So, one of my goals this year is to try and cook at least one new meal a week.  With fussy eaters in our household – yes, Ethan!, our 4year old – this could be quite challenging but I figure that if I end up making something that I know he doesn’t like to eat (e.g. mushrooms, just about all red meat besides mince, eggs…the list is endless!!!), I’ll make him something else on the side.  So, here’s my list of new dinners…

4th January 2016Pan-fried chicken with peppers.  This dinner was a huge hit!  Ethan had not seconds, but thirds!!!  The hubster also thoroughly enjoyed it so I’ll definitely make it again in future.

  • Note to self:  cut the chicken fillets thinner or fry them for longer instead of just “browning” them to start off with.  Only add chicken fillets to the peppers once the peppers have completely cooked through or else the peppers end up cooking almost completely away.  Add mushrooms and/or other vegetables to the dish for more variety.  Don’t bother buying the basil “to serve” as nobody will want to eat it in the dish or thereafter and it ends up going to waste!

11th January 2016 – Jamie Oliver’s Mushroom Stuffed Honey Roasted Pork Tenderloin.  With my family all eating over at ours for dinner, I was slightly hesitant to try something new but it was really only the pork that was new.  I paired it with some of the “usual” sides – savoury rice, roast potatoes, squash filled with sweetcorn and my favourite…rocket, butternut, feta and pecan nut salad (with balsamic vinegar for me, not everybody in my family has it over this salad).  Everybody enjoyed it thoroughly!  I adapted the recipe slightly as it wasn’t specific about size of fillet so when adding the ingredients, I just winged it according to what I thought was right.  I ended up with way too much filling but I froze it to use again in future.  And I think that next time, I may try and get thicker fillets as I just used four from good old Pick ‘n Pay making it quite hard to cut them up and stuff them but it was definitely a hit 🙂

  • Note to self:  don’t use honey AND sugar in the glaze the next time as, although it complimented the pork well, it was extremely sweet.  Use the glaze to make a gravy instead of just drizzling it over all the fillets.  

19th January 2016 – So I saw this recipe on Sharon’s blog and considering she says it’s a firm favourite with her family and healthy too (well, from a banting perspective…from Weight Watchers, what I’ve been for the last few months, the cream and cheese are both not great!!), I thought I’d give it a try but I wasn’t so adventurous to make it as a dish all on it’s own and thank goodness I didn’t…I ended up making it as a side dish.  I added this to roasted vegetables and roast chicken.  As I wasn’t sure whether we’d all enjoy it, I halved everything as well.  Overall, it was okay, relatively tasty.  As the hubster says, the cauliflower doesn’t actually taste like much.  Ethan liked the sauce and the bacon but nothing else in it.  And if I must be honest, I didn’t quite enjoy it.  I definitely won’t be making it any time in the near future.

  • Note to self:  we are SO over cauliflower.  I’ve tried the cauliflower salad (potato salad with cauli instead…not bad but not my favourite), cauliflower rice which I really didn’t mind and now this dish and I’m OVER cauliflower!!!!  No.more.  The hubster agrees 🙂  

26th January 2016 – Jamie Oliver’s Beef and Ale Stew.  What a winner!  I’m not a stew person, in fact, I very rarely cook stew at all.  But seeing as I’d already tried chicken, pork and the cauliflower dishes above, I wanted to make something with red meat in it.  As I don’t like lamb and hardly ever cook it, I thought beef was the only other alternative and when I came across this recipe full well knowing that the hubster loves stews, I knew I just had to try it!!  I was a bit worried about the amount of Guiness that was required especially after I put it into the pot (I don’t have a slow cooker or a casserole dish to put into the oven, so I made do with a pot on the stove!) and it covered every single ingredient i.e. it looked a pot of beer cooking.  Considering I was going to be feeding it to my kids, it stressed me out a bit that this dish was like 50% alcohol, but after googling a bit, I felt a lot better.  I served this with plain white rice.  The hours of cooking meant that the meat was absolutely tender.  Ethan didn’t particularly like the chunks of tomato in it but he ate all his food which is a good sign 🙂  I’ll definitely be cooking this again.

  • Note to self:  chop up the celery into smaller pieces next time as they’re not exactly the tastiest of veggies and the big pieces in the stew weren’t the best.  This stew lends itself to any veg really.  In future, add more veggies!

4th February 2016 – Robertson’s Creamy Curry.  Being from Durban and knowing what a great curry tastes like, I must say, I was hesitant to try this.  Firstly…no potatoes?!  Secondly, curry powder, just generally like that, no specification of what type, how hot etc.  Hmmm.  But try it I did.  And where I wouldn’t say this is a must try, we did end up enjoying it 🙂  I used half the amount of onions as we really don’t like onion at all so I was scared to use a whole 3 for only 1kg of chicken.  I used my usual just-under-a-tablespoon of curry as opposed to the 15ml indicated in the ingredients, because afterall, I have real curry, not Rajah’s 😉  And the only place I could find Coconut Milk was at Woolies – Coconut and Rice Milk – and the price for the 1l carton which I’d probably not use ever again plus the recipe asked for only 125ml…it just didn’t warrant me buying it so I ommitted that from the dish.  Lastly, I used double thick plain yoghurt instead of natural yoghurt…to me it’s the same thing – plain = natural – but I’m not so sure.  Oh, and I didn’t use basmati rice, just regular white rice ‘cos that’s the rice we eat in our house 🙂  Anyway, the hubster thoroughly enjoyed it and I did too.  I’ll probably make it again but not in a hurry ‘cos I love me a real good curry so my “usual one” trumps this recipe any day!!

  • Note to self:  coat the chicken strips in more flour and cajun spice before frying it next time to give it more of a deep fried/crisper finish as the picture shows.

9th February 2016 – Jamie Oliver was in the house again with Mini Beef Wellingtons.  I really wanted to try something different with mince because the kids both love mince but unfortunately, they don’t quite like pastry and so this meal was not served to them.  I didn’t even have it myself because as luck would have it, I had a work dinner last night, and so the hubster and our nanny were left to try this new dish all on their own.  I left out the celery because firstly, I didn’t have any and secondly, I’m not a huge fan of celery so I thought leaving it out wouldn’t make much of a difference.  Also, I cooked the carrots before adding them in.  Feedback from the hubster was that they were okay but quite dry.  There were leftovers for lunch today and when I asked whether he’d like to take them, he politely declined.  So I’m assuming that it wasn’t too much of a hit!  Plus I didn’t pair it with the suggested pairing, I just told the hubster to fry some chips.

  • Note to self:  if I ever end up making this again, I’d definitely cook the mince before.  Putting raw mince into pastry is just strange plus we like our meat very well done.  I battled to get the mince very well done without burning the pastry!!

15th February 2016 – yes, Jamie Oliver again!  I’m going to make a concerted effort to try other meals, “non-Jamie Oliver”.  It’s just that every time I google new meals, his recipes pop up!  Anyhoo, this week, I tried his sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake.  When I read 2kgs, I thought it way too much, so I only used 1.5kgs.  I’m not sure whether the stickiness of the tomatoes would have been achieved if I’d cooked the sausages and tomatoes in a casserole dish…perhaps I’ll try it next time.  But the mix of the herbs and balsamic vinegar was absolutely amazing!  As I’m not eating much carbs, I ate my portion with cous cous and I thought it was delish.  The hubster couldn’t understand what the fuss was about…he just thought it was sausages and tomatoes, full stop, nothing fancy.  But overall, I thought that it was delish 🙂

  • Note to self:  in hindsight, even 1.5kgs of tomatoes is too much.  I used these tomatoes for 4 full days afterwards and even ended up chucking a handful out by day 5!

24th February 2016 – finally, a dish that isn’t Jamie Oliver’s 🙂  This week, I was going for something easy and economical.  I think I’ve kind of overdone it especially in the herb department.  You see, I don’t generally use fresh herbs.  Probably because most of the things I make are quick and easy and not fancy enough to be wanting to add fresh herbs instead of dried ones…and let’s face it, if Ethan even catches a glimpse of a sprig in his food, he’ll probably have heart failure.  Anyhoo, with all of the previous recipes, I’ve been using proper fresh herbs and most recipes just call for a teaspoon or a sprig, leaving me with a whole box of fresh herbs that just end up shriveling up and dying.  So this week, I found a recipe of which I had most of the ingredients (bar the coconut cream) and I rolled with it.  The hubster is allergic to seafood so unfortunately, I was the only one who tried this meal out but hey – it’s still a new meal!!  I personally found it quite bland.  It had a great flavour but it was so subtle that it really didn’t grab me at all.  And I know Thai curry is different to curry curry, but I really was expecting more of a BANG in the curry department and I didn’t get that at all.  I paired the dish with cous cous and some roasted veggies that the hubster had made with their roast chicken and potatoes (he had the day off so cooked dinner 🙂 ).  I have another two servings of it as of course, I was the only one eating so 400g prawns is quite a lot!  Would I make it again?…probably.  Would I stick to the recipe?…most definitely not – I’d add a few things to give it more “bulk” and flavour.

  • Note to self:  try and cook this dish with bigger prawns next time as the prawns seem to have got lost in the sauce.

29th February 2016Bacon and Mince Pie – unfortunately, I cannot find the link for this dish.  I stumbled upon it on Facebook and seeing as the kids love both bacon AND mince, I thought it would be a winner and a winner it was.  So very loosely, this is the recipe…

Ingredients:

– 2packs of bacon (I used back bacon as we hate the fat on the bacon but I think that the recipe said streaky!)

– 500g mince

– 2cups of mozzarella cheese

– 1/2 red pepper (I used a mixture of red and yellow pepper)

– salt and pepper

– 1 tablespoon of honey

– 3 tablespoons of worcester sauce

– 1 egg

Method:

Line an oven dish with bacon (exactly how you would if you were making a pastry pie – it should cover the bottom as well as the sides and be long enough to hang over the sides so that when all the filling is in, you can fold the bacon over the filling).

Mix the mince with egg (I think there may have been breadcrumbs at this stage but I may be wrong)…at this stage, I’d add more spices and perhaps even some sauce or a bit of chilli!

Put the mince into the oven dish and season with salt and pepper.

Add grated mozzerralla on top of the mince and the sliced peppers.

Fold over the bacon to close as a pie.

Mix the honey and worcester sauce and glaze over the bacon.

Bake on 200 degrees for about 45minutes.  

Slice as pie slices and use basil to serve.

  • Note to self:  next time I’ll cook the mince before, or at least braise it and I’ll definitely add more spices to it as I found the mince meat quite bland.

10th March 2016Aubergine, tomato and Parmesan bake – I’ve seen Buddy Valastro doing this on his cooking show and I’ve been wanting to try it for a very long time.  To say it failed is an understatement.  Let me first say though that I kind of set myself up for failure…I didn’t have parmesan cheese, actually, I couldn’t find it in all three shops I went to, so I used mozzarella.  I’ve actually had this dish out a few times and on more than one occasion it’s been made with mozzarella but I feel like it would have been a lot better with parmesan.  Then I didn’t have basil.  Well, I thought I had basil but it turned out that it was bay leaves.  And then I omitted the tomato puree.  The dish was extremely bland!  Plus all the pips in the aubergine (do you get seeded aubergines?!)…argghhh, not my cup of tea.  I don’t even have a note to myself for this one…probably DON’T.EVER.MAKE.THIS.AGAIN.  And to think that it was one of my options for Come Dine With Me – fail!!!

17th March 2016Robertsons Portuguese Chicken.  Wow was this dish fantastic.  So tasty!  I’d definitely make this again and so simple too.  My only criticism was that, following the instructions to the T, the recipe called for too much cream.  The dish was very runny and unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to add corn flour to thicken it.  But that didn’t affect the yummy taste!!

24th March 2016Chocolate mint ice-cream…who said it had to be FOOD?!?!?! 🙂  This is the easiest recipe I’ve ever tried and I had no idea that you could make ice-cream so easily but unfortunately, it didn’t come out perfect so I’ll have to try it again.  But it’s also great for milkshakes – try it!!!

Ingredients:

– 1 can condensed milk

– 1/2cup of cocoa

– 750ml fresh cream

– 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

– mint Aero chocolate for mint flavouring (as much as you’d like!)

Method:

Put the condensed milk and the cocoa into a pan on medium heat and mix while cooking for about 5minutes.  Make sure that the two ingredients are mixed thoroughly.  You’ll end up with a nice dark brown chocolate-ey paste.

Put in the fridge and allow to cool.

Stir in the 750ml cream until mixed in fully.

Add the teaspoon of vanilla essense.

Add in chunks or chocolate and mix all together.

Put into the freezer and allow to set (this took much longer than expected so I’d recommend over night!)

Defrost when ready to eat and enjoy 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Note to self:  try and whip the cream next time, may make the consistency better as the ice-cream wasn’t firm enough.

31 March 2016Cheeky Chilli Con Carne.  I got this recipe from the Pick n Pay Fresh Living magazine and boy was it delish!  My mum often makes chilli con carne but I’ve never made it myself and so seeing as the kids were away and I had extra time to whip up something that I wouldn’t normally serve to them (chilli…sour cream…hmmm but not so hmmm for a 1 and 4year old), I decided to give this recipe a go.  I’ll definitely make it again and I have absolutely no criticism about it whatsoever.  It was perfect as is.  Unfortunately, the avo that the hubster bought that morning was hard as a rock so I wasn’t able to add it to my salad…next time!!

Ingredients:

– Oil

– 1 onion, diced

– 1/2 each red and green pepper, diced

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 – 2 small chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped

– 1 tsp (5ml) each ground coriander, ground cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper

– 2 Tbsp (30ml) cocoa powder

– 1kg beef mince

– 1 can (410g) whole, peeled tomatoes

– 1/4 cup (60ml) beef stock

– 1 can (400g) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Salsa

– 1/2 small red onion, finely diced

– 2 ripe tomatoes, finely diced (I used cherry tomatoes as I always have these in the fridge)

– Handful parsley, chopped

– 1 ripe avocado, diced

To serve:

– 1/4 cup (60ml) sour cream

– 6 – 8 tortillas

– Lime or lemon wedges

SERVES 4 – 6

Method:

Heat oil in a large frying pan.

Fry onion and peppers over a medium heat.

Add garlic and chilli and fry for a few minutes more.

Add spices, cocoa powder and tomato paste and fry for 2minutes or until frangrant.

Add mince and fry until browned, using a fork to break up any lumps.

Add tomatoes and stock and simmer for 30 – 45 minutes.

Add kidney beans and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Mix salasa ingredients together.

Serve hot chilli con carne with salsa, sour cream and tortillas to mop up sauce, with lime or lemon wedges on the side.

5th April 2016 – this beef stroganoff was an absolute hit with the hubster.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have any brandy in the house (disappointed. com – how?!?!) so I left that ingredient out and I’m not quite sure what cremini mushrooms are so I just used normal chopped up button mushrooms but not only was this recipe really quick and easy, but it was rich and creamy and very tasty too.  Personally, I think that it could have done with a little less dijon mushrooms as I found the taste a bit overpowering compared to other ingredients but the hubster didn’t think that at all.  And friends at work who tasted it the next day also commented on how delish it was so definitely a repeat menu this one.  Next time, I’ll make sure I have brandy though!

  • Note to self:  make on the same night as eating so as to avoid having to add water the following night which dilutes the creaminess.  Use beef strips instead of cubes to avoid having tough meat.

13th April 2016 – for my birthday this year, I was lucky to receive a Sarah Graham cookbook, my first cookbook ever funny enough.  And so this week, I tried a pretty simple recipe from her book – Roasted Butternut and Pear Soup.  This soup was plain and simple but had lovely fragrances in it.  I personally felt like it was lacking something but couldn’t put my finger on it.  I’ve tasted homemade butternut soup which my mum has made before and I remember it being a lot more spicy and also tastier, but this soup was really very lovely and I wouldn’t mind making it again.

Ingredients:

– 900g butternut, peeled and cubed

– 1 medium onion, roughly chopped

– 1 Tbsp olive oil

– 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

– 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

– 1/2 tsp ground coriander (you can also use cumin)

– 1 fresh chilli, deseeded and chopped (optional)

– salt and freshly ground black pepper

– 2 pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

– about 3 cups chicken stock made with just-boiled water

Bacon Croutons

– 1 Tbsp olive oil

– 3 – 4 rashers bacon, roughly chopped

– 1 – 2 Tbsp maple syrup

– freshley crusty bread for serving

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180degrees 
  2. Drizzle the butternut cubes and onion with the olive oil, sprinkle over the spices and chilli, season lightly with salt and pepper and roast until lightly golden and the butternut has cooked through, about 45minutes.  Add the pear pieces about halfway through so that they don’t burn.
  3. Add the butternut, onion and pears to a blender and pour in the hot stock, starting with 2 cups.  Blend until smooth, adding the final cup if necessary, depending on your preferred consistency.  Season to taste and set aside until serving.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan until very hot.  Fry the bacon bits until crispy, pour out any excess oil, then pour over the maple syrup, remove from the heat and set aside until serving.
  5. Scatter the crispy maple bacon over the soup before serving in warmed bowls with fresh crusty bread on the side.

Note:  this soup freezes well for up to two months.

  • Note to self:  blend perfectly so that the soup is smooth and has no chunks in it.  In this way, the onion will also blend completely instead of there being pieces of onion visible in the soup.  Although there is a chilli in this soup, it is not too strong for the kids to eat.

21st April 2016 – another recipe off Facebook, have no idea what it’s even called!…end of the month “Salticrack vibes” in our house so this menu went down so well especially ‘cos it was so cost effective.

Ingredients:

2 chicken fillets (I used 6…didn’t realise it was only 2 until they were already in the oven!!)

Mozzarella

Basil

Tomatoes

Sour Cream

Fennel (I also totally forgot this!!!)

Salt

Pepper

Method:

Cut the chicken vertically at 6points on the breast.  Don’t cut right through to the bottom as these little “pockets” will need to be filled.

Fill the little pockets with a slice of basil, a slice of mozzarella and a slice of tomato (I used cherry tomatoes and halved them then put in two halves next to each other.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Take an oven dish and cover the bottom with the sour cream. 

Sprinkle fennel over then put the chicken breasts on top of that.

Bake in the oven at 180degrees for 35minutes.

I’m not sure if it was because I closed the dish and cooked this as if it were a casserole dish but after cooking it for about an hour (remember, I had 6pieces of chicken, not 2), there was lots of liquid so I added a few things to the liquid to make it into a gravy and I really think that this gravy made the dish better than it would have been had I not added the gravy.

Method for gravy:

Take the liquid from the oven dish and put into a saucepan.

Add cornflour to thicken.

Add chopped up mushrooms, paprika, black peppercorns and a drop of white wine for flavour.

Cook slowly until the mushrooms have cooked and the gravy is at desired consistency.  Add more cornflour if you want it thicker.

27th April 2016  Roast Lamb and Warm Butternut and Cranberry Couscous.  It was almost like cooking this was meant to be!  I am not a lamb/mutton fan at all – it’s a preference really – I don’t like the taste.  So I very rarely cook it.  In fact, the most I cook is lamb chops and even then, I make myself something else like fish instead!  But this week, I decided to cook lamb shanks especially for the hubster.  I’ve only made them once before on instruction from my mum – the main chef 😉  So I had them in the fridge from Monday ready to give them a second try and then I came across this recipe.  As we don’t have a Weber Q3200 Gas Grill Braai, I followed the recipe but rather cooked it in the oven.  The lamb came out very tender.  Again, I used the liquid to make an additional sauce, but overall, I think that the lamb was a winner.  Unfortunately, I’m the only one who likes couscous in the house.  So I served the lamb for the hubster and our nanny with other sides and enjoyed the couscous all to myself!  I even have leftovers for work today – yay – ftw!!!!  🙂  I’m always at a wits end on what to make couscous with and not only was this recipe simple, but it was also really delish.  I’ll definitely make this again!!!  Thanks Cindy.

4th May 2016 – another recipe from my only recipe book, Sarah Graham’s home…Sweetcorn Pot Bread.  I am not a massive bread fan but I know that the few times that my mum made home made bread, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  That warm bread with melted butter/marg.  To.die.for!  This recipe was so quick to make and really delicious too.  The corn in the bread is so subtle and the thyme adds a lovely flavour to an otherwise very bland tasting bread.

Ingredients:

  • Sweetcorn Pot Bread

3eggs

500g self-raising flour

350ml buttermilk or natural yoghurt (or 1 x 340ml can beer) – I used plain yoghurt

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese (you could also add in some crumbled feta) – I used gouda

1 small onion, grated or very finely chopped – I left out the onion as we don’t love onions!

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

generous pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 x 410g can whole kernel corn

  • Blistered Tomatoes

1 cup rosa or cherry tomatoes, halved

1-2 sprigs fresh thyme

1-2 tsp sugar

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

generous pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180degrees and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Mix all the bread ingredients together, spoon into the loaf tin and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the loaf is golden and when a sharp knife inserted in the centre comes out clean (it took mine just over an hour to cook through fully!).
  3. Meanwhile, add all the ingredients for the blistered tomatoes to a small saucepan and cook for 12 – 15 minutes on medium-low heat until sticky.  Add a little water to the pot if necessary.  Remove from the heat, check for seasoning and set aside.
  4. Serve the bread within a few minutes of removing from the oven, with lashings of fresh butter and the blistered tomatoes on the side.

Notes (Sarah’s)…the dough can also be shaped into individual bread rolls.  

11 May 2016 Mince with apricots????

19 May 2016Gem squash with a cheesy spicy creamed sweetcorn filling.  Salticrax, end of the month budget (we get paid on the 21st in this neck of the woods!).  This was a simple recipe but quite delish actually.  Next time I make this, I’ll leave out the garlic, or put less.  It was way too garlic-y but delish!!!

28 May 2016 – fudge

2 May 2016 – Chicken Chow Mein.

7 June 2016 – this week, I went back to good old Jamie Oliver for a pumpkin, chickpea and coconut curry.  This was really very tasty and when cooking, had the most amazing aromas.  Even the hubster was excited to give it a try!  It was easy to make and the first time I’ve actually cooked with chickpeas.  I have a few criticisms or things I’d do different on the recipe, but overall, I’d definitely try and make this again.

  • Note to self:  put chickpeas in right at the end after everything has cooked.  Do not leave the pumpkin in for as long as the recipe says as it cooks away into more of a soup.  Add more chilli and even curry powder to give the curry more of a kick.