Salmon Cous Cous with Raisins

Having to come up with different dishes using primarily the same meats or veggies most of the time while still keeping it healthy for the kids can be quite difficult at times. When I get stuck, I tend to get inspiration just from what I personally like to eat.

This dish comes from one of those ‘inspired’ moments. I’ve always loved Thai pineapple rice for the savoury flavours of chicken and pork floss in fried rice tossed with the tangy sweetness of pineapple. If my son’s taste resembles anything like mine I thought he’d really like it too except Thai pineapple rice is not quite something I’d feed him yet.

What I did instead was combine salmon cous cous with one of his (and I’m sure many a kid’s) great loves: raisins! With this recipe, the raisins are boiled first so they become plump and juicy and you get the same savoury sweetness in one dish. Plus it’s an easy way to entice the kiddo to the dinner table. Be warned though, younger toddlers may just pick the raisins out and eat them only hah).

Ingredients (10 toddler servings)

  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbs diced yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 cups cous cous
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cup butter milk
  • 1 cup greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tsp raw sugar
  • 4 tbs white cooking wine
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbs chopped garlic
  • 1/4 red pepper
  • 2 fillets of Salmon, skinned and de-boned
  • 1/4 large carrot, diced
  • 3 florets of broccoli
  • 1 tbs dill
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 packet of cooking cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup virgin olive oil

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease a muffin tray and another 4 ramekins.

Season the salmon with the dill and black pepper. Remember to take the salmon out from the fridge some time before you cook so that it is not cold entering the pan.

Put the raisins in a sauce pan and add just enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil then lower the heat. Simmer the raisins for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top up with a little bit of water midway if you find that most of the water has evaporated. You want to keep the raisins mostly submerged. Remove from heat and let cool. This step helps to moisten and plump up the raisins – makes them extra yummy.

Add 2 cups of water to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Throw in the broccoli florets and diced carrots and boil for about 5 minutes or to desired softness. Remove the vegetables and set aside. In a large bowl, add to the cous cous 1 1/2 cups of the still hot water used to boil the vegetables and cover for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and fluff the cous cous when done.

Heat up the frying pan with the butter and saute the garlic for a couple of minutes then add in the onions and red pepper. Stir fry for a few minutes then place the salmon in the middle to cook. When the salmon has turned colour halfway through, flip the salmon over to cook the other side. At this point, pour the white cooking wine and lemon juice over the salmon. Next, add the butter milk, cooking cream, and basil, and bring to a boil. The salmon is done when it can be easily flaked. (It’s okay to leave the salmon slightly under cooked as it will still be cooking in the oven and you don’t want to dry it out by overcooking it.) When done, remove the salmon and let cool on a plate. When cool, flake the salmon to small pieces.

To the same frying pan with the red pepper, add the cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Lower the heat and add the greek yoghurt, honey and sugar. Mix well together and remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, add the raisins, brocolli and carrots to the cous cous and mix well. You could add the raisin water as well for some added sweetness. Then add the flakes of salmon and stir to combine. Lastly pour the cream sauce into the bowl and mix altogether well.

Portion the salmon cous cous equally in the muffin tray and ramekins.

For the topping, add the Parmesan and oil to the panko bread crumbs and mix very well. Sprinkle on top of each portion and slightly compress the cous cous to compact it.

Place in the oven on the top rack for about 10 minutes or until the topping has browned. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 20 minutes before serving.

To store, when the cous cous has thoroughly cooled, wrap the muffin tray/ ramekins in cling film and place in the freezer. Once frozen, pop each portion out and store in a labeled freezer bag. Steam in a pan of water for about 20 mins to re-heat when required.

 

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Creamy White Fish Sauce with Pasta

This has been a week of change. Ainsley turned 6 months and literally began turning over, which is great except she can’t flip herself back yet. That for me means not just feeding her in the middle of the night but scurrying back to her room every 10 minutes or so to flip her back when she gets stuck.

This was also the week that Atticus started pre-school. Hence, my already sleep deprived self has to wake up earlier every morning now to get everyone ready. I thought moms get some relief when kids go to school but so far I’m really not feeling it.

And of course, this had to be the week that Atticus’ frozen meals ran low. Murphy’s law, right? So in the pockets of time I have between getting Atticus to and from school and taking care of Ainsley while she’s awake, I have to cook several batches of new meals to stock up instead of catching a breather.

Wearied me wasn’t really preparing to cook for him today and we haven’t done our weekly grocery run yet. Regardless, I felt the need to get ahead of the kiddo’s depleting store of food. So I pulled together this light cream sauce with fish and pasta just working with what I already had around the kitchen.

This healthy dish whips up pretty quick I must say and just before Ainsley woke from her nap! Maybe my luck is turning:)

Ingredients ( 7 toddler servings)

  • 2-3 fillets of white fish (I used codfish)
  • dill
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 white onion, diced
  • 1/4 carrot, diced
  • 1/4 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/4 zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 packet cooking cream
  • 1/2 tsp Italian herbs
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 packet (250g) angel hair pasta
  • 2 tbs plain flour
  • 25g Parmesan, shredded

Method

Break up the angel hair pasta into short bits, around an inch or so long to make it easier for the young un to eat. Boil the pasta per the instructions on the packet.

Season the fish with dill, pepper and garlic powder to taste. (I’m usually quite generous with seasoning for flavour just because we’re already excluding salt). Next, heat a little olive oil in a deep frying pan and throw in the minced garlic followed by the onions for about a minute. Add a dash of white wine vinegar and saute until the onions have caramelised. Throw in the carrots as they take a while to soften. Stir fry for a couple of minutes over medium heat and then add in the yellow pepper and zucchini. Pour in the milk and bring to a boil. Add in the frozen corn and return to a boil.

Add the fish and reduce the heat. Let the fish simmer for about 8 minutes or until the flesh has turned opaque and can be flaked easily. Remember to stir frequently to prevent the milk from boiling over. Once cooked, remove the fish and set aside to cool on a plate.

Continue to simmer the milk. Stir in the cream, italian herb, nutmeg and lemon juice. Sift the flour into the sauce and stir over medium heat until sauce thickens slightly. Add in the Parmesan and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

Flake the fish into small pieces. Return the fish to the cream sauce and mix well. Serve warm over a portion of the pasta. (Alternatively, if pasta doesn’t sit well with your bub, change it up with rice or cous cous.)

The remainder of the pasta and the sauce can be portioned accordingly and frozen together in containers. Pop them out into labeled freezer bags and freeze for next time. To reheat, simply steam for about 20 minutes in a deep pan filled with water.

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Chicken Broccoli Quinoa

We’re not the sort to keep up with health food trends or even eat healthily for that matter. It’s different when it comes to the children though and I’m always keen to see what else I can add to the list of healthy foods I can give them.

Quinoa has been on my radar for a very long time. It has more protein than rice or barley, is a good source of calcium, vitamins B and E, and dietary fibre and yet is the least allergenic of all grains (wheat free!). So when I finally came across a brand of quinoa that I thought wasn’t ridiculously expensive, I sprang for it.  

Today I got to cook the quinoa with chicken, broccoli and butternut squash puree. I don’t think I’ve ever really paid much attention to quinoa (if it so happens to be in whatever I ordered at a restaurant). This being my first time cooking with it, I was quite surprised by how much flavour it takes in and even more by the texture it has. It’s fluffy yet creamy but with a slight crunch that ‘pops’ in the mouth.

Does make you wonder what the high end quinoa must taste like, doesn’t it? In any case, toddlers must not care because Atticus gobbled it up for dinner. *Phew* I would’ve hated it if he was in one of his moods and let the food just roll right down his tongue out of his mouth for some reason beyond adult comprehension. Thankfully this recipe is a keeper:)

Ingredients (about 9 toddler servings)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups of hot water/ vegetable stock
  • 1/4 carrot diced
  • 1/4 onion diced
  • 3 broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1/3 zucchini diced
  • 1 slice of back bacon
  • 2 pieces boneless skinless chicken thigh (or 2 fillets of chicken breast) diced to desired size
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh butternut squash, steamed and pureed (optional)
  • 1 tbs maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 25g butter
  • 2tbs plain flour
  • 1 cup milk + left over vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese

Method

Pre-heat oven to 190ºC. Grease your muffin tray or ramekins.

Boil the broccoli florets and carrots to the desired softness in a saucepan with about 1 cup of water. Drain the vegetables but do keep the ‘vegetable stock’ for cooking the quinoa. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly to remove the bitterness. Put the quinoa in a pot and add the vegetable stock. Bring to boil over medium heat then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer the quinoa for 10 to 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff and let stand for 15 minutes.

In another saucepan, add some olive oil and fry the back bacon. Remove and set aside to cool. When cooled, chop the bacon into small bits. Next, add to the same saucepan, the onions, zucchini and chicken pieces and saute until tender. Scoop out the ingredients into a bowl and set aside. Using the same saucepan, add 25g butter to melt over very low heat. Add the flour and stir to form a roux. Gradually add in the milk while continuously stirring to form a creamy mixture. Stir over medium heat until thickened then add the cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the butternut squash.

In a big bowl, mix the quinoa with all the dry ingredients first. Next, add the butternut cream sauce and combine well. Portion the quinoa mix into the muffin tray and/or ramekins. To make the topping, mix the baby oats with the parmesan cheese and olive oil well. Then layer over each portion, pressing down to compact the quinoa mix. Place in the oven  for about 10 minutes then under the broiler for about 2 minutes to brown the topping. Remove from oven and let stand for about 15 minutes. Once cooled, place the portions into containers to freeze.

Once frozen, pop them out of the containers and store in a labeled freezer bag.

To reheat, fill a deep pan with an inch of water. Place one portion on a plate and place it in the pan, covered, over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes. And there you have it, a fragrant, moist plate of sumptuous quinoa full of hidden goodness 🙂

 

 

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White Chocolate Pistachio Cranberry Cookies

This one is purely for the mommies who, like me, feel they are running on empty recently.

Where to start? Recurring back pain from degenerating discs. Not enough sleep because still breastfeeding at night but not sleeping earlier because nights are the only time in a day I get to be myself, do my own things, be my (old) self while the kids are asleep (tell me I’m not alone in this). Bored with routine yet the prospect of shaking things up is too exhausting to contemplate. The list could go on but the mood certainly can’t. I needed some time out to recharge.

So I rallied for a quick pick-me-upper in the form of baked goodness. It has everything I want in a cookie – the tanginess of cranberries, the sweetness of white chocolate and the crunchy earthiness of pistachios. Plus, these cookies turn out soft and chewy.

I’ve made these many times before but usually with rolled oats to increase milk supply for Ainsley. This time round, I made it solely for myself i.e.no oats. What’s great is that this cookie dough freezes really well so I can bake just enough to get me over the hump and freeze the leftover dough for when I next need some cookie comfort.

I had mine today with a cup a chamomile tea and honey. What will you have with yours?

Ingredients (30 large pieces)

  • 227g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup cranberries
  • 3/4 cup baked pistachios, shelled and halved

Optional: 1 cup rolled oats (if you respond to oats and want to increase supply)

Method

Preheat oven to 175ºC. Line the baking tray with baking parchment.

Cream together the butter and sugar and then stir in the eggs and vanilla. Be careful not to over cream the mixture. Add the chocolate chips, and pistachios and stir to combine. 

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda,nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.You would add the oats here if you were including them. Make a well in the centre and pour in the wet mixture.

Mix all together until just combined. Don’t over mix.

Next roll and shape the dough and place it on the baking parchment. I used an ice cream scoop with the squeeze release to do this because the dough is quite sticky. Leave some space between each dough ball as they do spread in the oven.

Bake for 11 to 12 minutes (depending on how soft you like them). Remove and let stand for about 10 minutes before placing them on a rack to cool.

To freeze the leftover dough, roll them into individual cookie portions and place on a large tray to freeze. I used two large spoons instead of the ice cream scoop to shape the dough because this gets a more compact ball, which is easier to handle. Once frozen, place the balls of dough into a labelled freezer bag and store up to 3 months.

When you next need them, take them out beforehand to soften before baking in the oven for the same length of time.

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Creamy Chicken Stew

I decided rather last minute that I needed to cook a new batch of something for Atticus as his stock of meals was running low again. What I needed was therefore something easy to throw together in large portion with enough gap time during the cooking process for me to attend to Ainsley.

That meant going the one pot route. These are my favourite to make because so fuss free. One pot meals are economical, convenient and they produce great flavours from the long cook time to boot. They are also a great way to clear out the fridge. 

Today I made creamy chicken stew for his dinner. It’s a throw back to those hearty pot pie stews that get served in bread bowls (who doesn’t love this comfort food) except suitable for toddlers because no salt is used. And of course, it’s such a breeze to freeze so that when you need it, just ladle over some rice or cous cous any time to get a flavourful easy-to-eat healthy meal for the kiddo!

Ingredients (8 toddler servings)

  • 1 boneless chicken thigh
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tsp diced yellow onion
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 carrot, diced finely
  • 1/4 zucchini, diced finely
  • 3 brown mushrooms, diced finely
  • 1/4 red pepper, diced finely
  • 2 large asparagus, sliced thinly
  • 2 medium sized potatoes
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Method

Peel and boil the potatoes for about 10 mins. Then cut them into cubes. (These will end up soft by the time the stew is done so the cubes don’t have to be cooked very long or cut that small.) You should get about 2 cups of cubed potatoes.

Fill a sauce pan with water and bring to a boil. Throw in the garlic cloves and 1 tsp of the diced yellow onion along with the chicken thigh. Boil for about 20 minutes or until just cooked. Remove the chicken from the stock and set aside to cool. (Keep the chicken stock in the pan as it will be used for the stew.) Once the chicken has cooled, shred the meat to the desired length and size suitable for your toddler. Mine is rather fussy about textures still so I tend to shred the chicken quite finely by hand and then cut the pieces short.

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and saute the minced garlic. Add in the onions, carrots, mushroom, zucchini and red pepper, in that order and stir fry. Add the frozen corn and the cubes of potatoes finally when the veggies etc are quite done. Turn off the heat and transfer the saute mix into a large pot.

Add about 2 cups of the chicken stock from earlier together with the milk into the pot and bring to a boil. Add in the flour, thyme, nutmeg, curry powder and pepper. Stir well.

Let the stew simmer for about 45 minutes over very low heat, partially covered and stirring occasionally. It should reduce by about a quarter and thicken nicely. Add in the shredded chicken and simmer for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand for about 30 minutes.

Portion the stew in containers and let them cool thoroughly before freezing. Pop them out of the containers and store the frozen stew blocks in a labeled freezer bag.

To reheat, fill a deep pan with an inch of water. Place one stew block on a plate and place it in the pan, covered, over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes.

Serve warm over carbohydrate of choice!