Cabbage and Barley Soup

I overdid it this Easter. Like, really overdid it. So much so that I woke up this beautiful Easter Monday feeling terribly ill and with a pain in my belly that my husband was convinced was my appendix getting ready to burst. It wasn’t. It was just my body in revolt from the shocking way I’ve “nourished” it over the past couple of days. I’d entered the long weekend knowing that my usual rules were going out the window, and had every intention of getting back to my usual routine today. It’s always destined to be a Monday, right? However, my body thought it would help me be damned sure that I did in fact get back into it, by making me sick to my stomach at the mere thought of food.

After a few hours of feeling like total crap, I slowly, slowly started feeling better. By late afternoon, I was actually starting to feel hungry.  I was craving vegetables and simplicity. But I also wanted a new-to-me dinner that was interesting, while not putting any stress on my somewhat ginger stomach. Nothing fatty, or rich, and in no way related to chocolate or cake.

Once again, I was relieved that I have an arsenal of recipes stored in My Fitness Pal, with the calories already calculated, links to the recipe, and my own adaptations noted. It REALLY makes life easier, especially when you don’t really have a clear idea of what you want. Scrolling through, I saw the link to Smitten Kitchen’s Cabbage and Farro Soup, and knew that I’d found what I’d be cooking tonight. I did make some changes – I added ginger, used red cabbage instead of green to give it a beautiful rich purple colour (Deb bemoans how beige her soup is, but using red cabbage yields quite a dramatic looking soup), swapped out the farro for the pearl barley I already had in my cupboard, and eliminated some of the oil, because you really don’t need quarter of a cup here. All in all, the results were fantastic, and I’m looking forward to leftovers tomorrow, when the barley has drunk the soup and it transforms into a whole new cabbage dish. I also used a whole – albeit tiny – cabbage, and discarded the core, as a matter of preference. That left me with more cabbage than the original recipe calls for, so I increased the ingredients by 150% , meaning it serves 6, rather than 4. Which is a blessing, because, like I said, leftovers. My take on the recipe yields servings of 222 calories each, and that includes the parmesan with which the soup is served.

Ingredients

1 x 3 second spray olive oil

1 brown onion, thinly sliced

3 tsp  minced garlic

1 tsp minced ginger

1 small red cabbage, core removed, thinly sliced

1.5tbs red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup raw pearl barley

6 cups chicken stock

1tbs lemon juice

4tbs grated parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan/stockpot over medium-low heat. Sweat onions for 5 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Add garlic and ginger, and stir to combine.
  2. Add the cabbage over the top of the onion mixture and Cover pot with a lid. Steam the vegetables for 5 minutes, until cabbage starts to wilt. Stir to combine.
  3. Replace lid and cook for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cabbage will be very tender, and sweet to taste.
  4. Stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Be very generous with the pepper, as it complements the dish so well. Add barley and stir to combine.
  5. Pour in the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for up to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
  7. Serve in bowls. Top with parmesan cheese and another good crack of black pepper.
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Winter Vegetable Soup with Parmesan and Spinach Dumplings

It’s finally cooling down, which means I can pull out my beloved red cast iron pot and whip out the comfort food recipes to help warm me up. Seriously, people joked that I would feel the cold after losing all the weight. They weren’t wrong. Last winter was miserable – I was ALWAYS cold and found it difficult to warm up. I’m hoping this winter, I will be more acclimated and less uncomfortable, despite being slightly smaller again.

It has to be said, that during the Winter months, I sometimes miss some of the heavier stews and casseroles that are suprisingly high in calories despite feeling like a wholesome bowl of goodness. Of course, rather than throwing in the towel and giving in to temptation, I’ve turned to searching for lighter, but equally comforting – recipes to fill the void. Some of them have been sad failures – watery, lame slop with little flavour and no texture. Some – like this awesome “stoup” (soup so thick that it’s almost a stew) adapted once again from Taste – bring joy to my cold self. It’s only 423 calories, and fills the cravings for veggies, bread, cheese and potatoes, making it the perfect winter staple. And unlike many winter warmers, it doesn’t take hours and hours… it’s done in less than an hour. Just to add one more tick to the boxes, this soup is also vegetarian if you use the correct parmesan.

Serves 6

Ingredients

dumplings

large handful baby spinach, shredded

1 1/2 cups flour

2tbs butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

2/3 cup milk

 

Soup

2-3 second spray oil

1 brown onion, diced

1tsp minced garlic

1tsp minced ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp paprika

1 tsp dried sage

2 carrots, diced

1 bulb fennel, diced

1 medium potato, diced

2 parsnips, diced

400g tinned tomatoes

4 cups vegetable stock

500g pumpkin, diced

 

Method

1. Combine spinach flour in a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. In a jug, combine the rest of the dumpling ingredients and pour into the well. Mix gently until well combined. Roll into 15 balls and place on a clean, dry plate.

2. In a large saucepan, heat the oil and sweat onions over medium heat until translucent. Add nutmeg and paprika, stirring for 30 seconds until fragrant.

3. Tip in all vegetables except for the pumpkin and stir to coat with the spices. Add tomatoes and stock, using the stock to clean out the tomato tin. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes, until starting to soften. Stir every few minutes to prevent veggies from catching. Add pumpkin, and cook, covered, for a further 5 minutes, still stirring periodically.

4. Gently place the dumplings atop of the soup and lower the heat to medium-low. Cover again, and cook for 20 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through. Serve garnished with fennel fronds.

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Mongrel Chilli

Years ago, an online acquaintance from Texas gave me her recipe for some of the best chilli I’ve ever had. I’ve since lost both the acquaintance and the recipe, and spend my days searching to recreate this amazing celebration of spiciness.

What I remember most of this unicorn of a recipe is that it had black beer, coffee, whiskey and cocoa in it. It was dark, complex, dramatic and extremely impressive It also had red kidney beans and beef, tomatoes and – rather obviously – fresh chillies, ground cayenne and a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes. It was HOT. It also made the most insanely delectable chilli dogs ever.

Over the years, I’ve tried others – some good, some great, and some downright awful. It’s become obvious that I simply had to make my own recipe based on what I could remember of T’s chilli, and the good bits of other recipes – hence the name. Here, I’ve swapped the very delicious red kidney beans for inky black beans, which changes the flavour profile quite a bit, but not for the worse. I’ve decided they’re completely interchangeable here. Perhaps half and half would be an option? I’ll have to try it one day. I also used chuck steak here, but I feel the original recipe might have called for mince. The steak, however, falls apart after 4 hours of stewing, and lets the beans shine the ingredient that holds it all together – I don’t think kidney beans could do that quite so well.

This mongrel of a recipe easily feeds 8 – and still provide leftovers. Luckily, it freezes beautifully. I served this with cabbage and potato buns, and have plans to make burritos with them next Thursday night, which is crazy night in this household. Even after this second meal, I’ll suspect we will have have leftovers (I’ve portioned my frozen chilli so that none goes to waste). It makes a lot, but we don’t really eat it by the bowlful. Those who do, will obviously not be eating quite so much frozen leftover chilli.

Ingredients

2tbs oil,

1 onion, diced

3 red chillies, finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic

2tsp ground cumin

2tsp ground coriander

1tsp dried chilli flakes

750g chuck steak, cubed

80ml whiskey

330ml stout or black beer

375g dried black beans (no need to soak)

1/2 tsp cayenne

2tsp cocoa

1 shot espresso

750ml beef stock

400g diced tinned tomatoes

2tbs maple syrup or treacle

salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160C.
  2. Heat 1tbs oil in a large cast iron pot (with a tight lid) over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and add onion, garlic and chillies. Sweat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant. Stir in cumin, coriander and chilli flakes.
  3.  Increase heat to medium-high, add the extra oil, tumble in the steak and stir to brown.
  4.  Add the whiskey, and when this has stopped frothing, the beer. Stir to combine.
  5. Pour in the dried black beans, then the stock, tomatoes, espresso, cayenne, cocoa and maple syrup. Give it all a good stir, season, and bring to the boil.
  6. Transfer to the oven, and cook for 4 hours, checking periodically to ensure that it hasn’t dried out. If it’s looking a little parched, top it up with a half cup or so of water, stir, and place back in the oven.

 

 

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Sweet Chilli Chicken and Haloumi Salad

Ahhh, cheese. It’s always there for me. I don’t eat a lot of it anymore, but you can bet your sweet Aunt Betty that when I do, I savour every second of it. And maybe moan just a little bit into it. Also, it tends to be consumed within a salad, because salad is simply The Best Meal Ever, especially when cheese is included.

For reasons utterly beyond me, I haven’t made this salad in over a year, nor did I ever think to blog about it. Which is stupid, because it’s delicious, healthy, quick and easy when you’re battling an Australian Summer with no aircon (I know, right?!), and filling. By rights, I should be making this every week. I certainly wouldn’t mind. However, I had a craving for haloumi today (and yesterday, and the day before that, and basically for the last decade or sothat haloumi has been in my life…), and was so annoyed with myself to realise I never wrote down the recipe. What I DID the do last time I made it, luckily, was log the ingredients into the recipe builder in My Fitness Pal, so I did have something to go by. I mean, it’s by no means difficult or schmancy, but I do find chronicling recipes inspires me when it’s a week before Christmas (or school report season, or just run of the mill busy) and my dinner give-a-crap has broken. Besides, I’ve been so slack with this blog lately, and I think it is the kind of recipe that deserves a little online love. And it’s only 400 calories for a generous serve, so you can have some guilt-free cheese love – a novel idea if you’re anything like me!

Serves 4

Ingredients

1tbs olive oil

500g chicken breast, diced

3tbs sweet chilli sauce

1tbs lemon juice

2-3 second spray oil

1 tsp minced garlic

1tsp minced ginger

180g haloumi, sliced

60g baby spinach (or leaves of your choice)

2 truss tomatoes, cut into large chunks

100g sugar snap peas

100g snow peas

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced

Method

  1. Combine oil, sweet chilli sauce and lemon juice in a small jug. Pour over chicken in a glass bowl, mix thoroughly and let to sit for an hour or so.
  2. Place tomatoes and spinach into a large salad bowl and toss to combine.
  3. Heat pan and add garlic, ginger, chicken and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until chicken is cooked through. Add to spinach and tomatoes.
  4. Cook haloumi for 1-2 minuted until golden brown. Add to salad.
  5. Blanch peas and asparagus. When completely cool, add to salad. Toss well and serve with a little additional sweet chilli sauce.

 

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Cheese and French Onion Meatloaf

I’ve never really considered myself a meatloaf fan (pause to wait for my father in law to make a joke about how he really enjoyed Bat out of Hell…), and can count on two hands the number of times I’ve cooked one, with fingers to spare. Apart from my turkey and apple meatloaf (which I really should include here, as it’s pretty divine), I generally find meatloaves stodgy and a whole lot of effort for not a whole lot of reward. Nobody’s ever complained about the lack of meatloaf in our lives, so I’ve never really thought about it.

However, the other night, the hubby and I were curled up watching something or other, and the characters were eating meatloaf. After 10 years of marriage, I didn’t even need to glance over to know that he was giving me “the look”. No, not that one. The “why are they eating something delicious, and I’m not?” look.

So, I went hunting for a meatloaf recipe. I’m a good wife like that. But not just any old loaf. It had to be Something Different. Not just a big dry meatball with some barbecue sauce concoction glazed over it. Something I would be excited to make, and, knowing that meatloaf is generally a more calorically dense kind of meal, something that would be what I considered worth it. 2 slices of this bad boy is 390 calories, but the slices are generous, and there’s absolutely no reason (except for how good it tastes) that you couldn’t have 1 slice and fill up on veggies. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. Bonus to this – more leftovers! Like most of its ilk, this is possibly even  better the next day.

It didn’t take too long. I had to sift through a gazillion recipes, because everybody has their own spin on this classic, but once I saw this on Taste (yes, again! I have so many wonderful cookbooks, but I do love this website for midweek meals!), I knew this was The One. Promises of sweet, jammy onions, a cheesy crust, and mustardy meat suckered me right in. I adore the sum of its parts, and the whole is even better. It just… works. And, the house smells amazing while it’s cooking away. For such a easily cooked meal, the results are spectacular!

Serves 6, generously

Ingredients

3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs

2tbs milk                                                                                                                                                                                              4 brown onions                                                                                                                                                                                          1kg beef mince (resist the urge to go lean for this, it just falls apart!)

35g sachet salt-reduced French onion soup mix

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tsp olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
50g gruyere cheese, grated
Gravy, to serve (optional)
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line base and sides of a large loaf tin with baking paper, allowing for some overhang.
  2. Grate one of the onions (or stick it in the food processor). Combine it with mince, breadcrumbs, milk, soup mix, garlic, mustard, egg and parsley in a large bowl. Season with pepper (you really don’t need more salt). Mix well to combine.
  3. Press mixture into the prepared pan, using a spatula to make sure it is compact and level. Bake for 1 hour, until meatloaf is firm and juices run clear.
  4. When the meatloaf has been in the oven for 40 minutes, thinly slice remaining onions. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until softened. Add sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until onion is caramelised.
  5. Remove meatloaf from oven. Carefully drain excess pan juices, and lift the meatloaf out of the tin using the baking paper, transferring onto a baking tray. Trim paper so it doesn’t stick up – you want the edges to brown a little more in the last cooking. If the baking paper won’t support the weight of this step,  just carefully turn meatloaf, top-side up, onto a baking paper-lined baking tray.
  6. Top meatloaf with cheese and caramelised onion. Bake for a further 15 minutes or until cheese has melted. Stand for 5 minutes. Cut into slices. Serve with gravy, mashed potato and vegetables.
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Mustardy Chicken with Roast Vegetable Salad

I love salad. Perhaps even more than soup. Maybe. Perhaps it’s equal. Either way, it’s a lot.

Salads generally gets me through the hot, disgusting Sydney summers, and then when it turns bitterly cold, I invariably feel a sense of loss. And then I realised the glory that is a warm salad!

Like most of it’s ilk, this recipe is extremely versatile and forgiving – it’s really just roasted veggies and some chicken. But tossed together with the right dressing, it is so much more. It’s complex, and warming, and filling, and makes you feel a little smug because look how healthy it is!

It’s barely adapted from Taste, but the addition of cauliflower was due to having less broccoli than I thought, and was a more than welcome addition to the mix. I also use a lot less oil than the original, because I don’t enjoy the taste of food that is drowning in oil – even the healthy, high quality oils.

Ingredients

500g chicken tenderloin, breast or thigh (I used a bit of breast and thigh)

2tbsp olive oil

1tsp mince garlic

1tsp dried basil

500g sweet potato, cubed

200g  broccoli, cut into large florets

200g califlower, cut into large florets

200g mushrooms, sliced

1 quarter red cabbage

1tbs red wine vinegar

1tsp brown sugar

1tbs wholegrain mustard

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Slice chicken into tenderloin-sized strips, if using breast or thigh. Combine 1/2tbs oil, garlic and basil and rub over chicken. Cover and set for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine broccoli, caulifower and sweet potato with 1tbs oil. Arrange on a baking tray in a single layer, and roast for 25 minutes on the bottom level of oven.
  4. Heat frypan over medium high heat, and cook chicken for 10 minutes, turning every few minutes. Remove from pan and cover with aluminium foil to rest.
  5. In the same pan, add cabbage and mushrooms. Combine well and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes, until mushrooms have softened.
  6. In a small jug, combine remaining oil, vinegar, sugar and mustard.
  7. Combine chicken and vegetables in a salad bowl. Pour over dressing and toss to combine.

 

 

 

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Risoni Meatball Soup

So, I mentioned in the last post that there are some days where I just can’t be bothered. Well, I’m having a week of it. Everything seems a chore, and I’m just exhausted. More mentally than physically, but it definitely has an impact on how much I want to do when I get home from work.

In the olden days – when I was 46 kilos heavier and infinitely more depressed – it’d mean a week of takeout and excuses. I’m not above the odd takeout these days, but I’m certainly more judicious about it, in terms of both quality and frequency, so having an arsenal of Can’t Be eFfed meals is important.

Which is where this rockstar of a soup shines. It’s so easy, so quick, so tasty, and so filling. At 381 calories (for a smaller serving, but it’s more than enough), it’s pretty low-cal, too. All boxes for a good dinner ticked! And call me crazy, but there’s something cathartic about rolling meatballs with music blaring the stresses of the day away.

You know what, also? As great as this is at the end of a long, crappy day, it’s also a fantastic way to celebrate a good day or lift a neutral day into good day territory.

Adapted from the Taste website, as so many of my day-to-day recipes are.

 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

500g lean mince

1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1tsp minced garlic

700ml passata

4 cups good quality chicken stock

1/2 cup risoni pasta

1tbs olive oil

1 large zucchini, diced

1tsp parsley

1tsp basil

parmesan cheese, extra, to serve

Method

  1. Combine mince, breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic and egg. Roll teaspoons of the mixture into tight meatballs, cover and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  2. Bring stock and passata to the boil in a large saucepan, then reduce heat slightly. Add herbs and risoni, and stir frequently to prevent pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a frypan. When hot, add meatballs, turning frequently to cook evenly.
  4. When cooked through, gently add meatballs and zucchini to soup. Cook, still stirring, for two minutes.
  5. Ladle into bowls and serve with extra parmesan.

 

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