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Tomorrow is the first day back at school for the Ankle Biters – who are closer to shoulder biters now – and the weather has kindly taken a break from the 42 degree heatwave so I can get some cooking done. The kids make their own school lunches of an evening but I like to make it as easy as possible for them to prepare a tasty, healthy lunch in a short amount of time.

We’re not huge fans of the sandwich although we do eat them some days, so I like to have a good variety of things that can be packed bento style to make lunch a little more interesting.

 

From left to right, starting at the top we have broad rimmed drink flasks half filled with mango and banana smoothie. i use oats that I blitz in the thermomix as well as yoghurt, fruit and milk. A ratio of 4 parts solid to 1 part liquid makes a very hearty smoothie that fills me up on its own. Next are small containers of dip. I label them in whiteboard marker so the kids can choose a flavour (hommus, tzatziki and French onion in this batch) but it washes off clean for the next batch. Small tubs of grapes go into the freezer for a cool snack on a hot day. Chicken drumettes are pre-cooked ready to pop into a lunch box. I layer them in a container to freeze with baking paper so they are easy to separate. A whole chicken poached a shredded is packed in the same way. This can be used in salads or sandwiches and is much healthier than nitrate packed deli meats. Next are a few hard boiled eggs to go in the fridge. I just do a few at the start of each week. The ice trays contain smoothie. As they freeze I tip them into ziplock bags so they can be easily put into the flasks. Last but not least, some carrot sticks which freeze surprisingly well. They accompany the dip.

From left to right we have little corn dog muffins. I used this recipe, omitting the sugar and using preservative free sausage instead of frankfurt. The remaining sausages were rolled up in some leftover puff pastry with leftover pizza sauce and leftover mozzarella. My fridge is looking a lot cleaner. Then we have a small selection of dippers for the dip, carrot, snow peas, mini capsicum and cherry tomatoes. That should get us through the first couple of weeks nicely.

And here are the first day lunch boxes ready to go – smoothies are waiting in the freezer for the morning.

Please share your best school lunch ideas in the comments.

 

I’m not a Halloween kind of girl. To be honest it just doesn’t make sense to me in the southern hemisphere. My Celtic roots get me all hung up on the end of harvest concept and kids eating that much junk food right before bedtime isn’t exactly my cup of tea either. The street we’re living in at the moment seems to embrace it. I got a note in the letter box the other day asking if we would receive trick or treaters if they supplied the lollies. It seemed churlish to say no. Then I came across a this pretty awesome recipe. So this year, the Bread Winner doesn’t have to cringe as I turn away children empty handed.

We better not get any witches knocking though, they may lose their fingers!

Chez KP was demolished a few months ago. That’s right. Razed to the ground. It’s being rebuilt bigger and better than ever. You will not be surprised to discover that the kitchen will be the centre of the house and features more upgrades than any other room. It will be light and spacious and truly splendid. In the meantime however, we are renting a rotten little rabbit warren of a place with the worst kitchen I have ever had the misfortune to utilise. Stepping into it causes instant anger. Hence the lack of blogging in recent times.

Here is my new kitchen so far:

Tonight I decided to give one of Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals a whirl. Time is pretty tight at the moment what with working two jobs, Mum’s taxi duties and full time studies; combine that with the kitchen from hell and dinner in 15 is pretty appealing. Of course I didn’t expect it to actually take 15 minutes as I don’t have a magic fairy who gets all the ingredients and implements ready for me. It actually took me 30 minutes from entering the kitchen to placing dinner on the table. It took 10 minutes to rummage through my horrid little excuse for a pantry for the required ingredients, 1 minute to open the stubborn jar of capsicum and four minutes to have a mini cleanup when things got too disgusting. The actual cooking part did only take 15 minutes.

The meal I cooked was chilli con carne meatballs. The flavours and textures were stunning. The preserved lemon in the bulghar wheat was truly sensational. I will definitely make this again but not if I only have 15 minutes to spare. I would not recommend it for people who are stuck using cheap and nasty electric stove tops. In fact, I probably won’t make it again until my new kitchen is ready for that very reason.

The following images are my entire current kitchen in the aftermath of this meal. The cleanup was well over 15 minutes.

 

Thermomix. Sugar Spice Mix

This has become a winter staple here at Chez KP. It can be used in a multitude of ways such as in baking and on pancakes but is primarily an addition to our daily porridge.

Thermomix. Sugar Spice Mix
1kg soft brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 cardamon pods, cracked and seeds removed (discard pod, use seeds)
2cm piece of ginger, peeled
1/4 nutmeg

1. Add spices to thermoix and blitz on speed 9 for 1 minute.
2. Scrape down sides, add suagr and mix on 4, using spatula to combine for 45 seconds.
3. Store in an airtight container.

It’s that easy. Incredibly aromatic and so much nicer than plain sugar.

I had plans for a glorious meal tonight. Pork Siew Yuk, rice, vegetable stir fry. I’ve spent most of today salivating at the thought. Unfortunately, the pork did not defrost in time. In fact, I cannot recall the last time I saw a piece of meat defrost quite so slowly. As I type it is still defrosting, and marinating in the fridge. Guess what we’re having tomorrow night?

In order to feed the troops in a timely manner, the thermomix made short work of okonomiyaki; a family favourite. Thanks to my massive fry pan, this was prepared, cooked and served in just on 10 minutes.

Vegetarian Okonomiyaki
220g plain flour
60g corn flour
200ml water
10g dashi powder
2 eggs
20g pickled ginger
8og tasty cheese, cubed
420g cabbage, roughly chopped
corn kernels, sliced from 2 cobs
2 – 3 tablespoons rice bran oil
To serve
okonomiyaki sauce
kepie mayonnaise
bonito flakes – omit for real vegetarians!

  1. Place all ingredients (except those under to serve) in thermomix bowl. Chop for 15 – 20 seconds on speed 6
  2. Heat oil in pan, pour in half the batter, split into two thick pancakes. Poke a few holes in each with the end of a wooden spoon to let steam out.
  3. After a couple of minutes, when base is browned, flip. Cook for another couple of minutes. Remove from pan.
  4. Repeat with remaining batter.
  5. To serve, drizzle with okonomiyaki sauce and then kewpie mayonnaise. Sprinkle with bonito flakes if required.

I had a spectacularly long day at uni today, followed by picking up the kids from the various people I had begged favours from. So by the time we got home, it was much later than it should have been. I had dinner on the table precisely 20 minutes after I walked in the door. That’s my kind of mid week meal.

Chinese Chicken and Eggplant
300g basmati rice
4 chicken thighs
1 eggplant
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon rice bran oil
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chilli sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
optional – sliced fresh chillies to serve

  1. Place rice in steamer basket inside thermomix. Cover with water.  Place varoma with tray on but lid off on top. Cook at varoma temperature on speed 4 for 16 minutes.
  2. While the water is heating, quickly dice chicken and eggplant. Throw onto varoma tray, evenly spread and place lid on top.
  3. When the rice is cooked, remove and place in thermal bowl with lid on. Empty remaining water from thermomix bowl. Put garlic in thermomix and chop for 10 seconds on speed 8. Scrape down sides.
  4. Add rice bran oil, oyster sauce, soy sauce, water, white vinegar, sugar, chilli sauce and sesame oil. Mix on 6 for 5 seconds.
  5. Add chicken and eggplant to thermomix bowl. Cook at 100 degrees for 3 minutes on reverse speed 1.
  6. Serve over rice.

We spent a lovely day yesterday at a friend’s farm and cam home with an abundance of cucumbers, garlic, eggs and figs. What a wonderful bounty. I added to the bounty this morning, digging up the potato patch and picking a good sized batch of rhubarb. We have been out of jam for a while so I thought I would experiment with a batch of fig and rhubarb in the thermomix. To be frank, I was aiming for fig jam but by the time I’d finished gorging on figs with spinach and feta dip, I only had 600g figs left so needed to pad it out with the rhubarb.

As both fig and rhubarb are low in pectin, some form of added pectin is necessary. I used some jamsetta I found lurking at the back of the pantry so I used that.

Rhubarb and Fig Jam.
600g fresh figs
600g trimmed rhubarb
1.2kg sugar
7 tablespoons lemon juice
50g jamsetta or substitute pectin addition of your choice.

  1. Place quartered figs and roughly chopped rhubarb in thermomix. Chop for 20 seconds on speed 9.
  2. Add sugar and lemon juice. Combine for another 10 seconds on speed 9.
  3. Cook for 45 minutes  at 100 degrees on speed 2
  4. Add jamsetta and cook for another 10 minutes at 100 degrees on speed 2.
  5. Check that it is set, place in sterilised jars and seal immediately.

 

Life in the Kitchen Playground is awfully short of play these days. The Ankle Biters are nibbling closer to shoulder height and full of homework, sporting activities and unstructured fun with friends. The Bread Winner is working as hard as ever. Me? I’m Mum’s taxi, working two part time jobs and studying full time. Oh and we’re doing a knock down rebuild of ye old family home. It’s crazy, often stressful but ultimately fulfilling.

More than ever, the thermomix is my saviour. We’re still eating much the same as always, just with a decided lean towards meals that can be produced in no more than 30 minutes from the time we run through the door. Training the Ankle Biters from a young age in the gentle art of cooking and making their own lunches certainly helps too!

Thermomix risotto continues to be a faithful standby. So much so that our usual rounds of flavour combinations were becoming a little dreary. A little rummage through the fridge and freezer earlier this week added the following variation to our repertoire.

Lamb, Spinach and Lemon Risotto.
1 red onion, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
150g lamb, cut into 1cm cubes
20ml olive oil
500g arborio rice
75g lemon juice
1 litre chicken stock
3 handfuls baby spinach
grated parmesan to serve – optional

  1. Grate parmesan if required.
  2. Place quartered onion and garlic cloves in thermomix bowl. Chop for 5 seconds on speed 7.
  3. Add lamb and oil. Cook for 5 minutes at 1oo degrees on reverse speed 1
  4. Add rice and lemon juice. Cook for 2 minutes at 100 degrees on reverse speed 1.
  5. Add chicken stock. Cook for 16 minutes at 100 degrees on reverse speed 1.
  6. Stir through baby spinach. Let sit for a couple of minutes and serve.

 

Lil Miss had her sixth birthday party today. A lovely little affair at our favourite park. Lunch time parties tend to make me somewhat recalcitrant about cooking dinner. Entirely due to constant nibbling. Fortunately for the hungry men of the household, I was all set with a meal so light, delicious and quick to prepare that they were not forced to forage aimlessly through the kitchen.

This makes a beautiful light meal for a summer night and the presentation is elegant enough to make it suitable for entertaining. It would work equally well with any firm fish fillets. If you’re not very hungry, it’s delicious without the rice, which brings it into the 10 minute meal category.

Steamed Barramundi with Soy/Garlic/Ginger Sauce and Julienne Salad.
300g basmati rice
4 barramundi (or other firm white fleshed fish) fillets
2 cloves garlic
2cm piece of ginger
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup kecap manis
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Salad
finely julienned carrot, spring onion, yellow capsicum and cucumber tossed together.

  1. Place rice in steamer basket. Cover with water. Cook at 100 degrees for 16 minutes. Remove and place in insulated dish to keep warm. Empty remaining water from thermomix.
  2. Place peeled garlic and ginger in thermomix. Chop for 10 seconds on speed 8, scrape down sides.
  3. Add water, soy sauce, kecap manis, vinegar and sesame oil.
  4. Place fish on varoma tray, put in place and cook at varoma temperature on speed 2 for 10 – 15 minutes depending on thickness of fish.
  5. To serve, put rice in middle of plate, top with fish, pour a little sauce over and sprinkle salad liberally over the fish.

This recipe for a happy man is very appliance versatile. The whole shebang can be done on the stovetop. It could be made between stove top and slow cooker, stove top and oven, in the thermomix, or in a combination of thermomix and slow cooker. No matter how you make it, it’s the perfect blend of Mexican flavours and beer that is guaranteed to please my husband. Just to make it even more clever, it can be made gluten free.

I will give two sets of instructions, the first is for non-thermomix cooks and will work for any non-thermomix combination of cooking appliances. The second is for thermomix only cooking.

Mexican Beer and Cheese Nacho Sauce
2 onions
3 cloves garlic
goodly dash olive oil
1/4 cup flour (can use rice or corn flour if gluten free)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (or 1 teaspoon cumin seeds for method 2)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (or 1 teaspoon coriander seeds for method 2)
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder (or 1 fresh chilli for method 2)
1 large red capsicum
2 medium tomatoes
2 cups grated cheese (cheddar, tasty, Mexican blend, suit yourself)
salt and pepper
335ml beer
2 teaspoon sugar
sliced jalapenos to garnish (liberally)

Method 1.

  1. Dice onions and crush garlic, heat pan, add olive oil and saute onion, garlic, spices and seasoning.
  2. Dice capsicum and tomatoes while sauteing the above. After about 3 minutes or when onions are transclucent, add tomatoes and capsicum.
  3. Saute for another 10 minutes and then sprinkle in flour. Stir and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes and then add beer.
  4. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 15 minutes.
  5. Turn heat to very low (or transfer to very low oven or slow cooker on low) and simmer for 1 – 3 hours. Add sugar, stir through and let stand for 45 minutes.
  6. Heat gently to serve, sprinkling in the cheese as it heats. Serve very hot either poured over corn chips or as a hot dip for corn chips. Garnish liberally with jalapenos.

Method 2.

  1. Place cumin, coriander and chilli in thermomix, chop for 10 seconds on speed 10. Scrape down sides. Add quartered, peeled onion and peeled garlic. 5 – 10 seconds on speed 6. Add olive oil and seasoning and saute for 4 minutes at 100 degrees on speed 1.
  2. Add roughly chopped capsicum and tomatoes. Saute for another 10 minutes at 100 degrees on speed 3.
  3. Sprinkle in flour. Cook for another 7 minutes at 100 degrees on speed 3 and then add beer.
  4. Cook at 100 degrees for 30 minutes on speed 1. Add sugar and cheese, blend slowly turning the speed from soft speed to speed 2 over 1 minute.  Serve very hot either poured over corn chips or as a hot dip for corn chips. Garnish liberally with jalapenos.

Enjoy!

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