I’m a working Mum – I’ve only just returned to work from maternity leave two weeks ago… I’m lucky in many ways, my job is casual, I can pick and choose how often I work (anywhere between 3-5 times a week, Monday-Friday), and it’s at night. I work from 5-9pm. From our point of view it’s perfect, we’re not forced into paying childcare as my husband looks after the kids while I’m working, and I get to spend my days watching my children grow. In fact I really identify myself more as a stay at home Mum, even when I’m working 20 hours a week.
But on the days I do work, I will admit it is exhausting… I spend a majority of my day getting ready for the end of the day. Leaving husband to deal with a baby, toddler and arsenic hour can be a bit of an ask, so I try to have night-time clothes laid out and dinner cooked for the family before I leave for work.
To help simplify things, I do meal plans for each fortnight, so I don’t have to think about what I’m cooking on a daily basis. It also means I know what fruit/meat/veggies I need in advance so I can buy as much as possible in season from the Farmer’s Markets. I downloaded some great planners from Kate’s Pickle Farm blog here.
To put all this into action, two appliances are my friend, the freezer and the fast/slow cooker… In fact when I originally considered this post, I was only talking about a slow cooker, but Dad recently purchased a fast/slow cooker and I am an absolute convert. You can use it on a slow cooker setting or a pressure cook setting. Two appliances in one – fabulous!
The slow cooker is great as I can prepare dinner in the morning while Little O is napping and Miss E is having breakfast, with the added bonus that dinner will be ready and hot right on time, no reheating required. The pressure cooker is great for some meals as well, I either cook something in the afternoon and it can be reheated for dinner, or prepare it to pressure cook stage before I leave, whack the lid on and DH only need turn it on and let it go. I love it that the flavours develop so well in a short amount of time.
But I must say the freezer is my favourite. I am always trying to discover recipes that freeze well, or can be partly prepared, then frozen. particularly items that can be frozen for a quick lunch or morning/afternoon tea. It means that I don’t have to worry about preparing a meal on work days, just pull out and heat.
At the moment the freezer is home to choc-chip cookie dough. I make a double batch of cookie dough when baking - half gets cooked straight away, the other half rolled into a log, wrapped in baking paper and frozen in a ziplock freezer bag, ready to be sliced into cookie-sized pieces and popped in the oven - great for unexpected visitors.
We always have some frozen tuna bake in the freezer, in meal size portions for E. Its her favourite meal, so we often pull it out to take to her one day of childcare on Mondays for lunch. It also a great lunch option for home when things are a bit hectic and I don’t have a chance to make to the most nutritious of lunches for her.
Our other quick lunch options we have on rotation in a frozen state are home-made sausage rolls and homemade chicken and vegetable rolls. For morning and afternoon tea treats, I’ve frozen some raspberry & rhubarb muffins, brownies (see recipe below) and savoury and sweet scrolls.
I’m always on the lookout for more freezer friendly recipes, so if you have any, feel free to share!
In the meantime, here is my go-to brownie recipe. It is absolutely gooey and delicious. I’ve tried to tweak it a few different ways, but aside from adding white choc-chips, nothing beats the original – that’s why Belinda Jeffery has cookbooks and I don’t. It’s from her ‘Mix and Bake’ book and you just have to try it…
One Pot Macadamia & Choc-chip Brownies
Makes 20 servings
250gm Unsalted Butter
180gm Good Quality Dark Chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 & 3/4 cups (385gm) Caster Sugar
1.5 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 cup (150gm) Plain Flour
100gm Roasted macadamias, cut into very large chunks
100gm Good Quality Dark Chocolate Buttons or Chunks (I use a mix of white and dark)
To serve Icing Sugar (optional – I don’t bother with this)
Notes / Directions
1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Butter a 23cm square cake tin and line it tightly with foil (the extra wide foil is best for this), making sure to push it right down into the corners. Butter the foil lightly, then line the base with baking paper. Set aside.
2. Put the butter and chocolate into a medium-sized heavy-based saucepan over very low heat. Melt them gently, stirring from time to time. Take the pan off the heat when the butter has nearly melted and give it a good stir so the mixture is smooth & shiny. Set it aside to cool for 8 mins.
3. Add the sugar and vanilla extract to the chocolate mixture and use a balloon whisk to mix them well for 20 seconds or so. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one is added so it is completely incorporated before you add the next. The mixture may look a bit odd and lumpy after the first two are added, however it thickens and smoothes out once the last two eggs have been added. Tip in the flour and stir until it’s well combined (don’t overmix or the brownie will toughen as it cooks). Gently fold in the macadamias and chocolate buttons. Scrape the batter into prepared tin and shake it gently to level the top.
4. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out of the brownie with very moist, but not wet, crumbs clinging to it. Another good indicator that it’s ready is to rest the palm of your hand lightly on the surface and gently jiggle the brownie from side to side – it should feel wobbly/firm.
5. Cool the brownie completely in the tin in a wire rack. The middle may sink a bit; if it does, just press down gently on the sides as it cools to make it a bit more even.
6. Once it’s cool, chill the brownie in the fridge for 30mins or so to firm it up so it’s easier to slice. When you’re ready to cut it, grasp the foil and gently ease the whole brownie out if the tin. Invert it into a chopping board and gently peel away the foil and paper. Slice the brownie into bars with a hot, dry knife. Dust the bars with icing sugar if desired.
7. If you’re not eating the brownies straight away, you can store in an airtight container for a day or two at cool room temperature. Otherwise, layer them between sheets of baking paper in an airtight container and store them, tightly sealed, in the fridge for 1 week or freezer for 3 weeks.