Home Galley

Follow my kitchen experiments, catastrophes and triumphs

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Apricots and slow cookers

“I love apricots. They’re so fuzzy they’re furry. They’re like little pets you can eat legally.”
― Jarod Kintz

They are also fantastic in savoury dishes. I  usually use them chopped in meatloaf with apricot jam for the glaze. But my absolute favourite way to eat them, is with chicken, yum yum! My fortnightly meal challenge this week will be to do Apricot Glazed Roast Chicken Pieces. I’m so excited by the idea I have in my head that I simply can’t WAIT to do this. Keep an eye out for the results.

And as an added bonus, apricots are a fairly good and healthy choice in terms of fruit. High in vitamins A and C, Iron and Potassium AND three apricots are roughly 50 calories, what’s not to love!!!! They’re my favourite dried fruit to snack on!

I also have lovely memories of the apricot tree in our back yard when I was a child. It’s still there and roughly 80 years old now. It doesn’t produce fruit any more, but my Dad has kept it for the lovely peaceful shade cast by its heart shaped leaves every summer.

When I was young and limber, we used to climb it almost every day, great practise for picking the fruit when it eventually ripened. Just thinking about that tree brings back endless hot days, the sound of the cicadas rasping away and the mielie ladies calling their wares as they made their way along our road.

I remember my Gran making the most delicious apricot jam. She never had need for a jam thermometer, or jam sugar, or special tongs to hold the hot bottles. I guess she had a lifetime of preserving practice behind her, which does help. I absolutely adore her recipes, they really evoke that warm, comforting and safe feeling I remember about being a small child. Reading her tiny, faded scrawl in her hand written recipe book, falling apart from years of daily use and making her bakes and jams gives me such joy.

I get my craving for comfort foods from her cooking. Now that winter is approaching, I’m starting to get quite excited by all the casseroles and pies I have planned. I especially love that it will be cold enough to leave a load of fridge groceries in the boot of the car for the whole day without fear of them spoiling. We have to have SOME positives about winter. Its also the time of year I crack out my slow cooker.

Sadly the ceramic insert of my slow cooker cracked last week. Do you remember the clementine and sage roasted chicken? Well I then shoved the remains into my slow cooker and made a heavenly chicken soup and a risotto in the slow cooker and then craaaaack *cry* I am very sad as it was a wedding present, and the manufacturers no longer make slow cookers. Boo! Which means I’m now weighing up the pro’s and cons of other options and relying on my oven instead. Luckily my oven is now all clean and sparkly and ready for action! The result of some housework yesterday!


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The art of easy home cooking

Nothing beats the nutritional benefits of fresh properly prepared home made grub. And as my 2 year old says, “Mummy food is super TUMMY!” He means yummy by the way. Just in case you were wondering. Somehow even the simplest sandwich made with love tastes better.

So much of what we read in the media or watch on the telly tells us that ready made food and take out is bad for you. They don’t always clarify why. Some are laden with saturated fats, salt and e numbers and some just taste revolting, but I’m pretty sure not all convenience foods are that bad for you, and certainly not as an occasional break from the kitchen graft treat. I’m a firm believer of Happy Mummy = Happy children. So if I occasional need a break from the kitchen, by feeding myself and my kids crap, I ease the guilt with a glass of wine and a reminder that I’ve saved my kids from having shouty Mum today.

Generally though, I feel like I simply HAVE to do home cooking all the time. So many of my mummy friends are truly inspiring and amazing, making wonderful home cooked food every single day! HOW?!!?! I’ve also realised I’ve stuck in a bit of a cooking rut, cooking the same old boring meals over and over and over again. Not good. So I’ve come up with a five point plan to improve both the frequency and quality of my family cooking. Hope these work as well for you as they are for me.

1. Set myself a regular new food challenge

I was lucky enough to get to test some recipes for my chefy friend, L. She’s writing a book! Lucky me! Trying her recipes really opened my eyes to new ideas for feeding the family. I’m far more inspired now. My kids get a much wider range of food as a result, and I get the feeling they’re a load less picky too.

Try set yourself a realistic cooking challenge. I try and cook something totally new for dinner once a fortnight. You might only be able to manage once a month. That’s fine. Just try it and see if it changes how you view the kitchen grind. If you can manage once a week, I’ll come over and be your guinea pig!

2. Cook in bulk:

If you’re cooking anyway, cook double, or triple quantities. Portion out the extra into freezer bags and you have a microwave meal ready to rock and roll. With NO e-numbers or preservatives either! What’s not to love. Microwave rice is my go to starch for a quick option at the end of a long day, but putting potatoes on to bake are even easier, as long as you remember to do it a good hour before you want to eat.

Don’t forget to date and label your freezer bags. And to save on precious storage space in your teeny tiny freezer, stuff the freezer bag (with as much air squeezed out as possible) into a tupperware. Once its frozen, pop it out and voila, stackable box shaped frozen food without using up all your tupperware containers. I’ve invested an incredible amount of effort into determining exactly the right shaped tupperware that will hold a meal for my family of four AND fit into exactly 25% of my freezer drawer footprint. Sad, but true.

3. Cook food you think you’ll actually like:

This is a no brainer. If you cook crap food, you’re going to hate it and not bother next time. It takes no more effort to cook scrummy food. Trust me, I know. I’ve made both. Actually, I’ve put some enormous effort into some remarkably revolting fare. Have a think about what types of simple food you enjoy and then make that. Don’t try making sea bass when you know you hate fish. I also have to avoid cooking food that one person likes to the detriment of the other 3 members of our family.

4. Cook simple:

Don’t try whip up a 19 course cuisine nouveau dinner on the back of a twenty toddler tantrum day. You WILL fail!

Throw away some of your recipe books. Or at least move them to the coffee table. Far too many “celebrity chef” recipe books out there rely on loads of  ingredients that aren’t easy to source in your local grocery store, even if it is a posh one! If you’re lucky enough to have the time to wander through loads of markets and independent shops sourcing funky ingredients, then go ahead. If you’ve got kids, like me, then you might not have the time or the energy. I chucked out a bunch of my old recipe books. I had way too many. I’ve kept the ones with food I like, some with great kids meals and the ones that give me inspiration for new ideas. I also kept the ones that were gifts. Luckily those are all inspiring.

Some of our celebrity inspirations have cottoned on to this and brought out far more Super-Mum friendly recipe books with ingredients you’ve actually heard of. One of my favourite recipe books uses 5 or fewer ingredients for every meal. If you use really fresh, and good quality ingredients, you’ll make magic. Generally though, I don’t use recipes and just wing it. I suspect this is why I’ve started to fall into the boring food rut. So I’ll be leafing through my books that have achievable meals more regularly now.

5. Some wisdom from W.C. Fields:

William Claude was quite an astute chap really. A luscious wine braised stew can have a much deeper and yummier flavour. And you get to have a glass while you peel the veg, which really helps to take the edge off the overworked feel you have at the end of the day.

A Cooking Challenge:

I’ll be posting my fortnightly cooking challenge right here on my blog.  During the interim weeks, I’ll post the recipe in advance, just in case anyone is keen to try make the same thing. The hardest thing for me will be remembering to take photos. So I’ll be using this challenge to try improve my absolutely useless photography skills and stop making my camera blush.