The temperature is set to drop. For me that means it’s time to bring out the slow cooker. What I love is how such little effort brings such great rewards. This chicken casserole took minutes to prepare, hours to cook and then was devoured. Plus the house smells amazing when you get home.
So here is the recipe for you. This is totally something to make your own, use whatever you have in your store cupboards remembering to add a little liquid but not too much!
I served ours with extra veggies on the side (I have a broccoli addict of a child) and rice. My children love a slow cooker meal as it’s always so soft, easy to cut and chew.
I went to Marrakech for Christmas a few years ago. I don’t think we had a bad meal the whole time we were there. Each dish was so wonderfully spiced and fragrant, yet not overpowering. This dish reminds me of that holiday. Oh for some sun, sat on a roof terrace, drinking Moroccan mint tea!
I marinaded the chicken overnight, you could probably get away with just toasted the spices in the pan with the chicken, but marinade if you can. I think it enhances the flavour and it always heighten the anticipation of the meal for me.
I love playing around with spices. As a child I loved it when my mum got out her silver spice tin, all those small pots filled with fragrant, colourfulness. I was even more excited when I got my own spice tin!
Moroccan spices blends tend to include: ginger, cinnamon, corainder, allspice, pepper, tumeric, cumin and paprika. Sometimes saffron, cardomon, nutmeg and star anise. The Morrocan spice stalls are amazing! Make your own blend up and try it out.
I love cooking. The kitchen is the place I relax, I create and I have fun. However when you are juggling too much, busy busy busy and have small people cooking the family meal can become a chore, even for me.
I run 2 businesses around 2 small ones, my days start early, end late and are a mix of pilates, dietitian work and being a mummy. Which means I don’t tend to have the luxury of spending hours cooking each day.
My top tips:
Meal Planning really does work. We have a whiteboard in our kitchen and I plan out our evening meals and some of our lunches too.
Keep a recipe book or file with the recipes you and your family love. This makes it easy to plan and quick to find that recipe that suddenly springs to mind.
Use your meal plan to shop and prepare in advance. When you have a quieter day chop up some veggies in advance for example, or boil a pile of eggs for lunches, make hummus or cook a meal to get ahead.
Cook in bulk when you can. If you are doing a casserole, chilli, bolognaise, soup or freezable meal cook double and freeze it. This saves me on a regular basis on days things go wrong and I realise I’ve no time to cook!
You don’t have to wait until dinner time to cook. I often end up cooking our evening meal in the morning, as that’s when I have a gap in my day. It can be quite satisfying knowing dinner is already cooked!
Embrace the slow cooker love. The beauty of this is you can prep it the night before and keep it in the fridge, then switch it on in the morning and by evening you have a cooked meal, often with leftovers to freeze. See my slow cooker recipes or my pinterest board with over 50 ideas.
Have a day a week you use up the leftovers. Put them on a pizza, add to pasta, put veggies in a frittata or stir fry… it may not be a standard recipe but it can save you time, money and is inventive! See Love Food, Hate Waste for top tips and recipes.
Have some emergency meals in your stores. Baked potatoes can be cooked in the microwave in 10 minutes, add tuna and sweetcorn with some chopped veggies and you have a meal. We always have a jar of pesto ready for that emergency pasta dish and frozen veggies!
Get the kids involved and make it an activity. Miss K loves cooking and will try to peel veggies, chops them and stirs things, as long as she can nibble on bits as she goes.
Relax. I find if I’m stressed over it, things go wrong. There is always beans on toast for those days you need it 😉
It’s that time of year when the weather is getting decidedly more chilly and the light is fading earlier. All of a sudden it’s time to switch from the summery salads to winter stews. The kettle is on more and the biscuit tin beckons. But how do you eat healthily yet still enjoy those winter foods?
Porridge is a great start to the day. Try adding different fruit, a sprinkle of seeds or some chopped nuts for variety. Alternatively try scrambled eggs and grilled tomatoes with toast.
Include something warming and satisfying at lunch, try a vegetable based soup, baked beans on toast or an omelette.
Although tea and coffee can warm you up it should be limited to 4 cups a day. Try hot squash, herbal or fruit tea or even hot water with a slice of lemon instead.
Winter stews and casseroles are delicious. Try using a slow cooker, pop it on in the morning and dinner will be ready by tea time. Include plenty of vegetables and add a couple of handfuls of lentils or beans/pulses to reduce the amount of meat you use. Bean and pulses are low in fat, have a low glycaemic index and contain plenty of fibre, so are a great weight loss aid.
Keep Active. Getting up and moving around more will get the blood pumping around the body and so warm you up. Plan some activity into your day and keep moving whenever you can.
I’ve been working with the Potato Council recently doing parent and toddler roadshows with the Small Potatoes. For those of you up on Cbeebies you’ll know all about the “Small Potatoes”. These potatoes like to sing and dance…. so that’s exactly what I have been doing too! Songs include “Small Potato Rock”, “Potato Love” and the “Potato Train”. No laughing now, this is serious stuff.
It’s been a lot of fun watching excited toddlers hug the potato characters, judging colouring competitions and talking to mums about healthy eating and family meals. It’s also shown me how needed this type of thing is, the mums had loads of great questions and were dying to get recipes, meal planners and tips.
So here are a few potato inspired recipes for you:
BOMBAY POTATO CURRY (serves 4)
500g new potatoes halved
1 tbsp oil
1 large onion sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp mustard seeds, tumeric, cumin and coriander
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 bag spinach
Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds, let them pop for a couple of minutes then add the onion and garlic, saute. Add the tumeric, cumin and coriander plus a little chilli if wanted, cook 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and potatoes, plus spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes.
POTATO AND VEGETABLE TAGINE (serves 4)
2 tsp paprika, cumin
600g potatoes, diced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions in large chunks
3 carrots, in wedges
1 red pepper, thickly sliced
2 parsnips, in wedges
1 star anise
1tbsp tomato puree
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 handfuls dried apricots
I sometimes do this one in the slow cooker – throw it all in, press the button, walk away and come back several hours later to eat it 🙂
Alternatively….cook the spices in the oil, and add the potatoes, after a couple of minutes add the rest of the vegetables, plus the chopped tomatoes and half a tin of water. Stir and leave to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, star anise chick peas and dried apricots and simmer for 10 minutes.
So what are your favourite potato recipes? Let me know by commenting below.
I love my slow cooker. Fact. It’s one of my fav kitchen gadgets, along with my food processor, bread machine and the kettle. Shows I’m pretty lazy doesn’t it! I’d love to have the time to mix everything by hand, make bread by hand and boil water in a pretty singing kettle on the hob, but in my whirlwind life it just isn’t going to happen. So I cheat…pretty much all the time.
Today I fancied cooking a heathy stew full of beans, lentils, veggies and chicken. Now I’m looking after an active baby, running pilates classes, teaching step aerobics and writing a diet sheet today, not much time to cook. So my solution was to get out the slow cooker.
This is what we do…raid the cupboards and veggie rack, chop things nice and chunky, throw it all in and switch it on 🙂 Today we have chicken thighs, chunky bacon bits, carrots, squash and mixed beans and pulses all with some chopped tomatoes, fennel, mustard seeds and balsamic vinegar plus a star anise. Towards the end of cooking I’ll add a handful of fresh herbs and serve with mashed potatoes as its potato season in our house.
Give it a go, the house will smell lovely, the food will taste great and it’s all healthy stuff.
Freelance Dietitian specialising in helping those with Eating Disorders and a Media Spokesperson for the profession.