Thursday, 28 February 2013

Easy meal ideas to avoid prepackaged sauces

Whether it be Dolmio, Kan Tong, Maggi, Raguletto..... you name it, they have a sauce for it!

The demand has come from 'convenience' and 'time poor' consumer trends, which have driven the majority of new products to grace supermarket shelves over the last couple of decades.

Unfortunately saving a few minutes in the kitchen has come at a cost.  With these sauces/gravies/marinades come a whole heap of additives and 'fake' ingredients, and in many cases the end result is over complicated with ingredients that don't need to be there!

So here are some simple, natural, and quick to make recipes that will have you leaving the jars (and additives) on the shelf, and some money in your pocket!

Satay stir fry

The sauce was basically made by blending a handful of raw cashews in the Thermomix to a paste. Then adding a couple of spoons of tahini, a splash of soy sauce, a clove of garlic, a few sprigs of coriander, a couple of spoons of rapadura sugar, about 1/2c coconut milk and the juice of a lime and blending again until a thick paste. (tasting to get the right balance between salty, sweet and sour)
I had cut up a block of firm tofu into cubes and marinated them in some soy sauce, honey and grated fresh ginger just for as long as it took to make the sauce (although you could leave it longer).
Putting it all together I stirfried some garlic and onion, added the tofu, then the veggies and after the veggies had nearly finished cooking I stirred through the sauce and added water to thin it down a bit.
Then served on a bed of coconut rice which this time I had actually stirred through some toasted shredded coconut for texture.

Oh so quick tomato and veg pasta sauce
This is a great way to get lots of veg into your kids in a format most love the most - pasta!!!
All I do is blitz 3-4 cups worth of veg (whatever is in the fridge such as carrots, broccoli, mushroom, red capsicum, garlic, pumpkin, zucchini etc) in the Thermomix until almost pureed (a food processor should do a pretty good job too - otherwise grate or finely chop).  Add a tin of crushed tomatoes, a spoon or two of tomato paste, some natural stock (I use the TMX vegetable stock concentrate) and herbs if desired and cook on speed 1, 100 degrees for 10-15 mins (depending on how fine you've chopped your veg).  And...... that's it!!!  A great one to have in the freezer for super quick yet nutritious dinners.  Would also be great used as the sauce on a pizza base.

Chicken, bacon and mushroom with a white wine and thyme sauce.

Sauté a diced chicken breast in olive oil until browned. Set aside. Sauté 2 cloves chopped garlic, 5 short rashers of bacon sliced and 2 large mushrooms diced. Stir in 2tbs plain flour (I used Gf) for a minute or two. Add a cup or so of white wine and 1.5c stock and simmer until thickened. Add back the chicken, 3/4 zucchini grated, a few sprigs of thyme leaves and parsley finely chopped. Simmer for 5-10 mins until heated through and sauce thickened. Turn of heat. Stir through a spoon of pure cream and season with salt and pepper. Serve with steamed rice (I stirred through some butter and frozen peas).

Honey soy stir fry

Here is an ingredient list for Kan Tong Asian simmer sauces...

Kan Tong Chinese BBQ sauce: Tomatoes (from Paste), Water, Sugar, Vegetables 14% (Onion, Capsicum), Thickener (Modified Cornstarch), Vinegar, Garlic, Salt, Vegetable Oil, Natural Beef Flavour, Colours (Caramel 150C), Carmine), Smoke Flavour, Yeast Extracts, Natural Colours, )Carmine, Paprika, Oleoresin), Tamarind Extract, Clove, Chilli Star Anise, Nutmeg, Pepper.

+ nearly 50% RDI of sodium per serve!

All that is needed for a tasty marinade/sauce is soy sauce/tamari, fresh garlic and ginger crushed/grated and a big spoon of honey! Add to that your protein (I generally use a chicken breast, a cube of organic tofu and some cashew nuts), vegies (whatever you have in the crisper), and rice or noodles (I generally make coconut basmati rice or rice noodles).
If you have time marinate the meat ahead of time but if not the flavours will still absorb well.

Homemade tortillas with taco meat and salad
Tortillas bought from the supermarket are jam packed with additives - most of the ingredients are unrecognisable!  The taco seasoning has salt and sugar in the first few ingredients - UNNECESSARY!!

So have a go at making your own!  The tortillas only took 3 minutes to knead the dough and a minute cooking on either side and....... thats it!!  You could even make larger batches and freeze them for next time.
I got the recipe from here, changing just the flour to wholemeal and using half half olive oil and coconut oil.

Then I made what turned out to be a delicious take on taco meat, again all made from scratch in no time at all!
I used the recipe below for the seasoning, fried it off with an onion in the pressure cooker - added 500g cubed chuck steak, finely chopped mushroom, capsicum and zucchini and 1/2 tin of tomato puree. Cooked it on pressure setting 3 for 25 minutes. Then just pull the meat apart a bit (it really just falls apart!)
Serve tortilla breads, meat, and a plate of salad ingredients of your choice, grated cheese, sour cream and salsa and WOW! You have a super delish dish with NO additives or preservatives in sight! YEAH!

Creamy cheesy tuna pasta
Have a look at the ingredient list for this Dolmio tuna pasta sauce....

Dolmio Tuna Bake Sauce: Water, Cheese (Cheddar (Milk, Salt, Starter Culture, Enzymes), Parmesan), Buttermilk, Cream, Vegetable Oil, Skim Milk, Garlic, Thickeners (Modified Cornstarch, Xanthan Gum (contains Soy)), Onion, Sugar, Salt, Food Acid (Lactic), Natural Flavour, Parsley, Yeast Extract, Pepper

+ nearly 30% RDI of sodium per serve!! Augh!
This dish took me literally the time taken to boil water and cook pasta!
Simply make a cheese sauce (which I admit does take just 7 minutes and no hard work in the Thermomix) by melting 50g butter, stirring through 50g plain flour for a minute, then slowly whisk in 500ml milk. Stir until thickened then stir through a couple of handfuls of grated tasty cheese (I added a bit of mustard powder and paprika too).
Once the pasta is cooked, assemble in a large dish the cooked pasta, cheese sauce, a large drained tin of tuna, a cup or two of frozen peas and corn (I just cut off the corn from a fresh cob). Stir and sprinkle over some more grated cheese and bake in mod oven for about 20-30 mins! Serve with a salad. Toooo easy! And it ticks the boxes of two STEPS tasks, eat more fish and eat more raw!

Ricotta, spinach and bacon pasta

This one is a great Friday night solution!  Just saute a clove of garlic and 4-5 short bacon rashers sliced thin. Add a thawed pack of spinach, probably 4-500g ricotta cheese broken up and stir through. Once pasta is cooked (keep a little of the water the pasta is cooked in) stir pasta in gently through the spinach mix with the pasta water, about 40g grated parmesan and I added some chopped parsley and basil from the garden. THAT'S IT!!! I just added a pinch of salt and cracked pepper over the top and some chilli flakes.
Hold the chilli flakes and this dish is a hit with the kids too!

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

This recipe was taken from the Womens Weekly Pressure Cooker cookbook.  I only made a couple of changes (reduced the onion qty from 1 to 1/2, substituted hot paprika for sweet paprika and swapped the chicken stock for a spoon of my vegetable stock concentrate and 1/2c water).  It was an easy recipe to make and unlike a lot of other curry recipes that require 101 spices (which, by the way is beautiful when you have the time) this only has a few which is perfect for a midweek meal.

Mix these together in a bowl:
Just over a kilogram of chicken (I used drumsticks but thighs or marylands would work just as well)
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 c natural/greek yogurt
5cm piece fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp garam masala

Heat a splash of olive oil and a spoon of butter in pressure cooker or deep frypan until melted and brown the chicken pieces in batches.  Remove from pan/cooker and set aside.

Add 1/2 chopped onion and 2 cloves chopped garlic to the pan and stir until onion softens.  Add a teaspoon each of ground coriander, cumin, cinnamon and paprika (hot or sweet - your choice!).  Stir until fragrant.

Return chicken to the pan/cooker and add 2 tbs tomato paste, 410g can tomato puree, a heaped spoon of vegetable stock concentrate (from the EDC TMX book) and 1/2 c water or 1/2 stock and 2 tbs honey.  If using the pressure cooker, bring the pressure up to high and then reduce to stabilise.  Cook for 20 minutes.  If using a frypan, bring to the boil then simmer until chicken is cooked through.

Stir through 1/3c cream and season to taste.  I served this with steamed basmati rice and vegies.

Thai chicken meatball salad with toasted rice and cashews
This may look impressive and something you would not consider to be a quick mid week meal, but believe me it couldn't be more simple!  If you are a household of Thai food lovers, the ingredients will already be in your pantry.  If not, they are not expensive ingredients and do keep for ages so there is plenty of time to make this dish time and time again!!
No sachets, no sauces, just fragrant fresh ingredients working together to bring this dish alive!!


600g chicken mince
1 piece of fresh ginger, peeled (use as much or as little as you like depending on your tastes.  I used roughly a 2-3cm piece)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 small handful fresh coriander leaves or a tbs dried coriander leaves
1 tsp dried shrimp paste (in Asian section of supermarket)
finely grated rind of one lime
a couple of handfuls of shredded organic coconut
1 tbs black sesame seeds (or plain sesame seeds)
salad ingredients of your choice - try snow pea shoots, snow peas, carrot, baby spinach leaves or shredded iceberg lettuce, red capsicum, bean shoots, mango slices, lychees etc (enough for 4 serves)
4 handfuls of cooked cold rice
2 handfuls cashews
juice of 2 limes
rapadura/palm/brown sugar
fish sauce

Using the TMX or food processor, process ginger, garlic, coriander leaves and shrimp paste until finely chopped. (Alternatively grate ginger, lime rind and shrimp paste, finely chop fresh coriander leaves and crush garlic).  Add chicken mince and grated lime rind and if using a TMX, combine on speed 3 for 10 seconds or until all combined.  If using a food processor, pulse until completely combined.  Alternatively mix all above ingredients in a bowl.
Form into 8 patties.  Mix together the coconut and sesame seeds and coat the patties with this mix.
Pan fry in oil, either coconut, peanut or whatever you have in your pantry.  Once cooked through, place on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.
Meanwhile, place prepared salad ingredients on plates.  Mix together dressing ingredients (start with the lime juice and add enough of the sugar and fish sauce to achieve a balanced sauce (approx 1 tbs sugar and a few splashes of fish sauce).  Set aside.
Once patties are cooked, throw the rice and cashews in the pan without cleaning it.  Add a splash more oil if that pan is dry.  Saute until rice and cashews have a bit of colour.
To serve, place two patties on each plate of salad (or 3 if you are serving hungry mouths!!), spoon over the topping and drizzle with dressing.

My Basil, spinach, zucchini, macadamia pesto is also a super quick, natural meal solution!

So ditch the jars, give these meals a try and you will be greatly reducing the artifical additives in you and your families diet!



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