Friday, June 7, 2019

Be prepared for life....#2...simplify meals!

What a challenge it's been to train the troops from afar while I'm in corporate land, and they're trying to keep hearth and home together. 
They're doing pretty well, but I'd be lying if I said things hadn't changed around here.
The Diva, now that she's at a prestige performing arts academy with all that entails, refuses to let anything that isn't alternately Paleo/Meditteranean/a Superfood, pass her lips.
Husband refuses point blank to use the slow cooker because he hates to clean it. He prefers to buy ready slow cooked meals. Well. You can just imagine how that sits with me. Can you see my dramatic roll of eyes?
Still, as many before me have said, it's better than takeaway, and who am I to tell the newly crowned Kitchen Regents how to prepare the evening offering.

I'm learning, that it's all about simplifying. Friends warned me about this, and I make no apology in saying that simplifying is the name of the game.
I baked a cake a weekend or two ago. Nobody but me ate it. Diva being all healthy and Husband following suit and all.
Now the baking goes to work with me. I'm very popular as a consequence.

Carrot and Walnut cake got the thumbs up although I was berated for not making a bigger!
 Life Changing bread and herbed home made ricotta won some hearts, but warranted suspicious looks from many.'s a lesson...the biggest hit, was the thing that required the least amount of effort. This baked Camembert was practically zero effort and had the colleagues queuing, QUEUEING, I tell you, out the door.
Recipe in a couple of sentences #1
Baked Camembert: Buy a camembert or brie, criss cross slash the thing, bake at 180C till heated through, top with honey, pistachios and sliced dried figs. Who knew right? This was a big one. Aldi here sell half wheels for $10. Join two together for maximum impact. Most awesome bring-a-plate offering, like, EVER.
Tip right there! Simplify!
I'll save the labour intensive stuff a very occasional treat, thanks. 
That said, these gluten free potato scallops (potato cakes, fritters, whatever you like to call 'em) are cheap, easy, and delish. And simple. Did I mention SIMPLE?
Recipe in a few sentences #2
 Potato Scallops: Slice a couple of potatoes thinly. You don't even need to peel them. Just scrub the dirt from the peel. Mix flour, seasoning and soda water together to form a thick batter. I just eyeball the amount based upon the number of potato slices I have. If you run out, you can make more easily. I just use a Gluten Free flour blend. The fizzy water makes the batter lighter. You could also use beer or cider. Heat a big pot of oil till smoking. Dip potato slices in batter, and drop carefully into the oil. Cook until lightly golden and drain well. Eat immediately or freeze, whereupon they can be reheated in the oven or refried in oil. Yum. Strangely The Diva lowered herself to consuming six of these. I suppose they're a new Superfood??? *cough*...

Superfood right here though. Coconut yoghurt parfaits. A perennial favourite. A Zero effort one. frozen berries. Have you SEEN the price of berries just now? I guess the poor farmers have to make up for that nonsense with the needle-in-the-strawberry scandal last year, but I'll poke a needle-in-my-eye before mashing them into a parfait. I'll buy them, but I'll savour them alone like the luxury they are at the moment. Meanwhile these are fine using frozen berries at $1 per 100gms over twice or thrice the price for fresh. Make it easy on yourself and assemble these ahead. May as well make 8, as 4, right?
Recipe in a few sentences #3
Speaking of zero effort, Chia Pudding. Do you know of it? We love tapioca, and Chia is similar. Mix the seeds with any liquid, and sweetener if desired. Layer much like the yoghurt parfaits. Eat. Good. Easy.
Chia Seed Pudding: Mix chia seeds at a ratio of 1 part Chia seeds to 4 parts liquid eg. 1/4 cup seeds to 1 cup liquid. Any liquid is fine. We love plant based milks the best. Add sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, stevia) and flavour essence if you want. We prefer Vanilla extract, but raspberry, peppermint (with chocolate soy milk and cacao nibs), and orange or lemon got the thumbs up recently too. Mix together, pour into jars or glasses or any other container. Done. We put frozen berries at the base of these too.
Other tricks...
Keep celebration cakes simple.
Behold my beehive cake further below here, made for a recent birthday. Cake. Mock Cream. Tulle and ribbon bees. Done. I baked a round cake and a cake in a pudding basin. I trimmed the bottom cake to the size of the pudding basin cake and sandwiched with chia seed jam. The Diva will eat this as its sugar free and its unbelievably quick and easy to make. It's basically the same as the Chia puddings.
Recipe in a few sentences #4
Berry Chia Seed Jam: Defrost some frozen fruit in the microwave in a small bowl. Frozen raspberries or mixed berries are our favourite. Mash them up with a fork. Leave a few chunks if you like but we like ours fairly smooth. You'll note that you now have a fair amount of liquid too. This is where the Chia seeds work their magic. Add 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, stir and allow to cool. Done. See? No mystery. Chia pudds and Chia jam are really the same thing in different proportions Adjust the amount of berries and seeds to suit you! Add sweetener if you wish, but it's not necessary.

I iced this with a very old recipe for Vanilla Mock Cream.
Recipe in a few sentences #5
Vanilla Mock Cream: Combine 1 heaped dessertspoon of cornflour in a bit of milk and stir to combine. Add enough to bring up to a cupful, and microwave, stirring every 20 seconds, until smooth and thick. Allow to cool. Cream a tablespoon of butter with 3 tablespoons caster (superfine but NOT icing sugar) sugar in a small bowl, then beat in the cold cornflour mixture. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence if you like. I flavoured mine with honey and lemon this time. Tint with yellow colouring...use a teaspoon to dispense the food colour until you get the delicate shade you want.
I just blobbed that on. The texture is like a super thick custard. I then ran a fork around the cake to get the lines and ridges to make it look like a beehive.
Behold my Moana Te Fiti cake here.  Another one that was far easier than it looks!
Speaking of custard, Baked Custard is a perfect treat Summer or Winter. Who needs all that beating and flour sifting and stuff unless it's a special occasion? We make ours with plant based or lactose free milk. Coconut milk baked custard is divine.
Recipe in a few sentences #6
Baked Custard: 4 eggs, 500mls milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon, bake in a water bath till firm. Put rice in it for baked rice pudding. Add noodles for a German version. Throw fruit in it to be fancy. Serve with cream if your lactose-intolerant family (mine, that is) can stand it.
Other tips and tricks:
 Think in multiples. Why boil two eggs when boiling a dozen takes the same length of time. We do this and eat them cold for breakfast and lunch. We like the yolks just firm but not overcooked. With experimentation, we've found this the best method.
Recipe in a few sentences #7
Perfect hard boiled eggs: Put as many eggs as you can fit in a medium sized pot. We can fit 8 in ours and our eggs are extra large. This bit is important due to the timing. Do two medium pots of 6 or 8, over one large pot, as the timing is different. Also, knock off 30 seconds or so if your eggs are smaller. You'll get to know what texture you like your yolks. Get the tap water the hottest it can be, and barely cover the eggs. Set them on a preheated (if electric) or high gas hotplate. Set your timer for 9 minutes. Cook until timer goes off. Douse in cold water to stop them cooking any further. Store in the refrigerator. We eat these whole, mash them for sandwiches, chop them into salads, or toss them in a béchamel based curry sauce to eat with rice and vegetables, a meal that is surprisingly delicious.
 This morning, while I made and ate my breakfast, I also made 8 boiled eggs, 8 chia seed puddings, a heap of steamed rice, a jar of toasted sesame seeds, and a jar of mixed berry chia seed jam. I had three cooking vessels to wash and that was it. It CAN be done.
Here's that curry sauce recipe....
Recipe in a few sentences #8
Curried béchamel sauce for eggs, chicken or vegetables: Microwave a tablespoon of butter or margarine, with a heaped tablespoon of flour. Separately, heat a cup of milk till steaming. Beat the two together. Microwave till smooth and silky, stirring every thirty seconds. Season to taste and add as much curry powder as you like. We like about a teaspoon and a half. This makes it flavoursome, but not overly spicy. To this we add sliced hard boiled eggs. We eat it with steamed rice and lightly blanched greens like beans, snow peas (mange tout), broccolini and asparagus. You can also use this as a base for any mornay, and cauliflower and broccoli in this sauce, in single serves with cheese ready to melt on top, is a favourite Winter work and University lunch here. Also yum with tinned salmon or tuna packed the same way.
Oh! Steamed rice! An absolute staple. That recipe is here. No rice cooker required. I do it in the microwave now too. Same idea, but cook for 6 minutes, stir, allow to sit.
Recipe in a few sentences #9
Tamago Gohan: The Diva and I like a Japanese breakfast with steamed rice. You heat the cooked rice in the microwave until piping hot, then (don't be squeamish), add a raw egg, a dribble of soy sauce and sesame oil, and a might generous pinch of toasted sesame seeds (I do these ahead of course). The heat of the rice 'cooks' the egg, and the egg in turn, coats the grains of rice. If that's not quite cooked enough for you, throw the bowl and it's contents into the microwave to reheat a little, stir until your egg is cooked enough for your liking. It's quite more-ish I can assure you! Great comfort food and can be breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I know I'm probably preaching to the converted here, but here's another tip...if you are going to make something labour intensive, multiply the ingredients and make several, not just one. I never make just one Lasagne or Shepherds Pie or Giant Meatball meal. I make three and two go in the freezer for a lazy meal another night.
And before I go, here is one more time saver (read 'life saver') idea.
For a quick, almost no effort meal, you can't go further than oven baked. Top anything with flavoured butter or olive oil or cheese, tuck some veges under or in it, and oven bake. You cannot go wrong.
Here's my Pizza Mushrooms. Yum and healthy!

And this my loves, is Baked Ginger Snapper with Miso butter.
Recipe in a few sentences #10

Mix an individual sachet or two of Miso paste with softened butter. Spread over fillets of fish. Sit on a bed of seasonal vegetables, top with red onion and bake for 20 minutes. Scrumptious.
See? We can work outside the home, and still be Earth Mothers.
We just have to get clever.
Stay tuned for Part Three!
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  1. What a wonderful post Mimi. I need to read it again and again and study the recipes. I am needing to simplify so this is very timely for

    1. Dear Annabel, you are busy! So many new 'babies' and only so many hours in the day! Try the Chia Seed Jam. I think you will like it. It's on constant rotation here. I hope your weekend is relaxing. Love, Mimi xxx

  2. Love it all Mimi. Such good advice. Bluey and I are home full time and still like to have freezer meals. This week a large pot of rice was cooked, aborption method. We had some with salmon mornay and steamed veg. We;re having this again tonight. The rest of the rice has been bagged and frozen into double servings. Last night Bluey made up fridge soup. This is all the veg in the crisper that is starting to look a bit old. It went into the soup maker with some store bought stock and 20 minutes later we had soup. This was lunch today as well. I am loving the look of the pizza mushrooms. I think these might end up on the menu when mushies are in season.

    1. Dear Jane, I think it serves us all to have a few meals on tap. I get a bit nervous when there are storms and potential black-outs, but where we are these rarely last more than an hour or two, so the likelihood of spoilage is low. Love Blueys Fridge Soup! We love soup but I find these days that eating soup at night gives me a bit of acid reflux, so we keep soup for lunches. Very economical at this time of the year when even at work, you need something warming! You will love those pizza mushrooms. Utterly delish. Mimi xxx

  3. You made me smile today -Love that your so popular at work! Yes simple meals are so great and your recipes sound delicious!

    1. Lol Vickie. Yes, it'a amazing that many working folk do not bake, or rarely at least. Everyone loves a good home bake! Mimi xxx

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  7. Good on you, Mimi!
    It looks like you have an opponent; you must have done something right!
    Rachel Holt

  8. Mmm there are some recipes there that I would love to try - Pizza mushrooms..yum. I made some mixed berry jam from frozen berries that I bought my son for his smoothies. He's stopped having smoothies in the cold weather so the berries were made into jam as I was in fridge fairy mode - clearing the shelves in there. It chertainly doesn't look like the family is suffering.
    Love Janiebabe

    1. Jane, those pizza mushrooms are outstanding, even if I do say so myself. And yep, fridge fairy cleanouts are a great source of random inspiration! Mimi xxx


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