Sunday, 22 June 2014

Getting meals into the freezer ready for baby...

I've got a baby due in about 5 weeks time. The nesting instinct is pretty strong right now and today was all about getting food made or prepped for when our newborn arrives. I've been really interested in these amazing bloggers who seem to have taken over Pinterest with their freezer meals - like making 46 meals in 4 hours for $100 or whatever. I thought I'd give it a bit of a try, although with my own spin, and taking into account the amount of time I can realistically spend on my feet in the kitchen right now is a bit limited. So, I ended up making 5 different recipes which will yield about 26 meals. It took me about 2 and a half hours but if you're not almost 9 months pregnant, it'd take you a lot less I'm sure. I made or prepared:

Thai kumara soup
Moroccan lamb stew
Mexican chicken
Teriyaki chicken

I've linked to the recipes I followed above, but as usual I've made a couple of changes, which I'll outline here.

The thai soup is an Annabel Langbein recipe which calls for pumpkin but I've modified it after making it several times and prefer it with orange kumara.

The meatloaf I made following the recommended changes other cooks have outlined in the reviews - added Worcestershire sauce, seasoned the mixture well, lined the tin with foil so it doesn't stick and doubled the ketchup topping. I've made this recipe a couple of times now and it's really tasty.

The Moroccan lamb stew is my personal recipe. I followed it exactly as written.

I followed the Mexican chicken recipe as written except for the lime juice, as I didn't have any. I also added a jar of chilli beans and some frozen corn. I've made this recipe a few times and found adding the lime juice just before serving really lifts the flavour and freshness. I've made tacos, burritos, burrito bowls and enchiladas out of this recipe, it's a great base. Once shredded the chicken really goes a long way. It stays moist once shredded because of the lovely sauce it's cooked in.

By the time I got to the Teriyaki chicken I was flagging and feeling lazy. I simply sliced the chicken breasts diagonally and poured some bottled Teriyaki marinade (I used Kikkoman) over them, with a few crushed garlic cloves and a tablespoon of brown sugar.

The meatloaf and the soup I cooked and portioned into clearly labelled freezer bags. The others I just prepped all veges and meat, added all other ingredients and popped into clearly labelled freezer bags ready to be cooked in the slow cooker at a later date, the idea being you'd take one out the night before to defrost then pop into the slow cooker in the morning. I used 3 large skinless chicken breasts for the Mexican chicken which once cooked and shredded should do at least 6 adult portions, more likely 8. I used 2 large skinless chicken breasts for the teriyaki chicken which should feed 3 or 4 adults. I bought a butterflied leg of lamb for the Moroccan lamb stew that was pretty close to a kilogram, but was quite fatty so after I trimed all the unnecessary fat off it probably ended up being about 800gm. I have laid all the freezer bags flat in my freezer, so they are easily stackable and take up less space once frozen solid. Another Pinterest trick.

So now I have about 35 meals all ready to go in the freezer, as I'd been freezing leftovers for the past few weeks. I'm hoping once maternity leave starts in another fortnight that I will still have the energy to get some baking done. I'm particularly keen to get a few dozen peach muffins made as well as a couple of lemon blueberry yogurt cakes as I know these recipes both bake and freeze well. The only other limitation right now is the rather small size of my freezer... oh well!

Here's hoping that these meals see us through the first few hazy weeks of baby's life... fingers crossed anyway.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Flying Burrito Brothers: a review

Blair and I went to Flying Burrito Brothers (FBB) for dinner after seeing 12 Years A Slave (very good and important movie but I found the violence too much and was left feeling out of sorts afterwards) on Saturday night. We arrived at 8:30 and the place looked like it was closing! Luckily it was still bustling downstairs and we were seated quickly.

One of my latest pregnancy cravings has been for Mexican food. I've been cooking it as much as possible but was time to bring out of the big guns and go for the proper stuff. Blair kindly agreed to indulge my cravings at FBB as it had been a couple of years since our last visit.

The ambiance of the restaurant is great. Upstairs is the bar and more casual seating at high tables whilst downstairs is quite dimly lit and there are lots of candles dotted about.

We started with chilli con queso which is a mildly spicy melted cheese dip (kind of like fondue) served with corn chips. I thought it was ok but not very exciting. Blair loved it though. I ordered a virgin Margarita and Blair had the regular kind which he reported to be boozy and good.

For his main Blair had the spicy beef fajitas which came out on the amazing sizzling plate, filling the room with smoke and making our neighbouring tables cough (sorry!) and splutter (sorry!) His dish was huge with all kinds of sides: soft tortillas, guac, two kinds of salsas, sour cream, Mexican rice, salad and re-fried beans. His beef was listed as hot on the menu didn't have much spice at all and there were heaps of capsicums on the sizzling platter too - possibly too many, Blair reported. It was a big serving and he couldn't finish it all. We agreed that it seemed a bit measly to only give 3 tortillas for a serving that big (and the extras were $4 on the menu). The meal cost $27.

My main was Mole chicken enchiladas which were absolutely delicious. I remember going to the Chocolate Festival at the Intercontinental Hotel with Erin a few years back and watching a Mexican chef demo making Mole sauce. It's an involved recipe and has chocolate in it which gives the sauce it's rich flavour. This rendition was exceptional and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of the two enchiladas. My meal came with a small dish of Mexican rice (which I reckon is exactly like that Uncle Ben's microwave rice, so I left it behind) salad, sour cream, salsa and guacamole.

We'd been eyeing up the churros with chocolate sauce for pudding but we were too full. Maybe next time. Our meal, with 1 entree, 2 mains, 1 virgin Margarita, 1 alcoholic Margarita cost $85 which is pretty pricey. It was delicious and we'd return, but for a special occasion, probably not just a Saturday evening after a movie dinner - it's a bit expensive for that in my opinion.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Banana Crumb Muffins

These banana muffins came to life via a much needed clean out of my freezer. The bunch of nearly black bananas had been taking up my important ice cream space for too long and it was time for them to go. Banana muffins, a much favoured baked good of my husband, seemed a good plan. I had a look at an all time favourite recipe website ( and found these Banana Crumb Muffins which had over 8000 reviews (phew!) most of them glowing. They looked easy and I had all the ingredients on hand which isn't always usual. They were a huge hit and Blair loved them. He took half a dozen to work to share and reported back that they went down well. I took the rest to work and they seemed well received too. The only problem with this recipe is that the streusel topping is only crunchy for the first day, then it softens significantly. They're still delicious but textually it's quite different after the first day.  

Banana Crumb Muffins - a recipe by but tweaked (of course) by me

You will need:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 mashed bananas (I used 4)
3/4 cup sugar (recipe says white but I used brown for extra flavour)
1 egg lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract (I added this to the recipe)
1 tsp cinnamon (I added this to the recipe)
1 tsp allspice (I added this to the recipe)
1 tsp nutmeg (I added this to the recipe)
1/3 cup melted butter (reviews says to use 1/3 cup oil instead for better texture, which I did)


1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
2 - 3 tbsp rolled oats (the original recipe doesn't call for this but I added it and liked it)
1 tsp ground cinnamon (recipe calls for 1/8 tsp but I increased)
1 tsp ground nutmeg (an addition by me)
1 tbsp butter

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line 12 muffin tins with liners or grease well.

2. In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients.

3. In another bowl beat together the mashed banana, sugar, egg, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and melted butter or oil.

4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Spoon into the prepared cases or tins.

5. In a small bowl mix together the sugar, flour, oats (if using) and spices. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the muffins.

6. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Best Pad Thai in Wellington?

A challenge of sorts if you will- where do you think the best Pad Thai in Wellington can be found?

My vote goes to somewhere fairly obscure and unusual but boy do they do a great Pad Thai; Khmer Satay Noodle House in The Reading Cinemas Complex on Courtenay Place. It is an exceptional Pad Thai. Generously proportioned, spicy, sweet, sour and crunchy from the smattering of crushed peanuts.  Everything a good Pad Thai should be. Also, exceptionally good value at $12.90. I fondly remember when I was first year at uni and it was $7.00. Times have changed since 2003. 

Thai Red Curry Fish

Everyone knows they need to eat more fish. I'm pretty awful at getting enough (any) fish into my diet. So I made a herculean effort and purchased some terakihi whilst it was on special and decided to jazz it up with some Thai flavours. 

Thai Red Curry Fish - a recipe by me

You will need:

Fish fillets
Red curry paste
Coconut cream/milk
Thai herbs such as thai basil, lemon grass, coriander 

1. Take out some baking paper or tin foil and place the fish on it. Make sure you have enough to make a parcel that the fish can steam in.  

2. Smear a good tablespoon of the curry paste directly onto the fish fillets 

3. Tear or chop up the thai herbs you're using and place directly onto the fillets.

4. Drizzle the coconut cream or milk over, just enough to make a little bath for the fish to steam in. 

5. Wrap your little parcels up and bake in the oven until done. This is dependent on your oven and other things like the thickness of your fish. Mine took about 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius on fan bake.

I served the fish with my fragrant rice which was perfect.

Banoffee Pie

A strong, strong desire for banoffee pie led me to make this delicious desert a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately we didn't think through that we didn't have anyone else to eat it. I had to take drastic action 3 days later after I consumed it for both breakfast and pudding and concluded that it might be sensible to put the remainder in the bin. There was still half left and my pants already felt tighter than they should've. So note to self - next time, halve the recipe if just making it for self and husband. Or better still, invite family and friends round to come and help eat it!!

Banoffee Pie: a recipe by me

A packet of gingernuts - smash them up. Probably best done in a food processor but I loved hitting them with a wooden spoon. Very therapeutic. 
100gm butter, melted
A can of condensed milk caramel (I bought mine as caramel but you can boil a can of condensed milk for 2 - 3 hours to create your own caramel)
A few bananas, sliced (TIP: squeeze lemon juice over the slices so they don't turn brown as quickly)
Whipped cream

1. Smash your gingernuts up in your desired fashion. I should've made mine finer but it still worked a bit chunky. 

2. Add the melted butter to the crumbs and mix. Press into your desired serving vessel and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. 

3. Spoon over the caramel.

4. Add the sliced bananas, as artfully or not as you like. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top if using.

5. Whip the cream and plop on top of the bananas. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.