Slow Cooker Meatballs

I don’t know about you, but the memories of summer holiday fun are quickly fading as the term gets back underway. 

The struggle is real for some in our house, as lazy slow mornings have given way to the school morning scramble.

On any given day I find myself at the breakfast bench whispering to myself ‘breathe, don’t yell, stay calm’ as we negotiate getting a sleepy teen moving and talk through the logistics of the day ahead with the family. 

Sigh. I was never a yelling type….until I became a mother that is. And this year, 2018, is the year where I.WILL.YELL.LESS. 

So. Here’s to less yelling in the mornings, making the school bus on time, getting to work not too frazzled and for another year, feeding our families and gathering together at the end of each day, however that looks.  

There are some solutions and shortcuts for this busy season, like prepping lunches and dinner in advance, enter these yummy easy Meatballs!  We can also outsource some house jobs, call in the family and friends cavalry from time to time to help out, but at the end of the day, there is no shortcut to raising our kids. 

It happens one busy, crazy, noisy, messy day at a time. Some of those days we can High 5 ourselves on our patience, wisdom and general awesome-ness. On many many others, we just have to know it’s enough to keep showing up and be thankful for the mercies that come afresh every time the sun rises again. 

Mums, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that we’re not going to get it right every time. I am staring down this new year already knowing it will be filled with imperfect parenting, disappointments and struggles for us and our kids. 

But I stare it down knowing that God doesn’t make mistakes and in Him, I trust and rest in full confidence knowing that I am the best mum for my kids, this season of their life is in His hands, He knows the future and it’s not my job to worry endlessly about all that I can’t control. He loves our kids even more than we do, doesn’t that just blow you away?

So bring on 2018 – less yelling, more breathing, less worry, more trust, less of me and more of the one who holds the world and our kids in his hands. 

E x

Slow Cooker Meatballs
Serves 6
Simple moist meatballs cooked in a rich tomato and herb sauce.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Total Time
4 hr 10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Total Time
4 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 kilogram pork and veal mince (if using beef mince, use a full fat variety otherwise they dry out)
  2. 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  3. 1 tablespoon dried italian herbs
  4. 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  5. 700ml jar of passata (italian tomato cooking sauce)
  6. 1 cup of tomato puree
  7. 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional)
  8. a generous splash of balsamic vinegar
  9. salt and pepper to taste
  10. To serve, parmesan cheese, parsley, pasta and steamed greens
Instructions
  1. Combine mince, breadcrumbs, herbs and garlic in a bowl.
  2. Using hands, roll into small, evenly sized balls.
  3. Place remaining ingredients in the slow cooker.
  4. Add the meatballs and fit them in as snug as you can.
  5. It's okay if they are not all submerged, just give them a careful stir 1/2 way through cooking if that's the case.
  6. Place the lid on and cook for 2-3 hours on high or 5-6 on low. Take the lid off with 1/2 hour to go to let the sauce reduce a little.
  7. Serve sprinkled with parmesan and parsley, pasta and steamed greens.
Notes
  1. Look for a passata or pasta sauce that has herbs added in to give the sauce extra flavour.
  2. If you use a plain one, add more dried or fresh herbs like oregano and thyme.
  3. This is the perfect make ahead meal as it's flavour develops in the fridge over a day.
  4. It also freezes well.
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Roasted Veg Salad (vegetarian)

We all have our list of ‘lazy meals’ that we go to when we can’t really bare to think anymore about what to feed the family. 

Although this salad looks a little fancy, it has become one of my ‘what to eat when I haven’t thought about what to eat’ meals. 

The beauty of this recipe, if you can indeed call it one, is that you roast whatever you have on hand or needs using up. The day I took these photos, it was tomatoes, capsicums, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and I threw some asparagus in for the last 5 minutes of roasting time.

But the options are endless – beetroot, pumpkin, leeks, onions, carrot, zucchini – if it’s in your fridge or cupboard, wash it, chop it into even chunky sized pieces and throw it on the tray. 

Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and scatter with  some fresh or dried herbs – rosemary, thyme or oregano are often my choice for veggies like these. 

If you cut them into small-ish chunks they should only take about 30 minutes in a 200 degree oven. 

I like to let them cool for a moment, before tumbling onto a platter of mixed salad leaves. You could leave it at this and it would be fabulous, or to snaz it up a bit, add some goats cheese or fetta. 

It is such a versatile dish – eat it on it’s own or alongside some protein like chicken, red meat or fish. 

I often try to do a little extra, because a container of these veggies, cold the next day makes for a quick and yummy lunch. 

Here’s to finding new inspiration to keep feeding our families without going mad!

E x

 

 

 

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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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