Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Smoothies - Greens And Other Additions

I'm a big fan of smoothies. I find it so easy and handy to be able to just fire some cottage cheese or yoghurt in a blender with some fruit and water and there's a healthy breakfast, lunch or a snack in a few minutes.  If you put them into a suitable container they're also great to take with you.  If there's a delay between making and drinking the smoothie though I find it best to avoid using bananas and apples.

I'll sometimes make a large smoothie with some cottage cheese or yoghurt and peaches or apricots and put a couple of bottles from it in the fridge,  These are very handy to grab for a quick meal, especially on your way out the door if you're pushed for time.

It's even better to turn it into a green smoothie by adding some greens.  Below is my list of "good greens for smoothies".

Good Greens For Smoothies:

(Wash first)

Silver Beet
Swiss Chard
Dandelion greens (small amount) 
Celery, including tops
Lettuce - green and red, romaine etc
Boy choy
Beet greens

Good Additions For Smoothies

Raw honey
Lemon juice
Ground flaxseed
Ground almonds
Ground sunflower seeds
Ground pumpkin seeds
Spirulina powder
Peanut butter
Cereal - oats, bran, wheatgerm etc

Silver beet growing in the garden.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Planning Dinner Menus

It’s fairly easy to “wing it” for breakfast and lunch by having some choices written down and keeping  a supply of the required foods handy, such as yoghurt, fruit, wholegrain bread and cans of salmon and baked beans.

Dinner however takes some more planning and is best planned weekly, fortnightly or even monthly.  Knowing exactly what you are going to have ensures you can have the required food on hand and saves frustration and wastage.  It also means you are much less likely to resort to less-healthy and more expensive takeaways. A dollar saved is a dollar earned!

I always take into consideration these factors:

Health And Nutritional Value.  I like to emphasise plenty of healthy vegetables and some quality protein, also low fat,  low sugar and low salt.

Cost.  Staying within the budget is also very important.

Home Produce. Using eggs, chicken, vegetables, fruit, nuts and other food which is home-grown is very satisfying.  Few things have ever pleased me more than serving a delicious and nutritious meal and knowing everything served has been produced at home.  Freshly picked vegetables are especially good to eat.

Reality.  I don't want to cook every night. Sometimes I am not able to cook every night. Accepting that and making contingency plans such as making a large batch of beef casserole and mashed potatoes and freezing some as meals means that some nights I can just heat a home-cooked meal in the microwave.  You can also plan extra for lunches or to give away to those who need or would appreciate a few home cooked meals.

Seasonal Availability.  One of the simple pleasures of life is to eat fresh asparagus when it is being picked or feast on fresh summer fruit.  Everyone craves those first, new, sweet potatoes when they are ready to dig.  Summer is a great time for fresh salads and Winter the best time for wonderful hot soups. When you plan menus it's easier to remember to incorporate seasonal delights into your meals and often at low prices if there is an overabundant supply.

What Is Already On Hand.  Sometimes I might have quite a few spare cans of baked beans because I bought them at a highly discounted price in case I decided to eat some for lunch, but now I have the option of using some of them for dinner, such as making baked bean hash.   I can consider what will be available from the vegetable garden that month or, if the hens are laying plenty of eggs, decide to use more eggs and less meat.  Once I consider what is easily and cheaply available that month ideas for meals made from those ingredients start to come much more easily.  If I think I have plenty of eggs and plenty of fresh vegetables I can start thinking about quiches, frittata, omelettes or curried eggs.

Slow cooked Irish stew:

I find it easiest to start planning meals based around the protein which will be served.  Generally I like to aim weekly for an average of about:

2 fish dinners.
1 - 2 egg or bean dinners.
2 chicken dinners.
2 red meat dinners.

Working out exactly what form that protein will take is the next step. When I reflect upon price and availability my list will often be similar to this:

Fish - fresh or frozen white fish fillets, smoked & canned fish fillets,  green-lipped mussels, prawns or large shrimps, canned salmon, canned tuna.

Eggs/Beans - eggs,  baked beans

Chicken: Whole chickens, chicken pieces, boneless breast fillet.

Red Meat - steak mince, sausage meat, lamb's fry, bacon, porterhouse steak, stewing steak, lamb shoulder chops.

From there it is easy to see how these could be made into meals such as:

Seafood chowder
Fish in parsley sauce
Chicken chasseur
Roasted, stuffed chicken
Chicken chow mein
Curried mince
Lamb's fry, onions and bacon in gravy
Grilled steak
Beef casserole
Baked bean hash
Marinated, grilled lamb chops

Now all you have to do is plan the accompaniments to go with them such as the vegetables, rice, pasta, bread or sauce.

Keeping a file of tried and trusted recipes is also very helpful.  You could simply start a folder marked "Dinner Recipes" and divide it into sections for mince, chicken, eggs, fish, beans, lamb or whatever other main protein you wish to base your meals around.  In each section keep a copy of your favourite recipes for easy reference, for example:

Spicy Meatloaf
Curried Mince
Tasty One-Pan Meatballs
Spaghetti Bolognaise

Vegetable Mini-Frittatas
Egg Foo Yung
Bacon and Egg Pie
Savoury Quiche

This makes it even easier to complete your menu plan.

The beautiful paeony rose.