Meal plan for next week

Hellllloooo finally! I have made a concerted effort this week to get back on here and write a post. I’ve been way, way too busy lately to even think about writing anything.

So now that I’m back on here, what will I share? To get started and in the spirit of my general busyness lately, I thought that I would share my meal planning habit and my meal plan for next week.

I’ve been meal planning for about 18 months now and I absolutely could not function in the evenings without one. It is important to me that we eat a reasonably healthy, fresh and well-balanced diet. I prioritise making dinner most nights and usually make enough for lunch the following day. Having a meal plan saves SO.MUCH.TIME. It saves time (and money) when I do the grocery shopping on the weekend and I don’t have to reshop for things I missed or wonder what to buy. It also saves time in the evenings because whoever gets home first can just get on with making dinner without wondering what to cook. Lastly, I find it’s a fantastic way to incorporate new recipes into my routine.

I have a Kikki-K meal planner pad (about the only thing I can afford there!) which I use to plan everything out and then I write it up on a blackboard in the kitchen. For your benefit, I’ve replicated my meal planner pad as a powerpoint template but I’ve made it better…I think so anyway! Feel free to use it. So without further ado, I’ll share my meal plan for next week. Tada!

Meal Plan 21 July 2013

Blame Mr Intriguerry for the gnocchi, jasmine rice and crispy garlic toast. We’ve been having a lot of brown rice lately and this week was a bit of a compromise since I’ll be out on a few evenings. I’ll have to do a separate post explaining what ‘Eggs Eleven’ is!

Tips for those getting started:

  1. Be Prepared: Set aside 30 mins at some point in your week to prepare the meal plan and shopping list for the following week. Sit down with a template, a few recipe books and your diary and plan it out. The more often you do it, the faster you will get. It helps to have a good idea of what’s in your fridge/pantry before you start.
  2. Be Smart: Have some goals in your head. I target one meal per week using fish, chicken, mince/sausage and egg. I limit carbs like spaghetti and bread to once per week and substitute brown rice, quinoa and sweet potato where possible. Pick recipes with common ingredients so you don’t end up wasting things. If you need a 3 sprigs of a herb for a recipe try and pick other recipes that will let you use up the bunch you have to buy.
  3. Be Realistic: Instead of planning each meal each day all at once just start with one meal a day (I suggest dinner!). Think about your weekly routine and don’t plan a meal for an evening when you’ll eat out or not athome. Also think about who will be doing the cooking. It’s no use planning to cook a three-course Heston Blumenthal extravaganza if the person doing the cooking that evening is limited to 2-minute noodles.
  4. Be Disciplined: If you make a meal plan and buy all the fresh produce, you need to commit to sticking with it at least for the week. Don’t give in to the temptation to just get take out.

KEEP YOUR MEAL PLANS!!!! I cannot stress that enough. Why go to all the trouble of making a new one from scratch each week. I started keeping mine in about March this year so I can just flip back and use one from earlier in the year. This won’t always work if the recipes are seasonal but that’s an easier problem to fix quickly than making a brand new plan.

Do you meal plan and how do you do it?

Donna Hay: Sumac Chicken & Almond Quinoa

I am a meal planner. I sit down every weekend and plan out 5-6 dinner options for the next week and then go shopping. I find that it saves time both grocery shopping and when I come home from work, it saves money, it makes it easier to eat healthily and last but not least, it encourages me to make use of the awesome stash of recipe books I have and not get stuck in a dinner rut. That’s where this recipe comes in…

Last week, I decided to branch out from Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals and try something new from Donna Hay No Time To Cook. I made some additions along the way and the end product was so delicious that I have decided to share my version of her recipe.

Ingredients:

For 2 people

Sumac Chicken

  • 1 Tbsp of oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large chicken breast (or enough for 2 people)
  • Sumac*
  • Preserved lemons – 1 segment (ie a quarter of a whole lemon)**

Almond Quinoa

  • 1 cup white quinoa (you can use couscous but you’ll need to adjust the liquid ratio)
  • For quinoa in a rice cooker I use a 2:1 water/quinoa ratio. For couscous just follow the packet directions.
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock
  • pinch chilli flakes
  • 25g butter
  • 3 green onions/shallots, finely sliced
  • 1/3 cup toasted, slivered almonds

To serve

  • 100g natural yoghurt
  • 1/8 bunch flat-leaf parsley (leaves only), finely chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • Baby spinach (a large handful for each person)

* It’s worth finding sumac, a substitute won’t really cut it here.

**Preserved lemons are my addition and I think they’re awesome but probably not essential. If you use preserved lemons go easy with the salt as vege stock and preserved lemons are both quite salty.

Method

  1. Mix 2 cups of water with the vegetable stock & chilli flakes. Put quinoa and water in a rice cooker to cook.
  2. Defrost the chicken if it’s frozen.
  3. Put a fry pan on to heat up and while it is heating up toast the slivered almonds.
  4. Dice green onions, dice the parsley and dice/mash the preserved lemons while the almonds are toasting.
  5. Crush garlic and place in a bowl with the oil and preserved lemons. Cut the chicken into large chunks or cut the breast in half lengthways like a schnitzel.
  6. Place chicken in bowl with garlic and sprinkle with copious amounts of sumac. Maybe try half a tablespoon at a time?
  7. Fry the chicken until it is cooked.
  8. While the chicken is cooking, mix the yoghurt, parsley and lemon juice in a small bowl.
  9. Once the quinoa is cooked stir through the butter, green onions and toasted almonds.
  10. Place the spinach in the middle of a plate. Top with the warm quinoa which will slightly cook the spinach. Put the chicken on top and add some of the yoghurt sauce to taste.

Donna Hay Sumac Chicken almond quinoa

Meanwhile, I’m just under halfway through sewing my quilt cover together!

Bright & cheerful geometric quilt cover

Welcome to the beginning of my new project! Over the next few weeks I will be attempting to make a new quilt cover inspired by this one that I saw on Pinterest a while ago. I love that picture. It’s so bright and happy but the geometric print is still quite mature and grown-up. Our bedroom is currently very neutral – which I love – but a change would be nice.

The thought of cutting out and sewing together all those little tiny squares gives me a migraine so as I said, my version will be ‘inspired by‘ that one only.

Quilt covers for a queen size bed are apparently 210cm x 210cm. I have designed a triangle which is easily divisible into 210cm. Hence, my triangle template is 10cm wide at the base and 21cm high (not including a 0.5cm seam allowance).

template

I have chosen a variety of cotton twill/broadcloth fabrics. Choosing was pretty hard as I didn’t want it to be too feminine. I’m not 100% sure how much I’ll need but I have seven colours. I purchased 0.7m of the 112cm wide broadcloths and 0.5m of the 150cm wide twill. This calculation is based on dividing the square metres of the quilt cover by 7 (ie 2.1 x 2.1 = 4.41m2/7 = 0.63). All up, it’s about $38 worth of fabric.

IMG_0799By my calculation I will need 43 triangles per row. While I haven’t completely committed to cutting out hundreds and hundreds of triangles finalized my design, there would theoretically be 10 rows and 430 triangles. Thus, the arduous process of tracing and cutting begins…

IMG_0802

So far I have cut out enough triangles for one complete row. It should look something like this once I sew it together…

IMG_0814Yes…once I sew it together……………

Review: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I have finally caved in and purchased a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. This is a compilation of recipes from the kitchen of blogger Deb Perelman.

First Impressions…
There is a good variety of recipes for each meal of the day, there are pretty pictures and a lot of words.

Each recipe begins with an anecdote to personalise each dish. The book is somewhat similar to the Smitten Kitchen blog in this respect. While these anecdotes give the book a warm and inviting it makes the book seem quite wordy in comparison to other cookbooks. This style shouldn’t come as a surprise to her regular readers.

The book contains reasonably simple, home-style food and steers clear of pretentious, hard-to-locate ingredients most of the time. It is no 15 Minute Meals – some recipes look particularly time consuming. The Sweet Thing section contains some particularly interesting recipes that are sure to impress, for example, the Chocolate Hazlenut Crepe Cake, or the Red Wine Velvet Cake with whipped mascarpone. However, the next on my list is the Deepest Dish Apple Pie which looks so, so delicious!

Downsides…
Layout. The composition of the book means that the list of ingredients is frequently on the reverse side of the page with the instructions. This means that you are constantly turning the page (with dirty hands) to double check ingredients and quantities. In so many cases it seems that this problem could have been cured simply by reordering pages so that story/ingredients & the instructions were always on a double spread. The fact that it hasn’t been considered is a little annoying.

Another (minor) gripe is that each section begins with an introductory page setting out the recipes in that section. However, this contents page of recipes does not contain page numbers. It would have been a small effort to include the page number and would have made locating recipes much simpler.

Test run…
Last weekend I decided to give the book a whirl and made Fig, Olive Oil & Sea Salt Challah Bread.

20130311-203036.jpg
This recipe involved making the fig filling (which I did the night before) and making the bread dough. The recipe was quite accurate however I found I needed to a touch more water to my dough. (Tip: just wet your hands while you’re kneading the dough to get the perfect texture and to avoid adding too much water)

I had some difficulty with the technique to create 2 rolls/logs of dough, each 90cm long. Mine were nowhere near long enough and started breaking at about the 50cm mark. I think this probably just means I need more practice.

The end result doesn’t look as good as the recipe book however, I was happy with the outcome. I served it for breakfast with butter, slices of smoky ham and fresh apple. Yum!

20130311-202114.jpg

Overall…
This is a good book and one that fans of the blog will love. If you want a cookbook with a sense of warmth, with impressive home-style cooking, give this one strong consideration. It is one that I am happy to have on my shelf and I have enjoyed reading the stories from cover to cover. I’m looking forward to making that deep dish apple pie…

Where have I been???

It’s been a while since my last post and that is because I have been enjoying a fantastic, 2 week holiday in Japan. We flew to Osaka and then on to Sapporo the next day.

We were lucky that our day in Sapporo coincided with the Sapporo Snow Festival. As part of the Festival, there were tonnes of ice sculptures throughout the town. Some were quite small and sponsored by local businesses but the main area had massive sculptures – truly impressive. I imagine that the sculptures have historic/cultural significance but unfortunately that is not my area of expertise.

20130223-195417.jpg

The following day we caught a bus to Hirafu village where I spent a week learning to snowboard. I can already ski but I figured that if there was ever a time to learn to snowboard it was in Niseko. There was so much snow and it was incredibly beautiful!

20130223-200954.jpg
We stayed in a townhouse called ‘Hurry Slowly’ in Hirafu lower village and when we weren’t snowboarding we were either eating at the local restaurants, watching episodes of Homeland or playing bananagrams. As for the restaurants, I’d highly recommend The Niseko Supply Company for breakfast and their delicious crepes (and free wifi!), The Green Farm cafe (for breakfast or lunch) and The Fridge Door Bar for their amazing mulled wine and other delicious hot drinks. All the food was great but in my opinion those places rate a special mention for their awesomeness.

20130223-201906.jpg
We caught the long and tedious bus back to the Sapporo airport and flew to Tokyo. In Tokyo we used AirBnb to rent an apartment in Shibuya – it was great to have a little extra space! On our first night we had dinner at this cute little Teppanyaki bar in Roppongi – Panic Restaurant (KY Building, B1F 3-16-14 Roppongi, Minato-ku Tokyo. It was fantastic! Hands down the best dinner I had in Japan! Although food was cooked in a traditional Teppanyaki bar, the food was somewhat westernised (think bruschetta, potato & spicy sausage, spinach & bacon & beef noodles). They also had leafy green salads which I was absolutely craving after days of ramen and deep fried dinners. As a side note, the chef is hilarious and makes quite a production of preparing food!

20130223-203557.jpg20130223-203633.jpg

We looked at museums, went shopping, walked through parks, observed from observatories and ate a lot of food! I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

20130223-204249.jpg20130223-204307.jpg20130223-204324.jpg

Shinjuku, buildings near the Tokyo Government observatory, Takeshita St in Harajuku

20130223-204434.jpg20130223-204442.jpg20130223-210509.jpg20130223-204521.jpg20130223-204458.jpgIMG_0557

Cherry blossoms in Hama-rikyu Gardens

Shibuya Crossing & a traditional wedding at the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park

Me trying to look my classy best on the Omotesando & an exhibit at the Edo-Tokyo Museum

20130223-204923.jpg

PS. If you go to Japan, try the donuts from Mr Donut. You won’t regret it!

PPS. Apologies if you’ve already seen this post, WordPress swallowed the formatting and half the pictures and I had to repost it.

DIY Hipster Vases

You’ve probably seen those vases in fancy homewares shops that are jars wrapped with twine into bundles. Here’s an example. I’ll admit that these can look pretty funky and I’ve always wanted a set BUT at the end of the day, they are offcast jars wrapped with twine…I cannot bring myself to pay money (in some cases A LOT of money) for jars and string.

So, I was making Spaghetti Bolognese the other day and realised that I had two, perfect-sized, identical jars just begging to be wrapped with twine and hipsterized.

For my version of hipster vases you’ll need:

20130121-205629.jpg

  • Empty jars, cleaned and labels removed (I think that you could even use mismatched jars and it would look cool!)
  • Twine – I used good old gardening twine available from Bunnings for about $2 for 100m or something ridiculous but you might want a thicker string for a better look.
  • Scissors
  • Non-slippery surface

20130121-211320.jpgInstructions:

    1. Make a slip knot in one end of the string. Make sure you have a 20cm tail on the string.
    2. Slip the open portion of the slip know over one jar and pull tight.
    3. Wrap the string around the other jar so that the knot is between the two jars. Tie the string to the tail of the knot so that this new knot is also between the two jars (or as close to between them as you can manage).
    4. Using a figure eight pattern, go round the jars checking the string alignment until you have the look you’re after.
    5. Leaving approx. 30cm of string free, cut the string.
    6. Using this leftover string wrap it several times around the string in the gap between the jars and secure with half-hitch (I think that’s what they’re called) knots. Any old knot will do as the string is pretty rough and shouldn’t slip.
    7. If you’re a true hipster I guess you’ll fill it with a rusty old pair of scissors or something else ironic. All I had to hand was some fake flowers and assorted stationery…seriously though, these would make really cute bud vases for a party or wedding. Enjoy!

20130121-211514.jpg

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.