Pumpkin and Spinach Casserole

Pumpkin & Spinach Casserole

Well, believe it or not this is my first time ever attempt in cooking a 100% vegetarian casserole! I figured I should have something vegetarian stocked up in my freezer for when the baby arrives, just to add to the variety. Again, I googled several recipes and came up with this one. Very happy with the result! I mean, how can you go wrong with pumpkin right?? It's like eating roasted pumpkin by the mouthful. I think I overcooked the pumpkin a little too (so be careful not to overboil your pumpkin) so my casserole had a very mushy texture almost like eating pumpkin soup! It was still delicious though, so enjoy!

1 Kent Pumpkin, peeled and chopped into cubes
1 tbsp oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp plain flour
100ml chicken stock
Salt and pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
200g baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup grated cheese

Pumpkin & Spinach Casserole 2

Boil the pumpkin in boiling water for 8 minutes or until tender.

Heat oil in a saucepan and saute red onions until fragrant and tender. Set aside.

Add chicken stock into the saucepan, season with salt and pepper, cumin and ground coriander seed. Gradually add plain flour and stir constantly until sauce thickens. If sauce gets too thick, add more chicken stock.

In a bowl, mix together cooked pumpkin, sauteed onions, spinach and 1/4 cup grated cheese.

Prepare a large casserole dish by spraying oil onto its surface. Spoon pumpkin mixture onto the casserole dish, top with sauce followed by sprinkling the remaining grated cheese over it.
Bake in preheated oven at 190C  for approx. 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Kimba's Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie

I am currently approaching Week 37 of my pregnancy so I thought I should really get onto the cooking and freezing meals stage of my preparation for the baby before the he decides to pop out!!

This whole "Cooking and Freezing Frenzy" I call it involved quite a bit of preparation. Leading up to today (I cooked 4 dishes today and freezed them all, but will post recipe one at a time) I had to:
  1. Convince hubby to let me buy a Chest Freezer - DONE
  2. Write a list of dishes I'd like to cook and freeze - DONE
  3. Do a massive shop for groceries at CostCo and buy meat in bulk - DONE
  4. Stock up my new Chest Freezer - DONE
  5. Stock up my pantry - DONE
  6. Get over the fact that my belly is huge and my back gets sore easily and my feet get swollen from standing up too long and JUST COOK THE MEALS - getting there!
To kick start this series of "Maternity Friendly Frozen Meals" I'd like to share this recipe for Shepherd's Pie - it is one of the easiest casseroles you can ever make and so yummy! I surfed the net for several ideas on how a Shepherd's Pie is meant to be cooked and combined those ideas to come up with this recipe. I have to admit I am not always 100% accurate with my measurements for ingredients but I try my best! I usually tend to taste as I cook so I easily lose track of how much ingredients I actually use.
1 tbsp oil
150g minced beef
150g minced pork
100g lamb, chopped into small dices
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup carrots, chopped into small dices
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp parsley paste
1/2 cup liquid chicken stock
4 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tbsp plain flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1kg potatoes, peeled
25g butter
1/4 cup milk
1 cup grated cheese

To make mashed potato topping, place peeled potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Place lid on pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and let it simmer gently until potatoes are very tender and soft.

Drain potatoes and mash with butter and milk, adding salt to taste. Add 1/4 cup of the grated cheese into the potato mixture. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan, add oil and gently fry sliced red onions until fragrant. Add minced garlic, minced parsley and fry for another 1 minute. Add the minced beef, pork and lamb and stirfry until meat is no longer pink. Add peas and carrots and stirfry for another few minutes. Add chicken stock, tomato sauce, caster sugar and Worchestershire sauce. Season well with salt and pepper. Add plain flour and gently allow to simmer until the sauce thickens.

Prepare a large casserole dish by spraying the surface with oil. Scoop out the meat mixture from the saucepan onto the casserole dish until half full. Top with mashed potato mixture, making sure the sides are well sealed. Top with the remaining grated cheese.

Place casserole dish on a baking tray just in case the sauce boils over the dish (so it won't make a mess in your oven). Cook in preheated oven at 180C for approx. 25 - 30 minutes, or until the topping is nice and golden brown.

Serve immediately or divide into portions and freeze for later (like me!)

Chocolate Banana Cupcakes Recipe

I've decided to bake these cupcakes today for two very simple reasons:
  1. Now that I am officially on Maternity Leave, I have all the time in the world to do whatever I want e.g. go swimming, shopping, watch TV shows, clean the house, go out to lunch, take naps, cook and BAKE! Otherwise I usually can't be bothered baking...
  2. Prices of bananas are finally coming back down in Australia. Ever since the cyclone hit Queensland, where most of the bananas come from, prices of bananas have been ridiculously expensive (at one point it was $16 per kg!) making bananas the "luxury fruit" in Australia for almost a full year. I saw bananas for only $3.98 per kg at Coles the other day, so finally I can indulge in bananas again and bake my favorite banana cake using the Best Ever Banana Cake Recipe.
Of course this time around I didn't just bake my usual Banana Cake. I used the ever reliable banana cake mix I am all so familiar with to make the base of this recipe.

I start by preheating the oven at 160C. Cream 125g butter and 1 cup slightly packed brown sugar together with the electric mixer. Add three eggs, beating well between each one. Fold in 1 3/4 cup self raising flour and stir in 3 mashed bananas, 1/2 cup milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence. Pour into individual cupcake cups (only halfway as they will rise).

Here comes the little "surprise". Insert a small "square" of dark chocolate into the centre of the cupcake mix. Then bake in the oven for approx. 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Meanwhile, to make the icing mixture just mix 2 cups of icing sugar with 2 teaspoons of softened butter and 2 tablespoons of milk. Give the mixture a good stir until properly mixed through and allow to set, adding more icing sugar if it appears too runny.

Allow cupcakes to completely cool before piping the icing and sprinkle / decorate as you please.

The best part of this cupcake is the moist banana cake and the gooey chocolate centre! Mmm...

Oh wait, some would probably argue the best part of this cupcake is the icing... lol, can't beat the yummy factor of just plain and simple, SUGAR!!