Chicken , mushroom and thyme pie with a quinoa and parmesan crumble…

I recently bought Tim Robard’s new book 7:2:1 Plan and I absolutely love it – I would go so far as to say it’s one of those books that has already changed my life – in such a positive and fuss free way.

He shares some really wonderful and practical tips on fitness and healthy living and some of the best ‘every day’ recipes I have seen in a long while. I would make everything in his book and that is a rarity for me – often I buy a cook book for a few stand out recipes or because the imagery is exquisite or simply because they make a beautiful addition to a coffee table collection but Tim’s book is perfectly suited for busy, health conscious parents who want to feed their families nourishing, quick and tasty meals on a daily basis. I feel that they are really beautifully balanced with a strong emphasis on fresh, clean and colourful ingredients.

So far, I have made the cheat’s chicken casserole (delicious), the apple, coconut and chia crumble, the chicken, cashew and ginger stir-fry, the spinach and zucchini loaf and this delicious chicken pie with a quinoa crumble. All amazing. My girls loved the pie, Mark and I devoured it and Jack picked the chicken and a few veggies out but left the silver beet and mushrooms. And that’s ok…I have written often about how as a Mum, it feels almost impossible to please everyone at meal times and as my life is becoming busier I have learnt to pick my battles and also not pander to my children’s different tastes. I now whole heartedly understand how my own Mum Jude was fairly strict at meal times…she had to be! Cooking and meal planning can be an exhausting and tedious exercise but it can also be so much fun – these days I simplify our family meals, encourage the kids to always try different things and make them understand that if they don’t eat what’s in front of them there won’t be anything else on offer! There’s only so much we can all do in a day afterall…:-)

I hope you enjoy this yummy pie – I’m looking forward to trying (and sharing) many more of Tim’s recipes.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon coconut oil

500 grams chicken breast, cut into 2cm pieces

1 onion, diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 carrot, diced

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

Pinch of ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon cornflour mixed with 1 tablespoon water

2/3 cup chicken stock

2 cups shredded silverbeet

1/4 cup Greek style yoghurt

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Quinoa Crumble

1 cup quinoa flakes (rolled oats are also good)

1/2 cup almond meal

1/4 cup grated parmesan

80 grams ghee or butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the chicken and cook until just browned all over. Remove and set aside. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes or until softened. Then add the carrot, mushroom, nutmeg and thyme and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the cornflour mixture, then the stock, silver beet and chicken, and simmer gently over low heat for 5 minutes while you prepare the crumble topping.

To make the crumble, combine the quinoa, almond meal, parmesan and thyme in a bowl. Rub in the ghee or butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Take the frying pan off the heat and stir in the yoghurt and mustard. Taste and season if necessary. Spoon into a pie dish and top evenly with the quinoa crumble. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown.

For vegetarians…omit the chicken and add another cup of mushrooms and some diced red capsicum.

Serve the pie with sautéed green vegetables or a crunchy salad drizzled in olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

For me, cooking is all about loving, sharing, nourishing and nurturing…

It’s been a while between blog posts and I must admit I have really missed this space…writing and sharing recipes and stories are two of my great passions but lately, with the pace of life, it has definitely felt more and more difficult to find the time to sit, collect my thoughts and share. And if truth be told I do find writing extremely therapeutic…if I’m ever upset, emotional or a little lost, it is the place I come to…to help me make sense of my feelings and channel my energies and thoughts in a positive and meaningful direction.

So when my little boy Jack broke his arm on the weekend, I suddenly felt, not just an urge to return to my blog, but a need. We have received so many beautiful get well messages from friends and family, which have been overwhelmingly appreciated and Jack has been such a brave boy and is doing so well. But when it happened I was reminded with such force how quickly life with little ones can change, how emotionally draining it is when our babies are in pain and how we really can’t ever take anything for granted as parents.

Because there are some certainties in life…curveballs will always be thrown, challenges form a big part of our days and pain often sits very closely beside joy. As a Mum I wholeheartedly wear my heart on my sleeve…if I am worried or sad I find it almost impossible to hide my emotions and I can (and do!) tear up at the drop of a hat. But the older I get the more accepting of myself I have become and now I feel that it’s okay to not always be okay. That sometimes, laughter doesn’t come very easily, that some weeks are just harder than others and that our children’s pain will always be our pain because their little hearts and souls will always be bound inextricably to ours.

With nine years experience as a Mum now, I also understand that trying times with our little ones will inevitably pass and children are so astoundingly resilient…it doesn’t take long for ‘new normals’ to be established and they have a marvellous and enviable ability to live beautifully in the present moment, with only fleeting and usually carefree thoughts of the past and the future. My three children give me such incredible strength every day and provide a reason to always try and improve and evolve…to be the best version of myself that I possibly can be.

I have also realised, that (much like my Mum Jude), when I am sad or struggling or at a loss to know what on earth to do…I cook! And sing….usually both at the same time. So, when I was coming to terms with Jack’s pain on the weekend I headed to the kitchen to create, played some of my favourite songs and almost instantly, I felt so much calmer and happier.

This no-bake Key Lime Pie was a real hit with the kids and Mark and I. We are not vegans but I absolutely love making (and eating) vegan food, particularly raw cakes as they are filled with so much natural goodness. Chloe remarked that she liked it ‘more than Daddy’s birthday cake’, which was a traditional cheesecake with a chocolate brownie base! Just goes to show how natural ingredients and flavours – when combined well – can be so amazingly satisfying.

The salad is from the very inspiring ‘Jerusalem’ cook book. Both the lime cake and this salad recipe feature dates and almonds and I couldn’t help but marvel at how versatile these exotic, plant-based ingredients can be – they really do lend themselves to sweet and savoury dishes so effortlessly and beautifully. I also love how both of these recipes incorporate lemons and limes which are pretty heavenly at the moment. Mum actually brought me down the most divine limes off her girlfriend’s tree last week…totally organic, homegrown with love and packed with intense and amazing flavour.

I also just wanted to use this post to say happy, happy Mother’s Day to all of the beautiful Mums I know…here in Avalon, I am quite literally surrounded by the most incredible women, who give so very much to their children and their families day in and day out. We all understand how truly challenging and exhausting it can be but how those difficulties are far surpassed by the most astounding rewards. Being a Mum is a gift…at times a somewhat fraught one but I would not change my life and my little world with my three crazy cats for one minute. Enjoy Sunday gorgeous ladies…

Baby spinach salad with dates and almonds…

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

100 grams pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthways

30 grams butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small pitas, about 100 grams, roughly torn into 4cm pieces

75 grams whole unsalted almonds, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons sumac

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

150 grams baby spinach, washed

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Put the vinegar, onion and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain any residual vinegar and discard.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and half the olive oil in a medium frying pan. Add the pita and almonds and cook them on a medium heat for 4-6 minutes, stirring all the time until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, chilli and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Set aside to cool.

When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl.  Add the dates and the red onion, remaining olive oil, lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

No Bake Key Lime Slice…

Ingredients:

Base:

1 and a half cups almonds

10 pitted Medjool Dates (soaked in warm water for 10 mins then drained)

1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

For the Filling:

3 large limes, juiced and zested

2 and a half cups cashew nuts, soaked in cold water overnight

1/2 cup full fat coconut milk

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/3 honey or rice malt syrup

1 lime thinly sliced (optional)

Directions:

  1. To make the crust, place the almonds, dates and melted coconut oil in a food processor and pulse until combined. Grease an 8 inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. Press the mixture firmly and evenly against the bottom of the cake pan.
  2. To make the filling, rinse the cashew nuts and drain them well. Place them in a high powered blender or food processor with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour the lime filling over the cake base and place the cake in the freezer for at least two hours or until firm. Remove from the freezer for 10-15 minutes to thaw before serving.

Why, as a family, it has become increasingly important to stop and smell the roses…

…and belt out Adele whenever we possibly can!:-)

I was chatting to some close girlfriends last week (who I don’t get to see nearly enough of) and somewhat strangely we all seemed to be thinking the same things and feeling the same way. How did life suddenly become so very busy?! Over the last two years I have noticed the shift such a lot – perhaps it’s because I’m working more myself again, (and we’ve been in the process of building our house), but to be honest, the area I feel to be the most busy is with the kids and keeping up with their commitments. These days I seem to be dropping off far earlier and many afternoons are spent driving and racing here there and everywhere. At the moment I feel as though I wake up on Friday mornings and wonder how on earth the end of the week has already arrived…sometimes it feels like life is surging past at such a rapid rate that if I blink, I might just might miss it all.

Which does make me feel a little bit sad and nostalgic to be perfectly honest. I think back to the years I spent at home with my three as babies and yes, they were so busy and tiring…the lack of sleep was at times torturous and the monotony of changing nappies, picking up toys and organising food and meals often wore me down. I had many, many moments where I felt that I had sacrificed an enormous amount of myself to become a Mum but there was also the hugest part of me that absolutely loved it because I felt, (in fact I knew), that the precious little pocket of time I was inhabiting was transient…that it would, inevitably, one day come to an end.

Often when I was at parks with my little ones, at the beach or simply out on a walk (with all three piled in and on prams and scooters), people older than myself would stop me for a chat. They would ask me how I was managing and how old the kids were (general chit chat you expect from friendly strangers) and without question, they would tell me to enjoy my children, to soak in every precious moment because before I knew it the kids would be older, wishing to be with their own friends, in their own worlds and embarking on their own unique journeys.

And when I think back to it, one of the things I loved most about being with Sienna, Chloe and Jack when they were babies is that I was forced to slow down. I had always been such a busy person – comfortable, familiar and happy with daily deadlines. But when I became a Mum I had to approach the days more gently and without as many goals in mind…to smell the Spring flowers, gather mulberries from our local park and ‘blow and make a wish’ each time we happened upon a garden Dandelion. It was in that time I realised with such clarity, that although I had given up a large portion of my life as I knew it, I had (forever more) gained so much…I desperately needed to shift gears, to get to know myself on a deeper, more honest and empathetic level and to know what it’s like to love and be loved unconditionally. Becoming a Mum changed me so much for the better…and although it has challenged me like nothing else has in life (let’s be honest every day with little ones presents parents with a new set of challenges!) my family is by far the thing I love most and being a Mum is the thing I am most proud of.

What I find myself missing these days are the hours of freedom I used to enjoy when the children were tiny tots. In retrospect I probably didn’t feel particularly free at the time with the endless washing/shopping/cooking and playing, but there was definitely a sense that our days could unfold as we wished them to. Should we go to the park today? To the beach? To the zoo? Maybe do craft all day? Nowadays, I barely have time to scratch myself in the mornings as I’m preparing breakfast and lunches and racing the kids off to school and kindy…I often feel a little bit like I did as a Production Coordinator…an organiser of lives and a planner of days. What the busyness has made me appreciate and value so much more though are the times when we have no activities to race to…the times when we can just be together and play, read, cook, laugh and sing and not be so entrenched in hectic schedules and gruelling timetables.

So when Mark and I took the girls to Adele on Saturday night, it meant the world, for so many reasons. We have always absolutely loved her…when the girls were babies I’d play her ‘Live at The Royal Albert Hall’ concert over and over again and we would sing, dance, laugh, (I would cry and the girls would ask me why!) and chat about her amazing lyrics…always captivated by her beauty and talent and that unbelievable, other-wordly voice. For me, her music and songs helped to define a time in my life when our children were bubs and it will always bring back so many joyous, poignant and precious memories.

But to see her live was truly out-of-this-world and to see the look of pure glee on my little girl’s faces as they took in the crowd, the stage and the spectacle was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I felt so happy, proud and completely overcome with raw emotion. As Adele sang hit after incredible hit, I was transported to another, more magical world and I also realised just how much Sienni and Chloe have grown up…Mark and I are most definitely in a new phase of parenthood and when we do get to experience those moments when we can pause, reflect and enjoy one another’s company it is just so special.

And what an incredible role model Adele is for young girls these days…I love her realness, her humility, her wicked sense of humour, her kindness (Chloe has not stopped talking about how she sang happy birthday to a lady in the crowd) and her grace. It’s also so unbelievably refreshing and inspiring to see a beautiful young woman who has become a global superstar because of her innate and extraordinary talents. There were no costume changes, no butt or boob shaking, nothing remotely provocative or unsavoury about her performance (which unfortunately, seems so rare these days in the world of music)….just her in all of her real and magnificent glory.

There’s the hugest part of me now that feels so nostalgic and sad that the concert is over…that one of the most special nights I have ever had with my girls has quickly become a memory…but it will be permanently etched in our hearts and souls and for as long as we all live, we will never ever forget the magic that was Adele.