Last week our family came home from holidays with a gastro bug, my dear husband suffering the worst of it. Overwhelmed and tired after a terrific break, but a long return journey, we were feeling rather ordinary and just so thankful to be home. Our weary hearts were made even more thankful by the countless expressions of care we received – more than one friend brought meals around for the days ahead in Vomit Land and we had countless offers to pick up milk and food for us, as well as prayers offered to our Heavenly Father on our behalf. On one hand, things like this happen pretty frequently among all sorts of people, but I’m still just struck by the fact that these kinds of everyday miracles are just how God rolls. Whether or not we realise it, he cares for us and provides what we need through the people he’s made us to be. In his letter to the scattered early church, James writes:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:7
God is good, though it’s sometimes hard for me to see. He doesn’t change, he isn’t moody and I don’t need to catch him at a good time. He gives good and perfect gifts. One of them was this flavoursome and refreshing soup provided that night by our friends Ben & Renee for my green-feeling husband. It hit the spot. Renee shared the recipe with me which has come in handy this week, cause some of us are sick again, this time with colds and flus. Oh well, that’s life. But this yummy comfort food is also just what we feel like at the moment: It’s autumn, the weather has turned crisp and the kids and I are using up some school holidays visiting family in the Snowy Mountains (check out the view!). Not a bad time and place to be sick and snuggly with soup. This recipe is freezer friendly and a great option for those with special dietary needs (just use gluten free stock and leave out the cream if need be), and cheap to cook costing less than $5 to make more than 2L. We’re having it tonight with oven-ready bread and real butter. Thanks, Ben & Renee for the soup, and much more.
- 125g butter (half a block)
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 2 x 400g tins crushed tomatoes
- 1 x 500g bag carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 8 cups chicken stock (I use powdered, reconstituted with water)
- salt, pepper and pinch of sugar
- cream for drizzling, if desired
- In a large soup pot melt butter and saute onion until golden. Add carrots and cook until soft and golden (this preliminary cooking step add lots of extra flavour to the end result).
- Add the remaining ingredients (except the cream) to the carrot, butter and onion mixture, and simmer for 45 mins.
- Blend with a stick blender in the cooking pot and serve with or without drizzled cream and crusty, buttery bread. Serves 8.
Friendship has got to be one of the most precious things in life – just one of God’s many graces, but one of his best. A writer I recently stumbled upon, Katherine Sonderegger, says that for her “…friends have turned each day and season into golden joy.” I can’t help but agree. Years ago, a friend texted to ask when we’d be home from our summer holiday. When we arrived home this Penne alla Matriciana was waiting in our fridge, along with a bottle of milk, and the air-con had been switched on for us so we would arrive home to a cool house. A month ago she did much the same thing for us (and countless times in-between), and tonight when I finally tried this recipe for myself, as they always do when my pantry lacks an ingredient, our champion neighbours provided me with what I needed – this time, a tin of tomatoes. So for me, this authentic Italian recipe from Diane Seeds The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces, is all about friendship. And it tastes simply out of this world – so much better than any store bought pasta sauce in a jar, because the high cook temperature produces lovely bit of caramelised tomato that end up running throughout the sauce, giving the whole thing a rich and rustic flavour. And this kid-pleasing dish is so cheap and simple to prepare. Make it for friends new or old, using the quantities below and this classic recipe will feed 6 and cost around $6 to make.
- 500g penne pasta (or whatever you prefer)
- 30ml olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced finely
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 x 400g cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 250g middle bacon, thinly sliced
- 60g parmesan cheese, grated
- Heat the oil and gently fry the chopped onion and garlic until softened, cover the frypan to avoid browning. Add the tomatoes with their juice, sugar, salt and pepper to taste and cook on a high flame, uncovered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When the sauce is reduced and thick, check the seasoning and puree roughly with a stick blender. In the same frypan, fry off the bacon and set aside.
- Cook the pasta following the directions on the packet. Drain the pasta and stir the sauce and bacon through with the pasta in its cooking pot. Serve with toppings of grated parmesan and with a salad or garlic bread as desired.
Pasta has to be one of the easiest and cheapest things in the world to make. As is the case for many of us I’m sure, pasta dishes in my kitchen are rarely based on a recipe but on whatever happens to be in my cupboard and rapidly going off in the bottom of my fridge. This was the case one weekday a few months ago, coming home from a long afternoon of after school sport. The freezer yielded a chorizo or two and everything was tossed in to make this simple dinner that the whole family enjoyed. If you decided to make this, do make any exchanges that take your fancy: passata can be replaced with any variety pesto and chorizo with bacon or chicken – use whatever floats your boat. I’ve costed this recipe at $13 using Woolworth’s prices, but I do find it much cheaper when I shop at my local grocer instead. Serves 6.
- 130g chorizo, diced finely (approximately 2 sausages)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 2 cloves, freshly crushed
- a drizzle of olive oil
- half a bag of mushrooms, peeled and sliced, stems and all
- 1 medium capsicum
- 60 gram bag baby spinach
- 500g pasta (whatever you prefer)
- 1/2 700g jar of passata (I use homebrand)
- shavings of fresh parmesan
- Get a large pot of water boiling for the pasta and add the uncooked pasta as soon as water is rapidly boiling. Keep checking and stirring so pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- In a large frypan gently fry up the diced chorizo and garlic with the olive oil
- When pasta is close to al dente, add mushrooms and capsicum to the frypan with the chorizo. Continue frying until just soft.
- Drain pasta, turn back into the pot, add the chorizo and vegetable mix, the bag of baby spinach and the passata. Toss until combined well and spinach has wilted.
- Serve immediately and top each offering with shavings of parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
One lovely thing about writing a blog is hearing from other bloggers. One day I hope to meet Meredith who writes a very stimulating blog The Key to the Door, but in the mean time I’m thoroughly enjoying trying some recipes she has sent in along with her stamp of approval for their ease of use when having people over. When I tried this delicious chicken dinner, I didn’t have much time or energy for cooking but the quickness and ease of it meant we got through another arsenic hour scenario and it wasn’t too taxing. Originally from the $120 Food Challenge website, I’ve adapted this a little to serve more people by cooking it in the oven rather than on the stove. Everyone in our family loved this and it’s such a versatile recipe: next time I make it, I’m planning to add a jar of drained and pitted Kalamata Olives and might then call it Oven-baked Chicken Cacciatore! Using the quantities below, this recipe serves 8 and costs around $16 to make. Thanks for sharing, Meredith.
- 8 chicken thigh fillets, (could also use drumsticks)
- 4 tablespoon oil
- 4 brown onions, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 packet French onion soup mix
- 2x 440g tin diced tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
- Heat oil in a heavy based saucepan or large frying pan and sauté chicken pieces until brown and then place in a large oven-proof casserole dish.
- Add onions and garlic and fry until translucent. Add tomatoes and juices, the soup mixture, water, soy sauce, and season with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of sugar.
- Distribute this mixture evenly over the chicken and bake in a moderate oven for 40 minutes. When cooked, top the whole dish with parsley and serve with rice and greens if desired.