Sunday, May 30, 2010

What's for dinner?

Last week I published my first proper meal plan for a while. So how did it go? Well, I think it was overall a success! We stuck to the plan, more or less. (The baked eggs got cooked in the pan rather than baked, and I didn't entirely stick to recipes as written, but the concepts and ingredients were essentially the same!)

My ornamental cherry tree, which has finally decided it's time to change colour as we close in on the last days of Autumn!

However, while I'm happy to visit the fruit & veg shop a couple of times a week, and pick up fish and meat as required, I'm aiming to limit my supermarket visits to once a week (at the most). Unfortunately this week we've visited the supermarket (at least) three times between us! The second time was because the fruit shop didn't have any corriander, and so I took the chance to pick up a couple of other non-dinner related items that I'd overlooked the first time, and the third trip was due to running out of uber goober's yoghurt (again, an oversight when writing the original shopping list). So, neither extra trips were related to dinner issues, but still very annoying. I clearly need to get better at writing the WHOLE shopping list.

Still, overall, the menu plan was a success. The amount of time I spent thinking about dinners was less than usual, and I felt considerably more organised. So I had more headspace for other things, which was very nice! And I'll be repeating the process, hopefully every week!

This week brings the official start of winter here in Melbourne, which means taking lots of opportunities to cook in the oven and eat comfort food! This menu includes a whole lot of inspiration from Cathy of TinnieGirl and MasterChef. Here is what we'll be eating.

Monday: Filled pasta with tomato, mushroom & olive sauce (bought spinach & ricotta pasta & made up sauce)
Tuesday: Chicken & peanut noodle stirfry (MasterChef mag, p 38)
Wednesday: Homemade pizza (including dough)
Thursday: Eggplant parmagiana (my recipe)
Friday: Out!!
Saturday: Gary's ribs (MasterChef website, here)
Sunday: Welsh rarebit (out for lunch so we won't need much dinner!)

If you'd like to join me this week, just leave a comment below with either your meal plan or a link to a meal plan post on your blog!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spanish-ish eggs

When we first moved to Melbourne over 6 years ago, we discovered a cafe on Brunswick St, Fitzroy, called Bakers. Bakers was (yes, was. Sniff. It's now a Thai place, which I'm sure is quite good, but it's not Bakers. Anyway...) Bakers was a claypot and tapas place, with lots of big, bold flavours that I love. But the star of the menu (according to me) was a brekky claypot that involved a fried egg on top of tomatoey chorizo yumminess all drizzled with garlic aioli. (Sigh. No way to fix that craving properly these days...)

Anyway, while attempting to recreate such a dish for breakfast is well and truly beyond me (not a morning person), dinner inspired by it was worth a try. And it was yummy. Different, but still yummy. So I thought I should write it down before I forget what I did!

A couple of notes. I like to boost the chorizo flavour in things like this with smokey paprika, but you could use regular paprika if you needed to. Also, I love roasted potato bits and look for any excuse to use them. I think roasting them adds another dimension to this dish, but you could steam them if you really needed to!
Spanish-ish Eggs

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into rough cubes
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, finely sliced
1 Chorizo, diced
1 red capsicum, cut into large dice
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp smokey paprika
a generous strip of orange peel, pith removed
1 400g tin tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp chopped corriander, plus extra to serve
4 (or more) eggs

Preheat oven to 190ºC. Toss potatoes with 1 tbsp oil and a little salt & pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-25mins, until nicely cooked.

Meanwhile, in a large deep frypan with a lid, cook onion, celery and chorizo for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Add capsicum, cook for a further 3 mins then add garlic and paprika and cook for another couple of minutes. Add tomatoes and stock and orange peel, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Check seasoning, then stir through roasted potatoes and corriander.

Make 4 indents in the mixture and crack the eggs into them. Cover the pan and cook until the eggs are done to your liking (this took about 10-12 minutes for me, but I need my eggs properly cooked at the moment). Sprinkle with extra corriander and serve with tortillas if you like.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My creative space

Déjà vu? Almost! Except that this is sock #2. Which means....
sock #1 is finished!! I'm particularly excited about this, because now I know I can knit a sock, and I also learnt how to do kitchener stitch to finish the toe. So two new skills have been added to my kit bag!
Even the heel flap went relatively well, considering that this is my first ever sock. The right side seems, well, right, except for a loose-ish connection where I picked up stitches for the gusset (the bottom of the bit that looks kind of like a triangle above). On the other hand, the left hand side?
A less successful effort. The picked up stitches are quite loose, and my decreases down the gusset have resulted in a big line of loose stitches next to the decrease line. (At this point I need to apologise for my shocking photos - I'm reliant on my iphone for the foreseeable future as my camera has decided to refuse to speak to my computer. Hurrumph.) So I'd be interested in any tips you might have to avoid the same issues on sock #2!

Even still, I'm rather chuffed that I knitted a sock. The flaws don't make it unwearable, so I'm still doing happy dances in my head every time I see it ;-)

If you're looking for some inspiration, or just like checking out what other people are making, visit the home of My Creative Space!

Monday, May 24, 2010

What we're eating!

It's planned!

This week, dinners should be relatively stress free, as long as I remember to check what we're having with enough time to prepare what I need to (not always the case...). But at least with a plan in place, the first step is done!
This week, planning took me nearly 2 hours. Goodness! However, on reflection, if I've already done my thinking, I don't need to do it every day, and sometimes I can spend several hours in a day trying to work out what we're having for dinner. So I'm probably still well ahead on the time thing. Especially if I remember to shop efficiently!

Over the next few months, I'm hoping to gather a collection of bloggers who meal plan to link to in my sidebar, so if you know of anyone who regularly posts a meal plan, let me know! That way, I'll have a great source of inspiration that's easily accessible. So far, I know that Meagan regularly posts meal plans. Check her plan out in her sidebar!

A couple of notes. We're not vegetarian, but try to include one or two vegetarian meals a week, and also include at least one 'almost vegetarian'* meal each week. I try to cook most meals from scratch, but do use bought stock and occasionally use convenient options, particularly when sanity is the preferable option! I also often try to make extra so we can freeze the leftovers for another meal.

If you'd like to join me, even if it's only occasionally, please leave a link to your plan post in the comments. That way we can all get some inspiration from your plans!

Without further ado:

Monday: Fennel & lemon pasta Delicious June '10 p53
Tuesday: Poached pear with chocolate sauce & ice cream Making it up! (Dinner with wheat-free friends - we're on dessert)
Wednesday: Jamie's Meatballs The Naked Chef (This batch from the freezer)
Thursday: Coconut prawn curry Del June '10 p96
Friday: Spanish style baked eggs Making it up
Saturday: Roast Chicken with Alan's Gravy Every Day in the Kitchen (The best gravy recipe ever, quite seriously!!)
Sunday: Pumpkin soup Making it up (with extra for the freezer)

So there it is. I'll let you know how we went next week!

* 'Almost vegetarian' refers to a dish that has no fresh meat component but includes something yummy like bacon, pancetta or chorizo!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The elusive menu plan

When it comes to dinner, I'm a planner. Growing up, we used to sit down as a family and plan the menu for a month at a time. Up until recently, we've menu-planned weekly since we got married over 12 years ago. I think the system fully broke down not long after we discovered we had a solids-eating child in the house! At that point, it all just got too hard.

We've muddled through the last several months with me half planning and shopping as needed, which often means a last minute call to T to get him to pick up something essential on his way home from work. Obviously not a particularly satisfactory solution!

Tonight, after thinking I'd done a reasonable job of planning this week, I realised that not checking the ingredients needed for a recipe, and then not checking if I actually had them (before doing the shopping), leads to a red lentil stew with a few less red lentils than ideal.* Hmmm. Or takeaway, which we can't really afford very often at the moment.
So here's my solution. If I post my menu plans for each week or so in the sidebar**, then I'll have to be organised enough to do the shopping properly! Maybe I'll even let you know how successful we've been at sticking to it.

Maybe you'd like to join me? There are no rules - there's no shame in being flexible, or just changing your mind from time to time! Or even missing some weeks! I'm just hoping that it keeps me a bit more accountable.

For me, menu planning means spending less, wasting less, and not having to make decisions about dinner at 4pm (probably my biggest driver). If you'd like to join in, leave a comment letting me know, and tell me what drives you to try menu planning!

My first proper menu plan will start next Monday.

*It was still yummy, even if a bit light on in the lentil department!
**Getting a bit full, especially once I update my reading list - any ideas how I can get a sidebar on both sides??

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A turned heel!

How cool is that!?!

This is going way faster than I had imagined. So much so, that, unless I run into unforeseen difficulty from here, this may be a new addiction. Hmmm.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Socking along

I'm making progress, far more quickly than I'd anticipated! I've finished the cuff and nearly finished the heel flap. Apparently the next bit is where it gets scary, but it's been a rather satisfyingly quick process until now!
I'm using Marie Greene's Beginner Sock-a-long instructions, which so far have been really simple to understand. My only modification has been to do the majority of the cuff in stockinette rather than rib (mainly to facilitate sensible conversations while still managing to knit in my currently limited multi-tasking capacity!).

There are a couple of things I'm a bit confused about though. All the pictures of other people's socks in progress have the right side out, but when I'm knitting mine, the wrong side is out. Is this just because people turn them out so pictures look nicer? Or am I knitting inside out?

I'm also very interested in any tips for dealing with dpns so that I don't feel like I'm knitting with pick-up-sticks! I keep having to adjust the needles so that the one I'm knitting from is on top. Is this odd?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My creative space

My first ever sock!
Well, the beginnings of it, at least. I think I just solved my first challenge, which was working out how I managed to end up with an extra stitch already. I think I'd gotten the yarn twisted when changing to the next needle in this needle chopsticks game that is knitting on dpns. I will get better at it, I'm sure!

How's your creative space fairing this week? To visit many more, check out the linky list at Kootoyoo!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Feta, spinach and olive tart

After a crazy busy week and a half, I managed to find the time for a nap this afternoon! There were several other things on my list of things to do while uber goober was asleep, but a catch up mummy nap won out. I'm feeling rather refreshed for it, so it was definitely worth it! This week has involved handing in an essay, working my first full day of paid employment since going on maternity leave, somehow squeezing in a visit to the Stitches and Craft Show, and a cold. Just to top it all off.

In all of that, I did manage to make a really yummy tart for dinner one night. I think just about anything with feta and olives in it is yummy, so this tart meets that requirement! I used puff pastry with no pre-cooking, but if you have the energy and inclination to blind bake shortcrust pastry (or even make it yourself!), it would definitely further improve the final product. Serving the tart with a green salad and bread would stretch it far enough to feed four.

Feta, spinach and olive tart
Serves 4

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
100g baby spinach, washed
180g persian feta (or normal is fine!)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cream
6 kalamata olives, halved and pitted

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Place the pastry into a greased flan tin or quiche dish, pressing it into the corners and filling in any gaps with any bits that overhang the edges.

Cook the red onion with the oil over gentle heat for about 5-10 mins until starting to soften. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until the onion is completely soft but not coloured. Set aside to cool slightly.

Wilt the spinach, either in the onion pan or by placing in a colander and pouring a kettle-full of hot water over it. Press out excess moisture.

Spread the onion and garlic evenly over the bottom of the pastry. Spread the spinach evenly over the onion, and crumble the feta over the spinach. Mix the eggs and cream, season lightly with salt and pepper, and pour over the feta. Sprinkle the olives over the tart and place on a tray in the oven for 20-30 minutes until cooked through and lightly coloured on top. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.