Category Archives: Kitchen

The Slow Kitchen – Lentil and Vegetable Chilli

I’ve been eating a vegetarian diet for about 6 weeks now, and this hearty lentil and vegetable chilli (spice optional) has been on my menu every one of those weeks. It ticks a lot of boxes: it’s healthy, it’s easy to make, it pairs perfectly with lamb or chicken skewers so is great for those nights when I can’t face cooking two meals, it freezes very well and is also great for breakfast.

In short, this recipe is a winner that should satisfy most tastes in your home, and like all other recipes in my Slow Kitchen series, is simple, easy, healthy and full of real ingredients. Enjoy!

Tasty Vegetable and Lentil Chilli

Lentil and Vegetable Chilli

(Serves 6, Ready in 40min+ depending on simmer time)

You’ll Need:

  • 1 onion – chopped
  • 1 clove garlic – crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 large carrot – grated
  • 1 cup mushrooms – sliced
  • 1 large zucchini – grated
  • corn cob – kernels only
  • 1-2 handfuls broccoli – roughly chopped
  • 1-2 handfuls cauliflower – roughly chopped
  • 2 cups leafy greens – roughly chopped
  • tin of black beans, red kidney beans or similar – rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup dried red lentils – rinsed
  • 1/2 cup passata
  • tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • Natural yogurt, chopped coriander/cilantro, to serve

Note: This is another of my “use any vegetables in the fridge” recipe, so feel free to change up the vege mix to suit.

Simply:

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic with some olive oil. Cook until onion has softened.
  2. Add the cumin and chilli powder and stir for a minute.
  3. Add your chopped vegetables and cook for a few minutes, until they begin to soften.
  4. Add your rinsed lentils, combining well.
  5. Add your passata, tomatoes, stock and beans. Bring to the boil.
  6. Cover and simmer on medium heat for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Serve with yoghurt and coriander.

Note: This keeps very well and makes a great mid-week leftover meal or a healthy, substantial breakfast or lunch to take to work. 

Variations/Additions:

Need Meat?: Serve with a piece of steak or lamb cooked with some garlic and coriander. Marinated chicken skewers are also a good accompaniment and popular with kids.

More Vegetables: This recipe will work with virtually any vegetables you have on hand. Pumpkin, squash, kale, potatoes, carrots – they all cook up beautifully. Just note that you may need to add more crushed tomatoes or vegetable stock if you up the vege content by a lot.

Vegan: Leave off the yoghurt and you’re good to go with this dish. Try some sliced avocado on top instead.

Gluten-Free: This is a gluten-free dish, happy days!

Why I decided to stop eating meat

Why I decided to stop eating meat

This month I challenged myself to go vegetarian.

Truth is, I’ve always been curious about going vego and over the past few years I’ve been less and less likely to eat a lot of meat. But convenience and compromise got the better of me and I really, really didn’t want to be cooking two meals per night to accomodate for myself and Sparky and the kids. So I went along eating meat and cooking 2-3 meat-free meals a week simply because I enjoyed them more and it boosted the amount of vegetables we were all eating.

But I came to the realisation that it wouldn’t be too much of a change for me to shift to a vegetarian diet, so come the beginning of October I thought I’d give it a shot: 31 days of meat-free eating.

In the interests of complete transparency, there has been one bacon-related misstep. But aside from that (which I was surprised to discover wasn’t all that enjoyable anyway) it has been a simple and easy transition for me and I’ve decided to keep going with it beyond the end of October.

There are a few reasons why it’s been such a simple switch for me, and I want to be clear about them because they’ve definitely made life easier as I’ve made the change.

  • The kids are a little older now and I can find an extra 15 or 20 minutes to prep my meals every few days.
  • I’ve always enjoyed vegetarian food and was never a huge meat-lover anyway. If given the chance to cook what I wanted, it was almost always vegetarian or meat-lite. When we go out to eat, I always opt for the vegetarian dishes. So I was primed for the change anyway.
  • I’m more than happy to eat repeat meals and leftovers.

Moreover, I realised I wasn’t enjoying the meat I was eating. I have no real problem with the idea of eating meat but I recognised that resources were going in to producing this meat that I wasn’t even enjoying. Which really is the driving force behind my change. Why should something die for my food if I don’t actually want or enjoy it? It seemed wasteful and the opposite of mindful living.

Making the change to vegetarianism is not, strictly speaking, making life simpler. It is undoubtedly making the food I eat much simpler though, and that is agreeing with me.

I feel lighter and healthier. My digestion is better than it has ever been. I have lost a little weight. I’m eating more vegetables than ever before. I’m also making an effort to eat a much more balanced diet and not relying on meat to provide me with protein. I’m mindful of things like my iron intake, and eating a wider range of foods as a result.

I’m reading a lot more about nutrition and thinking about my food in a new way. Some resources that have been helpful are:

Later in the week I plan to ressurect my Slow Kitchen series, this time featuring some of the vegetarian recipes I’ve been eating a lot of lately. This week – lentil and vegetable chilli as given the thumbs up by a dedicated omnivore!

Are you currently eating a vegetarian or vegan diet? Or are you interested in trying it? Let me know if you have any questions about the transition or how to feed a meat-eating family while maintaining a vegetarian diet and I will try to drop some of my limited knowledge on you.

The Slow Kitchen: Easy Baked Chicken Breast and Vegetables

Let’s say it’s Thursday night. You’re feeling a little worn out, you’re short on time and food-related creativity but you’re not ready to call for pizza. You still want to prepare a healthy, nutrient-packed dinner that everyone will love but, ugh, can’t someone else do it?

That’s where this super easy baked chicken breast and vege dish comes in. Just like other recipes in The Slow Kitchen series, this weeknight dinner is simple, easy, healthy and full of real ingredients. Enjoy!

Easy Baked Chicken Breast and Veges

Easy Baked Chicken Breast and Vegetables

(Serves 4, Ready in 45min)

You’ll need:

  • 2 whole chicken breasts
  • 1 sweet potato – skin on, roughly chopped
  • 1 zucchini – roughly chopped
  • 2 handfuls of mushrooms – sliced
  • handful fresh basil leaves
  • 2-3 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tin red kidney beans – rinsed and drained
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic – crushed
  • salt and pepper
  • brown rice

Simply:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 220C/420F and put the brown rice on to cook.
  2. Chop the sweet potato, zucchini and mushrooms and spread over the base of a non-stick baking tray (a deep one with a lid is perfect, otherwise use a castiron pan. A regular baking tray or casserole dish is also fine – just make sure you can cover it well with aluminium foil).
  3. Lay the chicken breasts over the top of the vegetables and rub with garlic, basil, salt, pepper and olive oil.
  4. Top the vegetables with the beans and then the tin of tomatoes. Drizzle this with a little extra olive oil.

Easy Baked Chicken Breast and Veges

5. Cover the dish and put in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until the chicken is steamed all the way through. (It should be deliciously tender.)
6. Give the entire contents of the baking tray a good mix, add in the baby spinach and pop back in the oven for another few minutes.
7. Serve over rice, topped with more basil, chilli sauce or the topping of your choice.

Variations/Additions:

Meat-Free?: Leave out the chicken and add in some more veges. You could also up the protein content with some pre-soaked red lentils. (If this is the case, you may want to add a cup of vegetable stock to the mix too, as the lentils will soak up a lot of moisture.)

More Vegetables: This recipe will work with virtually any vegetables you have on hand. Pumpkin, squash, kale, potatoes, carrots – they all cook up beautifully in the tomato base. Just note that you may need to add more crushed tomatoes or a cup of vegetable stock if you up the vege content by a lot.

Vegan: Cut out the chicken, obviously, and you’re good to go.

Gluten-Free: This is a gluten-free dish, happy days!

 

The Slow Kitchen: Roast Tomato and Olive Pasta

This is such an easy, tasty pasta you can easily alter, depending on what’s on offer and who will be eating with you. Feel free to add and remove ingredients to suit.

Just like other recipes in The Slow Kitchen series, this weeknight dinner is simple, easy, healthy and full of real ingredients. Enjoy!

Roast Tomato and Olive Pasta - The Slow Kitchen

Roast Tomato and Olive Pasta

(Serves 4, Ready in 30min)

I’ve made this particular recipe up myself, so the measurements are more like guesses. Feel free to adjust as you need/like. (You’d have to try really hard to screw this up!)

You’ll need:

  • fresh tomatoes – a couple of generous handfuls per person (cherry, Roma, truss – it doesn’t matter)
  • crushed garlic
  • half a jar of kalamata olives, drained
  • fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • penne or similar pasta
  • salt and pepper
  • chilli flakes (optional)
  • parmesan cheese to serve

Simply:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 220C/420F.
  2. Cut your tomatoes into chunks, or if you’re using cherry tomatoes, leave whole.
  3. Place into a baking tray and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes. Put your water for the pasta on to boil.
  4. Take the tomatoes out, give them a shake/flip and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
  5. At the same time, put your pasta on.
  6. Heat some olive oil in a large frypan and cook the garlic and chilli for a minute. Add your kalamata olives, roasted tomatoes, torn basil leaves and salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or two.
  7. Drain your pasta and add to the frypan, combining well.
  8. Serve with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

Variations/Additions:

Need Meat?: Add some shredded chicken.

More Vegetables: Use sliced and sauteed zucchini, or sauteed cauliflower florets instead of pasta.

Vegan: You’re good to go as long as you leave out the cheese.

Gluten-Free: Use zucchini pasta or a commercial gluten-free option instead.

 

Does this sound good to you? It’s not quite 10am and I now have a hankering for this dish…

(image via Mallory Dash on Flickr)

The Slow Kitchen: Spinach, Mushrooms and Eggs

Votes are in (thank you for being so enthusiastic about good food!) and a recipe will now appear on the blog each fortnight. The recipes will be:

  • simple
  • quick
  • healthy
  • family-friendly (depending on the kids, of course!)

While the series is called The Slow Kitchen – on account of the simple, good, real food we’re preparing – the recipes featured are focused on healthy, tasty, real food that can be made in 30 minutes or less.

Many of you have asked for vegetarian/vegan options, as well as gluten-free. While I’m none of those things, I do enjoy a lot of vegetarian meals and avoid too much gluten in our diet, so many of the recipes will apply. Not all though, sorry!

The Slow Kitchen - Sauteed Spinach, Mushroom and Eggs

{via Queenie and the Dew on Flickr }

A note on eggs:

We use eggs from our backyard chickens, and the yolk is out of this world. Not everyone is able to access eggs quite so fresh, but I would suggest using the best quality, freshest eggs you can find.

To poach, there are a few methods. The traditional (and delicious) method of poaching in a pan of water is explained here and will provide you with the best tasting eggs. Considering this series of recipes is all about quick and easy, you could also simply use the microwave to poach your eggs. (This is how we do it during the week. The weekends afford a little more time).

This recipe is easy as pie, and a regular on either our breakfast or dinner table. Ben grinned one morning and said, “Just like a cafe, but in our pyjamas,” and I have to agree.

Sauteed Spinach, Mushrooms and Eggs
(Ready in 10 minutes, Serves 2)

You’ll need:

  • 3 cups soft leafy greens, washed (baby spinach is perfect, or you can try silverbeet, chard, English spinach, kale)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • knob of butter
  • 2 cups firm-fleshed mushrooms, sliced
  • eggs (free-range/organic if you can)
  • salt and pepper
  • hot sauce (optional)

Simply:

  1. Melt the butter over a hot stove. Add the garlic and sautee for a minute.
  2. Add the mushrooms and sautee.
  3. Meanwhile, poach your eggs.
  4. Once the mushrooms begin to soften, add your spinach and stir until it begins to wilt.
  5. Plate up the veges, add your eggs to the top and season with a little salt and pepper.
  6. Add a dash of chilli sauce.

Variations/Additions:

More Vegetables: Add cauliflower and broccoli to the mushrooms if you want to add more nutrient-rich veges to the mix.

Need Meat?: Add some bacon or smoked salmon.

Vegan: Substitute egg for tofu scramble.

 

I know it’s not a ground-breaking recipe, but this is such a great way to start or finish the day. You get the benefit of eggs (one of the best whole foods around) and a nutrient boost from the leafy greens. Plus it tastes good and is ready in less time than it takes to order a pizza!

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