Tuesday, 28 October 2014


How can you steal time for yourself? Cheat.
Make a plan and cook delicious and healthy meals within only 15 minutes.

What to cook tonight? If you start thinking one hour before dinner time - it is too late. Planning ahead can save you not just money but a lots of time too. Not to mention the stress. For me evenings are the busiest time of the day. I - and so my kids - stick to the evenings routine, so bedtime is strictly at 7pm. But between coming home and going bed I need to cook dinner and everybody needs my love and attention - at the same time of course. There must be time for hugs, laugh and talk. But there is no time for slow cooked meals - like a lovely beef stew. Except...
If I cheat
This starts with a plan. I usually plan ahead 1-4 weeks. No, I am not mad. I just realized that my time is too precious and this is the way how can I be really efficient. Let's take a simple meal:

Chilli con carne

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion (finely diced)
1 purple onion (finely diced)
2 celery sticks (finely chopped)
3 gloves of garlic (crushed)
1 green chilli (seeded and finely chopped, if you have small children, make sure the meal is not hot)
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1tsp smoked paprika
2* 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
2* 400 g red kidney beans 
3-4 mixed peppers
500 g lean minced beef - or Quorn mince

Heat the oil in a heat proof casserole dish, the add the onions and celery, and cook for 5 minutes. In the meantime heat the oven to 200 degrees (gas mark 6). Add garlic, chilli, sweet and smoked paprika to the onion and cook for a further 1 minute.
Add the minced meat or Quorn mince and cook it for a couple of minutes breaking up the meat. Add peppers and tomatoes, stir and when it is boiling hot, cover with tin foil and put it into the oven for 20 minutes. 
Add beans to the casserole, cover again and return to the oven for a further 20-25 minutes.

So this is the base and this is the time consuming part of our meals. This amount is usually enough to cook 4-5 dishes listed below for our family (2 adults and  small kids should be served easily). So divide the base Chilli con carne into 4-5 portion, use one portion, and freeze the rest.

1. Chilli con carne with flat bread or brown rice and avocado salsa

Cook the rice. In the mean time prepare the salsa:
1 avocado, diced
2 fresh tomatoes chopped
1/2 purple onion diced 
coriander leaves
juice of a 1/2 lemon juice

Mix the ingredients gently and add the juice of the lemon.
Use one portion of the chilli, add a small tin sweet corn, warm up, serve with the bread/rice and avocado salsa.

2. Stuffed butternut squash

Cut the butternut squash into half, scoop out the seeds and put into the oven (190 degrees) for 20 minutes (cooking time depends on the size of the squash). In the meantime boil water and add to about 150 g couscous. Mix the defrosted chilli and couscous. Fill the squash halves with the mixture and put it back to the oven to warm up together.

3. Jacked potato chilli con carne and side salad

Prepare the potatoes in the oven. 
Make the salad: slice gem or iceberg lettuce, grate in one big or two medium carrot and add two tbsp raisins. Mix together.
Pour the hot chilli on the potatoes and add 1 tbsp soured cream on top. Serve with the salad.

4. Fajitas with beef and grilled vegetables

Slice 1 red pepper, 1 red onion, 2 medium courgettes and 1 small aubergine and grill them about 20 minutes. Warm up wholemeal tortilla wraps and fill with the chilli and grilled vegetables.

5. Rich beef stew

Defrost one portion chilli, add 1 litre beef stock and bring to the boil. Add diced swede, green beans and sweet potato. Cook until the vegetables are cooked. Serve with soda bread.

6. Mini pizzas

Defrost chilli, and using a fork distribute it on the top of wholemeal tortillas (try not to pour on the juice otherwise they will be very soggy). Scatter with sweet corn and fresh chilli (for adults only) Grate some cheese on top and put into the heated oven for 10 minutes. (180 degrees). Serve with tomato salad: Chop 4 big tomatoes, add 2 sliced spring onion and chopped fresh parsley. Mix 1 tbsp white wine vinegar with 1 tsp sugar and seasoning. Mix the salad with the dressing.

So one cooking and we can enjoy 6 heart warming meals in the forthcoming weeks.

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