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!

 

 

 

 

Fish and Cauliflower Pie

One of the aims of my cooking for Atticus is to pack as much nutrients and goodness into one dish while I still have some say over what he consumes (although truth be told it’s more like he doesn’t know what he’s being fed – that’s the great thing about one dish meals). There will come a day when I can’t be around to monitor what he’s eating, like when he starts pre-school *sob* and a classmate celebrates a birthday with party packs of forbidden treats, which of course my toddler will probably demand that someone opens for him.

Such a day looms on the horizon and I find myself trying to figure out what else I can pack into his little body to give it a head start. As I thought about it, it struck me that I’ve never used cauliflower. Maybe because it’s white and can’t compete with all the greens demanding my attention in the supermarket. Maybe it’s the shock my palate suffered a while ago when I had unwittingly ordered a side of mashed cauliflower to go with my roast chicken thinking it was potato (yes, what a face palm moment). Regardless, I had eschewed cauliflower for all 21 months of Atticus’s existence but no more. It was time for him to be introduced to this unassuming vegetable so rich in vitamins, minerals, and choline (which is good for brain development apparently).

I took an old favourite of his i.e. baked fish pie and topped it off with cauliflower puree and cheddar cheese. Thankfully it was a winner – grandma had no trouble feeding him dinner that day!

This recipe produces a meal that is quite mushy, which also makes it great for younger toddlers who haven’t quite got the hang of chewing. To be sure they can manage, you can dice the ingredients finely and boil the carrots and corn until soft before adding it to the mix.

The dish has three components: mashed potato, cauliflower puree, and the fish pie. If you don’t have time to do it all at once, you can always plan ahead and make the mashed potato and/or the cauliflower puree in advance to be stored in the refrigerator until ready to use the next day or so. Just remember to cover the puree/potato closely with cling wrap. Press the cling wrap so that it touches the surface of the mash or puree to prevent a layer of film forming.

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Ingredients (approx. 8 toddler portions)

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dill
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 piece of cod fish
  • 1/4 carrot, diced
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 red pepper, diced
  • 4 medium asparagus, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 70g cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 1 large egg

Mashed Potato

  • 2 medium sized potatoes
  • 1/4 cup milk

Cauliflower Puree

  • 1/2 large head of cauliflower (about 700g)
  • 1/2 tub cream cheese
  • 1 tbs olive oil

Method

Season the cod fish with the dill, garlic powder and wholegrain mustard and let sit for awhile.

Steam (this retains more nutrients than boiling) the cauliflower over high heat for about 30 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat and in a blender or food processor puree the steamed cauliflower with 1 tbs of olive oil. Leave to cool in a large bowl. On a separate plate, use a fork to mash the cream cheese until soft. Then add 2 to 3 large spoonfuls of the pureed cauliflower and combine well with the cream cheese. Pour the cream cheese cauliflower mixture back into the remaining puree and stir well. Doing this allows the cream cheese to be easily and evenly mixed with the cauliflower. Set aside for use when ready.

Peel and boil the potatoes until soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from water and in a large bowl, mash the potatoes until smooth. Add 1/4 cup of milk (or as needed) and combine well to get a creamy texture. Set aside.

In a frying pan, heat about 1 tbs live oil and add in the onions. Fry until slightly translucent then add in the white wine vinegar and stir for a minute or two until the onions have caramelised. Throw in the asparagus, carrots and red peppers to saute. Push the ingredients aside and place the cod fish in the centre. Saute each side for about a minute.

Pour in the milk along with the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add in the corn and return to a boil then lower to a simmer, with the pan covered, over a medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes until the cod fish is just about cooked i.e. the flesh has turned nearly opaque white and can be easily flaked. Remove the fish and set aside on a plate. Once cooled, remove the skin and flake the fish into small pieces. I like to use my hands for this so that I can feel for bones to remove them. (You could throw away the fish skin but it makes a great addition to salads when fried crispy so I would keep it for later!)

Remove the bay leaves from the milk mixture and transfer to a small jug or bowl for easy addition to the cream sauce later.

To make the cream sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Next add the flour and stir to form a roux. Add some of the milk mixture to the roux and combine well. Continue to add the milk mixture gradually and constantly stirring. Once all the mixture has been added in, the roux will have changed from a paste-like consistency to a creamy liquid. Over a medium heat keep stirring until the sauce thickens. It is ready when the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the ladle you are using. Add a handful of grated cheddar cheese in (or to desired taste) and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

At this point, pre-heat the oven at 190ºC /375F and grease your muffin tray/ramekins well.

In a large bowl, combine the sauce with the fish flakes and mix in the mashed potato together with the egg (beaten) as well. Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin tray/ramekins.

Cover each portion generously with the cauliflower puree and sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top. I was feeling creative so I used a piping bag for the cauliflower puree but a spoon works just as well.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 20 minutes – any sooner and the pie will likely collapse when taken out of the tray/ramekin.

Use a wide spatula to transfer each portion of the fish pie from the tray/ramekin to a container. Once the portions have cooled, place the containers with their covers on into the freezer overnight. Pop the frozen fish pie out of their containers and keep them in a freezer bag marked with the date on which they were made.

When ready to eat, to reheat I recommend steaming to retain moisture rather than microwaving it. To steam, fill a deep pan with an inch of water. Place one portion of fish pie on a plate and place it in the pan, covered, over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes.

Remove and serve!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Savoury muffins, yea or nay?

I wasn’t keen on them and to be frank, probably never gave them a real shot. That was until I had some pumpkin left over and was rather bored with making raisin muffins for Atticus’s breakfast for the umpteenth time.

I He needed variety.

I looked online to see what I could do with pumpkin and realised pumpkin muffins are a thing. Who woulda thunk?

So I found a recipe that had chocolate chips in it (I figured in case savoury wasn’t a hit,  a touch of sweetness was necessary to entice me Atticus to eat them or they’d all go to waste) and tried it out with some modifications based on the reviews. 

The verdict?

A slightly dense but still moist muffin (that was none to sweet at all) with just a hint of pumpkin to make it interesting. And surprisingly the chocolate chips complemented the pumpkin, giving each bite a little bit of melted goodness to bring the flavour home

Did Atticus like it? Yes, he did! He also liked that the muffin was sturdy enough for his tiny hands to hold so that he could feed himself (at 21 months, they just want to do everything by themselves don’t they).

A while back, he could only finish 2/3 of the muffin. I suppose it’s quite a heavy serving for his toddler tummy. But now that he’s weaning off milk in the mornings and hungrier, he just about managed to gobble it all up.

I’m adding this recipe to my collection of go-to breakfast foods that I can make in advance. Muffins freeze really well and having another flavour to add to the stock makes this breakfast option work even better.


Ingredients (approx. 6 large muffins or 12 small ones)

  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh pumpkin, steamed and pureed
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (or milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 ºC / 400 F.

Grease a 6-muffin pan or use paper liners.

Mix the sugar, oil, and eggs. Add the pumpkin and buttermilk. In a separate bowl sift and mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir in the chocolate chips to combine. Be careful not to over mix the batter.

Fill the muffin cups to 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tester comes out clean. I recommend checking at the 20-minute mark.

Remove and let stand for about 10 minutes before removing the muffins from the pan to cool on a cooling rack.

Once cool, wrap each muffin with cling film and place in a freezer bag with the date on which they were made to freeze.

To reheat, I recommend taking out the muffin(s) to thaw on the counter for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the cling film and microwave on medium or high power for about 30 seconds (no more than 40 seconds to preserve the nutrients in the muffin).

Best served warm!

The Yookidoo Submarine Spray Station

This is a game changer.

When Atticus hit 18 months and became conversant with the word “No”, it became difficult to shoo him into the shower. Things got worse when diaper rash hit and he feared the pain that accompanied bathing. Between the rash and an increasingly strong willed child, bath time was no longer the fun-filled exploratory 15 minutes it used to be but an all out battle of wits amidst nerve-wracking wails.

Forget respectful mindful parenting or child-led montessori approach. The kid had to be bathed or his rash would get worse. Bath time became a dread for him and for us.

Until we got the Yookidoo Submarine Spray Station.

I first read about it on a mommy forum and thought, what the hell – couldn’t hurt to try. It’s available on Amazon and arrived about two weeks ago. This is how the packaging looks like:

The station comes with suction cups and is intended to be a bath tub toy. We don’t have a tub so I stuck the station on the glass shower wall and placed a basin below instead. I must say I’m quite impressed by the quality of the suction cups. They’ve held up to most of Atticus’s attempts to pull the station down. 

The submarine needs to be submerged for the filter to pump the water through the spray pipe. When water is sprayed into the yellow funnel, the eyes roll around and the propeller turns. When sprayed into the red funnel, the clock hands turn and streams of water shoot from the red-white striped pipe like a mini fountain.

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It was a hit straight away.

Atticus gets all excited when the streams shoot out and loves pointing out the wonky eyes and the turning propeller. The spray is also just the right size for him to handle without him getting frustrated when he tries to spray water and aim the jet stream into the funnels.  With this bath toy, Atticus gets to practice coordination skills (you have to press the side buttons to trigger the spray) and experiment with hosing things down. So far, he’s learned to wash the glass panel and spray water on himself at different body parts. Oh, and “Spray water at mommy.” Best of all, he likes bath time again.

Another great thing about this toy is that it’s easy to bring around so you can even use it just as a water play feature outside of bath time. Atticus was bored one morning so we brought out the Yookidoo Station and set it up in our balcony to play with grandma.

outside

The Yookidoo Spray Station costs US$24.95 on Amazon and requires 4 AA-batteries. Some reviewers have commented on how fast the toy breaks down (for someone, it stopped working after the first use), I suppose because the batteries and the mechanism is in water so much. It hasn’t for me yet so I’ll see how long before the toy fails.

In the mean time, the Yookidoo Spray Station has made bath time work for us again so I’m just going to enjoy it while it lasts.