My Military Operation

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” 
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I am a planner. I love lists. I write lists of things to do. I always, always, add things to my list that I have already completed. Just so I can cross them off. I have mental lists that seem to be running through my head from the moment I wake up and throughout the day. In times of stress I wake myself up thinking of what needs to be done. Isn’t everyone like this?!

One of the things I seem to get asked a lot is how do you have the time to DO everything? I do feel I can get through a lot and I like to be busy and be kept busy and the only way I find I can get everything done is if I am organised. To the point I feel like sometimes I run a military operation. Being organised is becoming even more important for me as I head back to work next week after 20 months of maternity leave. Although I just go back part-time it will still be a new challenge. Anyway so I have been thinking around what I do (and what I NEED to do) to stay organised and I have come up with a couple of ways to get organised that might be of help to you…if you are so inclined that is!

Meal planning 

For me, meal planning has probably been the most helpful tool. Apart from just knowing what we are eating and when it has also assisted in saving money (and who doesn’t want that?!) but has also dramatically reduced our family’s food wastage.

meal-plannerEach week I sit down with a cup of coffee and check out the specials online. I then check out Pinterest and consult recipe books and get inspiration for meals then I write out my meal plan for the week at the same time as I write my grocery list. I plan all main meals, any baking or other recipes I want to try out and I also plan out Mr 5’s lunches. I then order the groceries and job is done.

I tend to think about how I store and use perishable ingredients to get the most value for money and to reduce wastage. So for example, this week I made Chicken Tikka Masala that used fresh coriander which is sold by the bunch and costs $3.00. I only needed a 1/4 of the bunch so I made sure I stored the coriander so I would get more life from it and this week I have planned to use what is remaining of the bunch with Mexican Pulled Pork tacos, in a Moroccan Lamb dish and on a Tandoori Chicken pizza. So now I have spent and average of 75c per meal using the one bunch of coriander.

Having Mr 5’s lunches planned has been helpful as it takes a bit of stress out of the morning rush as I just grab what I need without much planning or thought and if I have not had my coffee yet, thinking is not my strong suit.

The freezer is your friend

My list of the three most helpful things I found to survive twins and an older child when your parents live in another country and you have limited access to domestic help (actually this is a blanket recommendation to all parents to invest in these):

  1. wine subscription
  2. coffee. lots of it
  3. a deep freeze

Embrace your freezer. Before the twins came one of the best purchases we made was a deep freeze. I knew that evenings would be chaotic from past experience with Mr 5 as a newborn but I could have only imagined the chaos of my two bundles of joy infected by witching hour craziness.

bolegnese
A couple of extra cooked bolognese to freeze and defrost when needed. Especially handy to have on hand after a busy day out and about!

Knowing the main portion of a meal was tucked away beautifully awaiting its moment of glory at dinner time was heavenly. I got into the habit of making extra portions of dinner to freeze for subsequent meals and I still do this as it is really does help if we are out and about during the day or to grab something delicious from the freezer the day before groceries arrive.

I also do a lot of baking in bulk and freeze. It is handy for morning teas and now a really great way to have home-made treats all ready for lunchboxes.

Often when my groceries arrive, I will prepare the meat so it is ready to go for a meal. This is for two reasons, firstly I tend to be able to get meal prep done during the day but if I leave too much for the before dinner period I cannot get it all done as I am dealing with tired children. Secondly, as I order groceries for the entire week often I will freeze to keep the food as fresh as possible so if I am needing to freeze meat I find it just as easy to quickly prepare the meat for how we will be eating it. For example I will make hamburger patties from the minced meat and freeze for when needed or I dice or slice the chicken before freezing just to make pulling together the meal in the evening so much quicker. This week I made ahead meatballs, froze them on a single layer before transferring to a container at the same time I made the roasted tomato sauce for the meal and froze this. It was easy to pull the sauce and meatballs from the freezer and cook and assemble for a quick meal after a busy day and certainly much more nutritious than grabbing takeaway.

 


Bacon, Tomato and Basil Tart 

tart

This is such a versatile dish, freezes well and is always a hit in my home. If making pastry just isn’t your thing you can use two sheets of store-bought savoury shortcrust pastry – but this pastry is super easy and really reliable so I would recommend you try it out!

Ingredients 

6 eggs
1 cup of cream
1 cup of sour cream
1 cup of cheese
200 grams of short cut bacon diced
200 grams of cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup of shredded basil leaves

Salt and pepper to taste.

Pastry

3 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
225g cold butter cut into chunks.
about 4 tbsp cold water

I use Annabel Langbein’s Food Processor Pastry as a base receipt for my pastry but I have increased the quantities as I like a thicker pastry.

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200 celcius. Add flour, butter and salt to a food processor with the blade attachment and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. While the food processor is still running add the water a little at a time until the mixture balls together.

Roll the pastry and press into the bottom and edges of a greased tart tin. Cover with baking paper and then top with baking beads or rice and blind bake the pastry for around 12 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

While the tart case is baking, whisk the eggs, cream, sour cream and cheese together. Dice bacon and cut cherry tomatoes in half and shred or chop the basil leaves.

When the tart case has been semi cooked, reduce the oven temperature to 170 celcius. Remove the baking beans or rice and the baking paper. Arrange the bacon, tomatoes and basil on the base of the tart cases then divide the custard mixture between the cases. Season the tarts with salt and pepper and cook for around 25 minutes or until the custard has set and there is no ‘wiggle’.

This recipe will make two tarts. One for dinner and one for the freezer. Also this is a very versatile base and you could substitute other fillings if bacon and tomatoes don’t appeal. For a more ‘adult’ tart you could have roasted eggplant, cherry tomatoes, olives and feta. Or try asparagus, bacon and Parmesan. To reheat from frozen, allow to defrost to room temperature then reheat at around 160 celcius for 20 minutes.


Corn and Zucchini Mini-Quiches

corn-and-zucchini-min-quiches

Ingredients

3 eggs
1 cup of cream
1 cup of grated cheese
1/2 cup of creamed corn
1 small grated zucchini (grate into a clean tea towel and squeeze as much liquid out as possible)
2 spring onions chopped
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
Parmesan cheese
5 sheets of frozen and ready rolled flaky pastry

Method

Preheat the oven to 190 celcius. Defrost the flaky pastry and with a glass or cookie cutter 5cm in diameter cut 8 circles in each sheet.

Put all remaining ingredients into a food processor except the Parmesan and blitz until smooth then pour the mixture into a jug.

Press the pastry into a greased mini-muffin tin and then pour the mixture evenly between the cases. Sprinkle finely grated Parmesan over the quiches before popping in the oven and baking for around 12 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling set.

This makes 4o mini-quiches. I made a lot so I could freeze the majority of the mini-quiches for lunches but you could easily halve the recipe, just use two eggs instead of three. Also you don’t need to blitz the filling if you do not want to but I found it so much easier to just pour the mixture into the pastry cases rather than spooning the mix in. I refresh in the oven before serving by reheating on a low temp – around 150 celcius for 10-15 minutes.


What are your tips and tricks to staying organised? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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