So the new year came and went and I have a list of reasons a mile long as to why blogging just didn’t make it in my priority list but hey lets not bore you with that. But since life has been so busy my focus has drawn to how I can make life easier with simple meal options. I might have not been blogging but I have been testing out a lot of different recipe ideas and I am now really excited to share with you some big success.
The first one I want to share is something that has slightly revolutioned the way I cook pasta. So I have seen these one pot pasta dishes making their way on the internet for a while but had never given it a try. But once I did I became addicted. I now make most of my pasta dishes this way. You see the benefit of cooking pasta with only enough water to cook without having to drain it is you preserve the natural starches in the pasta, thus resulting in a creamy pasta without having to add cream. I have made lots of variations of this pasta. I have used all different types of shaped pasta and played around with the filling with things like cooked chicken, prawns. I have added veggies and played around with the cheese and it is perfect every time. It is a winner in our whole family for taste and speed.
One Pot Pasta
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
(4 1/2 c.) water
500g (1 lb) spaghetti
340g (12 oz) cooked sausage, sliced thin (I used kielbasa)
600g (1 1/2 tins) tinned tomatoes
28g (2 c.) fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
115g (1 c.) creamy blue cheese, I used Blue Castello*
*The original recipe calls for Parmesan and I have used this and it great but I found the blue cheese added a creaminess and flavour that our whole family just loved
adapted from Damn Delicious
As far blogging went November had to not be a priority for me. Sadly my tiny baby girl ended up dealing with two illnesses that landed her in the hospital both times ending us with seeing 11 days in November there with her. It was horrible and terrifying seeing such a small baby so sick. But thankfully December has been much more kind and I am excited for Christmas with my new little addition. I know there aren’t that many more days left before the big day but I just had to share with you a few special Christmas recipes to help make the holidays easier for you. Because probably like many of you with new additions means a bigger family get together, making the holiday cooking just a bit more hectic. So finding easier ways to do dishes that are staples I think is a must. And this first one I want to share is by far my favourite. This has single handedly changed the way we are making potatoes forever. My husband was never a fan of mashed potatoes, finding them dull and tasteless unless a lot of additions were made to them. So he has always wanted roast potatoes for the holidays. But once we discovered these and found that they are not only easier but so full of flavour he is now a convert. I never thought about it before but boiling potatoes really does take away precious flavour from the potatoes but cooking them in the slowcooker gives them a rich almost baked flavour. Season as you would normally but we found that doing it this way has us going back to simple salt and pepper seasoning as the potatoes already have so much flavour.
Crockpot Mashed Potatoes
1 kilo (2 lbs) potatoes, cut into 2 inch pieces
(1/4 c.) milk
42g (3 Tbsp) butter
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Recipe adapted from Creme De La Crumb
Well I have to confess that I had hoped at this point I could be giving you the good news update that baby had arrived but sadly she is set on being late like her sister was. So I am trying to keep busy until she decides she is ready. This is the worse part for me because I am a very impatient person and the uncomfortable stage of the last part of pregnancy makes me feel a bit physically lazy while mentally wanting to be productive. If that makes sense. So I am glad this month I have challenged myself to stick to quick meals so dinner doesn’t have to be something I work too hard at.
This recipe utilizes a new addiction for me, spinach pesto. Last week when I went to the store to buy spinach all they had was a massive bag so I was stuck with more then I could use before it went bad so I hunted around for more ideas on ways to use it up. I came across a recipe for spinach pesto. I have always loved pesto but more often then not stuck to the basil version. For me this was even better, especially when used as a spread for a sandwich. The pesto can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to one week.
But warning, this dish has so much incredible flavour you might struggle sticking to correct portion sizes. This should have been enough to serve 4 people but sadly didn’t make to leftovers because we just couldn’t resist having more.
Creamy Spinach Pesto Pasta
350g dried pasta
300mL single cream
(1/2 c.) spinach pesto *see recipe bellow
60g (1/4 c.) parmesan cheese
Recipe inspired by Chow.com
It was a little crazy to try and get back into blogging at 40 weeks pregnant but saying that I need some distraction from this slow waiting game of wondering when she will come. Between an anxious toddler who doesn’t understand why her sister isn’t here now, a sick hubby and my own body struggling with the issues of the uncomfortableness of being 40 weeks pregnant I am starting to unravel a bit at the seams. So blogging is actually something I am trying to use to keep me slightly sane.
In continuation with my 30 minute challenge this month I decided to attempt some homemade paella. Until I moved to the UK I had never tried paella, although it is similar to Jambalaya. Paella is more commonly eaten with mixed seafood but since working in the food market world for the past 2 years I have been introduced to chicken and chorizo paella which I have fallen in love with. Traditionally this would be cooked in a wide, shallow, flat-bottomed paella pan but I found it worked out well in a deep, frying pan. The flavour in this dish is fantastic and while the toddler found it too spicy hubby and I were in love.
Chicken and Chorizo Paella
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, diced in 1/2-inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried parsley
113g (4 oz) chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 onion, chopped
1 red sweet pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
300g (1-1/2 c.) Paella Rice*
750mL (3 c.) chicken stock
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1 generous pinch saffron threads *optional
150g (1 c.) frozen peas, defrosted
1 lemon, juiced
*I used Arborio rice this time and it worked out well
Adapted from Healthy Delicious
I have done so much soul searching about this blog and where it needed to go. And after a much needed posting where I expressed to you my feelings I felt inspired by the responses enough to come to a decision. I am continuing to blog, doing what I love but in doing so I am going to set things up a bit different. You see my purpose for starting this blog was initially a challenge to improve our food budget and eat healthier. One of the many things I loved about this blog is how it felt to be challenged and even more so how it felt to succeed. I also loved when I would hear from readers how I had inspired them to change their spending and cooking habits.
So I have decided two things, one I won’t be blogging quite as often as I was per month so as not to overwhelm myself but secondly every month I am going to give myself personal challenges and sometimes asking you to challenge me so focusing on quality postings rather then quantity. So every month with my new challenge I will post within the rules of my challenge and push myself to grow even more. As I am about to become a mother again one recurring challenge is going to be how to make sure I continue to provide us with meals that are easy to put together so it fits into our crazy lives. Along with the new focus I am hoping to launch a new redesign which is going to be very recipe orientated to make it easier for people who use this blog as their cookbook, like I do, to find the recipes they want. Thank you everyone for your impute over the past month and I hope you enjoy the journey with Small Wallet, Big Appetite.
So Challenge number 1 for October is going to be 30 minute meals. This month I want to focus on meals that from start to finish take only 30 minutes or less because lets face it when you have a family and/or a busy career you don’t always have the time to assemble more complex meals. This pasta dish was very kid friendly and makes enough for 6 portions which for us is perfect because that means it fed us for two nights in a row which gave me a night off from cooking. Served with a different vegetable side each night it satisfied both the toddler and the adults in the family.
500g (1 lb) lean minced beef
1 medium onion, minced
1 garlic, clove
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
225g (8 oz) uncooked pasta any shape
750mL (3 c.) reduced-sodium beef stock
150mL (3/4 c.) milk
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 tsp mustard*
80g (1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese
*If using English mustard like I was be aware you might want to use less as it will be very hot. I use about 1/3 tsp of English mustard