Are you doing anything to save time?

‘Cos ‘what are you doing to save time’ sounded too abrasive: like I assume everyone else is–and if you’re not, right? That would be a nice thing if you’re happy with your time and productivity!

I’m big into it with a FT job that has typically gone into overtime all month long, plus two toddlers, a wonderful husband, and the desire to have a little life of my own.

So on the OAMC front, our recent dinners this week were huge hits. with the addition of bouillon were a huge hit, as usual.

The new recipes: chana masala, alas, did not work out. It smelled terrific before the chickpeas went in. The UHT package of chopped tomatoes in sauce I used was organic but it didn’t taste good once I tried it. So it may not have been the fault of the recipe. But the was an off-the-charts hit with the family. We didn’t even have lowfat yogurt or fresh coriander when I made it and they still loved it. I used lowfat milk with 2TB of single cream to replace the thick yogurt consistency, and let it boil down. Personally I like dthe TVP tacos more and the korma less, I’m not such a fan of egg-based Quorn nor of a milk-based sauce but the important thing is everyone ate and liked it overall. Suffice to say that neither the tacos or korma had the leftovers I had counted on to freeze for work next week. So I made another recipe of TVP tacos today. But I made a single recipe and then realized I could have doubled it. There goes time-saving! Oh well.

Here in Belgium I finally heard about kettlebells, which seem to be a big thing in the US. Since January I’ve got more and more into them and they are indeed very time-saving because my strength work and high-intensity cardio are done at once. It did the trick and I’m losing weight after months and months of plateau. I am a bike commuter as well which keeps off some extra pounds but for safety reasons I never ride killer fast since there’s traffic, and furthermore I don’t want to arrive to work sweating. Taking a shower at work is not a time saver. But combining the time I’d need to commute and work out with cardio together it’s a shorter part of my week to go by bike in the city than to commute by car.

Now that I have some basics of kettlebell form in mind thanks to a colleague who is a KB instructor (talk about sheer luck!), some DVDs, and reading Pavel’s ebook ‘Enter the Kettlebell’, I tackled this check out the video below, but the link is handy because she lists the exercises. Very cool. I have some DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness) today. Happy! Goodbye long weight sessions, hello fifteen minute workouts that have actually given me results.

Do you have any time saving ideas to share?


Weeknight vegetarian crockpot or freezer meals

Hi everyone, I just finished my last day of work today and am preparing for my new job which starts March 1. What better way to start a new job than to have easy dinners on the table all week?

Quorn light korma

For my crew that means using meat analogue veg dishes to entice them to eat. Most of the recipes on the Quorn UK site are freezer-to-slow-cooker friendly, such as this light Indian korma recipe. I’ve seen people advise preparing the entire recipe into a Ziploc freezer bag, shaking to mix, then freezing it flat. However my freezer is still a bit overloaded so instead I will keep the tomato passata UHT boxes on the cupboard shelf *but* will label them so they will not be pinched for another recipe before I cook the korma. Same thing for keeping the lowfat yogurt (I’ll use fromage frais which we have on hand) in the fridge. It’s still a “throw and go” slow cooker recipe, donc Γ§a marche πŸ™‚

March also has St Patrick’s Day on the 17th, so we will have a green dinner that night. Do you have special St Paddy’s day plans? Check out the for breakfast. I made this several times with tofu instead of soy milk: higher protein and less sugar-y taste. It’s a perfect way to start the day.

Ideas for March work nights so far:
Friday 1 March (first day!): , brown rice and salad

Monday 4 March: 10 Minute TVP Tacos plus taco fixin’s for a taco bar dinner this is not a slow cooker night. Perfect for Monday since I will prepare all of the veg on Sunday.

Tuesday 5 March: here it advises precooking the asparagus etc. but I will just put the raw ingredients in the slow cooker–and BTW plan to use trimmed broccoli stalks in place of €€€ asparagus + brown rice

Wednesday 6 March: = chick peas in a tomato-based curry sauce–nice easy recipe! For sure I am not going to freeze a bunch of dried beans though, that’s another ingredient to add in the morning. Call me crazy but I like soaking beans and will soak these Tuesday night to drain, rinse, and put the soaked beans in the slow cooker Wednesday morning. More of that brown rice unless the natives rebel πŸ˜‰
Thursday 7 March: not a slow cooker night again, two minutes in the microwave and it’s done!

Friday 8 March: although I might Americanize it and use mozzerella cheese which is also cheaper here than cheddar. This is not a slow cooker recipe, it’s for my little freezer tins that can be placed in the oven. I love Friday night lasagne! It says “weekend”.

What are your meal plans?

Freezer cooking

I dig this way of cooking. You’re free to cook whatever you want, as long as it saves well. No pressure to create a coherent meal, just cook based on what time and ingredients you have on hand. For example yesterday I made banana mini-pancake muffins and banana oatmeal Omega-3 bars. I put o slice of bar and a muffin in a small freezer bag and chilled overnight, they are in the freezer now to take out one at a time on work days. Presto, a bunch of overripe bananas put to good use.

What are you oooking? Any favoourite recipes?

Merry Christmas 2012!

Back! πŸ™‚

Both of my toddlers have the chicken pox so our pictures this year are spotty. DS has had 2 days straight of 40C fever, and then the spots showed up for Christmas morning. His ‘big’ sister had no fever two weeks ago, just spots. It took the whole 14 days to incubate in DS.

I celebrated Christmas by trying out the shampoo-free (aka ‘no poo’) method which was surprising! My hair is perfectly clean today, and silky to boot. This was my first time so I used a bit more than a tablespoon of baking soda with a little water to massage into the scalp, rinsed, then applied 1/2 of an 8oz spray bottle filled with water + 1T of apple cider vinegar and rinsed that off too. Some no poo users say they use 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water but my scalp isn’t ready for that. This would be great if it does what users say it does: you can wash your hair less. Less styling time! Yes! Less heat damage, and much cheaper hair products too.

Am also dabbling in once a month cooking (OAMC), which should be more accurately called once a week (OAWC) or freezer cooking in my case since I still cook most days, but I do it now in bulk and I cook whenever I have time rather than counting down before a mealtime. Tips on cooking once a month

Hitch 1: I still miss more freshly cooked foods
Hitch 2: I really miss East Asian cuisine, which in general is cooked and served immediately

My LO is crying, poor little guy.

New recipe

Miso soup is very easy, perfect for a (pregnant) mother of a toddler! Boil water ‘lightly’ so it’s steaming but not bubbling hot, which would kill the live friendly bacteria in the miso. Put some miso in a bowl, and here my lazy way is to add a splash of the hot water to blend the mixture with the back of a spoon till smooth. Then add the rest of the water till it’s the taste and concentration you like. Traditional miso is made with water boiled with flaked bonito fish and/or kombu sea(weed/vegetable), which give it a lovely depth of flavour but are too much effort with my baby tugging at my trouser leg.
I was happy because this involved 1) cracking open a cookbook and trying a new recipe–this one called for udon noodles, which I’ve never had in miso soup; and 2) opening a package of organic whole wheat udon noodles which had been in Deep Storage for an undetermined period. Needless to say, they were in real risk of never being used. Ha!

From Dol Sot Bibimbap Tutorial

Chic Vegetarian Cuisine’s mushroom kinpira
inspired this recipe too. I boiled the noodles seperately, rinsed off excess starch, then prepared the veg Γ  la kinpira, finally adding the veg and noodles to the miso. Good stuff.

Vegan month of food #1: pumpkin porridge + roasted pumpkin seeds

Just for inspiration, I signed up for the Vegan Month of food (Vegan ‘MoFo’) event this month. The official guidelines suggest food blogging every weekday, but that is much too ambitious for a full-time working mother of a baby like I am. Que sera, sera!

First up: Aeri’s Kitchen Hobak juk / pumpkin porridge with rice balls, her Halloween special recipe. Don’t those rice balls lend themselves perfectly to becoming spooky floating eyeballs? The dish was meant to be made yesterday, but Madeline is sick so she kept us busy. Nevertheless, it’s just in time to start out Vegan Month of Food.

It would be even faster to microwave pumpkin quarters, but I baked a pumpkin cut in fours (not halves like Aeri did) with pumpkin seeds on the lower cookie sheet level. No aluminum foil, but a generous drizzle of olive oil over the cut pieces and, of course, over the seeds (plus salt sprinkled on the seeds). I’m cooking Maangchi’s soybean side dish / Kongjang using black soybeans and the slow cooker with just a little bit of water, to transfer later to a saucepan on the stove with the rest of the ingredients. Slower cooking methods are perfect for distracted parents. Speaking of that, Madeline got into something!

Vegan month of food logo

Back to school

I’m so excited! I start work again on my birthday, Monday 13 September. I’m a teacher, so it’s back to school πŸ™‚ I put a countdown timer on my browser homepage. Were any of us excited to go back to school as kids? My parents were certainly ecstatic for back-to-school, but was I?

I long for a new tartan plaid skirt, pencil box, and a new lunch box! But now that I’m a grown-up that’ll mean a bias-cut plaid or a wrap & kilt-pin style instead of pleats. Unfortunately I only have a red-black-yellow classic tartan that is not in my colours at all. Nothing I wear with it will flatter me, and let’s wait for a paycheck before buying more fabric! If it were in DD’s palette I’d make her a pinafore, but she’s ‘warm’ like her parents are. Food storage in a Lock & Lock box, make that lunch and dinner boxes since Tuesdays and Thursdays I finish at 8pm. I’ve been making meals for the last month inspired by for practice. Pencil box? Hmm. I don’t know. We can skip that since I’m slowly putting together a new sewing desk, starting with a side drawer set to keep curious little hands away from sharps and strings. I *love* my new desk πŸ™‚

Oh, and my bike is back in working order! Back to bike commuting! That’s a thrill. I had to buy a new bike seat and stem because mine were stolen from our building’s underground bike parking area, access limited to keyholders (rolleyes)–probably people who moved out.

The rest of the afternoons this week I’ll be accustoming my daughter to the communal crΓ¨che (daycare), which is ten minutes’ walk from home.

DH updated our skate video to add some music… here’s the new version. THIS is the new exercise equipment, a Chariot child carrier, I promised myself after completing my workout challenge.

Internet cooking

I’ve been cooking up a storm lately thanks to internet recipes, such as shiitake mushroom kinpira (mmmmm) and Korean spinach salad (Recipes–>Vegetables–>Spinach salad) this morning. My crock pot is currently cooking Japanese sweet stewed navy beans. Lunch? Korean tofu and Korean soymilk noodle soup. I hardly ever refer to my cookbooks anymore. What about you?

Homemade kimchi

You might not know this, but I’m a ‘kitchen Korean’: I just eat Korean food, minus some Scottish oats in the morning. I just made up that expression but it’s succinct, isn’t it?

Korean cuisine is all the more delicious because thanks to it, and in no small part the breastfeeding efforts of my little 6 month-old, I’m back to wearing my size 38 RTW trousers πŸ™‚ I thought it would take months longer (9 months up, 9 months down) . Phew!

My first batch of napa cabbage kimchi turned out okay, but it needs work. Maangchi’s pictorial and YouTube recipe I took liberties with the recipe: cutting the cabbage to actually make Mak Kimchi (cut kimchi), stirring in the radish cubes since I made a half recipe for this first foray, and using 2 grated carrots instead of julienned radish because that’s what I had in the kitchen. The big problem though, in my opinion, is substituting soy sauce for fish saice to make it vegetarian. The sauce looks like ketchup colour instead of a proper bright red kimchi. Back to the cutting board when this batch is finished (2 litres or so from now!)

and I made Maangchi’s kimchi jeon for lunch, and it was respectable! My flipping skills need work though. It’s probably the consistency of the batter since I eyeballed the measurements–Madeline was interrupting constantly and I had to improvise. The jeon pancake was the shade of raw steak blood from the soy sauce experiment.

Any ideas on vegetarian substitutions for fish sauce in kimchi?