Bucket cooking…and BC lamb shanks

One of the ways that I love to cook most is making it up as you go along. I rarely follow recipes closely because it is so fun to play with flavours and build a dish that is a little bit different. That is what bucket cooking is all about, taking a key ingredient or style, flavour, or method of cooking and building from there to make a meal for someone you love. It’s all about the satisfaction of feeding people delicious and comforting food, eating together and enjoying company. Why do you cook? Is it for sustenance, or to create, to socialise or maybe just out of necessity?

My favourite time of year is winter, I love being warm and cosy, wearing winter layers and rugging up with blankets. The sensation of comfort is something I crave, family and loved ones, and this falls into my go-to cooking style as well. Even in summer, I love to slow-cook, do one-pot dishes and indulge the comfort foods. This is why I love cooking the tougher cuts of meat until they fall apart and are melt in the mouth tender.

The lamb shanks in this recipe were pure bucket cooking, making use of what was in the kitchen to create some yumminess. The recipe below is written in this context, I would love to hear about your variations and flavour combinations and also how you love to cook and for whom. I hope that you enjoy them!!

BC Lamb Shanks

BClambshanks

Ingredients

  • lamb shanks (I just did 2 in this recipe)
  • small onion diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • dry white wine (approx. 1/2 cup)
  • 400 g can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 2 large mushrooms, sliced
  • approx. 1/2 cup chopped cauliflower
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • I would have added homemade stock paste as well but didn’t have any so used an organic vegetable salt to give some extra flavour oomph.

Preheat oven to 160oC. Heat oil over med-high heat and brown the lamb shanks, add onion and garlic and saute until soft and lightly browned. Remove lamb shanks to a bowl and deglaze the pan over high heat with the wine, add tomatoes, herbs and salt and pepper and heat through. In a baking dish, surround the lamb shanks with the carrot, celery, cauliflower and mushrooms, cover with the wine/tomato mixture, cover with lid or aluminium foil, and bake for 4 hours or so.

Serve the lamb shanks with the veg – you could also serve with polenta or mashed potato if you wanted a starchy veg with it.

To market, to market … and Marinated Barrumundi with Warm Quinoa Salad

Happy New Year! We are home again after two weeks away with family over the Christmas and New Year period. Oh my – there was some consumption! Mostly I found it pretty easy to avoid the sweet treats it was interesting that I didn’t really enjoy the ones that I did indulge in. New Years was in Sydney with my sister and brother-in-law and we had so much fun cooking together – hors d’oeuvres and finger food for the NYE party and a six course seafood degustation for 8. I’ll share some of that with you when I sort out the pics – mostly from recipe books and things but some of the dishes were just delicious so I’ll give you all the links as well as the things we changed.

After all that (and the alcohol that went with it all!) we were so looking forward getting home to some clean eating again. This morning we headed off early to the local farmers market to stock up on fresh fruit and veg. I love the feeling of unpacking the spoils of a market visit – we never managed to make it to the markets before we had Miss M, sleep being a bit of a priority. Now we are up early anyway and frankly pretty ready to get out of the house and entertain the toddler which makes the market trip doubly enjoyable.

marketveg1

To make the most of the fresh coriander (which doesn’t keep well even in water in the summer heat), we had marinated fish and a beautiful zingy fresh quinoa salad for dinner. I know you aren’t meant to sing your own praises, but it was delicious – I really hope you enjoy it. I was heavy handed with the spices and herbs and of course didn’t measure it out precisely but I have put in the quantities below – just add more or less depending on your tastes.

Marinated Barramundi with Warm Quinoa Salad

marinatedfishquinoa

Fish Marinade

  • 1/3 cup coconut Aminos (you can use soy or tamari if you don’t have amino)
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (add to taste)
  • 2 large garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 pieces of fresh white fish

Mix all ingredients together until the honey dissolves, taste and adjust the flavour to suit your preferences. Cover your fish pieces with the marinade and refrigerate for up to two hours. This made enough to marinate two pieces of Barramundi. You can use this marinade for any meat really – it is fresh and takes on the flavours of the meat as well.

Preheat oven to 180oC. Place a piece of fish in the centre of a large square of aluminium foil and crimp up the edges to create a pocket. spoon some of the marinade over the fish and fold over the edges of the pocket to seal. Bake the fish for 20 mins or until just cooked through. While the fish is in the oven, prepare the quinoa.

Quinoa Salad

  • 2/3 cup quinoa (I used tri-colour)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
  • 1 cm piece of grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • zest and juice of a lime
  • 2/3 cup of sliced grape tomatoes

Cook the quinoa in water over a medium-high heat for 10-15 mins or until the water has been absorbed, you can add some of the leftover marinade to the cooking water too if you like. Add herbs, spices, lime zest and tomatoes and juice of half the lime. Season and taste, adding more lime juice until you are happy with the flavour.

When the fish is ready, plate up and spoon a little of the cooking juices over it.

Enjoy!

Feeling festive…with Christmas slow cooked beef cheeks

So the end of the year is upon us once again! I always feel reflective at this time of year, amidst the chaos of preparing for Christmas and visiting family and this year the stress of finishing up projects at work ahead of the holidays. Are you a resolutions person? I was once but never seem to stick to them so I’ve not gone down that road for a long time. I do set goals though so its a good time to take stock of what we have achieved over the last year…are we still in the same spot or have we moved on from where we were a year ago – personally, financially, in health and wellness?

I was at a seminar last week and the speaker challenged us – we can only achieve any goal we set for ourselves if we are prepared to make changes towards achieving it today. I love the direct challenge of that statement, it’s true don’t you think? Forming habits only works if we start the action that we are wanting to make into a habit.

What are your goals for next year? Do you have something Big, Hairy and Audacious (BHAG – I always thought that was a terrible term though…) or are you working on incremental change? Can I let you in on a secret? All changes, no matter whether the goal is huge or small, if they are to stick, they must be a series of small, incremental changes. Ones that you can commit to without serious sacrifice, but can work into the hectic schedule that most of us are managing and can find the motivation and determination to stick to them. Now I know that there are some people out there who are amazingly disciplined and only respond to massive goals that require significant sacrifice to achieve them. But I think that what is incremental for each person is different. I also think that more often than not the massive, boots in, changes are not things that stick in terms of lifestyle in the long term.

So I’m not going to make this a post telling you all of the amazing things that we are going to achieve next year – I might let you in on some of them over the next little while as I figure out what life is going to be like for us. For me. In the meantime here is a perfectly festive recipe that I whipped up last week. It was crazy hot in Brisbane but we cranked up the aircon and served it with a cheeky glass of red wine. Merry Christmas!!

Christmas slow cooked beef cheeks with roast vegetables and quinoa

Ingredients (I made this for two people with leftovers but just increase the quantities if you want to do more)

  • 2 beef cheeks
  • 1 small onion (diced)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • Olive oil/coconut oil/ghee
  • 1 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup good red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon)
  • OPTIONAL: if you are cooking in the oven, add in 3/4 cup water
  • Good stock concentrate (I make my own in the thermomix but you could also use a preservative free stock cube or paste)
  • 1/2 nutmeg (grated)
  • 1 cinnamon quill (use powdered if you don’t have whole)
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 1 star anise (use a tsp of allspice if you don’t have this)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 carrot (finely diced)
  • 1/4 head of broccoli (finely diced)
  • 1 large mushroom (finely diced)

For roast vegetables:

  • peel and chop your choice of veg for roasting (I used potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, broccoli, baby beets and carrot)
  • olive oil/coconut oil/melted ghee
  • 1-2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 tsp ground coriander

Serve with quinoa

BeefCheekIngredients

If cooking in the oven, preheat the oven to 170oC. Heat your oil/ghee (I used ghee for this) in a fry pan over a high heat and brown the beef cheeks all over and remove to the side. In the pan, add the onion and garlic, reduce heat to medium and sauté until translucent. Deglaze the pan with the sherry and red wine.

Remove mixture to either your casserole dish, or slow cooker, add in the beef, spices, stock and vegetables. If you are cooking in the oven, also add the extra water. Mix to combine and cook for 4 hours.

For the roast vegetables, peel, chop and combine in the baking tray with spices and oil of choice. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven (180oC if you are using the slow cooker, otherwise, just with the meat) for the last hour of cooking – or as long as it takes your oven to brown them nicely. Mine takes a little longer so I cooked the veg for 1.5 hours.

Cook the quinoa using your favourite method (I soak mine equal parts quinoa and water for 15 mins and then bring to the boil and simmer about 10 mins or until the quinoa has absorbed the water).

BeefCheeksChristmas

Serve the beef cheeks with the quinoa and vegetables and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. These puppies aren’t just to make it pretty – the little bursts of pomegranate zing make the dish! 🙂 You could use thin slices of orange flesh without pith, skin or seeds to similar effect. You could also turn the veg into a yummy salad to lighten the meal – and of course the alternatives to the quinoa are endless depending on your preference but I really enjoyed the nutty texture that they added.

BeefCheekChristmasPomegranate

Enjoy!!

Smoothie it up…and my green smoothie recipe

We all ‘know’ that leafy green vegetables are good for us don’t we? Full of vitamins, minerals, iron, calcium and fibre – they are nutritious, if not always delicious. I admit I do find it hard to fit the minimum serves of veg and fruit into my diet so I’m constantly behind on where I should be nutritionally speaking. Recently though, as I have explored whole foods a bit more, I have been looking for ways to increase the amount of fresh veg and fruit and so decided to try out the green smoothie thing. I also did not realise how much more nutritionally available the greens were in their liquified form – particularly for those of us (most of us) who have digestive systems struggling to cope with all that we throw at it.

Actually for those that are looking to explore how to be more holistic in how you approach your food a great resource is the new Lorna Jane cookbook – “Nourish”. I found that her philosophies adopted many of the beliefs that I agree with around healthy eating and the book is well structured to help me figure out how I might structure my nutritional day. Also her recipes are mostly yum…of course if I followed the recipe properly then they might be better…but there’s a reason I called this blog “bucket cook”.

I started a few weeks ago, with a higher fruit load (banana, pear and green apple or grapes) in my smoothie and gradually have reduced the amount of fruit so that I am controlling how much sugar I have in a day. I try for mostly complex carbs in my diet so that I can keep my blood glucose a bit more level. With PCOS, I’m a bit insulin resistant so these kinds of things do make a difference I find. So far so good – the dramatic increase in fibre in my diet had a predictable result (ahem), and actually I am still struggling a bit to help my digestive system cope with that – I’m thinking a probiotic might be in order. Otherwise though, it is a great way to not get hungry mid-morning and to sustain me if lunch is a bit late coming due to meetings etc. It is also a great way to get a few ‘superfoods’ in without really being aware that I’m doing it.

The organisation side of things has been hard to manage,  what I try to do is put together my smoothie ingredients in a bowl the night before so that in the morning all I have to do is throw them in the Thermie with some coconut water – often done while I am feeding Miss M her breakfast or making her lunch. Then I take it to work in a shaker. Its hard to know how it is affecting me energy wise – I’m finding at the end of a busy year it’s day by day but then I also haven’t gotten sick and I am able to focus better at work so there must be something there.

Anywho – my verdict is definitely give it a go. Start gently and ease in for your digestive system to get used to it, ramp up the fruit to get used to the flavours and also be very gradual about adding in the little extras (like spirulina, bee pollen, maca powder etc) if you’ve never had them before and obviously don’t use them if you have any allergies. I’ll be keeping up the habit – one day I might even be able to get hubby and Miss M to try it.

GreenSmoothieIngredients

My green smoothie recipe

Ingredients:

  • About a cup of greens (english spinach, baby spinach)
  • A couple of leaves of green kale
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 a small avocado
  • 1 small green apple
  • 1 cup coconut water (use fresh if you’ve got a drinking coconut)

Extras (optional):

  • 1 tsp maca powder
  • 1 tsp bee pollen
  • 1 tsp spirulina
  • heaped scoop protein powder

Throw everything into a high speed blender, vitamix or thermomix (I use a thermie) and process on high speed for 30 – 60 seconds or until smooth and creamy. Pour into jug/glass/shaker and refrigerate until ready to consume. Yum!

Refresh your morning…and Moroccan Chicken Quinoa Bake

Have you heard about the amazing wonder health benefits of drinking lemon water first thing in the morning? I mean really, when you do some googling you will be astounded at how this simple drink will completely transform your total well being… skeptical yet??

Me too – you’ll probably get a sense of my natural inclination to doubt everything when I first hear about it…actually cutting your nose off to spite your face may well be an apt description of my general approach to things. But I’m willing to give just about anything a go so I’ve done a little research. I’m also a devout cup of strong tea first thing kind of gal so making a change has to have some punch behind it!

Fact – Lemons are a rich source of vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and fibre (in the form of pectin).

Fact – Drinking water first thing in the morning helps to improve hydration and get digestion moving.

Fact – Drinking caffeine as your morning pick-me-up doesn’t offer significant health benefits.

What may be overstated a little is the absolute health benefits with the ingestion of such a relatively small amount of lemon, most of the stated benefits seem to be an extrapolation of the benefits of having those vitamins, minerals and fibre in your diet. So I decided to do a little experiment and give it a try myself.

Interestingly I have found that starting the day with a warm cup of water with half a lemon in it (I squeeze in the juice and then drop the lemon in if its a small one) does seem to help give me a clear head, easier to get started and has the same effect as a cup of tea in terms of energy. It’s enough that I will keep doing it…I’m interested to hear what your take is!

Actually I love lemon in all it’s forms, so in the interest of adding some more yumminess to your repertoire I have included my favourite bake recipe below.

Moroccan Chicken Quinoa Bake

ChickenQuinoaBakeIngredients

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mixed quinoa
  • 1 brown onion (diced)
  • Peel of one lemon (quarter the peeled lemon – you will use this too)
  • 1/2 cup pitted sliced dates
  • 1/4 cup toasted pinenuts
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup green olives (pitted)
  • 6 pieces of chicken maryland (or your cut of choice)
  • olive oil/coconut oil or ghee
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin

Preheat oven to 180C. In large baking dish combine quinoa, onion, lemon peel, dates, pinenuts, wine, stock and olives and mix to combine. Wash and pat dry the chicken, lightly rub with oil or ghee and season with spices, salt and pepper. Place chicken on top of the mixture in the baking dish and bake for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and quinoa has absorbed all the liquid.

ChickenQuinoaBakeCooked

Serve with a fresh salad like this pear and rocket salad. Lightly swirl good quality balsamic and olive oil in a shallow salad bowl, combine rocket, sliced green pear and shaved parmesan in the bowl. Right before serving, toss the salad ingredients to lightly dress. You can top with fresh or candied walnuts if you light a little extra pizzazz!

PearRocketSalad

Stuffed mushrooms and a bit of why…

Anyone else fight the constant battle between ‘being healthy’ and can’t be bothered? That’s me, I have always wanted to be one of those people who has all the healthy habits and can inspire others to be healthy too… unfortunately I am a bit lacksadaisical about the whole thing (read…lazy…but this is such a romantic way of describing it don’t you think?).

So that’s what this whole blog is about really, a bit about my journey as I figure out what’s what and how to create some healthy habits for both me and my family. Hopefully there will be some useful tid bits in here for you, one or two things that might answer a question and maybe for some if I can inspire you to make one or two changes or help you figure out what works for you then awesome! It makes me so mad how much mis-information is out there, the internet is an amazing thing, but anyone can write anything and pass it off as fact and it is there for ever.

Yesterday was a huge day, we took Miss M to a theme park on the Gold Coast for hubby’s Christmas party and she had such an amazing time! We took home a passed out toddler and mum and dad weren’t much better so last night the goal was quick easy and light for tea after she went to bed. The result was delicious stuffed mushrooms with minimal effort. These would work well as a starter, light meal or as a side for a bigger meal.

stuffedmushroomsStuffed mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 2 large cap mushrooms
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 1/2 red capsicum
  • 1/2 small brown onion
  • 3 rashers bacon
  • 1 large free range egg
  • Goat fetta
  • Shaved parmesan
  • Olive oil/coconut oil or ghee

Preheat the oven to 180C, line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper and lightly oil the top and bottom of both (washed) mushrooms. Place underside up on the tray.

Dice zucchini, capsicum, onion and bacon, heat a little oil/ghee in a fry pan over medium heat and lightly sauté until softened and slightly golden.

In a bowl, mix the sautéed vegetables and the egg. Spoon half the mixture evenly into the two mushrooms, crumble goats fetta over the mixture and top with remaining vegetables. Top with shaved parmesan.

Bake for 30 mins or until golden and the mushrooms are softened. Serve with a sprinkling of fresh herbs, some lime zest or enjoy as is!

You could make this dish dairy free by omitting the cheeses, you could top with almond meal or breadcrumbs for a crunchy top.

 

Well hi there…

Just another mother getting her blog on? Probably, I’m a 30-something (emphasis on the something…) mum to one. Miss M is 16 months and I work part-time as a Director in a consulting firm. I have a pretty amazing hubby who puts up with all my idiosyncracies…

So what is bucket cook? I love cooking, I always have – but I’m not amazing at following recipes closely, especially since I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease 10 years ago and started playing around with converting them. I’ve always called myself a bit of a ‘bucket cook’ – it mostly works out ok.

I started playing around with a bunch of variations of whole food eating and other things a year or so ago, it’s been pretty interesting learning and figuring out what that means for us. So, this is a blog about lots of different things, our journey into whole food – maybe a bit about the craziness of life and pretty much anything else that takes my fancy.

I hope you find something here for you too!

Nic.