle and crisp, soften and sweeten. What is not to love right? I would normally start off roasting a batch of whatever it is that I may need first thing, when every I have the time to chop dress and pop in. Normally around 10:00 while The Mini Music Makers are on and I can nip to the kitchen. There are a few key spices that add the flavour to our food and we have found them very baby friendly. The magic happens by using the right amount of the following; Mixed Herbs, Garam Masala, Ground Cumin, Paprika, Garlic powder, Ground black Pepper, Fennel Seeds, Onion Seeds and Rosemary. Start small with the spices and see what works for your family. We just add salt and chilli once we have removed the childrens portion.

Roasting the butter nut for our pasta sauce first thing or when you have 10 minutes to prepare it.

When need a quick meal, I always start with frying off onions and grating a carrot in, for me I then know that is the makings of a balanced meal. Add some mixed herbs and a splash of balsamic vinegar fry off the vinegar and add a can of chopped tomatoes or passata, now you have a nice pasta sauce, not from a jar, no hidden sugar. You can always put a teaspoon of maple syrup or sugar alternative in. I use the same sauce when making our rice balls and just use a little bit and then have plenty left for another dish.

If you are doing anything you make in a pan, early in the day when you have time chop up your onion and other vegetables you are planning to use and fry them down. Sometimes I even do this without staying there I just pop back and stir once in a while or you can unpack the dishwasher will it is cooking away. As you get more used to cooking you will figure out your own short cuts, just know it doesn’t have to be a big job and a big clean up.

The finished product of the Tomato based pasta sauce, only two pans to clean

I use the same chopping board throughout the day, unless I have done meat on it. It just stays there until I am done chopping the last vegetable or herb, load the dishwasher as you go and rinse your utensils. By the time you have eaten you should only have the pan and the plates and cutlery you used. Yes, there will be exceptions but for the most part you have it under control. Happy cooking people!

Aubergine & Chickpea Thai Curry

This one started off by us needing to use an Aubergine from the fridge, we love Thai food and the paste adds such great flavour, for the children we use just a ½ teaspoon of paste to add flavour. It really delivered and as we ate dinner last night, I could have really eaten that in a restaurant and not complained. Please see below for the image where I kept aside a portion of the ingredients to make for the babies separately.

Ingredients:

1 aubergine cubed and roastedCoconut oil
1 can chickpeas drainedFish sauce adult only
1 can coconut milkBrown sugar or palm sugar adults only
1 onion choppedFresh coriander
1 carrot pre steamedCouple canned peaches for children
Thai curry paste, we used greenTurmeric
Cooked rice 

Method:

Add your oil to a frying pan once hot and melted add the onion, I wanted to get some nice colour on it. Once it has browned nicely add your steamed carrot and roast aubergine and fry for 2 minutes. I do this when cooking because it can happen without me being there, so we steam and roast our vegetables, also the roasting gives such great flavour it really gets the children enjoying the vegetables. A bit of prep in the morning or afternoon and there is much less to do at mealtime. With two babies you really want to avoid that ‘I am hungry’ screaming.

Add a spoon of the coconut cream and fry till the paste is fragrant

Remove a few spoons of the vegetables and set aside in a desert bowl to use for the babies. If you are making it now just do it in a small pan. Add a teaspoon or more of the curry paste to the adult portion and fry empty the chickpeas in the pan and about ¼ of the can in bowl, once fragrant add a spoon of the coconut milk cream and stir while that fries. Place a spoon of the cream in the children’s bowl and about a ¼ of the watery bit. Now empty the coconut milk can’s contents in the pan and stir. We added some fresh chopped coriander at this stage, it is not essential.

We added a tablespoon of fish sauce and a teaspoon of sugar now, do this to your own taste stir and simmer for 10 -15 minutes stirring every so often. The coconut milk we use was so creamy that we needed to add some boiling water to loosen it I added a ½ -1 teaspoon of turmeric now it adds a nice colour and the stuff is good for you too. It should have a think soup consistency not gloopy when reduced.  We always put our rice on 20 minutes from when we need it, we use a rice cooker and this is such a great help, you don’t even need to think about it.

For the children’s meal I took the bowl set aside out of the fridge, warmed some oil in a pan and added a ½ teaspoon of paste to the hot pan let it fry and add a spoon of the coconut cream and fry off. You are replicating the adult meal just less spice, salt and sugar. Empty the rest of the ingredients into the hot pan and stir, I also added some boiling water, turmeric and a few chopped tinned peaches to theirs stir and reduce for just under 10 minutes. Add the rice to the mixture to warm through, turn off the heat and add some natural yogurt for creaminess and to reduce any heat there may be from the paste. My children just love it! I served theirs with some steamed frozen veg such a blessing as a Mom.

Butternut Pasta Sauce

This one it absolutely amazing and we all enjoy it, too much really. It is finger licking delicious. It is a great way to get some added goodness into a pasta dish. Our twins love pasta, they seem almost Italian! You can add any veg you enjoy just fry it off and add to the pasta and sauce at the end, we use courgetti this time but mushroom, broccoli will work too.

Ingredients:

Pasta (half a bag makes enough for all of us) 
½ Large Butternut, sweet potato works tooMixed Herbs and Rosemary
1 onion1-2 tbs Plain flour
Whole milk about a cupPaprika
Cup of grated cheese or your choicePepper
1 Medium CourgetteOlive oil
 Mushrooms if desired 

Method:

Chop your vegetables into large chunks and drizzle with olive oil and herbs of choice to roast. I have a roast veg mix that is super tasty, it is from South Africa and I have not come across one here, but anything will do. Roast your butternut till cooked and delicious looking, the one we used was a bit young I think so didn’t have that deep orange but was tasty none the less.

While that is roasting fry your onion and the other vegetables you want to put in the dish, season to taste. Once the roasting the done remove the and place the roast vegetables in a container, add the milk and blend. This can be set aside until the evening when you are ready to cook.

Cook your pasta 15 minutes before you need the dish to be ready. While that is cooking put 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and the same of flour, mix it a bit and let the flour cook for a minute or so. Remove this from the heat and add your butternut and milk mixture while stirring. Once it is stirred in well return it to the heat and stir while it thickens, turn off the heat once it is the desired consistency. If it thickens too much add a bit more milk. Crack some pepper into the sauce.

Once removed from the heat add your cheese and stir until it is combined, it may be a bit stringy, but I don’t mind that. You can use cheddar or parmigiana and you can use less if you don’t want to add too much either, it is your dish. Once your pasta is cooked and drained you can add your sauce and fried vegetables to it and stir. I always have enough sauce to keep some for when I do not have time to cook and usually, I only cook the adult portion away the kids have gone to bed but everything is ready to go.

Finely sliced sundried tomatoes or crumbled feta will be nice on top. If you enjoy this recipe our Red Pepper Pasta is just as good.

Golden curry our way

During these times it is more prevalent but should always be applied. Use what you have, adapt the recipes, and do not fear, just consider what can be interchanged with what. I saw the video for this one and loved the idea and convinced myself that Nigella used green peppers, they were green chilli. That is fine we ended up using yellow and orange peppers and added a hint of chilli at the end after a ladle was removed for children meals.

Ingredients:

1 Green Pepper (or whatever colour)1 tsp Ground turmeric
150g of shallots cubed or 1 small/medium onion2 tsp Tamarind paste
25g Fresh gingerPinch of salt
1 Lemongrass stalkCoconut oil or alternative
400 ml Coconut milkChilli
1 egg per personRice to serve or flatbread to dip
2 large garlic cloves, roughly choppedSpring onion, onion seeds & crispy onion to serve

Method:

Blend the peppers, garlic, onion, and ginger with a stick blender. I added the turmeric and stir through. Heat the oil in the pan and add the paste and lemon grass and fry for 5 minutes until cooked. Add the coconut milk and bring to boil and then simmer for 7 minutes until reduced, thick, and golden. At this point I removed a large ladle of the curry and set aside for the children.

By mixing through steamed frozen peas and a grated carrot and mixing with rice, a teaspoon of yogurt and half the sauce set aside it made 2 meals for our twins, so 4 if you have one baby. Once the babies’ portion is removed add chilli to taste, when you are ready to eat bring the curry back up to boiling break 2 eggs in and cover to steam. About 2 minutes for a soft egg but just keep an eye on it and cook as desired.

We have a rice cooker, so we put the rice on 20 minutes before we need it. I scooped it out with a bowl for a dome. Chop the green of spring onion finely and plate; first the rice then ladle the egg and curry sauce over that and top with the garnishes as per the image. A drizzle of siracha was a lovely touch and for not a lot of work you have a flavour explosion.

Tuscan mince and ricotta filled pasta

We bought large pasta shells because I insisted that they look luxurious and would be great for a dinner party. They have been in the cupboard since the start of lockdown, their time had come. It is much easier than the images and recipe list would suggest, give it a try it is a nice treat and feels a bit like you went to an restaurant in Siena.

Mince of choiceRosemary 2 sprigs chopped
1/2 tub of ricottaMixed herbs
¼ – ½ Chorizo chopped into small cubes1 tbs fennel seeds toasted and ground
1 onion chopped1 tsp ground cumin
500g Pasta (If you don’t have the large use any)Black olives roughly pulled apart
Sundried tomatoes- not a necessityBlack pepper and salt
3 cubes frozen spinach defrosted or freshChilli flacks
Preparade Tomato sauceLemon zest of 1 lemon
The chili flakes here were added to the tomato sauce for the adult portion

Fry your onion in a bit of oil, I added a pinch of salt at this point once translucent add the garlic but drop the heat. I forgot to toast my fennel so move the onion and garlic to the side and did it in the same pan; see in the image below. This happens to me a lot and I am not one to dirty and pan unnecessarily. Add the mince to brown, after about 2 minutes add the herbs; Mixed herbs, fennel, cumin and 1 sprig of rosemary. Add the defrosted spinach and half of the chopped chorizo, fry until the meat is cooked and has a nice colour. You could add more salt at this point, we jsut added a pince once I had removed the childrens portion.

Remove from the heat and add the Ricotta and lemon zest stir until it is well incorporated. I added a piece of sundried tomato while assembling but you can just add a handful of chopped pieces now and mix through. Cook the pasta as directed on the packaging, drain and cover with some olive oil. This can be done during the cooking process or after depending on when you want the dish to be ready. I cooked the filling in the afternoon and set it aside to cool and kept it in the fridge until I needed it for the children’s dinner.

Once the pasta has cooled down a little you can start assembling, but first put a layer of your tomato sauce on the bottom of the oven dish. Now start filling and I even think this could be fun for the littles ones if they were a bit older.  I put the rest of the chorizo in the bowl with the cooled down mince and just spooned a little with each scoop. Then place them on the sauce in a woven like pattern so you can fit the largest quantity of shells in the dish.  

Top the dish with the olives and cheese and top with the chopped Rosemary to finish. What you will get is warm, comforting Tuscan flavours that brings the Mediterranean sun right into your home. We made two dinners and two lunches for us and the sae for the Austin and Aria. This would be great served with a salad if you have anything in the house, but we were a bit low on fresh foods.

Gammon, mushroom, leak and cheese pie

We had a nice hunk of Gammon in the freezer, from Mother’s Day as it happens, and some leak from last week’s shop. What a yummy pie that would make!

2 leaks choppedPaprika
½ punnet of mushrooms, more if you like, slicedDijon mustard
Cooked gammon or slice some cold meats you need to use up1 tbs of flour
2 medium carrots, halved and slicedMixed herbs
¼- ½ head of broccoliUnsalted Butter and vegetable oil
150ml single creamWhole milk
Grated cheddar Cheese, we used mature1 garlic clove quartered

Fry the leaks for 2 minutes in some oil of your choosing, then add the mushrooms and a bit of butter and the garlic. Meanwhile steam your carrots and broccoli in the microwave and chop into 1cm or smaller chunks once soft. I was doing a hidden veg vibe, so they don’t bite into something and pick it out so chopped them quite fine.

Once your mushroom’s and leaks have cooked down and taken on some colour grind in some pepper and add the mixed herbs and paprika. Removed 2-3 tbs and add it to the chopped steamed veg for the kids. Hubby is not into carrots and broccoli.

Now put in in a bit of butter, how much is up to you really, add the flour and stir through the butter, remove from the heat after a minute or so and pour in the cream and stir the entire dish add a little milk to loosen and the Dijon mustard. Put back on the heat, as the mixture thickens add more milk till it is the consistency you want, then turn off the heat. At this point remove to spoons of the sauce and add to the baby’s veg and put 30g of cheese in too and mix. You will see it is mostly vegetables and just enough sauce and cheese to bind it. Add cheese to the adult portion and stir through, it is enough for 4 medium pie’s the same as the children’s or one large lidded pie. I added a pinch of toasted and ground fennel seeds, but it is a strong flavor so only add it if you love it and it is really not necessary.

The gammon needs to be chopped into cubes, for the babies I did them small 5mm square roughly and then 1cm for us. Remove your pastry from the fridge 10 minutes before needing it. Cut a 15cm piece and cut that in half so you have 2 squares.

Mix the gammon cubes into the rest of the children’s mixture once it is cooled. Place the mixture in one half of the pastry and fold over, you may need to tuck it a bit so it all fits and then with a fork push the edges together. Back for 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees.

For the adulty meal the mixture would have cooled now so add your gammon and mix put in a pie dish or any baking tray and top with the pastry, so it is covered back for the same time as the babies. I mixed carrot and broccoli in my half of the pie and it was extremely delicious! I would really recommend it and did keep telling my husband how he was missing out. Much to his silent annoyance.

Healthy Pasta Sauce – Carrot, courgetti and tomato

This is one that we use all the time if you need to get a lunch or dinner together in no time. Usually we just grate a carrot into in as it gives a lovely flavor and texture, plus loads of vitamins. We only made one meal for the twins so there was sauce left to keep for another day.

Ingredients:

1 grated carrot gratedCoconut oil (any oil you prefer)
1 small or half a medium onion finely choppedDried mixed herbs or oregano (Fresh is fine too!)
1 small or half medium courgetti gratedTomato paste
1 can of chopped tomatoesWe use a little Maple syrup to balance tomato
Garlic optional (We didn’t use it, but you totally can)Balsamic vinegar
Any Pasta, I cut the shells in half once they were cookedButter
Mild cheddar cheese grated (15g/ child portion)Chilli flakes

Basically, you just cook it all in one pan, starting with the veg that take the longest. First, we fry off the onion until it browns or goes translucent (it shouldn’t be completely cooked, add the carrot and a small nob of butter fry it for 1-2 minutes till lightens in colour. Then add your courgette and fry all till the water from the courgetti has evaporated, put in a pinch of your chosen herbs, I wanted it to brown but it was taking too long so I moved on. If anything gets stuck to the pan deglazed with some balsamic vinegar, just give it 30 seconds or a minute to evaporate.

Add the can of chopped tomatoes, you can use passata if that is all you have. If you only have plum just chop them up and throw in all the juice from the can. I rinsed the can with some of the pasta water, about half a can. Let the sauce simmer and reduce for 3-5 minutes add the tomato paste and Maple syrup, you can use a ½ teaspoon of any sugar you have. At this point you can remove some for the babies and add chilli flakes for the adult portion.

Stir the sauce through the cooked pasta and add cheese once it is removed from the heat. I added another splash of pasta water, as you would normally when making pasta. I good amount of sauce was left that we will use either for another meal for the children or for a lunch for us.

Red Pepper Pasta

Last week I read that red peppers are a great source of Vitamin C. I decided to buy a large bag for £1.45 so we had plenty in to use to prepare healty meals. You can expect to see this sweet, fresh vegetable appear in quit a few of my recipes.

Ingredients:

500g Pasta AdultsMixed Herbs
50g Pasta Babies1 Garlic Clove
½ Punnet of mushroomsPepper and salt to taste
1 Red PepperHand full of spinach ca
1 Medium OnionChorizo & Rocket to garnish
4 Spoons of Cottage cheese, great Protein 
1 Aubergine cubed and roasted 

I fried my peppers first as I like a nice char on them, you can use any oil you like but I use olive (not virgin). When they are the colour you like and a little soft place them in a bowl and set aside. Now fry your onion( add salt here if you want), I like using oil and then adding a little butter, when they are ready add you mushrooms and little nob of butter, herbs and a grind of black pepper. Optionally you can add the spinach now to wilt

Above is all the steps including the blended veg and cottage cheese.

At this point I stopped and just before the children’s dinner time I made a small portion for them, but you can do it all at the same time. Combine all the veg and cottage cheese in a blending jar, I added a splash of whole milk, so it blends easily. Reserve the pan you used to fry everything.

Boil your pasta, we used spaghetti, and drain once it is cooked. Set aside some of the cooking water. Place your drained pasta in the pan you fried everything in add 2-3 spoons of the sauce you prepared and cooking water till it combines well.

I cooked some Chorizo and it went too far and was crispy but turned out to be a great topping. We also grated some Parmesan, but it really didn’t need it as the flavours are intense enough without. Let me know if enjoy the recipe, put your own spin on it, this was only one combination.