Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Quick and Easy Chicken Bolognese

If you are looking for a quick week night meal, then you can't go past pasta, and this chicken bolognese is not only quick and easy, but delightfully healthy as well. I make this in the Thermomix, and I can have it on the table within 30 minutes from walking in the door, but I've included instructions underneath if you don't have a Thermomix. I like making the veggies disappear into the sauce, so I chop them very fine, but if you a like a chunkier sauce, then chop for a few seconds less, or dice them rather than grating them if making on the stove.

Quick and Easy Chicken Bolognese (Thermomix)


1 onion, halved
3 large cloves garlic
40g olive oil
1 large carrot, in large chunks
1 medium zucchini, in large chunks
1 small red capsicum, seeded and in large chunks
1 500g jar pasta sauce

50g red wine
120g tub tomato paste
1 Continental chicken stock pot (or two stock cubes)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbs Spaghetti Bolognese dried herb mix (mine has basil, oregano, thyme and parsley)
500g chicken mince

  1. Place onion and garlic in Thermomix bowl and chop 4 seconds/speed 5.
  2. Add oil and saute for 3 minutes/100C/reverse/speed 1.
  3. Add vegetables and chop finely 10 seconds/speed 5.
  4. Add remaining ingredients except chicken and mix 2 seconds/speed 5
  5. Add chicken and cook for 30 minutes/100C/reverse/speed stir.
  6. Serve with cooked pasta.

Quick and Easy Chicken Bolognese (Stovetop)

1 onion, diced finely
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large carrot, finely grated
1 medium zucchini, finely grated
1 small red capsicum, seeded and finely grated
500g chicken mince 
1 500g jar pasta sauce
1/4 cup red wine
120g tub tomato paste
1 Continental chicken stock pot (or two stock cubes)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbs Spaghetti Bolognese dried herb mix (mine has basil, oregano, thyme and parsley)


  1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat for 4 minutes until translucent.
  2. Add vegetables and saute for another 2 minutes.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and add chicken, stirring to break up lumps. Saute for 5-6 minutes until browned.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and cook on low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Serve with cooked pasta.



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Friday, February 1, 2013

5 Back To School Organization Tips

For many of you here in Oz like me, school goes back next week, and we are truly in the final countdown of the holidays. We've been enjoying the last week, with a few playdates, a sleepover with the cousins, and lots of time in the pool, not to mention plenty of time doing absolutely nothing except lazing around, reading books and watching movies, before we are back into the hustle and bustle that comes along with school.

Hopefully you have all the basics organised for back-to-school (if you are not sure, then you can download my checklist here), but here are five organisation tips that will help make that first day of school and beyond much easier!

  1. Organise your uniforms


    My children are in pre-primary and year 1 now, so I like them to get themselves dressed in the morning. The easiest way to do this is to create a uniform station in their closets that has everything they need. Since we wear the same uniform everyday, I prefer to organise by type of clothing. In Stephen's closet (left pic) we have his shirts hung up, his shorts folded next to them, a tin with his socks, and a hook for him to hang his tie. On the shelf above is his sports kit, including his sports socks. When soccer season starts, his soccer kit will get added to this shelf as well. For Irini (right above), a draw in her bedside dresser makes the most sense, and again, items are folded by type, with the socks and spare hat contained in a box. Next year when her uniform changes to a pinafore and blouse I will change her station to be the same as Stephen's. If you don't have a daily uniform, then try and organise their clothes at the beginning of the week, for the whole week. I love the hanging tags at Living Locurto which come in brights (as shown, below left pic) or pastels, which make it such a simple task for your kids to know what to wear each morning.
  2. Organise your lunches


    Whether you make your children's lunches and snacks each day, or buy lunch at the canteen, it pays to be organised. I send lunch to school 4 days of the week and snack everyday, so keeping all of my lunch making supplies in one location has made a real difference in how my mornings go. The pic above is a drawer that holds all of my lunchboxes and snack boxes. The three main lunchboxes we use are the Easy Lunchbox, the Planet Box lunchbox, and the Spencer Bento Box from Pottery Barn Kids. There are also various dipper containers (BPA free plastic and stainless steel) and snack boxes, most of which I've found in bento stores. Lastly I use reusable sandwich wraps that I found on etsy. 


    As well as organizing how I pack lunches, I have also organised how I make the lunches. In this drawer found in my island bench, I have two large plastic tubs. The one on the left holds all of my cookie cutters, which I use to cut sandwiches into fun shapes. We have all sorts, including two Star Wars sets (Stephen's favourites), a Lightning McQueen set, and a Snow White set, all found at Williams Sonoma. In the right tub I have my sandwich punches (which cut and seal the edge - see here) in various shapes including circles, clovers, squares and Hello Kitty. I also have my smaller cutters from when the kids were younger, in Pooh and Mickey shapes. In front of the tubs, from left to right, are silicone muffin cups, which I use to divide food in the lunchboxes, food safe markers, stainless steel drink bottles, and a container with their lids.

    My final suggestion for organising lunches is to plan a lunch menu. There are a number of ways you can do this - the way I do it is following Planning with Kid's method, to have a menu for the month that contains 2 rotating sets. Each set consists of 5 items - the main (eg a sandwich, slice, wrap etc, a homemade baked treat, a piece of fruit (whole or cut), cut up veg, and crackers or dried fruit or dry cereal. I bought her calender (seen above) just to have her ideas planned out for me each month!

    I also like Martha Stewart's free printable magnetic lunch chart, seen above, which would be wonderful if you want (or your children need) more say in what they are having for lunch each day. Martha uses a similar breakdown of foods; sandwiches, fruit, healthy snack and dessert.
  3. Organise your paperwork

    If you have had your kids at school for any length of time, then you know how much paperwork can be generated. Even if your school has gone paperless and relies on email (like ours have), I still find myself needing to print many things out. Regardless of how you are getting your info, you need to do something with it if you want to make sure that your child is not that child - you know, the one who turns up on free dress day in the uniform, and turns up to school on a pupil free day (can you tell that my child has been that child at least once for both examples!!). Since the last time that happened I have put a system in place, and so far, it is working wonderfully!



    Firstly, as emails/letters/newsletters come in, I action them straight away. If it is something that needs to go into the calender, I put it straight into my Cozi online calender, which I've set so that every Sunday, it emails me my schedule for the week. Every Sunday, I also write down all appointments on our family calender, which takes pride of place on my kitchen command centre. Under the calender are 3 file folders, which is the next crucial step in my organiszation. Any physical piece of paper that comes in (or gets printed out) gets filed here immediately after being added to the calender (if necessary). I have a folder each for Stephen, Irini, myself and a general to-do. Things that go in here include permission slips, booklists, book order forms, etc. The key to all of this is immediate action! Don't let things sit around and get lost - receive them and file them away at the end of every day.
  4. Organise your morning routine

    The key to mornings that are smooth sailing is having a rock solid routine. We used to use a pictorial routine, but now the kids know it, it just gets done. For us, what works best is wake up, breakfast, teeth, get changed, pack lunches into bag, go. Everything that can be organised the night before, like packing the bags, is done the night before, no exceptions.
  5. Organise your schedules

     
    This works hand-in-hand with organising your routine. While your your morning routine gets your day off to a good start, an organized schedule keeps your week ticking along nicely. Each of the kids has the magnetic calendar above hanging in their room. Every Sunday, we look at what is happening for them during the week and then place magnets that match the activity on the right day of the week. I made magnets using clip art for things such as soccer, swimming, library, music, canteen day etc for all their planned activities. Each day, they change the day/date, and each night they have a look what they need to pack in their bags for the next day. Since we started doing this, we didn't miss one library day. This will be even more handy this year, since both the kids are now at two different schools with two different rotating timetables, which means the various activities will now occur on different days each week. 

    So there you have my five back-to-school organization tips - use one, use them all, use what works for your family!
     

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