Delicious Dinner

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Yesterday I worked from home so I had a larger window of opportunity for preparing dinner than I normally do on a weekday.  I even had time to take some step-by-step photographs.

As with many of the meals I make, there is no specific recipe, however, my inspiration came from this video which was posted on Facebook.  I did plan to make the enchiladas but had no way to satisfactorily slice the zucchini thinly enough to be able to roll it easily.  So, I made a lasagne.

This is the remainder of the last of the giant zucchini.

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I sliced the flesh as thinly as possible and discarded the seeds.  Some have been saved for next year’s crop.

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Next, I sliced one chicken breast fillet.  It was still mostly frozen which is useful because I find it easier to slice when semi-frozen.  When I need cooked chicken for a recipe, I steam it by placing the chicken on a cake rack over a large frying pan of boiling water.  I then place the domed lid over the top and it cooks quite quickly.

One onion (diced), 1/2 capsicum (diced), 3 birdseye chillies and a lime were the next things I prepared.

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Saute the onion and chopped chillies then add the capsicum and cook until softened.  Add the lime juice.  I only used half a lime as they were large and very juicy.

Add the shredded, cooked chicken and 1/2 can crushed tomatoes.

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Line the base of a small, rectangular dish with zucchini slices then add layers of chicken mixture, grated cheeses (I used parmesan and cheddar) and zucchini.  I also added the remainder of the can of tomatoes as I layered the dish.

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The topping is parmesan and cheddar cheese mixed with flaxseed meal for some added crunch and keep the dish gluten-free.  If this is not an issue you could use dry breadcrumbs with the cheese.

Bake in the oven until heated through and browned on top.  Alternatively, you could microwave for 10 minutes and then crisp the top under the griller.  This is what I did to avoid turning on the oven.

The meal made 3 generous adult serves from one chicken breast fillet and part of a giant zucchini which would otherwise have gone to waste.

And the Cleaning

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When I cook I invariably make a mess.  In fact, we have a standing joke that I cook and GMan cleans up.  I must admit he is very good at doing the dishes and I think he spent the majority this weekend washing dishes.

I finished off yesterday’s efforts this morning by portioning up the refried beans for the freezer as well as cutting and pureeing lots of mangoes to go in the freezer.  Mango preparation is a messy, sticky business.

In between all of this GMan is experimenting with making sourdough bread and he cooked the first two loaves this evening.  I think that is a work in progress which will not be discussed any further until we have some more successful attempts.

After we had dinner it was time to tackle the last of the dishes and eliminate any mango residue from the benches and splashbacks.

The kitchen is now sparkling and my final step was to mop the floor.  Everything is ready to go for a new week.

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Lots of clean and clear surfaces.

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I remember reading about minimalism that clear surfaces simply afford possibilities.  I love the truth of this statement.  From an uncluttered sofa which invites you to sit and relax to a clear kitchen which is just brimming with the opportunity to prepare meals this logic can be applied to virtually every surface in your home.  It can be a powerful tool in creating a mindset that embraces a simple, uncluttered home and life.

 

Meals with Mango

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I like to make the most of seasonal produce.  Using what is in season means reduced costs as well as minimal transporting and often there is less packaging.

It is even better when it is grown in your garden or immediate locality.  Thanks to the generosity of some neighbours, I currently have access to an abundance of mangoes.

We have been eating them fresh but there are many ways to incorporate them into meals, too.  Here are a couple.

The other night I made mango sorbet.

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Here is the link to the recipe.  I have also added it below with some slight variations to the instructions to suit myself.

Ingredients

3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups water
4 medium mangoes, flesh removed, peeled
1 egg white

Method

Stir the sugar and 1 1/2 cups (375ml) water in a small saucepan over a low heat until dissolved. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Cook, without stirring, for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Place mango flesh in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a stainless steel bowl and add the cooled syrup. Cover and freeze, stirring with a fork occasionally, for 2 hours.

Use an electric beater to beat the egg white until soft peaks form. Fold into the mango mixture. Freeze for 3 hours, until just frozen. Place in a food processor and process until smooth. Return to the pan and freeze for another 3 hours or until firm.

Tonight I made mango salsa.  The ingredients are what I happened to have on hand.  You can adjust to suit your own tastes.

Ingredients

1 large mango, finely chopped
2 birdseye chillies, finely chopped
1/2 can corn kernels, drained
Juice of 1 lime

Method

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.

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I served the salsa with grilled chicken and brown rice.  The salsa was an interesting combination of sweet and hot which we like.  This may well be too hot for your liking so you could try finely chopped capsicum (bell peppers) instead or just a pinch of chilli powder.
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Like a Duck

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I have been feeling a bit like a duck lately – all calm on the surface and paddling furiously beneath the surface!

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Work is busy and I have deadlines and targets to meet before Christmas.  I am hopeful of achieving them but I can only do what is humanly possible.

On the home front it is about the mundane things – washing, ironing, preparing meals as well as keeping the house in reasonable order.

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A menu plan written on the weekend is a must to keep me on track during the week.  Tonight was Mexican quinoa and while that was cooking I steamed a chicken breast fillet in preparation for tomorrow night.  In the morning I will take a tub of sweet and sour sauce and some rice from the freezer.  Tomorrow evening will be a simple matter of shredding the chicken, adding to the sauce and heating along with the rice.  Dinner will be ready in no time.

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Last night I did some ironing and tonight the folded clothes were put away.  A little bit each night helps to keep on top of the ordinary tasks and leaves me time for extra jobs on the weekend.

On Sunday we cleaned up the vegetable gardens and planted some new seedlings.  I hope to have some photos of the progress in a couple of days.  We also picked several kilos of cherry tomatoes which are washed, packed and frozen for later use.

 

The Time It Takes

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Well, it has been a while since I wrote a proper blog post.  I have been busy in the real world as things seem to speed up towards the end of the year.  At least some of it was of our own making as we chose to go to Adelaide for 3 nights about a week ago.

I managed to have the housework pretty well up do date before we left last Saturday but I have not had any free time since arriving home on Tuesday evening to an almost empty refrigerator and the prospect of long days at work for the remaining 3 days of the working week.

It would have been easy to say that I had no time but it really was a matter of making time.  Have you ever considered how little time it actually takes to do some of your regular household tasks?  It only takes me about 6 minutes to hang out a load of washing and about 2 – 3 minutes to get a load of washing off the line.

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So, during the past 5 days I have managed to unpack a suitcase, do a couple of loads of washing, including hanging, bringing it in and folding, plan and prepare meals as well as getting myself to work each day.

Things I do to create time where there does not appear to be any include preparing at least part of the evening meal for the following night while dinner is cooking, putting a load of washing on before I go to work, wiping over the mirror and vanity when I get out of the shower.

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Housework does does not need to be an enormous undertaking.  By doing a little bit often you can keep things humming along with very little time.  Other jobs that take a couple of minutes are unloading the dishwasher, wiping down the sink, cleaning a single shelf in the refrigerator, dusting a polishing a table and so on.  Every small task that you can slip into your routine is one that does not build into an overwhelming project.

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Did you notice the one thing I have not mentioned?  Ironing!  I need at least an hour of clear time to get stuck into a pile of ironing and make it worthwhile.

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How do you arrange your housework into the time available?

Something Different

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We usually eat salmon once every fortnight.  It is cooked the same way each time – GMan grills it on the barbecue.  I vary the accompaniments – sometimes it is kale salad or coleslaw and sweet potato fries, other times it is a a bed of sweet potato mash or wilted bok choy plus other vegetables on the side.

The other day I came across this link on Facebook.  So, I decided that I would try one for a change from our normal grilled salmon.

I made the Tomato Pesto Salmon and this is what it looked like once I had assembled it.

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Cooked, served and ready to eat.

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Even better, was the fact that the basil, tomatoes, zucchini and sweet potato were all from the garden.

I know that fresh salmon is not exactly a budget meal but with almost everything else home-grown it means that we can splash out a little on good quality meat and fish.

Food as Fuel

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Sometimes I think food is over-rated.  Thanks to shows like Masterchef and others in the same vein, we have been conned into thinking that every meal needs to be a creation and cooking is a competition.

Cooking for your family is actually providing fuel for their bodies to perform the necessary tasks – nothing more, nothing less.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I love more than creating a special meal for family and friends.  However, we need to look past the hype of cooking shows and concentrate on what is important – nutritious food to re-fuel.

Tonight I want to show you what I am making for dinner.  It is not overly fancy but I know we will enjoy a wholesome meal made with basic ingredients.

Beef Casserole with Sweet Potato Mash, Broccoli and Balsamic-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I made the casserole a couple of weeks ago in the slow-cooker and divided it into 2 containers.  One container is 2 serves.  This has been defrosting since I took it out of the freezer this morning.  The sweet potato is already cooked and mashed from Sunday evening when I made a double quantity.

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I will serve this with steamed broccoli and the cherry tomatoes.

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I made the casserole using gravy beef (3 pieces), 1 onion (diced), 400g frozen cherry tomatoes (you can use a can of crushed tomatoes) and 1/4 cup homemade Worcestershire sauce.  Place all ingredients in the slow cooker on High for about 6 hours or until the meat is tender and breaks apart easily with a fork.  Add 1 heaped tablespoon of cornflour or arrowroot blended in 1/4 cup of water to thicken the mixture.  This can been done in the last hour of cooking or transfer the casserole to a saucepan and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  If you are going to freeze the casserole you may prefer to thicken it when you are ready to use it.

The sweet potato is mashed with some butter and a sprinkle of nutmeg for extra flavour.

To roast the cherry tomatoes place about 2 teaspoons of oil and an equal amount of balsamic syrup in a small pan with the tomatoes and place in an oven at 180C for 10 minutes.  If you do not have the oven on, you can do it equally as well under the griller for about 5 – 8 minutes on ‘High’.

The sweet potato and cherry tomatoes are both from our garden.

Here is the meal served and ready to eat.

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What is on your dinner plate tonight?