Tag Archives: weeknight meal

Mussels with white wine and cream

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I’ve spent a lot of time around mussels. Serving them, clearing them, tasting them, seeing them be cooked, seeing them be cleaned. Obviously not in that order, but you get what I mean. Working in a Belgian Beer Cafe you see a lot of mussels. Yet, I’m not quite sick of them. I used to think they were pretty gross looking but really, who doesn’t?

I first started to appreciate them in Western Australia when my parents would buy them cold from the supermarket cooked and marinated in a simple olive oil and herb mixture. I had them again in Quebec, Canada covered in garlic and cream and bacon and thought I had died and gone to heaven. And when I started living in Sydney one of my best friends told me I just had to try out this Belgian Beer Cafe where they served blue cheese mussels. Even as a red-blooded American who loves her blue cheese, I was pretty skeptical. But I tagged along- had an amazingly rich and creamy bowl of mussels and funnily enough also landed myself a trial at the restaurant that would become a big part of my life for the next two years. So yeah, mussels and I have had a pretty emotional journey.

Though we’ve been on such great adventures together, I’ve never really cooked mussels at home before. My dad’s played around with them in the kitchen once or twice but I’ve never done it myself. A few months ago Ciaran and I found ourselves at the Taste of Sydney festival and decided to bring home a packet of Spring Bay mussels. We picked up a little recipe card at the same stand and decided to go the simple route and just follow that. It’s a great weeknight meal because it’s quick, simple and low-fuss. Just pair your dish with some fresh, crusty bread and a nice bottle of wine.

Mussels with white wine & cream (Moules mariniere)

Serves: 2 as a main or 3-4 as a starter
Recipe from Spring Bay

Ingredients

  • 1kg packet Spring Bay Mussels
  • 15g unsalted butter
  • 2 (30g) purple eschallots or ½ a red onion, very finely diced
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • a sprig of thyme
  • a bay leaf
  • 100ml white wine
  • 150ml thickened or whipping cream
  • ¼ cup rough chopped continental parsley

Method

  1. Heat a large heavy based pot with a tight fitting lid over a low heat.
  2. Add the butter, when it’s melted add the eschallots, garlic and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the eschallots are clear and soft.
  3. Increase the heat to high, add the thyme, bay leaf, cream and wine and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by 1/3 in volume.
  4. Open the packet of mussels and pour into a colander, give them a light rinse.
  5. Pour the mussels into the boiling wine mixture, give them a stir and then quickly put on the lid. Cook for 3 minutes or until the mussels open. Sprinkle over the parsley and serve with the cooking liquid, some crusty bread and salad.

Note

  • The mussels will open as they cook, if there are any unopened mussels, remove the open mussels from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in a serving bowl. Replace the lid and cook the rest for 1 minute longer.

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Pea and haloumi fritters with tomato salad

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This is a great meal for lunch or dinner. I made it for lunch one day when I was running low on cash to go grocery shopping and decided to just make something with whatever I could find in the fridge. Luckily I had some frozen peas, a bit of haloumi, some red onion, plus eggs and flour. I’ve done variations of these fritters since- one with zucchini, corn and haloumi which has actually turned Ciaran on to eating haloumi. I never thought I’d see that day. All you really need for these fritters is some eggs and flour to make the base and then your choice of veggies. The haloumi is also essential because other cheeses will melt too much and you’ll have a puddly mess of dairy and veg. If you’re using veggies that you have to chop yourself, basically anything other than peas and corn, make sure you cut the pieces very very small or your fritters will be very ugly and fiddily.

Recipe from Vegie Project

  • Prep time: 10 min
  • Cooking time: 10 min
  • Servings: makes 12
  • Difficulty: easy

Ingredients:
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 red onion finely diced
30g haloumi cheese finely diced
2 eggs
1/2 cup self-raising flour
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to shallow fry

Tomato salsa:
2 tomatoes finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
1/4 red onion finely diced
juice of half a lime
salt and pepper to taste
a pinch of chilli flakes

To prepare the tomato salsa just combine all the ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Place the frozen peas in a small saucepan with water and boil them for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

To make the fritters simply combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Drop tablespoons of the fritter mixture into the pan (about 2 tablespoons will make one fritter). Flatten the fritters slightly with a spatula. Cook the bottom side for about 3 minutes until a crust forms, then using a spatula flip the fritters over and cook for another 3 minutes.

Serve with the tomato salsa.

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Pan-Seared Tuna with Avocado, Soy, Ginger, and Lime

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Ah, tuna steaks.

The steak for those lacking a barbecue. Or those lacking the knowledge to actually use a barbecue.

Either way, they’re basically the low-cal, low-cost distant cousin of your basic porterhouse. Pretty distant, like twice-removed, third generation half-cousin, but the similarities exist.

I got these hefty little chunks of tuna goodness for four bucks each, and the rest of the ingredients were pretty low-cost as well. To make the meal a bit more interesting I decided to add some Soba noodles on the side. As a sidenote, if you’re searching for soba noodles in an Asian grocery store, they’re actually called buckwheat noodles, this will probably save you the ten or fifteen minutes of frustrated foraging that I had to endure.

This recipe does take about an hour but it’s fresh and delicious and I’ll bet most of you college students out there haven’t been adventurous enough to throw a hunk of fish into your weeknight dinner, so now that you’ve got the recipe, what are you waiting for?

Pan-seared Tuna with Avocado, Soy, Ginger and Lime
From the Food Network ( http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/pan-seared-tuna-with-avocado-soy-ginger-and-lime-recipe/index.html)

Serves 2

Ingredients:
3 big handfuls of fresh corriander leaves, finely chopped
1 red jalapeno, sliced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 garlic clove, grated
1 1/2 limes, juiced
4 tablespoons soy sauce
A pinch of sugar
Sea salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
2 (6-ounce) blocks of sushi-quality tuna
1 ripe avocado, halved, peeled, pitted and sliced

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, combine the cilantro, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir the ingredients together until well incorporated.

Place a skillet over medium-high heat and coat with the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the tuna generously with salt and pepper.  Lay the tuna in the hot oil and sear for 1 minute on each side to form a slight crust. Pour 1/2 the corriander mixture into the pan to coat the fish. Serve the seared tuna with the sliced avocado and the remaining corriander sauce drizzled over the whole plate.

Soba Noodles with Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce
From http://www.simplyreem.com

Ingredients:
1 9 oz packet of soba noodles
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted

For the sauce:
1 1/2 cup spring onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoons ginger, minced
1/4 cup corriander, chopped
2-3 tablespoons Sesame oil/any neutral oil
2 teaspoons chilli oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl, check for the seasoning. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes to let the flavours develop.

Boil the soba noodles according to the instructions on the package. Drain and set aside.

Add the sauce, sesame seeds and toss the noodles well, check the seasoning one last time, give it a final toss and enjoy.

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‘Mexican’ style rice salad

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Chorizo is a great ingredient that I never really started using until I came to Australia. For some reason I seem to encounter it a lot more here than I ever did in the States. When you get it from the supermarket it’s usually pretty inexpensive if you don’t use too much. I’d have to say my favourite chorizo recipe is creamy pesto pasta with sliced chorizo and roasted cherry tomatoes (a simple but delicious recipe my boyfriend and I came up with). But this easy salad is a close second and it keeps really well for work-day lunches.

Mexican Style Rice Salad
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves 6
Recipe from Coles

2 cups Long Grain rice, boiled until tender, rinsed and cooled
2 chorizo sausages, sliced into half circles
250g punnet grape tomatoes, halved
310g can corn kernels, drained
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, chopped
1/4 cup coriander, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Dressing:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice 1 lime

1. Cook chorizo in a frying pan for 3-4 minutes until slightly browned. Add tomatoes, cook 2 minutes to warm through.

2. Combine rice, chorizo and tomato, corn, avocado, coriander and chives together in a large bowl.

3. Combine dressing ingredients and toss through salad. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.

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Lighter sesame chicken

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There’s only a handful of food items that I really miss from the States.

Crispy bacon, good bagels with cream cheese, Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee and greasy Chinese food.

You can still get Chinese food here, obviously, but it’s not quite the same. Somehow they don’t really overload it with oil and grease and MSG and all other gross things like in America. Which is probably a good thing. No, definitely a good thing.

There were always certain occasions when I would get Chinese takeout back home. On lazy afternoons at boarding school we used to order delivery and eat our paper cartons of shrimp lo mein while sitting out on the grass. In New York City we used to order delivery when we were too lazy to leave the apartment and really didn’t want to have to brave the four floors of stairs in order to eat food. For $10 I usually got a big container of crispy fried rice accompanied by beef and broccoli. Then we’d also get egg rolls, sometimes they’d throw in some steamed dumplings. And at home with my parents Chinese takeout was usually called in when we were too lazy to cook. It would usually be a Sunday night and we’d all move into the television room and unpack all the savoury goodness onto the table, shrimp fried rice, Szechuan dumplings in spicy peanut sauce, steamed pork dumplings, spring rolls, golden nuggets, shrimp lo mein, sesame chicken, shrimp and chicken Thailand style (whatever that was), chow fun. There wasn’t really anything on that menu that I didn’t like, except the hot and sour soup. I was never fan of that one. I definitely miss those nights and more than anything I miss coming home the next day to see the leftovers still in the fridge ready to be made in to the ultimate afternoon snack.

The only real problem with that food is the awful way you feel as soon as you finish. While you’re eating and mopping up the sauce with your extra rice, dipping the spring rolls in that delicious sweet duck sauce, scraping for the last dumpling, you feel divine. And as soon as you’re done you feel the need to lie down and usually down a gallon of water from the sodium overload. That’s probably why we usually ate on the couch at home. But this isn’t the part I think about when I’m missing this breed of strange Chinese-American food, I miss the flavours, the convenience and the excuses we used to order it. Instead of going all out and trying to put myself in a sodium induced coma, I decided to satisfy my cravings with a healthier version. The chicken is lightly sauteed in oil instead of  being deep fried and the sauce isn’t quite as sweet as usual leaving you with a filling, healthy meal. And I was still very excited to see the leftovers in the fridge the next day.

Lighter sesame chicken
From MarthaStewart.com

Serves 4

  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed with a garlic press
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into large florets, stems peeled and thinly sliced
  1. Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, and fill with 1 inch water; set aside for broccoli. Cook rice according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small bowl, combine honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and cornstarch. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken; cook, turning occasionally, until golden and opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and chicken. Return all the chicken to skillet; add reserved sauce and scallions, and toss to coat.
  4. Meanwhile, place saucepan with steamer basket over high heat; bring water to a boil. Add broccoli, and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve sesame chicken with broccoli and rice.

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Lighter coconut red curry shrimp

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My relationship with spicy foods has been a bit of a roller coaster. And just as I used to hate giant roller coasters with all of my being, my feelings were pretty similar towards spicy food.

Anything with chilli, jalapeno, wasabi…it was out of the question. I think there was a time when I was in New Mexico with my family and we went out to dinner to this nice authentic Mexican restaurant and I remember uncontrollably crying and sweating as I tried to eat my meal. I remember being offered quesadillas with honey to try and ease the pain though it did little against the mighty wrath of that dish. That was about the time I swore off anything spicy for a while.

However, nowadays my palate has been craving spicy foods and I don’t know what is going on. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been introduced to it in more ways and perhaps better ways. My boyfriend’s mother cooks quite a few Malaysian and Singaporean dishes which at first made me want to drink a whole gallon of milk to get me through but now I really quite enjoy. Last summer I also went out to have sushi with my family and my father mistakenly ordered one roll, I believe it was called the Volcano roll, which was basically a huge mound of wasabi with one or two tiny flecks of fish rolled in seaweed and rice. Not knowing what it was I simply popped it in my mouth and got my first wasabi head rush. It’s actually kind of cool the way it rushes through your nose and makes your head want to explode but then subsides quite quickly. It’s strangely addictive.

So now I’ve been adding more wasabi to my sushi, putting more chilli in my pho, I even made a little pilgrimage to find Sriracha sauce which isn’t commonly available here. And apparently spicy food is very good for your metabolism so that’s a win as well.

And after that whole rant about how I love spicy food, I will admit I didn’t even put all the red curry paste that is called for in this recipe since I was afraid it would be too much. What can I say, I may love spicy food now, but I’m still a bit of a chicken when it comes down to it.

Whether you make it spicy or mild this dish is actually very delicious and I highly recommend it.

Lighter coconut red curry shrimp
From Can you stay for dinner?

1 can (13.66 ounces) coconut milk

2 tablespoons Thai Kitchen® Red Curry Paste

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup fresh Thai basil, chopped roughly (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce

Your choice of vegetables, I added 1 head of broccoli, 1 cup of sugar snap peas and about half a bag of shelled edamame

Directions:

Simmer coconut milk in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in curry paste and sugar until well blended; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes.

Stir in shrimp and vegetables. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Stir in basil and fish sauce.

Serve over either brown or jasmine rice.

Serves 4

Nutrition Information Per Serving (not including rice): 295 Calories, Fat 19g, Protein 21g, Carbohydrates 10g, Cholesterol 168mg, Sodium 1095mg, Fiber 1g

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Lasagna

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Now that I am actually aware that several of my family members do read my blog, (thanks guys!), I feel like maybe I should make things a little more PG rated. Not that I’m censoring of course, my life is very PG and there isn’t a single drunk photo of my anywhere.

Except maybe Facebook.

But anyways, on to the story of this lasagna.

The first time I ate this lasagna, I had had a lot of….apple juice.

And that apple juice was making me very happy…and chatty…and giggly…and dance-y.

It was just magical apple juice all around.

And so, when I first ate this lasagna I thought it was the golden god of lasagnas. Seriously, it was a legit party in my mouth.

So, when I decided to make it again, I was a little wary. I didn’t have quite as much apple juice on hand and I thought the lasagna might taste a bit, well, different.

But gloriously, it did not.

Apple juice or no apple juice, this lasagna is the bomb.

So I suggest you make it.

Now.

This recipe comes from my dear friend Mariann Foll. All the way from Norway, thanks love.

Lasagna
Serves 4

Ingredients:
500 g minced beef
1 can chopped tomatoes
1-2 onions, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup water or milk
Salt, pepper, basil (fresh / dried)
Lasagna Sheets (about one 250g box of instant lasagna sheets will do)
250g cheddar cheese

For the White sauce:
2 tbsp butter / oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
4-5 tablespoons cheese
A little salt, pepper and dash of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

Saute the onions until soft and then add the meat. Continue to cook until the meat has mostly browned. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and water / milk. Simmer for 10 minutes, and season to taste.

Melt butter / heat oil, stir in the flour and dilute with milk while stirring rapidly. Cook on low heat while stirring. Let simmer for 5 minutes, add the cheese and season to taste.

In a casserole dish, add a layer of meat sauce, then the lasagne sheets and white sauce. Add one more layer of lasagna sheets, another layer of meat sauce and cover with cheese.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes – until the sheets are soft. Leave the lasagna for 10 minutes after baking, so it will “set up” a bit.

Served usually with a salad and garlic bread.

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