One-Pan Chicken Margherita

It was a Monday night. 

The boys had just recently started back at school, with our youngest boy, home from his first day of Kindergarten! He was a mixture of hot, tired, bothered and slightly bewildered at what this whole school thing was really all about. “Do I have to go back tomorrow?” he asked.

It was 44 degrees celsius and I looked out from my kitchen window to my green sludgy pool, as the pump had recently decided to give up and we were still waiting for it to be repaired. 

No-one could swim, it was still too hot at 6pm for anyone to go outside and so naturally, the only option for our eldest 2 was to engage in a Nerf gun war, in our small living space directly off our kitchen (insert eye rolling here).

With bullets flying overhead, I could barely hear the whimpers of our youngest boy, who was more than ready for dinner and bed. 

Rushing to get this pan of Chicken Margherita out of the oven, I didn’t quite check that my oven mitt covered the entire handle, so it was a miracle that when the handle touched my bare forearm and I heard it sizzle, that I didn’t a) swear or b) drop the pan and all of our dinner on the floor. 

You know those moments when you wonder if you just quietly slipped out the back door, maybe no-one would notice and your occasional dreams of running away from home would finally come true?

That was one of those moments.

But it was the kindness of my eldest son who, once he realised how badly I had burnt my arm, tried to help me in the kitchen and calm the others down, that saved me that day. 

One minute I am dreaming of the escape, the next, I realise that despite the drama and chaos of family life, every now and then our kids surprise us with kindness and empathy and a little voice in my head says ‘Don’t give up, think of the adult you want them to become. Hang in there, it won’t be chaos for ever.’

Reflecting back as I write this, I realise that the incidents of that Monday night were small, incidental and ever so normal, but it’s sometimes those very moments, that tip us over the edge as mums.

I am eternally grateful that our evenings are not video recorded for anyone to witness.

So why do I often write about the mess and mayhem? 

Increasingly our world is worshipping at the altar of stylised perfection and the mess and mayhem rarely gets any air time.

Celebrating the wins, the good, the beautiful, the fun and the joys are so important.

But it’s when I look into the weary eyes of fellow mums, who dare to whisper ‘am I the only who is struggling here?’ that I realise we need to be brave to share ALL of it, the great and not-so-great moments of raising kids and family life. 

On a side note, everyone ate this dinner without complaints, which is a WIN to celebrate! 

Think thin slices of chicken breast baked in a rich tomato sauce, with garlic and basil doing all the talking. A smattering of grated mozzarella for those who love cheese and then finished off with fresh basil or spinach leaves. 

Hang in there friend x

One-Pan Chicken Margherita
Serves 5
Thin slices of chicken breast cooked in a garlic and tomato sauce, with basil and spinach.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 large chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally, to form 4-5 thin pieces.
  2. 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  3. 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  4. 1/2 a 700ml jar of Tomato Passata (tomato cooking sauce)
  5. 1/2 bunch of fresh basil leaves (or a tablespoon of dried basil), some reserved for serving
  6. a handful of grated mozzarella (more or less depending on your family tastes)
  7. a handful of baby spinach leaves (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees celsius.
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium oven proof frying pan, over a medium heat.
  3. Add garlic and stir for a minute, till a little golden.
  4. Pour in tomato passata, add most of the basil leaves and bring to the boil.
  5. Place chicken in the pan, making sure they are sitting snug, but in a single layer so they cook evenly.
  6. Throw a few more basil leaves on top of each piece of chicken and sprinkle grated mozzarella over each piece.
  7. Place pan in a preheated oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
  8. Remove from oven, garnish with extra basil leaves and spinach.
  9. Serve with vegetables or a salad.
Notes
  1. Cutting chicken breasts as evenly as possible will mean they will cook at the same time.
  2. Place the rest of the tomato passata into a container and freeze for later use, as it only lasts a few days in the fridge once it's been opened.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

Crispy Skin Salmon, Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice

Happy New Year to you!

I feel like I have blinked and we are already 2 weeks in to the new year. 

I had grand plans of blogging some beautiful Christmas recipes with gorgeous photos, but the season came and went in a blur and as a host for my extended family this year, I got so caught up in organising, cooking and serving that day that I did not take ONE photo of any of our Christmas day food. Truth be told, it was only a few days after Christmas that it occurred to me that I didn’t take any photos. Oh well, there’s always next year. 

This photo of my table, taken on my phone before the hordes arrived, was all I managed. 

With a little furniture re-arranging and chair borrowing, we managed to get 19 into our small dining room! Using fresh rosemary from my herb garden and stuff I had at home already, I only spent $20 on the table setting!

Blogging fail aside, we had a wonderful day. My brother-in-law Jeremy, does the best BBQ prawns which we enjoyed with a Raspberry , Mint & Prosecco Cocktail on the back deck. My sister Jo’s Fig, Halloumi and Pomegranate Salad was one of a few beautiful sides to the 6kg Turkey I stuffed and roasted. Boy, that bird was big!  My sister-in-law Sara’s Chocolate, Cranberry & Pistachio fudge was incredible and as always, Mum’s pudding was perfect. 

We caught up, swam, laughed, chatted, opened presents, did loads of dishes and reflected on our Saviour’s birth and what it means to us all. 

Our second Christmas celebration was held at my husband’s family farm and was a relaxed affair. Kids slip ‘n’ sliding down the grassy hill in between games of cricket while the adults caught up over cheese and champagne. 

Fast forward a few weeks and I am stealing a couple of minutes alone to write and catch my breath.

I love January – it’s the month of saying YES to everything. Puzzles, late night swims, spontaneous catch up’s, lazy mornings, adventures and day trips to the beach, midday movies, countless park visits, ice blocks and BBQ dinners eaten outside late into the night. 

My one dining table is covered most days with puzzles and activities, forcing us to eat every meal outside or on our laps in front of the TV.  The kitchen bench is covered in water bottles, cups and empty cracker packets. Active boys are hungry boys!

It’s fun, noisy, fast and a different kind of busy to the school term. 

I feel like I barely cook in January, there is just so much else to be doing. 

When I do, it’s quick salads, wraps and different meats on the BBQ each night. 

This quick mango salsa is fresh, has a nice crunch and is easy to throw together, making it a perfect accompaniment to a simple piece of salmon. Whether you BBQ it or cook it in a frying pan, the secret to a crispy skin is to rub oil on the skin of the salmon and season it with salt before cooking, skin side first. 

Crispy Skin Salmon, Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice
Serves 5
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 boneless salmon fillets
  2. Olive oil
  3. 1 cup basmati rice
  4. 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  5. zest of 1 lime
  6. Mango Salsa
  7. 1 mango, flesh finely diced
  8. 1/2 red capsicum, de-seeded and finely diced
  9. 1 cucumber, finely diced
  10. juice of 1 lime
  11. 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  12. a handful of fresh coriander or parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Cook rice according to directions.
  2. Heat a non stick pan over medium heat.
  3. Add desiccated coconut and toast till golden and fragrant. This will only take minutes, so don't walk away from the pan.
  4. Fold coconut and lime zest through the rice and set aside, keeping warm.
  5. Lightly rub each side of the salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Place the same pan back on a medium-high heat and cook salmon fillets, skin side first.
  7. After a few minutes, turn the salmon fillets and finish cooking to your liking.
  8. Combine all salsa ingredients in bowl and toss gently.
  9. To serve, layer the salmon on top of the rice and spoon over the salsa. Serve with extra wedges of lime.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

Salmon & Quinoa Salad with Lime Mint Dressing (gluten free)

I love a protein packed salad for lunch at this time of year. Especially one that is easy to prepare, or can be prepped in advance for you to take to work. 

This one uses a tin of pink salmon and some cooked quinoa for your midday protein hit. If you’re not in a habit of eating protein at lunch, give it a try and see how much it keeps your afternoon hunger and the 3pm slump at bay. 

Add some avocado and veggies for all round goodness and throw on a slurp of your favourite dressing, store-bought or homemade, whatever works for you. 

The quantity below made enough for my lunch for 2 days. I just added some more avocado and the dressing on the second day. 

Keeping tins of tuna or salmon in the pantry and cooking a few cups of quinoa at the beginning of the week, will mean you have your main ingredients ready to go each day. We all know that the secret to eating a good lunch or dinner is in a little advance thought and preparation. 

I am looking forward to making a huge bowl of the this the next time a friend pops in and perches at the bench for a quick lunch.

 

Salmon & Quinoa Salad with Lime Mint Dressing
Serves 2
A simple, fresh salad packed with protein, raw veg and a zesty dressing.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup cooked tri-colour Quinoa
  2. 185 gram tin of salmon or tuna
  3. 1 small cucumber, finely chopped
  4. 1/2 avocado, flesh diced
  5. 1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
  6. Lime Mint Dressing
  7. 1/4 cup good quality extra virign olive oil
  8. 1/4 lime juice (approx 2 limes)
  9. 1 tablespoon honey
  10. 1 tablespoon of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix gently.
  2. For the dressing, combine the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid, and shake well to combine.
  3. If making in advance, leave the avocado and dressing out and add just before eating.
Notes
  1. Cooked quinoa will last in the fridge for 3 days, covered in an airtight container.
  2. The dressing will last in the fridge for about a week, but the mint will lose it's colour and flavour over time. It is best used on the day it's made, or alternatively, leave the mint out and add to the dressing just prior to using.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

 

 

Spanish Rice with Chorizo and Veg

I love this kind of recipe. You know the one that mostly uses ingredients you’ll find in the pantry. Rice, stock, tinned tomatoes – building blocks for so many simple dinners.

Throw in some spices for flavour, veggies, either fresh or frozen, for goodness, and top with golden chorizo – for no other reason that it tastes brilliant and always gets the kids over the line with any meal. 

“What is this green bit?” one child might say, staring at his fork. 

“Yum, isn’t this Chorizo amazing!” I will reply, hoping to distract the enquiring child from realising I did indeed put asparagus in AGAIN! 

The original recipe is a Bill Granger classic from Delicious Magazine October 2012. 

I have left out the marinated roasted red capsicum simply because that is a more expensive item that won’t always be in a normal pantry and I added more vegetables, of course. 

Once again, don’t be a slave to the recipe. If you hate beans or don’t have any asparagus, use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge or freezer. 

We are a family of Chorizo lovers, but if you don’t have any or don’t like it, just simply leave it out.  It will then become a fragrant vegetarian rice dish. 

Spanish Rice with Chorizo and Veg
Serves 5
A frangrant rice dish, with mixed vegetables and chorizo.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  3. 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, paprika and coriander
  4. 1 1/2 cups (300gm) basmati rice
  5. 400gm tin crushed tomatoes
  6. 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  7. 200gm green beans, cut into 3-4cm lengths (frozen works well too)
  8. 1 bunch of fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 3-4cm lengths
  9. 250gm (2) chorizo, cut into thin rounds
  10. fresh coriander or parsley, chopped to garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the garlic and spices and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Stir in rice and mix well.
  4. Pour in the tomatoes and 3 cups chicken stock.
  5. Bring to the boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer.
  6. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the stock has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
  7. You will need to check it a few times, and give it a stir to prevent it from sticking. If the stock is all absorbed and the rice isn't quite cooked, add more stock, 1/2 cup at a time.
  8. Add the beans and asparagus, and cook for a further 5 minutes until they are slightly soft, but still bright green.
  9. In another frying pan, over medium heat, cook the chorizo rounds until they are golden brown.
  10. Throw the chorizo and fresh herbs on top of the rice and serve straight from the pan.
Adapted from Delicious Magazine Oct 2012
Adapted from Delicious Magazine Oct 2012
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

Penne with Sausage and Kale

Pasta is such a great ‘go to’ meal for those rushed mid-week nights. Most kids love it, it’s inexpensive and in most houses, a pantry staple.

For those watching their carbohydrate intake, keeping pasta meals to a minimum and using wholemeal varieties means you can enjoy pasta as a part of a balanced diet.  We also live in a time where there are many wheat-free pasta options available, so if you are steering clear of wheat, you can substitute brown rice pasta or gluten free pasta in this recipe. 

This recipe, from Curtis Stone’s cookbook Good Food Good Life, is quick to make and full of flavour. I love the way he has added Kale, (often disliked by children due to it’s bitter taste) and made it a part of a very tasty dish. This dish got the thumbs up from the whole family, even the kale part!

As a busy mum, I opted for the 500 grams of pork and veal mince in this recipe, even though Curtis suggests you use the meat from inside good quality sausages, removing and discarding their casings. That just felt a little too hard for me after arriving home late from soccer training on a Tuesday night and needing dinner on the table PRONTO.

As another school term begins and we hit the downward run to Christmas (did I just really type that?) you might be able to add this to your menu for something a little different. 

Penne with Sausage and Kale
Serves 5
A tomato-based pasta dish with sausage meat, kale and parmesan cheese.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 pork sausages, casings removed OR 500gm pork and veal mince
  2. 1/2 bunch Kale, trimmed and roughly chopped (approx 2 cups)
  3. 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  4. 1/2 cup dry white wine
  5. 1x 500gm jar pasta sauce (tomato based)
  6. 400gm penne, (wholemeal or gluten free pasta options work well too)
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. shredded parmesan cheese to serve
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil.
  2. Add the penne and cook according to packet directions.
  3. While the penne is cooking, heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat.
  4. Add the sausage meat or mince, and cook, breaking the meat up with a spoon as it cooks.
  5. Once it is golden brown, add the chopped kale and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the kale starts to wilt.
  6. Add the wine and jar of pasta sauce, bring to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes or the liquid is slightly reduced.
  7. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of it's cooking liquid.
  8. Toss the penne into the sauce and add a little of the reserved cooking water to thin the sauce.
  9. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parmesan and serve immediately.
Adapted from Good Food Good Life
Adapted from Good Food Good Life
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/