Slow cooking heaven
I live a pretty hectic life, like most of us do, and if I'm being honest, the last thing I think about when I'm struggling to get the children to school on time and know I am back-to-back in the clinic or in meetings, is what I'm going to cook for dinner that night. I do eventually get round to thinking about it...but not until about 20 minutes before dinnertime.
Obviously this isn't always conducive to cooking a healthy meal for the kids, especially when we don't get home until 6pm, they've had a long day at school and are searching the cupboards for snacks almost as soon as they walk through the front door.
So like many of us, I resort to something quick and simple and that can sometimes (too often actually) be in the form of a Dominoes pizza delivery.
Thankfully, after rummaging through my cupboards looking for something I can't remember, I have now found, and fallen back in love with, my slow cooker! Over the school holidays I DID have time to cook and actually enjoyed it again. But what I struggle with is...as most of us...time. Yes, a slow cooker recipe takes a little preparation the night before but it's SO lovely leaving the house in the morning knowing I just have to turn that little knob to 'low' and I'll come home to a beautifully cooked dinner.
My quest this week has been to find the meal that takes the least preparation (lazy...moi?). I think I have scored gold with my vegetarian chilli.
This took about 10 minutes of prep (purely because I had to roast the sweet potatoes) but it has lasted us about 4 days!! We had it with rice on the first nighti, in a gluten free wrap for lunch (see above) the next day, in a tupperware container the third day and with tortilla chips today (which the kids loved!). Definitely 10/10 for value for money and ease of cooking! Smug city.
One of my clients, who is a keen gardener, gave me some of his allotment goodies this week. So today, I decided to cook a vegetarian lasagne with the veggies he gave me and obviously, my new best friend...the slow cooker. It DOES need some prep but the 4 hours it sits in the slow cooker is plenty of time for me to do some work, totally unstressed that my parents are coming for dinner, because I know it's bubbling away.
Very simple recipe:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 large courgettes, diced
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp vegetable bouillon
small handful of fresh basil, chopped
1 large aubergine, sliced lengthways
6 wholewheat lasagne sheets
125g vegetarian buffalo mozzarella, chopped
1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic for 5minutes , stirring frequently until softened.
2. Add the courgette, peppers, can of chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp of tomato puree, 2 tsp bouillon and the chopped basil.
3. Stir well and cover for 5 minutes.
4. slice the aubergine and lay half the slices in the base of a slow cooker. Top with 3 sheets of lasagne.
5. Add a third of the ratatouille mix, then the remaining aubergine slices, 3 more lasagne sheets, and then the remaining ratatouille mix.
6. Cover and cook on High for 3 hours until the pasta and vegetables are tender.
7. Turn off the machine. Scatter 125g of the mozzarella over the vegetables and leave for 10 mins to melt and settle. Scatter the extra basil and serve with a fresh salad.
What I have realised this week is that, for me, giving myself and my children a home cooked meal is an act of love. I am very guilty of getting in from work and throwing together something that they can eat quickly and which no thought has gone into. And, if I'm being honest, it doesn't make me feel great. I know that kids don't really appreciate it, so maybe it's a selfish act, but I like to know that I have cooked them something fresh. My boys are still young so we can all sit together at dinner and that's something I will treasure as they get older and maybe aren't around as much. Memories are funny things because you don't really know you are making them until much further down the line, but all of us together around the dinner table will be one for me.
And let's face it, there is NOTHING nicer than walking in from a long day and having a meal waiting for you...even if you are the one thats 'cooked' it.