Monthly Archives: September 2012

Donna Hay’s Spiced Chicken & Chorizo Couscous

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Thankfulness and relief fill my heart whenever I stumble over a recipe like this one. Donna Hay’s Spiced Chicken & Chorizo Couscous from No Time to Cook proved to be delightfully fast to make in just one pan, flavoursome and inexpensive to make. My kids ate stacks of it, asking for more long past their usual limit and it was so simply done that I was able to talk on the phone at length while making it, which happens so rarely in my household in this stage of life. A few comments about Chorizo: I’ve noticed they regularly come on special for half price at the deli at my local Woolworth’s about once every two months, so I tend to buy up then and freeze them in small quantities for meals like these. Even so, this tasty crowd pleasing dinner, which serves 6-8 costs no more than $14 to make.

  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 x chicken breasts (400g total)
  • 2 x Chorizo sausages, sliced thinly into half moon shapes
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 (500g) cups instant couscous (generic brands are fine)
  • 2 (500ml) cups chicken stock (I used powdered, reconstituted with water)
  • 1 cup (250ml) water
  • 100g fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives (optional – leave out to reduce cost if necessary. I’ve done this before and it’s still very yummy)
  1. Place onion, chicken, chorizo, chilli and garlic into a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and cook for 5-6 minutes or until chicken is browned.
  2. Add couscous, stock and water to the pan, cover and simmer over low heat for 2 minutes or until couscous is tender. Stir spinach and olives through couscous mixture and serve immediately.

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

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The other night I was in need of a quick dinner option that would use what I already had in the fridge/cupboard and save a trip to the shops. Taste.com.au came up with this answer and having never before made Carbonara properly, that is, traditionally – I decided to give it a go. The whole family chowed down on this dinner and asked for more. This yummy ‘sometimes’ dinner would be an easy end to a day gone wrong or a simple, achievable meal for a large group. Total cost $3 and serves 6+. Enjoy!

  • 500g spaghetti
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, bruised
  • 150g piece pancetta or bacon, rind removed, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 40g (1/2 cup) grated parmesan, plus extra, to serve

1. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain, reserving 125ml (1/2 cup) cooking water.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and pancetta, and cook, stirring, for 6 minutes or until both are light golden. Discard garlic and remove pan from heat.

3. Whisk eggs, parmesan and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper in a bowl (don’t add salt as cooking water and pancetta are salty). Add reserved hot cooking water and whisk until well combined.

4. Return frying pan to medium heat. Working quickly, add hot pasta and toss for 2 minutes or until well coated with oil and pancetta. Remove pan from heat, add egg mixture, then toss for 1 minute or until egg mixture is creamy and warmed through (the heat from the pasta and pan will cook and slightly thicken the egg mixture without scrambling it).

5. Divide carbonara among plates and scatter with extra parmesan. Serve immediately.

The How of Hospitality

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From The Christian Pundit

http://thechristianpundit.org/2012/08/01/the-how-of-hospitality/

A couple days ago a young wife and mother asked me about hospitality. She grew up in a home where there were very few guests, so she never had patterns of hospitality passed along to her. Convicted that Scripture commands this of Christians (Rom. 12:13; I Peter 4:9), she was wondering how to make it work, especially with children in the home. Here are ten tips, mostly from my mother, that I came up with:

First, think about whom to invite. We need to practice hospitality the same way that our pastors preach the gospel – promiscuously. Preachers are taught to think about the different categories in their congregation so that they can preach to all sorts and conditions of men. We need to do the same when we think of who to have into our homes; singles, families, widows, rich, poor, educated, ignorant, every age and every race – everyone should be welcome.

Second, show hospitality regularly. You have to plan for it and book time off. Creating regular times to have people in your home not only helps you plan, but also makes hospitality part of your regular routine. Once something is part of the routine, once something has a time slot, it becomes habit, and the more often you do it, the less time it will take. It is better to do it more often, if you can swing it, than less often. You cannot be “given to hospitality” if you only have someone over every month or so. Hospitality needs to be part of your lifestyle, not an special occasion.

Third, do it at a time that works for your family: make visits suit your schedule. Think about the regular free time your family already has – the times where you go for a walk together or have a bbq, and use some of these times to practice hospitality. They are already set off from work, school and church activities, so the time is already there, all you have to do is add a few extra people and a bigger salad. This does not mean that every time you have an evening off you must invite people over, but it does mean that time off is the perfect opportunity for obeying God’s hospitality command. There are certain seasons of life (pregnancy, moving, sickness, etc.) that can limit hospitality for a time, and that is not neglecting the Lord’s command, it is being wise. But most of the time, we need to make hospitality part of the normal routine.

Fourth, make a list. lists keep you from running around, trying to remember what to do next. Two lists, one of things to do, the other with the menu, keep me on track. You can even make a “master list” for showing hospitality, with all the things you do before people come written up on it, so that it is already there every time you practice hospitality. Five minutes of planning and listing can save a couple hours of scrambled activity.

Fifth, manage your house. If your house is organized, regularly cleaned and tidied, then extending hospitality to people will not take days of scrubbing, and digging lego out from between the couch cushions. A ready home means that showing hospitality will only take a quick run with the vacuum cleaner and a good wipe in the bathroom before people arrive. Things do not have to be perfect; but they do need to be tolerably clean and picked-up. I read on a blog the other day a quote from a woman who said, “If you are coming to see me, come right over. If you are coming to see my house, you’ll need to make an appointment.” Regularly manage your home, and don’t worry about perfection. Your goal is to make your guests comfortable so you can minister to them. Manage your home so that it is a tool, not an obstacle or an idol.

Sixth, plan an easy meal. Spending hours creating an elaborate meal will mean less time with your family before the guests arrive and less time for your guests when they do arrive. Simple meals make hosting people easier and faster. And, unless you enjoy boning a duck, simple meals make it less stressful, too. Pick dishes that you can make the day before and pull out of the fridge an hour before folks show up. Put most of your energy into the visit, not the meal.

Seventh, spread the preparation out over a couple days. Do things when you have a spare ten minutes, then check it off your list. Eat the proverbial elephant one bite at a time. Be creative, and enlist the whole family. If you have more than one bathroom, tidy the one the guests will use in the morning after your shower, and declare it off limits to your family from then on. I try to set the dining room table for dinner while my kids eat breakfast in the kitchen. Get your kids to dust in the afternoon, or ask your husband sweep the kitchen while you change your clothes just before people get there. Those of you with older kids can maximize your manpower to whip things into shape.

Eight, be creative. There are many creative ways to practice hospitality – it does not always have to be another family over for dinner. You can prepare a meal for a shut-in or widow, bring it over to their home, share it with them, and do all the clean up. This allows you to fellowship with them and minister to them in their home in a special way. You can co-host a large gathering with another family in the church. That way, you can host a large number of people while sharing the food preparation. You can host people outside of your home. We sometimes take “guests” with little kids to the zoo. We bring snacks and juice boxes for everyone, and the kids can run around without being in danger. There are all sorts of ways to practice hospitality. Just make sure that your home and heart are open to whoever needs them.

Ninth, find a woman in your local congregation that is a good hostess and ask her how she does it. Watch her in action. Take mental notes on how she organized food, how she keeps up conversation, how she cares for each guests’ needs. Ask her if there are any resources, either on cooking, organizing, or conversation, etc., that she learned from. Talk about how a recent hosting experience went for you so she can help you evaluate what happened and why – good and bad. Older women are amazing sources for those of us who are figuring out how to obey in this area.

Tenth, just do it. Practicing hospitality is the best way to learn how to do it well. As you discover what works best for your family, how your routine changes to fit food prep, etc., you will get better and better at it. The apostle tells us to “practice hospitality” because that’s what all of us need – practice. Nobody is born a perfect hostess. We all have to learn. Consistent obedience is the best way to become skilled in opening your home and ministering to others.

Mango Chicken Curry

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My wonderful mother-in-law gave me this recipe years and years ago. Every now and then my husband says “We haven’t had that mango curry in a while” and I’m always surprised I don’t think to make it more often. This not-at-all hot curry gets devoured quickly, is easy-peasy to make and so affordable. It’s a great option for hospitality because you can do all the preparation in advance, long before people arrive, and simply leave the stir-frying until you’re about to eat – cause there’s no more than 10 minutes cooking time for this dish. Ensure rice on the go in a rice cooker while people arrive and you really won’t have much to do in the kitchen when things are getting underway. The quantities listed below serves 6 and is easily doubled when cooked in a wok for a larger group. This flavoursome dinner costs around $10.

  • 2 large chicken breast fillets, thinly sliced
  • 1x440g can mango cheeks, thinly sliced (home brand is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 6 spring onions, white ends chopped roughly, green stalks thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (powdered or cubed is fine)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 100g snow peas, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. In a large frypan or wok on maximum heat, cook sesame oil, garlic and white ends of spring onions until fragrant.
  2. Add chicken strips and fry until brown on all sides. Turn pan down to low and add carrots, curry powder, mustard and stock. Simmer for 5 mins.
  3. Add green stalks of spring onions, snow peas and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, gently fold through thinly sliced mango cheeks. Serve with rice.

Nigella Lawson’s Coconut Cake

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Ages ago, my friend Amy suggested this cake would be perfect here at foodthatserves and yesterday, I finally got around to making this chuck-almost-everything-in-the-food-processor cake. If you follow the recipe below, you’ll end up with a yummy looking cake much like the one above and you’ll love the taste too. For those who are trying to reduce their overall fructose intake, I was so thrilled with the result of this using dextrose instead of sugar. You can buy dextrose from the home brew section of Big W(oop) as it’s affectionately known in our household or from specialty home brew shops and health food stores. Dextrose is actually cheaper than caster sugar to buy and all I did in this case was exchange it directly for the 175g sugar required. The fructose free cake that resulted was yummy and just like a normal cake. Instead of the icing Nigella suggests, I served it with whipped cream and defrosted blueberries from the freezer – so good. Total cost to make is around $3.

  • 175g/6oz butter, softened
  • 175g/6oz golden caster sugar
  • 175g/6oz self-raising flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 50g/2oz desiccated coconut
  • 2 tbsp coconut cream, or single cream

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM FILLING AND TOPPING:

  • 280g/10oz icing sugar
  • 100g/4oz butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp coconut cream, or single cream
  • 5 tbsp raspberry jam
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (fan oven 160C), Gas 4. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins with greaseproof paper.
  2. Mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and eggs in a food processor for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Gently stir in the coconut and cream.
  3. Divide the mixture between the tins and smooth the tops. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden and firm.
  4. Loosen the edges and leave in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool. Peel off lining paper.
  5. To make the buttercream: beat together the icing sugar, butter and coconut cream until smooth. Spread one sponge with the jam. Top with just under half the buttercream and sandwich with the other sponge. Swirl the remaining buttercream on top of the cake.

Beef & Eggplant Pasta Bake

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When I stumbled across this recipe, I was so excited to try it because I’d not much cooked Greek style food before and the whole thing promised to be easy, yummy and affordable, which is just what this blog is about . It proved to be excellent and I’m thrilled with the nutritional value of it too. This recipe was originally published in Good Taste magazine and it scores a fantastic 4/5 stars on taste.com.au. Enjoy the fact that the veggie components mean it can be eaten on its own or serve with a side salad and some crusty bread. Depending on the cost of eggplant (worth a trip to the grocer for this one!), this dish, which serves 6-8 will cost around $12 to make.

  • 105g (1/2 cup) risoni
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
  • 1 large (about 450g) eggplant, thinly sliced lengthways
  • 1 tbs olive oil, extra
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 500g beef mince
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried or fresh oregano
  • 250g Greek-style natural yoghurt
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • Ground cinnamon, to dust
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh mint (if you have it)
  1. Cook the risoni in a large saucepan of salted boiling water following packet directions. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat half the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 3-4 eggplant slices and cook for 3 minutes each side or until tender and slightly golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Repeat, in 3 more batches, with the remaining oil and eggplant, reheating the pan between batches.
  3. Heat the extra oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic, and cook for 4 minutes or until soft.
  4. Increase heat to medium-high. Add the mince and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up any lumps, for 5-6 minutes or until the mince changes colour. Add the tomato paste and stir until well combined. Add the tomato and oregano, and stir until well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the risoni.
  5. Preheat oven to 180°C. Spread the mince mixture over the base of a 2L (8-cup) capacity ceramic baking dish. Arrange the eggplant, overlapping slightly, over the mince mixture to cover. Combine the yoghurt and egg in a bowl. Pour over the eggplant and spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the yoghurt is just set. Dust with cinnamon. Sprinkle with the mint to serve.

Praying for God’s help to be more like this

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Inconvenienced by Inconvenience

By Tim Challies

http://www.challies.com/christian-living/inconvenienced-by-inconvenience

It is Labor Day today, and we anticipate spending the day with friends. We will be spending the day with these particular friends because a few weeks ago they emailed and said, “We want to do something on Labor Day. With you. At your house.” They just went ahead and invited themselves over and invited some mutual friends to come with them. I love it.

Many years ago I wrote about this subject of inviting yourself over and was rather surprised to hear how many Christians find this an objectionable practice. I found myself thinking about inviting yourself into another person’s home while reading Rosaria Butterfield’s book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. She writes about the open door policy in their home and it reminded me of my younger days in my parents’ home: “Anything worth doing will take time and cost you something. We notice, as our attention focused more on families and children, that many people in our community protect themselves from inconvenience as though inconvenience is deadly. We decided that we are not inconvenienced by inconvenience. We are sure that the Good Samaritan had other plans that fateful day.”

Let me offer a few reasons that you ought to be willing, eager even, for people to invite themselves into your home.

Your house is not your own. We all know this in theory, but we have difficulty putting it into practice. Everything you have, everything you own, is a gift of God that is meant to be used for his purposes. This applies not only to money (that’s too easy!) but also to possessions. Your car is God’s car, your house is God’s house. Just as you are expected to be a faithful, generous steward of your finances, you are to be a faithful, generous steward of your house. I would suggest that people cannot feel welcome in your house until they are convinced that they can invite themselves into it. And I would suggest that you have not fully reconciled yourself to the fact that it is not your house until you are willing to have others invite themselves in. Do people feel welcome in your house? Do they feel that they can invite themselves to your house for counsel, fellowship or to “borrow” a couple of eggs they need to finish a birthday cake?

One of the highest purposes of Christians is to extend hospitality and friendship to others. In a culture where individuals are becoming ever more individualistic and families are ever-more retreating into their own lives, Christians can be known as people who graciously and cheerfully extend hospitality to others, who refuse to be inconvenienced by inconvenience. Christian houses will be known as the ones with open doors, where invitations are extended and expected. This is the type of house I grew up in. It is the type of house I have grown to love.

Your time is not your own. In the same way God gives us money and expects us to use it faithfully and wisely, he gives us time and expects us to use it in a way that honors him. Yet we all constantly battle against becoming selfish with our time, we battle grumbling against others when they use our precious time. As Butterfield says, we protect ourselves against inconvenience, and one way we do that is by keeping our doors closed. Do people feel that they can presume upon your time? Do they feel that you are available to them if they have questions or concerns or if they need to learn how to use those eggs to bake that birthday cake? Or do they feel that to use your time is to cause you inconvenience and that you are hesitant to make time in your schedule for them?

Your home is not your own. I’ve often differentiated between a house and a home to show what a thrill and what an honor it is that the Holy Spirit makes his home within us. It is an important distinction. A newly constructed neighborhood not far from me advertises “homes beginning in the low 300’s.” But they aren’t really selling homes, are they? They are selling houses. A house only becomes a home when a person lives in it and when it begins to take on the personality of the inhabitants. An empty house is just a shell. It is much like a dead human body, which is a body, but not a person. A home is also a gracious gift of God. The gifts, personalities and talents of the various inhabitants combine to make a home what it is. All of these are given by God and he expects us to be faithful stewards of them.

Is your home open to others? Do you allow people not only past the door of your house but also in your home, into the life of your family? Do you invite people into your living room, the formal room immediately beside the front door, or do you invite them into the kitchen where you can be less formal and extend more intimate hospitality? Do people feel they can come to your home only for formal Bible studies or can they come to your home for a personal chat or simply companionship? Do people feel they can drop by at a moment’s notice or do they wait to receive a formal invitation?

When I’ve discussed this subject in the past, I’ve seen many Christians display an attitude that tacitly suggests that their home is their domain and that others do not have a right to presume upon it. But that is simply not a biblical-informed attitude. Your house, your time and your home are not yours. They belong to God and need to be fully surrendered to him and to his better, higher purposes.

It is my hope that people feel they can invite themselves over to my home. I hope they feel that I am willing and eager to use my gifts and talents and time to bless them in whatever way I can. I hope people see that my house and my home and my life have an open door.