I have some good news this week! Yes things around here have started to return to some sort of normality because wee Finbar has been sleeping for 11 hours straight most nights.
Go the Irish Brennan sleeping genes!
Which means I’ve been getting my precious 8-hours. Even better I’ve been having time to have a relaxed dinner with my Irishman. And even a few glasses of wine.
It really is the little things.
One thing about this return to ‘normal’ life is it’s given me a chance to reflect on how I’ve managed to cope with those crazy early days of having a new baby in the house.
We’ve still been eating really well. And apart from the sushi I picked up for lunch on the way home from hospital, all our dinners have been home made.
So today I thought I’d share the strategies that have really helped. Because you don’t need to have a newborn to benefit from some help to feel ‘on top of things’ in the kitchen!
3 Strategies to Pull Meals Together Quickly
1. simple recipes
2016 is my year of ‘simplicity’ and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been thankful for that focus!
I’ve been relying heavily on my stonesoup favourite 5-ingredient recipes like my Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry or Super Yum Bacon & Cabbage. Seriously I can’t stress enough how delicious and easy your meals become once you focus on a handful of key ingredients.
So yes I’ve been all about just cooking my own creations and not using cookbooks etc.
2. cooking meals in advance
To be honest this isn’t my favourite strategy because it can make me feel a bit locked in so I don’t do this often.
But there is a place for cooking whole meals ahead of time.
Before Finbar was born I did cook up and freeze a big batch of my baked meatballs, the green version of my meatballs (recipe below) and my simple moussaka (recipe coming soon!). And on the nights I just needed to warm dinner and serve I was thankful to my ‘past’ self.
3. Prepping ingredients
As I mentioned last week, preparing ingredients ahead of time is one of my key strategies for keeping organized.
I love this approach because it makes it so quick and easy to pull together healthy meals while allowing some freedom and variety.
I also find it makes it easier to be spontaneous and cook without recipes. Plus prepped ingredients tend to have a longer shelf life so there’s less waste.
What’s not to love about that?
And you don’t have to spend hours on the weekend to make it work. I’m a huge believer in using the time you’re already in the kitchen more effectively to take the pressure off.
Green ‘Spaghetti’ & Meatballs
I’m so glad I invested in a spiralizer to make noodles out of veggies. My favourite are these green ‘spaghetti’ from zucchini which work so well with pesto. If you don’t have a spiralizer don’t worry! You can use a vegetable peeler or mandolin to make slices of zucchini more like pappardelle.
enough for 2-3
takes 30 minutes
500g (1lb) minced (ground) beef
2 teaspoons onion powder (optional)
75g (3oz) almond meal
2-3 medium zucchini
6-8 tablespoons pesto
1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Combine meat, onion powder (if using) and almond meal in a large bowl. Season with salt.
2. Scoop with a soup spoon and roll into meatballs. Place balls in a baking tray as you go.
3. Pop meatballs in the oven and set your timer for 15 minutes.
4. While the balls are cooking make spaghetti from your zucchini using a spiralizer. Or shave into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or mandolin.
5. When the timer goes turn the meatballs and top with the zucchini. Return to the oven for another 2-5 minutes to warm the zucchini.
6. Remove from the oven and serve with pesto on top.
vegetarian – use these lentil balls.
dairy-free – use dairy-free pesto.
to make pesto – whizz a large bunch basil in a food processor with 2 handfuls grated Parmesan, a handful pine nuts, a clove of garlic and enough extra virgin olive oil to make a chunky paste.
carb-lovers – toss in cooked spaghetti or serve with garlic bread.
no onion powder – just skip it or replace with a chopped onion softened in a little oil.
nut-free – replace almond meal with soft bread crumbs. Or just skip it.
See also: 16 Tasty Ideas for Zucchini.