Archive for Chicken

My latest (gluten-free) can’t-be-bothered dinner

I’ve had a couple of weeks of working four days a week and it’s always a good reminder about the challenges that working parents face. Finding the time to whip up a healthy dinner when you’re struggling in late with wretched kids, lunchboxes to clean and repack, clothes to wash and life to organise is hard.

By later in the week I’m grateful for a dinner of wine and a carrot, but surprisingly enough the kids aren’t as keen on this combination. They want, you know, like food that tastes nice and fills up their tired bones after a few days of racing about. So this dinner has been making a few appearances. It’s my latest favourite-thing-to-do-with-a-BBQ-chicken (see my previous favourite here). Mix up a super easy salad and wrap it and some chicken in a rice paper roll and you’re done. Once you get the knack they’re easy to do. Watch this video if you don’t know how.

Another advantage of this dish is you can make them and store them in the fridge, perfect for those nights when people are coming and going and need to eat on the run. AND they are still ok the next day, which makes them a pretty great gluten-free lunchbox addition.

vegie smugglers BBQ chicken rice paper rolls

A bit of dipping sauce and you’re away!

BBQ chicken rice paper rolls

1/2 BBQ chicken – bones removed & discarded
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1/2 cup fennel, finely shredded
125g corn kernels, drained
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Juice 1/2 lemon
Pepper

Rice papers

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, carrot, fennet, corn, mayo and lemon juice.

Soak a rice paper in warm water for 10-20 seconds until pliable. Place on your chopping board. Pile about a 1/4 cup of salad onto the paper. Top with chicken (adults might like coriander & vietnamese mint). Roll up (watch the video link above if you don’t know how). Eat.

Makes 12.

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Meat-lover’s pasta bake

If you’re vegetarian, skip this post and just click here for a vegetarian pasta bake recipe. Everyone else can stick around to enjoy this carnivorous dinner which feeds an army and keeps pasta-loving kids extremely happy.

The secret ingredient in this dish is… pate…. yes that’s right, chicken livers. I kid you not, a dollop of the stuff mixes through the sauce and after simmering and baking gives the most delish-but-can’t-quite-pinpoint-what-it-is flavour. If you’re unsure how your family will take to it, start with just a tablespoon and see how they go.

And the reason for including a random bit of offal? Iron deficiency can be a major problem for kids, often undiagnosed, causing lethargy and a range of other issues. The best way to avoid it is by eating iron-rich foods. A fantastic source of iron is liver, but there is almost zero chance that anyone born after 1965 will cook with it. Reflecting this, even buying it can be tricky, with it being phased out of supermarkets over the past few years. (Specialty chicken shops will usually stock them).

Even for me, an occasional pate is the only time I cook with livers. So as a challenge, I originally worked up this recipe using them, tossed in with the mince. It’s tasty and really economical and if your family enjoys the flavour then you might want to give that variation a try.

But I figured the number of liver-lovers was minimal and I hate posting recipes that no one will try, which is why I’ve substituted the pate instead. It’s a good way to introduce the flavour to see if it’s an ingredient you might be able to incorporate more of in the future.

One for the carbivore/carnivores

One for the carbivore/carnivores

Meat-lover’s pasta bake

500g pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
500g veal/pork mince mix
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 cup mushrooms, very finely diced
1/2 green capsicum, finely diced
50-100g chicken liver pate (remove any jelly topping. Or make your own basic pate from the recipe in my latest cookbook)
800g can chopped tomatoes
Bay leaf
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (pizza mix is good)

Cook the pasta according to packet directions, set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease an extra large lasagne dish – the one I use is 28x32x6cm (or use two smaller ones)

Heat the oil in a frying pan over med/high heat. Fry the onion for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften. Add the garlic for 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Tip in mince. Use your spoon to break up all the lumps in the mix and keep everything moving well.

Once the meat is all browned, add in the carrot, mushies and capsicum. Stir through the pate and add the can of tomatoes. Combine really well, add the bayleaf and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover and leave it cooking for 15-20 minutes.

Pour the sauce through the cooked pasta. Season well, mix in 1 cup of cheese. Tip it into your lasagne dish, top with the rest of the cheese and bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Serves 2 adults and 6-8 kids (leftovers make great lunches)

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The parenting space/time continuum (and egg foo yung)

Before you have kids, no one tells you that at some stage during those early, murky years of parenting, the switch will flip on your life. Careless days and endless possibilities morph into a sense that you’re running out of time. If you want to change careers, you better get the hell on with it (particularly if you need to study for a while). One day in the supermarket you’re going to switch straight from buying blemish face wash to some cream promising to erase lines and age spots. That you’re going to suddenly walk into a chain store and realise that you don’t any clue about how to wear the current fashion (and really, you maybe look a bit stupid in it, anyway). And then one day, you look over at your kids and rather than seeing them tipping cereal on the floor from their highchair, you realise that they’ve just gotten breakfast by themselves.

My brother had kids several years before me and I remember him saying, “it just goes by so fast.” Looking down at my baby and toddler I had the strong thought, “no, I think this sleepless, constantly sick, financially strapped, crying, difficult time is going to last forever.” But he was right. It does go by so fast.

Hug your kids today. Take a video of them just doing something simple so that you can remember this time. Be mindful at dinner. Listen to what they say. Cuddle them while they still want you to. Love them and be glad.

vegie smugglers egg foo yung

Egg foo yung.


Egg foo yung

Make the chicken mince up ahead and store it in the fridge, then make up an omelette for each family member as they make it home from their various mid-week commitments OR make them up completely, refrigerate them and just reheat in the pan when you’re hungry.

peanut oil
250g chicken mince
5 mushrooms, very finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely sliced
Big splash soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
Pepper
1½ cups chinese cabbage, finely shredded
¾ cup peas
8 eggs
4 tsp soy sauce
4 tsp shao hsing wine

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a medium sized frying pan over high heat. Carefully add in the chicken mince and stir it, breaking up lumps as you go.

Once the chicken is nearly all browned, add in the mushrooms and spring onions. Continue to stir everything. Splash over some soy, sprinkle the sugar and season with pepper. Leave it to cook away while you prepare the other ingredients. After 5 minutes or so, once the chicken is totally cooked, tip into a bowl and set aside.

I find it easiest to cook each omelette separately….

Break two eggs into a bowl. Whisk them along with the 1 tsp soy and 1 tsp rice wine. Scatter in ¼ the cabbage and peas. Add ¼ the cooked chicken mixture and combine it all well.

Pop a small frying pan over med/high heat, add 2 tsp oil and once hot, pour in the omelette mixture. After 4-5 minutes the omelette will be setting a little, turn over carefully and cook for another minute on the other side.

Repeat with the rest of the mixture to make 3 more omelettes.

Adults might like to serve this with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce and coriander.

Makes 4 omelettes

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BBQ chicken to the rescue

No one wants to cook every day. Even when I was working on Vegie Smugglers full time, I would still find myself out of time and searching the supermarket for easy last-minute dinners.

Now I’m back in the workforce part-time, with the added issue of kid’s commitments right on dinnertime. When I’ve got hungry kids and no dinner plans, I find a trusty ol’ BBQ chook can come to the rescue.

And really, it’s one of the better take away options. But just don’t just eat it as is – the greasy mass that stews away in those creepy bags isn’t so enticing, anyway.

Chuck away any stuffing (I think the supermarket ones are nearly inedible). Toss most of the skin – although if you’re end-of-the-day starving, I DARE you to resist it entirely. Shred up the meat and do something creative with it.

When the kids were younger it was meat and salad with mayo in wraps. Then for a while I’d knock up a quick Portuguese-style chicken & rice soup. But these days we make this Asian-style salad. It’s full of the crunchy vegies that my kids enjoy and I put them to work on it, so they learn how to make something and it’s on the table within 15 minutes. Plus, Mr VS & I can pop on a tonne of coriander and chilli and have something adult-tasty.

And before you know it, there's something almost gourmet on the table.

And before you know it, there’s something almost gourmet on the table.

BBQ chicken asian salad

1 BBQ chicken
Handful green beans
Handful snow peas
125g can corn kernels
Bean sprouts
1 carrot, finely shredded or grated

Dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp oil (grapeseed or avocado)

To serve (all optional): peanuts, coriander, mint & sweet chilli sauce

While you shred the chicken, put the kids to work, washing then top and tailing the beans and snow peas. They can practise their chopping skills – cutting each into 3-4 pieces and tossing them into a salad bowl. They can also tip in the drained corn and play with add in the bean sprouts.

You might want to shred the carrot yourself. Add it and the chicken into a large bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients together well then tip over and mix through.

Serves 2 adults & 2 kids

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Your kids love milk & cheese? This dinner is for them!

Considering Miss F’s love of dairy food, it seems likely that my family must be able to trace our heritage back to Egyptian times, when Cleopatra is said to have bathed in milk. Given the choice, I’m sure my daughter would do the same. Milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice-cream. It’s all good to her and any meal that uses it liberally is down the hatch in a jiffy. Like this cheesy chicken pie, that languishes in white sauce all soaked up by a cheesy bread topping that makes those lactose intolerant amongst us shudder.

Although, on closer inspection the whole Cleopatra story is less glamorous when you realise that she actually bathed in sour donkey’s milk (supplied by 700 asses). Apparently the fermented lactose is great for skin, if not for your personal smell. Wikipedia quotes well-known Ancient Roman beauty editor, Pliny, “It is generally believed that ass milk effaces wrinkles in the face, renders the skin more delicate, and preserves its whiteness.”

Botox suddenly isn’t looking so bad.

Relax in this cheesy chicken bake.

Relax in this cheesy chicken bake.

Cheesy chicken pie

And yes, you can substitute lactose free dairy products in here, but I wouldn’t recommend soy, rice or almond substitutes.

4 slices of bread (to make 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs)
1 cup grated cheese (about 125g)

1 tbsp olive oil
500g chicken breast, diced
1 leek, white part only, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 cup very finely chopped cauliflower
4 medium mushrooms, very finely chopped
Large handful green beans, ends removed, finely sliced
2 tbsp fresh herbs (parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme) optional
Salt & pepper

50g butter
3 tbsp plain flour
2 cups milk

You will need a small-medium sized oven dish for this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Use a small or large food processor to chop up your bread into breadcrumbs. Tip them into a mixing bowl and combine in the cheese. Set aside.

Add olive oil to a large saucepan over medium/high heat. When hot, add in the chicken and stir for several minutes until there are no more pink sides and the chicken is mostly cooked through (it does cook more later in the oven). Remove and set aside.

Reheat the pan, add a bit more oil if need be and tip in the leek, onion and cauliflower. Cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring often until everything is softening down. Add in the mushrooms, beans & herbs (if using). Season and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring just enough that nothing burns. Remove and set this mixture aside also.

Tip your milk into a jug. The milk needs to be quite warm, so I microwave the milk in my glass jug for about 1 1/2 minutes on high. Pop it next to the stove.

Return the pan to the heat. Melt the butter. Scatter in the flour and use a wooden spoon to stir for a minute until the flour has cooked off and smells nice. Patience is worthwhile now – take a minute or so to slowly drizzle in the whole amount of milk, stirring constantly. The mix with thicken up into a paste, then loosen back up into a luscious sauce. Stir briskly the entire time (it’s good exercise for your tuck shop lady arms.)

Tip your chicken and vegies back into the pot and mix everything through. Cook for another minute or so. Pour the entire lot into your oven proof dish. Evenly scatter over your breadcrumb/cheese mix and pop into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or so until it is bubbling and golden.

Serves 2 adults and 2-3 small kids.

Adults might like this served with a crisp garden salad and some sourdough bread.

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Slow cooker chicken noodle soup

Things have been a bit crazy here lately. What with parties, activities, homework, pesky jobs, large mortgages, endless chores and stressed husbands, there’s barely been time for a glass of bubbles (well, ok, maybe there’s been one or two of them, too).

Possibly your lives are just the same as mine, so you may want to note down this slow cooker chicken noodle soup recipe. It’s as easy as they come and delicious, too.

Just what I need to get through a busy week.

Just what I need to get through a busy week.

Slow cooker chicken noodle soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly diced
250g bacon, rind and fat removed, roughly diced
1.5kg whole chicken (organic if you can afford it), washed, dried
3 mushrooms, thickly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
1.5 litres of chicken stock
1 tsp ground pepper, plus extra to serve
2 bay leaves, ½ bunch parsley (flat or curly), ½ bunch thyme (use kitchen string to tie all the herbs together so you can remove them easily at the end)
2 carrots, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
125g can corn, drained (or 1 corn cob)
¾ cup frozen peas
75g packet 2-minute noodles (discard the flavour sachet)
sliced spring onions, to serve

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, toss in the onion and bacon. Sauté, stirring frequently, for 7-8 minutes or until the bacon is cooked and the onions are soft. Tip into the slow cooker.

Pop the chicken into the pan, wing-side down. After 5 minutes, turn over and brown the other side. Toss in the mushrooms and garlic for another minute or so. Tip this into the cooker.

Also add in the stock, pepper, herbs, carrots and celery. Cook for 7 hours on low. Remove and shred the chicken (discard skin & bones) and return to the pot with the corn, peas and noodles for 30 minutes more.

Serves 2 adults & 2-3 kids

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A meal that would blow Honey Boo Boo’s mind!

Luckily I crawled out from under my highbrow rock last night and discovered the pleasures of Honey Boo Boo. Of course I’d HEARD of her, but I’d never SEEN her. What a revelation.

Anyway, the cooking segments from the show particularly caught my attention. Like this one where a regular piece of chicken breast is grilled, smothered in butter-like substance, and shredded into cook-in-the-bag rice, which had about a cup of margarine mixed through it. The final piece-de-resistance was the entire meal being drowned in store bought BBQ sauce. And voila, dinner ready.

And the vegies? Well look, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’d already had their 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit before dinner preparations began.

The basic concept of their meal doesn’t offend me at all. Chicken & rice is one of life’s great pleasures. We eat it all the time at VSHQ. A regular is this Jerk Chicken which I serve with this Caribbean Rice. Delicious. Or this chicken & brown rice salad. ALSO delicious.

In Vegie Smugglers book 2, there’s a yum ‘red-cooked chicken’ – cooked in Chinese master stock. Served over rice, this will have you swooning. Or also from Book 2 (which will be out of print within months – get in soon if you want a hard copy edition), is this pilaf, which is SO good. And easy enough that Honey Boo Boo’s momma might want to give it a try.

Honey boo boo might leave off the coriander.

Honey boo boo might leave off the coriander.



Easy Chicken pilaf

2 tbsp olive oil
500g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed (chicken breasts are too dry in this dish – you can use them but will need to add extra oil)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 zucchini, peeled, grated
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1–2 tsp garam masala
1½ cup long-grain rice (try basmati)
3 cups vegetable stock
¼ cup sultanas
1 cup frozen peas

Chopped red chilli, coriander leaves and peanuts (optional),
to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat the oil in a large stove-to-oven dish over medium heat. Brown the chicken for 3–4 minutes each side. Remove and set aside.

Add the onion to the dish, stirring until starting to go golden, then add the carrot, zucchini, garlic, ginger and garam masala. Continue to stir for 2 minutes until the vegies are soft. Add a touch more oil if the pan is very dry.

Pour in the rice, coat all the grains well before adding the stock. Return the chicken to the dish. Cover and place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and stir through the sultanas and peas. Re-cover and set aside for 5 minutes more.

Serve as is for the kids. Top with chili, coriander and peanuts (if using), for the adults.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS

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