Busy girl dinners

 

Zero to plate in 15 minutes

Zero to plate in 15 minutes

So it has been brought to my attention (well I asked actually) that some of you out there want some quick healthy meal ideas for nights where you are short of time. This can apply to any of you ladies out there, mums, late night workers, studyers, or just girls out there being girls, multi-tasking and not having much time to spend making dinners.

 

Now I consider myself a busy girl, even though well, ahem,  I’m much more like a busy lady than girl these days. Regardless, I’m always saying yes to things and always ending up with not much time to cook dinner, especially during the week, yeesh!  So here are some things that I do to help with the busy times …

 

Plan your meals.

Oh the horror, the bore, the OCD. But seriously, it’s necessary! I never thought I would be one of “those” girls, but turns out, life is actually much less stressful if you pull out a bit of the “planning natzi” in you and plan the week’s meals. Not only does it help me with budgeting, but it helps me to plan quick meals on days I know I will be home late (or out all day) and will be wanting a quick option.

Meal planning like a boss

Meal planning like a boss

I plan out the week’s meal options before the start of the week. I write down what I’m doing on each of those days (and I’ve gotten so anally retentive that I also factor in the weather) and then decide what we will eat that night. From there I do my online shopping and work out what I need to do on my prep day. Dinners are SOO much quicker when you have all of the ingredients and meals are half prepared already.

 

Prep day.

Yup, sounds like more boring and time consuming doesn’t it. Prep day isn’t actually a whole day. Most of the time it’s an hour or so of prep, but basically it is the things I do to make sure most of the meals for the week are mostly prepared. I co-ordinate this time with when I get my shopping delivered so that everything is done from the get-go. The things you can do with prep day are:

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  • Cut up meat into portions, marinade, put in zip lock bags and then freeze. These are AWESOME for when you get home late, just whack in the microwave to defrost and then cook.
  • Pre-prepare salads – wash and spin some salad leaves in either a salad spinner or by putting in the middle of a tea towel, grabbing all four corners and spinning it in a big circle with your arm. Cut up carrot, cucumber, capsicum, cabbage, snow peas, etc and put with the lettuce. Add some cherry tomatoes to the mix too (they keep amazingly because you don’t have to cut them). Keep in your fridge in between two dry tea towels, it will keep nice and fresh all working week. All you need to do before serving is add some avocado, feta, olives and seeds and you’ve got an amazingly quick dinner side to go with your meat you marinaded from the point above.
  • Slow cook meals or batch prepare meals. Things like bolognaise sauce, stew, pulled pork, slow cooked chicken, chilli con carne, all great options to pre-prepare and freeze. All you have to do when you get home is whack it in the microwave, put on some pasta or better yet 90 second rice/quinoa and by the time you go and change out of your clothes you have dinner already sorted.
  • Make some pizza bags. Make pizza dough, chop toppings, grate cheese, put it all in zip lock bags or containers and freeze. Move from the freezer to the fridge in the morning and by dinner time all you have to do is heat the oven, scatter over the pizza and within 20 minutes will be enjoying a delish, healthy homemade pizza.
  • Chop vegetables and container them. If you have planned to have steamed veg then cut and mix them on prep day. It cuts out about 5-10 minutes of your prep time if all you have to do is empty them into the steamer.
  • Roast veggies. Cut up pumpkin, zucchini, sweet potato, egg plant, whatever roasted veg takes your fancy and roast it on prep day so you can add that little bit extra to salads, sandwiches or just have as sides throughout the week.

 

Slow cooker batch meals

Slow cooker batch meals

Supermarket meal list

Do you ever go into the supermarket to get something for dinner and wander aimlessly around for about 20 minutes getting hungrier and hungrier before getting so hangry and frustrated that you just buy something crappy for you? Well writing yourself a list of quick supermarket meals you can throw together may help out. It means that when you are faced with the no-time situation all you need to do is go straight in and get what you need. It will stop you getting tempted by the crap. Some of our quick supermarket eats are

  • Yiros – marinated lamb, yiros bread, salad, grated cheese.
  • Hot chicken and salad bag. Bread rolls on the side or wrap it up in wrap bread for carbs.
  • Pasta, pasta sauce and broccoli. Even better if you make and freeze your own pasta sauce, extra points for that one.
  • Steak and steamed veg seriously will take you 15 minutes, TOPS.

 

Quick yiros salad

Quick yiros salad

 

Simplify

And lastly, just keep it simple! Healthy doesn’t have to mean gourmet. Baked beans on rye toast, or eggs with rice and asparagus (ahhh random!!) is a-okay. Simple meals are qupre quick and a great way to throw something together when you are short of time and can’t be fecked slaving over a stove.

 

Random healthy eats

Random healthy eats

So if you are a busy girl and want to eat healthy, try some of my tips! Don’t forget to tell me yours too… what are your go-to quick meals?

 

Happy cooking,

 

The Dietitian Mummy

 

It’s getting hot in hurrrr, so mar-i-nade your meat

Yeah that’s right, I’m a gangsta. Well obviously not really, but I can pretend right?

 

Basil and garlic chicken

Basil and garlic chicken

Over here in Radelaide the sun is starting to shine and the weather is getting amazing! It’s funny how much the weather determines the foods that I cook. Sometimes I will have a comfort-food type recipe planned for a dinner and then that day turns out to be warm and I just can’t bring myself to cook a hot meal on a hot day. When the weather is warm, we turn to salads.

 

Marinade madness

Marinade madness

Salads for me though are so much more than just leaves and chopped up tomato plonked on the side of the plate. I LOVE to make a meal out of it, adding in meat or eggs, carbs in some form, seeds, nuts, cheese, whatever takes my fancy on the day actually. There is one thing that really makes  a salad. And that is a good meat marinade.

 

Lamb greek salad kids version

Lamb greek salad kids version

A good marinade means that every bite you have with the meat in it, is just one of those mouthfuls that you just can’t help but groan out loud. I have two go-to marinades that always come out of the woodwork when the weather warms up: garlic and basil chicken; and greek lamb.

 

These marinades are the sorts of things that busy girls can do in the morning before work or mum life and then throw together into an amazing salad at the end of the day.

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So here they are, do your taste buds a favour and get into these.

 

Garlic and basil chicken:

This will be enough for 2 chicken breasts or 4 chicken thighs.

Finely dice 2 cloves of garlic (or use 2 tsp minced garlic from a jar) and put into a bowl with a big handful of basil chopped finely, a squeeze of half a lemon, a pinch of sea salt flakes and a good glug of olive oil. Plonk your meat in and get in there with your hands and give the meat a good massage with the marinade. Leave this for at least half an hour but for as long as you have.

When I use this marinade I normally brown the chicken well on all sides then finish it off in a 190 degree oven.

 

Greek Lamb:

This is enough for about 500g lamb pieces.

Finely dice 2 cloves of garlic (or 2 tsp minced garlic), put in a bowl along with 1 lemon squeezed, a big pinch sea salt flakes, some cracked pepper, and 2 tsp oregano (fresh if you have it). Repeat as with the chicken marinade.

For the lamb pieces I will just fry them in a frypan with some olive oil.

 

Add to your salad or on a plate with some salad and voila, summer meat madness.

Happy cooking,

 

The Dietitian Mummy

 

 

 

 

Unprocessed update

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When I first became a dietitian I was dubious about the effect of preservatives and additives on children’s behaviour. I was also in disbelief about the effects of sugar. I, being a know-it-all uni student, thought that it was an excuse that parents made for their crazy kids. As with many things in life, the universe has decided to punish my insensitive thinking by teaching me the practical way. In this case, sending me a child who goes bat-shit-crazy with sugar, additives and preservatives.
I know there are mums out there who have it much worse, and have children with behavioural issues that are much more severe than my emotionally wired little gal, but I tell you what, you can really tell the difference in my girl when she is eating non-processed foods as opposed to when she is not. When we have let processed foods (key ones that I will talk about in a sec) she is more emotional, more angry and less kind to us and her sister. It’s that kind of behaviour where you can tell she is really really  trying to be a good girl but literally just cannot help herself. Emotional outbursts because she said she wanted a shaky pony tail and her pony tail wasn’t shaky enough. Hitting me because I tell her that we are having spaghetti for dinner (which is her favourite). And yelling at her hands because they are not doing what she wants them to. You know, that sort of behaviour. And yes I know that that is just normal pre-schooler behaviour but we have seen it lessen so much more when she is not eating certain preservatives, and obviously when she is well slept too!
 

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So I just thought I would share some key foods that we try to avoid, most of the time.
-bread with preservatives in them. Because some days Miss 3.75 may have toast for breakfast (plus another if she is hungry that day), then a sandwich for lunch and some other bready product later on that day, the preservative load can get quite high if we aren’t choosing preservative free bread. Luckily it is quite easy to come by at Brumby’s, Bakers Delight and also Coles and Woolies bakery.
-chicken stock. I don’t know why this has so much more of an impact but chicken stock seems to bring out the aggro in our little Miss 3.75. So most of the time, I make my own. Makes for a much calmer household.
-vegemite. Luckily enough, Miss 3.75 prefers peanut butter to vegemite and I have been able to find peanut butter varieties without preservatives.
-processed snacks. Rice wheels, flavoured savoury biscuits, anything in a little packet unfortunately brings on the bads. I try most of the time to do things like puffed corn, sultanas, fresh fruit, and things I’ve made from home. Some snacks containing preservatives that often creep in (and tend to not make a huge difference as long as everything else is on track) are cheerios, fruity bites and pretzels.
-premade sauces, foods and pastes. These happen in our house when stuff gets busy. If I’m time poor, if work is busy, if we have lots of family things on, if I’m tired and lazy. It happens. But most of the time it builds up and we pay for it!
In general we don’t really have things like lollies, and chips so I’m sure they would be things I would consciously avoid if we did have them.
These are the only areas we are “strict” on, and even by strict I don’t really mean strict. It’s what we aim for. If it happens, great. We see results, she is much more calm. If we don’t, she gets edgy and we are reminded to get back on track.

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So if you have been thinking about reducing or eliminating preservatives and additives, these are the ones that we have tried and get good results with. A GREAT place to start is by visiting Food Intolerance Network website because it is a wealth of information with a whole heap of useful fact sheets and instructions.
 
Happy days,
 
The Dietitian Mummy
 

Quick Red fish curry

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I was never a fish lover. I was a fish hater. I blame my mother, the great fisher woman, and her ability to catch multitudes of fish whenever she threw in a line. I tell you, fish quake in their fins at the sound of her cast, she’s pretty good. Needless to say, our childhood featured a LOT of fish. Especially because money was tight, and fish were free. So after being forced to eat fish about a thousand times, I decided to boycott. And did so for a good 15 years. It’s only just now that I’ve regained my taste for the ol’ fishy.

 

Today’s recipe is a quicky. A red fish curry quicky. I whipped this number up mid week for me and husband and it was delish. Hot and spicy, but light and not leaving you feeling stodgy after. It’s super low fat and full of goodness all round so get on it.

 

Red Fish Curry with basmati rice

2 x 125g fillets white fish, diced into chunks

2 tbs thai red curry paste

1 onion, diced

½ zucchini, diced

1 sweet potato, diced

3 sticks celery, sliced

Handful beans chopped

2 cups chicken stock

1/2 375ml Carnation light and creamy coconut (evaporated milk)

Corriander

Rice to serve

1 tbs olive oil

Method

Fry the onion on medium heat in a saucepan until tender. Add in the rest of the vegetables and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock along with the red curry paste. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the sweet potato is cooked through. Add the light and creamy and simmer for a further 10 minutes. In the last 5 minutes add in the fish.

Before serving, check that the fish is cooked. Serve with rice and a sprinkle of fresh coriander on top.

Super sesame salad dressing

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Say that 10 times fast??!!

 

We have been hit with some gorgeous weather here in good ol’ Radelaide this past week which has instantly had me craving salads. Now don’t let me lose you straight away, salads to me are not your rabbit food-like situation. I like my salads to be full of all sorts of goodies like beans, nuts, seeds, as well as your usuals of lettuce, carrot, cucumber and always finished off with some sort of cheese (lately I’ve been

slamming the Danish feta). Essential tastes and textures to me for a salad are things like freshness, crunch, tang, a bit of saltyness, something smooth, bursts of random flavour and of course (which brings me to the reason for today’s post), an awesome dressing.

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There is a café around my parts, that has an awesome salad dressing. For years I have tried to replicate it. It’s kinda sweet, but tangy, with a hit of nutty-ness but not thick, and just a tad of oil. A friend of mine worked at that café and while she didn’t give me the actual recipe, she did let me in on the key ingredient for it’s particular taste. Tahini. Now I made this dressing for a while with unhulled tahini and it just didn’t taste right. It had a weird flavour to it. Until today. After reading some old blog posts from a favourite (Apples Under My Bed) I realised that the after taste was probably because I had been buying unhulled tahini. I made the swap to hulled tahini and wow, it made the difference. Today must have been a great day because I nailed the dressing. Apologies for my vague quantities in my recipe, but that’s the way I cook.

 

So here it is. Super sesame salad dressing.

Ingredients

2 spoons hulled tahini

2 spoons honey

4 spoons boiling water

1 squirt lemon juice

1 spoon vinegar

1 spoon oil

Pinch sea salt flakes

Use any sized spoon depending on how much you need.

Put the honey and boiling water in a jar. Shake until the honey is dissolved.

Put in the rest of the ingredients and shake until it’s all combined.

Pour over salad!

Chicken Stock

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I talked a few weeks back about cutting up your own chickens and how you are left with a whole lot of wastage and making your own chicken stock is a really good way to utilise some waste. My main motivation for making my own chicken stock is mainly for taste but also because Miss 3 seems to go agro on commercial chicken stock. There are a fair few preservatives in it and the yeast extract that is in most of even the liquid forms is what I suspect makes her go bananas.

The pot simmering away

The pot simmering away

Making your own chicken stock sounds ultra super-mum-ish which I hate, but it is actually SUPER easy. And it makes your house smell yummo too. It’s smoother in your meals, especially the ones that you make an effort to take a long time to make like risotto. Seriously you can taste the difference.

 

And do you know the best part? Most of the ingredients are parts of foods that you rarely eat! The left over chicken bones, the tops of celery and leek. It saves you money and stops wastage too. I can’t bang on about it enough.

But anyway, I’m blabbering on because the “recipe” is so easy it wont take long to write!

 

No that's not my scraps, that's my flavour

No that’s not my scraps, that’s my flavour

Chicken Stock

1 Chicken carcass. You can use an already cooked one but you will have to give it a good ol’ beating, will have to cook it for longer and the stock wont be as tasty. Raw is best.

Half of a top of celery (the leaves and thin stalky bits)

1 carrot

1 onion

The top half of a leek

Garlic cloves

Herbs – I generally use 2 bay leaves, and 2 sticks of rosemary

Peppercorns – about 6

Good lug of olive oil

Method

1. Put a lug of oil in the pot and brown the carcass.

2. This is the worst part: get a rolling pin and bash the chicken bones with the end of it. It’s a bit queasy for me hearing the bones crack (probably PTSD from a broken clavicle on entry to this world) but this is especially essential if you are using a cooked chook.

3. Chuck everything else in along with about 2 litres of water.

4. Bring to boil then simmer for the day.

5. I don’t usually add salt to the stock because I add salt when I cook so it doesn’t taste anything like commercial stock at this point. If you prefer to start with your stock salty then add salt while it’s cooking. Add it bit by bit and taste after a few minutes before adding more.

6. Strain the liquid out and there is your stock. If you want the fat out of it then put the liquid in a bowl in the fridge and use a spoon to scoop off the fat layer the next day.

The "leftovers"

The “leftovers”

7. Freeze in portions that you would normally use.

Easy peasy!!

Seriously have a go, your cooking will improve ten fold and it’s less useless preservatives entering your kiddies little bodies.

 

Happy cooking,

 

The Dietitian Mummy

Granola heaven

Granola heaven

Granola heaven

For ages I have been thinking about making granola. I’ve eaten it around the place before at café’s or my mums (mum LOVES granola). I’ve read about making it here and here. I’ve watched big sister make it before, but never have I gotten around to making it. Well, I can tell you right now, that is going to change from now on because on the weekend I had my first foray into granola making. It is safe to say that I, along with husband and the two girls, are all now granola mad.

 

The line up...

The line up…

After searching a few different recipes, I decided on a mixture of a few, but it is mostly like the link above along with some of my own additions. The making was definitely easier than I had previously thought. The girls, as usual, came clamouring into the kitchen the second they heard my pyrex mixing bowl clang onto the bench top. There they stayed, with Miss 3.5 asking every 5 seconds what part was her job. It’s a great kids cooking recipe because the mixing is fairly easy and you could even let the kiddies get their hands in there to mix too (if you can stop them from eating it that is).

 

Love me some nuts

Love me some nuts

The absolute best part was the smell. Oh my lordy the smell was amazing. It filled the whole house with a sweet delicious smell. I can still smell it on the scarf I wore that day mmmmmmmm. Husband returned from a surf and was practically dribbling at the oven door to see what it was. We ate it hot, scraping spoonfuls from the tray because we just couldn’t help ourselves. Chewy, hot sweet mouthfuls with the crunch of yummy hot nuts too. We also ate it cold once it was crunchy, over the top of each of our yoghurts. We eat it from the jar in the pantry. We take it to work as a snack. Miss 3.5 stands in the pantry looking at it and asking for the yummy crunchy stuff. We are sold.

 

The helpers

The helpers

I swear, mumsy smelt it from her house or something because just as I had finished cooking it, she magically turned up on the doorstep. I put some in a container for her and by the time she had a cuppa and went to leave, the majority of it was gone 🙂

 

Pre-bake

Pre-bake

So here’s how to make some of this crunchy, sweet delicious goodness….

 

Granola

Ingredients

3 cups oats

1 cup bran sticks

2 tablespoons canola oil

½ cup pure maple syrup

Squirt of honey

1 tablespoon brown sugar

About 1 ½ cups nuts (cashews and almonds in my case)

1 ½ cups cranberries

1 cup chopped dates

¼ cup chia seeds

 

Preheat your oven to about 150 degrees.

Mix together the oats, bran sticks, chia seeds, and nuts.

Mix together the wet ingredients and the sugar, then add to the dry ingredients.

Stir until all mixed together then spread out on a baking tray.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, occasionally stirring around the mixture.

Add in the dried fruit for the last 5-10 minutes, watch closely to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Done!! Eat!!!