Menu Planning: a week of favourites

For this week’s meals, I’m going back to basics, making dishes we’ve enjoyed a thousand times* before. Mostly because the weekend has been busy and I didn’t have the luxury of spending an hour looking through new recipes, but also because it was an expensive weekend and I needed to pare back a little this week.

Sunday: leftover pizza for the boys, as I was out with a friend – adding a few boiled spuds to the plates ensured my littlest ones had plenty to fill their wee tummies.

Monday: meatloaf, boiled potatoes and coleslaw – always well-received.

Tuesday: wontons with fried rice – to reduce the fat-factor, I’ll bake the wonton pastry in muffin pans until they form crispy little shells, and fill with the cooked pork-and-veg mixture.

Wednesday: Kashmiri chicken curry – my littlest ones go nuts for this dish, and it’s a super-easy budget meal.

Thursday: chicken and vegetable soup – throw it all in and hope for the best (gorgeous Angela and lovely Belinda, plus assorted children, joined us for lunch last week and everyone ate loads of this soup, so I’m hoping to replicate the flavour if I can!).

Friday: leftover soup for the boys, while I go out with friends again.

Saturday: leek and brie tart – there’s a chance the weenies won’t like this, so I may make it date-night-in, and make them something like pasta and pesto, which they always love.

*possibly not an exact figure. Close to, though. Close to.

Everything from last week’s meal plan was very successful, with poor Tall having two little gannets demanding he share his beef stir-fry when he got home late!

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Meal Planning

I’m back on budget (way under, actually!) for this week’s menu – it’s amazing how much of a difference it makes when you do something as simple as check what meats are on special at the supermarket before planning your meals.

Roasted vegetable and feta tartSunday: Roast chicken with all the trimmings – Tiny ate all his chicken and a few veges, Pickle ate all his roasted vegetables and half of mine, so it was a mixed success, as always

Monday: Lasagne – my guaranteed meal for getting a load of vegetables into my boys. Tiny loves lasagne, and Pickle likes the pasta, but like many toddlers, is going through an anti-meat phase

Tuesday: teriyaki beef stir-fry with hokkien noodles

Wednesday: Butter chicken (my only Chelsea Winter recipe this week – amazing!)

Thursday: Spaghetti carbonara

Friday: Vegetable soup with garlic bread

Last week’s meals were mostly successful; the roasted vege tart was a bit bland, and due to running out of gas, I had to oven cook the steak for the sarnies (but the paprika mayo was very tasty)…the meal of the week, however, was the mushroom soup which was ah-maaaaaaazing. The recipe was supposed to serve 3-4, but Tall and I hoovered it down and basically licked our bowls clean, for a Friday date-night-in dinner.

Meal Planning

Much like last week, most of this week’s meals come from my new Chelsea Winter cookbook, At My Table. It’s been a long time since I bought a new recipe book (I got rid of a whole lot earlier in the year and vowed not to replace them), and I’ve been giddy with excitement at trying some new recipes. I did browse through others in my collection for inspiration this week, but the pull of Chelsea’s recipes is rather strong.

Meal PlanningSunday: Greek-style meatballs with yoghurt sauce and pita bread – enjoyed by all, but the meatballs were even tastier the following day.

Monday: crispy fish wraps with mango salsa – the mango salsa was divine, and combined with a mild fish like hoki, it was a very tasty meal indeed.

Tuesday: roasted pumpkin, beetroot and feta tart – meant for last week, but pork from the farmers’ market was calling our names instead.

Wednesday: steak and bacon sandwiches – I love a good steak sandwich, and the paprika mayo served with this one sounds goooooood.

Thursday: mushroom soup with crunchy mushroom toppers – it will be interesting to see whether my boys will eat this one!

Friday: chicken quesadillas – a family favourite that I make up as I go along.

Saturday: quick tomato macaroni cheese (from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Dinners) – sundried tomatoes and mozzarella should make for a delicious twist on this family favourite.

As for last week’s dinners, I’d say they were all a rollicking success. The salmon and cabbage red curry was amazing, the mediterranean sausage bake went down well-enough (except for the beans. None of my boys like beans.), and the creamy chicken pie was deeeeelicious.

Cheap-As Tuesdays

Given how much I spent on groceries this week, I feel a bit hypocritical about the name of this post – I went over my “informal” budget by almost $20, and while that doesn’t sound like a lot, there are plenty of things can be done/bought/paid for with that extra amount.

Anyhoo…budget-blow-outs aside, here is our menu for the week (brought to you by Chelsea Winter‘s At My Table – every recipe this week is from her cookbook, including Sunday’s eggs bene lunch and the cookies I baked on Sunday afternoon!):

Chicken CacciatoreSunday: pasta with pesto and parmesan for the boys, takeaway kebabs for Tall and me. It was Pickle’s birthday, Tall had been away in Queenstown for the night, and I’d made amazing eggs benedict for lunch with my parents, so the boys had their favourite, and we deserved takeaways. Justified, yep. (As a side note, I can’t help but refer to kebabs as “dirty”, from our time living in the UK, where kebabs are usually pretty greasy and eaten at 2am on the way home from the pub! For any UK readers – the kebabs we had were far from “dirty”, and perfectly acceptable as a general dinner option.)

Monday: chicken cacciatore with green beans and ciabatta (YUM. Just…yum. The olives and capers were so delicious, the chicken breasts tasty and succulent, with the addition of brown sugar cutting through the bland acidity of the tinned tomatoes. It took longer to cook than I prepared for, but the result was really tasty and enjoyed by all but the teething two-year-old, who ate the bread.)

Tuesday: salmon and cabbage red curry

Wednesday: Mediterranean sausage bake

Thursday: calamari and fries – for the little ones only, as Tall and I are going out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. A date night…..with other people, but a date night nonetheless!

Friday: creamy chicken pie (which I hope I can eat, after my first wire tightening that morning)

Saturday: roasted pumpkin, beetroot and feta tart

Last week’s meals were all pretty successful – the chicken and alphabet soup was really tasty and lemony, the butter chicken was scoffed super-fast by everyone, the minestrone had lots of flavour but wasn’t very popular with the little ones, and the leek fritters….well, Tiny ate the two I dished up and asked for more, I thought they were awesome but the sauce was much too garlicky, Pickle refused to eat anything but some salad, and Tall joked that there wasn’t enough meat in the fritters. He took leftovers for lunch though, and thought the sauce was great.

Cheap-As Tuesdays

Two meal plans, two weeks in a row. Maybe this will become a “thing” again?!? It is fair to say that my desire to be in the kitchen has returned with a vengeance, and my passion for trying new recipes has also been reignited. My family will be pleased; even though they wouldn’t dream of complaining, I’m sure they’ve had enough of the same recipes being presented to them week after week.

This week’s offerings:

Sunday: harissa-spiced halibut with couscous (from the Market Kitchen cookbook) – firstly, I used monkfish instead of halibut, and secondly, this recipe was gorgeous and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to try it! Tiny loved it, Tall loved it, I loved it….Pickle was too tired to eat much more than a few spoonfuls of couscous, but he loved that.

Monday: beef burgers with blue cheese and coleslaw – a classic combo that is always received well, and both of my little boys hoovered theirs up. I had to eat mine in a trendy, deconstructed way (thanks, changing bite), but it was still delicious.

Tuesday: chicken and rice soup (from a Lebanese cookbook) – except I’ll be using alphabet pasta instead of rice, just because I can. This will be Tiny’s first time eating his letters, and I think he’ll love it.

Wednesday: crockpot butter chicken – a “throw it all in and hope for the best” kinda recipe.

Thursday: leek fritters (Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi) – using leeks plucked straight from my dad’s garden, yum yum.

Friday: crockpot minestrone and garlic bread – another “throw it in…” recipe that should work out okay. And homemade garlic bread…everyone loves garlic bread, right?!?

Saturday: leftover minestrone – I reckon this is a dish that is better on day two, like most good Italian dishes.

What’s cookin’ in your house this week??

Cheap-As Tuesdays

Now that I have spare time again, and I’m used to my braces, I’m enjoying getting back into my kitchen. For the past few weeks, I’ve been cooking fairly simple, similar dishes, meals that I know won’t take long to prepare, and that I hope will be eaten with little or no protests from my boys. While Tall was away, I made three meals, and we ate leftovers or variations for the eight days. While we were on holiday, we ate a lot of salad-based meals, with fish or meat on the side, but it’s a bit cold for salads in Dunedin right now.

I took great delight in sitting down with recipes on Sunday, planning our week’s meals before doing the groceries. It felt so nice to spend time doing one of my favourite things – thinking about food – and it felt great to plan meals that were different, healthy and hopefully delicious. An added bonus was that Tiny was watching me flick through Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals, and chose two of this week’s meals based on the pictures he liked.

PizzaInspired by Elizabeth’s post about meal planning and food budgeting over at To Find a Silver Lining, and by SAHM I am‘s current What’s Cooking Wednesday series, and the distant memory of posts I used to do long ago, here is this week in meals in the Tall, Short, Tiny & a Pickle household:

Sunday: malai kofta with rice – a recipe given by a friend, which takes a while to prepare, but is definitely worth the effort! Everyone ate and enjoyed this curry, which was very mild but so flavoursome.

Monday: Thai red prawn curry – one of Tiny’s choices, a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals. It was spicy, and de-heading the whole prawns saw me retching into the kitchen sink, but the flavours were delicious and the near-voms were an acceptable trade-off. The fish lady at our local supermarket wanted to get rid of her last few prawns, so discounted the lot by $10/kg for me, making this dish much cheaper than it might otherwise have been!

Tuesday: sweet and sour pork – a recipe from Tana Ramsay’s Real Family Food that I’ve made before and we’ve all enjoyed.

Wednesday: Thai-style chicken soup – another Tana Ramsay recipe, but one I’ve not tried before. The spices will be much more muted than the prawn curry above, as this book is aimed at families with children who may not have tried spices before.

Thursday: Pregnant Jools’ Pasta – another Jamie O. recipe, and another of Tiny’s choices. Pasta and sausage-meatballs, essentially – but very tasty and appealing to my pasta-loving boys *this week’s Cheap-As Tuesday meal*

Friday: pizza (pear and blue cheese; salmon and cream cheese) – our classic favourite variations.

Saturday: orange chicken bake – a Tana Ramsay recipe that I’ve made before and we’ve all enjoyed. Leeks, potatoes, oranges and chicken pieces, baked and served with crusty bread to mop up the juices. Yum.

All of these meals will be completely home-made, and I was quite proud of myself for managing to buy everything we needed for these dinners, plus kindy lunches, breakfast staples, fruit etc, for about $40 less than I had been spending. Winter (and June, particularly) is an expensive time of year for us, so keeping the weekly shop cost down is something that’s on my mind at the moment.

The Perfect Steak Sarnie

There are two things I can never go past on a café menu.

The first is paté, especially if served with some sort of sweet relish or onion jam. When I was pregnant, this was one of the main things I missed eating; now, if I see paté on an entree menu…consider all other items ignored.

The second is a steak sandwich. Open or shut, sirloin or minute, ciabatta or sourdough…I love them all. However, my love for a good steak sarnie isn’t limited to ordering one at a cafe. Oh-ho-ho-no. I have been experimenting at home and this is my perfect steak sandwich.

Steak SandwichCiabatta – blue cheese – sliced steak – homemade caramelised onion – homemade coleslaw – avocado. What a combination. Of course, you can change the blue cheese to brie or a nutty emmental if you like, and switch the caramelised onion for a spicy tomato relish…but this is my perfect mix of flavours and textures.

Just make sure that when you eat it, you let the juices dribble down your hand. No knives and forks here, thanks very much!

Meal Planning

I’m quite proud of my meal plan for this week. Instead of trolling through my recipe books, picking whatever I felt like for the week’s meals, I planned our meals based around the half jars of this and half packets of that which were lurking in our fridge.

Meal PlanThe 200ml of coconut milk, and handful of limp-looking mushrooms? Pan-fried monkfish with a curried coconut sauce, served on rice with stir-fried vegetables.

The two little cabbages from my dad’s garden? They were destined to be made into coleslaw for hamburgers, but unfortunately they’d gone to seed and weren’t able to be used. Not to worry – we had a bag of metro lettuce and some blue cheese, so our burgers went a little “gourmet”.

The few strips of streaky bacon, leftover from the Otago Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago? They’ll be going in to our perennial favourite, macaroni cheese.

The spring onion, three-quarters of a chilli, half pottle of sour cream and half tub of greek yoghurt will be toppings for mince-and-beans nachoes, while the eggplant I bought on special last week will become my favourite vegetarian dish: Melanzane alla Parmigiana. Ahem. I am horrified that I misspelled melanzane on my whiteboard…but not enough to want to change it.

All the vegetables not stir-fried for the monkfish meal will be added to a Thai chicken curry…green, red or Massuman, I haven’t decided yet.

I did forget about half a pottle of ricotta cheese, but fear not! It won’t be wasted! My husband is off to the Bledisloe Cup rugby game on Saturday night, so I might make myself a little salad with some baked ricotta served alongside. Yum.

What’s on the menu in your house this week?

**If you want to vote for Tall, Short, Tiny & a Pickle for the 2013 Munch “Best Kids Food Blog” award, voting is open until 29 October.**

Munch Award~~~~~~~~~
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Potato Soup with Chorizo & Parsley

I know, I know – another soup recipe…..but we do love us some soup in this house. This was another that my smallest boys devoured; the biggest wasn’t sold until I told him there was spicy chorizo hiding in there, and then he was happy.

This has got to be one of the simplest soups on the planet; by itself, the potato soup would be pretty boring, but with the chunks of crispy chorizo and fresh, grassy parsley, it is delicious.

The original recipe suggests a greater quantity of milk than I used, but adding the suggested 250ml would have created a very thin soup, which I didn’t want. The original also suggests using chorizo slices, which are similar in size and thickness to salami slices, but I thought that rustic chunks would be nicer. I like textural contrasts with food.

Potato Soup with Chorizo & ParsleyPotato Soup with Chorizo & Parsley – serves 4

40g butter
450g potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 onion, diced
salt & freshly ground black pepper
900ml chicken stock
50-100ml milk
chorizo sausage
1T olive oil
large handful fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Melt the butter in a large soup pan. Add the potatoes and onion; season. Cover the pan and let the vegetables sweat over a low heat for around 10 minutes.

Bring the stock to a boil in a separate pot; when the vegetables are tender, add the hot stock and cook a further 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Purée the soup in a blender or using a stick blitzer. Season to taste and reheat; add sufficient milk until you reach your desired consistency.

Just before serving, cut the chorizo into chunky slices. Heat the oil in a fry pan and fry the chorizo until crispy.

To serve, drop chunks of chorizo into each bowl or soup and top with fresh parsley; drizzle with the paprika-flavoured oil that rendered out of the chorizo.

Original recipe: Darina Allen for Market Kitchen Cookbook

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Lamb Kofta Curry

On Saturday night, we had friends over for a potluck Indian Feast (the same friends we had the Eastern Mediterrnean dinner with a few weeks ago). There were homemade samosas, mango lassi, and four different types of curry. I made a chicken tikka masala, and paratha breads; we ate and drank until our bellies were bursting and our plates were clear.

IMG_3647IMG_3649When I sat down to plan this week’s meals, I had to think of a way to use up the fresh coriander and chillies I’d bought for the tikka masala. This recipe uses both in the kofta, and calls for a coriander garnish – perfect!

As he did the last time I made this (how cute does he look here?!?!), Tiny scoffed the lot, and Pickle ate a little too; I served it with a basic cucumber raita in case it was too hot for Tiny, but reducing the amount of chilli powder meant the spice kick was very slight.

Lamb Kofta Curry – serves 4

675g lamb mince
1 fresh green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2.5cm piece fresh ginger, finely grated
1/2t garam masala
1/4t salt
3T fresh coriander, finely chopped

2T rice bran oil
1/2t cumin seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2.5cm piece fresh ginger, finely grated
1t ground cumin
1t ground coriander
1/2t salt
1/2t chilli powder (I use about 1/8t if I’m making this for the kidlets to eat too)
2T tomato paste
400g can chopped tomatoes (I prefer the crushed and sieved variety)
fresh coriander leaves, to garnish
basmati rice, to serve

Combine the kofta ingredients in a large bowl; mix well with your hands until everything is bound together (you could use a food processor to do this). Shape into 16-20 even-sized meatballs; cover with cling film and chill for 10 minutes.

IMG_3644Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan and fry the cumin seeds until they begin to splutter.

Add onion, garlic and ginger, and fry for five minutes. Add the spices and fry for 30 seconds; add the tomato paste and stir before adding the tinned tomatoes. Simmer for five minutes.

IMG_3653Add the meatballs. Bring to the boil; stir, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Uncover, and cook a further five minutes.

Serve over cooked basmati rice and garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

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