Eat Your Greens!

Basket butternut squash    Close up Butternut squash

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while you’ll know I like using Green Cleaning methods. However, I often think I could do a bit more; be a bit greener; change a few more aspects of my life to Do My Bit without scaring the family too much! One other area that I’ve managed to include into Family Life is Meatless Mondays. It’s a simple concept with two main arguments that we can all relate to; better health and less pressure on the environment. Eating meat supports an industry that uses huge amounts of fossil fuels which are attributed to an accelerated climate change throughout the world. Massive amounts of water are required for livestock ; so much more required than for watering veg and grains. Health concerns over a meat heavy diet include various cancers, heart disease and diabetes. I’m not into scare-mongering and I am certainly not saying cut out all meat in your diet but I do agree that, on this issue, the world is spiralling out of control and will be unable to sustain the amount of meat eaters in the future.  Just one vege meal a week is a very easy way of including more veges and pulses and to shake up the menu a bit. Change is Good! You might surprise yourself! You might even find yourself including more than one vege meal per week. I recently bought Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg book. It contains some really tasty dishes that I’ve used on my family with great success. One of his points is very succinct and says it all, “ Just ask yourself if you, or anyone you know, might be in danger of eating too many vegetables…” Well, Quite and Very Well Put Hugh. Veges are virtuous and vitamin packed and voluptuous. They are your friends so eat a few more! Here’s one of our favourite family vege recipes from Veg….

Recipe

North African Squash and Chickpea stew

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 large onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 teaspoon frehly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
100g red lentils
400g tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
8 saffron strands, toasted and crushed (I didn’t include this when I made it)
500ml roasted tomato sauce or passata (homemade or shop bought)
A good handful of parsley, chopped
A large bunch coriander, chopped
300g pumpkin or squash
1.2 litres vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
50g vermicelli, orzo pr other small pasta
Dates to serve (optional)

Saute the onions in the oil until golden. Turn the heat down low and add garlic and spices and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the lentils, chickpeas, tomato sauce or passata, parsley and coriander and cook over a gently heat for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and deseed the squash or pumpkin and cut into large cubes. Add to the pan with the stock and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the pasta and simmer until cooked. Season with salt and pepper. I sometimes wilt some spinach or pak choi at the very end just to add a bit of greenery!

Serve with a scattering of coriander and a few dates on the side if you like.

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Speedy Suppers

Recipe Books

I read somewhere that the average person has about 10 recipes in their repertoire. An old article in The Daily Mail lists the 9 most commonly made dishes (read it here) including, spaghetti bolognese, roast dinner, shepherd’s pie, pasta dish, meat and two veg, pizza, casserole/stew, sausages and chips and curry. Nothing wrong with those meals at all and I cook most of them too but I have to admit I get very bored with cooking the same meals over and over again. So, how to spice up the menu without spending even more time in the kitchen?

Cookery Books are a great source of inspiration for me. I have far too many (so many more than the average eight; in fact I think I may have a bit of an addiction). I now borrow cookery books from the library which has the added benefits of keeping my bookshelves clearer and being much cheaper! I love buying into the whole spirit of a cookbook; Nigella’s Express, for example, had me conjuring up images of myself waltzing into the kitchen and whipping up a meal in minutes from my well stocked larder (I don’t actually have a larder but in my head that didn’t seem to matter). Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook had me imagining bringing in huge baskets of veg from the garden and transforming them into bagna cauda or radish top pasta. You get the drift; I’m a bit of a dreamer.

Meal Planner

In reality I’ve been the primary maker of Family Meals for over 9 years now. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s to Keep Things Simple and Plan Ahead. I Keep Things Simple by keeping a handwritten book of some very easy, tasty dishes that really can be whipped up in half an hour and use just the one saucepan, oven dish or frying pan. You can see my book in the photo above with Jamie Oliver on the front. I’m just about to finish it so will have to get another one (yay – any excuse to buy some stationery!) I get these dishes from many places including magazines and friends. I Plan Ahead by writing up a Menu Plan every week (well nearly every week). Have a look at the invaluable resource for Mums at Net Mums for inspiration.

This post is introducing a new category for Speedy Suppers or One Pot Wonders that are my Go To meals when I just don’t feel like cooking. Hopefully you’ll find a couple that work for you too and prompt you to share your favourite Speedy supper dish that you make for your family!

One Pot Wonder No 1 is imaginatively entitled Yummy Rice with Spinach and Feta (bear with me on this one it’s worth a try and a firm favourite with my 6 yr old and 9 yr old and husband too!)

Yummy Rice with Spinach and Feta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
2 cups veg stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, sliced if they’re large
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Fry the onion and garlic until golden.

Onion and garlic

Add the uncooked rice. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.

add rice

Add the wine and stock, bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add wine and stock

Add the spinach and cover for about 5 minutes so the spinach can wilt. It will look as if you have a whole forest of spinach in the saucepan but it’ll reduce to next to nothing as it wilts down.

Add spinach

Add the tomatoes and cheese and stir through.
Add tomatoes and Feta Mix together

Pile into bowls and eat up. I tend to make this on a school night after violin and rugby practice as it’s nice and warming and comforting and can be eaten slumped on the sofa watching re-runs of the Wonder Years (naughty I know but I promise we do eat at the table the rest of the time!)

Finished Dish