September is the month when our lives regain speed after the summer slow down. More meetings at work, more business trips, kids back to school, parents evenings, children’s activities, night school, language classes, more traffic and the list goes on.
So adjusting back to the pace can be tough. Already the weather isn’t helping us this September, as we have to get the autumn clothes out, realize the kids shoes don’t fit anymore which gives us another task to add to the list. So here are a few tips and ideas to make meal times easier.
When you do find the time to cook, pick dishes that you can easily double or triple to stock up the freezer: Roasted vegetable lasagne, chilli con carne, Shepherds pie, Bolognese sauce, chicken or meat pies, meatballs, soups etc.
Use the program function on your oven to set when it should switch on and off. If you don’t know how it works and can’t find the instruction booklet, go on the internet as all manuals are online nowadays. Coming home to the smell of food helps our mood and helps you relax. Pop in small potatoes tossed in olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and a sprig of rosemary, or set the timer for jacket potatoes (pricked with a knife as cleaning an oven after an exploded jacket potato is a real pain).
There are so many toppings for jacket potatoes to choose from or invent: Tuna and sweetcorn, oven roasted veg, (hey the oven is on anyway) with parmesan shavings, grated cheese with homemade coleslaw, a portion of Bolognese or chilli con carne from the freezer, scampi, fennel and cherry tomatoes, strips of smoked salmon, and cream cheese, with cucumber. Basically whatever takes your fancy!
Sweet potatoes also roast really well and in half the time, only 30-40 minutes. Cut open, add a dollop of natural yogurt and mango chutney or sweet chilli sauce and serve with a chicken breast with a sprinkle of chilli or curry powder. A great vegetable to go with this would be roasted cauliflower florets sprinkled with cumin seeds and a dash of olive oil, which cook in the same time as the sweet potato. They have a nuttier flavour when roasted and won’t leave that lingering smell that you get if you boil or steam cauliflower.
If you boil potatoes, boil double and use the cold potatoes the next day to make a frittata. Slice up the potatoes, add a little oil to the frying pan and heat them until going golden, add chopped peppers, frozen peas, tiny broccoli florets (or left over roasted cauliflower) and then add beaten eggs (one per person). Let cook for a minute or so and then transfer to the grill until puffed and golden on top.
The same goes for rice; cook extra and then make fried rice the next day with chopped vegetables and pieces of ham (or leftover chicken) and a splash of light soy sauce. For extra flavour, sauté onion and garlic before adding the vegetables and rice.
Pitta bread is another speedy dinner option – and yes, a healthy option too – you can get wholemeal pittas in most supermarkets now and you can fill them with hot and cold fillings. In our house we like strips of sautéed chicken or turkey and then we add sliced radishes, cucumber, carrot ribbons using the potato peeler, spinach leaves or watercress, sliced pepper and a drizzle of natural yogurt mixed with a couple of teaspoons of white wine vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and dill.
Going seasonal, you can add halved and stoned fresh plums to the roasting tray with chicken or pork chops. That way you get delicious juices and the meat stays moist.
A quick desert for 6 persons:
12 plums, halved and stoned
2 rosemary sprigs
1 non treated lemon, zest and juice
In a pan big enough to hold all the ingredients, add 30cl of water to the sugar and bring to the boil then let simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the lemon zest and juice, rosemary, plums, and simmer for five minutes.
Take off the heat, add blackberries and mix gently
Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream
Text and photos by Alison Korter-Lacki, September 2013