Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Roasted Red Pepper Spaghetti Fra Diavolo

I wasn't even planning to make this meal into a recipe post, but it was so good I just couldn't resist. That being said, please forgive the shoddy photos, since I took them on my phone in the evening as I made/ate this meal.

Fra Diavolo means Brother Devil in Italian, and is the name given to a spicy (usually tomato) pasta sauce. It's one of my absolute favorite dishes, especially with a pile of fresh mussels or, in today's case, shrimp (king prawns, for my UK readers). My goal with this meal was to change up the classic a bit by making the base of the sauce from ripe, sweet roasted red Romano peppers.

It may seem a bit complicated at first glance, but I roasted up a big batch of peppers yesterday because I plan to turn the other half into roasted red pepper hummus. If you want to use a shortcut, though, canned roasted red peppers will work just fine.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday 24th April in Photos

The hubs are I are both sort of obsessed with the idea of gardening/farming these days. Saw this book in the cafĂ© at Country Market and definitely want to get a copy. 
The best "soda" ever. Pressed rhubarb and apple juices with sparkling water. That's all, folks. I will require a case of this stuff when the weather warms up. 
Now that I can have dairy in my diet again, I indulged in a latte and cake today. (Did someone say "cheat day"?
Visited the brother- and sister-in-law today. Auntie Zoe made Chloe a daisy crown! 
Their new kitchen is gorgeous! Steve helped out with some DIY stuff while we girls enjoyed the new room and played with Chloe in the garden. 
Is this the start of a mischievous grin? 

Hope everyone had a great weekend! 

Friday, April 22, 2016

MM Approved: The Baby Event

Bargain time! I just want to remind everyone that I am not an Aldi ambassador or paid advertiser or anything like that; I just genuinely love Aldi, and sharing my shopping bargain tips and whatnot with you. I get really excited (how boring am I?) when I pick up the flyer and see something really fabulous advertised for the next week... like the Baby and Toddler Event! It started yesterday, people, so get yourself down to Aldi. This week I picked up:

This Nuby Baby-Led Feeding Set. All of these dishes, cups, containers, and utensils (and a handy carrying bag) for £4.99! I mean, I saw one bowl with a spoon in Mothercare last week for £5. Just saying.

This not-Bio Oil. I oiled my belly twice a day with coconut oil when I was pregnant, and I was so proud to not have stretch marks. Until three weeks before my due date, that is, when I woke up with a really low belly and the San Andreas fault line under my belly button. For those last few weeks, I dreaded looking in the mirror each day as my "tiger stripes" got bigger and bolder. Sigh. Fingers crossed that this stuff works! At £3.99, I couldn't pass it up.

A highchair! Little miss Chloe is starting to love her rice cereal, and will need a proper highchair for *real* food soon! We've looked around in a lot of stores, and the next best option was a Joie Mimzy Snacker highchair for £40 (and we were about to get it, too!), until we saw this for £18.99. No lie. So, obviously, it's home now.

My mother-in-law picked up an adorable matching crib bedding set with a hanging crib organizer, and a hooded towel with matching wash mit for when we stay at her house. Also, they have adorable super soft popcorn (we all know it's Minky fabric, but we can't call it that) blankets in pretty, bright colors for £3.99 so one of those might find its way into our house - who knows!

Thursday, April 21, 2016


I totally invented a new word, if not the dish it refers to (I think). *pats self on back*

Now, if this is already a "thing", or if you've heard the word used before, don't tell me. I got 45 minutes of sleep last night and I need this victory today. 

So we're moving in about a month (lease is up and we need to upgrade to a bigger place) and to minimise the amount of kitchen packing I have to do, I'm trying to use up a lot of pantry ingredients. What I don't want to do, is to get stuck in an endless loop of boring pasta meals. Cue drumroll. 

Expanding on my previous Masala Meatballs recipe, I found another scrumptious was to use up that harissa, some olive tapenade, and one of the remnants of a bag of pasta in the cupboard. The idea is much like a risotto: using the starch to make a dish creamy. But, instead of arborio rice, I used orzo. Boiled in salted water until still a bit firm (al dente), then drained and finished in the main dish so that it would thicken up the sauce and pull it all together. On a side note: it's even better as leftovers; the flavors just deepen and make it oh so much yummier on day 2. Make a big batch, you'll thank me.

First of all, start with your eggplant (aubergine). I don't know if they're in season somewhere, but they're 49p in Aldi and Lidl right now, and I love it, so bring on the eggplant recipes. We also got a massive sack (one of those mesh ones that oranges come in) of tomatoes for £1.20 at Lidl so it's been tomato week in our house, trying to use them up before they go bad. And, thanks to this recipe, we succeeded. 

Oh, and one quick side note: if you can't find ground (mince) lamb at your supermarket/butcher, you can substitute with pork, but it's soooo much better if you can get your hands on lamb. Sorry, most of America. I know it's not a meat that's widely available over there. (Costco has it, though, if you can get to one - and if you're in the Philadelphia area, the butchers in the Italian Market have ground lamb. I know this for a fact. Good luck!)

Since I made this recipe up as I went, I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out the "missing flavor". I knew it was umami, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Turns out it was a pinch of cinnamon (the dish doesn't end up tasting of cinnamon at all, trust me, it just works) and a heaped teaspoon of olive tapenade. I didn't have any kalamata olives on hand, but I did have a jar of this stuff, and I know that olives are a key component in a Moroccan flavor profile, and right I was (luckily). So, if you have olives, use those, and if not, go for the tapenade. If you serve bread with this meal, maybe make some bruschetta-type little toasts and shmear some tapenade on those, too.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Korean BBQ Baked Chicken

I was really in a pinch yesterday, and this quick chicken recipe proved to be such a huge hit with the hubby that he's requested it as his birthday dinner! It's such a flavour-packed twist on your usual baked chicken dishes, and it is totally one of those easy set-it-and-forget-it kinds of meals (and would probably make a bangin' freezer meal, too). It was such a gorgeous, sunny day that I really wished we didn't live in this flat so that I could throw the chicken on a grill and have a barbecue outside. Oh well, hopefully in the next month or so we'll live somewhere that we can do just that! 

The key ingredient in this marinade is Gochujang, a Korean red pepper paste. Think of it as spicy Korean ketchup. It's easily found in just about any Asian supermarket, or if you can't get it locally, Amazon has it! Just search for the word, and you'll find it, no matter if you're in the US or the UK. Once you try it, trust me, you'll be tossing it into all sorts of recipes; it's totally a pantry staple in this kitchen. 

I wanted to make this with chicken wings, actually, but when I couldn't get my hands on any last minute, I thought drumsticks would be the next best thing. You could probably make it with thighs too, but let's face it, it's sort of a requirement to pick up BBQ chicken and gnaw on it. At least, we think so in our house. 

For a quick and yummy side dish, I made miso glazed carrots (miso paste being another pantry staple for me!). I cut some carrots into sticks and boiled them until they were fork tender, then drained them and mixed together 1/2 tsp miso paste and 1 tsp honey. Toss the carrots in the glaze while warm, and voila! They're even yummy cold, and would be great in a picnic or lunchbox. A few slices of cucumber garnish is a nice refreshing coolness to this sticky, sweet and spicy chicken dish. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Herby Lentil Salad & My Favorite Salad Dressing

Lentils: love em. I cooked a big batch this morning so that I have them on hand to toss into dishes all weekend; 1/2 cup of dried lentils yields nearly 2 cups cooked lentils, so a little goes a long way. They're economical tiny protein powerhouses, and I'll put them in just about anything. Curry, salad, soup, you name it. Today I needed a healthy pick-me-up after bingeing on unhealthy snacks yesterday (cough - leftover Easter chocolate and chips - cough), so I literally threw a little bit of everything in the fridge into this salad. 

I started with a handful of mixed baby leaf lettuce salad, then topped it with an heirloom tomato, some sliced Persian cucumber, olives (a lot of olives, because I buy them in bulk at Costco I love them so much),  spring onion (scallion), and two heaped tablespoons of my cooked lentils. I tossed them on while still warm, because I think the contrast of temperature and texture makes salads really interesting and more delicious. Then I topped it off with chopped tarragon (vastly underrated herb, in my opinion) and basil, and finished it off with my favorite salad dressing. One word: YUM. Seriously, yum. It's a salad that actually fills you up, too, thanks to the mighty little lentils. 

Check out the recipe for my favorite dressing - it takes 10 seconds to make, and can keep in the fridge for up to a week. Baby food jars are the perfect size for shaking it up!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Souper Simple: Homemade Soup in Seconds!

Ok so the actual roasting takes time, but this is the most hands-free, flavour packed, healthy meal you can get your hands on. All you need is a good blender!

I grabbed two bell peppers, one red and one yellow (use whichever you like! Except green peppers though. They wouldn't really do well as a soup. I think). I made slices in the side to allow steam to escape and placed them on a baking sheet with two small peeled red onions (use yellow if you want, it doesn't matter), one large peeled parsnip cut into wedges, and half a clove of garlic wrapped in foil (still in the skin and everything). 

Roast your veggies in the oven at 180C (about 375F) until the pepper skins begin to blister and pop. I think it took half an hour, but I had a fussy baby that day so I wasn't really paying attention. 

Turn the oven off, and just leave it in there to cool. I left mine overnight for a quick, healthy lunch the next day, but you could easily take yours out to cool it faster. Cover it with foil if you do, because the peppers and onions will continue to steam/cook a bit. 

Once it was cool, the pepper skins slid off, the garlic cloves slid out when I squeezed the bulb, and everything else just got chucked into the biggest cup size of my Nutribullet.  I filled it up to the fill line with (room temp or cold) veggie stock, but you could just as easily use chicken stock. Then I blended it until smooth (39 seconds or so, don't you love the exact number? Lol) and poured it into a small pot. I thinned it out with a little extra veggie stock, checked the seasoning and decided to add a pinch of black pepper and cumin, and brought it to a simmer over medium low heat. 

Lunch is served! 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Masala Meatballs

The Italian in me loves a good meatball, and the foodie in me loves experimenting with new ingredients. Believe it or not, I hadn't tried cooking with Harissa until I decided to make this recipe. What is Harissa, you may ask? It's a spicy, fragrant paste made from chilis, spices, and sometimes rosewater. It has a bouquet of aromatic North African flavour; think spicy Moroccan cuisine. That being said, I combined it with the spices of Garam Masala for these super flavourful meatballs.

The meatballs only take 5 minutes to throw together, and the sauce basically makes itself. If you're a big olive fan (I am, but the hubby isn't), throw a handful of kalamata olives into the sauce to punch up the flavor another notch.

Here's my biggest meatball-making secret: grated onion. It might sound weird, but using a normal box grater to shred an onion will leave you with small pieces (so you don't end up with huge chunks of onion in your meatballs), and the juices that come out of the onion when you grate it keep the meatballs really moist during cooking. Trust me on this one - grate your onions!

I served up these meatballs with couscous cooked in vegetable stock, and some steamed cauliflower and spinach with turmeric. For leftovers, you could turn the meatballs into a wrap with some cucumber, lettuce, and maybe a little yogurt to cool down the spice!

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

12 Weeks

I guess you could consider it 3 months, but being the OCD family we are, we count the weeks until it's the exact day of the month (the 9th) when she will actually be 3 months old. We're just... You know... Nuts like that. I'm dreading the day when she's too old to celebrate turning months/weeks old. I know that this phase wears off soon, but I'm digging my heels in. She's too tiny and perfect and I want to watch every week go by in complete awe. 

Yesterday my computer bit the dust. Not in an, it's-slow-and-needs-to-be-repaired kind of way, but in a hard-drive-meltdown kind of way. The kind of meltdown that the Geek Squad would play taps for as they lowered my old laptop into a shallow grave. Today I'm commandeering the hubby's work computer so that I can get a little bit of editing done, but I've just sort of accepted that most of my blogging activity will probably take place on my phone for a while. Thank God for every editing app under the sun, right? But it's also why these photos are grainy and a bit overexposed. See, I'm trying to find a perfect app that you can adjust the exact pixel size of an image without downsampling it. Once I've edited a photo on my phone, it's gone through about 4 apps before it's done, and the quality tends to be compromised. Can't wait until I have my Photoshop up and running again! It's installing on Steve's computer as I write this. 

Yesterday was exciting, though, because Chloe rolled over. Twice! Tummy Time turned into the most thrilling thing that's happened in weeks. I posted a video on Instagram, so head over and follow @munchiemummyd to see it! 

This week is a blur of a growth spurt: when I'm not feeding Chloe, I'm going through her clothes picking out everything she's outgrown already (and sobbing hysterically in the process). I remember time dragging on when I was a kid; why does time fly now that I have one? It's not fair. I feel like I don't have enough time to savour each and every expression and noise she makes before she's on to doing something new. But at the same time, I'm so excited as she starts sitting up and playing with toys. 

12 weeks already feels like a lifetime.