THERE is serious joy and a sense of satisfaction to be gained when you cook a meal at home.
It doesn't necessarily require a high level of skill or time and there are benefits for your health and your hip pocket as well.
Start by getting organised with a basic meal plan. Think about the types of meals you and your family really enjoy. Most households have a selection of meals and recipes they rely on, which are prepared regularly across a week or fortnight.
Alongside your list of meals, note your favourite fruit, vegetables and flavours. Now consider how to include these in the meals identified. For example, add diced mushrooms, celery, carrot or silver beet to your Spaghetti Bolognaise.
Favourite recipes can be easily refreshed using legumes, pumpkin, sweet potato, corn or other vegetables, providing better nutrition and a more colourful meal.
Armed with your meal plan and ingredient list, you can head to the grocery shop with renewed confidence and vigour.
Fresh herbs are a wonderfully easy way to add flavour. Most herbs can be stored well by wrapping in a damp paper towel inside a plastic bag in the fridge. Basil leaves go black and limp if they become moist, so store in dry paper towel instead.
If you're short on time, incorporate some pre-made ingredients into your home cooking. Try salad mixes, curry pastes, canned legumes and beans. This also might expand your repertoire.
Cooking in batches can also save time. Select meals that you know freeze well and you'll have a handy alternative to take away, or great for when you are busy or tired. Cooked rice freezes well and can be easily thawed if it is stored in a thin layer on baking paper in a sealed plastic bag or container.
There is nothing quite like a Sunday roast. Using leftover meat and vegetables for sandwiches, salads, soups and casseroles through the week is a great way to save money and avoid processed meats which are often high in salt and fat.
One group encouraging people to cook at home has an enviable reputation for great recipes. Back in July 2015 the Queensland Country Womens Association launched its Country Kitchens program, advocating the health benefits of home cooking.
The program, funded by the Queensland Government, also promotes adding more fruit and vegetables into meals every day, being aware of sugar in beverages, checking portion sizes and sitting less and moving more.
A series of Hands On Nutrition Workshops, run by the Country Kitchens' accredited practising dietitians, travels the state guiding participants in nutrition and cooking basics. Participants work alongside local QCWA members to learn how to modify recipes and the benefits of regular home cooking.
"Once you learn some basics you'll quickly realise how easy and satisfying preparing a meal at home can be," Program coordinator Fiona McKenzie said.
"The sheer joy of sitting down with family or friends, sharing stories over a lovingly prepared, healthy meal at home, is gratifying." For more inspiration and information and to find a workshop near you, go HERE and sign up for the free Monthly Munch newsletter.
IN FOCUS: Five minutes with Linda Schneider
Why did you decide to get involved with QCWA's Country Kitchens program? As a chef and former soldier/caterer I have always been interested in food and nutritional balance. When I attended our induction training in January 2016 I met a great group of like-minded individuals who wanted to make changes to their lifestyle and diet and encourage others to try something different. A lot of the emphasis on this program is about prevention of disease through education and learning about food modification. What part of the Country Kitchens program appeals to you the most and why?
It helped me look outside the square with recipe modification using less sugars and salts and adapting with herbs and spices and naturally occurring sugars. What have you enjoyed the most about becoming a Facilitator? Getting to engage with members of the public and promote the benefits of participating in the Country Kitchen program, learning about recipe modification and healthier eating habits. In what ways have you been able to reinforce the Country Kitchens five key messages within your community? Going back to basics and preparing food from scratch. When buying bottled goods take the time to read the ingredient contents of labels to see sodium and sugar content. Does your branch have a Country Kitchens inspired community activity/event planned in the near future? Yes. We have plans in the future to join with the Townsville City Council and hold an open day promoting their Get Up program. We are looking for other branches of the QCWA in the Northern Division to undertake a workshop so we can continue to spread the benefits of Country Kitchens. RECIPE Barramundi Wellington Serves 4 Prep time 25 minutes Cook time 15 minutes INGREDIENTS
- 600g Barramundi fillets in 4 portions (4cm thick)
- 300g mushrooms, finely chopped
- ½ bunch shallots, chopped
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- Fresh ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 8 sheets filo pastry
- Olive oil, for brushing
- 2 cups steamed green vegetables
- Preheat oven to 190ºC
- CUT a pocket in each barramundi fillet. Sauté the mushrooms in a little butter for a few minutes and allow to cool.
- BLEND the shallots, parsley and pepper with the softened butter and add the mushrooms and the lemon juice.
- FILL each fillet pocket with the mushroom mixture.
- BRUSH 4 sheets of filo with a little oil and place a second sheet on top of each. Wrap the stuffed fillets in the filo, making sure they are well enclosed.
- BRUSH parcels with oil and placed on a baking tray and bake in oven for 15 minutes or until browned.
- SERVE with steamed vegetables.
*Courtesy of Linda Schneider, Magnetic-Garbutt Branch and Country Kitchens Division Facilitator